Sunday, April 30, 2006

Erm...Happy 200 to me...

Yes, this is post #200. We've come along way. To celebrate Im going to post pictures of...trees. But not just any trees. I want to show that trees come in all shapes and sizes - and colours. So, coloured trees (click to get the full sized versions):

RED:

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WHITE:

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BLUE:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us


PINK:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us


YELLOW:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

[i took the next one myself]:

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PURPLE:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us


And check this out, its insane:

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Neat, right? Well, look a little closer:

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Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Insane!

Oh, for the record, Im not a TREE HUGGER as some seem to think, I just love the beauty that is in nature.

Posted by illogicist at 4:48 PM 5 comments

Another Minor Miracle

I believe my life is full of minor miracles. Little things that happen to all of us I reckon. Most of us put it down to...well, life, but I like to thing its the interference of a higher power in my life :p. Its more interesting that way.

I usually leave my gym clothes in the prayer room - it saves me having to haul them to campus every day. They went missing one day. Anyway, I was in the library today studying, and was gettin ready to leave. I was checking the score of a football game, where I wanted a particular team to lose (Tottenham - I hate em). On my way home, I decided you know what, its prayer time, ill pray in the prayer room instead of at home. I was pretty tired, but I went anyway. I had just missed prayer, but there was still a congregation, and some guy talking to them. I finished praying and figured I'd leave, but decided not to, I'd listen for a bit. Only respectful after all, even though Im not the kind of guy who really appreciates khutbas.

So I sat and I listened, and it was quite cool. The guy told this story about a group of girls from my uni who heard about this island that nobody is allowed to live on, because its a nature reserve, just off the coast of the UK somewhere. These girls decided they wanted to be the first to go to this island and do the athaan there (whether they were or not I cant say). So they went and they prayed 2 rukaas, and while they were praying loads and loads of peacocks appeared and surrounded them and watched them. He said he has a picture, and it was very beautiful.

Surely thats one of those small things, but its quite a nice thought. He concluded by talking about how Islam spread to the Malaysia and Indonesia and parts of Africa not through the sword, but by muslims going and spreading Islam peacefully. And that we should follow that example. It was good stuff.

Then he said that they were clearing out the prayer room (lots of junk) and that if the brothers could stay and help that would be good. I remembered my bag with my gym stuff, and went to ask about it. I looked around, and I found it XD muahahaaa, it was awesome. My spirits were lifted, and I helped out with moving the stuff (even though I intially didnt want to). I just find it interesting that, had I not gone to pray, and had I not decided to stay to listen, I would have lost my gym stuff forever. I was planning on going home now, but now that I have my stuff and Im in good spirits, im going to the gym. Good stuff eh.

PS - Unfortunately, Allah was not so generous as to grant me the final thing that I wanted. Tottenham won 1-0 *grumbles*

Posted by illogicist at 10:10 AM 4 comments

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Future?

NP - Novembre - Aquamarine

My housemate comes to me today and asks me how I see the world in the year 3000 (a friend of his has to write an essay about this, and his friend asked him for ideas, and he came to me...). We decided the year 3000 is far too far ahead to think about, so we said ok, how about 100 years in the future.

So at first we came up with the usual stuff - robots, technology, cyborgs, all matrix-esque. Then hes like hmm, what about global warming, what effect would that have? And we started thinking and I said okay, well all the oceans would rise and there would only be a few islands left, so civilization would only survive on those pockets that are above water. But wait, my friend said, I think the pollution would be so bad. The way I see it, the air would be too polluted to survive. We would live in little cities under the water, in bubbles of air - real sci-fi stuff. Sounds interesting.

Then I remembered something rather chilling that my International Relations professor told us - its been predicted that sometime between now and the year 2010, the dwindling supply of oil will not be able to meet the booming demand. So Im like this will lead to loads of wars, nuclear holocaust, the elimination of civilisation...you know, back to the middle ages.

We started to talk about forms of government and stuff. I said that, while many writers predicted totalitarian regimes that rule their people by force (ala 1984, Equilibrium), government will be virtually eliminated. Democracy would be eliminated. Instead, EVERYTHING will be privatised. Elections would be eliminated. So you wouldn't have some general elections every 4 years or so. Instead...you would have shares. The ministry of education would be privatised. The ministry of health would be privatised. So you would be able to buy shares in those ministries, as well as other ministries, the armed forces, the courts...everything would be privatised, and controlled as corporations are controlled. It wouldnt be a democracy, it would be "corporatocracy" (a word I borrowed from David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas). A government run by corporations.

