Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pres. Sarkozy raids Tchad and saves the lives of French prisoners

No, that did not happen. But sometimes I wonder how our president plans his communication.
In the recent affair of "L'Arche de Zoé", a group of French citizens tried to kidnap children from Tchad under the pretense that these orphans (many of which actually have parents) needed to be saved. They are now detained by the local authorities.

Sarkozy has always condemned the action of "L'Arche de Zoé", and claimed that justice should be administered by Tchad, a sovereign country.

A few weeks ago, he went to Tchad and brought back a few journalists, flight attendants and a pilot. This went well with Tchad's president, but not so well with the justice system. Back in France, N. Sarkozy recently announced "I will fetch all those who are left in Tchad", which obviously contradicts his earlier announcements. I guess he was trying to please the families of French citizen still under arrest in Tchad, but he managed to anger an entire country. Being a former French colony, Tchad is upset that the former occupier intends to take care of the case. Cannot Tchad be trusted to judge the case and apply the sentence?

This behavior is unfortunately typical of our president. He is obsessed with appearing decisive and frank, whereas I believe he should give more importance to achieving his goals, which often requires having a low profile.

What is depressing is that this slip of the tongue was not visibly reported by the international media. Instead, newspapers keep spreading the image of an energetic leader, when a more critical reporting should be suggesting another image, that of a pretentious fool whose mistakes can have long-lasting consequences.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Conversation with Viviann

Viviann is the bot replacing customer support at
I got bored waiting for my electric stove to get warm, so I chatted a bit with Viviann.

Are we going to win the game on Saturday?
You have asked a question which is not in the database...
Do you know anything at all?
I don't know if I do.
Why are you smiling?
Unfortunately I don't know why, try to reformulate the question.
You aren't so smart, but you are pretty anyway
It is nice that you think I'm pretty!
Shall we meet?
You have asked a question which is not in the database...
What do you mean?
Unfortunately, I cannot put it more clearly.
That was not very nice
I don't understand what you mean.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


There is an ongoing controversy about the limits of freedom of speech in Sweden. Lars Vilks made a drawing of Mahomet as a "rondell"-dog, i.e. a statue of a dog used to decorate circular road crossings. Circular crossings are popular in Europe, I don't know about other parts of the World. About "rondell"-dogs, if you don't understand the concept, then we are two. As far as I know, we don't decorate "ronds points" in France with statues of dogs.

As you may have guessed, Muslims around the world are angry and burning Swedish flags. Now that I think about it, I can only think of one picture showing a session of flag-burning, so the correct sentence would probably be "20 Muslisms somewhere burnt a Swedish flag". Actually, the flag that got burnt was green with a yellow cross, when it should have been blue with a yellow cross. Maybe these guys are normally busy burning American and Danish flags, and they were out of blue paint.

One of the reason Swedish peaceful protesters gave for their protest was that it is written in the Koran that no representations of the Prophet shall be made. That such a representation was made hurt their feelings.

I don't understand that explanation, since hopefully Muslims in Sweden are tolerant enough to accept that non-Muslims do not follow the Koran.

Finally, I find it surprising that many Muslims are called after Mahomet the Prophet. Wouldn't that be a more serious offense than making a drawing of him?

There are no rules

I'm reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. It's taking me a long time to read because it sparks all kinds of reflections on the origin of the universe.
I think Man (or more likely Woman, Man was too busy hunting to think) came up with the idea of God as an explanation for its origin, and by extension, for the origin of the universe. The problem with this explanation is that we don't know what's responsible for God's existence. Really, it's not much of an "explanation".
But why do we assume there are explanations for everything?

Let's play a game. I give you sequences of 0 and 1, and you have to guess the rule I used to generate the sequence.


All these sequences can apparently be generated by more-or-less simple rules: "Only 0", "Only 1", "Alternate 0 and 1", "Read the sequence aloud and concatenate the result to the sequence".
But how do we know the unseen parts of these sequences (the dots) follow these rules? If I want you to lose the game, I can always add a 0 or a 1 to a sequence in such a way that your guess will turn out wrong.

Scientists look at the universe, the way you look at the sequences. They guess a rule that is consistent with the universe as observed so far, then check if the rule continues to apply. But how do we know the universe will continue to obey the rules?

The fact is that if you consider the set of all infinite sequences, there are sequences which follow rules, and sequences which do not follow rules. What's more, there are many, many, many more sequences that do not follow rules.

