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Showing posts from May, 2005

Deep Throat finally comes out

W. Mark Felt comes out and says he was Deep Throat (links to a PDF file of an upcoming Vanity Fair article), which is what Timothy Noah over at Slate has always felt, um, I mean maintained . As Noah's article puts it, "Woodward has stated that the real Deep Throat has lied in order to protect his identity", and Felt did come out with an explicit denial back near the end of the last century. Ah, and just as I was typing this, it's been confirmed by Woodward and Bernstein . Thus endeth one of the great mysteries of the last century.

Paris vs. Paris

T he only weird thing about Paris Hilton getting married (ho-hum, another random Hilton life event) is the fact that her fiance, Paris Latsis, has the same first name... so if she takes his last name - they'll have exactly the same name. I always thought going out with someone with the same name as you would be a strange experience. Yeah, that's EXACTLY why I'm not dating Daryl Hannah. Latsis is a Greek shipping heir, but somehow this marriage seems a step down in glam from Jackie and Onassis... I suppose to complete the symmetry, they could always host a reception at the Hilton Paris .

Tower of Babble

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The New York Times features a cool device , the Babble from Applied Minds (since the article referred to the Cone of Silence from "Get Smart!", I took the chance to post a pic of one of my favourite shows): The cone of silence, called Babble, is actually a device composed of a sound processor and several speakers that multiply and scramble voices that come within its range. About the size of a clock radio, the first model is designed for a person using a phone, but other models will work in open office space. Very useful in not-so-private cubicles. What I really think is interesting is the use of computing to do what used to be done by materials (acoustic tiling and so on) in acoustic design. Current speaker and mike technology can be very directed, and it's cool to be able to create the similar effect for voice... well, not quite the same, as people around still do hear what sounds like a conversation, but only an indistinct one. Small design firms like Applied Min

Sporting goods

Great sports moments of the last few weeks: The Champions League final - exciting stuff, even if I'm sworn to hate Liverpool. Should they be in the Champions League next year to defend the title? I say no - if World Cup holders have to qualify like everyone else, I think defending Champions League winners should do likewise. The European Grand Prix - how I wish I could've stayed on in Germany for a few days just to be at N├╝rburgring. Afleet Alex nearly falling to the ground in the Preakness along with jockey Jeremy Rose, before Afleet Alex and Rose recovered to win. Lord knows how Rose managed to cling on, but the Afleet Alex back story (colt abandoned by mother, raised by humans, now connected to a children's cancer charity) is pretty good.

Electric toothbrushes

One thing about switching to using an electric (well, battery-powered) toothbrush is that it's very hard to go back to regular toothbrushes... The recently-departed (and missed) Mitch Hedberg once said that escalators never break, they just become stairs . Same thing with electric toothbrushes - mine ran out of juice today, but all that meant was that I had to actually move the thing about more.

Germany, overall

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Now that I'm back in Singapore, this is the last post I'll do about Germany for a while... as you might have noticed, photos of my journey are up, and I've written quick thoughts on two museums, the Ludwig in Cologne and the Kunstmuseum in Bonn , in Delta Sierra Arts, my reviews blog. And one last thing, here's something I picked up at a German petrol station, a snack with a funny name: Edit: for a reverse perspective, here's a German blogging about Singapur ... includes a review of Paulaner Brauhaus.

Linksfest: Mayday

The lusty month of May Crazy old woman calls cops because the pizza place won't deliver just one slice Lindsay Lohan has lost her attractiveness Star Wars fans injured by their own homemade light sabres Female Thai prisoners need underwear The difficulty of getting into day care for dogs . What next, having to move to a good location because of the quality of obedience schools? But I love how the dogs are drawn in that classic Wall Street Journal style.

