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21 Oct 2012

What is wrong with Google?

Posted by dumpendebat. No Comments

Readers, what in the world is wrong with Google?

Google Chrome is one of their flagship products. It’s been very successful, to the point that, as of last month (September 2012), according to StatCounter, Chrome controls 34.21% of the desktop browser market, making it the most popular web browser in the world. More people are now using Chrome to browse the Web from their computer desktops than are using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

And yet, the two most recent versions of Google Chrome — 22.0.1229.92 and 22.0.1229.94 — don’t work with Shockwave Flash! Chrome users have been experiencing crashes with web pages that contain Flash content for over two weeks now, and Google has yet to fix the problem. Do you have any idea how many websites are still using Flash? The whole world hasn’t moved to HTML5 yet, folks. Flash support is still among the most basic must-have functionality for a desktop web browser. That Google would ship a product without this basic functionality, and then leave it that way for weeks, is just mind-boggling.

What’s next, failure to support JavaScript?

What’s Google’s problem here, readers? Are they simply too popular to give a damn? This is just beyond ridiculous. Do they want everybody to go back to Firefox?

14 Oct 2012

Pictures of Mali

Posted by dumpendebat. No Comments

If you are interested, chers lecteurs, you can take a look at my pictures from Mali, pictures which I took in March 2011.

Just click on the picture and it’ll take you to the corresponding photoset at Flickr.

Dogon Country (Pays Dogon)

Picture of cliff in Dogon Country, Mali


Picture of the Grand Mosque in Djenne, Mali

Mali is just a fantastic and fascinating place, and if I could somehow have had the slightest clue that things would soon end up going so badly awry there, I would have spent at least a month there. I still dream of going back.

5 Oct 2012

Two Eritrean officers defect to Saudi Arabia with the President’s jet

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Note: This is my translation of the RFI news item Erythrée: deux officiers demandent l’asile politique en Arabie Saoudite à bord du jet privé du président, which appeared on the RFI website on Wednesday, 3 October 2012.

Eritrea: Two Officers Request Political Asylum in Saudi Arabia Aboard the President’s Private Jet

Two pilots of the Eritrean armed forces defected, on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, with their aircraft, to Saudi Arabia. Taken into custody by the Saudi authorities, they have since been held in secret. The two pilots fled with President Isaias Afewerki’s airplane.

Last August, the flag-bearer of the Eritrean team at the London Olympics never went back home to Eritrea. That defection must have annoyed the authorities in Asmara, but no doubt much less than what happened Tuesday morning: two captains in the Eritrean Air Force landed their aircraft, in fact, on the other side of the Red Sea, at the regional airport of Jizan, to be exact, in Saudi territory, before requesting political asylum in the Saudi kingdom.

This isn’t the first, or last, defection to come out of Eritrea, but just imagine the authorities’ surprise when they discovered that the aircraft in question was none other than the private jet belonging to President Isaias Afewerki.

The two Eritrean captains are thus not just anybody; they work directly for the head of state, and they participated, according to our colleague Léonard Vincent, in several secret missions, notably in Somalia, where they had transported military equipment on behalf of the Al Shabaab militias.

In other words, their defection is a godsend for the Saudi and American secret services, Washington having accused Asmara of sponsoring terrorism in the Horn of Africa. It is, no doubt, because of the extreme importance of these two men that General Habteselassie, the commander of the Eritrean Air Force, has been sent immediately to Saudi Arabia.

28 Sep 2012

Twitter etiquette: RT, MT, and via

Posted by dumpendebat. No Comments

It seems to me that a lot of people on Twitter don’t know how credit-attribution and quoting other people’s tweets is supposed to work.

It goes without saying, or it should go without saying, that you should never just copy the text of somebody else’s tweet and tweet it yourself; that’s really bad etiquette. The original tweeter should get proper credit. This is why we retweet each other’s tweets. But what’s the right way to do that?

Well, here’s the drill:


“RT” stands for “retweet.” Anything that comes after “RT” in a tweet should be the original text of the tweet you’re retweeting, verbatim, character for character. If you want to add a hashtag or a comment to the original tweet, do it BEFORE the “RT,” not afterwards. When you say “RT,” everyone who sees your retweet should be able to have confidence that you haven’t messed with the text of the original tweet at all.


