Japanese of the Week

困る (komaru) v. - to be worried; to be bothered

Often used as "これは困る" (kore wa komaru) meaning, roughly, "That's worrisome." or "That's a problem." Exactly the kind of phrase to bring out if someone says, "Y'know, we're about to run out of gas."

On Iraq, Generally

The obligatory link #1: US raid on Iranian office "unacceptable": Russia

First off, what's Russia got to do with it, really? It certainly wasn't their office, anyway. Instead, it's just another chance for them to be chummy with Iran. Not that anyone should be surprised at this point about any country taking whatever side is opposite the U.S. in a dispute, but still...

The obligatory link #2: "US reinforcements will go home in coffins": Sadr aide

Sheikh Abdel Razzaq al-Nadawi, the new Baghdad Bob? "The American people have to prevent their sons from coming to Iraq or they may return in coffins." "This is not the first plan announced by Bush. All plans have failed and this plan will not be any better..."

Seriously, there are no American tanks in Baghdad, what? The infidel soldiers are committing suicide at the city limits, really? Some people just don't learn, do they...

Watching The Drop In Reading Level

The obligatory link: State of Nature: Go Beyond Virtual

I can recall as far back as grade school English teachers bemoaning the fact that newspaper articles were being continually dumbed down so that people with less and less education could read them. Whether they were complaining about the papers becoming more accessible, or about the sad state of education, I was never quite sure. Still, being something of a gamer, I think I can safely state that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer hit a new low with this one.

"Pwned"? Really? C'mon, even Blogger's built in spell-checking function doesn't recognize that. Sure, I do, in that it's modern lingo, but that's hardly the point. Now, I suppose it could raise their incoming hits from Google, if people were so inclined to use "pwned" as a search term... but I can't think of any situation in which I'd be so inclined.

A North American Union? (part 3, Trying To Sift Through The Junk)

Yes, I'm still on this, unfortunate as that may be. This is really meant to be more of a preliminary "what I've found so far" while I try to keep digging, than anything else.

Are there really people out there who think such a thing is either a good idea, inevitable, or both? Sure. And are they agitating for it in any way? Yep. Google up one Robert A. Pastor and his book "Toward a North American Community" if you don't believe this.

Is there an active plan in the federal government to enact a North American Union? Not that I can tell. What I have found is a House Concurrent Resolution (number 487, of the 109th Congress, specifically), which was introduced on 9/28 of 2006, stating the following:

    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That--
      (1) the United States should not engage in the construction of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Superhighway System;
      (2) the United States should not enter into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada; and
      (3) the President should indicate strong opposition to these or any other proposals that threaten the sovereignty of the United States.

What about the NAFTA Superhighway, then? This is one I want to look into s'more, but from what little reading I've done, it looks like a pipe dream version of the North American SuperCorridor Coalition's improvement programs for existing interstates. From their open letter to congress:

The “NASCO Corridor” is the existing infrastructure of Interstates 35, 29 and 94. No plans are in place for a mid-continent NAFTA Superhighway. Yes, it is true that since 1999, the federal government has directed more than $234 million in project funding towards the NASCO Corridor for current infrastructure improvements.

And the Amero, or whatever name might be chosen for the consolidated North American currency? Frankly, I've slacked on this, primarily because it's the least worrisome to me if it were to come about. Since the dollar is just a government guarantee at this point anyway, changing the name of it, and using the same thing as Canada and Mexico... Maybe there are some deep, economic reasons not to do something like this, but I'm certainly not aware of them at the moment.

Here are my thoughts, as I have them collected at the moment:

Some people out there think this is a good idea. As far as various writers and bloggers have gone to expose that line of thought, good. It's certainly something that the public should be made aware of. Of course, most of them will probably just laugh and go back to their everyday lives, but that's life. Short version: Educating the citizenry about the possibility is a good thing.

On the other hand, attempting to tie this to the federal government or the Bush Administration in particular as some kind of underhanded way of setting up an NAU appears, at this point, to be speculation. As an abstract, it's possible, but I don't have any firm plank to lay on it as far as facts go. More to the point, if it's out there, I haven't found it yet. (Emphasis on the "yet" here. I'm not ruling out the possibility.)


