31-07-04

HP Photosmart R707. Heh.

 
(link opens new window with original photo -- 846kB)

Finally. The HP Photosmart R707 is ours; buying a digital camera had been in my head for months. As well as the obligatory photoblog of course. Flex Flint's Photoblog will try to tickle your eyes with some newbee experiments.

Some notes and details about the camera will follow, for now we're going to pour ourselves a nice Quinta de Bons-Ventos 2003 (Good Winds?) and enjoy a the rest of what was already a veruy enjoyable summer evening night. We wish you the same!

Hmm, I seem to have cropped this one a little too much, it lost uhm ... quite some pixels. Ah well, he who dares not ... .

23:54 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (7) |  Facebook |

30-07-04

Belgium: explosion kills 14, wounds 60

CNN is reporting 10 (correction, they've changed it into 14 now) dead in an explosion of an underground gasline south of Brussels. National radio is reporting 14 dead, the De Morgen newspaper (see under 'Gasexplosie Gellingen', they don't like being hyperlinked) also reports 60 wounded. Gazet van Antwerpen has more. The images on screen look dramatic, let us hope that flame is not the gas itself that keeps burning.

At this moment, everyone seems to be sure the fire originated due to the gasline being punctured during works.

The location of the accident is not as close to Brussels as CNN would like you to think, here's a map ('Ghislenghien' is the French name for the village, as opposed to the Dutch one).

Update: BBC-link. On a further note, this may not be terrorism but it may turn out as a test to see how well firefighters, ambulances and other local authorities can react to possible threats or major incidents. There has already been more than one medic saying they were too late on the location of the accident.

Update2: De Morgen now reports 100 wounded, of which 24 are seriously injured. All 14 casualties were firefighters.

Update3: national television is reporting 15 dead now. The army has been called upon. The fire seems to be under control, but in a wide area all cars and factories are completely destroyed.

Update4, 13:29 CET local time: 'Fase 3' of the civil emergencies plan was already announced in the morning, which meant the provincial governor is put in charge. France is also standing ready to help out or is already helping. A central phonenumber has now been announced on television (please contact local embassies, putting this number up on a blog would most probably attract unwelcome callers).

Update5: you may be wondering why there were no earlier reports on all of this. Personally, I must admit to be more up-to-date on international affairs as opposed to national ones. First report I saw was at about noon today, 11.00 AM GMT, and the De Morgen site, which has a relatively fast telex-system (in relation to other Belgium services), shows its first message at 11.48 AM GMT. More interestingly, most of the newschannels, including BBC, say the explosion occured somewhere between 7.00 and 7.30 AM, or 8.00 and 8.30 AM local time, while Fluxys, the owner of the pipeline says it occured at about 9.00 AM local time,  half an hour later after they were informed about the leak itself:

Incident te Ghislenghien
Deze ochtend omstreeks 8u30 heeft de dienst 100 de maatschappij Fluxys op de hoogte gebracht van een lek op de aardgastransportleiding tussen Zeebrugge en de Franse grens. Een halfuur later volgde een ontploffing. Het incident vond plaats te Ghislenghien in een nieuwe industriezone.
[italics mine, this is the part that says 'half an hour later']

Update6: national television has put up aerial videoshoots of the place where the leak and the subsequent explosion took place,  together with eyewitness reports (you will not immediately arrive on the right page, first locate the text 'Ga verder' on the bottom of the page and click it). Until now, they are the only ones who have reported the number of 15 dead. Some sort of electrical powerplant seems to have been located as close as 10 meters to the leak.

Update7: private television channel VTM also reports 15 dead, together with 200 wounded of which 24 seriously burned. Several sources appear to say the list of casualties will go up, which wouldn't be surprising considering the area that was affected due to the air displacement and the heat radiation (said to be 500 meters wide, reports even mention truckdrivers, on a nearby highway, with  severe burns). De Morgen now reports medical and technical assistance is coming from France, among which 5 doctors.

