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2006 » September MikeFitz with overflow bit set…

Archive for September, 2006

Bank queues, hospital queues, prison queues, …WTF? PRISON Queues?

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

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Who makes up these crazy headlines?  “Blogosphere shrinks planet!”  There’s another one.

I met blogger Joel Dullroy (a journalist in Estonia) by doing a small favour for his blogger brother in the Middle East.  It turns out that Joel is from Brisbane and moved to Estonia partly to see where the Estonian fragment of his heritage came from and partly just to be random.  He worked for several years for The Courier-Mail and now writes for The Baltic Times.  Joel writes under the name of Joel Alas because that was his Estonian ancestor’s name and it’s a lot easier for the locals to deal with.

I fell about laughing (Hey kids, that’s oldie-speak for “I ROFL’d.”) when I read his article on what happens when Estonian prison infrastructure cannot keep up with demand.

Latest missive from the China tourists

Monday, September 25th, 2006

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I’ve just posted the latest missive from the China tourists.  Note, it’s not a blog, so scroll UP to see older e-mails.

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Update 26 Sep 06, 19:20
And here’s the next one.

2/14 LHR QMI at the Ziggurat of Ur

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

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Three things caught my attention when I saw this image which I rescued from the rubble of Ben’s deleted blog.*  Don’t panic; it’s an officially-sanctioned photo, originally published on defence.gov.au.

ASLAV in front of the Ziggurut of Ur Soldiers from the 2nd/14th Lighthorse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry (2/14 LHR QMI) in front of the Ziggurat of Ur

1. Hey! That’s my old unit.

Yep. I was a cavalry troop leader in 2/14 QMI more than 30 years ago.  No wonder that picture caught my eye.  Of course, in those days the main vehicle we used was the M113Good luck, fellas!

2. The Ziggurat of Ur

The Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu is an icon of the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia and dates from 2100 B.C.  It has been extensively restored by the Iraqi Dept of Antiquities since it was excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley of the British Museum in the 1920s.  It is one of the most intriguing monuments still standing in Iraq.  Ur is also said to be the birthplace of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), PBUH.

3. Google Image of the Ziggurat

I wondered if I could find the Ziggurat on Google Maps? Well here it is.

Google Image of the Ziggurat of Ur Google Satellite Image of the Ziggurat of Ur

Click on the image above and look at the area around the Ziggurat.  Note the excavations of the ancient city.

The Ziggurat is just north of the massive US-operated Tallil air base.  Some Australian troops are stationed here.  On the satellite image, zoom out a couple of levels and then pan south until you will see the air base.  Note the odd crater in the ground, made around the time the previous users were persuaded to leave.

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* As soon as I noticed his blog was deleted, I quickly scoured Google’s cache and recovered what I could before it all goes back into the bit bucket.

Ramadan Begins Today! …or tomorrow! …depending.

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

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Once again there is some confusion about exactly when Ramadan starts.

It is often said that the Muslim holy month begins on a new moon, but it’s a little more complicated than that.  As any astronomer will tell you, the new moon occurs at the precise instant the moon crosses the line from the sun to the earth.  However, for Muslims, the new moon starts when the local religious authority actually observes the crescent on the western horizon just after sunset.

In Lebanon, for example, Sunnis start fasting today, Shiites tomorrow.  Ramadan starts today in Saudi Arabia, but tomorrow in nearby Egypt.

Last year (2005), I was in Fez in Morocco and observed a partial solar eclipse at about 8:00am on Monday October 3.  (A total solar eclipse was visible from Spain, across north Africa and on to Somalia.)  By my reckoning, the moon had indeed passed between the sun and the earth and Ramadan should have been on.

But no, Ramadan in Morocco started 2 days later on Wednesday October 5.  Our guide, Radouane, was a very devout Muslim, a perfect gentleman and a very well educated person.  Still, he couldn’t understand that a new moon occurred at any time other than when his religious leaders told him.

