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French's Mustard: Eat me! I'm not French!

Mustard-maker goes on the PR offensive amid nationwide fits of wartime anti-France fervor:
"The only thing French about French's Mustard is the name," the company announced. The mustard-maker said it felt obliged to hire a PR company to set the record straight after some media reports suggested it was being -- or should be -- boycotted because of its "French" links. A report on CNN apparently showed one restaurant replacing French's mustard with a Heinz product. "For the record, French's would like to say there is nothing more American than French's Mustard," it said, referring to its New York origins.
Update: one BoingBoing reader tells us of having received this response to an email sent to French's about the "Dude, We're So Not French!" flap:
French's appreciates your comments and is always pleased to hear from their customers. Please take note that French's -- in no way -- meant to be disrespectful or to distance themselves from the French. The press release was only written in response to several media outlets who incorrectly included French's mustard when encouraging their viewers to boycott all things French. This press release was not proactive, but rather, reactive. It is our job to educate and inform the public about French's mustard. French's is proud of their American roots and is next year celebrated their 100th birthday. I should hope that this sheds some light on were French's is coming from, and hope that you will continue to use their products.
Est-ce que vous avez du Grey Poupon? Link to news story, Link to French's Mustard website, Discuss, (via TKblog)

A beautiful collection of ice photography

Link, Discuss

30,000 words nailed on novel #3

Today, I broke the 30,000-word-mark on my new novel, "/usr/bin/god," which I'll likely finish off around Christmas. To celebrate the milestone, I've posted a 2,000-word excerpt from the opening of the book:
Mason's car -- "The Mobile Nerd Command Center" or MNC2 for short -- died the morning of the most disastrous job interview of his life. He practically lived out of the MNC2, charging his device-array -- phone, email pager, GPS, laptop, MP3 player, digital camera, and PDA -- from the DC inverter that dangled from a wad of duct-tape around the cigarette lighter; the back seat was full of dead Mountain Dews and empty coffee-cups from Highway 101's many Starbuckses; and both sun visors bore clip-on CD organizers filled with home-burned MP3 CDs that contained six hundred plus hours of music.

As Mason pulled into the empty Menlo Park parking-lot that morning, the dashboard lit up christmas with a Defcon 5 array of idiot-lights. Six different chimes sounded from the absolutely spectacular sound-system, resonating with jeep-beat bass that made his gut churn. The engine died as he pulled into the spot and the transmission made a horrible, grinding noise as he shifted into park. When he switched off the ignition, the engine made a chuggetta-chuggetta noise that sounded like a cartoon foley effect. Mason had a vision of his car's hood popping open and emitting a geyser of steam, followed by all four tires going flat in unison, but the chuggetas died down and he was sitting in the parking lot, seated at the conn of the former Mobile Nerd Command Center, with twenty minutes to his job interview.

Job interview! He cringed at the words, cringed at the memory of the grueling, humiliating pre-test he'd had to do to even *get* a job-interview, which had included fifteen essay questions on the history of the Internet, the fine points of Microsoft Foundation Classes, and SQL query-syntax. He'd had to define a glossary of no fewer than 30 technical terms, including "PEBKAC" ("Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair"), which had been his freaking *login* for five years on an underpowered Solaris box at his ISP.

Link Discuss

File-compression can detect life

Public-domain compression algorithms are a good, fast way at calculating the complexity and redundancy of some dataset (the more redundancy, the better the data compresses). It turns out that true fossils have really different compression characteristics from rocks that only look like fossils.
Although biological stromatolites and non-biological stromatolite-look-alike structures appear similar to the human eye, the biological origin of stromatolites makes them more ordered, more highly patterned. And it is this patterning that, while hard for the human eye to discern, is readily detected by the compression algorithm. Non-biological stromatolite-like structures are more random, less patterned and therefore less compressible.
Link Discuss (via /.)

CodeCon audio online

The audio of all the talks from last month's CodeCon -- the low cost conference where P2P hackers show off new, running code -- are online! The files are available via BitTorrent, Bram Cohen's swarming download technology that puts less load on the server the more people are downloading it. Link Discuss (via Infoanarchy)

Fiction, interview and review online at Strange Horizons

I'm the Author of the Month at the excellent e-zine, Strange Horizons. They've published a review of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, a long interview that Katsi Macdonald (daughter of James D. Macdonald and Debra Doyle) conducted with me, and have reprinted my short story, Visit the Sins, which initially appeared in Asimov's and was later reprinted in one of Hartwell's Year's Best anthologies.
Grampa was switched off when Sean found him on the ward, which throbbed with a coleslaw of laser-light and video games and fuck-pix and explosions and car wrecks and fractals and atrocities.

