Archives: November 2003
Thu 27 Nov 2003
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
...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...)
Sun 23 Nov 2003
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.
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
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. :-)
Sat 22 Nov 2003
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
Fri 21 Nov 2003
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
Thu 20 Nov 2003
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.
Wed 19 Nov 2003
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
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!
Mon 17 Nov 2003
Game 3: Fritz crushed by Kasparov
Well, OK, that was depressing Sunday.
Kasparov 'obliterates' Fritz with strategy
"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!
Check out what might be happening!
A Libertarian Insurrection
Kevin Connors on Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing
An insurrection within the Libertarian Party is in the offing. A group of moderates, a sort of Libertarian version of the Democratic Leadership Council, made up principally of reformed Democrats and disaffected Republicans, is forming. Their intention is to wrest control of the Party from the 'tin-foil hat' crowd, and convert the LP into a viable alternative to the Republicrats.
This would be VERY welcome. With a few exceptions I tend to be economically very conservative but socially very liberal... where the Libertarians "live" on the expanded two dimentional political spectrum. But they tend to be very dogmatic and not very practical and do indeed come off as loons much of the time. Their general principles are absolutely right as far as I'm concerned, but because they know they have no chance of actually winning, they seems to be a lot of lock step to the ideological purity of the concept. Real life needs some concessions to reality.
If you can take the general ideals and concepts of the Libertarians, but attach some pragmatism and some connection to reality, they could be very compelling indeed.
I've voted Libertarian in the last two presidential elections, but I would feel MUCH better about it if a candidate came out of this "Reformed Libertarian" movement.
On the other hand, they do need to keep the overall perspective. If they just turned into clones of either the Republicans or democrats, they would become uninteresting.
September 2003 Top Ten!
The results of the email count for September, which were given to the participants a few weeks ago, have now been posted publicly.
September 2003 Top Ten
A couple people switching around this month! Rebecca and Chris swapped 3rd and 4th place, with Rebecca coming out on top this time. And then at the top spot, Al, having grabbed a win last time around, gets 1st place retaken by Brandy, with the two of them switching 1st and second place. Congratulations to Brandy for winning once again!
Thu 13 Nov 2003
Fritz Wins game 2!
Yea! Garry blundered and lost in time pressure. I am happy! More later...
Fritz Wins game 2!
Yea! Garry blundered and lost in time pressure. I am happy! More later...
Tue 11 Nov 2003
While I was away from home today, Brain passed away. It has just been a few weeks since his leg stopped working and the vet detected the tumor. And while Brandy and I have been medicating Brain every day, it didn't help. The tumor was visibly getting larger and larger each day the last week or two. Brain was getting around, but it was clearly getting more difficult for him. And he really didn't like his medicine. Spunky little guy resisting the medicine to the end.
Sigh. Poor little guy. :-(
I got Brain a week before Thanksgiving in 2001. Brain was a good bird, and I enjoyed having him around these last two years, and I know his cagemate Nacho did too. Nacho is a hearty old grandmother. She has outlived every cagemate she has had since I got her in 1998, and she was ALREADY a grandmother and two or three years old when I got her. Nacho did now know Kiwi, my second budgie, but shared cages at one time or another with Moira (my first budgie, who I found in the parking lot outside my apartment in February) and Pinky (who came with Brain, but passed in less than a week) and of course Brain. I think Brain was with Nacho longest. At first I'm not sure they liked each other, but after a while they were definately friends. They were a good old funny couple, the old grandmother gracefully putting up with the overactive teenager.
Brain was a good bird.
So goodbye Brain. We'll all miss you. :-(
Kasp v Fritz Game 1: Draw
It is a draw. I hate draws. NO FUN.
It was an exciting chess game to get there though.
Oh well. More thoughts later once I am home.
Kasp v Fritz Game 1: Draw
It is a draw. I hate draws. NO FUN.
It was an exciting chess game to get there though.
Oh well. More thoughts later once I am home.
I was on the first elevator of non-press up. Sat down in a choice seat just in time for the ESPN show to begin. It is hard to hear them because they are miked for TV not for the crowd.
