Thursday, August 31, 2006

[deutschland] reuters berichtet über günter grass

Nach dem Bekenntnis von Günter Grass, als Jugendlicher Mitglied der Waffen-SS gewesen zu sein, hatten polnische Politiker gefordert, dem Nobelpreisträger die Ehrenbürgerschaft von Danzig abzuerkennen. Wider Erwarten gibt der Stadtrat diese Anstrengungen nun auf.

Danzig - Völlig überraschend verzichteten die im Stadtrat von Grass' Geburtsstadt dominierenden Konservativen auf einen Antrag, Grass die Ehrenbürgerschaft abzuerkennen. Der Chef der konservativen Partei Recht und Gerechtigkeit (PiS) in der Region Danzig, Jacek Kurski, sagte, ein Antrag zur Aberkennung der Ehrenbürgerwürde hätte im Stadtrat wohl keine Mehrheit gefunden.

Es war die erste Sitzung des Gremiums nach dem Bekenntnis von Grass, mit dem der Literatur-Nobelpreisträger heftige internationale Diskussionen über seine Rolle als moralische Instanz ausgelöst hatte. In Polen hatten Kurski sowie der polnische Ex-Präsident und Anführer der Gewerkschaft Solidarität, Lech Walesa, die Front der Grass-Kritiker angeführt. Walesa hatte seine Kritik an dem 78-Jährigen jedoch zurück genommen, nachdem Grass in einem Brief an Danziger Ratsmitglieder erklärt hatte, warum er seine SS-Vergangenheit so spät enthüllt hatte.

Trotzdem lassen die die nationalkonservativen Politiker nicht locker: Sie wollen den Literatur-Nobelpreisträger zur nächsten Ratssitzung einladen, damit er dort persönlich zu seiner Vergangenheit Stellung nimmt. "Ein Wort der Entschuldigung würde die ganze Diskussion abschließen", sagte der PIS-Politiker Kazimierz Koralewski.

Allerdings fand der Antrag der Partei, Grass zu einer Diskussion einzuladen, im liberal dominierten Stadtrat keine Mehrheit. Auch die Forderung nach einer Entschuldigung von Grass lehnten die meisten der Danziger Ratsmitglieder ab. "Günter Grass muss sich für nichts entschuldigen", betonte Maciej Lisicki von der liberalen Bürgerplattform.

[economy] for and against free markets

Today I took a car from the side of the road, having agreed a price for the journey to the centre. How legal this is over here I’m not sure but it’s free enterprise, it’s a voluntary transaction between two parties and it was win/win for both today. There are many such transactions over here and it’s not going too far to state that without them, the economy would implode.

Everyone’s making his little on the side. The babushki lined up along the footpath selling jars of berries, jams and salads – that’s free enterprise, as are the million or so deals done by mobile telephone day and night. Today, in front of our house, a car pulled up, then another, two boots/trunks were opened and the deal was done.

I have always operated in a free economic zone. Years ago I got it into my head to follow the family business and get into screen printing sports t-shirts for clubs and so I hawked my wares around the city, made contacts and the big boys waited till simple economics snuffed me out.

Along the way I met a guy who produced trophies for clubs and we combined forces. I had two girls working for me, plus a day job. Big mistake. Suddenly, mindboggling orders came in and we had neither the infrastructure, the talent nor the time. That was the end of the business.

And yet I strongly believe in market forces and feel that in a free economy such as we have [on one level] over here - anything is possible. However, there are distinct negatives, which I never really saw until I got into ‘trade’. Arguments against a free economy do exist and include:

[far-east] the sun rises yet again

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe will succeed Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in September.

Veterans of World War 2 are a vanishing breed and yet memories will be rekindled by current events.

The agenda will be ultra-conservative, nationalistic and with a pro-US foreign-policy agenda. Abe's policy goals also include promulgating a new constitution, forging a thinly veiled alliance of Asia-Pacific democracies to counter China, advocating a stronger alliance with Australia and India, authorizing the use of force for defense against aggression directed at Japan and authorizing more active participation in international peace-cooperation activities and the establishment of a permanent law to enable overseas deployment of SDF troops.

Japan has an army of about 240,000 troops and sustains one of the world's biggest defense expenditures, explaining that the SDF is not military. Nationalism is on the rise but the only way to officially run a military is through ‘collective defence’. As long as there is at least one other party and deployment is labelled ‘manoeuvres’, then it is deemed constitutional.

The presidential election is supposedly set for September 20.

based on the article by Hisane Masaki []

[pour la france et l’angleterre] n’oublier pas diana

Des fleurs ont été déposées et un office religieux a été célébré jeudi à Londres en mémoire de la princesse Diana pour le 9e anniversaire de sa mort à Paris, le 31 août 1997, à l'âge de 36 ans.

L'hommage à Diana s'est tenu, comme chaque année, devant les grilles du palais de Kensington, qui fut sa résidence après son divorce en 1996 avec le prince Charles, l'héritier de la couronne d'Angleterre.

Les deux fils de la princesse, William et Harry, "se recueillent en privé et à leur façon", a indiqué le service de presse de leur père. William, 24 ans, et Harry, 21 ans, sont tous deux élèves de l'école d'officiers de Sandhurst.

William, plus avancé dans sa formation, est actuellement en congé, tandis que Harry suit une période d'entraînement dans le Dorset (sud de l'Angleterre). Charles et sa seconde épouse Camilla étaient pour leur part au château écossais de Balmoral, résidence d'été de la famille royale britannique.

Devant le palais de Kensington, l'association Diana Circle a appelé à faire du 10e anniversaire, en 2007, "une journée très particulière" au Royaume-Uni, et suggéré qu'une messe pour Diana soit dite à la cathédrale Saint-Paul. Une centaine d'anonymes ont assisté à la messe dite en plein air.

"Le souvenir de Diana ne s'est pas évanoui", a assuré dans son sermon le père Frank Gelli, curé d'une paroisse voisine.

