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2003 (old posts, page 3)

Freedom of the media

I vividly remember the initial shock I felt on giving up the British media (brutal tabloids and all) for the comforts of CNN and MSNBC. Of late, that cynical sense of underlying bias seems to have mostly faded - while still reading the BBC, cable TV news is often far more convenient. I'm now at the point where I'd put down my fear of not hearing the whole story to differences in delivery and style.

Alas, it seems I'm becoming soft; while you can believe everything they tell you, it's what they leave out that worries me.

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Free beef

There are a lot of traditions in the US that raise a smile to my face, but among them all, my favorite belongs to Les Schwab Tires.

For the last 39 years, Les Schwab have given away free beef as a promotion during February. Last year, I confess I thought I was just missing something in the translation or not catching some slang. But no, it's true, buy a set of tires this month, and you'll get free beef, either straight from the freezer or neatly presented in a party pack.

Beef: it's what's for dinner.

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I am Caesar

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.

"And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so.

"How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."

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No War in Iraq

Today Seattle saw one of its biggest protests in history, with twenty five thousand people marching from the Seattle Center through downtown to the INS building, all with a common message: No war in Iraq.

To paraphrase one of the speakers at the rally on the recent reaction to the Blix report (3 for), "Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant? Well, Mr President, I am here to tell you, look around and you will see, the United Nations has done its duty".

Everyone had their own message, all had a common theme, from the simple 'No Iraq War', 'Impeach Bush' and 'Not in our name', to the more pointed 'Pearl Harbor was pre-emptive war' and 'Justice or Just Us'. There seemed to be universal support for the troops whatever happens, a significant difference from Vietnam, I suspect. Without doubt, there was a real cross section of people present, from the 'Raging Grannies' to the 'Whores not wars' crowd. As the chant goes: this is what democracy looks like.

Despite the significant global display of public opinion, is that alone enough to change the path on which things are heading? I sincerely hope so.

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The threat from Korea

The talk of the town at the moment is all about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. The revelation that one of the countries in the axis of evil has a missile that could reach the western US potentially armed with a nuclear warhead, combined with current feelings about war, has been well received by a nervous population willing to fear.

While it could be ignorance on my part, I'm skeptical that a single untested missile poses a real threat to Seattle. It seems I'm not alone, which really begs the question, why did the CIA bring this to public attention in the first place?

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The joys of IPv6

I've spent a bit of time over the last week looking into the details of IPv6, the next generation protocol planned to replace the increasingly dated IPv4.

I've no doubt that there's a chicken and egg problem here - no adoption by ISPs due to lack of demand, no demand because no ISPs support it. Even so, I couldn't understand why, given the desperate shortage of IPv4 addresses, there wasn't some movement in this direction. And then it struck me; this stuff is really hard to get a handle on. Holding a degree in CS, I was surprised by how much reading I had to do before I fully understood what it was all about. Router discovery, neighbor discovery, no more NAT - all great features - but a little daunting at the outset.

There's a unusual situation here where it's currently easier for the end user to make use of this stuff (works in XP out of the box for example) than it is for a network engineer. Usually, software development is a battle to de-developerize an interface to make it intuitive for the normal person. Before IPv6 really makes a mark, that same effort is going to have to be made to make this more accessible to the basic network architects.

Sadly (and I'm speaking more generally now too), tolerance to good enough is far too high and many great ideas are ignored or postponed just long enough until there's something better to hold out for.

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Hertz customer service

I forgot to mention a delightful experience I had while on vacation.

Leaving LAX, we hopped on a courtesy shuttle from Hertz that took us to the offsite rental office. When we arrived, I was politely told I had to be over 25 to make a reservation; a little disappointing, but fairly typical. On the off-chance, I asked whether they had any suggestions for places that might not have the restriction. 'Certainly, just go over there and ask that lady'.

