Category Archives: We-reflect-news

Predictions

Now that we know the Rapture has been delayed to September (previously at xsamplex), we nw have a couple of months to make sure that things are running as smooth as they used to be. Like make US Politics the laughing stock around the world: to be honest, I laughed when I heard Thatcher snubbed ms. Palin. Reportedly one of her aides said the following:

Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts.

You wouldn’t say so?

Earlier this month, Saint John’s Sea Dogs won the (Junior) Memorial Cup, which is a kinda big deal in Canada. The city organized a parade for the winning team, from Kings Square right down to Market Square. I was there also, shooting pictures (my set). I’m not a fan of hockey or something: I was surprised to see a lot of people lining up to catch a glimp of the hockey team. Only in Canada these kind of events go by without any incident, that is, unless you’re talking about those funny blue guys running down the street before the parade started.

As you’ve noticed, I’ve not been writing much the last couple of weeks: this is mainly due to the obligations around the house (yes, it’s fairly sunny these days). Additionally, I found out that I prefer to browse around on my tablet, which is unfortunately less keyboard-inclined than the laptops that are laying around. On the good side, soon it will be time to write a review of this tablet. Soon-ish.

Contrast

By now you’ve probably already heard that the US has managed to find and kill Osama Bin Laden (Google News: this was last Sunday (late) night and it marked one of the weirdest rash for news by, well, any news organization in the world. There’s an excellent write-up what happened at the NYT when the news broke that something special was going to be announced (link). The last couple of days, as details emerged about the raid, it appears as everybody and their dog was involved in the killing of America’s most wanted terrorist. As of today the score is: UK SBS officers were involved, a Belgian trained dog was part of the raid, the intelligence services in Maryland US were involved, Cheney and Bush were indirectly involved because of their terrorist interrogation plans, Pakistani security officials… and what else? I can assure you that I had no finger in this momentous task and I’m sure more news will come out of this to prove that very fact. Or something like that.

That being said, the reason for that nice Pershing rocket in this posting is that, somehow I ended up looking up Werner von Braun, who was that famous Nazi rocket scientist who helped develop America’s very successful Space and Weapons programs. When he surrendered to the Americans in 1945, he said:

We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.

Fifty-plus years later, one can only think what would have happened if Braun had not surrendered and was killed by the SS.

The Media

The drama in Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami, seems to have been kicked off the prime news slots on CNN. Two days ago, Japan’s struggle with the aftermath of the tsunami and the possible meltdown at a nuclear facility was literally part of the 24 hour cycle: yesterday and today Japan was ‘handsomely’ replaced with ‘Target Libya’. How, absurd: so after pumping the worst-case scenario (“impending nuclear disaster RIGHT NOW”) for over 7 days, one would say that the people working 24 hours a day in that nuclear reactor are doing a better job than CNN had been suggesting. CNN? That’s like watching a drama queen facing a meltdown.

Anyhow: that tsunami disaster, eh? By now you’ve seen the live video feeds, the photos and the relief response (even you, Google), before and after photos, scientific analysis of the event, conspiracy theories, online community response (Reddit) and what not. Here’s my major gripe: in one year, which of the links above will still be ‘alive’ or functional? What about two years? Three? Does anyone still remember the Indian Ocean tsunami?

While there’s obviously nothing we can do for people in disaster zones (except for giving monetary donations), it always appears that disasters are over after a week. This is not true of course: they just drift off the daily news cycle on the major US networks because they have better things to report about, like a “tomahawk cruise missile in a camel’s ass”.

04/08/2011: Massive Japanese tsunami debris field to reach North American westcoast by 2014 (CBC link).

03/11/2012: First anniversary of tsunami in Japan, prayers and protests against nuclear energy.

From bridge to evolution

A bunch of links, collected from the Internet:

The prime-minister was in Saint John last Friday and gave away a freebie for the people of Saint John: The toll booths on the Saint John Harbour bridge will disappear. I’m not sure how much traffic hits that bridge (and the Harbour bridge authority’s website doesn’t really reveal a lot either), but apparently it has never been self-sustaining. I believe the fare is 50 cents, which when I heard the first time of this toll, I thought was really low.

You’ve probably heard that the TSA (the American organization that is responsible for the safety at airports) has changed safety rules, by enforcing pat-downs and using backspatter X-Ray machines (wikipedia). The use of those X-Ray machines is (still) controversial because of privacy concerns (MSNBC article with a proud ms. Hallowell showing off, well, her gun so to say. The lady’s photo is also used in ACLU’s campaign against this device). Anyway, Metafilter had a posting about the TSA apparently going amuck out of revenge against a traveller who dared to ask for an alternative screening of her breast milk because she’s afraid that X-rays might be harmful. Regardless if it’s harmful or not, what is exactly the point of X-Raying breast milk? And, yeah, what does the president think of this?

