What's New? 2003-03

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What's New? 2003-03

 Sunday 30 March 2003
  Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.

U.S. Army Rangers This poster was around during my days of high school. It was my first glimpse at our modern fighting force, rather than the glorified images of World War II (or the comic relief of the Korean War as brought to us by M*A*S*H).

A force of volunteers, willing to learn more, do more, and expect more of themselves. While I was in the strange program of ROTC I undertook at university, I had a chance at the end of enlisted (and then the year later, officer's) basic training to do airborne and helicopter assaul training. Had the U.S. Army not added several weeks to each program (for experimental additions to the cirriculum) I would have, but as it was, I was so exhausted and ready to go back to school that I passed it up. I regret it now. I certainly would have gotten more out of my time in service had a been a bit older than the 17 and 18 years of age that I was, not yet shaving.

 Thursday 27 March 2003
  Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.

Sometimes one sees a photo which just captures a moment perfectly, beyond even the planned composition of the photographer. Well, this photo of Sarah Hughes does it for me. It's not just someone falling, but it's just that exact moment of falling where she knows that it's all for naught.

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes - the 2002 Olympic champion - falls yesterday while performing her qualifying skate at the World Figure Skating Championships in Washington. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)

 Wednesday 26 March 2003
  Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.

Nothing from Salam Pax since Monday. There was a test post which has now dissapeared, so one wonders what all that is about. We hear conflicting reports on the state of utilities in Baghdad: updating a website from under a curtain of bombs with intermittent electricity and telephone service is quite the challenge.


Long-time readers of this website know of the many times we've visited London and of our enjoyment of mass transit.

Both Isaac and Lila have spent many an hour beaming during their times in the London Underground (and even more at the London Transport Museum.

Today's mention has to do with a guerrilla posting in some subway cars of entries in the Poems of the Underground series. Whosoever has done it has spent a bit of time making sure the placards follow the design layout and use the same font - Johnston Sans - as do the authorised PotU entries.

 Tuesday 25 March 2003
  Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.


A momentary look away from Iraq, to Afghanistan. (Anyone remember Afghanistan?)

A U.S. Army personnel carries her gun as she jogs at the Coalition Joint Task Force army base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Tuesday March 18, 2003. Eighteen months after first attacking Afghanistan to uproot the al-Qaida terrorist network and the ruling Taliban regime, an 11,500-strong multinational coalition remains deeply engaged. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)


Iraqi Uses Web to Chronicle a City Under the Bombs

By Jonathan Wright

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A mysterious Iraqi who calls himself Salam Pax, writing a Web log from the heart of Baghdad, has developed a large Internet following with his wry accounts of daily life in a city under U.S. bombardment.

Salam Pax, a pseudonym crafted from the Arabic and Latin words for peace, came back on line on Monday after a two-day break because of interruptions in Internet access.

The traffic on his Web site caused the server to go down and Salam's e-mail folder has filled with inquiries about his true identity.

Salam, who writes in English, is the only resident of Iraq known to be filing accounts of the war directly to the Web.

He has spoken against the invasion but clearly has no great love for Iraq's Baathist leaders.

"Freaks. Hurling abuse at the world is the only thing left for them to do," he said last week after media appearances by Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf and Interior Minister Mahmoud Diyab al-Ahmed.

But he does not like seeing his city bombed either. "The only thing I could think of was 'why does this have to happen to Baghdad'. As one of the buildings I really love went up in a huge explosion I was close to tears," he wrote on Saturday.

Salam and his family have been out on reconnaissance missions around the city to inspect the damage and they report the bombing has been accurate but dangerous to civilians.

"Today before noon I went out with my cousin to take a look at the city. Two things. 1) the attacks are precise. 2) they are attacking targets which are just too close to civilian areas in Baghdad," he wrote on Sunday.

On Saturday he reported a rare eyewitness account of Iraqi policemen setting fire to the oil in trenches dug around Baghdad, apparently to confuse the guidance system of bombs.

