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, March 26, 2003
CNN Breaking News. Maybe it's just that I've had a really bad day and desperately needed to laugh, but I found this hilarious. (Your mileage may vary.) It reminds me of the front page of The Onion when Pearl Harbor was attacked (as shown in their book Our Dumb Century, which is one of the funniest books I've read in years).

The day just gets better and better.
Q: So other than coming out in the morning to find all of your wheels and tires stolen, how was the rest of your day?
A: I received a questionnaire for jury duty in the mail. Next question?

I hate this @#$%^& city.

Sunday, March 23, 2003
Quantum mechanics and war on Iraq. I haven't written much of anything about the current war with Iraq because I feel very conflicted about it. For every argument you can make in favor of it, I can make one against it ... and vice versa. We may be doing the right thing, but going about it poorly. Or not. So when (via I stumbled across this post by Tom Coates, it spoke to me (emphasis added):
I went to see Richard Dawkins talk at the Douglas Adams Memorial Lectures a couple of weeks back. Dawkins was introduced by Stephen Fry, who quoted Niels Bohr in saying, "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum mechanics hasn't understood it".

I'm not going to be talking about the war much for the foreseeable future, but you'll probably notice a dramatic increase in the blackness of my humour. I should think the cynicism index will probably peak in fairly short order too. In fact, my only piece of advice to people on both sides of this issue is an analogue to Bohr's comments - anyone who is 100% sure of the morality of their position with regard to the war in Iraq probably hasn't understood the issues involved. Be prepared to have your mind changed. Remain open to new ideas. Protest / Advocate only what you really believe to be true...

Friday, March 21, 2003
Why we're going after Sadaam Hussein. I've finally found an article that summarizes the logic used by the gung-ho coterie around President Bush: eliminating him will help stabilize and democratize the Middle East. ("So it's the domino theory in reverse," said my boss when I described it to him.) That's the theory, anyway.

Thursday, March 20, 2003
The kids are playing. I laughed out loud when I got this from a coworker earlier today:

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
And they said irony was dead. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has banned broadcast media coverage of his appearance today at Cleveland's City Club, where he will receive their annual Citadel of Free Speech Award.

Since Esquire has apparently given up on their Dubious Achievement Awards... From the magazine Business 2.0, their third annual 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Too hot for Zagat's. The reader-submitted restaurant reviews that Zagat's couldn't print: pages 1 and 2. Mostly negative, as you might expect, but some are a little too enthusiastically positive. Virtually all are hilarious.

Monday, March 10, 2003
Whoops! Via Yahoo's news pictures, this request from Reuters:

Hmmm. I'm sure there's a joke to be made here, but I don't have the time: Breast implants linked to suicide.

Tell me what I need to know. European news organizations report dramatic increases in the number of Web site hits from U.S. readers. They attribute the increase to people searching for alternative sources of information about the coming war with Iraq:
Jon Dennis, deputy news editor of the Guardian Unlimited web site said: "We have noticed an upsurge in traffic from America, primarily because we are receiving more emails from US visitors thanking us for reporting on worldwide news in a way that is unavailable in the US media."

The American public is apparently turning away from the mostly US-centric American media in search of unbiased reporting and other points of views. Much of the US media's reaction to France and Germany's intransigence on the Iraqi war issue has verged on the xenophobic, even in the so-called 'respectable' press....

Mr Dennis said: "American visitors are telling us they are unable to find the breadth of opinion we have on our web site anywhere else because we report across the political spectrum rather than from just one perspective.

John Gilmore's famous comment comes to mind: "The Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it."

A worthless presidential news conference. That's what we had Thursday night. George Bush didn't answer questions, he simply repeated over and over again the messages he wanted to send. That was painfully obvious from listening to it (read the transcript if you missed it).

Notice how many times he mentioned "Iraq" or "Sadaam Hussein" in the same sentence as "terrorism"; they've provided no strong evidence of this, but they no know that simply repeating the charge over and over again will make people believe it.

Notice how he consistently ducked questions about what a war with Iraq will cost.

Notice how he consistently avoided the issue of, as ABC's Terry Moran put it, "what went wrong that so many governments and people around the world now not only disagree with you very strongly, but see the U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power?"

Notice how those who actually write critical articles (syndicated columnist Helen Thomas, Dana Milbank Mike Allen of The Washington Post) were ignored.

Read about the rules the White House imposed.

But why did the press laugh at this:
We'll be there in a minute. King, John King. This is a scripted -- (laughter.)

Of course Bush hates press conferences. He's not in control.

Don't we deserve some real answers from a president taking us to war, not some canned presentation?

Editor & Publisher lists 13 questions we wish they'd asked.

