dave: February 2006 Archives

Google Earth things

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Track flights into major US airports with Google Earth: http://www.fboweb.com/antest/ge/intro.aspx

The Escalator Shuffle

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What's with that silly shuffle some people do when trying to get on an escalator? You know, they walk up to the escalator, stop dead waiting for a nice looking step and move on to it. When it's in a busy place it's very annoying as the crowd crowds into the backs of people forced to stop by someone who doesn't know how to use an escalator.

I've first encountered it in Hong Kong, and just put it down to your average Hongkies complete lack of awareness of what's going on around them: "Oh shit! It's a moving thing. Wait, wait, I learned how to do this is school. Put one foot on the moving thing and then the other! I'm so clever! Why is that gweilo glaring at me?"

Other examples of this include the "I'm hurt you're beeping at me" look, even though the person has been meandering all over the road and there's a queue of traffic behind her.

And, of course, there's the Hong Kong classic "Lets all stop at the top of this escalator in the busiest MTR station during rush hour and discuss our plans for the day."

But you see it here in Brisbane as well. Normally it's older people, but youngsters do it too. Perhaps they're from more rural parts and unfamiliar with all the conveniences of modern city living.

Editing RAW Images with The Gimp

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I've recently moved over to shooting in RAW mode on my Pentax *istDS.

RAW mode is a lossless storage mode which allows a great deal of latitude in post-processing the image. It's basically the raw output from the sensor. Sounds good, yes? There's a downside. Images saved in this way are very large (10MB) compared to 2MB for a 6 Mega-pixel image saved as a JPG and not every photo-editing program understands the RAW format.

Unfortunately for me, The Gimp doesn't natively work with RAW. I use Linux as my primary OS, and hence use The Gimp for photo editing. What to do?

It turns out that there are only two small packages that you need to install to make The Gimp work with RAW images:

And that's it! Just install two small and freely available programs and Robert is your avuncular relation!

If you curse at them, they will come?

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The new advertisement for Australia is attracting a little controversy as shown in this Reuters article: If you curse at them, they will come?.

http://wherethebloodyhellareyou.com/

Palm T|X

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A few months ago I bought a Palm T|X, as a replacement for my aging Palm m515. The new palm is lighter than the old, although it has a bigger screen and more features. It also cost less than the m515.

Overall, I'm very happy with it, and it's a good replacement for the m515.

Here's a quick roundup of the good and bad points about it:

Size and Weight

It's slightly larger but lighter than the m515, but it still fits in a shirt pocket. It's a comfortable fit in the palm of my hand.

Screen

The screen is 320x480 pixels, with a virtual Grafiti (or handwriting) area, which can be minimised to give extra screenspace. The screen can be rotated for both portrait and landscape orientations and is clear and bright.

Batteries

Battery life is typical for a palm - charge it every few days, and never worry about the batteries anyway, because you'll never lose your data. All your data is backed up on your PC anyway. My appointments and addressbooks have followed me seamlessly from my first palm in 1998.

Compatibility

Compatibility with older apps is good, although there are a few which cause infinite rebooting cycles. I'm not sure which ones, but possible PocketC or Waba.

Older applications which don't understand the larger screen will bring up the grafiti area and revert to the square screen format of the older palms. At least they don't go to the original 160x160 size!

Multitasking

There is some small amount of multi-tasking (it can play music in the background), but this is not a machine for running Setiathome in the background while rendering frames for Peter Jackson's latest movie. It makes an acceptable personal music player, although you'll not get the kind of storage that an iPod has.

(The palm takes SD cards as external storage, so you could in theory have a 4 or 8GB card in there. I haven't tried this myself. A 1Gb card works fine. Palm applications are small anyway, so you don't need huge amounts of space.)

Wireless + Bluetooth

The wireless is good, although the range isn't great. My local, Carnegies, has free internet, but I can only get a signal in certain parts of the bar, even though I've seen people happily browsing with laptops in places where I can't do anything. (I can log on, but not browse or meaningfully connect with the WAP.) I would like to see an external antenna socket, or at least have the palm be clever and use the headphones as an aerial.