Les anniversaires de la mort de Diana ne font plus la Une des journaux, à l'exception du Daily Express (835.000 exemplaires) qui, tous les lundis ou presque depuis 468 semaines, affirme à la Une que la mort de la princesse est suspecte.

Diana est morte en même temps que son compagnon Dodi Al-Fayed et que le chauffeur Henri Paul, quand leur limousine a percuté un poteau sous le tunnel du pont de l'Alma. Le garde du corps, Trevor Rees-Jones, fut gravement blessé.

le Monde

[cruising cat] for the middle-aged husband and wife without a great deal of money

I was surprised, I can tell you, by the response to the earlier catamaran article. I just included it out of sheer bloodymindedness, 'cause I like it.

1 No, it’s not yet in production. Basically, where I live in the East, there’s lots of wood but no foam core. Traditional materials and skills abound.

2 It began as a reaction against sailing being taken out of the ordinary man’s reach – to hell with that, I thought. OK, the plastic fantastic sits higher in the water and has flatter profile and less rocker, so I just designed more draught into it and allowed for the 100 extra pounds.

3 I’m not getting any younger and yet I still want a turn of speed. Yet I must take into account my slower reaction time and lessening strength. Result – two masts, a spread load, wishbone boom taking all the pressure, underslung rudders, shoal keel, wide beam, strictly two double berths for a couple and their friends or a couple and children, helmed by the husband alone.

4 The longer mast is 19’ and there’s nothing the hubby can’t carry by himself. The beams are demountable with ease and so the hulls are the only consideration, using a winch on a trailer.

5 Sails I envisage as tanbark Dacron, the hulls painted below, topsides in natural golden wood.

6 I strongly defend the gaff. Even the C class has been trying to compensate upwind for what comes naturally to the short gaff. We just became too ‘upwind obsessed’ and had to create kites to take us downwind. No need on this boat.

7 The stability you can just imagine. With a 12.5 to 1 WL ratio, it will move. The only entry to the hulls is amidships, from the inside gunwhales and it’s wide and roomy in the hulls.

8 It’s woody. You remember Garwood and Chriscraft? This is a throwback to the 40s and 50s but with more speed and stability. 250 sq ft on 23ft is fine, as long as you don’t run an engine.

9 Yes, there is a 29ft , a 34ft and a 43ft version for the sea. The 34 and 43 have slightly more rocker. Your questions are fine, Steve. More detailed view on the weekend when there's more time.

[middle-east] meanwhile, in iraq

If the Iraq troubles stopped now, it's greater woes would continue. This is an abridged version of a Reuters article:

"The prices of everything have gone up but the salaries have stayed the same," said Nada, a 33-year old laboratory assistant who works for a branch of the health ministry on a monthly salary of 200,000 dinar (71 pounds). Dire security conditions are a root cause of the problem, according to the country's central bank chief.

"Inflation is a function of the real sector, not the monetary sector ... wages, insurance cover, the smooth delivery of goods. Security is the important factor," Sinan al-Shabibi said in a recent Reuters interview.

U.S. officers say rising sectarian bloodshed has pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war. However, Jeremiah Pam, U.S. Treasury Attaché to Iraq, points to the debt forgiveness from Western creditors that Iraq won last year to ease its re-entry to the world financial community.

It also has the backing of the International Monetary Fund, which agreed a $685 million (361 million pounds) standby credit in December 2005 and said earlier this month that Iraq remained on the right track. But the IMF also had some stern words about prices, spiraling by over 50 percent year-on-year, and warned that conditions risked getting worse.

Corruption is another major problem. An audit sponsored by the United Nations last week found hundreds of millions of dollars of Iraq's oil revenue had been wrongly tallied last year or had gone missing altogether. Business is being done, but it isn't often very productive in nature.

Despite the world's third largest oil reserves, a well- educated work force, an abundance of water and other valuable resources, Iraq's economy was in a mess even before the first bomb was dropped in the 2003 war. A decade of sanctions after the first Gulf War compounded the shortcomings of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party economic model of heavily centralised state control.

At border crossings, officials from half a dozen ministries are involved and if an Iraqi Army unit wants fuel from the oil ministry, rather than rely on the Americans, it requires 14 signatures. A new cabinet proposal to ease chronic fuel shortages by opening the energy sector to private imports has gone nowhere and black market petrol prices have surged.

Logic dictates that it must come down to one of these things - either the [Iraqi] horse won't run, the US is flogging a dead horse, it's powerless in making any inroads against the Arab backdrop, it's not serious about wanting peace or else it does not, itself, control the main agenda in the region. The main agenda may have been set by an entirely other body.

[far-east] 2020 vision needed for chinese hegemony

I’m reprinting this Melbourne Age August 21, 2006 article on China, by Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas, as another take and an authoritative one, on the rising hegemony of that country:

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years ago, there has been only one megapower — the United States. For the first 10 years, the dominance of the US was seen as a great opportunity to rebuild the global institutional architecture in favour of a more democratic, rational and equitable system.

The United Nations, partially crippled during the Cold War by superpower rivalry, acquired a new lease of life and UN peacekeeping operations multiplied.

In the past five years, however, US hegemony has been viewed much less favourably with opinion polls across the world recording unprecedented levels of distrust of the US Governments throughout the world.

[film festival] venice launches attack on rome

In an interview on Italian television, 63rd Venice festival director Marco Mueller explained, in reference to the Rome festival which will follow it next month:

"It [Rome] has taken nothing from us. Some films, which neither Cannes nor ourselves wanted and which we were finished viewing at the end of March, have finally found an Italian destination. That's really pleased us because in that way we have avoided acrimony from people we turned down. Rome can have them."

