April 2004

Urban artist Banksy has a new exhibit…

by Limbic on April 23, 2004

“Burn Your Car” can be found on London’s Holloway Road (N7)

Click for larger image

This photo was taken by Chris using a Seimens S55 and camera attachment.

Also see: “Natural History Museum exhibits an unnatural specimen

Doubtless it is a publicity stunt, but is it also art?

The graffiti artist Banksy has managed to smuggle in his latest work, a dead rat in a glass-fronted box, into the Natural History Museum where it was exhibited on a wall for several hours.

Staff did not notice that the rat was out of place amid the museum’s usual fare of dinosaur bones and artefact from the animal kingdom.

The rat was stuffed and clad in wraparound sunglasses, scaled down to fit the top of its head, a rucksack on its back, and with a microphone in one paw.

A miniature spraycan sits at the departed rodent’s feet, while above it is sprayed in graffiti-style lettering “our time will come”. MORE

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Bottomless is the new topless [Guardian]

by Limbic on April 19, 2004

Today’s G2 supplement had an arresting picture today by Wolfgang Tillmans. As today’s “guest editors for the Guardian’s arts coverage, Glasgow band Franz Ferdinand publish a different take on tabloid newspapers’ topless pictures” and printed a picture of a bottomless couple. Here is the picture:

The article is worth reading.

In the 1970s in Germany there was a hardcore socialist magazine called Konkret that, for a time, used pictures of naked women on its front covers. Nothing inside the magazine reflected this: the stories inside were all about working towards changing society. The editors were just taking advantage of the fact that sex sells to spread that message.

It’s fascinating when sex is used to sell something that otherwise has intellectual high standards. Why, however, are the naked people shown in newspapers and magazines never men? This is blatant inequality. If people are equal, why would the sight of a naked man be undesirable – or, worse, obscene? MORE

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Came across this on the Civilian In Iraq group. It is a support group for civilian contractors in Iraq (ranging from tanker drivers to engineers and security guards). It is a guide for wives of contractors called “The Stages and How to Cope“. I have reproduced it here as it is both saddening but interesting and may be useful for anyone who may be separated from their loved ones.
[click to continue…]

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The Afrikaner charity website has a the Vanderbijlpark (fan-der-bail-park) transit camp and surrounding town. The area is populated by destitute disenfranchised Afrikaners who live in utter poverty in a country with no social security and a growing hostility to whites. It is just about the worst place in the world to be a poor white person. The photos of the transit camp shows an almost post-apocalyptic scene. Life there is very tough and pity abscent.

The terrible poverty which still abounds in the town of Vanderbijlpark, is however even worse than before. This due in the main to further retrenchments by the giant steelplant, Iscor. Sally has remobilized and has a new group of volunteers who are helping her, and currently she is looking after 152 families, who are destitute. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories and to see the people who are so helpless, so bitter, and so disillusioned. They are confused, because all the rules have changed. They have lost their way.

It is nigh impossible for them to get work, and most of them are totally dependent on the donations which Sally and her helpers distribute to them. Afrikaner Charity is one of the support group who are trying to help as best we can. The situation is so bad, that it has boiled down to survival. Children can’t go to school, because they don’t even have shoes or proper clothing. They don’t get enough to eat, and they are tired. In many of the ‘homes’ there isn’t even a bed for them to sleep on. No electricity or running water in the house, as this costs money which they don’t have. They cook outside with wood, if they can find wood, which they put into containers and try to get a fire going. Water is obtained from taps outside. They battle to get a proper meal together. There are no nappies for the babies, so most are using toilet paper in place of nappies. Formula for the babies is a luxury. Milk is a luxury.

The Afrikaner Charity site has photos worth seeing.

You might wonder why you should have any pity for these people, after all, there are millions of black South Africans living in poverty too. But that is part of the point. They are no more deserving, but they are deserving of our charity to. These people have been poor their whole lives. They were artisans and minimum wage workers and there has always been an Afrikaner underclass in South Africa. The Afrikaners were South Africa’s proto-Urban poor. Apartheid was partly driven by the resentment and suppression of these people. The National party had a message of hope for just these sorts of people – Apartheid. It promised economic salvation, power and respect.

