Saturday, April 7, 2007

A Reminder

Thirteen years ago, the Rwandan genocide was triggered. Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings remembers a hero - Mbaye Diagne - who, against UN orders but with the implicit approval of his commanding officer, saved hundreds of Tutsi before losing his own life in the conflict, one of the fourteen UN peacekeepers killed in that mission.

That commanding officer, Canadian L. Gen. Romeo Dalliare, relates this about Major Diagne:
Major Diagne attended nearly every meeting with me after the war started, taking detailed notes and then rewriting the minutes so they would be legible. One evening as he sat at his desk transcribing, he felt the sudden need for prayer and slid off his chair to his knees on his prayer carpet, his head toward Mecca, as required by his Islamic faith. At that exact moment, a huge piece of shrapnel smashed through his window from a mortar explosion, flying through the space he had just vacated, bouncing off the walls and landing still red-hot at his feet. He came within a hair's breadth of certain death. Always dignified and composed, Daigne reported the damage to his window and then returned to his desk to complete his tedious but essential transcribing.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Great. Just Great.

This blog is now being linked to by the Wikipedia article on urination.

It's the first bookmark in the urinal subsection, and refers to this post I wrote several years ago about urinal etiquette.

Fame and recognition at last.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Has Something Snapped Somewhere?

First of all, President George Bush wants to hold one of his rare state dinners in mid-April with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as the guest of honor. King Abdullah declines, citing "scheduling conflicts." Uh huh. And Jordan's King Abdullah has canceled a state visit which was planned for September.

And today, speaking at an Arab summit conference, King Abdullah describes Iraq to be under "illegitimate foreign occupation."

What's happened? Has Saudi Arabia finally decided that continued association with US foreign policy has more minuses than pluses? Or possibly Russia's recent overtures to Saudi Arabia have borne fruit?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Where Have I Been?

Well, throw some interesting work at me, and put me in an advanced programming course, and the urge to blog, or to even read many blogs, flies right out the window. Which says more than a little about my blog muse, I suppose.

By the way, anyone else concerned about what's going on in Pakistan?

Monday, February 5, 2007


My first computer was an Apple. Back then, Apple computers were clunky homebrew machines that you could crack open and shove a CP/M card into if you wanted to. They had a command line, and they were fun and easy to program.

When I outgrew my original machine, Apple had introduced the Mac, which cost a fortune, was next to impossible to upgrade, was underpowered, and well beyond my budget. So I switched to the PC.

My feelings about the new direction that Apple Corp had taken was summed up nicely by a poster at the time. It showed the perky Macintosh displaying its trademark "hello" in hand-written script. Beside it sat an IBM PC, with "Fuck off" displayed on its green CRT screen.

Today, there's a great rant about the Mac in the Guardian:
I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.


Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because "they are just better". Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul - that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.

Aside from crowing about sartorial differences, the adverts also make a big deal about PCs being associated with "work stuff" (Boo! Offices! Boo!), as opposed to Macs, which are apparently better at "fun stuff". How insecure is that? And how inaccurate? Better at "fun stuff", my arse. The only way to have fun with a Mac is to poke its insufferable owner in the eye. For proof, stroll into any decent games shop and cast your eye over the exhaustive range of cutting-edge computer games available exclusively for the PC, then compare that with the sort of rubbish you get on the Mac. Myst, the most pompous and boring videogame of all time, a plodding, dismal "adventure" in which you wandered around solving tedious puzzles in a rubbish magic kingdom apparently modelled on pretentious album covers, originated on the Mac in 1993. That same year, the first shoot-'em-up game, Doom, was released on the PC. This tells you all you will ever need to know about the Mac's relationship with "fun".
Now, I don't want to get into a religious war, but I too detest Macs. I've used them, I've programmed on them, and they are insufferably smug little pieces of crap*. And I really hate Apple. Think Microsoft is bad? If Apple had Microsoft's market share, computers would all cost about ten thousand dollars each and you'd get sued by Apple if you even thought about cracking open your computer and tinkering with it.

Anyway, that's a great rant. As it says at the end:
Ultimately the campaign's biggest flaw is that it perpetuates the notion that consumers somehow "define themselves" with the technology they choose. If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that "says something" about your personality, don't bother. You don't have a personality. A mental illness, maybe - but not a personality. Of course, that hasn't stopped me slagging off Mac owners, with a series of sweeping generalisations, for the past 900 words, but that is what the ads do to PCs.

* Well, of course they aren't crap. They're well-built powerful computers that work most of the time because there are more limited combinations of hardware and therefore Apple can test devices to ensure that they are reliable. An open platform like Wintel can't do the same, so there's a trade-off between price and reliability and simplicity.