Mueller's comments were immediately blasted by Rome festival organisers Giorgio Gosetti and Mario Sesti as "an incredible offence to cinema and to the extraordinary authors who have decided to bring their work to Rome. Over the last few months we have always referred to the Venice Mostra with respect. And we will continue to do so. We reiterate that Venice mustn't fear Rome but only its own mistakes through arrogance and isolation."

Rome’s festival includes Martin Scorsese, whose latest film is set to open the Rome festival of film on October 13, according to Italian media reports. Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni also pointed out that the Eternal City was able to host next month's event without calling for "one lira from the state".

"In Italy we always live with a terror of things new. There's an instinct for conservatism which is one of the reasons why our country finds it so difficult to compete abroad," said Veltroni, who has repeatedly praised Venice, the world's oldest film festival.

The dispute, coming just before Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Elroy's novel The Black Dahlia opens the festival tomorrow night, has put Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli in an awkward position and has called for an end to the rivalry between the two festivals, saying they "complemented each other."

Personally, it seems to me that the fault is all on Venice’s side, which knows its festival has lost some of the limelight over recent years. Mueller’s comments perhaps reflect his Sud-Tyrol origin.

AFP and the Age

[colour schemes] the culture of brown

You will have noticed that I've gone over to browns and sea-green aqua and part of the reason comes from this article by 'About'.

Brown is a natural, down-to-earth neutral color. It is found in earth, wood, and stone. Brown is a warm neutral color that can stimulate the appetite. It is found extensively in nature in both living and non-living materials.

Brown represents wholesomeness and earthiness. While it might be considered a little on the dull side, it also represents steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, dependability, and health. Although blue is the typical corporate color, UPS (United Parcel Service) has built their business around the dependability associated with brown.

The color brown and its lighter cousins in tan, taupe, beige, or cream make excellent backgrounds helping accompanying colors appear richer, brighter. Use brown to convey a feeling of warmth, honesty, and wholesomeness. Although found in nature year-round, brown is often considered a fall and winter color. It is more casual than black.

Shades of brown coupled with green are an especially earthy pair, often used to convey the concept of recycling or earth-friendly products. Very dark brown can replace black, adding a slightly warmer tone to some palettes. Brighten brown with a mellow yellow or rusty orange. Go smart but conservative with a mix of brown and deep purple, green, gray, or orange-red.

Although blue is the typical corporate color, UPS (United Parcel Service) has built their business around the dependability associated with brown.

Culture of Beige: Beige has traditionally been seen as a conservative, background color. In some cultures, beige garments might symbolize piety or simplicity.

Traditional Saudi Arabia dress include a flowing floor-length outer cloak (bisht) made of wool or camel hair in black, beige, brown or cream tones.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

[sailing] double-hulled small cruiser concept

For such a 'tubby' looking craft, there were years of thinking and abandoned designs before this one was finalized. If sailing's not your thing - kindly pass to the next post.

Trimarans, wing sails with twist, H105 foils, Eppler codes - I abandoned them all for low-tech but not as low tech as Wharram.

I settled on 23 feet as the optimal length for one-up and continued the low-aspect, low-tech throughout. Ease of sailing for a middle-aged duffer was the idea - hence two self-tacking mains, rather than the western fractional rig.

Equally, proas and crew-number intensive balancing acts were right out. Reefability, repairability, ease of sailing, speed, open deck lightness vs overnight accommodation - these were the considerations.

If this is remotely interesting for you, have a look at the sketch and notes.

[love and all that] sam hits the streets

For some time I've been keeping up an occasional correspondence with this girl and now she's on TV. Check her out here.

[love and all that] aussie women require more adventurous lovers

30 per cent of Australian women are disappointed by their men's performance in the sack and would prefer them to be more "adventurous" and 20 per cent wish their men would sweep the floors or do the cooking rather than sweep them off their feet.

Harlequin Australian managing director Michelle Laforest said the report proved material gifts were not always the way to win a woman's (or man's for that matter) heart. She said sometimes putting in a bit of extra effort around the house, or in the bedroom, showed more love than a material gift and required a lot more thought.

Some Aussie men, however, wanted to change more than their partner's behaviour around the house or in the bedroom. Twenty per cent said they were unhappy with the way their partner's looked and wished they would get a breast enlargement. Fortunately these blokes were vastly outnumbered by a whopping 70 per cent of Aussie men who said they loved their women just the way they are.

Meanwhile, 30 per cent of men wished their partners would remember to do something special for them on Valentine's Day. This percentage was higher than those men who wished their partners would let them watch more sport on television.

The survey, which covered men and women from 15 countries, also found Dutch men were the world's lustiest with 60 per cent craving more sex. "Women in Spain were just behind them, with 40 per cent of Spanish women wanting more loving from their partners," Ms Laforest said.


[europe] americans selling their french chateaux

Interesting piece in the Washington Post about French chateaux [sorry – lost the direct link and this is an abridged version]:

When the village of Boucard's fairy-tale chateau is viewed from afar, it’s easy to imagine the pampered existence of the aristocrats inside. You’d be surprised.

"It is a very heavy load for people who inherit a castle," lamented Marie-Henriette de Montabert, 74, whose family has owned Chateau de Boucard since 1720. "All of the castle owners have the same problem - how to save your castle."

"Nowadays, a castle is no longer an exterior sign of wealth, but rather an exterior sign of poverty," said Bertrand Le Nail, a French real estate agent and property expert.

About 90 percent of the country's chateaux -- a term that loosely applies to everything from castles to large manor houses -- are not maintained properly because their owners cannot afford it, Le Nail said. Some sell their properties or turn them into small hotels, some open them to the public and charge entrance fees, and others simply go on living in edifices that are collapsing around them.

Chantal de Bonneval thought she had found the solution when she and her husband inherited his family's 45-room chateau in Thaumiers, about 175 miles south of Paris, in 1977. The new owners added 13 bathrooms to the existing four, repaired 40 leaks in the roof and turned the chateau into a bed-and-breakfast.

