September 2000 Archives

Fascinating stuff - the Peters

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Fascinating stuff - the Peters Projection Map of the World, which is area accurate:

Which is bigger, Greenland or China? With the traditional Mercator map (circa 1569, and still in use in many schoolrooms and boardrooms today), Greenland and China look the same size. But in reality China is almost 4 times larger! In response to such discrepancies, Dr. Arno Peters created a new world map that dramatically improves the accuracy of how we see the Earth.

Very cool, and a real mind-blower too. (Via rc3.)

Decent profile of Wallace Shawn,

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Decent profile of Wallace Shawn, who most people know as Vizzini, but who is also a playwright. His plays are not what you'd expect from his (somewhat) well-known persona as a character actor - they are dark and challenging; they're often just two or three people talking at length. Of course, that will come as no surprise to people familiar with My Dinner With André, which he co-wrote. (Via robot wisdom.)

Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman,

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Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show. Christopher Guest does it again (hopefully).

John Tesh, internet hard ass.

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John Tesh, internet hard ass.

Top story on U.S.

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Top story on U.S. looks north for Games down under. Why is it that showing big events - and I think we can all agree that the Olympics qualify - live would be anything else but a no-brainer?

Woohoo, it finally shipped. No

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Woohoo, it finally shipped. No more getting up from the couch to adjust DVD volume. (Please make sure you bask in the ironic glow of the juxtaposition of this entry and its immediate predecessor.)

One wonders how drug company

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One wonders how drug company CEOs sleep at night:

DFMO works so well that it has been nicknamed the "resurrection drug." But it costs 10 times more than melarsoprol, or almost $600 (U.S.). Worst yet, production has been discontinued because, at that price, some of the poorest people in the world can't afford to buy enough of the drug to make it profitable.

At the 58-bed Omugo centre, they are literally counting down the world's supply of DFMO. As the nurse loads up Ms. Brateru's IV drip, 1,812 vials are left. When her course of treatment is done, there will be 1,805 and counting.


The maker of DFMO, the U.S. subsidiary of Aventis SA, a multinational corporation based in Switzerland, has stopped producing the drug because it can make a lot more money by using its facilities otherwise.

The company is not protecting its patent; on the contrary, it has turned the rights over to the World Health Organization.

But WHO cannot find a manufacturer. The precursor chemical of DFMO is unstable so it requires specialized workers; the drug is corrosive, requiring special piping and a dedicated production line, and demand will never be in the millions of doses.


Melarsoprol has been around since 1949. The reason newer drugs have not come along is that research by pharmaceutical corporations is virtually non-existent. Much more effort has gone into the search for treatment of the form of sleeping sickness that affects animals, namely cattle and horses, than the disease that kills humans. (Sleeping sickness kills an estimated $5-billion (U.S.) worth of livestock annually.)

Worse yet, the manufacturer has repeatedly threatened to discontinue production because the drug's profit margin is low. Still, a course of treatment costs many times more than the per-capita health spending in Uganda.

Pentamidine was another drug well on its way to being phased out until it was found to be effective in treating pneumocystic carinii pneumonia, a common symptom of HIV-AIDS. Overnight, the price of the drug increased tenfold.

Médecins sans frontières and WHO were able to negotiate a reprieve. Pentamadine has been offered at the old price -- about $120 (U.S.) for 10 shots -- on the understanding that it be used only for the treatment of sleeping sickness.

You can read more about Médecins sans frontières efforts to gain access for the poor to life-saving medicines here.

Guns, knives, pepsi? I love

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Guns, knives, pepsi? I love it when large corporations abuse their power. (via signal vs. noise.)

All (hundreds! thousands!) of my

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All (hundreds! thousands!) of my Vancouver readers really want to go see this - my wife's documentary short is the opening film.

Hmm. Very interesting idea: The

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Hmm. Very interesting idea:

The system is simple: an artist states how much money she wants for her work, and people who want to support that work donate money to a fund for its free release, which we set up. When the amount is reached, OpenCulture pays the artist, and the work becomes freely available to the public. People who have donated to that work get it a little earlier than everyone else. We cover our expenses by taking 10% of each new donation.

The subject matter is grisly,

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The subject matter is grisly, but this is an excellent use of flash.

Very cogent argument for a

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Very cogent argument for a very broad interpretation of the Charter's free speech provisions. Canada's supreme court will be making some far-reaching decisions on this issue in the next few months.

Fabulous CSS editor, created by

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Fabulous CSS editor, created by the guy that originally wrote Homesite.

Heh. I dig sylloge's little

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Heh. I dig sylloge's little riff on the nature of copyright.

Things I won't miss, in

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Things I won't miss, in no particular order:

  • Answering phones
  • Dealing with payroll problems
  • Having the phrase "My tax dollars" directed at me
  • Telling people they failed testing
  • Filing
  • An open floor plan
  • Dealing with truly horrific data entry

I think Barenaked Ladies' Napster

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I think Barenaked Ladies' Napster marketing ploy is brilliant.

"We fooled you, huh? We're sneaky like that. You can never trust a Canadian," he jokes. "Next thing you know we'll be supplying your natural resources."

