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March 25, 2003

Propaganda or Persuasion?

I guess it is natural to notice items that support your point of view, rather than oppose it. In the last few days I've seen a lot more interesting articles on the America-Iraq war. First off, Bush should take a lesson from Tony Blair, as evidenced by Blair's speech to the British parliment in support of a government motion to go to war with the Americans. Second, here is an article by an American who went to Baghdad as a human sheild, and then changed his mind.

March 19, 2003

Morbid fascination

I said I would stop with Iraq, and I can't. Two more articles found via other people's weblogs: The Urge to Help, the Obligation Not To is a fascinating opinion piece by an exiled Chiliean peace activist, and See No Evil, a somewhat balancing view that examines the foundations, evolution and possible weaknesses of views in the political left that supports most of the anti-war sentiment. (salon.com requires that you watch a 15-second ad to read the article)

update: That salon.com article turns out to be one of the more persuasive and thoughtful articles that I have read on the subject. Some choice quotes:

... here is the paradox: Bush is insincere and untrustworthy, but at least he's talking about stopping torture and repression.
On the left, none of these arguments frames the war issue as an issue of freedom (or even relative freedom) vs. totalitarianism...None of the arguments above offers a plan for ending torture, ending suppression, and protecting human rights and civil liberties.
In a moment of moral urgency, the arguments against war instead urge preservation of the status quo. They are, in a word, conservative.
The implicit assumption of the post-Vietnam culture is that pacifism always holds the moral high ground. But in the Iraq conundrum, there is no high ground, no moral purity. If you argue for war, on humanitarian grounds, you are saying: We must risk thousands of casualties not only among soldiers, but among children and civilians, so that Saddam's weapons can be destroyed and his murderous system of repression can be dismantled. If you argue that war is to be avoided because of those potential casualties, then you are arguing that Saddam's system of repression -- the political murders, the torture chambers, the slow death of the soul that comes from living under such tyranny -- must be endured.
In the chaos of the moment, we must remember that we are living in the crucible of our era. The Cold War is over. The Vietnam paradigm no longer holds. History is tipping on a fulcrum. For fear of military intervention, the world failed to stop the Rwandan genocide of 1994, but since then, the U.S. and the U.N. have engaged in three invasions with significant humanitarian impact: Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Whatever the intentions of the Bush administration, Iraq is a similar test, and though it is far more extreme in its requirements, and far more uncertain in its justification, it is part of a growing momentum in which world leaders can join to use military force to resolve humanitarian emergencies.

March 18, 2003

Weekend of sloth

Ok, perhaps the weekend wasn't worthy of being called a deadly sin but it sure was relaxing. Kerry was suffering from a cold, and she was very fatigued. Both Saturday and Sunday I brought her over to my apartment and we rested, did a little work, browsed the web, and watched movies on TBS Superstation. I think we'll have to try that again some time when she isn't sick. It really was quite nice.

I'm never using a drink machine again

The resolve will fade in a few weeks, I'm sure, but after last night, I'm pretty peeved at those stupid beverage dispensers. I don't know if they aren't made like they used to be, or what else could be the explanation for my frustration. I just know that I was frustrated last night.

After dinner, Kerry and I dropped by the local WalMart to get some shampoo and other such items for her. On the way out we thought we'd take advantage of the cheap drink machines WalMart has. Without being especially observant I put my $2 coin into the nearest machine, but I didn't hear the familiar clinking sound of the coin dropping into the machine. The coin slot was jammed. My $2, along with a fair bit of other people's money was visible at the top of the coin slot, just about 2 cm out of reach. We spent way too long trying to pry my coin out, but it was futile.

Now I've seen that happen before with newer model drink machines, so was irritated but not quite peeved. Our next stop was Empire Theatres at Bayer's Lake, to watch Tears of the Sun (which I thought was unusually good for a war movie, if you can overlook the violence and occasional profanity). We don't normally spend money on concessions, so we went into the theatre without any snacks. As fate would have it, about 80% of the way into the movie, Kerry mentioned she was thirsty. Because of our earlier experience I had noticed some drink machines in the hallway, and I was somewhat inclined to have a Coke myself. "This won't take long", I thought, and I headed out at a suitable pause in the action.

