Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Google Earth Image Of The Day

Fort Redoubt is on the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, home of the Blue Angels. It was built around 1840, and guarded the landward approach to nearby Fort Barrancas, which defended the entrance to Pensacola Bay. I don't know if it is in use now, but in 1981 when I was training with the Navy, it was unused, but maintained by the Navy.

Mayor Bloomberg Strikes Out

A US appeals court finds against his lawsuit against gun dealers.

Serves him right.

I'll Take You With Me!

Remember that poster you used to be able to buy in Spencer's Gifts in the 70's and 80's? Last Great Act of Defiance?

Well, this story makes that look tame by comparison:

A hawk was found dead along a California highway with the claw of a songbird protruding from its chest.

It's not clear, however, if the partially digested meal, one claw somehow managing to get back out from a terribly wrong location, had anything to do with the hawk's death.

Look at the pic, though, and tell me that this wasn't a sparrow that went down fighting:

One badass little bird.

Treasure Horde Unearthed In Sweden

LUND, Sweden, April 29 (UPI) -- A 9-year-old and his grandfather have discovered what may be Sweden's largest collection of medieval silver coins, archaeologists said.

Alexander Granhof and his grandfather, Jens, were exploring the site of the Battle of Lund, part of the Scanian War in 1676, when Alexander found a few silver coins coated in verdigris, Swedish News Agency TT reported Tuesday.

Archaeologists from Sweden's National Heritage Board said they visited the site the following day and discovered two clay containers filled with more than 7,000 silver coins that are believed to be from around the year 1300.

"I never thought I'd experience anything like this," said archaeologist Mats Anglert.

"I suspect we may have doubled the number of English coins from the Middle Ages ever found in Sweden," Anglert said.

That's two treasure posts in one day. I'm in heaven.

It's A BIRD, For Chrissake.

Or maybe mice. Or a joke.

Whatever it is, it has women in - - guess where? California! upset.

LOS ANGELES, April 29 (UPI) -- Environmentalists are attempting to have a sign reading "Titmouse Park" removed from Los Angeles' Ballona Wetlands area, saying the sign insults women.

Environmentalist Roy van de Hoek said the park was not named after titmouse birds, which are not native to the area. Rather, the name was chosen as an insult to a group of women who blocked local businessmen from turning the area into a parking lot 20 years ago.

Van de Hoek said he had a conversation about 18 months ago with a businessman who claimed to have participated in the naming.

"He said the name came about because he and his buddies were playing a joke on the women," he said. "It was a reference to a woman's body part. He was chuckling and laughing."

However, retired sign painter Bud Harris said he painted the park sign, naming the area after a group of mice he encountered that he mistakenly thought were titmice.

Russian Submarines: Toothless?


It's possible that they failed readiness standards.

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- Russian nuclear submarines conducted only three patrols last year, indicating Moscow may have effectively abandoned their use as a deterrent, says a new report.

The Federation of American Scientists published its Nuclear Notebook this week, revealing that the number of deterrence patrols conducted by Russia's 11 nuclear ballistic missiles submarines decreased to only three in 2007 from five in 2006.

In comparison, U.S. nuclear subs conducted 54 patrols in 2007, more than three times as many as all the other nuclear-weapon states combined.

Owing to "changed strategic circumstances" Moscow has apparently concluded "they don't need this (submarine deterrent capability) for their security," the federation's Hans Kristensen told UPI, citing principally the end of the Cold War nuclear standoff.

Novelist: I Hate My Mother

Mother: I hate you, too.

Michel Houellebecq is a literary icon whose novels have been acclaimed by critics as the cruel illumination of a troubled era.

But France's most celebrated and controversial contemporary author could be pushed off his pinnacle following an astonishingly vitriolic attack from a critic with a unique insight into his oeuvre.

She is his mother - and she is threatening to knock his teeth out with her walking stick if he mentions her again in one of his works.

In a book of her own to be published next week, Lucie Ceccaldi depicts the cult writer as an untalented social climber whose ego is only matched by his dishonesty.

“What are these novels where nothing ever happens?” she says.

“This individual, who alas! came out of my tummy, is a liar, an impostor, a parasite and especially, especially, a little upstart ready to do anything for fortune and fame,” Mrs Ceccaldi, 83, writes in L'Innocente, an autobiography. The onslaught on the petit con (little git) is the revenge of a woman who has been scorned and disparaged by her son in public comments and writings.

Here's mommy:

Her face is mostly skull, isn't it?

While Mining Diamonds, They Find...Gold

The DeBeers diamond people have found a shipwreck in Namibia containing gold coins and ivory elephant tusks.

April 30 (Bloomberg) -- De Beers, the world's biggest undersea diamond miner, said its geologists in Namibia found the wreckage of an ancient sailing ship still laden with treasure, including six bronze cannons, thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins and more than 50 elephant tusks.

The wreckage was discovered in the area behind a sea wall used to push back the Atlantic Ocean in order to search for diamonds in Namibia's Sperrgebiet or ``Forbidden Zone.''

``If the experts' assessments are correct, the shipwreck could date back to the late 1400s or early 1500s, making it a discovery of global significance,'' Namdeb Diamond Corp., a joint venture between De Beers and the Namibian government, said in an e-mailed statement from the capital, Windhoek, today.

The site yielded a wealth of objects, including several tons of copper, more than 50 elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments, weapons and the gold coins, which were minted in the late 1400s and early 1500s, according to the statement.

Buried treasure...


My Kind Of Girl

Australian swimmer Libby Lenton, in order to swim competitively in the Olympics, had to do the unthinkable: increase the size of her butt.

No, no butt shots in the link, damnit, but as a general rule, I heartily approve of big butts.

McKellen To Play Gandalf Again


Good. I wonder whether they'll be able to get Ian Holm to reprise as Bilbo Baggins? And jeez, what about all those dwarves?

Red And Blue...Blues?

David Brooks, in a fine NY Times op/ed, discusses the divergent halves of the Democrat party: Demography Is King.

Good passage: Some liberals believe income inequality drives everything. They wait for an uprising of economic populism. Other liberals divide the country morally, between the enlightened urbanites and the racist rednecks who will never vote for a black man.

Can't Keep A Good Flash Down

Barry Allen, the second Flash and the most popular of all of them, is back from the dead.

Which I'm happy about. The Flash was always my favorite of the DC superheroes, and he had a fun set of opponents, the Rogues.

You Know The News Cycle Is Slow...

...when shark attack stories make their annual appearance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Google Earth Image Of The Day

The Reserve Fleet moored in the James River, Virginia. The ship at the bottom of the picture is labeled as the USS Guadalcanal (LPH-9), a helicopter carrier. I served on her sister ship, the USS Guam (LPH-6).

Bald Eagle Hatched At Norfolk Botanical Gardens

NORFOLK, Va., April 28 (UPI) -- A botanical garden in Norfolk, Va., has announced the hatching of a baby eagle in a nest at the facility.

A spokeswoman for the Norfolk Botanical Garden said the eaglet was "feeding and active" after it hatched Sunday and the baby bird's mother and father were keeping a close watch on their newborn, the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press reported Monday.

Dagnall said the garden's Web site offers visitors the chance to view streaming video of the baby bird at all times via the park's "Eagle Cam."

