Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Employed and Iran

It is a lot easier to blog when you are sitting at home unemployed and looking for a job.

I don't have much to say today except that I was actually surprised that the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council have referred Iran. Must be amazing to watch the diplomacy, and deal-making that must have happened to get Russia (and China) on board. Would love to be a fly on the wall for these meetings.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hamas + Assad + Mughniyeh + Ahmadinejad = Trouble

In an unprecedented act of inconsideration, outgoing Palestinian security officials destroy security coordination documentation related to Israel, and to the interrogation of Hamas members. Woops. Sorry about that.

In unrelated news and irrlevent news, Syrian President and eye surgeon Bashar Assad meet with Khaled Mishaal this week. Oh, and in totally unrelated and irrelevent news isn't it interesting that the bastard Imad Mughniyeh by some reports actually accompanied Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his trip last week to Damascus.

This is totally James Bond stuff - stay tuned - nothing good can come of this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Week 2 and Iran and Foster Parents Plan

Week 2 and work is going well - classic project management, client management, scope management, project definition processes, etc... nice and tasty, you can use a spoon instead of a straw if you'd prefer.

What would a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities look like? Well that's a darn good question. George Friedman doesn't have much to say on it at the moment, his last missive talked about the significance of UBL's (Osama) latest audio message.

But Dr Jeffrey Lewis decided to scribble a bit about a potential strike-plan:

I outline the parameters, challenges and prospects for a strike designed to eliminate just Iran’s nuclear programs. Overall, I think the prospects for a strike are mixed—a properly timed strike might delay Iran’s program by a few years, although there are good reasons to think that the long-term result of a strike would be to worsen America’s security.

Go back and read part 1 and part 2 here.

Also John Pike gives us the options and OPLAN airstrike options.

I've found that the Atlantic Monthly provides a sobering note to a sobering war-game.

What other blog do you get all this information from? If you enjoy reading this, please consider making a donation to the Foster Parents Plan.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Vote NDP

This Monday, voting for the NDP gives support to social justice issues, tells the Liberals they cannot sneak under the wire and the Conservatives that they suck.

Steven Harper is a dangerous person.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Today's Post Hoc checklist

  • Check at the end of the work day to ensure that I did not remove the cardboard shirt collar stiffener from my dress shirt when I put it on this morning - DONE.
  • Order a $2.00 hamburger from the newly discovered cafeteria downstairs at work today, and confirm that it has the texture and pre-stamped quality of a carboard shirt collar stiffener. Notice that the toasted buns tasted very nice and that the burger did not - DONE.
  • Observe that it took me 7 minutes to drive home from work and rejoice in that fact - DONE.
  • Prepare to watch Lost tonight and rejoice in that fact - DONE.
  • Encourage wife to have more than 1.5 hours of sleep tonight - DONE.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Iran's Redefined Strategy

George Friedman of Stratfor was kind enough to send this little analysis to me. Thank you George.

The Iranians have broken the International Atomic Energy Agency seals on some of their nuclear facilities. They did this very deliberately and publicly to make certain that everyone knew that Tehran was proceeding with its nuclear program. Prior to this, and in parallel, the Iranians began to -- among other things -- systematically bait the Israelis, threatening to wipe them from the face of the earth.

The question, of course, is what exactly the Iranians are up to. They do not yet have nuclear weapons. The Israelis do. The Iranians have now hinted that (a) they plan to build nuclear weapons and have implied, as clearly as possible without saying it, that (b) they plan to use them against Israel. On the surface, these statements appear to be begging for a pre-emptive strike by Israel. There are many things one might hope for, but a surprise visit from the Israeli air force is not usually one of them. Nevertheless, that is exactly what the Iranians seem to be doing, so we need to sort this out.

There are four possibilities:

1. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, is insane and wants to be attacked because of a bad childhood.
2. The Iranians are engaged in a complex diplomatic maneuver, and this is part of it.
3. The Iranians think they can get nuclear weapons -- and a deterrent to Israel -- before the Israelis attack.
4. The Iranians, actually and rationally, would welcome an Israeli -- or for that matter, American -- air strike.