By John Ward Anderson and Corinne Gavard

[far-east] china getting serious about balanced economic growth

From the Chinese People’s Daily comes an interesting piece about Chinese reprioritization:

The Chinese government is giving priority to job creation, as it has for the first time listed "newly created jobs" as second on its list of leading macro-economic control targets.

One of China's projected targets for this year's macro-economic control is to "create over 8 million new jobs, and confine the registered urban unemployment rate to 4.5 percent", said Zeng Peiyan, minister in charge of the State Development Planning Commission.

Mo Rong, a senior research fellow in the Research Institute of Labor Sciences, said that this indicates a major shift of the Chinese government's focus, from principally pursuing high economic growth in the past to seeking a balanced growth of economy and employment in the future.

Words like unemployment and layoffs used to be strange to the Chinese as the Chinese government, for many years after 1949, had adopted a "cradle-to-grave" employment and welfare policy that covered the entire population. Meanwhile, Chinese enterprises also suffered from overstaffing and low efficiency, and lacked vitality and market competitiveness.

Unemployment and unemployability are both issues today and a stated target of 8 million new jobs, though a tall order and virtually unrealizable, nevertheless marks a departure in the necessity the government sees in even mentioning it. Stay tuned.

[in brief] thought for the day

Volatility is in the nature of financial markets, but excess liquidity has made it worse. [Jack Crooks, Asia Times Forex report]

[world] 12 aspects of globalization

The major geo-socio-politico-economic movements in this era we find ourselves in:

1. the softening of the west in education and free market economics since the late 60s;

2. the demise of the Christian ethic, Calvinistic work ethic and world view;

3. the rise of tolerance and normalization – of homosexuality, teenage sex, drugs – things which wouldn’t have been countenanced thirty years ago;

4. the rise of China and the beginnings of their hegemony, never forgetting Deng Xiao Ping’s maxim – “hiding brightness, nourishing obscurity and biding our time”;

5. the entry of Russia, China and India into free, world market economics;

6. the increased dependence on oil as political power;

7. the lack of major world crises now being compensated for by the Finance, as it was in the Crimean, the two World, the Korean and the Vietnamese conflicts;

8. the rise and spread, in the west, of Islam;

9. the militarization and restructuring of society according to global principles – military presence on the streets, the coordination of data processing on individuals through credit and ID cards.;

10. the rise of the ‘terrorist’ through a system of provocation in world troublespots – stirring the pot, in other words;

11. the building of huge dams and the damming up of the world’s water supplies for rationing out [this one’s still a sleeper but will come to fruition about 2015] ;

12. the ‘village-ization’ of people, restrictions on mobility, gradual ordering of the internet, and the turning in of people onto important issues such as Big Brother, American Idol and so on. In Soviet times it was ‘old cinema’ with that feel-good factor.

Check out Sino-Kazakh military manouevres.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

[poll] al jazeera on the lebanese war

Who has benefited from the war in Lebanon?

Hezbollah : 33%
Israel : 8%
Iran : 16%
Syria : 2%
United States : 9%
No one : 31%

Number of pollers : 30779

[la mode] l’histoire du trench

Intéressant pour un homme anglais, au sujet du trench:

A la fin du XIX e siècle, Burberry commence à tailler, dans sa matière déposée sous le nom de gabardine, des vestons et des manteaux pour aller à la chasse, des capotes pour les premières automobiles et aussi des tentes pour l’armée... Rien à dire, cette gabardine brave bel et bien tous les frimas. Pendant la seconde guerre des Boers, de 1899 à 1902 en Afrique du Sud, les officiers britanniques adoptent un grand manteau, enrichi pour l’occasion d’un bavolet dans le haut du dos afin d’empêcher l’eau de ruisseler le long du corps ; et de deux autres sur le devant pour amortir le recul de la crosse du fusil, calée au creux de l’épaule.

La version définitive du trench-coat a été finalisée pour la Première Guerre mondiale. Comme son nom le suggère, les soldats britanniques vont se battre dans les tranchées (trench en anglais). Afin qu’ils aient tout à portée de main, le vêtement se dote d’une ceinture à anneaux pour y suspendre des grenades sur le devant et un sabre dans le dos. Le bas des manches est resserré par une bride au poignet pour ne pas que le froid pénètre et, dans le même but, une mentonnière amovible est ajoutée sous le col pour calfeutrer le cou au niveau de l’échancrure...

au figaro

[environment] thought for the day

Agent Smith, in the Matrix, said:

I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals.

Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area.

There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, the cancer of this planet, you are the plague, and we are the cure.

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1360 scientists from 95 countries warns that almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted:

o Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the past 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

o An estimated 24 per cent of the Earth's land surface is cultivated.

o Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers have doubled in 40 years, and a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested.

o Since 1980, about 35 per cent of mangroves have been lost and 20 per cent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed.

o Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new diseases.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment cites "an unprecedented period of spending Earth's natural bounty. In many cases, it is literally a matter of living on borrowed time."

Anton Chekov, in Uncle Vanya [1897], said:

Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wildlife's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.

[economy] walmart meets opposition in a canadian town

For more than a year, Wal-Mart has been trying to get into Port Elgin, a burgeoning Ontario town on the shores of Lake Huron, according to the Globe and Mail.

But for Wal-Mart, Loblaw is opposing the re-zoning application, joining a number of local groups to run its rival out of town. The company may not be able to keep Wal-Mart out of Port Elgin forever, but it seems to know that in the competitive retail market, a battle delayed is a battle not lost.

This time, instead of using price cuts and two-for-one coupons, they're attacking each other with phalanxes of lawyers, planners and consultants. In a handful of towns across Canada, Wal-Mart's latest ambitious expansion plans have met opposition from the entrenched players who say there isn't room.

For Loblaw, the stakes are especially high. It is racing to recover from its faltering expansion into non-food offerings in its bid to take on Wal-Mart.

