Sunday, November 30, 2008

Up in the Sky

Venus and Jupiter have been approaching one another in the evening sky, with their closest pairing tomorrow. However I've missed out on watching them move together over the last week because it's been so cloudy. Until tonight, when the weather was clear at the right time of day.

This is the sort of fairly routine planetary conjunction that comes around once or twice a year. Normally I'd just glance up with mild interest, but I'm really appreciating it after the earlier anticipation.

It was the second interesting celestial sight of the day: in the afternoon I saw an A380 aircraft for the first time. I liked the way that its double-decker structure created a bit of a face at the front of the plane, with the "forehead" of the second storey sitting above the "nose" of the cone. Better than the boring standard tube of a typical midsize plane, although not quite as cute as a 747. It has a partial second storey which also creates a face shape at the front but then slopes down halfway along the plane in a way that reminds me of a dolphin.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ambigous Australian-ness

I'm enjoying a quiet evening at home, cooking some Anzac biscuits and drinking beer that I won betting on the cricket with a friend at work. It would be very Australian, except that I backed India and my workmate settled our bet with a six-pack from the Czech Republic ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No You Can't

I had a few Australian friends express delight at today's US election result, and a string of celebratory status updates from all my friends on Facebook, but I just can't get that enthusiastic. Sure Obama will be an improvement on Bush and a better choice than McCain, but I'm not convinced that election results have much of an impact.

In this case I'm particularly cynical, because even before it begins there are so many obvious ways for Obama's presidency to fail:
  • He'll have to deal with a nasty recession and the US' relative decline. These tough times will be a particular problem for Obama, as his supporters have high expectations that everything will improve and won't be prepared for a year or two of deterioration.
  • Obama didn't adjust any of his programs or give any hint that things would have to be different when US finances took a remarkable turn for the worse 6 weeks ago. Now he'll have to break a whole host of election promises and lose all credibility and influence in his first few months.
  • Obama promises to step up the war in Afghanistan, which has disaster written all over it. What's the strategic objective there? Transforming the society to be more pro-Western looks even less likely than in Iraq. Maybe the US wants to prop up the friendly Tajik/Uzbek/Hazara government against the Pushtuns, but that government will never control the country if it still needs American assistance after 7 years. The US would be better off withdrawing now before sinking deeper into another hopeless quagmire.