Good chance I'll be visible when they do crowd shots though.
K has entered the room where they will play.
OK I'm ready for it to start.
Mon 10 Nov 2003
It is good news that the Supremes are hearing this. It will be awhile until it actually gets heard and a decision made, but at least it is something. Hopefully they will make the right decision... namely that of COURSE they should have access to civilian courts. There should be absolutley NOTHING that the executive branch does that in the end can't be at the very least appealed in the normal court system. Our entire system of government is based on checks and balances. To have any area at all where there is no check at all to executive power is extremely dangerous, and should not be allowed.
Supreme Court to Hear Guantanamo Appeals
(Anne Gearan, AP on Yahoo)
The Supreme Court will hear its first case arising from the government's anti-terrorism campaign following the Sept. 11 attacks, agreeing Monday to consider whether foreigners held at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba should have access to American courts.
Sat 08 Nov 2003
I am currently in Delaware, on the way south from my place to DC. Been on the road maybe 90 minutes. Twice in that time I have found myself following obviously drunk drivers. They were weaving dangerously between all three lanes of the highway. They were slowing down and speeding up randomly. They almost ran off the road a few times.
I just stayed back and kept my distance, but several people who passed them were almost hit as they went by and the drunk drivers swerved when they realized someone was near. This is not something you want to see. These people were clearly a menace to themselves, and everyone on the road.
As it was, I just hung back a few miles at a safe distance until these yahoos exited on their own. (One of them quite nearly took out the exit sign as they were leaving the highway.) But the longer they were in front of me the more I was tempted to call the cops on them. I probably should have.
But what is the "proper" course of action in this sort of situation? Call 911 on the cell? Or is in not enough of an emergency to do that? Or just wait for a safe moment and speed by the drunks as fast as possible to get around them and away from them? I guess that is the normal thing that people do. But I can't help but feel that when people are clearly endangering others, it is almost a duty to report them. Is 911 the way to go?
Anyway, stopping at the Deleware House for a little caffene and rest before continuing on to DC. Hopefully I won't encounter any more drunks this time around. I do this drive at this time of day and week fairly frequently, and have only seen such obviously impaired drivers a handful of times. But two in one night got my attention. I didn't call in, but I hope the cops got them. Or at the very least that they got home safely without killing or maiming anyone.
[Note: I originally wrote almost all of this on the Treo, but then hit the wrong button and erased everything I had written... so rather than do that on the thumboard again I hooked up the laptop for a few minutes. Also cool I guess. But not quite as much so as typing the whole post on the phone. :-)]
Thu 06 Nov 2003
Kasparov vs. the Computer (Again)
It seems like these are happening more and more often. Kasparov is playing one of the world's best computers at a chess tournament in NYC. I've been to at least one game of the last three of these tournaments I think. And watched most of the rest online. Since my schedule is pretty free now, I just signed up for all four games of this tournament. Tickets are free, first come first serve.
Kasparov vs. X3D Fritz
Now, I actually suck at chess, and don't understand most of what happens in these games. But watching them and the commentary surrounding them is fun and educational. But I must admit, I am mainly there to root for the computer. I think it is only a matter of time before the puny humans are routinely crushed, and hope to see the day that happens, and Kasp can't even eek out one win. We probably are not there yet, but soon perhaps. Soon...
I do have a couple beefs with how the computer teams have been run int he past though. Here they are:
#1) While the computer chooses its own moves, the TEAM of human programmers and handlers has always decided when to offer resignations and draws, and has decided if they shuld accept draw offers. This is just wrong. The computer should have to make these decisions itself. This is a part of the game, and if the computer is truely to be the one playing, humans should not be involved in ANY decisions.
