Saturday, April 26, 2008

comment of the day

from marcusA @ pharyngula, a science blog, on a video of an octopus in a finnish zoo opening a container with a screw cap:

a cephalopod opening a jar is cool. but what I really want to see is a creationist opening a book, a rare event in nature.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

fireworks guaranteed

britain's times online gives the onion a run for its money:

'disneyland' comes to baghdad with multi-million pound entertainment park

... mr [llewellyn] werner, chairman of c3, a los angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is pouring millions of dollars into developing the baghdad zoo and entertainment experience, a massive american-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. it is being designed by the firm that developed disneyland. "the people need this kind of positive influence. it’s going to have a huge psychological impact," mr werner said.

the 50-acre (20 hectare) swath of land sits adjacent to the green zone and encompasses baghdad’s existing zoo, which was looted, left without power and abandoned after the american-led invasion in 2003. only 35 of 700 animals survived — some starved, some were stolen and some were killed by iraqis fearing food shortages.

... mr werner, who has been sold a 50-year lease on the site by the mayor of baghdad for an undisclosed sum, says that the time is ripe for the amusement park. "i think people will embrace it. they’ll see it as an opportunity for their children regardless if they’re shia or sunni. they’ll say their kids deserve a place to play and they’ll leave it alone."

indeed, in baghdad, what better time?

round-up of daily violence — monday 21 april 2008

around 8 am, three ieds planted in three cars targeted employees of the cabinet office. the first one was in dora and the employee was driving his own car the bmw when it exploded and he was injured in that incident. the second one targeted another employee who was injured as he was driving his hyundai car with another passenger who was sitting by him. the third one targeted a female employee’s car at alawi neighborhood. she was injured in that incident.

around 10 am, two roadside bombs targeted two cars near the red crescent in mansour neighborhood. no casualties reported.

around 11 am, random clashes took place at rubayee street of zayuna (east baghdad). six people were killed including a woman in that incident.

around 3:20 pm, mortars hit the green zone (iz) in central baghdad. no casualties reported.

around 4 pm, a roadside bomb targeted a kia mini bus near the oil marketing headquarter at zayuna neighborhood (east baghdad). one person was killed and five others were injured in that incident.

around 4 pm, a mortar shell hit mashtal neighborhood (east baghdad). two people were injured in that incident.

around 4 pm, clashes took place at mashtal neighborhood (east baghdad) between the iraqi army and the mahdi army. five people were injured in that clashes.

around 6 and 6:30 pm, two katyusha missiles hit the supreme council headquarters. no casualties reported.

around 6:10 pm, a katyusha missile hit the salhiyah compound (central baghdad). no casualties recorded, but some cars were damaged in that incident.

police found 4 dead bodies in baghdad today: (3) were found in east baghdad (risafa bank); 1 was in zayuna, 1 was in husseiniyah and 1 was in mashtal. while (1) was found in dora.

baghdad green zone blasted under cover of storm

militants bombarded baghdad's green zone with rockets on sunday, taking advantage of the cover of a blinding dust storm to launch one of the heaviest strikes in weeks on the fortified compound.

... iraqi police said eight missiles or mortars had hit the green zone and another 14 fell in other parts of the iraqi capital before nightfall in several quick bursts, killing two people and wounding 20.

... several more missiles were fired late on sunday evening but it was unclear if there were any casualties.

militiamen have fired 700 missiles and mortars over the past month in baghdad, but u.s. forces had said they believed they had reduced the fighters' ability to strike the green zone by occupying the part of the sadr city slum closest to it.

u.s. forces normally respond rapidly to missile firings with helicopter strikes, but those are impossible in dust storms.

quality of life indicators, april 20 2008

iraqi unemployment rate27% to 60% where curfew not in effect
consumer price inflation in 200650%
iraqi children suffering from chronic malnutrition28% in june 2007
percent of professionals who have left iraq since 200340%
iraqi physicians before 2003 invasion34,000
iraqi physicians who have left iraq since 2005 invasion12,000
iraqi physicians murdered since 2003 invasion2,000
pre-war daily hours baghdad homes have electricity16 to 24 hrs
average daily hours baghdad homes have electricity5.6 hrs in may 2007
average daily hours iraqi homes have electricity1 to 2 hrs
number of iraqi homes connected to sewer systems37%
iraqis without access to adequate water supplies70%

scenes from an interrogation

where: not a dark, cold, clammy fetid hold deep in the bowels of a former soviet gulag. nor, for that matter, the bright, panelled, spacious chambers of the hague's international criminal court:

tom: this story was made public by abc a few weeks ago. it claims that you, rice, tenet and others met in the white house to discuss different methods of "enhanced interrogation," is that correct?
ashcroft: [angrily] correct? is what correct? is it correct that this story ran on abc? i don't know that. i don't know anything about it! is it a real story? when was this story, huh? huh?
tom: um, early april, april 9th, i think ...
ashcroft: [interrupting] you think? you think? you don't even know! next question!
tom: the article says that you discussed "whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning"...
ashcroft: i said, next question!

ashcroft: no. no, [my position on torture] doesn't violate the geneva conventions. as for other laws, well, the u.s. is a party to the united nations convention against torture. and that convention, well, when we join a treaty like that we send it to the senate to be ratified, and when the senate ratifies they often add qualifiers, reservations, to the treaty which affect what exactly we follow. now, i don't have a copy of the convention in front of me ...
me: [holding up my copy] i do!