How scary is that. Another thought we had was about babies. He started saying that babies would be genetically engineered, so that if you have some cancer gene, it could be eliminated. My other friend (who was there, I forgot to mention), said "nah man, we wouldnt have babies anymore, so we wouldnt need that. It would all be babies grown in labs". So the other guy is like no, people will always be having sex, and thus always be having kids. Its natural. Then ones like but they wont have time, life is getting more and more hectic, who has time to raise kids? Im like, even with children the rules of the market would rule. Its like a bag of chips - if you want chips, you dont make them. Someone else makes them, and you go buy them. It'll be the same with babies - there'll be other people who 'make' babies, of all different sorts (depending on your specifications), and couples would go and 'buy' them, should they want them.

Any ideas?

Posted by illogicist at 1:00 PM 8 comments

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Comrade!

NP - Novembre - The Promise

To my Kuwaiti friend who may or may not be checking this...




Posted by illogicist at 3:59 PM 6 comments

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hello Panama!

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NP - James LaBrie - Alone

I have a visitor from Panama! Had, more correctly, and they clearly weren't interested in my blog, because it seems they never came back. Anyway, I have a minor fascination with Panama! Ever since I read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins and the role Gen. Omar Torrijos had with the whole Panama Canal affair. I found it extremely interesting how Panama was actually created because of US business interests in the region (Panama was originally part of Colombia).
Right now I'm reading Graham Greene's "Getting to Know the General: The Story of an Involvement", which is essentially a memoir of this author's time with Omar Torrijos. Im a little let down thus far with this book - most of the book talks about his travels in Panama, which is great, but thus far he's done little talking with the General. The character of Omar Torrijos is not being developed really. Im more than halfway through, so I hope it picks up soon.

But yeah, Panama! A history (perhaps a bland, unexciting, "official" history) is available at Wikipedia, for anyone interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama

Posted by illogicist at 9:48 AM 6 comments

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

MMMM

I ordered turkish kebab today. No big deal, I order about once a week, more or less. But this time, the food smelled...well, anyone know Istanboli in Al-Khuwair? The food smelled JUST like that! I have some excellent memories of that place, so it was a very welcome smell. The food didn't taste any different, just the smell...mmmm...I love it.

PS We won today. Yes, WE. ;)
Arsenal 1 - 0 Villareal. Wooo!

Posted by illogicist at 4:56 PM 8 comments

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Burlesconi Politik

NP - Protest The Hero - Turn Soonest to the Sea

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article357991.ece

By John Phillips in Rome

Published: 16 April 2006

Silvio Berlusconi refused again yesterday to concede defeat to Romano Prodi's centre-left coalition in the Italian election, demanding the formation of a broad coalition in a letter that commentators said amounted to a request by the media mogul for immunity from prosecution.

"On the basis of the popular vote, there's no winner and no loser," Mr Berlusconi claimed in the letter to the Corriere della Sera. Hours earlier, the premier had said he still hoped he would be declared the winner, as long as the count of contested ballots continued. He renewed an appeal to create a coalition government, "limited in time and aimed at dealing with the country's institutional, economic and international commitments".

Mr Prodi's Union coalition has slender majorities in both houses of parliament after the roller-coaster election divided Italy almost in two a week ago. But this is not just a case of Mr Berlusconi being a bad loser, say pundits. During his five years in office he spent much of his time passing laws to avoid going to jail. Many commentators believe Italy's richest man wants to gain an informal pledge of immunity from judicial proceedings from Mr Prodi's government, in return for a guarantee that his Forza Italia party will not make political life unbearable for a fragile administration.

Mr Berlusconi's proposal in the Corriere was a plea for "a grand coalition to save himself", said Valentino Parlato, the veteran editor of the maverick left-wing Il Manifesto newspaper. Mr Parlato urged leftist voters to exercise "democratic vigilance" against the skulduggery he believes the centre-right may employ to try to snatch back victory.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi might decide to give Mr Prodi a mandate to form a new government early next month, so as to end the uncertainty caused by Mr Berlusconi's antics, political sources said. The tycoon does not have to resign formally as Prime Minister until 29 April and in theory could remain in office as a mischievous caretaker until early June.

Mr Berlusconi has alleged irregularities in the vote of Italians abroad, which proved key in swinging the Senate. "Threatening to invalidate the elections and a grand coalition to save himself are two equally dangerous and subversive scenarios," Mr Parlato said. "It could equally be an opportunity for a national emergency, a nasty terrorist attack, an opportunity or necessity for everyone to stick together to safeguard the fatherland."
===================================

How sad is that. I really do hope we don't see some grand coalition of the phony in Italy, with Burlesconi saving his vertically challenged ass.

Posted by illogicist at 5:13 AM 2 comments

Thursday, April 13, 2006

NP - Immortal Technique - Peruvian Cocaine

I found this passage from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. to be very beautiful,
and I thought it was worth sharing.

