Those of us who pay attention to such things will have noted the foofaraw about the efforts to eliminate all mention of pigs in British society (because, as we all know, Piglet is offensive to Muslim sensibilities, and mentioning a piggy bank is a sure way to get your head sawn off).
Well, Michael Totten, who's living in Beirut these days and has traveled elsewhere in the Middle East, offers some perspective on the offensiveness of pig products in that part of the world.
Hint: typical Muslims are much less easily offended than their self-appointed spokeslunatics. Just like typical just-about-anybody. Funny how that works.
Somewhat relatedly: last night, Smash linked to this WaPo article about Sunni participation in Iraqi politics. Where do pigs come into it, I hear you ask... well, if you scroll down, you'll find this paragraph:
"Politics for us is like filthy, dead meat," he said, referring to
pork, which is eschewed by observant Muslims. "We are not allowed to
eat it, but if you are crossing through a desert and your life depends
on it, God says it's okay." Even if politics gets him a result he
likes, he said, he will continue to wage war against the Americans,
because he views them as occupiers.
Er... why does "...filthy dead meat" that one might find in the desert mean pork? Eh? Might it simply mean carrion, i.e., filthy dead meat? I'm pretty sure Muslims aren't supposed to eat any meat that hasn't been properly slaughtered, regardless of species. Was this over-interpretation put there by the reporter, or by an editor?
Update: Insty links to this version of the story at the Grauniad. Same reporter, same quote, no "clarification" that it refers to pork. So, it looks like some nitwit WaPo editor added a false clarification.
I realize this is October, and the season for being festively German, but still... it's weird to walk into an Asian market and hear a chorus of drunken Germans singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" over the sound system.
Alpha was a lame enough name for a Moon base, but for a tropical storm? C'mon, first they leave out Xavier, Yolanda, and Zaphod, and then they start using plain furrin letters instead of proper names? After Zaphod, we need a common name starting with YUZZ. Then one starting with WUM, and so on. Doesn't anyone remember their Dr. Suess?
[OK, so I didn't remember... but at least I remembered that there was somethingOn Beyond Zebra.]
Update: Specialist Van T. thinks the names even before Zebra are getting worn out and boring, and suggests more interesting alternatives.
OK, so it's an entirely different Mal Reynolds, who didn't write "Little Boxes", and who in fact shows no musical aptitude whatsoever, but who is a bit of a rebel.
As I noted in an earlier post, I had a feeling maybe the characters had changed since Firefly. They have indeed; I'll get to that later.
The movie opens with some context that was missing from the TV series: all the action takes place in one humongous solar system, with many habitable planets and terraformable moons. (Seems a bit unlikely to me, but I'm no astrophysicist.) This means that there's no need for FTL drives, just plain old reaction drives that get fantastic gas mileage. It does, however, imply that the navigation charts should be more dynamic than they appear to be (e.g., the region in space around Miranda wouldn't be around Miranda for very long; all the objects in it would be in their own orbits).
The movie is a sequel to the TV series; all that happened in the series is in the movie's past (though some of the background has changed). This means moviegoers who missed the series won't know the existing relationships between the characters, and some events will just be coming out of nowhere. It helps, for example, to know the Mal/Inara backstory, or something about the Shepherd (not that we really know much about him anyway).
Ah, yes: the character changes. Some of the characters have gotten more... well... concentrated. It's like they've had Ever-so-much-more-so sprinkled over them. Mal has gotten crazier and more ruthless (lack of Inara's civilizing influence?); Simon is more intense; River might have been bitten by a radioactive Bun-Bun and turned into a cute fuzzy psychotic killing machine. Inara, on the other hand, seems to have gotten toned down: once exotic and mature beyond her apparent years, she now seems 10 years younger, less exotic, and more cute, which just doesn't seem to fit.
Oh, and now I know who the Operative is. How the heck do I score 63% Operative on that quiz? He's a collectivist, and somehow simultaneously a true believer and a cynic; I'm an individualist, and don't believe in much of anything. True, I have a supply of blue nitrile gloves, but the Operative, for some reason, doesn't.
Chinese is still the new Yiddish. (If you learned your Yiddish from MAD Magazine like I did, that statement should have made sense.)
