Happy birthday to Luke.
Daniel Pearl is dead. That news broke late this week. This is how CNN and the Washingon Post covered the news:
"Investigators who watched the tape shared a "unanimous opinion" that it showed Pearl being killed, Pakistani Interior Minister Moeenuddin Haider said."
- Washington Post report
"The tape reportedly shows Pearl alive and speaking, and then being killed as his throat is cut."
- CNN story
Now, that's rather unsettling news. However, this morning, the Times of London ran the Daniel Pearl story on its front page as the main article, with the headline "Pakistan urged to find Pearl killers". The story is excerpted below, but comes with a disclaimer. I didn't want to know what it said. At all. If you want to, click here - the text is in a hidden div below and will become visible upon clicking.
"According to a Pakistani official, in the two-minute film the reporter is seen kneeling as he reads from a statement in which he says he and his parents are Jewish. He goes on to condemn the treatment of Muslims in Kashmir and Palestine. Mr Pearl appears calm but when he finishes reading, a hand appears from behind him, grabs his hair, pulling back his head. Another hand is then seen cutting his throat with a sharp-edged weapon, like a sword, and severing his head. The camera then zooms in to show his decapitated head and his body in convulsions while a figure who cannot be identified reads a statement in Urdu demanding the release of Pakistani prisoners being held at the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba."
- London Times report
This was a front page story. I'm grateful that I didn't read it whilst having my breakfast, but I don't suspect that would've really made any difference. I'm fucking appalled.
Scan yourself now, before it's too late. You never know how many memes have got you...
Ah, the interhighwebnet. A wonderful thing, especially when it lets you talk to people: Daniel of Waferbaby has updated the teenlog to include typos, mistyped letters, mistyped numbers and missing spaces. Absolute work of genius.
Via Paul comes the teenlog which promises to render a whole slew of blogs completely and utterly redundant. It's not perfect yet: most of the posts are presented with immaculate spelling and grammar...
Arie redesigns his homepage.
I'll let the headline speak for itself:
What is this, consolation prize for not getting to be a Jedi Knight?
Luke has a wonderful new look. White is in. Blue backgrounds are out.
Tom is displaying today a wonderful post on Running Weblogs with Slash. I expect him to follow it up rather quickly with the rather more sedate Running Weblogs with Cliff Richard. His roundup of online community news is worth taking a look at, too, if that kind of thing interests you, particularly the linked article Top Ten Trends for Online Communities.
To those who have written in in response to my articles about what Steven den Beste has said: thank you very much. It's been very interesting--and, in most cases--productive and enlightening to be able to take part in a discussion about the issues raised.
This morning was spent in the advocacy assessment that I have to do as part of my LPC course. Namely, it involved sitting in a room for twenty minutes pretending to be a lawyer with another student (who, natch, was also pretending to be a lawyer) and sitting in front of a tutor who was pretending to be a district judge (unless, of course, you had the tutor who was a district judge, but he wouldn't have been one in that capacity at the time. Ahem.) whilst acting on the behalf of a pretend client who had not been paid pretend money (fourteen thousand pretend pounds! Plus interest! The horror!) by a pretend defendant for the supply of a pretend wedding dress that, amusingly, involved pretend submissions from a pretend celebrity gossip magazine.
Who says lawyers lack imagination?
BBC2's new comedy-drama Manchild (not a permanent URL) starts today at 10pm, Anthony Head was interviewed in today's G2 (via this morning's paper on the kitchen table, URL kindly supplied by Linkmachinego). Other TV this week: Alias continues on Sky One at 9pm on Wednesday night. Other TV this spring: BBC2 have started trailing Fox's 24 (probably best not to read too closely to avoid being spoiled).
Many thanks to those of you who have taken the time to respond to me. It's very much appreciated. Measured responses, and ones that have obviously had time taken over them are appreciated doubly.