"My cousine (sic) came and told me he saw police cars standing by one and setting it on fire. Now you can see the columns of smoke all over the city," he wrote.

Salam reports that the streets of Baghdad are busy but few shops are open. Vegetable prices shot up in the first days of the war but by Sunday they had fallen back to normal.

In the first days of the U.S. and British invasion, Salam gave the impression of calm resignation but his tone changed on Sunday when Iraqi resistance surfaced and casualties rose.

"If Um Qasar (the port of Umm Qasr in the south) is so difficult to control what will happen when they get to Baghdad? It will turn uglier and this is very worrying," he wrote.

"People (and I bet "allied forces") were expecting things to be mush (sic) easier. There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans nor are they surrendering by the thousands. People are doing what all of us are, sitting in their homes hoping that a bomb doesn't fall on them and keeping their doors shut."

The electricity has gone out in parts of Baghdad and the Bush administration has launched another e-mail blitz on Iraqis, sending him five messages, he reported.

"Three of them are to army personnel and two to the general public. In those they gave us the radio frequencies we are supposed to listen to. They are calling it 'Information Radio'," he said.

 Monday 24 March 2003
  Salam Pax is back online, now that 'net access has been restored to Baghdad. Good to hear from him. One civilian within the red circle.

He says half an hour ago the oil-filled trenches were put on fire... Al-jazeera they said that these were the places that got hit by bombs from an air raid a few miniutes earlier but when I went up to the roof to take a look I saw that there were too many of them; we heard only three explosions. I took pictures of the nearest. My cousin came and told me he saw police cars standing by one and setting it on fire. Now you can see the columns of smoke all over the city...


Another slow day. A few more POWs. No major advances. General feeling that maintaining a humanitarian attempt to protect civilians is seriously slowing things down. But that's the way things ought to be, IMHO. Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.


I've mentioned I'm a fan of the comic strip Get Fuzzy. Some days I really want to share. Used without permission.

Get Fuzzy
 Sunday 23 March 2003
  Casulties and prisoners-of-war on television. Unexpectedly fierce resistance encountered. Friendly fire and accidents. An uninspiring day. Salam Pax doesn't update his web site; I hope he's escaped harm.

Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.

 Saturday 22 March 2003
  Still no Salam Pax updates. For me he's become my voice in Baghdad. I hope he's okay. I have a number of Persian friends, but of course they're all here in San Francisco. Not the same thing.

Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.


William Shatner William Shatner Happy Birthday William Shatner, born 72 years ago in Montreal, Canada.

Thank you, Bill, for many years of enjoyment; your acting has given me many excuses to pretend I'm travelling the universe along-side you and your crew.

From the original series to the latest movies, to TEKWAR, and more. Television, movies, and books: it's all been good. Oh yes, and those delightful priceline.com television spots. Just delightful.

And á propos nothing at all, except that I stumbled across this most excellent photo of a very young Leonard Nimoy from the television show "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." which tickled my fancy.

Leonard Nimoy
 Friday 21 March 2003
  I'm back in Marin. I listen to two public radio stations, KQED and KALW, to keep up on the news. Obviously, Iraq is almost all that's covered. Since I still don't have much to say, and what I have to say is so buried under being tired, so I'll share and comment on what I see on the 'net today.

This evening I'm listening to the streaming audio of the BBC World Service. There's something primally reassuring in the tones marking the start of the hour. Beep - beep - beep - beep - BOOP!

Updates to the Gulf War II page.

 Thursday 20 March 2003
  Hostilities have begun. We've tossed Tomahawk land-attack missiles (TLAM) cruise missles from ships and guided bombs from F-117a Nighthawks onto bits of Baghdad.

It seems like a low-key way to strike. We were expecting "shock and awe", but something must have changed plans.

[Update: later we hear that intelligence suggested that Saddam Hussein and two of his sons, Qusai and Odai, were in a known location. The opportunity was taken to try and decapitate the military hierarchy of Iraq. Did it work? We still don't know.]

