It's been largely under the radar in the States, but the political situation in Zimbabwe is perhaps approaching its logical conclusion. We might just see some real democratic change there. Someday.
Well, I'm off of the ice, out of Antarctica. Back to Christchurch, definitely becoming a familiar town for me. A favorite Indian place, a favorite Thai restaurant, and I even found a Halloween costume for next year. Am waiting for a seat on an airplane flying north, to Auckland, and then on to LAX. Haven't been any seats the last couple of days, but hopefully tomorrow...
Though it's a beautiful, green place to stay, I miss people back in the states. And I have to start teaching again in a few days.
It was on this day in 1911 that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team became the first people ever to reach the South Pole on the continent of Antarctica.
As far as we know, Antarctica was the last continent on earth to be explored by people. No one knows for sure who saw it first, but a Polynesian legend from New Zealand tells of a man in a war canoe sailing south and discovering a frozen ocean. In 1774, the English explorer James Cook saw vast mountains of ice to the south when he sailed around the southern tip of South America, and he believed there was probably a land mass behind the ice.
The first people to really explore the edges of Antarctica were the seal hunters who began to slaughter the fur seals that gathered by the thousands on Antarctica's shores. The Englishmen Robert F. Scott and Earnest Shackleton were the first men to lead teams into the interior of Antarctica, and Scott went on to try to find the South Pole. He was followed by another explorer named Roald Amundsen, who had decided to join the quest at the last minute.
Amundsen's expedition was a full eight weeks behind Scott's, and when word got out that he was racing to beat the famous English explorer, most people thought Amundsen was crazy. But he had a secret weapon: a team of well-trained Greenland sled dogs. Scott had decided not to use dogs for transportation because, he said, "No journey ever made with dogs can approach the height of that fine conception which is realized when men go forth to face hardships, dangers, and difficulties with their own unaided efforts."
As a result of Scott's aversion to dogs, Amundsen's team arrived at the South Pole more than a month before Scott's team did. And Scott's team perished in a snowstorm on their way home.
Brock Yates is still reveling in his 15 minutes of fame. But it was a great moment. "At no time did we exceed 175 mph." Hopefully they'll figure some way of pulling off a 2007 version of the race...
Scary-sounding mountain road out of La Paz, Bolivia. Vehicles off the edge, dirt road washing away, crazy bus & truck drivers, and speeding.
Interestingly, the yield is in considerable debate. With a quake magnitude of 4.2 (USGS), I can't derive a yield as low as the South Korean claim of 550-800 tons (TNT equivalent). Such a yield would either be a fizzle (if it has a sharp leading edge in time) or a hoax (using a LOT of chemical explosives). For magnitude 4.2, I get a yield of kilotons, though it depends a lot on geological conditions for which I don't know how to compensate or calculate.
Thumbing around the web, I find Jane's Defense Weekly agrees that it needs to be "2-12 kton" to match up with the 4.2 magnitude. The Russians 5-15 kton. Other reports come in with lower figures and possible fizzles.
Pretty darned bad. No one on the ground seems to disagree that the civil war is spiraling out of control. What will the US do? "Stay the course?" "Mission accomplished?"
It adds to the plausibility of them making it to the summit. I have to admit that the romantic in me has always rooted for them making the summit in 1924.
For BBC Top Gear watchers, the hamster is in the hospital after crashing during a British land speed record attempt. If you don't know Top Gear, you should go to youtube and watch some pirated clips from the show. Probably the best TV show on cars ever made, and really quite funny. Some of their previous controversies are outlined here.
In an effort to not be seen as a mindless "petrolhead" let me also mention California's suit against automakers for releasing greenhouse gases. Hmmmm...suing the US government for not improving fuel economy standards would make more sense, but I suppose that is a losing strategy.
It wasn't that many years ago when I visited, camping in the parks, walking through the cities, enjoying the hospitality of the people. This is a country that has been destroyed. The bakers have been arrested for charging more than the governement says they should for bread.
It's been a while since I've seen any US coverage, though there are comments from Zimbabweans living in Minneapolis if you click into the BBC's articles, though there isn't much for a full-on genocide in Sudan either...
Okay, we can't say the rain forests are regrowing, nor that they aren't being destroyed, but they are being destroyed less quickly than before! Still 17,000 square kilometers per year. Good thing we don't need that forest to stop global warming. Oh, we do?
Rio, city of sex? Perhaps if this City of Sex is built on the Copacabana. Sex pods, artwork, swinger clubs, the Roman Catholic Church. Yup it's all in there.