[boisterous applause and whistling from the audience]

would you like to borrow it?

ashcroft: [after a pause] uh, you keep a hold of it. now, as i was saying, i don't have it with me but i'm pretty sure it defines torture as something that leaves lasting scars or physical damage ...
student: liar! you liar!

[the student is shushed by the audience]

ashcroft: so no, waterboarding does not violate international law.

me: first off, mr. ashcroft, i'd like to apologize for the rudeness of some of my fellow students. it was uncalled for — we can disagree civilly, we don't need that.

[round of applause from the audience, and ashcroft smiles]

i have here in my hand two documents. one of them, you know, is the text of the united nations convention against torture, which, point of interest, says nothing about "lasting physical damage" ...

ashcroft: [interrupting] do you have the senate reservations to it?
me: no, i don't. do you happen to know what they are?
ashcroft: [angrily] i don't have them memorized, no. i don't have time to go around memorizing random legal facts. i just don't want these people in the audience to go away saying, "he was wrong, she had the proof right in her hand!" because that's not true. it's a lie. if you don't have the reservations, you don't have anything. now, if you want to bring them another time, we can talk, but ...
me: actually, mr. ashcroft, my question was about this other document.

[laughter and applause]

this other document is a section from the judgment of the tokyo war tribunal. after wwii, the tokyo tribunal was basically the nuremberg trials for japan. many japanese leaders were put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture. and among the tortures listed was the "water treatment," which we nowadays call waterboarding...

ashcroft: [interrupting] this is a speech, not a question. i don't mind, but it's not a question.
me: it will be, sir, just give me a moment. the judgment describes this water treatment, and i quote, "the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach."

one man, yukio asano, was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor by the allies for waterboarding american troops to obtain information. since yukio asano was trying to get information to help defend his country — exactly what you, mr. ashcroft, say is acceptible for americans to do — do you believe that his sentence was unjust?

[boisterous applause and shouts of "good question!"]

ashcroft: [angrily] now, listen here. you're comparing apples and oranges, apples and oranges. we don't do anything like what you described.
me: i'm sorry, i was under the impression that we still use the method of putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water down their throat ...
ashcroft: [interrupting, red-faced, shouting] pouring! pouring! did you hear what she said? "putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water on them." that's not what you said before! read that again, what you said before!
me: sir, other reports of the time say ...
ashcroft: [shouting] read what you said before!

[cries of "answer her fucking question!" from the audience]

read it!

me: [firmly] mr. ashcroft, please answer the question.
ashcroft: [shouting] read it back!
me: "the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach."
ashcroft: [shouting] you hear that? you hear it? "forced!" if you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring ... does this college have an anatomy class? if you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring ...
me: [firmly and loudly] mr. ashcroft, do you believe that yukio asano's sentence was unjust? answer the question. [pause]
ashcroft: [more restrained] it's not a fair question; there's no comparison. next question!

[loud chorus of boos from the audience]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

the force missing all is that is

the latest addition to the garmin nüvi gps custom vehicle icon fleet: a star wars tie fighter: (click to download)

NOTICE: these custom icons that i make freely available are not for resale!

nüvi tie fighter

nüvi tie fighter

nüvi tie fighter

previously posted custom icons include the several star trek shuttlecraft, the 1966 tv batmobile, even more batmobiles, speed racer's mach 5 and the beatles' yellow submarine.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

if escher was a comedian

multiple tiers of reality stacked like a house of cards come crashing down on harried talk show host ken doral:

doral: [disheveled, tense and chainsmoking] ... rock lyrics: do they influence our kids? our topic in two weeks. but, tonight: the elderly.

good evening and welcome to the pre-taped call in show, where we tape all our shows a week in advance. i'm your host ken doral, and uh ... let's try it again! it's really not that hard, 'kay? our topic once again: [gestures to his guest, a kindly eldery man] the elderly. we're — we're taping it now, and it airs next week, 'kay?

so, if you're watching me talk about the eldery, don't call to talk about it, it's too late. instead call to talk about cooking, which is next week's topic, 'kay? if you wanted to talk about the elderly, you should've called last week, when our pet care show was airing, but we were taping the elderly show ... yeah.

okay, so, here we go [taps switchboard] ... hello?

caller #1: hi ken, great show.
doral: thank you, what can i do for you?
caller #1: uh, my dog has a disobedience problem, and uh —
doral: okay, okay, heh ... there you go ... ha! hahaha! okay, that's uh, boo-boo number one! hopefully that'll be our last, 'kay.

ah, look, if you wanted to talk about pet care, you should've called two weeks ago when our show on racism was airing. 'kay, i'm doing a show about the elderly right now, which of course, to people watching means: call in about cooking.

