The Nether-World

May 30, 2007

Silly Products

Filed under: Not Politics, Silly Products — netherworld @ 4:03 am

I like collecting news of the world’s most pointless or useless products. So, via an e-mail from a friend, here is a real winner:

A Washing Machine with an iPod Dock. No, really.

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Well, I just can’t imagine how we all managed to get by without this massive improvement to our lifestyles. I think this has to to be added to some other winners I’ve collected from various blogs. Here are a few:

If you know of any more daft products, do let me know.

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January 21, 2007

Computer Virus Warning – Attention Bloggers

Filed under: Blogging, Media, Not Politics — netherworld @ 12:38 am

I don’t usually post about anything about computer viruses and worms, but this should be of interest to anyone who receives news alerts via e-mail. Many bloggers are likely to be affected by this malware. There is a nasty virus going about which comes in e-mails with fake news headlines in the subject line.

Storm chaos prompts virus surge

E-mails claiming to contain details of the storms that battered Europe contain a malicious virus, security firms warn.

The e-mails with the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe”, can leave computers vulnerable to attack.

The messages were first detected as the storms, which have killed at least 28 people, continued to rage.

Fortunately for me I don’t often blog about the weather and I use a product called Mailwasher Pro to check my e-mails before I download them. However, no system is completely foolproof. I receive a lot of news articles via email and it would be easy to accidentally download a virus or worm if the subject line was different. Today I deleted an e-mail from an unknown source entitled “Russian missile shot down USA aircraft”. That is the sort of thing I’m likely to download and it was only the sender’s e-mail address that made me suspicious. A quick look at the source code confirmed my suspicions, it contained an attachment called Full News.exe.

The new virus, called Small.DAM, was spread through emails with a variety of subject lines purporting to be news. Other variants included “British Muslims Genocide” and “U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza…”

The virus is a trojan – a program or message that look benign but contains malicious code – that is installed when a user opens the e-mail and clicks on an attachment. The attachment could be called Video.exe, Read More.exe, Full Clip.exe or Full Story.exe.

So this is just a word of caution to bloggers and other news junkies. Be careful what e-mails you download and keep your anti-virus software up-to-date (I’m sure most of you do).

*UPDATE*

The Register has more.

 

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January 13, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and Leaves His Body

Filed under: Not Politics — netherworld @ 4:16 am

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I never written obituaries before but for over 20 years I have been a big fan of Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) and though I’m not surprised by news of his death, I am saddened by it (I found out about his death from Bob Morris over at Politics in the Zeros). RAW was/is one of my favorite writers and I read many of his books both fiction and non-fiction and always enjoyed them even if some of the stuff written went over my head. His writing forced readers to look things up in order to understand what was being said and challenged the things we often take for granted. I found him to be an inspiration. For those not familiar with him it’s a bit hard to explain so I shall litter this post with quotes and short extracts from his work and put in links for further reading. Let’s start with:

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in your long life?

  1. They live happiest who have practiced forgiveness.
  2. A sense of humor results from perspective. The wider the perspective, the more humor you will perceive.
  3. Dogmas kill both intelligence and perception.
  4. I don’t know what is important art or literature, but I know I prefer science fiction and surrealism to mainstream books, Orson Welles to Elia Kazan, bawdy jokes to ugly news bulletins, and Gene Kelly musicals to Death of a Salesman.
  5. The Dalai Lama seems the only religious leader around who isn’t at least half crazy.
  6. Certitude belongs exclusively to those who look up the answer in only one encyclopedia.

It’s ironic that I often have to battle with conspiracy theorists when I post pieces about, say, the London Bombings of July 7th 2005 or the death of Dr David Kelly whilst at the same time being a fan of RAW who was a renown researcher of conspiracy theories. The difference is that the conspiraloons of today tend to be very dogmatic in their beliefs whereas RAW never really believed anything, he just wondered a lot. And that is what shaped my thinking. RAW described his writing as:

[An] attempt to break down conditioned associations–to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models (maps) and no one model elevated to the Truth… My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything.