I was to be sorely tried by the next 10 minutes of my life. First, the machine I saw on the way in was out of order. Specifically, the one machine that had Coca-Cola (out of three) was out of order. No problem, thinks I, there's another hallway in the theatre and no doubt, another bank of vending machines. I was right. It had Coke. All is good.

I insert my other $2 coin. It is accepted. Excellent. A quarter. Good. The next quarter (drink machines charge $2.50 for 600ml at the theatre, instead of $1 at WalMart): rejected. No problem, I have four dimes. Two of them are accepted, but the other two will not work no matter how many times I try. So here I am, missing the movie, with $2.45 in this stupid drink machine, and the coin return won't work. Of course, at 10:30 the concession stands are closed and the theatre staff are already leaving for the night.

At this point I'm ready to cause some damage, but I restrain myself and find a supervisor with his jacket on. Yes, the supervisor can access the drink machines, to my relief. I take him there once he gets the appropriate key. I explain my situation to him, except, now there is no indication on the machine that I ever put any money in it. I think the supervisor was skeptical of my story, because he said the machine doesn't reset itself if a drink isn't obtained. I don't know about that, but I know that I have nearly $5 in vending machines and nothing to show for it. So he takes my dime, gives me a nickel and my Coke. I return to see the last battle sequence in the movie. Kerry wisely assures me that I didn't miss anything important. But it'll be a while before I put another coin in a stupid vending machine.

One last word on Iraq

My blog isn't a political commentary, so this is hopefully the last thing I'll post about the US and Iraq situation. This article really resonated with me and it seems to be quite insightful. Both GWB as well as the peace advocates have left their opponents (Saddam and GWB, respectively) no exit strategy.

This is ridiculous

Fans turn on the Dixie Chicks?! In my mind, the essence of freedom of speech is defending the right of others to say things that you disagree with. Ok, I know this isn't the same thing, this is individuals, not the government, but it just shows how little Americans appreciate true freedom.

March 12, 2003

Not that I'm siding with GWB, or anything...

I usually am skeptical of the looming war in Iraq, mainly because I'm skeptical about the motivations and integrity of the current US administration. However, it is interesting be reminded that Saddam really is a bad guy, as this Wall Street Journal Opinion piece reminded me...

Of course, there's also plenty out there on the web to say that the claim of Saddam using gas on the Kurds in northern Iraq in the late eighties is a distortion of the truth. Not to mention that the US provided Iraq with satellite intelligence and other aid during that time while Iraq was at war with Iran. To keep the fundamental Islamic government of Iran from spreading the religious fervour to the entire region and possibly destabilizing the oil-producing countries that the US is so dependent upon, the US quite deliberately helped Saddam. Which just feeds into my opening statement about questionable motives and integrity...

How Hydrogen Can Save America

This Wired article starts out heavy on the government subsidy theme, but the last page or two give an interesting glimpse into a future 30 to 50 years from now when not only will fossil fuels be displaced by hydrogen but power use in general could be more efficient, decentralized and clean.

March 11, 2003

Now on to other miscellany...

Boycott Delta Paranoid maybe, but interesting...

geek mode on
Jackpot This is a honeypot SMTP server designed to attract spammers and sap their email-sending resources. I wish I were geek enough to setup and run this myself, but I just don't have the drive for it these days. Maybe somebody out there will find it interesting...
geek mode off

The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science is a great little article that's worth reading.

On tour with April Wine

About three weeks ago I got a call to do four nights with the Canadian classic rock band April Wine. Tour tech was providing PA, lights and two techs for a mini-tour of the maritimes. Don't know why I got the call, but work is work, so naturally I took it. It was quite the interesting experience. I'll just hit the highlights here:

The budget was low so they only took 24 PARs, and lights were my responsibility. A bit of a challenge since I didn't know their music. I tried to listen to some before hand, but that's a lesson learned: know the music real well if you're going to light a rock show. The first night in Saint John NB was barely passable. But, the band must have had low expectations because nobody really complained as long as I made sure to hit the cop light cue in Ooutanite and the strobe cue during the drum solo.