Killed by a stingray? Just bizarre. In Fort Sumner, NM, during balloon campaigns, Animal Planet was one of the few useful channels available. Got a reasonable kick out of Mr. Irwin's antics, and his love of animals.
The New England salt marshes are dying for unknown reasons. I remember almost yearly biology, ecology, or similar field trips to these marshes. Very unusual systems, and lots of fun for kids, knee-deep in muck and all.
Unless my jeg-lagged eyes were completely deserting me, an SR-71/whatever-NASA-calls it was sitting out at the airport with an engine sitting next to it. Weird sight to fly in and see.
Aha! It's one of the surviving A-12 Blackbirds, and had just been rolled out or some such. Normally on display at MSP, I never knew! See here for details.
At least according to the folks at True Bible Code.com. In the next couple of days. And they even told the FBI, via a webpage link.
This advertisement is especially painful. 45 minutes from the airport...
Okay, truth be told, he's had several presidential moments and we all know that's a few more than the current occupier of the oval office. Still, what to say about An Inconvenient Truth? I saw the movie over the weekend and came away with a string of opinions and a fear that someone would note that I had driven to the movie theater rather than walked...
One of the more interesting, and utterly cool, examples of "emergency" science. Rescuing frog species ahead of a lethal fungus infection. And bringing them back to the states in carry-on baggage...
Zimbabwe introduces the $100,000Z bill with inflation now above 1000% per year. The previous $50,000Z bill is not sufficient to buy a loaf of bread.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! On a related note, my daughter Sylvia had bad dreams last night about sharks in her Mom's bathroom. Scary stuff for a seven year old.
Headed towards 1000%. If you have cash, you use it right away. Tomorrow it will be worth 5% less. A sheet of toilet paper is not about the same value as a Z$500 bill. And the government is printing money as if it was going out of style.
Sudan is at the top of the list. Also up there, the Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan. Genocide bad, insurgency bad, chaos bad, inflation bad. Norway is "least failed" state.
Been thinking about the big rally being held this Sunday, April 30th at the State Capital. "What did you do to try to stop the Darfur Genocide?" Been thinking about Biafra in light of what is happening now (and heck, for years now) in the Sudan. Got a book on the Biafran War a few days ago. Hadn't thought about it in quite some time. Anyway...there's not a lot of good material (at least that I could find quickly) on Biafra online, but you can try these to start:
It's pretty cheap, and the cool mullahs are doing it. Guns, uniforms, bulletproofed cars. All available for cash transactions.
It's clear now how the Iraq distraction has harmed us in the pursuit of bin Laden, with North Korea's nuclear weapons, and now with the standoff with Iran. The US is immeaurably weaker today than when Bush decided to launch a war of aggression with Iraq.
Next week's New Yorker has an article from Seymour Hersh claiming the US is getting quite close to making a decision of military action in Iran. That article is being referenced around the world noting that the use of nuclear weapons is under consideration.
These two guys walked across the frozen 56 mile Bering Strait crossing into Russia as part of a walk-around-the-world expedition. Then didn't register with the authorities in time and got arrested.
The City Pages here locally has an excellent article on the bird flu which is clearer than anything I had previously read about the real risks and issues with the H5N1 virus. Important reading I think.
The Donald Rumsfeld that is. Plastic has an excellent resume of web links from his halcyon days in the Nixon and Ford administrations to leading two failed wars (see what sort of freedom and democracy has brought to Afghanistan?) for Dubya.
Read his own words, justifying what has been accomplished in the past three years in Iraq. Believe any of it? Like Rummy's $50 billion dollar and 5 week estimates of the war costs and length? And what's up with his comparisons of very and sundries with Hitler? Do we really fear that a 1000 year Venezualan Reich is right around the corner? Or is he projecting a bit?
Going back to the resume, we have to reflect on his successful running of the Office of Economic Opportunity under Nixon and his back-room efforts to help get the US out of the Vietnam War. For that he was shuffled off to be NATO ambassador. Then triumph as chief of staff and defense secretary under Ford, fighting against the whole nastiness of detante. Off to the private sector until Dubya decides to bring the Nixon crowd all back to the White House. The epic Shinseki-Rumsfeld fight seems now to be a footnote in the story, but certainly marked part of the White House team's decent into unreality.
Nepal is getting harder, and no tourists have been in Chechnya in years. Last Summer I wasn't able to make it up to Srinagar (from Mumbai) due to the terrorist activity. Angola is getting questionable again, and Zimbabwe wouldn't be nearly as much fun as it was a decade ago.
