Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray [at]

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Wednesday, October 31, 2001
Newer! Slower! More expensive! In testing by InfoWorld, Windows XP was slower than Windows 2000 in every single scenario. The slower the processor, the more noticeable it was. And the combination of running Windows XP and Office XP was 35 to 68% slower than a Windows 2000/Office 2000 combination. Read the entire article, but here's the conclusion:
Overall we are quite disappointed with Windows XP's ability to pull serious weight when compared to Windows 2000....

...until 2 GHz desktop PC's become commonplace, we have a hard time recommending widespread adoption of Windows XP at all. Granted, for light-duty service on the newest hardware, Windows XP with Office XP is an acceptable choice -- if an 11 percent performance hit, or 53 minutes added to an 8-hour day, is acceptable....

Shops lured by XP features should weigh their options carefully. In many cases, these features may not be compelling enough to justify saddling your end-users with a slower OS. Although differences between Windows XP and Windows 2000 can be measured in seconds, what business can afford to put a 20 percent or greater bite on worker productivity?

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Pay your respects. MS-DOS, R.I.P. (via

Monday, October 29, 2001
History lesson. The New York Times has "How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science." If you are under the perception that Islam and scientific knowledge don't go together, they do. Or at least they did.

Sunday, October 28, 2001
Back to the Future. Ever wonder why today isn't the way it was supposed to be yesterday? Check out Retrofuture Today to read about all the wonders we were supposed to be enjoying right now, like flying cars.

Thursday, October 25, 2001
Alta Vista: your guide to the net (circa last July). Alta Vista hasn't updated its index since last July. (For comparison, most major search engines do it every 2-4 weeks.) Really folks, there's no reason to use anything but Google.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
Microsoft gets rid of its fool. Along with its idiot, ninny, dunderhead and ignoramus. They were in the Word 97 thesaurus, but they're gone from Word 2000. All because they don't want to offend anyone. Funny, I'm offended by their being a monopoly, but I don't think they're about to change that.

It wasn't my fault! Don't you love it when politicians try to deny responsibility for ads produced by their own campaigns? Such as Illinois Lt. Governor Corinne Wood, who's running for governor. Her campaign ran a TV commercial showing that footage (already burned into our collective psyche) of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center... tastefully superimposed over an American flag... then cutting to the Sears Tower. But it was the TV station's fault. Uh-huh. (via Drudge)

Tuesday, October 23, 2001
"Could Helicopters Have Saved People From Trade Center?" That's a headline in today's WSJ. (There's no free article online, alas, so herewith my summary.) The answer appears to be yes, quite likely several dozen from one tower whose roof was not obscured by smoke. So why didn't it happen?

  • Philosophy. FDNY policy, like that in most big cities, is to send occupants down and out of the building, rather than going up to a potentially dangerous helicopter pickup situation. (This makes sense except in situations where people cannot descend, which happened on September 11.) Los Angeles is the one notable exception; their codes require that any building over 75 feet tall (about 7 stories) have space to land a helicopter.
  • Turf battles. The Fire Department and Police have fought bitterly over who should be in charge during emergency situations. The Fire Department was enraged when a Police helicopter pulled a few people off the roof during the 1993 attack, because it violated the policy described above of sending occupants down (and also becuase the helicopter rescue was widely publicized). The Fire Department got a policy established where a NYPD helicopter would need to go pick up someone from FDNY before going to a scene, which would slow down a quick arrival.
  • Laws. We know from cell phone calls that some people tried to get to the roof, but couldn't. Fire codes in NY require that doors to the roof be unlocked -- but as a state government building, the WTC was exempt from this requirement. The Port Authority wanted doors to the roof locked to protect valuable communications equipment and thwart would-be suicides and stunt performers, so they were.

I hope and expect that these issues are examined across the country. Bad enough for this to happen once.

The only problem will be the pesky blue screen halfway through the episode. The one-hour 200th episode of Frasier on November 13th will feature a guest appearance by Bill Gates.

Monday, October 22, 2001
Newspapers on September 11-12. The Poynter Institute collected the front pages of newspapers around the world (mostly in the US) on September 11 and 12. You can view them as large thumbnails (isn't that an oxymoron?) in alphabetical order beginning here. Most are even available in PDF format (you'll need a fast connection or a lot of patience for these). Check out the subtlety and restraint of the September 12 San Francisco Examiner. These front pages are also being published as a book this November, with royalties and profits going to The September 11th Fund.

