Friday, September 28, 2007

It's Debatable

I ran across this recent article pointing out Al Gore's reluctance to engage in public debate about Global Warming. I'm not going to pick on Gore for that. How he chooses to spread his message is his own business. However, buried at the end of the article was an interesting paragraph:
Gore's reluctance to go toe-to-toe with global warming skeptics may have something to do with the - from the standpoint of climate change alarmists - unfortunate outcome of a global warming debate in New York last March. In the debate, a team of global warming skeptics composed of MIT scientist Richard Lindzen, University of London emeritus professor of biogeology Philip Stott, and physician-turned novelist/filmmaker Michael Crichton handily defeated a team of climate alarmists headed by NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt. Before the start of the nearly two-hour debate, the audience of several thousand polled 57.3 percent to 29.9 percent in favor of the proposition that global warming is a "crisis." At the end of the debate, the numbers had changed dramatically, with 46.2 percent favoring the skeptical point of view and 42.2 percent siding with the alarmists.

Evidently there IS still room for debate.

The Big Story That Isn't

Early this month Israel launched an attack against Syria.
On September 6, Israeli Air Force F-15 and F-16s conducted a devastating attack on targets deep inside Syria near the city of Dayr az-Zawr. Israel's military censors have muzzled the Israeli media, enforcing an extraordinary silence about the identity of the targets.

Considering that everything Israel does is front-page news, let alone an aggressive act, this story is amazingly quiet. And, perhaps more important, according to an article by Dr. Jack Wheeler is who besides the press is silent: Syria.
Why would the Syrian government be so tight-lipped about an act of war perpetrated on their soil? The first half of the answer lies in this story that appeared in the Israeli media last month (8/13): Syria's Antiaircraft System Most Advanced In World. Syria has gone on a profligate buying spree, spending vast sums on Russian systems, 'considered the cutting edge in aircraft interception technology.' ... While you're digesting that, take a look at the map of Syria: Notice how far away Dayr az-Zawr is from Israel. An F15/16 attack there is not a tiptoe across the border, but a deep, deep penetration of Syrian airspace. And guess what happened with the Russian super-hyper-sophisticated cutting edge antiaircraft missile batteries when that penetration took place on September 6th. Nothing.

El blanko. Silence. The systems didn't even light up, gave no indication whatever of any detection of enemy aircraft invading Syrian airspace, zip, zero, nada. The Israelis (with a little techie assistance from us) blinded the Russkie antiaircraft systems so completely the Syrians didn't even know they were blinded. Now you see why the Syrians have been scared speechless.

He goes on to note that Iran is nervous:
On Monday (9/17), a government website proclaimed that '600 Shihab-3 missiles' will be fired at targets in Israel in response to an attack upon Iran by the US/Israel. ... This was followed by Iranian deputy air force chief Gen. Mohammad Alavi announcing today (9/19) that 'we will attack their (Israeli) territory with our fighter bombers as a response to any attack.' A sure sign of panic is to make a threat that everyone knows is a bluff. So our and Tel Aviv's response to Iranian bluster is a thank-you-for-sharing yawn and a laugh. Few things rattle the mullahs' cages more than a yawn and a laugh.

It would be very interesting if the beginning of the end of the Iran Problem was so subtle that most of us missed it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Impersonal Life

It occurred to me that I live a very insulated life. Most of my friends are online, and nearly all I've never met. Most of the people I interact with at work work in other buildings or other cities. When I come home I pull straight into the garage and seldom see my neighbors.

In short, many of the people who hold important roles in my life are little more than voices on the phone or posts on a chatboard. My circle of friends spans the nation and globe, living and working in places I may never see.

A hundred years ago most people never met anyone from outside their town, and yet they knew nearly everyone there personally. It is a strange and wonderful world.

Someone I never met but admired greatly died yesterday. Someone who has never really existed for me outside my own head is gone. The hole he leaves is real.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sci-Fi Meets IT

I'm currently reading "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card. In it they discover that an intelligent entity has somehow gained life while living among the faster-than-light communications connections throughout the galaxy. A major plot point revolves around an 80-day deadline before all the computers in the the network are taken offline and replaced with completely new computers in an effort to eliminate this entity.

Maybe I've been in IT too long, but this sounds to me like a recipe for disaster. I guess 3000 years in the future they'll have ironed out all the bugs in IT services, but I can't even begin to imagine the complexities and risks involved in doing such a widescale change-over. There's bound to be at least one screw up where someone bring the new computer online too soon or the removes the old one too late.

And then there's the impact to the galactic economy of having everything go down for several days and then brought up with only manual data input allowed thereafter. But we won't go into that.

I know, if you're going to read sci-fi you need to suspend disbelief--and believe me, in this book that's the least of your worries there--but it did just strike me as funny that they were so confident that this complicated, high-risk system swapout would go without any problems. Ah, the future!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Necrophiliac Sheiks!

Headline from
"Iraq sheik working with U.S. Slain"

Conjurs all sorts of images, not the least of which involves a sheik working with U.S. slain as an artistic medium. Or as part of a comedy duo: "He's a little dead, but I can work with him. He'll be my straight-man."

Anyway, it's been a bit of a crazy week. I've been on call for jury duty and trying to still get work done this week. Yesterday I was placed on standby--I went to work, then called in at 9:45 to see if they'd need me. They did, and I had to be at the courthouse by 10:30. I was part of the pool from which they selected a jury for a DUI case. I wasn't picked, and was far enough back in the line-up that I was never a serious consideration for a spot. Just as well, though it might have been an interesting experience.

The lady who was a member of MADD, didn't drink, had bad experiences with friends/family who did drink, and felt that policemen were more reliable witnesses than the average citizen was specifically requested to be dismissed. Who'd have seen that coming?

Anyway, because I was part of the original jury pool I'm excused for the rest of the week. I guess we'll try again in another three years.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Were You...

James Lileks is asking the question today.

I was at work. I'd just barely arrived and was settling in for the morning when I could hear the television on rather loudly in the conference room through the wall. After a few minutes it became evident that it was not some training video turned up extra loud, so I got curious. I wandered over to see what was going on.

I was not prepared for what I saw on the television. The first tower had already fallen, and the second was about to fall. We were under attack. I watched for awhile and then wandered back to my desk. I called my wife and talked to her about it for a while. A co-worker was listening to radio coverage and repeated the report that there were carbombs being set off all over Manhattan.

I called my wife. I don't recall what we said. I don't recall much about the day after that, other than an ex-marine in our company jokingly calling "Allahu Akbahr" or however it goes. I thought it in rather poor taste, but didn't bother to point it out. It didn't really matter.

That night my wife and I went out to dinner. It was our anniversary, and we were not about to drop out plans. The up-side was that we nearly had the restaurant to ourselves.

It's six years later and it's still our anniversary. I don't want to make light of what happened six years ago, but as grave as that day was, it's the event eight years ago I prefer to dwell on. Our 9-11 makes The 9-11 all that more poignant. It's the anniversary of the day when I suddenly had so much more to lose.

It's been an amazing eight years. Thank you, sweetheart!