December 23rd, 2007

The bomb and the convicted

On October 12th 2002 a massive bomb exploded in the Eks Sari Club on Bali, Indonesia, killing 202 people, most young tourists from Australia. Four of my countrymen lost their lives in the blast too. Later, a total of 26 people were arrested, 3 of which were considered the leaders. They were sentenced to death. Yesterday, all possibilities of appeals were exhausted and the authorities said the 3 will be executed by the fire squad before the end of January.

This is one of those tough cases where initially one, yes, me too, wants to rip apart the lunatic religious fanatics killing so many youngsters just having fun in the dawn of their lives. But then, would it make us, the people, better? Would it really bring closure for the victim’s families? Would it restore tourism in the area? Would it calm the protesting crowds demanding their lives? Would it end the intense fanatical hatred? Would it end the injustice fueling that hate?

Earlier on the nest: The day against death penaltyThe killing, The killing revisited

December 23rd, 2007

The dasher

Through Google talks I ran into Dasher, a small text input program using language probability and the analog nature (instead of binary key clicking) of our body. The program uses simple movements, whether by mouse, eyetracking or just bending a finger to enter text . Actually I am writing this with dasher. It is very hard to explain how it works , but maybe the best way to describe is using a car analogy. I am driving over the most probable letter combination, mildly steering toward my intended goal.While I don’t see it replacing the keyboard soon it has some cool properties such as language independency. OK, quitting dasher here and typing on. Fantastic for the disabled, RSI affected, and it could come to your PDA or cell phone (for texting) soon. Give it a go, they have a Java applet running in the browser for the heck of it. Sure beats enter text on a numerical phone keyboard.

December 23rd, 2007

The Columbia connection

Seven years ago, Columbia. A 22 year old Dutch young woman visiting is struck by social injustice, poverty and the freedom fighters of the FARC, the guerrilla army. In a haze of admiration and sincere drive to improve the world through stronger means, she decides to join, working as a translator and soldier. Slowly but surely she sees the FARC is a shadow of its ideals. A bunch of self enriching crooks in charge, “cannon meat” at the bottom, entirely corrupt, dangerous. It’s a constant “being hunted” by the Columbian Army (not the nicest lot either). She lost all contact with her parents at home of course. They know what she’s doing, but keeping it hush to not endanger her life. As it turns out later, she does write a diary, as I guess lots of soldiers do, using the name “Eileen”.

Tanja Niemeijer

Nov. 24, 2006: I’m tired, tired of the FARC, tired of the people, tired of communal life. Tired of never having anything for myself. It would be worth it if we knew why we were fighting. But the truth is I don’t believe in this anymore. What kind of organization is this, where some have money, cigarettes, candy, and the rest have to beg, only to be rejected or met with grumbling? This is how it was when I arrived almost four years ago, and it hasn’t changed.

I want to leave here, at least this unit. But for the time being, you know that you’re more or less a prisoner. What can you do? I don’t want to hear any more about being a communist, being honest, not wasting, being obedient. And then see how hypocritical the commanders, like braggarts and traitors, showing no mercy if you dare to criticize them.

Fast forward seven years. A FARC jungle camp is raided by the army. The guerrilla’s flee hastily leaving almost everything behind. Including Tanja Niemeijer’s diaries. The diaries are found and not much later, they are published in the newspaper, including the severe criticism on the FARC leadership. It is said the FARC recruits in European countries and part of her diaries were translated and used to smack some sense in people who are contemplating on joining.

For all we know, she has been disarmed and taken into custody for the information leaking she did by leaving her diary behind. Normally, FARC executes soldiers, but it is reported “as she is a foreigner” that will not happen.