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:: Wednesday, February 1 2006 ::

Oh lord! A story in the BBC alerted me to the fact that a French newspaper has chosen to reproduce the images which caused so many problems in Denmark. According to the BBC,

Under the headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God", France Soir ran a front page cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud.

It shows the Christian deity saying: "Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."

The full set of Danish drawings, some of which depict the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, were printed on the inside pages.

Given that boycotts in the Middle East have hit some Danish firms quite hard, you'd think the French wouldn't have been keen to wade in. But you'd have been wrong.
:: David (10:19 in Michigan, 16:19 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, January 31 2006 ::

We tried to watch the state of the union address. We were not successful. It was too full of pointlessness. Hopefully all of you also managed to avoid it. I've read the transcript, and wasn't overwhelmed there either. Nothing of substance, just more of the same - tax cuts, line item vetos, and personal accounts. The Democrats' response wasn't overwhelming either, though I did like the "No parent makes their child pay the mortgage" comment Gov. Kaine made in regards to Bush's tax cuts.
:: David (22:43 in Michigan, 4:43 in Paris) - Comment


Today is a big day for the United States. In about fifteen minutes Justice Alito will be confirmed as a new supreme court justice. If you thought the laws in the US were conservative before, wait until another few years have passed. Now that everyone has decided that all laws in the US should be interpreted by the Supreme Court, and that the president should only be answerable to the court (and then only occasionally), things will be very interesting for at least a decade or so.

Then, this evening, the State of the Union address will allow the president to lay out his plans for the coming year. Lots of people are speculating that he won't say anything monumental because he's such a lame duck right now, but I wonder if they don't underestimate his hubris. We'll see. The BBC has a great what is the state of the union address? web page, which has lots of interesting tidbits of American history, including what it considers the two most important speeches (the monroe doctrine and the emancipation proclamation (first draft)).

Today is also the last day of Alan Greenspan's tenure as chairman of the federal reserve board. With housing prices possibly going into freefall this summer, we'll have to wait and see what his final legacy is, but he's certainly been influential.

Finally, a sneaky little story that could easily get overwhelmed by all the other news - real wages fell last year. Yes, the average American worker in fact will make less money this year than last. I would probably fall into that category, if it weren't for the four months I didn't work last year!
:: David (11:00 in Michigan, 17:00 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]


Following in the shoes of Stephen Colbert, who recently fixed Canada, I am pleased to report that I have fixed Denmark!

You may remember that yesterday I reported on the ongoing uproar over offensive drawings of the prophet Muhammad which appeared in a Danish newspaper. Well, apparently the Jyllands-Posten noticed that I had stepped into the fray, because later in the day they posted an apology on their website. The CBC reports that Monday evening the following appeared on the website:

"We apologize for the fact that the cartoons undeniably have offended many Muslims," editor in chief Carsten Juste said in a letter on the Jyllands-Posten website Monday night.

"The last thing we want is to offend other people's religious views, precisely because we believe in religious freedom and respect the individual's right to choose his or her own religion."

So there you go. Imagine in your mind balloons falling from the ceiling while 'I Fixed It' flashes on the screen.
:: David (10:44 in Michigan, 16:44 in Paris) - Comment


I knew sooner or later Americans would realize that it's not just the seat in your car that should be heated - it's also the seat on your toilet! Apparently growth in the US has been quite strong for the major Japanese 'heated toilet seat' maker Toto, so they have set up a factory in North America to meet demand.

Now the real question is: are people buying them for the heated seat, or for the integrated bidet?
:: David (8:31 in Michigan, 14:31 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Monday, January 30 2006 ::

Got it. New Job. Computer-y things with an organization that works with small colleges (like Albion, the one I went to). We reached an arrangement, I said yes, and start on Thursday. Woo hoo!
:: David (17:24 in Michigan, 23:24 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[6]


I'm sure you've all heard that Hamas won the Palestinian elections. The BBC has posted a Q & A on the subject. Today Condoleezza Rice is quoted in the New York Times as saying "I've asked why nobody saw it coming" and "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

Regardless of whether or not we expected Hamas to win, the US and the EU (which also seems to have been caught quite flat-footed) should have been prepared to think about all the aid they send to Palestine, rather than this running about yelling 'the sky is falling' that they've been doing since the election results were announced. I find it really hard to believe there wasn't already a contingency plan in place to deal with a (perceived) unfriendly government using the carrot and stick. Right now a lot of folks seem to be leaning very hard towards stick. I do find some promise, at least in the US, in the recent comments of Chuck Hagel, a US senator who seemed, to some degree, to get it. Sen. Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated "I think we're moving in the right direction, working with our allies, working with the United Nations, finding ways, with Hamas, to see where they're going to go here in the next few weeks, to see if there's something that we could do to influence that direction".

The Guardian pointed out the difficulty in convincing Hamas to lay down arms when there was quite clearly a double standard in place as relates to Israel. In an article about two Palestinian children killed by Israel during the week of Palestinian elections, they note "Israeli soldiers killed twice as many Palestinians last week alone - both of them children - as the number of Israelis killed by Hamas all last year". Combining this with Israel's recent statements about continuing its policy of assassinations against Hamas if Hamas continues to be involved in terrorism, things could be very, very ugly.

Of course, the biggest problem here is that Hamas is no longer some random group which happens to have support from a bunch of people. It is now, in a very real way, representative of the Palestinian people as a whole (it probably was before, as well, but now it's official). This means that to shut down aid, ostracize the representatives, and in general refuse to deal with them is not just a dismissal of Hamas, it can now easily be interpreted as a rejection of the Palestinians. It is not difficult to envisage a massive escalation of violence if this is handled wrong.
:: David (11:53 in Michigan, 17:53 in Paris) - Comment


What began as a rather distasteful expression of (choose one: free speech / European racism) has expanded into something of an international incident. Back in September, a newspaper in Denmark chose to print some rather offensive caricatures of the prophet Muhammed. Momentum has been building, and as Newsweek is now reporting, has now reached the point where Libya has closed its Embassy and Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy.

I've been following the story since it broke, and although it is claimed by the Danes to be a question of free speech, I think it more points to a different issue.

Anytime there is free speech, there is also personal responsibility. I could type anything I want here, with no fear of legal repercussions. Ditto for images, etc. I don't, because even if the image or words were not directed at you, dear readers, you would still be offended, and would let me know, either directly or by choosing not to read this blog anymore. This is where things have broken down in Denmark, in my opinion. The question is not 'can we print an offensive picture of a religious figure', but 'why would we want to?' The fact that so many Danes have rushed to support the paper, rather than voting with their wallet against offending (in many cases) their fellow citizens, makes me wonder at their motives.
:: David (11:10 in Michigan, 17:10 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, January 29 2006 ::

Yesterday was uneventful, although we did go to a rather entertaining housewarming party in the evening (wherein it was determined that one could establish 'street cred' by way of 'high fives', and other wine-inspired silliness). Before that we headed over to the mall to pick up Sasha's new glasses and get some work done on the car.

