Thursday, July 27, 2006

Shangri-La followup

Further to this post, I need to report that I have officially Given Up on this diet. It doesn't work for me. After weeks of losing absolutely zippo, the last straw was when I gained three kilograms on Monday. So I've stopped.

Reading the message boards at Seth's site, it seems that there isn't much success among those who only need to lose a few pounds: the big successes come from very overweight people or people who have a huge problem with food cravings. Allthough I did notice a reduction in appetite, I was obviously making up the calories I wasn't eating, from the oil. Since I notice a similar reduction in appetite if I exercise properly, and since exercising makes me feel good and a lot more energetic anyway, I'm just making sure I get up earlier in the mornings so that I get the exercise out of the way first thing: no more excuses or trying to find the time later in the day. And it feels great to sit down to work, already exercised and showered, and ready to hit the day hard.

More William 0rbit related news

Laurie Mayer, who was one of the Torch Song trilogy, has released her first solo album. It features remixes by William, and some production work by him as well. There are also rumours of a new Strange Cargo album; if true, it would mean three new 0rbit albums in barely a year (although the follow-up to Hello Waveforms, which is called Stereo Odyssey, still has a "4th-6th May" estimated dispatch date from Amazon, I obviously don't have it yet, so perhaps we should see if we get the second one before getting excited about the third).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Gimme Shelter

If a state allows a "non-state militia" (or bunch of terrorists) to operate without hindrance within its territory, it needs to think about the possible consequences of doing that. If France allowed Basque terrorists to operate freely on its southern borders, it wouldn't be surprised to be attacked by Spain if those terrorists crossed the border, killed Spanish troops, and then kidnapped a soldier to be traded for Basque terrorists held in Spanish jails.

But of course normal rules don't apply when you are talking about the Jew of the nations, Israel, who is expected to meekly accept this treatment from Hizbollah, and then hand over convicted criminals so that they can set about murdering more innocent civilians. If Israel does react as any other nation would, it is condemned for the fallout that hits "innocent Lebanese". Well, innocent of direct action against Israel they may be; but they gave Hizbollah seats in the Lebanese parliament, and they did nothing while Hizbollah set up shop following the withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces- forces which were there because Lebanon was unable or unwilling to stop the PLO from using the southern border regions as a base. So the Lebanese had their chance. They made the same mistake again. They allowed murderous thugs to take up residence among them again. They are getting hurt again, when Israel takes action against those who are bombarding half of the country with nearly 2,000 rockets so far. It's hard to feel that they didn't know this would happen. Whether they deserve all of the blame for their plight, or whether they share it with Hizbollah*, is hard to say. That Israel is not to blame, isn't.

* Does it even make sense to expect some consideration for a host country, from a group that wants to destroy an entire nation, and which delights in killing civilians?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush as the Budweiser Beercan Shimstock

There's this great bit in the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where Pirsig tries to assist a friend who has a problem with his shiny new BMW motorcycle. The problem, handlebars that move in the adjustment clamps no matter how tightly the clamps are tightened, is trivial to fix, he says. The handle bars are just a mite too narrow, and need to be shimmed out with some shimstock, or strips of thin metal. By wrapping the strips around the handlebars under the clamps, the handlebar thickness will be increased, and the clamps will be able to grip properly.

Great, says the friend. Shall I call BMW to get some shimstock?

No need, says the author. I happen to have an empty Budweiser beercan here in my workshop. I'll cut a few strips out of it with tinsnips, and you'll have your shimstock!

Oh, says the friend, clearly appalled at the idea. Um, well, actually, you know, the handlebars aren't that bad. I can live with it a bit longer. Maybe I'll take the bike to BMW next week. And he rides off.

So for a certain type of person, the aesthetic of a solution is far more important than whether the solution works. It has to look and feel right. It has to fit in with preconcieved ideas about appropriateness. If it doesn't, then it's as if the solution doesn't really exist. It's not really available: the fact that it works is of theoretical import only.