Photos of the day posted to the Gulf War II page.


Salam Pax said It is even too late for last minute things to buy, there are too few shops open. We went again for a drive thru Baghdad's main streets. Too depressing. I have never seen Baghdad like this. Today the Ba'ath party people started taking their places in the trenches and main squares and intersections, fully armed and freshly shaven. They looked too clean and well-groomed to defend anything. And the most shocking thing was the number of kids. They couldn't be older than 20, sitting in trenches sipping Miranda fizzy drinks and eating chocolate... other places you would see them sitting bored in the sun. more cars with guns and loads of Kalashnikovs everywhere. The worst is seeing and feeling the city come to a halt. Nothing. No buying, no selling, no people running after buses. We drove home quickly. At least inside it did not feel so sad.

Later he says The all clear siren just went on. The bombing aould come and go in waves, nothing too heavy and not yet comparable to what was going on in 1991. All radio and TV stations are still on and while the air raid began the Iraqi TV was showing patriotic songs and didn't even bother to inform viewers that we are under attack... The sounds of the anti-aircarft artillery is still louder than the booms and bangs which means that they are still far from where we live, but the images we saw on Al Arabia news channel showed a building burning near one of my aunt's house... Everybody is waitingwaitingwaiting. Phones are still ok; we called around the city a moment ago to check on friends... Iraqi TV says nothing, shows nothing. what good are patriotic songs when bombs are dropping?


You know we love to travel. My visits to the Middle East have been limited to Israel, but that's not how I wanted it to be. In December 2000 Rose and I had a trip planned to Israel, Jordan, Gaza, and Golan Heights. I wanted to see some of the Palestinian and Jordanian parts of the Middle East. Alas, it was not to be. Just before we were to rent our apartment (a few hundred feet from the Western Wall) and buy our plane tickets an iteration of the intifada started anew. There's something about taking young children into the realm of suicide bombers. So we went to Roma instead.

But I've been interested in Baghdad. Here is a satellite's view of the city, with three imposing edifices highlighted.

Baghdad, Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq

I haven't figured out (yet) what this edifice is, impressive as it appears.
Baghdad, Iraq

The Al Sijood Presidential Site, a 24-acre site located on the west bank of the Tigris River, sits between two rows of waterfront leadership condominiums. Al Sijood was the location of the first inspection of a presidential site by the UNSCOM team (which occured on 2 December 2002). The Tyndall Report said that inside the al-Sijood Palace "we had a peek at the perks of dictatorship -- manicured lawns, marble floors, monogrammed walls, a grand entrance foyer inscribed in gold leaf with a poem in praise of Saddam Hussein.
Baghdad, Iraq

From globalsecurity.org: The Monument to the Unknown Soldier is said to be inspired by the glorification of a martyr from the Iran-Iraq war. What looks like to many as a flying saucer frozen in midflight, represents a traditional shield (dira?a) dropping from the dying grasp of an Iraqi warrior. The monument also houses an underground museum. The artificial hill is shaped like a low, truncated cone of 250 m diameter. It is surrounded by slanting girders of triangular section that are covered with marble. Red granite, stepped platforms of elliptical form lead to the dome and cubic sculpture. The steel flagpole is entirely covered with Murano glass panels fixed on stainless steel arms and displaying the national flag colours. The cantilevered dome is 42m in diameter and follows an inclination of 12 degrees. It's external surface is cladded with copper, while its inner surface features a soffit finished with pyramidal modules alternating steel and copper. The promenade is covered by a semi-circular, flat roof supported on a triangular steel bracing. The roof is covered with a copper sheet and the soffit displays V-shapped panels of stainless steel and Murano glass.
 Wednesday 19 March 2003
  Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more... - Henry V (from William Shakespeare)

Things moved from this page to what's now called the Gulf War II page.