I expect tomorrow the first job offer will come, although who it will be I don't know. Scary stuff. Today looks to be a lazy day, although there may be a shopping trip at some point. Sundays are nice that way - no real rush.
:: David (13:29 in Michigan, 19:29 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


:: Friday, January 27 2006 ::

The Economist on American health care:

With employers limiting their exposure and government unable to fund its commitments, America's health system will unravel—perhaps not this year or next, but soon. Few health experts deny this. Nor do they disagree much on the sources of the problem. Health markets are plagued with poor information, inadequate competition and skewed incentives.

Since most bills are paid by a third party (the insurance company or the government), neither patients nor doctors face real pressure to control costs. Overall, Americans pay only $1 out of every $6 spent on their health care out of their own pockets. Doctors are generally paid for individual services and so have an incentive to perform too many procedures. The huge tax subsidies for employer-purchased health insurance encourage expensive care. Rapacious lawyers and the risk of being sued exacerbate the tendency towards unnecessary “defensive” medicine.

I had never thought of the American health care system and the French health care system in the same breath before, except to point out how much better the French system was. Which isn't entirely fair - the French system has some terribly skewed incentives involving prescription drugs, for example. What I had not realized is that the American system suffers from some of the same problems (in addition to the ones which are uniquely American). While I'm not big on 'sound-byte statistics' I think the one in six stat conveys some very important information.

The article goes on to suggest that the State of the Union address (which will be on Tuesday) will be used to launch some major changes on health care. While the article does make reference to the fact that the current medicare fiasco makes health care reform a dangerous topic for the president, it focuses more on the expected direction the reforms will take - personal responsibility focused plans.

[The shift to consumer-directed health care and greater cost-sharing] will also come at the price of greater inequality. The burden of health spending will be shifted on to those who are sick, and not just because people will pay a greater share of their health costs themselves. High-deductible insurance policies are attractive to the young and healthy. But as these workers leave traditional insurance, the risk pool in other insurance plans will worsen and premiums will rise even faster. The real losers will be poorer workers with chronic illnesses.

American health care has already become more unequal as employers have cut back, and this will continue. The Bush team argue that "fairer" tax treatment will slow cost rises and enable more people to get basic insurance. The opposite is more likely. Bigger tax subsidies for health care are, if anything, likely to raise overall spending. Worse, since most tax breaks benefit richer people most, more tax incentives are likely to bring more inequality. They will also reduce tax revenue and worsen the budget mess.

Mr Bush's health-care philosophy has a certain political appeal. It suggests incremental change rather than a comprehensive solution. It reinforces existing industry trends. And it promises to be pain-free. Unfortunately, it will not work. The Bush agenda may speed the reform of American health care, but only by hastening the day the current system falls apart.

Time and again, when looking at tax policies, the fact that, for example, deductions have more effect the more one spends is overlooked. Consider two families, one which earns a very low income, the other a very high income. Clearly the benefits of any policy should either be felt equally by the two families, or, if you feel a more progressive system is fairer, the poor family should benefit more from the system. But what will happen, inevitably, is that the rich family will spend much more on much higher quality care, and therefore receive a much bigger write off on their tax bill. The poor family, unable to spend as much for care, will receive a much lower tax benefit.

So, if you do watch the state of the union (I find I really can't watch the current president speak), keep this in mind. And if the Economist is right, and he does talk about health care, ask yourself where the benefits will go, and whether it will fix the system, or just shuffle the parts around.
:: David (15:50 in Michigan, 21:50 in Paris) - Comment


A few days ago A & L Daily pointed me to an article on the new book by Bernard-Henri Lévy, titled American Vertigo : Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville. The article opens:

French celebrity intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy has certain things he wants to say to America, and he wouldn't mind saying them on The Daily Show. "Jon Stewart for me is the best," he says. "There is nothing equivalent in France. I often read that in America there is nothing similar to BHL. So it could be a good combination."
Well, we had our chance to find out this evening, as The Daily Show hosted... guess who... Bernard-Henri Lévy. It was quite a bit of fun. I suspect I shall have to read the book.
:: David (1:12 in Michigan, 7:12 in Paris) - Comment


Well today (or yesterday, I suppose) was something of a laugh riot - I had a two and a half hour interview with the folks who are my current 'most likely to offer' candidates (or, actually, I suppose my 'most likely to offer first' candidates). The high point of the interview was when I was asked to demonstrate that I could explain a complex subject to a group of people who knew very little about the subject. They were referring to technology, but really, there's very little likelihood that a group like that could pretend to not know tech, so I said 'OK - I'll teach you about pensions in Switzerland'. And for the next five minutes, me and my dry erase board taught them all about the three basic elements of the Swiss pension system. It seems to have worked, as they are calling (have called) most of my references (they asked for a fourth, and I've a terrible feeling he's down with the flu, which will necessitate finding a fifth) and seem to be more or less set to make an offer. I'm wary of the offer stage - I did fine the last time I actually had to negotiate a higher salary, but it's been a very, very long time (nine years, in fact). We'll just see what happens.
:: David (0:48 in Michigan, 6:48 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, January 26 2006 ::

This people, is what we call Democracy: the BBC is reporting that Hamas has won the Palestinian elections, with one official suggesting they had won as many as 80 of the 132 seats. It goes without saying that the various interested parties are a little taken aback. In most cases this has taken the form of calls for Hamas to renounce violence. Fatah, the party of Mahmoud Abbas and the party everyone had hoped would win (well, not everyone, obviously, but the US, EU, and Israel) has said they won't form a coalition government with Hamas. The BBC quotes one senior official as saying "Hamas has to take up its responsibilities. Fatah will act as a responsible opposition."

Ha'aretz, an Israeli newspaper, has a nice little question for its readers along the side of its home page. It says does Hamas still want you dead? The article is actually much more nuanced than the title might sounds:

There was a time, starting with Hamas' founding at the very outset of the first Intifada, when it was no problem to know where you stood with them. They wanted you dead and/or gone from here. They had decided that we were all either from Russia or America, and we could all go back there now, thank you very much.


Oddly, the only moderating influence that seems to have consistently worked on Hamas is Palestinian public opinion.

The group has entered politics, and even for those unafraid of a martyr's death, there is little more terrifying for a politician than his own constituents.

For those who would like to think the election was rigged, our very own Jimmy Carter and the UN team have said it was a well-administered election. So no outs there.

