Fiat in USA! It's happened!


I just realized something amazing today, while being slightly less disappointed at something more amazing not taking place– I mean, I saw an ad for “Alfa Romeo Seattle” and got really excited only to discover Alfa is still not actually in the US. No, the Competizione 2C does not count! BUT– Fiat has apparently finally landed! Above is actual footage from the website where you can find out that a new Fiat 500 is base-priced at just $15,500. That is quite less than I was expecting, and that is very exciting. Now the real question is, when does the Abarth come to our shores?  🙂  Ok, ok, I’ll take a moment to be happy about what’s actually there now. All sorts of old-timers will be making fix-it-again-tony jokes, and an unfortunately large amount of people will think these are unreliable Italian cars of the early eighties. Hopefully, though, there will be enough of us excited to have something different than the usual malaise of Hondas and Toyotas plodding along our streets touting some otherworldly mileage figures and scoring zero for being a good, interesting car!

Also on the topic of Fiat getting to places, they’ve also brought this car to Kuwait recently. More on that later.



Bin Laden is killed! aka Obama captures Osama

Obama speaks:

Here’s a good replay of President Obama’s speech announcing the demise of Bin Laden.

[yframe url=’’%5D

It’s amazing to think this has actually happened. There’s some part of me, though, that wonders if it really did/ what if it didn’t? It’s ok, we’ll just go along with t he celebrations… the real thing is, so what? I somehow don’t see a world-wide reduction in terrorism all of a sudden. And as for the sorrow of the people who’ve lost someone / some part of their lives at the Twin Towers calamity, I don’t see any of their sadness abating either.

At any rate, if we’ve taken out a real mastermind planning the demise of countless others, well then this is a good thing.

Corruption 2010

As the year draws to a close, many lists will be made regarding bests and worst and how we have/not improved.
Here’s something I was thinking about while I was reading an article that mentioned how corrupt Iraq is– I wonder which way corruption is trending in more of the world? Unfortunately, I imagine more countries on the graphic below will be going from green towards red! Also, not surprisingly, our two major warzones Iraq and Afghanistan are two out of the top four most corrupt. This graphic is taken from Transparency International’s CPI (Corruption Perception Index) for 2010. The document contains the full listing and breakdown by continent and a map showing the distribution of corrupt countries.

[December 19, 2010]: I was looking through Foreign Policy magazine today and they had some revelations about corruption that came out of the Wikileaks leaked documents. Check out some of the astounding offenders.

Google Maps war? Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica

How did I miss this? Did you know this was going on in the past week?A war has broken out because of a Google Maps error!! Seriously!

Somewhat. I was amazed and not slightly cynical when I first came upon this story on Search Engine Land. But as most territorial disputes go, it’s not that simple. In this case, a Nicaraguan Commander Eden Pastora was quoted in La Nacion as using the discrepancy shown in the Google Map (correct boundaries shown by Bing) as a justification. But the key word there is “justification”– As in, this is a long, long running dispute, and this is just one kink in the chain:

Meanwhile in the last week or so, ccording to the Miami Herald, Nicaraguan troops have crossed into land that belongs to Costa Rica– who “claims that Nicaragua’s efforts to dredge the San Juan River, a Nicaraguan waterway that parallels the border between the two countries, has ‘flagrantly” crossed into Costa Rican territory.” They have further claimed that “the dredging has caused environmental damage,” saying that “Costa Rica is not trying to change the current delineation of the border, or to take over any part of the river that belongs exclusively to Nicaragua. “But that doesn’t mean that Costa Rica will allow Nicaragua to incur on its territory. … We will not accept unilateral changes of the boundary.” Further according to AP, “Nicaragua’s ambassador, Denis Moncada, said [Costa Rican foreign minister] Castro’s allegations were “out of line [and that] “Nicaragua will continue to exercise its sovereignty and defense, the cleanup of the San Juan River and the fight against drug trafficking on our border.”

Google has also put up their own response to the topic– basically saying that it’s the fault of the US Department of State, from whom they received the particular map. Meanwhile, really nicely put together is the Ogle (which is “Charting the effect of neogeographical tools like Google Earth on science and society”) post on the same topic. It presents the story using some older maps and mentions a very interesting point by Nicaragua’s President Ortega about how a border that is delineated by a river can be interpreted– is it always the course of the river, which can dwindle over time? Or is it the originally established boundary of the river, which can then become dry land still controlled by the original owners.
I’m voting for borders set by coordinate systems– but I guess the whole problem is that these things aren’t being set today, they were set by people who didn’t foresee such issues as rivers drying up, and we’re left to deal with the problems!  And this time we can’t even turn to satellite imagery for help!


Photoshop on front page: no one really notices, do they?

He’s walking in front; he’s walking behind; does it matter?
Well, Al-Ahram newspaper in Egypt certainly thinks so! For their recent front page spread, they didn’t want their country’s president to be lagging behind anyone else, so they made him lead the pack!

obviously not good enough!
original Reuters photo

Instead, an alternate reality:

click to enlarge
front page of Al Ahram

Quoted in an article on Al-Masry Alyoum, “Samy Abdel Aziz, dean of the faculty of mass communication at Cairo University, said the president’s perceived importance should not be affected by his position in a photo,  [since]  ‘Formal aspects do not add to realities.'”
Uhh–if it didn’t affect realities, why would anyone bother to change it? I need to have a word with Cairo University about what kind of people they have running their shops!