Andrew Pelletier, a Wal-Mart Canada Corp. spokesman, says: “We find it very unfortunate that they would resort to these tactics to try to maintain what amounts to monopolies in these markets. They're ultimately trying to limit competition.”

I’ve been watching Walmart for about two years, ever since I read an article about their obsessive company get-togethers. These are seriously committed people..

According to Fast Company writer Jim Collins, Walmart continues to amaze skeptics and supporters alike with its relentless growth and success. Collins notes that if past growth rates continue Walmart will become the world's first trillion dollar in sales company within ten years.

The fact is for every Wal-Mart store that opens, jobs are lost to the community, the tax base shrinks, the number of workers with health benefits declines, and the number of workers eligible for welfare increases.

[tales from the east] inside the russian mind

Citizen taking Vladimir Putin presents for his birthday

Churchill’s aphorism about the riddle wrapped in an enigma has always been taken out of context.

Referring to the predictability, or lack thereof, of the Russian, Churchill went on to posit that the key, the guiding principle, might just be national self-interest. Well yes – and not just with the Russian either, one would think but nevertheless, the point does stand.

In little ways, this comes home in daily life over here. For example, yesterday I was late for work, after my car decided to spring two punctures on me simultaneously – not unusual and this involves ignoring it and catching a car from the side of the road.

I can’t recall once in Britain doing such a thing but over here it’s the usual way. Thoughts of some homicidal maniac preying on the unsuspecting loiterer don’t enter into it. The hand needn’t even extend – it’s enough to be there on the bitumen and some car will stop for you and that’s that.

On the way to catch the car, there’s a wide, tree-lined nature strip and crossing this at an angle are two pathways, trapinki, meeting at an intersection. Approaching the intersection from the right, at a rate of knots, was a young guy, eyes firmly fixed ahead on the shop he was headed for.

[spoiler] answers to the two quizzes

Answers here........ Answers here.........

Monday, August 28, 2006

[notice] rare photo of me

Some [not a lot really] have asked what I look like. How can one answer that? I've posted a winter picture which might help under 'Gallery', low down in the sidebar.

[quiz] forgot question 10

Sorry to both the Brits and the Americans - I forgot question 10. Here it is:

10] Where did the name 'quiz' come from in the first place?

Answer is here.

[in brief] thought for the day

Love is the illusion that one woman differs from another. [I never said it - it was one of Menken's. Don't shoot the messenger.]

[spoiler] lit quiz answers

If you still haven't done the quiz on literature [below], you might as well do it forthwith and then the answers are here.

[britain] your turn for nine questions

1] Where did Sir Francis Drake land when he once claimed California for Queen Elizabeth I of England?

2] Which British sovereign first took up residence in Buckingham Palace and what was it then known as?

3] What happened in 1857 in Britain which eased the condition of women?

4] Which great city owes its existence to a little ford?

5] You know the Bank of England's nickname but what the actual name of the woman?

6] What do 1851 and public toilets have to do with each other?

7] What ship, designed for the Hungarian emigrant service, came to the rescue of another in 1912?

8] Who created the jingle for the Star Spangled Banner?

9] In the days of Peeping Tom, what was Godiva’s real name?

Answers tomorrow morning.

[usa] how much do you know about your nation

Anyone can ask you about 'Hoosiers' and 'Live Free or Die' but do you know these curly ones? Which places in the U.S. are either known [or should be] as the:

1] Red Flannel Capital of the World
Hint: lumberjack country

2] Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World
Hint: tiny panhandle town

3] Troll Capital of the World
Hint: Wisconsin

4] Sock Capital of the World
Hint: DeKalb County

5] Cereal Capital of the World
Hint: snaps, crackles, and pops

6] Loon Capital of the World
Hint: more than 200 lakes

7] Mushroom Capital of the World
Hint: William W. Phillips

8] Decoy Capital of the World
Hint: Susquehanna River

9] Bratwurst Capital of the World
Hint: Cajun

Answers tomorrow morning.

[en france] promesses de miracles aujourd'hui

Chants gospel et promesses de miracles au programme de la campagne d'évangélisation du pasteur TL Osborn en région parisienne.

Le prédicateur américain TL Osborn achève aujourd'hui une tournée d'évangélisation en région parisienne, au cours de laquelle ses prêches ont attiré des milliers de fidèles. Au moins 10 000 personnes étaient attendues hier soir sur l'esplanade du château de Vincennes, dans l'Est parisien, pour une soirée de prières. Une deuxième est programmée ce soir. Les organisateurs ont promis des «guérisons» au cours de ces deux soirées.

Mon opinion - inquiet. Suivez ici.

[latest] winston says britain ready

If you didn't quite get the Sinospeak in the last post, try the Spiffyspeak here.

[Note for the American readers: don't call Spiffyspeak Squiffyspeak although I'm aware that the Squadron leader employs the term below. Squiffy has taken on an entirely different meaning in recent times.]

Here's a report from the front line:

Jones: Morning, Squadron Leader.

Idle: What-ho, Squiffy.

Jones: How was it?

Idle: Top-hole. Bally Jerry, pranged his kite right in the how's-your-father; hairy blighter, dicky-birded, feathered back on his sammy, took a waspy, flipped over on his Betty Harpers and caught his can in the Bertie.

Jones: Er, I'm afraid I don't quite follow you, Squadron Leader.

Idle: It's perfectly ordinary banter, Squiffy.

Full text here.

[far-east] fear not - it's only the chinese coming

Don't worry - it's only a military exercise, not the real thing.


The Chinese authorities explain:

The exercise was aimed at implementing the consensus on enhancing security cooperation and improving coordination between their law enforcement departments and special services.

Not au fait with Chinaspeak? Read on and all is explained.

China wrapped up the second phase of its joint anti-terror drill with Kazakhstan Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The Yining game consists of five parts, simulating a battle in which Chinese guards gradually forced the terrorists into a narrow valley and cliff caves.

