Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Deleting history

It didn't happen...

At least, that's what Google says: The Tiananmen Square slaughter is obviously a myth.

Compare the page results on China's new ".cn" version of Google against what our .com version.

The real thing: http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen
The Chinese re-write: http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen

Hat-tip to Cox and Forkum: see their cartoon and post here!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Old Smokey

It's good to finally get a car that not only is old--older than your previous--but also looks it!

She's a beauty to me anyway. Picture will be forthcoming I'm sure. Old Smokey is her name--for several reasons: she's as old as me, smokes a little, and she's gray with some “age spots” too.

First several chores (not counting the fiscal and legal process) toward driving her today:

New battery

De-rust the door hinges,

Put my parking pass on the mirror

Apply some new fluid in appropriate places...

And check to make sure the windows, blinkers, heater, etc., are at least marginally workable.

Check, check, check, check...and check.

Future goals for Old Smokey's maintenance:

Drive like an old man (never over 75mph--shakes too much)

Install some semblance of a workable sound system...with at least some of the left side speakers emitting sound

Vacuum the carpet sometime soon

Figure out how to alter the divers seat so the lumbar isn't pushing my stomach into the bottom of the steering wheel even though I am trying to reach the wheel with my arms without hunching like...um, like a hunchback...

And I should probably get the old wasp nest out of the driver's door--just in case they decide to recommit themselves come spring.

Cowering giants

Google et al. isn't exactly reacting favorably to calls from the Capital to attend a congressional briefing on February 1 about it's cooperation with Chinese censorship:

Microsoft and Cisco Systems have refused to attend the event, while Google and Yahoo are non-committal, officials said.

The firms were asked to attend the February 1 briefing by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus following uproar caused by search giant Google's decision last week to censor websites and content banned by China's propaganda chiefs.

"We have heard from Microsoft that no representative from the company will attend the briefing. So, with Cisco Systems, this makes two companies that have confirmed they're opting out," [said] Lynne Weil, spokeswoman for caucus co-chairman Democratic Representative Tom Lantos.
Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Google: the big engine that couldn't?

Here is a facinating piece from the UK Times--a long read but I was riveted. Frankly it is the best "problem of Google" coverage I have read.

Some excerpts from John Lanchester's analysis:

Until now, Chinese net users who were blocked from accessing a site knew that the information was there and was being kept from them by their own government. From now on it is Google which will be keeping data from them, in direct contradiction of its own declared mission “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. ...

...It seemed that the company’s real motto was something more along the lines of “don’t be evil unless the Chinese government asks you to and there’s serious money in it”. ...

...Google is cool, but Google has the potential to destroy the publishing industry, the newspaper business, high street retailing and our privacy. Not that it will necessarily do any of these things, but for the first time, considered soberly, they are technologically possible. The company is rich and determined and is not going away any time soon. It knows what it is doing technologically; socially, though, it can’t possibly know and I don’t think anyone else can either.
Lanchester weaves in plenty of history and context so it is not entirly a Google bashfest.

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Spanking Google

From the Financial Times:

Google will be called to task in Washington next month following a controversial decision by the internet search engine to launch a China-based version of its website that will censor results to avoid angering the country’s Communist government.

The decision by Chris Smith, a Republican congressman from New Jersey who chairs a House subcommittee on Human Rights, to call for a February 16 hearing to examine the operating procedures of US internet companies in China, represents the first signs of what could become a serious backlash against Google and other internet companies in Washington that are perceived as capitulating to the Chinese government.

I was livid when I heard of Google's decision to placate China for a bigger buck. After canceling my Google ads account, and sending them a letter about it, I sat back and bemoaned my own continuing reliance on such a beautiful search engine.

For that matter, as this UK Sunday Times article points out, bloggers in general are guilty of hypocrisy, even without relying on the Google big block engine.

Many of the bloggers who are most critical of China's human rights policies make their voices heard using Chinese-made PCs. Probably wearing cheap Chinese-made trainers while they're at it.
(Cheap trainers? huh? I thought these were pajamas I was wearing!)

Point taken--I can still be mad can't I?

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Maine thing

A must read! (Christian Science Monitor)
How Mainers greet troops: hugs, fudge and 41 cellphones

The Maine Troop Greeters, a community group has gathered at Bangor International Airport since May 2003. The group has tallied over 1,400 flights, filled with about 260,000 traveling military personnel. A truly inspiring story--I dare you not to cry.

And I quote...

Be broken amongst those that you love - for if you can't trust those that you love with the downtimes, how can you honestly share the good?
-My good friend Brian

Monday, January 23, 2006

Grits are grounded

Now I will just be quiet and watch to see what happens. This particular conservative party has not ever held power so it will be interesting to see how they work. Harper may be a smart campaigner--but if it seemed to me he had more than just his own smarts working for him in this election. The Liberals did everything they could to lose and still the Conservatives didn't get a majority.

I wonder what Bush will say. I'm sure he'll say it carefully whatever it is. I'm sure it's time to say goodbye to the softwood lumber dispute now that Paul Martin is (hopefully) politically dead.

Privacy: uncompromised

I thought so.

