Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sickening story from Guantánamo

The US atrocity called Guantánamo continues to give us new sickening stories.

Salon has the latest.

The forgotten kid of Guantánamo

A teenager captured in Afghanistan and shipped to the U.S. prison remained unknown to the world for five years. Now he's being tried as an adult.

It's the story of Mohammed Jawad, who is being tried at the moment. He was picked up while a juvenile, and have been kept prisoner ever since. Now he is facing trial as an adult, after having spent the last five years in Guantánamo. No one had heard about his existence, before now.

As so many others in Guantánamo, Mohammed Jawad has been declared an "unlawful enemy combatant", however the article makes clear that he was part of a militia, and should accordingly be a proper prisoner of war according to Geneva Conventions III, article 4. If the US wants to claim otherwise, Jawad should have been tried when captured, as stated in article 5:

Art 5. The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

Alternatively, Jawad should have been considered a criminal, and tried as such in Afghanistan - until this happens, he should be treated according to Geneva Conventions IV

Of all evil things that Bush and co. have done, I can think on none worse than creating the category "unlawful enemy combatant", claiming them outside the protection of the conventions. I have no doubt that this will come back and haunt us all.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Book Review: The Pragmatic Programmer

The Pragmatic Programmer - from journeyman to master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas (Addison-Wesley, 2000)

After having this book recommend several times, I got my work to buy it for the office. And I'm quite happy that I did that.

The goal of this book is to give programmers (or rather systems developers) a set if tips on how to become better, by becoming more pragmatic. In this, the book is quite successful.

When you've worked in the IT field for some years, as I have, you'll probably have heard most, or all, of the ideas before. Indeed, many of them are industry standards by now (e.g. using source control). Even so, it's good to have them all explained in one place, and it might remind people to actually do things the right way, instead of cutting corners, which will come back an haunt the project later.

If you're new to the field, I think this book is a must-read, especially if you're going to work in project-oriented environments (e.g. as a consultant). I'm certainly going to recommend that we get inexperienced new employees to read this book when they start.

Now, to the actual content of the book. It covers a lot of ground, not in depth, but well enough to give people a feel of the subject. The first two chapters ("A Pragmatic Philosophy" and "A Pragmatic Approach") explains the ideas and reasons behind being pragmatic, and how it applies to systems development. The next chapter ("The Basic Tools"), tells what tools are available and should be used. This is probably the most dated chapter, especially when it comes to the examples, but it's still possible to get the general idea.

Chapter 4 ("Pragmatic Paranoia") and 5 ("Bend, Or Break") deals with two areas where many people are too relaxed in my opinion: testing and coding defensively (ensuring valid input data etc.). I cannot recommend these two chapters too highly.

"While You Are Coding" explains how to code better, and (more importantly in my opinion) when and how to refactor. The last two chapters ("Before the Project" and "Pragmatic Projects") gives tips on how to set up and run projects in a pragmatic way.

There are of course tips that I disagree with, or which I would have put less emphasis on, and the book is obviously written before agile methods, like scrum, became widespread (though eXtreme Programming is mentioned). Still, even so, I can really recommend the book to everyone, novices and experienced developers alike.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Think of all the adventures ahead

Via Michael Jones, I came across this little thing.

create your own visited countries map

As you can see there, are huge areas of the world I haven't visited yet, including large parts of Europe. The later I hope to change a little this summer, but just think of all the adventures ahead of me...

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lazy linking

A few quick links to stuff that's worth reading:

The Accidental Blogger writes about Post Katrina Labor Exploitation (via Majikthise).

The 87th Skeptic's Circle is up over at Action Skeptics

Over at A Hoyden Around Town, they have the results up for the Femmostroppo Awards, 2007. Basically, it's an award for great feminist blogging.

It's a short linkfest this time, but real life is keeping me busy, and anyway, two of the are themselves link-collections, so you should have plenty to read.

Update: forgot to link to this.

Phil write about the birth of a supernova.

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Fossil linking frogs and salamanders might have been found

National Geographic News brings this interesting piece of news: "Frog-amander" Fossil May Be Amphibian Missing Link

It's an interesting find because it seems to be evidence that salamanders and frogs have ancestors in the same fossil group - this is not revolutionary news, since this was expected, but it's still nice to have such things verified.

The fossil is also interesting because it's pretty advanced considering how old it is.

A side note about the discovery of the find, is that the fossil was actually found back in the mid-90s, but were not really looked into until 2004.

According to the article, the study of the fossil should be in this week's Nature, but unfortunately I haven't been able to locate it, so I can't link to it.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Proving ID = Creationism

We all know this, but it's still worth repeating - Intelligent Design is the same as Creationism, it's just been cloaked in new therms. NSCE has put up a good video explaining how they showed just that in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Go watch the video over at Expelled Exposed, which is NCSE's site telling the real story behind the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, and the lies it tells.