Sean remembered visits before the old man was committed, he and his dutiful father visiting the impeccable apartment in the slate house in Kingston, Ontario. Grampa made tea and conversation, both perfectly executed and without soul. It drove Sean's father bugfuck, and he'd inevitably have a displaced tantrum at Sean in the car on the way home. The first time Grampa had switched on in Sean's presence -- it was when Sean was trying out a prototype of Enemies of Art against his father's own As All Right-Thinking People Know -- it had scared Sean stupid.

Grampa had been in maintenance mode, running through a series of isometric stretching exercises in one corner while Sean and his father had it out. Then, suddenly, Grampa was between them, arguing both sides with machinegun passion and lucidity, running an intellect so furious it appeared to be steam-driven. Sean's tongue died in his mouth. He was made wordless by this vibrant, violent intellect that hid inside Grampa. Grampa and his father had traded extemporaneous barbs until Grampa abruptly switched back off during one of Sean's father's rebuttals, conceding the point in an unconvincing, mechanical tone. Sean's father stalked out of the house and roared out of the driveway then, moving with such speed that if Sean hadn't been right on his heels, he wouldn't have been able to get in the car before his father took off.

Link Discuss

DoCoMo to launch personal GPS phone handset in April

According to this article, Japanese telecom companny NTT DoCoMo has announced that it will launch its first GPS-compatible handset F661i at the end of April.
This is not like the GPS functionality that the US Phone companies introduced so far. In the US the GPS coordinates are only used for emergencies and not yet for actually providing value to the user in other situations. Uers of the F661i can send their current location to other i-mode enabled phones. In addition, a memo function allows users to store location information, including map, telephone numbers and addresses. The phone supports three applications of the GPS functionality:
Link Discuss (via unwired list)

Spraypainted "watertight" motherboard runs underwater

Chuck sez, "I'm not really submitting the whole site. Just the directory of 11 pictures of a motherboard running underwater. According to monoperative: 'the motherboard was spraypainted to make it watertight, which was successful. the future in cooling.'" Link Discuss (Thanks, Chuck!)

Toronto in song

Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics has composed a list of the fifty songs that best capture the spirit of Toronto.
38. "I Hate the Bloody Queen" by The Queen Haters...

30. "Parkette" by Bob Snider: "There was no ball playing and no crayfishing/And they called it a parkette after a politician." In the song, the singer sees Toronto's woodland supplanted by a parcel of sod.

22. "Echo Beach" by Martha and the Muffins: Rush is good, but M&M might be the only Toronto band. They were so biology class, so stereo-shop employee, so Square One, so Sheridan College, so Plantation Bowl, so smooth, suburban asphalt. Cold, zippered, click-tracked. Like a robot snapping its fingers.

7. "OK, Blue Jays" by The Batboys: For the '85 American League Championship Series, the U.S. media were humoured by the politeness of this baseball "fight" song. But "OK" is beautifully us. Lose seven in a row in '87? It's okay. Get drubbed by the Twins in '89? S'okay, too. World Series titles in '92 and '93? No problem with that.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Chris!)

Atwood: America is selling itself out

Margaret Atwood, Canadian literary star and author of "The Handmaid's Tale," wrote a stern open letter to the USA in yesterday's Globe and Mail. The war isn't what's got her upset, though: it's the Bush Administration's exploitation of the war to undermine the civil liberties that define America as the city on the hill, the democratic proving ground to which all other democracies can aspire.
You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Greg!)

Inadvertent wartime farce: the Phrasealator

Story in today's UK Guardian about the farcical cultural disconnects that result from a language translation gadget known as the Phrasealator (not to be confused with the Shizzolator):
"The object of discussion was an ancient, dust-clogged, diesel-powered water pump which the [Iraqi] farmers wanted to start, with the help of the US marines, who control the roadside area east of the town of Diwaniya where the farmers have their fields. The pump lies under the very guns of the marines, hunkered down in foxholes behind a high sand wall, scanning the landscape for signs of the elusive, intangible, incomprehensible enemy.