Losing The Language? (round 2)

The obligatory link: English language getting Chinese twist

I've talked on this topic before, in a more serious way. Should it really be any surprise, though, in this day and age, that the language would change and adapt faster as it encounters other languages more directly, and in a shorter time frame? I'll say this, though... they can keep their kanji.

Think The SAT Is Bad?

The obligatory link: The Chopstick Test

We hear periodically about how this or that test is unfair to... take your pick of race, class, gender, age, or whatever else might come to mind. In that vein, I hope everyone can appreciate this story, about a school which uses a test of basic hashi, or chopsticks, skills as part of its screening process.


Science and Technology

A few disparate stories of interest, or at least amusement.

Obligatory link #1: Riddle of Homer's Odyssey island solved?

The short version: A group of Britons think they may well have found the location of the island of Ithaca.

Obligatory link #2: Hitachi develops system that reads what people think from their blood flow

The short version: They hope to adapt this knowledge into technology to allow the handicapped to control various devices by thought, after a fashion. Very cool.

Obligatory link #3: Doom for Hubble's iconic pillars

The short version: We won't see a visual difference for another thousand years, but the hydrogen formation referred to as the Pillars of Creation is almost certainly already destroyed. (Speed of light thing... The images are good, though.)

Obligatory link #4: Two charged with hacking into high school computers to fix grades

The short version: Are they going to go after Janek's little black box next? It's on the table, between the pencil jar and the lamp.

Time For More Spam Fighting

The obligatory link: "Image Spam" could bring the internet to a standstill

Well, the title is certainly overhyped. Beyond that, though, it offers a chance to hand out another tip or two to Outlook users as to how to sort out the junk.

The easy way about it is to go to Tools, Rules and Alerts, New Rule..., Start from a blank rule (radio button), Check messages when they arrive, Next, Step 1: Select condition(s), check the box "which has an attachment", Next, Step 1: Select action(s), check the box "move it to the specified folder", Step 2: Edit the rule description, click on the underlined word specified, select Junk E-mail from that list, Finish.

Now, if your friends send you mail with attachments, you can get around this by creating a new rule for each of their e-mail addresses that automatically puts a copy of any mail from them into the inbox (or any other specified folder), regardless of whether or not it would be sorted into Junk by the previous rule. To do this:

Tools, Rules and Alerts, New Rule..., Start creating a rule from a template, Step 1: Select a template, Move messages from someone to a folder, Step 2: Edit the rule description, click the underlined phrase "people or distribution list", input an address, OK, click the underlined word "specified", select Inbox (or the folder of your choice), OK, Next, Finish. Repeat as necessary until you've added all the people you so desire.

Alternatively, if your friends only send you large images, compared to the images in spam which, from my search through ~1000 in my Junk box, tend to be between 3k and 30k, you can add the condition "with a size in a specific range" to the first rule you created to filter mails with attachments to only filter out mails with small attachments. (The text generally will not account for a great deal of file size.) This is a more questionable tack to take, however, and I'd suggest just leaving it at the first two steps. Really, it depends on how inclined you are to play with the settings to get the results you desire.

Medicating Society, and...

The obligatory link: Fido's Little Helper

I could hardly believe the headline, honestly. People are giving their pets prozac now? Really? Now, don't misunderstand me here. I get that people love their pets, and are willing to go to great lengths for them in many cases. But... prozac? The champion drug of millions of school kids... coming soon to a cat near you? If I hadn't sworn off emoticons for posting purposes, that one would earn a sweatdrop in no time.


Short Shots

Due to Blogger downtime, all I've got is a few shorts for your reading pleasure.

Dunkin' denial leaves customer steaming - about a man who was refused service at the drivethrough... his vehicle was a motorized wheelchair.

Bangor makes it illegal to smoke in cars - Welcome to the continued advance of the nanny state.

The pros and cons of fighting in the NHL - In which John Buccigross pushes what may be an entertaining book entitled "The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retalition in the NHL."


A North American Union? (part 2, the Corsi interview)

A quick recap of what I took away from the afternoon interview of Dr. Corsi on CPR:

The man has done a great deal of research into this topic, and honestly believes in what he's saying.