As many of the people haven't returned yet, it appears to mostly for the tourists. The most amazing statistics was the population drop from 500k to 200k folks living in New Orleans.
The Argentinian sabre-rattling is starting to get British attention. Isles Malvinas may once again be a useful distraction for the Argentine government faced with domestic problems.
...you should now.
They have an ongoing, excellent, series of articles offering vignettes from both sides of the Israel/Palestine war. Doctors, film-makers, innocent victims. It's good reporting in a blog format.
I think that figure from the BBC tells a lot of the story. A life expectancy of 300 years? A little bit of an update, and also the results of the Valentine's Day women's protests in Harare and Bulawayo.
Well, the Winter Olympics are off and running. We had Sofia Loren, Susan Sarandon, and Yoko Ono in the opening ceremonies. I hear Yoko has been seriously considering a comeback in the biathalon. The African women carrying the flag outnumbered African women competing in the games, but we do have the Australian skeleton team. Hmmm...they're probably not going to do too well. Nor the skiers from Senegal.
Living in Minnesota, we do have the special thrill of the Bemidji men and women's curling teams representing the US. The olympic trials in Duluth were impressive. I'm told.
Who do I complain to about the lack of cross-country and biathalon coverage though? I remember not seeing enough modern pent at the summer games as well...
...and, presto, there it is. And it's really quite strange. And you scroll down, and it gets stranger. And it reminds you that Joy Division was a really long time ago, though I suppose not as long ago as Hank Williams. Senior. So, you click on the mp3s and listen while, oh my god!, the music plays and you read of Tuva and stolen passports. Then you look around on the site, reviews of Captain Beefheart in a Tuvan style. Feynman pretty much has to be to blame for making Tuva hip again. Kyzyl! The throat singing is amazing stuff, but covering the Rolling Stones? They just did the halftime show at some Bowling match or other. And got censored. Painted black. Black as black. The link already!
Sample lyrics from KAMGALANYR KUZHU-DAA BAR (We have protection force.):
Yenisei river's banks are full of natural richness, our amazing country has protection force.
Yenisei runs and kicks his banks by his waves, if an enemy invades we have a lot of power to destroy him.
In taiga there is a lot of gold and other richness, in the north and south we have brother countries.
In the south and north parts of taiga there are a lot of minerals and furs, -- we have the powerful USSR giving a happy life to us.
music - trad arr. A. Kuvezin
lyrics - Salchak Toka
"The name of a mountain pass through Tannu-Ola range at the south part of Tuva. In 1933-1934 the road from Kyzyl (capital) to region on Mongolian border was built; and on this pass for one year people were digging using only simple tools like picks, spades, hand-trolleys and enthusiasm. Now it is road of state importance connecting Siberia, Tuva and Mongolia. The lyrics written by first General Secretary of Communist Party of then-independent state of "Tannu Touva". Salchak Toka, leader of the Government and also one of the great writers of classic Tuvan literature - a Soviet Union State Prizewinner. This song about wish and striving to dig out Kaldak-Khamar pass, to build a smooth road and to rush by an iron devil-car like a kite."
Shades of the General Slocum disaster off New York City harbor the day before Bloomday.
There's an interesting science fiction novella Time Adrift about a time traveler visiting the burning General Slocum. You can read it online.
So, I was walking home from school, we had had exams that day and I was finished for the day. When I got home my mother had heard it on the radio. I remember the next day watching the footage again and again in school and noticing when someone decided to add the explosion sound to the tape. It wasn't delayed at all. You saw the explosion and heard the bang. I remember that faking of the news video almost as much as the whole tragedy at NASA sort of thing. Columbia bothered me a lot more---probably by being closer to NASA and the space program at that later date, and also understanding it as the end of the era. (Or maybe of the error of the shuttle.)
Maybe coming to America sometime soonish... Once the last memories of GM's attempt at diesel cars in the early 1980s is completely erased.
Cholera outbreak in Harare. Someday I hope to post some positive news here from Zimbabwe.
Despite the popularity of Seven Years in Tibet, Harrer was a complicated figure: first to climb the north face of the Eiger, a Nazi, and outstanding wilderness survivor all before Lhasa. Afterwards, well, read the book.
Preliminary results of Iraq's parliamentary elections show that the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance swept the south aof the country and won ~60% of the Baghdad vote. US backed candidates did poorly and Iranian backed candidates did very well. No word on rumors that Dubya is a mole working for the Iranian government.