Let's begin with the insanity issue, just to get it out of the way. One of the ways to avoid thinking seriously about foreign policy is to dismiss as a nutcase anyone who does not behave as you yourself would. As such, he is unpredictable and, while scary, cannot be controlled. You are therefore relieved of the burden of doing anything about him. In foreign policy, it is sometimes useful to appear to be insane, as it is in poker: The less predictable you are, the more power you have -- and insanity is a great tool of unpredictability. Some leaders cultivate an aura of insanity.

However, people who climb to the leadership of nations containing many millions of people must be highly disciplined, with insight into others and the ability to plan carefully. Lunatics rarely have those characteristics. Certainly, there have been sociopaths -- like Hitler -- but at the same time, he was a very able, insightful, meticulous man. He might have been crazy, but dismissing him because he was crazy -- as many did -- was a massive mistake. Moreover, leaders do not rise alone. They are surrounded by other ambitious people. In the case of Ahmadinejad, he is answerable to others above him (in this case, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), alongside him and below him. He did not get to where he is by being nuts -- and even if we think what he says is insane, it clearly doesn't strike the rest of his audience as insane. Thinking of him as insane is neither helpful nor clarifying.

The Three-Player Game

So what is happening?

First, the Iranians obviously are responding to the Americans. Tehran's position in Iraq is not what the Iranians had hoped it would be. U.S. maneuvers with the Sunnis in Iraq and the behavior of Iraqi Shiite leaders clearly have created a situation in which the outcome will not be the creation of an Iranian satellite state. At best, Iraq will be influenced by Iran or neutral. At worst, it will drift back into opposition to Iran -- which has been Iraq's traditional geopolitical position. This is not satisfactory. Iran's Iraq policy has not failed, but it is not the outcome Tehran dreamt of in 2003.

There is a much larger issue. The United States has managed its position in Iraq -- to the extent that it has been managed -- by manipulating the Sunni-Shiite fault line in the Muslim world. In the same way that Richard Nixon manipulated the Sino-Soviet split, the fundamental fault line in the Communist world, to keep the Soviets contained and off-balance late in the Vietnam War, so the Bush administration has used the primordial fault line in the Islamic world, the Sunni-Shiite split, to manipulate the situation in Iraq.

Washington did this on a broader scale as well. Having enticed Iran with new opportunities -- both for Iran as a nation and as the leading Shiite power in a post-Saddam world -- the administration turned to Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and enticed them into accommodation with the United States by allowing them to consider the consequences of an ascended Iran under canopy of a relationship with the United States. Washington used that vision of Iran to gain leverage in Saudi Arabia. The United States has been moving back and forth between Sunnis and Shia since the invasion of Afghanistan, when it obtained Iranian support for operations in Afghanistan's Shiite regions. Each side was using the other. The United States, however, attained the strategic goal of any three-player game: It became the swing player between Sunnis and Shia.

This was not what the Iranians had hoped for.

Reclaiming the Banner

There is yet another dimension to this. In 1979, when the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini deposed the Shah of Iran, Iran was the center of revolutionary Islamism. It both stood against the United States and positioned itself as the standard-bearer for radical Islamist youth. It was Iran, through its creation, Hezbollah, that pioneered suicide bombings. It championed the principle of revolutionary Islamism against both collaborationist states like Saudi Arabia and secular revolutionaries like Yasser Arafat. It positioned Shi'ism as the protector of the faith and the hope of the future.

In having to defend against Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the 1980s, and the resulting containment battle, Iran became ensnared in a range of necessary but compromising relationships. Recall, if you will, that the Iran-Contra affair revealed not only that the United States used Israel to send weapons to Iran, but also that Iran accepted weapons from Israel. Iran did what it had to in order to survive, but the complexity of its operations led to serious compromises. By the late 1990s, Iran had lost any pretense of revolutionary primacy in the Islamic world. It had been flanked by the Sunni Wahhabi movement, al Qaeda.

The Iranians always saw al Qaeda as an outgrowth of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and therefore, through Shiite and Iranian eyes, never trusted it. Iran certainly didn't want al Qaeda to usurp the position of primary challenger to the West. Under any circumstances, it did not want al Qaeda to flourish. It was caught in a challenge. First, it had to reduce al Qaeda's influence, or concede that the Sunnis had taken the banner from Khomeini's revolution. Second, Iran had to reclaim its place. Third, it had to do this without undermining its geopolitical interests.