With Winter right around the corner and the snow already on the ground, please take a moment to read the drawbacks of our species’ evolution (link to Smithsonian) into standing hominids: backaches, hernias (that is a wikipedia link) and yeah, a 50-50 chance of choking because:

Simultaneously, our upright posture put the trachea and esophagus in a near-vertical orientation. Together these changes leave falling food or water about a 50-50 chance of falling in the “wrong tube.” As a consequence, in those moments in which the epiglottis does not have time to cover the trachea, we choke. We might be said to choke on our success. Monkeys suffer the same fate only rarely, but then again they can’t sing or dance.

So if you were watching Bristol Palin on ‘Dancing with the stars’ and you enjoy watching hominids dance: the combination of dancing and eating can be fairly dangerous.

Mandelbrot

Last Friday, Benoit Mandelbrot died, which was widely published around on the Internet. Generally adored by nerds, Mandelbrot, while respected, was a fairly controversial figure in the mathematics world.

Mandelbrot doesn’t spend months or years proving what he has observed,” for which he “has received quite a bit of criticism. … But if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences, he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.

I dare to say that Mandelbrots formulas took off with the introduction of the 8-bit colour homecomputers (earlier on xsamplex in 2004) and all these fractal generating programs. On our MSX2, I think it took at least a week to generate a simple Mandelbroth (320 x 250 with 256 colours). Even with earlier versions of Fractint on 286 AT machines, it would take days: today’s processing power does this in less than a second.

Whenever I think of Benoit Mandelbrot, I think about how fast computers have progressed in those years.

10/24/2010: Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Mandelbrot song’.

Thus spoke the Oracle

The biggest news in IT happened a couple of weeks ago, when Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google (reddit discussion), in which it claims that:

“Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. Android (including without limitation the Dalvik VM and the Android software development kit) and devices that operate Android infringe one or more claims of each of United States Patents Nos. 6,125,447; 6,192,476; 5,966,702; 7,426,720; RE38,104; 6,910,205; and 6,061,520″

The lawsuit reminds of the early Java war between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems (technical details): eventually Microsoft and Sun settled on an amount of 20 million dollars and the promise to phase out all Microsoft products that used Microsoft’s Java Virtual Machine.

The most interesting point made during the outrage the last couple of weeks was Miguel de Icaza’s comments on Oracles lawsuit (reddit discussion), which is extremely hilarious but points out good points: Google’s Dalvik engine already marked that discussions between Google and Sun re: Java ME had run on the rocks and that at that stage, Google should have known about any upcoming Java patent lawsuit. Additionally, it also looks the former CEO of Sun specifically pitched the Java patents (“Sue Google” to possible suitors. Icaza further speculates:

Google could settle current damages with Oracle, and switch to the better designed, more pleasant to use, and more open .NET platform.

And that would be extremely ironic. The main question is: If Android is so important to Google, why didn’t it pick up Java by buying Sun while it could do so? At this stage it almost looks like that .Net/Mono is a safer platform than Java (which is something that Icaza has been claiming since, well, ever).

Yargh

I

read about the home-coming of the Dutch national football team earlier this week and thought of putting up some closing remarks about the lost final match against Spain. It was a fricking ugly game after a fairly efficient Worldcup run: I say fairly efficient, as I thought that the Dutch players didn’t show any quality football and relied on too many lucky events to make it to the finals. There were some good moments: I thought Van Bronckhorst was consistent and even scored a goal that would have made it into the list of much discussed ‘best of World cup 2010′ goals if not for that final.

Maybe that’s the point I’m trying to make: In the build-up to the final, it appeared that the foreign press was in favour of the Dutch winning the worldcup, reminiscing the finals of 1974 and 1978. Sadly, of the 2010 World Cup final, the only picture the 2010 final that sticks out is the De Jong karate kick: intentional or not.

On the good side: now might be a good time to start rebuilding a new Dutch national team. Most of the current members of Dutch squad were also involved in the ‘Battle of Nuremberg’.

The Footballs

I watched the Dutch play the other day, against Brazil and saw them win that game in their particular style they’re now known for: messy football with a teeny bit of flair and luck. After the equalizer, that unfortunate mix-up from Cesar and Melo, I was surprised to see the Brazilian team completely collapse, physically and emotionally. There was a remark by one of the guests at the CBC who said it the best (quoted as best as I can):

“There was this total lack of emotional balance in the Brazil team: From Dunga literally kicking and beating up the dug-out to his players losing it on the field”

God. Sometimes I just hate this game for all the theatrics of the players and coaches.

