Friday, July 28, 2006


Maybe God feels the same way, more or less, about the person with the cheesey Christian bumper sticker; the person who has a 30 minute "quiet time" every day at 4:30 on the dot; the person who raises their hands and wears a goofy smile while singing in church; the person who refuses to listen to Radiohead and Death Cab For Cutie because they aren't Christian bands; the person who pretends to speak in tongues because they don't understand why they can't but they want to fit in; the person who always ties everything back to "God is in control"; the person who spews Evangelical sound bites but can't quote scripture; the person who believes that the US is the "new Israel"; the person who reads the King James version of the Bible; the person who believes that there are literal treasures and streets of gold in heaven; the person who believes that their dead relatives are in heaven with God and can hear their prayers; the person who uses church as a way to increase their social standing; as he does about me with my bitterness, high-minded theological ideas often based more on what makes sense to me than scripture or meditation, and my self-righteous emergent theology. And maybe that's what this is really all about.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Argentina to China

Standing out in the hall (not the cold) before class today one of my friends brought up the subject of drilling straight through the center of the Earth and coming out in China. Specifically, he was wondering where you would have to start to end up in China. Being the brilliant, almost-Masters-of-Science Computer scientists that we are, we realized that anywhere in the northern hemisphere would place you in the southern hemisphere on the other side, thus missing China. This did not stop us, being the brilliant almost-blah-blah-blah that we are, from theorizing that perhaps you could tunnel from Cuba and that there is a "Communist connection" between China and Cuba through the middle of the Earth through which citizens of these countries can travel. Not long after this thought, one of the Chinese students came by. We asked him where we would have to start drilling from to end up in China and, without even pausing to think, he replied "Oh, Argentina." We were a little perturbed by how fast he answered, so our interest was piqued. And look what we found. All this time, it was just sitting right below our noses. I figure the travel time is so fast because on the way to the center of the earth you are basically free falling, so you'll go at least terminal velocity, if you're unchecked.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Value Size

I've noticed that here in Waco "Value Size" has a different meaning than I'm used to. At the local grocery chain, HEB (local to Texas), I've consistently found that the "Value Size" packages are more expensive than buying the same or more of the same product in its regular sized variety. I, and it seems logical, always assumed that the "Value" in "Value Size" implied that there was some monetary benefit to buying things in larger quantities. Based on the fact that these items still exist, I can only conclude that most people do not compare prices when they buy such things and they assume that the addition of "Value" to the description of the item implies some savings to them, never considering that the added value might actually be flowing in the opposite direction on the free market food chain.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday Morning

Michael Yon has a great piece about militant Islam up that I highly recommend. He covers the scope and causes of this scourge and highlights its far-reaching effects around the world.

On a completely separate note, I wish there was an episode of Batman where something about the apocalypse is the theme and Robin, at some point, exclaims: "Holy eschaton, Batman!"

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Israel Situation: My Opinion

I am not opposed to Israel taking military action in response to attacks against it. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to me that they are using "disproportionate" force. It seems to me that they are responding to an act of aggression just like anyone else would. However, I have reservations about the approach Israel has taken in their response. Everyone who would know seems to say that the roots of these attacks are Syria and Iran, not Lebanon. And while the Lebanese government may not be doing enough to prevent action against Israel, it may not really be causing it. So, if I were Israel I would be clear that the war is not against Lebanon, but against the people wanting to harm Israel that may be in Lebanon. Instead Israel is saying the opposite. And I think that is why the Hezbollah aggressors can say, "'Let the Israelis do whatever they want - no military operation will result in the return of the soldiers.'" It is not their country being attacked by Israel. Theirs are not the homes being destroyed. It would be as if Argentinean terrorists attacked the US through Mexico and in response we bomb Mexico City. It may send the message "you need to keep terrorist out of your country or we consider you to be helping them." Which may be a useful and necessary message. But it is not directly striking at the terrorists because they don't care what happens to Mexico. There may be reasons for Israel to hit Lebanon the way it has. For example, they have bombed the airport and major road ways to prevent the Hezbollah militants from moving the kidnapped Israeli soldiers out of the country. This seems like a good strategy with, hopefully, direct results. However, saying that they are going to "set Lebanon back 20 years" may not be the best strategy. My opinion is that if Israel is intent on stopping the attacks they need to go to the root of the cause and attack Syria, which ultimately will lead to a confrontation with Iran. And a lot of considerations need to be made before doing so, considerations that I do not know enough about to comment on. Like the possibility of Iran and Syria having WMDs. Like Iran's true military strength. Like how real the possibility is that China and Russia might back Iran if they go to war with Israel. I hope that leaders in Israel are thinking about these things and making strategies with the US military and other allies to assure that the situation does not get out of hand. What I worry about is Israel deciding to "set Lebanon back 20 years" because it cannot afford to confront Syria and Iran directly and having Lebanon be the only casualty with the terrorist base remaining largely untouched.