More front pages are available at:

The Web on September 11. Some people had the bright idea to grab screenshots of news sites around the world as the day unfolded. You can view them here, organized in many different ways. I recommend doing it on chronological order (scroll down and click on the first entry under "by screenshot time"). Notice the cultural differences and compare the layouts. The shots can viewed as decent-sized thumbnails or full-size.

Marketing whores. You have to respect the complete lack of shame that some marketing people have. First it was the English political consultant urging clients in office to put out any bad news while it would be overwhelmed by coverage of September 11. (Sorry, no news link; I let this one get away from me. I was more interested in the bigger stories.) Now an English e-mail marketer is recommending that companies "should embrace anthrax as an opportunity."

Saturday, October 20, 2001
Looking closer. Newsweek's web site quotes a report by Michigan State Police: “The Detroit/Dearborn area is a major financial support center for many Mideast terrorist groups... Southeast Michigan is known as a lucrative recruiting area and potential support base for international terrorist groups. It is also conceivable that ‘sleeper cells’ may be located in that area of the state.” It doesn't surprise me, believe it or not.

Thursday, October 18, 2001
Forwarded humor. It's a bit recycled, as noted by the newsgroup's editor, but still funny: Afghanistan TV listings. (via TVBarn2)

NetRadio, R.I.P. One of my favorite streaming music sources is gone. Their classical music channels were a refuge for me here in the classical-free Detroit radio market. Guess I'll have to start looking for alternatives... (via TVBarn2)

Ingenuity. You have to respect the ingenuity of turning a cargo plane (the C-130) into one hell of a gunship (the AC-130).

Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Thank you. I just checked my site report and was stunned to discover that since I started this site in July, I've had an average of 97 visitors a month. (There's a few major peaks in there for some reason that drove up the average considerably.) What a pleasant surprise. I don't do this to chase readership numbers, and I'm not selling ads or anything, but it's nice to know that some people are reading it. I hope it's worth your time.

News: the best propaganda. How can we expect the Arabic world to understand our viewpoint when they can't get news the way we can? And vice versa? Fortunately, there are signs that the Western world has woken up to this problem. Arabic-language web sites have been launched by the BBC and MSNBC have launched arabic-language web sites, and CNN will soon. On a related note, and to partly prove my point, read about how an Islamic school in Pakistan reacted to seeing video of the World Trade Center attack.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001
The latest victims. Oh, the tragedy. According to the NYT, the current anthrax-by-mail brouhaha is forcing direct marketers to adjust their pitches. After all, not too many people are going to be opening unmarked envelopes. (I can just see some stand-up comedian saying, "I got an envelope with Ed McMahon's picture on it, saying 'You may already have contracted anthrax!'")

This is so cool. When I was young, I remember seeing a short film called Powers of Ten that demonstrated area in a unique way. A mosquito landed on someone's arm, viewed from overhead. The shot started backing up, with a square and the amount of area inside it listed in scientific notation. It revealed the entire Earth... and it kept going and going and going and going. Then it reversed, and the viewer went back in, past the normal view to mind-boggling levels of magnification of the mosquito puncturing the skin.

I have never forgotten this film, which was made by the husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames, who contributed many things to the 20th Century, furniture being the best-known. (There's an Eames chair in the apartment set of TV's Frasier.) Although they are both long gone, their work is still on the web. Check out the wild Powers of Ten website that adapts their film to this new medium.

Someone at Florida State University has made their own version on the web. Check it out! (If you don't have a fast connection, be patient.)

Update: the best way to learn about Charles and Ray Eames may be through this Library of Congress exhibition. Sorry I didn't find it earlier!

Oh joy. WDIV, the NBC affiliate here in Detroit (which is owned by The Washingon Post Company) had this charming report about 90 minutes ago:

DETROIT-- The FBI has identified Detroit as the No. 3 target on the list of possible terrorist targets, according to a police memo obtained by Local 4.

Security at police precincts across the city was stepped up following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and Monday, new measures were introduced. New barricades for instance, were present at the Ninth Precinct Monday.

Inspector Lance Williams of the Tactical Services Section is identified as the author of the memo, which includes the warning from the FBI. In the memo to the Tactical Services Section, dated Oct. 15, Williams said that the division's building on Trumbull is on lockdown.

I don't know how accurate this story is. But if this weblog stops being updated sometime in the near future... well...

Monday, October 15, 2001
They want to see your hard drive. Not only do they want to see it, they want to delete certain files they think you might have on it. All without the messy details of a search warrant. Who are they? The FBI saving us from terrorists? Anti-virus companies willing to delete nasty computer infections? No. It's the recording industry, of course, fighting to save us from the evils of MP3 files.

