Archives : March 2003

2003 March 5

RIP, Pioneer 10

The last contact with Pioneer 10 was January 23, 2003. NASA will not look again.

Aziz Poonawalla has written a finer epitaph than I possibly could.

2003 March 7


Trivia question du jour:

There is a country in the South Pacific called "New Zealand". Where is old Zealand?
Bonus points: Why?

I was going to leave finding the answer as an exercise for the reader, but what the hell. My inner geography geek is contented.

2003 March 8

I'm the bogeyman

I am bemused to discover I annoyed Andrea Harris enough that she's written four paragraphs explaining how frustrating it is to try to talk to "these antiwar people."


Best friends, whether we like it or not

The Globe and Mail has an interesting article on Canada-U.S. relations in the 21st century: "Working for the Yankee dollar".

The amount by which the U.S. economy expanded during the nineties is larger, in and of itself, than every other country's entire economy, except Japan's. And it was that U.S. expansion that has fuelled much of Canada's own growth.

But after a generation in which economic forces brought them together, geopolitics is threatening to drive Canada and the United States apart. It's not just the catcalls about war-mongering, aggressive Americans and pacifist, passive-aggressive Canadians. Differences over Iraq are likely to pass, especially if any war ends quickly with little loss of life. But the impact of Sept. 11 won't end with the conquest of Baghdad.


"The most basic question of Canadian foreign policy remains, 'What can Canada do to better protect its interest in the United States?' " Allan Gotlieb, Canada's former ambassador to Washington, said last week. "In the transformed security environment following September, 2001 . . . the need to find an answer to this question is the single most important issue facing the country."

2003 March 16

Convenience Fish

[recipe card]

Oh, dear god -- I still can't breathe.

Once upon a time the world was young and the words "mackerel" and "pudding" existed far, far away from one another.

One day, that all changed. And then, whoever was responsible somehow thought the word fluffy would help.

Oh, and eggs, too.

Wendy of found some regrettable Weight Watchers menu cards from 1974.

Yes, the category of this recipe is "convenience fish".

2003 March 17

"The most powerful narcotic invented by humankind is war"

I very nearly went to Washington this weekend with Matt and Brandi and a friend of theirs to go to the peace march, which surprised the crap out of me. I've never even imagined myself at a protest or demonstration of any kind before, and suddenly I was planning to take a whole weekend to go to Washington. But when the logistics were worked out, they all decided they wanted to leave early Friday to avoid the traffic, and I couldn't manage a whole day off work. I'm standing up to be counted here instead. It seems I may be running out of time to do so, and I do want to get this up before they let loose the dogs of war.


2003 March 18

Life Before Wartime

Salam Pax (not his real name, obviously) has been blogging from Baghdad since last September. Obviously, he's not your typical Iraqi -- when you hear the phrase "Westernized elite", it means people like Salam Pax. He speaks English, works for a foreign company and has internet access at work, has lived abroad, is a fan of Björk and David Bowie, and is cheerfully blasphemous about Islam. But he's still an Iraqi, has a good eye for detail, and all the above just means he's better placed than most to explain what living there is like these days. Go read.


2003 March 19

Weird night

It's been a strange night, sitting in front of the TV, channel-surfing and waiting for the war to start. I was trying to think of what it felt like, and decided the sensation was like waiting for election returns to come in. A big, scheduled event is going down, and everybody's waiting for the returns to come in.

Tonight, the first bombs fell about an hour and a half later than scheduled, but I suppose that's rock and roll for you.

I'm going to bed. Good night, all. Sleep well, and I'll see you in the brave new world tomorrow.

2003 March 22

Tit for Tat

One analogy I should have thought was obvious, but I have yet to hear anyone make. Surely it is clear that to a lot of Arabs, the "shock and awe" images of Baghdad are going to have the same emotional resonance that the collapsing Twin Towers had for Americans. Yes, most of them have no use whatsoever for Hussein, but really, how many Texans ever thought they'd sympathize with a New Yorker?

I don't want to sound like I'm calling the US military criminals -- in fact, I've been rather impressed with the general subtlety and restraint they've shown in carrying out their orders so far. But the United States is going to pay a price for "shock and awe." Yes, they're using precision munitions, and yes, probably the collateral damage ratio is the lowest in history, and yes, it may well be the quickest way to end the war -- all good things, or rather, lesser evils. But think back to how you felt looking at that colossal plume of smoke over Manhattan, and realize that Arabs are not going to thank us for making them look at one of their own.

[Also, check out the shock-and-awe drinking game. It may help you get through an evening of jingoism.]

"Unprecedented" Bombing

The Pentagon has said and news media keep repeating that the bombing of Baghdad is "unprecedented". I wondered about that, so I went and looked up some numbers from the Second World War for comparison. We're told that around a thousand cruise missiles have been fired at Iraq in the past few days, plus "hundreds" of satellite-guided bombs. The warhead of a Tomahawk is half a ton, so that's 500 tons of explosive from missiles. I don't know what the average weight of the dropped bombs is likely to be, but the general-purpose JDAM comes in sizes up to 1 ton, so I'll take that as plausible guess; thus the total tonnage dropped on Baghdad was possibly around a thousand tons (500 tons each of bombs and missiles). Obviously I'm guessing here, but I think I'm probably within a factor of two, anyway.

On the 12th of March, 1945, the RAF dropped 4,851 tons on Dortmund, carpet-bombing blind through cloud. It seems clear that the attack on Baghdad was hardly competitive for scale, but I think we can be thankful that there's no comparison for precision.

(No, I don't have a point -- this is just a historical fact-check.)

2003 March 31


I'm back from a weekend with my brother for his 30th birthday. We did some drinking, watched some TV ("Made in Canada" does rule -- I must find AVIs), and hiked up Mount Royal. Good weekend.

Was snowing this afternoon when I left took off; raining in Boston when I landed. Visa processing went as it was supposed to.

Use a router, go to jail

Hell. Apparently domestic news doesn't stop just because we're at war. Don't these people have anything better to do?

"Super-DMCA" bills are on the table in MA, TX, SC, FL, GA, AL, TN, and CO. Michigan has already passed one. There appears to be a covert push of some kind going on; our friends at the MPAA support it, of course. Anything that conceals the place of origin or destination of any communication is banned, as is mere possession of plans to make such a device.