Archive for July, 2006

Things I saw today (counting)

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Today I saw an infographic of a coffin count of the deaths so far (Israel: 51, UN: 4, Canada: 8, Lebanon: 750) in the current conflict between Lebanon and Israel linked from the brilliant site, Information Aesthetics. This is the same site where I saw an animated visualization of Coalition forces deaths in Iraq (2,807). Note, these are Coalition forces only, not civilian casualties, which are estimated to be, as of this writing, at least 39,460.

39,460 is more than the population of the whole city of Columbus, Ohio; Fontainebleau, France or Dubbo, New South Wales. It’s difficult for me to conceive of this number of deaths, even moreso, that kind of loss. The population of the town I grew up in was around 3,000. To imagine the deaths of 39,000 would be as if everyone I ever saw until I was 17 years old, women, children, old men, strangers, all died more than ten times over.

I found myself mentally mapping just a fraction of the feelings I’d had at the recent death of a much liked and respected colleague when watching the Coalition forces animation. I found just that small amount of empathy informed my understanding to an uncomfortable degree (also uncomfortable, in an entirely different way, was my inability to sustain that level of empathy as the animation went on). It’s funny, (and pardon the following pun but it seems my mind does sometimes process things in puns), in this entry I find myself swinging from the abstraction of counting as a way of understanding something, to using what ‘counts’ to me, as a way of making something less abstract.

While I’m counting things, here’s a link to an image I’ve seen several places but which bears repeating from The Independent of which UN countries back an immediate cease-fire in the Middle-East.

Things I remembered today (G-Force)

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Battle of the Planetswas awesome. Also, 7-Zark-7 should be a band, domain or blog name.

A clip via Dean.

Things I learned today (xkcd)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

It’s not just the Computational Linguistics comic that’s funny.

visited 17 countries (7%)

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

map of countries, the one I visited coloured in red

Since my post about visited countries last April and since I travelled during my June vacation, I decided to update my own map.

17 countries visited, 7%.

In the fore-seeable future (the end of 2007), there is no perspective of increase of those numbers. Unless I take a vacation someplace new, of course. My next travels will bring me again to California, Japan, and perhaps Canada and Massachussets.
I found out also that I visited 8 states (15%) in the USA (I didn’t include the airport in Salt Lake City and Chicago). It’s peculiar how the very south-west and very north-east are red and how the rest is so white.

No cap, no hood at the pool

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

A couple days ago, I learnt a reason why people are not allowed to wear hats, caps or hoods at this billiards place I go to sometimes.

They could tend to hide faces in the video surveillance system, said the bouncer at the entrance.

Yes they have a bouncer; this is set in a trouble-prone neighborhood. Yes I was tipsy after drinking a third of my beer and yet I won more than I lost games.

Things I saw today (Star Trekkin)

Friday, July 14th, 2006

It routinely happens that I learn (or see) something and it’s not important, or even necessarily interesting, but I realize that it’s going to stick in my head.

In the spirit of the astounding, terrifying and yet, awesome, Mr. T “Mother” video – the link to which I sent around in an email to friends with the note: “I’ve seen it, now it’s in my head and you must suffer too” – I thought I’d start a category of “things I saw (or learned) today. Here is today’s offering: “Star Trekkin” (via Dean).

Also from Dean: Happy Morning

flags, nations, people, football (4th of July)

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

In Put away the flags Howard Zinn writes:

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

I have thought, when I see “God Bless America” bumper-stickers, that America is fortunate in so many ways, that we have so much, in fact, that we should ask (if one believes in such things) for God’s blessings for other less fortunate countries as well (especially those countries for which we might be in some way involved in their misfortune). I’ve also thought: “there’s a sneezing joke in there somewhere” too, so take whatever I might say on this topic with a grain of salt.

A friend and I once had an interesting conversation about our respective national anthems. He was a bit surprised when I noted that the idea of attachment to the flag (and now that I consider it, something to do with violence or war) is probably largely unconscious but encouraged in the US since the American national anthem is about a flag during and after battle (with maybe the most stirring musical part occurring with lyrics about: ‘the rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air’).

I have a tendency to castigate myself personally on behalf of my country (reinforced at one point by lots of: “I hate the US and think Americans are scary, bible-thumping, jingoistic morons. Uhhh, not you, of course…” talk from people from other countries I was hanging out with at the time). And my instinct is still to think that while celebrating the things for which Americans might be proud that we should also remember the things for which we should, as a nation, be ashamed or outraged (Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Guantanamo, Katrina, etc).

Zinn goes on to note:

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

Another friend, while very much opposed to any kind of racism (except ‘those pommy bastards’), noted that the recent reading of statements against racism at the World Cup games is a bit odd when the whole notion of the games are nation against nation, ethnicity against ethnicity.

That article linked above has a great quote from South African civil rights activist Tokyo Sexwale:

Which football fan of sound mind would want to separate Eto’o and Beckham, Rooney and Drogba or Franz Beckenbauer and Pele?”

Though it is sports-talk, I love the succinctness of this notion that racism and nationalism ultimately fall away when considering that in humans which is wonderful, unique and awe-inspiring. I also love the quote because I thought for a while I’d painted myself in a corner in between Zinn and football and had no idea how to end the entry.