Observations on German TV

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If I recall correctly, I remember the Economist noting that cultures have preferences for dealing with American imports - some use subtitling, like the French, while others, like the Germans, prefer dubbing. So over the last two weeks I had the somewhat surreal experience of watching Law & Order and Charmed in German. Some people get stuck with really lousy dubbed voices, such as Jesse L. Martin, who loses all the bass in his voice - on the other hand, Billy Crystal, who was in some obscure movie that I caught one Sunday, sounds more macho. Among the cool things I saw was T.C. Boyle (when did he stop being T. Coraghessan Boyle?) as a guest on TV Total , a Letterman-esque chat show, to promote his Kinsey novel, Dr Sex . Danged it, if I'd stayed in Cologne I could've caught him at the E-Werk. TV Total was my new pleasure, with its somewhat off-kilter sense of humour. (Or maybe it's a perfectly normal sense of humour that seems off-kilter to me thanks to my imperfe

Last night a DJ saved my life

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Yes, I was the DJ last night at Hideout . An "eclectic" set, with some entries from Modest Mouse, Ryan Adams, the Flaming Lips, and an excursion into beach house. Apologies for the tech issues, which affected the dynamics / volume of the whole thing, but I hope whoever was there had a good time. Here's the set list . As for why fellow bloggers brown and Miyagi weren't DJing, it wasn't a case of deck-hogging, I swear - the fact is, many MP3s aren't encoded in a way that allows them to be played out loud, so when they plugged in the iPods, clearly the bass was quite off (happened to me with a CD recording of the Pixies' "Gigantic"). That's one thing to note before you go DJing with MP3 players. As the immortal Public Enemy question asks: "Bass! How low can you go?"

Bad Godesberg

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Bad Godesberg is supposedly a nice residential part of Bonn, although it didn't strike me as necessarily being nicer than the Altstadt. Since I walked around the area on Sunday in Germany, everything was closed: it was like a neutron bomb had hit the town. Walked down the shopping streets of Alte Bahnhofstrasse and Theaterplatz, and about the most exciting thing was a dog furiously trying to drink from a fountain, and constantly getting spritzed for his efforts. One thing the otherwise helpful tourist guide to Bonn doesn't tell you is that Godesburg, the castle that defines the neighbourhood (pictured above), is built on quite a high little hill - wasn't expecting such a hike to get to the top! But the view from the top is great. You can see the Siebengebirge - seven hills - of Siegburg in the distance, and looking down on any city is always some sort of thrill. What's with the whole "seven hills" thing? Just because Rome was built on seven hills doesn&

Eurovision

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On Saturday night, knackered after a long day at work, I watched the kitschfest that is the Eurovision Song Contest ... I remember all the jokes about the contest when I was in the UK, and I remember the Diva International single after the year she won, but I've never seen the entire contest. What a cornucopia of cornball pop! To give a flavour of things, Switzerland's entry was called Vanilla Ninja. Logically enough, Vanilla Ninja are a pop-rock all female band. And Latvia's entry was a pair of blond boys singing a cheeseball composition called "The War is Not Over". Meanwhile, Norway had a hair band with a guy wearing too much lipstick, like the Darkness without the irony. Or the musical skills. Faerielicious has her own responses to every band, plus a summary of the results. It's funny how in the end the voting was often largely political: people from the ex-Yugoslavian republics all voted for each other (and there I was thinking that there were residua

Marginalia, or, How I Learnt to Hear Myself Think

I apologise if my entries on Germany have been absurdly lengthy compared to my usual mess of fun links (if you want one, here's a recent BoingBoing bit on how monkeys learned to treat a robot arm as an extra appendage ) It's just that nothing has reminded me of my travel writer days so much as this trip, and I've been inspired by that (somewhat bittersweet) bit of nostalgia for a former life to write long parts of what we used to call "marginalia" - descriptions of the impressions of the places we visited for our editors to judge the tone of the actual text submitted. I don't know if there's ever been a time I've felt so at one with who I was and what I was doing as I did back when I wrote: everyday, it was just me and whoever I met that day in whatever city I happened to be in. Transient, itinerant, peripatetic. Never anchored, really, but always expectant. Every day was twisting on the cusp of discovery. Never being boring. If you want it, come an