That said, he's still trying to connect various things together into the NAU mesh that seem more easily explainable as politically expedient (leaving the borders unsecured, for example) or grandiose for the sake of it (the T-T Corridor, and by extension, the consideration of the NAFTA Superhighway system). Again, that's not to say that these things cannot fit into the scheme of things. Simply, that it's a reason farther afield than one would normally go for motives for projects. Similarly, the charge that President Bush is working towards an NAU by allowing the open borders to continue. Possible, certainly. But how's this: It's easier to leave the border unsecured than to work towards its security. Doing nothing costs less money, and requires much less actual work, after all.

Dr. Corsi bounced around a bit during the interview, and tended to get exceptionally sidetracked from his points to go to his own defense against some of the recent articles against his point of view. It detracted from points he was trying to make throughout the forty-five minutes the interview ran.

Personally, I didn't get the connection of all of these points into a unified whole. It feels, as Pat put it, like "a big leap from what looks like diplomatic boilerplate to conspiracy to eliminate the U.S." I'll happily keep looking, but I haven't found the piece that fits in that void yet to create the circuit.

Anyone interested in hearing the interview, there will be a rebroadcast of the full CPR show at 9PM Eastern at 1510wwbc.com. The interview itself leads off the second hour and runs pretty much uninterrupted for 45 minutes. Naturally, I recommend listening for the same reasons that I give obligatory links instead of pasting in large chunks: No sleight of hand, and you value more the things that you work for.

As before, more to come.

A North American Union?

Friday was the first time I'd noticed the term. A North American Union (NAU) to rival the European Union. Frankly, it sounds unbelieveable at first glance, at least to me. Sure, there could be, and probably are people out there who think it'd be a great idea, and who would like to go forward with it. People against the idea cite it as the line of thought buried under such things as the Trans-Texas Corridor (a large roadway project in, naturally, Texas), and the workings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPPNA; of which the stated goals are, from the Wiki article, 1) Cooperation and information sharing; 2) Improving productivity; 3) Reducing the costs of trade; and 4) Enhancing the joint stewardship of the environment, facilitating agricultural trade while creating a safer and more reliable food supply, and protecting people from disease.)

Now, frankly, that the T-T Corridor sounds like a road project to me, and the SPPNA sounds like a lot of government meddling wrapped around a core of security concerns that they probably should be working together closely on, given the current porousness of the borders, but I'm not seeing things here that read as "Let's actively merge the three countries and create an NAU." The fears of it, at the moment, seem a bit overblown. That's not saying that they can't be well-founded, but unfortunately, until the worry is timely, the chances are that it's going to be passed off as unfounded by the majority of people who'd rather not worry about a problem that doesn't exist.

To wit, recall the recent border or security issues and the way that the public has shaken out on them. Dubai Ports World, for example. Until it became a pressing, immediate issue, nothing was done or said, really. However, when the electorate realized it was an issue, they didn't let go of it until it was solved to their satisfaction. (Now, as individuals, some might not be actually satisfied with the outcome, but we're dealing on a larger scale at the moment.) Or, for another example, take the recent elections, with politicians practically falling over each other in their attempts to get to the right of their opponents on border security.

The fact is, the public at large doesn't seem ready or willing for such a radical change as the adoption of a North American Union. Equally, however, they are not far-sighted enough to see potential beginnings of such a thing and nip it in the bud. So, as I see it, if it's coming down the pike, we're not going to be trying to divert it until it'd require a great deal more effort... but it's an effort that'll be made.

(Note: I still want to do a lot more reading and study on this, so there will probably be further installations of posts on this NAU concept. One name I keep seeing come up, and really the only one that keeps being cited, is one Jerome Corsi. This one alone bears looking into, as in my initial readings, there has been almost sole reliance on his work on the matter.)

(Edit update: Pat, the Brainster, seems to be taking his licks at the issue over at his 'blog. Also, the man in question, Jerome Corsi, will be this afternoon's guest on Constitutional Public Radio, likely in the 4pm EST hour. I, for one, intend to be listening very closely.)