After I met my ex-wife-to-be in the Navy, we spent a lot of time at the Botanical Gardens. There usually weren't a lot of people there, and the gardens were big enough to get pretty good exercise walking around the park. We would spend a lot of time in the rose gardens, trying to determine which individual rose had the best fragrance.

Update: link to the Botanical Gardens website (and Eagle Cam) here. I checked it out, it's pretty neat.

Monday, April 28, 2008

GTMO Among World's Ten Most Notorious Jails?

According to the Times of London, it is.

Here's the list:

Black Beach, Equatorial Guinea
La Sabaneta prison, Venezuela
Bangkwang jail, Thailand
Camp Delta, Cuba
Diyarbakir prison, Turkey
Mendoza prison, Argentina
Nairobi prison, Kenya
Tadmor military prison, Syria
La Santé prison, France
Carandiru Penitentiary, Brazil

I'm surprised the bastards didn't throw Abu Ghraib in there, too. No prisons from China, North Korea or Russia. None from Castro's Cuba, either. I would have thought that the jails of Columbia would probably qualify, too. No jails from Zimbabwe? South Africa?

Nature Moment

It's pouring down rain outside; much needed rain, that will help fill the local lakes and get this part of North Carolina off of water rationing and drought conditions.

In a tree outside, a red-shouldered hawk is stoically accepting the shower (s)he is receiving.

No, I don't have a camera, damnit. Soon, though.

World's Best Scotch Is...Japanese.

Yoichi 20-year-old single malt won in a blind taste test.

The Japanese walked off with the best blended Scotch award, too.

What Heroes Came Home To.

The barracks buildings that the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, is expected to live in are in horrible condition.

Check the YouTube video shot by a soldier's father, who is righteously enraged over this. It's basically a repeat of the Walter Reed Army Hospital fiasco.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Orangutan Fishes With Spear

A male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish.

It is the first time one has been seen using a tool to hunt.

The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja, where apes are rehabilitated into the wild after being rescued from zoos, private homes or even butchers' shops.

And you know where that inevitably leads:

So I think I'll run down to Wal-Mart and pick up some ammo.

US Navy: Return of the 4th Fleet

Almost 60 years after closing shop, the Navy’s 4th Fleet, which oversaw the hunt for German subs in the South Atlantic, is coming back. Only this time, the prey is drug runners in the Caribbean.

The Navy announced April 24 the re-establishment of 4th Fleet, to be based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. The command will operate as the naval component of U.S. Southern Command and will have a SEAL at the helm.

Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan, head of Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif., has been chosen to command the new fleet. Kernan will take control of 4th Fleet and the current Naval Forces Southern Command.

Effective July 1, the command will oversee maritime operations in Central and South American waters, similar to the command structure of 5th Fleet, which is also dual-hatted as Naval Forces Central Command, the naval component of U.S. Central Command. With the fleet’s creation, sailors can expect to spend more time in that part of the world, not only taking part in counternarcotics operations, but also humanitarian relief and goodwill tours.

The 4th Fleet was responsible for anti-submarine warfare in the Caribbean and Panama Canal zone in WWII.

This is the sort of periodic reorganization that you get used to in military life. Fundamentally it is meaningless, and a way for the Navy to justify its budget to Congress, or even ask for more money when the economy is booming.

If the Navy really wanted to make an improvement they'd reinstate Admiral Dan's Pandemoniacs and base them out of Puerto Rico again, and actually have them compete against the best of the Trinidad steel bands.

BBC: Gun-Crazed USA Is...Heavenly

Despite the fact there are more than 200 million guns in circulation, there is a certain tranquility and civility about American life.

To many foreigners - and to some Americans - the tolerance of guns in everyday American life is simply inexplicable.

As a New York Times columnist put it recently:

"The nation is saturated with violence. Thousands upon thousands of murders are committed each year. There are more than 200 million guns in circulation."

Someone suggested a few days ago that the Democrats' presidential candidates might like to take up the issue of gun control.

Forget about it.

They were warned off - in colourful style - by a fellow Democrat, the Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer.

"In Montana, we like our guns", he said.

"Most of us own two or three guns. 'Gun control' is hitting what you shoot at. So I'd be a little careful about blowing smoke up our skirts."

Democrats would like to win in the Mountain West this November. Enough said.

Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.

"It seems so nice here," they quaver.

Well, it is!

Violent paradox

Ten or 20 years ago, it was a different story, but things have changed.

And this is Manhattan.

Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.

Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.

They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.

It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.

Peace and serenity

What surprises the British tourists is that, in areas of the US that look and feel like suburban Britain, there is simply less crime and much less violent crime.

Doors are left unlocked, public telephones unbroken.

One reason - perhaps the overriding reason - is that there is no public drunkenness in polite America, simply none.

I have never seen a group of drunk young people in the entire six years I have lived here. I travel a lot and not always to the better parts of town.

It is an odd fact that a nation we associate - quite properly - with violence is also so serene, so unscarred by petty crime, so innocent of brawling.

Virginia Tech had the headlines in the last few days and reminded us of the violence for which the US is well known.

But most American lives were as peaceful on this anniversary as they are every day.

h/t Instapundit

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shipwreck Blog: Moonlight

The Moonlight, a Great Lakes schooner that sank in 1903 in a storm.

ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) — In her day, she was the archetype of the trim, speedy Great Lakes schooner.

Carrying a full set of canvas aloft, with cargos of grain and iron ore, she was a magnificent vision; widely regarded as the biggest, fastest and most beautiful of all the three-masted lakes schooners of the age.

She was the "Moonlight," a wooden ship in an era of iron men and near-mythic triumph and tragedy on the Great lakes. She is renowned in sea-shanties that recall her grace, beauty and speed, her epic sailing duels with other schooners, racing the wind for home, and she is sadly remembered for her ignominious end, foundering in a fall gale near the Apostle Islands in September of 1903.

Fast-forward 102 years.

On July 30, 2004, shipwreck hunter Jerry Eliason is conducting a systematic searching for the legendary bulk freighter Marquette, which had sunk in the area of Michigan Island.

Instead, in some 240 feet of water, he discovered something he hadn't even been looking for: the broken remains of the once majestic Moonlight.

Later that year, Bob Olson, Rick Peters and Ken Merryman, divers for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society, found the vessel to be an astonishing archaeological treasure trove, amazingly intact after more than a century in the icy, preserving cold waters of Lake Superior. There the divers found the ship's china, lanterns, anchors and the original steering wheel — all items that are commonly quickly looted from the sunken remains of vessels in shallower, more accessible waters.

"One of the best stories about this ship is how well she is preserved," said Tamara Thomsen of the Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which collaborated with the Shipwreck Preservation Society to get the Moonlight listed on the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places as a preliminary to inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The State Historic Preservation Review Board of the Wisconsin Historical Society met last week and voted to include the Moonlight shipwreck on the state registry.

Ships that sink in cold, oxygen-depleted water tend to fare better than other shipwrecks. I remember watching a special on a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, and that ship (can't recall the name) was in a truly remarkably state of preservation.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How Often Do You Read A Narwhal Story?

And I'm sure there's more than a few of you out there that don't even know what a narwhal is.

