abstract musings

abstract (adj.): Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept.
musings (n.): A product of contemplation; a thought.


This blog has moved! Please visit the new site at robbyedwards.com.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

This Blog Has Moved!

This is the reason my posting has been light recently. I have been setting up a new blog on my own domain, robbyedwards.com.

I will be leaving this site intact so that all the links to pages here don't break.

Now, that the new site is up, I plan to get back to posting more frequently. Please stop by and take a look around.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Why Posting Is Light

I have a lot of stuff to do.

(From PunditGuy)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

When Bigger Is Better

When can I get one of these?

My first computer (actually it belonged to my father) was an IBM PC, which didn't even have a hard drive. When my dad added a second floppy drive (5.25 inch, of course), I thought that was awesome, because it meant no more having to remove the OS disk to put in another disk with whatever I really wanted to do. Eventually, we added a hard drive — though I don't remember its capacity, I'll bet it was pretty small. When my dad replaced that computer, he bought one with a 256 MB hard drive, and I thought we'd never outgrow it, and of course, we did. Over that computer's life, we upgraded various parts of it: adding a 3.5 inch floppy drive, adding memory, upgrading the processor (from a Intel 286 to a 386), etc. When I went off to college, that computer became my hand-me-down. Eventually, I outgrew it and replaced its motherboard, processor, memory, video card and hard drive. It was my computer version of Frankenstein. I still have that machine, though it has been upgraded a couple more times since. My wife and I use it as an MP3 jukebox connected to our stereo and TV in our living room.

Now I have 30 and 40 GB hard drives that I am in the process of filling up. Some day, I'll probably replace my Frankenstein machine with a newer version.

Stealing Credit

Mark Steyn doesn't seem surprised that the U.N. is taking credit for the American and Australian relief efforts.

I didn't catch the interview, but I'm assuming that the Oil-for-Fraud programme and the Child-Sex-for-Food programme notwithstanding, Miss Short managed to utter that last sentence with a straight face. But, if you're a homeless Sri Lankan, what matters is not who has the moral authority, but who has the water tankers and medical helicopters. President Bush didn't even bother mentioning the UN in his statement. Kofi Annan, by contrast, has decided that the Aussie-American "coalition of the willing" is, in fact, a UN operation. "The core group will support the UN effort," he said. "That group will be in support of the efforts that the UN is leading."

So American personnel in American planes and American ships will deliver American food and American medicine and implement an American relief plan, but it's still a "UN-led effort". That seems to be enough for Kofi. His "moral authority" is intact, and Guardian columnists and Telegraph readers can still bash the Yanks for their stinginess. Everybody's happy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Marines Have Landed

Actually, they landed in Sri Lanka yesterday. Here's a link to the Reuters video (and story) on their arrival.

A first group of United States Marines arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday (January 3) with helicopters, bulldozers, generators and other specialist equipment to help the country deal with the aftermath of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami.

Abbas to Israel: "Zionist enemy"

For those who, like myself, were hopeful that Yasser Arafat's death would lead to the peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, this must come as a disappointment.

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called Israel "the Zionist enemy" for the first time on Tuesday after an Israeli tank killed seven Palestinian youths in a Gaza strawberry field.

The words were certain to stir concerns in Israel where images of Abbas embracing fighters during the campaign for a Jan. 9 election have led some to question hopes for reviving peace talks after Yasser Arafat's death.

The Israeli army said it had targeted militants who had crept into the strawberry field and fired mortar bombs into a nearby Jewish settlement in the occupied territory.

Palestinian witnesses and medics in Beit Lahiya, a north Gaza village, said the militants had vanished by the time the tank shell crashed and all the dead were youths aged 11-17 from two farming families. Four people were critically wounded.

The field, where farmers had been harvesting strawberries, was spattered with blood and body parts.

Word of the incident clearly angered Abbas, widely tipped to win the presidential election, as he continued campaigning in the Gaza Strip despite further fighting between militants and the Israeli army.

"We are praying for the souls of our martyrs who fell today to the shells of the Zionist enemy," Abbas told a rally in the south Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis, a hotbed of militants.

Reuters leaves the impression that these were innocent Palestinian by-standers who were tragically killed. Presenting only the Palestinian version of events, Reuters conveniently leaves out the Israeli side of the incident. But the Jerusalem Post presents the Israeli version of events. (From LGF)

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Col. Avi Levi, commander of the Gaza District, said that seven Hamas members were killed in Beit Lahiya this morning.

Levi defended the IDF's decision to fire a tank shell at the rocket-launching cells. "If civilians were wounded, it is because terrorists opt to launch attacks from within the civilian population and we regret the harming of any civilians."

The army also confirmed that the tank fired toward Beit Lahiya, a town located in the northern Gaza Strip not far from Erez, when it identified the Hamas cell. Col. Levi said that six of the deaths were caused by shrapnel from the tank shell and two Palestinian terrorists died when a Kassam rocket they were trying to launch exploded prematurely.

How's that for perspective? But, Reuters isn't finished. The article also manages to portray Abbas in a sympathetic light.

