This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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November 2003
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Nice Trick

W doing this and pulling it off is actually very cool. It is a nice gesture, and shows some bravado and is just downright fun. The press notes below are very interesting to read….

How It All Went Down: Detailed Report Of Bush’s Secret Trip
Mike Allen’s [WASH POST] Private Notes on DrudgeReport

The event had been set up with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Paul Bremer, the chief civilian administrator. When the President arrived, the soldiers were still thinking those would be the speakers. General Sanchez said, “God bless you for all of your sacrifices,” and hurriedly introduced Ambassador Bremer. Bremer said he had Thanksgiving greetings from the President. But then Bremer, hamming it up, looked toward stage left and said, “Let’s see if we’ve got anyone more senior here.” Then the President came out and the room erupted even before he reached the stage, with soldiers standing on chairs, standing on tables to bark, hoot, yell and “Hoo-ah!” their approval.

It also caught my attention, because while I was driving from PA to MA Wednesday the news was breaking about the new Al Qaeda threat that the “countdown had begun”…

New Al Qaeda Kidnap Guide to Force Release of Detainees in US, Saudi, Yemeni Hands
DEBKAfile

…a message published over al Qaeda’s electronic channels and websites declared that the countdown has begun for the biggest operation ever carried out in the United States. “The big blow will fall very shortly. It will consist of a series of surprise attacks that will cut America off from communication with its armies in Muslim countries.” The reference is clearly to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest number, around 115,000 soldiers, is present in Iraq. Muslims living in the United States are urged to “take advantage of the short time left” to escape the country and harm’s way.

Talk about that had piped up on CNN in mid-afternoon, but they were mostly talking about turkey tips and if planes were delayed. I was yelling at the radio about why they weren’t talking about it. I couldn’t understand why that was not the lead story. I thought they should be talking to experts, etc. Certainly not about turkeys.

I also thought “Tell me where the president is!” has he changed his schedule. Have any events been canceled. Has he returned the the Whitehouse from Texas, does he suddenly have a “cold” (like Kennedy in the missle crisis). Etc. They were not talking about it at ALL!

A few hours later they finally talked about it a little more. Only a couple minutes though. Someone saying officials were downplaying it and saying not to worry about it that they had heard it all before and nothing happened.

Um, OK. Doesn’t make me feel better. But even if so, why is the press just taking that at face value and not doing some investigation??? It seemed like real news that was being ignored in favor of complete holiday fluff.

But one question was answered, they were not saying what the president’s reaction was and if his schedule was changed because he was ON HIS WAY TO FREAKIN BAGHDAD!

Which is still really cool. The whole lights out stealth thing and everything. I’ll give W this, he is good with the dramatic gesture.

And I guess this means he wasn’t all that worried about the “countdown”.

But still… it seems rather ominous… and officials HAVE said that there is increased chatter and all that, but they have decided not to increase the “official” alert level, but unofficially authorities have been told to ramp things up a bit. but they don’t want to put the country on alert everytime anybody puts out a statement like that if they don’t have direct knoweldge of a specific threat.

OK. I understand that. Makes sense.

But still “the countdown has begun” to the “biggest operation ever” etc does not leave one with warm and fuzzies.

Anyway, hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! :-)

(Edit: Also want to comment that when I went to write this entry early Friday I searched on Google News for references to the Al Qaeda “countdown has begun” memo and the ONLY thing I could find was the DEBKAfile entry… why is this?? CNN and Fox both mentioned it while I was driving Wednesday. They both downplayed it and gave very little attention to it, but they did talk about it. How can it not be referenced ANYWHERE other than DEBKAfile?? I was probably just seraching on the wrong things. Dunno. But you really would think that a threat like that would get a LITTLE more attention…)

Nice way to Impress our Friends

He made the Queen cry!!! Now, I fully understand the need for security, but this administartion really needs to learn something about humility and tact and respect for ones hosts when one is visiting somewhere. He went over and acted like he owned the place.

Ground Farce 1
Terry O’Hanlon in the Sunday Mirror

Royal officials are now in touch with the Queen’s insurers and Prime Minister Tony Blair to find out who will pick up the massive repair bill. Palace staff said they had never seen the Queen so angry as when she saw how her perfectly-mantained lawns had been churned up after being turned into helipads with three giant H landing markings for the Bush visit.

(via Fark)

Goodbye Eduard

I haven’t really kept up with Georgian politics since the USSR broke up, but I have a really strong memory in college of listening to the radio on the elevator on the way up to my library work-study job and hearing the news that Eduard Shevardnadze had resigned as Foreign Minister of the USSR. I remember being shaken by the news all that day. Shevardnadze leaving meant to me that things really were completely falling apart there. He had always seemed like one of the “good guys” in the Gorbachev government. It was a sad day that showed large changes coming. Eduard left to go be president of Georgia. Now that era is over too it seems.