Sunday, October 14, 2001
Put your money where your mouth is. The songs and flags and bumper stickers are nice, but are you ready to really help your country? Want to do your part to slow the supply of money to terrorist organizations in the Mideast? Really? Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive? Well, okay then...

Get a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

Not quite as interested now, are you? You ought to be.

Friday, October 12, 2001
Not to be smug, but...
Me on October 2:
Also, during the presidential campaign, Bush insisted that we should have no part of "nation building." Funny, that's exactly what we should have done in Afghanistan years ago, once the Russians left... and what we may end up doing now.

The New York Times on October 12:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 — President Bush has been dragged by events and his allies to a place he never wanted to be: at the center of an exercise in nation-building, constructing a new Afghanistan from whatever is left once his bombing campaign and commando raids are over.

He all but acknowledged as much this evening during his news conference. Prodded along by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, members of Congress and some of his own advisers, he said for the first time that the United Nations should "take over the so-called nation-building — I would call it the stabilization of a future government." The United States, he indicated, would participate, but along with other nations.

It is no surprise that Mr. Bush wanted to avoid the term "nation- building," for that is what he charged had gone wrong with American foreign policy during the Clinton years, first in Somalia, then in the Balkans. American forces were tied down in missions other than defending America, he said in a debate last October — "that seems a century ago," a close adviser said today....

Say cheese. Amazing satellite pictures of training camps in Afghanistan. Now imagine how good the US intelligence photos are... (via

Who was helping Mohammed Atta? A report in the Times of India says that Mohammed Atta received $100,000 from the head of the Pakistani intelligence service who was just fired after India gave the evidence to the FBI. Rafe Colburn, whose site is where I found this, says he has not seen this story anywhere else. Is it for real?

Go ahead and shop on Halloween. The e-mail from the woman about her Arab boyfriend's warning is yet another hoax.

Thursday, October 11, 2001
When satire gets loose. In case you somehow missed it, Internet humor has appeared among the clueless, as a photo in a Pakistan protest sign shows Bert from Sesame Street next to Osama bin Laden. Here's a wide shot, and here's the closeup. And here is the story, and the Urban Legends Reference Pages explanation. Poor Jim Henson must be spinning in his grave.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001
Happy birthday, e-mail. E-mail is now 30 years old. I still remember when we moved to our current work building (around 1990), and John, a guy who rented space from us, had AOL. I thought it was sort of interesting, but AOL was still heavily Macintosh-oriented at that point. I remember asking John what he liked about AOL, and him saying that e-mail was great. And I thought, "but who would I ever communicate with by e-mail?" A few years later, I was using e-mail daily through a personal CompuServe account and trying to convince the owners that the company needed e-mail. And today, if anything goes down it's, "Paul, we need to get our e-mail!" How things change.

The fictional parallel to this is an episode of Seinfeld where there's a deliberately tongue-in-cheek flashback to Jerry talking with a girlfriend, who is just finishing up telling him about this amazing thing called the World Wide Web. "But what's e-mail?" Jerry asks, very confused. And of course, you can follow the history of the Apple Macintosh product line by looking at his desk over the history of the show.

The wayback machine. As long as I'm reminiscing... go here and click on "The Emulator" to experience a recreation of what the WWW was like waaaay back in the mid-1990s. Experience NCSA Mosaic, Netscape Navigator 1.0, and IE 2.0 (among others) as you look at a few saved pages from those ancient days, or check out your current favorites through these old browsers.

Tuesday, October 09, 2001
The amazing "Moose." Fun facts from today's WSJ about the C-17 Globemaster III airplane, which is being used to carry cargo and make food drops in Afghanistan:
The plane's high wings and other features allow short, low-speed approaches and extremely steep takeoffs, important attributes when operating in hostile territory. During training, crews routinely slam the plane -- which measures more than half a football field in length -- to the ground and stop it within four seconds and 1,500 feet. That is a difficult feat even for some pilots of small, single-engine planes.

More info:

Cue the Church Lady. Well, who could have assigned Tijuana, Mexico's new area code? I wonder, who could it be? Could it be... (via Next Draft)

Writing for W -- and History. NYT (free registration required) has a long article about the writing of President Bush's speech to Congress.

Monday, October 08, 2001
What bin Laden meant. In his "ha ha, I'm not dead, attack America" video (I'm paraphrasing), Osama bin Laden said:
What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation (the Islamic world) has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked, and no one hears and no one heeds.