CNN is reporting that "The results of the election were being closely monitored by the United States and European Union, both of which have threatened to cut aid if Hamas becomes part of the government." Which would be quite an interesting thing - I'm not sure putting a group in power which has shown itself to be members of the 'by any means necessary' camp, and then cutting off most of its non-violent 'means' is a great idea....
:: David (7:29 in Michigan, 13:29 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, January 25 2006 ::

OK - I know this is weird, but does anyone else see the parallels between the reaction to giving maps to potential illegal migrants, and giving condoms or teaching sex ed. to kids in schools? As an example, take the quote:

The only thing we are trying to do is warn them of the risks they face... so they don't die
I cut out the phrase "and where to get water" so the quote would be more ambiguous. In both cases there is very little question that people are going to do it, regardless of the information or equipment they have. And in both cases, providing information or equipment is seen as encouraging the action:
It is not helpful for anyone, no matter how well intended they might be, to produce road maps that lead aliens into the desolate and dangerous areas along the border, and potentially invite criminal activity, human exploitation and personal risk
Says a spokesman for the US homeland security department.

I myself find it very difficult to believe that having a map is going to make the difference to someone who might want to come to the US. It would seem things like leaving everything you know behind to go to an unknown land where you don't speak the language, knowing you will be a fugitive from the law, would carry a lot more weight than a map. But who knows?
:: David (17:18 in Michigan, 23:18 in Paris) - Comment


Ah, data migration! One of my favourite tasks in the whole world! Nothing quite like copying the entire contents of one hard drive to another hard drive! It's fun fun fun, and let's not forget speedy! According to the 'Moving...' dialogue next to the window I'm typing in, I have 111 minutes left. Of course, when I look again that's 101, and then 106.

The cause of all this excitement is a new hard drive which arrived while I was talking to Jason (in Egypt). It is intended to replace a noisy and somewhat cranky hard drive which houses all my music. When it isn't eating my music, instead. The new drive is so quiet it's a little disturbing.

Ah! I see we now have 124 minutes remaining...

I decided that since the primary reason I have so many external hard drives is to back things up, having a drive I didn't trust didn't really make a lot of sense. So now I'll have one I trust. Just as soon as it finishes. Which will be in 97... 107... 97 minutes.
:: David (15:20 in Michigan, 21:20 in Paris) - Comment


So it seems in addition to listening to our phone conversations, they're reading our mail:

Grant Goodman, an 81-year-old retired history professor, drew attention to the policy after a letter he received from a colleague in the Philippines was opened and resealed by Customs and Border Protection, and only then sent on to him.
I thought this might be the case, as some of our mail arriving from France has been opened and closed with tape. I've always expected it, because it was common practice in Japan. I just chalked it up to racism there. Here, I guess we call it 'the war on terror'
:: David (12:53 in Michigan, 18:53 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Trapped like a rat. I got exploring on Expedia, and realized how totally isolated I am here in the midwest. I am so far from anything it isn't even amusing.

That said, I'm starting to think I should explore the Southwest. I hate heat, but I like cool native American stuff. I was also looking a little further south, at Peru. But for the moment, trapped.
:: David (0:17 in Michigan, 6:17 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Tuesday, January 24 2006 ::

Exhibit A on why the US is completely screwed up: today an 8-year-old brought a gun to his day care facility and (it looks like accidentally) shot a little girl in the arm. This, by itself, is messed up. But what did one of the parents have to say about it?

"I'm a little concerned, of course, I'm just a little flustered right now, and nervous." Jackie Tazwell, who came to pick up her child at the center, told Washington-area television stations. "But things like this happen. It's a blessing that the little girl is OK."
"things like this happen"?!?! Things like this only happen in a country which has completely lost control of its ability to regulate firearms.
:: David (16:31 in Michigan, 22:31 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]


According to the New York Times, those two networks you can never tell apart anyway, WB and UPN, are going to merge in September, bringing with them the best of their lineup to a network to be called CW (CBS and Warner). The new network will have 30 hours of programming, making it a direct competitor with the traditional big networks. The lineup will be directed at the 18-34 demographic (no surprise), and I'd imagine they'll do very well for themselves.
:: David (15:36 in Michigan, 21:36 in Paris) - Comment


A successful morning - I had a phone interview with Misty's company, which went well enough for them to invite me to their offices. So Thursday morning I'll be heading over to meet everyone, and hopefully get myself a job. I'm still waiting on the salary details, as the low end of their range is what I made at Ford, straight out of college. That said, Ford is skirting bankruptcy, so what does that say about their salaries? Ah well.

After the interview, my sister will be in town, and we'll do lunch or something. It'll be nice to have some of my family visit, as right now Rob is the only one who's been to my place.

In other family news, my mom's brother passed away yesterday, so she is headed down south to go to the funeral. I didn't know him that well, although we met on a few occasions when I was younger. It wasn't a complete surprise, but even when you see it coming it's not nice.
:: David (14:43 in Michigan, 20:43 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, January 23 2006 ::

Well, the Canadian election results are more or less in, and it looks like a solid conservative win, though they do not have anywhere near an outright majority. My big question for the night, though, comes from the CBC results page I linked above. On it, all of the abbreviations for the various political parties are listed. Like 'LIB' for 'Liberal Party of Canada' and 'NDP' for 'New Democratic Party of Canada'. Oh - and 'MP' for the 'Marijuana Party'. No kidding.
:: David (23:56 in Michigan, 5:56 in Paris) - Comment


I had an interview this morning with a company south of town, for an IT position. It would be an interesting job, challenging, I think, and with lots of room for growth. I'm a little concerned the salary won't be there, but I'll have to wait and see if they make an offer. I think they will, as I felt the interview went extremely well.

Tomorrow I have another interview, this time with Misty's old organization. I have no idea what to expect, but I'm excited to have the chance to talk to them, as I think it would be a good job, with lots of new stuff to learn. We'll see how it goes. Unlike today's interview, this one will be a phone interview, as some of the folks are in another state. I don't know how I do on phone interviews, as I generally don't do them. That said, I generally don't do interviews - I was saying to Sasha today that I think three will be the most interviews I've ever done. And that assumes that I will have a job at the end of the day - otherwise who knows how many I'll have to do? Ack!
:: David (13:33 in Michigan, 19:33 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Earlier I had posted that I had not seen a similar outpouring for Jill Carroll, the American hostage in Iraq, as I had for the French hostages last year. Still true, but this morning I passed a gas station with the phrase 'pray for Jill Carroll' on their sign out front, so obviously some folks are showing their support.
:: David (13:27 in Michigan, 19:27 in Paris) - Comment


A & L Daily pointed me to an article by Michael Mandelbaum, an unapologetic patriot who wrote The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the Twenty-First Century, from which the article is adapted.

The premise of the article is very straightforward - every other empire's power was checked by the 'rest of the world' (being other military powers of the time). The reason the US isn't in that situation is because the rest of the world likes us running things. All that noise from the international chattering class is simply the sound of a healthy Democracy.