According to Salam Pax, on his Where is Raed? web page, said Yesterday the last 500 prisoners from the Iraq-Iran war were being exchanged. I can't believe they are still doing this, ... that war ended in 1989. Every Iraqi family can tell you a hundred heart-breaking stories about things that happen when you have thought you brother/father/son is dead and he suddenly appears after ten years.

Iraq-Iran prisoner swap Iraq-Iran prisoner swap Iraq-Iran prisoner swap

He also says Sometime ago I promised to show you the new 10,000 Dinar bill, it has been issued around 4 months ago... the dinar hit a new low tonight, $1=2700 dinars. The wholesale markets in Shorjah stopped buying and selling today to see which way the dinar will move next.

10,000 Dinars


While on my way to Marin county, to help clients in Marin county with their computer woes, traffic slows to a stop on the Golden Gate Bridge, just south of the north tower. Quickly I saw many of the bridge workers, who had been carabinered to the cables, standing together by a few police officers. A blue-on-white helicopter with what appeared to be a camera above the cockpit made repeated loops. Nothing to see as we crawled by. I wondered whether someone had a misadventure or someone had tossed a protest banner over the side.

It turns out that 44-year-old Paul Aladdin Alarab, of Iraqi descent, died after falling from the bridge. What makes the story even strangers was that he survived a fall from the Golden Gate Bridge 15 years ago, when he was trying to get into a garbage can suspended from the bridge in which he planned to spend a week in protest of the way society treats the elderly and handicapped.

CHP officers tried to talk Alarab out of jumping. They were investigating the death as a suicide. Officials would not release Alarab's note from Wednesday or talk about it in detail, but according to a coroner's office statement he was "reportedly expressing his personal opposition to the impending war with Iraq."


CHP logo After the slowdown on the bridge I resumed the trip to San Raphael, still a quarter-hour away.

I keep my speed with the flow of traffic, usually ten miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit, and generally two or three lanes over (and never in the passing lane unless I need to pass). I'm not in a burning rush to get to where I'm going, and I really don't feel like getting a speeding ticket (having received a few of them in my twenties :-)

These behaviors mean that other drivers are fodder for the California Highway Patrol.

CHP Crown Victoria Today, while following those rules, I first spotted the current style of CHP patrol unit, the black-and-white Ford Crown Victoria (shown at left). It blew by me, racing in the passing lane. One encounter with a CHP vehicle per trip is more than my average.

A few minutes later I was passed by one of the new stealthy "Ghostriders", the all-white Chevrolet Camaros with the thin LED light bars (shown below). "Wow," I thought, "I'd never be able to realize this was a police car until it was much too late."

CHP white Camaro

One of seventy-three, the Ghostriders each cost $25,500. They don't have either of the two easy-to-spot characteristics of the Crown Victorias: the shotgun barrel in the windshield or the massive push bumper on the front grill. The low-profile light bar looks a bit like a ski rack; the CHP says it's undetectable beyond 375 feet. They're fast, reaching 160 mph via a 5.7-liter, 8-cylinder, 310-horsepower engine.

Having shared all that, I wanted to share a photo I found while researching the new cars on the 'net. This shows a CHP B4C and F-117a Nighthawk stealth fighter. Why? I have no idea.

CHP B4C and F-117a Nighthawk stealth fighter
 Monday 17 March 2003
  Updates to what I'm now calling the Gulf War II page.
 Saturday 15 March 2003
  Spent much of the day at a client in the Marina neighborhood, restoring her Apple Cube from backup after a ruinious crash.


Teletype model 33 My first exposure to computing was in the office of a guidance counsellor at Bridgewater-Raritan High School East.

A Korean War surplus Teletype model 33 (shown at right), connected to a time-sharing system of a nearby business or university, was for our small group of a half-dozen a window to a bigger challenge than we were able to find in school.

