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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Sunday, October 26, 2003
Why I will never buy a Nokia phone.
You may have head about printer companies designing inkjet printers that will not work with aftermarket ink cartidges (Lexmark is the worst, possibly followed by Epson). Now it's claimed that Nokia designs their phones so that if you use an aftermarket battery, the phone goes into maximum power consumption mode. (No wonder there are reports of them exploding!)

Hope on the spam front.
I am convinced that there are only two ways of making a serious dent in spam:

1. Make everyone pay a very small fee to send an e-mail message. One cent apiece wouldn't mean much to you or me, but it would add up big time for that spammer blasting out a million e-mails. I consider this a rather unlikely solution, however.

2. Change the e-mail protocol so that it verifies that the sender really is who he/she claims to be. If it can't be verified, the message goes undelivered. This would make it much more difficult, hopefully even impossible, for spammers to hide their identities. This is much more likely. In fact, a task force is now examining various proposals to establish such a protocol.

Notice I didn't say anything about antispam laws, because they don't work. Spammers often work outside the law anyway, and many have set up operations overseas where US laws don't apply. And since Michigan's antispam law took effect earlier this year, the amount of spam I get has actually increased.

One whore replaces another.
Pardon my French, but that's my reaction to this NY Post report that the MPAA's Jack Valenti will retire and be replaced by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA). Although as several Slashdotters have pointed out, this at least gets him out of Congress and he's been working for them already anyway.

Special bonus do-it-yourself "what's wrong with this picture" activity: try going to Tauzin's web page and performing a search there.

Friday, October 24, 2003
Software news.
Here's a useful guide to see how the new Microsoft Office 2003 compares with previous versions. (via fark)

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
What do prescription drugs and textbooks have in common?
They both cost significantly less overseas than they do in the US. How much less?
The differences are often significant: "Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, Third Edition," for example, lists for $146.15 on the American Amazon site, but can be had for $63.48, plus $8.05 shipping, from the British one. And "Linear System Theory and Design, Third Edition" is $110 in the United States, but $41.76, or $49.81 with shipping, in Britain.

Surviving Niagara.
An unidentified man from Michigan has survived going over Niagara Falls -- the Horseshoe Falls, specifically. With only the clothes on his back. Head first. If you've ever been there, you know how incredible this is. It tops the 7-year-old boy who survived the same plunge wearing a lifejacket in 1960. (longer Buffalo News story | Toronto Globe and Mail story | CNN interview with eyewitness | pictures of the falls)

Update: He's a local guy, and it wasn't a suicide attempt. Great -- now how many people will try imitating him?

Sunday, October 19, 2003
Bush's idea of "objectivity."
I was going to rant about George Bush's idea of objectivity -- in case you missed it, he said in an interview that he doesn't read "filtered" newspapers, but prefers to get his news "objectively" from the people who work for him -- but I didn't have time. Then Michael Kinsley did it for me, and no doubt better than I would have.

So that's why.
All the news reports about the debate over the FDA allowing silicone breast implants left me with one persistent question: why is there demand for them? Why aren't saline implants perfectly adequate? I never found an answer to this seemingly basic question in any news reports. But now Slate explains why (the short answer is that they apparently feel and act more realistic).

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
"Itís a public-safety issue."
More than 1000 people have committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate bridge since it opened in 1937. It's a magnet for suicides. Why do people do it? What were they thinking? Why don't they construct a barrier to prevent it? Find the answers in this morbidly fascinating New Yorker article.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
China's inferiority complex.
So China has launched a man into space. Can anyone deny that this is simply propaganda for their own citizens and the rest of the world? (It was when the Soviet Union and the US were doing it too, of course, but I like to think that we've moved beyond that.)

If China was interested in the science, it would be much simpler and cheaper to participate in efforts such as the International Space Station. But no, they're going to do it all on their own -- including building their own space station, if I heard correctly. It's a hell of an expensive way to assert your power, but I guess it's better than starting a war. I will be curious to see how far they want to take this.

By the way, nice going by chickening out and not showing it live.

New feature.
For awhile now I have wanted to add a sidebar to list some ongoing miscellaneous information such as movies I've seen, books I've read, etc. I had been told that it was not possible to do this with Blogger. But I did some more digging the other day and lo and behold, there is a way. I have started one at the bottom of the left column with the all-encompassing title "Recently Consumed Media." I'm still fiddling with both the content and the format a bit. I'm no CSS expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it's close enough that I am leaving it in and even pointing it out to you now. So for anyone curious to know what I am reading, watching or listening to, you have a place to turn. Maybe right after I perfect it I'll redesign everything!

Saturday, October 11, 2003
More "letters to the editor" astroturfing.
Has this letter from a US soldier in Iraq appeared in your local newspaper? It describes the work they are doing and how appreciative the people there are. Which is fine ... except that it has been popping up everywhere, with different signatures attached. A Gannett newspaper has done some digging but not found any definite answers. (via Metafilter)

10/15 Follow-up: A battalion commander has taken responsibility for sending out 500 such letters.

Thursday, October 02, 2003
A brief recap of Republican positions.

1992: A governor who behaved inappropriately to women is unfit to be president.
2003: A movie star who behaved inappropriately to women is fit to be governor.

1990s: We're stalling on approving Bill Clinton's judicial nominees because they're so liberal.
2000s: It's outrageous that Democrats are stalling George Bush's judicial nominees.

1990s: We shouldn't send our troops and money overseas to remove leaders committing genocide.
2000s: We need to send our troops and money overseas to remove leaders who want dangerous weapons.

1990s: We need to balance the federal budget.
2000s: Huge budget deficits are not a problem.

I like this format. Maybe I'll compile some more.

And yes, Democrats change positions too, but nowhere near as often, in my opinion.

Good news, bad news.

The good news: They're about to start fixing a stretch of the I-96 freeway (and related areas) near my house that is horrendously awful. (MDOT spokesperson: it's "definitely one of the worst roads in the Metro area.")

The bad news: It's going to take two years to complete.