March 2003 Archives
Meanwhile, it's looking like the war in Iraq is not going according to plan. Well, not according to Donald Rumsfeld's plan, where all the Iraqi's line up in the desert and either surrender or cheer for the conquering, sorry, liberating troops. (Here's a hint guys, if you're trying to liberate a country, don't go raising your own flag in place of theirs.) Now that it looks like the Iraqi's are going to fight for their country, I think Iraq will become a meat grinder of a war. As soon as the house to house fighting in Baghdad starts, we'll see C-130s loaded with body bags. Will this be political suicide? I'm sure that The Shrub and his cabal will not get voted out - they seem to be very good at swaying American Public Opinion. Did you know that over 50% of Americans believe that the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi? (15 of the 19 were actually Saudi Arabian.)
This always happens - I decide that it's time to go to bed, then remember that I meant to write something here this afternoon, but spend the whole day doing very little and forgot about it.
Anyway, I was up in Sham Shui Po today, getting something from Ap Liu Street flea market. Just about everyone was selling masks to everyone else. Wherever you go here in Hong Kong, you cannot escape the undercurrent of fear and trepidation which underlies the current news about SARS. As of the news tonight, there are over 500 cases of infection, and there have been 13 deaths. The government is not saying whether those who succumb are old or young, or had any other disease.
Meanwhile, everyone is selling masks to everyone else, so the old Hong Kong spirit is still there: "Always try and make a profit from current events".
Moby and Andy Williams have both cancelled their Hong Kong dates.
I'm listening to the Paul Simon Anthology at the moment. The reason I'm playing it is that my son picked it out of the CD rack and brought it over. Complete fluke, as he's only eight months old.
This is a double CD. The first CD is full of the Simon and Garfunkel stuff. The second CD is magic: it's the South African stuff he recorded against the wishes of many people. All those wonderful liquid fretless bass lines by Bagithi Khumalo, almost the only constant on the album. Fantastic stuff. Paul Simon was pilloried initially for recording in a South Africa divided by Apartheid, but I think his great achievement was showing that there was great music there, despite the political system. Bagithi Khumalo is an extraordinary bass player. Why doesn't everyone try to play like him? (It's bloody hard, is why.) That wonderful fluid, fretless bass style is seriously hard work. Whenever I try and cover a song from the 'Gracelands' album, I have even more respect for the superb musicians Paul Simon recorded with. That album is one of the reasons I have a fretless bass. I suspect that it'll be considered one the the canonical albums of western music.
Apparently the Shrub is annoyed that the press aren't whole heartedly in favour of whatever he wants. Honestly, what does he want? Grovelling worship? Even the worst five presidents ever (Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon, and Richard Nixon) didn't expect completely uncritical fawning from the press.
Also, the US Army has awarded reconstruction contracts in Iraq to Halliburton with no bidding. Vice President Cheney used to work for that firm, and apparently, they still pay him a retainer fee. Perhaps they should just admit that they're bribing the US government? They should change their national motto: to "USA: The land of the Fee and the home of the Bribe"
News just in is that the Rolling Stones have cancelled their gigs here at the last minutes because of the Atypical Pneumonia scare.
I've finally gotten around to graphing the web-server load - it's over on the http-load page.
I keep seeing some American military person with "XO Shai Hulud" on his helmet being interviewed on the TV. I wonder if he knows that Shai Hulud was the secret weapon of the Desert Dwelling Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune? And that these Arabic fighters successfully resisted an invasion of their world and went on to dominate civilisation?
Some silliness: Hu's the President?
Well, I'm sure everyone's heard about the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which is sweeping across the world at the moment. Hong Kong is currently the epicentre of the epidemic, with 10 dead and 286 or so diagnosed. The number of diagnosed cases is growing at about twenty per day, and there has been about one fatality per day since the reporting started. This drowns out the war reporting on the local news.
So far, all of the cases of infection are among those who have had direct contact with either the index case or someone in a direct chain back to him. Unfortunately, in a place as densely populated as Hong Kong, direct contact with a strange is astonishingly easy, as can be shown by the spread to date:
- The index case was a medic from GuangZhou, who'd apparently been involved in treating the outbreak of pneumonia there around Chinese New Year. He came to Hong Kong and stayed in the Metropole Hotel. He's already dead. The Mainland authorities deny that they had this disease there, but if you can find anyone who believes that, tell them I'm trying to sell the Tsing Ma bridge...
