While watching Zulu for about the bajillionith time, I was curious about the British military strength back in the 1800s worldwide. I did a quick search of Wikipedia and came across a list of all British military engagements over the centuries. One of them sort of stuck out, primarily due to the random name: The Pig War
San Juan island lays inbetween the US and Canada just up from Seattle. In 1859, an American farmer shot a roaming pig that was owned by an employee of the Hudson Bay Company. The farmer offered $10 in compensation, but the owner demanded $100.
And this led to military action.
US troops (including George Pickett of Pickett’s Charge fame) landed on the island, and British navy sent in ships. The US sent in more canons and the British prepared to deploy some Marines. The orders from the Canadian governor was to a British Rear Admiral was to “engage the American soldiers” but the Admiral refused.
“Two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig” would be foolish he is quoted as saying.
Troops from both sides occupied the islands, exchanging insults and occasionally swapping alcohol and other goods. When word got back to Washington and London the leaders were flabbergasted that something like this was about to go to military action. They agreed on binding arbitration which was eventually decided in favor of the US.
Now, 150 odd years later, we have China and Japan fighting over another silly little island, this time not about pigs but about oil. So as to avoid the braindead QQ puppets and Japanese nationalists who pummel any posting about the islands with moronic jingoistic claims, I’ll forgo delving into the underlying claims of either country. But I will point out that a British Rear Admiral at the time had more sense than any number of politicians to keep things sane and under control rather than risk a battle between two superpowers over something as silly as a tiny island. Sadly I don’t think the players in either country in today’s battles has half as much sense.
So what did I take?
Regular Glass / Sunglasses
Noise canceling headphones
$500HKD (cab fare home from airport)
$200USD (emergency money)
15′ MacBook Retina
Canon battery recharger
2 iPad Chargers
SIM card adapter
HSBC Bank key
Mini USB cable
Passport holder & Airline/Hotel cards
All of this fit into my backpack for the trip. There was also a ‘cable bag’ that went along in the suit case with plenty of other cables and whatnot that I wouldn’t need on the short flight (4.5 hours) to Tokyo.
As we near yet another Olympics, the old debate about how to rank Olympic Medals is likely to come up once again. I’ve written about it in 2008 and 2010, so probably best to do an update as we kick off the London Olympics in 2012.
Under the Olympic Charter, there is no “official” list of medals by countries. It is forbidden:
The IOC and the OCOG shall not draw up any global ranking per country. A roll of honour bearing the names of medal winners and those awarded diplomas in each event shall be established by the OCOG and the names of the medal winners shall be featured prominently and be on permanent display in the main stadium.
Since the games in Australia however, the press office started to issue “advisories” showing how nations were doing, and in these advisories the rankings were by the number of Gold medals first, followed by Silver, then by Bronze the so-called ‘Gold First’ standard. The United States media, and their counterparts in Canada, have consistently ranked medals in a different manner, the so called ‘Total Medals’ standard. In 2008, this led to a ‘split’ where the world’s media declared China the “Winner” of the 2008 games as they had the most Golds, but the US media also felt the US did the best as they had the most “total medals”. However, in 2010, Canada had the most Golds, followed by Germany, then the United States, which also had the most medals. This confused many in the European press as the official Olympic tally from the Vancouver Press office was listing in the ‘Total Medals’ format which showed Canada not have the best record.
At the close of the 2008 Olympics, IOC President Jacque Rogge said that the IOC had no position on which table is better.
“China has won the most gold medals and the United States of America won the most total,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said during a news conference Sunday. “I believe each country will highlight what suits it best. One country will say, ‘Gold medals.’ The other country will say, ‘The total tally counts.’ We take no position on that.”
So as we move into the London Olympics, I found it interesting to see the official ‘medal table’ on their website goes both ways. Those who want the Gold first standard can click the sort button by Golds, but those who prefer the Total medals count can sort by the totals.
We won’t likely see a determination as to what is better / worse in this Olympiad, but more and more voices are starting to complain the emphasis on “Gold” is neglecting the development of some athletes and sports in countries with limited resources to put forward for their Olympic team. Whether we see a further discussion about this after the Olympics remains to be seen. Maybe I’ll do another post when we get to 2014.