'kay, we'll see if we can ... [taps switchboard] hello?

caller #2: yeah, hi, uh — what's going on? i mean, you're doing a show about pet care, but everyone's talking about racism ...
doral: no ...
caller #2: ... and i don't —
doral: no, 'kay, no no no ...

no, we're not doing a show about pet care, i'm doing a show about the elderly! see, the people calling about racism are watching the show that aired when we were taping the pet show, which is airing now. okay? if they wanted to talk about racism, they should've called three weeks ago, when our "crime in the streets" show aired. 'kay?

it's just ... let's ... think ... before we ...

alright ... alright ... okay [steels self for next caller] here we go ... [taps switchboard] hello?

caller #3: yes, i'd like to talk about my grandma.
doral: [with relief] oh .. oh, alright! yeah, yeah, heh ... 'kay, good ...
caller #3: yeah, well she has this cat that's keeping her up at night and i, uh —
doral: well, sir, sir — can i just say that that that the ... difficulty with sleeping is a common problem [gestures to elderly guest] with the elderly of today.
caller #3: yeah, but i really think the cat is more of the problem. i mean, the cat's rambunctious and —
doral: no, no, no, sir — OBVIOUSLY your elderly grandmother is the problem, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THIS WEEK'S SHOW IS ABOUT!!!
caller #3: yeah, but i'm watching the show right now and —
doral: [explodes] IDIOT! IT'S SIMPLE! LOOK AT THIS! — [leaps from chair, pulls tv monitor into view] IT'S WHAT'S AIRING RIGHT NOW! PET CARE SHOW! LISTEN!
doral: [on the tv monitor, exploding] PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! STOP CALLING ABOUT RACISM! we did that a week ago! look! here! [leaps from chair, pulls tv monitor into view, displaying ... ]
doral: [ ... on the tv monitor, exploding] listen to me, for the last time, "crime in the streets" happened last week! EVERYTHING I'M SAYING HAPPENED LAST WEEK! LOOK! LOOK! HERE! [leaps from chair, pulls tv monitor into view, displaying ... ]
doral: [ ... on the tv monitor, calm, pleasant and undisheveled] ... and that's it for our first show, "crime in the streets". i can't help but think that it would have gone a little better had somebody actually called in, but i guess that's because you won't see me until next week. oh well, as soon as we get the kinks worked out here, i'm sure it'll be a great, great show.

"the pre-taped call in show" was #43 on's list of the 50 greatest comedy sketches of all time.

escher relativity
detail, "relativity", m.c. escher, 1953

Saturday, April 05, 2008

withdrawal symptoms

where most see the recent clash in basra between maliki's u.s.-backed forces and sadr's militiamen as a further slide into quicksand, bob wright @ sees a bright red exit sign:

bob wright: well, let me tell you — get onto why i felt a little more sanguine after this, about the consequences of american withdrawal, or at least a little less concerned about the possibility of chaos engulfing the region if america withdraws. what you saw in this was that, contrary to some stereotypes, actually none of the parties involved are crazy, okay?

maliki did miscalculate a little, but once he got himself into trouble, all of the parties saw that it was in their interest to work out a peaceful solution, and they did it. and they did it without any american help. they did with iranian help. we were not involved in the solution. they worked it out without us, okay?

the only effect we may have had is by doing a little more — helping maliki inflict a little more damage than he would have otherwise. it may have weakened sadr's bargaining position a little, so maybe he got a little worse deal than he would have, but as you yourself said, it's far from clear whether it's better that sadr lose or that he prevail among the shiites. i mean, we don't even — we just don't know. the main thing is that first you get order on the shiite side, then you can proceed to hope for shiite-sunni reconciliation, and as far as the ordering process on the shiite side, i thought they passed the test.

y'know, they worked it out. it's stable, it did not — all hell did not break loose. we had nothing to do with the solution. iran did, and that's just ... what we're stuck with is that iran is going to be the source of, a great source of power in the shiite south, and we insured that by invading iraq, and we gotta live with it.

unfortunately both pride and greed make it extremely unlikely that america will decide to "live with it", which guarantees that we'll continue to overstay our welcome in southern iran iraq ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

all that's missing is the dilithium

the latest additions to the garmin nüvi gps custom vehicle icon fleet: star trek shuttlecraft.

the set of 3d models this line-up is based on comes courtesy of the generous community at foundation3d. only their original series shuttlecraft galileo — which unfortunately wasn't very accurate — needed substantial overhauling.

my rebuild was aided by the massive and fascinating image library at the model builders' reference vault, which includes shocking photos of the original shuttle's sad trailer park existence (much like series star william shatner's fate when the series folded) before it was reportedly purchased and completely restored (again, much like shatner when the franchise came back to life):

trailer park shuttlecraft galileo

all shuttlecraft are available in one convenient download:

NOTICE: these custom icons that i make freely available are not for resale!

original series galileo shuttle:

nüvi shuttlecraft galileo

the next generation type 15 shuttle:

nüvi shuttlecraft type 15

the next generation type 17 shuttle:

nüvi shuttlecraft type 17

the next generation type 6 shuttle:

nüvi shuttlecraft type 6

previously posted custom icons include the tv batmobile, even more batmobiles, speed racer's mach 5 and the beatles' yellow submarine.