Tehran spent the time from 2003 through 2005 maximizing what it could from the Iraq situation. It also quietly participated in the reduction of al Qaeda's network and global reach. In doing so, it appeared to much of the Islamic world as clever and capable, but not particularly principled. Tehran's clear willingness to collaborate on some level with the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the war on al Qaeda made it appear as collaborationist as it had accused the Kuwaitis or Saudis of being in the past. By the end of 2005, Iran had secured its western frontier as well as it could, had achieved what influence it could in Baghdad, had seen al Qaeda weakened. It was time for the next phase. It had to reclaim its position as the leader of the Islamic revolutionary movement for itself and for Shi'ism.

Thus, the selection of the new president was, in retrospect, carefully engineered. After President Mohammed Khatami's term, all moderates were excluded from the electoral process by decree, and the election came down to a struggle between former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- an heir to Khomeini's tradition, but also an heir to the tactical pragmatism of the 1980s and 1990s -- and Ahmadinejad, the clearest descendent of the Khomeini revolution that there was in Iran, and someone who in many ways had avoided the worst taints of compromise.

Ahmadinejad was set loose to reclaim Iran's position in the Muslim world. Since Iran had collaborated with Israel during the 1980s, and since Iranian money in Lebanon had mingled with Israeli money, the first thing he had to do was to reassert Iran's anti-Zionist credentials. He did that by threatening Israel's existence and denying the Holocaust. Whether he believed what he was saying is immaterial. Ahmadinejad used the Holocaust issue to do two things: First, he established himself as intellectually both anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish, taking the far flank among Islamic leaders; and second, he signaled a massive breach with Khatami's approach.

Khatami was focused on splitting the Western world by dividing the Americans from the Europeans. In carrying out this policy, he had to manipulate the Europeans. The Europeans were always open to the claim that the Americans were being rigid and were delighted to serve the role of sophisticated mediator. Khatami used the Europeans' vanity brilliantly, sucking them into endless discussions and turning the Iran situation into a problem the Europeans were having with the United States.

But Tehran paid a price for this in the Muslim world. In drawing close to the Europeans, the Iranians simply appeared to be up to their old game of unprincipled realpolitik with people -- Europeans -- who were no better than the Americans. The Europeans were simply Americans who were weaker. Ahmadinejad could not carry out his strategy of flanking the Wahhabis and still continue the minuet with Europe. So he ended Khatami's game with a bang, with a massive diatribe on the Holocaust and by arguing that if there had been one, the Europeans bore the blame. That froze Germany out of any further dealings with Tehran, and even the French had to back off. Iran's stock in the Islamic world started to rise.

The Nuclear Gambit

The second phase was for Iran to very publicly resume -- or very publicly claim to be resuming -- development of a nuclear weapon. This signaled three things:

1. Iran's policy of accommodation with the West was over.
2. Iran intended to get a nuclear weapon in order to become the only real challenge to Israel and, not incidentally, a regional power that Sunni states would have to deal with.
3. Iran was prepared to take risks that no other Muslim actor was prepared to take. Al Qaeda was a piker.

The fundamental fact is that Ahmadinejad knows that, except in the case of extreme luck, Iran will not be able to get nuclear weapons. First, building a nuclear device is not the same thing as building a nuclear weapon. A nuclear weapon must be sufficiently small, robust and reliable to deliver to a target. A nuclear device has to sit there and go boom. The key technologies here are not the ones that build a device but the ones that turn a device into a weapon -- and then there is the delivery system to worry about: range, reliability, payload, accuracy. Iran has a way to go.

A lot of countries don't want an Iranian bomb. Israel is one. The United States is another. Throw Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and most of the 'Stans into this, and there are not a lot of supporters for an Iranian bomb. However, there are only two countries that can do something about it. The Israelis don't want to get the grief, but they are the ones who cannot avoid action because they are the most vulnerable if Iran should develop a weapon. The United States doesn't want Israel to strike at Iran, as that would massively complicate the U.S. situation in the region, but it doesn't want to carry out the strike itself either.

This, by the way, is a good place to pause and explain to readers who will write in wondering why the United States will tolerate an Israeli nuclear force but not an Iranian one. The answer is simple. Israel will probably not blow up New York. That's why the United States doesn't mind Israel having nukes and does mind Iran having them. Is that fair? This is power politics, not sharing time in preschool. End of digression.