80 years? An expert on TV dismissed the significance of this, but Prof. James Robbins explains exactly what bin Laden was referring to. (via

Background. Wired News lists some useful web sites to learn about Afghanistan. And if you haven't heard enough about what it's like to live under the Taliban, read this.

Ann Coulter is becoming unhinged. When last noted here, the blonde conservative syndicated columnist had written a bloodthirsty column advocating a modern Crusade. One her most prominent subscribers, National Review Online, fired her. But she's still writing, and in her current column, she advocates this:
...Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims -- at least all terrorists capable of assembling a murderous plot against America that leaves 7,000 people dead in under two hours.... All we can do is politely ask aliens from suspect nations to leave -- with the full expectation of readmittance -- while we sort the peace-loving immigrants from the murderous fanatics.

Is this what passes for reasoned advice nowadays?

Photoshop + too much time = ... Remember how the title character in the movie Forrest Gump seemed to be part of so many historic events and people (also like Woody Allen's Zelig)? Well, it seems that the guy who mysteriously turned up in the purported September 11 World Trade Center tourist photo really gets around!

Herblock, R.I.P. The legendary Washington Post political cartoonist Herblock (Herb Block) is dead at age 91. You know his work, whether you know it or not; just take a look. He coined the term "McCarthyism" (about Senator Joe McCarthy). He won three Pulitizer Prizes solo and one more collectively with the Post for its Watergate coverage. And a famous anecdote:
For 20 years, Herblock pictured Nixon with a five o'clock shadow. But when the Californian won the presidency in 1968, his nemesis decided to drop this practice on the grounds that "at a time of national division and crisis" an incoming president "was entitled to his chance to lead." So he drew a cartoon showing a barber chair and a sign saying, "This Barber Shop Gives to Every New President of the United States a Free Shave. H. Block. Proprietor."

And so it begins. Well, the bombing in Afghanistan started today. I don't think I've mentioned how pleased I am with how well the President has handled the whole situation. But we shall see what the opinion of the Islamic world is...

Not a joke. According to his doctor, the head of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is mentally unstable.

The bad side of avoiding labels. I have a problem with Reuters not allowing their journalists to describe attacks or their perpetrators as "terrorists." I understand two arguments for this -- too judgmental, and Reuters has to do business in places where people might not agree with this label -- but I don't like it.

Sunday, October 07, 2001
The more things change... Does it bother anyone else that we're coughing up $15 billion -- more than three times what they actually lost from the shutdown -- to bail the airlines out, when their lobbying and footdragging, combined with the inefficiencies of the FAA, enabled the September 11 attacks to occur? And will we ever rewrite the FAA's charter so that they can stop thinking about "encouraging and developing civil aeronautics" and focus on safety? Just wondering...

Friday, October 05, 2001
Where did it start? Slate attempts to trace the origin of the claim that 4000 Israelis called in sick from their jobs at the World Trade Center on September 11. It appears to start with a Lebanese TV station (whose web site proclaims that they exist to "stage an effective psychological warfare with the Zionist enemy") and a web site with murky origins, purportedly located here in the US, called "Information Times." The story spread like wildfire, but has been debunked just as quickly. As the author oberves, "With the Web as a weapon, a lie spreads quickly and easily. With the Web as a corrective tool, the same lie becomes much easier to bat away."

Will you have to pay more for net access? The US Supreme Court continues to sort out obscure and complex issues from the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The outcome of this case could affect what we pay for net access.

R.I.P.? Intel wants computer makers to kill off floppy drives, serial ports and PS/2 ports in the second half of 2002. And MS will no longer support DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or NT 3.5x after December 31st. (What?!? No more of that valuable customer support from MS?!? Gasp!) Update: Intel says these are only suggestions. Uh-huh.

Thursday, October 04, 2001
The case against Osama bin Laden. The British document has released this document of the evidence (that they will publicly discuss) regarding Osama bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 attacks.

They were heroes. Preliminary analysis of the cockpit voice recorder indicates that passengers of United Flight 93 did attack their hijackers.

Wednesday, October 03, 2001
Lutz addresses the troops. Ever since legendary "car guy" Bob Lutz (who worked at Chrysler before the takeover and was a force behind their product renaissance during the 1990s) was hired by GM to oversee product development, the debate has begun: will Lutz be able to shake things up at the world's largest automaker, or will the bureaucracy there wear down even him? We probably won't know for awhile. But we do know that Lutz is trying to spread his philosophy of building cars there; he summarized his beliefs in a memo to people at General Motors. Someone passed it to columnist Jerry Flint at Forbes magazine, and now we can all read it.

