Archive for January, 2007

 

Even in China???

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Has China become politically correct too? Observe:

Next month, China will ring in the Year of the Pig. Nestlé SA planned to celebrate with TV ads featuring a smiling cartoon pig. “Happy new pig year,” the ads said.

This week, China Central Television, the national state-run TV network, banned Nestlé’s ad — and all images and spoken references to the animal in commercials, including those tied to the Lunar New Year, China’s biggest holiday.

The intent: to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean. “China is a multiethnic country,” the network’s ad department said in a notice sent to ad agencies late Tuesday. “To show respect to Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any ‘pig’ images off the TV screen.”

Wow. Sounds pretty unreal. Especially for a culture like the Chinese:

The pig ban is a significant shift for a government that seldom puts the interests of minority groups ahead of those of the broader population. China has more than 20 million Muslims, but they constitute less than 2% of its population.

For most other Chinese, the pig has powerful and positive cultural associations as one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. Year of the Pig decorations already festoon cities and villages all over China.

Pork is the meat most widely consumed by the country’s Han Chinese majority. On average, Chinese annually eat more than 80 pounds of pork , according to United Nations statistics. At banquets in southern China, people often roast whole pigs, decorated with blinking red lights in their eye sockets.

Now THAT sounds like a great food presentation.

Read more here.

 
 

NishNash

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I discovered this food delivery service, NishNash, while driving to work a few weeks ago. I’ve tried it twice and it works really well. What these guys do is sign up local restaurants that already offer delivery as an option, and they run an online menu ordering service for them. NishNash takes credit cards, and their website is pretty easy to use, is secure, and looks to use AJAX in its implementation. It’s one of those ideas that is so simple that you slap yourself on the forehead and say “Damn, why didn’t I think of that???”

In any event, if you’re in the Boston area and are looking for an alternative to delivery services that charge high fees and take forever, I would recommend NishNash.

 
 

Future Suit

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Why am I not wearing a jumpsuit every day? Why is it not shiny silver?

By the year 2001, we were supposed to be wearing corresponding uniforms–standardized, gender-free jumpsuits, one-piece garments, matching unisex wardrobes.

Or, at least, that’s what a few fashion designers predicted. “Modern people want to wear uniforms,” the late Italian designer Gianni Versace explained in the book Fashion 2001. “You don’t have to take time to select, to choose.”

Exactly. Which is why this development is so welcome:

Milan’s fashion designers, having put up the for sale signs on winter collections, launched their ideas on Sunday for what men should be wearing next autumn — and Dolce & Gabbana said it would be space-age glitter.
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Nobel literature laureate
Dario Fo may have lamented last week that catwalk shows are boring but Dolce & Gabbana’s, themed on the film “2001 — A Space Odyssey,” won audience applause and “overwhelmed” Jake Shears of glam rock band the Scissor Sisters.

Models in space-suit style zip-heavy jumpsuits in whites and metallic colours strode down the catwalk, watched by over 1,000 reporters, buyers and photographers, as the lights flicked from blue to white and the film’s soundtrack filled the converted cinema.

I’m ready for the future. Frankly, it’s overdue.

 
 

Dirty Fortune Cookie

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

I ordered Chinese food this evening. It came with a fortune cookie, which contained a rather unusual message:

Every exit is an entrance to new experiences.

As George Takei would say, “Oh My…”

 
 

Apple iPhone: Say It Isn’t So

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

So we’ve all seen the new Apple iPhone. It’s gorgeous. I’d be totally psyched to write software for it. Heck, I’d be totally psyched to get one and see what everyone else in the world comes up with for it. But is it not to be? From slashdot (emphasis mine):

I have a feeling that this is not going to be a geek’s toy.

Probably not. Which is so self-destructively stupid of Apple. I signed up on their developer network within minutes of seeing this thing, and was ready to plop down a few grand for a top-of-the-line Macbook to learn development on OS X until I read that reps at the show were saying that it wasn’t going to support third-party software. As much as this device is going to sell, it will have zero presence in enterprise markets, and serious people will never buy one because no one is going to carry two phones. They could have owned the mobile market.

I don’t know why I was surprised. They only implement software as a means to end – to sell hardware. And as illustrated by their name change, the trend for their hardware is going to be overpriced toys.