Israel also demands Palestinian leaders heed a provision in an internationally sponsored "road map" peace plan for a crackdown on militants before talks begin.

Palestinian leaders demand Israel obey a parallel obligation under the road map to stop expanding West Bank settlements and Abbas has balked at tackling gunmen he calls "freedom fighters" without an Israeli promise of viable Palestinian statehood.

"They are freedom fighters and should live a dignified and safe life," Abbas said on Monday in a campaign tailored in part to defuse the distrust of gunmen who branded him a stooge of Israel when their revered ex-guerrilla leader Arafat was alive.

Abbas said he was determined to ensure rule of law prevailed in Palestinian territories, a cautionary message to militants and one of reassurance to U.S.-led mediators encouraged by his credo of non-violence.

How can calling Israel "the Zionist enemy," hailing these thugs as "freedom fighters" and refusing to confront their violent actions be called a "credo of non-violence"? Reuters makes it sound like he's just campaigning and this is empty campaign rhetoric. Rhetoric that Abbas will not act upon it when he is elected. Only, this campaign rhetoric fuels more violence which, in turn, leads to more deaths.

UPDATE: Reuters has video.

UPDATE II: More commentary on Abbas from Damian Penny and Michael Totten.

One Laser Related Arrest

At least, this is one answer to the rash of laser targeting incidents involving aircraft that have occurred lately.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A man who initially claimed his daughter aimed a laser at a helicopter was charged after he told federal agents that he pointed the light beam at two aircraft, authorities said Tuesday.

David Banach of Parsippany faces charges of interfering with the operator of a mass transportation vehicle and making false statements to the FBI. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The aircraft were targeted by the lasers near Teterboro Airport.

On Wednesday night, a pilot preparing to land a chartered jet with 13 people aboard reported seeing three green laser beams about 11 miles from the airport. On Friday, a helicopter carrying Port Authority detectives was hit by a beam as they surveyed the area in an attempt to pinpoint the origin of the original beams.

No motive was given — so based purely on speculation — I'll chalk these incidents up to simple mischief. I'm guessing that the other events were copycats, or that he is simply a copycat himself.

UPDATE: Here's a Reuters article, but still no word on why he did it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

American Relief Efforts

Here are some details on the relief efforts of the American military.

So far, U.S. military personnel have delivered 430,000 pounds of supplies to the region.

Military officials discounted criticism of a slow U.S. start to relief efforts, saying they started moving help to the region as soon as they were called on to act.

Fourteen cargo planes were taking food, supplies and equipment to supply hubs in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, according to the U.S. military's Pacific Command Web site, www.pacom.mil.

President Bush Enlists Help

President Bush today called on his father — former president George Bush — and former President Bill Clinton to undertake a nationwide fundraising effort on behalf of the victims of the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami. Betsy Newmark wonders if anybody else noticed who was left out of "the Ex-President Charity effort for the tsunami victims."

I can't say I noticed that omission, but Reuters did.

"The devastation in the region defies comprehension," President Bush said in Washington, eight days after an earthquake drove huge waves across the Indian Ocean, killing 145,000 from Thailand to Somalia and leaving millions homeless, hungry or threatened by deadly diseases.

"I ask every American to contribute as they are able to do so," said Bush, in a joint appeal with former presidents George Bush, his father, and Bill Clinton.

The scale of the disaster prompted Bush to put together the rare coalition of ex-presidents to mount the nationwide fund-raising drive.

Jimmy Carter, an ex-president with a long history in humanitarian efforts, and who was critical of Bush in last year's presidential campaign, was not invited to participate.

Sandra Bullock Donates $1 Million

Sandra Bullock has donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for the tsunami relief efforts. Plus, she's done this before; she gave another million dollars to the American Red Cross after September 11. (From memeorandum)

"At this critical time, I am grateful to Sandra Bullock for, once again, demonstrating her leadership, compassion and belief in our global humanitarian mission," says Marsha Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. "Sandra continues to enable our lifesaving work and is a model for personal generosity."

In 2001, the actress donated $1 million to the Red Cross in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

I wonder if any other Hollywood celebrities will step up and match her generous gift?

Cassini-Huygens Mission, New Years Edition

I have been following the progress of the Cassini-Huygens Mission (posting some spectacular images and posting about the launch of the Huygens probe). Jeff Harrell notes the passing of Cassini by Iapetus, one of Saturn's moons, on New Year's Eve as "One of history's great coincidences".

New Year's Ukraine Style

Slate looks at how Ukraine celebrated the New Year. And then contrasts that celebration with the New Year in Moscow.

Dancing in Independence Square last night, my friends and I made a date to celebrate next New Year's in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. When it turned out that the four young people with whom we were jumping around a leafless tree, holding hands and passing around a bottle of champagne, were also from Russia, one of my friends said: "It's going to happen for us, too! In a couple of years!" The young people—they must have been college students—hesitated for a second, probably because this is not the sort of thing one would presume to say to strangers in Moscow, and then shouted, "Hooray!"