I must admit to being a little confused about exactly what Mr. Mandelbaum expects the rest of the world to do. Send an army, perhaps? Thousands or millions of deaths to invade a sovereign nation? I think Mr. Mandelbaum has missed what the rest of the world objects to.
:: David (9:00 in Michigan, 15:00 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, January 22 2006 ::

I was going to mention it on Saturday, but I couldn't, because the site was down: on Friday we had what can only be called a TV marathon. We watched last week's 'SciFi Friday' lineup (call it 2 hours without commercials), then headed over to Kevin's to take in this week's episodes (3 hours, with commercials). Before that, an episode of Smallville, some random anime, the Daily Show and Colbert Report from Thursday, and the second episode of Beauty and the Geek (another three and a half hours or so). Holy Cow.
:: David (13:53 in Michigan, 19:53 in Paris) - Comment


Lots of random reading going on this weekend, and I thought I would share the list, so you all could buy them and Amazon could give me money (or just so you could know what I'm reading!)

I started off reading Villette by Charlotte Bronte, but it was creeping me out, so I switched to A Song of Stone by Iain Banks. Mistake. This is about as dark as his books get, and after The Wasp Factory I'd have said his books couldn't get any darker. So I put both of those on hold to read something a little more fun, Neil Gaiman's latest, Anansi Boys. This is in the style of American Gods, but slightly less obscure. I plowed through it in the course of an afternoon, and then switched to some serious fluff: Avalon High by Meg Cabot. Actaully, this wasn't quite as fluffy as you might expect (well, as I expected), in that it tells the Arthur story, which isn't always that light and fluffy, actually. Any book which references Le Morte D' Arthur can't be all light and fluffy, right? I'm a little concerned what Sasha's going to think, as the main character's parents are medieval scholars. We'll see.

In the not-too-distant future, assuming UPS loves me, I'll be reading Wine and War : The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, which tells the story of French winemakers during World War II.
:: David (13:48 in Michigan, 19:48 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]


A little difficulty with web access yesterday - I'm still not sure what the problem was, though it may have been a transatlantic cable (the site is hosted in Europe). Ah well.
:: David (13:30 in Michigan, 19:30 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, January 20 2006 ::

In the 'that's just stupid' departmnet, the US has managed to get its beef banned from Japan again, roughly a month after Japan partially lifted a ban which dated from 2003. Apparently some bits that shouldn't be in there were in there (CNN is reporting a spine), and Japan said 'no'. Reports indicate a firm in New York was responsible, and the US Agriculture Secretary said they would not be exporting to Japan in the future. According to the CNN article,

Before the ban, Japan was the most lucrative market in the world for American beef, importing than $1.7 billion worth in 2003, according to the U.S. government.
The article notes that US producers had said that the obvious solution to make Japan happy, checking every cow for BSE, was too expensive. I wonder if that will continue to be true after they sit another year out of a very lucrative market?
:: David (11:26 in Michigan, 17:26 in Paris) - Comment


After all that crazy pressure, it looks like Japan is just going to give up and let a woman become emporer. Or Empress? Whatever.
:: David (3:36 in Michigan, 9:36 in Paris) - Comment


You may be aware a young American woman is being held hostage in Iraq. It seems she's from right here in Ann Arbor, or at least grew up here. She's young, too - graduated college in '99, that would make her... twenty-seven-ish?

In a little nod to my previous life, I would point out that Florence Aubenas called for her release in a statement on Al-Jazeera.

One of the things I was struck by, living in France while Florence and Hussein were hostages, was the outpouring of public support, in visible ways - billboards, posters, TV ads (the national news had a 'Florence and Husseing have been hostages for X days' every night, to remind you). I miss that. Maybe I've missed it, but I just haven't seen the same level of public participation here. Back when I used to ride the train past posters put up in support of the hostages, it made me proud to be nearly French.

So, all that said, kudos to Arbor Update, for putting the word out there.
:: David (2:54 in Michigan, 8:54 in Paris) - Comment


Rumour, perhaps even legend, has it that Samuel L. Jackson is doing a movie called Snakes on a Plane in 2006. Wired magazine alerted me to it. So I searched. And I found the blog of a guy who quite nearly worked on the film. Who writes funny (if somewhat vulgar) stuff.
:: David (2:23 in Michigan, 8:23 in Paris) - Comment


In addition to being quite large, my laptop has a little difficulty with heat. It doesn't like it. It doesn't really understand it very well. It doesn't realize that if the temperature is rising, and continues to do so, it will become very very hot. So, because it doesn't notice the 'rising' portion of the equation, when it notices the 'very very hot' it tends to panic. And shut itself off. Without warning. This is why if you ever come to my house you will note that my computer is generally raised off the ground, or being held up in some way so the heat has somewhere to go.

This evening, despite the fact that I am usually quite good about it, I put the computer down with nothing to raise it off the ground, and proceeded to start working on my Important Project. Needless to say, after an hour, it died, taking my notes and document changes with it. Grrr.
:: David (2:07 in Michigan, 8:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[6]


:: Thursday, January 19 2006 ::

Busy busy day today! The place Misty works called me this morning, to ask why I hadn't responded to their email asking about an interview, to which I responded 'uh oh'. I hadn't updated the email address on the resume, so they sent it to an account I don't check. Fun. Then Sasha's friend Dimitri came over to get some help with his web page, and while he was here another place called about an interview. I didn't remember applying, so I looked them up. As near as I can tell it's either a foundation that helps teens, or a manufacturer of shot (used in shotgun ammunition). Quite a spread. Then in the afternoon Nikki dropped by to borrow a CD burner we had lying about. Now it's evening, and we're sitting around reading. Ordinarily Thursday night we head over to Kevin's for our fix of TV and World of Warcraft, but Sasha wasn't feeling up to it, so we stayed in.
:: David (19:25 in Michigan, 1:25 in Paris) - Comment


Say what you will about the BBC, it has to be admitted that having enough resources to do in-depth coverage is often a very good thing. Witness their Muslims in Europe webpage, with a column devoted to life of French Muslims, explanations of the various head-covering options, etc. I suspect I will look in vain for this section over at CNN, despite the fact that a 'Muslims in the US' section might be a very good idea.
:: David (8:54 in Michigan, 14:54 in Paris) - Comment


CNN is reporting that "al Qaeda's chemical weapons expert was 'in the vicinity' when CIA airstrikes last week hit a dinner gathering believed to include terrorists in a Pakistani mountain village." The story later notes "Pakistani officials have said that 'four or five' foreign fighters were killed in the strike, along with 18 civilians, including five children and five women."

Was it worth it? I can't answer that question. But I certainly know that there is a limit to the number of innocent civilians I want my government to kill, even if they get the 'bad guy'. Some things just aren't worth it, and when you start saying they are, you go down a very slippery slope....
:: David (2:12 in Michigan, 8:12 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, January 18 2006 ::

You may ask yourself - how do you lose a 38 ton sculpture?
:: David (21:33 in Michigan, 3:33 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Well, today was not the best day I've had in a while. I dropped Sasha off at work and headed down to get some cold medicine and a new toy for my computer, and en route my tire blew. I pulled over in a nice safe spot and loosened the lugnuts, jacked up the car, and... couldn't get the tire off. I fought with it for perhaps half an hour, kicking and wiggling and somesuch (all the while freezin' my butt off in the snow and wind). I finally gave up and called a towtruck. Waited some more. A passing cop stopped and asked what was up, I told him, and he called me a (much closer) towtruck. Waited some more. The tow truck showed up, gave the tire a few good whacks with a ball-peen hammer, and viola! Off it came. So I paid him (happily, as my car was now road-worthy) and headed off to get a new tire. In the end it took around three hours and cost nearly two hundred dollars, but the car is happy, aligned, and rearin' to go. Now we'll see what breaks next....
:: David (16:52 in Michigan, 22:52 in Paris) - Comment


MSNBC is reporting that the US Army will offer up to ninety thousand dollars to soldiers who re-enlist, and will double its maximum sign-up bonus.