On february 22, Mrs. King and I journeyed down to a city in India called Trivandrum. Then we went from Trivandrum to a point known as Cape Comorin. This is where the mass of India ends and the vast rolling waters of the ocean have their beginning. It is one of the most
beautiful parts of the world. Three great bodies of water meet together in all of their majestic splendor: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

I remember how we went out there and looked at the big old rocks, a sight that was truly incredible, out into the waters, out into the ocean. seated on a huge rock that slightly protruded into the ocean, we were enthralled by the vastness of the ocean and its terrifying immensities. We looked at the waves of those great bodies of water as they unfolded in almost rhythmic suspension. As the waves crashed against the base of the rock on which we were seated, an oceanic music brought sweetness to the ear. To the west we saw the magnificent sun a red cosmic ball of fire, appear to sink into the very ocean itself. Just as it was almost lost from sight, Coretta touched me and said, "Look, Martin, isn't that beautiful!" I looked around and saw the moon, another ball of scintillating beauty. As the sun appeared to be sinking into the ocean, the moon appeared to be rising from the ocean. When the sun finally passed completely beyond sight, darkness engulfed the earth, but in th east the radiant light of the rising moon shone supreme. This was, as I said, one of the most beautiful parts in all the world, and that happened to be one of those days when the moon was full. This is one of the few points in all the world where you can see the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon simultaneously.

I looked at that and someting came to my mind and I had to share it with Coretta, Dr. Reddick, and other people who were accompanying us around at that point. God has te light that an shrine through all the darkness. We have experiences when the light of day vanishes, leaving us in some dark and desolate midnight - moments when our highest hopes are turned into shambles of despair or when we are victims of some tragic injustice and some terrible exploitation. During such moments our spirits are almost overcome by gloom and despair, and we feel that there is no light anywhere. But ever and again, we look toward the east and discover that there is another light which shines even in the darkness, and the "spear of frustration"is transformed "into a shaft of light."

Posted by illogicist at 5:37 AM 3 comments

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

RE: Efficiency and Deadweight Loss

NP - Rabih Abou-Khalil - Sweet Rain

I blogged a while back about the meaning of efficiency and deadweight loss - the answer I more or less came up with (although the definition Im still not exactly sure of) basically is to do with how much money can be made from doing an action as opposed to how much is actually made (in extremely crude terms).

I find this question to be of increasing importance as I study the aim of Structural Adjustment loans made by the IMF and the World Bank, and their effects on the economies of third world countries. The question of efficiency VS equity is no more important than it is here: who benefits from these so-called efficiency raising measures (the fact that they so rarely actually do raise efficiency is relevant as well, but beside the point for now)?

I think the exact definition of efficiency, and what this concept of deadweight loss actually refers to needs to be examined more closely. I will keep this in mind as I continue my reading on the neoliberal policies of the IMF and WB, and their stated goals of greater efficiency via market allocation of resources.

Posted by illogicist at 1:25 PM 4 comments

What Makes a Luxury?

NP - Novembre - Nothijngrad

I was lying in bed last night, remembering this movie I watched earlier in the day, V for Vendetta. An awesome movie, I recommend that everyone goes and sees it. But there was one part of the movie that was troubling me. It wasn't expanded upon, it was just taken for granted after being mentioned at one point in the movie. I suppose it was to fit in with the whole world that the movie was based in (futuristic London). But anyway, butter was not available to the general public, rather a substitute was used. But butter was available to the Prime Minister (or whatever the title of his position was).

Butter. Butter is something which is like, well, nothing. We dont think anything of butter. How is it suddenly a luxury? This line of thought led me onwards to thinking about the nature of luxuries, and boy, this scared the hell out of me.

One of the definitions of 'luxury' is 'something expensive or hard to obtain'. I find this accurate enough, but with the word 'luxury' comes the notion of some sort of quality associated with it - what differentiates one type of car from another, for example, is the notion of some sort of engineered quality. It may not even be quality, it may be simply a status symbol. Clothes from FCUK may not be of higher quality than Next, but they are much pricier.

However, these aspects are secondary. Whats primary here is the notion of scarcity, which is whats mentioned in the definition. What makes something precious is its scarcity. They talk of water one day being a luxury - precisely because of predictions of it becoming increasingly hard to obtain in the future.

Back to the present day. We have luxuries, and they are luxuries precisely because they are scarce - not everyone has them. As we would have it, most of these luxuries have some sort of quality which is higher than alternatives. This higher quality often associates higher costs, perhaps to the extent that the cost of engineering quality to create a luxury is greater than the benefits of that greater quality. This is central to my point.

So heres the question: why spend more on ingraining quality into a product in order to make it a luxury? Why not instead deny people access to that product? Restricting the access of the common man to a commodity, by definition makes that commodity a luxury. And that, is a very, very scary thought.

