You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for October, 2001.


October 30th, 2001

I have a serious sinus infection, an upset stomach and a headache. I literally do not have the stomach for war/anthrax/privacy/political news today. So some less serious linkage is to be found here today.

I just discovered Kitchen Diary, written by the author of Utopia with Cheese and Eccentric Flower. It’s not just recipes — the author shares stories, tips, experiences and the emotion of cooking. Great stuff. In fact, everything on the site is fabulous and well worth reading.

Gov. Glendening, of Maryland, is going to push for Federal Funding for a $1.2 billion expansion of the Maryland portion of the DC Metro system. I haven’t lived here very long, but I can already tell you that the proposed purple line would not only make my life easier, it would greatly expand ridership of the whole system. Demand for busses and trains is up in the whole metro area, but this purple line makes a lot of sense.

The Montgomery Country [MD] Community Life website wins my prize for irritating design of the month. It is so hard to look at that I didn’t read any content at all.

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Fuzzy Rants

October 29th, 2001

Most critics of airport security have argued that security personnel must have a stake in the system in order to take their jobs seriously. They must have careers, benefits and must be accountable for their performance. The obvious way to do that is to make security personnel federal employees. So why is Bush trying to make them underpaid, non-union contract workers? The Senate is trying to pass a bill that would make airport security workers full-fledged federal employees, while the House has passed a verson that would make them sub-contractors supervised by a federal employee. Bush has said that if the Senate doesn’t come around to the House’s view, he will use his authority to implement the House plan by executive fiat.

This is a mistake. Airport security needs to be tightly controlled and highly motivated, the same way police, firefighters and air traffic controllers are. The only way to accomplish both those ends is to pay them better and invest them in the system through career ladders, benefits and professionalization.

I’ve mentioned this cartoon here before, but want to mention it again. Get Fuzzy is very good today. Good dog, indeed.

Once again, I find myself insanely jealous of librarians with card catalogs of their own. I really want one. Reeeeaaaaalllllllly. Maybe I’ll bid on this one.

I can’t believe anyone would let their kid wear an Osama bin Laden halloween costume.

A clinical trial of a new nicotine replacement lozenge shows that the lozenge is three times more effective than any other nicotine replacement therapy. This trial included one important element that most nicotine replacement therapies lack: it increased the dosage for those who smoke at least one cigarette within 30 minutes of waking. There is good evidence showing that regardless of the overall number of cigarettes a person smokes, smoking right after you get out of bed is a sign of heightened addiction. Consequently, doctors working on the lozenge trial increased the dosage for smokers in this category. Making a similar adjustment in dosage for other replacement therapies (the patch, gum, etc.) might erase the lozenge’s apparent advantage. At the very least, it is something doctors should consider when counseling patients who want to quit smoking. More about nicotine replacement therapy from Quitnet.

There’s a new update at Virtual Marginalia.

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October 23rd, 2001

The war and the attacks have had some curious and unexpected effects on relationships.Women’s Shelters are Empty (NYT, requires free registration. Link via News We Can Use). Shelters for victims of domestic violence are empty, as women go back to or stay with those who abuse them. There are two related factors: women want the support of a relationship (even a bad one), and the abusers are using the terrorist attacks to coerce women into staying in the relationship.Americans redefine relationships amid upheaval. Married people are seeking marriage counseling and calling off divorce proceedings, while single people are using matchmaking services and classified ads. The motivation is the same: a new appreciation of relationships and family. After 9-11, who is legally family?. After collecting so much money for the families of 9-11 victims, charities are facing a difficult question: what is family? Same-sex partners, cohabiting couples and illegal immigrants are finding it difficult to make claims against these funds. These people are mourning, and their loved ones were lost as part of a terrible national tragedy, but our short-sited definition of “family” is limiting their ability to recover. Surely we owe it to those who were killed in the attacks to take care of their families as they defined them.

PJ, you aren’t the only one who has problems with the name of Grover Soup. If have the same problem myself. Consequently, when I make this soup, I call it “Tarascan Soup” since it is based on a soup made by the Tarascan Indians. I can’t eat anything called Grover.

The following are some links I want to keep track of, largely for personal reasons.

Seneca, Maryland a brief history.

Seneca Creek State Park description.

