Saturday 31 July 2004

Cognitive Dissonance

After suffering repeated bouts of the Flu, with associated fevers etc in the last few weeks, hopefully I'm on the road to recovery.

But can't help feeling that I'm in some sort of Fever Dream.

First, we have normal, rational, mainstream newspapers publishing stuff like this :
the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia
followed by
I thought what I wrote was a statement of fact
It is becoming increasingly obvious that John Howard is the lobby's strong choice to win the election, and that means big money and big power will be behind him.
All from Margot's Diary in the Sydney Morning Herald. (But history has been re-written, and the initial entries censored UnThinked by MiniTrue)

Then we have Phillip Adams in The Australian claiming that Saddam Hussein didn't really kill hundreds of thousands, there's no evidence, they may have all just gone out to the corner shop for a packet of fags and be back momentarily etc etc. as well as spouting long-exploded misquotations and downright falsehoods.

I dunno. Things that I might have expected from the Green Left Weekly, Der Sturmer or the Aryan Nations are now appearing in the mainstream press. Hopefully 'This too shall pass' after the coming elections.

There are too many issues, hard issues, that I really should have blogged about. Let's start with Dafur and the Sudan. The situation is that an overtly racist Arab Theocracy, stymied in their genocidal war against Black Christians and Animists in the south, has turned their attention to the Black Muslims in the west.

Something - not just condemnation in the UN - should be done. But what? The Aid agencies are actually withdrawing due to incessant harrasment by the government-sponsored 'militias', UN sanctions are being blocked because the French have Oil interests there, and there appears to be no feasible peaceful means of pursuading the Mullahs in Kahartoum to pull their collective heads in before more millions die. I say 'more', because it's estimated that 2 million have already died in the last decades.

The Military situation is not much more rosy. The heads of Government are in the civilised - as in 'citified' - area of Sudan, where people have such things as water, sewerage, roads, electricity, and even mobile phones. Now a long time ago I did a military analysis of the communications infrastructure in western Sudan, as part of a hypothetical wargame. (This was in 1974 IIRC - one of the few periods where Sudan wasn't inflicted with Civil War. Not much has changed since.) The short answer is that there isn't any. I don't mean 'there isn't much', like in outback Australia or Siberia, I mean there isn't any. Tracks marked on maps are vague indications of routes whose exact courses change every season, and are often only passable by animals or on foot. I say 'Tracks', because in an area about the size of France there are two of them. One runs through Al Fashir through to Faya-Largeau in Chad, that's the only one of any military worth. And you know you've got a Big Problem when Chad starts looking good from a logistics viewpoint.

So we would find it easy to take out the Government that's so odious, but not be able to help the poor devils who actually need the food and medicines. Conventional Military operations in the west would be incredibly expensive, first you'd need to build a road and rail network, that will take a decade. In the short term, a few airbases could pick up the military slack - you'd only need 10,000 troops on the ground in the West (but 100,000 in the East). The cost would be greater than the Iraq war.

But it would stop the Genocide, and how do you put a price on that? For what it's worth, I think that after the US election, if Bush wins, the US taxpayer will be asked to dig deep in their pockets yet again. As will the EU, with or without French co-operation. Whether they'll say 'yes' to the request is another matter. If Howard wins another term, he's already indicated that Australian troops could be committed. And the SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) would be perfect for the job of operating out west, hundreds of kilometres from any support. The Arab Militias are really good at massacring and terrorising unarmed civilians, but to the SAS, they'd be mere targets to be serviced, Fish in the proverbial Barrel.

OK, that's Dafur.

Then there's Zimbabwe. Average Life Expectancy is now 33.9, compared to nearly 60 before Robert Mugabe. Of course a lot of that is due to AIDS, which is turning vast tracts of Africa into depopulated wilderness. But a lot isn't.

Then there's Uzbekistan, whose Dictator and our supposed "ally" in the war against Islamofascism has the endearing habit of boiling Muslims alive. Not suicide bombers or terrorists, any Muslim will do.

Then there's North Korea, whose Dictator appears to be following a script from the Third Reich.

Then there's.... enough. There's a reason why I haven't blogged about all the important stuff going on in the world at the moment. Issues that will affect whether millions will live or die. You can move a mountain one teaspoon at a time, but not if you look at the magnitude of the task too hard.

Friday 30 July 2004

Guaranteed to contain No Elephant Dung

The wonders you find on the Internet.

From Culture Kiosque :
Ofili remarked during a radio interview at the award ceremony that the important thing was to know whether art was "good art or bad art" and not whether it contained elephant dung.

An example of 'Good Art', is Gum Blondes.
Each Gum Blonde is 100% chewed Bubblegum on a plywood backing. No paint or dye is used. The colour is inherent in the gum - the mixing of colour takes place inside the mouth during chewing using an endless variety of flavours made by an endless variety of companies. Kronenwald [Jason Kronenwald, the artist] has a dedicated team of chewers and prefers the texture of Trident. However he does not chew gum himslef unless he must.
Have a look at the gallery. The initial works were crude and experimental, but by the third or fourth, a true style was developed.

( Hat Tip : Utterly Boring )

Thursday 29 July 2004

The Grauniad

I'm still coughing and sneezing, and gulping the odd dose of pseudoephedrine etc, so don't expect anything of any great worth and moment. As others have found, blogging while heavily medicated is a recipe for disaster.

And talking about recipes for Disaster, readers may wonder why I refer to the Guardian newspaper as the Grauniad.

From the Free Dictionary :
It is sometimes known affectionately as the Grauniad because it was noted for typographical errors in the past, including misspelling its own name once in the 1970s. Although such errors are now less frequent than they used to be, the 'Corrections and clarifications' column can still often provide some amusement. There were even a number of errors in the first issue, perhaps the most notable being a notification that there would soon be some goods sold at atction, instead of auction.
The term "Guardian reader" is often used pejoratively. The stereotype of a Guardian reader is a person with leftist politics, rooted in the 1960s, regularly eating lentils, wearing sandals and believing in alternative medicine and natural medicine, despite extensive science coverage including a contempt for alternative medicine.
To show that its traditions of sloppiness, carelessness, and downright idiocy are still being preserved, here's a recent article : Seven Iraqi Troops Killed in Poland

For more in the same vein, see Doh, the Humanity (courtesy of UtterlyBoring)

Saturday 24 July 2004

Dreaded Lurgy (Part II - The Return)

Whatever bug is going around at the moment, I've got it again, so blogging will be light for a few days. Felt lousy Thursday morning, surfaced briefly to do a bit of blogging, then crawled back into bed and have stayed there for most of the time, gulping pseudoephedrine, paracetamol, and codeine.

