Thursday, March 10, 2005


Murderous rage

Blogger sucks. I meant to spend a few minutes posting some juicy tidbits I had found (see peak oil production below), when blogger started having a full-blow temper tantrum. I try posting, it says my 1000 word long post is empty. I try again, blogger freezes. I log out and restart my computer, blogger has now posted my article with a great big black blob over half the article. I try to edit the article, blogger freezes. I try posting something else, no data in my post. I go back to editing, blogger has expired. I try writing a hate post (I am smart, I save a copy), blogger eats it and spits its bones into my face. I reach into the computer and beat blogger senseless with a crushed PC ginger ale can. Blogger now works fine.



Cauldron boil, cauldron bubble

Their results seem out of this world.

“When bubbles in a liquid get compressed, the insides get hot – very hot,” said Ken Suslick, the Marvin T. Schmidt Professor of Chemistry at Illinois and a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. “Nobody has been able to measure the temperature inside a single collapsing bubble before. The temperature we measured – about 20,000 degrees Kelvin – is four times hotter than the surface of our sun.”

This result, reported in the March 3 issue of the journal Nature by Suslick and graduate student David Flannigan, already has raised eyebrows. Their work is funded by The National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Sonoluminescence arises from acoustic cavitation – the formation, growth and implosion of small gas bubbles in a liquid blasted with sound waves above 18,000 cycles per second. The collapse of these bubbles generates intense local heating. By looking at the spectra of light emitted from these hot spots, scientists can determine the temperature in the same manner that astronomers measure the temperatures of stars.

By substituting concentrated sulfuric acid for the water used in previous measurements, Suslick and Flannigan boosted the brilliance of the spectra nearly 3,000 times. The bubble can be seen glowing even in a brightly lit room. This allowed the researchers to measure the otherwise faint emission from a single bubble.

“It is not surprising that the temperature within a single bubble exceeds that found within a bubble trapped in a cloud,” Suslick said. “In a cloud, the bubbles interact, so the collapse isn’t as efficient as in an isolated bubble.”

What is surprising, however, is the extremely high temperature the scientists measured. “At 20,000 degrees Kelvin, this emission originates from the plasma formed by collisions of atoms and molecules with high-energy particles,” Suslick said. “And, just as you can’t see inside a star, we’re only seeing emission from the surface of the optically opaque plasma.” Plasmas are the ionized gases formed only at truly high energies.

The core of the collapsing bubble must be even hotter than the surface. In fact, the extreme conditions present during single-bubble compression have been predicted by others to produce neutrons from inertial confinement fusion.

“We used to talk about the bubble forming a hot spot in an otherwise cold liquid,” Suslick said. “What we know now is that inside the bubble there is an even hotter spot, and outside of that core we are seeing emission from a plasma.” (Link)



SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: "We don't do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina. . . It's nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things."

South Carolina is about 30% black.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Graffiti in Beirut

Trust the guardian to come up with a simple and elegant way to judge the mood in Lebanon after the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.


Beirut, the morning after. The Hizbullah demonstrators who packed Riad al-Solh square yesterday have gone, and so have most of the anti-Syrian demonstrators from the day before.

In a coffee bar near the American University, students are chatting about the latest events. One of them does an impression of Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader - putting on a militant voice and waving his fist about.

In Martyrs Square, where the anti-Syrian protesters have been camped out since Rafik Hariri was assassinated, on Valentines Day, it is also quiet. Those who have stayed overnight have just got up and are lounging in the tents, reading newspapers.

Nearby, a man is vacuuming the carpet that has been placed around Hariri's grave. Even at this time of day, there are still people coming to pay silent respects.

With the crowds gone, it is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the graffiti around the Martyrs Monument - a metal sculpture that has become more poignant since the artist designed it. It lost an arm in the civil war and is now riddled with bullet holes.

The walls around the base of the statue have been covered with plastic sheeting - the sort you can write on with a felt-tip pen - and the graffiti are a mix of Arabic, English and French (the three languages most used in Lebanon).

Some get straight to the point: "Assad = Saddam", "Lebanon cool, Syria fool", or simply "Fuck Syria". Another, more subtly, urges the Syrian president to go back to his old job as an eye surgeon: "Bachar mon frère, retourne à l'ophtalmologie".

Others attack Lebanon's Syria-backed president, Emile Lahoud: "Lahoud retire-toi, j'ai mal au cul". The fact that the president was swimming at the moment of Hariri's assassination (which at least gives him a good alibi) is also noted by the graffiti writers: "Swim away Lahoud, swim away." One, written on a seat, says: "Don't lose your time here, join Emile at Yarze swimming pool." Another says: "Le president nage et le Liban coule;
Le president bronze et le Liban brule
" ("The president swims and Lebanon sinks; the president gets a tan and Lebanon burns").

Memories of the civil war are still strong, and there is a desire everywhere not to reopen old religious wounds. One of the anti-Syrian chants goes:

Hurriyeh! Hurriyeh!
Wahda wataniyeh!
("Freedom, freedom, national unity")

On the other side of the battle lines, Hizbullah has also been at pains to emphasise the need for national unity, whatever disagreements there may be about the Syrian presence and security council resolution 1559.

National unity figures in the graffiti around the monument, too: "I'm Christian, I'm Muslim, I'm Druze - and I'm Lebanese."

Nearby, on a patch of grass, laid out in stones in Arabic, is: "Lebanon first - 10,452". I had to ask someone what that meant; apparently it refers to a speech made by the Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, and the number of square kilometres of Lebanese territory.