Seneca Creek State Park Field Trip Guide

Wildernet’s Seneca Creek State Park Guide

Travel Channel’s Blair Witch Trip Guide

Map of You-Know-What

C&O Canal Virtual Tour

History of the Seneca People

Monocacy River Fact Sheet

The Battle That Saved Washington

Afghanistan Maps

October 5th, 2001

This cool little quiz about the Middle East spurred me to learn more about the geography of Afghanistan. I answered 8 out of 10 correctly (I missed 9 and 10 for those who might be keeping track). (link via The Usual Suspects).

These are the most useful links I’ve found in that regard. One thing I’ve realized is that I do not have an appropriate language for discussing the area — I need a term that encompasses the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Eastern Africa. If you know what that term is, please e-mail me. For now, I’m using “the Muslim world” but that is charged with anti-Islamic overtones and I’m not satisfied with it. I’d prefer a more purely geographic reference. Surfing through these maps emphasized for me how “Western” my sense of geography is — I view the world through the maps I’ve known (a topic I commented on back on June 7, and those maps define the world via the history of Western expansion, colonialism and trade.

Afghanistan and the Middle East

I’ve seen too many maps like this one from the Washington Post that fail to provide a sense of the whole region. It provides almost no context for understanding how Afghanistan and the Middle East are connected geographically, let alone politically or culturally. Unfortunately, most of the maps I’ve seen in newspapers are little better.

This map of the Middle East from National Geographic combines political boundaries with satelite images. It’s gorgeous and gives a better sense of the Middle East than others, but again fails to demonstrate the connection between Afghanistan and other countries Americans are more familiar with.

CNN’s regional map. Oddly enough, this CNN map provides the best sense of the whole region I’ve been calling the Muslim world. Notice the physical proximity of Afghanistan to the Middle East, and the strategically important locations of Pakistan and Iran.

Economy & People

Afghanistan at a glance, from the LA Times, shows the location of known poppy fields in Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan. Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium poppy producer, and it is by far the biggest source of revenue for the country. The recent decline in poppy production was due not to US/UN political pressure, but to a severe drought.

Land use and economic activity from emphasizes the limited nature of Afghanistan’s agricultural base. The irrigated portions of the country are few and far between, leaving large areas vulnerable to drought.

Ethnic groups inset map from The Times. This map shows how ethnically diverse Afghanistan is. Compare this map with CNN’s Afghanistan Civil War map, and it isn’t hard to guess that the civil war is at least in part ethnically-based.

Ethnolinguistic groups in the region demonstrates how arbitrary Afghanistan’s borders are. Those borders were drawn to meet the needs of British-Russian conflict in the area, rather than the cultural or economic needs of the people who live there.

Internal Displacement in Afghanistan from ReliefWeb. Internal stability in Afghanistan is low due to the Civil War — significant numbers of people have had to move from their homes. This has the potential for increasing cultural and economic conflict among groups and further fanning the Civil War.


Shaded relief map of Afghanistan from the University of Texas library. This map gives a pretty good sense of how mountainous Afghanistan is.

Forbidding Territory from the Washington Post provides more written details about the terrain, but the Texas library is a better visual aid. Lots of hiding places in those mountains.

Landmine maps of Afghanistan. Any US troops entering the country would be confronted with mines remaining after the civil war and the war against the Soviet Union. These maps and the report outlines the extent of old land mines in Afghanistan

US-coalition partners in Muslim countries from the LA times is a good visual representation of the kind of support the US has garnered from the region.

Comparison to the US from Afghanistan looks small on most maps. This map compares the size of Afghanistan to the American South — to my overly Westernized brain, this comparison was very helpful. Invading Afghanistan would be a huge endeavor.

Good stuff

October 3rd, 2001

I’m taking the lazy (and busy) person’s way out this morning. I’m posting stolen links, mainly so that I won’t lose or forget them:Newsweek’s list of books relevant to Sept. 11 (via Now This). I think I need to visit the library before my trip to LA next week — there is a lot of good stuff on this list.Preserve your rights online — act now (via Brain Log). An excellent assessment of why it is important for those of us who care about privacy to take action to protect privacy now.A USA Today article about El Al’s security (via Overlawyered).The ACLU’s statement on national ID cards (via KIP).One link that I found all by myself: National Review Cans Coulter. National Review Online Editor Jonah Goldberg said: “We didn’t feel we wanted to be associated with the comments expressed in those two columns.” Whew. She’s too wacko for the right-wing-wackos!

