Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hope flies in Iraq

Mohammad Fadhil at Pajamas Media responds to a recent Iraqi opinion poll by explaining why Iraqis have regained their hope:
“Nights in Baghdad now are far from quiet, but the sounds cause less anxiety for me than they did before. I recognize the rumble of armor and thump of guns and they assure me that the gangs and militias do not dominate the night as they once did.

When Arabs or westerners ask me about the situation and I answer that hope remains and that we’re looking forward to a better future most would say ‘Are you living in this world?’ I answer, ‘Yes, it’s you who live in the parallel world the media built for you with images of only death and destruction’.

If it surprised some of them that a poll found Iraqis optimistic, then I’m surprised that someone finally bothered to ask Iraqis how they feel.

Just as free birds would never return to the cage, we don’t want to return to the days of the tyrant. Birds do not care that beasts roam outside and would not feel nostalgic for a home or meal mixed with humiliation.

All that a free bird cares about is to spread wings and fly as it pleases.”
Things are looking even rosier in Kurdistan, according to Michael Totten:
“The Hilton hotel chain is building a massive full-service tourist resort that will take five years to construct. It may seem dumb to build a tourist resort in Iraq of all places, but this is Erbil Province, not Anbar Province – there is no war, no insurgency, and no terrorism here whatsoever. The Middle East is a funny place. One part of a country may be consumed by blood, fire, and mayhem, but that rarely means the whole country is dangerous -- even when that country is Iraq.”
If you're interested, Newsbusters has an in-depth analysis of reporting on the Iraqi opinion poll.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Emperor of global warming's new clothes

It seems that the mainstream media is finally catching up to what many bloggers have said for some time now, Al Gore's global warming crusade is fatally flawed due to factual errors and his own hypocrisy.
“The media are finally catching up with Al Gore. Criticism of his anti-global-warming franchise and his personal environmental record has gone beyond ankle-biting bloggers. It's now coming from the New York Times and the Nashville Tennessean, his hometown paper that put his birth, as a senator's son, on its front page back in 1948, and where a young Al Gore Jr. worked for five years as a journalist.”
There is also some interesting news about a new theory that explains the correlation between the sun's magnetic fields and climate change, especially the El Nino/La Nina tango in the Southern hemisphere.
“Dr Baker's model puts a more scientific and transparent theory to the concepts first developed by long-range weather forecasters Lennox Walker and Inigo Jones.

It also suggests there may be a longer 500-year solar cycle, which may help explain climate variability over the past centuries, including periods of unexplained climate variability such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why you shouldn't leave your phone lying around

I am very glad this guy doesn't come to my health club ...

While I'm in a 'blokey' mood, here is another of my favourite ads:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Shape of the world

Britain's Daily Mail has an interesting piece that looks at the shape of the world, when countries are blow up or shrunk according to how they rank in a variety of criteria such as HIV prevalence, house prices, toy exports/imports or ... alcohol consumption:

“The average Western European drinks over a third more alcohol than the average person in any other area on earth. In some places there is practically no alcohol consumption, which is why many Middle Eastern countries are not visible on this map.

Ugandans drink the most alcohol per adult, closely followed by Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Ireland.

The map shows the proportion of worldwide alcohol drunk in 2001. It does not take population density into account, so some countries, such as Australia, are unexpectedly shrivelled, while Britain is particularly bloated even though we not in the top ten. ”
I'm not (currently) fond of drinking to excess myself, but I am a tad miffed we didn't do better. Still, they are very interesting maps, and well worth taking a peek at.

Quotes about problem-solving

I was reminded this week of the importance of ensuring that project unknowns be dealt with so that they become known as early in a project as possible. That led me to the first quote below, which sparked a search for some other quotes to place on my desk to remind me of what's really important.

“Things do not get better by being left alone. Unless they are adjusted, they explode with a shattering detonation.”
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) Politician

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) Author

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Scientist

“An expert problem solver must be endowed with two incompatible qualities, a restless imagination and a patient pertinacity.”
Howard W. Eves (1911-2004) Mathematician

“Beer. Now there's a temporary solution.”
Dan Castellaneta (1958-) Actor

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fairfax Media make online mistakes too!

To be fair to the guys, they are not the only ones putting bloopers on their website. Fairfax Media have launched a new website, and are offering the chance to win a Space Adventures sub-orbital flight. The interesting point here is the Terms and Conditions page for the competition which has a few editing notes left in the text (highlighted below):
“5. To enter entrants must make, or their homepage and send the competition page on to three other people [ do they have to do anything?]. The entrant must also register his or her details, and click the submit button at the end of the entry form to lodge the entry.”
“• 2 x breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days from arrival date at flight base to departure date (dates to be confirmed), but not before 1 January 2008 and not after 31 December 2001m [what date should this be?].”
Clearly we can understand that people need to question these items during the production of the competition website, but to let such glaring errors slip into the live pages is very sloppy, particularly as the date error actually makes it impossible for people to validly take the flight prize! (at least you can still just take the cash ...)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 loses the plot (again!)

