Alexander The Great

December 31, 2007

The NEW Girl Scouts

Filed under: Ethics,Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 10:28 pm
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Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.


Un Bossed reports of “Girls Gone Border Patrol” or how teenagers are patroling the Mexican border, arresting immigrants, and even learning to raid houses and fire guns and hunt people.

A quote

For teens on the American side of Naco, the border is a means of security — and even a potential career opportunity. But below the line, in Naco, Mexico, the border is the subject of hatred. For Mexican teens developing an identity and a sense of their place in the world, it represents a constant slap in the face — and, in their eyes, the ultimate double standard. It keeps friends and family on opposite sides of the fence from visiting each other, while ensuring that the Mexican half of Naco is forever abloom with border crossers and drug smugglers.

How truly sad. Nobody denies the implicit right to security and self defense, although Mexican immigration is nothing whatsoever like the Israeli Palestinian situation. Security is too strong a word, even with hard drugs being smuggled. The people at most risk are those crossing the border under the cover of night, or hidden away in the trunk of a vehicle.

The free trade agreements we’ve signed (NAFTA and GATT primarily) demand the free flow of not only goods, but services as well. Americans enjoy the benefit of cheap migrant labor – it’s true that New Orleans is being rebuilt by Mexicans – but are not living up to their obligation and commitment to allow for the open movement of labor across borders.


Apple Sabotaged! Offline Hack!

Filed under: Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 9:35 pm
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A quote from Steve Jobs

Check out this story about an Apple store in Maryland where people have been buying iPods only to find angry Unabomber style notes inside them telling them they should free their minds and read a book. Ha! As if. Of course nobody actually took this crazy advice, but nonetheless we feel compelled to track down the source of this tampering. Because as Ron Johnson says, if we don’t stop it here, what’s next? Anthrax pellets? Notes telling people to spend their money feeding the homeless instead of buying ridiculously overpriced consumer electronics? Damn, yo.

The security vulnerability seems to have been traced back to child laborers in China.  As the phones were sold at WalMart and not Apple Retail Stores.  The Apple staffers have been encouraged to apply for their old jobs after the 6 month cooling off period ends.

XML Purification

Filed under: Science — alexanderthegreatest @ 7:19 pm
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This will be of limited interest to most readers, however it’s still worth covering, in purely academic terms. Brian Keever has written a post on XML Purification, or turning non-compliant into well-formed XML.

Extensible Markup Language is the meta language of the computing gods.  While Oracle and SQL Server have proprietary binary formats which are clearly superior in terms of raw speed, as well as in some instances file size, they’re more than a nightmare for compatibility.  No surprise that different technology has a different set of pros and cons, in fact of design goals.

The law of the land, as delivered to us by Microsoft, is that imperfect XML is unreadable.  Not even a single byte of data may be taken from an XML document with even the slightest flaw. The reasoning makes enough sense, “software cannot be responsible for guessing at a developer’s intentions.” Part of the hype of XML is universal compatibility, though – in fact, XML uses Unicode (UTF-16) to allow for internationalization. Such invalid characters as an accented vowel can destroy the ability to read a document, though.

Thus, Mr Keever has delivered unto us a way to fix such XML that has valid markup but illegal characters.

Wow! Australians are Smart!

Filed under: Uncategorized — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:52 pm
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This one in particular is a good photographer, too – check out his free desktop wallpapers.

December 27, 2007

War on Drugs, War on Terror

Filed under: Modern Life,Terrorism — alexanderthegreatest @ 10:22 pm
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They’ll be equally effective.

For the literature Fans

Filed under: Americana — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:12 am

Holy crap, Blue Winds Dancing is a great piece of work!  Well worth the long amount of time it takes to read.

Gulf War Syndrome, From US WMDs

Filed under: Ethics,Modern Life,Terrorism — alexanderthegreatest @ 12:11 am
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George HW Bush made nuclear weapons cool again.  This isn’t a partisan fact, Bill Clinton is known to have used more depleted uranium than tainted cigars, and George W Bush (Junior) carries on the torch.  DU (short for depleted uranium) is “weakly radioactive” just as gravity is a “weak force” compared to electro-magnetism.

