Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Canadian Elections. The Liberals seem to have kept the majority up there. They don't have an official majority, but if they can create a nice coalition, then Paul Martin will remain the Prime Minister for the next term. Conservatives did pick up some steam, but only got 94 seats (liberals got 134).

Monday, June 28, 2004

A new frequency of radio is coming. Just like FM radio did, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is starting to take flight, and although you can't get it yet unless you buy a special receiver (just like when FM came out), time may be that it will push FM on to where AM currently is.
The DAB signals are currently free for anyone who can get them. But watch out. Recording industry is already taking action against piracy. Like regular radio, signals can be recorded and played back, and industry lobbyists requested that the FCC add copy protection to discourage piracy and illegal distribution.
This really boils me though. Is this the artists or the media moguls. I hate to sound like an anti-capitalists dog here, but when I was growing up we taped stuff off the radio sometimes, but mostly we taped off records, because records didn't last as long and didn't carry well.
So I kind of understand the hype about MP3s and CD copying, because CDs last long and are easy to carry around, although I think people are always going to want the official CD with the liner notes and all the songs and other media that they are putting on the CDs these days.
But radio is not like that. The major problem with copying from the radio was that you never knew when the song you wanted to copy was going to be on, and even if you did there was some DJ banter and station ID that overlapped the song, not to mention they often overlap one song with the next if there is a significant fade on the end of the previous song.
This made recording from the radio un-practical. Is this going to change in the digital age? I think it's still going to be un-practical to copy music this way. This sounds to me like money hungry executives who are too lazy or unwilling to change when the technology changes, too un-imaginative to think of a new way to make money that will use the technology and make everyone happy.
Instead they use the legal system and create a new criminal class. Thanks guys.

Friday, June 25, 2004

There is a new blog up that looks really cool. Keeping an eye on world events, but is collecting news that falls under even the blogosphere. It's called WorldChanging, here are some of the headlines:
Digital library of India: Having the written works of India on-line, in all languages of India.
Microbial Fuel cells: How scientists are producing electricity by cleaning water. Neat, but far from usefull yet.
Linux in Iraq: The spread of Linux user groups, who communicate mostly in English.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Michael Moore bashing. Christopher Hitchens, who's liberal credentials are well known, a former writer for The Nation and writing for Slate, totally trashes Moore's new movie. Money quote:
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

The beating gets worse, as Hitchens picks the movie apart piece by piece.
England elections map. In my effort to find neat on-line maps I ran into this one offered by the BBC of the latest elections on June 10th. It's a great map using FLASH, which you don't see often. But it works out well.

Also: here's an interesting map showing power plants in the US and risks of polution, also using Flash, by an organization called "Clean the Air."

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sudan. All the reports lately of the conflict and oppression in Sudan have inspired me to do a country of the week on them. But in the mean time, Instapundit has been collecting stories for some time that I have just been breezing over. Here's one about how Sudanese troops are crossing international boundaries in order to harass their citizens.
Here's another report (all these are currently from Instapundit. Thanks, Glenn):
Over one million non-Arabs have been displaced within Darfur, predominantly by attacks conducted by Arab Janjawid militias, who are reportedly allied to the government. The government denies involvement in the attacks. Up to 200,000 people are estimated to have fled to neighboring Chad, while estimates of numbers killed vary from between 15,000 and 30,000.

The center for American Progress has collected articles concerning this. The American public is finally starting to take notice (despite the dismal performance by the usual news services).
Folks, this is more important than Iraq now. Not that Iraq is not important, or that we should leave, but we need to devote serious attention to this. This situation really underscores the failure of the UN. They have ignored it while the world watched it happen. They are wrapped up in the worlds largest corruption scandal and can't be expected to handle even the most mild of international issues, let alone a genocidal movement like we are seeing in Sudan presently. We need to lead the world in and clean this mess up too. But we can't do it alone, as we are stretched as it is in Iraq. Perhaps the Euros will bend a little bit and support an invasion where there is no oil and it isn't even Christians who are getting killed now. But that's too much to ask if the Americans are in charge.
Spaceship One is a success!! I noted a while back that there was a private movement to get into space. The Speculist has some additional links and reports. The did reach the 100km barrier. They will have to have a subsequent launch to 100km and then do it again within two weeks to get the $10Million prize. But anyway it's official. This is the first fully private funded space flight.
Euro Cup. Light blogging lately has been due to several things. One: the stories haven't changed much. Election, Bush, Kerry, Iraq, War on Terror, Economy upturn, untrusted press.
Two: My family and I have moved to a new house. It's our first house, and the work involved has been monumental, and will continue to be.
Third: My internet time has been distracted by the European Cup, which is almost as exciting as the World Cup, and just as big over the pond. Italy just crashed out, which was unexpected. The Czechs are in the next round, which is cool and unexpected. England looks strong.

