Life on Mars

I am watching the ABC’s Catalyst program right now, and there’s a segment on their science show about the discovery of (bacterial) life on Mars. It looks plausible – something to do with fluctuating Methane and Formaldehyde levels in the atmosphere. If the team behind the discovery are correct, then it will radically change the way humans see themselves.

It’s going to be officially announced in a few hours at the European Space Agency symposeum (link goes to ESA television, a broadcast of the symposeum report).

Go science!

Download a video of the Catalyst article here.

Senior spyware company employee appointed to Homeland Security Privacy Committee

Most people I know who own Windows PCs have suffered the unfortunate affliction of spyware overload. After using Kazaa for, ooh, 5 minutes their PC becomes clogged with privacy-invading, pop-up-spawning background processes whose most insidious function is to send information about your browsing habits to companies like Claria (formerly Gator).

Now it appears (thanks to Salon.com) that the Chief Privacy Officer (D. Reed Freeman) of Claria, the company that spearheaded the modern spyware industry, has been appointed to the US Homeland Security “Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee”, whose function is ostensibly to protect US citizens’ privacy.

Here’s an example of the kind of company Claria is: when I try to access their site from my work (a major bank), it is blocked by our proxy server with the following message:

Access denied by WebWasher DynaBLocator content category. The requested URL belongs to the following category: Computer Crime.

Anyone else worried about the future of democracy?

The Debacles – A story of faith, courage and folk-pop

I play guitar/piano/vocals in a band called The Debacles. Tonight we played a gig at The Empress (Nicholson St, Nth Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) and we were pretty good. What follows is all the tracks the minidisc managed to record before it mysteriously switched off.

As well as having a grainy, unbalanced recording we have some grainy unbalanced photographs! Rock!

“Hey everyone! This pervert wants a ribbed, chocolate flavoured, tartan…”

I feel regret and a deep sense of shame that I am completely unable to take seriously the case of Ruud Lubbers, the now-former head of the UN refugee agency who quit yesterday over allegations of sexual harassment. His name is just too funny.

I know, I know – I’m taking a shallow, anglo-centric view of a serious situation which has deeply affected the life of one man (and, by the sound of it, dozens of women) but some names are so funny that they present an impenetrable blockade to serious analysis. It’s like watching SBS World News presented by Cumfukya Butthole.

Del.icio.us Real Time Visualisation

For those that don’t know (uhh, that would be most people), del.icio.us is a social bookmarking system for storing your personal bookmarks according to a set of tags. It’s quite easy to use, and a lot of people are using it. It also aggregates everyone’s tags into a cohesive, searchable database. By the very nature of the way people use it, it tends to be a great way to track where the action is on the web for particular topics.

Anyhoo, someone at hubmeg.org has written the most awesome visualisation tool for del.icio.us which links together sets of related tags into a kind of stretchy web thing that just has to be seen to be believed.

Technorati Schmechnorati

I’ve fallen for the tagged web. It’s just so… useful! Sets of tags attached to everything that’s published (photos on flickr, bookmarks on del.icio.us, and just plain everything on technorati). This is my first post to be pinged through to technorati, and you’ll note that all my posts from now on have a bunch of tags at the bottom to help you explore the Tagged Web.

More news as it comes in. God I’m lame.

News In Brief

Yesterday I read a CNN article in which a Whitehouse representative claimed that the EU had issues with George W. Bush’s “style”, implying that their disagreements were entirely over his distinctive manner, rather than his strategic decisions – upon which EU and US were presumably in complete agreement.

So it’s not the Blackhawk helicopters that are ruthlessly dismembering innocent Iraqi civilians that the EU has an issue with, rather the colour scheme inside the cockpit. Laura Bush prefers teal, whereas Cherie Blair is more fond of burgundy and cream.

However, the wind was taken out of my sails somewhat when CNN replaced the article with a newer version a couple of hours later which no longer contained the quote about GWB’s divisive “style”. Google has no cache of this page, and the Wayback Machine hasn’t cached cnn.com since July 2004.

I am not claiming some kind of vast conspiracy, but it is interesting to note how caches such as the Wayback Machine and Google are (with the exception of local browser caches) our best hedge against Orwellian history-rewriting on the web.

UPDATE: I found the original article on CNN to which I was referring by scouring my browser cache. The exact quote is:

“The Europeans don’t like the president’s style,” said Richard Perle, a conservative with close ties to the Bush White House. “But they have carried this disapproval of the president’s style to an extreme.”

But not to the same extreme as the Bush Whitehouse has carried, say, their dislike of Saddam Hussein.

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More GWB news, this time the President of the USA admitting he’s tried Marijuana. If that’s the case, chalk up another few years of jail time if he is ever brought to justice. Oh, and add that to his death sentence for crimes against humanity. Whoops! “All the cool kids were doing it.”

If he’s lucky, he’ll have a cell near his Dad.

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Crikey.com.au has an article about the ins-and-outs of the Western Australian election. The article is notable not so much for its arrogant proselytizing to the WA opposition about how to run an election campaign as much as the completely unrelated tactical nuke it drops at the end:

And the main opposition parties in Canberra and the states should watch out for the impact of a new generation of moles ”“ Green moles.

The Greens seem to have an excellent network across the public sector. Their motivation is idealism, not power. Don’t dismiss. Similarly motivated moles got Stalin the atom bomb.

What the fuck? From a certain angle, that looks like a straw man attack (yes, I’m using my SlashVocab there):

  • The Greens are idealistic.
  • Stalin’s moles were idealistic and got Salin the atom bomb.
  • Therefore The Greens are associated with “getting the atom bomb”.

That made me rather cross. In my opinion it wasn’t politically motivated, rather an example of poor journalism. Still, I think Christian Kerr can go fuck himself.