Blitzkrieg Bop: A Sunday in Bonn

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Since Saturday was a full working day, I had only one free weekend day, Sunday (22 May), and I used the short time to do the blitzkrieg tour that solo travel writers with deadlines to meet get used to doing: Beethoven's house , das Kunstmuseum (modern art), die Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublick Deutschland (art/exhibitions hall - the name's so wordy even the museum's site has an abbreviated URL), das Haus der Geschichte der BRD (history of the Federal Republic of Germany - another mouthful of a name), das Museum Alexander Koenig (natural history), and the little castle of Godesburg and the surrounding neighbourhood of Bad Godesburg. The picture shows the Rathaus (i.e. the council house, not a place where the Pied Piper of Hamelin hangs out) in the centre of Bonn. It wasn't the best timing for being here in terms of events- just missed the huge Tutankhamen exhibition that had ended on 1 May, the "Rhine on Fire" spectacle (link's in

Landtagswahl - the North Rhine-Westphalia Elections

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The elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, which Bonn is a part of, are over, and it looks like Schroeder's SDU has lost quite badly to the CDU . Lots of noise in Dusseldorf, judging by the TV, but not many scenes of any sort in Bonn. (It only hit me later that the shuffle of people going into the Volkshochschule - high school - on a Sunday must have been voters.) If I'm understanding the TV right, it sounds like this is the first time the CDU has won in the state in ages... the incumbent premier Peer Steinbr├╝ck was talking about how the SDU has run the state for 39 years. He sounded really disappointed. The Bundeskanzler Schroeder's really taking a hit for his economic reforms - he responded to the "bitter" (his word) loss by calling for nationwide elections this fall in 2005. From an outsider's perspective, though, if people vote in the centre-right CDU/CSU over the centre-left SDU, it doesn't seem like they would be the sort to move away from the ben

Archie cover

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Randomly, this vaguely suggestive Archie comic cover made me laugh... From postmodernbarney . And Betty and Veronica look exactly the same except for hair colour. Discuss.

The Dom and the Rhein, Cologne

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Went down to Cologne yesterday. The city's Dom (cathedral) is the largest in Germany - wonder if Pope Benedict will make his way here sometime soon. The hike up the belfry was inordinately hard - the tower is 475 feet high, and after walking up 45-50 stories, my legs were about to collapse. It's like a trick too - you reach what you think is the top, and then you have to climb another few stories to reach the real top. But such views. The cathedral was started in the 13th century and finished in the 19th century. Presumably in the past people were more willing to commit to a project that they knew would only be completed much later than their lifetime. For the glory of God und so weiter . Had pork knuckles on the Rhein at das Haxenhaus . Pricey (free Kolsch beer to go along though!), and the skin was a bit too hard for my taste, but boy, that felt good. Besides visiting the excellent Ludwig Museum (Cologne's modern art museum - the link is to a review of the museum), I

Greetings from

Am blogging from bonny Bonn, in eine Cybercafe - quite cheap really, 1 Euro pro Stunde... (which is to say, my German, I've discovered, is actually not so bad). These German keyboards kill me though, with all the punctuation nowhere near where you'd expect and the 'y' and 'z' keys swapped. Also interesting is that Blogger itself changes all its tabs based on the country you're in - so "Settings" becomes "Einstellungen"... that seems weird, it might make it harder to blog about travelling. Otherwise, had a big hearty lunch, and have explored this tiny little town - details to follow.

Setlist for the Hideout gig

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Here's the setlist for last Wednesday's Hideout gig - nothing too out of the ordinary, but lots of fun. Was pleasantly surprised by the reception that the Joe Strummer version of "Redemption Song" received. That's me as a ghost DJ...

Let sleeping dogs lie

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And... I'm off in a few hours! Will catch up on much-needed sleep on the flight.

Blogger and Captcha?

Weird, I was editing a post and Blogger asked me to do one of those captcha things - where the word's all fuzzy or curved or whatever and you have to type that in. New. Or maybe a Friday the 13th thing. Ah well, I'm no triskaidekaphobe, so I'll guess they're testing something new.

