Thursday, August 31, 2006

Terrorists

I wrote recently about the public hysteria over brown people -- those that look Middle Eastern or Asian, speak foreign and look like a Muslim. But what does a terrorist in America really look like? You may be surprised. Munawar over at Free Speech War does some work to discover who are the real terrorists in America. Check out his post and the links to learn more.

Where were you?

AmericanBlog is running a post the marketing of 9/11 remembrance. Apparently, there's a national campaign being rolled out to remind Americans that 9/11 happened. Why? Well, to remind Americans that the terrorists are still out there, and they're still being hunted by the only party that can do something about it -- the Republicans. As the bodybags fly home from the Middle East, Americans must remember to stay the course. As the Bush Administration edges closer to the draft, Americans must remember why it's all being done. As freedoms are trampled in the land of the free, Americans must trust that it's all being done for their benefit.

Peace Force for Darfur

The UN Security Council is set to vote on 22,500 troop deployment in Darfur, despite the Sudan government's opposition. The government of Sudan has engaged rebel forces in renewed fighting that is killing and displacing civilians, and setting the stage for a humanitarian crisis. With the fight, aid groups have been unable to enter the region to bring much needed supplies. Of course, the Sudanese government has no interest in seeing UN peace keepers enter the region. The African Union forces that are there, continue to have their funding extended every few months, but are mostly ineffective at quelling the fighting. They want to be replaced by a UN force. With no one being able to keep the peace, and no observers in place, the Sudan military is basically enforcing the government's wish perpetuating genocide against the black population. This is about race, religion, oil and money.

Let's hope a UN force can be deployed soon, as the situation there just gets worse everyday. If there's any place the US was needed most, it was a place like Sudan -- and not Iraq.

Updated: September 2, 2006
  • It's gone to hell, again. AP is reporting that Sudan has launched a major offensive against rebels in Darfur, yesterday. The Sudanese government has refused UN peacekeepers, labeling a UN Security Council resolution that called for UN troop deployment as illegal. What more does the world need to take action? Here's a country who's government is trying to wipe out a people ... doesn't this need a few precision bombing runs?

Bibliomania

For the love of books, you don't want to miss the University of Toronto's book sales this fall. The different colleges sell donated books to raise funds for higher education.
  • Woodsworth College -- Sept. 12th/10-9PM; 13th/10-7PM; 14th/10-7PM; 15th-10-7PM; 16th-10-5PM - I won't make this one
  • Victoria College -- Sept. 28th/5-10PM; 29th/10-8PM; 30th/10-6PM; Oct. 1st/11-5PM; 2nd/10-8PM - possible
  • University College -- Oct. 13th/12-8PM; 14th/10-6PM; 15th/12-8PM; 16th/12-8PM; 17th/12-6PM - possible
  • Trinity College -- Oct. 20/6-10PM; 21st/10-8PM; 22nd/12-8PM; 23rd/10-8PM; 24th/10-8PM - possible
  • St. Michael's College -- Oct. 24th/6-9:30PM; 25th/10-8PM; 26th/10-8PM; 27th/10-8PM; 28th/10-5PM - possible
  • New College -- Oct. 12th/5-9PM; 13th/10-9PM; 14th/10-9PM; 15th/10-9PM; 16th/10-9PM

Bloor Cinema in September

Coming up in September that you may be interested in ... that I'm interested in, but may not be able to make some of the showtimes ...
  • Clerks II -- 7th/5:30PM/7PM - is a possibility
  • A Scanner Darkly -- 15th/4PM - I'm out of town, so won't be there; 16th/9PM - is a possibility; 18th/9PM - is a possibility; 19th/9:30PM - I'm busy
  • CIA Covert Operations: The War Against the Third World -- 15th/7PM - I'm out of town; 16th/4PM - slim chance since I'm coming back into town that afternoon
  • 2006 CLIO Awards Reel -- 19th/7PM - I'm busy; 20th/7PM/9:30PM - possibility, although I may have a date for it
  • Big Bucks, Big Pharma -- 21st/7PM - possible; 22nd/7PM - possible
  • City of Lost Children -- 22nd/4:30PM - possible; 24th/9:30PM - I'm busy
  • Army of Darkness -- 22nd/9:30PM - possible
  • Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land -- 26th/7PM - I'm busy; 27th/7PM - possible

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mardi Gras: Made in China

"My God, they love my beads!" -- Roger, Chinese Factory Owner

In Mardi Gras: Made in China, David Redmon follows the bead trail -- from the libertine streets of New Orleans, where revellers bump-and-grind and strip, exhibiting the worst of western consumer and sexual excesses -- to the factory compound of China, where teenage girls work 14-16 hours per day under wretched conditions for $60/month to produce the beads proffered for a glimpse of flesh. The movie juxtaposes culture, economy and the lives of girls, in context of context of globalization. The result is a stark contrast that depicts dramatic realities of Chinese factory workers with western consumer excesses.

Redmon travelled twice to China and New Orleans to make this documentary. He was allowed open access to the largest bead factory in China and its owner. The factory is powered mostly by the labour of teenage girls, who work for meager wages, under harsh conditions, to make money to send home -- and hopefully get a better life, even though they have come to accept that the dreams they harbour will never materialize. The factory compound is home for the girls for most of the year -- the factory only closes for two weeks during the Chinese New Year, when the girls return home to their families. The girls sleep ten in a room, with two sharing a cot. On Sundays, they're allowed to leave the compound. The compound is rigged with barbed wire fences, that the factory owner says is to keep people from getting in. The girls have quotas to reach, and as the factory owner repeatedly stressed -- if they don't achieve their quotas, they are punished by losing their wages.

Redmond documents the stories of the factory workers in China and returns to New Orleans during carnival. At the Mardi Gras parade, he introduces some of the partygoers to the girls from the bead factory in China via video. The reaction is mixed -- from befuddlement to inconsideration. Thankfully, some wake from their inebriated state, with disgust. In his second trip to China, Redmon introduces the factory workers to licentious use of their beads at Mardi Gras via photographs. The Chinese girls can't understand it -- just as most people won't. The beads are ugly, people scream for them -- strip for them -- and then discard them on the streets when the night is over. The girls are glad however for the jobs. Glad that the crazy Americans would pay for their labour. They are upset however at how much they are paid when compared to the cost of the beads in the US. They seem resigned to their fate, to their lives. They just want better treatment from the factory owner. They don't want to be punished. They want better wages.

