Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Outsourcing Jars

Outsourcing is the future, and everything that can be outsourced will be.

For example, one day if I have a jar with a stuck lid, I won't attempt to loosen the lid myself, or even enlist a neighbor to do it. I will simply ship the jar overnight to Bangladesh, where a jar-lid-loosening sweatshop will take care of my jar. The professional jar-lid-loosener will earn $0.01 for the job, which will still be much more than he could have made loosening domestic jar lids, thus creating a win/win situation. The sweatshop keeps the other $0.99 of my fee and ships the "value-added" jar back to me.

Great though the jar-lid-loosening outsourcing business model may be, it does not approach the perfect situation of outsourcing "pure information" jobs, which would avoid shipping delays. I can also outsource wittiness. Next time I'm at a party and need something witty to say, I duck into the next room and instant message something like "pls create funny remark in English about Iraq or soccer. Offer:$0.75" to the Remarks Market. Of course, my offshore helpers could counteroffer: "avail side-slapper about Brad Friedel, require $0.98". I agree to the terms, and relate the remark to my friends, who are none the wiser.

[This blog post was written for me by the lowest bidder.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Download Iraqi Freedom Playing Cards

You can download the Iraqi Freedom playing cards featuring Saddam as the Ace of Spades. Take this file to a print shop and have them print it on heavy card stock. Then cut them out and you've got a deck to play war with. Thanks to Nuggets for this link. See also Aces and Eights.

Contrary to rumor, Mohammed al-Sahaf is not the Joker card in this deck. That would have been great, though. Photoshop, anyone? (Or try GIMP; it's free!) It also looks as if you can buy the cards here.

Monday, April 21, 2003

More ranting about soccer

I can't believe what I just heard. A MLS Wrap commentator rhapsodized about Marcelo Balboa's bicycle kick against Columbia in the 94 World Cup, which "if successful would surely have gone down as one of the greatest goals in World Cup history." Ye gods! Are we so pathetic that we can't even reminisce about actual goals, but we have to reminisce about shots that would have been great goals if they had only gone in instead of completely missing the frelling net? Oh, that just gave me the biggest headache. I have to go to bed now.
Painting of the day: Pandora, by John William Waterhouse.
"It's not just what you have, it's where you put it." -- Christopher Lowell, explaining home decorating . . . I think.

I will not enjoy a blog if:

  • It uses pink text on a green background, or any color text on a yellow background
  • The average post length is one sentence
  • It uses . . . the ellipsis . . . much more than any other . . . punctuation.
  • It is full of the sort of entry I promise not to write (but some blogs I really like are almost like this. The key is almost)
  • All the text is in a column 1 inch wide, because it only looks right on some crazy browser that 3 people in the world use
  • It uses 4 fonts in the same sentence
  • It is written in some barbaric language I don't understand, showing that the author does not have the courtesy to speak English. (For the humor-impaired, let me clarify: that was just a reference to an old Steve Martin joke. If I really want to read it I can use babelfish.)
  • It never uses capital letters, except occasionally where they don't belong, as in "i am frEaky"
  • It does all the above things yet still gets a thousand times more hits than my blog because it contains words like warez, teenz, pr0n etc.

Japanese Car Names

My girlfriend: Why does Toyota keep naming their cars things that would be hard for a Japanese speaker to pronounce? Like "Prius."

Me: They put "R" in there.

She: Japanese doesn't have the "PR" sound.

Me: Nevermind "PR", it doesn't even have the "R" sound of English.

She: I mean it doesn't have the P+R combination.

Me: It doesn't even have the P+Any Consonant combination. Japanese doesn't have those kinds of consonant clusters.

She: Yeah.

Me: They don't have the foresight to name the car something that would be especially easy to pronounce, like the "Toyota Kaka."

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Two Poems

Resentment Near the Jade Stairs


Dew whitens the jade stairs.

This late, it soaks her gauze stockings.

She lowers her crystal blind to watch

the breaking, glass-clear moon of autumn.


-- Li Po (701-762) (via LinksToLiterature)




To Breath Rotund Suns

A bloody Eros

Stepping through lewisite

Limousines long and thick like

Exotic shiny insects


Scouring in contests

Waiving rights to chastity

Tousled skirts of skulls

Hiked up to the waists

Positioned to see where

The world ends and

Where it begins


-- Margaret Pao, The Imperial Pulse (contemporary, available here).

Li Po is an old favorite of mine, and Margaret Pao is a new-found favorite. I found a printed copy of The Imperial Pulse while randomly browsing at Powell's. Then I discovered that her poetry is also available in electronic form, so I keep a copy on my Sony Clie for easy access. I keep rereading Pao's poems -- many of them feel like puzzles I have not quite solved yet. The poems are full of interesting references, from lewisite which is a poison-gas chemical, to the "skirt of skulls" which suggests the iconography of the Hindu goddess Kali (though Kali has a necklace of skulls, not a skirt of skulls).

Learning Jamaican Slang

Wondering what the "Yardie" gangmembers are saying in The Getaway? You can learn Jamaican slang on the web with the Dictionary of Jamaican Patois, or at Speak Jamaican.

Speaking of slang, I've been wondering where the practice of saying "ah-ite" for "alright" came from. My brother says this but I don't know where he picked it up. If you know where this comes from, or have a theory, email me.
"When life hands you lemons, ask for a bottle of tequila." -- from The Palace Princess

Saturday, April 19, 2003

WUSA Soccer: San Diego 2, New York 0

San Diego's back line started off the game looking very vulnerable. In the initial 20 minutes, San Diego relied time and time again on heroic one-on-one defense, a strategy that seemed almost certain not to work for the full 90 minutes. Luckily for them, "looking weak and sketchy" and "giving up goals" are two different things. The game soon turned to the other end of the field, where newcomer and number 1 draft pick Aly Wagner served up a perfect through ball to Shannon MacMillan, who found the goal to give San Diego the lead. MacMillan starred at both ends of the field for San Diego, later heading the ball off her own goal line to thwart what otherwise would have been a certain goal for New York. I'm looking forward to seeing her play for the U.S. Women's Team in the World Cup.

The award for most amazing new soccer technique goes to San Diego's Kim Pickup, who can do a front handspring while holding the ball and use the follow-through to launch a wickedly long throw-in. This technique is legal, in that her feet are firmly planted on the ground at the moment the ball is released. Using this throw-in, she twice threw the ball from near the midfield line into New York's penalty area. Near the end of the game she threw the longest throw-in I have ever seen in men's or women's soccer. Putting the ball into play from near the San Diego corner flag, she threw it past the midfield line into New York's half of the field! If I were a coach, I would have my players start practicing this technique.

There is a photo here of Pickup doing the "Pick-Flip" throw-in. The flip throw has resulted in a goal at least once.

Another map for The Getaway

The May 2003 issue of Official U.S. Playstation Magazine (issue 68) has a very good map for The Getaway on page 106. It shows only the streets in the game, but includes street names. This makes it a good companion to a real map of London (like the excellent Eyewitness London book). The only drawback to a real map of London is that the game does not include all the real streets. Remember, in Free Roaming mode, you start out on Great Marlborough Street heading East.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Repo Men go Digital

The life of a repo man is always intense. But today's repo men have gone high tech as they follow the receding tide of the economy. According to the New York Times, "the number of loans that require repossession has jumped 30 percent in the last three years, to almost 200,000 cars last year." Repo men now use voice-activated GPS systems to locate their prey, and computerized key-cutters and truck-mounted video cameras once they find them.
Bud: Credit is a sacred trust, it's what our free society is founded on. Do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia? I said, do you think they give a damn about their bills in Russia?

Otto: They don't have bills in Russia, it's all free.

Bud: All free? My ass! What are you, some kind of commie?

-- Repo Man

Baghdad Art Heist

It now appears that some of the looting of Iraq's National Museum was not the spontaneous action of a rioting crowd, but rather a carefully planned art theft, timed to take advantage of the chaos in Baghdad.
"It looks as if part of the theft was a very, very deliberate, planned action," said McGuire Gibson, president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, at a meeting in Paris Thursday.
"They were able to obtain keys from somewhere for the vaults and were able to take out the very important, the very best material," Gibson said. "I have a suspicion it was organized outside the country. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was." (link)

Is this the biggest art heist in history? For an art thief, this would be the opportunity of a lifetime: what could create a better diversion for a huge robbery than the chaos of war? Perhaps we'll eventually see some of the "destroyed" artifacts resurface through the black market.

How could this work? Suppose you are a museum employee. Maybe you are corrupt and rotten to the core, or maybe you are just underpaid and bored. One day war begins. Bombs start falling. You start to feel like things have gone crazy. As the streets of Baghdad descend into chaos, suddenly you have an opportunity to make a huge amount of money for very little effort. Sure, it is technically a crime, but you are unlikely to get caught when the authorities -- those that haven't already gone into hiding -- have much bigger things to worry about than a museum.

If you start acting erratically, it must just be the stress of the war, right? If you start moving artifacts around that you are not supposed to be moving, it must just be to "protect them" and move them to "safer storage." If someone asks too many questions and you shoot them, how will anyone ever sort that out from all the other shootings, intentional and otherwise, that have happened this week? You have a perfect cover for doing just about anything.

After you and your associates have made off with the artifacts, any investigation will be unable to get started right away because of the war. Once it does begin, the crime scene will be a mess. Mobs of people will have walked through and carried off the things you did not have time to steal, further confusing the issue. You will probably get away with it.

The al-Sahaf Doll

There is now a talking doll of Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahaf. Story here. It recites digitized quotes such as "There are no Americans infidels in Baghdad, never. . . "

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Benched

The new benches on the sidewalk near NW 12th & Couch (Portland, OR), though comfortable and attractive, sit on the part of the sidewalk nearest the street, but face away from the street. This creates an odd, almost claustrophobic sensation. You feel as if at any moment someone could reach out the window of a passing car and smack you on the back of the head, just for fun. Instead of providing a view of the unfolding scene on the street, the benches invite you to contemplate storefronts and -- in at least one case -- a brick wall. Consider:
Bodhidharma traveled to the recently constructed Shaolin temple in the south of China, where the monks refused him admission. Bodhidharma sat meditating facing a wall for the next 9 years, supposedly burning holes into the wall by staring at it. Only then did the monks of the Shaolin Temple respect Bodhidharma and allow him inside. There, he found the monks so out of shape from a life of study spent copying scrolls that he introduced a regimen of martial excercises, the foundation of all later schools of kung fu. (link)

Could these benches create a new type of kung fu master?

"S" is for GNU: a Google Alphabet

For some reason, if you Google search on just the letter "s", the top result is the GNU homepage. Hmmmm. I'm sure there's some really interesting insight about Google lurking here, awaiting discovery. My guess is that it has to do with the "s" in the phrase "GNU's Not Unix!" If so, that means apostrophe-s counts as "S" to Google.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

"Let your anger be as a monkey in a pinata, hiding with the candy, hoping the kids don't break through with the stick!" -- Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

Monday, April 14, 2003

Iron Monkey, the Movie

If you came here through a search for the movie Iron Monkey, you may be thinking, "what's all this about Iraq and soccer and military history and videogames and all this other weird stuff?" You want this.

And if you like that sort of movie, you really should also see Wing Chun, which stars the amazing Michelle Yeoh. It contains my absolute favorite scene in a kung-fu movie, where Wing Chun defends a helpless block of tofu against the relentless attacks of an evil bandit. It is both hilarious and a masterpiece of choreography. Wing Chun and Iron Monkey were choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping, who also was involved with The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Regular People

Trish-Y ponders the world of regular people:
"Those are regular people, Patricia." he said. "That's how most people are. Most people in this world are regular."

I didn't understand this. I didn't know any regular people. Everyone I knew was interesting, or at the very least, irritating.

I know the feeling. I get most of my information about "regular people" from articles and scientific studies, because I rarely encounter them.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Midnight Club II

I just got Midnight Club II for PS2. Initial impression: the graphics and music are great, and it's a very quick game to get into and start playing. The driving physics are completely ridiculous arcade-like rather than a true simulation, so if you're looking for the next Grand Turismo 3, this is not it. However, the "fun factor" will soon suspend your disbelief.
"I wonder if crop circles are just ads for Target." -- Dennis Miller

WUSA Soccer: Boston vs. Atlanta

The first 30 minutes of this match did not predict a high-scoring game, as most of the action took place at midfield, and both teams seemed content to kick the ball out of bounds at any sign of trouble. But the quick, aggressive play of Homare Sawa hinted that she would be a key player for Atlanta. Kristine Lilly controlled the left side of the field for Boston, but had few good attacking opportunities.

In the 36th minute, Atlanta's Maribel Dominguez took a free kick from the top of the Boston penalty arc. Dominguez blasted the ball perfectly over the wall of defenders and it bounced off the crossbar and into the goal, leaving Boston keeper LeBlanc no chance to make the save. Less than 5 minutes later, Sawa took advantage of some defensive confusion at the top of the penalty area, and scored her first goal of the season on a low shot that hit the right goalpost and caromed in.

