Saturday, October 19, 2002

I think I've been watching too much Seinfeld in reruns lately, because just about everything I encounter puts me in mind of some episode of the show or another. Case in point: this blog, which makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry's girlfriend, a painter, does a portrait of Kramer, which an art-gallery patron later describes thusly: "He is a loathsome, offensive brute...and yet I can't look away."

(I found this guy's blog by searching under his name, after reading an amazingly embarrassing letter that he wrote to the editors of Realms of Fantasy magazine because he was bitter about the long odds of getting through the submission process.)

Friday, October 18, 2002

Eric S Raymond posts a long manifesto on how he things the War Against Terrorism is to be conducted. Steven den Beste agrees. Raymond salls it Anti-Idiotarian. Are those people who don't find his complete manifesto self-evident idiots? This is probably a pretty good representation of the 'war-bloggers'.

I've said it before and no one objected: we're left-leaning here. OK, then. Object.
Thoughts while reading Jason's posted link to Borges' The Library of Babel:

'Of the making of books there is no end.'

On the other hand, are we so satisfied with those we’ve gotten that we don’t wish for anymore?

So what are your favorite couple libraries? (And if this favorite question doesn't elicit some response, I'll stop asking them.)

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The story that Sean posted yesterday about a budding conflict over water in the Middle East put me in mind of the political problems created by the need for water, and of this NPR story about the obsession with green lawns by people who live in the American Southwest. I would not be at all surprised to see wars fought over water in the future, while we waste it on green grass for golf courses.

One for the history buffs

Egypt reopens history's greatest library -- Presidents and royalty gathered yesterday as Egypt inaugurated the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern version of the ancient library known for a freedom of thought and expression lacking in today's Middle East.

While the new library cannot match the 500,000 scrolls said to have been housed in the Great Library of Alexandria before it burned down in the fourth century, it has a digital archive that includes 10 billion Web pages dating back to 1996.

"Egypt has exerted all efforts to make the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina a civilized message in its roots, modern in its content, and international in its role and reach," President Hosni Mubarak told French President Jacques Chirac, Queen Sofia of Spain, Queen Rania of Jordan, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos and some 300 other dignitaries seated in the Great Reading Hall.

A special act of the Egyptian Parliament last year granted the library administrative independence, and it's being hailed as an area of freedom of thought. While not as impressive as the ancient Library of Alexandria, this is a massive project (some $230 Million in funds raised), and the library has a capacity for some eight million books.

But there is still some controversy over what will be held there:

In an echo, rows have already erupted over the library's book collection policy. Critics accuse the government of President Hosni Mubarak of failing to stand up to Islamist pressure. One writer, who asked not to be named, said: "My latest book can't even be published in Egypt because it questions God."

Hisham Kassem, publisher of the Cairo Times, said many believed the money could have been better spent on social and educational programs in a country plagued by illiteracy. Layla Abdel Hady, the chief librarian, said books deemed potentially dangerous would be kept under lock and key. "What's the point of antagonising people unnecessarily?' he said. "Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses will not be a priority of ours to have."

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

I don't really want to dwell on the subject of the Bali bombing too much, but I found this little flash thingy from the Guardian UK very beneficial in understanding the area and the scope of the bomb.
What's your absolute, number 1, favorite Web news source?

I still use My Yahoo. The ads drive me crazy. I'd happily pay for the same service with no ads.

Google News is looking better and better. The photos are taking up less space.

Still wishing for 'My Google'.
Heads up: some discussion broke out below on the Bali attack and Ayn Rand threads. Check them out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Over on my main blog, I've been clearly rooting for Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants to reach the World Series, but I should note that the St. Louis Cardinals also had a fine team, and they might have even had a more solid emotional claim on the pennant than the Giants.

This article is one of the best bits of sports writing I've come across lately, capturing perfectly the pain at the heart of any sports team that almost reaches the top....but loses.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Are you overweight? Find out with this handy little calculator.
I think I may have mentioned this here before, but I really like NPR's series "Present At The Creation", in which each week the origins of some minor but interesting bit of American culture are examined. This week's installment is breakdancing, for those prone to 80s nostalgia -- I know I'm always up for that, although I didn't much get into the whole breakdancing craze.

Other nifty PAtC topics have included Star Trek, the song "New York, New York", quiz shows, and bib overalls.
The newest "blog of note" at Blogger is The Homeless Guy, which is exactly what the name says: a blog by a homeless man. Apparently he does his blogging on public terminals in libraries. There's some interesting reading here.
Well, no matter what activity you can name, there is some contest somewhere to see who can do it the fastest.

Case in point: speed crochet!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Terrorism + Tourism: A match made in Hell

Bali carnage: 187 now dead

Though it's sickening to say it, to me this atrocity seems as inevitable as it was unspeakably evil. The idea of an attack of this kind has literally been in the back of my mind, since the day of the September 11th attacks. On that day Soo Ling and I were actually in Bali waiting for our flight out that evening. After seeing images on the hotel cable of jet planes being used as weapons of terror and with the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings of tourists from Malaysia still only a recent memory, international tourists sure seemed to us like obvious targets for terror campaigns and extortion rackets. We wondered then, just as I do now, whether this age of relatively safe and untroubled international tourism might be drawing to a close.
On the FilmScoreMonthly message board, I jumped into a raging debate a few days ago....and quickly jumped out again when I realized that the person with whom I (and others) were attempting to debate is a devotee of Ayn Rand. One representative quote: "I keep mentioning Rand because she got so much right--far more than any other philosopher in history. Aside from perhaps Aristotle, she is the wisest person who ever wrote a book." Now, call me crazy, but I'm not even a Christian and I think that the New Testament contains more wisdom than any of Rand's books, but then, maybe I'm not particularly well-versed on the subject. (Of Rand's books, I have only read The Fountainhead, about ten years ago, which I thought was simplistic in its philosophy and ghastly in its prose.)

So, can anyone tell me just what it is about Rand that inspires such freakish loyalty? Is it that her philosophy makes selfishness a virtue, or is there something more than that going on here?
Stephen Ambrose has died.