Here's some:

It's why you don't hear much about them. Whalers didn't chase them much, since the males had a nasty habit of leaping out of the water and impaling the harpooners.

Well, they could have.

Ok, I lied. They don't do that. It's still a good story, though.

Click on the link for more info. Apparently the narwhals are in danger from global warming. Truthfully, they haven't been studied nearly enough, being secretive and living in the inaccessible Arctic.

An Excellent Grasp Of The Obvious.

Landing an AV8B Harrier on a US Navy ship takes over four years of specialized training:

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Landing an AV-8B Harrier on the cramped deck of a Navy ship that is pitching and rolling on the ocean takes practice.

A lot of it.

According to Capt. Scott Buerstatte, a pilot who participated in the training, it’s easy to tell if a landing has gone wrong.

When a pilot is landing a Harrier vertically, he shouldn’t see the landing area.

“If you can see it, then you’ve missed it on landing,” Buerstatte explained.

Because of the constant up-and-down motion of a ship, pilots are trained to look at the horizon to ensure their decent is level to the ship, he said.

As for the training at Kadena, Buerstatte said it’s better to miss the practice pad on the flight line and still land on concrete than it would be to miss on the ship and land in the ocean.

See? He has his head screwed on straight.

Last Of The Pinball Tycoons

MELROSE PARK, Ill. — Being inside a pinball machine factory sounds exactly as you think it would. Across a 40,000-square-foot warehouse here, a cheery cacophony of flippers flip, bells ding, bumpers bump and balls click in an endless, echoing loop. The quarter never runs out.

But this place, Stern Pinball Inc., is the last of its kind in the world. A range of companies once mass produced pinball machines, especially in the Chicago area, the one-time capital of the business. Now there is only Stern. And even the dinging and flipping here has slowed: Stern, which used to crank out 27,000 pinball machines each year, is down to around 10,000.

It's worth reading the whole thing. I grew up with pinball; when I first started, a single game was a dime, and you could get three games for a quarter. I watched as the pinball manufacturers did things that pissed me off, such as changing from short, stubby flippers to longer flippers that were mushy, and adding zeroes to all of the scoring widgets so that it took millions of points to score a free game. Stupidity.

Ideally, a machine for me would work on the 1 game/dime 3 games/quarter principle, and each game would consist of 5 balls. The scoring widgets would be set to 2-and 3-digit numbers, so you could calculate at a glance how many points you'd need for a free game. The board would be honest, with a fair chance to keep the ball in play, without a lot of clutter in the center area.

Army Medics Treat Civilians In Sadr City

BAGHDAD — Shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, there was a desperate wail at the back gate of B Company’s compound in Sadr City. A woman had been badly burned and her relatives were begging for help.

With little in the way of emergency services and travel hampered by blocked streets, nightly curfews and sporadic firefights, a steady trickle of Iraqis has been turning to the American soldiers here for medical care.

Good story, especially for the New York Times. Maybe, finally, they're deciding to be on the side of their own country when reporting.

Girls! Want To Retire Early?

Get a career as a whore!

When most schoolgirls were playing with their Barbie dolls, Amanda Brooks was dreaming of growing up to be a prostitute.

"When I was in fourth grade, it sounded like a good idea for me. To me it sounded like a really interesting way to make a living and not having to follow other peoples' rules," she said by telephone from Texas where she lives.

Retired at 29 with a steady boyfriend after two-and-a-half years working as an escort, she has published the Internet Escort's Handbook series for aspiring call girls everywhere.

The series so far contains two books. The first book, called "The Foundation" covers "basic mental, emotional and physical considerations in escort work". The second, "Advertizing and Marketing," gives tips on how to set up a Web site and advertize online."When I began working I had a lot of questions and there wasn't really any way to find out answers. I did what they always tell authors to do: I wrote the books that I wished I had been able to read," she said.

That first sentence ought to be taught in journalism school as a perfect example of a hook lede. Who's not going to read the rest of that story?

Amy Winehouse Arrested


Good, maybe they'll do a psych evaluation and commit her for her own good, she's going to die if she doesn't get off the drugs.

Two pics:


An Immigration Metaphor

Apparently the squirrel immigration plan in the UK isn't going too well.

"Mutant Black Squirrels" from Russia are the latest to push in, upsetting the plans of the American Grey Squirrels, who thought that they had the native British Red Squirrels nearly subjugated:

Mutant 'testosterone-fuelled' Russian black squirrels in Cambridgeshire are giving their grey cousins a taste of their own medicine and driving them from their homes.

A Cambridge academic believes the unusual black squirrel now makes up half of the total squirrel population in the area from which they have originated.

The upstarts are the genetic mutations of grey squirrels. And although nuts may be their food of choice there have been reports of their hungry Russian counterparts savaging stray dogs.

It has also been suggested black squirrels could be spreading as they are more aggressive than greys due to higher levels of testosterone, but this has not yet been proved

The first black squirrels were spotted around Letchworth Garden City, near Royston, home to the UK's largest colony.

Since then, they have gradually migrated northwards and eastwards as far as Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. They are also common in some parts of North America.

Three years ago, a pack of Russian black squirrels bit to death a stray dog in a Russian park. They were said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh.

Ok, I call bullshit on that last sentence.

The protagonists, left to right: British, American and Russian Mutant squirrels.

Great Article On Christopher Hitchens

It's in Prospect.

Be sure to follow the second link to out-takes from the article.

Alexander Linklater spent three days with Hitchens, and a lot of information about that extraordinary man was gathered. One hilarious passage concerned Hitchens' homoerotic infatuation with Martin Amis; I recommend reading it for yourself, so you can enjoy it as told by Hitchens himself.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shhh. Don't Anger Them.

The new Maoist government is unhappy with the Gurkhas.

KATHMANDU, April 24 (Reuters) - For nearly two centuries, Nepal's valiant Gurkha soldiers have battled their foes with guns and their lethal kukri knives, which tradition demands must draw blood every time it is unsheathed.

But in a narrow lane off Nepal's parliament complex, they prepare for a battle of a different kind -- not with weapons but printing machines and fliers. Their enemy: a life-altering new diktat from Nepal's rulers-elect, the Maoists.

The Maoists, who won a surprise election this month after a decade of civil war, want to stop a 200-year-old tradition of Gurkhas enrolling in the British and Indian armies, calling the practice humiliating and mercenary.

It is a charge the Gurkhas do not deny, but Nepal's crushing poverty and unemployment have pushed the valiant warrior tribe into a moral dilemma of choosing between dignity and livelihood.

"Nothing stirs a Gurkha more than his honour dared, but here we are in a fix," Mahendra Lal Rai, the general secretary of the largest former Gurkha soldiers group, told Reuters.

One of the Gurhkas was heard to mutter, I will give up my Kukri when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

Gwyneth Paltrow's Shoe Fetish

I can't imagine that they are particularly comfortable, but Gawwwwd, are they hot!

Check these out:

More pics at the link.

US Stopped Doing This In WWII.

A UK mother has her husband and three sons all serving in Iraq.

The USA doesn't do this anymore, because of The Sullivan Brothers.

That's Government Work, That Is!

The Office of Goverment Commerce (UK) unveils its logo, to universal mirth.