I made the mistake of attempting to do some Perl scripting... but I'm sure I can undo the damage when I feel a bit better. (Note to self : Perl is bad enough when you're feeling well... never attempt it when under the influence of anti-flu medication.)

So here's a URL, which can be filed under 'Brains' or 'Space'. It also describes the way I feel at the moment.

From NASA, Spinning Brains.

Thursday 22 July 2004

A Critic At Work

From the Grauniad :
Reviewing someone's first novel, it is customary to be polite about it, to find things to praise in it. So let me say straight away that James Thackara's The Book Of Kings is printed on very nice paper; the typeface is clear and readable, and Samantha Nundy's photograph of the author is in focus. And, given that it's 773 pages long, the author has shown a commendable degree of application and spent a great deal of time on the project....
Via Normblog

Pros and Cons of a Career in the US Military


From the New Yorker :
For years, the military has offered its recruits free tuition, specialized training, and a host of other benefits to compensate for the tremendous sacrifices they are called upon to make. Lately, many of them have been taking advantage of another perk: free cosmetic surgery.

“Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible,” Dr. Bob Lyons, the chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, said recently, in his office in San Antonio. It is true: personnel in all four branches of the military and members of their immediate families can get face-lifts, nose jobs, breast enlargements, liposuction, or any other kind of elective cosmetic alteration, at taxpayer expense. (For breast enlargements, patients must supply their own implants.) There is no limit on the number of cosmetic surgeries one soldier can have, although, Lyons said, “we don’t do extreme makeovers in the military.”
Janis Garcia, a former lieutenant commander and jag attorney in the Navy, who is married to a retired Navy fighter pilot, says she grew up hating the way she looked. “I wouldn’t even smile in my own wedding pictures.” She checked in to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego for a nose job, a chin realignment, and a jaw reconstruction, free of charge. She also had her teeth straightened. “It changed my appearance drastically, and I became a more confident person,” she said. “It literally changed the direction of my life.” The doctors told her the work she had done would have cost her nearly a hundred thousand dollars.
The Army’s rationale is that, as a spokeswoman said, “the surgeons have to have someone to practice on.” “The benefit of offering elective cosmetic surgery to soldiers is more for the surgeon than for the patient,” Lyons said. “If there’s a happy soldier or sailor at the end of that operation, that’s an added benefit, but that’s not the reason we do it. We do it to maintain our skills”—skills that are critical, he added, when it comes to doing reconstructive surgery on soldiers who have been wounded.


From The Australian :
US food technologists have invented dried rations that a soldier can rehydrate by using dirty water or even his own urine, the British weekly New Scientist reports.

The ration is surrounded by a plastic membrane made of a nanofibre that, according to its inventors, can filter out 99.9 per cent of microbes and the most harmful toxic compounds, allowing only clean water to get to the preserved food.

So far, only one prototype - chicken and rice - has been tested, but the menu will be expanded to incorporate other down-home favourites if the concept proves popular.

The inventors are the Combat Feeding Directorate, part of the US Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts.

Two years ago, their men and women came up with an "indestructible sandwich" that could stay fresh for three years.
I was under the impression that this type of sandwich had been invented by British Rail at their culinary training laboratories restaurant at Crewe some time in the 50's... and that specimens of the original batch are still being served on Australian Country trains. They were last time I travelled by rail, anyway.

Wednesday 21 July 2004

American Pie

The definative annotation.

Though I like Don McLean's reputed remark about the subject :
When asked about the meaning of "American Pie" Don Mclean replied, "It means I never have to work again".

Memories of Futures Past

Days of Futures Past was the 1967 Moody Blues Album, which is really quite appropriate. Those were the Days (my friend), but now... File this one under 'Space'.

From NASA :
laser reflector arrayA cutting-edge science experiment left behind in the Sea of Tranquility by Apollo 11 astronauts is still running today.
Ringed by footprints, sitting in the moondust, lies a 2-foot wide panel studded with 100 mirrors pointing at Earth: the "lunar laser ranging retroreflector array." Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put it there on July 21, 1969, about an hour before the end of their final moonwalk. Thirty-five years later, it's the only Apollo science experiment still running.

University of Maryland physics professor Carroll Alley was the project's principal investigator during the Apollo years, and he follows its progress today. "Using these mirrors," explains Alley, "we can 'ping' the moon with laser pulses and measure the Earth-moon distance very precisely. This is a wonderful way to learn about the moon's orbit and to test theories of gravity."
More and better data could reveal strange fluctuations in gravity, amendments to Einstein, the "sloshing" of the moon's core. Time will tell ... and there's plenty of time. Lunar mirrors require no power source. They haven't been covered with moondust or pelted by meteoroids, as early Apollo planners feared. Lunar ranging should continue for decades, perhaps for centuries.
It's a good job we placed this reflector 35 years ago, because we couldn't do it today. the question is, will be able to do it 10 years from now? 15? 20? And will the anthem played be the "Star-Mangled SpannerStar-Spangled Banner" or "The East is Red"?

As an Australian... I don't mind who does it , as long as it gets done. The old bit about 'We came in peace for all Mankind', remember? Or probably not, unless you're well into middle age. Memories of Futures, Past.

Australia's Pro-Barrier Vote

I confess I was moderately surprised when Australia voted not to censure Israel in the UN for putting up the protective barrier. I expected - or rather hoped - that we would abstain, but feared that we'd go along with the majority out of a misplaced respect for the International Court of Justice. I'm glad I was wrong.

The inimitable and inestimable Tim Blair has a rogue's gallery of who voted Yes, and who voted No. In the comments section, you'll also find the roll call of the absent and the abstentions.
So why did we do it? Here's the Official Line :
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Australia does not approve of the barrier's path but says the court was not the right place to raise the issue.

"We believe that taking this matter of the security barrier to the International Court of Justice was the wrong decision," he said.

"The second thing is that Israel must find ways of defending itself against terrorists and it isn't reasonable to tell the Israelis that they can't erect a security barrier to protect the people of Israel from suicide homicide bombers."

