Equipment change?

Yesterday evening I went to the United site to check in for my flights back to Seattle. I logged in, and saw that the BOS-ORD flight was annotated Flight not open for checkin. Hmm. I returned to the site several times during the evening, wondering whether this was a harbinger of a cancellation and re-routing. This morning I tried again; the message was the same, but a possible explanation appeared. Originally the flight was to be on a 757; the itinerary now says “767”. We’ll see….

UPDATE: They’ve now changed my seat to 15A. According to SeatGuru, this is bad: row 15 on a United 767 doesn’t have a window. Let’s hope I can change it.

UPDATE: I assumed that the plane was a domestic 767; it’s not – it’s what SeatGuru calls a 767-300 WW. And 15A is shown in red as a very poor seat. Even though it’s an exit row, it has “Restricted legroom… proximity of the toilet… can get very cold”. And when I was (finally!) able to check in, there were no other window seats available. Oh well: I guess I’ll bring along a sweatshirt.

A long weekend

So the flight from Denver to Boston was lousy: the guy in the middle seat next to me kept poking me (and the man in the aisle seat, I suspect) with overactive elbows. I got hardly any sleep, arrived in Brookline around 6am, and tried (and failed) to have a brief nap. As a result, after a busy Friday I slept for over 12 hours.

This morning was spent clearing out tons of stuff from the attic, carting most of it to the kerbside but shredding things like old tax returns and bank statements. (I hate emptying shredders; the stuff inevitably goes all over the floor.) Then Kate and Mark brought Tommy round, claimed some of the stuff from the attic (thanks!), and drove it home, leaving Tommy with us. (Here’s one picture for now; I’ll upload some more when I get back to Seattle.)

Eventually they returned in a noticeably emptier car, and we all went out to dinner.

As I think I’ve mentioned, one of the few drawbacks of living in Seattle is that all of one’s purchases are subject to Washington sales tax. So I decided to order a book and have it delivered to me here in Brookline, and although I still have a couple of other books in progress (Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, and Rob Harrop’s Pro Spring), I couldn’t resist dipping into my new acquisition this evening. It’s Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back. I fully intend to write a longer review of it when I finish (although I’m well aware that I said the same thing about Richard Dawkins’ wonderful book The God Delusion). However thus far I can say that Andrew Sullivan has produced a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of conservatism, followed by a devastating indictment of fundamentalisms, both religious and political. Since a significant part of his criticism is directed at the contemporary Roman Catholic church, it will be interesting to see how he manages to square this with his avowed Catholicism. Perhaps he will resort to more creative semantics – we’ll see.

Blogging by Blackberry

So here I am at Denver airport, coming up on 11 PM. My next flight to Boston doesn’t leave until midnight. Meanwhile – I’m starving! Like a fool, I didn’t eat at SeaTac because it felt too early. I never imagined that by the time I reached Denver every single food outlet would be closed. If they are going to eliminate food service on planes, surely they should make sure that passengers can actually buy food at the airport!
And that’s all I can blog: this browser limits text field size…..

Back east for a few days

Tomorrow (Thursday) I’m heading back to the Boston area for the first time since I moved to Seattle. I’ll be taking a red-eye through Denver, arriving at 5:40 on Friday morning, and returning via Chicago on Monday evening.
This will also be my first flight since “gel hysteria” hit the airways. (Also known as “The Official TSA Program To Prevent Chemically Impossible Attacks.) I plan to travel extraordinarily light: camera, iPod, and cellphone (plus chargers), and a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. I’m pretty sure I left enough clothes back in Brookline to get me through the weekend… at least, I hope I did!

How many deaths does it take…?

Glenn Greenwald on the new Lancet/Iraqi/Bloomberg School of Public Health study of Iraqi deaths, and the right-wing blogosphere’s hysterical response:

But here it has been quantified — their war has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings who would be alive today in the absence of their invasion. That number — 600,000 — just sounds so mammoth, almost Holocaust-like in magnitude (hopefully, it goes without saying that I’m not to comparing the Iraq war to the Holocaust, but merely pointing out why I think this study prompted such an intense reaction).
Like children who want what they want without having to pay any price for it, these Bush followers refuse to accept the consequences for their war. So with blind irrationality, they insist that this study is false without having any real idea of whether it is, all because they want it to be false, because they are incapable of accepting the consequences (including, perhaps predominantly, the political costs) for their actions. A refusal to recognize unpleasant facts is hardly a new phenomenon for them, but in this instance, the need to deny facts seems particularly acute.
One other observation: if it could be demonstrated that the findings of this study were accurate, would that change the mind of a single war proponent? Would they suddenly stand up and announce that the war was not worth the costs? I don’t think there’s much doubt about the answer.


Fareed Zakaria comes to a conclusion:

When Iraq’s current government was formed last April, after four months of bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis, many voices in America and in Iraq said the next six months would be the crucial testing period…. It has now been almost six months, [and] the violence has gotten worse, sectarian tensions have risen steeply and ethnic cleansing is now in full swing. There is really no functioning government south of Kurdistan…. It is time… to recognize that the Iraqi government has failed. It is also time to face the terrible reality that America’s mission in Iraq has substantially failed.

I don’t quote this with any joy, but nor do I feel any surprise. Think back over the last 100 years: how many unilateral attempts to impose political change on another country have succeeded? Italy over Ethiopia? Russia over Eastern Europe? Germany over Poland (and then Europe, and then Russia)? Japan over China and SE Asia? France and the US over Vietnam? The UK and France over Egypt? The US over Cuba? Israel over Lebanon? Russia over Afghanistan? Iraq over Iran? Argentina over the Falklands?

All failed. Arguably the only relatively durable large-scale changes over the last century arose from civil wars, such as in Spain and China, and from post-colonial effects such as the slow-motion revolution in South Africa.

And so when I supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, I did so for purely tactical reasons; I had no expectation that any lasting changes would arise. And when I opposed the invasion of Iraq, it was not simply a question of illegality: it seemed such a profoundly stupid, historically ignorant thing to do. A blood-soaked failure seemed inevitable. (The extraordinary rapidity and cluelessness of that failure belongs solely to the Cheney administration, however.)

(Via Sully.)

UPDATE: In the comments, Chas argues against me and Zakaria, but the evidence is mounting that the only thing holding back a radical shift in policy is…. domestic politics. Yup. Same as always. Sigh…..

Fifty years of the identity theory

David Chalmers just blogged about an Australian radio show entitled The Mind-Body Problem Down Under, and I’ve just finished listening to the podcast. It was prompted by the 50th anniversary of the publication of U.T.Place’s ground-breaking paper “Is Consciousness A Brain Process?”. Although Place himself died a few years ago, they were able to interview Jack Smart and a number of the other architects of the identity theory – and Chalmers, of course, who has abandoned identity in favour of a (rather shaky) dualism.
Leaving aside the inevitable(?) bits about “as with sport Australians punch above their weight in the international philosophy community”, it’s a very nice account of how philosophy broke out of the quagmire of “the linguistic turn” and started moving towards a balanced accomodation with the physical sciences, especially neuroscience. Definitely worth listening to.

Japanese Grand Prix

I won’t spoil things for those who are time-shifting this; let me just say that the result was delightfully unexpected – and breaks a six year record* for Michael Schumacher….

* The BBC story suggested that it was the first time since 2001, but as the SpeedTV team pointed out, that incident wasn’t exactly comparable.