It's damn nice to be able to pick up a wireless connection when out shopping and quickly check emails and stuff though. (Most people don't secure their wireless routers. The number of accesspoints called 'linksys' is amazing. If I have a wireless scanner going, I can get a hundred access points on a short taxi ride!)

Built-in Browser

The built-in browser is called Blazer, but it should really be called Hoover because it sucks. It sucks cancerous Ostrich eggs through the syphilitic pores of a dead badger.

It can't handle large pages, there's no tabbed browsing, the cache is poor and can't redraw a page without trying to find a wireless connection again. This is very annoying if you've gone to the DateBook to make a note of something then want to go back and finish reading that web page. It must be reloaded from scratch, unless you've saved the page. To be fair, there is a facility for saving the page for offline reading.

I want Firefox for the palm!

Built-in Mail Client

Versa Mail, the built-in mail client is OK as an IMAP client, although it lacks folder subscriptions. There is an underlying assumption that you have only client side filtering on your email and not server-side filtering like many do.

No Mac Desktop

As of the time of writing, there was no Mac Desktop software available for the Palm T|X. There is an older version of the software, whichwould probably work as well. The palm will sync over bluetooth, so there's no need for nasty cables to touch your shiny Mac.

Installing applications

To install applications on the palm, you still need to have a Windows PC with the hotsync software on it. Now that it the palm wireless internet, surely some facility to download and install applications would be good? Why should I need to find a PC to hotsync too, when I can download the application to the palm directly? Palms have had the ability to read SD cards for many years now, why can't the palm install an application from the card?

Documents to Go

The palm comes with Documents to Go, a software suite which allows editing of Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents. I haven't bothered with the Word or Powerpoint apps, but having a miniature spreadsheet on the palm is pretty nice. It only has a subset of Excel functions, though, and you can't have lookups to other sheets in the same spreadsheet, which makes it severly limiting for me. It also doesn't support Excel macros. It's ok for simple spreadsheets, expenses, etc, where everything is on one page, but it won't replace your desktop.

Corner Windows

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Traditional style rounded corner to a old building in Wanchai. The windows are taped up as this building and the block containing are all scheduled for demolition as part of the Wedding Street Redevelopment.

traditional wanchai buildings

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Seriously WTF: Doogal

The complete destruction of the Magic Roundabout.

Fung Shui Corner

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After the visit by our Feng Shui Master, we found that we needed to have a corner of the living room with the Wood element. This means wooden shelves and plants. So here's our Feng Shui corner:

Feng Sui Corner with Kung fu Monkeys

I'm not sure if the Sifu insisted we need the Magnetic Monkeys or the Octopus, but they're the right colours for Wood Element, so they can't hurt.

Strictly speaking, that's not an octopus, as it only has six tentacles. A Hexapus, perhaps?

Zhongshan-Shenzen Tunnel Redux

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In his Monitor column on 14/02/06, Jake Van Der Kamp argues that the real reason for the Zhongshan-Shenzen Tunnel is to remove Shenzen's stranglehold on Cross-Boundary revenues:

Imagine yourself a senior Shenzhen government official. You happen to sit astride the chokepoint of road access to and from Hong Kong and you and your mates in the Guangdong provincial government have a great deal of authority over who will be allowed through and who will not.

It is the ultimate in toll booths and you have so tight a control over it that you do not need to stick out your hand directly at an actual cross-border toll booth. You can collect your money in much more refined ways.

For instance, you can control the issuance of cross-border vehicle licences and keep them in such short supply that the prices or rents for them go way up.

...

The study estimates that the sting for road haulage across the border is $1,200 a trip. It is no wonder that our port is under competitive strain. We are not talking peanuts here.

One of the reasons the Mainland (and Shenzen in particular) can get away with profiting from Hong Kong is that we're probably the richest city in China. Mainland Chinese want to make as much money as possible from anything to do with Hong Kongers, and I think they tend to view us as not really part of China.

But on this issue, the bridge vs tunnel cost is $60bn vs $6billion. Is the total saving worth paying a little extra to Shenzen? We're going to pay the 'sting' anyway, and it's highly unlikely that Zhuhai will charge much less than Shenzen, so why risk huge environmental damage to Lantau and line Gordon Wu's pockets with taxpayer money when the Guangdong government will provide us with almost as good a connection for far less money?

