Thursday, August 26, 2010


"It will take at least four months to rescue 33 miners trapped underground in Chile, the head of the rescue operation has said.

Rescuers made contact with the miners by lowering a probe into the mine, 17 days after the men became trapped.

The miners, stuck in a mine shaft shelter some 700m (2,300ft) down, sent up a note saying they were all alive.

Rescuers are now preparing to drill a wider hole through which they can bring the miners to the surface." BBC

These miners have been trapped underground for 20 days now in complete darkness. I can't imagine the hell they are going through right now - and the fact that the recovery effort will take many more weeks are just heartbreaking.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Digital Zombie

"Cellphones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections, let people lessen the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation.

The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas. "

NY Times

Monday, August 23, 2010

Map of San Francisco

Strange Map

Ugly German Buildings

"Castles, half-timbered houses, medieval city centers: The image of German architecture abroad is often one of bucolic romanticism. But that's only half the truth. Postwar reconstruction happened in a hurry, and some of the results, like this residential high rise in Cologne, are not pretty."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

War and Peace

If you haven't read the excellent article by The Atlantic on the calculation of Iranian nuclear program, please do so. It covers the issue like no other and provides insights of the struggle within the power brokers in the Middle East and the US as well as the international community on how to handle the issue.

The International community through IAEA has been monitoring the Iranian nuclear development closely and from time to time, by itself or via western intelligence agency, discovered other unreported nuclear program sites. Iranian clearly has not been forthcoming with all its nuclear program activities.

So far the Obama administration has pursuit a diligent course by engaging with all major international player such as China or Russia to isolate Iran by imposing a harsh and targeted sanctions to Iran and Iranian backed companies.

There is however another clock ticking. This is called the "War Path" scenario. The most repeated scenario right now is that Iran is about 1 year away from being able to produce or on the verge of being able to do so a nuclear weapon. This assumes that all these diplomatic effort failed to contain their nuclear program. The big question is what to do next?

There is not going to be a war. The Middle East will have to live with a nuclear powered Iran if Iran indeed choose to do so. Just like South Asia has to live with nuclear armed Pakistan and India. Israel might launch a bunch of air strikes to some known Iranian facilities however they do not posses the ability to follow through. Iran can easily rebuild their damaged program and accelerate their progress, but now with much stronger support by people living in the Middle East. Yeah, one way to make yourself popular in this region is to be attacked by Israel.

Only the US is capable of taking out Iranian facilities. The US Air Force and Navy have the strongest air power in the history of human kind. Obama however is not going to take the path, considering the cost and unpredictable impact of such action and its severe consequences to its already weakened economic power.

There is another possible route to this solution though, it's called the "Jerusalem  to Tehran". It means the way to neutralize Iranian threat is through the resolution on Israel and Palestine conflict. This result will be a game changer in the Middle East politic and open new avenues on more concerted and unified effort for countries in the region to contain Iran. For the Iran war monger, this is even a the price to go to war with Iran - the bargain on the table for the Israel is that if they really think that a nuclear powered Iran represents an existential threat to the country, it must be prepared to do whatever it takes to prevent it. And that means leaving the occupied territory and the establishment of a Palestinian nation.

This is why Netanyahu agrees to talk directly with Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president this September.   Palestine for Nuclear Iran. That's what's on the table.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A brief history of religious intolerance in America

It goes all the way back and it bubbles up from time to time.

Stoning, a premier

"Stoning is not practiced only among Muslims, nor did it begin with Islam. Human rights groups say a young girl was stoned to death in 2007 in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Yazidi community, which practices an ancient Kurdish religion. The Old Testament includes an episode in which Moses arranges for a man who violated the Sabbath to be stoned, and stoning probably took place among Jewish communities in the ancient Near East. Rabbinic law, which was composed starting in the first century A.D., specifies stoning as the penalty for a variety of crimes, with elaborate instructions for how it should be carried out. But it is not clear to what extent it was used, if ever, said Barry Wimpfheimer, an assistant professor of religion at Northwestern University and an expert on Jewish law.

Some Muslims complain that stoning — along with other traditional penalties like whipping and the amputation of hands — is too often sensationalized in the West to smear the reputation of Islam generally. Most of these severe punishments are carried out by the Taliban and other radicals who, many Islamic scholars say, have little real knowledge of Islamic law. Stoning is a legal punishment in only a handful of Muslim countries — in addition to Iran, they include Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Nigeria, but it is very rarely put to use.

Stoning is not prescribed by the Koran. The punishment is rooted in Islamic legal traditions, known as hadiths, that designate it as the penalty for adultery. While the penalty may seem savage to Western eyes, scholars say it is consistent with the values of Arabian society at the time of Muhammad, Islam’s founding prophet.