The Zimbabwean Diaspora. Very nice BBC coverage.
Also see the following Beeb stories:
For some Fall travel. Budget plenty of time in Powell's and do take a trip out to the coast.
Only 8% of Russians could name their new holiday. Day of People's Unity. With seperatist movements afoot across the FSU, it doesn't look to be a very popular holiday.
Our old, donated computers are filling landfills in Africa. I also noticed that the US hasn't signed the Basel Convention which seems to be focused on the trade in hazardous materials. Will have to look into that a little...
Murder and rape of children? Myth. I think we can pretty easily understand the reason for the fake stories, but it remains critically important for us to read the truth and mentally cross-off the stories intended to produce hatred of the poor.
There's a good discussion going on. How many have you visited? Or will visit?
This woman rides her motorcycle through the death zone around the Chernobyl reactor. She has a radiation meter and understands what she is doing.
She claims that about 3500 people have moved back into the death zone, but that only about 400 of those folks are still alive. (A much higher death toll, right there, than my earlier mention.) Other sources say that no more than 1200 people moved in, most of those people moved back out. (By the way, there are claims that Elena Filatova's story, the motorcycle in the death zone, is at least partly fake. Or even more than partially faked.)
A total death toll of tens of thousands are claimed by the motorcyclist and by the Chernobyl.info site. The cleanup workers, the liquidators, would have been the largest group of potentially harmed people. This group numbered about 650,000 in some estimates. Far fewer in others.
Body count? The UN says 56 as of 2005, 47 workers and 9 children who died due to thyroid cancer. (See wikipedia for example, or the previous link in my blog.) Greenpeace and others contest those numbers. The truth? No idea right now.
Best quote: "In the driveway lay a survivalist's arsenal: two transistor radios, a cell phone, a half-empty bottle of Napa Valley zinfandel, tobacco, a pipe and some blackberry soda." Survivalist blackberry soda, who'd have thunk it?
Tragedies and utter incompetence still prevail. I meant in NOLA, rather than DC, the latter is obvious.
"Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. 'The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all.'"
The English papers have been asking the question. We know that Dubya spends most of his time snorting coke and on vacation in Texas, but the Brits aren't used to their leader disappearing.
Though there is a rumor that Blair is in the Caribbean on holiday, we know better! He's taking some time off in Vancouver, BC to learn how to skate.
Skateboarding that is. Reliable reports indicate that Tony Hawk and Tony Blair are practicing some phat moves in parking lots and the stairs of government buildings across the Hong Kong of the West. The Tonymeister was last seen wearing a "Skateboarding is not a crime" cutoff and demanding that The Urinal's first 7" be played louder.
Downing Street had no comment, but unnamed sources in the government confirmed that the Blairster had indeed taken up a new "recreational activity" and would be training the best experts in the world. Earlier reports that this activity was bicycling were proven wrong when Lance Armstrong showed up in Crawford, TX to ride with Dubya and ask for some political cover. The French have finally proven his performance-enhancing drug use, but we know that just starting to call that certain food item "Freedom Fries" will shut them up.
We now speculate that skateboarding is intended as a second occupation for Bliar. He had noted that he would not stand for PM in the next elections, so what would be a more natural job than as a professional skateboarder? He would be the clear front-runner in the "former leader of a nation" skate class/category.
I had sent these recommendations to a grad student of mine...
You need, or should have, the following things to take with:
- 100% UV sunglasses (perscription sunglasses are fine)
- if you care about the fashion, a pair of ski goggles, otherwise the ones they issue are okay
- wool socks (4-6 pairs)---smartwool is good (sierratradingpost has them on special)
- pair of medium boots, not mountaineering boots, not "Arctic" boots, but insulated comfortable boots for around town (I like Asolo mid-weights, backpacking boots like the 535)
- an extra duffel bag (you are issued two red duffels that you must take with you, you carry one and check the other, you can also check an additional bag down to the ice, but you need an extra duffel to store stuff in New Zealand (shorts/sandals/that sort of thing) since the checked bags leave your control and you might find yourself back in NZ without checked bags!)
- just before going down there, update antivirus software (check the site licenses)
- soap (in theory it's supposed to be biodegradeable, in practice whatever you take is fine, Dr. Bronner's covers both requirements)
- towel or two
- a good set of thermal underwear, either silk or polypro, mid-weight rather than "expedition" weight
When getting your gear in New Zealand:
- make sure things are the right size!