I think this may be one of the many reasons behind the strangely high level of loathing that many people have for George W Bush in the role of President of the United States of America. Mr Bush has clearly succeeded in being elected President not once, but twice. Yet to many he is not aesthetically appropriate for the role. He would never be cast as the President in a movie. He isn't polished, urbane, sophisticated, or particularly well-spoken. He doesn't have a commanding, magisterial, or regal manner.

Now none of this is in any practical sense, important. It makes no difference to his effectiveness as President. But none of this matters to those who are offended by him, because to them he should never even have been considered. They shout at the red-staters: what were you thinking? He wasn't even an option! He had no business even presenting himself, such is his manifest unsuitability. His candidacy, in practical terms, did not exist! And you idiots went and voted for him! Twice!

It's like they're forced to look at that Budweiser beercan shimstock every time they take the motorcycle out for a spin, and it reminds them that the machine has now been completely degraded and contaminated, its beautiful aesthetics ruined by a bit of inappropriately sourced metal. And the fact that it now works as it was designed to, is just salt in the wound.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ehud Olmert's address of the Knesset

Speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the Knesset on July 17, 2006:

At the outset, I offer condolences, on my behalf and on behalf of the government, the Knesset and the entire nation, to the families of the victims - both civilian and IDF.

I also send best wishes for recovery to the wounded, and a huge embrace for the families of those kidnapped and the boys themselves.

Over the past few weeks, our enemies have challenged the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the safety of its residents - first in the southern sector, then on the northern border, and deeper into the home front.

Israel did not seek these confrontations. On the contrary. We have done a lot to prevent them.

We returned to the borders of the State of Israel, recognized by the entire international community. There were those who misconstrued our desire for peace - for us and our neighbors - as a sign of frailty.

Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to exercise restraint as a sign of weakness. They were wrong! The State of Israel has no territorial conflict, neither on our southern border nor on our northern one.

In these two areas, we are sitting on the recognized international border - both vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon.

We have no intention of interfering in their internal affairs. On the contrary, stability and tranquility in Lebanon, free of the rule of foreign powers, and in the Palestinian Authority, are in Israel’s interest.

We yearn for the day when peace will prevail between us, for the mutual benefit of our peoples from both sides of our common border.

The campaign we are engaged in these days is against the terror organizations operating from Lebanon and Gaza.

These organizations are nothing but “sub-contractors” operating under the inspiration, permission, instigation and financing of the terror-sponsoring and peace-rejecting regimes, on the Axis of Evil which stretches from Tehran to Damascus.

Lebanon has suffered heavily in the past, when it allowed foreign powers to gamble on its fate.

Iran and Syria still continue to meddle, from afar, in the affairs of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, through Hezbollah and the Hamas.

Even if last Wednesday’s criminal attack against an IDF patrol was carried out without the consent of the Lebanese government and without the assistance of its military, this does not absolve it of full responsibility for the attack which emanated from its sovereign territory.

Just as the fact that the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority opposes terrorism against Israel does not relieve him and the Palestinian Authority of their responsibility for the attack carried out from their territory against our soldiers in Kerem Shalom.

They are both fully responsible for the safety of our soldiers who were taken hostage.

Radical, terrorist and violent elements are sabotaging the life of the entire region and placing its stability at risk.

The region in which we live is threatened by these murderous terror groups. It is a regional - as well as global - interest to take control and terminate their activity.

We can all see how the majority of the international community supports our battle against the terror organizations and our efforts to remove this threat of the Middle East.

We intend to do this. We will continue to operate in full force until we achieve this.

On the Palestinian front, we will conduct a tireless battle until terror ceases, Gilad Shalit is returned home safely and the shooting of Qassam missiles stops.

And in Lebanon, we will insist on compliance with the terms stipulated long ago by the international community, as unequivocally expressed only yesterday in the resolution of the 8 leading countries of the world:

The return of the hostages, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev; A complete cease fire; Deployment of the Lebanese army in all of Southern Lebanon; Expulsion of Hizballah from the area, and fulfilment of United Nations Resolution 1559.