Slate's Fred Kaplan has hit the nail on the head:
It is becoming increasingly and distressingly clear that, however justified the coming war with Iraq may be, the Bush administration is in no shape—diplomatically, politically, or intellectually—to wage it or at least to settle its aftermath. It is hard to remember when, if ever, the United States has so badly handled a foreign-policy crisis or been so distrusted by so many friends and foes as a result.

Friday, March 07, 2003
Spotting junk science. From the Chronicle of Higher Education: The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science. (via Slashdot)

One death is NOT a tragedy. A new study by American and Russian historians concludes that Josef Stalin was assassinated by his underlings 40 years ago. If they're right, we're all better off, because the killers had become convinced that Stalin was going to embark on another purge that would lead to millions of deaths ... and start a nuclear war with the U.S. (Globe and Mail article | BBC article)

And yet, in a recent survey of Russians, "53% of 1,600 people polled said Stalin had played a 'mainly positive role' in the country's history."

Thursday, March 06, 2003
Bill, you ignorant slut. Great to hear that "60 Minutes" will revive its old "Point/Counterpoint" segment with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. While the segments will be short, I'm looking forward an open discussion of issues without namecalling or screaming. And I think that both are excellent choices. Let's hear it for executive producer Don Hewitt -- who CBS News was trying to ease out in favor of someone younger.

Wouldn't this be cool? If I had waaay too much money, I'd pounce on this listing at eBay. I wonder how high it will go; it's at $5100 (below the $5200 reserve) as I write this, with more than three days left. (via boing boing)

Forwarded humor:
Subject: Apology the true Canadian way

Courtesy of Rick Mercer from This Hour Has 22 Minutes on CBC Television:

On behalf of Canadians everywhere I'd like to offer an apology to the United States of America. We haven't been getting along very well recently and for that, I am truly sorry.

I'm sorry we called George Bush a moron.

He is a moron but, it wasn't nice of us to point it out. If it's any consolation, the fact that he's a moron shouldn't reflect poorly on the people of America. After all it's not like you actually elected him.

I'm sorry about our softwood lumber. Just because we have more trees than you doesn't give us the right to sell you lumber that's cheaper and better than your own.

I'm sorry we beat you in Olympic hockey. In our defense I guess our excuse would be that our team was much, much, much, much better than yours.

I'm sorry we burnt down your white house during the war of 1812. I notice you've rebuilt it! It's Very Nice.

I'm sorry about your beer. I know we had nothing to do with your beer but, we Feel your Pain.

I'm sorry about our waffling on Iraq. I mean, when you're going up against a crazed dictator, you wanna have your friends by your side. I realize it took more than two years before you guys pitched in against Hitler, but that was different. Everyone knew he had weapons.

And finally on behalf of all Canadians, I'm sorry that we're constantly apologizing for things in a passive-aggressive way which is really a thinly veiled criticism. I sincerely hope that you're not upset over this.

We've seen what you do to countries you get upset with.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003
No word if Ashcroft praised the arrest. How's this story for irony?
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.

3/6 Update: The mall is dropping the charges. Nothing like a little public humiliation to wake 'em up.

Don't give him any ideas! The Onion sez: Bush Offers Taxpayers Another $300 If We Go To War.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Tom Friedman has good points, as usual. The short version: Bush's Iraq strategy is a huge gamble. It may work and accomplish some good. But he hasn't laid the international groundwork properly. But read the whole column.

Another reason to throw popcorn at the screen: advertising before movies. There's nothing wrong with trailers (as long as there aren't too many of them), but forcing me to watch commercials after I've paid $8.50 just sends me ballistic. I nearly went and complained after being subjected to them before Adaptation. The only reason I didn't was that the movie left me in a pretty good mood and I didn't want to spoil it by confronting a manager.

I have an idea, though. Let's demand refunds proportional to the amount of our time wasted. Here's a hypothetical example:
20 minutes of commercials / 120 minutes of movie = 16.67%

$8.50 admission x 16.67% = $1.42 refund

What do you think?

Monday, March 03, 2003
We know whodunit: Alan Parker. Kevin Spacey's new movie The Life of David Gale has received atrocious reviews. I first encountered Joe Morgenstern's review in the WSJ, but Roger Ebert's thorough trashing -- he gives it zero stars -- deserves reading for its entertainment value if nothing else. Without giving the ending away, Morgenstern mentions a key plot point. Now Slate's David Edelstein reveals the ending, and I have to say that it's one of the most preposterous that I've ever heard. It seems quite likely that this film deserves the abuse it has received. I would have thrown popcorn at the screen.

Sunday, March 02, 2003
Heard the great new Beethoven piece yet? Sounds weird, doesn't it? But a reconstructed slow movement of a long-lost oboe concerto, composed when Beethoven was a student, has been performed in the Netherlands. Reconstructions always need to be taken with a healthy dose of salt, of course, but I find these things interesting.