WHAT??? The whole point of an Apple phone was that it was supposed to come UNLOCKED!!! Who cares if it’s running OSX or DOS 3.0 if you can’t put whatever software you want on it, if you can’t program for it…

I should hope that this was a misinformed Cingular rep that said that. Or if it was an Apple rep, that they seriously reconsider. There is no way that I’m going to shell out $600 for a computer that comes locked. I’d rather downgrade to a crappy el-cheapo phone and get a UMPC with EVDO, maybe embed it into my dashboard as a carputer or something.

Also, if this rumor isn’t true, then Apple had better squelch it quickly. If people, namely tech geeks, who are purchasing influencers, believe that this product isn’t going to be programmable, that it’s going to be sold locked, then they won’t wait 6 months to make their next purchases. That money will go elsewhere instead.

So Apple, please, say it isn’t so…

 
 

Obligatory Iraq Post

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

I didn’t watch the speech last night. Couldn’t bear to sit through it. But as you know by now, I think 20,000 troops is too few, if you’re really going to do this right. And if Bush is serious about going after Iran and Syria on this, then we may have something here. On the other hand, there’s this from Powerline (emphasis mine):

JOHN adds: The changes strike me more as tactical tweaks than a fundamental change in direction. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important, but they certainly could have been implemented without the fanfare that is accompanying them. I have the impression that a lot of what is happening here is driven by the administration’s recognition that so far, it has lost the public relations war, and most Americans now think we are losing–or even, have already “lost”–in Iraq. So I think these changes are being packaged as a radical departure in part to reshuffle the deck and give the administration something close to a fresh start with the public.

Time will tell. Bush has always driven his policy by putting public relations (or politics) first. Hence why after losing the election, he fired not his campaign chief Karl Rove but rather his Secretary of Defense. If he’s doing it again here, when we really can’t afford to worry about political calculations (and as a lame duck Bush really shouldn’t care), then we’re going to go nowhere fast.

 
 

How Many Troops Now???

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Here’s an answer:

So, how many troops are required to secure and hold Baghdad? I don’t know; it’s up to a non-politicized military to tell us. But I do know that the debate leading up to Bush’s Wednesday evening speech is backwards: Instead of asking how many troops are needed to secure and hold Baghdad, we’re starting with a number–say, 20,000–and asking if that is politically acceptable.

We should hope that Bush doesn’t come forward with a number of increased troops that is politically expedient, because that will only insure that this last chance for victory in Iraq will be lost.

Yep. This is why congress should tell Bush no. Not because more troops wouldn’t make sense, but because the approach has been all wrong, and will lead to disaster. I think that getting out now, retreating to the Kurdish areas for two years while we wait to elect a real leader, and then re-invading is our best bet at this point.

And no, we can’t just leave. It’s our responsibility to fix it now.

Read Dennis Byrne.

 
 

Apple Predictions

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Ok, so it’s that time of year again where I get to play Samadamus (or is it Nostrasama?) and try to predict what Apple will announce at Macworld tomorrow. There are some things that will be obvious: there will be a phone of some sort, an announcement regarding Leopard (both features and release date), a new iWork and iLife, and of course, iTV. but what will be the unifying element behind all of these things? That element, I believe, will be the one item that has been quietly removed from the Apple store: the iSight.

I’ve been spending some time thinking about cellular video lately, particularly in light of Steve Jobs’ earlier comments about people not wanting to watch video on an iPod. The more I think about it, he’s sort of right. Staring at a small screen for a half-hour for a TV show is too long, and causes too much eye strain. But it’s better on an iPod than on a cell phone, where you are unlikely to have headphones with which to listen to it. That is why the killer video app for cell phones isn’t selling video to watch on the phone, but rather taking video with the cell phone.

Witness the execution of Saddam Hussein.

That execution showed everything that is wrong with cellular video: crappy imaging, no image stabilization, and worst of all, it’s not live.

We know that Apple is loading iSights into all of its laptops and iMacs. One would have to guess that the desktop monitors will have them built in too. The new phones will have them as well. And I think an iSight for iTV will be released as well, so you can chat in the living room. The idea is relatively simple: no matter where you are or where your friend is, no matter what device you are using, you can communicate with your friend without having to think about it. You can use voice, text or video, and communicate with your friend seamlessly.

There may be other wizbang elements I’m missing here, but that’s the theme. undoubtedly, I’m wrong, but if I’m not just remember, you read it here first.

