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Posted
13 February 2007

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Nerd Factor X Verisimilitude Personal

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4 Comments

Bloggable Mass The Second

It's probably a good thing that you don't see what goes on behind the scenes at Casa Del Girtby. Instead of fully-formed posts (or what passes for such on this site) instead I have lately just been producing mostly unrelated snippets. They don't deserve a post in their own right, but if I give each of them a bullet point, together perhaps they could form a bloggable mass. Again.

  • In topical news, did anyone else think that the response from Sen. Barack Obama to John Howard's outrageous insult was a little, well, lame? Obama basically said "well maybe he should commit 20,000 more troops". That would bring Australia's commitment up to something like 21,400 which is, apparently, above the magic figure which would make Howard's trash-talk legitimate. Why 20,000? Why not 200,000? Why not 20? Surely Howard was out of line no matter how many troops we had in Iraq. For someone as legendarily lucid and articulate as Obama, this was a most disappointing retort.

  • Because I am, apparently, a glutton for atheistic writings, lately I've been dabbling in some of the works of Bertrand Russell. Russell was a truly great man with a huge intellect and the ability to express with clarity and reason his views. Although others such as Dawkins have taken over the mantle somewhat, Russell still needs to be heard and read as much as ever. Have a read of some of the material online (courtesy of wikipedia, above). Then try your hand at following along as Mark Dominus explains Russell and Whitehead's proof that 1 + 1 = 2. Brain-bending stuff.

  • Also on atheism, it occurred to me the other day that the mental effort required to move from a state of belief to unbelief must be quite significant. Once you believe in something, it is very difficult to unbelieve it. The effort required is far greater than that required to become a believer in the first place. This realisation has caused me to ask myself: what would it take for me to become religious? The answer is quite a lot of mental contortions. This is a useful measure of the effort that I am expecting of religious people in renouncing their faith. In other words, I would find it extremely difficult to become religious, and should expect the same degree of difficulty for religious people to become atheists. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for such exemplary tolerance.

  • In techy news I have been reading a lot about video compression lately. Specifically MPEG 4 and H.264. This is a fascinating subject, and Richardson's book is an excellent introduction. I'm impressed by the extremely clever compression techniques employed by H.264 and the fact that it is relatively patent-free (in Baseline Profile anyway). For this reason I would probably suggest that H.264 Baseline be the video codec of choice for archival purposes, although I need to read more. I'm starting to question the conventional wisdom that H.264 requires significant CPU resources for playback, given that the Apple TV can do 1280x720 H.264 at 24fps with nothing more than a 1 GHz Pentium M. Hey, even my 5.5G Video iPod will do 640x480 H.264 at 30fps.

  • Updated I almost forgot to mention that I've stolen from Typo the JavaScript for displaying "friendly" dates (ie "X days ago") on each article posted. I've also adapted it for each comment, displaying the elapsed time since article publication. Check out the JavaScript if you want to see how it's done.

That's it for now, enjoy your week.

4 Comments

Posted by
Aristotle Pagaltzis
2007-02-12 23:40:18 -0600
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Did anyone else think that the response from Sen. Barack Obama to John Howard’s outrageous insult was a little, well, lame?

Not at all. It was more like, "if Mr. Howard thinks the future of Iraq is such a dire issue, why hasn't he committed more than a token amount of troops?" The figure of 20,000 looks arbitrary, but I think it strikes a good balance between "more than just a token amount" and "quite a feasible request": the figure is relatively low, yet we know it's not going to happen; which sheds exactly the right sort of light on Howard's comment. Needless to say I think Obama's response was spot on.


Posted by
Alastair
2007-02-12 23:40:18 -0600
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The figure of 20,000 looks arbitrary, but I think it strikes a good balance between “more than just a token amount” and “quite a feasible request”: the figure is relatively low, yet we know it’s not going to happen; which sheds exactly the right sort of light on Howard’s comment. Needless to say I think Obama’s response was spot on.

Given that the Australian Army consists of only 26,000 regulars in total, it's not a particularly feasible request.

Thinking about it some more, I think it was a lame response because: a) It's not about numbers. You don't get to be right by having the biggest army. b) Calling for additional (Australian) troops is at odds with his stated policy of withdrawal (of US troops). Is there some plan here or is it just an off-the-cuff remark? c) The premise of Howard's comment is so weak that it could quite easily be disposed of without implying any criticism of Australia's involvement in Iraq.

Just as a note I should say that from what I've seen, Obama looks to be a very worthy candidate and hope that this is just a lapse on his part.


Posted by
Richard
2007-02-12 23:40:18 -0600
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The 20,000 figure is referring to the rough amount of the current president's planned increase escalation augmentation to the US troop deployment in Iraq.

Effectively Obama's saying, the current deployment isn't enough, and we can't send enough, so we should leave. Bush has said that they just need to send more (err, really restore troop levels to what they were 2 years ago), but Howard -- by not changing our deployment level at all -- seems to be saying "stay the course" is still Australia's preferred strategy. I think we can all agree that Howard's strategy can't work.


Posted by
Sunny Kalsi
2007-02-12 23:40:18 -0600
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H.264 is the awesome, but even mature free codecs don't have very good support, particularly if there are errors. In addition, I'm not sure exactly how many doodads there are that can play back h.264. Unfortunately, the crappy support for H.264 has not made it a prime choice for me w.r.t. "archiving".