Thinking in this way is not easy because of the nature of our language. RAW wrote a lot about E Prime, a form of English that dispensed with all forms of the verb “to be”. It has its roots in the field of general semantics, as presented by Alfred Korzybski in his 1933 book, Science and Sanity. Put very simply, the word “is” assumes too much, it gives the impression that we actually know what we’re talking about. For example:

Consider the following paired sets of propositions, in which Standard English alternates with English-Prime (E-Prime):

  • lA. The electron is a wave.
  • lB. The electron appears as a wave when measured with instrument-l.
  • 2A. The electron is a particle.
  • 2B. The electron appears as a particle when measured with instrument-2.
  • 3A. John is lethargic and unhappy.
  • 3B. John appears lethargic and unhappy in the office.
  • 4A. John is bright and cheerful.
  • 4B. John appears bright and cheerful on holiday at the beach.
  • 5A. This is the knife the first man used to stab the second man.
  • 5B. The first man appeared to stab the second man with what looked like a knife to me.
  • 6A. The car involved in the hit-and-run accident was a blue Ford.
  • 6B. In memory, I think I recall the car involved in the hit-and-run accident as a blue Ford.
  • 7A. This is a fascist idea.
  • 7B. This seems like a fascist idea to me.
  • 8A. Beethoven is better than Mozart.
  • 8B. In my present mixed state of musical education and ignorance, Beethoven seems better to me than Mozart.
  • 9A. That is a sexist movie.
  • 9B. That seems like a sexist movie to me.
  • 10A. The fetus is a person.
  • 10B. In my system of metaphysics, I classify the fetus as a person.

Of course using language this way requires a great deal of discipline and I find it impossible to maintain in everyday speech, but I find it a very helpful tool when writing essays or blog posts. If our politicians used language in this way, there would be a lot less fundamentalism in the world and probably a lot less conflict.

Before he became to ill to write regularly, I often visited his website to read his Thought of the Month. Sometimes these thoughts were political and sometimes they were more philosophical but I always found them thought-provoking. This is representative:

3.11.93 Jia Shen, Year of the Monkey

I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.

I strongly suspect that a world “external to,” or at least independent of, my senses exists in some sense.

I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology..

I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback.

I more-than-half suspect that all “good” writing, or all prose and poetry that one wants to read more than once, proceeds from a kind of “alteration in consciousness,” i.e. a kind of controlled schizophrenia. [Don’t become alarmed — I think good acting comes from the same place.]

I sometimes suspect that what Blake called Poetic Imagination expresses this exact thought in the language of his age, and that visits by”angels” and “gods” states it an even more archaic argot.

These suspicions have grown over 72 years, but as a rather slow and stupid fellow I do not have the chutzpah to proclaim any of them as certitudes. Give me another 72 years and maybe I’ll arrive at firmer conclusions.

RAW is probably best known for his collaboration with Robert Shea on the Illuminatus Trilogy, but he also wrote prolifically on a variety of subjects including psychology and quantum mechanics often mixing them and creating new philosophical ideas and always with humour. It was these books which I enjoyed reading the most.

RAW died on January 11. He had post-polio syndrome which severely damaged his legs and weakened his body. After a hard fall in June last year which landed him in hospital, he was unable to walk and confined to bed. His medical bills seriously depleted his finances. In his last days he kept a blog. This is his last post:

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don’t see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

This thought from R U Sirius seems like a good place to end this post.

Robert Anton Wilson taught us all that “the universe contains a maybe.” So maybe there is an afterlife, and maybe Bob’s consciousness is hovering around all of us who were touched by his words and his presence all these years. And if that’s the case, I’m sure he’d like to see you do something strange and irreverent — and yet beautiful –- in his honor.

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December 23, 2006

Aaaaarrrgghh! I’ve been tagged

Filed under: Blogging, Memes, Not Politics — netherworld @ 6:06 am

Yes, it’s happened again, I’ve been tagged (by Rachel) and this time I’m going to respond after having studiously ignored previous memes (well, seeing as it’s Christmas and today is my Birthday). So, the meme is “What are the seven best things you did this past year?”. Hmmm, tricky! I don’t think 2006 will go down as the best year in history. In fact it’s been crap on numerous levels. Anyway giving it some thought, here are seven highlights of the year in no particular order.

  • Getting a cat: Sad but true; I’ve always been a liked cats but after my last cat mysteriously disappeared when I moved back to London, I was reluctant to get another one. Anyway ten years later I did just that and although he’s a destructive, greedy, self-centered, attention-seeking furry little hooligan, he’s also a lot of fun and very cute. He’s a ruthless killer when he finds a mouse, and I discovered when playing with him that he’s a better goalkeeper than Paul Robinson. Also, whenever people come to visit they go all gooey over him…especially girls. Enough cat blogging Ed.

  • Contributing to The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze: This was a fun project organised by Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale. The idea of a book being written by at least 50 different bloggers is something of a first and the subject matter made it something I wanted to be part of. It was the first time anything I had written appeared in print. I was at a party for the contributors the other day and learned that there is going to be a second edition called “THE BIG BOOK OF NEW LABOUR SLEAZE”. I’d better get writing.