The increased bonuses are a response to tepid enlistment last year, which fell almost ten percent short of goals.

These bonuses are yet another endorsement of the paper written by Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and former assistant secretary of commerce Linda Bilmes, which suggested the cost of the Iraq war will be between one and two trillion dollars (you can read a summary of the paper in the LA Times). You may remember early on heads rolled after someone suggested it would cost 200 billion dollars, and the administration insisted the number would be much lower. Clearly someone forgot to carry the one, or left a zero off, or both.
:: David (16:44 in Michigan, 22:44 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, January 17 2006 ::

A little blurb in the Economist caught my eye today, concerning the fact that Mexico and several central American countries had a little get-together earlier in the week to forge a common response to the bill which recently passed the US house of representatives which would, among other things, build a wall between the US and Mexico, and make being in the country illegally a felony. I was able to dig up a story on CNN, although it took me several iterations of keywords on google's UK news site to find it.

As someone who travels abroad a lot, my ideal world would have no border controls. Lots of people don't like that, for lots of reasons, but I think it would do everyone a lot of good - especially the US, which can't really complain that the immigrants are stealing all our public benefits (the usual cry in the UK) when there aren't really any public benefits to steal. What are we going to do? Deny them health insurance? Oh - wait - we already do that to some 45,000,000 American citizens....
:: David (23:52 in Michigan, 5:52 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


Niall Ferguson is spouting more crap. The thing I wonder is, does anyone take him seriously, and if they do, why? Of course, in general my opinion of the nutcases who shoot their mouth off about the middle east is fairly low - even the people who should know better often seem ready to let the most insane things come out of their mouth. Here's a start - if an 'expert' starts talking about the middle east, especially in the mainstream Western media, in general, assume he or she is wrong.
:: David (22:46 in Michigan, 4:46 in Paris) - Comment


Today, January 17th, 2006, is the 300th birthday of Ben Franklin. To paraphrase one news source, 'the hagiographies are out in force' to celebrate one of the elder statemen of the United States.

Ben Franklin also had a special relationship with France, being one of three people sent in 1776 to seek aid for the United States, and becoming by all accounts a popular figure of the time. His statue sits overlooking the eiffel tower, next to a street bearing his name.

I am a big fan of his, mostly because I appreciate the rather large manner in which he lived. An article in the Philidelphia Inquirer last week reminded me of some of his better turns of phrase:

[Franklin] counseled in a famous 1745 letter that a man should "prefer old women to young ones" for lovemaking? (Two of his famous reasons: "[R]egarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one," and "They are so grateful !!")
His views on slavery I was less aware of, and unfortunately they appear to inspire less amusement and admiration, though one must confess he was merely a product of his time.

Regardless, an iconic figure, and certainly one of the more interesting of the period. Happy Birthday Ben!
:: David (12:55 in Michigan, 18:55 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, January 16 2006 ::

A work day, today - I took the car for its semi-annual oil change (the place I went had a record of my car, and in 1997 it had 60,000 miles on it, in 2003 it had 111,000 miles on it, and today: 119,000 - not really a heavy driver, me). Sasha is feeling under the weather, so I went shopping for juice and drugs. And I worked, a lot, on a computer model of Norway's invalidity pensions. I finished earlier than I usually do, so I think I'll try to turn in at a reasonable hour and catch up on my sleep.

I also acquired a new toy - a little device that lets me hook up my external USB hard drives directly to the network. It seems to be working well so far - I've played some movies over the connection and it all seems to be working fine. It's nice to have a drive I can access from anywhere in the house, because I have discovered I am most productive in the bedroom (insert joke here), so I have spent most days in bed, programming fiercely. I think I'm going to have bedsores before the project is done. Just another reason not to work from home.
:: David (22:21 in Michigan, 4:21 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, January 15 2006 ::

This young woman has too much time on her hands. Even if you can't read it (it's in French), you can see it. Apparently she made a New Year's Resolution to handwrite all her blog entries. I'm impressed. If slightly scared. I wonder if I had a tablet PC with handwriting if I would do this? I doubt it.
:: David (22:54 in Michigan, 4:54 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]


I have hit my limit on social networking.

I have thought, for some time, that there needs to be a social networking brokerage, some kind of centralized place that manages all those connections you have. This was originally because I am a geek, and write my own software. But now it's more. I've just realized that I have friends on Yahoo 360, Livejournal, blogger, myspace, bebo, and countless other services, all of which want to provide me with a blog, and lock me in to their social club. Ack!
:: David (22:49 in Michigan, 4:49 in Paris) - Comment


There's an interesting article in Wired about anonymity, and whether or not it is a good thing. The author points out some interesting things:

Historically, accountability has been tied to identity, but there's no reason why it has to be so. My name doesn't have to be on my credit card. I could have an anonymous photo ID that proved I was of legal drinking age. There's no reason for my e-mail address to be related to my legal name.
All of these are true, and I find it quite interesting that I have never thought of it before. A photo card which says 'over the age of consent' is the only really necessary ID most people should be able to ask you for. Does the picture match? Is it stamped with a hologram or some other feature which tells people it isn't a cheap copy? Then OK - here's your wine! Ditto the credit card - in fact, a credit card would be much more secure if it had a picture instead of a name.
:: David (20:38 in Michigan, 2:38 in Paris) - Comment


Chile has elected its first female president, Michelle Bachelet, according to the BBC. Soon-to-be president Bachelet represents another South American country gone to the leftists, although in this case it is a continuation, as her party has governed Chile since 1990. Based on this, I don't think we can expect too much of a change in Chilean politics.

Contrast this with France, where the left have apparently found someone interesting to put forward. According to The Economist, Ségolène Royal is polling higher than Nicolas Sarkozy, a feat I never thought to see. Ms. Royal, who apparently went to Chile to support Ms. Bachelet, might be a chance for the left to take power. According to the Economist, however, they aren't too keen on letting that happen:

For months, as her poll ratings have climbed, Socialist heavyweights have queued up to dismiss the president of the Poitou-Charentes region as a media mirage. But the more they write her off, the more her popularity grows. In one poll for Le Figaro, she beat not only Bernard Kouchner, the ever-popular humanitarian doctor, but even Nicolas Sarkozy, the centre-right favourite and head of the ruling UMP party. As a presidential candidate for the left, two other new polls put her firmly as top choice.
It would be quite interesting to see France head to the left, although whether it would be good for the country is a question I can't answer.
:: David (17:45 in Michigan, 23:45 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]


Is Democracy, as a form of government, a failure?

