Days: it’s a blog thing

Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…

Saturday, September 22, 2001 ↓


Now, let me be clear about this: this is not what should happen, nor what I'd like to happen. But sometimes, amongst the horror, you just have to laugh. You might see it as a tasteless portent of things to come; me, I prefer the lighthearted view. Anyway, as found by Dave Linabury: "Landscape Change"

Posted at 2:08 AM

Friday, September 21, 2001 ↓


Yesterday I received an e-mail about a petition. At first I thought it was one of those chain letter petitions of the kind that circulated frequently a few years ago, but instead it pointed to a page on The Petition Site.

The e-mail came from a business associate from whom I hadn't heard in some time. John was born in Iraq, but came to the UK many years ago. However, he still has family in Iraq, and so could be personally affected if the USA took its "war on terrorism" to that country and began indiscriminate bombing — as if the Iraqi people have not suffered enough already for the acts past and present of one Saddam Hussein.

The same is true in Afghanistan, of course, where devastation after the war with the Soviet Union has been followed up by poverty and oppression (especially for women 1, 2) under the Taliban.

No reasonable person wants the ordinary people of these countries (or decent real Muslims worldwide) to come to harm in the retaliation that will inevitably follow the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. A "surgical excision" of terrorist groups and their leaders is required, not carpet bombing of nation states. But I think it's already pretty clear that the USA and the coalition members are acutely aware of that and are planning along those lines. If you feel it won't do any harm to remind them, then you could always sign the petition.

Posted at 1:09 PM


The suggestion by the Ulema, Afghanistan's council of religious leaders, that Osama bin Laden might volunteer to leave the country of his own free will is so laughable as to merit no further comment.

Another suggestion, which some news sources have credited to bin Laden himself, is that if there is evidence of his complicity in the September 11 attacks, he could be tried in a neutral (?) Muslim country under Sharia law. Of course, neither he nor the Taliban expect the USA or the nascent coalition to take that seriously, and why should they? It's a principle of law throughout the world that accused are tried in the country in which the offence took place, under that country's laws.

What do you suppose would be the reaction of the authorities if a Brit accused of a crime in, for example, Saudi Arabia were to say, "Actually, I'd rather like to be tried in the UK under British law"? (No flogging, beheading, or amputation of limbs, thank you very much.)

I think we know the answer to that one.

Posted at 2:34 AM

Thursday, September 20, 2001 ↓


A number of bloggers yesterday pointed to this article on, which suggests that several spookily predictive domain names were registered a year or more before last week's attack on the World Trade Centre. These included such frighteningly accurate examples as, and

Or so it appeared.

I did what I would have expected a decent fact-checker to do — go look up the WHOIS database and see if these names really were registered, by whom and when. In fact, of the list at the end of the article, I found none but a few had been registered. These were and But these were registered not, as the article suggested, a year or so ago. They were registered on September 11, 2001 — the day of the attack. Presumably by people who intended to use the names for sites reporting on the event, or commenting, or whatever.

I suppose some people might theorise that the US government somehow managed to de-register most of the quoted domains shortly after hearing about them... well, maybe. Or it could just be a stupid story that a news service picked up and didn't have the savvy to check.

Posted at 12:26 AM

Wednesday, September 19, 2001 ↓


If you're much of an Internet user at all, then you're bound to have noticed the latest plague to infect the Web over the last few months. I speak of pop-under advertisements. You know, those irritating extra browser windows that open up when you don't expect them, when you click on a link. They carry advertising, and once they have opened, they put themselves "under" the main window that shows the page you were expecting, hence the term pop-under ad. The link or page that you were originally trying to open contains a bit of JavaScript that spawns the pop-under windows then restores the "focus" back to the main window so it takes its place on top of the stack. I guess the smartass (dumbass?) who first dreamt up this idea reckoned that by slipping the advertisement under the main window, we wouldn't mind our browsers and desktops being hijacked.

There's a sort of half-baked logic at work: by placing our main window back on top, it doesn't greatly interfere with our viewing of the selected page. The flaw in the logic is that you get a "flash" of the ad windows before focus is switched back to the main window, which is a little disconcerting; and then there is the nuisance effect of having to close down these (often multiple) windows that you never asked to be opened, and that display advertisements you probably couldn't care less about.