For some other interesting opinions check out Hugh Hewitt's page. He has his opinion as well as links to several others. One particularly interesting (although not eloquent) read is Yoni's blog. Yoni is a veteran of the IDF who is now living in the US. I've heard him on Hugh's radio show several times and he offers an interesting insider view on all things Israeli.

This report records Israeli officials speaking in a way that seems much more reasonable to me. Rather than approaching the situation as if they are at war with the nation/government of Lebanon, they now say that they "'want to force the government of Lebanon to take responsibility and that means that they put someone instead of Hezbollah along the border, someone that represents the sovereign state.'"

Cracks Like Spider Webs

Israel claims that it has concrete evidence that the Lebanese militants that kidnapped two Israeli soldiers have plans to transport them to Iran. The US, according to this report, says that it holds Syria and Iran responsible for the kidnapping since they are the main supporters of Hezbollah. The Iranian government warned that if Israel attacked Syria it would be considered an attack on the "entire Islamic world." Meanwhile, the Lebanese government -- the newest democracy in the Middle East -- claims it had no knowledge that the attacks were going to occur, but Israel is holding them responsible anyway and taking out their valuable and necessary infrastructure. Supposedly Bush is promising the Lebanese government that he will press Israel to show restraint. However, the same headline has been running for a few days, and Israel doesn't seem to be showing much restraint. Here is my synopsis of the situation as seen through the media: some Hezbollah militants that are probably part of Syrian forces that were supposed to have left Lebanon years ago and are supported by Syria and Iran attacked Israel and kidnapped two soldiers. Israel responded with overwhelming force and claims they are going to "send Lebanon back 20 years." However, the "fragile" democratic government in Lebanon did not sanction or know about the attacks before hand. So, Israel is responding with harsh force in a way that will probably topple the government of its only neighboring democracy because some people supported by Iran and Syria attacked from that country. And if Israel actually attacks the nations behind the whole thing it will start a huge war that may spark larger conflicts around the globe.

That may not all be true, but that seems to be the picture that is painted by the news reports. I don't know enough about everything going on to speculate on how accurate those reports are. However, no matter how you look at it, the current situation is leaning towards further escalation, not towards a quick resolution. The short term impact here: higher gas prices. The long term impact: it depends on how far this "war" (as Israel believes it to be) reaches and how long it goes on.

Meanwhile, the world seems to have forgotten that Israel still has troops deployed in Palestine (at least they did last time any one reported on it). Maybe that is Israel's strategy -- to engage in a potentially much more harmful conflict, in international terms, so that the world stops watching what it is doing in Palestine. Israel was receiving a lot of flak internationally about its recent activity there, and now that pressure is gone. So now they are free to accomplish whatever their real goals in Palestine are without having to hear protests from the world every time they kill a civilian. I'm a typical center-right American in a lot of ways, so usually I support Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, I am also a Christian and a decent human being, so I wholeheartedly oppose the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Israel has not shown restraint towards Palestinian civilians at certain times in the past. They seemed to be this time, but maybe that was because of international pressure. Its possible that they are using the Lebanese conflict as a smoke screen to allow them to move decisively and destructively against the Palestinian population in general, and by the time we hear about it, it will be too late to try to stop it. I hope that is not the case, but it is another fear in the current situation.

Under the pretense of Israel's sovereignty, the White House says that Bush will ask Israel to minimize "collateral damage" but he "is not going to make military decisions for Israel." This seems like a lame excuse because Bush has not seemed to have a problem trying to make military decisions for nations we oppose. I think that the truth is that Bush will not ask Israel to stop because he doesn't think they should, for whatever reason. Maybe they are good reasons, maybe not. I don't know enough about the situation to say either way. I guess this sounds better diplomatically -- if anyone believes it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Ice is Getting Thinner

Anyone who pays attention to the news already knows that Lebanon based Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, Israel called it an "act of war," and Israel is currently invading Lebanon, ostensibly to get its soldiers back. This, in my mind, is horrible news. Unless Israel leaves quickly, which they claim they won't, I cannot imagine that Syria will not get involved. On one hand this is not a huge added threat to Israel because the Syrian military is not much better than the Lebanese or Palestinian (meaning Israel's army will have no problem defeating them in any open confrontations). However, it means that more and more of the region is getting involved. In the short run it may actually help the war in Iraq because many radical terrorist types will probably go to fight Israel instead of fighting in Iraq. However, if Iraqis perceive the situation to be the US helping Israel fight other Arab and Muslim countries it could cause greater unrest among the groups in Iraq that are already resistant to the new government there. Furthermore, there is the small (I hope) possibility that Saddam really did give Syria most of his WMD's before the invasion, and they might use those against Israel. No matter how weak their military, that remains a very serious threat and an even greater catalyst for escalation.