Hear, hear. If you didn't see or hear British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech on Tuesday, you can read the complete transcript. It's very well done, and I'm told that Blair wrote it himself. While the US media naturally tended to focus on the terror-related aspects ("As for the Taliban, they can surrender the terrorists or face the consequences."), Blair went beyond that, noting a litany of troubled countries and regions, and including a passionate call for seeking justice in all aspects around the world:

...The world community must show as much its capacity for compassion as for force.

The critics will say, "But how can the world be a community, nations act in their own self-interest." Of course, they do, but what is the lesson of the financial markets, climate change, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation or world trade? It is that our self- interest and our mutual interest are today inextricably woven together.

The issue is not how to stop globalization; the issue is how we use the power of community to combine globalization with justice. If globalization works only for the benefit of the few, then it will fail and it will deserve to fail.

But if we follow the principles that have served us here so well at home -- that power, wealth and opportunity must be in the hands of the many, not the few -- if we make that our guiding light for the global economy, then it will be a force for good and an international movement we should take pride in leading.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001
Advice from a veteran of Afghanistan. Tom Carew was a British Special Air Services (SAS) (description | more description | history) commando who spent more than a year in Afghanistan training guerrilla forces to fight the Soviet Union invaders. He describes fighting there as "unlike anything you can possibly imagine."

Women. Shortly after the breakup of the Beatles, John Lennon wrote a song called (pardon the language) "Woman is the Nigger of the World." I wonder what he would have said if he had heard about how the Taliban treats women. Read an interview with an Afghan woman freedom fighter. (CNN also has a special entitled "Beneath the Veil" playing in heavy rotation, which was produced before 9/11/2001.)

(Joke making the rounds: "To the Taliban: 'Hand over Osama bin Laden or we'll take all your women and send them to college.'")

Nation building. Governments appear to be searching any alternative Afghan government that could replace the Taliban. There appear to be two possibilities:
1. Bring back the king from exile, at least temporarily. He has reportedly volunteered to serve in a transitional government.
2. Back the Northern Alliance of rebels.

The second option, the Northern Alliance, seems to be gaining popularity right now. But the woman interviewed in the Salon article above suggests that doing that would create another mess:

Do you support the Northern Alliance?

We condemn the cooperation of the United States with the Northern Alliance. This is another nightmare for our people -- the Northern Alliance are the second Taliban.

The Northern Alliance are hypocrites: They say they are for democracy and human rights, but we can't forget the black experience we had with them. Seventy-year-old grandmothers were raped during their rule, thousands of girls were raped, thousands were killed and tortured. They are the first government that started this tragedy in Afghanistan.

What government do you support, then?

We are ready to support the former king. It doesn't mean that the king is a very ideal person for us. But in comparison to the fundamentalist parties, we prefer him. The only condition we have for the king is that he must not cooperate with the Northern Alliance.

Of course, there is a wide spread of opinion:
An Afghan refugee pulled aside the black chador covering her lips and spat when she mentioned her homeland's exiled king and the idea of his eventual return.

"He disgusts me. He is worse than even the Taliban,'' snarled Bibi Zahra Husseini, who fled to Iran 15 years ago during the 1979-89 war between Soviet invaders and U.S.-backed guerrillas - some of whom regrouped as the Taliban militia that now rule most of the country with a medieval-style Islamic code.


Our country had an unfortunate record during the Cold War of supporting any foreign dictatorship that was anti-Communist. All too often, we looked the other way while they did bad things. My point here is that I hope that we don't make the same mistake now -- supporting any oppressive government just because they help us.

Also, during the presidential campaign, Bush insisted that we should have no part of "nation building." Funny, that's exactly what we should have done in Afghanistan years ago, once the Russians left... and what we may end up doing now.

Adjust your expectations. At lunch the other day, my boss posed the question, "Is anyone else frustrated that we haven't done anything (i.e., regarding the September 11 attacks) yet?"

My response was 1) I think that things are happening (that very day came the report of US reconaissance teams inside Afghanistan) and 2) I would far rather that we be patient and make sure that our actions target those who were actually responsible, rather than launching some military actions that not only accomplish little, but actually making things worse by killing innocent civilians. I'm actually quite pleased so far. Afghanistan has enough problems. Attacking them indiscriminately would only make things worse.

Now Robert Wright in Slate asks, "What's the rush?" He articulates many of the same thoughts I've had, and does it much better.

By the way... I've been posting a little less frequently due to some serious deadlines at work. I'll resume my normal pace once they are behind me. I'm not giving up on this page, and I hope you don't either.