Mr Downer added: "I have always been opposed to this case being taken to the court of justice because the court of justice does not have the jurisdiction to make a determination on this matter.

"It can only give an advisory opinion and it's created a political controversy surrounding the court of justice and I regret that."
I happen to agree with him on every single point (and there are lots of points). Anyone with Internet access can see that while the number of attempted suicide bombings has risen exponentially, the number of successful ones has dropped to almost none. But there's a bit more to it than that.

First, the Israeli Supreme Court found that parts of the Barrier caused undue hardship to local Palestinians : so the Israelis are already spending over$15 Million Aussie Dollars making the neccessary mods. There is already a functioning system for review and modification for the future (the barrier is less than 1/3 complete) to avoid un-neccessary injustice.

Secondly, and most contentiously, there's the matter of the placement as a de-facto border between two states, Israel and Palestine, mainly on disputed territory. Here's the Israeli view :
The former "Green Line" was the armistice line between Israel and Jordan during the years 1949-1967. It was not the final border between the countries which was to be determined in peace negotiations. The "Green Line" ceased to exist following the Arab threat to Israel's existence in the spring of 1967 which led to the Six Day War in June of that year. The drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967 recognized that the pre-June 1967 lines were not secure.

While the final border between Israel and the Palestinians has to be determined in negotiations, the route of the anti-terrorism fence is determined solely by the immediate and pressing need to save Israeli lives by preventing Palestinian terrorists from reaching the Israeli populations. Thus, the fence is being built wherever this can be achieved most effectively. To put it arbitrarily anywhere else, such as along the pre-June 1967 lines, would have nothing to do with security and, therefore, nothing to do with the purpose of the fence.
Planned Barrier PositionAlthough the Barrier ('Fence' as the Israelis call it, 'Wall' as the ICJ calls it - it's 3% concrete, 97% wire) is inside the 'Green Line' for a few hundred metres, that's less than 1%. The question is, have the Palestinians forfeited any rights to the 'benefit of the doubt'? And have the Israelis earned it, regardless of their de-facto military superiority? I'd have to say, yes, and yes. Although the Barrier is outside the 'Green Line', it's not far from it, it cuts through non-urban land, and is no huge Land Grab. Anyone else would have put it along the border with the bit of Palestine that was given to the Arabs, namely, Jordan. And should the Palestinians ever really make a sincere effort for Peace, then such a barrier would be redundant, and could be dispensed with. It's likely it will become the de-facto border, but it's not certain. That's up to the Palestinians.

Thirdly, there's a small matter of blatant hypocracy.

From the Monday Morning of Lebanon :
But in Kashmir itself, India is taking measures which, if they do not lead to war, are raising angry feelings in a sensitive spot. It is building a “wall of separation” to divide the Indian-controlled from the Pakistani-controlled parts of the territory.
An Indian army captain says that, when completed, the wall will protect his people from attacks by Muslim extremists.
Once the thousand-kilometer high-tech fence is finished, militants will no longer be able to infiltrate his side of the disputed territory and kill his soldiers and civilians, he says.
On the other side of the barrier, anguished Muslim villagers protest that it is taking their land and cutting them off from their loved ones.
As the World Court was about to rule on Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, the arguments, so regularly rehearsed, certainly sounded familiar.
India voted "Yes" to condemn.

Then there's the little matter of the Saudi-Yemen er, fence? From the Grauniad :
The head of Saudi Arabia's border guard, Talal Anqawi, told an Arab newspaper last week that the barrier was being constructed inside Saudi territory but did not specify the exact location. He also dismissed comparisons with Israel's West Bank barrier, which has sparked international condemnation.

"What is being constructed inside our borders with Yemen is a sort of screen ... which aims to prevent infiltration and smuggling," he said. "It does not resemble a wall in any way."
The Grauniad doesn't say whether he was able to say it with a straight face, as the border between Yemen and Saudi has been the subject of contention (and several wars) since the two countries were founded. Saudi voted "Yes" to condemn, of course.

Finally there's this little graphic, which I think on its own provides a full and complete justification. Although I would have preferred a less racist labelling (there's a lot of Bedouin in the IDF, and it's insulting to them), it's the way that Hamas and Co think, so after some consideration, I've left it as the original artist intended.
Arab vs Jew Prams
I'd like to give credit to the artist, but I downloaded it ages ago, and can't find the original site

Tuesday 20 July 2004

Popular Front for the Liberation of Judea

From the ABC comes a story about the recent assassination (via Car Booby Trap) of a senior Hezbollah figure in Lebanon.:
PFLJJund Ash Sham, which announced its formation a few weeks ago in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Helweh, issued a statement claiming responsiblity.

It was the first time that a Sunni group has allegedly claimed an attack on a rival figure in Lebanon's Shiite community, the largest in the country.

"We have executed one of the symbols of treachery, the Shiite Ghaleb Awwali," said Jund Ash-Sham, which refers to Damascus at the time of the seventh century Ommayyad Islamic califate.

"This is the start of a real and decisive battle between Islam and heresy."

Jund Ash-Sham is a splinter group of Osbat al-Nour, a tiny group that sought refuge in the Palestinian refugee camp in Ain al-Helweh after deadly armed clashes with the Lebanese army in northern Lebanon, in January 2000.

The grouping is made up of mostly Sunni fundamentalist Palestinians, and some Lebanese from extremist circles that oppose Shiites, particularly the Islamic republic of Iran.

Considered more radical than Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Jund Ash Sham also opposes all other secular and nationalist Palestinian movements.

Sounding Off

Via Tim Blair, a host of BBC Audio Bloopers. I particularly feel for the female news announcer who stuggled valiantly on with her task before succumbing to what is known in Oz as a 'Technicolour Yawn'.

And via Llama Butchers, here is a hilarious recording of an emergency service for those whose hair colour is a lighter shade of pale : BlondeStar.

Monday 19 July 2004

1775 Virusses

Actually, 8 virusses/trojans, but one of them - Netsky.Q - had infected 1767 files.

Today I spent most of the daylight hours doing a clean-up of a small network in the neighbourhood. The 4 XP machines that were being used by teenagers were almost virus-free : just a residue of some KAZAA-provided spyware in the backup files. They had freeware virus scanners on, that had been updated regularly (though not to the latest version - I fixed that too).