My first tiny programs, in the BASIC programming language, were blasted out through a 30 baud acoustic coupler (modem); I could read faster than data could get through. Rather than re-typing the programs each time I sat down at the keyboard, I could opt to have the paper tape puncher (at far left of the unit) drill the software into a long strip of paper in Baudot code, a five-bit predecessor to ASCII.

All this comes to mind following the discovery of a circa-1972 Bell Labs publicity photograph of Ken Thompson (seated) and Dennis Ritchie (standing) in a machine room. They're in front of a DEC PDP-11, typing on a Teletype model 33.

Teletype model 33

Dennis' commentary about the picture included a description of the various bits of hardware shown. He mentions that one of the cabinets contained RK03 disk drives, another containing a RF11/RS11 controller and fixed-head disks. He then mentions that "by this time / and swap space lived there, while /usr was on the RK03s." Ahhh, early UNIX.

I discover UNIX shortly after I start my computing career. During a visit to the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, I find UNIX manuals and the Bell Systems Technical Journal volume dedicated to UNIX. While travelling around Israel I read these and have a virtual UNIX in my head before heading home and getting access to a UNIX box (which as best I can figure happened sometime early during my time at Boston University).

 Thursday 13 March 2003
  I recently mentioned that Ranger Lefty sent me a travelogue update detailing his round-trip trek to the Smith River Redwoods.

Well, I just heard that he's finished a pre-trip shakedown cruise to Mount Shasta and the Black Rock Desert.

 Wednesday 12 March 2003
  Happy Birthday, Dziadziu! It was great having you over to dinner for a celebration.


Much of my career has been spent getting clients to do the right thing, such as writing platform- and operating system-agnostic software. Just as violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, restrictive software is an admission of technical failings. That's why this browser-detection graphic tickles me. It complains that the user must use Microsoft Windows and the Microsoft Internet Exploror web brower, but the image shows happy people using an Apple Macintosh Titanium PowerBook, which of course can't run Windows.

Gateway, the Intel-based PC manufacturer, got a bit of a black eye for this print ad showing their digital music solution and a hip guy using, yep, you guessed it, an Apple Macintosh Titanium PowerBook. (Of course we don't know whether this error started with Dell, a downstream ad agency, or the composers of the newspaper insert. It's still funny, though.)

 Tuesday 11 March 2003
  One of the best things about the Bush administration are the constant stream of malapropisms. It's just like having Dan Quale back again :-) But even better are the anti-war graphics being sent around the 'net. One of my favorites shows Mullah Dubya:

But even better are the nude protesters, which have been making the daily batch of news photographs a joy to peruse. Here are a few from the last few weeks:

"More than 750 women lie nude on a hillside at Byron Bayon, on the New South Wales north coaste about 200 km (124 miles) south of Brisbane, in the shape of a heart with 'no war' spelled inside on February 8, 2003. The women are urging Australian Prime Minister John Howard not to follow U.S. President George Bush into a war with Iraq." (Photo Reuters/Icon Images/Peter Carrette)

"Female police carry away a naked anti-war demonstrator in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, March 1, 2003, as hundreds of demonstrators undressed to stage a protest against a possible war in Iraq [in] front of the government palace La Moneda." (Photo AP/Santiago Llanquin)

Not a protest photo, but in the naked group of people style, is this: "More than 1300 naked men and women pose of U.S. photographer Spenser Tunick, at the Expo.02 in Neuchatel, Switzerland, Saturday July 20, 2002." (Photo AP/Keystone, Sandro Campardo)

 Monday 10 March 2003
  The entire family is in the bathroom. I'm reading, having just switched tub supervision duties with Rose. Isaac and Lila are switching between the tub and the Japanese stool. Lila notices that she's got "prune hands", and tries repeatedly to wash the waterlogged texture off of her hands. Reassuringly, her big brother says

Isaac: That's okay, Lila. Sometimes I have prune anus.

Okay, okay, so Isaac's Toilet Training has been of great importance to us of late.