That is the ultimate lesson of globalization. The world doesn't have to return to the time of the East India Company. Labour will be a commodity somewhere in the world, and wherever it is, that's where factories will pop up -- until the world gets to the point where automated manufacturing is cheaper than general labour. Humanity however, doesn't need to be a commodity. Our dreams and hopes are just as important as the hopes and dreams of others. We don't need to binge at the expense of those in the third world. Their lives, their hopes, their dreams, should be respected.

I saw this film with my wife at the Bloor Cinema, tonight.

Related:

Bourne Shell of Terror

If you're a programming geek -- especially of the UNIX persuasion -- you'll love the War on Terror as interpreted in Bourne shell commands over at the Sun Ray Blog. It's funny.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ahmadinejad vs. Bush

Forget TV -- get them in the ring -- WWF style, baby! Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has challenged George Bush to a televised debate on international affairs, so both nations can air their grievances publicly and uncensored. But I say, instead of having to listen to two mad men yell at each other, it would be far more entertaining if we had them both to square off in the ring. It would make much better sense. We could bring Hulk Hogan in to referee so he can lecture them both on the benefits of vitamins.

As preposterous as the suggestion is -- of the debate that is -- let's take it seriously for a minute. The White House has already dismissed such an endeavour -- not that it actually had a chance of happening. Ahmadinejad's suggestion is just testament to bizarre propaganda practices of the Iranian government. If it was to be taken seriously though, it still wouldn't happen, because it would be an acknowledgment by the US that Iran is a peer -- a nation of equal status with the US -- and let's face it -- in the current political climate of the US, there is no other nation that is considered a peer. Respect is only given to a gunslinger nation with a rep equal to the US -- and this regard, there are no peers. In its dealings with Iran, the US speaks through its intermediaries. Further, a debate between Bush and Ahmadinejad would have no winner, and make losers of all of us. Bush would make no sense as usual, as he stumbles over the alien territory that is the English language, and Ahmadinejad, who would be articulate, would just make no sense as flies off on his strange tangents -- the man may not foam at the mouth, but rest assured, he's completely mad.

Updated: August 30, 2006

Competition

BusinessWeek's latest is a special issue on the state of competition -- in individuals, business and communities.  The highlights from the issue:
  1. People still like to compete.  Only now, instead of focusing on winning at just one thing, the new focus is balance.  Individuals not only want to win at a career or in personal life -- they want it all.
  2. Competition doesn't come necessarily at the expense of others.  While there are still those who will kill to get ahead, more and more, collaboration to succeed is viewed as a key to success.
  3. Individuals who are highly competitive not only compete against others, but against themselves.  Bettering their personal best is as much a motivator as beating the other gal in the game to get ahead.  These individuals have high self confidence and seem immune to failures -- not because they don't fail, but because they see failures as opportunities to learn for the next time.  These individuals are usually not as great as they think they are -- but what they lack, they make up for in drive and optimism.  The magazine has bylines by some of the more well known executives, which tells in their words, how they compete.  It makes for an interesting read.
  4. The issue also has an article on the biological basis for our drive to compete.  Basically it comes down to survival -- food and sex.  It's hard wired in our genes -- but our brains are capable of going against our preprogramming.  Which is probably good, because we'd be still out there killing each other instead of collaborating in communities.
  5. There are also articles that look at how people become the best.  They can be summarized easily, and you'll probably not like the answer if you're lazy.  Successful people aren't any different from you or I.  They don't have magic.  What they have behind them is hard work.  Successful people work hard.  They practice.  Over and over.  Sometimes to the detriment of everything else.
  6. Just as it is with individuals, businesses are also highly competitive, or end up complete failures.  C.K. Prahalad is quoted as saying, "Whatever advantage you have, someone will take it away from you."  Businesses have to respond to social, economic and competitive changes on an ongoing basis.  The status quo is change.
  7. Globalization has not pitted countries against one another -- or make render geographic advantage moot.  On the contrary.  What it has done is make location very important, as individuals can now easily relocate to where the work is -- or to communities that fulfill other needs than just the job.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Kindness

Tired of all the bad news in the media? Check out the Toronto Star's chronicle of Acts of Kindness in the city. These are reader submitted stories that puts the humanity back into people. All the stories share a few things in common: they come as a total surprise to the recipient or witness; are acts of selflessness; are perpetrated by total strangers; result in overwhelming happiness to both recipient/witness and the person performing the act of kindness. Surprisingly, none of the acts of kindness are a financial burden to the person performing them -- the only cost seem to have been personal time.

Imagine if there were more acts like these ... imagine the world we would live in.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Who's in charge?

The Boston Globe is running a commentary by Robert Kuttner on the most insidious evil lurking and pulling the strings in the current American government. No, it's not Bush. The man is bad, yes, but he's nothing when compared to the little man under him: Dick Cheney. Cheney is the man pulling the strings, making the decisions and running the country. Unlike any other vice president, Cheney's grasp on power in Washington is almost total. Scary.

Updated: August 29, 2006

Religious Intolerance

I'm not a tolerant person when it comes to intolerance -- especially when it comes wafting in on the malodor of organized religion. I've also grown accustomed to intolerance -- be it triggered by religion, race or perceived class -- and at times, my reaction to it can be, has been, muted. I haven't been desensitized to it, so much as I've come to realize that raising a voice of protest would either result in a shameful defense of excuses or worse, an angry retort by the offensive party. I realize ignoring it only makes me a part of the problem, so here I am, doing something -- even if it's only a post -- and hopefully a little change for the good will be the consequence.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a hindu ceremony at my grandmother's house. It was a blessing of sorts -- the usual prayers and offerings to our gods, wrapped in singing, ritual and food. Everything was going well, and as much as I have no patience for organized religion, I was there for my grandmother. My wife is catholic, but so reformed, that she would be ostracized from the church if she was important enough to be singled out in the flock. She was very curious about the ceremony, as she always is, asking questions that I was doing my best to make-up answers for. She was especially appreciative of the tolerance that the pandit was preaching.

It is ironic that while these holier-than-thou types preach lessons of tolerance and reason to the unlearned masses, they seem incapable of the practice themselves. Towards the end of the ceremony, the rancor flowed. The pandit declared that the many invading armies that scorched mother India, destroyed religious texts, temples -- but never mind, hinduism prevailed through art. He railed against the whites with their arrogance to learn hinduism and teach it to those born into the religion. (My wife's Italian/British.) He continued his diatribe by declaring that christians chant "oh lord, oh lord" in their churches, and muslims cry, "allah ho akbar" in their mosques -- but they don't know their lord. Stick to hinduism of course, learn from a born hindu, and you will know your god. Ignorant old man.

