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Thursday, November 02, 2006

migrated

well. i've done the move. i can now be found at

http://abbashalai.com

you should be taken there in a few seconds, if not, just click the link above.

blogger just wasn't working out.

Friday, October 27, 2006

googling the googly

before google came around, the only other funny six letter word with two g's and two o's was googly. now google has taken that role, and taken it well. and the word is on everyones lip and searching (on google.com) is now referred to as googling. the google blog explains the legal problems that this stirs up and how you can google someone, and how you can't.

blogrolling

i've updated the blogroll on the right a bit. check out the links. most of the sites i obsessively follow and read. if they're dead links or if you wish to get linked up on my site or if you've linked me and i haven't returned the favour, then please do get in touch.

the death of habeas corpus

keith olbermann may be one of the greatest american patriots out there today after this 'special comment' of his. is habeas corpus really dead? did dubya really do the unthinkable? watch this clip and find out.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

paint brush

these are some real nice tips for the fox. keep it real folks. and keep the faith with the fox. dump IE NOW NOW NOW!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

*shrug*

for anyone who cares, i've answered the titillating title references here, in the comments. please leave a comment.

david attenborough

facts and figures of our ecological forthcoming doom in this living planet. an interesting quote from the article:

If current trends continue two planets would be needed by 2050 to meet humanity's demands.



click for more.

the lottery

ernest hemingway is said to have written an entire story in six words and claimed it to be one of his best works. wired magazine looks at this phenomenon and asks various sci-fi writers to write such stories. click here to read all of them. a few examples below.

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
- Joss Whedon

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
- Frank Miller

I’m dead. I’ve missed you. Kiss … ?
- Neil Gaiman

spread the fox

Firefox 2

Monday, October 23, 2006

if i was a gambling man?

if i was a gambling man, i'd bet this has never occurred anywhere before in history.

Friday, October 20, 2006

the goblin king

An invisibility cloak that works in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum has been unveiled by researchers in the US. The device is the first practical version of a theoretical set-up first suggested in a paper published earlier in 2006.

The cloak works by steering microwave light around an object, making it appear to an observer as if it were not there at all. Materials that bend light in this way do not exist naturally, so have to be engineered with the necessary optical properties.

Earlier in 2006, John Pendry, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College London, UK, and colleagues showed how such an invisibility cloak could, in theory, be made (see Physicists draw up plans for real 'cloaking device'). Now David Smith and colleagues at Duke University in North Carolina, US, have proved the idea works.

In recent years, materials scientists have made rapid progress in making so-called "metamaterials", which can have exotic electromagnetic properties unseen in nature. These are made up of repeating structures of simple electronic components such as capacitors and inductors.

In 2001, Smith built a metamaterial with a negative refractive index, which bends microwaves in a way impossible for ordinary lenses. Now he has gone one step further.

Keep reading.

history of the saracens

Who has controlled the Middle East over the course of history? Pretty much everyone. Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Greeks, Persians, Europeans...the list goes on. Who will control the Middle East today? That is a much bigger question.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

random realism

head on over to random realism if you are so inclined.

phineas taylor barnum

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

deep fried chips


This hardware hacker was
experimenting with liquid cooling for an old motherboard, immersing it in oil in a tin pan. Once that worked, he decided to heat the oil up and make french-fries in it, while playing Quake on the PC that was being slowly deep-fried along with the chips. It worked for a while, then the machine had to be rebooted (and it continued to work after that!)

Eventually, though, the strain of 120 degrees C ambient temperature and the load of Quake 3 caused the computer to overheat and crash. I rebooted it, and it loaded back into windows. Although Quake 3 still crashed when trying to play. At that point, the chips were ready. I turned off the heat and enjoyed my snack while I waited for the oil to cool so I could use the computer again.

The pictures on this forum and his write up is just phenomenal to read.

Monday, October 16, 2006

ansel adams would be proud

A SINGLE-PIXEL DIGITAL CAMERA, scientists at Rice University believe, will reduce power consumption and storage space without sacrificing spatial resolution. The new approach aims to confront one of the basic dilemmas of digital imaging, namely the huge waste factor. Consider that a megapixel camera will, when you take the picture, capture and momentarily store a million numbers (the light levels from the pixels). No camera can store that much information for hundreds of pictures, so an immediate data compression takes place right there inside the camera. A tiny microprocessor performs a Fourier transform; that is, it converts the digital image into a weighted sum of many sinusoid waves. Instead of a million numbers, the representation of the image can now been compressed into something like 10,000 numbers, corresponding to the most important coefficients from the mathematical transformation. These are the numbers actually retained for later processing into pictures. The Rice camera saves space and energy by eliminating the first step. It gets rid of the million pixels. Instead it goes right to a transformed version (about 10,000 numbers rather than a million) by viewing the scene prismatically with a single pixel. No, the light from the object doesn’t go through a prism, but it is viewed about 10,000 different ways. The light, in a quick succession of glances, bounces off the myriad individually driven facets of a digital micromirror device, or DMD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_micromirror_device). The mirrors of a DMD (only a micron or so in size) do not image an object or record data but merely steer light; they can be individually angled in such a way that the light strikes a photo detector or not, depending on whether the light is representing a digital 1 or 0 at that moment.

