Posts filed under Rambling

Who trained al-Zarqawi's successor?

A quick read through a news story about al-Zarqawi's successor tells us that he a) "is an explosives expert trained in Afghanistan", and b) "has been a terrorist since about 1982...". Nowhere does it mention exactly when he received his training in Afghanistan, or more importantly,from whom. If he was trained by the Taleban, wouldn't the "U.S. military spokesman" have mentioned that? So let's take a guess who else was training terrorists freedom fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980's. The International Herald Tribune offers more clues:

One hint was that the word "mujahir" usually refers to an Islamic militant who has traveled beyond his own country in service of religious conviction, commonly, among insurgents, a man who went to Afghanistan to join the war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

Posted on June 16, 2006 and filed under Academic, General, Rambling.

End of my Rovaniemi Renaissance

So last fall I started experiencing my "Rovaniemi Renaissance" - it seemed that my adopted city was starting to feel fresh and cool again. We finally had a 'real' record store in the centre again (albeit the Free Record Shop chain) where I could browse a rather limited selection of overpriced CDs. A very cool café opened (something that's been at the top of everyone's 'what Rovaniemi is missing' list). Life was good. Now it all seems to be crumbling away. On the same day that I walked through Sampokeskus to notice that they were boxing up the remains of the Free Record Shop, I read that our illustrious town council has decided to rename the main square Lordi Aukio in honour of own hometown Eurovision winners. A clear sign of the apolalypse. How much longer will Kauppayhtiö last in this cultural morass? My Rovaniemi Renaissance has descended back into the Dark Ages. So much for Enlightenment.

UPDATE 02/06/06: Returning to Free Record Shop it seems they haven't, in fact, shut their doors but merely reduced stock to essentially bargain bins and the last pop shmaltz. They might as well have closed.

Posted on June 1, 2006 and filed under Finland, North, Rambling.

Etymology of Beer

I was talking with an Austrian visiting professor in the sauna during our annual graduate school seminar this week, and he explained the origin of the word 'beer.' Beer (or more accurately the German bier, which English borrowed) apparently originates from the Latin bibere, to drink. This all made perfect sense, until I began to wonder why the Germans needed a Latin word for such a Teutonic beverage. As beer and languages are two of my favourite subjects, I did a little more digging, and found this excellent investigation into the subject. The mystery deepens, however:

why did the Germans borrow a word for which there was already a perfectly good one (aluth-) in their language? The Romans were not beer-drinkers, so why use one of their words for the beverage? If a Latin word had to be used, why not the usual Latin one (or Gallo-roman, at any rate), cerevisia? Anyway, the new word ousted the old in continental west Germanic, which developed into modern German and Dutch, but both words continued in use in Britain.

So this is why we have both beer and ale in English, but öl in Scandinavian, olut in Finnish, bier in German, bière in French, birra in Italian, cerveza in Spanish and cervesa in Catalan. The more you know...

Posted on April 7, 2006 and filed under Drinks, Language, Rambling.

Pat Robertson treads dangerously close to the truth

The comments of TV evangelist and presdintial candiadate Pat Robertson proposing the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez would be amusing if they didn't skirt so close to the real dark side of ongoing US imperialism in Latin America. The key figure behind the current adminstration's manoeuvers in the region is Otto Reich, whose shadowy legacy dates back to the Reagan era and Oliver North and strong links to the CIA. The role of the Bush administration and Otto Reich in particular in the 2002 coup against Chavez is an open secret seemingly everywhere but in the mainstream US news media. Chavez and Castro are pals, mostly bound together by their opposition to US influence in the region. The US tries to demonize Chavez, but he's done little more than be a popular socialist, wear military fatigues, and refuse to toe the US line in regional diplomacy. Venezuela has lots of oil, which makes it harder for the US to push around (indeed, their opposition to Chavez hasn't stopped them from importing about 8% of their total oil supply from Venezuela). The White House is busy distancing itself from Robertson's comments, but their own history of dirty tricks (including assasssination) in the region will make it hard for their opponents in Latin America to distinguish the rantings of a bigoted religious zealot from official foreign policy.