Update8: national television VRT reported half an hour ago that the situation was under control. Fires on the ground have been put out and there is no more danger for the people working there. The same VRT also changed the number of victims back to 14 on their site.  Reuters has raw footage (probably the aerial shoot mentioned before, uncut). More news is expected around 17.00PM GMT, the time that Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt is expected to return from his holiday to arrive at the scene.

Update9: ... count has been brought back to 10 dead, 97 wounded, of whom about 40 are severely injured. Who said anything about the credibility of tradtional media changing facts 10 times in a timespan of less than 10 hours?

Pope John-Paul II and Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende have sent their condolences.

According to this article, aid was received from medical services as far as Lille (North of France). A total of 61 ambulances, 10 MUG's (Mobile Urgency Units), 4 French helicopters, 6 Belgian army helicopters and 1 private helicopter took part in the operation. They served 5 intervention teams, 1 medical post, and 1 command post.

Update10: this is turning into a lesson on how to read "classical media". The link in the previous update pointed to an article mentioning new numbers in casualties. Guess what? They've changed it again, without any mention of correction whatsoever, not even the URL was changed. This blog is going to let the established media cook in its own fat for a while, I'll start a new post later. (Six o'clock VRT television news at this moment is starting out with "at least 15" casualties again, where they too changed their numbers a few times during the day. An anchor on scene mentions "at least 10" five minutes later. Duh.)

Update11, 23.55PM GMT: a few final notes before the end of a moving day, next week the regular dayjob starts again and it's still a nice summer evening outside.

Casualty figures still keep going up and down. Are they that important? For future reference they might very well be. The images taken after the explosion are very intriguing (Via Ine over at Monuments. The site has most of the pictures that you will find on other sites. They're copyrighted but those are the only ones that will give you an overall view of the situation on the ground. Much of what was sent out today was either unclear, blurry, or simply for people feeling comfortable when tunnelviewing things).

Did you know these distribution lines run in pairs? They are burried just 1 meter under the surface, and are running parallel to each other with a distance of only seven meters between them (see this picture for example, the black line on the left is the tube that was still active when the first had already blown up, according to Fluxys' spokeswoman. It was only later that it was shut down as well). The pressure inside is 80 times more than the outside atmospheric pressure, 80bar or 80atm. Contrary to polular belief, the 'gas' inside is in a liquid state. One can only imagine what must have happened on those very few minutes. Notice the patterns in the fields too, as if this highly flammable liquid was sprayed up in the sky, only to fall down in a blaze and scorch the earth beneath it.

According to medicals specialised in treating severely burned victims, a lot of the people wounded have burns on the backs of their bodies, as if they were warned and were trying to run away.

Why all these numbers, all these details? Again, are they important?

It seems clear enough this was not a terrorist attack, but with one of Al Qaeda's own little friends purportedly sending out messages against Europe today, would it have been unimaginable? Luck sometimes comes in strange ways.


12:46 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (2) |  Facebook |

13-07-04

Targeted advertising, I love it

Imagine yourself driving home from work in your car, when suddenly you see this billboard:

At first your mind sees it but can't really comprehend it, but after driving by for the 5th time or so you sort of memorised the thing and you start puzzling when you come home. Never mind the puzzling (believe me, it really is a puzzle once you get started on it), you'll see what the purpose of this thing actually is:

- The billboard wants you to go and have a look at a website, of which the adress is obviously ending with '.com'.

- The trick is to know what should come before the '.com'-part.

- The text in between the brackets, saying "first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e" translates into something like the following: 'e' is a universal mathematical number, resembling the number 'Pi', in that it consists of a long row of decimal digits (see here for 'Pi' or here for 'e'). In short, 'e' is also a long string of digits, where you can find this "first 10-digit prime" that is mentioned on the billboard. How?

- By looking for them of course, there's a whole list of them. Kidding. There is actually a list, but I suggest you go take a look and then come back here.

- See? Smart people, unlike myself, know programming languages that can search this "first prime" for you, and they tell us it is this one: 7427466391. Inserting our solution in the brackets, we get "7427466391.com", resulting in this link: nice eh?