The main idea is that the DMD is acting as a sort of analog optical computer. Each time the pixel views the object, a different set of orientations is imposed on the array of micromirrors. And, in an interesting twist, the Rice camera uses random orientations. Looking like the haphazard splotch of black and white squares of a crossword puzzle, the DMD’s surface is reflective here and dark there; some of the mirrors will faithfully reflect light from the object to the pixel while others will, in effect, appear black. Then the object is viewed again with a different micromirror activation pattern; again the pixel will record an overall light level. This process recurs about 10,000 times. Later, offline on a computer, the single pixel light levels, along with the micromirror patterns are processed using new algorithms to reconstruct a sharp image. This isn’t quite the old type of imaging process, the kind used in x-ray crystallography or CAT scans (which also convert pinpoints of data into images), but a new kind of imaging called compressive sensing that is only about two years old.

To summarize, the acquisition of imaging data is reduced many-fold (saving on data storage), only a single pixel is needed (freeing up valuable space in the primary detector), and the bulk of the processing can be offloaded to a remote computer rather than a chip inside the camera, thus greatly reducing power needs and extending the usefulness of batteries. Rice researchers Richard Baraniuk (
richb@rice.edu) and Kevin Kelly (kkelly@rice.edu) say that an additional virtue of the camera is that with only a single pixel, the detector (a photodiode) can be as fancy as you want. It can even accommodate wavelengths currently unavailable to digital photography, such as x ray, terrahertz waves, even radar. A working camera prototype has been built. One of the main tasks is to reduce the time it takes to record an image; the price for compressing space, pixels, and power is to spread everything out in time since the cyclops-like pixel must blink ten thousand or more times to capture the image. As Baraniuk says, the Rice form of photography is multiplexed in time. The Rice results were reported last week at the Frontiers in Optics Meeting of the Optical Society of America (OSA) held in Rochester (www.osa.org/meetings/annual/) (For a picture of the setup and the imaging results, see the web page http://dsp.rice.edu/cscamera and the research paper at http://www.dsp.ece.rice.edu/cs/cscam-SPIEJan06.pdf )

titillating titles

some of my posts comes with a unique title. a lot of them may seem nonsensical but they're really not. does anyone ever get them, or am i just too random for most people?

let's take a test. see if you can figure out the references in these post titles.

link 1 , link 2 , link 3 , link 4 , link 5 , link 6 , link 7 , link 8 , link 9 , link 10

martin castillo

Battlestar Galactica, now entering its third season, is not science fiction—or "speculative fiction" or "SF," or whatever you're supposed to call it these days. Ignore the fact that the series is a remake of a late-'70s Star Wars knockoff. Forget that its action variously unfolds on starships and on a colonized planet called New Caprica. And never mind its stunning special effects, which outclass the endearingly schlocky stuff found elsewhere on its network. Sullen, complex, and eager to obsess over grand conspiracies and intimate betrayals alike, it is TV noir. Listen to Adm. William Adama (Edward James Olmos) gruffly rumble along as a weary soldier in a crooked universe. Check out the way that Hitchcock kisses lead seamlessly to knives in the gut. Just look at the Venetian blinds.