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Evolution, devolution....

One of my friends was kind enough to send me a link to this article, and I thought I'd share it with the rest of you.

Researchers document rapid, dramatic 'reverse evolution' in the threespine stickleback fish

Adaptation coincides with the '60s cleanup of toxic pollution in Seattle's Lake Washington

It's an interesting case of evolution reverting itself, when living conditions changes.

Peichel and colleagues turned their gaze to the sticklebacks that live in Lake Washington, the largest of three major lakes in the Seattle area. Five decades ago, the lake was, quite literally, a cesspool, murky with an overgrowth of blue-green algae that thrived on the 20 million gallons of phosphorus-rich sewage pumped into its waters each day. Thanks to a $140 million cleanup effort in the mid-'60s — at the time considered the most costly pollution-control effort in the nation — today the lake and its waterfront are a pristine playground for boaters and billionaires.

It's precisely that cleanup effort that sparked the reverse evolution, Peichel and colleagues surmise. Back when the lake was polluted, the transparency of its water was low, affording a range of vision only about 30 inches deep. The tainted, mucky water provided the sticklebacks with an opaque blanket of security against predators such as cutthroat trout, and so the fish needed little bony armor to keep them from being eaten by the trout.

In 1968, after the cleanup was complete, the lake's transparency reached a depth of 10 feet. Today, the water's clarity approaches 25 feet. Lacking the cover of darkness they once enjoyed, over the past 40 years about half of Lake Washington sticklebacks have evolved to become fully armored, with bony plates protecting their bodies from head to tail. For example, in the late '60s, only 6 percent of sticklebacks in Lake Washington were completely plated. Today, 49 percent are fully plated and 35 percent are partially plated, with about half of their bodies shielded in bony armor. This rapid, dramatic adaptation is actually an example of evolution in reverse, because the normal evolutionary tendency for freshwater sticklebacks runs toward less armor plating, not more.

Of course, it's somewhat wrong to talk about reverse evolution, since the sticklebacks have undergone a evolutionary process - it's just that nature started to select for different aspects than it did when conditions were differently.

The findings have been published in Current Biology under the title Reverse Evolution of Armor Plates in the Threespine Stickleback by Kitano et al.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lazy linking

Even though the weather is really nice outside, I have been spending a little time reading stuff on the internet, and thought I'd share some of it.

Bjorn Lomborg Bibliography

Bjorn Lomborg, the "Skeptical Environmentalist " will go into high media rotation later this month with a sequel to his Copenhagen Consensus 2004 conference.

Hopefully this post will provide a resource for those curious about accuracy of his work, and the legitimacy of his conclusions.

Personally, I detest Lomborg. Not because of his message, which is simplistic and often quite wrong, but because of his blatant misuse of science, and dishonesty about other peoples' research and his own agenda. Always great to have an easy resource to link to.

Why We Sleep: The Temporal Organization of Recovery by Emmanuel Mignot (PLoS Biology)

Creation, Power and Violence - Blake Stacey writes about the real cases where people have been prosecuted over their beliefs regarding evolution. And it's not as Expelled tried to portrait it.

Antivaccinationist activism versus measles in the U.S.: Are the chickens coming home to roost? - Orac explains why antivaccinationists are dangerous.

The Case Against Intelligent Design - an interview with Kenneth Miller (via Ed)

Feminist speakers 'bridge' cultural boundaries

A panel of prominent feminist scholars spoke on issues of prejudice and struggle during “25 years after ‘This Bridge Called My Back,’” a special event put on by the Wismer Center for Gender and Diversity Studies in the Pigott Auditorium last Thursday.

“This Bridge Called My Back,” a book by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, was the centerpiece of the day’s event. First published in 1981, the book is a compilation of essays by feminist women of color who challenged traditional views of feminism and social change. In the book, authors present their unique struggles as women from different cultural backgrounds and upbringings, and make the inclusion of different viewpoints their central issue.

Given recent dust-ups in the feminist blogsphere, it sounds like this book is as relevant as ever.

A few inter-connected livejournal posts about men, feminism, privilege and a lot of other issues:
Don't Be That Guy, Thoughts on Men and Rape, My Tits. Mine., My turn in the can 'o worms..., and A Straight Geek Male's Guide to Interaction with Females. Also connected to these issues is this LA Times op-ed Men who explain things. (initial link via Sara).

Each and every one of these posts contains some good advice to how men should and shouldn't behave around women, but I find it really sad that it's necessary for people to write these things.

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