Sadr: Spreading Havoc to New Parts of Iraq

Sadr: Spreading Havoc to New Parts of Iraq - Newsweek - The War in Iraq - MSNBC.com
Drive-by shootings are nothing new on Baghdad's streets. But petty murders like Ibrahim's are a sign of a more worrying development. Weeks ago Sadr issued orders for his fighters to lie low as thousands of new U.S. and Iraqi soldiers deployed throughout Baghdad. For the most part they've obeyed—and the resulting drop in sectarian killings was the best news that U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus had to report last week, as he pleaded with congressional leaders to give his security plan time to work. Now individual gunmen and sometimes whole units from Sadr's Mahdi Army are breaking off on their own. The militiamen "are under a lot of pressure, so it's natural for them to shed pieces," says a Coalition official familiar with the group who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive material.

The freelancers add a new dimension to Iraq's already brutal kaleidoscope of violence. In Baghdad, after an initial dramatic drop, the number of corpses being found each morning is on the rise again. Outside the capital, fighters fleeing south have linked up with local Mahdi units; their presence is upsetting the uneasy balance of power struck between various Shiite groups in the region.

Well, duh. So much for the "surge."


Reid: Bush in denial over Iraq

Reid: Bush in denial over Iraq - Politics - MSNBC.com:
Reid: ‘The failure has been ... presidential’
He did not repeat the assertion in his prepared speech, saying that “The military mission has long since been accomplished. The failure has been political. It has been policy. It has been presidential.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might be my new hero. I don't know anything about this guy - but statements like this are awesome.

It's hard to imagine a greater failure of leadership than the current President Bush.

I've been reading about these neocon bastards and they are pathetic.

It turns out the World Bank, which the US funds to a large extent, has been doing the same bullshit around the world that the neocons tried to pull in Iraq - forcing a free market economy onto countries that don't want it - and worse - the "free market" economy they force on these countries is controlled by US businesses. It's not free at all. And who is head of the World Bank right now? Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz.

Bush talks freedom but walks oppression. It's not good.



A close reading of Skymall. - By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine:
The ad for the SnacDaddy® chicken-wing array tray—headlined 'Where the wings have no shame'—appears in the Late Spring '07 issue of Skymall, which I found in the seat pocket on a Delta flight. This was just pages from an ad for 'the world's largest write-on map mural,' probably useful for keeping an eye on the fast-moving global catastrophe that will make your many handcrank devices the envy of your crank-deprived neighbors. And a few pages on, we find the 'crank-powered walkie talkie.' (The crank, handbred in Vermont, is sold separately.)

The issue also features the 'upside-down tomato garden,' the 'remote controlled robotic hammerhead shark,' the 'pop-up hot dog cooker,' the 'million-germ-eliminating travel toothbrush sanitizer,' the 'window-mounted cat porch,' the 'world's smallest indoor remote control helicopter,' the 'Turbo-Groomer® COBALT' nose-hair trimmer, the 'Sudoku glass tabletop set,' the 'Solar-powered mole repeller,' (what, no handcrank in case of nuclear winter?), the 'versatile mock rock in five sizes.' (For those unaware of the purpose of a 'mock rock'—since real ones are not in short supply—they are designed to 'hide problem areas in your yard or garden.')

Back when I was traveling every other week it was normal for me to flip through these magazines. I wanted gadgets - lots of them! The ultimate gadget for me was my Sony Clie - camera, web browser, PDA, music player, photo viewer, etc., all with a pretty big screen for a small handheld device. Eventually the camera died, and the Bluetooth ecosystem I had set up that allowed me to browse or send email anywhere collapsed, and the Blazer browser quit working because it required a proxy system that shutdown, but it's still, several years later, a cool device. (I now download my news to AvantGo in the morning and read it later if I'm in the mood.) I had little cameras, my phone that talked to the Clie, a laptop, various music players, and so on.

But now that I haven't been on an airplane for three years I find I don't care very much about collecting gadgets. When I was traveling, I felt like a "man on the move", and that required me to have many clever portable gadgets.

I enjoyed traveling but now that I'm not doing that (no trade shows, no E3, no GDC, no 26 hour trips to Atlanta and back) and I'm not a "man on the move" I'm just a guy who wants to listen to music in the car or when I want to block out the noise at work.

Life is simpler, in my relatively gadget free world. I still have the Clie, and carry it around, because it keeps my appointments, although my appointments are linked at work and at home via a network, so I'm not really sure why I carry the Clie around. Mostly habit, I guess, and reading AvantGo is cheaper than buying a newspaper.