In the last few seconds of first-half stoppage time, Lilly got in close against Scurry and shot from a bad angle, but Scurry easily made the save and the first half ended with Atlanta up 2-0. Surprisingly, Cindy Parlow was not much of a factor.

In the second half, Dominguez once again took a free kick from a nearly identical spot at the top of the penalty area. This time she opted to shoot around the wall instead of over it, and blasted the ball into the left side of the goal to give Atlanta a 3-0 lead.

After getting a yellow card for a seemingly minor foul, Sawa scored again on a one-timer in the 63rd minute. Shortly thereafter, Dominguez put together the play of the game when she stole the ball from a Boston defender, dribbled past two others, and completed her hat trick with a goal from near the penalty spot. Cripton added a 6th Atlanta goal in stoppage time. The dominance of Sawa and Dominguez, though exciting to watch, does not necessarily bode well for the U.S. in the upcoming World Cup, since these two players play for Japan and Mexico respectively. Final Score: Atlanta 6, Boston 0.

The Unquenchable Taste of Looting

''Freedom's taste is unquenchable,'' Fleischer said after he was asked about the president's reaction to television coverage of Iraqis dancing, looting and cheering U.S. convoys.
(link)

The "looting" part seems much more unquenchable than the "cheering" part. While looters robbed banks and plundered "embassies, hospitals and some private businesses", other Iraqis formed vigilante groups to oppose these actions:
Others took the law into their own hands and, armed with rifles, beat up looters to try to quell the looting running rampant in the Iraqi capital. Some residents set up neighbourhood roadblocks and checked vehicles for stolen goods. (link)

It is starting to sound like The Road Warrior over there, and that leads to my modest proposal. As part of reconstruction efforts, one of the first Coalition projects should build Baghdad its own Thunderdome, where Saddam's doubles can battle each other. "Two Saddams enter, one Saddam leaves! Two Saddams enter, one Saddam leaves!"

Friday, April 11, 2003

Iraq's Aces and Eights: the secret revealed

The U.S. command created a deck of playing cards depicting Saddam Hussein and 51 other "wanted" members of his regime. The deck features Saddam on the Ace of Spades, and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz appears on the Eight of Spades. Many sources reported this but missed the very clever hidden meaning concealed here.
Beyond Saddam and his sons, only a few of the faces or names would likely be familiar to a soldier.
One, perhaps, is Tariq Aziz, the longtime foreign minister, who for some reason is the lowly eight of spades.(link)

This probably alludes to an incident from America's Wild West. The poker hand that "Wild Bill" Hickok was holding when he was killed, known afterwards as the "Dead Man's Hand," was a pair of aces and a pair of eights.

Hickok was losing by the time Jack McCall, a barfly and odd-job man who loafed in the No. 10, slipped into the saloon, walked to within three feet of Hickok and shot him in the back of the head with a .45 he pulled from his coat pocket. The bullet passed through Wild Bill's skull and exited his right cheek before lodging in the wrist of another poker player. As Hickok fell away from the table, he spilled his hand -- pairs of black aces and eights -- known forever after as the "deadman's hand." (link)

So this arrangement of the deck subtly implies that Iraq's top leaders are "dead men" who have played their last hand. (The deck's creators missed their chance for a master stroke, though, by not putting Mohammed al-Sahaf in as the Joker.) Now here is where it gets interesting. Hickok was killed on August 2, 1876. August 2 is the same day (in 1990) when Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait, which started the first Gulf War!

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Official Magic

My friend sent me to check out the Yellow Bamboo Association. They say:
Yellow Bamboo is an official magic, healing and self defense association founded in Bali with over 30,000 members worldwide.

Good, I wouldn't want to waste my time with unofficial magic associations. Only the best for me.

How would you like to control the entire universe, both what goes within you and what happens with others?

It would certainly help with setting the clock on my VCR.

As you can imagine when you can knock down attackers from 10 feet away or heal someone dying from something just using your own energy- that is true personal power!

Look, I don't think knocking down attackers from 10 feet away is all that great. For one thing, what if the attackers had an 11-foot stick and started hitting me with it? Then what? I'd take one heck of a beating before I finally remembered I could control the entire universe. I guess that's where the "healing people" part comes in.

Whether you desire love, money, fortune, fame, godliness, holiness etc whatever you want Yellow Bamboo provides.

Will it provide the ability to "buy a yacht with a flag sayin' chillin' the most / Then rock that bitch up and down the coast / Give a toast to the sun, drink with the stars / Get thrown in the mix and tossed out of bars?" Now we're talking . . .

One of the many powerful objectives of Yellow Bamboo is to offer proof that for those who believe in good they will always be protected either directly or indirectly as long as they do something good. It may be good in speech or behavior or intention.

But it doesn't have to be all three? So I could combine, say, good speech with bad behavior? Or bad behavior and bad speech with good intention? Cool, I like having that flexibility.

The main criteria is the Yellow Bamboo practitioner must be **serious**

Right, because you wouldn't want some goofball controlling the entire universe, or some practical joker knocking people down from 10 feet away just for laughs. I guess I'm not cut out for this.

I am the Eye in the Sky

Global Security has some great satellite photos and zoom-in sequences of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and other hotspots. Look at a few of these sequences and you'll feel like you are James Bond being briefed for his next mission. I feel cheated that I didn't have easy access to satellite imagery when I was a kid.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

"We can kill Saddam Hussein, but we won't win the war until we kill the idea of Saddam Hussein, so what we need to do is develop bombs that can kill ideas."

-- The Daily Show

Boycott Arabic Numerals: Remember IX-XI

A friend of mine suggests that if America can rename French Fries as "Freedom Fries," then what we really ought to do to take a stand against Middle Eastern terrorism is boycott Arabic numerals. He writes:
Actually, I was wondering why there was no post-9/11 backlash against Arabic numerals.
"Henceforth, 9/11 shall be written IX/XI"
- House resolution CCLXXXVI-B

I love the name IX-XI, because not only does it use Roman numerals, it is also a palindrome, and appears the same upside down. And it can be written using only 7 equal-length straight lines. It would make a good logo.

We debated how to represent binary numbers, since Roman numerals have no "0". I suggested "smiley face" for 1 and "frowning face" for 0, but he prefers "T" for 1 and "F" for 0.

"Russian Military Intelligence" site signs off

The "Russian Military Intelligence update" site signs off, and explains itself:

All the “updates” came out from a compact group formed a few years ago in the framework of a special service. The group used to work for the government for a long time but all its members have left the service and now act as an independent analytical group that has kept some capabilities. This gives an answer to the most common question – about the sources of our information.

We participated in the ongoing events on a “non-profit” basis and had no object other than to stand the US-British informational blockade of the war in Iraq.
[...]
The main goal of the project was to present intelligible military analytics on the war in Iraq, which is currently missing, to the informational space. We had both success and obvious fails along the way.

So now the site claims the data is not from Russian Military Intelligence after all, but from a group of people who used to work for the government. If this latest confession is true, then some of my earlier analysis of their analysis (heh) stands up. It was indeed from seasoned analysts, who were Russians with authentic background knowledge, and not some typical internet hoaxer. I did not at all pick up on the fact that it was the work of more than one person. We may never know for sure how good their analysis was, or whether particular items they reported were true, but I'll miss the site -- it was a good read.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

More videogame/military convergence

Business 2.0 has an article about the U.S. Army's use of videogames as a recruiting tool that doubles as a training aid.
The game, available on Goarmy.com, was designed by a team of students at the Naval Postgraduate School. They spent a year training at 20 bases to ensure the game was realistic. When America's Army: Operations debuted last July 4, high demand overloaded the Army's servers. Now, roughly half a million people play each weekend. A side benefit: Many recruits already know their way around Fort Benning, Ga., when they arrive for basic training. [emphasis added]

This VR knowledge of the base must be similar to how I "know my way around" parts of London from playing the free roaming mode of The Getaway even though I have never actually been there.

Another convergence: an entry at Charles Murtaugh's blog explains a VR-controlled mini airplane used by the Marines.

The sort of blog entry I promise not to write

The sort of blog entry I promise not to write goes something like this:
I got up this morning and it was early . . . had some coffee, and for some reason I put in too much sugar so . . . I had to water it down with more coffee, the way that always happens . . . then that guy called, the guy who called last week and I didn't know what to say . . . and I still didn't know what to say today.

I won't write that because once you've read one blog entry like that, you've read them all, and after the tenth one you just want to take all the 1's and 0's and stuff them back up the network cable, all the way back across the web to the originating server, as if you had never downloaded them at all.