I've been considering the question ever since the California elections. At that time, it was pointed out that the constitution in California changed pretty regularly, and that often the changes were not very well thought out. In addition, often it was the media and special interest groups that really swayed the vote, rather than any sort of pie-in-the-sky concept of democracy where each person thought the issue through carefully and voted their conscience.

I'm not saying, for example, that voting is bad, or that 'the people' need always be wrong. I am merely suggesting that the concept of direct democracy, in an age of advertising, might be fallacious, and we have achieved as good a form of government as we're going to get in the form of representatives, periodically corrupt, making the decisions for us.
:: David (16:29 in Michigan, 22:29 in Paris) - Comment


I updated Saturday's post on the hybrid tax credits with new information I found at autoblog. If anything, I'm even more confused than I was before - it looks like rather than counting by model, the tax credit counts by manufacturer? I don't know - it's all crazy and confusing, regardless.
:: David (11:55 in Michigan, 17:55 in Paris) - Comment


The New York Times has an article today about UNESCO World Heritage sites, which brings to light the question of whether or not the program is good for preservation. As someone who uses the list as a travel guide, the fact that UNESCO seems not to have considered the tourism aspect gives me great pause....
:: David (11:16 in Michigan, 17:16 in Paris) - Comment


:: Saturday, January 14 2006 ::

The BBC is reporting that four years ago the UK was declared free of foot and mouth disease. The site contains a timeline of the events, and tries to put it all into context.

I remember the foot and mouth stuff from the UK quite well, as I made the mistake of biking across Northern England while it was all going on. Lots of checkpoints, warnings, and closed areas. The tourist office in one village took about a half hour to discuss how inept the government had been in dealing with the problem, while telling me I might as well skip a major swath of the stuff I had planned to see. I biked for most of the day to see a stone circle, only to find it taped off and padlocked shut. Of course, this was early September 2001, and other events soon overshadowed the UK crisis.

:: David (13:41 in Michigan, 19:41 in Paris) - Comment


John Snow is not very helpful. Of course, it comes as no surprise that the Bush administration can't craft environmental legislation to save its life, but the new tax credit for purchasing a hybrid vehicle is a particularly fine example of bad tax policy. Autoblog has all the details, and point out the biggest fault early in the article:

The law uses a two-tiered formula that considers both relative fuel economy and the total amount of fuel saved -- a system that favors large vehicles.
Hm. So let me get this straight - GM finally rolls out some hybrids, and they're all SUVs, and suddenly a tax credit appears which favors heavy vehicles. Hm. Things aren't all bad - the Prius does very well on the tax credit, according to some estimates I saw. Nevertheless, wouldn't encouraging fuel efficient vehicles make a whole lot more sense?

Oh - and for that final kick in the teeth, the credit is only full value for the first 60,000 vehicles sold - after that it phases out (I have no idea how they came up with this scheme!). So the Prius Toyota, with hybrid sales last year of 107,897 143,533, will run out early on....
:: David (1:27 in Michigan, 7:27 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]


Oh - I totally forgot - in the tradition I have started to have of watching reality TV shows early in the new year while living in Ann Arbor, we watched the first episode of Beauty and the Geek 2 last night. It's better than some options, that's for sure. I also identify to a large degree with one group on the show (hint: the 'beauties' are women).
:: David (1:08 in Michigan, 7:08 in Paris) - Comment


I hate wasting my time! I thought I had found a cheap computer to serve as a server in the house, so I can start turning my laptop off sometimes, since I think I burned the last one out. I found it in the classifieds, called, got the address, verified the computer was still there, done. So I headed over at the appointed hour, but traffic was heavy, so I called to say I would be a bit late. She says 'by the way - which computer were you calling about anyway?' I say something like 'huh', and finally get enough details out for her to tell me that one had been sold, but they had another one (also in the paper) at a hundred bucks more. So at this point I've been in rush hour traffic for like half an hour, all to drive across town for something that doesn't exist. Great. So I drove home, watched must love dogs, ate freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and went to bed (well, will go to bed).
:: David (0:57 in Michigan, 6:57 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, January 12 2006 ::

What's the best way to ensure that teachers cheat for their students, cherry pick the best students, and avoid schools with poor students? Pay them to do it. Houston has apparently decided that rabid standardized testing wasn't enough, and they want to tie a teacher's pay to their class' performance on those tests. What a great idea. I'm sure that's going to make teachers more effective.
:: David (16:12 in Michigan, 22:12 in Paris) - Comment


A few years back I took a turn at listening to the progressive rock bands of the 1960s and 70s. The band Yes is an example of a band you might have heard that is often grouped in with this movement, and early Pink Floyd (Piper at the Gates of Dawn type stuff) fits in as well. But I would say there is fairly wide agreement that King Crimson was the big band of the movement.

So why do I bring this up? Well, it seems that the guitarist of the band, who is probably more than anyone responsible for its distinctive sound, is recording the ...ah... 'soundtrack' for Windows Vista (the next version of Windows). Who knew? Who knew, for starters, that someone got paid to create those sounds - let alone someone recognized for having musical talent? Apparently The Register did, as they are the ones who put me onto the story. There's a link to a rather long video of him creating the music, which is interesting - a woman tells him to make the music 'blue and green'.
:: David (13:43 in Michigan, 19:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


The Register backs me up - Google's video store is terrible!

If, like us, you expected the new and improved Google Video service to rival something like Apple's iTunes store, then do yourself a favor and don't visit the Google shop for a few months. Google has done nothing to celebrate its unique access to shows such as CSI, Survivor and Star Trek. Instead, the company has buried CBS's shows beneath a dismal interface wrapped in a shambles of a delivery mechanism.
I may be a madman, raving in the desert, but at least I have company!
:: David (12:55 in Michigan, 18:55 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, January 11 2006 ::

Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster of the British Army appears to have gotten a few knickers in knots with an article, originally published in the UK, but recently re-published in the November-December 2005 edition of Military Review, an American military publication. In the article, titled "Changing the Army for Counterinsugency Operations", the Brigadier notes, basically, that the US Army won the war and lost the peace. He says the US Army "seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a pre-disposition to offensive operations, and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on", and that personnel, "whilst they were almost unfailingly courteous and considerate, at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism."

Believe it or not, this is intended to be a constructive criticism paper, and Brig. Aylwin-Foster certainly tries to make it clear that what he is describing is not a bunch of rampaging baboons, but a group of well trained individuals who view their role in the occupation differently than other groups (and differently than, in his view, they ought). He notes the soldiers' belief in their cause, being both a strength, and a weakness - "it also encouraged the erroneous assumption that given the justness of the cause, actions that occurred in its name would be understood and accepted by the population, even if mistakes and civilian fatalities occurred in the implementation."