But the Win98 machine being used for administration ( and with a very obsolete copy of Norton Anti-Virus on it ), had 1775 files infected with various nasties. Mostly Netsky.Q, but a few other trojans, diallers, and downloaders too. That was about 5% of the total files on the disk.

The moral of the story : a Virus Scanner that is not regularly updated - at least monthly, but weekly is better - just provides you with a false sense of security. Even the very best, most costly Pro virus scanner there is, if it's not been updated for 12 months, is useless compared with a freeware one that's only a month old.

I'm recommending they buy a small network license for AVG. Cost is USD 150, and they may get a discount as they're a non-profit organisation. No names, no pack drill.

AVG is of course free for personal home use.

And I suppose this Blog has finally come-of-age. I had to remove the first bit of Robot-generated Spam in the comments of a previous post. Obviously Blogger/Blogspot isn't too choosy about who is allowed to be a 'registered user'.

I'm still getting the odd e-mail thanking me for help with SACHOST too. It's still out there. *SIGH*

Thursday 15 July 2004

Pachydermic Personnel Prediction

Otherwise known as The Elephant Test.
The procedure is simple - Each subject is sent to Africa to hunt elephants. The subsequent elephant-hunting behaviour is then categorized by comparison to the classification rules outlined below. The subject should be assigned to the general job classification that best matches the observed behaviour....
There are other variants of this classic.
MATHEMATICIANS hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left.
EXPERIENCED MATHEMATICIANS will attempt to prove the existence of at least one unique elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate exercise.
PROFESSORS OF MATHEMATICS will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an exercise for their graduate students....

And while we're on the subject of Matehmatical jokes, there's Subliminal Nonsense, from a German Mathematics Student currently at Trinity College, Cambridge. Not just humour, but a few small animated .Gifs like the one below, and links to a variety of on-line games.

Morris on Israel

Anyone who's interested in the problems in the Middle East - and they affect all of us - should read this.

It's an article about Benny Morris's lonely quest for an objective assessment of what really happened in 1948.

Morris attempted to write an objective history of what happened in 1948, letting the blame fall as it may, based on all the written evidence and no particular agenda. His book has recently been revised, based on documents from Israeli archives released under the '50 year rule'.

The reason he's now changed his views on what was justifiable or not, is based upon the happenings since 2000.

In the 1990's, when he published the first edition of his book, it was possible to believe that Palestinians would shortly accept Israel's right to exist. It's not possible now.

Morris does not deny that 'ethnic cleansing' occurred in 1948. Not organised, not widespread, but it did occur, and he can prove it, no matter what Zionist fanatics can say.

The difference is, that now he sees that there either had to be an ethnic cleansing of Jews, or of Arabs, solely because the Palestinians cannot currently live alongside Jews. The Israeli Jews, and Israeli Arabs (Bedouin etc) are willing. The Palestinians are not, and have shown this repeatedly since 2000.

I'm not completely sure he's correct. How much of the Terrorism against Israel has broad-based popular support, and how much is an artifact of Arafat and Co? And if it does have widespread support, how much of that is an artifact of 50 years continuous propaganda in brainwashing the Mob? Living together may have been possible in 1948 (though given the terrorism in the 30's, and the many instances of Arab Xenophobia expressed in pogroms against Jews, this is dubious), and hopefully it may be possible some time in the future. But I don't see that it's possible now.

Wednesday 14 July 2004

Behind the (Mircosoft) Curtain

As in 'pay no attention to the Man...'. File this one under 'Software'.

Here is a another sad and sorry tale, this time one of Feeping Creaturism, and inapropriate metrics (as I've blogged on before).

For anyone intersted in the Software Development Business, it also lifts the curtain a little on what the Good Folks at Microsoft were actually doing a few years ago... and possibly still are.
Fact of the matter is that we knew from years of usability studies that what users most wanted was a simple system that helped them do the most basic of things. Track a monthly budget. Get out of debt. Figure out what's left in the checking account.
How many readers can identify with that?...
Try as we might to improve these things, we couldn't invest seriously in fixing these basic user experiences. What if Quicken were to come out with support for calls and puts? Indeed, that too came to pass, and reviewers latched on to the fact that the new Quicken supported call and put options. What followed was a Reagan-esque Features Arms Race(TM). It was all you could do to close your eyes, hang on, and add yet another feature.

There was simply neither interest nor leeway to improve the usability of the core features of Money. For the business to survive, we had to match Quicken move for needless move, feature for futile feature. It's little surprise that users flocked to online bank websites in preference to using Money or Quicken. What? My current bank balance, without entering any transactions manually? Single-click bill payment? Simple budget categories? Sign me up!
So there you have it: the reason for yet another version, with two zillion additional features that you'll never need obscuring the half-dozen you do. And of course, with so many features, it runs slower, and less reliably. But that's not a Bug, that's a Feature: Read on...
Money's success or failure was judged using the same metrics as MSN's websites.

Metrics like minutes viewed per month. Like ad revenue. Like click-through. Stickiness. I am not making this up.

I sat through meetings where we were asked to research ways in which to increase the amount of time that users spent in Money. Increase the amount of time! Users always ask for the exact opposite. Users want a Navy Seal relationship with Money -- get in quietly, do the job quickly, leave no comrade behind, maybe smoke a little afterwards. We got busy making Money into a needy girlfriend. “Let's make it so fun and engaging people won't want to leave!” Users would rather be scheduled for a root canal than to spend another minute trying to balance a checkbook.

A goal was set to increase ad revenue by 600%. At this point in time, during the heady dot-com days, Money was already filled with banner ads. It even installed several icons on the desktop hawking E*Trade and other bygones. How were we supposed to increase the revenue another sixfold? Someone suggested showing the banner ads even faster -- essentially increasing the “frame rate,” if you will. Click-through infected the product similarly. Push MSN websites! Get 'em to click through! We get referrals!

It was 1999. Twenty-year-olds were millionaires. Anything was possible. Money was judged as a portal, so a portal it became. Thing is, no one wanted a sticky, ad-serving, time-consuming personal finance application.
Yet while consumers based their purchasing decisions on performance tables in PC magazines - ones whowing that the only difference between competing products was the number of features - then it made commercial sense.

Yet another example of how the 'Free Market' is a useful approximation to an optimal resource allocation strategy, and not Holy Writ.

Another First for Australia!

