Thursday, 27 September 2007

Why I like living in a small town

There is somebody in my household who does not know how to turn taps off. Instead of giving them a light twist until the water stops flowing/dripping they wrench them until they are tightly screwed in. The water certainly stops flowing but it destroys the washers in a very short time and the water never stops running.

Last weekend it was time to change the washers again in the kitchen taps. I set to work. I turned the water off, drained the pipes, undid the tap handles and pulled out the mechanism. Yep, fucked washers alright.

Then the fun bit started. My taps aren't of the type where you can pull out the bit (technial term!) that holds the washer, replace the washer and then put the bit back again. No, my taps have the washers held in place by screws. Out came the screwdriver. However, as soon as I attempted to undo the screw the screw head simply fell apart. I was bemused. A perfectly good brass screw rotted out by the quality of the water. What on earth was I drinking? No more tap water for me! I tried the screw on the other tap mechanism with the same result. Time for a visit to the local hardware store.

My first thought was to replace my non standard tap mechanism with standard tap mechanisms. No problem, I found a couple and just about fell over at the price - just under $50.00 each. No matter! I want standardised tap bits! At this point the person serving me pointed out that my non standard tap mechanisms also had non standard bits for holding the tap handles on. Would my tap handles fit onto the new mechanisms?

Of course they wouldn't.

The assistant (henceforth known as "the chappie") took me out the back and set to work with his tool kit. He carefully drilled out the top of the screw, then carefully prised off the washer which was reluctant to move. A bit of CRC spray and the screw loosened up and was able to be removed without much effort. He then went to put a new washer on only to discover the non standard tap bit used non standard washers. The holes in the middle of all the washers he had available were too small.

The chappie was resourceful. He mounted a washer in a vice and very carefully and slowly enlarged the hole with an electric drill. It's quite difficult drilling out a small piece of pliable rubber. I wouldn't want to do it myself. That done, the washer was placed where it was supposed to go.

The entire process was repeated with the other tap mechanism.

We then discovered that he didn't have the right type of screw to hold the washers in place so he gave me the name of another business that would probably have them.

All told it took half an hour to go through this process. For this I was charged the princely sum of $2.30 - the price of two washers.

I then shot off to the other business. There they quickly found the right screws. Of course there was a problem with them. They were far too long. The assistant took the screws and disappeared into the back room. I waited, wandering around the shop looking at bits and pieces of machinery that I would had no idea what they were used for, would never buy, and couldn't afford to buy even if I wanted them.

15 minutes later the assistant turned up again. He had very carefully cut the two screws down to the right size. They fitted perfectly.

For this I was charged $1.00 - the price of two screws.

So for the total of $3.30 and 3 quarters of an hour of other people's time I succeeded in replacing the washers in my kitchen taps. This is one reason why I like living in a small town. You get very personal service and often do not get charged the true cost. Both businesses know that I will be a returning customer.

That said, next time I am buying a whole new set of taps.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Why the Pentagon Doesn’t Want Me to Testify About Abu Ghraib

An article by a soldier who served in Abu Ghraib.

Why the Pentagon Doesn’t Want Me to Testify About Abu Ghraib

By Sam Provance, AlterNet. Posted August 31, 2007.

As an Army intelligence analyst, my job at Abu Ghraib was systems administrator ("the computer guy"). But I had the bad luck to be on the night shift. And so I saw the detainees dragged in for interrogation, heard the screams, and saw many of them dragged out.

When I heard that the officer in charge of the interrogation/torture operation at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was being court-martialed, my first thought was: "Finally an officer is being held accountable."

But since my own attempts to stop the torture and identify those responsible were repeatedly rebuffed, you will perhaps excuse my skepticism that justice will be done.

An extract from his testimony:

"I also befriended SPC XXXXX XXXXXXXX, who was with the first MP units that set up Abu Ghraib after the war. Menesini told me that she had witnessed abuses of Iraqi people and even seen some of them murdered. She said she documented these things in diaries that she sent home to her family in case someone killed her before she made it home to do something about it. She particularly mentioned fearing her chain of command. Her view, that anyone disclosing these incidents of abuse would face swift and severe retaliation, was widespread among soldiers at Abu Ghraib."

Link to Provance's testimony to Congress

The XXXXX XXXXXXXXX above hides the name of the person he is talking about. I did this out of politeness. You can extract the text of the redacted (blacked out) parts of the document with very little effort.

George W Bush winds up for the pitch

"Iran ... is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. ... Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent and target Israel. ... Iran is sending arms to the Taliban. ... Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes. ... Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. ... We will confront this danger before it is too late."

"The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased in the last few months – despite pledges by Iran to help stabilize the security situation in Iraq. ...

"Iran's leaders cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis."

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities. ... We've conducted operations against Iranian agents supplying lethal munitions to extremist groups."

-- George W. Bush

So where do you think the US is going? Is Bush beginning the wind up to Iran or is he just bluffing to try and get the EU and Russia to support strong sanctions against Iran?