H/T Ace of Spades HQ.

Even The NY Times Calls BS On It.

Roger Cohen, in an op-ed, calls bullshit on the ethanol-fueled food shortage:

"The supposed crimes of biofuels are manifold. They’re behind soaring global commodity prices, the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, increased rather than diminished greenhouse gases, food riots in Haiti, Indonesian deforestation and, no doubt, your mother-in-law’s toothache.

Most of this, to borrow a farm image, is hogwash and bilge."

I'm confused; are hogwash and bilge biofuels?

Putin The Patriarch

Christopher Hitchens mentioned this in an interview with Hugh Hewitt a while ago: Vladimir Putin for some strange reason is intent on making the Russian Orthodox faith dominant in Russian life.

It's a good article. Look at the accompanying photo, when I first saw it I thought it was a painting by Ilya Repin:


Irony of the Day

Remember the Buddha statues at Bamiyan that the Taliban destroyed with dynamite? Well, because of the destruction and the overthrow of the Taliban, researchers at the site have discovered the world's oldest oil paintings.

Oil paintings have been found in caves behind the two ancient colossal Buddha statues destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, suggesting that Asians — not Europeans — were the first to invent oil painting.

Many people worldwide were in shock when the Taliban destroyed the Buddha statues in the Afghan region of Bamiyan.

Behind those statues are caves decorated with paintings from the fifth to ninth centuries.

New experiments performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) show that the paintings were made of oil, hundreds of years before the technique emerged in Europe.

Amy Winehouse

I have only one question:

Why doesn't someone commit this woman before she ends up killing herself?

Ukrainian Action Figure: Hitler!

Move over, Barbie and GI Joe. Der Fuehrer is in the house.

The pics with the story are great. Hitler has a spare happy head:

And to go along with the Happy Hitler Head, "He has glasses that are round, in the manner of pacifist Jon Lennon".

See for yourself:

Maybe Tony Zirkle will want one.

You Can Has Career!

I Can Has Cheezburger is hiring.

O Rly?

The Tell-Tale...Tampon?

I don't think this is what Poe had in mind.

TOKYO (AFP) - The monthly discomfort many women see as a curse could pay off someday as Japanese researchers say menstrual blood can be used to repair heart damage.

Scientists obtained menstrual blood from nine women and cultivated it for about a month, focusing on a kind of cell that can act like stem cells.

Some 20 percent of the cells began beating spontaneously about three days after being put together in vitro with cells from the hearts of rats. The cells from menstrual blood eventually formed sheet-like heart-muscle tissue.

Combine this Japanese technology with Japanese film-making, and you could end up with a 100' tall living tampon that destroys Tokyo...

This story will be the butt of a thousand jokes in the next week, I'll bet.

Volcano Blog: Krakatoa

Krakatoa is erupting in a minor way.

DIA: Training Spies With Video Games.

In the wake of the intelligence bungles that propelled the United States into the Iraq war, it's no secret that the nation's spies have been working to improve the quality of their analysis. Now the top U.S. military intelligence agency has come up with a new tool for teaching recruits critical thinking skills: videogames.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has just taken delivery of three PC-based games, developed by simulation studio Visual Purple under a $2.6 million contract between the DIA and defense contractor Concurrent Technologies. The goal is to quickly train the next generation of spies to analyze complex issues like Islamic fundamentalism.

Given a choice between a droning classroom lecture or a videogame, the best method for teaching Generation Y was obvious. "It is clear that our new workforce is very comfortable with this approach," says Bruce Bennett, chief of the analysis-training branch at the DIA's Joint Military Intelligence Training Center.

Worth the reading. But doesn't it defeat the purpose of training if our training methods, and even the training materials, are publicly available?

Just askin'.

Bimbos In Burqas

Or, How To Spot A Persian Prostitute.

Tehran's former police chief Reza Zarei attempted suicide in prison yesterday, a month after being arrested for consorting with six naked women in a brothel. In the aftermath of the scandal, the Times, the Associated Press, and the BBC all reported that prostitutes are becoming more visible on Iranian streets. Given the Islamic dress code, how do Persian prostitutes signal their trade?

Location, location, location. In the 1970s, Bostonians looking for a proverbial good time went to the "Combat Zone" and New Yorkers flocked to 42nd Street; in contemporary Iran, the holy city of Qom is known (unofficially) as a place of "both pilgrimage and pleasure." There, prostitutes wearing veils and even chadors mill about temples or sit together in public courtyards where men can inspect them. Sometimes a male go-between offers "introductions," at which point the prostitutes pull aside their headgear so the potential client can get a glimpse, but the whole process is fairly subtle. For an outsider, it's difficult to pick a street girl out of a crowd.

And it's even possible to get away with this legally, thanks to the loophole's in Sharia, and with the connivance of an Imam:

The penalties for prostitution are severe—ranging from whipping to execution. But there's a loophole in Islamic law called sigheh, or temporary marriage. According to Shiite interpretation, a man and a woman may enter an impermanent partnership with a preset expiration date. There's no legally required minimum duration (a day, a week, anything goes) and no need for official witnesses—unless the woman is a virgin, in which case she needs the consent of her legal guardian. An Iranian who's wary of arrest can simply escort a prostitute to a registry, obtain a temporary contract from a Muslim cleric, and then legally satisfy his sexual needs.

Which makes the Imam a pimp, after a fashion?

Emergency At Work

The one a.m. hour this morning was busy, one of the guests called down to say that her husband was unresponsive and having trouble breathing, I called 911. Police arrived in two minutes, paramedics 5 minutes later. It took a while to stabilize the husband for transport, I'd hazard he had a heart attack or possibly a stroke; none of the responders would tell me. They transported the husband at just past 1:30, and everyone was gone again by 1:45.

Update, 3:30 a.m. The wife just returned to the hotel: the husband died. Massive heart attack, she says.


Follow-up to my blog here regarding the "empty holster protest" at University of North Carolina (Charlotte).

Link to the finished Charlotte Observer story is here.

It's fairly even-handed. News story rather than opinion column. An amusing line is at the end:

Solesby and school officials worked out guidelines for the protest. Participants had to give their teachers a heads-up at the start of class if they wore a holster.

The holster is guilty by association, I guess.

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sometimes You Want To Blog...

...other times you just want to watch free Viv Thomas video clips.

Sorry for the light posting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two US Navy Ships Fail Readiness Standards.

Most of the missiles couldn’t be fired, and neither could any of the big guns. The Aegis radars key to the ships’ fighting abilities didn’t work right.

The flight decks were inoperable.

Most of the lifesaving gear failed inspection.

Corrosion was rampant, and lube oil leaked all over.

The verdict: “unfit for sustained combat operations.”

Holy crap, what's going on with the Navy? When I served back in the 80's there was a system called PMS, Preventive Maintenance System, which required that each maintenance job on the ship be logged at regular intervals, and the work inspected by supervisors and signed off, also. Apparently if this system is still in place (and the story indicates that it is), it's being viewed as simply paperwork to be filled out, rather than work to be done.