Intra-Islamic Diplomacy

If the Iranians are seen as getting too close to a weapon, either the United States or Israel will take them out, and there is an outside chance that the facilities could not be taken out with a high degree of assurance unless nukes are used. In the past, our view was that the Iranians would move carefully in using the nukes to gain leverage against the United States. That is no longer clear. Their focus now seems to be not on their traditional diplomacy, but on a more radical, intra-Islamic diplomacy. That means that they might welcome a (survivable) attack by Israel or the United States. It would burnish Iran's credentials as the true martyr and fighter of Islam.

Meanwhile, the Iranians appear to be reaching out to the Sunnis on a number of levels. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of a radical Shiite group in Iraq with ties to Iran, visited Saudi Arabia recently. There are contacts between radical Shia and Sunnis in Lebanon as well. The Iranians appear to be engaged in an attempt to create the kind of coalition in the Muslim world that al Qaeda failed to create. From Tehran's point of view, if they get a deliverable nuclear device, that's great -- but if they are attacked by Israel or the United States, that's not a bad outcome either.

In short, the diplomacy that Iran practiced from the beginning of the Iraq-Iran war until after the U.S. invasion of Iraq appears to be ended. Iran is making a play for ownership of revolutionary Islamism on behalf of itself and the Shia. Thus, Tehran will continue to make provocative moves, while hoping to avoid counterstrikes. On the other hand, if there are counterstrikes, the Iranians will probably be able to live with that as well.


Syriana on the final day of my unemployment.

Since I have announced on this blog that I have a new job, I have been absolutely overwhelmed with e-mails of congratulations, good luck wishes, and literally hundreds of questions about what I am doing now. I had no idea of my fan-base out there, and am quite astonished that so many legions of folks really care at all! WOW!

Please be assured I read every single one of your e-mails and will make every effort - even if it means staying up all night - to respond personally to each of them.

In the 7 weeks that lay between positions, I have done quite a lot of sitting around, surfing the web, applying for positions, cooking, blogging and reading. I don't think I will be surfing the web, applying for positions, cooking, blogging or reading as much - but will make every effort to blog as much as humanly possible, if only out of deep gratitude to the crowds that follow this humble blog, and that contacted me indeed within minutes of me posting about getting the new job.

I saw Syriana the other day.

If you want to understand the CIA watch this movie - and big oil - this is a great film to watch... if you are squeamish, do not watch it.

I watched Syriana on the final day of my unemployment.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

'Divine mission' driving Iran's new leader

'Divine mission' driving Iran's new leader

This is a fascinating article that gives some insight on Ahmadinejad:

The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president's belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.

The prospect of such a man obtaining nuclear weapons is worrying. The unspoken question is this: is Mr Ahmadinejad now tempting a clash with the West because he feels safe in the belief of the imminent return of the Hidden Imam? Worse, might he be trying to provoke chaos in the hope of hastening his reappearance?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The spooks are at work.

Why haven't we heard more about the plane crash in Iran the other day that completely killed off all of the generals and folks in charge of the Shehab missile program? This is the missile that potentially could carry a nuclear warhead.

Funny how accidents happen. Especially what with everything that's going on.

The spooks are at work.


And She Was.

Once I was dancing at Disneyland with some classmates during a trip to California in 1984 and told them 'hey, this is a Talking Heads song!' and they said 'really?' and seemed really impressed that I knew who they were and that I had the tape of Little Creatures (album), which I played them later in my Koss walkman.

A big guy didn't seem to like the way I was dancing and kept ramming into me. I kept dancing and kept my dignity. Wait. I kept dancing. I kept dancing to 'And She Was'.

And She Was

And she was lying in the grass
And she could hear the highway breathing
And she could see a nearby factory
She's making sure she is not dreaming
See the lights of a neighbor's house
Now she's starting to rise
Take a minute to concentrate
And she opens up her eyes

The world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was)
The world was moving she was floating above it (and she was) and she was

And she was drifting through the backyard
And she was taking off her dress
And she was moving very slowly
Rising up above the earth
Moving into the universe
Drifting this way and that
Not touching ground at all
Up above the yard


She was glad about it... no doubt about it
She isn't sure where she's gone
No time to think about what to tell them
No time to think about what she's done
And she was

And she was looking at herself
And things were looking like a movie
She had a pleasant elevation
She's moving out in all directions


Joining the world of missing persons (and she was)
Missing enough to feel alright (and she was)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Short arms, fairies, neurosurgeons and interviews

This morning I woke up feeling refreshed but tired too. But nice tired like the sleep fairies had been massaging my brain all night long.

