Howard Dean starts his residency at Lawrence Lessig's weblog today. I'm in two minds about Dean at the moment. He sounds like a wonderful candidate: he's passionate. he wants to investigate the reasons why America went to war, and would dearly love a form of *gasp* universal health care. While the other Democratic candidates are staying firmly in the centre, daring only to attack the current Administration on a few issues, the Dean campaign is as diametrically opposed to Bush as McGovern was to Nixon in 1972.
But we all know how well that turned out.
Like McGovern, Dean is reportedly unhappy with the structure of the current Democrat party; he also seems to be tapping into a new demographic, the Internet generation, just like McGovern initially attracted the support of the Freak Power generation. The lizard brain of the Democrats will probably react in the same way as it did thirty years ago, so expect some interesting primaries, followed by an intense convention. Can Dean beat Bush? I don't know, but they tried fighting Bush on his own terms last time around, and that didn't work out so well (granted, there's the Florida affair, but Gore didn't even manage to win his own state...). Perhaps a clearer distinction between the two candidates will lead them back to The White House. The danger is that they may end up with just Massachusetts once again…
Anyway, enough politics for one evening. Digiworld opened its doors today, and jolly nice it is too. You have to register to actually read the magazine, and if you're American, you may not have a clue what it's going on about, or why it looks the way that it does. A short explanation: in Britain (and most European countries), normal TV signals also carry extra pieces of information, known as teletext. A TV fitted with a teletext decoder accesses this information to provide extra services, e.g. news headlines, the current weather, travel reports, and subtitles.
Back in 1992, a magazine started on the ITV/Channel 4 teletext system. It was called Digitiser, and it was about video games. Which sounds relatively boring, but it was intelligent, funny, and unmissable . It quickly became one of the most popular features on the service, providing witty commentary on games, comics and anything else they felt like discussing. Plus A Man With A Long Chin. After nine years, it was still going strong, but a series of editorial changes at the end of 2001 reduced it to three-times-a-week updates instead of daily, the humour was removed, and the weekend columns were axed. Digi wandered on, arms chopped off, but brief flashes of its former brilliance still crept through every now and then. The magazine was now down to one writer, affectionately known as Mr. Biffo. He announced at the start of 2002 that he was quitting, just as an Internet campaign saw the full return of the Digi experience. In March, Digitiser broadcast its final edition; Mr. Biffo became the more sensibly-monikered Paul Rose, and started writing for Edge Magazine. The UK was enveloped in shadow, mourning for its passed love (note: might be slightly exaggerated).
But a secret cabal of videogame journalists, led by Rose, began to plot a comeback. Together with Stuart Campbell, a controversial games journalist (currently the brains behind the FairPlay campaign) and Kieron Gillen (quasi-goth, Kenickie-lover and ex-deputy editor of PC Gamer)*, he's back with an all-new incarnation of Digitiser. It's teletext. On the web. PRESS REVEAL.
* Oh, and Jonathan Nash**. ** Everybody else is doing it.
There's not a lot to talk about, though. I submitted the draft of an article to a computer magazine last week; they liked it and didn't want any changes, so it should be published sometime in the next six/seven months (the deadline was for September). I have a few ideas for other pieces; if anybody wants a 2,500-3,000 word piece on the UNIX Systems Lab vs. University of California Berkeley lawsuit and how it relates to the current SCO vs. IBM case, I'm your man. I finished the first draft of one of my scripts back at the end of June; I'm now working on another idea, and I'll hopefully get those both finished before the end of August.
The Chapel Hill withdrawal symptoms are in full effect, and I expect them to get worse when August finally rolls round, and everybody goes back to UNC. Still, my visit back in September/October is now organised, so I only have to wait two months until I'm back there, if only for a few weeks. But, if anybody wants to chuck me a H1-B visa, I wouldn't complain…
The Government claims that this vindicates their position, and demands that the BBC should retract their earlier report. The BBC continues to tell the Government what it can do with its demands, and then finds a source in Whitehall admitting that weapons of mass destruction may never be found. The moral? Accusing the BBC of bias is not something a Government should do lightly :-).
Back in America, attention has turned to the President's State of The Union address back in January, where he made the claim that Iraq had attempted to buy nuclear material in Africa. This claim has been refuted by the International Atomic Energy Board; the documentation that provided the evidence turned out to be forged. So far, nothing new. But it appears that the CIA knew that the Niger claim was false before the speech, and told The White House as such. And yet, the claim still made it into the Union address. Sure, it's not lying under oath, but it was a lie against the combined Houses; oh, and the Americans who happened to be watching. The Administration's response? A little revisionist history. According to Donald Rumsfeld, we went to war not because of a imminent threat (excepting us Britons, of course, who were told that we were only 45 minutes away from disaster), but because "we saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11." Which is a little harsh, considering that Iraq appears to have had nothing to do with the WTC attack. He was also rather defensive about the cost of the continued presence in Iraq, only providing answers after he had finished testifying in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. So far, the occupation of Iraq is costing America $4bn a month, on top of a $1bn/month bill for the presence in Afghanistan. They're hoping that that'll go down somewhat as NATO troops begin to replace some of the US soldiers, but that's an awful lot of money. Especially when going into an election year.
Meanwhile, the President is touring Africa. The people of Uganda seem to be doing well in fighting AIDS, but is it at odds with the USA's preference for abstinence programmes? Bush has also given a speech deploring America's past use of slaves, although this passage of the speech worries me somewhat:
In America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the exodus from Egypt and set their own hearts on a promised land of freedom. Enslaved Africans discovered a suffering Savior and found he was more like themselves than their masters. Enslaved Africans heard the ringing promises of the Declaration of Independence and asked the self-evident question, then why not me?Does anybody else feel a little, well, unsettled by that? A sense of "these savages didn't know freedom until we beat Christianity into them"? Maybe I'm reading too much into things these days...
In other news, I made a shocking discovery this afternoon: my 20GB music partition was almost full. Obviously, not a good situation, so I spent the day giving my collection a new 40GB home. That should keep me safe for a few years. I hope.
And in the time it took me to write this entry, I've made 3¢! Exxxxceelllent.
A rather long, but interesting article about McDonalds. Rather depressingly, it seems to take the view that the canning of the Innovate system was a bad thing. I can't think of anything more soulless than a restaurant chain where everything is identical, right down to the temperature of the cooking fat. *shudder*.
Finally, I've added a sideblog. This works in conjuction with an AIMbot that I wrote this afternoon. It's called barbelith49, and lives on AOL's AIM network. Currently, it supports three commands (IM barbelith49 as you would a normal person, and type one of these words instead of a normal message):
We'll see how this works, shall we?
UPDATE: Okay, basic hyperlink support has been added. If you want to add a hyperlink, enclose it in square brackets, e.g. [http://www.x.org]. The bot will replace the text with the proper HTML, making it look like this: [link]. I imagine the code is a little fragile, so if you break it, let me know.