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February 28, 2003

Golf War II

Getting away from local politics, how about the global situation. Headlines in the SMH this morning were about Bushie Jnr covering for his dad's failure to remove Hussein last time round. Funny that, I didn't see any hits from the SMH in the logs. :wink

Seriously, there is (and should be) a lot of opposition to a gung-ho attack on Iraq. That is not to say that the war should not happen but all options need to be investigated and tried. A friend recently pointed out that the real truth of the matter is that any action now (or even last time) would be too little to late and one of the links below points out the reality that America will have to face.

Here's a couple of cool links:
Flash-game prediction of Mideast chaos
Idleworm: games
Annonymous powerpoint article send via email
P.S. Yes I know it should be Gulf, not Golf!

Posted by Ozguru at 06:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mark of Cain

What is it about Australia that encourages everyone to tell us what to do. Recently we have had advice from Malaysia (Bali was our own fault), Indonesia (tourist warnings will harm our close relationship) and the Americans (we are not allowed to be rude about Bushie Jnr). Now we cop it from the Chinese.

How about some rational thought here. First our Yankee Doodle mates have got this missile shield thing. Well the PM in his pro-American best thinks we should take a gander. The temporary leader of the opposition naturally opposes this (that is why they call it the opposition). Either way the use of this defensive shield is something for Australia to consider.

To help push us into the deal, we have some advice from one of our closest allies the friendly Chinese! Apparently Feng Tie on behalf of the Chinese embassy in Canbera believes that Australia having a reasonable defense option would upset regional stability and lead to an arms race. ;-) Actually sounds just like the opinion they offered Taiwan. :-)

Right. Sure. If we could defend ourselves, this would be a threat to who? New Zealand? We all know they are envious of Australia but seriously they seem to be able to cope with our current pro-American attitude without getting too upset. Who else? Indonesia would like a chunk but they still have to recover from the loss of East Timor and PNG is a more likely target.

There must be something that gives all these nations the idea that somehow we would appreciate their advice! Maybe it is because we are so free at handing out advice to them ... :-)

Posted by Ozguru at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 27, 2003

AI vs Minsky

Every since taking some AI subjects in Cognitive Science at UNSW, I have wondered how some leading AI researchers get away with it. The continual promises of solutions (just around the corner) and the bucket loads of money that are poured into "pure AI" are literally unbelievable. Well today there is an interesting article on slashdot where the discussion points out that there have in fact been some spin-offs from AI. The problem is that once some aspect of AI is "solved" it tends not to be be seen as AI anymore. In effect we move the boundaries. This does not really absolve people like Minsky who are still promising the "real thing" any day now but it does suggest that AI has had some benefits (expert systems, character recognition, voice recognition) which are now sort of independent of AI. The classic quote was about who the definition of intelligence ("using tools") has changed ("making tools") and changed ("self recognition") as we learn more and more about our environment.

The trigger for the AI article was a story about the Loebner/Minsky prize in Salon.

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February 24, 2003

Microslosh Strikes Again

The whole world (or at least the whole internet) is running around patching SSL due to a recent vulnerability which was announced last week in Switzerland. The truth of the matter is somewhat more interesting that the original reports suggested. The actual vulnerability is not in SSL itself but in the way that SSL is used.....

Imagine a locksmith who makes a great new security lock for front doors. Now you get a builder who constructs entranceways to your house using this locksmith's products. As a consumer, you just want to be able to access your house. This builder does this by arranging it so that you put your key in the lock to open the door and then go inside BUT your key stays in the door until you leave the house. You should have picked a smarter builder :wink

Now the locksmith is OpenSSL, the builder in question is the Microslosh corporation and the entranceway product is called Outlook Express. When you start up a connection (enter your house) the SSL key is used to establish a connection. Outlook Express continues to send the key to the server every time if checks for updates. It does not close and reopen the connection as required and it does not make full use of the keys. It sends a simple data packet (including the key) at least once every five minutes.

Like I said above, get a better builder. And don't listen to promises of a secure future, this builder has been promising to make things secure, safe and bugfree since (at least) 1995 [Bill Gates claims MS Software is bugfree in Risks Digest] and still have not delivered.

Posted by Ozguru at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2003

Britain Too Dangerous?

An item in the SMH today states that Bush has decided that Britain is too dangerous for his neice to visit. I wonder if that is because of possible Iraqi (Eyerackee) retaliation or because of public opinion being against political will. I mean, after all, Bush is not exactly popular in Europe at the moment.

Of course the article could be a load of old cobblers because it mentions a younger brother of the president named Neil. Really? The only dynastic mentions in the past have been about a brother named Jeb (renamed Jed in a previous entry to invoke memories of the Beverly Hillbillies). Are there yet more Bush offspring who will become presidents (ala the Kennedy family) or was it a typo, a stuffup or someone who didn't check carefully. Actually I don't care enough about the issue to investigate it any further......

The big issue is going to be WWDC in May. How can I convince my wife that it will be safe for me to travel to the US when they don't think it safe to travel OS?