- turn down most of the extra gloves, you just need a basic pair and the overgloves (latter is required)
- try to get a pair of Blue EBX boots rather than the standard rubber boot (mickey mouse)
- if they have your size, get the military wool pants rather than the nylon overalls
- another option instead of the nylon overalls are the cotton duck work overalls (it'll make you more of a blue collar person in McMurdo, your choice)
Hotels in Christchurch:
- the B&Bs are European-style B&Bs, not American, so think bathroom down the hall, very basic inn
- don't stay near the airport, there's a good bus service between downtown and the airport/Antarctic center
- the quality order is Backpackers, B&B, Motel, Hotel, "Others" are way out of town mostly
- Devon Hotel and Windsor are popular, Pacific Park is a trip (US western theme, a little further out of downtown, but close enough to walk easily), Croydon right next to Devon is also supposed to be good, Camelot was liked by one of my colleagues
Though we usually hear only bad news about Africa, this article has an interesting mix (and good links) of news on the human "footprint" on the continent. Hippo overcrowding, green policies in Namibia, the effects of war...
I'm not looking for...
But there are huge stacks of Mein Kampf in every bookstore in Pune, and I have finally figured out the lay of the land here in the city. Did a lot of walking about with occasional autorickshaws to travel longer distances. Am still trying to find some cloth to bring back to the States. And other gifts.
It's raining hard again. That whole monsoon thing. If it slows up or stops I'll try to head out again for a bit.
Travel for lack of a better suggested category.
Bombay, Bollywood, Monsoon season. It was quite an experience seeing the city shortly after the huge, killer floods. Garbage, sewage, and water all over the streets. But not over all of the streets. And no longer waist or neck deep.
- saw about 1/2 hour of a Bollywood flick at a little shack/street vendor...ate samosas there and watched the film...looked like he was stealing electricity for the TV with a bunch of tangled wires running down from a building...I am going to get the plague I fear, but the food was good!
- speaking of food...Indian food...yup, it's one of the luxuries of the US I think...we get good food of most every type (okay, I know, we also have some really crappy food, but we have good stuff of most types available)...so the good Indian food I've had here is not too different from good Indian food in the US...Udupi in Minneapolis for example
- my hotel in Bombay (or Mumbai, we can talk about those politics some other time) also tried to do "English breakfast" with limited success...they had potatoes with "paprika" but the paprika was some truly hot pepper...tasty, but not exactly what was planned I think...and it's hard to picture some older Brit biting into a four alarm breakfast
- Garlic Naan, yay!
- Politics also...what to say? It definitely feels evil to stay in a nice hotel, drink bottled water, type on a laptop, while outside people slop around in sewage, live on the sidewalks, scrounge for a basic existence. Of course that's true whether I'm here visiting or not. Whether I'm in my first world home in the States or my substitute first world hotel home in India. But what to do about it?
- The meeting looks a bit muddled at this point. There's no posted schedule. In theory there will be transportation tomorrow AM to the meeting leaving from the hotel. No one seems to know about that.
Well, everyone keeps asking how it is. Not bad is what I have to say. There's water, sewage, and garbage in the streets of Bombay, but only in places, and nothing like the images of a week ago.
There was power, water, and no water in the streets near my hotel (just a little ways from the airport) in Bombay. I drove up to Pune today (my Sringar plans had fallen apart) and the roads were okay. Damaged in places, but basically okay. Well...that's all for a quick report. More soon!
Headed that way on Saturday...
In Bombay/Mumbai, where 1/3 of the city is under water and hundreds have died. Hmmm...maybe more like 200 dead already in the monsoon.
I used to be pretty consistent in reading Christopher Hitchens in The Nation and now have to admit to reading a bit of his work in Slate as well. In fact, I have a slew of interesting Slate articles to link to here. Can't say I agree with all of them, but there's some good Bosnia and Zimbabwe articles here.
It's clear that Somalia is a wonderful tourist destination. If you're looking for something out of Mad Max but with a little bit of a watery twist. Hmmmm...Kevin Costner's Water World?
Before and after shanty-towns in Zimbabwe.
Ah, Paris in June. The smell of avgas. The article focuses on the competing orders for future Boeing and Airbus planes.
...doesn't seem to be accomplishing anything. The authorities have announced that they will "deal ruthlessly" with any street protests. Oddly enough, the state-controlled media didn't report on the general strike. Funny that.
The Beeb has the best coverage that I know of. Click on the link above and follow links there to quite a bit more coverage, including video and some photos. Including the one to the right.