Given that Zhuhai knows Hong Kong truck drivers (and associated companies) will pay $1200 to go via Shenzen, there's no way they're going to charge less for a shorter route to the Western Pearl River Delta. I can easily see it being more, and the reason being quoted as "well, you're saving four+ hours over having to drive via the Humen bridge".

The 'Market Price' in this case will be how much *additional* squeeze can be put on Hong Kong truck drivers to take a shorter route. I do not for one second believe that the Zhuhai authorities will selflessly forego the extortion fees they see Shenzen collecting from Hong Kongers.

('free-market? What free market? It's all heavily entrenched interests trying to distort the market as much as possible in their favour. Ideologues who think that there's some kind of 'invisible hand' which will magically make business fair are deluded. There is no real free market in Hong Kong for these kinds of things.)

Wanchai Market Fish Stall

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Our regular fish stall in the wet market in Wanchai:

wanchai_market_fish_stall

What the heck is up with the weather?

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What the heck is up with the weather? Greenland is melting, and it's just dropped more that ten degrees here in the last two days!

Cars Are Necessary?

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From Feb 16th's SCMP, there's this letter:

Cars Are Necessary

Correspondent N. Millar ("Tax cars heavily", February 11) says there is no need for anyone to have a motor vehicle in Hong Kong.

Does the writer want the elimination of all private cars, buses, taxis, delivery vehicles and ambulances, and a return to horse-drawn transport? Or is N. Millar merely taking a swipe at car owners?

I worked in Central. There was no bus going anywhere near my office, and the only reasonable choice on a hot humid day was to take a taxi or use my car.

Increasing the already punitive taxes on new cars might stop many, but not the rich, from replacing old cars with safer and/or more environmentally friendly vehicles.

COLIN CAMPBELL, Mid-Levels

Well, for start, claiming that the inital letter writer was proposing a blanket ban on all forms of motor-vehicle is disingenous. I'd even go so far as to call it a straw man.

Hong Kong has probably the best public transport in the world, with a mostly integrated ticketing system and regular and frequent services. There is certainly no need for most ordinary residents to have their own vehicle unless they live somewhere remote like the Northern New Territories or their job requires regular transportation of heavy or bulky items.

It must take all of five to ten minutes to walk from Mid-levels to Central, and it's downhill. And there's the Mid-Levels Escalator, although Mr Campbell may not be close to it. To use a car to do a five or ten minute walk is crazy and irresponsible. Is Mr Campbell willing to pay for a whole day's parking charges just to save himself a little perspiration in the morning? If you don't need the car during the day, why not just take a taxi? It's not like Hong Kong Taxis are expensive.

Oh, I forgot. You get Big Face by driving a big car and none for arriving in a taxi.

At The Market

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Chris (Ordinary Gweilo) and Paul (The Valley) have noted that they're not always trusted to go to the market on behalf of their wives/families.

Paul:

Just as I was heading out the door for a walk this morning, Mrs. "The Valley" asked me to pick up some fruit on the way back. Normally, she wouldn't dream of letting an ignorant foreigner choose the fruit as there'd be issues with being overcharged and of being given the crappy produce.

The simple solution to this dilemma is to accompany your wife to the market for many years in a row, so that all your regular suppliers know you as so and so's husband. After doing this for a while, and especially if your wife is extremely fussy about the quality of the vegetables/fish/meat she buys, the various stall owners will be extremely keen to make sure that you get the good stuff.

It's quite common, for example, for Ah-Seng in the frozen meat shop to get out the good new Zealand lamb ribs from the freezer at the back, and not the half-defrosted stuff at the front; or to insist on the good lean Australian steaks rather than the 90% fat ones they have on display. And, of course, he always insists I need a another slab of beer. You can never have too many slabs of beer.

or there's the gentleman in our local fish shop who, when another customer said he should just give me the dead fish because I wouldn't know any better, said "Choi! He's buying a fish to steam for his children! You can't feed children dead fish!"

And he's right, of course. If you're going to eat seafood at all, it should be as fresh as possible. I remember as a boy catching mackerel and trout in Ireland, then cleaning them and cooking them straight away. There's nothing that tastes as good as a fish you caught and cleaned yourself half an hour ago fried in a little butter, or just dropped on the barbecue.