- Well not so because now someone is demanding you to figure out what the fifth number is they are looking for in their row (where the previously found number is also in). You can do this by being mathematically very smart, or by looking it up in spiffy calculators like these. Just insert the four numbers you already have and you get this spitted out: "Numbers formed from 10 consecutive digits of e whose digital sums are 49." Not that it matters (did you notice there are already some links related to this story?), but personally I don't think anyone without programming knowledge or a brain that takes quizzes very evening would have noticed this.

- Anyway, we're in, as they say. Insert the login and password on the Linux page (wonder if this mutual endorsement is a stab in the back for Microsoft; Bill Gates got thrown of a most-powerful-100-list somewhere --by the guys from Google amongst others, and now this ...) and you come to this page (or this one, the ".com" one was already down a few moments ago).

"Yes, and what know?" you ask. You simply send your resume to Google, and wait for mail to come in, asking you to come and tell them how much you want to earn. That's it.

More links concerning this whole story: HispaLibertas got me surfing (and most probably ruined my holiday tomorrow morning) , ZDNet has seen things too and calls it a "trap" (well maybe, for geeky people), and here's where a lot of people were sweating hard to help us out.

This kind of (very!) targeted advertising has been done before, but I think Google got way further in it this time. A company that can make people scream out "Thank you for the inspiration!" can count on their clients' support for a very long time.

05:15 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (4) |  Facebook |

12-07-04

List of European inventors

Eugene over at The Volokh Conspiracy is putting together a list of European inventors. As I was noticing Mr. Mercator, I saw him sitting in this list quite alone and solitary --him being the only one who had a map to get there in the first place probably (sorry ...), so I took the liberty to mail some other Belgians to Mr. Volokh. Here's my list:

* Adolphe Sax, the man who invented the instrument with the same name.

* Leo Bakeland, a Belgian-born American responsible for the discovery of "Bakelite" , the first artificial "plastic".

* Andreas Vesalius, ringing in the start of modern Human Anatomy.

* Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, inventor of the internal-combustion engine (better known as "a car" in our days).

Some more inventors (Belgians at least) here and here.

If any of my five local readers (pun intended) is able to come up with some more names, don't hold yourselves back I'd say ... .  However, do take into account Eugene's criteria as mentioned in his post.

22:58 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (7) |  Facebook |

06-07-04

Ze powerz are shifting

Via the Insty, this Washington Times article about hope for better Trans-Atlantic relations, and maybe a warning to the Europeans. Our very own Prime Minister is in their as well:

Prodi was a center-left critic of the Iraq war, always ready to give discreet backing to the French sniping at President George W. Bush. His departure, and the dramatic failure of the French and Germans to replace him with the even more outspokenly anti-American Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt, is good news for all friends of the Atlantic alliance.

Verhofstadt was vetoed by Tony Blair, with the steady support of the Poles, Italians, Danes and others. This was a decisive rebuff to the Franco-German axis that has for so long dominated EU affairs. Verhofstadt's call for the EU to be "emancipated" from American influence sank his candidacy.

Verhofstadt actually likes to be known as an "Atlanticist", although he did turn his wagon in latest years and turned Belgium into "a mouse that roared". One down, many more to come.

The EU's eight new member states from Central and Eastern Europe, who still feel the heavy legacy and the enduring shadow of 40 years under Soviet dominance, have no intention of playing the French game. They understand clearly that their national security in the future will be far more secure with NATO and a continuing American military presence in Europe than with some French-devised security system that will be long on rhetoric and woefully short on performance.

Indeed, "Where iz ... euh ... ze meat Jaques? Ze meat?" Apparently, hat tip Oxblog, it's in Afghanistan (WaPo, requires subscription, but it's worth the trouble):

Yet, even if the Europeans were more enthusiastic, they might have little to contribute. Germany, the largest country in the European Union, has 270,000 soldiers in its army -- yet its commanders maintain that no more than about 10,000 can be deployed at any one time. No matter the politics, the German Parliament is unlikely to authorize an increase in the current ceiling of 2,300 troops for Afghanistan. And Germany is the largest contributor to the NATO operation -- France, which has never liked the idea of NATO operations outside of Europe, has only 800 soldiers there.