...with no real resistance. It looks like some sort of enforced ruralization to eliminate the urban poor pockets of opposition to Mugabe. Not quite Pol Pot, but we'll see how those people make up.
I keep being saddened by the Zimbabwe disasters. A country I didn't quite fall in love with when traveling there, but one that I appreciated and hoped the best for.
Iggy Pop's Lust for Life
Here comes johnny yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He's gonna do another strip tease.
Hey man, where'd ya get that lotion?
I've been hurting since I've bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love.
Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens.
Well, I'm just a modern guy
Of course, I've had it in the ear before.
I have a lust for life
'cause of a lust for life.
I'm worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a gto
Wear a uniform
All on a government loan.
I'm worth a million in prizes
Yeah, I'm through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
No more beating my brains
With liquor and drugs
With liquor and drugs.
Well, I'm just a modern guy
Of course, I've had it in my ear before
Well, I've a lust for life (lust for life)
'cause of a lust for life (lust for life, oooo)
I got a lust for life (oooo)
Got a lust for life (oooo)
Oh, a lust for life (oooo)
Oh, a lust for life (oooo)
A lust for life (oooo)
I got a lust for life (oooo)
Got a lust for life.
Though they only used the chorus... Also, here I'll have to mention that Jaguar (the car company) uses The Clash London Calling. Some other favorites?
Here in the Twin Cities, we've had various Peanuts characters on display around St. Paul. Snoppy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and did I miss one?
Anyhow, Zurich was going to do the same with a kinda generic bear (unless the bear is deep symbol for numbered bank accounts) with various paint jobs. But, one of the bears was a bit too much. Best part, the "first class service" label on it.
Did Linus have a year of statues as well? Darn it, my memory is fading.
Interesting piece on the "freeze" reflex and how it is unsuccessful in critical situations. The big examples are 9/11 WTC evacuations (much slower than predicted, many people sat around for 30 minutes or more before trying to leave) and the Tenerife air disaster (commercial airliners are supposed to be evacuatable in 90 seconds (even with some exits destroyed and debris inside the plane) but only 60-70 out of 370 escaped in one minute in that disaster).
Thinking about this further, it's probably not that much of a surprise, and on my next airline flight I promise to spend some time thinking about what an evacuation would look like. 90 seconds to get everyone off of the plane?
...for fraud since slavery doesn't exist in Niger. Right. The BBC webpage also has links back to the news articles in early March when the freedom ceremony was to be held, and was cancelled due to "lack of slavery."
Still going on... I had it associated with a distant time in the Northeast, back before state lotteries and legalized gambling in most places. An interesting article on the current version of the numbers game.
You've probably heard the news of the Ethiopian Axum Obelisk being returned to Axum from Italy. It had been looted by Mussolini during the Ethiopian conquest. Anyway, you can find a complete listing of the 30 obelisks and their histories (as far as they are known) here.
You can follow the rigged election on the BBC. Or just assume that Mugabe is going to steal the election, as has been reported food aid is only being distributed to those who hold cards for his party. Amazing how far this country has fallen in the past few years. Hyperinflation, murders of dissidents, media crackdowns, stolen foreign aid monies, loss of democracy... It's been a painful process to watch from a distance (obviously has to be infinitely worse in the flesh) after traveling there and truly enjoying the land and the people. What is it with Africa? I know Paul Theroux tried to answer that, and maybe Bill Clinton too with his big African trip, but I don't think I understand. Why the war in the Congo? Why the never ending corruption?
My little twin girls had been looking at a travel book recently and they were fascinated with the spiral minaret in Samarra. They wanted to travel there and climb up it (once the war was over). However, it looks as though it's been badly damaged in recent fighting after having survived quite a bit in the past.
Well, I made it back to the US on Saturday early morning. Customs didn't take too long, but I definitely got the once over (people who know me typically don't go through security with me out of fear of getting the full treatment that I usually get). I like the airport beagles though. Very friendly. Of course they aren't needed if you set off the custom's department profile. What? Do I look like a drug dealer or something? I even have a nice new passport (old one filled up) without the more "interesting" country stamps and visas in it.
Anyway, noticing the large number of, well, large people at the airport reminded me that I had returned to the land of obesity and junk food. (I'll be polite, I'm overweight as well and at 6'6" not exactly a paragon of human minimal-impactness.) Eating in Argentina, I consumed these huge steaks, piles of fries, small salads, huge pizzas, and deep-fried empanadas. Just like the locals. Just like the thin locals. Obviously there is something more complicated that just quantity of food in play here. More thoughts on this at some later point.
It's been most of a year since I've down here, at the Auger Observatory campus. Town looks a bit different. Some new businesses, new house construction, and a couple of new complexes of cabins on Rte. 40 coming into town. It'll be a different sort of meeting, focusing on the science results rather than the hardware and initial calibrations. The array is a bit under half built, but we're looking to present science in August (at the every-other-year International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC) which should not be confused with the International Committee of the Red Cross).
Hotel el Cisne, where I'm staying and which used to be the default place for the surface detector electronics folks to stay, has been bought by the local big guy who also owns the Rio Grande hotel and restaurant and a bunch of other local businesses. We had some bad experiences renting 4x4 trucks from him back in the early days of the experiment construction. A certain truck fire comes to mind...
It was a wet drive down from Mendoza yesterday. Rain and hail most of the five hour (I took the slower route) drive. Just a short pause as I went through San Rafael. If I get my talks pulled together this afternoon, might take a drive up in the mountains or go fossil hunting (though they can't leave the country).
The horse skull I hung (4 years ago?) in the SDE office remains up there. And the shocked looks when it first went up...
With a 13 minute song devoted to the Loch Ness monster! The late 1970s have returned!
Image deleted by these folks. (mod 3/17/2005)
From our friends, whoever they might be, at pad34. Found in a conversation on plastic about hunting...
East Timor? Nope, the Indonesians were our friends. Cambodia? Bad commies, but what could we do? Rwanda? Just Africans killing each other. Bosnia? A European problem. The Congo? Which one? Good thing that we've been preventing genocides since learning the whole "never forget" lesson.
Turns out that the photos of the Iranian and North Korean reactors are the same picture. Seems the government sources of the pictures aren't sure where this reactor is. The replacement picture has snow, so that probably is from Idaho or North Korea.
Having been on the graduate admissions committee in Physics for, oh I guess it's been four year or maybe five now, I've come across a good collection of Engrish submissions and other unfortunate occurances. Fortunately, I have written some of them down, so I can share the warmth, share the love, with all. (Actually, technically some of these, including the first one, are not Engrish, but rather are bizarre turns of phrase which probably are due to lack of familarity with English, or lack of familarity with writing in English.) Obviously these are totally anonymized and no small furry animals were harmed in the making of this post.
With sixty beers??? No photos available.
Police hunt poo protestors. But they aren't sure what law, if any, is being broken. 2-3 thousand dog piles have already been defiled!
Better cut your hair short! Men need to cut their hair every fifteen days. The state is looking out for you. And looking into your actions!
Not as bad as it used to be. All the cold ways to die before gas heating and polypro undies.
An undated handout photograph shows the Massa Marittima mural in the Italian town Massa Marittima. At first glance the mural looks fairly similar to dozens of other medieval frescoes dotted across Tuscany, but a closer look at the spidery tree which dominates the centre of the painting shows its branches are covered in penises. Until now, it was assumed the phallus tree was a fertility symbol but according to a British-based expert, it is a actually a unique piece of political propaganda, commissioned by one Tuscan faction to sully the reputation of another.
Sharing the headlines along with the Ukrainian democracy struggle are the following gems...
Chinese suicide hotlines overloaded and most "customers" get a busy signal, and unfortunate hitchikers in Zimbabwe are forced at gunpoint to rob a grave. Of its casket. The casket is needed due to the high rate of AIDS deaths and the resale value of a gently-used coffin. Would I be able to make this up?
"Great God, this is an aweful place." - Robert Scott
"Great God, this is a waffle place." - McMurdo waffle breakfasts slogan
"We had discovered an accursed country." - Douglas Mawson
"Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has yet been devised." - Aspley Cherry-Garrard
"If there is a hell, this is the place, and the sleeping bags are worse than hell." - Ernest Joyce, member of Shackleton's expedition
"Countries condemned to everlasting rigidity by Nature, never to yield to the warmth of the sun, for whose wild and desolate aspect I find no words; such are the countries we have discovered; what then may those resemble which lie still further to the south? ... To judge the bulk by the sample it would not be worth the discovery ... Should anyone possess the resolution and fortitude to elucidate this point by pushing yet further south than I have done, I shall not envy him the fame of his discovery, but I make bold to declare that the world will derive no benefit from it." - Captain James Cook
"The whole scene looked like the wreck of a shattered world, or as the poets describe some regions of hell; an idea which struck us the more forcibly as execrations, oaths and curses re-echoed about us on all sides." - Forster, member of Cook's crew, 1774
"Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" - Arthur Gordon Pym, Edgar Allan Poe, & H. P. Lovecraft
It's been interesting following the protests in Kiev over the stolen Ukrainian election. Beautiful seeing democracy coming peacefully to this part of the world. A lot of folks have mentioned the hip-hop song of Ukrainian protest in the news. You can listen to the song here. Without speaking any Ukrainian, I think I can understand a good fraction of it.