Mohammed al Sahaf, Comic Genius

In the U.S., we have our Slashdot trolls, our newsgroup flamers, our insult-spewing professional wrestlers. We believe we have developed the technologies of rant and bluster to impressively high levels. But are we overconfident, perhaps even vulnerable? Iraq brings to the table the awesome power of one man, Mohammed al Sahaf, Minister of Information. Let us consider some of his recent gems:
  • "The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad," he told reporters gathered on the roof of the ministry of information. "As our leader Saddam Hussein said, 'God is grilling their stomachs in hell.'" (link)
  • "The Americans, they always depend on a method what I call ... stupid, silly."(link)
  • "They are out of Saddam International Airport," al-Sahaf said. "The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed."(link)
  • With a straight face, and his usual smirk, Mr al-Sahaf insisted last week that US forces were nowhere near the airport in Baghdad. The television pictures that proved US control over the airport were to him no more than an "illusion".(link)
  • "Those Iraqi fighters are slapping those American gangsters on the face, and when they flee, they will kick their backsides."(link)
  • "We'll chop up this snake, this boa, which has stretched itself and we'll stretch it even further to chop it up and cut off its head."(link)
  • "They are superpowers of villains. They are superpowers of Al Capone."(link)
  • "They are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks,"(link)
  • "We have imprisoned them inside their tanks," he said, "Baghdad is bracing to pummel the invaders".(link)
  • "We besieged them, and we killed most of them. And I think, we will finish them soon. My feelings, as usual, we will slaughter them all. Those invaders, their tombs will be here in Iraq,"(link)
  • "This is war!" he said, barely hiding his smile. "The Americans have become hysterical. They are starting to shoot at journalists." Despite American troops being no more than a few hundred feet from the hotel, he was still proclaiming victory.(link)
  • Unbelievably, Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf was still insisting the city was "safe, secure and great" as US tanks could be seen nearby. Speaking at a bizarre news conference on the roof of the Palestine Hotel, he said: "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. They're committing suicide at the gates." US marines watching him on TV said: "He's just across the street. We'll go and talk to him."(link)
  • "We have killed most of the infidels, and I think we will finish off the rest soon." "Washington and London," he said, "have thrown their soldiers into the fire." TV announcers pore over dictionaries to look up the meanings of seldom-used Arabic words he uses for insults, such as uluj, a worm that attaches to the body and sucks blood. [...] some of Sahaf's descriptions of Americans and British include "bloodsucking bastards," "sick dogs" and "donkeys." U.S. forces are "sick in their minds" and "losers and fools." President Bush is a "war criminal" and "stupid." British Prime Minister Tony Blair is "a part of the body near the posterior" and "not worth a shoe." U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is a "criminal dog."(link)
  • In briefings by Sahaf, the troops are often referred to as "flocks of sheep doomed to die in Iraq" or as "a snake slithering through the desert".(link)
  • For a second day in a row, the defiant Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, appeared at a roadside news conference to tell reporters that the invaders were being defeated, even though his own ministry was not secure enough for him to preside over.(link)
  • al-Sahaf announced to perhaps 100 journalists that the whole thing was a propaganda exercise, the Americans were no longer in possession of Baghdad airport, that reporters must "check their facts and re-check their facts, that's all I ask you to do." Mercifully, the oil fires, bomb explosions and cordite smoke now obscured the western bank of the river, so fact-checking could no longer be accomplished by looking behind Mr Sahaf's back.(link)
  • Yesterday, when the hotel came under U.S. tank fire, the Iraqi information minister had to admit to the journalists staying there that coalition forces were in the capital. But, smiling, he made it sound like it was all part of Iraq's plan. "We blocked them inside the city. Their rear is blocked," he said in hurried remarks that were a departure from his daily news conference. (link)
  • "There are no American troops in Baghdad. We surrounded them, we killed them, we made them drink poison and taught them a lesson that history will never forget." (link)

Clearly, we cannot let the Iraqis possess a ranter of this caliber, a Wordsmith of Mass Hallucination. We must offer al-Sahaf asylum and bring him to the United States, where he can host his own late-night TV show. Think of what al-Sahaf could do for the U.S. -- imagine what he could tell us about the U.S. economy:
  • "We are still in the midst of an incredible bull market. The current God-ordained economic miracle has companies hiring like mad to try to keep up with the righteous triple-digit growth."
  • "Those who claim to have been laid off are liars, bastards, and leeches. Their bleached bones will litter the trading floors of the stock exchanges like confetti."

Or what about inviting Sahaf to comment on international soccer?:
  • "The criminals and mercenaries of the Brazilian and Argentinian squads quake in fear of the U.S. soccer team's might. The World Cup will be their hell."
  • "The U.S. did not give up a single goal in the last 2 World Cups, on their way to their perfect undefeated record. Those who thought they saw otherwise have fallen victim to illusion and propaganda."

Al-Sahaf belongs on American TV. I think we have the will, and we have the ability, to bring him here. Who's with me?

(For another great article on Sahaf, see Clive's blog here.)

Monday, April 07, 2003

Rationing "Zing"

Trish-Y blogs about the importance of rationing "Zing":
That's why I like to space out my kisses, to ration Zing, to save it for days when I've been really good. Of course this never works, you just end up with a rather cranky guy. But the loss of Zing scares me more than I can say. Is this the life I'll be confined to, slowly reverting to the kiss out of habit, out of reaction? Is it an inevitable demise? Is this what all relationships become - a slow unravelling into a comfortable, lazy day lemonade existence of complaisant habit?

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Middle East Map Game

Test your knowledge of the geography of the Middle East with this interactive map game.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

WUSA Soccer Season Opener: Washington vs. Carolina

Today's match contained one of the funniest sequences I've seen in soccer. Washington's Mia Hamm and Carolina's Tiffany Roberts collided in a hard challenge near the top of the Carolina penalty area, sending them both to the ground. Hamm first appealed to the referee for a foul, then asked Roberts if she was alright. When Roberts said "yes," Hamm started to get up, then dropped and playfully elbowed Roberts in the back, using a stylized move straight out of professional wrestling. Roberts, unphased, reached behind her and grabbed Hamm around the waist in a wrestling move of her own. Then both players burst out laughing. As they got up, the referee approached. Both players, still laughing, smiled at the referee as if to say, "just kidding." No foul was called.

The rest of the match was typical WUSA soccer: fast paced, end-to-end play with plenty of attacking chances on both sides. After Carolina missed a penalty kick wide left, Mia Hamm scored in the 59th minute to give Washington a 2-1 lead on a beautiful left-footed shot from long range into the upper right corner of the goal. Carolina goalkeeper Burke, who had moved to the near post as Hamm charged down the left wing, leaped for the ball but could not quite get there in time. This would prove to be the winning goal for Washington, as a final attack by Carolina got within the Washington penalty area in the closing seconds, but was stopped by the Washington defense. Final score: Washington 2, Carolina 1.

Democracy, Whiskey, and Sexy

"Democracy. Whiskey. And sexy!" According to The New York Times, that was the answer given by an Iraqi man on the street when asked what he thought American troops would bring. Sorry, pal -- you can have some democracy and some whiskey, but I'm afraid we're going to keep the "sexy." We need it back in the States, and our Department of Homeland Sexy won't let us export it.

Giant Bricks Falling From the Sky

Tornado jets will drop non-explosive bombs on Iraq. Guided slabs of concrete will fall from the sky, with the goal of destroying targets such as tanks while minimizing collateral damage. (If they had more of a sense of humor about it, they could drop pianos.) The idea of dropping non-explosive "kinetic weapons'" from airplanes is not new, however. It was done in World War I:
"Bombing did not play much of a role in World War I, though the attempt to build planes capable of carrying large loads did advance aviation technology, particularly toward the end of the war. The earliest bombs used in the war weren’t bombs at all, but thin steel darts called fl├ęchettes, dropped over soldiers in trenches or on enemy aircraft."
(link)
"The first bombers were fairly slow two-person reconnaissance aeroplanes out of which the pilots threw steel arrows, grenades or even stones. Towards the end of the war real bombers, carrying bombs up to 250 kg, were built." (link)

Amusingly, in 1934 a Navy lieutenant named John Edwin Hogg wrote an article titled Is Aerial Warfare Doomed?, in which he argued, based on the poor performance of bombers in WWI, that airplanes would never prove useful in battle. Some choice quotes include:
No aviator entertains the thought that he is going to fly over the enemy anti-aircraft battery in time of war - and live to tell the tale.
[The airplane] is highly vulnerable and cannot be adequately armored. [. . .] In a military sense it offers at best only a hit and run method of fighting. It can take nothing. It can hold nothing. It cannot stay and fight!