Cooper, a major in the military's civil affairs department, didn't have an interpreter, exactly. He had a handheld black plastic device the size of an eggbox called a Phrasealator. Users run a stylus down a series of menus on a screen, pick a phrase in English, touch the line, and the Phrasealator squawks the equivalent in Arabic.

The machine lacks elementary social skills. It only covers a handful of situations, such as crowd control, law and order and emergencies. If you want to tell someone to get out of their car slowly or not to be frightened, it's great. If you have to talk to farmers in rural Iraq about intimate details of their lives, families, crops and horticultural needs, and understand what they say back, it's useless.."

Link, Discuss, (Thanks, John Von!)

Happy Birthday to... Jane Frauenfelder!!!



Congratulations to Mark, Carla, and Sarina Frauenfelder on the birth of Jane Holly Frauenfelder, March 29, 2003! Here's sweet Jane with big sis Sarina! Discuss

Weezer's symbolic value

Great undergrad thesis on the rise, fall and rebirth of the band Weezer, written for a Harvard social studies degree.
Utilizing the institutional framework and terminology Pierre Bourdieu establishes in his "Market of Symbolic Goods," I frame rock music as a middlebrow art that regards itself as possessing certain elements of highbrow "legitimate" art -- namely "symbolic value" beyond a work's value as a market commodity. I then use this institutional framework and aesthetic ideology to investigate the process by which Weezer's reputation changed dramatically over time. Examining data from several sources: an original survey of 150 music writers, an original survey of 20,000 Weezer fans, original interviews with music writers and editors, and an analysis of a sample of 2000 articles and reviews mentioning Weezer, I argue that a strong fan following led to a reconsideration of Weezer's artistic merits by the music press and altered the vocabulary used to discuss the band. I ultimately conclude that a number of parties play a role in deliberating claims of artistic value in rock music: music writers, artists, fans, and the commercial interests that employ writers and artists.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Joe!)

The Forver War: time to read it again

I picked up a copy of Joe Haldeman's classic novel The Forever War last night as a gift for a friend, but I'm going to keep it. I got to re-reading it last night (for the first time in nearly 20 years) and couldn't put it down. Haldeman wrote this novel after returning from his tour of duty in Vietnam, and the book made the rounds, getting turned down by publisher after publisher, by editors who recognized the book's merit but questioned the political savvy of publishing a war-novel. Eventually, Joe rewrote one section of the book, softening it, and finally, the book saw print, becoming an instant classic. The new, author's preferred edition restores the original text, and is absolutely timely and engrossing. Link Discuss

The Mutter Museum in color photos

Last night, I dropped in at Borderlands Books to sign some copies of my novel that people had ordered, and I happened on a giant, beautiful photo-boook about Philadelphia's Mütter Museum.

The Mütter is an historical pathology museum that began with the private collection of the 19th Century pathologist Dr. Isaac Parrish. The 20,000+ artifacts there are life-changingly weird. They have the conjoined liver of Cheng and Eng, the original Siamese Twins; the corpse of the "soap lady," an obese woman whose fat interated with the lye soil in her pauper's grave, turning her into a giant bar of soap; the twisted skeletons of hydro- and micro-cephalic babies and infants; the skulls of hundreds of suicides with crabbed copperplate phrenological annotations, such as "Note sloping forehead, indicates criminal mentality?"

There are the eaten-away skulls of tertiary syphlitics; the 9'-long colon of a man who took one dump a month until he died in his late 20s; dozens of drawers full of items removed from choking peoples' windpipes ("buttons," "coins," "wedding rings," "safety pins (open)," "safety pins (closed)") und zo weiter.

For all the PT Barnumium present, there is an air of curious dignity and solemnity at the Mütter. People whisper and murmur. The glass cases are both revolting and humbling. Their contents stay with you. Days after your visit, part of you is still at the Mütter -- quieted, humbled, repulsed and attracted.

The Mutter doesn't allow photography, and until recently the only photographic records you could take away with you were a few picture postcards and a calendar. But the Mütter Museum book, with its terse captions and beautiful color plates is a far better collection of photos than anything I could have produced. (Inexplicably, these plates are interspersed with whimsical pictures of Weimaraner dogs posed with exhibits from the museum, shot by William Wegman).

I keep opening this big hardcover and paging through it and getting stuck on this page or that, captured by the Mütter. I haven't been back in five years or so, but it feels like the Mütter's inside me again. Link Discuss