It’s true that DU has only 60 % of the radiation found in natural uranium – it’s also true that a single alpha particle is all that’s needed to “infect” a person with cancer, and that a gram of DU emits 14,000 alpha particles per second.  Such a gram is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.  Unsurprisingly, the US, British, and German armies are saying that harm from DU is impossible, yet the facts and even the anecdotes tell a very different story.

Remember Gulf War Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue, nausea, birth defects, cancer, leukemia – just like the lesser known Balkan War Syndrome.  The BBC reports

“Anecdotally, in a discussion with a military doctor, he told me that early indications from official surveys are that there’s a higher incidence of Thalidomide-type abnormalities in the children of Gulf veterans.”

Thalidomide, of course, was a medicine to prevent morning sickness, at the expense of paraplegic children.  Many were born without limbs, just as many gulf war veteran’s children.  The same is starting to show up for Kosovo and Yugoslavia vets.  Birth defects in Kosovo are 166 % more common than before the US war.  In Iraq, the figure is currently much harder to measure, but estimated at a 700 % to 1000 % rise.

Official Denials

Iraq has been concerned since the initial Gulf War.  Italy – who sent volunteer peace keepers to the Balkans – has been echoing this worry

To his parents, he was the perfect son. At 23 years old, Dalvatore Vaccha was fit, healthy and happy. Until he went to Bosnia, that is. In 1999, he died from leukaemia, and his family suspect that the cause of his illness was depleted uranium.

Still more of the denial over the deadliness of DU comes from lack of data, aka ignorance

“And there’ve been massive birth defects in some cases. In one unit, 67% of children born to US Gulf veterans had severe illnesses or birth defects.”The Pentagon says studies of the group with the highest DU exposure show their levels are “still well below occupational exposure limits”.But it acknowledges that, of all the US troops sent to the Gulf, it has tested just 36 for DU contamination.

Casting doubt on the official denials, the EU has banned depleted uranium. Israel denies having used it to quelle the Palestinian intafada, although they have no qualms with the tactic of “targeted killings.” This alone should give one pause.

Why do we use It?

Depleted uranium is cheap. Instead of properly storing its nuclear waste, a country can start a war of choice and turn another country into a dumping grounds.

DU is very effective, in part for its weight (1.7x that of lead) and in part for its other metallurgic properties. Where other metals (like tungsten) dull themselves much like mushrooms when they reach impact, uranium tends to sharpen itself. A single round can pierce a tank like a knife through hot butter.

The trouble is, on impact, the uranium vaporizes. It turns into very fine dust particles on impact, which can easily be carried by the wind. Again contrary to official claims, DU has been found up to 43 km from an industrial accident in DU, showing a keen ability to travel and spread contamination. The particulate effect causes athesma with lesser substances, although in this case it may be the least of our worries. Still, it should be noted that DU is probably more dangerous as a chemical weapon than as a radioactive dirty bomb, even if its use was first suggested during the Manhattan Project.

The spread of disease and birth defects is very worrying, and corresponds perfectly with depleted uranium use.  DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, which is only slightly shorter than our planet’s age, and far more than our life expectancy as a species.

DU is a WMD

Of course the bitter irony is that George Bush Junior declared war on Iraq (in violation of international law) and willfully polluted a nation almost to the point of inhabitibility, all for the guessed-at existence of weapons of mass destruction, not unlike depleted uranium.

December 25, 2007

Serial Killer or Software Coder?

Filed under: Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:39 am
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I was surprised to know that 1 overlaps both categories.  Killers (serial and otherwise) should be a smaller group than programmers.  Probably even if you adjust for history.

December 16, 2007

Crackbook = Anti-Social Networking

Filed under: Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 10:27 pm

This is more useful than MySpace and Friendster, if that means anything.

December 14, 2007

Democrats Could Have Saved Reagan’s Life

Filed under: Americana,Ethics,Science — alexanderthegreatest @ 1:38 am

Towards the end of his life, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. While embryonic stem cell research promises to yield a cure for the deadly illness, it was de-funded by Reagan’s conservative heir, George Bush. Ironically, or not ironically, the former President died of Alzheimer’s complications before the Democrats took back Congress and re-funded stem cell research.

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