More than one guest has been surprised at a hotpot by the bowl full of live shrimp. Chinese guests, because they expect that gwailos will only eat large pieces of cow, and Gwailos because they're not used to their dinner trying to escape.

When buying seafood for dinner, the food isn't fresh unless it starts twitching on the way home.

Chris:

Yess... I have been told in no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to choose oranges. Only women can do this, apparently. What a puzzling world we live in.

Ah now, this is a different thing. There are oranges for eating, and there are oranges for Bai San or making offerings to the gods. Oranges for Bai San must be very round and pleasing to some unknown sense that only Chinese women possess. And probably the deity in question too, of course. Also, if the Joss sticks aren't inserted into the oranges during the course of worship/fortune seeking, the oranges may be eaten afterwards. I think the reasoning is that the deity has already had the divine portion of the orange, and we're just having the left overs.

My suggestions that we should offer Wong Tai Sin a nice slab of beer always fall on deaf ears, though.

MTR Weirdness

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Normally on the MTR, you'll see people transporting suitcases and other slightly bulky items. Today I saw a man transporting a washing machine.

And not one of your petite top-loaders; a full-size, front-loading washing machine. Lord alone knows how he even got it through the gate. And the worst thing? He was an old man, so only paying half the fare. He probably got to transport that thing all the way from Chai Wan to Tsuen Wan and only paid under $10 for the priviledge.

I reached for my camera, but even with less than one second to turn it on, it took long enough to reach into my bag and take it out that he was gone.

Temple of Elemental Drivel

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After the whole palaver with my Underpowered Dell, I've been going back through my pile of games and and digging out games I played (or never played) a few years ago. Why would I never play a game? Time and hardware are the two main reasons. I don't always have enough time to play a long game, and the hardware I had at the time may not have been able to power the game.

One which I always wanted to try was The Temple Of Elemental Evil (hereafter TOEE) by Atari. Now that I have a relatively decent desktop with a good graphics card, you'd expect this game to be fine. This is a PC that can handle Half-life2 and Far Cry - you'd expect a top down adventure game to no present a problem. I mean, four years ago, I was able to play Neverwinter Nights with everything full on.

So what do I get with TOEE? Crashes, sure. just like the reviews said: "Temple of Elemental Evil is buggy and crashes".

But it was worse than that. Even when it was working it was appalling:

  • Everything is controlled with the mouse; there's no obvious keyboard shortcuts;
  • There was no apparent way to rotate the view for those cases when all of your party are obscured by walls/trees/etc;
  • There was no apparent zoom facility, essential for those combats with twenty zombies;
  • Saving the game took about two minutes;
  • The combat system is very messy and takes a lot of getting used to;
  • Low level characters are spectacularly inept at combat; although low-level monsters can hit everything nine times out of ten.
  • Sometimes, it didn't save where I wanted it to, but before the big combat instead of after: very perplexing and frustrating;

After a frustrating few hours playing this complete travesty of a game, I decided to do a quick comparison and see if Neverwinter Nights really was as good as I remembered it. I still had installed on my archive disk, and yes the interface is smooth and responsive, allows zooming in and rotating and in general is a pleasure to use.

I immediately uninstalled ToEE and updated Neverwinter Nights. This one deserves a replay.

A big thumbs down to Atari, and a big thumbs up to BioWare.

Darth Cheney Strikes Again

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So, Dick Cheney shoots down a member of his own hunting party. Metaphor?

From Daily Kos Poster thereisnospoon:

Source: Daily Kos: It's the Metaphor, Stupid!: Cheney story bigger than you think

In this case, Cheney and friends were killing innocent creatures who were trapped in a pen with no hope of escape.

Overeager, Cheney hunted with a shoot first, ask questions later mentality, and managed to strike his own partner, and send his friend to intensive care.

It later appears that Bush and his situation room (or so they said) had no idea what was going on on the ground there. They waited an entire day to even report the story, even though they obviously knew what happened. Hell, someone else had to force them to report the story, because they sure weren't going to unless they had to.

The official story then has Cheney blaming the victim, saying it was the victim's fault he got in Cheney's way.