UPDATE: Through a little URL sniffing I found this English-sign up page.
More and more I’m hearing folks ask me how do you sign up for Weibo in English, so I thought I’d make a quick little guide with the help of my translator (i.e. wife).
The easiest way to do this is to download Google Chrome and get the translation extension that will translate, on the fly, any webpage. Now the English-Chinese translations are never quite perfect, in fact, they’re usually quite a bit worse than say English-Spanish or English-French, but you can get the general idea of what is going on through those plug-ins that will do the translation for you.
If you don’t have Google Chrome, here is what the first two pages say when you get started with Weibo.
Goto http://www.weibo.comClick the Blue button at the top right.
That will take you to the details screen, where you enter the details as follows. When you click the submit button at the end, you’ll get an activation notice saying that an email has been sent your email address. Click the link there and you should be good to go.
Now, as for who to follow, I’m creating a list of English-speaking Weibo users on another site. Will have that up shortly.
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air pollution in Hong Kong) isn’t quite the same experience I had as a boy growing up in rural Illinois. Now that my own children are starting to take an interest in outer space, the wonders of looking up at the night sky and point out objects is something lost for them due to the abundance of light radiating upwards from Hong Kong Island. The incredibly cool iPhone app “SkyView – Explore the Universe” which is an augmented reality astronomy program, doesn’t quite work that well when I have to point out “you see the blinking light on the Bank of China? Behind that is Venus”.
[caption id="attachment_3837" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="What happens when the power goes out."][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3841" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Follow this line to outer space."][/caption]
A classic scene from the must see movie October Sky comes at the beginning when the townspeople of tiny Coalwood, West Virginia step outside on the night Sputnik is flying by, looking up on the dark sky until they can see the fast moving speck of light heading across the night sky. With this observation (and hundreds if not thousands of others around the country) the space program was launched. I myself remember seeing the moon during the days of the Apollo program and saying to myself “Mission Control is in the moon”, my five-year-old self not knowing any better (and my older self much more disappointed to discover we did not already occupy the Moon). Does a child who has never seen the moon wonder similar thoughts? I wonder if the lack of seeing the stars will keep my sons from dreaming of visiting them one day. I wonder if the lack of stars present to most Americans as we see the new urbanization and suburbanization off the farms has started to diminish our support for sending people up into space. How do you drum up support to send probes or people to someplace most people cannot even see?
Beyond the technical implications of sending rockets into space, the other importance of a clear night sky is that there is something about the unpolluted night sky that actually helps ground a person a bit better. While I’ve spoken of looking up and dreaming of the stars and places yet unseen, there is also a sort of a epiphany others reach when seeing the vastness of the universe. That is that you, as an individual, really are not that important. Your life, your entire being, in a universe made up of billions and billions of stars and planets, well, quite frankly, is a bit unimpressive. This also means, however, that the problems and troubles that you face are also equally unimportant. Trouble at work, disagreements with friends, etc. — it’s of little importance overall, really. While the initial shock of your worthlessness might be rough to take, the resulting freedom from worrying about the other stuff is actually pretty liberating.
Those who have never really seen the stars have never really come to this realization. Some are actually frightened when they do see the sky for the first time. It’s a oft-quoted remark that during the Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles a decade ago a number of 911 emergency calls were made regarding “strange clouds of light up in the sky”. People were seeing the Milky Way for the first time and actually a bit concerned. That the ordinary person is now shocked to find out we live in a vast universe is distressing. I’ve yet to hear anyone on reality TV shows speak the wisdom of one who has seen the other spiral arm of the Milky Way.
Astronauts too have spoke of similar realizations when seeing the stars and the heavens. Here is a great interview from Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell on his return from the moon and many other Apollo astronauts have reached similar realizations.
We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned was about the Earth. The fact that just from the distance of the Moon you can put your thumb up and you can hide the Earth behind your thumb. Everything that you’ve ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself—all behind your thumb. And how insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy loving here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself.
— Jim Lovell, Apollo 8 & 13 astronaut, interview for the 2007 movie In the Shadow of the Moon.
It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong
If somebody’d said before the flight, “Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?” I would have say, “No, no way.” But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried.
— Alan Shepard