Speaking of the drum solo, I really enjoyed the band. Sure, they were loud - they are half deaf, but I'm getting ahead of myself. More on that later. I guess it shows my musical ignorance that I hardly knew any of their tunes before working with them, but I really liked their style. Some songs had some really cool, intricate guitar solos, often played in harmony by Myles (lead singer) and Brian (lead guitar).

So, after Saint John Thursday, they played the Savoy Theatre on Friday, which is in Glace Bay, near Sydney, NS. The Savoy also recently installed lots of new gear so I didn't go to that show, nor the Saturday show at the Marquee in Halifax.

The last three shows of the mini-tour were in bustling Liverpool, NS, at the Astor Theatre. Quite a luxury to have three shows in the same spot. The hotel - Lane's Privateer Inn - was actually fairly nice, and had a decent restaurant. Since we were in one spot for three days, there was time to tweak and learn. On Monday afternoon I listened to some CDs and changed some of the programming on the board. Mostly, however, I spent time with Brit Fader, the audio tech that came with the gear from Tour Tech. He's a mixer and guitar tech who's worked in the industry for quite a while. So he knew the band, enjoyed working with them, and he could tell me lots about the history of the band and the local industry.

But back to tweaking. As I mentioned earlier, some of the band members have compromised their hearing from decades of Marshalls on 10 and drum kits played harder that you can possibly imagine. The band brought a Yamaha PM 2000 for FOH, but TTE supplied the rest of the PA, including 2 Xsub, 2 Xcb and 2 Xcn per side- for a 360-seat theatre!

Why such a PA, you asK? Well, a look at the monitor rig explains things a little. The 5-member band has the drummer and guitar player on in-ears. The drummer has a Clair Bros sub as well, but that's small stuff. The bass player has 2 12am wedges for his vocal, and an Ampeg SVT on 10 with an 8x10 cab, so he's covered. The keyboardist gets one Clair wedge. Similarly, one for Brit at the monitor board. We brought 8, so where did the others go? Well, Myles has them! A pair in front and a pair behind him. Oh, but wait! He also has a pair of Meyer MSL4s on each side of the stage, as well. 6 very potent monitors, just to get his voice above his Marshall.

So what did I spend Monday afternoon doing? Yelling into the Beta58 "eeehhh!" and "tsk!" while Brit adjusted the monitor rig, or conversely listening to Brit yell while I twiddled the EQs on each monitor send. We tried our best to cause every possible ring and squeal, and then used the EQs to reduce those runaway frequencies so that we could squeeze the last little bit of volume from that rig before the whole thing exploded in a mess of feedback.

There was other fun associated with the trip, and I'll just pause to say that April Wine guitarist Brian Greenway probably missed his calling as an improv comedian. However, it's probably time to bring this entry to a close and return to more productive real-world tasks. A closing tech note: the Astor has an ETC Express 24/48 which I used instead of the Leprecon LP1600 that Tour Tech sent out. It was quite nice and I very much enjoyed doing lights, once I learned the tunes and felt like I wasn't messing up the show.

Mega update

Two weekends ago I was out of town working, and this past weekend, I occupied myself with a mild cold and lots of cleaning up around the house, so here's a big update to make up for my absence.

Today, finally a cooking experience that succeeded. I made mom's simple pork chop bake and it turned out great. The last few attempts at cooking hadn't been so satisfying. I used to think that I had a little knack for cooking, but I've gotten over that. Earlier today I cleaned out the burnt chili from three weeks ago - that was a nice science experiment. My last two attempts at stirfry have been mediocre, as well.

Next, I'll recap my work last week, and then I'll end off with a few tidbits from the web.