It starts to become clear there was a pretty big hush-hush coverup job about it, but that the truth couldn't help but get leaked, despite the Administration's best wishes. There is even speculation that Cheney was possibly intoxicated, and not using his best intelligence before he started shooting.

And, of course, they couldn't afford to admit the truth, because the truth would probably be an impeachable offense.

Source: Daily Kos: It's the Metaphor, Stupid!: Cheney story bigger than you think.

Some other links on the subject:

Pearl Harbour

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Pearl Harbour[1] is on Pearl right now. It's not the most historically accurate movie ever, as is shown by the IMDB list of Pearl Harbour Goofs, but there's one thing that bugged me about it the last time I saw it.

Does Rafe (Ben Affleck) really get aboard a train in New York which takes him to England? That's moronic, even by Hollywood standards of geographical accuracy.

See also Wikipedia: Pearl Harbour for more inaccuracies.

[1] - I'll stick to the 'British English'[2] standard spelling, thankyewverymuch.

[2] - Except it's not really British, being standard in Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and many other places. There should really be a more accurate term for that. Probably 'Standard English everywhere except the USA'.

English Language Proficiency

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I'm just watching a programme on TVB Pearl about the English Language Proficiency test, and how a large number of English teachers can't even pass it. Some have failed four times in a row! When interviewed, those who appear to be failing the test continuously speak very poor English. Certainly, they can't speak with the degree of fluency you'd expect from an English teacher.

How on earth can people who are, at best, minimally competent in a language be expected to teach it competently?

Prince's Guitar Gently Weeps

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Prince's Guitar Gently Weeps, as Dhani Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys play at George Harrison's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (via.)

A Telecaster is a plank of wood with strings and pickups. To make it howl, scream and beg for mercy like that takes serious talent.

Beautiful Plumage

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Spotted on my travels through Wanchai the other day:

ex-parrot-shop.png

It's an Ex Parrot Shop! It's shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the Choir Invisibule!

Who do I look Like?

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pic of dave © Iain MastertonMyHeritage.com Face Recognition - determine who you look like. (Via.)

Apparently I look like:

So, out of 10 people, that's 0.5 Italians (Travolta), 1 Manx (Quayle), 1 Spaniard (Iglesias), 1 Englishman (Adams), 1 American (Goddard), 2 Irishmen (Ford, Travolta and Brosnan), and 3.5 Jews (Nini, Lubitsch, Curtis and Ford).

For someone with an ancestry which is just about 100% Irish with a little Norse from the 11th Century, that's kinda weird.

* - I say this, not out of any ill feeling towards Mr. Adams (peace be unto him), but he was a notoriously late writer. All of the Hitchiker's books were written either on the deadline or well past it. So he was an Author (someone who has written some good books), but not a Writer (someone who writes for a living). At the other extreme, Terry Pratchett is both and Author *and* a writer because he can churn out two books a year, and has done so for more than 20 years.

Bush Squirms

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Bush Squirms George Bush had an unpleasant dose of reality the other day at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King's wife, as ex-president Carter and Civil Rights Leader, Reverend Joseph Lowery, a long-time friend of the King family, eulogized her and attacked the policies of the current Administration. They both commented on current administration policies such as illegal wire-tapping as well as the apalling reponse of the crony-burdened FEMA to the Katrina Hurricane:

Lowery:

"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."

Carter:

"The struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, those who are most devastated by Katrina to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Of course, the American Wingut press-corps are aghast that anyone could dare to speak the truth to King George:

From MSNBC's "The Situation", hosted by Tucker Carlson:

So why, when you can at any time, from your pulpit or any other place, attack the president‘s policies, why would you use a funeral to needle the president about weapons of mass destruction? Why there today?

Tucker Carlson: Interview with Rev. Lowery

This shameful wingnut gibbering from the New York Post:

Jimmy Carter may or may not have been the worst president of the 20th century - history will have the final word on that - but his disgraceful performance yesterday at Coretta Scott King's funeral marks him as the most shameless.

Maybe of all time.

New York Post: Carter: Still No Clue

And it's not just the Americans: The Brisbane Courier-Mail (a Murdoch right-wing rag):

US President George W. Bush turned up to Coretta Scott King's funeral yesterday only to be targeted by speakers mourning the loss of the first lady of America's civil rights movement.