“MT” stands for “modified tweet.” You should use “MT” instead of “RT” if you have altered the text of the original tweet IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER, even if you did nothing but make one of the words in the original tweet into a hashtag. If you have so much as deleted one character from the original tweet to make it fit, you really need to use “MT” instead of “RT,” so that everyone who sees it knows that you have altered the original tweet in some way.

“Native retweets”

If you use the “retweet” button on the Twitter website or in one of the official Twitter apps, you’re doing what Twitter calls a “native retweet.” I am not a fan of native retweets, for the following reasons:

  1. Native retweets don’t show up in Lists. If somebody you’re following retweets something this way, you will see it in your own timeline and in that person’s timeline (if you happen to go to the trouble of looking at their timeline), but you will NOT see it in a List. If you’re not following someone, but you do read their tweets by having them as a member of one of your Lists, you won’t see their native retweets at all.
  2. You cannot alter a native retweet in any way, simply because that’s not how they work. This is not altogether a bad thing; when you see a native retweet, you can be sure that the retweeter did not alter the original tweet in any way, because there’s simply no way they could have — native retweets don’t work that way. But if somebody tweeted something you like and you wish to share it with your own followers, you’re stuck with the verbatim text of the original tweet if you go this route: you can’t add a hashtag of your own, you can’t turn one of the words in the tweet into a hashtag… For this reason, I do not find native retweets very useful.
  3. When you native-retweet something, your followers will see the original tweeter’s avatar in your timeline, which might take them aback.

Pretty much the only time I will use Twitter’s native-retweet feature is if the original tweet is just too damn big for me to “RT” or “MT” it. This is why it’s a good idea to try and keep your tweets down to 120-125 characters whenever you can, so that somebody else will have room to RT you.


“Via” is a way of giving somebody credit for bringing something to your attention without RTing or MTing their tweet. Sometimes I’ll come across something on Twitter that I want to share with my followers, but I don’t want to retweet it: maybe their tweet consisted of a link and their own comment on it, and I don’t care about their comment, I just want to share the link. In that case, I’ll create my own short URL and compose my own tweet. But I still like to give credit where credit is due; this is where “via” comes in handy. Rather than just tweet the item, implying to my followers that I found the item on the Web myself, I will add “via @whoever” at the end of my tweet, thus giving the original tweeter credit — they at least get a Mention out of it.

This, readers, is proper etiquette on Twitter.

27 Sep 2012

“Antonov” is NOT a type of airplane

Posted by dumpendebat. 2 Comments

If you remember the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian wars of the 1990s, you may remember that no journalist was able to file an article from the Balkans without mentioning plum brandy (“slivovitz”) at least once per article.

Today’s equivalent of slivovitz in Bosnia seems to be “Antonov bombers,” or just “Antonovs,” in the Sudans.

But here’s the thing, readers: “Antonov” is not a kind of airplane, it’s a manufacturer of airplanes. You wouldn’t talk about “American McDonnell-Douglas fighters” or “Boeings on a bombing run” — that would be silly. Instead, we say “F-15 fighters” or “B-52s on a bombing run.”

Well, it’s just as silly to talk about “Sudanese Antonovs” bombing villages. What the Sudanese air force has is some An-24 “Coke” transport aircraft that they’ve improvised or retrofitted into some sort of homemade bombers. We should be reading about “Sudanese An-24s,” not “Sudanese Antonovs.”

(And, while we’re on the subject of Russian/ex-Soviet aircraft, there’s no such thing as “MIG” or “Mig” — it’s spelled “MiG.” “Mi” for “Mikoyan,” “G” for “Gurevich.” I see newspapers and magazines get this wrong much, much more often than they get it right.)

26 Sep 2012

African Countries: My Wish List

Posted by dumpendebat. 4 Comments

Top ten African nations I haven’t yet visited that I’d really like to visit:

  1. Somaliland
  2. Eritrea
  3. Ivory Coast
  4. DR Congo
  5. Niger
  6. Mauritania
  7. Algeria
  8. Rwanda
  9. Mozambique
  10. Chad

22 Sep 2012

Software “upgrades” — And the hits keep coming!

Posted by dumpendebat. No Comments

God help us and save us, readers: the hits keep coming!

I put a blog post here on Tuesday, complaining about a couple of software “upgrades” that actually broke stuff. It keeps getting worse! To wit:

The latest version of iTunes ( has broken my music library. For no apparent reason, iTunes has decided that hundreds of my music files “cannot be located.” I tried following the instructions that someone helpfully put in a YouTube video, but it didn’t fix the problem, and it actually made the problem worse — now my iTunes folder was all at sixes and sevens, with a bunch of new duplicate XML config files appearing and a bunch of music folders disappearing.

