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, September 28, 2005
The November Atlantic Monthly has an entertaining article about writing -- both straight and satirical -- that no one would publish. (via Romenesko)

Saturday, September 24, 2005
Microsoft gets discipline religion.
Friday's Wall Street Journal has an article about Microsoft waking up to its horrendously inefficient methods of writing computer code:
Jim Allchin, a senior Microsoft Corp. executive, walked into Bill Gates's office here one day in July last year to deliver a bombshell about the next generation of Microsoft Windows.

"It's not going to work," Mr. Allchin says he told the Microsoft chairman. The new version, code-named Longhorn, was so complex its writers would never be able to make it run properly.

The news got even worse: Longhorn was irredeemable because Microsoft engineers were building it just as they had always built software. Throughout its history, Microsoft had let thousands of programmers each produce their own piece of computer code, then stitched it together into one sprawling program. Now, Mr. Allchin argued, the jig was up. Microsoft needed to start over.

The bluntness expressed in this article is refreshing ... although I think this is also PR to show how MS is changing for the better. At Slashdot, some people are shaking their heads that MS has gotten this far while avoiding techniques that were standard operating procedure elsewhere.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
No checks, please.
Another example of a story of modern times, an identity theft. This one has a few interesting aspects:

1. It happened to columnist Mike Wendland himself.

2. It started when someone stole those convenience checks that credit card companies are always sending -- just as I've always feared.

3. Apparently you can call your credit card company and ask them to stop sending you convenience checks -- "Most will do so," according to the article.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Psychopaths wanted.
How many stockbrokers got this story in their e-mail today?
A team of U.S. scientists has found the emotionally impaired are more willing to gamble for high stakes and that people with brain damage may make good financial decisions, the Times newspaper reported Monday.

In a study of investors' behavior 41 people with normal IQs were asked to play a simple investment game. Fifteen of the group had suffered lesions on the areas of the brain that affect emotions.

The result was those with brain damage outperformed those without.

The scientists found emotions led some of the group to avoid risks even when the potential benefits far outweighed the losses, a phenomenon known as myopic loss aversion.

One of the researchers, Antione Bechara, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, said the best stock market investors might plausibly be called "functional psychopaths."

Fellow author, Baba Shiv of Stanford Graduate School of Business said many company chiefs and top lawyers may also show they share the same trait.

"Emotions serve an adaptive role in speeding up the decision-making process," said Shiv.

"However, there are circumstances in which a naturally occurring emotional response must be inhibited, so that a deliberate and potentially wiser decision can be made."

Sunday, September 18, 2005
In case you missed it ...
The federal government appears to be looking for others to blame for the New Orleans flood:
Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Thursday she couldn't comment "because it's an internal e-mail."

Shown a copy of the e-mail, David Bookbinder, senior attorney for Sierra Club, remarked, "Why are they (Bush administration officials) trying to smear us like this?"

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had nothing to do with the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina that killed hundreds, he said. "It's unfortunate that the Bush administration is trying to shift the blame to environmental groups. It doesn't surprise me at all."

Federal officials say the e-mail was prompted by a congressional inquiry but wouldn't comment further.

Saturday, September 17, 2005
For no important reason, I just thought of the old Three Stooges' "Niagara Falls" routine (from "Gents Without Cents"), and became curious enough to look it up. As you might expect, it was an old vaudeville routine with various versions (e.g., Abbott and Costello's "Susquehanna Hat Company"). And it may have originated with the guy who played the green grape in Fruit of the Loom commercials.

So now you know.