Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

September 29, 2006

Finding God in the Genome

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

The book I mentioned here should be available by now.

September 25, 2006

Killer Teddy Bear

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:17 pm

Strange, but apparently true:

Teddy Bear Kills 2,500 Fish In New Hampshire

Stuffed Toy Clogged Hatchery Drain

(CBS) MILFORD, N.H. A teddy bear dropped into a pool at a New Hampshire fish hatchery killed all 2,500 rainbow trout living in the pool.

Fish and Game Department hatcheries supervisor Robert Fawcett said the teddy bear, dressed in a yellow rain coat and hat, clogged a drain earlier this month at the Milford hatchery, blocking oxygen flow to the pool, and suffocating the fish.

Fawcett said the fish were worth a total of $1,232.50.

In a statement, Fawcett said “RELEASE OF ANY TEDDY BEARS into fish hatchery water IS NOT PERMITTED.” He urged anybody who drops objects into a hatchery pool, to find an employee to remove it. “They might save your teddy bear, and keep it from becoming a killer,” he said.

Fawcett told the Concord Monitor that in the past, frogs and dead muskrats were known to block the drain, but this is the first time a teddy bear has killed hatchery fish.

Police are not involved.

Fawcett said the fish are raised for fisheries management, to provide a recreational fishing opportunity for people who purchase a fishing license.

Well, if police are not involved, then I guess the killer teddy bear is still at large. Be careful out there! Especially if you are a trout.

(Hat tip: Dave Barry.)

September 21, 2006

Price Gouging (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:12 pm

If the increase in gasoline prices was caused by price gouging on the part of oil companies, is the recent decrease in gasoline prices due to price gouging by drivers?

I’m just askin’….

Public School Arson

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:57 pm

If you are a public school teacher and you start a fire in your classroom, in front of the children in your class, filling your classroom with smoke your students have to breathe — and do this not once, but twice — what one factor might prevent you from being charged with a crime?

a) It was an accident.
b) You were insane at the time.
c) The main fuel for the fire was an American flag.

If you picked (c), you’re right!

A Stuart [Kentucky] Middle School teacher won’t be arrested for burning two American flags in his classroom because authorities said his students were not put at enough risk to warrant charges.

“On two occasions, teacher set fire to combustible material (flag), allowing material to burn in garbage can and on desk, then left the classroom filled with students in an attempt to find water to put the fire out,” the investigation concluded.

Holden burned a flag in two classes, one with 30 students and another with 24 students.

The flags were about 18 inches by 12 inches with wooden poles. He lighted the cloth on each flag while holding it over a small metal trashcan, according to investigation documents.

Holden told school officials that he had wet paper towels surrounding the trashcan on his desk, but several students told investigators that Holden had to leave the classroom to get more water to put out the fire.

As part of the fire department’s investigation, arson detectives questioned several of Holden’s students, and school officials provided detectives written statements of what they saw.

One student told investigators that smoke from the fire made students cough.

“It was smokey (sic), cause I’m like allergic to smoke and the whole room was full of smoke and like I was coughing, a lot of people was coughing,” the student said in a transcribed statement in the file.

Asked whether the fire was frightening, the student replied: “Not really. I just thought he could have dropped the flag and could have, you know, made the whole classroom on fire.”

September 17, 2006

In Memoriam, Oriana Fallaci

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:15 pm

Oriana Fallaci, arguably the greatest journalist of the century (this one, and the last one), passed away on Friday in her native Florence. She was 77, and had been fighting cancer for 14 years.

She had spend most of the last decade or two in New York, especially in the last year and a half — since she was facing charges in Italy for what she wrote in her last book.

Fallaci lived a fascinating life, and her biography reads like a history of the world from the time she was born. She joined the Italian anti-fascist resistance with her father at the age of 10. After Italy was captured by the Allies and switched sides, her father was tortured by the Nazis but released alive; Oriana was honorably discharged from the Italian Army at the age of 14. She started writing at age 15, and became a reporter in Florence at age 16, while attending the University of Florence. She was originally a Leftist, but was open to changing her mind based on what she saw — and as such, she necessarily abandoned the Left repeatedly on issues she covered in depth, from Vietnam to Iran to the Middle East to the War on Terror — which she never hestited to call Islamic terror. She was an avowed atheist who had a strong admiration for Pope Benedict XVI, and in fact was one of the first people invited to meet with him after he became Pope. (And she will be buried at an Evalgelical cemetary.)

The Left, of course, called her a fascist. Never mind the fact that she started off in life fighting the real fascists.

Tributes are pouring in from such diverse quarters as Daniel Pipes, Tammy Bruce, Victor Davis Hanson, The Anchoress, Rusty Shackleford, and many others.

Formal obituaries are from the New York Post, Times [of London], the Basque news channel EiTB,

Her manifesto against antisemitism is worth rereading. As is her interview with an Iraqi soldier in Saddam’s army.

One Arab’s Apology

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:43 am

Emilio Karim Dabul writes in the New York Post:

September 12, 2006 – WELL, here it is, five years late, but here just the same: an apology from an Arab-American for 9/11. No, I didn’t help organize the killers or contribute in any way to their terrible cause. However, I was one of millions of Arab-Americans who did the unspeakable on 9/11: nothing.

