February 2004

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Friday, February 26, 2004

Kewl images from Mars:

Fine blue and icy day: the crags were frosted with snow and ice as I drove past Lug and Djouce on the way to work.

Eric Raymond writes trenchantly about his nightmare experience of installing open source software. And if the author of the Hacker's Dictionary has this experience, Gawd help the rest of us. This is why MS continue to make the bucks, their warez may be dodgy in places, but at least all you have to do is keep clicking the Next button (most times) to install them.

Looks like Microsoft are planning an interim release of XP in the run-up to Longhorn. XP Reloaded, no less. This will delay Longhorn, natch, and the enterprise market is growling somewhat at the news.

Thursday, February 25, 2004

The 419ers wax classical: the reference to AUGEAN STABLES in a classic 419-type spiel is hilariously filleted by the Reg. Their haiku competition on the subject of 419s is equally giggle-inducing. Pull the other Lagos!

This piece from Wired describes an expedition to the most Mars-like place on Earth - a part of the Atacama desert which is almost the only place on Earth where it literally never rains, and is therefore (as far as we can tell so far) totally lifeless.
The most inhospitable environments - boiling undersea thermal vents, acidic hot springs, superbriny seas, even pools of nuclear waste - all, amazingly, harbor some living thing. But not here. No one knows why. That's why McKay's team has come: This killing turf, this parched soil, is Earth's best proxy for Mars.

Monday, February 23, 2004

An interesting use of Virtual Reality - to combat pain - for example the severe distress experienced by burn sufferers when their dressings are changed daily. Seems we can only concentrate on so many things at one time, and VR literally takes your mind off the pain.

Seems like we had an NEO (near-Earth Object - a close miss with an asteroid) back in January. Slashdot has a link to NASA which doesn't work at the moment. Here it is, in case they get it back working - the site may have been "slashdotted" - brought down by the geek visitor traffic induced by a mention on Slashdot.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Seems like Einstein was right - about dark energy. According to this NASA press release, a strange form of energy called "dark energy" is looking a little more like the repulsive force that Einstein theorized in an attempt to balance the universe against its own gravity. Even if Einstein turns out to be wrong, the universe's dark energy probably won't destroy the universe any sooner than about 30 billion years from now, say Hubble researchers.
Guess we can all relax then.

Two excellent articles - here and here - on the ghost wars between the CIA and bin Laden, pre-9-11. It's eerie to think that if a bunch of bearded special ops in 4-wheel drives had gotten a bit more lucky, there might have been no Twin Towers.
But the search became mired in mutual frustrations, near misses and increasingly bitter policy disputes in Washington between the Clinton White House and the CIA.
Hat tip: the Agonist.

A weekend of big efforts in the garden, and also got my monthly piece for Irish Computer squared away. The rockery is coming on nicely, and a few bedding plants are gone in to bring a touch of colour to the spring. The side border is looking real good with camellias, quince and daffodils, and a few dramatic little crocuses. Spring is making great progress for the time of year.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Blue skies and a stately procession of fluffy white clouds: coming from the East though, which means enjoy but mind those lungs ...

Last Friday did a circuit around the backwoods of Arklow: A. visiting L. in Kilkenny, from where she brought a tasty little chest cold. We were both under the weather as a result for the last week or so - back in the saddle now. Weather has picked up, and a good weekend beckons.

Good interview here with William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and more recently Pattern Recognition.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Microsoft somewhat tardily removes the Mark of the Beast from its software. A dodgy font from Japan included the swastika - though when you look more closely, it's the Buddhist swastika, not the Nazi one. Well, I guess the poor Windows-using Buddhists can take a hike when it comes to political correctness (the new monotheism).

And as the Reg piece shows, they whipped out the Start of David while they were at it. Oy veh!

Last day or so has been real fine weather, and everything is about a month ahead of schedule this year in the garden.

A new project idea from the boys at NASA. Ballooning over Mars: The balloons, or Directed Aerial Robot Explorers (Dares), could act like "motherships", exploring the planet's atmosphere for months.

When required, they could launch swarms of baby robot probes and mini-laboratories to carry out experiments.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

This thoughful piece on the Internet describes it as a world of ends: and debunks a few mythologies while it's about it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Check out this Hacker's Hall of Fame: Stallman, Mitnick, Woz, Linus - the gang's all here ...

Not quite just yet, is the judgement on this article on the digital versus film camera debate. The short version: SLR film cameras have fallen so far in price (due to digital competition) and the cost of processing is so low (given we don't all have glossy printers at home so will have to go to a bureau) that it's more economical to stick with film.
Interesting point: film is equivalent to a 6 megapixel camera (which are only just starting to reach consumer prices).
And another point: your digital camera (an evolving tech) will go obsolescent a lot faster than yr film camera (a mature tech).
And check out the sums: there's a $600+ difference between the digital and film versions of the Canon EOS. That buys a lot of film! The price difference makes sense to a professional whose shots are time-sensitive (read: news photojournalist) - but not to the rest of us, the writer argues.