Steven, from the Nutlog, writes again:
Steven suggests that den Beste is making the mistake of generalising about 'Europeans': "In fact, Europe in general, and the British (and Italian) governments in particular, have been incredibly supportive of the US, both the government and the people. One criticism of Blair is that he is too close to the Americans, in some ways. So the Guardian, the Mirror and the Telegraph have a different view; this is open debate. Our societies are big enough to tolerate a range of opinion, just as there is a range of opinion in the US (left-of-centre American opinion is wildly different from conservative America, so den Beste doesn't speak for all Americans)."
That's not all. Steven also comments on den Beste's reply to Tom's points. Steven believes that den Beste's points about the purported demise of Europe are flawed: "The causes are much more complex than he pretends and are related to geography (America is much richer in natural resources than Europe) and history and culture (America has had a single language, a single currency and a single market for far longer than Europe). I'm also not convinced that Americans are that much better off - wages are higher, but there is a price to be paid in terms of working conditions (2 or 3 weeks in America)."
Steven Green of the Nutlog wrote in to point out that President Bush isn't above giving advice to foreign states, either. Surely the Japanese economy, says Steven, is to some extent an internal Japanese issue? Bush, though, has a perfect right to give unsolicited advice as it has implications for the US, if he feels it appropriate. Just as, for example, the US government has the right to advice the German government to up defence spending if it's felt appropriate.
Steven (the other one, not den Beste) then goes on to deliver the kicker: by the same token, surely, Europeans have the right to advise the US on matters which have implications beyond America - a good example is National Missile Defence, which to some extent is an American matter. One that, for it to work effectively, would have to make use of British soil.
Steven den Beste has this to say.
Well, where to start? Okay, let's try here:
"It's not the fact of the message which is the problem, it's the way in which it is being delivered. Being told "You're making a mistake" is one thing, especially if the mistake is explained in a convincing fashion. Being told "You are stupid, unsophisticated morons" is not the same. No-one likes to hear that; it doesn't make someone reexamine their own acts, it just discredits the speaker."
Okay. Now read what Chris Patten had to say in the Financial Times. I for one, cannot find anything there that can be interpreted as "You are stupid, unsophisticated morons." At least, nothing in such blunt language. Perhaps it's because I'm not rightwing enough in my beliefs.
"The way to solve that is not to try to drag us down to your level, but for you to pull yourselves up to ours. Don't bitch to us because you are weak and ineffective. Get off your asses and start working."
Are we bitching? No, I don't think so. I thought what we were doing was offering unsolicited but measured advice. Did you see that? Measured. I sincerely believe that what the European leaders are saying right now is measured. I reiterate that we, and by we I mean European leaders and their constituents recognise that the US has a right to do whatever the hell it wants. It also has a responsibility to listen.
"There's no question that what the US does will affect everyone. But the time to think about that was 30 years ago when you were budgeting for your own military. Now, however, if you want to influence events here in the US (because that's where the fate of the world will be decided) then your politicians better tailor the message to our ears, not to your own. And your politicians better recognize that we really are a lot more powerful and important than you are, and stop pretending otherwise."
In other words, "Say what we want to hear, otherwise we won't want to hear it." One wonders how, exactly, Britain would go about saying "No, you can't use Flyingdales for National Missile Defence?" (provided, of course, Blair was willing not to pussyfoot around the issue). One wonders how, again, it would be possible to present an argument against the unilateralism that is being proposed by Bush that would be acceptable to den Beste. I would hate to assume that to do such a thing would be impossible, but I'm rapidly starting to get that impression.
"Europeans seem to have this idea that they are sophisticated. Americans don't see it that way; we think that Europe is decadent. They tell us that we are simple; we think that they are effete. They tell us we should become more like them; we'd rather be whipped than become like Europe. The message that you drooling Americans should do what we say because we're smarter and more sophisticated than you are may play in Paris, but it won't play in Peoria."
I hope that Steven doesn't mean decadent as in self-indulgent, because I'd certainly have something to say about that. Decadent as in a state of decline or decay? It's debatable. Economies in Europe have been growing. The Euro itself may be unsteady (there are a whole lot of problems there that I'm not even going to think of addressing right now), but the last time I checked, the British economy was doing Just Fine.