Posted on August 24, 2005 and filed under Academic, Rambling.

Word of the Day: Eschatological

Eschatological Adj. 1. of or relating to or dealing with or regarding the ultimate destiny of mankind and the world Since reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything last year, and with the tsunami on Dec 26, I've become a bit preoccupied with the multiple ways nature has of flicking us off this earth we call home. Whether its mega-tsunamis, super volacanoes, meteor strikes, a new ice age, or the reversal (and periodic diminishing) of the earth's magnetic field, there's a lot lining up against us. So it's good that we now have the appropriate term to describe this array of potential catastrophes.

Posted on June 14, 2005 and filed under Rambling.

The Old Neighbourhood

fintry.jpgIt's pretty cool how much publicly available satellite imagery is available online these days. I've been able to use some images of military installations in the Kola Peninsula in my teaching, which is nice to give some sense of areas that are still off-limits to see first hand. It's mostly eye-candy, but Google Maps is a pretty interesting project, which stitches together satellite images by their geographic coordinates into a more-or-less seamless and scalable floating picture. Folks are already hard a work hacking the Google Maps XML data, so we should see some interesting applications soon. For now, I can just use it to check out my old neighbourhood in North Vancouver.

Posted on May 6, 2005 and filed under Rambling.

The environmental costs of geekdom

Faced with the pending of arrival of a third home computer and the graveyard of old computer parts in my closet has started me thinking about where all this stuff ends up. Like most technophiles, I've long been in denial about the environmental consequences of the computer industry (both in production, and particularly disposal). The ultra-rapid obsolescence of our technological toys means they become worthless junk within an unforgivably short period. Like me, most of you probably have a box somewhere with formerly cutting edge gadgets- laptops, Palm Pilots, mobile phones, Zip drives, and a dizzying array of cables and power supplies for who can remember what. Then think about the enterprise-level acquisitions of large companies, government agencies, and universities who collectively spend in the billions on updating their computers every year. In a recent article in Harper's Matthew Power notes that., "The half-billion computers rolling around toward obsolescence in America contain 6.3 billion pounds of plastics, 1.6 billion pounds of lead, and 630,000 pounds of mercury, along with cadmium barium, arsenic, and a periodic table of other hazardous elements" (The Trash Folder, January 2005). Unsurprisingly, the developed world's technological excess trickles down to the third world, but not in the form of donated computers for schools in rural Africa, if that's what you were thinking. Instead, old computers turned in for recycling are shipped off to places like Guiyu, China, where they are stripped for any valuable metals using highly-caustic chemical processes. "In one method," Power notes, "the [circuit] board is immersed in molten lead-tin solder that has been heated in a wok, over an open coal fire, by a worker with no protective clothing or ventilator."

Just something for us all to think about the next time we boot up.

Old Computer Central: Ideas, Tips and Uses For Your Old PC - How To Repurpose, Recycle Or Donate To PCs To Charity

Posted on February 6, 2005 and filed under Rambling.

Is al-Qaida taking lessons from Fight Club?

While much of the press here in Finland seems suspicious that Bush's recent warning of a terrorist threat to US financial targets is an election stunt, most of the American and British press seems to be taking it seriously [Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | After many cries of wolf, is this the real thing?]. Since 9/11 it seems that a primary Bush strategy is to keep the country in a constant state of fear and paranoia, which keeps normal folk from paying attention to his major political and economic failings, and justifies his rather iron-fisted (but ham handed) restrictions on civil liberties. One interesting idea that came to mind in reading about the latest "threat" (which by many accounts is based on information that is at least three years old) is how much it resembles the plot of Fight Club. Nevermind the secret army with independent cells springing up all over the US. Remember Tyler's big plan to collapse western civilization by wreaking havoc on the US financial institutions? Specifically he targeted the head offices credit card companies. "If you erase the debt record, we all go back to zero. It'll create total chaos." It just struck my attention that two of the specific targets mentioned are Citibank and Prudential headquarters.