Like I said before, I'm not a fan of organized religion -- and the pandit's poison only reinforced my resolve. Regardless of my personal feelings towards organized religion however, it was my religion this learned man was misusing. It was embarrassing listening to him. It made me uneasy. Likewise, while my wife isn't a devout catholic, she felt attacked. One of my uncle's commented, "pandit is getting too aggressive in his old age." I don't think age had anything to do with it. Intolerance has a whole lot to do with it, and it has been around in the religious context for as long as religion has been around. Belief has a way of providing a false sense of moral superiority over others that makes it easy for -- and allows intolerance to be practiced and justified. It allows for one group of people to easily dismiss and reduce another group. It desensitizes people to others.

Although I don't buy into the dogma, it was nonetheless an embarrassment to have to have found it in my religion, in my little part of the world.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Raed Jarrar at JFK

Raed Jarrar wears a shirt that says, we will not be silent -- in English and Arabic. That is apparently a problem if you decide to travel by air in the US. Jarrar was going through JFK, when security harassed him about his shirt. He eventually had to put on another shirt over his Arabic shirt. Other passengers had problems with the Arabic script on his shirt.

Now people -- get a grip here -- do you really think the terrorists are that stupid as to wear a shirt with Arabic script on it? That's like wearing an English shirt that declares, I'm a terrorist.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Macaca



You gotta wonder, just what was going through Senator George Allen's head when he made the insulting racial remark ... in case you're not aware, 20-year-old Shekar Ramanuja Sidarth, was working for Allen's opponent, trailing around the campaigning Allen, filming him. It's a common practice, and Allen has his own cameraman following his opponent, Webb, around. Things got interesting recently, when at a rally, Allen made the following comments in reference to Sidarth:
This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film, and it's great to have you here, and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come so it's good for him to see what it's like out here in the real world. So welcome, let's give a welcome to Macaca here! Welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia!
Macaca means monkey, and is a racial slur used in reference to immigrants. Ironically, Sidarth is American -- of Indian descent -- and was born in Virginia -- unlike Allen.

Katherine Harris

It's making the rounds on the internet ... and all I can say is, Jesus Christ, these people are whacked! Has intelligence become such a rarity? How can an elected politician claim to serve the church when it's the people that elected them -- it's the people the represent. They were not placed in power to represent the church or god's will on Earth. Nobody knows god's will. Yet these morons profess to know god's will and will execute with the currency you gave them with your votes.

I swear -- some days, some people are just begging for a good-ole-fashion-god-fearing-stoning.

There's separation between church and state for a reason. It's what separates an autocracy from a democracy.

Updated: August 27, 2006
  • For those who preach of the Christian America, you may do well to learn a little bit of history. Check out this post on Deism and America.
  • More on Deism, see Wikipedia.
Update: September 1, 2006
  • Neal over at autoDogmatic analysis and dissects Katherine Harris' oral excretion to the Florida Baptist Witness. It's quite entertaining.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

9/11 Graphic Novel

The US Government's National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States final report -- the 9/11 report -- has been adapted to a graphic novel by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. The GN is being released slowly via Slate -- but is also available for purchase via Amazon.

Pope Fires Chief Astronomer

... and it's about damn time. It always seemed silly to me that the Catholic church had a scientific branch that meddled in the real world ... after all, the church is anything but in the real world. The world of funny hats and robes went away with the inquisition and the whole infallibility thing, back in the dark ages.

Oh wait ... infallibility ... inquisition ... this is still only 2006 ... never mind.

The Pope apparently was getting really pissed with the 73-year-old Father George Coyne, former director of the Vatican Observatory. Coyne has been a fervent supporter of the theory of evolution and an aristarch of intelligent design. Apparently there was only so many pot-shots the Pope was willing to let one of his minions take at god-sanctioned science -- so, acting like a vengeful demigod, he sacked Coyne and replaced him with a more suitable crony -- one that will no doubt obey.

Which raises an interesting point. Coyne was appointed to his former position by the previous regime. If you believe in all the infallibility crap, just how do you reconcile Coyne's appointment with the correction now being made? Wasn't John Paul guided by providence when he appointed Coyne? Is this sorta like the Christian god knowing about Lucifer before the fall? Was Coyne set up to fail?

Anyway, does anyone really care about this?


Which of these images don't belong to this post?


In other astronomical news, today, Pluto likewise was voted out -- the IAU, another divine body, decided in their collective wisdom, that Pluto was no longer a planet. Some 2.7 billion miles away, Pluto and Charon continued their eternal dance, not giving a rat's ass what some humans down on Earth thought about them. Besides, when you're named after the god of the underworld, you sorta expect that you were never really wanted in the first place.

The Descent

I went to see the Descent movie tonight (Wednesday night) with the guys. With an 18A rating, I knew it was going to pack a punch. The movie concerns an adventurous trio of ladies, who apparently get together on a regular basis to tackle an outdoor challenge, their motto, love each day. On their last outing however, tragedy strikes and one, Sarah, loses her daughter and husband in a fatal car accident. A year later, the ladies, with three younger additions to the group, head off on a spelunking trip deep in the Appalachians.

Sarah is trying to recover from her loss, and trip planner, Juno, is trying to bring the group back together and forget the past. Since this is a horror movie, you know something is going to be happening soon. The cinematography is superb, keeping you on the edge while holding off on the real terror for later. If you frequent the genre, you know to expect this. A good horror movie pumps up the tension early on, building you up and quickly revealing another false alarm. Everyone giggles a little bit and settles down a little less comfortably, waiting for the real scare to come. There are many false alarms. Just when you're expecting things will go bump -- they don't -- but you're getting ever so close.

When it comes, you're not prepared for it. The movie plays on the darkness and claustrophobia of the caves, tunnels and deep of the underground. Around the corner, on the ceiling -- that shadow -- anything can be the monsters. The six friends are deep underground when things start to go wrong with their little adventure. First, there is a cave-in that blocks their way out and takes some of their equipment. Then it's revealed that there is little chance of a rescue, as they are not at the cave where they were planning on exploring -- Juno has taken liberties of leading them to a cave never before explored. At this point the monsters are queued for their big debut. They're blind, but can hear extremely well. They're slimy, growl and drool a helluva lot. They look almost human. And they're hungry.

From that point forward, the movie turns up the pace and horror. Characters true self are revealed under the duress, as the ladies have to fight off the monsters, their own baggage and each other to get out alive. There is gore. There is violence. There is stress. This is an all female cast -- and they execute extremely well.

It's unusual for an all female cast to be carrying a horror movie -- but it works very well. You don't have to deal with the obligatory machismo and heroics if there was a male lead -- although Juno does fill that role somewhat. Without the distraction, the characters are richer. How they deal with the situation at hand turns out to be the real horror in the movie. You almost feel sorry for the monsters -- since you know they're just the extras that are not going to make it to the end.