Adultery “was considered to offend some of the fundamental purposes of Islamic law: to protect lineage, family, honor and property,” said Kristen Stilt, an associate professor at Northwestern University who has written about Islamic law. “It was a tribal society, and knowing who children belonged to was very important.”

That may help explain the link between sexual crimes and stoning, as opposed to another form of execution. A crime that seemed to violate the community’s identity called for a communal response. Certainly the special horror of stoning is rooted in the prospect of being pelted to death by one’s own friends, neighbors and relatives." NY Times

Stoning and Electric Chair as capital punishment belong to the dust of history, just like their brethren witch burning and crucifixion. 

Like Pandora, but usable outside the USA

Moon under fire, again

"Anna Tibaijuka, the outgoing head of the U.N.'s top settlements agency, UN-Habitat, sharply criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a parting letter for failing to swiftly appoint a successor despite frequent appeals to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

The Tanzanian chief of the Nairobi-based agency, which is responsible for promoting housing rights for the poor, warned in the confidential letter dated Aug. 10 that the avoidable "management and leadership vacuum" threatened to derail the agency's achievements and endanger international funding for its programs. She also complained that she had not been consulted about the recruitment process for selecting her successor and suggested she was being forced out of the U.N. system unwillingly.

Tibaijuka is one of a number of senior officials who have recently left the United Nations in anger and frustration. Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the former chief of internal oversight, wrote a scathing end of assignment letter earlier this month accusing Ban undercutting her independence and interfering with her right to recruit her own staff. Robert Appleton, a former top internal investigations chief, filed a grievance with the U.N. this month on the grounds that his appointment by Ahlenius for the U.N.'s top investigations job was blocked on the grounds of discrimination." Foreign Policy

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moments in music history

Everyone is going wild about the guy with the saxophone.  I don't see why the Eurovision song contest isn't more popular in America.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The world best countries

By Newsweek Magazine

Man Made Disaster

"Aid organizations and the United Nations itself expressed alarm on Tuesday that the plight of millions of Pakistanis flooded from their land has yet to strike a sufficiently sympathetic nerve among donors — neither governments nor the general public — with aid trickling in far more slowly than needed.

They cited a variety of factors for the sluggish reaction, starting with minimal media coverage globally and a relatively low death toll. Other elements, they said, included the preoccupation with economic problems; donor fatigue with natural disasters and the August vacation season when many people pay less attention to the news. Finally, Pakistan itself suffers from an image problem as a hotbed of Taliban activity and the source of renegade nuclear sales, which can give donors pause." NY Times

Monday, August 16, 2010

Too bizarre, an online site selling dog meat.

15 millions affected

"A man marooned by flood waters, alongside his livestock, waves towards an Army helicopter for relief handouts in the Rajanpur district of Pakistan's Punjab province on August 9, 2010" big picture

"Pakistani flood victim Mohammed Nawaz hangs onto a moving raft as he is rescued by the Pakistan Navy August 10, 2010 in Sukkur, Pakistan. "


"An aerial view of the town of Zhouqu shortly after a deadly flood-triggered landslide, seen on August 8, 2010" Big Picture

"Workers disinfect a landslide-hit street in Zhouqu, China on August 11, 2010"

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Stuttgart 21

Stuttgart's central station, built in 1927 and designed by German architect Paul Bonatz, is to be partially demolished and redesigned. The work is being done as part of the massive "Stuttgart 21" program, one of Europe's largest current urban redevelopment projects. Spiegel

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Plan C

Federal drug regulators on Friday approved a new form of emergency contraceptive pill that prevents pregnancies if taken as many as five days after unprotected intercourse.

The pill, called ella, will be available by prescription only. Developed in government laboratories, it is more effective than Plan B, the morning-after pill now available over the counter to women 17 and older.

That pill gradually loses efficacy and can be taken at most three days after sex. Ella, by contrast, works just as well on the fifth day as the first after sex.

NY Times

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Read the cover article. I'll put up my own gut analysis over this weekend on this topic.

The Atlantic is like the Economist, without the British snobbishness.

Get a job in Germany

"With the economy rapidly recovering, German companies have once again begun complaining of a shortage of experts and engineers. But despite periodic efforts, the country has yet to fully modernize its immigration policies. In the international competition for highly skilled labor, Germany is falling behind."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The stupidest way to spend $800 million dollars

"But Saudi Arabia wants to change that. It's building what it calls the largest clock in the world, atop the second-largest skyscraper in the world, in the Islamic holy city of Mecca -- in hopes of replacing GMT with "Mecca Time."

The clock dwarfs London's Big Ben, with four huge faces each about 130 feet in diameter and inscribed with the Arabic words "God is greatest." Only one of the clock's faces has been completed so far, covered with 98 million pieces of glass mosaics. Details were first released by the Saudi official news agency and picked up by several foreign media.

The project cost about $800 million, designed by German and Swiss engineers and is being built by the Saudi Binladen Group, a construction company originally founded by Osama bin Laden's father. The al-Qaida leader split from his family decades ago, and has criticized their wealth and connections with the Saudi government, which he considers corrupt and apostate."

I mean, really? This is a vanity project beyond the pale.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Steven Slater is my new hero

"On Monday, on the tarmac at Kennedy International Airport, a JetBlue attendant named Steven Slater decided he had had enough, the authorities said.
After a dispute with a passenger who stood to fetch luggage too soon on a full flight just in from Pittsburgh, Mr. Slater, 38 and a career flight attendant, got on the public-address intercom and let loose a string of invective.
Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career.
On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said."
NY Times

This is probably one of the most spectacular way to quit your job. As what Chris Rock said, "I wouldn't do it but I understand".

Green Porto

Five years ago, the leaders of this sun-scorched, wind-swept nation made a bet: To reduce Portugal’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, they embarked on an array of ambitious renewable energy projects — primarily harnessing the country’s wind and hydropower, but also its sunlight and ocean waves.

Today, Lisbon’s trendy bars, Porto’s factories and the Algarve’s glamorous resorts are powered substantially by clean energy. Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal’s grid will come from renewable sources this year, up from 17 percent just five years ago."
NY Times

Monday, August 09, 2010

How to look like a freakin' genius

"Every position of Rubik's Cube™ can be solved in twenty moves or less."Cube 20

HP Sex Scandal, continued

"The woman at the centre of the sexual harassment claim that forced the resignation of the Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer is a former soft porn actress who once appeared in a reality TV show in which women competed for the attention of tennis star Mark Philippoussis.
Jodie Fisher, 50, revealed her identity on Sunday and said she was "surprised and saddened" that Mark Hurd had lost his job.
Fisher knew Hurd through her contract jobs with HP's marketing department from 2007 to 2009. She was paid up to $US5000 per event to greet people and make introductions among executives attending HP events that she helped organise."

P ≠ NP solved?

|An email I was recently forwarded (a couple of steps removed) from Vinay Deolalikar from HP Labs:
Dear Fellow Researchers,
I am pleased to announce a proof that P is not equal to NP, which is attached in 10pt and 12pt fonts.
The proof required the piecing together of principles from multiple areas within mathematics. The major effort in constructing this proof was uncovering a chain of conceptual links between various fields and viewing them through a common lens. Second to this were the technical hurdles faced at each stage in the proof.
This work builds upon fundamental contributions many esteemed researchers have made to their fields. In the presentation of this paper, it was my intention to provide the reader with an understanding of the global framework for this proof. Technical and computational details within chapters were minimized as much as possible.
This work was pursued independently of my duties as a HP Labs researcher, and without the knowledge of others. I made several unsuccessful attempts these past two years trying other combinations of ideas before I began this work.
Comments and suggestions for improvements to the paper are highly welcomed.
The paper is about 100 pages, and looks serious (but being a decade away from last thinking about complexity, I am unable to give any more useful evaluation than that). I’ll refrain from
posting the paper itself.
Greg Baker

Two thousand fifty-three Nuclear explosions

I didn't know that the human race have exploded that many Nuclear bombs. Amazingly stupid.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Moscow Smog part Deux

The worst smog the city has seen in decades covered the city of 10 million in a white smoke screen on Wednesday.Spiegel

Saturday, August 07, 2010

One Sad Press Release

(7 August 2010, Kabul, Afghanistan)

We have been informed that 10 people, both foreign and Afghan, were murdered in Badakhshan. It is likely that they are members of the International Assistance Mission (IAM) eye camp team. The team had been in Nuristan at the invitation of communities there. After having completed their medical work the team was returning to Kabul.

At this stage we do not have many details but our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who are presumed killed. If these reports are confirmed we object to this senseless killing of people who have done nothing but serve the poor. Some of the foreigners have worked alongside the Afghan people for decades.

This tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan people as IAM has been doing since 1966. We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year.

When we have more news on what has happened we will inform you via this webpage. Again, our thoughts and prayer are with those affected at this time." IAM Afghanistan

Stupid thing that CEO does

" Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer Mark Hurd, one of the highest-profile CEOs in America, resigned Friday following a sexual harassment claim against him and the company.