PS. According to Geoscience Australia, this month’s New Moon occurred on Friday, Sep 22 at 11:45 UTC.

Comments Fixed

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

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Apologies to those who tried to comment and were erroneously rejected by my latest comment-spam-Nazi.  Please try again.

In other news, here’s the latest update from the China tourists.

Crackdown on MilBlogs?

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

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I have been following with interest the blog of Ben, an Australian army officer who is blogging from Iraq.  Sadly, in the past 24 hours, his entire blog was deleted.

ASLAV in front of the Ziggurut of Ur

Letter to Ben

Conscious of the threat from cyber-squatters, I beat them to it.  I immediately re-registered his URL and posted this letter to Ben

G’day Ben,

I was disappointed to see your blog had been deleted.  (I’m guessing it was probably not done voluntarily.  Still, the need for military security is understandable and I’m sure everyone involved had Australia’s best interests at heart.)

But on a practical note, it’s unwise to completely delete a Blogger blog.  There are baddies constantly trawling Blogger looking for relinquished accounts.  When they find one, they will immediately re-register it.  They will then redirect all incoming links to their porn/fraud sites.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve taken the precaution of re-registering the site myself to prevent this.  Contact me, and I’ll gladly hand it back to you (after confirming ID, of course.)

Next time you are near Brisbane, say G’day.  I’d be proud to buy you a beer.

Keep up the good work.

Cheers — Mike

Why did this happen?

I suspect there was some fall-out from inappropriate videos on another (no longer serving) military member’s blog.  They may have been harmless enough on their own but the fact that they have been mentioned at the Kovco inquiry has made milblogs a politically sensitive issue.

Australia has lost a lot here.

It’s sad to see the demise of Ben’s blog.  There were no culturally-insensitive images or comments.  Quite the reverse; Ben’s posts were intelligent and insightful.  They gave a real feel for what life is like on the ground in Iraq today.  I myself was in Jordan at this time last year and I can vouch for Ben’s description of the heat haze and the grit in your teeth.

He also conveyed the excitement of putting all that training into practice.  As another commenter put it

The blog was an excellent advert for the ADF.

Recovery

I have also quickly recovered as much material from Google’s cached pages relating to Ben’s Blog as I could.  I’d love to republish this but I don’t want a visit from ASIO straight away.

I’m waiting to hear from Ben.

———————
Update - 22 Sep 06
It appears the Australian Army’s PR unit have yet to formulate a policy on milblogs.

Comments are open on Ben’s mothballed blog. Please leave any suggestions on what should be allowed (or disallowed) on blogs by serving members or how they should be registered/approved or whatever. (As well as messages of support for Ben!)

I note that several of the commenters on Ben’s original Iraqi Letters blog were young men of pre-military age. To these young men, Ben’s blog was inspirational and a concrete example of the living Anzac spirit.

C’mon Australia, we cannot let Ben’s blog die.

Mike

Terracotta Warrior Arrested

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

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Dearest Wife and #2 Son (Andy Fitzsimon) are continuing their tour of China.  They spent yesterday in Xian where they visited the Terracotta Warriors.  From their e-mail…

Andy and I caught on camera an incident.  A foreigner was dressed very effectively in a costume as a terracotta warrior.  He hung around for a while pretending to be a statue.  Then he made a leap over the fence into the excavation site.  The army appeared out of nowhere.  He was last seen being jogged by the army face down and horizontal 600mm above the ground to a nice gaol.  Andy and I were amazed that they did not confiscate our cameras etc.  Our guide had never seen such a scene!

