Stupidus

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto.

On October 10 will be the anniversary of the Battle of Tours. A look at this battle: We learned how this will end 1274 years ago


Excommunication Blotter

"This page will monitor instances of excommunication under the 1983 Code of Canon Law."

Friday, October 06, 2006


The modus operandi of The man who had 14 wives:

"At first, he was absolutely wonderful — he was funny, amusing and couldn't do enough to please me. He would turn up at my office with huge bunches of flowers."

[...]

"He overwhelmed me with compliments," says university educated Margaret, who worked for the education department of Harrow council. They had met when she came to Killeen for advice in changing her career.

"He made me feel I was the most beautiful, accomplished woman to ever walk the earth. He looked into my eyes and instantly I was transformed from a rather plump, ordinary woman into Elizabeth Taylor.

"Now I can see that all he was doing was telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. But he appears so completely honest and open it's impossible to doubt him.

"I was at work on Valentine's Day and a huge bouquet appeared. It was half the size of a florist's shop.

"I thought I had found this knight in shining armour who was going to rescue me from my ordinary, boring life."

Within weeks, Killeen had proposed. "His passion blew me away," she says. "He knew I was worried my biological clock was ticking. I was 43 and wanted a child. He's so clever that he played on that."


The Invaluable Guide to the AG-HVX200 (PDF)

"This guidebook provides a comprehensive description of the functions and features of the AG-HVX200, from detailed information on the HD multi-format system, variable frame rates, and P2 card recording, to a variety of application examples."

Thursday, October 05, 2006


YouTube Downloader - allows one to download videos at YouTube

Speaking of which:
Is YouTube censoring conservatives?


From a review of Mark Steyn's book "America Alone":

It is a good bet that Steyn is prophetic when he tells us, "By 2015, almost every viable political party in the West will be natalist." And what should the platforms of these Mewling Infant Parties contain? "We need to find a way to restore advantage to parenthood in the context of modern society. Shrink the state. If you got four dependents, your taxable income is to be divided by five. We must end deferred adulthood." And how do we do that? "We need to redirect the system to telescope education into a much shorter period." The upshot, apparently, is that educated people should be educated faster so that they will normally have children while they’re in their twenties. We hear not one word that these proposals, though perhaps inevitable, will mean that the life courses of men and women will diverge again.


Choosing Words Carefully: Language to Help Fight Islamic Terrorism (PDF)

Excerpts:

This essay discusses the most egregious and dangerous misuses of language regarding Islamic totalitarian terrorists; a comprehensive study would require a book. We begin with the word jihad, which literally means striving and generally occurs as part of the expression jihad fi sabil illah, striving in the path of God. Striving in the path of God is a duty of all Muslims. Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad thus indicates that we recognize their doctrines and actions as being in the path of God and, for Muslims, legitimate. In short, we explicitly designate ourselves as the enemies of Islam.

Mujahid (plural mujahidin or mujahideen): one who participates in jihad, and frequently translated in the American media as “holy warrior.” The use of this term designates the activity of the enemy as jihad and thus legitimizes it. [...] To extend the term to our current enemies dishonors our allies as well as authenticates our opponents as warriors for Islam. Even to a Western audience it can lend a sense of nobility to an otherwise ignoble enemy.

Caliphate (khlilafa): This term literally means successor and came to refer to the successors of the Prophet Muhammad as the political leaders of the Muslim community. Sunni Muslims traditionally regard the era of the first four caliphs (632-661) as an era of just rule. Accepting our enemies' description of their goal as the restoration of a historical caliphate again validates an aspect of their ideology. Al-Qa'ida's caliphate would not mean the re-establishment of any historical regime; it would be a global totalitarian state. Anyone who needs a preview of how such a state would act merely has to review the conduct of the Taliban in Afghanistan before September 11, 2001.

Now that a few unsuitable word choices have been addressed, it is time to begin to identify the proper expressions to use whenever discussing the global Islamic totalitarian terrorist movement. Many of these terms will be unfamiliar to Westerners, but not to most Muslim audiences. Only those who actively, passively or even unwittingly support al-Qa'ida's (and similar groups) professed goals would find the terms, and their use by non-Muslims, offensive.

To refute challenges to the new context surrounding these expressions, any user of these terms must be able to define the words in order to defend their accuracy and the appropriateness of their use. Otherwise anyone who dares to define the enemy using its own Islamic language can be challenged by a variety of “pundits” who still see the struggle in terms of religion or poverty rather than political ideology; who despise Western society, capitalism or democracy; or who oppose the war for any other reason.

Hirabah: this word, which is derived from the Arabic root which refers to war or combat, means sinful warfare, warfare contrary to Islamic law. There is ample legal justification for applying this term to Islamic totalitarian terrorists and no moral ambiguity in its connotation. We should describe the Islamic totalitarian movement as the global hirabah, not the global jihad.