It's an interesting read, and, if the BBC article where I first found all this is correct, rebuttals are already being written.
:: David (23:30 in Michigan, 5:30 in Paris) - Comment


In addition to work, which I occasionally do, I spent today learning about this lovely community I call home. It seems that about a week ago a plan for developing the city was released, which has been generating a lot of... something between buzz and hot air. As a friend of mine works with an orginization of local businesses, I became aware this report existed a few days ago, but only got around to reading it today. Interesting.

In addition, it seems there is a plan afoot to replace a local ugly building with another local ugly building, and this has also generated discussion.

This town is crazy. That said, it certainly provides a variety of ways to amuse onesself.
:: David (18:36 in Michigan, 0:36 in Paris) - Comment


According to an article in the Detroit News, at least nine previous attempts to build a public transport system in the Detroit metro area have failed. The article, naturally, details the tenth...
:: David (12:13 in Michigan, 18:13 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, January 10 2006 ::

I've been keeping an eye on the keynote Steve Jobs gave today to open MacWorld. The new intel based apples are out, and reportedly much faster than the old G4/G5s. I'm thinking I might have to get one of the new imacs with, ah, intel inside, for my movie watching and so forth. The only problem is that the price is still quite high - might be better to buy one of the cinema displays and hook it to a much slower computer....
:: David (13:41 in Michigan, 19:41 in Paris) - Comment


The BBC is reporting that the Ukraine government has been sacked over the gas scuffle with Russia. Perhaps Russia wins in the end...?
:: David (9:22 in Michigan, 15:22 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, January 9 2006 ::

Google's video store has opened for business. My prediction: total failure. The only chance it has is if the copyright holders realize how overpriced their stuff is. The interface is also more or less a failure - if I'm going to pay for content, I prefer clean, and organized. I can search at random for a shared file, and find it faster, I think. Finally, the player's 'full screen mode' isn't. No way. No how. I'm getting this down now so I can say I said it first.
:: David (23:08 in Michigan, 5:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Sasha blames it on our Sierra Club membership. I blame it on my recently ordered bumper stickers from evolve fish. Either way, we now appear to be on the 'liberal Ann-Arborite' mailing lists. Today's example: One Spirit - a book and music club. A sample page contains the following: The Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code, Spanish for Dummies, One Spirit Book of Days 2006, Narnia, 1000 places to see before you die, and Grimm's Grimmest. Is this my liberal reading list for the year, or what? Yikes! It scares me half to death to know what the so-called intelligentsia would have me reading. Homeopathic painting with the Dalai Lama using vegetarian based paints to find love and balance my chi. Help!
:: David (13:30 in Michigan, 19:30 in Paris) - Comment


I have a little secret: I'm a car junkie. Some of you may not have realized this, but I actually really enjoy cars, and the auto industry. I loved working at Ford, when I got to touch the cars and see the actual product (as opposed to when I was doing my job, which was all tech, all the time). This said, however, by and large I don't like American cars. It's not that I have a generic dislike of all things American, but rather that the American car industry produced junk for much of their history, and now that they've stopped, they're producing boring instead.

This all said, I still look forward to the auto shows in the US, in large part due to the concept vehicles, which often introduce all the features and styling which should already be in production vehicles. So I watch mostly in the hopes that someone will surprise me. And for the foreign cars, which are generally well ahead of the curve.

On Sunday, the Detroit Auto Show opened its doors to the press, and started introducing this year's stuff. I had been waiting for this for a while now, as I had heard several small cars would be introduced, and I had hoped they would include some of the European styling (and efficiency) I have become so fond of.

Unfortunately, the first couple of products I saw were at the other end of the scale. GM introduced two new hybrid vehicles: a new Saturn SUV and a new Chevy SUV. The only points these two vehicles seem to be trying to score is 'who can build the biggest vehicle and still pretend it's fuel efficient because it has a hybrid engine?' I mean, a chevy Tahoe? According to the 2006 specs, this thing weighs 5000 pounds. And that's without the added weight of the hybrid system! Compare that to the civic hybrid, at 2800 pounds.

After wading through the three ton vehicle section, I finally managed to find the small cars I had been seeking - the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris. Sadly, although they both qualify for cute, they are also both aimed at first time buyers. Since apparently people don't buy small cars unless they can't afford anything better. Thank goodness Mini seems to get it (although I don't know what to make of the Mini concept vehicle). An additional oddity is that both small cars get singularly unexceptional gas mileage, despite small engines.

I will close this rather long post with the Chrysler Imperial (large pic), which seems to cover the American market in a nutshell - big, ugly, and with mileage rated 'gallons per mile' instead of 'miles per gallon'.
:: David (11:24 in Michigan, 17:24 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


:: Saturday, January 7 2006 ::

I was poking around the documents from Nixon's presidency, and ran across this document, which includes (starting on page 11) discussions between then president Nixon and the heads of several car companies (Iacocca, Henry Ford II, Ziegler, and Ehrlichman). The discussion revolves around how all kinds of new safety standards and environmental standards will make the US economy crash. One of the big topics: air bags. Note that this is in 1971. So we put off putting air bags in cars, which one presumes led to untold thousands of deaths over more than twenty years, because big business told the president it would hurt the economy. Ain't politics grand?
:: David (12:17 in Michigan, 18:17 in Paris) - Comment


We heard a report on NPR yesterday on Hugh Thompson Jr, a pilot who helped civilians escape the My Lai massacre. He passed away yesterday, aged 62. After the incident, he testified against some of the perpetrators of the massacre, and was ostracised by his colleagues for his actions. In 1998 he finally received the recognition he deserved, receiving the Soldier's Medal.
:: David (11:42 in Michigan, 17:42 in Paris) - Comment


I was reading the Times (London) this morning, and one of the opinion pieces was talking about the leader of the Lib Dems concealing a drinking problem, and how since his party was now a more-or-less mainstream party he should get out of the way. Well, it looks like he has. Originally he had called a leadership election for the party, and had intended to be one of the candidates. Now it appears he will not be running. This opens the field for some of his colleagues, who had previously stated they would not stand if Mr. Kennedy was in the running.

When he was elected, it was hoped the Liberal Democrats could be a viable third party in UK politics. Subsequent events made many despair of this coming to pass. Now, with Mr. Kennedy stepping down, perhaps they can try once again.
:: David (11:29 in Michigan, 17:29 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, January 6 2006 ::

Our friend Kevin's boss was involved in a little adventure over the holidays. He was taking a plane, I believe to some potential buyers, when the engine stopped. So he landed it on the highway. The Detroit News interviewed him after the incident, and he explained:

"The engine started to run rough and I applied carb heat," said Sullivan, a freelance photographer.

"It became evident that I was in a deteriorating situation which I could no longer improve."

Sullivan said he was at 2,500 feet when he radioed air traffic controllers at Metro Airport that he was having problems and began looking for a place to land.