Sleep fairies are actually trained masseurs/neurosurgeons.

In the morning I went to a 'second' interview - first one was yesterday - and talked with the president and 2 other people.

Later in the afternoon I drove for a while to another interview - this was the 6th interview for this one position. Didn't like it really. As I left, I put on the director's coat. It looked like mine. He said it was his, "didn't I notice his short arms?". Really wasn't sure what to say to that - I hadn't noticed. Poor guy. Poor short-armed guy.

So I was pleased when I got a job offer from the company where I'd had the second interview today - they all seem to have normal-length arms.

It is pretty close by - I can see the building from living room window.

David Byrne

Well this makes me quite happy - I've chanced upon David Byrne's Blog... Talking Heads was magical for me in my teen years - David Byrne is a magician now.

I never saw them live - wish I could leap into a time machine and give it a go.

I feel like they saved my soul and mind when growing up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Getting Serious about Syria

Here's a terrific roundup of pieces about Syria's present state of wobbliness.

This is not a good fish.

Reading a story about the discovery and potential danger facing the population of coelacanths, I found a wonderful little quote:

[After the reporter went to a small village to pick up a fish that had been unintentionally caught in a net...]Making our way to Tanga, with the coelacanth in the boot, Simon, The Observer's driver from Dar es Salaam, was deeply unimpressed with his unexpected passenger. He produced a pink bottle of rose poppy perfume and sprayed it liberally around the car to mask the odour seeping in.

'Why should they save this fish?' he demanded. 'This is not a good fish. It's oily and you cannot eat this, and it's a smelly fish.' Fixing me with a puzzled look, he concluded: 'It's a bad fish.'

What a perfect piece of reasoning.

Argument: (preamble)I question those people's judgement about their intention to save this fish (preamble ends) - This is a fish not worth saving because:
P1 (Premise 1): It is an oily fish.
P2: Oily fish are not good.
P3: You cannot eat this fish.
P4: Inedible fish are not good.
P5: It is a smelly fish.
P6: Smelly fish are not good.
P7: Fish that are not good fish are bad fish
P8:(conclusion): Therefore, it's a bad fish.

On a separate note, I am interviewing for positions this week and such... I went to an interview this morning. It is a position worth getting - I have 2 more interviews today - but want this one...

Argument: I want this job because:
P1: It is close-by.
P2: Close-by companies are good.
P3: The people are professional and nice.
P4: Professional and nice people are good.
P5: It is not a smelly fish.
P6: Smelly fish are not good.
P7: These points above make for a great job.
p8: I want a great job.
P9: (conclusion) Therefore, I want this job.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Leaders' Debate

I'm currently watching the debate. Here are my first thoughts about the various players:

Paul Martin

  • passionate
  • believable
  • out of touch
  • rich experience
  • lots to say
  • confident

Steven Harper

  • is a victim of countless ad hominem attacks by yours truly
  • is a buffoon
  • probably smells very bad
  • has gas (appeared to during the debate)
  • clasps his hands tightly together and rocks back and forth as he realizes that his henchmen have not prepared him for reasonable arguments against all of his decidedly-unsophisticated positions
  • is an idiot
  • is actually packing a handgun in his belt beneath his jacket
  • petty and intellectually stunted
  • evasive and dangerous
  • possibly our next Prime Minister
  • God save us
  • God supports Harper's stand on handguns, and in fact packs a really large Smith & Wesson bigger than the Milky Way galaxy.

Jack Layton

  • trying to sell me a car
  • too much a 'politician'
  • good ideas
  • unseasoned
  • doesn't really connect with people well - relies on theory too much
  • spends a disproportionate amount of time grooming his mustache

Gilles Duceppe

  • I suspect Eric Idle and him were separated at birth.
  • seems a bit drunk
  • not at all sure what he wants to do for us
  • not sure why he talks about 'Canada and Quebec'... did anyone else pick that up?

In the grass

Saturday, October 16, 2004 152

Wish it was spring time... the days do seem to be getting longer though.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Snow scene - Music Garden

Snow scene - Music Garden

Duck - Toronto Harbour

See more...mungobah.