Let me turn this around. I tired of Europe being addressed as decadent, I'm tired of being addressed as effete. I'm tired of being called a pipsqueak. Just because countries in Europe may be less influential than the US doesn't entitle you to engage in namecalling either, does it? Or does one rule apply to Europe and another apply to the US? Interesting, that.
Actually, let's not stop there. I don't think that Europe much likes being dictated to either. Why should it? Oh, wait. Unsolicited advice to America should be ignored, yet advice to Europe should be heeded, and pretty damn quick, too, if we know what's good for us. Interesting, that.
One last thing:
"He asks me a question about the fact that President Bush is currently offering advice to the Japanese. Please note that President Bush isn't insulting the Japanese as he offers his advice."
I really didn't want to say this. President Bush may not have been insulting the Japanese as he offered his advice (and you know how I feel about the accusations that European leaders are openly insulting the US), but I'm sure the Japanese weren't too happy about the accidental gaffe that temporarily devalued their currency. I think it's obivous then that Europe should heed the advice of my American betters. Europe is too small, too reliant and too inconsequential to do otherwise.
Apple's new operating system is gorgeous, it really is. Windows XP is quite close, but it's wonderful that operating systems nowadays are much more... colourful. After about three months of using Windows XP, going back to Windows 2000 is a bit of a joke, really. It's like comparing the panache (whether it's rightly placed or not is debatable) of New Labour to John Major's Conservative government.
But OS X... Yes. Very nice. Pretty, too. Lots of swooshing window effects guaranteed to impress anyone walking by. A few silly little extras like the supercalifragilisticmagnifying dock that can be forgiven since you can play with them for a couple of minutes before realising that yes, while it does look nice, it really takes the piss when you're trying to click on something if it keeps moving.
I love being able to dive into a shell and muck around. I love one-click Apache and I love the fact that PHP is already installed (yes, I known XP and 2K come with optionally installed webservers and that ASP is ridiculously easy to get working too, but this is fun, isn't it?). I love the fact that so many people find it so easy to write docklings and AppleScripts that I want to dive in and start mucking around too. I love that I was wondering how to enable ssh access to the laptop then realised that it was just a tickbox. That was pretty cool. Windows 2000 and XP Pro come with telnet based administration but it's a joke, really.
Anyway. A few things that have been overwhelmingly useful:
- Microsoft Office v.X (Test Drive, it's great, it's pretty much required and MS do an academic version for those in fulltime education, so it's upgrade time)
- BlogApp, a self-contained XML-RPC app that works just like BlogBuddy for Windows
- Slashdock sits in the dock and provides updated headlines from Slashdot (and other Slash-based sites) which saves so much time during the day you wouldn't believe
- MSN Messenger
- Ircle, for satisfying IRC cravings
- Transmit, by good friends Panic for FTP access
- VNCthing for connecting to the other machines in the house
- x3, because it's fun to have rotating 3D things on your desktop
- Microsoft Internet Explorer and the latest milestone build of Mozilla (the former being preinstalled)
- iTunes is funky, (especially with G-Force) iMovie lets me satisfy any hidden Nathan Barley traits and iPhoto is, well, 1.0 software and thus a little slow.
- HBTimer is useful when cooking
- A whole bunch of screensavers like Flurry, Plasma Tunnel, Abstract Motion and Technicron.
- Another VGA cable, to do dual display.
In response to an earlier article:
"I hate to tell you, mate, but Steve's writings pretty much sum up how this particular Yank is feeling, if not all the rest. We damn well expect our leaders to do what is necessary to deal with the terrorists from Kabul to Pyongyang and Baghdad. We realize that not everyone has our testicular fortitude, but that's okay, we don't require you to. Multilateralism hasn't worked in the past, so we'll go our own way this time. If our so-called allies wish to help, that's fine, but they don't... Well, here in America, we have a saying, "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way." I think that sums it up. We don't really NEED our European "allies" to do anything except stand aside and waggle their fingers warningly at us as WE do what needs to be done. So stand back, waggle away and we'll take care of things... And remember that if it wasn't for us, you'd be sprechening Deutsch."