A plot oddity (and spoiler): the Operative went around killing off people who had sheltered Mal in the past. His explanation, apparently true, was that the purpose was to deprive Mal of future hiding places. My first thought was that the purpose was to eliminate anyone who might have learned any secrets River might have been carrying around... and, if Mal had thought along this line, it would have had exactly the opposite of the effect the Operative intended: don't even think about surrendering, because you'll all be killed in the name of keeping the secret.
The explanation for the origin of the Reavers is... interesting. Consider that 1/10 of 1% number. According to FBI statistics from a few years back (sorry, I've misplaced the clipping), 0.07% of the population accounted for 70% of the violent crime. So, thinking of the real world and not the movie... figure something on the order of 0.1% of the population is ready to turn Reaver anyway. To use a currently fashionable manner of dividing up humanity: if we're 98% sheep, 1% wolves, and 1% sheepdogs, then about 7% of the wolves are rabid. Maybe, then, a mysterious minority side-effect of the drug is unnecessary. Maybe it's sufficient for the drug not to work on the rabid wolves. The movie's account calls for a Blake's 7-style pacification drug backfiring. But what if it didn't? What would happen if it pacified the already-pacific sheep, and the sheepdogs, and the common wolves... but had no effect on the rabid wolves? Rabid wolves running unchecked. Reavers. While we're still a ways from Brave New World, let alone Blake's 7, there's a definite tendency on the part of governments to pass laws ostensibly intended to reduce serious crime, but in practice affecting mostly, or exclusively, the sheep. In extreme cases, the sheep are severely pacified, the sheepdogs either locked in their kennels or allowed to go feral (and/or wolves hired as sheepdogs), and no attention directed toward dealing with the rabid wolves. (We can't focus on the rabid wolves! That would be discriminatory!) Think of the youth gangs in England as sort of junior Reavers. Laws can be just as effective as drugs....
Enough frothing at the mouth for now. If you haven't seen the movie, go see it (but seeing the TV series first is a good idea).
(Wanders off, humming Leslie Fish's tune to the completely irrelevant "Tarrant Moss".)
Additional: I've long though that Serenity needed some sort of armament, for dealing with Reavers and general bandits. Guess the Alliance gets kinda shirty about armed merchantmen. Still, I think Mal should try to scrounge some weaponry that can be put in pop-out turrets that aren't obvious to search parties. Putting Vera in a space suit is just lame.
Before you laugh... keep in mind that, until Einstein came along with his theory of matter-energy equivalence, there was no respectable scientific theory by which the Sun could be anywhere near as old as geology suggested. Now that we know, in general terms, how the Sun operates, there's plenty of time for geology and evolution to have happened in, and there's no need for, e.g., Velikovsky's catastrophism.
You scored as Kaylee Frye. The Mechanic. You are a natural mechanic, and you are far too sweet and cheerful to live out here. How you can see the good in everyone around you boggles the mind occationally. Still you don't seem to be any crazier than that, and it is a nice kinda crazy.
Slashdot links to this article at Cisco, pointing up the rapid exhaustion of the IPV4 address space. While NAT is mentioned in passing down at the bottom, the whole address-exhaustion foofaraw persistently overlooks the fact that NAT is still greatly underused. Look, when Aunt Hilda dials in to her ISP, she doesn't need a routable IP address assigned! She's not running a server, so the only thing a routable address gains her is vulnerability to those things that come looking at open ports (since the 2 AM statistics reset last reboot, my firewall here has blocked over 20 thousand naughty packets). If my workstation can live with a locally-unique 192.168.x.y address, so can Aunt Hilda's PC. Widespread use of NAT for typical customers, and properly configured ISP firewalls (e.g., no outgoing connections to port 25 except to the ISP's own mail servers, and limited communication among subscriber machines), would not only stretch the supply of IPV4 addresses but also discourage worm propagation, spam, and suchlike ills that plague the Net.
The main drawback is that IP-based access control (such as blocking for blog comments) would work even more poorly than it already does. Perhaps some form of super-ident protocol is called for, to indentify particular accounts behind a NAT box. This, however, is an existing problem which needs its own solution, regardless of the size of the address space.
Correction: the 2 AM statistics reset had gotten lost from the daily script somehow. The 20K blocked packets figure is for the 2 weeks since the last reboot, not for the few hours since the daily script run. It's still a lot of naughty packets.
Just back from the tidepooling trip... we ended up taking the northern route, through Pacifica, to avoid the Pumpkin Festival traffic.