Charlotte Observer Soliciting Story Assistance

It's regarding the "empty holster" protest being waged on college campuses this week:

If you're a college student involved in the national Students for Concealed Carry on Campus empty holster protest this week, we want to hear from you. We'd also like to hear from members of a local college community with opinions about guns on campus. If you're willing to be interviewed for a story in tomorrow's Observer, send a e-mail to

Story link here.

We'll see what sort of story they write about this. The Observer is reliably leftist, and never met a gun control measure it didn't support.

"Chemical Ali" Hussein Suffers Heart Attack

He's under sentence of death, too.

So they're going to nurse him back to health so they can hang him?

Weird world.

Three Years In Prison...

...for failing to declare a $25 box of rifle cartridges at Customs in Russia?

WTF? The guy is a 58-year-old preacher. They can't think he's a CIA spy, can they?

I'm baffled.

A Load Of Codswollop

Frequent masturbation may help men cut their risk of contracting prostate cancer, Australian researchers have found. It is believed that carcinogens may build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly, BBC News reported on Wednesday. The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer, and 1,250 men who had not. They found that men who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to get cancer. Men who ejaculated more than five times each week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Man: Doctor, I'm worried about prostate cancer.
Doctor: Jack off.
Man: Excuse me?
Doctor: Go wank. Pull your pud. Whip your wire. Milk the anaconda. Give yourself a helping hand. Go out on a date with Rosy Palm. Choke the chicken. Play Pocket Pool. Spank the monkey. Masturbate, man, masturbate!
Man: Doctor, I think you need help. Seriously.

Volcano Blogging: Krakatoa?

April 22 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesia raised its alert for Anak Krakatau, successor to the volcano that blew up the island of Krakatau in 1883, and Ibu to the second-highest level after the two began spewing ash.

Anak Krakatau, in the Sunda Straits between Java and Sumatra, and Ibu, in the Moluccan Islands in eastern Indonesia, were placed on ``orange'' alert in the four-step color code, the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources said yesterday. It recommended people not come within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of the volcanoes.

The explosion 125 years ago of Krakatau, also known as Krakatoa, left two-thirds of the island under water, generated 130-foot waves and killed an estimated 36,000 people. It blasted enough debris into the atmosphere to lower global temperatures for several years.

It killed thousands in the resulting tsunamis, also. If I were a villger on the coastline I'd be seriously packing up and preparing to get the hell out of Dodge.

Fastest Yacht In The World?

A wind-powered hydrofoil?

Is it a boat? is it a plane? No - it's something in between, that also happens to be very, very fast. Ian Stafford goes flying on the quickest yacht in the world

"This is not a boat, nor a plane either. This is a magical flying carpet,2 says Alain Thébault, the man behind the Hydroptère, the world's fastest yacht.

This extraordinary trimaran is the result of 20 years of research, engineering and design, plus substantial backing from Swiss banker Thierry Lombard.

It's a yacht made from carbon fibre and titanium that rises up on to "wings".

Instead of ploughing through the waves, it glides over them.

Once up to speed, only one of two hydrofoils at the end of each outer keel actually touches the sea. The drag is almost negligible. This is why it has already set two world speed records, over a nautical mile and 500m, and why it'll continue to redefine yachting speeds as we know them this summer. Watch out for the reports.

Sailing conditions are good, with a blue sky, healthy winds and light waves. It takes winds of only 12 knots (14mph) to allow the boat to "take off".

A speedometer reveals that we are picking up speed, from 30 knots to 35 and finally 40. Thébault lets out a series of high-pitched screams of delight, as spray covers fellow crew members Jacques Vincent, an eight-times round-the-world yachtsman, and Adrien Lombard, son of the Swiss backer.

As mentioned, two world speed records belong to Hydroptère: 41.69 knots (48mph) on average over a nautical mile, and 44.81 knots (51.5mph) over 500m.

In a car around 50mph may not seem all that fast, but sitting on a distant extremity of a yacht you feel as if you're aboard a powerboat on full throttle.

The question for me is: How seaworthy is it? Is it something that can survive in heavy seas, or is it just a fair-weather sort of boat?

Bugged By Bunnies

Rabbits are running amok in France.

And the French, being, well...French, are unwilling to declare war on the bunnies.

"It's Full Of What Seems To Be Schoolgirls Giggling."

The British Library Reading Room has relaxed its standards, causing howls of outrage among the "serious" authors who try to work there.

When Karl Marx created the tenets of Marxism in the British Library’s Reading Room and Charles Dickens worked at one of its desks, they did not have to endure queues, a lack of chairs and tables, and rooms closed by crowd control.

Two years after one of the world’s greatest libraries opened its doors to undergraduates and anyone working on research, high-profile writers and academics say that the struggle to find a desk is now intolerable. Library directors stand accused of increasing visitor numbers to boost funds and performance bonuses.

Although there are 1,480 seats in the library, the author Christopher Hawtree was last week forced to perch on a windowsill while the historians Lady Antonia Fraser and Claire Tomalin have swapped horror stories of interminable queues. Library users complain that the line to enter the new building in St Pancras, central London, has recently been extending across its enormous courtyard.

Speaking to The Times yesterday, Lady Antonia said: “I had to queue for 20 minutes to get in, in freezing weather. Then I queued to leave my coat for 20 minutes [at the compulsory check-in]. Then half an hour to get my books and another 15 minutes to get my coat. I’m told it’s due to students having access now. Why can’t they go to their university libraries?”

Ms Tomalin described the crowds as intolerable: “It’s full of what seem to be schoolgirls giggling. I heard one saying, ‘I’ve got to write about Islam. Can I have your notes?’ It’s what you expect to hear in a school.”

Of the long queues she said: “It is absurd. It’s access gone mad. Access has many good points, but making the British Library, which was for specialist readers, into something for general readers seems to me terrible.”

The historian Tristram Hunt said that it was a scandal that it was impossible to get a seat after 11am when students were there. Many people travelling from outside London complain that they cannot get to the buidling any earlier. “Students come in to revise rather than to use the books,” he said. “It’s a ‘groovy place’ to meet for a frappuccino. It’s noisy and it’s undermining both the British Library’s function, as books take longer to get, and the scholarly atmosphere.”

The British Library does not deny that there is overcrowding. It has even produced leaflets listing other recommended libraries. But Phil Spence, its director of operations and services, said: “There are currently no plans to restrict the numbers of users.”

He confirmed that the library’s directors received performance bonuses depending on the number of visits.

Ha! So that's the reason that they let the proles in!

He's Not Like The Other Pervs.

He's an honest perv.

GREENSBURG, Pa., April 21 (UPI) -- Pennsylvania authorities said one of two men charged with soliciting sex with young girls online described himself as "an honest perv."

State Attorney General Tom Corbett said Scott Buckles, 37, was arrested Friday and charged with propositioning an undercover agent who was posing as a 14-year-old girl in an Internet chat room, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Monday.

Corbett said Buckles wrote in a message to the agent that other people in the chat room would "try and trick ya. I'm an honest perv -- I'm up front about it."

Just an honest perv, trying to live a quiet existence, get a little underage poontang, but Hey! he's up front about it, unlike all those other pervs...

Eine Kleine Nachtblogging

Since I spent most of the day playing EverQuest, I'll catch up a bit here at work.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why Your Flu Shot Didn't Work Very Well

Apparently deciding which flu variants to make vaccines for is something of a crapshoot, and the dice rolled wrong this year.