I don't know what is going wrong with, but someone certainly seems to be screwing up big time there. Here is the RSS news feed I saw on my morning scan of what's up:

Naturally my eye was drawn to the words in uppercase, "DON'T PUBLISH". Oops, this looks like someone got something into the RSS feed that should not have been there. When I clicked on the link, I expected to get one of their blank pages like I have before.

Imagine my surprise then when I see an entire article, with the same uppercase warning in its title:

Looking at the article in more detail it seems to have been posted at midnight tonight, a good 15 hours from now. The 'news' in question is the results of a survey ran on their site, actually one I took part in myself. Releasing it early is just a silly mistake, but I would have thought their CMS would have made this really hard to do.

UPDATE: OK, this is getting silly, can you spot the typo in the first paragraph of this news story?

UPDATE 2: It seems that has seen fit to release the story this morning, with a different headline ("Most Australians think they're fat" instead of "Body image story - DON'T PUBLISH"), and an updated byline ("By Lisa Bjorksten" instead of "By Jonathon Abbott"). Lisa writes for their Fashion blog, so she's probably the real author of the piece. I notice the old article is still up however ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nuclear power, economically and enviromentally good

It seems my remarks about local councils seeing the light re nuclear power have been noticed on the NEI Nuclear Notes blog. Their post pointed out a long list of papers looking at the economic benefits of nuclear power stations to the local communities.

I also recently came across a documentary following on from An Inconvenient Truth, called The Nuclear Option.
“The film looks at the potential of nuclear energy to provide sustainable, non-greenhouse gas emitting energy for our society in the future. In-depth look at Fission and How Nuclear Power Works, the Three Mile Island and Davis-Besse Accidents, Nuclear Safety, Waste Transportation, Yucca Mountain, Recycling/Reprocessing Nuclear Fuel, Breeder Reactors, Sustainability, and the Potential of Fusion Energy.”
I truly believe that the time is right for the world to take a closer look at nuclear power generation. It is not an option without issues (but no mass power generating solution is) but it has a low environmental impact and in several countries, especially France, it has proven a boon to their economy.

PBS' Frontline looks at the French experience of nuclear power:
“Civaux in southwestern France is a stereotypical rural French village with a square, a church and a small school. On a typical day, Monsieur Rambault, the baker, is up before dawn turning out baguettes and croissants. Shortly after, teacher Rene Barc opens the small school. There is a blacksmith, a hairdresser, a post office, a general store and a couple of bars. But overlooking the picturesque hamlet are two giant cooling towers from a nuclear plant, still under construction, a half-mile away. When the Civaux nuclear power plant comes on line sometime in the next 12 months, France will have 56 working nuclear plants, generating 76% of her electricity.

In France, unlike in America, nuclear energy is accepted, even popular. Everybody I spoke to in Civaux loves the fact their region was chosen. The nuclear plant has brought jobs and prosperity to the area. Nobody I spoke to, nobody, expressed any fear. From the village school teacher, Rene Barc, to the patron of the Cafe de Sport bar, Valerie Turbeau, any traces of doubt they might have had have faded as they have come to know plant workers, visited the reactor site and thought about the benefits of being part of France's nuclear energy effort.”
What about nuclear waste? Let's see what the IAEA says:
“The spent fuel that comes out of a nuclear power plant is highly radioactive. Although its volume is small - all the spent fuel produced annually by the world´s 442 nuclear power plants would cover a space the size of a soccer field to a depth of 1.5 meters - it must be securely contained for tens of thousands of years. Today´s spent fuel is stored mainly on-site at the power plant where it was produced.

For the long term, the scientific and technical communities generally agree that high-level waste and spent fuel can be disposed of safely by deep geological burial in suitable hard rock, salt or clay formations, using both natural and engineered barriers to isolate the waste. Finland, Sweden and the US have made the most progress.
There is also renewed interest in the possibility of international repositories, both because of limited domestic options for waste disposal and because of new proposals to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime through international control of important parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, like uranium enrichment and spent fuel management. The IAEA is actively pursuing this issue in connection with a study of possible multilateral oversight of the nuclear fuel cycle.”
Back with the naysayers, The Age claims that John Howard's pro-nuclear push in simply 'playing politics' and Rudd's geosequestration option is similarly bogus as neither would generate results in the 10-15 year timeframe that economist Nicholas Stern warned was critical to “avoid catastrophic climate change”. They do admit that nuclear is the better option:
“Compared with clean coal, nuclear power could be a better bet. The cost and risks of storing carbon are likely to be far higher than storing nuclear waste. Nuclear power plant designs could be bought off the shelf, provided a suitable regulatory regime was in place.”
Perhaps our State and Local governments could see their way clear to encouraging nuclear power for a change?