Can’t wait to see that when they get back.  In other news from the tourists…

  • Andy reports that there is NO plague of rabbits on the other side of the Great Wall.
  • About 100 people turned up to hear Andy speak to the Beijing GNU/Linux User Group on Wednesday evening.  Andy then went out drinking with his new mates, waking his Mum up when he returned to the hotel at 2am.
  • On the upcoming Yangtze River cruise, one night is designated as “Concert Night”.  Their guide wants them to sing some French song but, being true-blue Aussies, they’re having none of this.  This morning, I had to quickly cobble together Maureen’s Songbook and post it so the tourists could print it before boarding the cruise.  It contains the words to I Still Call Australia Home, Waltzing Matilda, I am Australian, Give me a home among the gum trees and Tie me kangaroo down.
  • You can follow their adventures at Maureen’s website.

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Update Tue 19 Sep: The terracotta warrior incident was reported in today’s print edition of the Courier-Mail and also on NEWS.com.au.  He was a German performing art student.  I hope he got an “A” for that assignment.

Eww! Creepy!

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

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Blog statistics can reveal some interesting things and some downright awful things.

A couple of my recent posts have been about our friend Larissa Waters who stood for the Greens in Brisbane Central against Premier Peter Beattie in last week-end’s Queensland state election.  So, it is not at all surprising that over the past few days, about 15% of the hits on my blog have been from search engines, with people searching for “Larissa Waters”.

On election night, as Premier Pete gave his acceptance speech, he was joined by his family; wife Heather, twin sons Denis and Matthew and daughter Larissa.  Press coverage (eg Courier-Mail and Sydney Morning Herald) included photographs of the family with their names.

Should I be creeped-out by the fact that a further 5% of this week’s hits on my blog have been from people searching for “Larissa Beattie”, the premier’s daughter?

Larissa Waters: Pushes Premier Pete to Preferences

Monday, September 11th, 2006

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Our good friend, Larissa Waters, stood for The Greens in Brisbane Central, Premier Peter Beattie’s safe inner-city Labor electorate.  Final figures for Saturday night indicate she has recorded 19.1% of the primary vote.  A very creditable 6.8% swing towards The Greens.

Latest figures will be available at the Electoral Commission Queensland website.

At the 2004 election, Premier Pete polled 58.3% of the primary vote, winning easily in his own right.  This time round, his primary vote was reduced to 49.8%, requiring Green preferences to get him over the line.  Let him remember this as he takes his Labor government into a record 4th term.

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Update Tue 12 Sep: In yesterday’s counting of postal votes, Premier Pete did well, bringing his primary vote up to 50.5%, so preferences are not required. But they nearly were!

Beijing Bound

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

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Big 24 hours.

  • State Election yesterday (see separate post to follow)
  • Put Dearest Wife and #2 Son on a flight to Beijing late last night (23:45).  Dearest Wife is travelling with her own group of 13 friends which she has put together for a 28-day tour of China.  I have posted their itinerary up on the web.  It is an “off-the-shelf” but private tour and they will have their own bus and their own guide for most activities.
  • (I’m not taking the tour this year. It’s my duty to get #3 Son through year 12. Don’t feel sad for me, though. I had a pretty good holiday last year in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.  Here’s a photo of Dearest Wife and me at Petra.)
  • While he is in Beijing, #2 Son, AndyFitz, will be speaking to the Beijing GNU/Linux User Group. (Still making arrangements with contacts in Beijing to get him from the hotel to the meeting venue without any Mandarin.)
  • As well as packing for China, I also had to make sure #2 Son was prepared for his next trip to Boston. That’s right, when he returns from China on October 6, he has 4hrs 25mins before leaving again. All up, he will be flying from Kunming, to Singapore, Brisbane, LA, and Boston over 45 hours. I will meet him at Brisbane Airport with his computer gear and suitable attire for his session at the GNOME Boston Summit. (Less than 12 hours after he lands in Boston. Oh, to be young again.)
  • Mum’s birthday today. Caught up with brothers and sisters at family get-together. Happy Birthday Mum!
  • Drove home in heavy rain. YES!
  • News flash: first e-mail in from the tourists in Beijing. I’ve posted it to their itinerary.
  • Update: Andy reports that there were NO Snakes on the Plane!  No Samuel L Jacksons, either.