Mufsid (moofsid): this word refers to an evil or corrupt person; the plural is mufsidun. We [should] call our enemies mufsidun, not jihadis. Again, there is no moral ambiguity and the specific denotation of corruption carries enormous weight in most of the Islamic world.

Fitna/fattan: fitna literally means temptation or trial, but has come to refer to discord and strife among Muslims; a fattan is a tempter or subversive. Applying these terms to our enemies and their works condemns their current activities as divisive and harmful. It also identifies them with movements and individuals in Islamic history with negative reputations such as the assassins of the Caliph 'Uthman in 656, who created the first fissure in the political unity of the Muslim community

Totalitarian: calling our enemies totalitarian serves several purposes. There is no such thing as a benign totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is a Western invention and it appeared in the Islamic world as a result of Western influence (first fascist, then Marxist-Leninist). It is also in direct contrast to the idea that the enemy would actually establish a caliphate if they defeat the United States, our allies and coalition partners.


Vatican-Muslim dialogue back to square one: Cardinal

Vatican relations with the Islamic world must be restarted from square one because Muslims insist on misinterpreting Pope Benedict's recent comments on Islam, Germany's top Catholic cardinal said in an article on Wednesday.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, head of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, accused Muslim critics of running a campaign against the Pope and said the Pontiff had nothing to apologize for.

The blunt comments from Lehmann, whose rich and influential church has close ties to the German-born Pope, seem to have been sparked by an unusual call from the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for him to retract his words. The OIC call came a day after Benedict had received Muslim ambassadors to the Vatican and repeated his regrets for any misunderstanding of his September 12 speech in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor saying Islam was evil and violent.

"These open or hidden threats have to stop," Lehmann said in the weekly newspaper of his Mainz diocese.

"Obviously we have to start at square one because we're not talking here about important contents of a necessary dialogue, but about the fundamental requirements for one to succeed.

"There is freedom of religion and speech in our civilization. The Pope can also be criticized. But there are elementary rules that apply for factual and fair contacts with each other and with clear statements," he wrote.

"One cannot constantly repeat completely unfounded misunderstandings when the texts are so clear."

Lehmann noted that Benedict's speech in Regensburg during a visit to his native Bavaria evoked no critical reaction at first and journalists had no questions about it at a news conference the cardinal gave after the Pope left Munich on September 14.

"Only a few days later did a full-blown campaign from outside begin," he wrote, calling it "astounding" that critics should repeatedly say the Pope had insulted Islam and Muslims.

Lehmann's article echoed a statement last week by the bishops he leads complaining some critics had tried to escalate the dispute with "ever new charges, demands or even threats".

"The Catholic Church and many people in our country and around the world, who respect and defend the right of free speech, will not be bullied," the bishops' conference said after its meeting in Fulda last week.

The German bishops, an influential voice at the Vatican because of their church's financial power and theological depth, also repeated Benedict's frequent calls for Muslim countries to give their Christian minorities equal rights.

Meeting shortly after a Berlin theater canceled a Mozart opera for fear it might prompt Muslim protests, the bishops also expressed concern about self-censorship over religion.

"We are concerned that fear of religiously motivated violence is spreading, not only in Germany, and leading to a direct or indirect limitation of free speech," they said.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Where Have I Been - Track where your money goes after you've spent it


Global tropical cyclone tracks

"This map shows the tracks of all Tropical cyclones which formed worldwide from 1985 to 2005. The points show the locations of the storms at six-hourly intervals and use the color scheme shown to the right from Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale."


Party Radio Tuner - Free Online Internet Radio Guide & Station Directory


POV-Ray: Newsgroups: povray.binaries.scene-files: Glare effect (luminous color bleeding, aka "corona")

"Here's a file for adding a glare effect over your pre-rendered images. You can use it on any image, as long as the image format is supported by POV, of course :) It's slow, so beware!"

Used here:
POV-Ray: Newsgroups: povray.binaries.images: water bug (41kb)


Musical MIDI Accompaniment (MMA) - includes source code

"Musical MIDI Accompaniment" is an accompaniment generator--it creates midi tracks for a soloist to perform over from a user supplied file containing chords and MMA directives.

MMA is very versatile and generates excellent tracks. It comes with an extensive user-extendable library with a variety of patterns for various popular rhythms, detailed user manuals, and several demo songs.

MMA is a command line driven program. It creates MIDI files which are then played by a sequencer or MIDI file play program.

WinMMA - Windows version

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


A version (apparently by Clement IV) of the Bull "Ad Exstirpanda" can be found at the following two sites:

I Brevi del Comune e del popolo di Pisa dell'anno 1287

I Brevi del Comune e del popolo di Pisa dell'anno 1287 - more direct link

It begins "Ad extirpanda de medio populi Christiani" and ends "per falsatores in aliquo violari"

It seems to differ from a passage (from Innocent IV's version) quoted here and here.


Huge 'launch ring' to fling satellites into orbit

Excerpts:

An enormous ring of superconducting magnets similar to a particle accelerator could fling satellites into space, suggest the findings of a new study funded by the US air force.

Previous studies have investigated the use of magnets to accelerate satellites to the high speeds required for launch. But most have focused on straight tracks, which have to gather speed in one quick burst. Supplying the huge spike of energy needed for this method has proven difficult.

The advantage of a circular track is that the satellite can be gradually accelerated over a period of several hours. And the setup is technologically feasible and cost effective, suggests a recent, preliminary study of the idea funded by the air force's Office of Scientific Research.

The air force has now given the go-ahead for more in-depth research of the idea. The two-year study will begin within a few weeks and be led by James Fiske of LaunchPoint Technologies in Goleta, California, US.

The launch ring would be very similar to the particle accelerators used for physics experiments, with superconducting magnets placed around a 2-kilometre-wide ring.

The satellite, encased in an aerodynamic, cone-shaped shell that would protect it from the intense heat of launch, would be attached to a sled designed to respond to the forces from the superconducting magnets.

When the sled had been accelerated to its top speed of 10 kilometres per second, laser and pyrotechnic devices would be used to separate the cone from the sled. Then, the cone would skid into a side tunnel, losing some speed due to friction with the tunnel's walls.

The tunnel would direct the cone to a ramp angled at 30° to the horizon, where the cone would launch towards space at about 8 kilometres per second, or more than 23 times the speed of sound. A rocket at the back end of the cone would be used to adjust its trajectory and place it in a proper orbit.

Anything launched in this way would have to be able to survive enormous accelerations – more than 10,000 times the acceleration due to gravity (10,000g). This would seem to be an obstacle for launching things like communications satellites, but Fiske points out that the US military uses electronics in laser-guided artillery, which survive being fired out of guns at up to 20,000g.

The US air force's interest stems from the ring's potential to launch small, 10-kilogram satellites into orbit.

Aside from microsatellites, the launch ring would be ideal for delivering supplies to support human spaceflight, such as food and water, which are not sensitive to such high accelerations, Fiske says. "Nearly all of this materiel could be shipped via launch rings, resulting in major reductions in the cost of manned space activities," he told New Scientist.

Such a launch ring is technologically possible, but getting the projectile safely through the atmosphere would be challenging, says Epstein.

Among other things, it would be difficult to keep it from overheating and to make sure it follows the desired trajectory when subjected to winds and friction from the atmosphere.

If the ring launched hundreds of satellites a year, it would be cheaper than conventional rocket launches. With 300 launches per year, the team estimates the ring could put payloads into orbit for $745 per kilogram. If the launch rate reached 3000 launches per year, they calculate that would drop to $189 per kilogram. Today, it costs more than 100 times that to send payloads into space.

If the results of the team's upcoming, more detailed design study are promising, the team would like to proceed by building a small test version of the ring, measuring 20 to 50 metres across, although no funding has been promised for this as yet.

If everything went well with the test ring, the team would hope to attract funding to build a full-scale version, which would take about four years to build, Ricci estimates.


Could MPs vote to restrict abortion? (PDF)

In late June Liberal MP Paul Steckle introduced a Private Member's Bill (PMB) that if passed, would make any abortions performed after 20 weeks' gestation illegal. It would be the first time in almost 20 years that there were any legal restrictions on abortion in Canada. Since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law in the Morgentaler case in 1988, abortions can be performed at any stage of pregnancy in Canada without fear of prosecution.

Mr. Steckle, MP for Huron-Bruce in Ontario, introduced Bill C-338 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (procuring a miscarriage after twenty weeks of gestation).” The bill means it would be a criminal offence to perform a late-term abortion with penalties of up to five years in jail, or two years in jail and a fine of $100,000. The Canadian Medical Association considers 20 weeks to be the point of viability.

MP Steckle said he introduced the bill because when the Supreme Court struck down the old law in 1988, it invited Parliament to bring in a new law. The court recognized a legitimate public interest in protecting unborn babies. The earlier law, which required hospitals to set up committees, was not being applied equally across the country and the court found that it violated the Charter as a result. Mr. Steckle decided it was time to take up the issue of protecting these vulnerable little human beings.

The bill includes an exception for women whose lives are threatened by the pregnancy but no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Mr. Steckle believes that such exceptions are based on the notion of certain lives being worth living and others not. This, he believes, is discrimination.