So I uninstalled iTunes, completely deleted my entire music folder, reinstalled iTunes, factory-reset my iPod, then restored all my music files from backup and re-synced everything back into my iPod. This took over three hours, as I have about 42 GB of music on my computer.

And the end result? I’m right back where I started. Hundreds of music files “cannot be located.”

The problem? There are major bugs in iTunes for 64-bit Windows 7. That’s right, the latest version of iTunes broke my music library. All I can do is hope that the next release will fix the problem.

This, on top of the iOS 6 upgrade on iPad, which famously replaced Google Maps with Apple’s own sloppy, broken Maps app, and took away YouTube (replacing it with… NOTHING — iPad users are reduced to using the crappy mobile version of the YouTube website), is making me wonder if Apple’s salad days are over.

So, this week’s electronic wrecking crews:

  1. The Bitly Chrome extension: they f*ed this one up so bad that I uninstalled it, and now I just compose all my tweets in the TweetDeck desktop application.
  2. The latest iPad Twitter app, which made Lists harder to navigate to and made the embedded Web browser full-screen (if you’re going to do that, why not just have Web pages open in Mobile Safari, guys?).
  3. The latest iTunes, which badly broke my music library on Windows 7.
  4. iOS 6, which took away two great apps and replaced them with one broken app and one big bag of Screw You.

18 Sep 2012

“Upgrades” that break stuff

Posted by dumpendebat. No Comments

Just today, readers, two software “updates” were forced on me that actually REMOVED functionality I considered important:

1. The iPad Twitter app pushed out a new “update” that took Lists off the home screen and put them where it now takes three times as long to navigate there. Not the biggest deal in the world, but this annoys me. I could access my Lists right from the home screen before, and now I can’t. Thanks, Twitter!

2. The Bitly Chrome Extension team apparently decided that their users didn’t really WANT to be able to edit something before sharing it on Twitter, so they took that ability away and then pushed out a new “update.” Now I can’t share a link with the Chrome extension: I have to first use the extension to create a shortlink to the item I want to share (this is what Bitly calls “bitmarking” it), THEN I have to go to the Twitter website or my TweetDeck desktop application to share it, stopping along the way to copy the shortlink to the Windows clipboard. Why? Because the title of your average web page doesn’t usually happen to have Twitter hashtags in it! Because I might like to tweet something other than the default title of a web page! I might like to shorten it, I might like to add a hashtag, I might like to edit the title… All of a sudden, I can’t do any of these things, and I could do all of them yesterday, before this wretched “update!” Thanks for basically BREAKING the Chrome extension I use most and making it MUCH MORE DIFFICULT to tweet news items, guys!

I find this really annoying.

13 Sep 2012

Bizarro World

Posted by dumpendebat. 5 Comments

Newt Gingrich has penned a furious little diatribe condemning President Obama for “intellectual dishonesty” and commitment to “a leftist worldview.” What he’s upset about is that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton condemned the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, an attack which took the lives of the US Ambassador and three others, as “senseless violence.” Gingrich, you see, prefers to call this “an act of war.”

This concept of “senseless violence” is at the heart of the left’s refusal to confront the reality of radical Islamists.

These are not acts of senseless violence.

These are acts of war.

Our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were not killed by a senseless mob. They were killed by a purposeful group of men armed with sophisticated weapons. These killers had tracked Ambassador Chris Stevens down to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where he was much more vulnerable to attack and had less protection. They waged a coordinated, military-style assault.

Our four dead are combat casualties as much as anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan.

It is tragic that the president is so committed to a leftist worldview that he cannot allow himself to face these facts.

It’s interesting that, in this angry little piece, Gingrich never once manages to mention exactly who he thinks carried out this act of war — just “our enemies,” just “radical Islamists.”

He does make it sound like he thinks Libya is one of America’s special enemies, then complains that Congress is preventing us from knowing enough about the world:

Libya was the second largest source of anti-U.S. fighters in Iraq. (First was our “ally” Saudi Arabia.) Benghazi was the largest supplier of anti-American fighters from Libya.

Because of congressionally imposed limitations and administrative and bureaucratic timidity, the fact is we know remarkably little about our enemies.