The only time I raised my voice in protest against these men who killed thousands of innocents in the name of Allah was behind closed doors, among the safety of friends and family. I did at one point write a very vitriolic essay condemning their actions, but fear of becoming another Salman Rushdie kept me from ever trying to publish it.

Those of us who wondered why all those “religion of peace” Muslims didn’t speak out — well, here’s our answer: The are afraid of all those non-peaceful Muslims, just as we are. The difference is, they acknowledge that there actually are non-peaceful Muslims.

Well, I’m sick of saying the truth only in private – that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane,
violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

Yes, our extremists and our culture.

Every single 9/11 hijacker was Arab and a Muslim. The apologists (including President Bush) tried to reassure us that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam, but was a twisting of a great and noble religion. With all due respect, read the Koran, Mr. President. There’s enough there for someone of extreme tendencies to find their way to a global jihad.

I’ve always thought there was something quite odd about President Bush’s protestations that Islam was a “relgion of peace” and the the 9/11 hijackers had distorted “a great religion.” Obviously, President Bush meant to say merely that he wasn’t going to war against Muslims as such, just against terrorists and murderers who in this particular case happen to be Muslims. But the way he said it — declaring plainly what Islam is (“a religion of peace”) and which strain of it is legitimate Islam (the peaceful one) — it seems like he is presenting himself as some sort of authority on Islam; perhaps even one who can speak for Islam. Clearly, he is neither. Bush is a Methodist, not a Muslim — and I imagine he wouldn’t appreciate Osama Bin Ladin telling him what true Methodism is any more than Osama appreciated Bush telling him what true Islam is. The question of whether Islam is a “religion of peace” or a religion of constant armed jihad against non-Muslims is a question that has to be resolved by Muslims, not Methodists (or Baptists or Jews or Catholics or secular humanists…). As Dabul puts it,

The men who killed 3,000 of our citizens on 9/11 in all likelihood died saying prayers to Allah, and that by itself is one of the most horrific things to me about that day.

And, while my grandparents never waged a jihad, their attitudes toward Jews weren’t that much different than Mohammed Atta’s. No, they didn’t support the Holocaust, but they did believe that Jews were trouble in many different ways, and those sorts of beliefs were passed on to me before I’d ever actually met a Jew.

I’m sorry for that, for ever believing that anything that my grandparents or other relatives had to say about Jews or Israel, for that matter, had any real resemblance to truth. It took me years to realize that I’d been conned into believing the generalizations and stereotypes that millions around the Arab world buy into: that Jews, America and Israel are our main problem.

One look at the average Arab regime should alert us to the fact that the problem, dear Achmed, lies not overseas or next door in Tel Aviv, but in the brutal, corrupt despots that we have bred from country to country in the Mideast, across the span of history. …

Five years after that awful day, it’s time for all Arab-Americans, and Arabs around the world, to protest against Islamic fascism, to raise our voices – and, where necessary, our arms – against these tyrants until their plague of terror has been driven from the face of the earth forever.

September 11, 2006

This is BIG News

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

One of the original — and I mean original — al-Qaeda-style Islamofascists was captured today in eastern Afghanistan. This is none other than the unlamentable (and unpronounceable) terrorist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. I remember Hekmatyar from the 1980s when the U.S. was aiding anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan, and Hekmatyar was sort-of on our side in the sense that he was against the Soviets, but was deemed insufficiently trustworthy to receive U.S. support, since he seemed to spend as much time fighting other anti-Soviet allies as fighting the Soviets. When the (Islamic) mujahideen finally drove the Soviets out, Hekmatyar refused a place in the coalition government, claiming it was “un-Islamic” — and continued the war, shifting effortlessly from shooting rockets into Kabul to fight the Soviets, to shooting rockets into Kabul to fight the “un-Islamic” Islamic government. His nemesis was Ahmad Shah Masoud, “The Lion of Panjshir,” the very Islamic, and very pro-Western leader of the anti-Soviet resistance and then the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, better known as the Northern Alliance. Masoud was assassinated on September 9, 2001 — which, as you can see by subtraction, was two days before September 11, 2001. It’s never been entirely clear whether Masoud’s assassination was ordered by Osama bin Laden or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — it’s believable either way.

As for Hekmatyar, he is the sort of guy who thought the Taliban were not “Islamic” enough — meaning, not violent enough against non-Muslims and not-his-type-of-Muslim. The funny part — if you can call it that — is that according to this biography written in 1997, Hekmatyar was originally a Communist. When he became disillusioned with Communism and fell under the influence of the writings of Sayd Qutb, he traded one form of absolute evil in for another.

And, today — five years to the day after the attack on the United States — this advocate of “martyrdom” to the cause of Islam, surrendered without a fight. Glenn Reynolds quotes Bill Roggio:

On the day of the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attack, Coalition forces score a high value target in Afghanistan. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the commander of Hezb-i-Islami and ally of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, has been captured during a joint U.S. and Afghan Army raid in “eastern Afghanistan.” Hekmatyar, contrary to his rhetoric gave up to the Coalition forces without a fight. Hekmatyar’s arrest is said to be part of an ‘ongoing operation.’