This little guy kept squeaking - and diving underwater for food.


Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Western Gap - Toronto Harbour

Wester Gap - Toronto Harbour
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Snow - Music Garden

Snow - Music Garden
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Swan - Toronto Harbour

Swan - Toronto Harbour
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Snow scene - Music Garden

Snow scene - Music Garden
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Swans - Toronto Harbour

Swans - Toronto Harbour
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Western Gap - Toronto Harbour

Western Gap - Toronto Harbour
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Western Gap - Toronto Harbour

Wester Gap - Toronto Harbour
Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Music Garden - Toronto Harbour

Originally uploaded by mungobah.

Took a photo of this juvenile swan this morning while wandering about the Music Garden...

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Google Pack - Delicious Bundly Goodness

Google Pack - what a refreshing, bundly concept.

Check out more bundly, delicious posts now.


Being unemployed and all, it would appear (judging from my last post) that I have a lot of time on my hands.

Silent and Photochromic Inventions

I've just been reading a Washington Post article on Interceptor Body Armor. Using fancy ceramics and composites and fibers this is pretty effective stuff - better than the old flak jackets.

Then I got to thinking, after reading that it has quick-release straps. I'm guessing they're made of velcro. Then I thought 'what if a soldier wants to be quiet?'. Then I thought, 'hey, I want to invent a silent velcro'.

How would I go about doing that? Seriously though, think about it. I've come in late from walking the pooch, wife sleeping, and my old pair of walkie-shoes had velcro fasteners (sometimes I find it difficult to remember how to tie laces)... RIPPPPPPPP is the quietest I could be.

Okay. I will invent silent velcro and get really rich.

Hope no-one thinks of this before I do.

Okay, great. I googled Silent Velcro and tons of bloggers have thought of this too. Swine. Like the time when I was 12 (grade 7) and invented (on a scrap of paper) sunglasses that turn dark when it was bright outside... The invention consisted of 2 sheets of thin glass, containing a liquid crystal solution connected to a small battery that would in turn be connected to a light-level detector (I was a little scientist in those days). When it got really bright, a charge would be allowed to flow - due to the light-detector modulating a capacitor output - through to the liquid, in turn changing the liquid crystal orientations such that the sheet went darker.

Shoulda sold this idea. It turns out that my invention is actually called Photochromic Sunglasses.

Back to the Silent Velcro.. I'm going to start my investigations at active silencing... now that electronics have become more miniaturized and inexpensive, maybe a little electronic doo-dad connected to the backing sheet for the velcro... etc... hmmmm...

Friday, January 6, 2006

In Terviews

I have a second-interview this afternoon.
I have 2 interviews at different places on Tuesday.
I have an interview at another place Wednesday.
I had a 2nd telephone interview following up on yesterday's in-person interview.

Soon I will have a permanent position, I hope.

Speaking of permanent positions, a book Spring got me 'The Advanced Backpacker - A handbook for year-round, long-distance hiking' takes a permanent position in my camping library.

Now I can authoritatively tell folks to take a hike.

(har har)

p.s. for those of you who read the nytimes.com, here's a blog containing a running list of most-recently published articles.

Khaddamn calls for Syrian revolt.

This just seems like a dangerous thing to call for.

Walking into a biker bar and singing 'Raindrops keep falling on my head' and substituting additional lyrics loudly and crassly making fun of big dumb bikers seems a little less hazardous.

Especially when you are dealing with highly organized people who like to blow up their opponents.

But good that he's calling for a change in regime.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Middle East & Washington Mess

Sharon gravely ill - this is bound to shake things up in the Middle East.

Coupled with Kenny G.'s friend really clumsy Ahmadajinejad, the region is soon going from bad to worse.

Another obscure Poli-dent in Washington... who'll be brought down?

All things Googly - These blogs are tasty morsels.

Links to Google Blogs follow here, worth looking around (these links to specific posts, make sure you view the whole blog from the header bar):

  1. Google Blog talks about 'A year of Google blogging'...
  2. I don't yet use Google Reader.
  3. Google Video Blog - which I don't really use at all, but might if it gets more interesting...
  4. Google Talk is a great program, but some reason (I have a Google engineer currently troubleshooting with me) it freezes up on my new system here.
  5. Google Desktop - I just installed it, after sticking with X1 Search. I think I love Google Desktop search. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a computer at home. Or at work. Or in a small swamp populated with dragon flies and frogs.
  6. This notice about 'JavaScript temporarily forked', sounds a bit rude to me, but this is a great offering from Google Maps...
  7. Google Base makes no sense to me yet. But in time it will.

