See that pale whitish-blue dot over on the right, under the rings? That’s the Earth as seen from Cassini, orbiting around Saturn. Beautiful.
Hey, just a little cross-promotion, my dad’s new site for his consulting firm is up at Lean Pursuit – they specialize in implementation of Lean principles for process improvement in a variety of companies, such as the manufacturing industry. If you haven’t heard of Lean techniques, you might know of Six Sigma – similar concept, all about reducing defects and smoothing the process of production.
Anyway, I’m helping out with the site, so fingers crossed it gets up and running soon enough.
Fantastic obituary to make anyone think their life is pretty boring – Count Robert de La Rochefocauld, former Resistance fighter in WWII:
Cycling to Bordeaux to meet a contact who was to arrange his return to England, however, he ran into a roadblock, taken prisoner, and imprisoned at the 16th-century Fort du Hâ. His explanations that he had been out after dark on a romantic assignation were not believed and, in his cell, La Rochefoucauld considered swallowing the cyanide pill concealed in the heel of his shoe.
Instead he faked an epileptic fit and, when the guard opened the door to his cell, hit him over the head with a table leg before breaking his neck. After putting on the German’s uniform, La Rochefoucauld walked into the guardroom and shot the two other German jailers. He then simply walked out of the fort, through the deserted town, and to the address of an underground contact.
Once there, however, he found that joining the rest of his escape line was impossible, as checks and patrols had been stepped up. Then the man harbouring him, whose sister was a nun, suggested that La Rochefoucauld slip into her habit. Thus dressed, he slowly walked through the city, eventually knocking on the door of Roger Landes, code-named Aristide, a bilingual Briton whom he hoped would take care of his return to England.
He wasn’t just done in WWII, either:
La Rochefoucauld was demobilised in 1946 in the rank of captain but immediately recruited into the French secret services. After training near Orleans, he volunteered for a tour of duty in Indo-China, leading commando raids against the Viet Minh. But his methods, which included launching ambushes dressed as a Viet, were frowned upon by senior officers, and after five months he returned to France. Life there bored him, and he travelled: first to Cameroon, for three years, then to Venezuela for two. He returned to rejoin French special forces in time for Suez
These are the kinds of exploits that make Bond seem tame.
These days, when you lose someone you care for, the digital world keeps their footprints:
My Gmail is a priceless hoard of us making plans, telling inside jokes, calling each other “snoodle” and “bubbies.” I type his name into the search field and enter a world of the unscripted dialogue that filled our 9-to-5 existence. I become immersed in the coziness of our union. In hundreds of chats automatically saved to my account, we express our love for each other readily and naturally in our own private speech. This is a history of our relationship that we didn’t intend to write, one that runs parallel to the one authored by his uncontainable illness.
Updated to WordPress 3.2 – very slick interface in the back end now. But that aside, my god is this Twenty Eleven theme included by default beautiful.
Comment, spam, etc to the usual places.
Matt Taibbi, who once called Goldman Sachs “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”, writing in Rolling Stone about the Levin report on the causes of the GFC:
Thus, while much of the Levin report describes past history, the Goldman section describes an ongoing? crime — a powerful, well-connected firm, with the ear of the president and the Treasury, that appears to have conquered the entire regulatory structure and stands now on the precipice of officially getting away with one of the biggest financial crimes in history.
Yikes. Well worth a read – and after this, have a read of The Big Short by Michael Lewis (the guy behind Liar’s Poker, the original expose of the banking industry).
…in Australia, the budget is in a wonderful position – heading back into surplus in a couple of years despite one of the world’s biggest and most successful stimulus programmes during the global recession.
But you wouldn’t know it. Five billion dollars needed in flood recovery spending and … oh dear, we need a levy. Can’t possibly wait a year or two to go back into surplus. What would Tony Abbott say?
Completely straightforward in my mind: the idea of a “flood levy” when Australia has such low levels of government debt is ludicrous and pure politicking about a number that is being held at an artificially precise amount ($3.1bn “predicted” surplus in FY2012-2013).
I am always amused by the strange impact of unintended consequences. Julian Assange simply wanted to release some embarrassing information, have hot sex with a Swedish babe then have hot sex with an acquaintance of that same babe one day later. That’s just one example of why the Swedish language has 400 words that all mean “and your cute friend is next.”
To be fair, I don’t know if Assange’s alleged broken condom is because the product was defective. We have good evidence that Assange has the world’s biggest set of nuts, so assuming some degree of proportionality, he’d put a strain on any brand of condom that didn’t have rebar ribs.
I was going to write something on Wikileaks, and I may yet given the drip-feed of information that is coming out daily, but Adams just puts it so damn well. The man is brilliant and wonderfully insightful.
The one thing I know for sure is that I’m a fan of the hackers who are dispensing vigilante justice. Here’s another unintended consequence: The hackers could end up organizing over this issue and ultimately forming a shadow government of their own, if they haven’t already. I welcome my hacker overlords.
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At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component — the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges’ control panel.
At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner called “digital warheads,” targeted the Russian-built power plant’s massive steam turbine.
Here’s how it worked.
Possibly the first instance of computer-based state-sponsored espionage that has been caught and exposed. But seriously, who the hell runs Windows to control a nuclear facility, for civillian use or otherwise?!
In a word? Brilliant. In two? Fecking Brilliant. Go watch and see if you don’t want to sing along:
The Complaints Choir of Chicago
What a great idea!