We will not suspend our actions. On both fronts we are exercising self-defence in the most basic and essential sense.

In both cases, it is a matter whose importance and significance go far beyond the size of the military units involved. We are at a national moment of truth.

Will we consent to living under the threat of this Axis of Evil or will we mobilize our inner strength and show determination and equanimity?

Our answer is clear to every Israeli, and it echoes today throughout the entire region. We will search every compound, target every terrorist who assists in attacking the citizens of Israel, and destroy every terrorist infrastructure, everywhere.

We will persist until Hizballah and Hamas comply with those basic and decent things required of them by every civilized person.

Israel will not agree to live in the shadow of missiles or rockets against its residents.

Citizens of Israel, There are moments in the life of a nation, when it is compelled to look directly into the face of reality and say: no more! And I say to everyone: no more!

Israel will not be held hostage - not by terror gangs or by a terrorist authority or by any sovereign state.

In the life of a nation there are moments of transcendence, of purification, when political and sectarian disputes which separate us are replaced by a sense of mutual responsibility.

I highly value and appreciate the way the Opposition has been conducting itself in the Knesset these days. The human competition and personal rivalries are dissolved and instead our feeling of mutual responsibility arises, our sense of partnership, and primarily, our eternal love for our people and our land.

This is such a moment! All of us - Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians - now stand as one person, as one nation, subject together to the same hatred and malice, and fighting against it in consensus and partnership.

When missiles are launched at our residents and cities, our answer will be war with all the strength, determination, valor, sacrifice and dedication which characterize this nation.

There is nothing we want more than peace and good neighborly relations - in the east, north and south. We seek peace, we pursue peace and we yearn for peace.

At the same time, there is nothing we reject more than an attempt to harm us and make us give up our right to live here, in our land, in security and peace.

On behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of all the residents of the country, I came here today to announce to the world: we seek neither war nor direct confrontation, but we will not be deterred from them when the need arises.

Only a nation that can defend its freedom truly deserves it. We are entitled to our freedom, and when necessary, we know how to fight for it and defend it.

My fellow Members of Knesset, The strength of the State of Israel relies on the strength and capability of the IDF. This strength is the main guarantee to preserving and defending our lives on this land.

The best economic and human resources of Israeli society were invested in building this strength.

I want to extend from here my heartfelt gratitude - and that of the Government and the people of Israel - to the IDF soldiers and commanders, the security services, the Israel Police, the rescue forces, the firefighters and the other security forces. I wish to read from the “Prayer for the Welfare of Soldiers in the Israel Defence Forces”.

Millions of Jews - in Israel and the world - pray for the safety and success of those who defend our nation, from the Lebanese border to the desert, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Arava, on the land, in the air and on the sea.

“May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, blessed be He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every
trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavour. May He lead our enemies under our soldiers’ sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory”.

The strength of a nation is measured not only by its military capabilities. The strength of a nation is measured by its welfare and morality, its strong and solid economy, its modern and developing market, its export of technologies and products for the most advanced world markets and its ground-breaking academic research.

In all these, each and every one of us has good reason to be proud. But above all, the strength of a nation is measured in times of trial, when the home front becomes the front, when the citizens of the country show admirable fortitude, patience and stamina and allow it to operate against its enemies.

I had the privilege of witnessing these inner strengths in the years when I was Mayor of Jerusalem. For years, our capital was subject to the most murderous terror attacks.

The resilience, patience and restraint of the residents of Jerusalem and the entire citizens of Israel are exemplary.

I recall a conversation with Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York during the terror attacks of September 2001. I called to offer encouragement to him and the residents of New York following the collapse of the Twin Towers, and he replied: “Ehud, if the New Yorkers can withstand it like the Jerusalemites do, then we will defeat terrorism”.

Even in these days, hundreds of thousands of Israelis stand at the front line of fire, like soldiers in the battlefield, fighting for our life and honor.