Bonn

Busy packing for a work-related trip to Bonn. First time in Germany, despite all the time I've spent learning the language, so that should be fun. In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. At the same time I'm packing out my office, since Bonn marks the beginning of a new position, and I have to move things out. And for some reason, that moment of hesitation - that moment just before you are about to take action, to transfer thought into movement - always makes me think of " The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ". Looking at all the things I've accumulated, just amassed ascatter across my increasingly barren cubicle, how should I begin to spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume?

Direct report on the Time Traveler Convention

Sadly, Erin reports that no time travellers showed up at the Time Traveler Convention (the NY Times article on the convention is here ), although she did have this experience: The other big highlight of the bouncing duties came when "Theodore Logan" claimed to be from the future. Even with the Keanu Reeves getup he was wearing, at first I didn't process the joke. I asked him to prove it. "Wyld Stallions!" he said. Heh. I wonder if anyone came in a Tardis?

The Hideout gig

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Good fun last night DJing. Absolutely knackered, so can't say much. But thanks to all those who showed, it was slamming. Mr Brown has his take on what went down . I'll post a set list soon.

B.O. Laws

In the annals of weird legislation, the Houston libraries are trying to define body odour as a nuisance : Now comes this little gem: banning BO. Last week, the Houston City Council passed a prohibition on "offensive bodily hygiene that constitutes a nuisance to others" in the city's libraries. Seems a pretty crappy way to target street people. As the article snidely notes: What about, um, "transient odors," i.e., that burrito that doesn't sit well? Or how about the man who thinks half a bottle of Axe body spray makes him studly? (We suggest jail time.) It's funny, I always thought those funny "it is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church" laws were relics of a long-ago past, but I guess amusing laws come into being this way. And I totally agree about Axe. (We here in Singapore call it Lynx, as they do in the UK, but it's the same brand.) Why is it no matter where you go around the world, some guys just feel that

Singaporeans in World War II

Seeing that the 60th anniversary of V-E Day is just over, I thought I'd post this intriguing bit about a Singaporean who flew in World War II over Normandy: Singapore-born Wing Commander Tan Kay Hai was the first Straits Chinese to fly with the Royal Air Force and to win the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew with 2 Squadron RAF on photo-recon missions in Mustangs over the D-Day beaches in June 1944. Wing Commander Tan was one of the 114 Singapore wartime pilots who were sent to Canada under the Commonwealth Training Scheme. Shot down over France in June 1944 after the Normandy D-Day Landings, he was captured but escaped within eight months and made his way to England. His operations with the RAF won him the DFC. (From the eHangar.com Forums ) You don't really hear about things like this that often, which is too bad, although I'm told this might've been in the Straits Times - the very improbability of a Singaporean Chinese man being in the RAF is interesting enoug

Shameless Self-Promotion: DJing on Wed

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Here's part of the flyer I got in my e-mail... woohoo! Yep, that's me, DJing tomorrow night, Wed 11 May, from 10pm till about 1am, Hideout , 31 Circular Road (behind Boat Quay). As the text reads: Indie Mash Up A night of dirty New York styled garage rock, dished out with a dash of pazzaz ala Daryl as he comes full circle from house to his much-loved indie rigs featuring music from the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol, Party Ben, The Dismemberment Plan, The Libertines, The Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, The Donnas, British Sea Power, The Standells, The Sonics and more more more !! Gonna be rippin dude... 1-for-1 on house pours, premium glasses and pints from 6 to 9pm All shots at $5 No guarantees I'll play all the bands listed, but it should be fun... DJ Slapdash on the decks!

