November 2003 Archives

Urban Challenge - part endurance battle, part trivia contest

Steve and Michelle Behm, teachers from Las Vegas, were having trouble figuring out the right checkpoints, and at one point in the race, their frustration bubbled over. As they made their way down the Strip, Mrs. Behm screamed out...

Steve and Michelle Behm, teachers from Las Vegas, were having trouble figuring out the right checkpoints, and at one point in the race, their frustration bubbled over. As they made their way down the Strip, Mrs. Behm screamed out to no one in particular, "What is a Mediterranean island and city off of Spain?" From the crowd, someone shouted the answer: "Ibiza. Party capital of the world." Off to Checkpoint 9, a dance club called Ibiza.

Via Slashdot, the New York Times article on Urban Challenge. It's a wonderfully-written article, so go and read it.

Why don't we have answers to these 9/11 questions?

"Why after 730 days do we know so little about what really happened that day?"

The Philadephia Daily News has a comprehensive list of major questions we don't know the answer to - and not just "Where is Osama Bin Laden?" Via Eschaton.

US admits Guantanamo bay is helping the cause of terrorists

Or, possibly, that it's incapable of proving that any of the 660 prisoners in Guantanamo bay are guilty of anything.

"Our interest is in not trying [the prisoners] and letting them out," [Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld] said in a question-and-answer session after a speech to the National Press Club. "Our interest is in - during this global war on terror - keeping them off the streets, and so that's what's taking place."
"We have the apparatus [for trials] arranged, ready, and we have a very fine group of advisers as to how to do it in the event it has to be done," he said. "But for the moment, we don't have any candidates."

(Via Tom Tomorrow.)

Let me get this straight:

  • The US has a whole bunch of alleged terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo bay.
  • It's ready to carry out military trials if necessary, and is confident that they'll be well run.
  • But if anybody goes to trial, they'll be set free. (Presumably because they'll be found innocent.)
  • That would not help the global war on terror.
  • So nobody will go to trial, except maybe the Brits and Australians, because they've been moaning.

Now, it's difficult to reconcile all of these positions. But, if we assume they're all true, then that can mean two possible things:

  • The prisoners are terrorists, but the US can't prove it, so it will have to free them, and they'll go on to commit more acts of terrorism; or
  • The prisoners are innocent of any terrorism charges, but if freed they'll turn to terrorism.

Either way, it's a savage indictment of the US's performance in Guantanamo Bay, and it's particularly amusing that the whistleblower is none other than Rumsfeld himself.

Neil Gaiman on comics

There's more, but I'll quote the bit I particularly like.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came out and all the reviews said, 'They've dumbed down a smart, good comic.' I thought that was really interesting. Not that somebody had dumbed down a comic – because, frankly, they've been doing that since the Flash Gordon movies of the 1940s – but because nobody had ever noticed before.

Read the rest.

Why even bother polling?

"Because of the nature of the unprecedented recall election, the poll does not project a winner or predict how people might vote."

As an aside to a blog entry on Schwarzenegger's recent policy and staffing blunders, Kos mentions a recent poll, with a bigger caveat than the normal "margin of error 3.5, bear that in mind, the guy 2 points ahead isn't statistically significantly in front" sort of thing.

The California recall election is such a freak election that, face it, nobody knows what the poll numbers mean.

So why bother? Well, the poll is a "Time/CNN" poll, so every time it gets mentioned, that's free publicity for Time and CNN. Which makes it reasonable for those two companies to sponsor a poll - and in turn makes it reasonable for, I don't know, Newsweek and MSNBC to put out their own, and it goes on and on for ages, and soon people are talking about meta-data like the poll results rather than candidates' actual policies. Feh.

I'm still happy I don't live in California.

NASA launches another Mars probe

Our resident voice-over guy tries to accumulate as many unhelpful US/Imperial measurements as he can.

Why, in the PR/technical voiceover for the recent Mars probe launch, does the guy insist on referring to distances in, of all things, nautical miles?