#2) Even if the computer makes the decision, it should remember that it is a computer. It will see any mistakes immediately, and not make any obvious ones. The human can. Even the best human in the world. As a strategy to WIN the computer should NEVER resign, offer a draw, or accept a draw. It should force each game to conclude via the rules only. Checkmate, stalemate, draw by repeated poisition, 50 move rule or lack of time. (Or I suppose the human can resign.) First, this would give the human many more opportunities to make a mistake. A mistake the computer could take advantage of. Two, such a strategy would fluster the hell out of the human and anger him (especially Kasparov with his temper). That would make the human MORE likely to make a mistake. Third, in an extended draw sequence, the human is far more likely to get into time pressure, again increasing the chances of an error, or even running out of time. If the computer truly wants to win, it needs to fully take advantage of its strengths... which includes giving the human every possible opportunity to make a mistake. Finally, there are a lot of chess newcomers watching these things. And seeing draws accepted early in the game all the time does not really help to encourage the game in the mind of those people. These games are going to be televised on ESPN! Give the people a good show darn it!
Anyway, both of those tick me off. There is no reason for a computer player to EVER agree to end a game before it has to end. Give the humans chances to make stupid mistakes! Yes, this shows some lack of respect for the opponant. But screw it. Go for the jugular. Feed Kasp the rope and let him hang himself!
Mon 03 Nov 2003
Posted from Treo
I'm posting this from my new phone. Just because I can!
Changes for Sam
Just a quick update on Sam's life and situation. On September 17th, as I aluded to on this blog but did not talk about specifically, I was told that when the current round of reorganizations in my group was done my job would be eliminated as the group (Marketing) would no longer need to type of work I do (helping business groups analyze tech projects and work with both business and technical groups to develop requirements and get those projects built). I was told at that time to prepare myself and start looking for other possibilities.
I couldn't complain too much, because I'd been saying they should do that for a long time. The type of work I do, and the type of work the organization did and was interested in started to greatly diverge back in 2000 with a few management changes back then. I have not been a good "fit" with my organization since then, and have not been particularly happy in my position, aside from a few brief periods. It is now very much a true "Marketing" organization, and anybody who knows me could tell you right away I don't belong in Marketing. So this is in the long term good. I needed the kick in the pants to move on.
Well, it took them long enough, a month and a half, but today was the official day. I was called in and given my severance package, and am now officially "between positions". Based on my length of service, the severance will essentially be my full pay for just under five months. It could have been a bit better, but also could have been a bit worse. That will last me through March even if I am not frugal, longer if I am smart about excess expenses.
Over the last month I have been talking to various people I know about possible spots. The two that would have had me actually stay at the same company have both fallen through as of today. I am also speaking to two external companies who seem interested. If one of those works out, great. If not I'll be hitting my network of friends again, and the recruiters and job boards.
The current version of my resume is here. So if any of you are hiring for anything like this, or know of someone who is, especially within a 45 minute drive or so of Yardley, PA (northeast of Philly, near the New Jersey border) then please let me know!
Anyway, while I have been prepared for over a month, and all my stuff was packed up and taken home long ago, this still kind of sucks. But hey, it will be better in the long run I'm sure. But this in between part will be a bit annoying I'm sure. Either that, or a lot of fun. We shall see. :-)
I'm going to have a decent amount of free time, so if any of you want to come over and visit, or have lunch or dinner or drinks or anything like that, please give me a call or an email, I'd love to see you all.
Thanks everybody! Keep in touch!
Sat 01 Nov 2003
I miss the Math
Found this post this morning. Gotta love discussions of non-Euclidian geometries. I need to find a way to carve out some hours each week to play with fun math. It has been way too long.
In Euclidean geometry, the fifth axiom was: if there is a line on a plane, and a point on that plane which is not on that line, then there is exactly one line on that plane passing through that point which is parallel to the other line.
For a long time, it seemed to many as if that didn't need to be an axiom, and much effort went into trying to prove it using the other four axioms, all of which failed.
In the 19th century, some mathematicians decided to try a different approach. One can prove a statement is false by presuming it is true and showing that leads to a contradiction. (Or vice versa.) So what they hoped was that they could try to show that the fifth axiom didn't need to be an axiom by showing that every alternative statement of it led to a contradiction. If successful, that would mean it was tautological and thus didn't need to be axiomatic.
Of course, I'd spent a lot of time looking at various non-Euclidean geometries in the distant past... nothing really intense, but the basics... so nothing really NEW in the article for me, but it was good to see that kind of thing again. Makes me want to go do some 12-dimentional contour integration. :-)