Posted by Ozguru at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2003

Go Kiwis

Most of the world may not be aware of the America's Cup (yacht race). This is normally a big, expensive race between billionaires. Last time round a small country put a team in - sort of a national effort. That was a really big deal. The funny thing was - they won in 1995 and defended successfully in 2000.

It was a big deal because Australia only got excited about the cup after it had been won by Alan Bond (back in the days of robber barons and West Australia Inc.) whereas this country was united behind the team from the start.

Well this time round the Kiwis will win again. How do I know? Both remaining teams are Kiwis. One is team is the "national effort" of New Zealand which is approaching the problem just like last time. The other team consists of those who abandoned the Kiwi team to follow the lure of the almighty dollar (or in this case Swiss francs).

No matter who wins it will be a victory for New Zealand but it would be nice to see the national team win!

News about today's race

Late Edition

The Sydney Morning Herald which missed this story yesterday has caught up today with an article. It mentions Swiss joy at the win yesterday but fails to point out that the Swiss (like the Australians) only started to get excited after the winning commenced. Unlike Team NZ, the Swiss team is only a Swiss team because the guy who owns it happens to be Swiss not because the Swiss people had any input into the challenge.

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February 17, 2003

War vs Australia

The weather has been wet and that means the buses run late, the drivers are grumpy and there is more time to think on the bus. I stood near the bag rack, buried my head in a book and listened to a argument a few seats away. The topic was about the anti-war march on Sunday and the possibility of a plebiscite.

I guess this is a bit more serious than my usual post but if you are interested or have an opinion, read on and feel free to add comments.....


Some of you outside AU may not be aware of how this going to war business works in Australia. The decision to go to war is made by the cabinet (select members of the party currently in government). This is then usually debated in parliament. Normally the parliament will support the decision because the government (normally) has a majority in parliament and individual members do not normally cross the floor (to vote against their party). In some cases, it is an agreement with another country that would initiate the war. For example we belong to alliances with mutual protection clauses (e.g. the ANZUS alliance - which no longer includes NZ). There are probably also some mutual defence or protection arrangements with some of our neighbours (NZ, PNG).

Current Positions

The federal government (Liberal Party) has committed to war against Iraq (but not ee-rack or aye-rack) if the UN approves it. There is some suggestion (mainly from the opposition) that We may also be committed without UN support as a result of agreements struck between the Prime Minister and George Bush (Jnr). Such arrangements were probably made at a point in time where UN approval was taken for granted by most countries. Given that such approval is now unlikely, this makes the position of the Prime Minister very difficult.

The opposition (Labor Party) is trying to straddle the fence. The official position of the party as outlined by their leader provides support for a UN approved war but under no other conditions. Note that they are relying on the fact that Bush cannot say that the US has been attacked by Iraq (or ee-rack) because then the mutual protection clause could be invoked. The alternate party line as voiced by Dr Lawrence (and others) is that war is out of the question regardless of UN support.

The greens (a minor party) claim that the 200,000+ people marching in Sydney clearly demonstrates that a war is unpopular and therefore the government (at great expense) should hold a plebiscite. It was suggested that the cost of doing this would probably be less than the cost of the fridge magnets. Given the outline above of how AU would normally go to war, it is likely that plague of aerial members of the porcinus family would need to occur before such a referendum would occur.

Personal Opinion

I can see the justification for a war against a nation that attacks us. I can see an extension of that towards some group that does not form a nation (e.g. terrorists). I can conceive of a "just" war which involved someone else being attacked. I cannot see a real justification for a war against an independent country (even if they harbour terrorists) without some alternate means of negotiation being tried. The best argument for the this type of diplomacy, sanctions, exclusion and hot-air would have to be South Africa. The result was not immediate but it did happen.

The attacks on Afghanistan may have been directed at the terrorists (Al-Qaeda) but what happened was the toppling of a government. The government was not (officially) a terrorist organisation even it was a ruthless, cruel, oppressive regime. If having terrorists within your border is sufficient grounds for war, why haven't the missiles been falling on Syria, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. If we are referring to oppressive regimes, the list is even longer.

Alright, I know, someone is going to raise the matter of human rights in Afghanistan. Yes, conditions were terrible but human rights are equally abused in China and they have "most favoured nation" trading status. Women are treated equally badly in other dictatorships with similar religious persuasions which have not been attacked.

Enough already, what about ee-rack

Glad you asked. If you argue that Al-Qaeda attacked the US and you can show a link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq, you might be able to stretch a point and go to war BUT that hasn't happened yet and it isn't likely to happen. If you dig hard enough, you are more likely to find a link between Al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia (both financial and religious) than to find a link with Iraq.

What about other possible reasons for a war?

  • Because of oppression and human rights violations? No, try China first.
  • Because of weapons of mass destruction? Weapons like those held by the US, USSR, UK etc? Lets not forget the anthrax scare in the US turned out to be anthrax manufactured in the US.
  • Because of defying weapons inspections? Imagine the roles reversed, can you see the US co-operating with Iraqi weapons inspectors? Not likely.
  • Because of closure? Lets face it, the "war against terrorism" has ground to a halt. War against Saddam should be quick and decisive - especially if the US uses allied troops heavily.
  • Because of oil? Get real, the oil is covered by the embargo and there are other sources.

