Saturday, September 21, 2002

I SUPPOSE HE NEEDED SOME VODKA MONEY
More from StrategyPage.com. It seems that some Russian army officers are behind a massive arms smuggling operation. Police found a T-72 tank in a warehouse and, by asking some questions, unravelled what looks to be a truly impressive criminal enterprise. Who was buying the arms? Someone in China.

Damn, I always wanted to fill the gun safe with military grade weapons. I wonder what the guys at the shooting range would say if I showed up with some of these bad boys? But I really don't need any tanks. They get terrible gas milage.

FIFTH COLUMN?
Thanks to James Dunnigan's StrategyPage.com for alerting us to this story. It seems that the Japanese Self Defense Force has discovered deliberate sabotage at a support/maintenance facility at Komaki. Security was such so that no unauthorized personnell could get to the planes, so it has to be an inside job.

Part of a terrorist plot or just a disgruntled employee? Almost certainly it's a disgruntled employee. I doubt some sleeper agent from a murderous cult could have slipped by the background checks. But people get pissed off for the most stupid of reasons, and it happens all of the time.

Friday, September 20, 2002

APS ROUNDUP
The American Physical Society is an organization to promote the study of physics (which I'm only reasonably interested in). They've also found themselves thrust in the role of promoter of critical thinking (which I'm very interested in).

A weekly newsletter that the society publishes reports that the International Space Station isn't being used for research. Not only that, but it really doesn't have any value in public relations either.

Not surprising to me. The main problem is that they relied on the Russians too much. The Russian space-bear isn't what he used to be (heck, he never was what they claimed). NASA has had to put up with delays and outright extortion to get the ISS in the air.

Public relations have got to suffer when the Russkies say that they'll allow boy band members take a ride for $22 million U.S. No wonder no one takes the ISS seriously. This is a real disappointment for those of us who want the exploration of space to continue.

THE GODDESS IS ANGRY
Blog Goddess Natalie Solent is royally pissed, and I mean "pissed" in the American way (ie. really, really angry) as opposed to the English way (ie. drunk off of your ass).

What got her dander up? The North Korean government has admitted to kidnapping innocent civilians to be used as training aids for their spies. The people kidnapped were from South Korea and from Japan.

I'm outraged as well, but I'm hardly surprised. Hey, the North Korean gov is a Communist regime, after all. They're hardly known to be nice people.

GOING SOLO
Last month I wrote a post about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was a television show that aired in the 1960's. Every week secret agents would try and stop nefarious villians from slaughtering innocent people with weapons of mass destruction. The agents were respected by all law enforcement agencies the world over, had jusrisdiction everywhere, and were uninterested in politics.

The show was obviously an idealized vision of the United Nations, which was apparent when one considers the people that worked for the organization. The leader was an unflappable Englishman, keen of mind and focused on the job at hand. His best agents were a team consisting of an American named Napolean Solo and a Russian named Ilya Kuryakin.

I thought of this old TV show when I read this article. It seems that Saddam Hussein, a tyrant who has openly acquired and used weapons of mass destruction (and is seeking more effective versions) has asked the United Nations to stop the U.S. invasion.

We're certainly living in strange and interesting times. But I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if things had turned out differently. A TV show from the 60's is nothing more than entertainment for the masses, but I wish some of it was true. After all, when tyrants threaten the world with WMD's who would you rather have at your back, this guy or these guys?

Thursday, September 19, 2002

IT'S JUST A SCOOTER, DAMMIT!
Much hype was generated before the Segway scooter was unveiled. It was touted as a revolutionary personal transport device that would be so influential whole cities would be rebuilt, but instead it turns out to be an 80 lbs electric scooter.

To be fair, many people that try the device claim that it's fun to ride. But it costs a minimum of $3,000! Heck, that's a pretty good weekend in Vegas. I'd rather spend the money on that kind of fun, thank you very much.

Via the Guardroom is this article about Chicago cops testing the scooter for patrol.

C'mon, now. We're talking about a scooter. What's to keep the neighborhood kids from making off with it if you have to abandone the thing and give chase on foot? AND it can't go over a curb, let alone climb stairs. Does the perp get away if he runs across the street?

The model being tested in Chicago has a $5,000 price tag. Five scooters for the price of one cruiser, except you can't transport prisoners, drunks, evidence or extra officers. Weapons or extra equipment that can be secured in the trunk of the cruiser will have to be left behind by the Scooter Patrol. The top speed of the Segway is 20 km/hour. A moped (those little motorized bicyles with the pedals) has a top speed of 50 km/hour. If the perp has a car or a motorcycle then the best we can hope for is that they see the officer in the rear view and laugh so hard they crash in to something.

There are bicycle patrols in many cities now, but bikes cost $350 or so. 15 officers can be equipped with bicycles for the cost of a single Segway. I'm sure that the Segway could be used to write tickets, or by a security guard making the rounds late at night, but it doesn't seem to have many other uses.

MORE FROM STRATEGYPAGE.COM
An item from the cool gadget file is this item that details a device to translate one language in to another.

So far it can only translate the user's words in to another language, and it can't let the operator know what's being said. That little problem is supposed to be fixed in three years.

Well, heck, where can I get one of those bad boys?

THE START OF A PROUD TRADITION
I was just reading James Dunnigan's website when I came across the following item.....

"New York governor George Pataki has asked the US Navy to name a new surface warship USS New York and give it a key role in the war on terror."