Political Posturing at King Funeral

Thankfully, not all of the Fourth Estate are craven Bush apologists:

President Bush almost never hears criticism to his face. Certainly not in public.

But yesterday, at the widely-watched funeral of civil rights icon Coretta Scott King, a fidgety president had no choice but to sit quietly and listen as several speakers reproached him for not having learned the lessons that King and her martyred husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent their lives teaching

Washington Post: The Captive President

This Modern World:

Face it conservatives, Coretta Scott King was a liberal. While civil rights heroes like the Kings were leading a non-violent struggle for equality, your political heroes were finding new ways to court southern racists away from the Democratic party. The Republican journey to victory was fueled by the votes of bigots, so it’s a little late in the game to start acting like you have the right to speak for the leaders of a movement you fought against.

This Modern World: Stealing Coretta

From the New York Daily News:

LITHONIA, Ga. - President Bush changed his schedule at the last minute to attend Coretta Scott King's funeral. It might have been a mistake.

Not only was he overshadowed by the Bill and Hillary show, but several speakers, including former President Jimmy Carter, aimed sharply pointed darts at the commander in chief as he sat squirming on the dais.

NY Daily News: Funeral speakers hammer W

Depictions of Muhammed (pbuh)

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There's been a lot of incendiary rhetoric about a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)* recently. See Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy)

Mahablog: Taking The Bait. (Via.)

This, IMO, gets to the heart of why the Right Blogosphere is obsessed with this story, the way they were obsessed with the recent French riots. They want a holy war against Islam. They are itching for it. Not that any of them would volunteer to fight, of course

Whatever: Prioritizing the Idiots

People with the right to free speech are not obliged to cave to people who demand that the world has to be their way and their way only, even as they are obliged to be respectful of those who are respectful of those freedoms.

Flogging The Simian: Muslim Cartoon Controversy What the Media Isn't Telling You.

So what triggered this? Well it takes a blog to explain it. What CNN and the other traditional media failed to tell you is that the thousand gallons of fuel added to the fire of outrage came from none other than our old pals Saudi Arabia.

The Religious Policeman: Prams, Toys, Rattles and Dummies. (Via above.)

....don't be under the illusion that two editors coincidentally thought this would be a Good Idea. Saudi newspapers may occasionally show little acts of independence, but when it comes to the big things, like sacking editors, or targetting other countries, the government is still very much in control. And the government ordered a diversion. So for "We are angry at Danish cartoons" read "Don't talk about the Hajj stampede".

To my mind, the last link explains what's really going on. Or was going on. I think the invented outrage the Saudis wanted to distract from their own shortcomings has raged out of their control:

And, of course, it's playing right into the hands of those in the US who want to go to war with Iran. Visions of crowds of Muslim Fundamentalists burning flags and attacking embassies can easily sway the all-too suggestible American public. Hmmm, Saudi Muslims are Sunni, Iranians are Shi'ia, and the Sunnis hate the Shi'ia. Excuse me while I go get my tinfoil hat on...

But I'll leave the last word to UrsulaV: UrsulaV's Live JournalL

Since everybody else has to have an opinion about Muslims, cartoons, Danish newspapers, and depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, I'm going to tell you mine.

Everybody involved's a freakin' moron.

* - PBUH is an acronym of "Peace Be Unto Him"; see here for an explanation. That article says that it isn't strictly correct, but the Saudi newspapers used to use it all the time when I was there.

Energy Addiction

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Here's an interesting diary on Energy Addiction, from Daily Kos.

Robber Barons

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Tom Legg, over at Dai Tou Laam notes two incidents of the US Justice Department putting pressure on banks doing business with countries that the Bush Administration doesn't like.

I thought these right-wing Bush following types loved free enterprise? I mean, here they are criticising a company for making money in a country they consider to be evil, while:

  • Dick Cheney supported South Africa during Apartheid and opposed the release of Nelson Mandela; (link)
  • The Bush Administration does business wih Uzbekistan, where they boil dissenters alive; (link)
  • Both are oilmen, and very closely associated with Saudi Arabia, a country which makes Iran look like Amsterdam.(link)

So it's OK if they make money in a country which isn't liked by most of the world, but it's wrong for anyone else to do so. Hypocrites.