It is clear to us that the circumstances imposed upon the residents compel us to address their special needs, in all aspects.

The government will lend immediate assistance, everywhere. The government of Israel, under my leadership, derives strength from the stamina of the Israeli public. We are a brave and determined nation.

I am proud today - perhaps more than ever before - to be an Israeli citizen. Thanks to you, our enemies come up against a united nation, which fights together, shoulder to shoulder.

We do not surrender and we do not panic. We believe in the justice of our cause, because there is no battle more just or moral than ours - a battle for the right to a peaceful and normal life, like any other human being, any other nation and any other state.

We fight for the right of children like Omer Pisachov, may his memory be blessed, a 7 year old from Nahariya, who wanted to visit his grandmother Yehudit Itzkovich, may her memory be blessed, and enjoy the Sabbath dinner she prepared.

We fight for the right of citizens like Shmuel Ben-Shimon, may his memory be blessed, a 41 year old from Yokne’am who left every morning for work in the railway garage in Haifa to support his wife Natalie and their small children.

We fight for the right of citizens like Monica Lerer, may her memory be blessed, a 50 year old from Nahariya, to drink coffee on the terrace in the country to which she immigrated from Argentina.

We fight for the right of girls like Ella Abukasis, may her memory be blessed, a 13 year old from Sderot, to play the flute and read books, as Ella enjoyed doing.

We fight for everything that everyone in the enlightened world takes for granted and never imagined that they would have to fight for - the right to a normal life. It is a difficult battle! It may become even more difficult.

It is a painful test, and we may have to bear more suffering. Such a battle is never easy. It is strewn with pain and suffering, sacrifice, and casualties. But, we have no intention of giving up our desire to live a normal life.

We will not apologize for this desire, and we do not need anyone’s approval to defend ourselves. Citizens of Israel, This is a difficult time of trial for all of us. The State of Israel has withstood much more complex trials - and triumphed.

We have always known how to mobilize our inner strength, equanimity, wisdom and patience, in order to overcome our enemies.

Finally, I wish to speak on a more personal note to the families of Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev, the families of the soldiers who are held hostage by the Hamas and Hezbollah.

You, and mainly your children - our children - are always on my mind. Last Wednesday, only five days ago, at 10am, Aviva and Noam Shalit sat in my office.

They, and I, want Gilad home more than anything. While we were discussing the situation, I - and Aviva and Noam - received the painful news that Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev had been kidnapped.

On their departure, Noam and Aviva left a picture of Gilad, taken close to the date of his kidnapping.

Unfortunately, pictures of three boys now stand in my room. Many times during the day I look in their faces, into their eyes, and embrace them in my heart. I do not forget them for one minute.

They were there on our behalf and for our sake. We will do everything and make every effort to bring them home.

We will do this, but not in a pattern that will encourage more kidnappings. There is almost no one who can understand the place you are in.

Even when we do not talk directly, I feel and hear what you want to say to me, and I embrace you with love, understanding and agreement. The place I am in compels me, ultimately, to make fateful decisions, for life, and sometimes even for death.

I have no strength other than that which you have bestowed upon me. I have no courage other than that which G-d, my faith in the justice of our cause and my sense of supreme responsibility, have instilled in me and have prepared me for these fateful moments.

I see before me the kidnapped boys, those standing in the front line and in the line of fire, those brave and determined ones who are fighting today and who could - G-d forbid - be the target of tomorrow’s kidnapping.

We will defend all of them, on behalf of all of them we will fight, and with all of them before our eyes - the civilians in the line of fire, the kidnapped fighters and their families - we will continue, without hesitating, without capitulating and without fretting, until our goals are achieved.

I wish to conclude by reading an extract from Prophet Jeremiah: “Thus said Hashem: a voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping, Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone.

“Thus said Hashem: restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment - the word of Hashem - and they will return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future - the word of Hashem; And your children will return to their land”.

We will triumph!