Microsoft's climbdown and thoughts on creative cities

Salon notes Microsoft's version 3.0 of its policy on gay rights , in which Microsoft has agreed to support legislation that eliminates discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Steve Ballmer's email to Microsoft employees says it all: I’ve concluded that diversity in the workplace is such an important issue for our business that it should be included in our legislative agenda... Accordingly, Microsoft will continue to join other leading companies in supporting federal legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As Farhard Majoo writes in that Salon article: Microsoft is the king of an industry whose chief raw material is human creativity, and whose main fuel is brain power. As the economist Richard Florida has pointed out, such well-educated employees often care about where their firms stands on important social issues. The kind of people who are drawn to software engineering tend to be progressives on issues like gay

Hokkien blog

P erhaps of interest only to the minority reading from Singapore: here's Wa Si Hokkien Lang , an entire blog written in Hokkien. Sample entry: Limpeh jin tulan. Offit lai sar eh new worker. Ko si university graduate ler! Niameh. Pik giap liao First Class Honours! Tapi kio yi zhor kang, yi lang simik lan ciao mah beh hiao. Nabeh. Jip pai eh hao seh kia sa ma eh hiao thak chek beh hiao zhor kang ah? Kio yi Format Computer yi mah complain. Kio yi Install Software yi mah complain. Kio yi Install Hardware yi mah complain. Aih. Kio yi ki si hor lah. ( Link ) For some reason reading about someone griping about a new worker in Hokkien is highly entertaining... hey, we've all worked with the "long zhong ah si beh hiao, ta pai complain, gia lui mai zhor kang" types...

Everton in the Champions League

What a weekend. 2-0 over Newcastle despite a shaky first half, and then Liverpool loses 3-1 (the Bergkamp backheel that set up the goal was magnificent). Everton are in the Champions League. Brilliant.

DJing at Hideout this Wednesday

So I've gotten the word: I'll be DJing at Hideout at 31B Circular Road this Wednesday, 11 May. It's a cosy little space, and I'll be spinning indie stuff all night long, which is a change from the house some of you might have seen me spin - I'll probably go for a dirty garage-rock sound. Here's the sample setlist that I sent as an example of the songs, although clearly on the night itself I won't go from start to finish in 20 songs - plus already looking at this I can think of lots of better transitions. Death Cab for Cutie "Army Corps of Engineers" Explosions in the Sky "Magic Hours" Interpol "NYC" Party Ben (Green Day vs Oasis vs Travis) "Boulevard of Broken Songs" The Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Art Star" The Dismemberment Plan "What Do You Want Me to Say?" The Libertines "What a Waster" The Pixies "Debaser" Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers "Chinese Rocks" Louis XIV &quo

Linksfest: More Fun Stuff

The shocking but false story of the Old Negro Space Program . Bacon Strips Bandages . Mmm. Bacon. How to tweak Firefox - a great guide. Thieves in St Louis target stained glass . I can't even imagine how anyone would fence stolen stained glass. The results of CSS Reboot , a project to showcase well-designed sites (all launched on May 1). The first and only time travel convention at MIT. Official site . But what if in the future time travel is easy but travelling across spaces is hard, so people can come back to 2005 but only in a specific location? Huh? Huh?

Lies, damned lies, and...

Another case of unexamined statistics, this one in a CNN article on how e-mails affect your IQ - the article also mentions the results of a survey on e-mail: Nine out of 10 people thought colleagues who answered messages during face-to-face meetings were rude, while three out of 10 believed it was not only acceptable, but a sign of diligence and efficiency. That's 12 out of 10. Either that, or 2 or 3 out of 10 people believe answering messages during meetings is both rude AND an acceptable sign of diligence. Dubious!

Review: Splendid Float

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Just wrote a review of a film from the Singapore Film Festival, Splendid Float aka Yan Guang Si She Gewutuan (can't seem to get the Chinese characters to appear). Splendid Float , Zero Chou’s first film, depicts the life of a group of Taiwanese tranvestites in a travelling cabaret show. Roy (James Chen), dances and sings in drag (as “Rose”) in the show at night, while spending his day as a Taoist priest conducting funeral rites. It’s a clear dichotomy: his vie en Rose is filled with energy, while his life in the day, as a man, holds nothing but death. ( Read more on Delta Sierra Arts) The jokes in Taiwanese in the film really didn't translate if you don't know Taiwanese, Hokkien, or a similar dialect... just the random nonce phrases they used for mike check were funny, but the American couple to my right seemed bemused by the laughter.

