fivemack: (Default)
The United Russia party apparently secured a 99% majority in Chechnya, on a 99% turnout.

The Putinjugend are holding a victory rally in Moscow as I type.

It appears that the secrecy of the ballot was not universally respected; for example 'those voting for United Russia were entered into a prize lottery in the city of St Petersburg'. One wonders how they could tell.

It's always instructive to compare Russian and Chinese propaganda. At the moment, Chinese propaganda is filled with apologetic remarks about monetary policy and the need for action on climate change, and the occasional panda. The Russians seem not to bother with propaganda, the state of affairs is presented unapologetically by former KGBniks, with a very strong 'what are you going to do about it?' tone.

Modest-proposal mode: lift immigration restrictions against Russians, so at least they can get out. Get Ukraine into the EU as soon as can be arranged. Build nuclear power plants, fund ITER, insulate, conserve; and long for the day that we can tell the Russian government, as the Saudi despots, that they are welcome to drink their oil and breathe their natural gas, for we their former addicts have no need for it. In what-if mode, wish that Yeltsin had blasted the KGB to ash as thoroughly as the Stasi and Czech StB were dismantled.

In other news, Livejournal has been bought by СУП, 'an international online media company with established partnerships with businesses across the globe. It was founded in the summer of 2006 by an international management team with Russian seed capital'.
fivemack: (Default)
This is a classic example of a story the reporting of which is itself the problem. The data has been lost; with reasonably high probability it's been lost to people unable to do anything with it, in which case nothing has actually happened. If it is lost to people able to do things with it, it increases the background risk of identity theft, but there is nothing whatsoever that any given individual can do given this information - it's even less useful than the 'avian flu exists; refrain from handling dead wild birds if at all possible' news items of the start of the year. The useful mitigation has to be done at the level of large-scale identity users, essentially the banks.

But the information has been presented in a way that clearly has worried people; and to worry twenty-five million people about something which ought to be giving sleepless nights to two dozen teams in the back offices of major banks doesn't seem a publicly valuable act ... raising blood-pressures by on average one quarter-micron of mercury will statistically cause some number of heart attacks, which will statistically cause some number of deaths that would be considered front-page, questions-in-the-House bad news if caused by men with knives.

I'm not sure this particular large data-leak can't be spun as a strong argument for ID cards. It means that it can be argued that bad-guys-unspecified have the NI numbers, dates of birth and bank information for near enough everybody, at which point any organisation prepared to let somebody do something to my detriment given only my NI number, date of birth and bank information is presumptively negligent.

I don't think this troubles me too much - I am fairly happy to open bank accounts by appearing in person with a cheque, a passport and a gas bill - but it's clearly troublesome for people for whom getting to the bank is hard, or for whom the cost of getting a passport is significant.

There's certainly an argument that I can imagine being made, of the shape 'previous proof-of-identity systems which we believed adequate are compromised; requiring time-consuming authentication processes from everybody is expensive; what we need to do is to move to some other method of authentication, for example these beautiful high-tech public-key-authentication-on-secure-processor ID-cards what the selfless people at EDS have prepared for us'.
fivemack: (Default)
A Greenpeace article

includes the line 'And it will only be 45 per cent efficient, in an age when power stations can reach 95 per cent efficiency'.

This is a coal-fired power station, so 45% efficiency in converting thermal to electrical energy is I think extremely good.

95% thermal efficiency implies, by the Carnot equation, that the heater is twenty times hotter in Kelvin than the heatsink and that there are no other thermal losses in the system. With a heatsink laid on an infinite icefield at zero centigrade, the heater has only to be hot enough to boil tungsten. I was unaware that gas-cored fission reactors were either in production, or this enthusiastically endorsed by Greenpeace.
fivemack: (Default)
Beirut, at least until yesterday, was a fairly safe destination; I know at least one of my friends-list readers and the sister of another have been there and enjoyed it greatly. The FCO has always advised against travel to the Bekaa valley, but otherwise reckoned Lebanon was a fairly safe place to visit.

The Israelis have just bombed Beirut airport, blockaded Lebanon's ports, and made moves to close the land border. The diplomatic language is getting quite heated: the French foreign minister is using terms like 'disproportionate act of war'. I wonder how many British civilians they have started to hold hostage? (though I assume that Bashar al-Assad will graciously allow the stranded Westerners to leave by way of Damascus).

I think now is a good time for me to stop reading the news and concentrate for this afternoon on reading the documentation for the company's new software release.


Jun. 26th, 2006 10:56 pm
fivemack: (Default)
In England, if your employer wants you to attend a three-day conference, Monday to Wednesday, in Tblisi, the traditional way to proceed is to purchase with your employer's credit card a flight leaving Heathrow Friday evening and arriving Tblisi at an uncivilised hour Saturday morning and a flight leaving Tblisi Sunday lunchtime and arriving Heathrow at a reasonable hour Sunday evening, to take two days of vacation, and to use this to get yourself five days in Tblisi along with the conference; this means you arrive at the conference bouncy and efficient, having spent two days in the Georgian sunshine to cure your jet-lag, then get three days in the unsurpassed beauty of the Georgian mountains before returning home.

If you are Swedish, the government regards this as a benefit in kind for taxation purposes, and the forms you'd have to fill in to give the employers the tax they'd have to pay on it are sufficiently onerous that employers don't offer this option.
fivemack: (Default)

describes the police arresting 17 people engaged in a terrorist cell in Toronto.

The photos depict various items described as 'bomb-making equipment'; what appears to be shown is a multimeter, a soldering iron, a small custom circuit board with a red LED on it, a mobile phone, a rechargable 12-volt battery; in the other photo three torches, a roll of duct tape, another mobile phone, and the grille from a barbecue.

I cannot help noticing that in my previous flat my housemate and I together had every one of those items, also a small jar of unusual chemical - namely my pot of gallium purchased from ebay.
fivemack: (Default)
NASA has cancelled Dawn, an ion-drive-propelled probe intended to visit two large asteroids.

A large portion of the spacecraft, including the two cameras provided by European organisations, has already been built - it was intended to launch in June. The budget was about 300 million Euros, much of which (though presumably not the launch vehicle) has already been spent. It would fit easily on an Ariane 5 - indeed, it's too small for it to make sense to launch it on such a vehicle; I can't quite tell whether it would fit on a Soyuz.

There's no competing ESA mission; so the question is, could NASA be convinced to let the mission be taken over by ESA, and could ESA be convinced to pay for it?

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