Today has been a day of financial frustration. I was doing some bills today. One vexation of modern life is how poorly creditors manage their billing information. Here are some vignettes of my time on the phone today:

  • My health insurance provider - It's March, and we still haven't received a payment coupon. I called them on 6 Jan, just before our 2003 Gran Canaria & London trip, and then again on 7 Feb, when we returned, and then today. "Three months", I say, "and still no payment book." They look and look, and finally tell me "Oh, yes! We had some sort of error and couldn't process some requests." Uh, excuse me? This is about me sending money to you, the cornerstone of your business. When you realized that there was a processing error couldn't you have found all the failures and sent all of us the payment books? Sigh.

  • My automobile insurance company - we recently added a new car to our policy. We quickly received a notice of addition, but no follow-up bill. I use their web site to check up on things only to find that they've set two cars to Business use, which is incorrect and costs me more money. And no bill. So I'm back on the phone. They're closed early. I leave a message. Sigh.

  • My mortgage holder - we refinanced at the end of last year. No bill from the new mortgage holder. No contact letter. Nada. This isn't good. I track down the company we used to refinance. My guy isn't there any more. The new guy promises to figure out what's going on. Sigh.

There was at least one more, but it's late at night and I've forgotten. I can't believe what percentage of my bills require some sort of error-correction. These are simple things, and they get so horribly wrong.

 Wednesday 5 March 2003
  across Europe There are times when I have a few minutes to repair errors in this site. Today I'd planned on going back across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Whole Earth Magazine, to debug and back up one of their in-house machines. Alas, our scheduling was off. But in the meantime I fixed all the navigation errors in my 2000 Across Europe travelogue.

Come along with our family, and sister-in-law Pamela, on a train trip through Europe, including stops at London, England; Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, Holland; and Münster, Germany. We continued without her to St. Ives, Cornwall, England.

These errors, by the way, have been recently introduced by a "fixed" version of the nextPrevs function of Frontier, the web-rendering engine I use.

 Tuesday 4 March 2003
  Another Whole Earth Magazine moment: today I returned a 266 MHz iMac to an employee's home in Berkeley. It needed some routine maintainance, software upgrades, and (gratis) a CD-ROM burned with a backup of the documents folder.

I did the house call while the family was at Habitot, the children's playspace (on Shattuck, at Kitteridge). Then we went to visit Dziadziu for a late lunch and time at the playground, the coldest spot in Alameda.

 Monday 3 March 2003
  Whole Earth Magazine As you might know, Ranger Lefty is currently driving across America. His clients need computer support, a duty I undertook.

Today I returned to the offices of Whole Earth Magazine, in the beautiful Falkirk estate in San Raphael (in Marin County), to squash some Mac OS 9 issues. Done! I'm enjoying supporting small enterprises.

It started out cool and foggy but turned into a nice sunny day, the kind you want when driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in a convertible. Even the owners of nicely-colored hardtop BMW M3s give me the eye, as I cruise in my fire-engine red ragtop.

 Sunday 2 March 2003
  While Isaac and I are playing with this Thomas trains:

Papa: I think I'll ride in Rusty.
Isaac: You know, you people, some people go into the Dragon car and have lolipops; it's called the Candy Buffet.


Today Isaac and I went to our first BMW car rally, the 50 Miles of Pure Twisties. It was great fun. Click the link to see the invitiation and the route, which you might want to use someday.

 Saturday 1 March 2003
  Had our traditional breakfast at The Fiddler's Green, then spent much of the sunny day at the Bay Area Discovery Museum with Michelle and Catalina. Drove back to San Francisco, stopped at the House of Bagels, went home where Isaac and Rose brought some flowers from our garden to Kim, a quick visit to the Kaleo Café, and home with sleeping children. Must wake up early tomorrow... (read on)


We took Isaac and Lila to a car get-together at Chrissy field last autumn, but this is our first gathering of this kind. It's not our usual kettle of fish, but we're suckers for the outdoors and the twisty mountain roads. I'll take a camera, I think...

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