The recent firestorm regarding the justice department subpoenas of Microsoft, Yahoo and now Google, has not been as dangerous as the fear mongers of the left (think a certain professor), would like to harp about.

Both Microsoft and Yahoo complied with the Internet search data subpoena and claim the data does not endanger personal privacy of internet users. Google has other motives besides the privacy of users for not complying with the subpoena it seems.

For more reading.

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Canada: conservative coming out day!

Continuing on my Canadian political splurg: a good article in The American Spectator puts a good perspective on the importance of today's election results.

For North America, it will mean a much friendlier partnership between the U.S. and Canada. Prime Minister Paul Martin has hitched his political wagon to shameless Yankee-bashing this campaign, accusing Harper of being a Washington puppet and vowing to "make sure that Canada speaks with an independent voice now, tomorrow, and always." ...

But as David Sax points out (subscription required) in the New Republic, Canadian anti-Americanism may be broad...but it isn't deep. An SES/Buffalo University poll in 2005 showed that a majority of Canadians want closer relations with the U.S. on security, antiterrorism, and energy policy. Canadians don't want to be Americans, but they do want to be American allies. The Grits have made this tough over the years, with periodic anti-Bush and anti-American outbursts from the back and front benches.

The Tories won't have that problem. Though Harper has made pains to distance himself from the perception of excessive deference to Washington, even writing to the Washington Times to dispute an op-ed characterizing him as "Mr. Bush's new best friend internationally," the fact is that he'll be the most pro-American Canadian Prime Minister in a long time. He may not send Canadian troops to Iraq, but he has praised the U.S. for pursuing democracy there and would stand with the U.S. (and Israel) in international disputes where his predecessors would stand against us. In a dangerous world, the good guys are about to gain another strong leader. And that's bad news for the bad guys.
It's really a shame the United States hasn't paid much attention. One American commentator was bemoaning a week ago that the average American knows more about the British and German political process than our "close allies" up north.

January: all about firsts

Which one of these statements is true?

The Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl...
Roe v. Wade is a smidgen away from getting put back in limbo...
It's all but certain the Liberal party of Canada will lose in today's elections...

Correct answer: all three!

What's the world coming too?

Harper: Moore's bane


Since we all have such a soft spot for Michael Moore, we should all send him our condolences if his (almost) worst nightmare comes to life--a conservative government in Canada!

Honestly, I'm so glad he speaks up to tell us what's bugging him. How much the better to crank up the heat on America's number 1 buffoon.

Here's the article with his whining appeal to our northern neighbors

"Oh, Canada -- you're not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That's a joke, right? I know you have a great sense of humor, ... but this is no longer funny," Moore complained in a commentary on his website...

In "Bowling for Columbine," his documentary on gun violence in the United States, Moore heads north to Canada to flee the rise of conservatism on US soil.

"A man running the nation to the south of you is hoping you can lend him a hand by picking Stephen Harper, because he's a man who shares his world view. Do you want to help George Bush by turning Canada into his latest conquest?" Moore asked.
Hey Canada! Finish him off please! I know my interference in your affairs should have a better reason than my own selfish glee at Moore's anguish, but we need to start somewhere I guess.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Souter v. grassroots

Update: Here's the long-lost link to my last post on this topic (thanks Joshua!)


Here we go again...don't get mad at me:

The effort to oust Supreme Court Justice David Souter from his house and property has remained on the march. Although few honestly think it will work--it's certainly a worthy effort since no one is breaking any laws of course.

The effort is in response to the Kelo v. New London case, in which some home owners were evicted from their properties for the "greater good" of having a business established on their property and having higher tax productivity on the area: It's called "eminent domain" in law-speak; another way of stretching the beyond recognition. I thought I posted on this last year when it hit the news...but I haven't been able to turn it up in the archives. (see update)

Here's the Associated Press piece on the latest (admittedly retaliatory) efforts.
The group, led by a California man, wants Justice David Souter's home seized for the purpose of building an inn called "Lost Liberty Hotel."

They submitted enough petition signatures — only 25 were needed — to bring the matter before voters in March. This weekend, they're descending on Souter's hometown, the central New Hampshire town of Weare, population 8,500, to rally for support.

"This is in the tradition of the Boston Tea Party and the Pine Tree Riot," organizer Logan Darrow Clements said
Here's a few links for info on the Kelo decision.

A good abstract at Oyez.org
Justice John Paul Stevens, the majority held that the city's taking of private property to sell for private development qualified as a "public use" within the meaning of the takings clause. The city was not taking the land simply to benefit a certain group of private individuals, but was following an economic development plan. Such justifications for land takings, the majority argued, should be given deference. The takings here qualified as "public use" despite the fact that the land was not going to be used by the public.

Complete opinions (Steven's majority opinion and Kennedy's concurrence plus O'Connor's dissent and Thomas's concurring dissent)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Noise from the jungle (vol. II)

Last Wednesday, I came to a particular class half asleep. I will admit to not remembering what we covered during those two hours.