Still, 44% effective is much better than lottery odds.

Leave Dem Pirates Alone

Britain doesn't want to abridge the human rights of pirates.

Since this blog is called The Drawn Cutlass and features a picture of Blackbeard standing in for myself, I can only thank them for their civilized attitude.


What are you going to do?

Bust the 2nd in line to the UK throne down to Jack of the Dust and Captain of the Head?


An Island Comes Out Of Mothballs

Governor's Island, NY.

Within NY harbor, it's sort of forgotten, but only for a little bit longer. There's probably lots of places like this in the US, many of them US Government property, military bases.

Colt M4 Carbine: Good enough?

Some people, including Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok) want to replace the Army's M4 carbines, which they say are not reliable in combat.

If you listen to Barack Obama, presumably Sen. Coburn would conduct new tests by shooting abortionists...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

NY Times Smears Military Analysts.

In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Another smear by the Times, obviously. I'm not qualified to Fisk this thing properly, but I'm sure it will get the attention it deserves in the next week or so. It will be the typical nine days' wonder, with the left and right blogospheres warring over what it all means, with accusations hurled back and forth, with loudmouth congressional leaders calling for investigations. Same old crap that I am basically getting tired of reading about week in, week out.

Why Is This A Problem, Exactly?

Enrique Iglesias can't understand why tennis start Anna Kournikova won't marry him after three years of cohabitation.

1. This doesn't need public airing.
2. Count your blessings, dude. Not married = no divorce to look forward to.
3. Anna Kournikova is willingly sleeping with you, what more do you want, for chrissake?


...does it take a UK tabloid like The Daily Mail to publish a wonderfully even-handed story on Shirley Temple in celebration of her 80th birthday?

She didn't self-destruct with drugs, she stayed married to the same man for 55 years, she loved the US, even served her country as an ambassador to the UN...

Happy Birthday, Shirley Temple Black.

Pooch Rescued From Gilligan's Island!

Well, that's what I call it. You can call it "tiny Fanning Island" if you want to, as far as I'm concerned, it's Gilligan's Island.

You notice that Mr. Howell is spending the money to rescue the pooch and the parrot?

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ah, Crap.

Wuzzadem has closed down.

So long. I'll always remember the Glenn Greenwald Follies.

Putin's GF

OK, you all know the story by now, Russian President Putin apparently has a gymnast girlfriend half his age.

The interesting part of this story is that, in the old KGB fashion that he spent most of his life with, the newspaper that reported the story has been closed down:

The question followed the publication on Thursday of an unusual article in Moskovsky Korrespondent, a Moscow newspaper owned by a former Soviet intelligence officer, which said that Mr. Putin, 56, planned to marry Alina Kabayeva, 24, an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics who has been voted in polls as one of Russia’s most beautiful women. Interfax reported Friday evening that publication of Moskovsky Korrespondent had been suspended “for financial reasons,” according to its parent company, National Media Company.

And at the bottom of the story is this hilarious closer:

The evening news broadcast on the state-influenced television station NTV did not cover the rumor or Mr. Putin’s remarks. Instead, it devoted extensive coverage to Yuri M. Luzhkov, Moscow’s irrepressible mayor, visiting a factory that makes fertilizer from cow manure.

Subtext: It's all bullshit!


Apparently the beginning of the next stupid craze.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 18 (UPI) -- A Florida lawmaker is proposing a $60 fine for motorists who display "Trucknutz" -- plastic and chrome replicas of testicles -- on their vehicles.

State Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis says the ornaments are offensive to many drivers who wind up driving behind them. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel said Friday that Baker tucked the fine proposal into a larger transportation bill.

A Virginia state legislator sponsored a bill several months ago to ban the decorations after a constituent called to complain his 6-year-old daughter had spotted a pair on the back of a pickup truck and asked what they were.

You can see some Trucknutz here.

If you want to buy them, I guess you can go here.

Be the first on your block....

You Can't Ban Me, I'm Boycotting You!

Supermodel and anger management problem Naomi Campbell, who was recently banned from British Airways after spitting on a BA employee, is "boycotting" the airline.

Which is just as pathetic as saying to an employer, "You can't fire me, I QUIT!"

It Resembles A Sherlock Holmes Story

The following news story reminded me of one of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, can you guess which one I'm thinking of?

It was a crime mystery combining elements of the films Ocean's Eleven, The Third Man and the 1979 heist movie Sewers of Gold, also known as The Great Riviera Bank Robbery.

Police in Naples had been baffled for months. Six times they were on the verge of capturing would-be bank robbers in the act —- and six times the gang vanished, apparently into thin air.

Three of the aborted raids were even on the same bank, the Antonveneta in the Galleria Umberto I, a smart, wrought-iron-and-glass, art deco shopping arcade opposite the San Carlo Opera House.

Their technique was allegedly the same in every case: they rented ground-floor rooms next to the banks and when the bank employees had departed, dug tunnels at nights and weekends into the vaults containing safe deposit boxes.

The robbers' plan, which nearly came off, was to ensure that their tunnels connected to the sewer system so they could use it as an escape route. They even used a computer to create a model of the intricate network.

In the last raid on the Antonveneta in February the police, acting on a tip-off, were waiting inside the bank as the robbers emerged - but the gang leapt back into the tunnel and disappeared into the drains.

“No one knows more about underground Naples than Oliva,” a police spokesman told Il Mattino, the Naples newspaper. “He could navigate it with his eyes closed. He knows where all the drains are: the water mains; the dangerous electrical cables.”

An Injustice

WASHINGTON — After both his brothers were killed serving in Iraq, Spc. Jason Hubbard left the Army under the “sole survivor” rule and moved back to California near his parents’ home.

But when he applied for transitional health care and other veterans benefits, he was denied for ending his military tour a year earlier than he had promised.

Army officials also kept his last paycheck, claiming they were recouping some of his $6,000 enlistment bonus for not fulfilling his contract. “I couldn’t believe they were doing this to a family that had sacrificed so much already,” he told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday. “I’m the last one in my family. I didn’t feel like we had more to give.”

On Wednesday, lawmakers introduced new legislation forcing defense and veterans affairs officials to prevent separation penalties and award full benefits to troops who leave the service under the sole survivor rule, calling it an issue of fairness and recognition of their loss.

This is typical of bureaucratic inhumanity. I wish I could stop reading stories like this about servicemembers.

World's Oldest Photograph?

Similar to the story of the "world's oldest recording" that I wrote about here.

Story here.

The phone call was routine, the kind often made before big auctions. Sotheby’s was preparing to sell a striking rust-brown image of a leaf on paper, long thought to have been made by William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography. So the auction house contacted a Baltimore historian considered to be the world’s leading Talbot expert and asked if he could grace the sale’s catalog with any interesting scholarly details about the print — known as a photogenic drawing, a crude precursor to the photograph.

“I got back to them and said, ‘Well, the first thing I would say is that this was not made by Talbot,’ ” the historian, Larry J. Schaaf, recalled in a recent interview.

“That was not what they were expecting to hear, to say the least.”