This movie had a very low budget compared to the typical Hollywood fare. You won't notice that however, due to the spectacular execution of the film. If you're a horror fan, this might be a sleeper hit that will gain a larger following once it makes it to DVD.

Since I'm in Canada, I saw the movie with the North America ending -- which is cut short from the European ending. If you've seen the movie and wish to see the real ending of it, check it out here. You can also catch the movie trailer here if you haven't seen the movie as yet.

The Descent WallpaperThe Descent WallpaperThe Descent WallpaperThe Descent Wallpaper

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Gmail MP3 Player

Pastelero has a really post on a really cool, new feature of Gmail. If you receive an MP3 via email, you can play it directly from the email without first downloading it. A little bit of hacking can further allow you to play any MP3 on the web via Google's Gmail MP3 player. Further, if you use Gmail as file storage, you can likewise exploit it to have your favourite MP3s accessible wherever you are via a browser. Of course, all of this requires you to have a Gmail account.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Flying While Asian

The irrational fear of Asians on planes continue. Since the recent UK suspected terrorists arrest, the US has required that UK planes bound for the US provide a flight manifest. Recently, a UK pilot, heading to the US as part of his job, was asked to get off a flight in the UK. Police questioned him, and asked if he knew why US authorities would want him off the plane.

Let's face it folks, racial profiling is happening. It's wrong, but the irrational fear can be understood. Brown people with Muslim sounding names are suspect. Every single one of them, because of the actions of a few. It's surprising that moderate Muslims -- Muslim leaders -- are finding a voice to protest this treatment. Surprising, because when the irrational behaviour was being exhibited by Muslims -- say, over some cartoons (there are images of the prophet all over the Muslim world, so drop the argument already), or in support of terrorists -- moderate Muslims and Muslim leaders were suspiciously silent. Yes, there were the few who spoke words of wisdom -- but you know what? It wasn't loud enough. You didn't take back your brown skin, you didn't take back your religion, and now we're all praying the price.

Related:

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dumbing Down of the MSM



Dylan over at FishBowlNY explains why the MSM is failing into irrelevance with the TV screencaps above.

Related:

Why the US Invaded Iraq

Think Progress has a report on Bush admitting why Iraq was invaded during a news conference.
BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.
QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?
BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?
QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.
BUSH: Nothing. Except it's part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

Jews Who Hate Jews

As another day passes, I've lived a little longer, learned a little more and realized that the world is even a more bizarre place than I had thought the day before. Meet Neturei Karta, a group of Jews, living for the most part in Jerusalem, but having followers scattered around the world. They are completely against Zionism.

The Neturei Karta believe themselves to be extremely religious. They believe that god originally drove the Jews out of Israel because of their sins, and only the coming of the Messiah will restore the Jews to their homeland. Any attempts by people to restore Israel is therefore an affront to god from their perspective. They believe this so strongly, that they support the PLO and Iran's position of anti-Zionism.

Check out the Wikipedia reference to the group, and read the history. Religion and modern politics are so intertwined that this feels like a story someone made up.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Irrational Behaviour

Terrorists are not dumb. The general public is, however. The bad guys in real life are not like the bad guys in movies. You can't tell what they look like. Evil is cunning. Evil is smart. Terrorists planning to bring down airplanes will not board the airplanes and act suspicious. They won't mumble to themselves and act crazy. They will do their best to blend in. If they're Arabic, they will do their best not to look Arabic. They will dress in western clothing that is suited to a casual business person. They won't go out of their way to look like a thug. They will avoid arousing suspicion.

The world we live in is now fearful of the Arabic terrorists portrayed in movies. Recently, the passengers aboard a British flight demanded two Asian men removed from the plane -- and refused to fly on the plane unless the men were taken off. Apparently, one woman was fearful of the two men, as she heard them speaking in what sounded like Arabic. The fear then spread. People were not hysterical. They just walked off the plane and refused to get back on until the men were removed. They were removed, checked by security again and spent an overnight at the airport. They caught another plane the following day.

Congratulations Tony Blair. Congratulations George Bush. Congratulations Israel. The terrorists have won. We live in terror.

The War on India's Girls

Until 1994, there was no law banning prenatal screening for sex in India. Between 1979, when the use of ultrasound equipment was introduced in the country, to when the ban went into effect, it's estimated that 10 million female fetuses were aborted. Since the ban in 1994, an additional 5 million female fetuses were aborted. Sex selection is estimated to be a $100 million business in India -- even though it's illegal -- complete with sex selection clinics that travel to villages to help parents rid the population of females.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the practice is common among all religious groups -- but surprisingly, it is most common among educated women. Educated women have access to more technology and medical care, and also aspire to have smaller families. This is what happens when technology is misused in a place where socially and culturally, they're still in the dark ages. Femicide is being practiced in India.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

AmericaBlog Rant

Read John Aravoss' rant in response to George Bush's contention that the justice system simply "simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live." Recently, the courts ruled that the NSA's surveillance without warrants was unconstitutional.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Protecting Muslim Women

The problem with allowing people to leave the dark ages is that when they arrive in the new world, only some are prepared for enlightenment. Others prefer the dark ages. So my question is, why did you make the trip if you didn't want something different? Hina Saleem, 21-years-old, refused to marry her cousin from Pakistan in an arranged marriage, in her new country, Italy. She was dating an Italian man. The result? Her father, uncle and another man, slit her throat and buried her in the garden.

The punishment should fit the crime. These animals should not be allowed to return to Pakistan. They should be executed in Italy.