Now they are cast adrift, outcasts even from the white tribes of Africa. They have little hope and a bleak future. The little hope is literal. It is the 14 children in this camp and the many other in the area. Through education they can escape this and let their parents be the last of them to live like this.

You may want to help the Afrikaner Charity with its great work over there. Donation details are here.

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A helpful voice in your ear. This could be extremely useful:

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are using neural-network technology to create software that automatically offers individual real-time advice to soldiers and other government teams in the field.

Akin to the promptings that newscasters get from their producers via earplugs during a broadcast, mentoring (as the technique is called) has already proved valuable to military teams in achieving mission goals. But instead of a human mentor, the Sandia group is looking to devise a software mentor that could offer advice like “take a deep breath and relax your upper body” or “pay attention to what Private Smith is about to say, his excitement level indicates it could be important.”

The researchers recently used a neural network to learn the signatures of abstract desirable traits like “leadership,” as well as warning signs such as “nervous,” “afraid” or “daydreaming,” by analyzing the pulse, respiration, perspiration, facial expressions, head movements and other biometric data streams coming from sensors attached to group members. Goals could be achieved in a stressful virtual environment only if the group cooperated effectively. By perfecting their approach in virtual reality, the scientists hope to someday enable automatic advice and counsel from a virtual mentor. MORE

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Weapons, tactics, history and kit with plenty of photos and commentary.

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An excellent article by Rich Skrenta on “The Secret Source of Google’s Power“:
Much is being written about Gmail, Google’s new free webmail system. There’s something deeper to learn about Google from this product than the initial reaction to the product features, however. Ignore for a moment the observations about Google leapfrogging their competitors with more user value and a new feature or two. Or Google diversifying away from search into other applications; they’ve been doing that for a while. Or the privacy red herring.

No, the story is about seemingly incremental features that are actually massively expensive for others to match, and the platform that Google is building which makes it cheaper and easier for them to develop and run web-scale applications than anyone else.

…Google has taken the last 10 years of systems software research out of university labs, and built their own proprietary, production quality system. What is this platform that Google is building? It’s a distributed computing platform that can manage web-scale datasets on 100,000 node server clusters. It includes a petabyte, distributed, fault tolerant filesystem, distributed RPC code, probably network shared memory and process migration. And a datacenter management system which lets a handful of ops engineers effectively run 100,000 servers. Any of these projects could be the sole focus of a startup. MORE

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Israelis, South Africans and Eastern Europeans are the preferred choice because of their military training. According to this article, the guard – who files a monthly report – is having a strong impact. MORE

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“Do you fancy a job with unlimited holidays, where you can take time off when you like? Some companies in Britain are introducing just that.

The new concept of “trust holidays” has been imported from the US, where accountancy, law and advertising firms have all adopted the idea.

Under the scheme, managers allow staff to decide among themselves how much time they want off, so long as between them they get their jobs done. Each employee’s performance is assessed at the end of the year to ensure that they are performing up to standard.” MORE

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Phone Manager Software for Sony phone [FMA]

by Limbic on April 6, 2004

I was reading about Mac OSX’s ability to send SMSs from its address book via P610 phones (with great envy), so I decided to look for a way to do this in XP. My searches led me to a superb piece of software called Float Mobile Agent. It basically does for Sony Ericsson what Oxygen Phone Manager does for Nokias.

FMA is a powerful phone editing tool allowing users to easily manage all of the personal data stored in their phones, via a number of different connections methods. FMA allows easy management of Phonebook (both SIM and Phone memory), SMS, Profiles, and Files stored on the phone. FMA can also allow you to pickup and dial calls directly from your PC.

Also see “Sending SMS Messages Using Windows XP“, a useful tutorial on how to set up XP to send SMSs via Bluetooth or Infrared.

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