Keep reading damn you!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

living dangerously

FIRST ANTIMATTER CHEMISTRY. The Athena collaboration, an experimental group working at the CERN lab in Geneva, has measured chemical reactions involving antiprotonic hydrogen, a bound object consisting of a negatively charged antiproton paired with a positively charged proton. This composite object, which can also be called protonium, eventually annihilates itself, creating an even number of telltale charged pions. Normally the annihilation comes about in a trillionth of a second, but in the Athena apparatus (and its very thorough vacuum conditions) the duration is a whopping millionth of a second. The protonium comes about in the following way. First, antiprotons are created in CERN’s proton synchrotron by smashing protons into a thin target. The resultant antiprotons then undergo the deceleration, from 97% down to 10% the speed of light. Several more stages of cooling, including immersion in a bath of slow electrons, brings the antiprotons to a point where they can be caught in Athena’s electrostatic trap. This allows the researchers to study then, for the first time, a chemical reaction between the simplest antimatter ion---the antiproton---and the simplest matter molecular ion, namely H2+ (two H atoms with one electron missing). Joining these two ions results in the protonium plus a neutral hydrogen atom (see figure at http://www.aip.org/png/2006/269.htm ). This represents the first antimatter-matter chemistry, if you don’t count the interaction of positrons (anti-electrons) with ordinary matter. (Previously antiprotons have been inserted into helium atoms but this did not really constitute “chemistry” since the antiprotons merely replaced an electron in the helium atom.) According to Nicola Zurlo of the Universita’ di Brescia (zurlo@bs.infn.it) and her colleagues, the experimental output from the eventual protonium annihilation (see depiction at www.aip.org/png) allowed the Athena scientists to deduce that the principal quantum number (denoted by the letter n) of the protonium had an average value of 70 rather than the expected value of 30. Furthermore, the angular momentum of the protonium was typically much lower than expected---perhaps because of the low relative velocity at which the matter and antimatter ions approached each other before reaction. The Athena scientists hope to perform more detailed spectroscopy on their proton-antiproton “atom”in addition to the already scheduled spectroscopy of trapped anti-hydrogen atoms, which consist of antiprotons wedded to positrons. (Zurlo et al., Physical Review Letters, 13 October 2006 lab website at http://athena.web.cern.ch/athena/ )

via aip.

baxter and reed

i love comics. though i think i've gone past the stereotype of marvel and dc comics, they still fascinate me. i think i'm more of a dc fan than i am a marvel one though. not really sure why. in any case, here's an individual directory with bio's of over 700 characters from the marvel universe.

don't call me baby

a telemarketer bugging you? you do realize that they follow a script to make all their conversations. well, how about you use the same thing on them.

here's the anti-telemarketing counterscript.

in the line of fire

Zara salees o shagufta Urdu hai, but highly recommended, especially since Musharraf get's blasted up the ass.


Friday, October 13, 2006

no tengo deniro

a giant list of band name origins.

AC/DC - 1) It is said that one of the band member saw it on an appliance and thought it had something to do with power. (It does mean "alternating current / direct current".) The band used it not realizing it was also slang for a bisexual- the band claims NOT to be bisexual. 2) In the vogue of other anti-everything bands it stands for Against Christ/Devil's Children.

ALICE IN CHAINS - a funny rumor is that they were named after a lost episode from The Brady Bunch series!...

CHUMBAWAMBA - In a band member's dream, he didn't know which door to use in a public toilet because the signs said "Chumba" and "Wamba" instead of "Men" and "Women"...

JETHRO TULL - popular 70's band that is named after the rather obscure inventor of the farmer's seed drill...

JUDAS PRIEST - originally a mild curse said to avoid saying "Jesus Christ" - also from the Bob Dylan song "The ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"...

T PAU - after a high priestess from the planet VULCAN in the American TV series STAR TREK...

YO LA TENGO -translates to "I have it" from Spanish - said to be the phrase called out by Hispanic baseball players when fielding a pop fly ball. Singer/guitar player Ira Kaplan got the expression from a book he was reading about baseball called The Five Seasons.

ZZ TOP - taken from the name of a Texas Blues man ZZ Hill. Though a rumor is that they got their name by combining Zig Zag and Top, two well known brands of "cigarette" rolling papers.

interest free?

The population of earth fell into "ecological debt" with the planet yesterday. "The date symbolised the day of the year when people's demands exceeded the Earth's ability to supply resources and absorb the demands placed upon it." In 1987, ecological debt day fell on December 19.

Weirdly enough, Bob Holmes for New Scientist has this interesting tidbit.

Imagine that all the people on Earth - all 6.5 billion of us and counting - could be spirited away tomorrow, transported to a re-education camp in a far-off galaxy. (Let’s not invoke the mother of all plagues to wipe us out, if only to avoid complications from all the corpses). Left once more to its own devices, Nature would begin to reclaim the planet, as fields and pastures reverted to prairies and forest, the air and water cleansed themselves of pollutants, and roads and cities crumbled back to dust.

“The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,” says John Orrock, a conservation biologist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California. But would the footprint of humanity ever fade away completely, or have we so altered the Earth that even a million years from now a visitor would know that an industrial society once ruled the planet?

snail's pace

Yossi Vardi shows that data transfer by snail is faster than broadband. "He showed a slide of a snail hitched to a tiny chariot with DVDs for wheels. If each disk contains 4.7 gigabytes of data, and if the snail (chasing a scrap of lettuce) travels at 0.000023 metres per second, the snail-system performance rate is over thirty-seven megabits per second. That blows ADSL out of the water."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

random news and links

Monday, October 09, 2006

youtube = google video

well boys and girls, it had to happen. google just bought the tube for $1.65B .

Thursday, October 05, 2006

one hundred

if you could reduce the earth's population down to a small community of 100 people, this is what that miniature earth would look like.

fred and barney

man. i don't know how many of you are fred and barney fans out there, but this is just ridiculous. i love it.

p.s. i'm sorry for posting so many videos, but youtube is just kicking ass lately.
see this korean archer split a soy bean from 30m away. he then goes on to manage the stereotypical arrow splitting from robin hood fame. cwazy stuff.

brick by brick

for all you lego fanatics out there, next time you want a nice cold drink, have it with lego cubes.

so you guys remember those super cool transparent illusions. well, how would you like a ride in this elevator?

on the edge of forever

Scientists teleport two different objects - Oct 4, 2006
Beaming people in “Star Trek” fashion is still in the realms of science fiction, but physicists in Denmark have teleported information from light to matter bringing quantum communication and computing closer to reality.

Treatment ‘to neutralise all flu’ In preliminary tests, it was found to protect animals against various strains of the virus - and may also protect against future pandemic strains.

Wicca veterans seek grave symbolsWiccans in the US are taking the government to court over its refusal to allow their symbol on gravestones in military cemeteries.

Arctic sea ice declines again in 2006, researchers sayWhile cool August temperatures prevented sea ice in the Arctic from reaching its lowest summer extent on record, 2006 continued a pattern of sharp annual decreases due to rising temperatures probably caused by greenhouse warming.

Chet writes up a brilliant post on what the Zionists really get upto in their spare time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

spy hard

A Japanese mental health counselor recited pi to 100,000 decimal places from memory on Wednesday, setting what he claims to be a new world record.

Akira Haraguchi, 60, needed more than 16 hours to recite the number to 100,000 decimal places, breaking his personal best of 83,431 digits set in 1995, his office said Wednesday. He made the attempt at a public hall in Kisarazu, just east of Tokyo.

Pi is a physical constant defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

useless fact of the day: There is a building in the Googleplex numbered 3.14159...

a fighter by his trade

so they've lost a boxer now.

best lines of the article.
This is the second time that an armed forces boxer has slipped abroad. In 2000 Sydney Olympics, light-welterweight Ghulam Shabbir of Pakistan Army vanished from the airport along with welterweight Usmanullah Khan of Wapda.

....

After several incidents of sportsmen disappearing during offshore tours, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) made it mandatory for the athletes’ parents to fill a surety bond that they will pay one million rupees if their son or daughter slips during a tour abroad.

....

“A Pakistani swimmer slipped few years ago in Spain. The swimmer as well as team manager Lt-Col Ahmad Nawaz were banned for life. A case to convert the life ban against Nawaz to five-year ban is pending before the PSB executive committee.”
little known fact: germany, according to their own constitution cannot deny asylum to anyone who claims it.

abbashalai.com

for anyone who cares, you should be able to access this blog from http://abbashalai.com now.

celebrate and jubilate

this article is moderately funny.

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

HIStory

thriller. bollywood style.

be all that you can be



so much for what hollywood teaches you.

Friday, September 29, 2006

third rock from the sun

A recent shot from Cassini, in the orbit of Saturn, some 930 million miles away. The pale blue dot, of course, is Earth.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

frank horrigan

Looking for Musharraf on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Well, here are two clips seperated because of the Commercial break.

Part 1 of 2: http://youtube.com/watch?v=XK2qRsA_Vak
Part 2 of 2: http://youtube.com/watch?v=o9UILI8M8jw

jihadistan

newsweek article: the rise of jihadistan

Five years after the Afghan invasion, the Taliban are fighting back hard, carving out a sanctuary where they—and Al Qaeda's leaders—can operate freely.

It is midday on the central Afghan plains, far from the jihadist-infested mountains to the east and west. Without speaking, the sentinel guides his visitors along a sandy horse trail toward a mud-brick village within sight of the highway. As they get closer a young Taliban fighter carrying a walkie-talkie and an AK-47 rifle pops out from behind a tree. He is manning an improvised explosive device, he explains, in case Afghan or U.S. troops try to enter the village.