Amusing story about the race

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Amusing story about the race to not be the last Fortune 1000 company without a web site. There are only 4 companies in the running for this dubious distinction. (Found @ tomalak.)

Human Genome on CD. I

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Human Genome on CD. I want a copy! (via robotwisdom.)

Woo, first Canadian medal, and

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Woo, first Canadian medal, and it's gold!

Well, it's official. As of

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Well, it's official. As of October 6th, and after 13 years (!), I will no longer be employed by Surrey Public Library. I am moving into a straight programming job, which is exactly what I wanted. It's for a great group of people doing interesting stuff and, well, I couldn't be happier. I had alluded to events afoot about a week ago, but didn't get official confirmation until today. Now I just have to wait for 3 weeks. I might just burst from impatience!

This is my perhaps my

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This is my perhaps my favorite paragraph ever:

It was in a garden that Francis Cornish first became truly aware of himself as a creature observing a world apart from himself. He was almost three years old, and he was looking deep into a splendid red peony. He was greatly alive to himself (though he had not yet learned to think of himself as Francis) and the peony, in its fashion, was also greatly alive to itself, and the two looked at each other from ther very different egotisms with solemn self-confidence. The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean, and pretty. The peony was unchaste, dishevelled as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty. It was a significant moment, for it was Francis's first conscious encounter with beauty - beauty that was to be the delight, the torment, and bitterness of his life - but except for Francis himself, and perhaps the peony, nobody knew of it, or would have heeded if they had known. Every hour is filled with such moments, big with significance for someone.

It's from What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies.

Oi! Mac OSX needs 128MB

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Oi! Mac OSX needs 128MB of RAM minimum?! Is it worth it? Maybe when I buy a cube (hah!) I'll find out.

Yum: "I've received numerous e-mails

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"I've received numerous e-mails from people with apparently sick birds," writes David Cooper in BirdTimes magazine. "Their lovely pet was sitting nicely on their shoulder and, when the owner turned to give the bird a kiss, up comes the bird's last meal onto the owner. . . . [You've imitated a feeding cue used by nestlings] and your bird will probably do it again. . . . In bird language, you were saying 'please vomit food into my mouth' and your bird has happily obliged."

The Globe & Mail is

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The Globe & Mail is running a wonderful series of articles by a reporter who hitchhiked across Canada. All that's online currently are his notes; hopefully the articles they're running currently will be online soon.

Good analysis by Kurt Anderson

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Good analysis by Kurt Anderson on the current brouhaha over violence in the media:

And now we are supposed to pretend to be shocked. Some of the current sanctimony is sincere. But come on: since the 1960s, if not earlier, the cultural contradictions of capitalism have been the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Our ferociously efficient free-market system, the one bubbling along so nicely just now that Al Gore will be elected president, requires revenue maximization, which means every prospective buyer of every legal, medically safe product must be targeted. You may find Eminem and his lyrics disturbing -- ''I take seven kids from Columbine, stand 'em all in line/ Add an AK-47, a revolver, a nine, a Mack-11 and it oughta solve the problem of mine/ and that's a whole school of bullies shot up all at one time'' -- but he is a profit center for Universal (which distributes him) and Viacom (which promotes him). The business of America is show business, and show business isn't always pretty. Get used to it already.

Yum: Thank you from bringing

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Thank you from bringing this to our attention. The account has been terminated.

Fight spam with spamcop - it's fast, easy, and it WORKS.

Bad predictions department, item #312:

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Bad predictions department, item #312: (Please feel free to make contemporary comparisons.)

"The growing and dangerous intrusion of this new technology," Jack Valenti said, threatens an entire industry's "economic vitality and future security." Mr. Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, and he was ready for a rhetorical rumble. The new technology, he said, "is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman alone."

It was 1982, and he was talking about videocassette recorders.

Oh man, this is the

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Oh man, this is the funniest thing I've seen for a while. is being sold on ebay; bidding is currently over $500,000.

Cool phone entry technique from

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Cool phone entry technique from Google. Looks like the basic idea is that you press the digits for the word you want (say 366 for foo) and then searches for the possible completions. If it works, cool. Data entry on phones is slow 'n painful.

Fabulous Good Eats page. Even

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Fabulous Good Eats page. Even has complete transcripts of every show.

Decent National Post article about

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Decent National Post article about Moby and his massive licensing of Play (which is still one of my favorite albums).

In allowing these corporate spots to push his music -- a bold and brilliant move that
meant he could conquer America -- Moby says he's been attacked by most interviewers
as a sell-out. His response: "The moment a musician charges money for a ticket for
someone to come in and see him, he has sold out. If they're going to use my music in an
advertisement, there is a big part of me that's very flattered by that. To be honest with
you, when the record first came out, having the music used in TV shows, movies and
advertisements was the only way we had of exposing it to people. Radio wasn't playing
the music. MTV and MuchMusic, they weren't really getting behind it. So we had no way
of reaching people except through advertisements and films."