Monday, June 14, 2004

World Magazine's Blog has lots of goodies today. Namely:

Evidence of WMD transported by Iraq out of the country during the war last year has now surfaced. Air photos have been analyzed. Missiles and fuel have been found in Jorday, Holland and Turkey.

Record low turnout for the EU elections this week. The parties that won the most seats in the young European Parliament are parties that oppose the EU.

The Supreme Court shot down the challenge to the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance on a technicality. The atheist father who filed the lawsuit is not a legal guardian of the girl he filed it for, so they didn't even hear the case. The mother is a Christian and has said she doesn't mind the phrase.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Does more money really matter? This article about Utah's education spending offers some points to think about if your state is demanding more money for education. Hat tip Random Jottings.

Utah continues to rank last in the nation, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.
Utah would have to boost its state spending by more than $300 million just to bump itself off the bottom of the list, said Mark Petersen, spokesman for the State Office of Education.
However, Utah holds steady on its test scores — well above the national average in science, and is slightly above average in reading and math, Petersen said.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Mt Everest record disputed. Seems that those wiley sherpas have been competing lately to see who can get up the big mountain the fastest. The record, which was set last year, is 10 hours and 56 minutes by Lakpa Gyelu. The dispute is that this year another sherpa said that he did it in 8 hours and 10 minutes. Last years winner is disputing the result.
The sherpas prove it by taking pictures and radioing to the base camp describing items on the top.
Just stop and think about that. 10 hours. 29,000 feet above sea level. Wow.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Who's in the house? We are hoping to be. If any of you are looking at my blog more than once a week, I apologize for the lack of material over the last week. We are buying a house and this is supposed to be closing week. Life is ever hectic and nerve-wracking. I'm not saying I'll be better about posts after we are settled, but it's my best excuse this week.
Country of the week.

It's time to pick a South American country. And I'm picking Uruguay. Why you ask? Is it animosity toward Argentina? Some gripe with Brazil for winning the last world cup? No. I have been leading a church small group consisting of junior high students and one of them expressed interest in Uruguay because he did a school assignment on it. Oh yeah, and they were the very first winners of the World Cup (no soccer bias here).
So what's going on with the second smallest country in South America these days?

Uruguay is lodged right in between Brazil on the north east and Argentina to the west. It is not flat, but doesn't have much elevation either. Mostly rolling hills. The highest point is somewhere in the 1500 foot range (500m). Uruguay is about as big as the state of Washington with fewer people.
The economy is mostly services, even though the majority of the country is used for farming and livestock. Between 60 and 70 percent of the people work in the service industry. The people are well educated and European in ethnic background (Iberian Spanish and Portuguese).
The economy was doing rather well up until about 1999, when the whole region experienced much economic turmoil. Since Argentina and Brazil are about half of Uruguay's import/export activity, and they were hit hard by the economic slump, Uruguay suffered as well. The employment rate got up to 20% and the value of the Uruguayan peso fell about 50%. The US Dollar is worth about 24 Uruguayan pesos right now (which, again, is not bad considering the region).
Interesting fact: hydro power contributes 99% of the electric power in Uruguay, and they export twice again as much outside the country.

The government is similar to ours. More-so than many of the countries I have looked at in the course of this blog. There is one head of state, the president, who is elected by popular vote every 5 years (elections are coming up this fall). The vice president is on the same ticket every election. The president is currently Jorge Batlle Ibanez of the Colorado party.
The legislature is bicameral with a house of Senators (30) and a house of Representatives (99). Both are elected by popular vote, again every 5 years. The legislature and the president seem to get elected in the same year. The party Encuentro Progresista controls both houses, with the Colorado party and Blanco party not far behind in the number of seats they control.
There is also a supreme court, picked by the president, who serve 10 year terms.

The history of Uruguay is terribly fascinating. It was generally left alone by the Spanish because of the lack of minerals, specifically gold, and didn't become important until the 1700s. The Spanish wanted to seize the land before the Portuguese from Brazil did. The Spanish imported lots of cattle, with seemed to do well in that environment, and cattle was the main economy for most of the countries history until the 20th century. In that time a group of settlers became known as the gauchos (cowboys). Probably not all that different from the American west in many ways. It was a gaucho, Jose Gervasio Artigas, who led the initial revolt against the Spanish.
The country gained independence from Spain in 1828. They have an independence day, August 25. The rest of the 1800s are marked with internal strife. The two major parties, which still exist, were the Colorados (Reds - Urban liberals) and the Blancos (Whites - Rural conservatives). The colors had to do with the color of the hat bands they wore to distinguish themselves from enemies on the battle field.
The turn of the century brought more stability as the Colorados, under Jose Batlle y Ordonez, began to promote social, economic and political modernization while controlling the country for the first 25 years of the century.