Hope you get to walk in front of someone today,

Sunni vs. Shia in Kuwait

Religious people have nothing better to do with their lives. Again. So some of them cause a stir, and others follow like sheep. In the end, there is problems between real people over non-real topics. Good job, guys.

Muslim Sunni Activists Seen Gathered In Kuwait’s Suburb Of Firdous Late Monday Evening To Condemn Disparaging Remarks Against The Wife Of The Prophet Mohammed (Arab Times.)

So there is a big debate going on in Kuwaiti parliament about what to do and the situation is divided on denominational lines.
Here is an article from Arab Times today.  Not good news in a country that seems to be slowly moving towards more conservatism.
What did this Yasser Al Habib say that has caused such a stir? [For background, Aisha is one of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, and has a very special place in Islamic history.] Here is an example from his blog. Personally, I find it almost charming that this agitation is from a “blogger”– a term that is not generally associated with radical religionists! Anyway, so this guy has said for example that

Aisha is certainly the enemy of Allah and His messenger (peace be upon him and his pure family). He said that she had committed uncountable heinous crimes against the religion of Islam and the Muslim people among which were: assassination of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) and rebellion against Imam Ali (peace be upon him).
In addition to her being happy after she was told of the martyrdom of Lady Fatima and Imam Ali (peace be upon them both). She continuously abused the mistress of all women, Lady Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her) until she caused her to cry, fired arrows at the coffin of Imam al-Hassan (peace be upon him), caused the killing of thirty-thousand of Muslims, fabricated Hadiths and accused the pure lady Maria the Coptic (peace be upon her) of lies and adultery, let alone the shameful practice of adult nursing which has blackened the history of Islam.

and further that based on several “proofs,” she is currently “now in hellfire, hanging by her legs and eating her own flesh.”
WOW. While not a huge religious scholar, years of religious study and I have never come across anything this crazy. I feel that if this were a generally held view at all, even in Shia circles, I would have heard SOMETHING of this. So, I’m going to go ahead and file this under “crazy.”
In the end, I can understand sidelining the idiots of the world, or the divisive of the world, but following them and allowing ourselves to be divided along lines of religious and ethnic contexts… well, it’s just typical of organizations which urge you to have “faith” and “believe” and “follow” as if these were all virtuous things.
Cheers to the awesomeness of religion.


PS. Also predictably, there is a Boycott Yasir Al-Habib Facebook group!

Google Images gets new look

In case you haven’t searched for an image today, Google Images has a new look! There are several differences, the major two being what shows on the inital search, and what shows when you click on the picture itself.

I like the first change. When you search for an image now, many more show up on the same page, with less gaps inbetween. While it looked a bit cleaner with the white-space, I’d rather have more efficiency per page when I’m trying to look something up quickly. When you hover on an image, it also blows it up just a bit larger, making it easier to see. Also along the same easier-to-see-more lines, the pages now scroll from one “page” to another– which, of course leaves it no longer as a page, but instead views the whole thing like one continuous webpage. Why even bother leaving a page number if it’s just going to be one continous list of images going down?

The second change on the other hand…I just don’t quite get! When you click on the image of your choice, previously it would open up the website containing the image and have a bar above which you could see the image in thumbnail form. Then you could blow it up. But now, the “thumbnail” is at a much higher resolution– something like 500 x 600 or so, pasted on top of the site. Here’s the kicker, though–after it loads this too-large thumbnail, the image then GOES BLURRY!! Now this is completely  and entirely confounding to me. Why–after already loading a clear image–would you have it go blurry?

At this point you have the option of clicking to see the full-size image or pressing the “X” button to reveal the webpage behind the image. But seriously–blurry? AFTER spending the time to load? Not cool.

So there it is. I’m sure many people will complain, and then eventually everyone will likely get used to it and accept the new look for what it is! At this point I’m complaining–a little bit.


EDIT: So it seems this blurring phenomenon was temporary. I have no idea why it was happening here, but I tried multiple computers and it was all the same. I did notice that when I was trying this, the new images format had not yet been launched for, so maybe that had something to do with it. So that’s a big improvement. Still, the popup is a bit clunky.

Fire in Mangaf!

Last night we went to the scene of a fire before the firefighters.

Actually, we were driving around and Virginia looks up through the sunroof and says “the sky looks really…misty today.”  Sure enough, as we go around the circle and come towards the  gas station we realize that the building beyond it is on fire!  Smartly, the station workers did a precautionary shutdown of the place.

It seems something in the kitchen of Al Bustan Al Turki restaurant must have caught on fire, as the flames were visible in the equipment outside, and the smoke was shooting up the exhaust vent at the top of the building. It was all brought under control quite quickly, though; but what’s amazing is that the people in the building never evacuated! Instead, they peered down from their windows at the fire /commotion below!

Update:  Drove by there tonight (Mar 15) and their sign was lit up, so maybe they are already running again?