Oops, forgot the <sarcasm> tags...
...on present indications it would appear that Australia is likely to become the only country in the world to have twice achieved but then surrendered a space-faring capability.
Read the whole sad and sorry story starting at page 29 of the Report to the Committee of Space Research (pdf file)
FedSat is the first satellite built in Australia since WRESAT and Oscar V in the late 1960s. It is carrying out a research mission in space science and communications, and is also testing new concepts in space computing, satellite navigation and orbit determination. FedSat, at around 58 kg, is one of the most complex spacecraft of its size, and the project received a 2003 National Engineering Excellence Award from the professional organisation Engineers Australia.
The spacecraft is the first microsatellite operating in the Ka-band and the first to demonstrate self-healing computers in orbit.
The performance of Fedsat so far has been at least as good as could reasonably have been expected. It was designed to have a 100% capability(worst-case) of 1-year, with useful work being done for 3 years, and some residual capability for perhaps another two after that. From it's current status, after over 18 months in orbit and still at 100% capability, it may well last quite a bit longer.

Since the Research Centre is being wound up on December 31, 2005, Fedsat will still be gathering useful scientific data, but there'll be no-one listening. *SIGH*

No Apologies Neccessary

From The Australian :
Dornier 217A former World War II Luftwaffe pilot from Germany asked for forgiveness Monday during an emotional return to the English village which he had bombed during the six-year conflict.
"I want to see the people in Bolam from that time and explain what I was doing and say sorry for the damage that was caused," 82-year-old Willie Schludecker said of the 1942 raid on Sunderland in the northeast of England. Schludecker had been flying a Dornier 217 as part of a KG2 raid.
"I was attacked by night fighters and went into a steep dive and then recovered the plane," he told villagers.
"I wanted to jettison the bombs on the railway line, because the plane was damaged and I wanted to get rid of the bombs so I could fly back home."
It's normal, and quite accepted, that if a plane is damaged, it jettisons its load. If the pilot has time, then yes, they should be jettisoned over a 'military target', the countryside, or the sea, but in extremis, getting rid of them immediately is reasonable. Given the circumstances - at night, and deep over enemy territory, no-one could have blamed him if he'd just let them go immediately. Instead, and at considerable risk to himself and his crew, he attempted to hit a military target. That took guts.
Here's someone who fought for one of the most abominable causes of all time, yet has acted with rationality, courage, and honour.
War has many horrors: widows and orphans created, toddlers rendered limbless, death, destruction and massive waste, but one of the very worst ones is that it often pits decent human beings in contests to kill each other. Herr Schludecker - no doubt like the pilot of the Night Fighter that nearly shot him down - is a decent man. He's unusual in that, over 50 years after the event, he wanted to make sure that he hadn't inadvertantly caused a tragedy - and apologised for the damage he was forced to do.

So I have a lot of time for those who were, and are, against the war in Iraq. They too are conscious of the eternal verity uttered by the US General Sherman, 'War is Hell'.

A Lot of Time. But I've given that, and more, and still many don't see something equally obvious: there are worse things than War. Like this.

Tuesday 13 July 2004

Doctor, it hurts when I do this....

Ah! I have a cure! Don't do that!

Here's the Microsoft Version


Microsoft's Guide to how to RTFM.

Neo Luddites and Voting

From :
In the suit rejected by Cooper, disability groups argued that banning electronic voting will deny hundreds of thousands of people the right to vote in private, while the counties claimed they have already run several safe elections with the new technology.

Cooper, however, ruled the Americans With Disabilities Act requires only that disabled voters be given the opportunity to vote and doesn't require independent, secret voting.
I'm very much in favour of at least some of the precautions that caused the Blanket Ban on touch-screen voting. There should be no trade secrets, every line of code should be, has to be, exposed to public critique.
But in effect, the ban is total : there is not time for any e-voting system to comply with the large and ever-growing list of conditions. Should it manage to do so, there's nothing to stop more, and yet more conditions being added. Some of which are actually counter-productive.

The model for Secure e-voting that has been proposed is for the machine to print out a slip of paper, which the voter then checks to see agrees with his vote, and which is then deposited in a conventional ballot box.... which is then hauled off as landfill, and a newly stuffed ballot-box substituted. Wait, hang on, that last part... has happened in elections since time immemorial.

Electronic voting, if implemented improperly, is easily rigged. But not as easily rigged as paper balloting is! And the easiest of all is paper ballots printed, rather than marked by hand.

Such a Blanket Ban, regardless of relative (rather than absolute) risks, is nothing but Neo-Ludditism, clothed in the mantle of concern for security. The shamefully negligent behaviour of various electronic-voting manufacturers has encouraged this view. But it's gone too far for rationality or logic, it's now about emotion, being 'more security-conscious-than-thou'.

Now, even those who make a rational decision that an electronic voting system, however flawed, is at least comparably risky as conventional paper-ballot voting are out of luck. If you're blind, or otherwise unable to read a ballot paper, you must rely on a person not of your choice to ensure that your vote is cast correctly, rather than an impartial (but possibly improperly programmed) machine. And you have no right of privacy. It's that last part that obtains my hircine quadruped..

I think the judge is worthy of the abecedarian insult (invented not far from where I live - Peter Bowles is a resident of Queanbeyan).

Saturday 10 July 2004

No Worries

File this one under 'Canberra'. The doors are barricaded, we have plenty of provisions, and can withstand the siege.

From The Australian :
Killer kangaroos have claimed the lives of two dogs and injured at least one person in Canberra in the past week, as a desperate search for food forces the normally shy marsupials into maddening daylight.
Dr Evans this week issued guidelines to locals living in the bush capital on how to steer clear of an attack by the cuddly looking marsupials. The danger signs are clear - don't approach a kangaroo "when it is standing up and looking straight at you, sometimes it also will growl and snort", Dr Evans said.
Actually, he's right. I've had a big Grey Roo do this near Campbell Park Defence Complex, and I backed away fairly swiftish. But we've only had Roos in the garden twice over two decades.

More at CNN.

Friday 9 July 2004

Said with a Straight Face Department

From The Australian :
The father of a terrorist suspect will lose $150,000 after his son fled the country and skipped bail.

Saleh Jamal, 29, fled Australia using a fake passport in March while on bail for his alleged involvement in the 1998 shooting attack on a Lakemba police station.

He was arrested in May on terrorism charges while trying to flee Lebanon, again using a false passport.
In his application to the court, Mr Jamal said he should be able to keep the money because it was the job of the Australian authorities to ensure his son did not leave the country.
"It is not really my fault," he said.

"It's the fault of the Government, the fault of the police, it's the fault of ASIO."

Mr Jamal said he harboured no ill feelings towards his son.

"Not my son let me down, the Government let me down," he said.
From the Los Angeles Times :
L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for Iraq, left without even giving a final speech to the country — almost as if he were afraid to look in the eye the people he had ruled for more than a year.
From Iraq The Model :
The hall was busy and everyone was chatting and laughing loud. They had Al-Jazeera on (something I never managed to convince them to stop doing). Then suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.

The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time.
Ah, but there's an excuse! Only the Iraqis heard about it! No-one told, for example, CNN. From the Los Angeles Times again :
A news analysis about the new Iraqi government in Sunday's Section A stated that outgoing administrator L. Paul Bremer III did not give a farewell speech to the country. His spokesman has since said that Bremer taped an address that was given to Iraqi broadcast media. The spokesman said the address was not publicized to the Western news media.
From CNN :
The new Iraqi government which took office today will shepherd the country to elections by January 31, 2005. Ambassador Paul Bremer formally ended the U.S.-led occupation by turning over sovereignty to Iraqi leadership today, two days ahead of schedule. Bremer then left the country. But before he did, he had a farewell message for the people of Iraq.

As for the Washington Post? It's still sticking by its story :
When he (Bremer) left Iraq on Monday after surrendering authority to an interim government, it was with a somber air of exhaustion. There was no farewell address to the Iraqi people...
Closer to home, we have newly annointed (as in, with Midnight Oil) Labor Candidate Peter Garrett doing a flip-flop in real time : (Transcript courtesy of Tim Blair)
INTERVIEWER: In the past, you have described US bases in Australia as the biggest pimples on the face of adolescent Australia. Is that what these new bases will be?

GARRETT: I don't know. I haven't seen the details. I don't know that much about it and that's the point. We need to have an open, generous and considered discussion about these issues so Australians themselves can weigh up the merits. It's been conducted in a fevered atmosphere. This is something for Australians to think through and Australians to discuss.

INTERVIEWER: Mark Latham (leader of the Australian Labor Party) thinks it's a good idea.

GARRETT: Well, if Mark Latham thinks it's a good idea and that's what the party view is, there's merit in it and we'd accept it.

INTERVIEWER: You turned around quickly there. That was a quick turnaround.

GARRETT: That's not the point. If Mr Latham thinks that's a good thing to happen, he will have considered it properly and everyone in the Labor Party will respect it. No question marks about it.
Or in other words, Comrade Napoleon is always right.

As for Mark Latham himself: (From The Age, July 9, 2004 :
I'd ask these commentators overseas to respect Australia's democratic processes just as we respect theirs, and basically stick to their own election campaign and arrangements just as we're going to stick to ours
and from the ABC, December 12, 2003,
Bush himself is the most incompetent and dangerous President in living memory.
From The Australian :
Remember that Latham told The Bulletin back in 2002 that "this idea that politics can be too rough and too personal is a bit rich ... It's part of the Australian way. We're not a namby-pamby nation." When, in response to that comment, I argued, on this page, for more civility in public life, I copped a serve from Latham, "for trying to take the passion and commitment out of life ... [for trying] to take the irreverence and spark out of the Australian character". Then, a little later, he lobbed the "skanky-ho" sobriquet at me.
From The Age :
Mr Latham defended his past vitriol, including calling former Liberal Party president Tony Staley a "deformed character", calling columnist Piers Akerman a cocaine user and saying columnist Janet Albrechtsen was a "skanky ho".
From the ABC again :
Let me quote you from the 'Bulletin' of June last year, "Look the idea that politics can be too rough and too personal is a bit rich.

I can take you to any sports field any Saturday and show you parents getting stuck into it, having a go at the ref, yelling abuse.

It's part of the Australian way."

Do you really believe that?

Part of the Australian way for parents to yell abuse at some poor volunteer ref trying to control a bunch of kids at a footy or soccer match?

MARK LATHAM: Well I'm sure parents get worked up.

MARK LATHAM: But do you endorse that?

MARK LATHAM: Everyone sees a rough decision and might make a commentary about that.

I mean, if you don't care about how your kids are going on the sporting field, you're not passionate about how your children are going out there --

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you exercise judgement too, don't you?

Mature adult judgement as an example to the next generation?

MARK LATHAM: Yeah, sure sure.
Yeah, sure sure.
KERRY OBRIEN:What is this obsession you have with bottoms?

MARK LATHAM: I've no particular obsession with bottoms, it's a figure of speech --

KERRY O'BRIEN: Howard the arse-licker and the brown nose kissing bums, as you put it, Abbott hanging out of the Queen's backside, the conga line of suckholes.
And quoting a comment at Tim Blair's place :
Don't forget that Latham has mentioned and cruelly ridiculed Abbott for fathering a child as a teenager. The baby had to be put up for adoption. Abbott has spoken of it and said how much sadness it caused him and those close to him. Latham's morally sensitive comment: [playing on Abbott's regular criticism of unions]: "Tony's had one too many unions, that's his problem."
But now? From The Age :
Opposition Leader Mark Latham today choked back tears as he urged the media to lay off his family and called on Prime Minister John Howard to disband an alleged government dirt unit.

Amid intense scrutiny over his personal life, Mr Latham today called a press conference in Canberra to try to clear the air.

"Some time over the next couple of months we're going to have an election campaign and I believe it should be about the positive things we should be doing about Australia's future rather than the old politics of fear and smear," he said.

Over the past week, Mr Latham has dismissed reports of a violent altercation 15 years ago when he was a Liverpool councillor.

He has also dismissed reports that his first wife Gabrielle Gwyther felt intimidated by him and that he cheated on her with his new wife Janine Lacy as old rumours.
(More on Mark Latham here.)

My point is... don't you feel insulted? That people expect you to swallow this tripe? The hypocricy? The Internet has made fact-checking the historical record of what people have said and done in the past far easier than it was even five years ago. Was it always like this? Even if it was, the ignorance, the arrogance shown by people who now should know they can't get away with it any more is breathtaking.

Thursday 8 July 2004

Space Ship One Ready to Roll

...or rather, ready to not roll, as it did in its previous flight.

