Not much work-related news to report this week. A little Perl programming, a little C++, and assorted other fairly mundane tasks. Everyone is still spending a lot of time talking and thinking about the attack. Way too much time is probably spent watching CNN and checking Yahoo! for the latest developments; and at least a few minutes playing this nifty Bin Laden game. I hear some of the local shooting ranges are using Bin Laden targets too. :-)
I saw in the news yesterday that we’ve had special forces in Afghanistan for a while now scouting out enemy territory. And there are plenty of rumours about a large number of Predator UAVs buzzing around the place and at least a few suggesting the Global Hawk UAV may be in use as well (this may a be a good place to test some of the new UCAVs shortly). I’m really relieved to see we’re not just standing around watching while the Taliban continues to stall for time.
Jane’s has an interesting article describing some of the history of the Al-Qaeda Islamic group. They apparently declared war on the US back in 1998 but until the recent events, I don’t think we took it seriously enough. This may be the first war between nations and a group of international criminals – it seems like something out of a movie, like being at war with SPECTRE (except in this case they’re evil religious nuts rather than evil geniuses with fluffy white cats). Al-Qaeda’s original plan was to overthrow the governments of the Arab/Islamic states first and then using the vast army of their combined Islamic super-state to kill all the Jews and westerners. But, over time, Bin Laden came to the conclusion that killing westerners and Jews first was the key to success (or maybe they just decided it was more fun, I don’t know). So far, Afghanistan is the only country they’ve managed to take over and turn into an “ideal Islamic state” – basically the model of how they’d like all of us to live (or at least those that they don’t intend to kill outright).
I’ve also seen members of RAWA on CNN and several news shows talking about life under the Taliban’s strict Islamic rule. You can be executed for trying to get an education, executed for not being Muslim, beaten for not following the dress code, women are treated as slightly less important than domestic animals, almost all technology, art, and music is forbidden,… Basically a whole lot of no fun.
And the these guys have already been planning more attacks. Plans for chemical or biological attacks have been uncovered. Several attacks have been thwarted in the US and Europe already. The more one reads about what we’re up against, the more this sounds like it may be the most serious threat civilization has faced since the Nazis. If these nuts get their hands on nuclear weapons this could get ugly. And Jane’s reports that Pakistan, which is believed to have 25 or so nukes, is apparently teetering on the edge with a huge population of Fundamentalist Islamic whackos being barely held in check by a military government. (hopefully, we already have those nukes targeted by cruise missles, ready to be taken out instantly if Pakistan falls.)
No work today. Half the day was spent at the Addison Oktoberfest. We wandered around for while, taking in the sites and sounds and tasting the food. Afterwards we walked to a nearby Japanese restaurant for dinner. And, as anyone who visits the area should do, we stood in the center of the Blueprints at Addison sculpture and admired its blueness.
I also spent some time today messing with the connection between my MIDI keyboard and my Linux box. ALSA is working fine again. I wonder if there are still any plans to incorporate ALSA into the next kernel?
Woohoo! The BBC finally started releasing some Dr. Who region 1 DVDs. I don’t know why they bother with the region coding scheme in the first place. All it does is increase their production cost. There is only one Tom Baker episode out so far, The Robots of Death and there is also one Jon Pertwee episode, Spearhead from Space. I’m sure more episodes will be forthcoming. The one we got (the Tom Baker episode) came with a card you could mail back to vote on which episode would be released next.
I picked up an interesting CD on eBay: Morton Subotnick’s and the butterflies begin to sing for string quartet, bass, MIDI keyboard, and computer. The computer’s part is to listen to the MIDI instruments and processes the notes through an algorithm that controls the mixing and amplification of the other instruments as well as algorithmically performing three sampled instruments. Subotnick’s stuff is always interesting but tends to be hard to find.
Saturday the DPRG held Roborama 01.b as planned. There were a few interesting new robots competing as well as a couple of records broken but, overall, I think attendance was down a bit due to the terrorist attacks. The events for walking robots were delayed a few weeks and may evolve into a seperate contest.
On Sunday evening, Susan and I attended the opening performance of the season at the Dallas Symphony. The original program called for Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major. In recognition of recent events, however, the Ravel work was replaced by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
We also spent some time this weekend trying to buy a flag. They’re virtually unobtainable though. Apparently over 500,000 have been sold this week and even places like Walmart have long since sold out of them. Fabric stores seem to be selling out of red, white, and blue ribbon as well.
Last night robots.net got slashdotted for the first time. Mod_virgule held up just fine – in fact, I was pleasantly suprised at how well it performed considering the amount of file I/O being done.
And today it’s back to work churning out more Perl code.
I just ran across this news item saying that the US is loaning $50 Billion to the EU so their banking systems won’t collapse from panic withdrawls after the attack on the US. (I’ve since received an email saying that AP should called this a “swap” rather than a “loan” as it is just a trade of Dollars for Euros.) Anyway, it got me thinking; if our allies are this scared imagine what our enemies must be thinking about now – they’re probably just beginning to realize they’ve done a BAD THING and are going to be toast shortly. Oh well, it gave me a good laugh anyway.