  • What about because of history? When George Bush (Snr) won the first Gulf War, he figured that it was a victory - after all he had freed Kuwait and forced Saddam to comply with sanctions. Over time though, the way events are viewed changes and now you get commentators suggesting that it was unfinished business. The idea that "we should have got rid of him then". Almost the suggestion that Bush (Snr) lost (or failed to take advantage of a strategic position). Now Bush (Jnr) can clear the family name. He can make sure the bush name goes down in the history book as victorious. He also needs to move quickly before the task falls to future president Jed Bush.

    Yeah, yeah, get to the point

    The point is that war against Iraq without UN approval is out of the question. There is no possible way that the US treaty with Australia would require us to become involved in a personal vendetta between the Hussein and Bush families. Even with UN approval, we should be careful about getting involved. As peacekeepers, yes. As belligerents, NO. That extends to Afghanistan and North Korea. It is not a matter of ignoring the atrocities or risks of these countries, it is a matter of considering diplomacy first. In particular real diplomacy that looks at the root causes of the problem rather than the current US approach to diplomacy which seems to consist of "saying 'Nice Doggy' while you feel for a rock".

    So you disagree?
    Feel free. I am not imposing my opinion, just offering it. You are welcome to disagree. You may even want to submit a comment or send an email. Alternately you can just shake your head and walk away saying "what a nutter".

    Posted by Ozguru at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 15, 2003


    Naturally (this being Saturday), I haven't been on the bus today. I note that the weather forecast (right) says 26 degrees but the thermometer reads 32 and rising. I have been busy running around this morning, taking DragonFly to physio, shopping for more potting mix at Big W and then out to the nursery for yet more plants. Now it is too hot to do anything except vegetate and fix the web site (done).

    Anyway I used the time to finish off a book: "The White Plague" (Frank Herbert). I found it one of those books that was hard to finish but also hard to put down. It was extremely depressing and I found the ending weak. Written in 1982, it reflects on the results of DNA fiddling gone bad. It was sort of topical (given the current embryo debate) and I almost wonder if it should be made compulsary reading for proponents of the new research. Actually I just found a review on the web that might have saved me from reading the book: "Genius scientist goes wacko after death of wife and cooks up killer disease that offs the female half of the world. Social implications at 11."

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    February 12, 2003


    Is everyone else as confused as I am about the current official position of the Labor party? Checking the news headlines before heading home I see yet another fun day in the hot-air capitol of Australia.

    Apparently the leader of the opposition wants to know why Mr Howard was not preparing for war earlier (and inoculating the navy). Yesterday he was attacking Mr Howard for preparing for war before the parliment had voted on any potential participation.

    To keep the Americans as confused as his own constituents, he also allegedly advised the American ambassador to "butt out" of local politics after the ambassador responded to verbal slurs aimed at both America and George Bush by some back benchers. The confusion stems from the fact that Crean had previously apologised for the behaviour of the back benchers.

    Maybe it is all a plot to distract NSW from the upcoming State election (March 22) which is being contested between Bob Carr (Labor, shoe-in) and whats-his-name (Liberal, unknown). Really Crean can relax, it is unlikely that whats-his-name will get organised in time anyway....

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    February 11, 2003

    Mental Games

    The lady in front of me had a large print book today. It was describing a character playing mental games with herself. You know where you say to yourself something like "I'll do my exercise today only if a get a green light at the next intersection....". A sort of self as observer bargaining with self as actor.

    One upon a time that sort of deal would probably have been an intellectual challenge to God - "I'll believe in you if you do this miracle for me....". I guess society has changed so much that we sort of do that bargaining with ourselves. Sort of mini-gods.

    Of course if you believe Dennett ("Consiousness Explained") then "we" don't exist other then as the loudest shouting thread in a mental storm which means I guess we can't really bargain with ourselves. For that matter, who could challenge us if we cheat.....

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    February 01, 2003

    Sharing the Paper

    The man next to me was reading the paper (SMH). He was very concerned that I would read it as well and kept trying to twist and fold the paper to prevent me seeing it. Why was that? Does having someone else read the paper somehow devalue it for him? Does it somehow cheapen his experience? I wanted to tell him that I prefer to read "The Australian" and only read the SMH online .....

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    Missing Files

    Due to the extended number of times this blog has moved from here to there, some of the files have gone missing. As I migrate all the posts over to MuNu, I am trying to make sure I save the images but some of the other attachments (music files, videos, powerpoint slides) are not going to survive. If you really desperately want the relevant files, send me an email.

    In the meantime, I will try to point dead (but previously valid) links to this post so that there is some explanation of what is happening.

    Posted by Ozguru at 01:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Marker Post

    This entry is a marker to commemorate the very first blog post on 'Bored on the Bus'. It was lost in the great reshuffle of a week later when a hardware failure (nut loose on keyboard) caused a complete reinstall of the blog. The first public posting was the 11th of February.

    Posted by Ozguru at 12:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack