Archive for August, 2009

A Nearly Unprecedented Crisis Almost Looms in Cuba

Nestled amid all the other headlines on Pravda’s website at the moment – including such unbiased reporting as “Ukraine’s Victor Yuschenko: I am the State”, or “Yuschenko makes awkward and dull response to Medvedev’s attacks”, or my personal favorite “Warts, vomit, and diorrhea save Yuschenko’s life” – do you sense a theme here? – is an interesting and touching story that doesn’t immediately smell like out-and-out propaganda: Toilet paper to become luxury in Cuba.

Apparently:

“The citizens of Cuba, who experienced 50 years of the economic blockade and developed their survival instincts to the utmost, may find themselves without toilet paper in the nearest future.

Spokespeople for Cimex, a state-run company that makes toilet paper in Cuba, said that their production was about to stop due to the economic crisis and destructive hurricanes that had recently lashed the island. Cuba imports toilet paper and runs its own production of it. However, the state-run company experiences a serious shortage of raw materials.”

Ah, well, there’s still good ol’ Granma.

Still… airdrop TP on Cuba, anyone?

I mean, seriously, the way European countries keeps declaring this, that, and some other things “basic human rights” – like internet access, and thus by proxy pornography – you’d think someone, somewhere, would be aghast at the thought of a small and beautiful tropical paradise having to “go without”, pun intended…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on August 21st, 2009 | Comments Off on A Nearly Unprecedented Crisis Almost Looms in Cuba

Kwik Hits

Random things from teh interwebz:

Growing up, I was always taught that tornadoes tended not to hit big cities. Apparently there are scientific reasons for this, but nobody seemed to know what they are, or were; it’s just taken as dogma: tornadoes don’t hit big cities. Well, by most accounts, one did yesterday, in Minneapolis, though some “experts” are questioning that, seemingly on the basis that – wait for it! – tornadoes don’t hit cities. Go figure!

I wonder what’s going to last longer – the local media’s obsession with geriatric has-been (American) football quarterback Brett Farve, or the hijacked ship saga.

A Guardian article on eating in bed made me laugh out loud, which is never a good thing:

To many, beds are for sleeping and occasional light bondage, nothing more. Eating there smacks of Neronian excess, or is unpleasantly reminiscent of bed-beached Texans on Channel 4 documentaries, bodies like inflated sweetbreads, wheezily slotting Twinkies into their faces.

I know, I know; Why do I hate America?

Didja hear about the chicken that laid a meteorite?

Just the other day I was writing about terrorism on a shoestring budget, and then it’s announced last month’s bombings in Indonesia cost the bombers one billion rupiah, which sounds impressive, but is the equivalent of 100,000 USD, which is still quite respectable. And, oh, look, one of the financiers of the bombing is thought to be Saudi, surprise, surprise…

Published in: General | on August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

Budget Terrorism

If you look at (Islamic) terrorism in the United States – hell, most of the western world – since 9/11, it’s hard not to notice that most of the plots haven’t been quite as grandiose as 9/11, but were still fairly complicated and expensive, with an emphasis more on glamour and sexiness than on practicality. It hasn’t really mattered, any which way, because the modern crop of terrorists are just absolute idiots for whom walking down the street without falling down must be a great and triumphant accomplishment. (Some days, I swear Ramzi Yousef was the last major terrorist capable of going to the bathroom on his own.)

Whomever is recruiting these morons has got to be pretty desperate, but I guess beggars can’t really be choosers. (“Ah, you’d like to martyr yourself while killing lots of Jews? Excellent, excellent. What, you need to be part of a plot that doesn’t require reading, writing, arithmetic, or precise timing? I dunno, you’re kind of short… Okay, I tell you what – give me your number, and I will have someone call – oh, never mind…”) Worse yet, you have to suspect the people financing all these crazy schemes must be pretty unhappy about the poor returns their investments are producing, especially during the current economic crisis.

All of which is by way of bringing up one of those really depressing observations that it’s so hard to escape from:
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on August 18th, 2009 | 3 Comments »

The Enigma of “MP4 Players”

If you browse eBay – or any other site that sells inexpensive electronics from China – you’ll run into some of the hundreds of designs of “MP4 players” (and sometimes even “MP5 players”) that are available at prices well below what the trendy name-brand status symbol media players are going for. Lest you get too tempted by one of these unbranded players, the internet is awash with sites warning about the “hacked” memory that is widespread on these devices. For years, a lot of the media players coming out of China have been sold by misrepresenting just how much memory they actually have.

Early on – we’re talking circa 2006 here – the most common discrepancy was actually explainable, kinda: “4GB” on an MP3 player meant “4 gigabits”, not “4 gigaBYTES”, so you’d wind up with a player with 512MB of actual storage, once you reformatted it to get rid of the file allocation table hack.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Geekiness, General | on August 17th, 2009 | Comments Off on The Enigma of “MP4 Players”

There But For the Grace of God

I was watching an episode of the British television programme Time Team the other night, wherein they excavated – sort of – the remains of the ginormous medieval warship the Grace Dieu, which caught fire, fell over, and sank into the swamp in 1439. (Struck by a bolt of lightning, supposedly.)

Quite aside from its enormous size, the Grace Dieu – whose name means, in Latin, “Grace of God”, of course – is perhaps best remembered for never having gone anywhere. It made one abortive effort to set sail in 1420, which was curtailed by a mutiny, and spent the next nineteen years tied up at dock, going nowhere.

While John Bradford is generally considered to have popularized the phrase “There but for the grace of God” circa 1553, I kind of wonder if the phrase might have had a slightly snarkier use a hundred years earlier, in reference to the Grace Dieu. (Yes, I tried teh Google.) Probably not, but I’d still be interested in hearing any cunning linguist’s thoughts on the matter…

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on August 13th, 2009 | 2 Comments »