  • Writing for Blairwatch: Blairwatch is the blog that inspired me to start a blog. From there I discovered many of the other blogs I now read on a daily basis. So I was delighted when I was asked if I wanted to contribute. Team blogging is a lot of fun. There is less pressure to come up with something every day and because it has more readers than this blog, there is plenty of feedback and lively discussion in the comments.


  • Discovering I’m actually a pretty good student: No one was more surprised than me about this. Deciding that I needed more mental stimulation, I chose to do a Humanities degree with the Open University a couple of years ago. I was spectacularly unacademic at school and college and couldn’t wait to leave and get a job. But after 20 years away from studying, I found that I now really enjoy it (I suppose it helps if you study things that actually interest you). The really surprising thing was that I’m actually good at it. I get high scores for my essays (90% on several occasions) and I’ve just passed an exam on Classical Greece and Rome at Grade Two despite having dreadful handwriting and not having been anywhere near an exam hall in decades. So I shall be continuing my studies even if it is rather time consuming.

  • Meeting other bloggers: This is definitely a highlight of 2006. When I started blogging it didn’t occur to me that I’d end up striking friendships with other bloggers so it was a very pleasant surprise to meet some of the people I read regularly. Outside blogland, most of my friends roll their eyes when I discuss politics so it’s refreshing to be able to talk to informed people on current events. Hopefully there will be more of this in the future.

  • Watching Blair’s credibility drop to zero: Anyone who reads this blog and Blairwatch will know what I think of Blair and New Labour. I can’t think of a more sleazy, dishonest, dangerous, unprincipled, and ill-advised Prime Minister. He has betrayed his Party, the country and the wider world. He has eroded our democracy and is removing our civil liberties at an alarming rate. His reckless rush to war with the American neo-cons and his seeming determination to cause even more damage despite the evidence of his policy failures being plain for everyone (except him apparently) to see, fills me with disgust, as does watching his sycophantic fawning over the Bush administration. So to see Blair being the first Prime Minister to be questioned by the police in a corruption enquiry; to watch Labour Party donors distance themselves from him; to see his poll ratings plummet and to learn that he has no influence whatsoever with the White House brings some grim satisfaction. The sooner he’s gone the better. I’d be even more satisfied if he was to be held to account for his crimes.

  • Watching Italy winning the World Cup: I’m not really a football fan or in any way ‘sporty’. The only time I enjoy watching football is when the World Cup tournament is on. And because most of my family are Italian I tend to support Italy when they are playing (we either have family get-togethers where we collectively shout at the TV, or go to Italian bars and collectively shout at the screen…”Eeetalia!”, along with expensive mobile phone calls to relatives and friends back in Italy every time a goal is scored, missed or disallowed) The Italian team is undeniably entertaining to watch when it’s on form and this year was no exception… Oh how we laughed when Zidane was sent off. My only regret was not being in Italy for the celebrations. I was in Italy in 1982 when the team beat West Germany in the final in Madrid and there followed a week of non-stop partying (starting off with most of the village rushing into the sea).

Anyway there you have it. [Just to avoid confusion, I’ve taken out the links to the poor sods I foisted this meme on to since they are linked on the blogstot version]. Sincere apologies to the following (I promise I won’t make a habit out of this): Justin, ., D-Notice, Devil’s Kitchen, Rimone, Andy Ramblings, Bob Morris over at Polizeros. Anyway, happy Christmas, Yule, Winterval, Saturnalia, Chanukah etc. [Delete as appropriate] and a happy New Year.

*UPDATE*

I forgot to wish Muslims a happy Eid, which falls on December 31 this year (thanks Osama for the reminder). That was remiss of me. I actually thought Eid came at a different time, but then there is Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha So I must have got confused. Please excuse my ignorance. Anyway, happy Eid too.

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October 12, 2006

Food for thought

Filed under: Not Politics, Science — netherworld @ 4:28 am

Maybe it’s because of all the science fiction books and films I’ve always enjoyed, but I’ve often wondered how long it would take for all traces of mankind to dissappear from the planet if our species were to suddenly vanish from the face of the Earth. Anyway this article in the Times (taken from New Scientist) sheds some light on the question. Apparantly it would take 200,000 years.

Light pollution would be the first to go, followed by fields, buildings and cities

IF MAN were to vanish from the face of the Earth today, his footprint on the planet would linger for the mere blink of an eye in geological terms.

Within hours, nature would begin to eradicate its impact. In 50,000 years all that would remain would be archaeological traces. Only radioactive materials and a few man-made chemical contaminants would last longer — an invisible legacy.

Homo sapiens has managed just 150,000 years on Earth, and his earliest — debatable — ancestor only six million. By contrast, the dinosaurs populated the planet for 165 million years.
Read on

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