From Wired :
X Prize contender Burt Rutan says his team has solved a control problem that threw its spacecraft off course during a historic flight last month and that the next time the ship flies it will be to capture the $10 million space jackpot.

"That's a complete, entire yes," Rutan said when asked whether his Scaled Composites team had gotten to the bottom of a trim-control problem experienced during SpaceShipOne's voyage to an altitude of 100 kilometers on June 21.
"There is no way we will fly again without knowing the cause and without assuring that we fixed it," he said at a press conference following the flight.

But in a telephone interview Tuesday, Rutan said the "flight-control anomaly" on June 21 "was not serious." The problem, he said, had been traced to an actuator -- a device that drives flaps and other aircraft control surfaces. The actuator delayed moving one of the ship's flaps because it "had run against a stop," limiting its movement. The glitch helped push the craft off course and led Melvill to use his backup controls.

Rutan also said a review of data from the June 21 flight had uncovered the cause of another anomaly Melvill reported.

The pilot said that immediately after he fired his engines, SpaceShipOne rolled 90 degrees to the left. When Melvill tried to correct the uncommanded movement, the ship then rolled 90 degrees to the right.

Rutan said Tuesday that wind shear -- violent air currents aloft -- triggered the rolls.
As for what's scheduled for the near future? :
With the June 21 issues analyzed and resolved, Rutan said the next time SpaceShipOne flies, it will be to win the X Prize. The prize requires a privately funded craft to fly into suborbital space twice within two weeks to win the $10 million jackpot.
Given the contest's requirement of 60 days' notice before a prize attempt -- and the lack of any notice so far -- the earliest Rutan or other teams could fly for the cash is now around Labor Day. The prize offer expires at the end of the year.

Wednesday 7 July 2004

Engineerism - Towards A Political Manifesto?

Over at Steven Den Beste's place, I found the following:
I'm also one of those people whose overall political views don't permit me to easily fit in any of the classic boxes. Given that I support the war, feel pride in being American, have no interest in thinking of myself as a "citizen of the world", think that affirmative action has reached the point of causing more problems than it cures, oppose "identity politics", feel that equal opportunity is more important than equal results and see them as mutually exclusive, and strongly oppose socialism, leftists generally seem to think I'm conservative.

But how, then, to explain my support for legal gay marriage, legalization of prostitution, legalization of marijuana, and opposition to school prayer? How to explain the fact that I despise Jerry Falwell as much as I despise Noam Chomsky? As I wrote last year, as far as I can tell, I am both a liberal and a conservative.

One of my readers coined the term "engineerist" to describe me, but that wasn't one of the choices on the survey.
Now I have a number of trivial diffences from Mr Den Beste. I'm not American, nor do I ever want to be ( though a recent e-mail to me said 'You are more American than most Americans I know' . But to put that in context a recent reply to a post of mine on The Islamic Forum said 'If you hadn't exemplified yourself as an 'unbeliever' I would definitely have assumed you to be a practising Muslim'. I consider both statements to be High Honours and compliments, but I'd no more want to be an American than I would want to adopt Islam). Although Mr Den Beste describes his attitude as 'Jacksonian', I also consider Andrew Jackson to be one of the very worst Presidents of the US that's ever been, though by Den Beste's description, I too am a Jacksonian. Or more like Teddy Roosevelt : 'Speak softly, and carry a Big Stick'. Jerry Falwell I don't know much about, but what I do know leaves me with no high opinion of him. But in all areas, in spirit if not in letter, I like the cut of Den Beste's jib. I too am an Engineerist, differing only in trivial issues. (Den Beste's definition of an Engineerist is here)

A quick Google finds all manner of interesting tidbits on Engineerism.
Such as a Phllipine Blog's comments on judicial review. Vows to make T-Shirts.

But no Manifesto, no grand declaration of principles and beliefs, no dogma, no credo. And there's a good reason for this. Back to Den Beste :
We Engineerists are intensely pragmatic. We don't try to come up with overriding philosophies ("wealth is evil", "Government regulation is evil", "America is evil") and then judge everything based on it. Individual cases are taken as they come, and the only criterion for any given proposal is practical: will it work better than the alternatives?
Given that circumstances alter cases, and that things change over time, the best that can be done is to state some general principles: Then use dielectic and argument between people of goodwill to try to get, if not the best, then at least a reasonably optimal solution to any given problem. And be prepared to continually modify the details in the light of experience. Engineerism may be the one -ism that can't have a Manifesto as such.

USS Clueless, Den Beste's blog, is always worth a read. It can be difficult sometimes trying to trace a particular thread of thought - an article is likely to start with the laws of thermodynamics, find connections with economic theories, do a lateral arabesque into computer science, and emerge into information theory. All connected though, and the arguments are logical and well-thought out.

A Post from Den Beste is often like a program from PBS's Connections, a program we get here in Canberra over the Discovery Science Channel :
British science guru James Burke believes that learning can and should be fun, and he started the PBS TV show 'Connections' to prove that point. The highly acclaimed series became a world wide hit with over 65 million loyal viewers, eventually spawning both a best selling book and the award winning sequel series, 'Connections 2', seen on The Learning Channel.
The discovery of anything new (and the resulting advance in civilization) relies on the ability to be able to see the potential connection between two other things. As Burke explains it, we now live in a time and space 'web' of these interconnections which were made in the past. Any given object or event in our present day world is not there by chance, but instead can be traced back through history to all of the prerequisite ideas and events which led up to it. And to leave out any one of them from this 'chain' would result in chaos. To illustrate how it works, he presents us with the connections between certain world changing inventions and discoveries, and lets us experience first-hand the process of simple observation and logical conclusions which led to them.
But unlike Den Beste, I think I'll stop there. He no doubt would be able to write with pith and wit on the computer game mentioned in the link above, and possibly tie that to educational technologies, in particular educational games, the resultant improvement in education about connections and the lessons of history, leading to a populace that may become more engineerist too. Ending up with a note on how this may help relations with Islam, thus referring to the Islamic Forum link mentioned above, and thus solve the problems posed by the Muslim separatists in the Phillipines.

As I said, his blog is worth a read.

Tuesday 6 July 2004

What Kind Of....

Postmodernist are you.

not postmodern
Whether you harbor some vestige of modernist
morality or simply fail to see the irony in
Reality TV, one thing is clear. You are just
Not Postmodern.