"I figured if I couldn't find the field I would try to make the freeway," he said. "I looked down and saw cars and trucks below me and I used my air speed to synchronize to a spot where I wouldn't land on someone."

The Michigan news site mlive reported that after landing, he pushed the plane to the side of the road so traffic could get by, albeit slowly.

The pilot of the plane runs an aerial photography company which does all kinds of fun shots from above.
:: David (16:06 in Michigan, 22:06 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, January 5 2006 ::

I love the fact that things that happen in Iraq don't really happen until the US says they did - at least for the US media. Monday the US military dropped a bomb on a house, killing several civilians, among them at least one child. This was reported in my usual sources, and given how common it is, I moved on. Now, three days later, it's the top story on CNN. Because the US military said 'oops - we missed'. Apparently until then, it was just a vicious rumour, which happened to take in the rest of the world's media.
:: David (23:24 in Michigan, 5:24 in Paris) - Comment


Another year, another fued between Japan and her neighbours over Yasukuni Jinja.

Asked by reporters what specific steps he could take to improve the strained relations with the two key East Asian neighbors, Koizumi said only the ball to improve ties between the political leaders is in Beijing's and Seoul's court.
Because it really is very difficult to stop visiting a hyper-nationalistic shrine that irritates the rest of the planet.
:: David (18:07 in Michigan, 0:07 in Paris) - Comment


Mary Miller, an expert in Mayan art, perhaps chose her words poorly:

It turned out not to be carved in stone but instead associated with this incredible complex of early paintings. It's as if we were to find pictures of Jesus on the cross from the time when he was really alive.
Now, folks do seem fairly excited about the whole Mayan writing find in Guatemala. But wouldn't one, by necessity, find it somewhat odd if one found a painting of an event that had not yet happened? Or perhaps the painter worked quickly....
:: David (17:38 in Michigan, 23:38 in Paris) - Comment


You may remember at the beginning (or thereabouts) of the year we purchased a squirrel feeder, in order to attract more of our furry little friends to come visit our porch. I would say it has been a success....

:: David (12:22 in Michigan, 18:22 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


I sure do spend a lot of money in a month. I'm not really sure where it all goes. One of these days I'm going to have to contain it, because I seem to have a distinct lack of income.

This morning I decided I should check my bank balance, and found myself somewhat surprised at the smallness of the number I found there. Hopefully this will be somewhat offset by some expenses I am still waiting on from my move, but nevertheless the amount I have spent since arriving has been... shocking. I can't wait until this month is over, and I can focus on getting a job (assuming I haven't already found one...).
:: David (10:16 in Michigan, 16:16 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, January 4 2006 ::

I'm following on Haaretz news that the prime minister of Israel has suffered a massive stroke. Reports seem to be guarded, with indications not good. They are reporting all powers have been transferred, temporarily, to the deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert. An emergency cabinet meeting has been called for tomorrow morning.
:: David (19:29 in Michigan, 1:29 in Paris) - Comment


If you live in the US, and have a spare six hundred dollars, travelocity has a discover Japan sale with flights starting at four fifty USD plus taxes.
:: David (15:55 in Michigan, 21:55 in Paris) - Comment


Some interesting reading, via A & L Daily, asks scientists around the US to state one 'dangerous idea'. The question is interpreted loosely, but the responses are certainly interesting.
:: David (15:52 in Michigan, 21:52 in Paris) - Comment


I interviewed this morning for a job. I think it went ok, if not great. We'll see what happens. It's a small company, so it'd be a big change, but lots of fun, I think. How I can fit it in with everything else (contracting, for example) is another question....
:: David (12:12 in Michigan, 18:12 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, January 3 2006 ::

We saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this morning. Sasha had wanted to see it, so I decided today would be the day. It was pretty good, if occasionally cartoonish - Edmund, for example, seemed a bit too rebellious at the beginning. But overall I was pleased with it. I don't know if I'm a big enough fan of the books to comment on that aspect - not like Tolkein, where I will rant and rave for hours on how Peter Jackson missed the point.

Which reminds me - I saw in the store recently they have released a new leatherbound version of Lord of the Rings, which I may or may not choose to covet.

This evening involves more work, and also some prep for my interview tomorrow. I'm going over the website to verify I understand their business, and then I think I'm going to hit some interview prep sites, briefly, to see if there's anything I should do. Also printing a map to the place - very important!
:: David (17:45 in Michigan, 23:45 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, January 2 2006 ::

As Nikki noted, the Zapatistas have started a tour of Mexico to promote their agenda of rights for indigenous peoples. I'm not sure if it is a good sign, or a bad one, for the movement that Mexico's government has welcomed the tour, saying it will promote democracy. I guess if they are saying 'we prefer this to you taking over Chiapas again', I see their point. On the other hand, the political process is definitely slower.

And speaking of slow political processes (really, really slow!), Israel may scuttle the palestinian elections set for later this month, by not allowing Palestinians in east Jerusalem to vote. The BBC story indicated the blockage was in protest to Hamas' participation in the elections (where they are expected to do very well).
:: David (21:49 in Michigan, 3:49 in Paris) - Comment


Another fun thing in 2006: Bolivia, last year, elected its first native president, who is decidedly left-wing. I believe he spent the new year visiting Fidel Castro in Cuba, and, according to the BBC, earlier in the week "gave an interview to the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera in which he accused President George Bush of practising terrorism in Iraq". All of this before he is even officially president, which happens next month. This, combined with his earlier comments on legalizing the growing of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, would seem to indicate 2006 could be the year Bolivia spends a good deal of time in the news in the US. Let's all sit back and watch the fireworks!
:: David (2:06 in Michigan, 8:06 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Sunday, January 1 2006 ::

...and on a similar topic, 7 things we wish we'd heard less about in 2005.
:: David (15:31 in Michigan, 21:31 in Paris) - Comment


100 things we didn't know this time last year, including number 99 - "The Japanese word "chokuegambo" describes the wish that there were more designer-brand shops on a given street".
:: David (15:26 in Michigan, 21:26 in Paris) - Comment


Well, I thought it wouldn't happen, but 2006 has started with a major falling out over energy between Ukraine and Russia. Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine after talks fell through over the weekend. The EU has seen supplies hit, either because Ukraine is siphoning off gas (according to Russia) or because the reduction in supply has hit overall gas pressure in the pipeline (according to Ukraine). Inauspicious beginning to the new year.

In Asia, Taiwan's president Chen Shuibian has "vowed to strengthen Taiwan's security", and there's really only one country those comments could be directed at, so expect saber rattling from China in the new year as well.

Australia starts the new year with big forest fires, as well, one presumes, as continued ethnic tension.

Finally, expect further pressure to be put on Egypt to investigate the killing of Sudanese refugees. I expect a wash, but perhaps a sacrificial lamb will be offered up. Either way, I won't hold my breath for more freedoms as a resuly of the massacre.
:: David (14:52 in Michigan, 20:52 in Paris) - Comment


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