Archive for March 24th, 2004

RSS Gets into Wired – Wired Gets into RSS


Graphic by APAK

Yet another article explaining and extoling RSS, this one
by BoingBoing’s Cory Doctrow in the current issue of Wired
Unfortunately, RSS is a perfect example of something which, like certain
Asian massage techniques, is almost impossible to explain
who has
never seen it in action, but which almost everyone immediately gets when
they do.  For example, the following paragraph makes perfect sense
to anyone who knows their way around an aggregator, but will mystify
most readers who have never used one:

Shorthand for "rich site summary" or "really
simple syndication," depending on whom you ask, RSS lets publishers
use XML code to define the content of their Web sites, much the way
lets them determine the format in which content is displayed. With
RSS, visitors can access multiple sites without having to go to each
You subscribe to the RSS feeds of sites you like, and voila: The content
comes to you by way of an aggregator, which sends headlines and links
to a browser or a downloadable news reader on your mobile device or

Still, interesting and well-written, as we have come to
expect from the Doc.

from Wired

The Eve of Destruction


financial markets and intelligence agencies around the world are jittery
this week, although no one wants to come right out and say why, other
than the usual mealy mouthed mumbling about "security concerns".

However, the Dowbrigade’s highly placed sources report that most of
the unease can be traced to an interview given by Osama Bin Laden’s left
hand man to an Australian paper, in which he claimed that Al Quaida
had already
obtained a suitcase nuclear device. From

In the
interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. television, parts of
which were released Sunday, Mir recalled telling al-Zawahri
it was difficult to believe al-Qaida had nuclear weapons when the terror
network didn’t have the equipment to maintain or use them.

"Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri laughed and he said: ‘Mr. Mir, if you have $30
million, go to the black market in Central Asia, contact any disgruntled
scientist and a lot of…smart briefcase bombs are available,"’
Mir said in the interview.

Obviously, officials don’t want to panic anyone when there is no way
to confirm these reports or any way to predict when and where these suitcases
will appear. However, it is increasingly clear that a number of these
devices have disappeared, and the $30 million price tag seems both reasonable
and sufficient to entice any disgruntled ex-Soviet military officials
with access. Al Quaida certainly has the money. Getting the thing into
the US through our porous ports and borders should be no problem.

So it is looking like the operant questions are less "Is this possible"
than "When and where will this happen?" Al Quaida’s penchant for spectacular
strikes and utter disregard for civilian casualties make the unimaginable
conceivable. But where?

It’s a complete crap shoot, although many targets
would seem to be attractive to the
to symbolic dates and PR potential.  Washington on the 4th of July?  How
about New York City during the Republican National Convention?

The Dowbrigade has long been convinced that the 60 year hiatus on nuclear
attacks is admirable but temporary. Never in human history have new weapons
been built and stockpiled but never used. In fact, warfare is such an
ingrained tendency in human society that, although it can be avoided
for extended periods, to eliminate it entirely will require a significant
upgrade in our system software, otherwise known as "human nature".

We are convinced that the only imaginable event that could trigger or
act as a catalyst for a worldwide change of underlying operating assumptions
that determine human behavior would be an actual nuclear attack on a
populated area, broadcast live, in dying color and Dantesque detail,
into the living rooms and community centers and modems of every city
town and village on the planet.

For years we have secretly hoped that this inevitable and unenviable
tragedy would be visited on some benighted land as far away and out of
the global jet stream atmospheric distribution patters reaching North
America as possible. South Africa, the India-Pakistan border or Taiwan
came to mind as candidates. We imagined a worldwide uprising against
politicians, armies, weapons and governments that could allow such a
thing to happen, and an overwhelming, irresistible massive human movement
to destroy all nuclear weapons, reactors and laboratories once and all
and forever.

We still believe that this is the only hope we have to avoid, or at
least to delay, the premature extinction of the preadolescent human species,
before we have a chance to learn to walk, develop our potential, or
reach for the stars. To survive, we need a major upgrade in our OS.  It
is clearly not an impossible task, as individuals throughout recorded
history have raised their level of consciousness way beyond the level
necessary for the species to survive a while longer.

But it has never been done on as massive a scale or in as short a period
of time as is necessary now to save our sorry asses. Unfortunately, it
is looking increasingly likely that the necessary lesson is going to
take place a lot closer to home than we had hoped.