- A Chinese-American business man who stayed in the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong, then went on to Hanoi, then back to Hong Kong after he became sick. He's dead, and anyone who treated him in hospital in Vietnam or Hong Kong is sick.
- Two Canadians who also stayed in the Metropole Hotel at the same time are dead, and some of their relative are sick.
- Three Singaporeans who also stayed in the Metropole Hotel at the same time are either sick or dead. Singapore has announce a quarantine for anyone who came into contact with them. Anyone sick who goes out and interacts with others will be fined US$ 2800. (They should do this in Hong Kong - anyone spitting or sneezing on others should be liable to getting fined and sprayed with disinfectant, as well as a huge fine. And a good kicking.)
- All the cases in Hong Kong are either hospital staff, relatives of people who were or are sick or unfortunates like the Hospital Authority Chief, who made a point of visiting every hospital and is not sick with the disease. (At last, a Hong Kong politician, who may actually face some consequences from his actions!)
Meanwhile, each day the number of people wearing surgical masks doubles. People on the MTR, or just walking around in Central. (I'll try and take some pictures.) I saw a man earlier on today who was having a quiet smoke in a street corner. He'd move his mask down, take a puff then put the mask back while exhaling...
I've seen people who are coughing in public being avoided. I think that if someone was to try and get on the MTR while coughing and wheezing, they'd be firmly told where to go. (Probably with a boot.)
Meanwhile, the government is giving advice. They recommend that you should avoid crowds, reduce stress and breathe clean air. Hello?! Where the heck do these people live? Let's let the entire population of Hong Kong quite their jobs and live on a beach somewhere. Meanwhile, maybe this is a good time to introduce guidelines on the excessive prescription of anti-biotics in Hong Kong hospitals, tackle the horrific pollution resulting from too many people using their cars with a perfectly adequate public transport system (which is probably the best in the world), and really enforce all those fines on people spitting and littering in public places which are one reason that diseases spread so rapidly here. and maybe they could try and do something about the gullible nature of the populace. People here believe everything fed to them by email, bossy friends or just people they want to believe. Tonight I heard that it's ok if someone is coughing all the time, it's only if they cough sometimes, that they might have SARS. Pardon me while I roll my eyes.
While I'm waiting for the government to take action, I'm buying surgical breathing masks for me and my family.
As you may have noticed, this website was out of action for about 18 hours. I upgraded Gizmo from RedHat 7.2 to RedHat 8.0, and the upgrade did not go well at all. Dear me, no. The CD ROM on Gizmo refused to read all of the install CDs, so I had to do a minimal install, copy the required files in from the other CD and install extra packages normally. On the plus side, I now have very little in the way of packages that I don't need. I started off with the 476Mb Minimal Install and added things like sendmail, vim, httpd, etc. Plus I had a backup of the original installation on the second disk, so I can restore things as needed.
On the minus side, RedHat 8.0 has a number of dramatic changes which you only really notice when manually upgrading. It now uses httpd-2.0, f'r instance, which requires substantial changes to the httpd.conf file, as well as sendmail-8.12.x, which use a pretty different config. Strangely enough, I was using 8.12.8 from source before upgrading, but it wouldn't compile afterwards. Odd, but the upgrade package was 8.12.8 anyway.
I've also added an option to spell check these webpages, so ewe should knot sea Moore spilling miss steaks. UPDATE: aspell is taking a really long time (like forever, dude) to check anything with this new install, so I've disabled it until I can sort out what the issue is. I'm guessing that there's some sort of file permissions problem as it's faster when the root user does a check.
I moved the rant about The Shrub to my Rants Page. It makes more sense to have it over there. WARNING: my rants usually come when I'm really annoyed about something and may or may not be all that rational.
Well, it's Paddy's day again. Please join me in the national Irish pastime, commonly celebrated on this day, of rolling your eyes at those 'Irish-Americans' with their tartan pants and their stories about leprechauns and the 'auld sod', not to mention green beer.
If I'd thought about it sooner, I'd've had some snake soup tonight to celebrate that good old Welsh Roman alleged driving of the snakes out of Ireland. I did have some Clonakilty Black Pudding for dinner, though.
I had a debate on snopes.com about who is entitled to call themselves Irish. One particularly arrogant Irish American refused to accept the fact that he wasn't Irish, and decided that I wasn't Irish either, because I lived further away from Ireland than he did. This is a moronic statement. Pat Young: you are a moron.
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