Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Pocket Guide to Iran

Some readers were wondering if the War Department, which produced the Short Guide to Iraq

for soldiers stationed there in 1943, ever produced a similar guide to Iran.

They did.

It's not all that different from the Short Guide to Iraq, truth be told.

Actually, they'll attack when they're ready for it, not before...

I debated whether I should post this, because I don't have time to deal with all the subsequent wingnut attacks that will materialize -- but here goes:

Usama Bin Laden's FBI wanted sheet does not connect him with the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I spent the day Processing, and I'm exhausted.

Processing, in this case, is a new (to me) programming language.  It looks and feels like Java, which looks and feels like C++, which looks and feels like C, and I know how to program in C.

Processing is used to program small embeddable computers like the Arduino.  Now all I need is an Arduino.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Here's a link (PDF, 2.7 megabytes) to a pretty cool webcomic about the history of poliomyelitis. The gimmick is that the story is being told from a polio virus's point of view, as it speaks in an unnamed 12-step encounter group. (Infections Anonymous?)

I never knew that polio was spread in sewage and was pretty much endemic in early populations (in the same way malaria still is in some parts of Africa), and that 96% of cases are totally asymptomatic. Only about 0.16% of people who encountered polio in ancient times ended up with some form of paralysis.

So why was it treated as such a horrible disease? It seems that as world health and hygiene improved, fewer and fewer people came into contact with sewage, which meant they had less exposure to the polio virus and thus fewer chances to develop immunities to it.  In the developed world, polio went from being endemic to being epidemic, and when it struck, it went straight for the spinal cord and shut parts of it down.

An effective sewage system, while working wonders at stopping other diseases like cholera outbreaks, actually led to the "strengthening" of the polio virus.  Cleanliness led to infantile paralysis.

Think about that the next time you reach for the antibacterial hand sanitizer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


No one is going to believe this. I don't believe this.

Back in April, I started a fiction blog, in which I would write about the end of the world as zombies overran civilization. In my blog, the first signs of the zombie attack were to take place on June 18. No reason for that particular date. It would give me about two months to get a head start on the writing, that's all.

Things were going fine for the launch, when this OTHER zombie thing came along. I only heard about it today. In response, I've had no choice but to launch my zombie blog a week early.

Anyway, I present my zombie blog: The Life Of The World To Come.

PS: It's the first day. The zombies aren't there yet. But they're growing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A short guide to Iraq

In 1943, some American troops were stationed in Iraq. Here is a PDF of a War Department handbook introducing them to the country, and providing some dos and don'ts when interacting with the Iraqi people. Some highlights:

  • NEVER discuss religion or politics or women with Moslems.
  • Don't stare at anyone. Remember the fear of the "evil eye".
  • Knock before entering a private house. If a woman answers, wait until she has had time to retire.
  • If you see grown men walking hand in hand, ignore it. They are not queer.
  • You can usually tell a mosque by its high tower. Keep away from mosques. [Emphasis in the original] If you try to enter one, you will be thrown out, probably with a severe beating.
  • There are four towns in Iraq which are particularly sacred to the Iraq Moslems: Kerbala, Najaf, samarra, and Kadhiman. Unless you are ordered to these towns it is advisable to stay away from them.
  • Moslems here are divided into two factions something like our division into Catholic and Protestant denominations -- so don't put in your two cents when Iraqis argue about religion.

  • There are also political differences in Iraq that have puzzled diplomats and statesmen. You won't help matters any by getting mixed up in them.
And then there's this:
  • American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. It may not be quite that simple. But then again it could.

Amen, brother!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Brooklyn Heroes

Originally uploaded by justpat
Two men risked their own lives earlier today to save a disoriented stranger who fell onto subway tracks.

A delirious, unkempt man fell onto the tracks at the elevated F line stop at 9th St. and 4th Ave as I watched from the other side of the tracks. I heard a collective "oooooo" go up from the people on his side of the platform. He appeared disoriented and unable to extricate himself from the very real hazard he was in, so two strangers jumped onto the tracks. The man couldn't muster the coordination necessary to climb back onto the platform, even with their help, so the two strangers walked the man all the way to the end of the platform, where there are stairs back up to safety.

When they all were back on the platform, everyone involved went back to just standing around, waiting for the next train.