If we continue the analogy between universes and sequences, what are the odds we live in a universe that follows rules?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

French elections

We have now elected our next president. After 12 years of stagnation with a not-so-exciting Jacques Chirac, it was about time.
I voted for Bayrou during the first round, for Royal in the second. I can't really say I was thrilled by this last choice. I now wonder what Sarkozy is up to.
I hope his tough stand against crime (especially the crime committed by dark-skinned youngsters) was mostly talk to attract Le Pen's voters.
The majority of the media sounds excited about the new president. The news coverage here is Sweden was suprisingly high. At least it was much higher than the coverage of Swedish elections in the French media!
Will Sarkozy be able to get his reforms through? Previous unpopular attempts never made it past the street protests. This summer and this fall will decide the future of France. I expect Sarkozy will start cutting public spending, which will draw major protests from the public institutions. If transports are affected in any way, the country will be paralyzed. If the education is touched, students might go down to the streets (see protests against the CPE last year, a law allowing for increased job flexibility for young people).
At that point, I wonder how the rest of the people will react. Those who elected Sarkozy and have high hopes might not look too kindly upon these protests. We might actually have protests in favour of the president.
If I was in his shoes, I am not sure what I would do: Risk a confrontation with trade-unions now, or choose discussion?
The first alternative has a potentially strong positive outcome: brake the back of the powerful unions, allowing for long-needed reforms. If it fails, as it has always been the case so far, not even the smallest reform will go through, leading to more stagnation. The second option, more reasonable, may not achieve the quick results which the people is expecting.
If we look at the past, Chirac tried but failed to pass reforms. The difference today is that Sarkozy (who belongs to the same party) will benefit from a stronger popular support.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You gotta love them...

Politicians are just like that, "s'ils n'existaient pas, il faudrait les inventer" ("if they didn't exist, one should invent them").
Swedish highschool students were visiting the Swedish parliament. The newly elected leader of the social-democrat party (Mona Salin) decided to give a talk about marijuana. She explained marijuana was bad, then mentioned she had tried once in her youth. For those who might be worried she would soon turn into a junkie she reassuringly declared there was no such risk. You see, she just "tried once". In my opinion, telling youth it's ok to try drugs "just once" ranks high on the all-time stupidest things to do.
Just as if the visiting youth weren't fucked up enough already... When asked about a potential new law allowing the police to bug anyone without permission from a judge, a group of three students declared how enthusiastic they were about the law. Since they were honnest citizen, they didn't see any problem with the police being allowed to spy on them.

Unrelated to that, I received a mail from the French ambassy I was allowed to vote for the French presidential elections from here in Sweden. Considering I thought they had lost my registration papers, it's a pleasant surprise. Now I'll have to pay a little less attention to the absurdities coming out of Swedish politicians, and listen to the infinite wisdom (ahem) of French candidates.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What goes up must come down...

I got a high fever last Monday, which is unusual. I seldom get fever. I guess it does not hurt to have one now and then (well, rather "then" than "now"). It cuts appetites, which helps you get rid of fat without the hassle of training. It makes you see yellow, which is pretty cool. Kind of like x-ray or infrared vision superpower. I have not found a use for yellow vision yet, but I'm sure there must be some.

More seriously, I got pretty scared when I realized I was stuck alone at home with a body thermostat gone wild. Strangely, it was all gone the next day. Applying cold towels on my forehead made wonders to bring the temperature down from 40 to 38.7 degrees.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Macro mode

I discovered the macro mode on my camera...

Emperor - The Death of Kings -

A book by Conn Iggulden. It's the second by him I read after "The Mosaic of Shadows"... Wait a second... No, that one was written by Tom Harper. Funny, I had the impression the two books were written by the same person.
Anyway, I liked both. Now that I think of it, "The Death of Kings" lacks a central story, as opposed to "The Mosaic of Shadows". The former tells a part of Julius Caesar's life, mentioning several unrelated successive battles, while the latter is focused on one particular event, the siege of Byzantium by a "friendly" allied army.
C. Iggulden describes the life of Romans - civilians, politicians and soldiers - in an precise and accurate way.
A good read if you are interested in ancient Rome and Caesar.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saddam Hussein's execution: What a waste!

The execution of Saddam in Iraq surprised me a bit. I don't understand why it was so urgent to kill him. There are quite a few other cases that should have been investigated. I don't believe it was the Americans who speeded up the process. I read in the Herald Tribune that the American administration did all they could to prevent that execution, arguing it was barely legal. Indeed, Iraq's president approval was needed to go ahead with the execution. Talabani did not give a clear approval, instead of that he refrained from objecting.

It feels like the Shia wanted to show their power. The unofficial video of the execution shows clearly who the executioners were serving. Al Sadr and his followers have now taken over Iraq. I am shocked to see that the upcoming investigation is targeted at who recorded the scene using a mobile phone, rather than addressing the behaviour of the government towards the Sunni part of the population. Showing how the execution really went, in contrast to what the official video shows, was a brave act that is probably more of a milestone towards democracy than the execution itself.
I think Shias taking over the government is what Sunnis (in Iraq and in neighbouring countries) are so upset about, not so much that it was done during the Eid.

Keeping Saddam alive and judging him in an international court for his invasion of Iran would have been (1) fair and (2) a gesture towards Iran, thus demonstrating the West is not an enemy of the Iranian people, as Iran's propaganda would have their people believe.