Make sure you check out more tasty morsels on my homepage.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Wot happened today.

This morning, after consulting with a Dell technical services voice on the phone, I calmly arrived at the conclusion that I had to format my entire hard drive.

So I did.

I am now trying to put back files I'd previously archived. I have lost some files.

That is why I want a Maxtor One-Touch external backup drive.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Children and Dogs: back up your computers now. Don't dilly-dally. Learn this lesson while you still have your arms and eyeballs. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

One a more positive note, regarding first impressions, I attended an interview today, wearing my fancy tie. I saw famous people in one of the rooms, because famous people work where I interviewed. They looked at me and I looked at them. Somehow I don't think they got the same endearing sense of familiarity I got after catching their eye(s).

Tomorrow I have another interview for another position - there won't be famous people there.

Tuesday I have another interview. No famous people there.

Spring will sleep better tonight and Monty will too. That's because Spring got lots of sleep last night and Monty is just plain sleepy. He is now suckling on his stuffed donkey. He kneads Donkey (as the stuffed donkey is known) with his front paws and clamps down on a leg or neck and breathes heavily, as his eyes clamp shut. You can see his tongue moving against the toy. Perhaps he was taken away from his mum too early - we got him at 7 weeks. Anyway, it is darned cute.

That is all. Go to sleep now everyone. It is 11:20 PM.


Tuesday, January 3, 2006

90 years.

According to this online survey, my calculated 'healthspan' or lifespan is 90 years. Not bad!

Smoking is for losers.

Note the cool guy with the mustache in this picture.

Mustaches are for losers only if you are wearing a red-loin skirt.

Please do not take this post as an apologia for mustaches. Mungo does not condone the use of mustaches as a personal grooming style.

A little bit of knowledge...

I am slightly irritable at the moment, after having read a news article, so if you are feeling a little defensive or hold the Guardian newspaper in high esteem... don't read on:

I'm sorry, I know many people like the Guardian and all... but ah crap, they're penning stories like this one about Cookies and the NSA web site.

The journalist knows practically NOTHING about what they write of, but uses lots of quotes and references to make it seem like they do. It is the fundamentals that count, not the hype, people. Those cookies DO NOT REPRESENT A PRIVACY OR SECURITY THREAT. The story is a NON-ISSUE. Try reporting on something that actually matters.

Perhaps to placate the likely irritating journalist's panicked and breathless telephone queries, an FAS representative responded thusly:

"This illustrates the principle that unchecked authority goes astray. In this case, it's a relatively trivial infraction," said Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists.

In other words, "you're a mindless clone of a journalist who is revealing your ignorance and I know I can't get you to give up your profession upon which you bring great dishonour, so shut up and leave me alone, so I can get drunk and wonder about the state of ignorance in this world, pointedly illustrated by your phone call."

Oh and by the way the journalist mentions googlewatch.org as a source of information. I checked out the site. It is a domain-spam landing page. Nice goin' there aardvark.

Phew. I feel much better now.


Syria or Iran?

As I took Monty for a little walk just now, I was pondering on whether Syria or Iran will get whooped next... Syria's been very bad, but aren't a NBC threat (save for the WMD and the Iraq Baathists they keep guard over). The UN and internal disputes and tension will cause them to implode. I see another Ukraine or Romania in the (short) months ahead. Assad = Ceaucescu.

Yes, you heard predicted here first.

Iran is clearly a NBC threat. CIA Director Porter Goss took a little flight out to Ankara the other day. This was hardly reported on...

Key Syrian Intelligence Official Defects

Yes, you heard it here first (well, actually second, Debka.com had it first):

January 3, 2006, 10:04 PM (GMT+02:00)

Retired General Ali Duba, known as father of Syrian intelligence and loyal aide of Presidents Assad father and son has fled to London from Damascus.

This defection follows the blunt charges leveled against Bashar Assad by former Syrian vice president Khalam Haddam last Friday, and the UN inquiry commission’s demand that the Syrian president make himself available for questioning in the Hariri assassination.

(Read more here...)

