The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Airliners, crackpots, bird flu and phones

Saturday 13 January 2007 at 11:48 pm
  • The best news I’ve heard so far this year: Tiger Airways, a Singaporean discount carrier modelled after Air Asia, is starting flights to Perth in March. And just like Air Asia, they have ridiculous discounts: $20 one way to Singapore, plus (obscene) taxes, on selected dates until October. This more than plugs the hole left when Valuair stopped its Perth flights after a merger with Qantas (mutter grumble), and makes it wonderfully cheap to travel around Asia. I’m already planning a trip to relatives in Penang for about $400, less than half the current cost. Hopefully this will also be a good thing for West Australian tourism — the State government had better take advantage of it!
  • Who decided that this guy was so important anyway? (Just like Christianity, Islam is divided into different factions and schools of thought, and he’s only one mufti …) I don’t think we should ban him from returning or revoke his citizenship (now that’s a horrid idea: how do you decide who’s a bad citizen?), and he’s entitled to freely travel and express his views. But if I flew overseas and told some people that all Australians are idiots, somehow I doubt there’d be such a swarm of coverage. The media need only stop paying attention in order to transform him into Yet Another Harmless Crackpot.
  • The ASEAN summit in Cebu, postponed from last December, has just started. Impressively, our government has used this as a chance to pitch in a $5m donation to combat bird flu, which gives some meat to the rather hollow Declaration from the last East Asia Summit, and fits in nicely with the argument made on page 29 of my thesis ;-)
  • Finally, after more considered analysis, I’m not sure the iPhone is as awesome as it first seemed. It’s far and away the best phone interface ever, that much is certain, but it won’t be able to run 3rd-party software (perhaps not even Web 2.0 apps), we know little about the camera, and there’s a case to be made that hardware keyboards are better (they’re good for blind people — such as me, when SMSing while half-asleep). Speaking of which, this is an awesome response to everyone’s reactions.

Yet another terrorist strike on trains

Tuesday 11 July 2006 at 11:39 pm

This morning I caught a later bus than normal to UWA, and started chatting to a friendly bloke from Saudi Arabia after he asked me how to find the Alex LT. In that ten minutes I learned more about Middle Eastern politics than what I’ve picked up from years of reading newspapers. In particular, he told me some interesting stories about conflict between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims in his country, such as blatant discrimination for mining jobs in the oil-rich areas where most of the Shi’a minority live.

This is suddenly relevant, I think, considering that barely a year after the London bombings, terrorists have struck commuter trains again, this time in Mumbai (a.k.a. Bombay). This happened three hours ago, so no one’s claimed responsibility, but the early finger-pointing is at Islamic terrorists angry at the situation in Kashmir. (Some of our American friends are pointing to Al-Qaeda or others, but hey.)

More details are on various local blogs. There’s been the inevitable traffic chaos (Mumbai has one of the busiest railway systems in the world) and unsurprising responses from Pakistan’s government and India’s opposition party, but it is slightly worrying that the Indian PM has announced he’ll “take all possible measures to … defeat the forces of terrorism”. Little more than a heat-of-the-moment populist reaction, sure, but do I sense shades of the G.W. Bush school of anti-terrorism?

Meanwhile, over in the Horn of Africa, another group of Islamists has taken control of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. It was sad a few years back when I read about how that country self-imploded in the early 90s, and it’s even sadder to see it happening all over again …