I really hope that no matter what happens that Jordan doesn't get involved because in the past several years they have increased their ties with the West and the US in particular, and it would be a shame for all that progress to disappear. Also, it would further turn the conflict into an "all the Arab countries against Israel" type of conflict. And this may lead to what should be our worst fears.

And those fears, of course, are that Iran would get involved. If Iran gets involved the situation may turn into an all out war in the region. This would cause most of the rest of the world to get involved in some way. If things follow the pattern they have in recent years, China and Russia would support Iran while the US, UK, Poland, Canada and Australia support Israel and the rest of Europe talks a lot about the war but doesn't do much. This, hopefully, is an unlikely scenario.

So, by quickly reacting to the instigation of Hezbollah militants with an invasion, Israel has, over night, significantly thinned the ice on which the world is walking in the Middle East. The worst case would involve a significant conflict and change in world politics. The best case... I'm not sure what the best case is. I guess the best case would be Israel getting their soldiers back and leaving Lebanon quickly. No matter what happens, the current escalation is certainly a very bad thing with the possibility of far reaching and long lasting effects.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Plugging the Firefox Leak

You may have noticed that Firefox takes up a lot of RAM. On my laptop, it takes at least 50MB to have even one tab open, and it seems to grow up to 150-190MB when I start opening other tabs. Searching on the web I found this fix that seems to work. I allowed Firefox to have 32MB of memory and it doesn't seem to be exceeding that even when I have several tabs open. And so far it doesn't seem to have slowed down much if at all. If you've been experiencing poor system performance due to Firefox's greediness, try this. Just don't read the comment conversation at the bottom of the linked post -- its pretty painful.

Well, Firefox is taking up more than the allotted 32MB now, but its less than before (~60MB) and I do have 4 tabs open. So maybe that 32MB allottment is per tab or something. It makes sense that it grows as you add tabs because it has to hold almost as much information per tab as it would if you opened a new instance of the browser for each. So, I don't know exactly how it works but this fix still seems to be saving me some memory.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hubcap Gang

There is a nefarious group afoot in Waco, Texas. At first I thought it was an innocent mistake when I noticed that my front passenger-side hubcap was missing. I thought that maybe the shop had some reason to have it off while replacing my timing belt and changing my oil, but it was the holiday weekend so I had to wait until Wednesday to ask them. But then I started to notice it. Car after car missing only one hubcap. All around Waco I've noticed them. All different makes and models, although it seemed more prevalent on the modest price range sedans, like mine. Suspicion grew and theories ran rampant, but there was still lingering doubt. When I got the call back from the shop, my worst fears were confirmed. The shop knew nothing of a missing hubcap -- I had lost it some time after they were done with my car. And there were all those other missing-one-hubcap cars around. There could be no denying it now, Waco is facing a serious crisis. Apparently some deranged group or individual finds pleasure in collecting single hubcaps from local cars. And I have fallen victim. And I can't help but wonder, when that group or person looks at my hubcap, do they remember me? Do they remember the intimate details of my car? Or am I just another chalk mark on the board, another successful conquest? I suppose these, like many other questions, will never be answered. But I can still hope that somewhere out there someone is loving my hubcap as much as I did, and that one day, in this life or the next, we will meet again.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Few Quick Questions

Why doesn't Palestine seem to be afraid of Israel at all? Is it the same reason that North Korea doesn't seem to be afraid of the US at all (or the UN or Japan, etc)? Does it matter that the CIA closed its unit dedicated to searching for Bin Laden? Was it doing any good, or just wasting money? Do we still care much about catching him (relatively speaking)? Can Iran keep stalling forever while continuing with its nuclear program unchecked? Is anyone surprised that the Mexican presidential vote is probably going to a recount? Does any one really care about Lil' Kim getting out of jail? Did anyone really believe the stereotype that fat people are all 'jolly'? And what's with politicians always waving their hands in the air?