In other words, they're a right royal pain in the ass.

What can we do about it? Well, Joe Jenett has decided to take a stand. Maybe if enough people make enough complaining noises, the advertisers will pay attention — but I doubt it.

So, that leaves us trying to find ways to scupper their nefarious efforts. On Joe's ASAP page, you'll find links to tools and techniques that will help you to kill pop-unders, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Of course, you could just disable JavaScript in your browser's preferences. That would screw them.

Posted at 1:11 PM

Sunday, September 16, 2001 ↓


Some time back, I worked for a company that was headquartered in the town of Lowell in Massachusetts, and I was delighted by the landscape and character of New England — particularly by all the neat, tidy little American towns with English names, filled with stick-built, clapboard-faced buildings. September 16 marks a few anniversaries for that part of the world:

Accounts vary, but some say it was on September 16, 1620, that the Mayflower left Plymouth in England, bound for the New World with 102 pilgrims on board.

On September 16, 1630, the village of Shawmut in Massachusetts changed its name to Boston (I somehow can't imagine that Boston would have become the city it is today had it kept the name of "Shawmut"!).

On September 16, 1830, having heard that the USS Constitution was to be broken up, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the poem Old Ironsides which appeared in Boston's Daily Advertiser. The poem gained such popularity that the plan to scrap the ship was killed, and you can visit the restored Old Ironsides today, in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Posted at 12:09 PM


Naturally, the weekend newspapers are preoccupied with September 11 and its aftermath: images, analysis, estimates, predictions — and the recent history of Islamic terrorism.

In a typically well-argued piece in The Guardian, Richard Dawkins shows how the promises made by religion have men lining up in droves to take on the mantle of suicidal mass murderers.

"I am trying to call attention to the elephant in the room that everybody is too polite — or too devout — to notice: religion, and specifically the devaluing effect that religion has on human life. I don't mean devaluing the life of others (though it can do that too), but devaluing one's own life. Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end."


And when fanatics preach the doctrine that killing Americans and their allies is a duty, that it is God's order and will be rewarded by God, then you have to start wondering (if you weren't already) about the dangers of religion. Oh, you don't think anyone would ever make such a suggestion? Then you haven't seen Osama bin Laden's fatwa calling for a Holy War against America and the West. Read it now.

Presumably this is bin Laden's interpretation of the words of his God that he quotes in the fatwa: "and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together." The implication is clear. To bin Laden, and many others like him, anyone who is not a Muslim is a pagan, and deserving of death.

Now, this is the big problem I have with religion. America is not an irreligious country; indeed it is a great deal more religious than many others. Most religious people in America are Christians, who believe in a single, good, omnipotent and omniscient God the Creator. Just like the Muslims. (And, if I'm not mistaken, the Jews.) I was even taught by my Christian primary school teachers (one of whom, a great lady named Mrs. Thomas, had been a missionary in Africa) that Christians, Muslims and Jews believed in the same God: they just had different ways of expressing their faith. But religion seems to have this extraordinary capacity to create conflict amongst people who, on the face of it, believe in the same things. Religions polarise, and cause many of their adherents to believe that only their way is the right way. Everyone else is wrong — hence the various holy wars throughout history. Damn it, even divisions of the same religion do it to each other — which presumably is why in the 21st century we still have Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians murdering and maiming each other in Northern Ireland (yes, I know there are other factors too).

As a non-believer, the cruel irony that countless human beings have been killed in the name of somebody-or-other's "god" since Man first felt the need to invent some supernatural power to explain our presence on this Earth has not escaped me. It's interesting, too, that atheists have died at the hands of many religious groups, but I don't believe an organised band of atheists has ever proclaimed an Unholy War on the religions of the world. (Don't talk to me about Communism. Communist states may have tried to suppress religion, but their motives were not theological at heart. And they didn't just go out and kill everyone.)

Pass me a bloody big gun; I think it's time to shoot an elephant.

Posted at 3:28 AM

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