Fart Away Dream?!

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While looking for show details on the TVB website, I noticed the following typo:

Be a Grand Prix Driver

Episode 4

Most of the cars we buy have top speeds in excess of 100 miles and hour but we spend our days grinding around the slowest roads in Europe. For most of us, the high-speed, super rich world of Formula One is a fart away dream which requires thousands of pounds just to launch a career. Now for the first time, Be a Grand Prix Drive changes the game and makes the drama possible for anyone.

Source.

(And TVB have hideous table based HTML as well. I've removed a lot of their crap as it doesn't work within a CSS based site like mine. I've also removed the Chinese characters as they don't contribute to the point. I severely doubt that the same typo is made in the Chinese text.)

Programming Resources

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just some geeky stuff which came my way recently.

Microsoft Visual Studio Express for free! (Via.)

Charlie Stross' Free Perl Tutorial. (Via.)

Things I learn from my patients

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Things I Learn From My Patients. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

(Via.)

Cryptonomicon

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In Neal Stephenson's book Cryptonomicon, one of the lead characters is given a set of coordinates somewhere in the Philipines.

The lady will not be denied; she has a script and she's sticking to it. "I have a math problem for you," the lady says."

"Shoot."

"What is the value of the following information: fifteen degrees, seventeen minutes, forty-one point three two seconds north, and a hundred and twenty-one degrees, fifty-seven minutes, zero point five five seconds east?"

"Uh... I don't know. It sounds like a latitude and longitude. Northern Luzon, right?"

The lady nods.

"You want me to tell you the value of those numbers?"

"Yes."

"Depends on what's there, I guess."

I suppose it does," the lady says. And that's all she says, for the rest of the dance. Other than complimenting Randy on his balletic skills, which is just as hard to interpret.

p. 485, Arrow Books Trade Paperback

With the aid of a GPS, Randy endures hardships and privations and makes a discovery. I won't spoil the discovery, but see the extended section for more...

Some links (US Politics)

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Peter Daou notes that the Pro-Bush Media Bias Blowing Rightwing Minds. (Via.)

Furthermore, the fallacy undergirding the "liberal media" myth is that any negative coverage of the Bush administration is considered media "bias" despite the fact that with the administration's many screw-ups, it's amazing there's anything positive to say.

Bush Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports (Via.)

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

Woman ejected from State Of The Union Address for wearing a t-shirt. Whatever happened to the First Amendment? (Via.)

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?"

MSNBC Report: Antiwar mom, representative's wife removed from State of the Union.

Arielle Gabrielle

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http://ariellegabriel.tripod.com/, quite possibly the worst example of web-site design I have seen since the days of the <BLINK> tag.

Huge fonts (and many of them), some tiny links, hopelessly busy site design, low quality pictures which are sized up with width and height attributes so that you can see the low quaity JPEG compression. Table based site deign with no CSS and spacer .GIF files. It's like looking at a refugee from the early days of the World Wide Web.

Some of her prose:

Though many of my Asian students think Canadians are a soft, spoilted people, though they may not express this thought directly, my family had its trials.

(Although you're missing the flourescent, eye-searing and huge fonts, which I'm not going to reproduce here.)

And you know what's really scary? She claims to be a publisher and an artist! Lady, there is no evidence of any graphic design or composition skills on your site at all.

UPDATE: even scarier; she's an actual English Teacher, who apparently gets fired a lot.

A Useful MovableType Plugin

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Here's a useful MT plugin: Compare. It allows comparisons between various MovableType variables.

This MovableType plugin implements a set of template tags for displaying a portion of a template conditionally, depending on the results of a comparison between values. The values compared can be literal strings or numbers, or they can be pieces of MT template code that the plugin will build and evaluate, using the result in the comparison.

Currently I'm using it to only put the number of comments on the recent entries list if there's more than 0 comments, something simple which you can't normally do with the MovableType template tags.

Playing MahJongg

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So, it's the third day of Chinese New Year (or at least it was when the game started) and we're playing MahJongg with a Feng Shui Master.

playing mahjongg

Or, my wife is playing and I'm just trying to follow along. Notice how everyone is wearing some item of red clothing, which is thought to be lucky.

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