I also carry around a stupid number of memory stick and/or itty-bitty hard drives. I'm not sure why. The Clie has room for a multi-gig memory stick. My iPod generally has several gigs free where I can park stuff. I guess I have some kind of compulsive pack-rat mentality for dragging data around.

I thought it would be cool to have a sample of every kind of computer media I have used over the years, from paper tape, to cards, to 8" floppies for the Terak machine, to data cassette tapes for the Apple and Kim-1 computers, to the 20 megabyte hard disk the size of a washing machine, to various tape formats (including 7-track and 9-track tapes, and DEC tapes! [they were awesome], zip disks, memory sticks, DAT drives, and so on. But instead I think I'll try to track down pictures of them.

And maybe store those pictures on my Clie ...

Time for Plan G in Iraq? - By Phillip Carter - Slate Magazine

Time for Plan G in Iraq? - By Phillip Carter - Slate Magazine:
But defining the current surge as a 'Plan A' is a dangerously dishonest move that ignores the history of the Iraq war to date. In fact, since 2003, we have run through at least six plans, none of which has succeeded. The Petraeus plan is something more akin to Plan F—truly, the last Hail Mary play in the fourth quarter. And if it fails, then we better start considering Plan G, also known as 'Get out of Iraq.'

The article goes through all the different "plans" for ignoring and/or occupying and/or subduing Iraq. It concludes that if the current plan doesn't work, then the last option will be to leave.

Since the current plan isn't working, and won't work, because Sadr and his forces can trivially reposition themselves wherever the troops are not, and so the bombs will keep exploding in different, seemingly random places, plan G will be to replace the Iraqi government with our own guys. The rhetoric will be, "These people had every chance to govern themselves and chose not to, and so we're in charge now."

Plan G - the one I describe - probably won't work either, but I think it's more likely to be the next plan than withdrawal. Bush won't admit defeat and he equates withdrawal with defeat; he would rather stress our military to (or beyond) the breaking point than admit defeat.

'Tired' and 'Drunk' Lily axes US tour - The Money Times

'Tired' and 'Drunk' Lily axes US tour - The Money Times:
I have been on tour with this album for a year now, I have fulfilled every commitment up to this point. I am tired, but more than that I don't think I have been giving my best performances recently. I have been getting really drunk because I've been so nervous about doing bad shows, and I don't want people spending money on a going to see a show that isn't the best it could be,” the 21-year-old star wrote on her blog page.

Now thar's some straight talk. I think her album is one of the best things I've heard in years. I remember listening to a free version of one of her tunes, probably from her MySpace page. The quality wasn't very good - it sounded overly compressed and even - ack - a bit noisy (unusual in this digital age). I was looking forward to getting the real album which I ordered from Amazon but when it arrived I discovered that the sound quality was the same. The album - which is still great - sounds like it was recorded in a garage on a four-track cassette tape machine.

But anyway, she admits to getting drunk from the stress... very unusual behavior, and actually quite refreshing (the admission, not the drunkenness).


Vista Shutdown

As the proud and fascinated owner of a new Dell Vista Laptop I can honestly say that Vista is "interesting."

Here's a story about the shutdown button that makes Vista more interesting.

My favorite part of the article is the notes at the bottom about edits made to the article:
edits: fixed link, removed some strong language, fixed math

It would be an interesting project to improve the build system for a project the size of Vista. I suspect a little Web 2.0 mashup action with a database and some heavily linked HTML and comments interleaved with the code would probably make things a lot better.

Cross disciplinary management is always tricky. In games, the disciplines range from sound effects, music, art, animation, effects, programming, level design, story and some kind of "big picture" control. It's possible Microsoft doesn't see the Vista shutdown button as cross-disciplinary - after all, it's all code. But I would say that Kernel programmers are totally different from UI programmers and Tablet PC UI programmers are going to have some fairly specialized concerns as well, and that techniques used in games to get such disparate functions as level design and sound effects working together could probably be used to make the Vista build process a lot better.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


WP: McCain stakes bid on success in Iraq

WP: McCain stakes bid on success in Iraq - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com:
McCain's rosy assessment of safety on Iraq's streets after his recent visit to a Baghdad marketplace was mocked by many, prompting him to tell a television reporter that he 'misspoke' and now regrets the comments. But, in the interview to be broadcast tomorrow, the senator sticks by his defense of the overall war effort, predicting that failure in Iraq would be 'catastrophic.'