It lasted two hours and ten minutes, with groups of the mock terrorists being eliminated by the police forces consisting of artillery, police dogs, cavalry, special services and other troops.

Around 100 observers from member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- were in Yining to evaluate the drill. They were satisfied and applauded the participating troops, the police said.

China's police authority said the first ever joint anti-terrorism exercise between the two countries' law enforcement bodies and special forces within SCO framework exercise was held to demonstrate SCO's latest progress in combating terrorists in the region, namely the "three evil forces" of terrorists, separatists and extremists.

The police force will also explore new patterns of security cooperation through the exercise, noting that both traditional combating forces like cavalry and the modern ones are participating in the drill.

100 000 000 Chinese cavalry?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

[la mode] pour les filles

Les douze commandements de la mode [automne-hiver]. Cliquez ici.

Voici mes photographies.

[in brief] thought for the day

There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation. [W.C.Fields]

[quiz] this time on literature

Are you ready? 10 questions:

1] Which 1971 novel written by William Peter Blatty was turned into a classic horror film?

2] Which Shakespeare play concerns the two old friends Valentine and Proteus' love for the beautiful Julia?

3] Whose first play is called 'Catalina'?

4] Which French poet, born in 1821, was described by Rimbaud as 'The first seer, king of poets, a true god"?

5] For which Ministry did Winston Smith work in 1984?

6] In which book would you find the exceedingly strong drink called the 'Pan-galactic Gargle Blaster'?

7] What is the name of the Eugene O'Neill play set in Harry Hope's bar?

8] Jane Austen had five brothers but only one sister. What was her name?

9] Ruritania is an imaginary country which was invented as a setting for two novels. Now the name is used to describe any state where the intrigues of a reactionary court dominate politics. Name either of the two books in which it first appeared.

10] What is Sherlock Holmes' seven percent solution in "The Sign of Four"?

Answers tomorrow evening.

[middle-east again] syria won't play ball

Quick note:

Syria draws a line at the border. Syria has stated - and it means it - that it will not allow any UN peacekeeping troops to be stationed on the Lebanon-Syria border. This would in effect cripple the international force, precisely what Damascus wants if Hezbollah is to survive as a military group.

- Sami Moubayed

[new study] boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

Let me a tad Icelandic here and repeat the headline - boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

And what? Don’t we already know that? It’s confirmed now, according to Thomas Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. His study was to appear Monday in Education Next, a quarterly journal published by the Hoover Institution.

His study comes as the proportion of male teachers is at its lowest level in 40 years. Roughly 80 per cent of teachers in U.S. public schools are women. I can say that over here the proportion is the same, if not higher. Teaching is not an earning profession.

Dr. Dee found that having a female teacher instead of a male teacher raised the achievement of girls and lowered that of boys in science, social studies and English.

Should teachers get more training about the learning styles of boys and girls? Should they be taught to combat biases in what they expect of boys and girls?

Ben Feller, Globe and Mail, Associated Press

[middle-east] israel and hezbollah dialogue?

The Age reports that Israel and Hezbollah are close to a prisoner exchange.

Israel and Hezbollah have reached a deal engineered by Germany for a prisoner exchange, an Egyptian newspaper reported yesterday.

"The prisoner swap between Hezbollah and Israel is to take place within two or three weeks, maximum, thanks to a German mediation, which is currently arranging the details of the exchange," the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram reported.

The newspaper cited high-ranking officials for the information. It said the swap could take place simultaneously or in two stages. The negotiations for the prisoner swap are not taking place through the Lebanese Government.

The interesting aspects for me are:

# even through Germany, they must really want those prisoners back to even contemplate negotiating with a non-state;

# would this be the precursor to renewed conflict or will Israel settle for the negotiated peace-keeping?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

[men and women] 6 reasons not to be a feminist - a woman speaks out

My fragmented profession brings me into contact [last count] with 125 ladies and 8 gentlemen per working week and those are the types of odds which keep me over here.

Let me set out my stall. In me you’ll find a door opener, a flower bringer, an impulsive present giver and the physical biz is very nice as well. In short, I like women, [as distinct from loving them]. And the more intelligent, the more accomplished, the better.

What I can’t handle, not at all, are special interest groups. I’ll not speak of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishnas and political movements but I shall speak and vehemently so, of the Feministi and give these reasons why, when you see one approaching, you should hide until she’s gone:

1. Men and women were designed for one another. Does it have to be spelled out - any man who ever stayed more than one night with his woman knows that. So when you read such pap as ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’, once we’ve smiled at the wit, the very next gesture must be to shake the head and to sigh sadly for the woman who uttered it.

Full text here.

[blog] fixations

Interesting how writers often get locked into a topic which they keep returning to over and over, providing more and more information until they become seen as authorities on the topic. Some have fixations about Noam Chomsky, some about Petron Corp, some about the Saudis, some about Hezbollah.

I'm currently quite hot under the collar about Pluto.

Very difficult to find an unbiased writer. Is there such an animal, politically and socially eclectic, a sort of cultural tourist? I ask only for information.

[world round-up] news in three or less paragraphs

Today: Iran, USA [3], UK, Switzerland, France, Japan, Pakistan

Iran reports that the Iranian president has inaugurated a new phase in the Arak heavy-water reactor project, part of Iran's atomic programme which the West fears is aimed at producing bombs.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the project and toured the site at Khondab, which is near Arak, 190km southwest of the capital Tehran. The plant's plutonium by-product could be used to make atomic warheads.

USA A tornado touched down in east Massapequa early Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed. The F-0 tornado knocked out power, uprooted trees and smashed cars, but no injuries were reported.

Long Island Rail Road trains were delayed for some time because trees fell across the tracks and the twister touched down as severe thunderstorms swept through the Tri-State area, flooding roads and causing transit delays.

Heavy downpours caused residential roads to flood in areas of Long Island. The hardest-hit areas were Gilmore and Marsalis streets as well as Hillside and Liberty streets.