So what’s the correct American response, Mr Gingrich? Shall we start another war or two in the Middle East? We’ve had soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan for nearly a decade, and we all saw what a wonderful transformation we managed to bring about in Iraq. So it’s not like we don’t know how easy it is, and we’ve seen how much good it does in the world.

Why don’t we get rid of those “congressionally-imposed limitations” so we can find out the truth about our “enemies” in Libya, then start the next bombing campaign? If we really get cracking here and don’t waste any time, we could be finished in Libya by next spring, just in time for our invasion of Iran!

Or maybe, since our enemies are radical Islamists, we should just compile a list of every radical Islamist in the world, and start killing them, one by one? Would that be an “intellectually honest” response?

The silliest thing of all, though, is that Gingrich has nothing better than this, and he knows it. He somehow managed to get a reputation as an “intellectual,” a “deep thinker,” but any half-bright undergrad could run rings around this self-important tool. He flings around accusations of “intellectual dishonesty,” while practicing every type of dishonesty known to mankind, intellectual and otherwise, in his own life. Newt Gingrich, unlike the proverbial stopped clock, doesn’t even manage to be right twice a day. Twice a year would be an improvement for him.

See, readers, the thing is, there’s a Democrat in the White House, one who has actually been more than a little hawkish in the “War on Terror,” and that’s inconvenient if you’re a member of the other tribe who’s trying to score a quick, cheap political point or two over the dead bodies of American diplomats, so that you can show everybody just how much you love your country.

Thus, Gingrich has to resort to Bizarro World, where he can pretend that the president is all flower-power, beads, long hair, and kum-ba-yah, letting swarthy heathens get all uppity and crap on the American Flag all over the globe, while the president mumbles, “Groovy, man… far out… hey, don’t harsh my mellow” as the strains of “Incense and Peppermints” waft across the East Lawn.

Never mind that Obama has been even worse than Bush when it comes to killing foreigners (and even US citizens: remember Anwar Al-Awlaki?) and trampling on Americans’ civil liberties, in the name of the “War on Terror.” The wingnuts among us live in their own Bizarro World, where the president is a Secret Kenyan Muslim Socialist Nazi who constantly “apologizes for America” because of his “leftist worldview.” These people wouldn’t know a “leftist worldview” if they saw one.

It’s the purest essence, the quintessence, of mindless tribalism to pretend that the Obama administration has anything that even faintly resembles a “leftist worldview” — you’d have to see no difference between Time Magazine and the Daily Worker to think something that ignorant. You’d have to live in Bizarro World to think this way.

If anything, the Obama administration’s eagerness to choose the “War on Terror” over the Constitution has been worse than that of the Bush administration. Theoretically, the wingnuts should be loving it; all these Gadsden-Flag-waving super-patriots who pretend to love Freedom today and say they’re scared of Obama’s dictatorial powers were just fine with what their government was doing five years ago; in fact, most of them were cheerleading for it.

So why don’t they like it now? Because back then, there was a Republican in the White House, and he was Keeping America Safe, baby. Who needs their constitutional rights when there are some bad, scary Arab Terrorists somewhere in the world?

But wait, what about all the Blue-Team folks, the libs and Dems who acted like they thought Bush was the second coming of Alfredo Stroessner and were rightfully upset about the disappearance of Americans’ civil liberties? Well, they suddenly discovered that they could live with an erosion of civil liberties in America, as long as there was a Democrat in the White House. Suddenly, it was all good — drone strikes; extraordinary rendition; people still locked in cages at Gitmo, no plan to ever charge any of them with a crime… these things are A-OK as long as a Democrat does them.

We all live in Bizarro World, readers.

Readers, I believe that America is just about ready for real, honest-to-God, authentic fascism. We couldn’t get much stupider if we tried; we’re divided into two teams of brain-dead authoritarians who’ll put up with any indignity, any loss of freedom, as long as the government belongs to Our Team and not The Other Team. All we need is a good scapegoat (and maybe a Dolchstosslegende), a sufficient supply of public frustration and anger (we’re getting there quickly), and, with promises of a reborn America restored to its rightful position of greatness, a new Mussolini could walk into the White House some January morning and shut down our system of democracy for good. For our own good, of course.

7 Aug 2012

Political prediction

Posted by dumpendebat. 4 Comments

I just want to go on the record here, readers, with my prediction for Mitt Romney’s choice of VP:

I predict that Romney will choose Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

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