Religion Fosters Bad Behaviour

The Institute for Humanist Studies quotes a study published in the Journal of Religion & Society that looks at religious belief and social well being. The study finds that surprisingly, secular societies have lower rates of violence and teenage pregnancies than societies where the belief in a deity is strong. Why? After all, most religions preach non-violence and sexual restraint. Not so surprisingly, it turns out that religion also fosters intolerance -- whether directly or indirectly. Those that believe in a particular god believe themselves to be the chosen ones -- and therefore have diminished respect for those that don't have their beliefs. That translates into a ethnocentrism which results in a weaker society. Similarly, faith encourages ignorance and stifles curiosity, leading to irresponsible sexual behaviour. People either don't know, don't want to know or their religion teaches to outright avoid contraceptives.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

UK Bomb Plot

Was it real? Worse, is it real, and they just arrested the wrong people? Is this just a propaganda stunt? If so, should people be fearing their neighbours, friends and family? Read more in: What Does A Terrorist Preparing To Bomb 10 Airliners Do Beforehand? Buys Cakes

The Aftermath

Read a reflection on what the war, now being labeled as the six Arab-Israeli war, has achieved for both sides by David Hirst of the Guardian. Hirst asserts that Hizbullah achieved significant political and perhaps even military gains at Israel's expense in the war. While I don't necessarily agree with everything Hirst claims, especially the degree of Israel's loss, I did find the piece well written in looking at the strategic consequence of the war.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why the Fighting Must Stop

The recent skirmish between the IDF and Hezbollah has again taught the world a lesson that too few seem willing to learn -- that wars should be employed as a last resort, when all other efforts to reach a compromise have failed. The world has changed so significantly over the last 100-years, that countries still favouring the colonial route to solving problems will only find themselves perpetually guarding against terror. The armies of the world are no longer suited to wage wars against a smaller force intent on exacting the greatest damage and cause chaos. As the fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah demonstrated, the smaller force isn't motivated to confront a well armed and efficient army. Why would they? They would lose. The smaller force is out for the greatest impact, and they target civilians, that no army can protect -- as armies negotiate and compromise as a last resort.

As Mark Williams articulates in MIT's Technology Review, the small armed forces of the world -- the rebel force, terrorist group or small nation-state -- now have at their disposal the weapons technology of modern armies. Weapons can be purchased and deployed rapidly to a small, flexible force, that is not targeting our armed forces, but you and me. They don't want to kill our soldiers -- those that fight for and are there to protect us -- they want to kill us. In times of stress or conflict, our elected officials listen to us, their constituents as a last resort -- if they ever listen to us at all. We, the ones who are now on the frontlines of the global conflicts, are the last ones being asked our opinions. Instead, our pols run to the military establishment that is in cohorts with military industrial complex for guidance. The response is inevitably the same, from those that make their livelihood from waging war -- namely, war. Shoot first and the innocents are collateral -- can't make hummus without crushing some chick peas now, can you?

But are we, the civilian population, really innocent? We're either part of the solution or part of the problem. Those pols that make decisions to wage war, report to us. They work for you and me. We pay them to make decisions on our behalf, and if we don't like their decisions, we should be doing something about it. There are those among us, who, frankly, are just stupid. You can hear them. They've been shouting the loudest -- for war. That's only because we've let them however. We've let the stupid ones give justification to the war decisions our politicians make. We've allowed this to happen by our inaction. The world will go to hell because of our inaction -- because we believe that someone will do the right thing, that no matter how bad it gets, it just won't get any worse, because the crazy people driving the bus can't be that crazy. Well, they are that crazy.

How to prevent war? Dialogue first. The DMZ that separates us from them are cultural, religious, social, and/or political. The wars are between opposing societies. Rarely would you see two like societies waging war against each other -- they just have too much in common. If we believe that our society, our way of life is so much better, then why do we need to wage war to prove it? Isn't it counter intuitive? If the merits of our society is so great, then it should become very obvious to like-minded on the other side -- and thus revolutionary change is driven. It's slow. It's painful at times, but it does happen. You don't bring change to the dark ages with bulldozers. Doing so only alienates those you're trying to bring change to -- those you're seeking to save. It's not the fanatics on the other side we should be trying to reach -- we can't reach them -- but those that think like us on the other side, they can reach the fanatics.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. That statement applies to the moderates on the other side who prefer dialogue over having their houses blown up. You're just like us. You just want the fanatics to go away. But they're not going to go away by wishful thinking. They're going to go away only if you do something about it. You need to take back the reins of discourse between societies from the ones who carry guns and kill in the name of your god. Killing is not dialogue. It is especially important if you've made a home for yourself in our society. This is our society, and it needs to become yours, but it doesn't become yours by a transformation to what you left behind. It amazes me that the Mohammed cartoon controversy earlier this year met with such viperous response worldwide, especially in free societies. Our values are important just as yours. Peaceful protests are encouraged. Death threats aren't. You're not in a home where you can utter death threats. That situation continues to astound me in light of the Holocaust cartoon exhibit now being hosted in Iran. Those that protested display of Mohammed cartoons should likewise be now voicing concerns -- after all, this is a purposeful slight being perpetuated -- the only motivation is spite.

Where are the weapons coming from? Follow the trail of the guns, bullets, bombs and other incendiaries of the civil world, and you'll come to just a few. It would be easy to think that weapons manufacture and proliferation is perpetrated by a few. It's not. Behind it all however, is money. Weapons don't move unless money greases the wheel -- and the ultimate currency it exacts from society is blood. Weapons move, money changes hands and blood flows. The proliferation of weapons must stop. It's not just Iran that is arming Hezbollah -- the trail leads to Russia and China. Before Iraq needed to be invaded, weapons came from the US for Iraq to use against Iran. Before Mujahideen became terrorists of Al Qaeda, they were the rebels that were armed by the US to fight Russia. Now the US is rewarding Pakistan's cooperation with weapons sales. When will those weapons be turned against us? Maybe sooner than you think -- we're collateral.

Why the fighting must stop? The extremes on the opposing sides want to take us to their extreme. They have guns and bombs, profess to kill for us, while valuing our lives as collateral. They will succeed if we let them, but will fail if they're exposed for what they are: weak, shortsighted, wrong and stupid. We, the moderates need to be vociferous in denouncing their tyranny. We need to express peace not as an alternative but the imperative. Weapons manufacture distracts the human species. We spend so much time devising more lethal and interesting ways of annihilate each other, that we hardly have enough resources left to safe ourselves from the host of other problems we've created.

Summed up, the case for peace is a compelling one. Unfortunately, it requires action on your part. It's not an easy choice, but it's a lot less painful.

Seeing by Sound

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with a solution to help the visually impaired navigate a city by transforming a cityscape into sounds. Most of the solution resides in a wearable backpack, and includes a laptop computer, two GPS receivers, head and body compasses, a gyroscope tracker to measure head tilt, four small digital cameras and a bone phone audio device that transmits sound by vibrating against a user's skull, leaving their ears free to take in sounds from the city. In total, it all weighs in at three pounds.

The system works by using the GPS device and cameras to place a user's location on a map. The user verbally tells the system their desired destination, and the system generates soft tones through the bone phones to navigate the user. While the system works fairly well for locations that have been mapped via GPS, it does have a little difficulty when the GPS signals fade -- such as between or in buildings. For those tricky spots, the system uses the cameras to locate the user on stored maps -- that means to be effective in buildings for instance, the building would have to be mapped.