Georgian Leader Signs Resignation Papers
AP on ABC News

Opposition Says Georgian Leader Signing Resignation Papers, Thousands of Opposition Supporters Gather

(via Google News)

AbulBlogRoll

I decided that since everybody else does, I’d add a “BlogRoll” sort of thing here. I was going to put it in a right hand column, but doing that looked like it would take more time, so I just went ahead and added it on the left. There are two sections:

Friends: Of the people on my annual top twenty email list (which I update monthly) those people who run their own sites get links. Right now that is Al, Rebecca and Ron. Some of the others in that top twenty currently used to have sites, but they are defunct now I gather. Oh well.

Visit Daily: This is just a list of places I seem to check daily or almost daily to see what is up. There are a bunch of other places on my bookmark list in my browser that I check fairly often, but the ones here are part of the normal routine. I’ve actually included a couple that were once part of my routine but I have sort of fallen out of, but want to go back to. I may add or remove places from here as my habits change. If anybody has some suggestions for other must read daily URLs, let me know. :-)

More Disturbing Trends

This is very disturbing. What are they thinking?

F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies
Eric Lichtblau, New York Times

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

(via Drudge Report)

Bush Speaks

OK, I think his approach has been ham handed and he has been incredibly stupid and courted danger rather than preventing it, and just generally going about everything wrong, but this *is* a good speech. I did not see it on TV, I’ve only read it. But in that context it is good and makes his points well. It is almost convincing!

Iraq Policy at Whitehall Palace
President George W. Bush, 19 Nov 2003, Whitehall, London

Since the liberation of Iraq, we have seen changes that could hardly have been imagined a year ago. A new Iraqi police force protects the people, instead of bullying them. More than 150 Iraqi newspapers are now in circulation, printing what they choose, not what they’re ordered. Schools are open with textbooks free of propaganda. Hospitals are functioning and are well-supplied. Iraq has a new currency, the first battalion of a new army, representative local governments, and a Governing Council with an aggressive timetable for national sovereignty. This is substantial progress. And much of it has proceeded faster than similar efforts in Germany and Japan after World War II.

(via Dean’s World)

Spim Spam

Just wanted to mention a little bit about IM Spam, which I hear is now being called “Spim”. Sometime in 2002 I got my first ever IM spam. For about a week I got a bunch. Then for a year I got none at all. Then, perhaps a month ago, I started getting them again. Lots. A bunch. Well, nothing like email spam, but maybe 10 a day. And they are much more annoying that email spam.

I have my IM client (iChat on OS X) set to ask me whenever someone not on my buddy list sends me an IM rather than just showing it to me. So at least I don’t see the actual messages. I think ONCE in that time over a year ago, in a week moment I actually looked at one… and egads… I accidentally clicked on it! So I know I am on their lists forever. But when I got none for such a long time, I was happy!

I of course block all addresses that seem like they might be spammers. Things like goodlinda5675t7823 or whatever. But of course they never reuse the same one anyway I’m sure (or do they, dunno, I’m blocking them). But I already accidentally blocked my sister once when she got a new screen name. She IMed me to tell me, I thought it was a spim and blocked her. Oops.

I am getting to the point though where I am seriously considering changing the setting to only allow IMs from people already on my buddy list. If they keep coming, I guess I’ll do that. But that sucks.

Sigh!

Four Down

Yesterday while at the chess game I got an email related to the last of the four job opportunities that popped up immediately when I started to talk to friends and coworkers about my upcoming lay off. I “interviewed well” but do not match their immediate needs. They will keep me in mind, but do not have anything for me now.

So none of these four panned out.

Now it is time to start hitting the job sites and recruiters I guess. Next week I will start up full search mode now that the direct networking is exausted for the moment. I’ll also probably open myself up to consulting based non-perminant positions. I may also start applying to some of those grad schools I was looking at last year. We shall see.

Sigh. Time for a long slog.

Match Over: Fritz ties Kasparov

Yawn. The last game was the least interesting of the bunch. Drawn quickly.

Kasparov vs X3D Fritz match finishes 2-2 after game four draw
Chessbase News

Game four ended in a draw and with it the X3D Man-Machine World Chess Championship match also ended in draw. X3D Fritz won game two, Kasparov won game three, and games one and four were drawn. Kasparov receives $175,000 for the result and also takes home the golden trophy. (Although since it drew the match X3D Fritz said it was going to store a virtual reality copy of the trophy for itself.)

As I said last time, the time has not yet come whent he machines completely dominate the humans. Maybe in a few more years.