A couple of points:
- most definitely not all Americans are feeling the same way that Steven has been summing up
- anyone who has to resort to that particular closing sentence is clutching at straws (thanks, Meg).
Mental note: not all Americans think the same way.
That's how long it took to:
- Turn on PHP on the laptop
- Find the PHP documentation online
- Do a Hello World script
- Find out how to use arrays and random numbers
- Find out how to do spangly stuff with files for logging
- Download an FTP client
- Actually write the damn thing
A new issue of The Harrow Technology Report (nee The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing at Compaq) is out. Not much new this time if you're one to keep up (Harrow spends most of this installment covering DivX and PVR/privacy issues) apart from a new (dated 21 November 2001) BT Technology Timeline (PDF format only).
It turned out that pretty much re-writing the css from scratch managed to get rid of the rendering bugs. Having been tested on Mozilla 0.9x (Windows and Mac) and IE 6 Windows and IE 5.1 Mac, I'm absolutely certain that everything looks the way it's supposed to. One side effect:you may be using old cookies if you've set your display to be either small or large type. So, for those reasons: click to reset for small type and click to reset for large type.
A while ago, I promised that I'd explain why, exactly, Steven Den Beste scared me. A few days later, Steven was kind enough to drop me a note imploring me not to leave him in suspense, so in that regard, I'm very happy to have finally found time to at least attempt to write a measured response to his writing.
Steven's latest missive, it must be said, is prefixed with a caveat: he admits that he doesn't ordinarily vent expressions of emotion and that what follows may not be completely coherent. It's rather unfortunate that this is the most recent post that riles me. Score one for tragic timing.
"I have no problem with individual Europeans. But I'm thoroughly fed up with Europe's leaders. I'm tired of their smugness; I'm tired of their condescension; I'm tired of having my nation be talked down to by those I consider to be its inferiors. (I'm particularly fed up with Chirac and Vedrine and Fischer and Patten.)"
"Europe's leaders are trying to tell my leaders that my nation has gotten cocky. I don't think so. I believe my nation is better and more powerful than Europe's leaders give it credit for being, and I think that we are capable of going it alone. (And I think that they know it. When they say "No nation can go it alone" what they really mean is "We really wish you wouldn't do so, even though you can.")"
I don't think--for a moment--that anyone doubts that America is powerful. Steven has it right when he says he believes that what European leaders are really saying is "We really wish you wouldn't [go it alone], even though you can."
Why, though? Why do we wish that America wouldn't go it alone? It'd be irrational to assume that Europe would have a large say in how the US uses its military. We didn't pay for it, we shouldn't use it. In part, we agree there. Do we--that is, our leaders--think we're better and more important than we actually are? Possibly. Does the same apply to the United States as well? Possibly.
And it is perhaps this sentence, most of all, that offends me:
"Among other things, that means that if we ask for advice then it should be given, but if we don't then it shouldn't be."
Imagine, if you will, a country that on its own is responsible for 40% of the world's defence spending and is currently entertaining a positively unilateralist attitude, one that means that if advice isn't asked for, then it shouldn't be given. Well, does that mean that advice shouldn't be listened to? This is starting to sound cocky to me.
"I'm tired of being ordered around. And I'm tired of pipsqueaks trying to act bigger than they are."
And you react to this by sticking fingers in your ears and not listening? Europe--and Europe's constituent countries--cannot order the US around. It cannot, at the end of the line, dictate US foriegn policy. It would be ridiculous to assume that that would ever happen. Whatever the US wants to happen, will happen. It doesn't matter, because, in the end, if you want to go it alone, we can't stop you. So, in that respect, does our size matter? Does it matter whether we're trying to act bigger than we are? It appears Den Beste would say yes, and that this would invalidate any unsolicited advice.
"And I'm not alone; I think a lot of Americans feel this way. If so, then it means that the European leaders are completely botching their foreign policy towards the US. We do not respond well to scolding (which is what recent utterances from Europe's leaders have amounted to). It tends to make us stubborn. If we're incessantly lectured about multilateralism, our tendency is to stick our middle finger in the air and to become even more unilateral. It won't convince us that we're wrong; it will just convince us that Europe's leaders are assholes and that we can't rely on them. And I don't think that is what they intend."