All went well until a few minutes after 9, when, just after returning from Skyline to 280 southbound, we came upon a sea of stationary taillights. A great many emergency vehicles went past. I turned on the 9:18 KCBS traffic report: lots of traffic news, but nothing about 280. About 9:28, traffic was starting to move a little; the traffic report was brief and again mentioned nothing about 280. By the time we reached the bottleneck, the two left lanes were open. There were several (possibly 8?) smashed vehicles strewn along both sides of the road, including some partway up each embankment... along maybe 50-100 yards of freeway. Quite some mess. Nothing about it on the radio, and I can't find anything about it on the CHP Incident Reports web site either. Only one incident listed for 280 since 6:48 PM, and that was in San Francisco, way the heck north of this one.
So, what was it? Cars randomly picked up, smashed, and strewn around by a rogue black helicopter? Cattle-mutilating aliens have taken to mutilating cars? A driver so drunk that he spontaneously combusted in a huge fireball that scattered vehicles hither and yon?
Well, it seems the big referendum in Iraq was a success. It'll be a while yet before we find out whether the new constitution was accepted or turned down, but that's a fiddly detail: reasonable and well-informed people voted different ways; it's not like there's one side that's clearly right and one that's clearly wrong. Actually, there is one side that's clearly wrong, and that's the side that lost big yesterday. There were three sides in the referendum: "vote YES", "vote NO", and "stay home and don't vote or we'll kill you". The third faction succeeded in tying up a lot of resources, but completely failed to make large number of voters stay home, though some (like Truth Teller, who votedNO) were considerably inconvenienced by the security measures.
Over in the comments section at ITM (Omar, by the way, voted YES), Andrea links to a collection of photos of the voting.
Despte anything the silly news commentators may have said, if the heavy turnout in the NO-leaning governorates leads to the current draft constitution being rejected, that won't be a "setback for democracy." It'll be a triumph of democracy. The whole point of a legitimate referendum is that the people do have a right to vote NO. If it's voted down, the new Assembly (to be elected) will just have to go back and try again, and try to get it right this time. If the hordes of NO-voters show up for the Assembly election, they'll have their fair share of representation when the next draft is written.
Personally, without regard to the merits of the current draft constitution, I wouldn't blame anyone for voting against it just for the way the revisions and referendum were handled. With the after-the-last-minute revisions, the voters were basically being asked to approve a pig in a poke (OK, so a sheep in a sack), and it seems that one of the late revisions means the whole thing is basically set in Jello anyway (allowing amendments immediately by a simple majority vote of the Assembly), which would make the whole "constitution" thing rather pointless - a proper constitution should be simple, durable, and difficult to amend (i.e., more like the US than like California).
Anyway, there was a big turnout and little violence, which points to the opposition turning to politics - a Good Sign. Assuming that the vote count is seen to be honest, we can hope that most Iraqis will continue to take their political system seriously, thereby further undercutting those who would (re)gain power by force. Then maybe the neighbors will start Getting Ideas. Dominos, anyone?
In among the usual flood of spam, every once in a while there's something particularly goofy. One recent subject line for replica-watch spam is this:
Authentic vs. our replica = like mirror image.
Er... does it run counterclockwise? Is this supposed to be a good thing?
Additional: There's this weird flood of spam e-mails with a random forged sender, no subject, and... the message body is a 404 message. Eh? Are they trying to sell me 404 messages? (I guess if people will buy ringtones, maybe they'll go for "download 404 pages now!")
This was kind of predictable. Did I mention that the giant-robot business is looking up?
You are Dr. Bunson Honeydew.
You love to analyse things and further the cause of science, even if you do tend to blow things up more often than not.
Scientific inquiry, Looking through microscopes, Recombining DNA to create decorative art.
"Now, Beakie, we'll just flip this switch and 60,000 refreshing volts of electricity will surge through your body. Ready?"
FAVORITE MUSICAL ARTIST:
John Cougar Melonhead
LAST BOOK READ:
"Quantum Physics: 101 Easy Microwave Recipes"
NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT:
An atom smasher and plenty of extra atoms.
Just over a month ago, I fired up xtide, scanned through the coming weeks, and decided to have an afternoon tidepooling trip out by Half Moon Bay this coming Sunday. Now it turns out that the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival is this weekend. Oops. Somehow, I have a feeling that trying to get over Highway 92 around 1:30 on a festival day may be a bit of a problem. Time to look for an alternative route... maybe 84 to 1 north, or take the northern route, through Pacifica (maybe not such a good idea, as there may be a traffic jam on 1 south, too). Time to browse the maps and see what the options are....