Quarter life crisis

Was recently thinking about Nick Hornby novels and how they so precisely describe that vacant space between the end of college and the onset of full adulthood/maturity... continuing the theme, westward.com talks about the quarter-life crisis .

Baby got back

I didn't pay much attention to Singapore Idol , but the winner Taufik Batisah gets props from me for quoting Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic " I like big butts and I cannot lie " line in today's Straits Times. Sir Mix-a-Lot. That was one funny guy.

Cinco de Mayo

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Received an SMS trying to get me to celebrate something called "Cuervo de Mayo" [sic] today. I suppose in a country as far removed from Mexico as Singapore, the name of the celebration of the Battle of Puebla ends up transmogrified into a branding exercise... Photo taken from the Fiesta Broadway in LA . I like the silhouette.

Trojan pandas

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Ray Baumgardner has a funny theory about China's gift of pandas to Taiwan : China makes noises like they want to invade Taiwan and then they offer them a pair of pandas. It doesn't make sense. Unless...these pandas aren't really pandas at all. They are Trojan Pandas. ... Gifts my ass. These pandas are communist spies. Their evil communist overlords have probably developed high tech listening devices in panda suppository form. Cute little Ling-Ling is a 21st century Mata Hari. When she has a baby panda, the Chinese always make us give the baby back. The commies know that if that panda grows up in a free country it will naturally turn on its parents, become a double agent, and blow the lid off their whole spy ring. They need that baby panda back so they can train it to spy on another country. I love the idea of a Trojan Panda. Those black masks they wear - they don't fool anyone. Cue excuse to put up adorable picture of baby panda: The BBC on panda diplomacy . Mor

Potentate of the Rose

This was a fun game... Petals Around The Rose . Apparently played by Bill Gates. Um, can't really say more.

The Funniest Joke in the World

Apparently, the world's funniest joke (well, besides " Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja!... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput ") is this: "Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. "The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps: ‘My friend is dead! What can I do?’ The operator says: ‘Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.’ "There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: ‘OK, now what?’" ( The Scotsman ) Perhaps not what I'd think is the funniest joke ever, but it does make me laugh. But I guess it's all subjective - the article notes how different nationalities are inclined towards different kinds of jokes, with Americans and Canadian leaning towards jokes that involve people being made to look stupid; the Brits, Irish, Aussies, and Kiwis liking wordplay; and the Euro

Linksfest: Detritus

Another day, another Jack the Ripper theory . But this one - with Jack as sailor - seems somewhat plausible. I did the Jack the Ripper London Walk a long time ago - 12 years by now, I think - and I remember it being lots of fun, but maybe I'm morbid like that. Ah, so J-Lo is a pick-and-eat kind of girl ... don't be fooled by the rocks that she got. Or maybe it's part of her new Presidential campaign . Sometimes it's like the Explainer column in Slate reads my mind... I suppose that's why I own the book . Anyway, here's where the phrase "cold feet" comes from . Just renewed my Salon Premium membership and got some issues of Wired to go along with it. No Granta this time, but still, I like. Has "The Scream" been burned ? I certainly hope not. I'd rather the painting be furtively transported across the Continent, much like the Fallen Madonna With the Big Boobies .

Cold feet

Hmm... the groom still wants to marry the runaway bride . I guess that's love. Or delusion.

When quoting statistics about drinking water, think of the source

Over at A Capital Idea, Nicole has a post on how unchallenged statistics often wend their way into daily use , based on this Carl Bialik column . Numbers that originate from unquestioned assertions often find their way into regular use - such as the alarmist quote that "Canadian police estimate that more than 100,000 Web sites contain images of child sexual abuse." As Bialik notes: It turns out the Canadian police were citing the statistic from a three-year-old article in a magazine that stopped publishing in 2003. The magazine's source is a U.S. agency that no longer exists. And the agency that has replaced it can't track down the original source of the stat. The lesson: An old stat can get new life when "experts" repeat it, especially when there is no conflicting version of the number. Scary that the stat was then used "in public education and in funding proposals". Alarmist numbers probably lead to bad funding. Which made me think, among the nu