One more more general comment on the match though. It is really nice of X3D to sponsor these things. But the whole 3D thing is BS. For being a third party looking at the game, the 2D board is much better. The 3D boards in all kinds of commercial chess games are there as gimmicks, but nobody would actually use them to play a game! That would be crazy! It is much harder to see what is going on.

Gary is being a real sport (despite his usual whining excuse making when he loses) in playing with the 3D board at all. It is clearly a disadvantage. I don’t see why anybody would ever want to play like that.

They need to work toward complete computer independance in these games. Let the computer use a real board and clock. Let it use a robot arm or something to move the pieces. And let it make its own decisions about draws and resignations. And oh yeah, give it all the opening book you want, but handlers shouldn’t have any influence game by game on which openings it uses.

It would be even cooler to turn the opening book off entirely. I gather right now that costs several hundered rating points if they do that. But eventually the machines hopefully will be good enough that they don’t need it and can come up with new opening theory of their own.

Anyway, it was a fun match. Thanks to Brandy for going to two of the four games with me.

I’ll be ready to go again next year if they do this again!

Game 3: Fritz crushed by Kasparov

Well, OK, that was depressing Sunday.

Kasparov ‘obliterates’ Fritz with strategy
New Scientist

“Almost from the start Fritz did not understand what was going on and just shuffled his pieces around aimlessly,” says Jonathan Schaeffer, in the computer science games group at the University of Alberta, Canada. “Kasparov won effortlessly without giving Fritz an opportunity to do anything.”

So, OK, I was dissapointed by Fritz’s meltdown. I wish it had done better. But since I had promised “more later” after the first two games, and never got around to it, let me write a couple things now.

I have been to three games this match, and to a few earlier matches. The biggest difference is that these are on ESPN2. And let me tell you, while it is cool for it to be on ESPN2 and all, it really diminishes the on-site experience. I might even be better off watching on TV and the Internet!

In the non-televised games the commentators got into a lot more detail and really talked about the positions and what was going on. I am not that great at chess, despite wishiing I was better, and with that I actually felt like I was LEARNING a lot in the process of the games, just by listening to the commentary. And there was a LOT of audience interaction. Q&A on things that were going on, etc. And because much of the croud were professional chess folks, sometimes one of them would join in the commentary for a bit in detail. “Oh, I see Susan Polgar in the front row, the world’s women’s chess champion… Susan, would you care to tell us what you think of this position?” And she (or whoever) would jump right in. All that sort of thing. It was very dynamic and free flowing and it was easy to LEARN.

The ESPN2 coverage kills most of that flavor. For one thing, mechanics… the room is set up for TV, not for the audience. Although they got it right for Game 2, for Game 1 and Game 3 the volume was set so that it was VERY hard to hear the people on stage, even sitting right near a speaker. And with this, plus the TV lights on the croud for the occational crowd shot on TV means that the croud never really settled down to pay attention. Everybody was doing their own personal analysis on their own boards and such, but at FULL VOLUME, so you couldn’t really hear the people on stage. Plus, the coverege itself was “dumbed down” for ESPN2. I mean, I am a beginner really, so some of it was still fine for me… but for a most of the time it was too basic even for me. They kept over and over talking about average times per moves and how many points of material had been lost and things like that, and about the board only in the highest level terms. Some of the real chessies in the audience I could hear getting really aggrivated about that “If you’ve played chess for more than a day this is not for you! They are trying to dumb it down to catch the people who flipped the channel hoping for football. As if they would convert and all of a sudden say ‘I’ve been wrong all these years! Forget football! Chess is the game for me!'” I tend to agree with this sentiment. Forget ESPN. Put this on PBS somewhere and do some real chess talk. I do like Ashley and Seriwan though. They are fun to watch. But they need to be allowed to really do their thing like they did in earlier matches, not the highly constrained ESPN format.

In game 3, after the first 90 minutes ESPN went to an update format. About once every 15 minutes, they gave a 2 minute quick recap and update of the game. No more continuous coverage. Maurice and Ashley a couple of times tried to switch to “lets do this for the croud here and do REAL CHESS” mode, but because of the volume and lights issues, and having to break back for TV frequently, they just couldn’t quite pull that off. I wish they had. That would have been better.

And of course the computer resigned. It would have been nice to see it play through, just for educational purposes if nothing else. And I still maintain that even in a losing position on the board, the computer should be programmed to try to make variations where the human is more likely to blunder and/or try to get them into time pressure to win those ways. There is no reason for a computer to ever accept an end of game other than by the rules that force it.

But regardless, the computer’s play in this game showed that we are still a few years from when the computers will completely dominate. I look forward to the day when the world’s best computer playing the world’s best human results in a game that looks like the worlds best human playing a child who just learned the rules for the first time. That will be the day!

Well, later today we’ll see if Fritz can still win or tie the match. I’m crossing my fingers!