In the weeks since Dr. Schaaf’s surprising pronouncement was made public, “The Leaf,” originally thought to have been made around 1839 or later, has become the talk of the photo-historical world. The speculation about its origins became so intense that Sotheby’s and the print’s owners decided earlier this month to postpone its auction, so that researchers could begin delving into whether the image may be, in fact, one of the oldest photographic images in existence, dating to the 1790s.

Treasure Blog

It looks like the name of the shipwreck that was salvaged off the coast of Portugal last year is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes y las Animas, which sunk in 1804.

Spain is fighting in court for a share of the treasure; since the shipwreck occurred in international waters and was over 200 years ago, I don't see how their claim will stand.

I think that this is the wreck that John Edwards had a financial investment in.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Music Arrival


The Chinese Want...

...a full frontal kowtow from Jack Cafferty.

Forehead to the floor until you have a callus, like Ayman Al-Zawahiri does:

Most Baffling Story Evah!

Tunable metamaterial zips 'terahertz gap'

(fair use be damned, I'm reproducing this whole story so you can wallow in its impenatrability for yourselves!)

BOSTON, April 17 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've created a unique metamaterial that can be tuned over a range of frequencies in the so-called "terahertz gap."

The team of researchers from Boston College, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Boston University said they incorporated semiconducting materials in critical regions of tiny metallic split-ring resonators that interact with light in order to tune metamaterials beyond their fixed point on the electromagnetic spectrum.

The researchers said their landmark achievement opens such devices to a broader array of uses.

"Metamaterials no longer need to be constructed only out of metallic components," said Boston College Physicist Willie Padilla, the project leader. "What we've shown is that one can take the exotic properties of metamaterials and combine them with the unique proprieties of natural materials to form a hybrid that yields superior performance."

The study that included David Shrekenhamer, Hou-Tong Chen, John O'Hara, Abul Azad, Antoinette Tayler and Richard Averitt appears in the online version of the journal Nature Photonics.

Everybody get that?

I don't know whether to be scared or overjoyed.

Hysterical Scientist Alert!

Cats. Feral cats. Millions of them. Hungry.

Now's your chance to get in on the ground floor of the new environmental hysteria. Become world famous, win the Nobel Prize! Be the Al Gore of feral cats!

update: Welcome, Ace of Spades HQ Morons!

Shatner: I. Hadn't. A. Clue!

He. didn't. know. that. the. other. actors. in. Star Trek hated. his. fucking. guts!

Volcano Blog: Mount Papandayan

Not erupting, but giving signs that it might.

This follows an eruption of nearby Mt. Egon. I have to theorize that in some instances, activity at one volcano might mean generalized volcanic activity in the same area, as if the same magma chamber or conduit to the Earth's mantle is at work. For example, when Mt. Pelee erupted in 1902, there was also minor volcanic activity at the Soufriere volcano on neighboring St. Vincent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drool, Britannia

A leftist teenager shows his contempt for Conservative leader David Cameron by wiping snot down his back.

I'd have decked the little SOB myself. Jail and televisions be damned.

Supreme Court: Lethal Injection Constitutional


And by a 7-2 decision, with only Souter and Ginsburg dissenting. That's got to make Roberts happy, since he likes the consensus stuff.

We'll Trade You An Obama For A Sarkozy

In the US, Barack Obama is skewered for being a snob and and elitist; in France, Nicolas Sarkozy is condemmed for not being a snob and an elitist.

Maureen Dowd: Bitter?

Since Maureen Dowd has this week's column turned on Hillary and Obama, I can actually enjoy reading it.

Take-away line: "The last few weeks have not been kind to Hillary, but the endless endgame has not been kind to the Wonder Boy either. Obama comes across less like a candidate in Pennsylvania than an anthropologist in Borneo."


We'll be reading an AP "Exclusive" in the next few days:

Reporter: How I Was Tortured By The US Army.

Isn't This Racist?

Daily Mail headline and story:

Brown to challenge Mbeki at U.N. over his 'softly softly' handling of Zimbabwe election crisis.

Gordon Brown will risk a showdown with South Africa by insisting Robert Mugabe has been defeated and should step down.

He will go eye-to-eye with Thabo Mbeki at a special session of the UN Security Council in New York at the start of a three-day visit to the US.

The Prime Minister will publicly question the controversial "softly softly" approach adopted by the South African leader over Zimbabwe in front of other African leaders.

The entire quote comes from an African proverb "Softly, softly, catchee monkey." It was popularized by the founder of the Boy Scouts, Lord Baden-Powell. I guess it's in common usage in UK, but here in the US would be seen as racist when used to refer to a black man (Mugabe).

I guess I'll put this under learn something new every day.

Lots of Trash...

...on the world's beaches.

And presumably in the world's oceans, as well:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The world's beaches and shores are anything but pristine. Volunteers scoured 33,000 miles of shoreline worldwide and found 6 million pounds of debris from cigarette butts and food wrappers to abandoned fishing lines and plastic bags that threaten seabirds and marine mammals.

A report by the Ocean Conservancy, to be released Wednesday, catalogues nearly 7.2 million items that were collected by volunteers on a single day last September as they combed beaches and rocky shorelines in 76 countries from Bahrain to Bangladesh and in 45 states from southern California to the rocky coast of Maine.

"This is a snapshot of one day, one moment in time, but it serves as a powerful reminder of our carelessness and how our disparate and random actions actually have a collective and global impact," Vikki Spruill, president of the Ocean Conservancy said in an interview.

The most extensive cleanup was in the United States where 190,000 volunteers covered 10,110 miles - about a third of the worldwide total - and picked up 3.9 million pounds of debris on a single Saturday last September, according to the report.

That's 390 pounds of trash per mile, among the highest rates of any country, although the high number also reflects the large number of U.S. volunteers who took part, said Spruill. By comparison, volunteers in neighboring Canada collected 74 pounds per mile and those in Mexico, 157 pounds per mile, said the report. About 65 pounds of trash were collected per mile in China and 46 pounds per mile in New Zealand. Volunteers covered one mile in Bahrain and found 300 pounds of trash.

The First Hesitant Steps of the Iraqi Navy

First time I've seen these guys mentioned.

Volcano In Indonesia Erupting.

KUPANG, Indonesia (AFP) — Hundreds of Indonesians have fled their homes after a volcano erupted spewing ash and smoke thousands of metres into the air, authorities said Wednesday.

Breathing masks and clean water have been rushed to the eastern island of Flores where the 1,703-metre (5,587-foot) high Mount Egon erupted late Tuesday, they said.

Indonesia's vulcanology office said 600 people from a village near the crater had been evacuated, but a local official said 23,000 were living in the danger zone.

Authorities were thrown into confusion by the eruption, which came at around 10:15 pm (1315 GMT) as they prepared for district elections Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nice Tribute To Charlton Heston... Stanley Fish in the New York Times.

Well written. Marred by some of the reader comments, naturally.

Photos: Space Junk

Computer generated, but interesting photos.

I often think that a new idea for a Star Trek series would be the tale of a "space junk collector" or tinker, who collects and re-uses this sort of stuff, travelling from star system to star system.

Madonna: Space Alien?