...continues with the UK here.

Friday, August 25, 2006

[the coming oil disaster] petron is doing everything possible

I’m just reading the latest Underwater Times article about the Solar 1, still lying on the seabed, still rusting, still with 450 000 gallons of oil ready to spill. Just skimming down looking for Petron’s plan to raise the tanker and prevent the ecological disaster:

"For us, it's a moral responsibility to help the people clean up the oil spill," said Peter Paul Shotwell, Petron's supply operations and planning manager.

Shotwell said a team from a Japanese firm, Fukuda Salvage and Marine Works, is due to arrive in Guimaras on Saturday or Sunday to retrieve the sunken ship, motor tanker Solar I. He said the team has already left Japan.

Shotwell said the firm will be bringing in a vessel, Shinsei Maru, which is equipped with a remote operated vehicle that can search the seabed down to 2,000 meters and take photos to determine the ship's condition underwater.

That’s a start.

"That's part of our commitment," said Shotwell, referring to the cleanup and subsequent rehabilitation of areas that have been affected. "Petron is coordinating with Siliman University (SU), University of the Visayas (UV), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and they are giving us some help" in the development of a long-term rehabilitation plan. He hoped that the cleanup would be finished in 45 days."

Petron officials are "to provide protective measures to prevent the oil spill from reaching the other shorelines that are threatened.

Yes, fine but isn't the tanker the main priority now?

[presidential election looms] vive la nouvelle france!

Good article from The Age, abridged here:

What is France’s place in the world? Can it keep its character and difference, or will it be overwhelmed by globalisation?

President Jacques Chirac's decision on Thursday to commit 2000 troops to the Lebanon peacekeeping force was also about national identity: France's standing on the world stage.

Last year's riots in poor suburbs, the failure to win the 2012 Olympics, France's catastrophic loss of primacy within the European Union after its voters rejected the European Constitution in a referendum in May 2005, the end of labour market reform and the presidential hopes of Dominique de Villepin] have not been good for French pride.

As people return to work after the long summer break, the country enters the last nine months before the presidential election in May. Some commentators say the nation's future hangs on the result.

Full text here.

[russia] putin was right to imprison khodorkovsky

You could be forgiven for looking at the smartly attired, well groomed Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky and thinking butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. In fact, there is ample evidence that he had plans to establish a parliamentary republic in Russia and who could possibly be the leader of that republic?

President Putin accused Khodorkovsky of accumulating enormous amounts of oil reserves and yet not contributing to the state, through the vehicle of taxation. Of course this was par for the course with such oligarchs, as long as they were onside with the administration.

In other words - onside with the stable governance of Russia. Because, whatever your personal opinion, Putin and the Duma are the state. But Mikhail Borisovich was a driven man. Or rather, he’d had the sniff of power and threatened to take Russia back to the lawlessness of Berezovsky and Co.

[casino royale] daniel craig to do just three films as james bond

Daniel Craig has not had a smooth ride. He’s been criticized and there’s even a website or two against his choice as Bond.

As a keen fan, naturally I have many pics both of him and of Eva Green and I can say, without reservation, that Craig’s no sissy and that this movie might just take fans by surprise.

Mi6 reports:

The Daily Mirror (UK) are reporting that James Bond star Daniel Craig plans to spend his pay packet from the new 007 blockbuster buying paintings. The actor, who was criticised for wearing a life jacket when he was unveiled as Bond, is reportedly pocketing £1.5 million for Casino Royale.

Art-lover Craig, 38, confessed he couldn't wait to snap up some rare pictures when he cashes in on Bond's global fame. He said: "I'd love to get into buying art, though I haven't started making money yet."

But the craggy-faced blonde actor has not proved a popular choice as 007 in the latest £60 million film due out in November. Angry fans set up a website which asked: "Is the new Bond a sissy?" Craig has revealed how he conquered a fear of heights during filming but was forced to use stunt doubles. Despite his new-found worldwide fame, Craig also hinted he will walk away from 007 after another two movies.

Thanks to `Grunther` for the alert.

[canada] love women – hate the feministi

Several pro-Conservative Internet blogs have signed onto a campaign to eliminate Status of Women Canada, a Trudeau-era federal agency that promotes women's equality and advancement.

The campaign was kickstarted by REAL Women of Canada, one of Canada's most vocal organizations of social conservatives. It has long urged the federal government to axe Status of Women — but this time its message is being widely discussed and supported among some in the Conservative Internet community.

“Like typical radical feminists, they have decided that they speak for all women, and they only consult those groups and women that agree with their agenda,” says an entry on the Big Blue Wave blog from Suzanne, who does not give her last name.

“So it's a bunch of radical feminist bureaucrats consulting radical feminists to hear what they want to hear to promote more radical feminism on my dime.”

[iceland] vast increase in social security number applications

From the land where the headline IS the story, comes this top story today [and there is absolutely no irony here]:

Staff of the National Registry of Iceland have recently been inundated with new applications for Icelandic social security numbers, the so-called ‘kennitala’.

The waiting period for a ‘kennitala’, which traditionally has been one day, is currently up to five weeks. This has among other things created difficulties in the registration and monitoring of foreign workers in Iceland. This is reported by RÚV online.

According to a National Registry spokeswoman, the number of applications has increased exponentially over the last few years, or since the Kárahnjúkavirkjun dam project got underway in east Iceland. Some 100 new applications are submitted every day, many of which lack the requisite information and therefore take longer to process.

Also on the rise is the number of individuals who wish to do business in Iceland or who want to open Icelandic bank accounts, and who require a ‘kennitala’ for that purpose.

[environment] china dumps toxic waste in russian river

Over here, we don’t have a very high opinion of the Chinese authorities. This is one of the reasons why:

Chinese officials insisted Thursday that toxic waste dumped into a tributary of the Songhua River posed no threat to Khabarovsk and other Russian cities downstream, Interfax reported.