I can't read this and not be left with some feeling of American cockiness.
Just testing BlogApp, an XML-RPC application for Blogger. Side note: tweaked the CSS a little (got rid of a float: right;) on both large and small type css files, the page should render properly on IE 5.1 Mac now. Granted, it's broken Mozilla (all platforms) by flowing the content text around the left hand menu, but let's just take it one step at a time, shall we?
"On February 14, 2002, the Department of Justice made available to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia 47 comments received during the 60-day public comment period relating to the revised proposed Final Judgment. These comments represent the comments characterized as major in the Joint Status Report submitted to the Court on February 8, 2002."
This page provides links to each of the 47 comments provided to the Court on February 14, 2002. The comments are listed in alphabetical order by the name of the person or entity submitting the comment."
"In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers, themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril."
- President George W. Bush
"The Pentagon yesterday came under the most intense questioning over civilian casualties since the start of the Afghan war, after allegations that US special forces executed and beat men wrongly suspected of being Taliban or al-Qaida fighters, and tied up their women relatives."
- Storm over Afghan civillian victims [Guardian UK, 12 February 2002]
"A lot of civilians are clearly being killed or injured. It's definitely in the four figures," says a UN source... ...A senior MSF worker, who has been in Afghanistan for five years, estimates the number of civilian dead at between 2,000 and 3,000, based on reports from hospitals and field workers around the country.
- Afghans are still dying as air strikes go on. But no one is counting [Guardian UK, 12 February 2002]
My new toy arrived today.
"Now, however, I live in London, in an area important enough to be a target of destruction for world-enders, so Smallpox 2002 had me running around the house shouting 'Game over, man, game over!' and weeping with fear." - bonus marks to Caitlin Moran in today's Times for quoting James Cameron's film Aliens.
Via slashdot, the Planetary Society's reaction to the new Bush administration budget. Highlights:
- outer planets exploration cancelled
- full funding for the Mars program
- Mars recon. Orbiter for 2005
- Mars smart lander for 2009 (from 2007)
- development of nuclear propulsion systems
- development of nuclear power systems for landers
Full text available here. Of note:
"The most surprising proposal in this budget is to develop nuclear technology for in-space propulsion and power. This technology was under development at the beginning of the space program, but dropped in the 1970s. It has always been clear that this capability would dramatically reduce the flight-time to the planets and provide almost unlimited power for operation in space and on the planets. The decision to resume development and complete this technology for early application in this decade is applauded by the Society. This will solve two of the most limiting problems in space exploration; the time it takes to get to the planets, and the amount of power available once at the planets, especially for landers and rovers."
"Since data compression entails recognizing and tagging repeated strings, the more repeated internal patterns that a file or collection of files has, the more it can be compressed. Thus, if one wants to know the language in which file X was written, just compress it with files whose language is known and then compare how efficiently each operation is carried out."
"If, by comparing raw and compressed file sizes, one finds that X plus an Italian text file zips tighter than X plus a French text or X plus an English text or X plus one's other linguistic reference texts, then congratulazioni! You've likely just found the language of X without even opening it."
[more] (via Wired News).
"Derek stood up and said, 'I want to be the first kid to be implanted with the chip,'" Leslie Jacobs said. "For the next few days all he did was talk about the VeriChip."
Derek, an eighth-grader who became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer at age 12, fantasizes about merging humans and machines. Jeffrey Jacobs, who is severely disabled, was interested in the device for health reasons. So Leslie called up Palm Beach-based ADS and offered her family as guinea pigs once the microchip is approved for testing by the FDA.
[more] (via Wired news).
Never let it be said that Chris Raettig is a sane man. His latest crazy idea is to record everyone on his ICQ contact list saying "uh-oh" so he can work out who's messaging him without actually having to look at his screen. Which is why I was falsettoing into my microphone at around half midnight this morning.
This guy, Steven Den Beste, scares me. I'll explain why later.