We headed over and I rather sheepishly described the situation. 'Sure we can help' - she called up another company and handed me the phone to make the reservation. Before I handed it back to her, she'd already arranged for a guy to run us over there in a courtesy shuttle. As I thanked her, she smiled and in a perfect display of company line simply said 'No problems - only solutions'.

It has to be said, service in America is generally top notch. Hertz have done a great job in gaining my loyalty; I'll certainly rent from them in the future, when I'm old enough.

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Marching against war

There are a lot of posters around town at the moment advertising the February 15th - The World Says No To War march. I've been holding out for more conclusive information for a long time now, believing that it's just an imbalance of knowledge between decision makers and the masses, but even with the revelations of late, I'm still yet to hear anything that truly convinces. I may well attend.

The Baghdad 2028 site presents an interesting opinion on the longer term view, which certainly made me think. Even looking more immediately in the future, I think it's clear to anyone that attacking Iraq is going to piss off a huge number of people around the world. Trying to avoid a disadvantage due to changing weather conditions is no justification to jump the gun in matters of this scale.

On a related note, Sean has been toying with the idea of producing some bumper stickers of late. Given the current abundance of car accessories of this kind, it's hard to believe that people make these 'statements' for any reason other than fashion. Still, wording along the lines of War sucks. Do something. has a universal appeal that I don't think many people can disagree with.

As I write this, the terror alert status remains 'high'. TV news is now showing instructions on how to protect a single room of your house against a chemical attack, using clingfilm, paying special attending to small openings like plugs and phone jacks. I've been informed that my apartment building will 'close all external air intakes' in the event of an attack on Seattle. Unofficial surveys are suggesting people are stockpiling food and supplies (to various degrees, depending on where you watch/read). Maybe I just don't get it, but I can't see how any of these precautions are really going to make a difference; indeed, I'm reminded of the informative films of the 60s advocating the safety of hiding under a table during a nuclear attack.

Where has the 'we will go on, it will not change our lives' attitude gone?

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Trip to LA

Well, it has been a busy couple of weeks, and sadly there's no sign of things letting up now that Lauren's left.

The trip to LA turned out to be a lot of fun. After the initial shock of the warm 80F temperatures and bright sunny skies, we got to see and do a lot of things in LA, including a day in Disneyland and a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.

I can certainly see why every child in America dreams of (and usually does) visit a Disney resort at some point in their childhood, despite the fact that some of the rides are a little trippy at times if you think about it too much. I think the happiest place on earth is certainly happiest when there are no queues or waiting around, such as we enjoyed.

I think we were both expecting so much more from the Walk of Fame; I'm not sure exactly what, but we didn't find it in Hollywood. Still, nice to see the Kodak Theater with it's boards ready for the 2078 Best Picture winner. Having seen so much of LA on TV over the years (from the Oscars, to the cliche 'LAPD freeze!' in some many cop shows) I felt a strange sense of closure finally seeing things in person.

We stopped by Venice Beach on the way back to the airport too, which was nice, but a little windy and rather quiet. I can imagine it's a completely different story on a summer afternoon.

Overall, I'm still in awe of the sheer size of the city (even from the air, it went on for a very long way) but don't have the sudden urge to relocate to Southern California (which I'll admit, was a worry).

Both ways, the lack of food on the United flights was a mild concern, but was easily compensated by the fact that you can listen to air traffic control in flight. It's one of those 'features' I never thought would be remotely interesting until you have opportunity to listen. It's a shame more carriers don't broadcast it as a matter of course.

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Lauren visiting in Seattle

After returning from LA, I still had a few days away from work so we headed up to Stevens on Friday for a day on the slopes. Despite the weather (which would be considered dismally rainy at any lower altitude) we had a fun day. Lauren's confidence on the skis came back pretty quickly while I got ahead of myself at times, still can't quite figure out how to land a jump.

I've also discovered the need for wax and maintenance. It's far too embarassing to have to unstrap and walk down a shallow slope, so that's a lesson learnt. I'd love to head up there again next weekend, it would be a shame for the season to just end again as it seemed to last year, but things are looking rather busy at the moment.