The researchers are currently working on scaling the system down to have the cameras mounted on sunglasses and the computing reduced to fit on a PDA. For the visually impaired, this system promises a whole new level of freedom.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Misuse of Terror

American obsession with the war on terror has simply got to stop. The Republicans are now counting on the fact that people will continue to be scared shitless, that they will vote to keep the party in power -- after all, the Republicans are the only ones that seem capable of doing something about terror. The more they continue however, the more it gets worse for Americans. Americans are the ones being hurt by this war -- not terrorists. Sure, there are homegrown terrorists that are inspired to try and blow things up -- but really, what inspired them? America made Osama. Their over the top retaliation of the 9/11 bombings have legitimized him, just as Israel's recent over the top reaction has legitimized Hezbollah. This war on terror justifies the curbs being placed on the freedoms of Americans; alienates moderate Muslims, the only ones capable of bringing an end to Islamic fanaticism; and distracts Americans from the real problems faced by their nation.

Timothy McVeigh was a homegrown, American terrorist, who killed people. The American government's response? Exactly. No war on terror.

The Case for Invading Pakistan

Forget Iraq, GW ... after Afghanistan, Pakistan should have been the country to take the war on terror to. Other than Iraq's potential WMD, which it only waved around at its citizens and Iran, there was no reason for the law of the west to ride into town. Pakistan on the other hand, has been caring and feeding terrorists since the days when they were freedom fighters. They continue to do so today, but now with the aid of the US. When Bush declared "you’re either with us or against us" -- Pakistan responded with a third option: both.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Land of the not so Free

Henry Porter has an exceptionally well written piece in the Guardian Unlimited, regarding the degradation of free speech in the United States. His article can be summarized by the following quote of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt:
There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel's existence, but that is not in jeopardy. Viewed objectively, its past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.
American foreign policy, especially as it pertains to Israel, is apparently not open for public debate. Debate is being closed at the very places where open dialogue should be champion: colleges and universities. Institutions of higher learning are slowly adopting a more conservative policy as pro-Israel, right-wing nut-jobs, silence debate as they accuse free thought as being un-American. Since when, in the land of the free, is it un-American to question and hold opinions?

Internet Tubes

Is it just me, or has the words "internet tubes" taken on a whole new life, ever since Ted Stevens idiotic lecture? Now I'm finding the words cropping up in industry writing. WTF?

Jon Stewart Commencement Address

On May 20, 2004, Jon Stewart gave the Commencement Address to the graduating class of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. What advice did he have to offer to the graduating class? Some snippets below, but check out his address for his speech in its entirety.

On receiving an honorary doctorate:
But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It's incredibly gratifying.
I'm sure my fellow doctoral graduates-who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that in truth has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless-will join in congratulating me.

On the real world:
And the real world is not a restoration. If you see people in the real world making bricks out of straw and water, those people are not colonial re-enactors-they are poor. Help them.
I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it. Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

On life after school:
So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this. You won’t. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience.
I was not exceptional here, and am not now. I was mediocre here. And I’m not saying aim low. Not everybody can wander around in an alcoholic haze and then at 40 just, you know, decide to be president.
College is something you complete. Life is something you experience. So don’t worry about your grade, or the results or success.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Evangelical Freaks

Kenya's Great Rift Valley is considered to be the cradle of humankind because of the numerous fossil that have emerged from the region. In what is possibly a first, quite a number of the finds have not actually left the country, but remain in Kenya, under the management of the country's national museum. The museum however is coming under attack by the nation's Christian Pentecostal congregation for presenting the fossils in support of the theory of evolution. The fossils represent the most visible and possibly the strongest links, that humankind and primates share a common ancestor. The fundamentalist wackos of course find this to be a contradiction to their beliefs.

When will the stupidity end?

Related reading:
God's Own Scientists -- Natural History magazine article.

Clorox Women

Rinsters posted a little rant on her little gripe with Clorox take on this generation of women. Clearly someone in the Clorox marketing department wasn't thinking. In the Clorox ad, there are six generations of women, wearing bright white clothes -- obviously, they us Clorox. What Clorox tried to do however, was choose images that were representative of the roles of women from their generation. The images from the images from the past showed women redefining themselves and their roles. As the roles moved across generations, you see the progression women have made -- more equality, more freedom. What image does Clorox choose to represent women of the current generation?

This is a case of marketing gone bad. Clorox obviously misread women of this generation. The image they chose to represent the current generation was a pregnant woman.

After all the progress, Clorox sees women of the current generation in their traditional role of childbearer, mother ... what's wrong with that picture?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Excel in-cell Graphing

Juice Analytics has an excellent post demonstrating how you can spiffy up a boring Excel spreadsheet with some nifty graphics to illustrate your numbers. Excel's repeat function can be used to repeat a font graphic, using the following syntax:
=REPT(text,number_of_times)
This is really nifty. When used properly, you can convert a boring Excel spreadsheet into something that is much easier to gleam information from and looks a heck of lot more pretty ... as in the example below.

Top 10 Weirdest Cosmology Theories

Stephen Battersby over at New Scientist SPACE has a nice little article on the weirdest of the weird in Cosmology.
  1. Clashing branes -- explains why our universe is a membrane floating in higher dimensional space, interacting with other universes via gravity.
  2. Evolving universes -- black holes create baby universes, and only those with the right conditions survive.
  3. Superfluid space-time -- postulates that space-time is actually a superfluid flowing with zero friction.
  4. Goldilocks universe -- is our universe special? Special in that out of an infinite number of possible universes, ours have the right properties to exist.
  5. Modified Newtonian dynamics -- reformulates gravity to make dark matter explain. Maybe we don't know everything about gravity after all.
  6. Cosmic ghost -- by adjusting Einstein's general theory of relativity, some strange substances pop into existence. Called the ghost condensate, it explains dark energy and dark matter.
  7. It's a small universe -- and it's shaped like a funnel, with a narrow end and a wider, flared out end like the shape of a trumpet.
  8. Fast light -- way back in time ... at the beginning of the universe, light used to travel a heck of a lot faster.
  9. Sterile neutrinos -- proposed to be dark matter.
  10. In the Matrix -- maybe our universe isn't really real, and we're all living in a simulation.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Giant Robot Imprisons Parked Cars

Here's a story to make you think twice about not paying attention to the software license agreements you're signing. In an automated parking garage in Hoboken, New Jersey, the city uses software from Robotic Parking to control the robot that automatically park cars. In automated parking garages, space is optimized by doing away with ramps and walk-space, but having a robot control the parking of vehicles. The software controls what vehicles enter and leave the facility. Unfortunately for Hoboken, in a dispute with the software company, they had police escort Robotic Parking employees off the premises. The staff left -- unfortunately, because Hoboken they were licensing the Robotic Parking software on a month-to-month basis, when the staff left and the license wasn't renewed, the parking garage simply stopped working -- with the public's vehicles still in there, unable to leave.