Not a bad idea. We here in the U.S. have many people and places to honor, but I wouldn't mind if they put this one at the top of the "to-do" list.
THE LAND OF KNOCKWURST
So I'm reading Reynold's blog when I click on a link he has that leads to this news item about German anti-Semitism.

Hey, didn't this sort of thinking cause a bit of trouble a while back?

Monday, September 16, 2002

PUT A BURKHA ON UHURA
Another interesting post on Reynold's blog. He says that people are always wondering why there are no Arabs on Star Trek, and he says that this post on Geitner Simmons' blog might answer that question. It seems that Leonard Nimoy is Jewish, and the Vulcan salute is a gesture made during Jewish services.

In all honesty I think that, Hollywood being what it is, Arabs haven't been included simply due to an oversight. The producers of Star Trek have always been dedicated to showing people of all races/creeds/species getting along together. But if I have to rationalize a reason as to why there aren't any Muslims around in the context of the show then I'd have to say that it's because Islam appears to be inherently anti-technology, while Star Trek is very concerned with technology.

This website is an attempt to prove me wrong. It details the significant contributions to science that people of Islam have made. People interested in tracing the advances made might go to the timeline of Muslim scientists, but the "timeline" is arranged in alphabetical order for some reason. Oh, well.

An examination of Muslim scientists finds that there were a great many of them prior to 1400, then a few that emerged after 1800 when Britian conquered the Indian sub-continent. What happened for those lost four centuries? Dunno.

One way to judge the influence of Islam on science is to go to the page that lists prominant Islamic scientists. All well and good, but click on a few of the names and you find that the what we here in the West consider science isn't very well represented. Take Harun Yahya, for example. It looks like this guy has spent his whole career trying to argue evolution out of existence. The fact that it works and has been proved to work time after time doesn't seem to have made an impression.

Okay, the guys who ignore what's in front of them for religious reasons can be ignored themselves. Let's look at a real scientist, someone who really has pushed back the boundries of human ignorance. One such person is Mehdi Golshani, a physicist specializing in partical physics. But there's a problem here, too. Scroll down the page and take a look at Dr. Golshani's bibliography. Along with the papers and books on physics you'll find an amazing amount of work that tries to argue that science isn't anti-Islam. It would appear that a great deal of effort has to be made to keep the savants of Islamic society safe from the criticisms of the clergy.

Some people will probably disagree with me on this, and that's just fine and dandy. I'm just wondering where I can find a personal computer, designed and built by an Islamic country. Or a military jet. Heck, how about an automobile!

Sunday, September 15, 2002

THAT SUMS UP OUR POSITION NICELY
I was just reading Reynold's blog where he suggested that everyone go read William Burton's blog . He has a wonderful post entitled "An American's Statement to the World". Unfortunately his permalinks isn't working, so you'll have to scroll down the page a bit to read it.

It's worth the trouble. Trust me.

TWO MEANINGS FOR ONE WORD
So I'm wandering around the Internet, clicking on links to see where they'll take me, when I come across this blog. Security, huh? Well, let's just look around and see what this bad boy has to say!

Not much. When I think of security I think of guys like these. They say it best in the first line of the web page.....

"The primary mission of the IPD SWAT team is to save lives."

Now that's security! Physical security. The stuff that saves lives. What Qaddsin is talking about is saving.....well, data, I suppose.

It's certainly odd, me saying that. Here I am at my computer, typing words that will be stored on another computer many thousands of miles away. You're sitting at your own computer, and you might be on the other side of the world or you might be across the street from me. Why wouldn't I think that data security is important?

Well, actually I do. I just don't think it's as important as the physical stuff. You're computer gets hacked and you rant and rave and reformat your hard drive. You get shot at and you pee your pants and you pray that you'll be able to take the next breath. There's just no comparison.

So I propose that everyone who says "security" when they mean protecting data refer to it as "computer security". That way we can keep the life-and-death seperate from the merely expensive.

INCORRECT, POLITICALLY THAT IS
So I'm watching CNN's Headline News. One of those little newsbites they have features a man riding a horse, obviously in a rodeo somewhere. The talking head mentions how amazing it is so I start to pay attention. Boy, that guy could ride! I couldn't see how remarkable it was, though. Many people in the rodeo can ride. Maybe it was his big gut. You don't normally see people who are overweight in such extreme physical sports as ridin' and lassoin' and ridin' a buckin' bronco. But when they came back from the commercial they explained just how remarkable it was.

You see, the cowboy was black.

The only thing I could say was "Yeah, so what?" I can't say that I ever thought a person's skin color had anything to do with riding a horse. The history of African Americans in the Old West is well documented, with the Indians calling the black troops "Buffalo Soldiers" because they thought their curly hair resembles a buffalo's mane. There's even ample photographic evidence, so it's hardly a surprise.

My view is that I don't care what race someone is, just like I don't care what religion they belong to or what country they come from. The only thing I care about is what deeds they do to prove if they're a good person or not. That, and whether they take an interest in their personal hygiene.

Still, there are those who will say that I'm a terrible guy. By not noticing the cowboy's race I'm ignoring the contributions that he's making to break down stereotypes and promote a neglected chapter of this nation's history. Either that or I'm turning my back on the real problems that still face African Americans when struggling with a mostly white America. If I make an effort to change the way I look at people and notice that it's not just a cowboy but a black cowboy then I'm a racist for dividing people in to groups based on their skin color (which is what CNN was doing in the first place).

Any way you look at it there are those that will say I'm a sack of crap. I just need to know which bag I need to pour myself in to.