Back in Moscow, there was also a street party in Red Square. This morning I found out that only people with a Moscow registration stamp in their passports were allowed to enter the square. This means that not only visitors but even people living and working in Moscow but who are registered to live in other Russian cities could not take part in the celebration. That made me even happier that I had spent the holiday in Kiev, where the overwhelming sense was one of openness. Last night, I danced with Russian college students, very young Ukrainians, pretty old Ukrainians, a homeless Ukrainian man, and lots of other people I couldn't identify. Some of them had dyed their hair orange, the color of the Ukrainian revolution. The music, of course, was not the important part, but in addition to the revolutionary rap, the undisputed hit of the night was "D.I.S.C.O.," performed by a duo that may in fact have been N-Trance itself. We sang, "She is oh-ohhh-orange!"

Victor Davis Hanson: "Evolve or Die"

A couple of items from Victor Davis Hanson.

First, a warning to the left to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs. It is too good to excerpt, so you should just read the whole thing.

And secondly, check out his predictions for 2005.

UPDATE: Here's a better (more permanent) link to Hanson's predictions along with the predictions of other contributors to National Review Online.

More Good News from Iraq

Arthur Chrenkoff has posted another round in his Good News from Iraq series. Particularly compelling is a part about the return of Iraqi refugees and exiles.

In the run-up to military action in March 2003, many anti-war activists were predicting that the Coalition invasion will lead to a humanitarian and a refugee disaster. In reality, not only have the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of refugees did not materialize, but ever since, the old Iraqi refugee problem has been gradually solving itself:

"Until the spring of 2003, the Islamic Republic of Iran hosted over 202,000 Iraqi refugees, by far the largest registered refugee population from Iraq in the world. The majority were living in Iranian cities and settlements. About 50,000 of them, like Mohammed, stayed for many years in the 22 camps scattered across Iran's western provinces.

"Since last year, more than half of all Iraqi refugees in Iran - an estimated 107,000 people - have returned to their homeland. Most of them have gone back of their own accord, some 12,500 with UNHCR assistance. The rate of departure has been even higher among refugees staying in camps, with more than 80 percent of them choosing to repatriate. This has led to a drastic fall in the overall camp population to 8,000 from 50,000. Six out of 22 camps are now empty, another two are expected to be closed by the end of the year. Of the remaining 14 camps, many are already near empty."

As Iraqi refugees and exiles are coming back, many areas of their homeland don't resemble the chaotic picture seen every night on the news. Kuridstan remains peaceful and buzzing with activity; an example of what the rest of the country could aspire to: "Western businessmen move freely around the region's capital, Irbil, and American soldiers eat in restaurants without their body armour. In the crowded foyer of the Sheraton, Kurdish businessmen and politicians discuss reconstruction work." It's not just peace and growing prosperity, but also free intellectual climate which is attracting people to Kurdistan:

"Kurdish students living in Iraq's neighbours are flocking to universities in the Kurdish areas to escape repression at home and to benefit from the opportunities they say the region offers.

"The University of Sulaimaniyah alone has so far accepted more than 110 Kurdish students from neighbouring countries, mainly Iran and Syria, under a programme that reserves five per cent of all places at Iraqi Kurdish universities for high school graduates educated elsewhere.

"The foreign students receive free tuition and accommodation and a 100 US dollar allowance each term.

"Thirty-year old Farzeen, a first year student at Sulaimaniyah's media college from the Iranian town of Saqiz, said education in Iran is expensive in Iran and freedom of speech limited. 'You can't express any political beliefs or air your views freely or you end up in jail, especially if you are a Kurd,' said Farzeen."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Some Changes Around Here

Happy New Year!

I have made a few changes to my template. Something new for the new year. The photo in my header was taken September 2004 in Sequoia National Park. Over time, I plan to rotate other photos in its place.

Hope you like the new look.

UPDATE: I've gone ahead and added some javascript code to rotate the various header images I've created. These images are from a variety of photographs I took while visiting several different places in 2004. Each of the images is posted (and linked to the larger version) below with a short blurb about where and when the original photo was taken.

Looking down the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stairs, April 2004
Looking down the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stairs, April 2004

Sunset in the Smoky Mountains, Smoky Mountain National Park, July 2004
Sunset in the Smoky Mountains, Smoky Mountain National Park, July 2004

San Andreas Fault taken from Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park, September 2004
San Andreas Fault taken from Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park, September 2004

Lake Mead, September 2004
Lake Mead, September 2004

Scenery at Red Rock Canyon, September 2004
Scenery at Red Rock Canyon, September 2004

Blue sky over Red Rock Canyon, September 2004
Blue sky over Red Rock Canyon, September 2004

View of Las Vegas Strip from Red Rock Canyon, September 2004
View of Las Vegas Strip from Red Rock Canyon, September 2004

Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas Strip, September 2004
Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas Strip, September 2004

Giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park, September 2004
Giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park, September 2004

View from Morro Rock, Sequoia National Park, September 2004
View from Morro Rock, Sequoia National Park, September 2004

Flower, Everglades National Park, November 2004
Flower, Everglades National Park, November 2004