A gaggle of Glens: A. sent me this link to a majorly cute collection of Glen of Imaal terriers. As Glen owners, we're more likely than most to find them cute, but this really is a charming little bunch of these most distinctive dogs.

The latest outdoors fad from Stateside: Nordic walking. Thanks but ... no intention of looking like a spannerhead in Spandex. I'll stick with the oul hillwalking.

Quiet weekend: Friday was a day off, but got washed out by heavy rain. Saturday we went to Oisin's birthday party (he's 1 year old - awwwww), and on Sunday we winkled out a new walk in the Avoca area: It changed my pretty-village-shame-theres-no-decent-walking image of the place: we found a secluded valley formed by a small tributary of the Avoca river: floored with willow bush, flanked by neat farms and mature forest, giving distant prospects of Lugnaquilla looking as white as a Colgate ad under a heavy cap of snow.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

I'm compiling a dictionary of isms: subtitled a dictionary of belief and affliction:
Here's an extract from the preface, and a few selected entries.

What is an ism? Well it's not really a word - though most good dictionaries would classify it as a constructor, and document its uses. Since this is a dictionary about ism, we will welcome into the fold of valid words, with the meaning of "A word that ends in ism".

The title of this book is pronounced star-ism, and is derived from the use of the asterisk in computing. In regular English, the asterisk is an unassuming fellow most frequently associated with the academic trappings of footnotes. But in computer languages, the asterisk is a gunslinger walks on the wild side and wields considerable power. It functions as a "wild card", with the meaning "anything". For example, *ism would mean "Anything that ends in ism" - which is the topic of this book.

Part of the fascination of ism is the extent and weirdness of the many beliefs held by humankind - often passionately, rarely lightly. Words such as Nazism resonate with the power of wicked beliefs. More benignly, the resonant antidisestablishmentarianism (Opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England) carries more than a suggestion of suede arm-patches and letters to the Times, and has a profitable sideline in trading as "the longest word in the dictionary" (it isn't* , but it?s probably the longest ism).

According to Peter Viereck, Formalism, by being an "ism", kills form by hugging it to death. All isms, while tender towards what they represent, and towards their loyal followers, reward them by hugging them to death; or the shaken follower escapes and renounces the ism for ever; or returns to its safety in later years; or lives comfortably in its folds for ever, raising families and leading worthwhile lives in the process.

Isms are certainly a mixed lot, ranging from the respectable to the outright ungodly. It can be instructive to note the provenance of an idea, which can be more ancient or more modern than expected. For example, Benthamism, promoted by Joseph Bentham (1748 - 1832), is the belief that the best way to run society is to keep as many people as possible as happy as possible. What is astonishing is that it took the human race so long to come up with such an intuitively obvious idea. But it's only intuitive to use after recent centuries steeped in altruistic social constructs such as democracy and socialism: the longer standing pedigree of social beliefs was more ready to run societies in the interests of gods or kings.

The meaning generally held yet by the public : -ism which is a suffix denoting "belief in" or "philosophy of".
A distinctive doctrine, system, or theory:
Source: The American Heritage? Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright ? 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

-ism suff.
  1. Action; process; practice: terrorism.
  2. Characteristic behavior or quality: heroism.
  3. State; condition; quality: pauperism.
  4. State or condition resulting from an excess of something specified: strychninism.
  5. Distinctive or characteristic trait: Latinism.
  6. Doctrine; theory; system of principles: pacifism.
  7. An attitude of prejudice against a given group: racism.



Supported abolition of slavery in the United States. Strife between abolitionists and supporters of slavery was the main driving cause of the American Civil War ()


A rooted tendency not to show up for work, often for less than convincing reasons. Absenteeism is evolving as a less manageable and more chaotic version of the old trade union model, ?one out, all out.?


A form of art and thought which sought to show the underlying abstractions of things normally perceived, in our daily lives, in a realistic way. Abstraction, especially in the visual arts, tried to get down to the "bare bones" of a subject, endeavouring to show the bare beauty - or conflict - under the surface expression.


The belief that we really do live in a mad, mad world.


Sticking to the rule-book of a formal system or discipline.


Using a vigorous program of direct action to bring about political or social change.


The branch of evolutionary thought that stresses adaptation to a particular function as the source of the features and capabilities of a species.


A fondness for taking risks, especially in business.


The art of the tightrope and the trapeze.


Discrimination based on a person?s age.


The belief that it is impossible to know whether God exists. Compare atheism (q.v).


A tendency to utter malformed sentences as a result of brain damage.


An addiction to alcohol, and the associated health and social consequences.