A huge vein has appeared on Madonna's forehead after an extremely intense physical workout:

Astrobiologists suspect that Madonna is not really human, but is in fact from Talos IV:

It would certainly account for a lot of the strange behavior.

Learn Something New Every Day

YONGES ISLAND, S.C. (AP) -- During centuries of isolation on the Carolina sea islands, the short-legged, sway-backed marsh tacky horses became perfectly suited for toiling long hours in the swamps and oppressive humidity.

But their wild looks and workhorse reputation - their name comes from the old English word meaning "common" - didn't exactly make them prized among horse lovers. Today, only about 150 of them remain.

Now, breeders are coming together to save the tacky, whose ancestors were left by colonial Spanish explorers.

Those who know the tackies say there's plenty to love about them.

They can take hunters into woods and marshes that can't be reached by foot or four-wheelers. They don't flinch when a rider fires a gun from the saddle. Their deep, narrow chests give them more stamina than quarterhorses over long distances, and their hind ends slope downward, allowing tight turns in cane breaks and woods where other horses might have to back out.

Intelligent and superbly adapted to the Southern humidity and coastal marshes, tackies can be broken quickly and prove docile for even the youngest riders. They can survive on marsh grass and forage other horses won't eat - farmers and owners simply kept them tied up in their yards over the years.

"We haven't found anything they are not good at," said Jeanette Beranger, a program manager with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. "They jump like rabbits, have a lot of endurance and can thrive on nothing."

The tackies' colonial Spanish strain comes from the same ancestors as cracker horses in Florida and bankers from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But DNA testing has found that the tackies are a separate breed, with unique characteristics thanks to their relative isolation.

I knew about the Outer Banks ponies, but this is the first time I've ever heard of Tackies or even Cracker Horses, and that last embarrasses me as a Florida native.

Jail A Fashion Designer?

My first reaction is to approve.

PARIS (AP) -- The French parliament's lower house adopted a groundbreaking bill Tuesday that would make it illegal for anyone - including fashion magazines, advertisers and Web sites - to publicly incite extreme thinness.

Fashion industry experts said that, if passed, the law would be the strongest of its kind anywhere. Leaders in French couture are opposed to the idea of legal boundaries on beauty standards.

Conservative lawmaker Valery Boyer, author of the law, argued that encouraging anorexia or severe weight loss should be punishable in court.

It would give judges the power to imprison and fine offenders up to $47,000 if found guilty of "inciting others to deprive themselves of food" to an "excessive" degree, Boyer said in a telephone interview before the parliamentary session.

It doesn't address the other end of the spectrum, that of obesity, so I guess that will be next. Seems a bit extreme to take this to the level of law, but French fashion houses have been very reluctant to make changes voluntarily.

Lileks Waxes Profound


I’ve been trying to find the right words for a certain theory, and I can’t quite do it yet. It has to do with how a candidate feels about America – they have to be fundamentally, dispositionally comfortable with it. Not in a way that glosses over or excuses its flaws, but comfortable in the way a long-term married couple is comfortable. That includes not delighting in its flaws, or crowing them at every opportunity as proof of your love. I mean a simple quiet sense of awe and pride, its challenges and flaws and uniqueness and tragedies considered. You don’t win the office by being angry we’re not something else; you win by being enthused we can be something better. You can fake the latter. But people sense the former.

Well said.

Colombian Volcano Wakens, Erupts

It's the Nevado del Huila volcano.

The volcano, about 180 miles southwest of Bogota in the northern Andes, erupted at 11:08 p.m. Monday (0008 Eastern Tuesday), according to the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ruination Day

If you're a Gillian Welch fan, you know what today is:

Ruination Day
And the sky is red
I went back to work
Back to bed
Then the iceberg broke
And the Okies fled
And the Great Emancipator
Took a bullet in the back of the head.

April 14th. Lincoln was assassinated; the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank; and Black Sunday, the worst day of the Dust Bowl drought.

Fittingly, it's also the day before Tax Day.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Guitar Hero? Bah! I'd Rather Conduct.

In a rudimentary way, it's already possible.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Wave the baton too slowly and the orchestra arrayed on the screen plays the "William Tell Overture" at a crawl. Wave it too fast and the music gallops away.

But would-be Leonard Bernsteins who wave the remote control correctly as they try out "UBS Virtual Maestro" can experience a small part of what it's like to be a conductor.

"There's an educational component to it. But it's also a lot of fun. We think it's sort of like the orchestra version of 'Guitar Hero,' the video game," said Peter Dillon, who handles corporate sponsorships in the United States for Swiss banking giant UBS.

Two "UBS Virtual Maestro" exhibits have been appearing in concert-hall lobbies across the country since November as part of a project created by UBS, which often sponsors classical music events and organizations, to increase interest in classical music. Organizers hope to take the project to Europe in the summer.

For now, the game can be played only at concert halls on its tour itinerary. Nakra hasn't decided whether to pursue a commercial version. She said she doubted virtual conducting would ever be as popular as "Guitar Hero."

But Philadelphia Orchestra spokeswoman Katherine Blodgett said "UBS Virtual Maestro" seemed to be accomplishing its mission of sparking interest in classical music. During a weekend event for children, more than 100 lined up to try it out, she said.

"You can have someone in their 70s. You can have children. I think it just goes to show that everyone wants to be a conductor," Blodgett said.

I think that's correct; everyone wants to be a conductor, at least all classical music fans. And I think that everyone has one piece that, above all others, they'd like to conduct; for me, that piece is Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from Gustav Holst's The Planets.

What would your choice be?

Reuters Snarks On Itself

In an article on sport fishing in Iraq, a Reuters reporter has fun at the news organization's own expense:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - It's early on a Sunday morning and the fish aren't biting, but Warrant Officer Stormy ("like the weather") Ripley is enjoying a moment of calm as she casts her line into a lake encircling Saddam Hussein's former palace.

Welcome to the weekly gathering of the Baghdad Angler's Club and School of Flyfishing.

This week's lesson is being taught by Warrant Officer Leslie "Scott" Henry, a 19-year veteran helicopter pilot who investigates air crashes as Aviation Safety Officer when he isn't wrangling feisty asp with his Kastmaster lure.

For some of the U.S. troops stationed at the giant complex of bases built around Saddam's lush marble palaces on the western edge of Baghdad, Sunday morning fishing has become a weekly ritual, a way to unwind and think about home.

The club has a Web site -- -- filled with photos of troopers and their fish. In nearly all of them the soldiers are grinning ear to ear.

Fishing stories, like war stories, are more convincing when backed up by proof.

"You need that photo, or if you say you caught a 24-inch asp no one's going to believe you," says Henry.

There are two kinds of fish to catch: carp, which feed on the bottom and are best caught by dangling bait, and asp, a predator best caught by casting a lure near the surface.

But pretty soon the group is casting sleek mirrored lures in an effort to snag an asp. It takes skill to reel in the mirrors so that big fish mistake them for tasty smaller fish.

The Reuters correspondent catches one that thrashes frantically on the hook, but it leaps back into the lake before a photo can be taken. So you'll just have to take Reuters word for it: it was as big as the reporter's arm.

You mean you didn't have a Reuters photographer there to Photoshop a monster fish into the photo? Shame on you.

Good story, though. Well done.