What are those terrorists waiting for? Come in any time, there isn't much to fear anyway. But hold your horses, until we're ready for you that is. Because we really are working on things. You know, doing some planning and such. Gawain over at Fainting in Coyles has an interesting link to a study called "A European Defence Strategy":

Although Anglo-French nuclear forces have no formal ESDP role [European Security and Defense Policy] they afford a de facto extended deterrence to all EU and NATO partners, even though neither London nor Paris would be willing to admit as much.

I didn't notice:

France is to enact a historic shift in military strategy by targeting its nuclear missiles on "rogue states" that have weapons of mass destruction, it was reported yesterday.

In the longer term, the strategy will "take into account" China as a potential threat, according to the newspaper Libération. It said the new doctrine - the fruit of several years of reflection by the defence ministry, will be announced in the next few weeks.

Those poor Chinese ... .


12:49 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

04-07-04

Saddam in court: Iranians want in too

Now Iran also wants to pitch in; they are wondering why their charges shouldn't be submitted:

The charges - to be submitted to the Iraqi court which is trying the ousted leader - include the 1980 attack on Iran and the use of chemical weapons.

Jay Tea over at Wizbangblog started a discussion on the possible legal issues that the Iraqi court will face when trying Saddam and his cronies. (Let's face it, the "Brussels Liberation Act" --see also Universal Jurisdiction Rejection Act-- wasn't a very good example of how international law can be applied. Let's just say it was more of a bad example of "diplomatic spielerei")

Here's where you can find BBC's Q&A for an overall view of the trial.

And better late than never: Happy Fourth of July to my American readers!

Additional: forgot these: HispaLibertas links to a column by Jude Wanniski, titled "Saddam Suddenly Looks Innocent; Memo to John Ashcroft":

I wonder if you have evidence that Saddam ordered the Iraqi state or local police to “torture and rape,” or might he also insist as Mr. Bush has that he was at the tippy top of the national government and if he had known what excesses were committed by local cops, he would have put a stop to it.

If you read the article you will soon get the impression Jude is having too many marbles running around upstairs --Wanniski is supposed to be a member of the right wing camp but uses a style that resembles almost like the Undymediagang, especially when he dishes the chemical attacks on the Kurds completely-- but he does have a few points. Food for thought.

Oh, and one extra for Independence Day: Newsmax has put up Ronald Reagan's 1981 speech.

22:24 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (1) |  Facebook |

01-07-04

What we didn't know

... was that things got fairly hot on the Iran-Iraqi border last year:

LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - Britain confirmed a report on Wednesday that it faced a diplomatic standoff last year with Iran after Iranian forces crossed the border into Iraq, but denied it had been brought to the brink of war.

Defence industry newsletter Defence Analysis said Britain was ordered by Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. general in Baghdad, to draw up plans to fight Iranian troops after Revolutionary Guards began "digging in" in Iraqi territory in mid-2003.

Close encounters which could have had severe consequences? Maybe. This article goes a little bit further:

An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.

"If we had attacked the Iranian positions, all hell would have broken loose," a defence source said yesterday.

"We would have had the Iranians to our front and the Iraqi insurgents picking us off at the rear."

No matter how speculative these two articles are (despite the mention of a seemingly more detailed article in Defense Analysis, there are a lot of unknowns in both of them), the danger does seem to lurk on the Eastern horizon:

The Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, monitored in Beirut, reports Iran has massed four battalions at the border.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted "reliable Iraqi sources" as saying, "Iran moved part of its regular military forces towards the Iraqi border in the southern sector at a time its military intelligence agents were operating inside Iraqi territory."

In light of this, it wouldn't be a bad idea to press Europe to allow Turkye in their ranks, as to provide a more solid buffer in the North (see President Bush's comments this week), and to keep a close eye on the House of Saud, crumbling monarchy as it is.

[Note: an early posting yes, didn't catch a wink all night; probably something to do with a nearly full moon ...]


05:46 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |