Amusements for the weekend

In a bit of a rush, we declare the wet and windy weekend open with some things to do if stuck at home.

Has Inmarsat screwed up its calculations when trying to track flight MH370 via a once-an-hour ping? The number of variables suggests it would be extremely easy. Even the geo-stationary satellite had a wobble sufficient to alter data readings based on the Doppler effect, and it’s possible the engineers didn’t fully account for the satellite-ground station part of the equation – so it’s possible the aircraft could be… anywhere in an area covering a seventh of the Earth’s surface.

How did Islam spread so quickly from the 630s out of Arabia northeast into Persia and north and west into Syria and Egypt (other than the inability of the weak Persian and Byzantine empires to resist, and the Arabs’ desire to acquire booty)? The answer: it didn’t. First, as a movement of monotheistic ‘believers’ rather than in-your-face ‘Muslims’, it was not initially seen as much more than a variant of existing Christian and Jewish faiths. Second, even after Arab conquerors did become more self-consciously ‘Muslim’ (possibly as a result of hostility from rather than towards other people of the book), they could collect more taxes in their new territories if the inhabitants did not convert.

Who says:

Our slogan is “Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want!!” As a result of this philosophy, we have lost money and the trust of society as a whole, but we’ve gained time and freedom … The neighbours mistakenly thought that our house was a secret Aum [cult] hideout and managed to get them evicted. Also, mountain villages are always suspicious of outsiders, and sometimes they are ostracised by the community. These kinds of problems pop up from time to time, but there’s not much we can do about it. One of our members is a farmer, living together with his fields and rice paddies. There’s another member who has travelled through the Australian deserts and lived with Aborigines. There’s others who are bumming round India. One went to Africa and never came back. One dropped out of a yakuza gang and decided to travel around Japan searching for mermaids.

Our eccentrics du jour.

Finally, how’s Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew doing these days? The picture suggests that he’s fading physically…

…though mentally, he’s every bit as deranged as he’s always been. Given that Brunei’s new Sharia penal code allows for amputations, I’m not sure I’d give the Sultan my hand like that.



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