The Songhua River flows across the border and becomes the Amur River in Russia. The Amur supplies water to Khabarovsk, a city of 580,000. The Xinhua news agency reported that a chemical company in the city of Jilin had illegally dumped xylidine into the Mangniu River on Monday. Xylidine can damage the liver, lungs and kidneys.

The slick was brought under control Wednesday after 1,000 emergency workers built dams on the river and used activated carbon to absorb the pollutants. In November 2005, a similar spill forced the Chinese city of Harbin to temporarily shut down running water to 3.8 million people.

[cosmos] pluto no longer a planet - official

Pluto was stripped of its status as a planet in Prague on Thursday, when astronomers from around the world redefined it as a "dwarf planet," leaving just eight classical planets in the solar system. Pluto is no stranger to controversy. In fact, it's been dogged by disputes ever since its discovery in 1930.

Many astronomers contend the ninth rock from the sun never deserved to be a full planet in the first place.

Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh of Arizona's Lowell Observatory, Pluto was classified as a planet because scientists initially believed it was the same size as Earth. It was the only known object in the Kuiper Belt and in 1978, it was found to have a moon - Charon. But in the 1990s, more powerful telescopes revealed numerous bodies similar to Pluto in the neighborhood.

Scientists agree that to be called a planet, a celestial body must be in orbit around a star while not itself being a star. It also must be large enough in mass for its own gravity to pull it into a nearly spherical shape and have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Pluto's reaction to its downgrading has not been recorded.

[petron again] chicken feathers and human hair

Everything’s linked and syndicated these days. I got this story from Oil and Gas, who got it from Reuters, under Science News [?].

Well, it’s getting stranger by the day.

The Philippine Coast Guard appealed on Thursday for chicken feathers and human hair to help sponge up the country's worst oil spill. Petron, in which the Philippine government and Saudi state oil firm Saudi Aramco each have a 40 percent stake, said a fresh spill was spotted late on Wednesday.

"We are appealing for the supply of indigenous absorbent materials like chicken feathers, human hair and rice straw," Harold Jarder, head of the Coast Guard in Iloilo, a province north of Guimaras, told Reuters. Jarder said San Miguel Corp., Southeast Asia's largest food and beverage conglomerate, promised to donate one tonne of chicken feathers a day from its plants in Iloilo and nearby Bacolod City.

Les Reyes, owner of one of the country's largest hairdressing chains, said his 200 shops had started collecting hair clippings on Tuesday. "This is in response to the call of Greenpeace," Reyes said, adding he had also asked other salons to donate hair to the Coast Guard.

Jarder said chicken feathers and human hair will be placed in sacks tied to bamboo poles and placed along the coastlines of affected villages. Some communities in Guimaras are already using rice straw in sacks to try to contain the spill, which has affected 27 coastal villages and a marine reserve and is spreading in a northeast direction toward the islands of Negros, Cebu and Masbate.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

[blogging] 6 reasons to continue

Can’t resist the temptation to reflect.

Tomorrow marks a special occasion for me – one month since I began this blog - and therefore 23:59 today will give me my month’s stats. The Glenfiddich is at the ready [my beloved single malt can’t be bought over here] and now I’ll attempt neither to be embarrassing nor unethical:

1…First up - why blog? To put it another way, into which categories do bloggers fall? Seems to me there are five sorts:

i…those who need a blog because they are either journos, pollies or a combination of both, who have regular column inches or minutes of airtime and their hits are stratospheric. Good luck to them because they work hard at it.

ii…those selling something, e.g. are about to open a forum/blog and many other firms do the same. Then there are the specialist music blogs with info on what’s on and where.

Full text here.

[nuclear] iran's answer to the 'gang of six' proposals

This is a summary of the key points in Bill Samii’s* article on Iran’s 23 page response to the ‘gang of six’:

· Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani gave representatives from China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland (representing US interests) a 23-page written response to an international incentives package at a meeting in Tehran.

· Mohammad Saidi, of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that although suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment was no longer an appropriate precondition, Tehran was willing to hold talks. Iran has also rejected the possibility of suspending uranium enrichment.

· The proposal called on Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities" and "resume implementation of the Additional Protocol" of the NPT.

Full text here.

[life] of images of the lord, flat tyres and burnt toast

Today, everything is going wrong and it’s still morning. I usually pick up my best mate and we go to Ikea for a coffee and a bite to eat and to chew the fat over this and that. A number of things happened.

Firstly, leaving the car park, my front passenger tyre suddenly deflated. No problem. Next, only one part of the jack was there. Next, the bolts were rusted. No problem – find a piece of metal tubing to put over the star spanner.

Spanner broke. OK, no problem. I have another. Finally the bolts give and the wheel is changed. It goes flat. I don’t know why, it just went flat. OK, it’s raining and in this carpark, the dirt has become a quagmire. It’s over the arms, trousers, shirt, everywhere.

So out comes the little pump they supply you with, with the plastic nozzle, which is broken. OK. Hold it on the valve and foot pump at the same time. Eventually we get to Ikea and we always have a discussion paper. Today was Tom Cruise [the last posting].

[hollywood] how tom cruise lost his career

Hollywood and in particular, Paramount, has had enough. It takes a lot for Hollywood to castigate a wayward star so why, in Cruise’s case?

The thing was that Cruise combined a number of distinct negatives which finally tipped the balance over what were perceived as waning positives.

Shifting away from movies to sport for one moment, the great rugby star David Campese, known as much for his mouth as for his truly breathtaking onfield style, once said:

It’s OK to be a big mouth, as long as you can back it up on the field.

Or in this case - on the movie set. This is what Tom Cruise has failed to appreciate. Fine, espouse Scientology ad nauseam. Fine, speak of eating your wife’s placenta. Fine, hide your baby from the world. Fine, bounce up and down on a couch like a little boy. And even then you can still be taken seriously in Hollywood.