Obviously McCain doesn't really want to be President.

I think he continues, as does Bush, to misspeak. We have already failed in Iraq and it is already catastrophic. There is no need for the future tense.

But anyway, I think we can safely write-off McCain as a credible candidate.


GameDaily BIZ: Supreme Commander Annihilates Competition

GameDaily BIZ: Supreme Commander Annihilates Competition:
Supreme Commander Annihilates Competition

After creating Total Annihilation in 1997, Chris Taylor is back on the RTS scene with Supreme Commander, and publisher THQ couldn't be happier. The game is off to a hot start, consistently in the PC top ten week after week.

I couldn't be happier for these guys. My son quickly finished all three campaigns and is now working his way up the Supreme Commander online ladder.

"Supreme Commander is doing things that no other RTS has done before, providing a completely unique experience that goes beyond RTS games," commented Kraff. "Anyone who's dreamed of commanding legions of tanks, jets, battleships and massive experimental units across enormous battlefields will want to get their hands-on this game."

Atari, who now holds the original TA license, told me (when I was a studio director at Amaze) that this kind of thing wouldn't be fun and that all RTS games need to be like C&C: Generals.

They were wrong. Anyway, congrats to GPG and all of my friends there.


Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Here's another Disney Theme Park web album. This one is Disneyland Paris where I took quite a few more pictures than I did in Tokyo. (My camera was brand-new in Tokyo and I was still figuring it out.) I'm still building out this photo album. I'm using Picasa and it is pretty cool to use. I know lots of people love Flickr.com and it may be better - I don't know. But the thing that blew me away in Picasa was real-time photo-straighening. Have you ever tried to rotate a photo a little bit in Photoshop? It's hard to do - you have to type in a number - and it's dog slow. With Picasa, it's real-time and simple. I assume they use Direct3D or OpenGL to access the hardware on your video board.

The Google screensaver (available from Google Pack also recently received a major upgrade and it's very cool. You can connect to RSS feeds such as the ones from my Picasa web albums (and I understand Flickr is supported too.)

It's all good fun.

ThinkGeek :: The Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame

ThinkGeek :: The Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame


Peter's Evil Overlord List

My son brought an important list to my attention. Here are some samples:

If my advisors ask 'Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?', I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.

I think some regular managers might do well to try to follow some of the rules in Peter's Evil Overlord List. I worked for an Evil Overlord once who was convinced our company should have 100% of the market we were attacking. He made this mistake by convincing himself that the 100% of the market we wanted was only 5% of the larger market, so why couldn't we do that?

Amusingly, Steve Jobs made this same error when he announced the iPhone. "There are a billion phones sold each year! We only want 1% of that!" Sadly, the iPhone is properly categorized as a product for the smart phone market, which is not a billion phones a year. It would have been more honest to say what proportion of the smart phone market he planned to grab.

This one has practical everyday value as well:

Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.

Sadly, the data file rule is out of date, and any version of it will be out of date within two years, because the storage capacity on the planet Earth appears to be growing without bound. Interestingly, I worked with a guy once who thought it would be brilliant to sell a CD online which could be burned (of course) onto your own CD ... and make it 80 minutes and 30 seconds minutes long. (In case you don't know, the maximum time limit for CD Audio is 80 minutes.) He was quite distressed when I crushed his evil plan by removing an uninteresting 1 1/2 minute piece of music. (It's not a great idea to go right up to 80 minutes, either, as frequently a couple of seconds of gap are put in between each tune.)

Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Well, everyone has unlimited Internet access now, so this isn't really an actionable item.

I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."

Also good advice. One time in high school I was the video tape editor for a student director's project. He expected me to start a tape rolling, edit, let the source tape roll, rewind another machine, edit, pause, jump sideways, and then do another edit. It was clearly impossible. He didn't believe me until the teacher, the great Mr. Fred Cutler, came by to see what we were arguing about. (Where are you, Fred Cutler? I learned a lot from you.)

I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.

Well, it kind of goes without saying that everyone should do this, but unfortunately only Evil Overlords can really afford this kind of counseling.

Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.

Ha! That's not gonna happen. Nobody does that. If people read instruction manuals, then instruction manual writers would have to actually do a decent job, and the whole market economy would have to be reorganized. It's just not gonna happen.

Commentary (C) 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson. Evil Overlord excerpts Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach.