Archive for March, 2011

Kwik-ish Hits

Ugh, crazy week. Been hard at work writing a novel and some other stuff, working on a microcontroller project, fighting with some computer stuff, and what seems like a thousand other things as well. Plus I’m either getting a cold or the quasi-thaw we’re having this winter is making my allergies flare up…

Anyway:

Yesterday, Israel seized the MV Victory, which it alleges was carrying as many as 50 tonnes of weapons “to be used against Israeli citizens”, including six Chinese anti-ship missiles. As is typical in these cases – if a little surprising, in a country with, y’know, compulsory military service – the IDF has apparently released (mis-)captioned photos of the seized cargo, which mislabels 120mm mortar rounds as “rockets” and what appear to be French(?) M61 60mm mortar rounds as “grenades”. (Note that the 60mm mortars appear relatively different than those seized in 2009, though the packing lists are quite similar.)

As far as I can tell, no photos of the anti-ship missiles have been released…
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Security | on March 16th, 2011 | No Comments »

Overhauling A Bicycle Freewheel

Disassembly and service of a bicycle freewheel isn’t terribly hard, though few people seem to recommend it. Still, having done it myself a number of times, and having seen numerous queries about it online, I figured I’d do a quick post on how to overhaul one, should you ever be possessed of an overwhelming desire to do so.

Should you? It’s debatable, honestly. Freewheels aren’t particularly precise devices, and there’s no real “adjustment” to be made or meaningful performance gain to be had. What you can get, however, is a very quiet freewheel, rather than one that clicks and groans and can be heard from a block away. I like a quiet bike, myself, so I think it’s effort well-spent.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Geekiness, General | on March 11th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Read an E-Book Week

This is, I’m told, Read an E-Book Week, some sort of (international?) celebration of the un-printed word.

Normally I try to avoid partaking in any “verb a noun (Day|Week|Month)” things, just because I’m a rebel like that. This time, alas, I’m in the middle of a good book on my e-book reader, so I’m doomed to a couple days of conformity. Bah.

Personally, I’m still kind of underwhelmed by e-publishing, and I’m not, honestly, super enamored of Read an E-Book Week, because it seems to be lacking in any but superficial merit.

Yes yes, it’s great that people are being encouraged to read, in whatever format; I just can’t but help think that some sort of educational aspect would have substantial lasting value. Y’know, “Why there’s more to e-publications than PDF files”, and so on. PDFs are, supposedly, one of the most popular formats for prose fiction, on platforms/websites that support it, despite being the format least-suited for the genre. Why? Apparently, because they’re “familiar”, and widely supported. That needs to change…

I also can’t help but feel that one of the more visible forces behind RAEW – Smashwords – are really dropping the ball by having a painfully slow site that fails to load with depressing regularity. Marketing skills strong, technical skills… kind of weak. Ah, well.

(I should point out that through Saturday, you can buy my first novel at a 50% discount – $0.99 USD – from Smashwords with coupon code “RAE50″… assuming the website is responding… as a special RAEW promotion. Yay. Or not.)

On an unrelated note, the hyper-narrow, tech-centric nature of RAEW makes me wonder what other existing things in life could use electronically-enhanced promotions of their own. “Have Virtual Sex With A Stranger Week”? “Tweet While Sober Week”? “Stare At the Facebook Page of Your Hot Coworker But Don’t Actually Leave a Wall Message Week”? “Troll A 419 Scammer Week”?

Hmmn…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on March 9th, 2011 | No Comments »

Viva le Protectionism

Ten years ago – stop me if you remember this – the Army re-jiggered its uniform slightly, a move that is mostly forgettable except for “Beretgate” – the brouhaha over military headgear being made in China. It was a purely political ploy motivated by nothing but stupidity and ideology.

Why am I bringing this up now, a decade later? Well, the Star Tribune has an article on a retarded state law that requires public agencies to source uniforms and protective equipment that are made in the United States.

To be honest, I’m surprised public-safety organizations weren’t – aren’t – in an uproar over that, since they tend to be a bit OCD about protective equipment, in particular, and because the financial burden is, in some instances, quite substantial.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Security | on March 7th, 2011 | No Comments »

Libyan Language Resources from DLI / JLU

As it grows increasingly clear that the disorder in Libya isn’t going to end anytime soon, I figured I’d reproduce some (hopefully) useful Libyan language resources produced by the Defense Language Institute. DLI’s Foreign Language Center, who I’ve linked to in the past, provide a staggering multitude of resources on darn near every language and dialect in the world, much of it freely available (albeit not always in a user-friendly format).

Obviously, Libya uses Arabic, albeit technically a regional variation, and the DLI’s resources reflect this, as far as I can tell.

For your convenience, I’ve reproduced the two most useful resources from the “Basic Guide to Libyan”:

the Basic Language Survival Guide (987KB PDF file), which is formatted as a set of flash cards, basically, showing various words and phrases in English and Libyan Arabic, with phonetic pronunciation…

and

the Basic Guide to Libyan, an interactive (flash-based) self-paced learning module thingy, formatted for (older) PDAs. Flash appears to be the only requirement, so I’m guessing it may work on things like Droid smartphones, but can’t make any guarantees. Even if you don’t have a PDA or other device it’ll work on, it may be worth downloading because the majority of its size (15.7MB zip file, FYI) is MP3 files providing spoken examples of all the words and phrases in the Language Survival Guide, above.

Depending on where you are, you can possibly view this online yourself at this link, and then proceed on to the civil affairs-specific module, should that be what floats your boat.

Enjoy…

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on March 3rd, 2011 | No Comments »