What he says is true - I bought Play when it first came out, and I never really heard anything about it - it got great reviews but no radio or video play. Then it started becoming popular several months later and has now sold millions of copies and has been a top selling album for months. Generally speaking, this just doesn't happen - if an album doesn't become a best seller when it's released, it never will. The only other album that I can think of that had this sort of success was Ry Cooder's The Buena Vista Social Club, which basically seemed to sell itself on word of mouth. (Then it started being played in every restaurant in town simultaneously, but that's another story.)

Unfortunately, this also means that other artists with less artistic integrity and their corporate marketing managers will start using the same technique of "selling out without appearing to sell out" which worked so well for Moby.

I want one.

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#1 on Bill's list of

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#1 on Bill's list of cinema clichés: if there is a spiral staircase of any sort in a movie, there will be a shot looking straight down from above. There does not appear a single director alive that can resist this shot.

Good clean geeky fun today

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Good clean geeky fun today - installed the new stable linux kernel which finally has the emu10k1 driver (creative soundblaster live cards) included. I also continue to be impressed by the latest mozilla builds; mozilla is starting to be less annoying to use than netscape, and it imports netscape bookmark files with no problem. It used to be that I would use mozilla for a while and then discover that certain sites just won't work properly, but this is getting to be less and less the case.

I saw a preview of

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I saw a preview of Shadow of the Vampire months ago, and I'm still looking forward to it. It's not due for release until the end of the year, unfortunately. The top three cast members are John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe and Cary Elwes - how can it go wrong? The movie deals with the making of this film, a silent German film from 1922. You can actually see the whole thing online in several places. (I recommend the moviehead link, as it has non-real player versions. God bless real player for being available on so many platforms, but by god the quality sucks.)

The usual excellence from Mark

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The usual excellence from Mark Kingwell on religion in public life.

A greater role for religion in public life is all very well -- as long as (1)
you're religious in the first place, (2) it's your religion that has the role, and (3) it's your
public life that is affected.


Justice, the great Scottish philosopher David Hume argued two centuries ago, is an
artificial virtue. We create it ourselves, not through singular impulses to do good but
through ongoing negotiations with fellow travellers on the mortal plane. We strive for
justice not because God wills it, or because we want this life to resemble as closely as
possible some fantasy of contentment described in a religious text, but because the
alternative is abhorrent to us.

That means surrendering any illusions we have about what the purpose of human society is. We are not doing God's will, just our own -- which means we are answerable to others, imperfect in our efforts, and constantly at risk. There is no eternal reward waiting for us, just the fleeting and uncertain rewards of what we achieve here and now. Life offers no certainty at all, in fact, just the complicated uncertainty of our natural urges in constant (and usually unfair) tension with our capacity to reason.

The Ottawa Citizen has an

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The Ottawa Citizen has an excellent story, the first in a series on the international drug war. Highly, highly recommended. Just a small sample:

For taking this route, Holland has been fiercely attacked. In a series
of statements in 1998, Barry McCaffrey, the White House "drug
czar," savaged Dutch policy. Dutch teenagers used marijuana at
three times the rate of American teens, Mr. McCaffrey claimed.
"The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States. The
per capita crime rates are much higher than the United States ...
that's drugs." The Dutch approach, he said, was "an unmitigated

None of what he said was true.

While figures vary from study to study, most research shows that far fewer Dutch teenagers use marijuana than do American teens. The American murder rate is actually four-and-a-half times higher than the Dutch rate. And while the "unmitigated disaster" claim is vague, it seems unsupportable given that the rate of heroin abuse -- considered a key drug indicator -- is nearly three times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. The Dutch government officially protested Mr. McCaffrey's remarks.

I love propoganda. Oh, what the heck, another small sample:
The U.S. approved of the latest Canadian drug laws and police tactics but claimed these "efforts have been undermined in numerous cases by court decisions." The State Department, for instance, specifically criticized the Supreme Court of Canada for having "questioned the legality of 'sting'-type operations, undercover 'buys' and other techniques now commonly used around the world in drug investigations ... "
Those damn courts and their adherence to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the bastards.

I've never been happier. More

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I've never been happier. More later.

Suggested Napster search: Beautiful Day

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Suggested Napster search: Beautiful Day by U2. It's the first single from their upcoming album.

I wanted to check out

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I wanted to check out this blogger thing - you might have heard of it - so I've created another weblog at It's skookum, and so is blogspot!

Very dark sounding message from

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Very dark sounding message from Phil Agre on RRE:

American culture is going insane. I'm not sure that I mean this in a clinical way, but I do mean it.

I've been playing around with

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I've been playing around with HDML 'n perl - I've created an HDML version of that I'll be working on as inspiration strikes. It is, I confess, mostly useless as links will not work, which rather nicely defeats the whole weblog purpose. I've never let actual utility stop me from doing things before, however, and I'm not about to start now. Anyone actually using this only gets 3 blurbs, due to the memory limits of the phones (I'm basically just using 3 as it seems to work; a more robust version would actually check memory usage).

Nice story about how the

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Nice story about how the Olympics are making sure all you read about them is from large media organizations. Athletes have been banned from updating any personal online sites during the games. This is in addition to banning web sites from covering the games.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2000 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2000 is the previous archive.

October 2000 is the next archive.

This is, a weblog by Bill Stilwell. I take the occasional photo.


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