Today however, I came to class energized somehow (the coffee?), and lived to regret it. I've never felt more like punching a wall than I did as I left the room. What could it have been that made an easy-going guy from the laidback rainy Northwest Washington so impassioned (I'm not sure I can describe it that way because I kept vacillating between being incensed, shocked, disturbed and amused in the extreme--like I could hardly keep myself in check)?

File under "Methods of Textual Analysis" (read: methods the professor endorses): Marxist Analysis and (here's a word for you) Hegemony:

"Refers to the process by which those in power secure the consent of the socially subordinated to the system that oppresses or subordinates them. Rather than requiring overt force, the elite, through their control of religious, educational and media institutions attempt to persuade..."
etc, etc.

Examples of hegemony a patriarchal society: Catholic, Mormon, and most Protestant church order... (yes there was a professing catholic present in the class). Another example: Promise Keepers--i.e. a group of men who get together for support in reaffirming their leadership role in their family (such a sickening idea you know).

I don't have the time to do more affirmation of what I will be tested on (oh, there's so much more I haven't mentioned). Professor BH (blowhard) insisted we don't need to accept these methods of interpretation--we just have to "know them cold."

Leave me alone! I'm busy sucking on gas!

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Smoke in your eye

Oh? Bellingham isn't so apathetic after all?

One local establishment is under siege for defying the smoking ban passed by voters in November. The Western Front has some good coverage here--take note of the feedback that has already been posted online. Dr. Chris Covert-Bowlds was the primary sponsor and spokesman for the ban campaign.

For what it's worth, I already wrote a piece on the ban last quarter--focusing kind of on the way everyone was falling for the utilitarian arguments of the left. A commenter on that string noted an interesting possible conflict of interest regarding Dr. Covert-Bowlds.

I'll be honest: I hope they keep up the protest (if I can do so without having to think about moral obligations to government)--at least it will keep the issue out in the open. Our constitution was not based on utilitarian "majority rule" ideals.

Do I sound libertarian yet?

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The local news

I'm getting the chance to shoot some pictures by virtue of the camera from the publication I'm shooting for--such a nice machine. I only hope I can master all the functions before I need to give it up. Excuse the careless ordering...

Anna upon arriving home from work perhaps.

Rebekah perusing the menu at Dutch Mothers in Lynden. Nathan treated the lot of us to breakfast on Saturday.

One picture that Nathan didn't censor--slipped through the cracks it did!

Just before Nathan left yesterday. Anna was at work (I'm just about to head to work right there).

Rachel packing Timothy off to the car from the restaurant.

Cousins-friends: Kylee and Mary.

Grandpa and Grandma Neff as of yesterday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Columbia on vacation (updated)

The good hearted ship has decided to take a little break--at least I hope and pray that's all it is. Otherwise I may very well find myself hunting for a REALLY good priced car (with fewer miles I suppose). There's a good possibility the transmission is dead--not confirmed, mind you, so there's always the chance the problem is a little more secondary than that.

It was Sunday evening that Columbia broke up on takeoff. With every gear a perfect replication of neutral, we push her back onto our driveway for the night. Yesterday wasn't quite so simple. My good friend Crystal had pity on this shipless pilot and offered the use of her truck. From there, I'm not sure if I'm the one who is qualified to tell of the ensuing adventures. However, one new battery later (and new tabs), I'm running around campus getting my stick-shifting back up to par.

Does this story have an end? Only God knows. I'll find out what's the deal with my car today. Hope whatever is occupying your time this fine second week of the year is edifying and helpful too.

UPDATE: The official post mortum has declared the transmission a total loss...and thus totalling the car.

"I'm in the market, as it were."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

'God's land'

I've never been more appalled by the antics of many in the so called religious right--yes, I'm also a member of the religious right, I guess. But still, I'm always tempted to crawl under a rock and hide from this group when one prominent member starts spouting off about Israel being "God's land," as if God has set up some kind of mystical border around that country.

From the AP:

The Reverend Pat Robertson says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke could be God's punishment for giving up Israeli territory.

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network told viewers of "The 700 Club" that Sharon was "dividing God's land," even though the Bible says doing so invites "God's enmity."

Robertson added, "I would say woe to any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course."

He noted that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Robertson said God's message is, "This land belongs to me. You'd better leave it alone."
I know I'm probably stepping on a lot of toes by expressing my extreme frustration. Life as a politically involved Reformed Christian often means enduring the lot of the theological minority.

"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" John 18:36 KJV

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The long journey home

It's anything but déjà vu to sit here in an airport at the conclusion of my trip. First, it's mid-day (for now). It's Buffalo airport. I'm more tired than I was I wrote last, and most importantly, lived a lot, learned a lot, just finished a great week with the great friends, and enjoyed an all around blessed week.

There's nothing like a lightning fast airport connection for uploading so here's a few shots from the week:

Mr. and Mrs. VanDyken on the right, Ruth and I on the left

A walk through McMaster campus

Webster Falls--first stop on a long snowy walk

Later on--Dundas Peak with the city of Dundas far below us over the edge

And something different--here's some with Matt finally (after he got home). These are a couple views of the back seat last night on the way home from Toronto.

The lost children--so forlorn

Suspicious folk!