Current news:
Soccer is still huge. The South Americans are already competing for places in the next World Cup in 2006.
Meat exports are up! No mad cows here.
This article about the current election for president is a good intro to the political climate, what happened to the stability they used to have and what the people think is the cause of all their troubles (free market reforms) . The Colorado and Blanco parties are being severely challenged by a once disparate coalition of leftist parties.
Media war blindness. I have been paying attention to what the blogosphere has been saying about media ineptness regarding the war on terror. But I had been thinking lately that we need to get beyond just observing it and try to figure out why it's happening and what we can do about it. Note: this means that certain people need to admit that there is a problem.
Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change has a great post today where he is talking about that very thing. At least people are trying to analyze and search for cause. The fix will have to come later I guess.
Last week I also saw a great article by Steven den Beste digging into the heart of why the media appears to lean to the left. I can't link to the post directly, but you can go there and search the archive for it.
Here is the gist anyway.
Den Beste thinks that the problems started in the 60s and early 70s with Watergate. The problem wasn't the scandal itself, but how that affected the media industry. What happened was that two virtual unknowns became famous because of one breaking story. Suddenly every reporter in the world is trying to become the next Woodward, knowing that all it could take is that one story. Therefore sexing up of stories and creating stories where there are none becomes common place. Editors and executives didn't help things much, knowing that exaggerated stories and hype sells newspapers and commercial slots, so they encourage that type of reporting until it gets to the point where the NYT is actually allowing stories with major factual flaws and outright lies.
The tendency of the media (and the reporters themselves) to put the resources in areas where there are more stories, like currently the middle east, changed another tradition. Reporters no longer cover "beats." Beats were areas that a reporter covered all the time. They often didn't stray out of them, even when things were slow. You spent all of your time covering the Capital, or the technology business in Silicon Valley. When you were starting out you mentored under a guy in a particular beat so when the senior reporter left you already knew a lot about that beat. When all that went away, now reporters cover subjects they know little about. Read that post from Katzman above on the poor reporting in Iraq. It displays this last point in full technicolor.
These days I can tell how bad an article is going to be just by looking at the author. What's the solution here? Do we remove the author's name from the articles, so that reporters are just a member of a team and can't expect fame and fortune for breaking the big story?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Country of the week.

Moldova is a country tucked away in the heart of Eastern Europe. In some ways it is like Switzerland or Poland. At the crossroads between other countries and great powers. But unlike those countries Moldova doesn’t have a distinctive geography or culture or language. Yet.

Moldova has been ruled by many different cultures, from ancient slavs, to the Turks in the 16th century, to the Romanians and the Russians. It has been a power struggle between the Russians ans the Romanians for the last two hundred years. In the early 1800s the Russians annexed the area and re-named it Bessarabia. It was returned to Romania in 1856 and united with Walachia to form the Kingdom of Romania. That didn’t last long and the Russians re-annexed it and held it until the Russian Revolution.
The people of Bessarabia tried to re-unite with Romania, but the Soviets would not have it and turned it into an ASSR (like the Ukraine) with it’s capital in the Ukrainian town of Balta. The capital was moved to Tiraspol later.
The Romanians tried again to re-claim the area during WWII, but the Russians pushed them out and held it until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The capital was moved to Kichenev, which is now (according to the CIA site) named Chisinau.

Since independence there has been non-stop conflict caused by the conflicting cultures of the slavs and the romanians. There has been civil war. The official language has been Romanian, and then a few years ago even that was recinded.

The government is set up in a democracy, with a President, Prime Minister, a parliament and a court system of sorts. The president is elected by the parliament for a 4 year term. The Prime Minister is chosen by the President with consent of the parliament. The Parliament (just one house) is chosen by popular vote of the people. Interestingly, the Communist party has 50% of parliament and just elected a communist president for the first time since independence from the Soviet bloc.

The economy is heavily weighted toward agriculture, as they have no mineral wealth, but lots of farmable land. Most of their industry is centered around agriculture as well. The unit of currency is the Moldovan Leu, which is worth about 1/13th of a dollar.

President Vladimir Voronin has proposed a pact to be signed by the EU, Russia and the United States stating, among other things, to:
support Moldova's territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders; support the search for guarantees of democracy for the entire country; recognize Moldova's cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity as a fundamental asset of the country and support ethnic dialogue and efforts to build an atmosphere of tolerance; recognize and guarantee Moldova's permanent neutrality.

They insist on the nutrality, and seem to have turned down entry into NATO.

Moldova and Bulgaria have signed a free trade agreement.

Here’s a great article from the BBC summing up the state of life in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in the world. You can really understand why they were lured into voting an unreformed communist government back in to power considering prospects for making it on your own there are so dim. Article states that 50% of working age people have emmigrated to other countries to find work. Sometimes leaving their kids to do it.
Spelling Bee. The National Spelling Bee has some stats this year that may give some a surprise. According to the Mercury News:
Most spellers attend traditional public schools (179). The rest attend home schools (35), private schools (27), parochial (20) or charter schools (four).

As Instapundit mentioned, the disproportionate home school number seems interesting. And if it isn't disproportionate, then it's telling.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004