RN Airport

October 2nd, 2001

National Airport (I refuse to call it by that other name) is scheduled to re-open on Thursday. The Washington Post has some information about the new security measures:

• Implementing the federal air marshals program for National Airport air traffic.

• Limiting passengers carry-on baggage to one bag plus one personal item (a purse or briefcase).

• Random hand-wanding of passengers at the gate.

• Identification check and boarding pass match as passengers board airplanes.

• Departures to Reagan National from approved cities allowed only from pre-designated, specially secured gates.

• Expanded police and canine patrols of the secure areas.

• Enhanced scrutiny of vehicles and employees that enter the air operations area.

• Flight crews dedicated to Reagan National only, with mandatory pre-flight screening of crews.

• Requiring straight-line flight approaches and departures, temporarily discontinuing the “river visual approach” used to mitigate noise.

• Reagan National will implement a public security awareness program.

These measures would not have prevented the September 11 attack. However, in light of those attacks, a few of these measures make sense (the straight-line approaches & departures and the air marshals), and others should be implemented at all airports (higher security requirements for people with access to the airplanes). The others are nonsense, designed, I suspect, to make people feel better, not with any real goal in mind.

Posted without comment: Strom Thurmond collapsed on the Senate floor this morning.

There is something fundamentally wrong with an organic trade show (link is to a .pdf document). To my mind, one thing that makes organic food appealing is the lower cost of transportation from farm to table. Of course, I’m aware that this hits at the heart of current controversies around use of the term organic and whether organic simply refers to a way of growing/raising food, or whether it also applies to a way of eating. In my little world (population: 1) it refers to a way of eating and thinking about food. And there are no organic trade shows on my planet.


October 1st, 2001

Medley thinks that the Feminist Majority is doing a better job lately than NOW. I totally agree. In my mind, NOW is stuck in a rut of style and approach that has isolated it from both mainstream and radical feminists.

Before the election, I heaped abuse on Bush for using all his Daddy’s advisers. Now that we are at war, I take comfort in the experience of those advisers. However, I fear that they are too familiar with state-to-state warfare and won’t be able to approach terrorism appropriately. The Washington Post examines the new roles of these advisers closely:

A crucial question now is whether the Bush administration’s key strategists will be fighting the last war or learning from it. From the president on down, they have emphasized that this is a different kind of fight, but will they be prisoners of their experiences when it comes to building coalitions and deploying troops, or will they think creatively about a new type of enemy who has no tanks, no clearly delineated territory and no standing army?

The article goes on to examine the ideological commitments of 6 of Bush’s cabinent members who also served under George H.W. Good stuff.

Even the US flag at the South Pole was lowered to half-staff. Two people went outside in temperatures of -35F to lower the flag. Click on the link to see the picture — I can’t remember my FTP password (it is written down at home and I’m at work) or else I would post it here.

The Antarctic summer research season is about to get underway — the first flight to McMurdo will be tomorrow (weather permitting). TheAntarctic Sun probably will begin publishing again in a couple of weeks. I love that newspaper — I’m fascinated by all the little news items about food, buildings and social events. I just spent too much time looking at a related site, the NSF’s handbook for staying at McMurdo Station. The Antarctica Drilling Consortium (ANDRILL) will drill down to 40-million year old ice to determine what the Antarctic ice sheet was like when the world was 3-4 degrees (Celsius) warmer. Since the UN estimates that global average surface temperature will rise 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years, this study will provide a clue as to how the current ice sheet might react to the expected change in temperature.Also of interest, Scientific American’s Antarctic Mapping Page

Maps of Antarctica are nearly all white–but not because of the snow and ice. Rather, this frozen land contains the largest unmapped regions on earth. Teams of scientists regularly make the four-hour jaunt from the main U.S. base at McMurdo Sound to the permanent South Pole station. But even today, parties on the ground are little better off than the great explorers–Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton–were, as they struggle to find their way across an uncharted continent the size of the U.S. and Mexico combined.

I just had some fun at The Blog Twinning Project, where you can pair weblogs which, in your mind, have common elements. It was entertaining to surf through the connections. However, I was disappointed that Breaching the Web isn’t twinned with the weblog to which I think it is most similar.

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