I mean, I could vaguely understand the reasons for referring to pounds of thrust if you were really wedded to the idea of Imperial measurements, but, really.

The one and only purpose of this rocket is to go as far away as it can from the sea. Describing how far up it has gone from sea level in terms of nautical miles is like describing the distance between New York and Los Angeles in terms of how many Everests that that would be.

It's just nonsensical. And peope wonder why NASA still uses imperial measurements, despite the documented dangers.

Six Log

Doesn't live at its own .com address. Yes, I know, I haven't taken either. But their name is better than mine.

I knew about Six Log. I wanted to link to it. Before googling for it, I tried, then If I thought it was British, I'd have tried for etc.

OK, I work for a domain name registrar, but surely, I'm not alone?

Why have Mena and Ben Trott not registered (Or at least, if they want to be strict about not using .com for anything other than purely commercial vehicles? Incidentally, this suggests they should register, which also isn't taken either.)

I mean, it's only something like £10 per year if you shop around.

The desperate hunt for missing Weapons of Mass Destruction

If they never existed in the first place, why did the US go to war?

The Observer has a very good article today about the US's hunt for missing weapons of mass destruction, and the bitter wrangles between the multitudes of intelligence agencies about whose fault it is that they haven't been found / never existed in the first place. I found this following excerpt particularly fascinating:

'Rumsfeld set up his own intelligence agency because he didn't like the intelligence he was getting,' said Larry Korb, director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. 'He doesn't like Powell's approach, a typical diplomat, too cautious.'

Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but Colin Powell is a military guy. He's not a diplomat by formation. According to his official biography, he has an honours degree in Geology and an MBA. Not exactly the standard diplomat CV.

The increasingly unescapable conclusion is that biased, politicised intelligence was deliberately prioritised over the established intelligence sources because it was telling Rumsfeld, and therefore Bush and Blair, what they wanted to hear: that there was a reason for going to war with Iraq.

Except that, er, it now appears there wasn't.

I love Perl sometimes

Introducing a new operator: the eager splat.

Larry Wall has just released his latest Apocalypse on redesigning Perl. As well as the beloved old "spaceship operator" (<=>), we now have the "yadda yadda yadda" operator (...) and the "eager splat" (**). There isn't a name, I don't think, for the two new operators <== and ==> but I imagine it's only a matter of time.

Perl has sometimes been described as resembling nothing so much as line noise. Well, Perl 6, to me, looks more and more like ASCII art.

Compare and contrast

Tony Blair wheels out the spin doctors against Clare Short.

Clare Short has threatened to resign from the UK cabinet if the UK attack Iraq without a second UN resolution that authorises the attack, or a UN resolution that describes how the country can be reconstructed. As a result, in almost identical language, and led by Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair's friends and cabinet ministers have expressed "surprise" at her only discovering her principles now.

Clare Short's lengthy period of silence followed by her insistence that enough is enough, and that things cannot continue in the same way, or things will get really, really, bad, cannot, of course, in any shape or form be compared to Bush and Blair's, er, lengthy period of silence followed by, er, er...

Feh. I'm voting LibDem next time, or SSP, depending on who can beat Labour.

Incidentally, Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer reckons Tony Blair isn't getting enough sleep. Worth reading.


I've got spam advertising a coat of arms.

And by that I mean to insult Southerners as well.

Got a spam from some random company offering a coat of arms, or something - it came as HTML mail and Entourage, Microsoft's version of Outlook for the Mac (which therefore, the Mac Business Unit not being entirely staffed by fucktards, doesn't suck that much at all), has been configured not to download anything from the Internet within email.

Anyway, it was offering a Kington coat of arms, and below it said: "We stand behind the authenticity of our Coat of Arms and histories. Over 33 years of research have gone into producing them using ancient books and records from around the world."

Pah. Only Americans would think that 33 years is a long time to have been researching geneology and heraldry.