Because it means we can create luxuries not by going through the advanced efforts of engineering quality and working towards excellence, but rather by controlling access to that product. If nobody in the world had butter and I had butter, butter would be a luxury.

A long winded explanation to get to a very simple pointed, but I wanted to make sure it was understood. Its a scary thought isn't it, one that, if followed, serves to retard human progress in whatever field you can think of.

Posted by illogicist at 10:09 AM 3 comments

Monday, April 10, 2006

My Day

Np - Novembre - The Promise

Despite all indicatons that today would be a particularly bad day, it was both enjoyable and productive. Strange, that. Or not so strange, who can say...

Posted by illogicist at 12:31 PM 4 comments

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Islamic Science Foundation

NP - Novembre - Materia

While going through the UN Human Development Report for 1990 (I think it was 1990, not sure), I came across an interesting article for the proposal for a Muslim Science Foundation by a prominent Muslim scientist, Abdus Salam, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics. I thought it was a good proposition, and deserves some support. Its quite out-dated obviously, and I'd be curious to know if anything of the sort was actually set up at all. Anyway, I've uploaded the article, and it would be good if you guys could read it. The image is quite large (about 700kb), so might take a few minutes for those on slower connections. Still, I recommend reading it.

click here

Posted by illogicist at 9:15 AM 0 comments

Monday, April 03, 2006

New Morality for War?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4873856.stm

NP - Dream Theater - Beyond This Life

Read the link, its about how the UK Defense Secretary is suggesting that the current rules of war and the Geneva convention are out of date. It starts with that. But its worrying. He hasn't explicity said anything, but its easily possible this could be a prelude to a changing of internationally accepted morality when it comes to war and that. Right now we have standards (in theory), and protections guaranteeing human rights. Like I said, nothing is said in the above link, but I feel it might be the start of the Western powers pushing for more legitimacy for the kind of "justice" thats seen in Guantanamo Bay and the like - more secrecy, more holdings without trials, more extraordinary rendition, etc. The stuff that happens, but under a veil of secrecy, may well be legitimised and legalised in the coming years.

Posted by illogicist at 4:48 PM 1 comments

Sunday, April 02, 2006

NP - Klimt 1918 - Cry a Little

By the way, the songs I'm listening to while typing these posts, if you click on them (like the one above ^^^) it takes you to that band's myspace.com page, where theres often samples of them you can hear.

Someone wanted to interview for their dissertation project, and I havent gotten around to answering the questions they asked. But I might get around to it. In the meantime here they are, it would be great if you guys could give your own answers, I'd be interested to read them, and you might influence my own views when I get around to answering them. Post em in the comments, or in your own blogs, but link me so I can read them!

The questions are:
'what is your view on how Islam is presented by extremists?'

'Do you think that there are explicit contradictions between the teachings of your faith and the views of extremists?'

'do you think there has been a breakdown in traditional values of Islam or do you think they are just as prominent in light of modernity and globalisation?'


Another thing I wanted to blog about was the use of language in...well...everything. Its all about language and how we use it. It completely manipulates us and how we think about things, and how we act. A good example is how the US classifies people in Guantanamo Bay as 'enemy combatants' not 'prisoners of war', and thus does not have to provide them with the rights they are guaranteed in the Geneva Convention. Theres other examples too. One of my favourites is the word 'good', used in business for a product. The word 'good' automatically implies that something is, well, good! And thus, desirable. Milk is a good. Flu tablets are a good. Cigarettes are a good...wait a minute...
Another good one is the word 'interest', i.e. what you get if you keep money in the bank - and what the bank takes from you when you borrow money. Interest. What a lovely word, full of...good things. Interest...but why not taxation? It could be considered a form of taxation after all - in return for using this service, a small tax is levied. But tax is an ugly word. How about 'fee' then? Charge? Usury? All ugly words. Lets go with interest. Interest is good. Its in your interest to get interest...right?
The power of language...gotta love it.

Posted by illogicist at 4:59 PM 2 comments

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Condoleezza



NP - Yyrkoon - Unhealthy Opera

So whats the deal with Condoleezza Rice? I'm not really sure why, but people seem to describe her as a 'highly intelligent women' - as an example of women who are smart and educated and blah.

Now, reading about her background and that, she does seem to have achieved quite a lot academically. She has a PhD, used to lecture at Stanford, and knows about four or five languages. Impressive credentials indeed.

Whats the deal, then, with all thats going on with the Bush administration? I know its not right to equate education with morality (I don't think theres a correlation), but surely if shes so 'smart', and a professor of politcal science, she'd be able to see that the policies of the Bush admin are directly contribution to the problems it apparently is fighting? Unless theres more going on here than what we're told, you'd expect some forward thinking from someone who's supposedly so bright.

Posted by illogicist at 7:23 AM 4 comments

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