Finished Pirates by David Mitchell. It's a popular history, covering piracy over the last few thousand years, up till the early twentieth century. It's a nice overview, with some interesting stories of the individual pirates. Debunks a few myths, like the female pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read; who were essentially communal prostitutes rather than the women successfully disguised as men (not too likely on a cramped sailing ship), though they did wear men's clothing for practicality. Mitchell does seem to accept that the pirate utopias, the communities set up in the Caribbean had a degree of truth, with the anarchy working quite successfully thanks to relatively small numbers and fairly abundant resources.
Article linked from slashdot about the new inspection gadgets to fix holes in the Space Shuttle.
It occurs to me that there's a kind of contradiction between two of the arguments that space enthusiasts tend to use. One argument is thanks to the Teflon effect, spin-offs from space travel boosts science and technology as a whole. Another argument is that for the benefit of the future, we need to invest in solving the problems of space flight now.
The thing is, the Teflon effect ought to work both ways. If space technology boosts everyday technology, things ought to work in reverse, so that new developments in everyday technology ought to make space travel easier. So, by that logic we can afford to wait a century or so until the spin-offs from our super-duper frying pans let us do it cheaply and easily.
So in a perverse way it's things like the Challenger and Colombia disasters that actually justify the space programme. They show that there are going to be practical problems that can only be overcome by working through them: you can't just sit and wait for technology to improve.
Well, the constitutional talks have failed. Seems like a good thing: behind all the details and sub-clauses and voting schemes lies a basic fact that people don't want the EU to exist as the vast, bureaucratic, undemocratic, command-and-control system that the Eurocrats want it to be.
In this diary I quoted an editorial pointing out that a "two-speed europe" is actually a pretty good idea. Keep the free-trade and free travel zone as it is; but let France, Germany and their allies unify themselves into the high-tax, high spending superstate that they want so much.
It seems like a sensible way of hedging Europe's bets. As globalisation continues and everyone's jobs are outsourced to India and China, nations perhaps too vast for the wage inflation we've seen in older Asian tigers to reduce their competitive advantage; it might well prove that huge state sectors will secure them a better standard of living than the Anglo-Saxon small-staters: in which case we can gradually join them. Or alternatively, things might just work the other way around.
We've really got to sort out CAP though, and the two-speed Europe concept might be the best way of doing that. Again, let the high-tax Europe subsidize its uncompetitive industries like agriculture, providing they're the ones who pay for it. If it works, they can have a jolly good gallic sneer at us a few decades down the line, we'll eat some humble pie and start reforming our economies to run like theirs.
Or if they happen to be wrong, I'm sure we can manage a few sneers ourselves...
CC hates the Jews: how a subtle bit of anti-semitism got sneaked into a flier. Nice proof-reading, guys. Thing is, I can see how it could happen. When you're in checking-things mode, you do tend to focus on the details: wouldn't be surprised if deep in concentration someone corrected several typos but the headline just didn't register.
Related: Microsoft issues a patch to remove clockwise and anti-clockwise swastikas from one of its symbol fonts. Here though, they're not saying if it was a mistake, or if they intended the swastikas to be used in countries like India and Japan where the ancient symbol has an innocuous meaning.
Interesting Deutsche Welle editorial on the US banning anti-war nations from reconstruction contracts:
Wolfowitz didn't do anything the now indignant and angry Europeans, who even threatened to invoke international trade law, would not do if put in the same position.Me
When Europeans hand out development aid, they usually require the recipient to do his shopping with them. "Old Europe" also sulked less than a year ago when the "new Europeans" in Warsaw used EU funds to buy U.S. planes.
Why should Washington do things differently in the case of Iraq? Especially since the money comes from American taxpayers...
When donor nations gathered in Madrid, Germany, France and Russia shone by holding back. The U.S. on the other hand took on two-thirds of the agreed upon $30 billion... So why are Europeans all of a sudden desperate to get a part of the action, which will overwhelmingly be paid for by the Americans?
Very tight deadlines on a project at work. Had a rather awkward meeting with the sub-contractors. They kept saying "we can't make this deadline", and our management kept saying "you've got to make the deadline". Have some sympathy since I'm more used to being on the other side of the table. Can't afford to look like a troublemaker and start telling the truth though. Our bits should be OK anyway.
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