Coalition forces in Iraq seem to be doing a pretty good job of flying over Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery and "living to tell the tale." And now they have improved upon and recycled the WWI tactic of dropping stones from the sky.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Mercenary Position

Iraq claims that it is being attacked by American "mercenaries." From Radio Netherlands (emphasis added):
The language used by al-Sahaf is emotional and passionate. When he's really on form, savage invective against the coalition comes flooding out of his mouth. He regularly calls the British and American soldiers 'criminals' and 'mercenaries', 'mass murderers' and 'imbeciles', who are performing outrageous acts of aggression against the Muslims of Iraq.

I would expect for someone in al-Sahaf's position to use "savage invective" against coalition troops. I would expect coalition troops to be labeled "murderers" or "infidels" or even "bringers of distasteful pop music." But where did "mercenaries" come from? I'm not at all clear on what makes "mercenary" an insult in this context. Even if coalition forces did in fact use mercenaries -- and nowhere have I heard any evidence for that weird charge -- what is the relevance? Is he trying to imply that these aren't the "genuine" U.S. and British troops? Or is "mercenaries" an awkward translation that has some other shade of meaning in the original?

The perfect mission statement

Why "Tastes great, less filling" is the perfect mission statement for IT. Via vsbabu

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Alliterative Googlewhacking

Not content with ordinary Googlewhacking, I had to invent Alliterative Googlewhacking. It adds the restriction that both words must start with the same letter. So far I found three:

  • superstring shellack
  • troubador trepanning
  • oenophile Ozymandias

My first Googlewhack

Inspired by the Palace Princess, I found my first Googlewhack. It took me about 20 minutes to come up with nattering scoliosis.

Update: I found 1 more -- "ossifying tumbleweed"

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

OrangeX Citrus Juicer

Some mechanical tools are so beautifully designed, so perfect for their intended use, that they just amaze me every time I use them. My Spyderco pocket knife is one of these, and a more recent addition to my tool collection is the OrangeX Citrus Juicer. Don't get the ugly black one seen in this link -- get the silver one. It is a work of art. I use this for juicing oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Before I got this juicer, I never even particularly liked grapefruit juice (which I had never tasted fresh) , but I thought I'd give it a try. I was instantly converted. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is fantastic. I can't believe how different it tastes from the packaged kind.

It reminds me of how when I was younger I didn't really like tomatoes, because I associated them with the rubbery bland tomatoes I got in cheap restaurants. It took me a while to discover that some tomatoes are really delicious. Now I grow them in my garden and they are one of my favorite summer treats.

Iraq news from Russia?

This page claims to have information about the war in Iraq, based on intercepted radio communications. The source is supposedly Russian Military Intelligence (via Cogita Differenter). As with any fascinating, "too good to be true" discovery of information on the Internet, I started out suspecting a hoax. But this is a very interesting read. It is full of believable-sounding things, and seems to be the work of someone with quite a bit of background knowledge and analytical ability. The writing style feels like the work of a seasoned researcher/analyst.
  • Data is separated from analysis
  • Statements are carefully qualified and sources attributed, to acknowledge where information is limited or possibly in error
  • The analysis contains alternative scenarios that could explain the same data
  • The analysis is stated in an uninvolved, unemotional way when it concerns the war in Iraq, but changes to a more emotional tone when discussing how the "lessons learned" here should apply to Russia. This is a small detail that a hoaxer would probably not think to include.
  • There are interesting details about the nature of the intercepts, such as the intercept of a phone conversation between a journalist and his editor. An average hoaxer probably would not think things through to that level of detail, but this is actually quite a plausible source of information.

Because of the writing style, I would bet that this is authentically the work of a professional analyst and not an average hoaxer. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether writer really believes the material or if it is disinformation.
Documentary filmmaker: "So you see yourself more as a buffet-style intellectual, picking and nibbling until one day you're 38 and managing a Barnes and Noble."
Lisa: "Hey, that' s not gonna happen!"
Filmmaker: "Lisa, I'm afraid you're a dillettante. Pick a path and follow it, or you'll just grow up, slog your way through Mt. Holyoke, and squeeze out babies."

* * *

Bart: "All that's left for me is to become the biggest drunk this town has ever seen."
Homer: "Pfff. Talkin' won't get you there!"

-- The Simpsons

Best Headline

Today's best war-related headline, from the New York Times:
The War in Iraq Turns Ugly. That's What Wars Do.

Satellite photo of Basra, Iraq

Space Imaging has an satellite image of Basra, Iraq this week. Some bombing damage is visible.