Hekmatyar has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist“ and “has participated in and supported terrorist acts committed by al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.”

I’ve been waiting for 20 years for Hekmatyar to be taken out of action The first 15 of which were spent waiting for the West to decide he ought to be taken out of action.

As an aside, here’s my media prediction: This will get practically no play in the mainstream media. My subsidiary prediction is that if If I’m wrong about that and it does get significant play, half that play will consist of Democrat politicians and strategists and commentators explaining how unimportant it is.

It’s about as unimportant as capturing bin Laden.

September 5, 2006

Google Is Listening To You

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:17 am

I remember the first time I saw a computer with a microphone attached to the monitor — it was 1991 or 1992, and it was a brand-new Mac on the department secretary’s desk at a major university. I asked her what she used it for, and she said, “I don’t know how to use it yet — it came with the new computer.” I was immediately intrigued and a bit alarmed — this was in the days when the internet was ubiquitous on university campuses, but virtually unheard-of by the general public. And computer security was very rudimentary. My first thought — literally, my first thought — was that somebody, somehow, could probably use that microphone to eavesdrop on conversations in the office.

And now, 15 years later, Google has plans to do just that.

The Register is reporting that Google is going to deploy software — “sooner rather than later” — to listen in on users, analyze the sounds in their environment, and serve up appropriate advertisements:

The idea is to use the existing PC microphone to listen to whatever is heard in the background, be it music, your phone going off or the TV turned down. The PC then identifies it, using fingerprinting, and then shows you relevant content, whether that’s adverts or search results, or a chat room on the subject.

And, of course, we wouldn’t put it past Google to store that information away, along with the search terms it keeps that you’ve used, and the web pages you have visited, to help it create a personalised profile that feeds you just the right kind of adverts/content. And given that it is trying to develop alternative approaches to TV advertising, it could go the extra step and help send “content relevant” advertising to your TV as well.

Now a lot of people find using personal information to deliver ads offensive to their privacy. I am not really scared of ads, but I’m scared of other uses the same technology could be applied to. As The Register points out:

Pretty soon the security industry is going to find a way to hijack the Google feed and use it for full on espionage.

And:

Google says that its fingerprinting technology makes it impossible for the company (or anyone else) to eavesdrop on other sounds in the room [besides TV], such as personal conversations, because the conversion to a fingerprint is made on the PC, and a fingerprint can’t be reversed, as it’s only an identity.

This is complete baloney. Sure, maybe the currently-proposed version just listens for TV and just sends information about what show is on, but that doesn’t mean someone else — at Google or otherwise — couldn’t use the technique to capture the actual audio content, or even an automated transcript of personal conversations. With sufficient data, they could even use audio “fingerprinting” to determine who’s talking — even if they aren’t using the computer.

Moral of the story: Unplug your computer’s microphone.

Plug it in only when you need it.

That may be never. Personally, I’ve been waiting 15 years for an actually useful purpose for the PC microphone. The potential seems endless — Internet telephony, voice chat — even encrypted voice chat, voice recognition instead of typing, voice annotations on documents, etc. But it never seems to pan out. In all that time, I’ve known only one person who ever had a use for that, and it was voice recognition instead of typing — because she had a wrist-pain problem. The system was OK, but it wasn’t good enough for her to abandon typing when her wrist pain wasn’t flaring up, and it wasn’t good enough to capture significant market share among people without severe wrist pain.

I don’t know, maybe the rest of you all use voice IM, and I’m just behind the times — but if you do that, unplug your microphone when you’re not using it.

And be careful.

Big Sibling is listening to you.

September 1, 2006

Yes, Hamas Really Did Win

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:15 am

If there is any doubt that Hamas won the recent battle with Israel, recall that the whole thing started when Hamas staged a cross-border raid from Gaza, kidnapped an Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit, and demanded that Israel release a bunch of convicted terrorists in exchange for him. Israel said no, give him back right away, Hamas started firing rockets at Israeli towns, Hezbollah thought that was a great idea and started the same things from the Lebanese border, and the rest you know.

Now, it looks like Hamas is going to get what they originally asked for:

Deal would free 1,000 for Israeli soldier

CAIRO, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Saudi newspapers say Israel has been working toward securing the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in negotiations with Hamas in Egypt.

Newspaper Okaz reported that a senior Arab source said Israel and Hamas have been working on a deal to release the soldier in exchange for the freedom of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, YNetNews.com reported Friday.

Under the deal, Israel would begin freeing the prisoners, including 500 women and juveniles, three days after Shalit is turned over to Egyptian custody. First, 350 prisoners serving short prison terms would be released, followed several days later by 350 prisoners serving medium terms and 300 prisoners serving long sentences 10 days after that.

The inescapable conclusions are:

  1. The bad news: Terrorism works.
  2. The good news: Hamas just admitted that one Israeli is worth 1,000 Arabs.

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