I wonder then if al-Qaida are reading Chuck Palahniuk and trying to bomb us back to the stone age. Or if I were truly paranoid, maybe Bush's strategists are getting their plots from Hollywood movies again.

Posted on August 3, 2004 and filed under Academic, Rambling.

Internet Bizarrity

I've been around this great big Internet of ours a few times, and let me tell you, and I've come to the conclusion that it's primary purpose is the collective compilation of the bizarre. Fark being my personal favourite source of bizarre news stories, pictures, and web sites. The sole purpose of this post is to illustrate the range of bizarreness out there. And there's way more where this comes from. Exhibit A is the amazing collection of audio oddities at April Winchell's website. And this absolutely wacky photo from My Cat Hates You.

Posted on March 21, 2004 and filed under Rambling.

Return to Normal

Alas, the moblog thang didn't work at all from Barcelona, as it seems roaming on Vodafone ES wouldn't allow multimedia messaging. Pity. So I saved one message from the trip and sent it when I returned. Not exactly just-in-time. I'll be sorting through the pix from the trip shortly. I took a couple hundred, so it'll take me some time before I choose which ones I post, so please have patience.

Nearly as soon as I returned, I was travelling again, this time to Stockholm on work. Really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

I picked up Nick Hornby's 31 Songs at the airport (he's one of the only credible authors that are ubiquitously found at airport bookshops). It's surprisingly good, and I read the whole thing straight through on the way back. Recommended for music junkies.

Posted on January 19, 2004 and filed under Rambling, Reading, Travel.

VHEMT- Stop Breeding!

vhemt.gifNow here's an organization I can get behind. VHEMT: The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (don't ask me what the 'T' stands for). Crazy as it sounds, it begins to make sense if you read their, erm, propaganda (at least to my childless 31-year old brain). They're not talking about mass extermination or suicides, just stopping breeding (voluntarily). Heck, they've even got a Finnish version of the page, so they just have to be smart. Maybe I'll order the T-shirt.

Posted on July 7, 2003 and filed under Rambling.

To Blog, or not to Blog...

Upon telling a few people of my recent decision to acquire my own bit of cyberspace, and further my decision to adopt weblog (or "blogging", as it's known among the web savvy), I've been called on to explain just why I would do such a thing. Good question. This morning I gave my friend Ari a very philosophical answer about seeing the web as something more than just an e-commerce opportunity, but another world in which we all live. A virtual space in which part of ourselves live. So I might as well have a nice place to live, right? Hence, my own space... northspace. (I'll get to the North later).

This is turning into quite a good ramble, but to summarize, I thought of a few good reasons why I should have my own webspace (something different than just a "page" or a "site")...

  • It's cool
  • A good opportunity to explore new web practices that may be handy in my professional capacity

  • I'm a geek
  • I fancy myself something of a wannabe graphic designer, so it's a showcase to safely explore my minimal talents

  • Duh, it's still cool
  • I'm a fairly good writer, but email has become little more than a virtual to-do list for work, so this is a (poor) way of showing my friends and family that I'm still alive
  • I'm a geek, and thus have a load of cool, but geeky things to show off

But still the question, why a blog? I have to be honest, I don't see myself as a blog person. This is probably something that I'll do for a while and then forget about. So I really didn't see the content management (CM) system like Movable Type as an outlet to share my meaningless ravings with the 1 person out there who will accidentally stumble on this (hi Dad). Instead, for the very reason that I just can't be bothered to keep my web site updated, I thought a CM system would reduce that burden just enough. Even if I don't use it like a blog. (Plus, it's cool). Finally, I'm a bit of an obsessive-compulsive (or at least fickle), so this will be a way to give some attention to my latest obsession while letting the past ones slip to the archive.

Got it? Gooood. For my next trick, I'll figure out how to add a picture to these darned things.

Posted on February 19, 2003 and filed under Rambling.