HP said an investigation found Hurd didn't violate its sexual harassment policy. But he did violate its standards of conduct policy, the company said.

Executives said Hurd, who is married, failed to tell the board about a personal relationship with a female marketing contractor who was hired by his office. He repeatedly filed inaccurate expense account reports in a bid to keep the relationship secret, HP said."

Sex and lies - always awesome.

Friday, August 06, 2010

need spare cash?

Synthesis of a Nucleotide-Selective Label for Single-Stranded DNA
Chemistry, RTP
AWARD: $100,000 USD  |  DEADLINE: 8/24/10  |  ACTIVE SOLVERS: 187  |  POSTED: 5/24/10

A nucleotide-selective (i.e., for dATP or dTTP or dCTP or dGTP) molecular label for labeling DNA is desired. The specific nucleotide targeted by the label is at the Solver’s discretion. The label should contain high-atomic-number (Z) atom(s) within close proximity to the attachment site. The labeled DNA should also exhibit reasonable solubility in water and stability in neat form and in aqueous solution. (link)

State of Emergency

"Pakistani authorities have evacuated more than half a million people in Sindh province, threatened by the worst floods in 80 years."

You can help via Pakistan Red Crescent Society or American Red Cross

An aerial photograph from an Army helicopter shows the flooded town of Sanawa, located in the Muzaffar Ghar district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 5, 2010. So far, the floods have killed more than 1,600 people and officials said the toll was likely to climb. More than 4 million have also lost their livelihoods and homes.

A family takes refuge on top of a mosque while awaiting rescue from flood waters in Sanawa, a town located in the Muzaffar Ghar district of. Pakistan's Punjab province August 5, 2010. So far, the floods have killed more than 1,600 people and officials said the toll was likely to climb. More than 4 million have also lost their livelihoods and homes.


A Pakistani child stands amid a households possessions at a roadside in Charsadda near Peshawar, Pakistan Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010. The floods have already killed many hundreds of people over the past week.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Many cheers for equality

"A federal judge’s forceful opinion Wednesday in favor of same-sex marriage is only the beginning of a process that is likely to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

The ultimate outcome of the California case cannot be predicted, but appeals court judges and the justices at the highest court in the land could find themselves boxed in by the careful logic and structure of Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s opinion, legal experts said.

In his ruling, Judge Walker found that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage irrationally discriminates against gay men and women."

NY Times

This decision ruled that Proposition 8, a ban on same sex marriage in California, is unconstitutional. Good riddance. Everybody is equal before the law and the any law that discriminates the right of citizens by who they are deserved to be struck down and out and be left in the footnote of history. Liberty and justice for all. Marriage is open for everyone. Period.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The pledge to give away their billions

It's fuckin' brilliant.

Baku Superstar

War Blossoms

"Israeli and Lebanese army troops exchanged lethal fire on their countries’ border on Tuesday, in what was the fiercest clash in the area since Israel’s monthlong war against the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the summer of 2006.

Lebanon said at least four Lebanese were killed, while Israel reported that a battalion commander was killed and a platoon commander was critically wounded.

Each side blamed the other, trading accusations of violating the United Nations Security Council resolution that underpins the four-year-old cease-fire.
"NY Times

Can you believe that there are actually 12,000 UN troops along this border and they still manage to kill each other?

Update - The Lebanese is to blame:
"The United Nations peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, Unifil, said on Wednesday it had concluded that Israeli forces were cutting trees that lay within their own territory before a lethal exchange of fire with Lebanese Army troops on Tuesday, largely vindicating Israel’s account of how the fighting started." NY Times

"The Lebanese sniper who killed an IDF colonel was firing from 80 meters away; this was no mistake. The colonel, whose epaulets would be seen clear as day in the sniper scope, was targeted intentionally. And why were there so many journalists in the area, an otherwise quiet and distant stretch of border, far from Beirut? What I can't figure out yet is the why of this." Goldberg

Something rotten is brewing.

How to do public stoning properly

"First, you get buried. Iran's Islamic Penal Code states that men convicted of adultery are to be buried in the ground up to their waists; women, up to their chests. If the conviction is based on the prisoner's confession, the law says, the presiding judge casts the first stone. If the conviction is based on witness testimony, the witnesses throw the first stones, then the judge, then everyone else—generally other court officials and security forces. Stones must be of medium size, according to the penal code: Not so big that one or two could kill the person, but not so small that you would call it a pebble. In other words, about the size of a tangerine. The whole process takes less than an hour."