Taking Religion Literally

The problem with taking what was written hundreds of years ago for religion literally, is that you would have to kill a good many people in order to observe the scriptures fundamentally. Even if you decide to observe some parts religiously (forgive the pun), how do you justify leaving the more horrific fire and brimstone bits out? That's the fundamental (forgive the pun) problem with religion -- people. Instead of reading the scriptures and interpreting them for our times, a lot of very stupid, and inevitably, loud people, decide that what was written many years ago should still apply today. For a humorous take on how things can really go bad fast if things were taken literally, check out this post: Religious Advice and Best Fan Letter.

Stephen Lewis: Africa's Race Against Time

Patrick Pittman's interview of Stephen Lewis is hosted on the Internet Archive. Stephen Lewis is the UN Special Envoy to Africa for HIV/AIDS, and is a man unlike his peers. Rather than enjoy the post by playing politics and furthering his own personal career, Lewis has made his position a platform from where he's single-handedly mustering focus on the plight of Africa. Single-handedly, because his peers in the world's political apparatus epitomize neglect. While Lewis rail against the inaction of the UN, G8 and World Bank, his peers specialize in maintaining the status quo of disregard.

War on Truth

In Israel's war on terror, and Hezbollah's war on Jews, two things are certain: 1) innocents are expendable pawns to be murdered, and, 2) truth is likewise an expendable commodity to be massacred by both sides. Not only is the war -- and let's face it, with that much killing, it's a war -- being fought with guns, rockets and bombs -- it's also being fought with propaganda. It's getting to point where both Israel and Hezbollah have embedded journalists to tell their side of the story. What we're seeing is manipulation of the truth emerging from the region -- propaganda. Propaganda designed to win the hearts and minds of you and me to take sides.

Well you know what, both warring armies are monsters. Both are killing. I'm not naive to believe the murders are justified. It needs to stop.

See the truth being abused:

Monday, August 07, 2006

Noah Used Flying Dinosaurs

The Landover Baptist Church is reporting on a breakthrough finding that explains how Noah could have gathered specimen of animal life from across the planet in such a short period of time for the 40-day ride on the ark. Apparently, this mystery has been bothering creation scientists for quite some time. New evidence however reinforces a belief that good Christians have held.

"Noah's sons rode giant flying dinosaurs to transport duck billed platypuses from Australia, and penguins and polar bears from the Antarctic, to name a few."

The site provides the following quotes:
  • Pastor Deacon Fred -- "Those must have been some mighty big flying dinosaurs. Imagine the look on Noah's face when his sons flew in for a landing with a pair of Hippos strapped to the back of one of them things! Glory to God!"
  • Creation Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Edwards -- "The Lord is just amazing. Whenever Atheist scientists make a new find, they think it will hack away at our Christian beliefs. They must get pretty peeved at how sneaky our Lord is, because whenever they unearth something, it only provides more support for the historical accuracy of the Holy Bible And these flying dinosaurs they keep finding are no exception!"

[The Landover Baptist Church is a satirical website that parodies the fundamentalist Christians of the US.]

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Questioning Israel

Here in North America, especially in the US, we continue to temper any criticism of Israel. The reason is simple. The Jews have suffered, and suffered. WWII saw a world sitting on the sidelines until it was too late -- sitting while the Jews were systematically being wiped out as a people. The world had no excuse.

The tables have turned today, however. The Jewish state is powerful, well armed and have friends. Friends who are now sitting by as innocents are being killed in the hunt for the few. Fighting terror has become such a fashionable excuse to justify the murder of innocents. If we continue to let this happen, how different does it make us from the terrorists we seek to destroy? How different is Israel really from Lebanon or Palestine? When will the killing stop?

Jesus Christ, who?

His birthday is celebrated on December 25th. At his birth, he was visited by shepherds and Magi, bearing gifts. He has a fondness for bread and wine. His mother was a virgin at his birth. He ritually comes back to life every spring, emerging from his tomb in a cave. He performed many miracles. Before returning to Heaven, he had a last supper with his twelve disciples. Surprisingly to many, he was born around 100 BC.

Who is this dude? Meet Mithra/Mithras/Mehr of Persia -- the savior sun god of the Mithraism religion. Even more surprising to many will be that there is a Mitra sun god in the Indian Vedic religion -- which is over 3,500 years old -- and is today known as Hinduism.

Despite the similarities in the stories, people have been killing each other because of the minor differences.

Related:

Friday, August 04, 2006

Why Telecom Suck

The telecom industry has done little to promote the growth and vibrant economy of the internet. In fact, what they've done is tried desperately to control the internet, as it's the sure way to increase their short term profits. The need for control has led the industry to push for the death of net neutrality, claiming that only from its ashes would they have the incentive to innovate. Firstly, telecom industry hardly has a history of innovation. Most innovations that they exploit today comes from outside their industry. Secondly, history shows that monopolies are hardly the breeding ground for innovation. Innovation costs money and requires risk taking. If you're in complete control of a market, with a steady revenue flow, why would you spend a cent to innovate? You've a captive customer base. There's simply no incentive. With such evidence stacked up against the death of net neutrality, you would therefore expect the pols that have been well informed and well compensated by the telecom industry to make the right decision -- which is to cede control of the internet to the telecom giants.

Well, at least the internet is neutral elsewhere in the world. Too bad the rest of us will have to look over the fence to see how things could have been.

Related: The Phone Companies Still Don't Get It.

Full Length Documentaries

del.icio.us has a list of full length documentaries available online for free. Check it out! There is some really powerful stuff there.

Fox News One-Sided?

Ha! Who would have thought? Eric Boehlert writes in Huffington Post's Eat The Press about Fox News' blatant one-sided far-right reporting. After the Israeli bombing of Qana, the right-wingers cast about for the evidence that Israelis didn't do it. Now that Israel has apologized for the bombing -- you'd think the right-wingers would give it a rest already. You'd be wrong if you thought so. The truth apparently is still being told, and if the right-wingers have their way, Israel will eventually not have bombed Qana. This is yet another example of why the media can no longer be trusted.