Ever since the Blue Menace first appeared on television, right-thinking folks have sought a violent end to it. Indeed, the little blue vermin came in far ahead of the competition in the first "Crucify a Cute Commercial Character of the Month Club" vote, in 1984.
From Usenet to song, the Smurf menace has been attacked:
Well, we snuck into the Magic Woods, we were in disguise, now,
We surrounded the village and took 'em all by surprise, now,
And when the napalm hit, they were all little blue French fries, now,
And we had fun, fun, fun, blowin' all the little Smurfers away.
Funny, I'd never heard the Archimedes version of this tale... but of course I'd read Arthur C. Clarke's story of the soccer referee and the stadium full of highly reflective booklets, and had toyed with the idea, back in my college days, of trying this trick on one of those bloody awful sculptures at UCSD - "Come insolate the Sun God! Bring your own mirror."
That was quick... yesterday, I finally got around to ordering the boxed DVD set of Firefly from Amazon; it just arrived. Now I gotta find time to watch it. And get to the movie. I think I caught the first three episodes when it was on TV, back in September / October of 2002... at least, the episodes with the earliest air dates sound kind of familiar.
Remember that Jetblue plane that landed a couple of weeks back with its nose wheel sideways? Looks like here are some photos of the wheel after its sideways trip down the runway. (Captions in Russian; ads NSFW.)
The right side of the blogosphere has been abuzz for the last few days over the University of Oklahoma suicide-by-bomb (by BIG bomb). Meanwhile, the usual news sources aren't giving it much coverage, and various officials Aren't Saying Much. How much is hooplah and how much is coverup?
I don't have any personal knowledge of the case at hand, but a few things occur to me.
First off, there's nothing wildly unusual about a male college student dabbling with high explosives. I was a male college student once; trust me on this. I even knew someone in college who made a batch of an organic-peroxide primary explosive, HMTD (if memory serves, he'd been reading TM 31-210, the Improvised Munitions Handbook). It's not quite so notoriously unstable as acetone peroxide (which isn't even in that book)... but the warnings were sufficiently dire that he made only a tiny quantity. It went off unexpectedly; he was lucky to escape with all his fingers. I myself was known to have an interesting chemistry set, and a fair collection of naughty information... and this was in the days before the Internet made information-collection so much easier.
On the other hand, building big bombs is more unusual. Making a multi-pound batch of a notoriously unstable primary explosive is not something an explosives hobbyist would do; a few grams of the primary explosive and a few pounds of a much safer secondary explosive would be more likely, for someone wanting to make a big boom just for kicks, or for someone who'd studied explosives and wanted to make a bomb that he could count on not going off until he'd delivered it. The big batch of acetone peroxide... well, that seems to be the trademark of certain terrorist organizations, which rely on expendable manpower not just to deliver the bombs, but also to make them.
As for the apparent coverup, or blindness of law enforcement, or just a general lack of information being provided to the public, well.... Let's suppose, for the moment, that Hinrichs had been recruited into a terror cell, and pressured into delivering a bomb (whether or not he knew it to be a suicide mission). Maybe - just maybe - the Feds have some details, and are trying to track down more evidence, and other people. Like the rest of the cell, maybe? Now, does it make sense to hold a press conference, and announce exactly what evidence is in hand, and what and whom they're looking for? No. There are times, really, when it's best to play dumb. If you're investigating a suicide bombing, and suspect that it was connected to a terrorist network, then surely tracking down the rest of the network is more important, in the short term, than providing detailed real-time information to the public, and to the subjects of the investigation. If a truly competent team were investigating this, I'd expect them to pretend it was just a perfectly ordinary case of spontaneous human combustion, thereby appearing incompetent and causing minimal alarm among their prey. This isn't too far off from what seems to be happening; I hope there's a serious investigation going on behind the scenes.
In a relatively open society such as ours, it's darn near impossible to cover up the fact that there's an investigation going on. There is, however, no need to advertise the details while the investigation is in progress. Later, when it won't jeopardize the terrorist hunt (assuming there is one), we should learn the details.
Update: You've maybe heard reports of shrapnel damage, or ball-bearing damage, to a nearby tree. Acorns from an Okie has photos, and sees no shrapnel damage. I see no shrapnel damage. Tapscott differs.