 
 

More Evidence Of Half-Measures

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

This time from George Will:

Recently, after his 10th trip to Iraq, Bing West, a former Marine and current correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, noted that 70 percent of U.S. casualties are not from bullets but from roadside bombs. The enemy rarely engages in sustained firefights with U.S. forces, so U.S. forces are killing fewer insurgents than the insurgents recruit. Furthermore, U.S. units spend 15 percent to 30 percent of their time training Iraqis: “If winning is not a direct goal for U.S. units, we don’t need so many troops in Iraq. If winning is a direct goal, we don’t have enough units in Iraq.”

Under a “Laird-Abrams” approach, winning would be the “direct goal” of Iraqi units. There is, however, this sobering arithmetic: Based on experience in the Balkans, an assumption among experts is that to maintain order in a context of sectarian strife requires one competent soldier or police officer for every 50 people. For the Baghdad metropolitan area (population: 6.5 million), that means 130,000 security personnel.

There are 120,000 now, but 66,000 of them are Iraqi police, many — perhaps most — of whom are worse than incompetent. Because their allegiances are to sectarian factions, they are not responsive to legitimate central authority. They are part of the problem. Therefore even a substantial surge of, say, 30,000 U.S. forces would leave Baghdad that many short, and could be a recipe for protracting failure.

We need a “vision thing” in Iraq in order to know what to do. Have we accomplished what we went there to do? If so sending more troops is a waste. If our goal is to subdue the population, than 20,000 more troops is a waste. If our goal is to stop those who are causing the strife, then 20,000 troops in Baghdad is a waste. The only way this makes sense is if you send 50-100,000 more troops.

If you at least follow a consistent strategy from the get-go and it fails, then at a minimum you can learn from it and cross it off the list and move on to the next idea. But if everything you do is a mish-mash of half-measures then you never get anywhere, literally. And that’s where we are now in Iraq.

Will goes on to compare this President to Truman in his final days. Truman lost both houses of congress and went on to be replaced by a solid leader, a general, who knew how to end the war. So who is the next Eisenhower on the horizon? I see only Giuliani, but you may disagree.

Read George Will.

 
 

On Saddam

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Krauthammer gets Saddam’s death exactly right. His conclusion:

Finally, there was the motley crew — handpicked by the government — that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance. The world has now seen the smuggled video of the shouting and taunting that turned Saddam into the most dignified figure in the room — another remarkable achievement in burnishing the image of the most evil man of his time.

Worse was the content of the taunts: “Moqtada, Moqtada,” the name of the radical and murderous Shiite extremist whose goons were obviously in the chamber. The world saw Saddam falling through the trap door, executed not in the name of a new and democratic Iraq, but in the name of Sadr, whose death squads have learned much from Saddam.

The whole sorry affair illustrates not just incompetence but the ingrained intolerance and sectarianism of the Maliki government. It stands for Shiite unity and Shiite dominance above all else.

We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government. This governing coalition — Maliki’s Dawa, Hakim’s SCIRI and Sadr’s Mahdi Army — seems intent on crushing the Sunnis at all costs. Maliki should be made to know that if he insists on having this sectarian war, he can well have it without us.

I think Bush is through. He has thoroughly fouled this up. It is certainly fixable, but I have no confidence in his ability to fix it. His (soon to be announced) issuance of 20,000 more troops is too little by nearly every analysis I’ve read, which says at least 50,000 are really needed. It’s all these half-measures that are keeping us from winning, not our capabilities or the desires of the preponderance of Iraqis. But I don’t think Bush is capable of fixing this. Another half-measure like 20,000 more troops, or executing Saddam before his trials were completed, or handing him over to Shiite extremists to be executed, and then delivering his corpse to Tikrit to be enshrined by Sunni followers, those half-measures don’t make anybody happy. They just make each side more convinced they can win. And they prolong our agony. As I said, this conflict is winnable, just not by Bush.

On Fox News, Krauthammer echoed the line in this column, and he concluded by in effect endorsing the Andrew Sullivan position on the war. If anyone else were in charge, I would want to hold out and try to quell the violence and make this thing work. But with Bush in charge, I have to admit that the Andrew Sullivan option sounds like the best one for the next two years.

Here’s Charles Krauthammer. Read the whole thing.