World cup

The FIFA Worldcup 2010 has started a couple of days ago and I noticed that I haven’t seen any of the matches yet only because the matches are a broadcast at impossible times. For a lack of better links (or rather, laziness), the following days I hope to watch the Copa Mondial on CBC’s website (live streaming apparently).

I’ve only briefly mentioned the Van Der Sloot case on this blog (to be honest, hardly is a better word). In summary, guy who was main suspect in Aruba case is arrested by Peruvian police for the homocide of the daughter of a Peruvian multi-millionaire uh wait. There are so more colourful details to this case that I’m 100% certain that Hollywood will make a movie out of this. Unfortunately, most of the saillant details seem to come from the Dutch press.

One of the most compelling stories from the Internet (“Right now, On the Internet”, cue typical news program music) is the story about Keanu Reeves. The Guardian perfectly summarizes the story but alas, no links (“What, horrors!”). Here ya go then.

A shuttle. A Space.

Last week, I found out that the Space Shuttles are going to be retired next year. Currently, NASA is looking for the shuttles’ final home: several institutions consider displaying America’s Expensive and Great Leap Of Faith Into Space. Sarcasm aside, seeing the first Space Shuttle take off and land, and that all live on TV: as a young kid, that was fairly amazing, yes. However, I’ve never been a fan of manned space exploration (previously on xsamplex).

Slightly more exciting: it’s the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, and NASA celebrated that with this pretty picture of ‘Mystic Mountain’. What can I say about the Telescope? I remember that the initial launch and deployment were not that successful and that thanks to the Space Shuttle, the ‘Scope wouldn’t have been making as pretty as pictures as it does now.

The Telescope, however, will last for a couple of more years and is to be replaced by the ‘Webb Telescope’ in 2014.

May 15, 2010: Atlantis’ Last Voyage.

Oh NOES! (part II)

Erlier today, BBC reported that the Polish president Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash in Russia (link). Besides the president, 80 or so other senior politicians died, leaving Poland in a sort of political and constitutional vacuum. It will be interesting to see what’s next for the Polish people.

Politically, Kaczynski was on the centre-right side of the political spectrum: surprisingly, Poland has been ruled by the right since it got rid of the communist party. Of course, the only reason I bring up the death of the Polish president is because he was featured in an older posting (“Oh NOES!”): a couple of years, Poland was the first country that had an identical twin take the highest offices (that of President and Prime-Minister). I don’t think that we’ll see that again for a long while.

Olympicalinitialurescending

I‘ve only sporadically followed the Olympic games: most of the time fellow travelers or colleagues kept me up-to-date about the latests. Since there’s only one day left or so, a summary of things that caught the eye.

First of all, before the games officially opened there was the luge accident involving a Georgian athlete. The day after the accident, the authorities reported that the athlete was at fault. However, from what I gathered, is that for the lugers’ safety, the IOC decided to slightly change the track (or rather, change the starting positions for lugers).

The talk in Canada, is of course, the Hockey final which puts Canada against the US. Earlier in the Games, the two countries also played against each other and the Canadians lost.

There was this weird incident in speedskating (the 10 kilometers for males): the favourite for this distance lost his medal because of an error switching lanes, which was blamed on the trainer who also happened to be a professional speedskater back in the past. That said, the US press core felt slightly vindicated (too bad that the IOC has been serving take-down notices for this particular video).

And I guess the most stunning report in the media came from the CBC, which dryly reported that ‘an emergency shipment of condoms’ was headed for Vancouver. Because, if you won a gold medal (or if you didn’t) you should still consider doing it safely.

Seasonal tales

Earlier this week I found out that the French director Eric Rohmer (Wikipedia) died at the age of 89. Ebert has an elegant in memoriam: additional commentary at Metafilter.

My first introduction to Rohmer’s movies was (I think)‘Conte d’été’ (1996): The other movies in the Tales of the Season series followed soon after. What makes Rohmer’s movies likable are the long dialogues and the surprising twists his characters have and take: for example, in ‘Conte d’été’, the main character evolves from a shy guy into a full-blown womanizer. Rohmer’s take on relationships in all his movies is quite on the mark: that is, in real life, falling in love and dealing with mixed emotions about loved ones is a lot more complex than what Hollywood movies portray to us. Simplicity sells a lot, obviously, and that was not the business Rohmer was in.

With the death of Rohmer, humans have indeed lost one of the greater humanists in the movie industry.