Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Catching Kayla."

"Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall."  - Oliver Goldsmith.

Facing challenges and having difficult times? This is a truly inspiring "against all odds" story.  Kayla Montgomery was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis), a disease for which there is no known cure.

The average life expectancy is 30 years from the start of the disease, which is 5 to 10 years less than that of unaffected people. Almost 40% of people with MS reach the seventh decade of life. Nevertheless, two-thirds of the deaths are directly related to the consequences of the disease. Suicide is more common, while infections and other complications are especially dangerous for the more disabled. Although most people lose the ability to walk before death, 90% are capable of independent walking at 10 years from onset, and 75% at 15 years.

As a former long distance runner myself, this story immediately caught my interest, because I know just how physically demanding distance running is. When you're out of breath with lungs bursting and legs like jelly, you just keep going until the finish. It's almost unimaginable that someone with MS, like Kayla, achieved what she did.


Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Battle For Kobani.

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many, to so few."  -  Winston S. Churchill.

The modern world (and the popular media) had not heard much of the Kurds until 1988, when the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein unleashed chemical weapons on them, killing at least 5,000 in minutes. The eventual Kurd death toll during Saddam's reign of terror would be as high as 182,000. Other than that, not much attention was given to the Kurds, who have a long and interesting history as a dispossessed people, known as the largest dispossessed minority nation on earth today. The Jews were granted a homeland in 1948, but the Kurds, whose history is as long as, if not longer than the Jews, are still not recognised as a sovereign nation.

Kurdistan borders Iraq, Turkey and Syria, but there are no official border lines which define the nation of Kurdistan as separate from these three nations, hence there are Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian Kurds, and all have come under rule or oppression of the "host nation".

The Syrian Kurds make up the majority of the population of Kobani, which borders Kurdistan and Syria in still disputed territory.  It's necessary to understand this basic background, in order to understand the battle for Kobani.

When ISIS (Islamic State) began its immoral and murderous slaughter across the Middle East, the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani was just another target in its campaign to establish a seventh-century style caliphate across the Middle East. ISIS rampaged and murdered its way through all who would stop its proclaimed Islamic theocracy, and Kobani was supposed to be another walk over in its quest for dominance of the entire Middle East.

When ISIS entered Kobani, the "take over" was only expected to last a few days at most. Some two months later, we've all become familiar to what is now known as the "Battle for Kobani".  Kobani, although not militarily strategically important, has become a symbol of dominance - which will benefit either ISIS or its opponents. Who wins in Kobani, will be crucially important, and may well determine the future of the genocidal ISIS and its rise, or eventual demise. If ISIS fails to take Kobani, it will suffer a major setback. The Obama administration, realising the importance of the battle for Kobani, is pounding ISIS positions in Kobani with support air strikes in the hope of an eventual Kurdish victory. 

For those who don't fully understand, Kobani is a sort of "Battle of Britain", or a turning point which will determine the future of ISIS as much as the Battle of Britain defined the future of Nazism in 1939 and the early 1940s. The Kurds naturally have "nationalistic motives" in this battle, and the wish to be finally recognised as a sovereign nation, but behind this, some may claim, "selfish motive", is the startling reality that Syrian Kurdish resistance to ISIS, if successful, may well be the beginning of the end for the most atrocious, murderous and  genocidal regime so far seen in the 21st century.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Message is Very Clear: "Islamophobia: Not Welcome in Australia."

Please take your hatreds and prejudices elsewhere.

“It’s important to note that this video doesn’t say that Islamophobia doesn’t exist in Australia, but rather states that it is clearly not welcome by the Australian public."

‘Muslim hate in Australia’ social experiment will make you proud.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The 2013 Daytona 500.

Having lead the 2005 Indianapolis 500 for 19 laps, the first woman to lead the Indy 500, Danica Patrick switched to NASCAR, and became the first woman to lead the Daytona 500. Lest anyone think that Danica's lead in the 2013 Daytona 500 was a "fluke", note that she remained in the top five almost to the end. Although finishing 8th, she was third at the beginning of the last lap (such is NASCAR). Through the whole race she remained competitive, with the real possibility of winning.

Exceptional driving talent is the only way to describe Danica, and the NASCAR drivers and pundits are well aware of this:

"She's been quick," said Johnson, speaking at a media event earlier this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "There's been Atlanta, Loudon last week, Chicago, (where) she's shown a lot of pace in really getting the car figured out. I can only imagine how difficult it is to come from an open-wheel car to a stock car. We've seen Dario (Franchitti), Juan (Pablo Montoya), many try it, and it's not an easy transition, and she's doing a really nice job."

Danica Patrick continues to improve -- and Jimmie Johnson notices. 

Danica is very popular because currently she's the only female in a male-dominated sport, and it would be disingenuous to deny that this is a huge attraction for many NASCAR fans. Many have said that were it not for Danica, they wouldn't watch NASCAR.

Some NASCAR drivers have done 29-plus starts without a win at Daytona, and only one rookie has ever won it since its inception in 1959, Trevor Bayne, who, incidentally, has had only three top tens in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and no poles.

The race known as the "Great American Race" was first run in 1959.  There are 52 Daytona 500s in the history books, leaving some drivers still wondering why they could never capture a win on the high banks of Daytona.

Other drivers have multiple wins which seems so unfair to those who have spent perhaps 20 years or more trying to win the prestigious race.

Many drivers have finished well, won the July race at Daytona and have wins at the other high-banked superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, yet for whatever reason, they can't be the one who crosses the finish line first at the Daytona 500.

There are drivers with amazing statistics who have driven for high-profile teams with great equipment, but, be it fate, accidents, equipment failure or just that little bit of horsepower that wasn't there on the last lap, they see another year slip by without a win at the event.

Daytona 500: The 15 Best NASCAR Drivers Ever Who Haven't Won It.

Jimmie Johnson Comments about Danica Patrick:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Science Fiction Becomes Reality: The Birth and Evolution of the Computer.

Like me, most have probably wondered about the science behind the computer. How did they do it? How a computer operates seems almost miraculous to us non-specialists. How is all the  memory stored, and how do the mechanics of a computer operate?

When we use a computer today, few of us may pause to wonder how this "miracle" came together. It was actually a slow step-by-step process, almost like putting one brick on another until it all made sense and came together. The mechanics behind computer-building were very much like laying one brick on another until a magnificent structure was created. 

These are the "bricks and mortar" pioneers, who built the first computers, from which billions around the globe now benefit. The multi-billions now being raked in by "social media" media sites like Facebook and Twitter, owe their obscene riches to these pioneers, most of whom lived and died in relative obscurity, and whose names are now little remembered, if at all.  Without these pioneers in computing science, none of us would now enjoy the "information revolution". 

The "Manchester Baby":