ISPs are idiots

Well, the ones in America, anyway. They argue that big sites like Google get a "free ride" on the networks, making money from users that they don't share with the ISPs. Some free ride. I'd hate to have Google's monthly bandwidth bill. But as Vint Cerf points out, the real issue is with the users: the ISPs have contracted with the users to provide Internet access to the whole internet, ie any website the user chooses to go to. Now they want to say "Well actually, you can only go to Google and Yahoo if they pay us money to let you." They are breaking the basis of the deal.

And best of all, they are doing it because they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the internet: all this talk about "prioritising streaming video" means they are trying to re-create a video network on the Internet. But that's now how people use video on the Internet:

[I]f you’re paying any attention at all to Tivo and iPod and other fairly modern communication services, you’ll find people downloading things and then listening to or watching them later. And if you are no longer watching the video as its being delivered to your hard drive, then you no longer need for it to be delivered in realtime in a viewable form. The broadband providers seem to be reinventing the cable and satellite television service model for the Internet. What mystifies me about this is that they are therefore going after an already hotly competing-for market with a finite revenue stream. So the best they can do is a share of that market. Their entry is not going to increase the market, in my view.

So they're breaking the contract with their users to go into competition with satellite TV. What a good business decision. Must be a few MBAs involved there.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I tawt I taw a puddy-tat!

John Gruber on the "canaries in the (Mac) coalmine".

I certainly agree with his analysis, and on a personal level, having come back to Mac via Linux, there is no freakin' way I would go back now, not even if Ubuntu is the best Linux install ever. It's not just about the OS (although I still don't see how any PC OS can ever achieve the level of hardware integration that OS X has); it's also about the software. Only those who have never used Photoshop seriously can say that the Gimp is equivalent with a straight face. And what about BBEdit? Plus all those really cool Apple apps, like Garageband, iMovie and iDVD. I'll take Mark Pilgrim's word that iMovie doesn't let you export your edit points; but so what? It's virtually a free app! What do you expect? If you want to be able to re-create your edit from the raw footage on another machine, you're likely to be way above the target audience here. Apple sells real applications (for serious money) that do this; they've been used to edit feature films, so they must be in the ballpark. So pay for them, or put up with the limitations of the free apps that come with your Mac. Don't whine about "closed formats". It's nothing of the sort.

In fact, the more I read of what Mark Pilgrim and Corey Doctorow have written, the more convinced I am that these people are the most atypical Mac users (probably the most atypical anything, to be honest) I know of. They're not canaries. They're the weird birds who were hanging around the canaries when the miners caught them, and they flew away because they got bored. Or neurotic. The mine is safe.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tony's new job

It would appear from this email that was sent to me by Lloyds TSB, that our esteemed PM has already lined up his post-Gordon job:

Dear Customers,

Lloyds TSB Online Bank always look forward for the high security of our clients. Some customers have been receiving an email claiming to be from Lloyds TSB advising them to follow a link to what appear to be a Lloyds TSB web site, where they are prompted to enter their personal Online Banking details. Lloyds TSB is in no way involved with this email and the web site does not belong to us.

Lloyds TSB is proud to announce about our new updated secure system. We updated our new SSL servers to give our customers a better, fast and secure online banking service.

Due to the recent update of the servers, you are requested to please update your account info at the following link.

Please provide all these info completely and correctly otherwise due to security reasons we may have to close your account temporarily.

A. J. Blair
Online Security Admin
Lloyds TSB Online Bank .

I don't really know why I got this, because I don't have a Lloyds account. So I'm not even a single "customer", never mind being "customers". But no doubt Tony knows best.

The next white rap star?

"A Geordie stroke victim woke from a coma speaking like a Jamaican islander.

Lynda Walker spent all 60 years of her life with a thick Geordie accent - but she now suffers from "foreign accent syndrome".

...when she regained consciousness after a stroke in March last year, her family and friends were convinced she sounded like she was speaking Jamaican patois."

Foreign Accent Syndrome