January 13, 2011

Offensensitivity, the Canadian disease

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 14:46

Banned on the radio in Canada, but still (for the moment) legal on the internet:

Update, 14 January: I’ve been informed that this video isn’t playing for some, and it’s not working for me now either. I guess it’s another one of those content licensing issues. So I guess I’ll have to make this change:

Banned on the radio in Canada, but still (for the moment) legal on the internet. Banned on the radio in Canada, AND on the internet.

More updates from Brisbane

Filed under: Australia, Environment — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:09

Roger Henry is thankfully out of the worst of the flooded area, but he’s been sending updates:

Most of the “Southbank” recreation area has been inundated, including the ‘beach’. Shouldn’t be much of a recovery problem once the mud has been hosed off. Don’t know about the maritime museum. I imagine that the old graving dock would have flooded, but the last pictures I saw of the ship was that the bottom was sealed — maybe not sound, but it should resist a short immersion — and she was moored fore and aft. Thus I doubt if she has gone off.

The river ferries, cross-river and the cats were all moved down into Moreton Bay and secured in a marina somewhere. The pontoons, bridges, sheds etc, have been largely washed away and may take some time to replace. The Moggil vehicle ferry, a quite large vessel, was saved after a chopper was used to fly in an extra anchor. Otherwise, the military had orders to sink her.

Literally hundreds of small, and not so small, boats and pontoons washed down the river. One guy had his fore-sail up to try and get some steerage and was heading downstream at a fair clip. Don’t know how he fared, A large, floating restaurant was wrecked against a bridge piling.

A salvage firm has been doing a brisk business herding up all these wayward vessels and parking them where best they can.

Police have also caught a few thieves trying to do some ‘salvage’. One guy had winched a pontoon and speed boat on to a trailer when intercepted by the cops. They confiscated everything as ‘evidence’, gave him a summons and told him to walk home.

There has been some looting in Ipswich. The Mayor said that if they could find a lamppost that wasn’t submerged it should be put to its alternative use. Alternatively, if someone caught a looter and tied them to a tree as a flood gauge then he, the Mayor, wouldn’t be fussed.

Don’t know about the rail museum. The flood height was about three feet lower than estimated so it may have been spared. The local station had at least four foot of water in it. The platforms were covered.

The situation remains dire and there have been a couple more drownings. Otherwise it is now a waiting game. Went shopping today. A few empty shelves in the supermarket but still plenty of essentials. Stocked up on a few necessarys. Traffic was a bit thin and the nearby freeway sounded very quiet. Plenty of cars moving around but not many trucks. About one third of the small merchants in the shopping mall were closed. Probably couldn’t get their staff in.

Interesting pictures of our previous Prime Minister walking around the streets of his neighbourhoood. Up to his knees in flood water and helping people move. He was still at it after the cameras left. Very democratic.

And a further update about eight hours later:

Water levels, though high, are dropping and the weather remains fine. A clean-up plan is afoot, to start at first light tomorrow and proceed progressively until the water is out of the city. This just gets roads, power, phones etc. back on line. Individual houses and businesses will be addressed as time goes by. It all sound sensible and is really the outcome of some long considered disaster recovery planning.

I did go to another supermarket this afternoon. One would think that looters had been in. No bottled water, milk, eggs, bread, long-life milk and coffee mate, toilet paper or veges. Plenty of soft-drinks, frozen foods, meat,. Ice creams deli lines etc. All of which require refrigeration. There is now very little chance of further power cuts. It all seems a bit odd as supply routes are now re-opening and, for those not directly flooded, there is almost no need to hoard supplies.

Some of the towns and villages in the far west parts of the state are having problems both with supplies and the risk of more severe flooding. Some towns for the second or third time in almost as many weeks.

Some 62 suburbs are affected. Bulimba, which has some low-lying parts is largely underwater. TV has been showing extensive footage of the Brisbane area and there is no doubt some/many very sad stories. The most dramatic area is an agricultural valley about 70 miles to the west that was hit by very fast flash-floods. This is where most of the spectacular devastation occurred and where most of the deaths happened. There is now some 18 dead and 70+ almost certainly dead. Army, police and volunteers are searching about 200 miles of creeks and fields looking for the missing. Also the place where most of the terrifying personal stories are coming to light.

So, as a disaster, it has been awful for very many people, but I remain personally unaffected. That also feels quite odd. It is like there had been a tornado that flattened one side of town but left yours untouched.

Not the end times. Part of living near the tropics. Although the weather for the next week or so should be kind, there are two cyclones forming up in the Coral Sea and one of them is well placed to swing in to the coast and gives us a real pasting before the end of the month. Or it might drift over to New Zealand 🙂

USN considers decommissioning USS Enterprise

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:57

In the new atmosphere of austerity, the US Navy is having to look at economies, including the possibility of retiring the USS Enterprise:

Meanwhile, the navy is facing budget cuts, and growing costs for new ships. The first of the new Ford-class (CVN-21) aircraft carriers will go for at least $14 billion (this includes R&D for the entire CVN-21 class). The current Nimitz-class carriers cost $4.5 billion each. Both classes also require an air wing (48-50 fighters, plus airborne early-warning planes, electronic warfare aircraft, and anti-submarine helicopters), which costs another $3.5 billion. Thus the thinking is that smaller carriers will be cheaper to build and operate (smaller crews) and carry the same number of warplanes (because most of them will be smaller UAVs).

Meanwhile, the cash crunch is getting serious. So the navy also wants to decommission its oldest aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) three years early, in 2012. Originally, the Enterprise was going to stay in service until the USS Ford was ready in 2015. But changes in aircraft weaponry, namely smart bombs and targeting pods, have reduced the need for eleven carriers. The navy believes ten will get the job done. Plus, the Enterprise, as the world’s first nuclear powered carrier, will also be the first to be decommissioned. That will mean removing eight nuclear reactors. Unlike later nuclear carriers, which had only two reactors, the Enterprise was designed so that one reactor replaced one of the steam boilers of a non-nuclear power plant. The navy has decommissioned nuclear powered surface ships before, having retired nine nuclear powered cruisers in the 1990s. This was done because these ships were more expensive to operate and upgrade. So the costs and savings are known.

The Enterprise was an expensive design, and only one was built (instead of a class of six). While a bit longer than the later Nimitz class, it was lighter (92,000 tons displacement, versus 100,000 tons). The Enterprise was commissioned in 1961, almost 40 years after the Langley entered service (1923).

Beer incoming!

Filed under: Randomness, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:30

H/T to Lester Haines for the link.

Adobe finally gets the message

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:25

Ever wanted to delete all the tracking cookies that your browser collects? Most browsers provide ways to do that for ordinary cookies, but did nothing for the Flash cookies. Adobe seems to have heard the demands to fix this:

Adobe has finally fixed a privacy weakness that threatened users of its ubiquitous Flash Player: the software’s storing of cookie-like files that many websites used to track visitors’ behavior against their wishes.

So-called LSOs, or local shared objects, are useful for storing user preferences, such as the preferred sound volume when visiting YouTube, but the Flash feature comes with a dark side. Unscrupulous websites can use them to restore tracking cookies even after a user deliberately deletes them. Files that do this have come to be known as Flash cookies.

Now, developers at Adobe have worked with their counterparts at Mozilla and Google on a programming interface that allows LSOs to be deleted from within the settings panel of compliant browsers. The API, known as NPAPI ClearSiteData, has already been approved for implementation in Firefox. It will soon appear on the Google Chrome dev channel.

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