Thursday, August 28, 2008

Umbrellas and Smoke

The recent conflict in Georgia has seen an explosion of propaganda and rhetoric on both sides of the newly re-descended Iron Curtain. Perhaps some clever commentator will coin a new term for Russia's indignant flexings, but I will leave that to better poets. Regardless, I hadn't really given much thought to the strategy behind the words being bandied about, but this article from the Christian Science Monitor interprets those words in the context of international ... law is not the right word ... understandings(?) governing the use of force. It's probably better to just read the article.

But to encapsulate the story, a few years ago, the UN passed a resolution (or something) that in essence post-facto legitimized the NATO intervention in Bosnia, which originally was not authorized by the UN. It did so by generally stating that the international community must act to prevent genocide, and must do so over the interests of sovereignty. After the international community finished singing kumbayah, it left countries wondering what would trigger accusations of "genocide" and what the limits of this new invade-first-ask-questions-later resolution would be.

Well, the Russians have cloaked their military "intervention" in Georgia in the mantle of this genocide-prevention resolution by alleging that the fighting in South Ossetia was "genocide." Now, there are conflicting reports about who started what fighting (with the Russians saying the Georgians began military operations against separatists, and the Georgians saying the separatists attacked first on the urging of the Russians) and there were hundreds of civilian casualties in the fighting.

The rest of the article is more about scolding the Russians and highlighting tensions that have arisen than it is about the standards involved so I won't bore you. Regardless of right or wrong in this case, the Russian example has proven that the international standard for intervention is A MESS. Apparently the only clear standard is the old truism: might makes right. In that vein, can the U.N. do anything right?

On a separate note, I think it's hilarious that the Russians looked to China for help in backing their play to assist separatists in another sovereign nation. Ummm... Uighurs and Tibetans and Taiwanese? I mean, the general antipathy or at least suspicion towards the U.S. aside, Chinese diplomats have shown one card constantly ~ they will not support any precedent for foreign intervention in domestic security affairs, especially on the grounds of human rights relief. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Chinese are dependable on that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obvious, but not?

So I have a bluetooth headset. I have no idea how to do more than answer a call, put a call on hold, and hang up on a call with it. It makes incomprehensible beeps at me. Is it telling me it's low on battery? Is there an incoming call? Learning headset beep language is a specialized skill like semaphore or Morse code. You couldn't PAY me to learn what all the different beeps, boops and flashes mean. No doubt someone is fluent in the language of bluetooth headset beeping, but that skill is like knowing Klingon except geekier.

So I guess the obvious solution is to have a headset that TELLS you what's happening and understands what you say to it. The question becomes why haven't other manufacturers figured this out before? Is there some reason people wouldn't want this functionality? Is it just too expensive (it is significantly more than a baseline headset)? Perhaps it's buggy?

I guess maybe the biggest reason is that if all you do with the headset is to answer calls, you don't need to access all the random esoteric functions all the time and 90% of the extra cost is wasted...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pink fishing pole!

This is awesome! This dude has been fishing with his granddaughter and bought her a Barbie fishing pole. They caught a 21 lb. catfish with it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Numbers on video game studies

Here's an interesting article describing some conclusions drawn from studies of video gaming. It's not as comprehensive as I would have liked, but it does confirm that some skills in video gaming are transferable to real-world applications. For one example, it specifically points out a particular study on laparoscopic surgeons (who use small incisions to insert tools and cameras inside body cavities to perform procedures). The article cites a study author as saying that, "The single best predictor of [the surgeons'] skills is how much they had played video games in the past and how much they played now. Those were better predictors of surgical skills than years of training and number of surgeries performed."

Well ain't that a kick in the pants? Anyway, sadly, most gamers are not laparoscopic surgeons. However, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, no? I would think that complicated control schemes and video interfaces would benefit from video game experience in any profession.

Beyond complicated controls, I firmly believe that map interpretation, landmark recognition and navigation, and spatial orientation skills all benefit from some types of video gaming as well. The article also points out problem solving and strategy formulation. In this day and age, even social skills can be bolstered by online communities ~ although being the king of dorks might not be the most lustrous mantle...

But as the article concludes, it's not all sunshine and roses. Violent fatties.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Asylum from Texas

A missing Rice University student turned up on the UC Berkeley campus and is suspected of possession of stolen property and other crimes. I know Houston is a $#!thole, but it's still better than living on cans of beans and instant noodles in a 2004 Dodge Neon in the East Bay.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Oh the things you'll see

So I'm reading some of the recent listings this morning and I come across "Dog swallows two-foot-long stick and survives. Your dog doesn't want stake." I chuckled to myself about how domestication seems to have robbed some animals of their survival instinct. I wondered how many wolves find long sticks on the ground ~ probably on a daily basis; and then how many decide to attempt to swallow said long sticks ~ probably none.

Thus convinced of my logical vindication, I continued perusing the listings and came across "It was only a matter of time. Man chokes to death during a cake-eating competition." Isn't it funny how the universe will poke you in the ego right when you need it? This dude tries to one-up his friends who have shoved 2, 3 and 4 "fairy cakes" (whatever the heck those are) into their mouths by stuffing FIVE in his pie-, forgive me, cakehole. He collapsed on his way to the "toilets" in convulsions and died at the hospital.

Fairy-cake fragments. Don't breathe this.

I guess stuffing your face with too much crap is just part of hanging around with humans.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What happened to their racks?

Just a quick note memorializing the disappearance of Daily News boxes along my route to lunch. I've been gone a couple of weeks from the lunch scene, but upon resuming my food-seeking treks, I noticed that there were no newspaper boxes along my path on Page Mill Road where there were previously three or more. I was relegated to searching the boxes on El Camino.