The excessive production of aldosteron in the bloodstream, which can disrupt salt levels and lead to high blood pressure.


An unselfish concern for the well-being of others.


A word or phrase that is typical of American English; a trait peculiar to the land or people of the Americas.


A Protestant sect that believes that baptism should only be available to adults.


The creation of complex molecules from simpler ones by living organisms.


The existence of something in an era to which it does not naturally belong.


The belief that society should be run, not by government, but by voluntary cooperation among individuals.


A swelling in the wall of an artery.


The beliefs held in common by the churches that share communion with the Church of England.


A word or phrase that is typical of British English; a trait peculiar to the land or people of England.


The belief that natural things possess a soul or spirit; the belief that a common spirit informs the physical universe.


Open, active hostility.

First real day of Spring, with blue skies accompanied by balmy winds instead of the icy blasts that blue skies came equipped with so far this year. Good to see the back of the rain.

An interesting list of ten technologies that refuse to die. Includes the likes of paper, radio, and fax, which have survived many predictions of their demise - even the venerable typewriter continues to sell. (For one thing, it remains obdurately immune to the latest Windows virus - and it can do one small but important thing that computers can't: fill out printed forms)

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

This article in Slate illustrates why the phrase military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. It chronicles a long catalogue of US wars that were based on pretty dodgy intel: Iraq is only the latest episode in a centurylong series of misinterpreted, misunderstood, misapplied, suppressed, and flat-out incorrect intelligence that has led the United States into war.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Here is a gripping excerpt from a book on the Columbia disaster, detailing the final moments of the spaceship's breakup.

KL has gone seriously AWOL: sad to see such an excellent blog go down, but I'm sure there are good reasons. And Salman has broken up very publicly with Raed over in Baghdad. Serious disruptions in the Force are affecting the blogosphere ...

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, passes the 200,000 mark for published entries. Go guys, go!

Monday, February 2, 2004

Pat Liddy is a notable illustrator of Dublin architecture, and he's brought out a new book. His website is here.

Back online after a good break from the PC. Weather has been gack but we got out for a good new walk in the middle reaches of the upper Ow valley: a Coillte trail through mixed forest with spreading views back down towards Croghane. Lots of quartz lying about so I might gather some next time I go through.

posted by A Seeker after Knowledge 3:59 AM

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February 2004 archive.
Living somewhere near here:

Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
Click the piccie for a bigger version ...
Blogs we like
Blogcritics: news and reviews
Where is Raed? in Baghdad
Oblomovka in California
Melanie - this really is a blog.
Deborah - is buzzing in Sweden.
Paulianne diarying in Diois
Karlin Lillington on the move.
Tom Chi making music in Seattle.
The Homeless Guy - out and about.
The Agonist - somewhere in Texas (when he's not touring the Silk Road).
Eric Raymond - an individual.
William Gibson - for as long as he keeps it up.
Ilonina - is random.
SlashDot - geek central.
BoingBoing - a directory of wonderful things.
Bernie Goldbach - is under way in Ireland.
Ideas Asylum - for insanely good ideas.
Tom Murphy - has a PR angle.

Dept. of War-blogging Just to keep an eye on these guys and be reminded that the neo-cons aren't going away any time soon ...
Den Beste - good on engineering topics, rabid on everything else.
John Robb - war-blogging from the armchair (which is the closest to a war-zone most of these guys get).
Instapundit - for breaking news, and a right-wing take on same. "If you've got a modem, I've got a (bigoted) opinion"

February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003

I live in Ireland, in a lovely part of the country called Aughrim in the county of Wicklow. I work in South Dublin - it's a long commute - but 2 days a week I work from home. Whenever possible, I walk with my dog Scooby (Scooby's a feisty Glen of Imaal terrier with loadsa character) under beautiful Croghane Mountain.
About the name Mulqueen Mulqueen is a Clare sept, first recorded as a bardic tribe in the annals of the Dal Cais in the 10th century. I'm from Limerick originally myself, and the name is mainly found in south Clare, North Tipperary, and Limerick East. The name is O'Maolchaoin in Gaelic - the "Maol" (as with all the many Irish surnames beginning in "Mul") means "bald". It doesn't mean there were a lot of hair-challenged gents back then! The tag refers to "tribes wearing horn-less helmets" - it wasn't just the Vikings who wore horns, many Irish tribes did too. The "chaoin" means "gentle" in the sense of well-bred (the sense that survives in "gentleman" or "gentility"). Presumably the bardic (poetic) activities are referred to here :-) Anyhow, some of us are still writing - there is a disproportionate number of Mulqueens working in Irish journalism. Heraldic elements in clan history generally tend to be much later additions, but for the record the Mulqueen coat of arms holds a lion and a heart, and the motto: "Fortiter et fideliter" - brave and true.