On a local note, the Mila Vocal Ensemble performed this weekend at Unity Church in St. Paul, playing the folk music of the Ukraine, among other nations/cultures. Worth checking them out...
Weirdly enough, the wikipedia coverage of the Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" is worth checking out. Current affairs in an encyclopedia? I think some of the strengths of the wikipedia are being shown here.
The Adventures of Billy Dare are one of the recurring Ruben Bolling featurettes that I really enjoy. I remember looking at the pictures in Tintin as a kid (Tintin en Francais that is) and later reading the English translation. So, boy adventurer is probably not a genre that has much cache unless Tintin (or similar) was part of your childhood. Still...the postmodern literary device has the ability to ruin the innocence of any childhood book. Happily so in my opinion.
Or for something more in the holiday spirit, check out the economic analysis of the 12 days of Chirstmas song with bricks and mortar compared to the internet purchasing.
100 Scientific Things To-Do Before Checking Out. The original article is in New Scientist, but I haven't found a link online, it looks to be available only, gulp, in print!
Some of these are interesting, some useful, but some are a bit bizarre or even nonsensical.
The description of the Choctaw facts in this article are misleading.
Choctaw does have two past tenses, but they are not differentiated in the way claimed. The regular past tense, written -tok (or -tuk in older orthogrophies) is used for completed events ranging back about a year. The other suffix -ttook is for events that were completed more than a year ago. Furthermore, events that happened within the past few minutes and are still relevent for the current situation are often marked as "present" (-h).
Choctaw, and a huge number of other languages in the world, also have what are called evidentials. These are suffixes that indicate how you know the statement is true. In Choctaw, there is a first-hand knowledge suffix -hlih, used when you have direct evidence of the claim (you saw it, heard it, smelled it, etc). There is also the suffix -ashah which indicates that you are guessing that it is true -- you have some indirect evidence, such as hearsay, or very circumstantial evidence.
Tense and evidentiality are definitely distinct, as you can find tense and evidentiality marked at the same time on the verb.
Checkout the papers by a Choctaw expert: Broadwell at Albany
Jon Ronson, one of my favorite investigative journalists (along with Ron Rosenbaum whose "Travels with Dr. Death" is a classic of the highest order), has a new book out entitled "The Men Who Stare at Goats." It examines the weirdness of US new age influences in the military, their influence in Psy-Ops, and how the craziness there led to Abu Ghraib and the other unfolding tales of US military occupation, torture, and psychotic behavior.
The misogynistic and aggressive old chants ("I don't know but I've been told, Eskimo pussy is mighty cold...") would be phased out and replaced by a new one: "Om."
See also the originator of much of this, the folks with the First Earth Battalion. Walking through walls, killing goats with a thought, and blasting Barney music at top volume...
Having just gotten back from Portland, OR and being struck (just like every other time I'm there) by the large homeless population, some news stories caught my eye more than usual. Little Rock, AR was named the least friendly (or most hostile) towards the homeless, topping NYC, Atlanta, and LA (all of which are notoriously hostile to the homeless). The report was probably partly aiming at preventing the planned large-scale crackdown on homeless encampments in Little Rock ahead of the Clinton Presidential Library openning. The folks at the National Coalition for the Homeless produced the study. It must be a difficult cause for which to arouse public interest especially for people who have been hit up five or ten times per day for change.
Just do a quick search of the news for homeless and see how much turns up. Political protests, press releases, acts of kindness, criminal acts, and the results of house fires. Remember when homelessness was a big news story? Back in the early 1980s, even Doonesbury was there. Not so much now.
Back to Portland...there are webpages for the Portland Homeless, and here also. The homeless village mentioned in the second site was declared a legal campground earlier this year. Healthcare resources also seem to exist. Local media coverage. Anyway, no analysis here...work it all out for yourselves. Besides, I need to finish preparing my lecture...
In case you were planning on traveling through Fallujah this week, I'd recommend against it. There are plenty of travel websites (like CNN and the New York Times) covering the activities in the town though---this time I'd recommend airchair travel. According to the State Department, everything should be fine by next Tuesday.