It's bone chillingly cruel.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A wonderful article about life

One theory is Well Planned Life
"Christensen, who is a professor at the Harvard Business School and the author of several widely admired books, notes that people with a high need for achievement commonly misallocate their resources.
If they have a spare half-hour, they devote it to things that will yield tangible and near-term accomplishments. These almost invariably involve something at work — closing a sale, finishing a paper.
“In contrast,” he adds, “investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement. ... It’s not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, ‘I raised a good son or a good daughter.’ ” As a result, the things that are most important often get short shrift.
The other is Summoned Life
"The second way of thinking about your life might be called the Summoned Life. This mode of thinking starts from an entirely different perspective. Life isn’t a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored. A 24-year-old can’t sit down and define the purpose of life in the manner of a school exercise because she is not yet deep enough into the landscape to know herself or her purpose. That young person — or any person — can’t see into the future to know what wars, loves, diseases and chances may loom. She may know concepts, like parenthood or old age, but she doesn’t really understand their meanings until she is engaged in them."
David Brooks

I am firmly on the second category - navigating life through a series of incidents :)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Palestine Alone

"Not surprisingly, the Arab states have never hesitated to sacrifice Palestinians on a grand scale whenever it suited their needs. In 1970, when his throne came under threat from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the affable and thoroughly Westernized King Hussein of Jordan ordered the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, an event known as “Black September.”

Six years later, Lebanese Christian militias, backed by the Syrian Army, massacred some 3,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in the Beirut refugee camp of Tel al-Zaatar. These militias again slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians in 1982 in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, this time under Israel’s watchful eye. None of the Arab states came to the Palestinians’ rescue."

But again, anything about the Middle East is complicated.

The comedy of a Malaysian sham trial

"The judge in the sodomy case of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Monday postponed the trial until August 9 because of allegations a female prosecutor had an affair with his accuser.

As a result of the allegations, the defense has asked that charges against Anwar be dropped.

A blogger reported last week that the female member of the prosecutor's office allegedly had an affair with the male aide who accused Anwar, 62, of sodomizing him at a luxury apartment in June 2008." CNN

You can't make this up.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Bad Design of the day - CT Scan

"In a statement, Cedars-Sinai said that during multiple training visits, GE never mentioned the “counterintuitive” nature of a feature that promises to lower radiation but ends up raising it. The hospital also said user manuals never pointed out that the automatic feature was of limited value for perfusion scans.

A better-designed CT scanner, safety experts say, might have prevented the overdoses by alerting operators, or simply shutting down, when doses reached dangerous levels.

To Mr. Heuser, it is unconscionable that equipment able to deliver such high radiation doses lacks stronger safety features.

“When you are in a car and it backs up, it goes beep, beep, beep,” he said. “If you fill the washing machine up too much, it won’t work. There is no red light that says you are overradiating.”

Manufacturers say they will address some of these issues in newer models." NY Times

These people above receive too much radiation after their underwent CT scan - most likely because of technician fault in understanding how the 'automatic' feature in the CT scan works.

London Bikes

"London's transport agency has introduced a bicycle rental system throughout central London to encourage people to ride bikes rather than drive, take taxis or use other public transport. It's an effort to alleviate congestion on London's overcrowded roads and transport system.

They're unloading brand new bicycles all over the British capital. And mayor Boris Johnson hopes Londoners will use them regularly.
"I think you should all have a go on these bikes," he said.

The $150 million system is the second largest of its kind in the world. Riders use an electronic key to unlock a bike from one of more than 300 stations. They cycle to their destination and return the bike to another station. Johnson says he has learned from mistakes made in Paris, where many of the bikes were stolen or thrown into the river. He is confident this will work here."

This is the site for more information on the scheme works.

Craft Story

"“I call it a spa for yarn,” explains Mr. Barbera, a lean and regal 72-year-old, who is dressed in a style that could be described as aristo-casual: white linen button-down shirt, brown herringbone pants and brown leather shoes. He is giving a quick tour of the Carlo Barbera mill, named for his 99-year-old father, and destined to be run by two or three of Luciano’s sons."

NY Times

I love this story because it shows the dichotomy of a globalized world, between mass productization and artisan work. I hope Italy retains most of its small builders and craftsmen because that's how finer things in life get made, by generations of training and infinite patience. There is a place for cheap practical stuff and there are definitely room for items and things finely crafted by hand and shaped by experience and passion of their makers.

Number 2

"China is set to overtake Japan as the world's second-largest economy in a resurgence that is changing everything from the global balance of military and financial power to how cars are designed.

By some measures it has already moved to second place after the U.S. in total economic output — a milestone that would underline a pre-eminence not seen since the 18th century, when the Middle Kingdom last served as Asia's military, technological and cultural power.