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End of an era

December 31, 2006 on 12:05 am | In Miscellaneous | No Comments

Watching TV this morning, I saw both the footage broad casted on Al-Iraqeya TV of the final preparations before Saddam’s execution, and later, the footage shot with a camera phone showing Saddam dead after his execution. As an Iraqi, it really felt like an end of era in the history of Iraq, and in human history in general. I don’t think history has seen as many men as Saddam was. Even Hitler, with all his atrocities, had a dream, a vision, for his country. All Saddam had was a hallucination that he could build an empire where the people praised and worshiped him like a god.

Despite all the things he had done, I still didn’t want him to be executed. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for capital punishment in this case, but I don’t think this was the proper course of action. I think he should have been imprisoned for the reminder of his life. For someone like Saddam who has a greatness complex, living imprisoned where everyone has the power to control his activities would have been much worse. He was so full of himself, and so used to being on the top and having everyone obey whatever he said that keeping him imprisoned would have been like torture. By executing him, I think the Iraqi government did him a huge favor.

Anyway, his execution marks the last chapter in the history of a regime that will be forever known for destroying what once was one of the most civilized and most developed countries in the region.

Discovery is back!

December 22, 2006 on 10:44 pm | In Miscellaneous, Technology | No Comments

Discovery has just landed on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) after a successful 13-days mission to the International Space Station (ISS). This was the first mission I followed closely thanks to the availability of NASA TV online. Following the mission on NASA TV, I saw some awsome scenery of the earth, and some breath taking sunrises, sunsets, and even a storm system.

Like many fans of the space programme, I was a bit worried about Discovery not being able to land in time due to their limited Oxygen supplies. But thankfully, they made it on the first day, and at KSC, the home base of the space shuttle programme.

Breath taking, absolutely amazing

December 10, 2006 on 3:04 am | In Technology | No Comments

I was just watching NASA TV online and enjoyed a life coverage of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-116 to continue the construction of The International Space Station. This was the third shuttle launch I watched live on NASA TV, but the first night launch I had the chance to see.

This was the first night launch of a space shuttle in four years. The shuttle lit up the sky as it ascended from Kennedy Space Center and it was nothing short of breath taking. Even more beautiful was the external tank camera that provided life video of the shuttle’s belly where you could see the shuttle’s attitude control thrusters on the side of the nose firing in the pitch black night.

The 7 astronauts on board Discovery have been in orbit for about two hours now. NASA officials say this is the most complex mission in constructing the ISS. One can’t but wish success and a safe return to earth for the 7 men and women on board Discovery.

Finally, some commonsense

December 5, 2006 on 4:40 pm | In Miscellaneous | No Comments

I was just watching on CNN the US senate arms committee confirmation hearings for Robert Gates. For the first time in a long while, there was someone who actually sounded like a person who lived on this planet! He actually acknowledged that what his government has been doing in Iraq has not been working. As a bold guy from Texas likes to say, “you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge!”

I guess only time will tell, supposing Bob Gates is confirmed as secretary of defense, if he will finally be able to do something to resolve the situation in Iraq. But from what I’ve seen and heard from the man today, I am hopeful. He seemed to be a realistic person. He actually looked and sounded like an official who knew what he was talking about when talking about Iraq!

It was quite a relieve to hear someone who didn’t sound like an alien who lived on a planet in another galaxy when spoke about the situation in Iraq.

I honestly hope, if confirmed, that Mr. Gates leads a successful career in his position as secretary of defense for hos own sake, and for the sake of my own country.

My babies are back

December 1, 2006 on 11:09 pm | In Miscellaneous, Technology | No Comments

Ever since leaving Iraq, there aren’t that many joys left in my life, and one of the main joys I have left here is listening to music.

Don’t get me wrong, I thank God every day for not being in all that mess going on in Iraq now. Still, a heaven without people is no heaven at all (which is a translation of the Iraqi saying “Janna bala awadem matinrad”).

Being a geek, and to some extent an audiophile, good enough audio quality doesn’t cut it for me. Listening to quality audio means I MUST have a sophisticated setup that tries to push the physical limits of reproducing a digital audio signal, but I also have to do that without breaking the bank.

So, a little over two years ago I set myself a budget of $200 (about 150 euros), and spent a couple of months researching and evaluationg my options, and settled on a setup that mainlycomprised of:
• a Creative Sound Blaster Extigy USB sound card to do the actual signal decoding and provide a wide array of digital and analogue signal inputs and outputs,

• and a set of TEAC PowerMax 2000 active 5.1 acoustic speaker system.

To keep my signal clean, and not have half a dozen cables running between my sound card and speakers set, I decided to linkthe two by a fiber optic cable

The sound card was bought refurbished from ebay, and the speakers set was bought on sale brand new from an electronics shop here in Portugal. This setup ended costing me about $180 (~140 euros), which was less than the maximum I set for myself. And if you think about it, it’s not a substantial amount of money if you consider the quality of the audio I am getting, as well as the comprehensible array of inputs I get from this setup. I have available optical and coaxial 5.1 digital surround inputs and outputs, MIDI input and output, mono and stereo mic inputs, stereo headphone output, analogue 5.1 line output, and three selectable sources of 5.1 surround sound input, most of those inputs and outputs have gold plated connectors.

This setup has been serving me very well for about two years, until a little over two months ago, when all of a sudden, my speakers set decided to stop accepting signal from both the optical and coaxial digital inputs it has.

Understandably, I was quite upset by this unfortunate event. My first impulse was to act as a responsible EU resident and comply with the EU regulations which state that every consumer product purchased in the euro zone is covered by at least two years of warranty even if the warranty card included with the product states a shorter warranty term. So, I took my precious babies to the electronics shop where I had purchased them from. Initially, it took the technicians they have at the shop three weeks to reach my same conclusion, that the speakers didn’t accept any sound signal through their digital inputs. However, me and the shop manager disagreed about how to proceed next. They thought that my babies were out of warranty. I, naturally, disagreed, and thought they are still covered by warranty in compliance with the EU regulations. It took another week for them to reach my same conclusion, then three weeks to repair the speakers, then another week to find the speakers remote control which was “lost” the speakers were being repaired.

Today, almost two months after I took the speakers back to the shop where I bought them from, today finally I got my babies back, and now I can go back to enjoying listening to music.

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