(A Small Mercy for which I'm truly thankful!)

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday 5 July 2004

Cause for Celebration

Over at Man of Lettuce, there's an article proving that Benjamin Franklin was wrong.

While you're there, have a look at 'Ambivalent', parts I and II.

Or better yet, just go read all the posts. It's a great site, and his experiences would make either a fascinating book of short-stories, or even a series of 10-minute short-short films.

Operation Thunderbolt

OK, now this online game is definitely near zero Kelvins. Really low temperature. The Essence of Cool. Operation Thunderbolt

Sunday 4 July 2004

Infectious Disease Trading Cards

Courtesy of the US Kids Page.

Set 1, with Anthrax and Rabies, and Set 2 with Polio and Tetanus. Collect them all!

Coca Cola And National Security

From Dr Strangelove :
Colonel "Bat" Guano: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: What?
Colonel "Bat" Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.
And from the RISKS Digest :
The Coca Cola Company has a summer game promotion running from 5/17 -
7/12/04 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that has the
capability to compromise classified information. The company has
intermixed approximately 120 Coca-Cola cans that actually contain GPS
locators equipped with a SIM card, keypad and GPS chip transponder so
it functions as a cell phone and GPS locator. The cans are concealed
in specially marked 12, 18, 20, or 24 can multi-packs of Coca-Cola
Classic, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke and Caffeine Free Coke. The
hi-tech Coke "Unexpected Summer" promotion can has a button,
microphone, and a tiny speaker on the outside of the can. Pressing
the larger red button starts the game in process, thus activating the
GPS signal and a cell phone used by the customer to call a special
hotline. Consumers who find these cans, activate the technology, and
call the hot line must agree to allow Coke "search teams" using the
GPS tracker (accurate to within 50 feet), to surprise them anyplace,
anytime within three weeks to deliver a valuable prize.

In accordance with DIA, no specific policy for this promotion will be
issued. However, DISA employees with access to SCIFs should take a
common sense approach and if one of these cans are found inside a
SCIF, they should treat it as they would any two-way electronic device
in a SCIF and remove it immediately. Until such time as this sales
promotion ends and all 120 cans are accounted for, Coca-Cola packages
should be opened and inspected before taking them into any area marked
as a" Restricted Area" or classified meetings/discussions, etc. are in
progress or have the potential to occur at any time.

Scott Addis, Chief, SSO, Defense Information Systems Agency

Friday 2 July 2004

You should be Certified

At least, everybody tells me that I should.

But Seriously Folks, this one's a Big Deal. Seen via that excellent blog (how could such a thing come from Melbourne is beyond me) TramTown, comes a story about Digital Certificates. Free ones.

OK, so what's the Big Deal? Basically, a Digital Certificate provides a trusted Internet ID. In fact, it's the only relatively secure way of providing such a trusted ID.

In My Brilliant Career, I've often had to deal with databases and other such systems where giving the wrong people too much access can cause real problems. I don't mean just theft of hundreds, or hundreds of millions, of dollars, I mean people can die as the result. Would you want your Medical Records a matter of public knowledge? Worse, would you like some miscreant to be able to alter them, so the next time you get medical treatment, they might not know of a life-threatening allergy and give you the wrong drugs?

One of the big problems with medical treatment nowadays is if you journey outside the coverage of your local GP or Hospital, and get sick. The GP in your new locale has no idea of your medical history, they're forced to play '20 questions' with you, and rely on your imperfect memory to get some sort of background so they can start diagnosis. This can, and has, sometimes resulted in 'obvious' problems being missed, and people dying as the result. One example I know of : over-medication with anti-blood-clotting agents after a patient got transferred interstate, which probably caused the patient's death two weeks later.

Now all this data is already recorded in your GP's computer, and your Hospital Records. But privacy concerns mean that it's guarded like Fort Knox, or at least it should be. In many parts of the world, that's the Law.

But in order to give an outsider access, that outsider must be trusted, verified - and basically, certified, signing in with a digital certificate that is not feasibly forgeable. Such things exist. But until now, they've been costly, and a general pain to administrate. One thing a large medical practice doesn't need is to shell out thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars per year just in certificate costs, money that could be used for new equipment, or to reduce charges to patients. In one medical catchment area (no names, no pack drill) that I've had experience with, the take-up amongst pharmacies, medical clinics, hospitals and pathology labs was... THREE PERCENT.

So what would a somewhat-more-secure-than-today's-certificate that is also free-as-in-beer mean? It would greatly increase the co-ordination between pharmacies, pathologists, and medical practitioners. It could tighten up the practice of despensing prescription drugs (many of which are subsidised here, and capable of misuse). It could mean a reduction in the number of mistakes made because the wrong pathology results were used in making the diagnosis. Fewer people with damaged eyesight due to an incorrect prescription for laser-eye-surgery.

Oh yes, if consumers, people such as you or I, were to be (Digitally) Certified, then it could dramatically reduce the amount of Fraud with Credit-Card payments, enabling the credit companies to reduce rates, and stores to reduce prices. With a bit of work, we should be able to eliminate Spam too, thereby freeing up bandwidth, making it cheaper, and reducing the billions of hours lost per year in deleting the stuff.

It's not a Universal Panacea: the certification is of a Computer, not a person, so physical access to it must be restricted, passwords or physical keylocks installed etc. But the same is true for any security situation.

That is why it's a Big Deal. Or at least, if the article is accurate, it could be.

UPDATE : More over at Slashdot.

Thursday 1 July 2004


Cassini-Huygens Orbital PathNo, it's not the name of some Merchant Bank, nor of some peculiar and rare tropical disease. It's the robot spacecraft that's currently exploring Saturn.

File this one under Canberra.

From the ABC :
History has been made at the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station outside Canberra, with the Cassini spacecraft successfully passing through Saturn's rings and now decelerating into orbit.

A small crowd at the tracking station watched via satellite as NASA technicians high-fived and cheered the mission's success.

It has been a seven-year journey to reach Saturn and Tidbinbilla played a crucial role.

Its scientists and engineers have controlled all communications with the Cassini space-craft via its three main dishes.

Glen Nagle from the tracking station describes the craft as about the size of a school bus jam-packed with gear that will provide a real insight into deep space.
Congrats to all those in the Canberra Tracking Station, I might just pop in the car and say so personally.