Vulnerable Issues

RIM Blackberries are vulnerable.
Versions of Windows are vulnerable.
All sorts of things are vulnerable.
I don't feel very vulnerable today.
I didn't get that consulting job at The Firm.
But I have an interview tomorrow and another interview in 2 days.
I am looking for a job. Wonder where it is?

Google Blog

There is no mention on Google Blog today about the computers and OS that Google is going to market with Walmart.

I'm curious about what this OS will look like. I heard a prized Microsoft OS engineer defected to Googleland recently.

Longhorn meets Googlehorn.

Please make sure you check out further important and intriguing developments and look carefully to find the best options.


Meat Products.

I like:

Post Hoc Checklist

  1. Run file cleaner across hard disk to prepare disk for full defragmentation. - DONE
  2. Tinker with settings and run it again - DONE
  3. Reboot computer - DONE
  4. Notice computer won't reboot - DONE
  5. Despair - DONE
  6. Reboot again. - DONE
  7. Observe computer working again. - DONE
  8. Run boot-time checkdisk - DONE
  9. Reboot computer - DONE
  10. Notice computer won't reboot - DONE
  11. Despair - DONE
  12. Install Win2K from old disk - DONE
  13. Install WinXP Pro from old disk - DONE
  14. Try to update to Service Pack 2 - DONE
  15. Read notice about possible cracked installation and that SP2 won't install - DONE
  16. Despair - DONE
  17. Tell Wife - DONE
  18. Listen to Wife's advice about phoning Dell - DONE
  19. Phone Dell and explain - DONE
  20. Thank Dell for preparing to send replacement XP Home OS disk to replace corrupted version (original) - DONE
  21. Rejoice - DONE
  22. Phone Wife and explain - DONE
  23. Thank Wife for being so brilliant - DONE
  24. Install bare minimum programs to keep going until I get disk. - DONE
  25. Relax. - IN PROGRESS

Monday, January 2, 2006

UN wants to interview top Syria leaders

And here's more from the International Herald Tribune:

BEIRUT The United Nations commission investigating the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister has asked to interview President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, both of Syria, the commission's spokesperson said Monday.

"The commission will also seek to interview Abdul Halim Khaddam as soon as possible," Nasra Hassan, the spokeswoman, said. Khaddam, a former Syrian official, said in a television broadcast Friday that Assad had threatened the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, several months before he was assassinated in a truck bombing on Feb. 14.

The commission, whose mandate was recently renewed by the UN Security Council for six months, has reported that several people whom Hariri spoke to after he met Assad in August 2004 said the Syrian leader had threatened Hariri over the issue of Syrian plans to extend the term of Lebanon's president.

Syrian officials, such as Sharaa, have denied that any threat was made. Khaddam was the architect of Syria's military and political domination of neighboring Lebanon, but eventually broke with the Assad regime.

"I will destroy anyone who tries to hinder our decisions," Khaddam quoted Assad as telling Hariri during a meeting in Damascus.

I like that last quote - I think I'll try to use it in casual conversation:

"Hey man, let's order pizza from Domino's now - after we go to the beer store."

"No, let's order it from Pizza Pizza - it is better pizza, plus I will destroy anyone who tries to hinder my decision."

"Uhmm... well, okay sure. Let's get it from Pizza Pizza then... sheeeesh."

Dramatic turn in UN Hariri assassination probe

Holy crapola - I didn't know that the UN could ever do this - kudos:

Dramatic turn in UN Hariri assassination probe: a formal demand to question Syrian president Bashar Assad and foreign minister Farouk a-Shara on their role in the crime.

This is the first time in UN annals that an inquiry commission established by the world body demands to quiz an incumbent head of state on the murder of an ex-prime minister of another nation.

He confirmed the UN report that found the Syrian president had threatened the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri months before his assassination. Haddam, whom Bashar unseated after he succeeded his father as president, denounced the Syrian president for refusing to sack General Rustoum Ghazaleh, the former Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon,immediately after the assassination.

DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources note that Haddam insinuated in the interview that Assad had had pre-knowledge of the murder and could have prevented it. He clearly laid the crime at Ghazaleh’s door and made it clear that no part of Syrian intelligence is free to act without Assad’s authority. This veteran Syrian politician’s diatribe against Assad is unprecedented and shocked opinion in Damascus and the Arab world.