In a parched clearing a few hundred yards on, more than 100 Taliban fighters ranging in age from teenagers to a grandfatherly 55-year-old have assembled to meet their provincial commander, Muhammad Sabir. An imposing man with a long, bushy beard, wearing a brown and green turban and a beige shawl over his shoulders, Sabir inspects his troops, all of them armed with AKs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He claims to have some 900 fighters, and says the military and psychological tide is turning in their favor.

keep reading.

the sword of islam

because everyone has made such a fuss on this entire pope's speech debacle, i'm going to a quote an article i recently read at Gush Shalom. written by a man named Uri Avnery. he is an israeli author and activist. this article is not only well worth a read (when you have 6 minutes), it is not only a good historical vision, it is an essential element in the re-creation of understanding and peace in this dangerous world that has been fabricated and manipulated by politics in the interest of capitalism, where there is no longer any consideration for the value of human life nor the suffering of human beings. enjoy.

Since the days when Roman emperors threw Christians to the lions, the relations between the emperors and the heads of the church have undergone many changes.

Constantine the Great, who became emperor in the year 306 - exactly 1700 years ago - encouraged the practice of Christianity in the empire, which included Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title of Pope, demanded that the emperor accept his superiority.

The struggle between the emperors and the popes played a central role in European history and divided the peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some emperors dismissed or expelled a pope, some popes dismissed or excommunicated an emperor. One of the emperors, Henry IV, "walked to Canossa", standing for three days barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope's castle, until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication.

But there were times when emperors and popes lived in peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a worldwide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "clash of civilizations".

In his lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah.

As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an Israeli living near the fault-line of this "war of civilizations".

In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the Prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul?

To support his case, the Pope quoted - of all people - a Byzantine emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had - or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt) - with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

These words give rise to three questions: (a) Why did the Emperor say them? (b) Are they true? (c) Why did the present Pope quote them?

When Manuel II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.

At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube. They had conquered Bulgaria and the north of Greece, and had twice defeated relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern Empire. On 29 May 1453, only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul), fell to the Turks, putting an end to the empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years.

During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics.

In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.

Is there any truth in Manuel's argument?

The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, Verse 256 (strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant Verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith."

How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down by the Prophet when he was at the beginning of his career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he ordered the use of the sword in the service of the faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur'an. True, Muhammad called for the use of the sword in his war against opposing tribes - Christian, Jewish and others - in Arabia, when he was building his state. But that was a political act, not a religious one; basically a fight for territory, not for the spreading of the faith.

Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: how did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?

Well, they just did not.

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.

True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favourites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

There no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?

What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics reconquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

Why? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.

Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.

The story about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.

Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?

There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "global war on terror" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.

The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences?

smelling of sulphur?

Tavis Smiley interviews Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on "his oil-for-poor program, U.S. foreign relations policy, his controversial anti-Bush comments and criticism of the United Nations."

pants on fire

for anyone who's interested in listening to carol off's interview with pervez musharraf, you can listen to it here. (real audio stream only, sorry).

also, in case anyone is interested, or is keeping track, Rice gets caught in her lies today by the pdf of the actual memo from Richard Clark that demonstrates contradiction about statements made about clinton and pakistan.

hewson and evans

somebody has wayyyy too much time on their hands.

Monday, September 25, 2006

castling

here is an extensive list of movies, with screenshots, over the past 100 years which feature chess. it's absolutely fascinating how extensive the game is in our culture.

o sole mio

In a country with a long history of corporate problems and financial issues, the inexpensive and flexible nature of open source software is gaining a lot of ground. "Two years ago, New Delhi said the best way to improve computer literacy in India was to adopt open source software in schools. Although Kerala is the first to introduce such a program statewide, 18 of India's 28 states either are using Linux or have pilot projects for its use in various government departments and schools. The education ministries in most states, and in Delhi the federal ministries of defense, transport, communication, and health, are all using the software on server computers.

why i love open source

i love the concept of open source technologies. i love it even more when its applied to non-software applications. in this case, prosthetics. it's unreal to know that "state of the art" prosthetics for upper torso's haven't really changed since the early 1900's. i'm glad to see some reform in this area.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

good luck hampster

richard hammond has just suffered a major brain injury from a car crash in which he was going at close to 300mph. sad news. he is best known for being a presenter on the BBC show, Top Gear.

somewhere over the rainbow

Violating the Human Rights of Kashmiris seems to be another thing that India and Pakistan have in common. From Human Rights Watch:

In Azad Kashmir, a region largely closed to international scrutiny until a devastating earthquake hit last year, the Pakistani government represses democratic freedoms, muzzles the press and practices routine torture, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Based on research in Azad Kashmir (which means “free Kashmir”) and Pakistan, the 71-page report, “‘With Friends Like These …’: Human Rights Violations in Azad Kashmir,” uncovers abuses by the Pakistani military, intelligence services and militant organizations.

“Although ‘azad’ means ‘free,’ the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Pakistani authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict controls on basic freedoms.”

thanks 3qd