The bill is a Private Member's Bill which means it does not have the approval or backing of the governing party. PMBs rarely make it through the House of Commons, although recent rule changes do make it easier for a PMB to be debated and voted on. Mr. Steckle's bill is far down the list of private bills and may not make it to the House of Commons during this Parliament. (The Conservative minority government could be defeated on a non-confidence vote at any time.)

If, however, Bill C-338 makes it to a vote by MPs it will be interesting to see how members vote. Prime Minister Harper has said he will not introduce legislation on abortion and will discourage any of his members from bringing forward such legislation. In fact, it is widely believed that he had a hand in scuttling Bill C-291 which would have allowed police to charge people who kill or wound an unborn child in the course of inflicting violence on a pregnant woman. The bill was a PMB introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Leon Benoit. Mr. Benoit was appealing a committee ruling that declared his bill unvotable, when a letter from Conservative Justice Minister Vic Toews was delivered to the committee room declaring that the Justice Minister thought the bill was unconstitutional. Mr. Benoit had no warning that the letter was coming.

There are many Conservative MPs who are pro-life (indeed Justice Minister Toews has spoken at pro-life conferences) and it will be interesting to see if they will vote (or be allowed to vote) in favour of this bill.

There are also many Liberal MPs who are pro-life and it may be in the political interests of the Liberals to try to embarrass the Conservatives by supporting the bill. It would put Mr. Harper and the Conservative caucus in a tight spot.

Even if the bill does not come up in this session, the fact that it has been introduced is a positive advance for the pro-life movement. It opens the topic for discussion not just among pro-life people and groups but also among the wider community. It helps remind people that Canada, unlike almost every other Western democracy, has no laws to protect human beings in the womb at any stage of pregnancy. It gives all of us a reason to contact our federal MPs to find out where they stand on this issue, how they would vote and if necessary, urge them to support Bill C-338 if they expect you to support them in the next election.

If you would like to contact Mr. Steckle he can be emailed at Steckle.P@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 613-922-8234. To find out who your own MP is and how to contact him or her, go to http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/ about/people/house/PostalCode.asp?Language=E&source=sm. To read the full text of Bill C-338, go to http://www.parl.gc.ca/39/1/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/pr ivate/C-338/C-338_1/C-338_cover-E.html.


A certain blogger has questioned the humanity of "concepti"; the following is meant to remind him that we are human from the moment of conception:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

Donum Vitae

The inviolability of the innocent human being's right to life "from the moment of conception until death" is a sign and requirement of the very inviolability of the person to whom the Creator has given the gift of life.

[...]

From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has "wished for himself" and the spiritual soul of each man is "immediately created" by God; his whole being bears the image of the Creator. Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves "the creative action of God" and it remains forever in a special relationship with she Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.


Better business game (Flash and non-Flash versions)

You are about to experience what it can be like to manage social and environmental issues in a business - are you up to the challenge?

This game last for approximately THIRTY minutes. The games contents are drawn from general business dilemmas.

Monday, October 02, 2006


VeraTech Aero Single Rotor Phantom Sentinel - weird Y-shaped helicopter/boomerang


Observations on Arabs - cultural differences between Arabs and Westerners

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Islam and Western Democracies - Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia


Atomic Physics Predicts Successful Store Location

Researcher Pablo Jensen, a computational physicist at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon, France, studied the locations of businesses in that city. His goal was to determine which varieties of stores seem to draw or drive away other types of stores, much as how different kinds of atoms can attract or repel each other due to their electric and magnetic properties.

To see how well one kind of business, such as furniture stores, attracted or repelled other types of stores, such as delis or hairdressers, Jensen looked at each kind of store and then examined what other sorts of businesses were or were not found within a 300-foot radius, which he judged as a typical distance a customer accepts to walk to visit different stores. He then plugged those numbers into calculations that are normally used to study atomic interactions.

The analysis reveals promising locations throughout the city for each of the 55 different kinds of stores Jensen studied. Values might for instance prove high for a jewelry store in a particular location if there are other accessory stores nearby selling shoes or hats, but few neighboring grocery or hardware stores.

Jensen confirmed his model by looking at business data for Lyon in 2003 and 2005. He found that bakeries, for example, that were in locations the model deemed low quality in 2003 tended to fail by 2005. Meanwhile, new bakeries popped up preferentially at locations the model deemed high quality.


A network-based prediction of retail stores commercial categories and optimal locations (PDF)

Short version of the article (PDF)

Network-based predictions of retail store commercial categories and optimal locations - article in Physics E

Abstract:

I study the spatial organization of retail commercial activities. These are organized in a network comprising "antilinks," i.e., links of negative weight. From pure location data, network analysis leads to a community structure that closely follows the commercial classification of the U.S. Department of Labor. The interaction network allows one to build a "quality" index of optimal location niches for stores, which has been empirically tested.

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