US Vetos at the UN

This is scary. The US has vetoed 70 UN resolutions. Those vetoes were cast when the will of the world was not in favour of the US position. This from the country that professes to be a democracy. Especially scary are the quotes from the various US representatives.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

As the Arabs see the Jews

Jordan's King Hussein's website has an article written by King Hussein's grandfather, King Abdullah, in 1947 -- six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The article was written in response to victors of WWII carving Israel from lands belonging to the Arabs of Palestine. In the article, Abdullah stresses that the Arabs and Jews have had a long history of peaceful coexistence, and if there's any group that should carry the guilt for anti-Semitism, it's the Christian world. They have long persecuted the Jews -- case in point, the Nazis of Germany. Abdullah asks the question, how can the Jews claim a historic right to Palestine after the Arabs have been the majority there for nearly 1,300 uninterrupted years?

I've personally always had a problem with creation of Israel after the second world war. Whatever motivated the Allies to support the creation of a Jewish state, carving it out of Palestine was wrong -- and a slap in the face to the Arabs who fought alongside the Allies in the war. Having said that however, it's been 50-years. Israel is a fact today. It's not going to dissolve -- especially since the combined Arab armies don't have the might to face down Israel. The fighting needs to end. Coexistence is the only viable alternative -- either that or keep shooting until there's no one left.

One Business' Commitment to Society

On the way home today, I read a McKinsey interview with Klaus M. Leisinger, President of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development. The foundation, created in 1979, is the non-profit arm of Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis. It works with the UN and NGOs to tackle Third World health and poverty-related issues. The great work and enlightened leadership Novartis seems blessed with is a testament to what can be accomplished when businesses incorporate sustainability into their DNA.

In the interview, Leisinger comments on the benefits to his parent company from his foundation's work:
An awareness of alternative realities makes the company more competent socially. We provide an early-warning system on a number of social or political issues because we are in touch with shifting expectations about corporate responsibility and can help analyze what they mean.
Leisinger gives an example of a poll that was done in Germany recently, where the question posed was, what if a pharmaceutical company developed a lifesaving drug and most of the population in some third world country couldn't afford it, what would they they expect the company to do? Those polled said they expected the company to give the drug away for free. Leisinger comments that he doubts the managers in pharmaceutical companies would share that opinion.
[However,] if we are regarded as part of the solution, we will have a different reputation and regulatory environment than we would if we are regarded as part of the problem.
None of this should be enlightened. When does thinking about our neighbours, our society, our environment, become enlightened? How did the people running businesses go so astray, that sustainability is viewed as enlightened? We should all be as enlightened as Leisinger and Novartis. It is our world. It is our society. They are our customers. They are our future. They are us.

Related reading:

Work Friendly

So, you want to be a slacker at work. Well, if your company uses Office 2003, you can surf the net from an Office 2003-looking window, via workFRIENDLY. Check out my site via the Office interface. Of course, if you happen to be like my company, still running Office '97, then it sucks to be you, cause this trick won't work.

CNN Exchange, et al

Ha! Looks like the MSM is finally acknowledging that they don't have full control of all news reporting. The admission comes on the heels of the success of blogs and video sharing sites, such as YouTube. CNN has created CNN Exchange for instance, that will allow citizen-journalists to post their content on CNN. All content won't necessarily be used, but will be available for all to see. Others are also following suit. While CNN sees the value in the free content, they don't see enough to actually want to pay people for submitting. Oh well ... one step at a time I guess.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes

Vanity Fair has a play-by-play, from the NORAD recordings of 9/11. As the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center, NORAD scrambles two jet fighters to New York. By the time they arrive, the second plane had already crashed into the World Trade Center. Due to budget cutbacks, NORAD only had four fighters available to cover about one quarter of the US. Read the transcript and listen to the recordings as confusion reigns at NORAD and the FAA. Surprisingly, there was probably little the fighters could have done had they arrived on time, as only the President could have authorized the fighters to shoot down the civilian aircrafts. What the recordings reveal is that the military was totally unprepared for hijackings that would end in crashes. Nobody anticipated this.

Atheism Quotes

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. -- Stephen Roberts

Check out more atheism quotes here, and burn in hell.

Lies During War

The current administration doesn't have a monopoly on lies during war -- lies designed to further war. This is well known, especially for those who have memories of the Vietnam war era. However, how about the lies of the second world war? John V. Denson has an informed post on The Hiroshima Myth, on LewRockwell.com. In his article, Denson asserts that the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (and hence Nagasaki) did not cause the Japanese to surrender, because the Japanese had already expressed the wish to surrender. The lies after the horror of Hiroshima were told to justify the dropping of the bombs. The use of the atomic bomb was not supported by many, including high ranking military commanders such as General Eisenhower and Admiral Nimitz. So why was the bomb dropped? It wasn't for a military victory. It was political.

Fat Man and Little Boy were responsible for nearly half a million deaths.

Related:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

2006 Best Product Design

BusinessWeek's annual design awards have been ... well, awarded. And the winners are:
  • Design Factories: (1) ZIBA, (2) Formation Design Group, (3) Antenna Design NY, (4) blueMap design, (5) Davison Design & Dev.
  • Business/Schools: (1) Panasonic, (2) Samsung, (3) The Timberland Company, (4) Art Center College of Design, (5) BRP (Bombardier/Learjet)
You can check out the full list of winners from the article. Surprisingly this year, IDEO didn't even make the list of design firms. And on the business side, Apple just fell off the list. Both IDEO and Apple remain high ranking when look at the last five years -- with IDEO being number one and Apple being number two, dropping behind Samsung, who is at the top of the business heap for the last five years.

Inside Innovation

BusinessWeek has a nice magazine within the magazine. The Inside Innovation first issue came on June 19th, complete with profiles of five champions of innovation: Marissa Mayer of Google, Ivy Ross of Old Navy, Claudia Kotchka of P&G, Sam Lucente of HP, and Amy Radin of Citigroup. It's a pretty good read.

A little gem tucked away in the issue was:
  • Gapminder -- data visualization and fun with statistics.

And speaking of innovation, there was also an article on how Web 2.0 is seeping slowly into the business world. The use of wikis, social networking and blogging services are being leveraged by those savvy users with access to a browser. Try as you might, there's no stopping them.

DRM Free

Is the music industry finally waking up? It's only one song, only an experiment, and probably not enough to get excited over, but it's a sign that maybe the crusty old farts that run the industry are realizing that protectionism wins no friends -- and is certainly not profitable. Sony BMG is releasing Jessica Simpson's "A Public Affair" as an unprotected MP3 to consumers. That's right, no DRM. Yahoo has been pushing for this, stating that DRM is bad for everyone involved, expect perhaps Apple Computers, who loves to tie consumers to their iPod and iTunes music store with DRM.

Only problem with this experiment is Jessica Simpson. Who wants free Jessica Simpson music?
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