Another figure that has appeared increasingly on the streets of Beirut is, of course, 1559 (the number of the UN resolution calling for Syrian withdrawal) which is quick and easy to spraypaint. Graffiti artists with time to spare do a longer version in Arabic that says: "The Bekaa is ours, 1559" - a warning to the Syrians against their "temporary" redeployment in eastern Lebanon.

Just across the road from the Martyrs Monument, the Virgin Megastore has also got in on the act. It sells T-shirts saying "Democracy - Lebanese trial version".

I did not buy one of those, because I have a sneaky feeling that once the Syrians stop interfering, Lebanese politicians will simply be free to buy as many votes as they can afford. But I could be wrong. Instead, I bought a shirt that says "1975-1990: Great Lebanese war. Game over". Hopefully, that's true.

One of the interesting things about this outpouring of political graffiti - at least on the anti-Syrian side - is its spontaneity and diversity. There's one saying: "No state - anarchy" right next to another that says "Love your enemies - Jesus". Quotes from Gandhi also get a look in.

My personal favourite - though it's not specifically about Lebanon - is "Every man dies ... not every man really lives".

All this is rather different from the sloganising of the Hizbullah crowd who came into town yesterday. I noticed one group who had just got off a coach; their leader had a sort of hymn sheet with slogans on it - presumably devised and approved by the central committee, or whoever.

He studied his hymn sheet, called out the first slogan and his followers repeated it. Then he read the second one and called that out for them to repeat. Then the third ... and the fourth ... (Link)


Two acounts of the Sgrena/Calipari shooting

The Italian account is much more detail, the type of report I'd expect from a professional secret service agent. The American version sounds like a spin doctor talking.


US military
: Car approaches checkpoint at high speed
Troops attempt to tell driver to stop with arm signals, lights and warning shots
Soldiers shoot into engine

Italian government: Italy makes all necessary contacts with the US for safe passage
The driver stops immediately when a light flashes 10m away
At the same time, shots are fired for 10-15 secs into the car




The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.

-H. L. Mencken


What if? Watergate.

Here is a neat example of minor things changing the course of history.


RIGHTWING STRATEGIST Craig Shirley tells an interesting story about how the Watergate burglars almost succeeded. It is close to what we have reported in the past, although not quite.

Shirley writes that on the night of the Watergate break-in a uniformed police officer abandoned his patrol area, which included the Watergate Complex, in favor of several cocktails at a local bar. When the call came in for him to investigate suspicious behavior at the Watergate, he deferred the call to back-up in order to avoid repercussions for his drinking while on duty. As it tuned out, the back-up officers dispatched to the Watergate Complex that night were dressed in plain clothes and were driving an unmarked vehicle. They were able to enter the complex undetected by the look-outs for the burglars. Had the uniformed police offer not been drinking on duty and was able to respond to the call in his patrol car, the look-outs that night [in the motel across the street] would have had time to alert the burglars of the policeman entering the complex and the Watergate scandal would have never happened.

Now our version from police sources: on the morning of the break-in, the commander of the police district in which the Watergate is located had bawled out the plain clothes squad for failing to make enough arrests. It was warned to do better or it would be back on the street in uniform. That evening the patrol car was "cooping," a cop term for goofing off in hiding while on duty. When the call came, the plains clothes squad leaped to respond, which the coopers were glad to let it do.

In either version, one thing is clear. If the uniformed cops hadn't been goofing off, Watergate might never have happened.


Who's lying?

This a neat story, questionable as all hell, but neat none the less. More evidence - for or against would be nice.


A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

He said Saddam himself fired at them with a gun from the window of a room on the second floor. Then they shouted at him in Arabic: "You have to surrender. ... There is no point in resisting."

"Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam's capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well," Abou Rabeh said.

Abou Rabeh was interviewed in Lebanon (Link).


From the esteemed Juan Cole

Here is an excerpt from Juan Cole's discussion on the state of democracy in the Middle East, and how reality compares with the Bush administration's democracy narrative.


Hizbullah's call for a huge pro-Syrian demonstration in Beirut was answered by hundreds of thousands of protesters on Tuesday. The largely Shiite crowds were huge compared to the smaller anti-Syrian demonstrations held for the past week.

The anti-Syrian protesters had mostly been Christians, with some Druze and Sunnis. But Lebanon is probably only now 20 percent Maronite Christian (the most anti-Syrian group), and may be as much as 40 percent Shiite.

The simplistic master narrative constructed by the partisans of President George W. Bush held that the January 30 elections were a huge success, and signalled a turn to democracy in the Middle East. Then the anti-Syrian demonstrations were interpreted as a yearning for democracy inspired by the Iraqi elections.

This interpretation is a gross misunderstanding of the situation in the Middle East. Bush is not pushing with any real force for democratization of Saudi Arabia (an absolute monarchy) or Pakistan (where the elected parliament demands in vain that General Pervez Musharraf take off his uniform if he wants to be president), or Tunisia (where Zayn Ben Ali has just won his 4th unopposed term as president), etc. Democratization is being pushed only for regimes that Bush dislikes, such as Syria or Iran. The gestures that Mubarak of Egypt made (officially recognized parties may put up candidates to run against him, but not popular political forces like the Muslim Brotherhood) are empty.

The Lebanese have been having often lively parliamentary election campaigns for decades. The idea that the urbane and sophisticated Beirutis had anything to learn from the Jan. 30 process in Iraq is absurd on the face of it. Elections were already scheduled in Lebanon for later this spring (More).


Is that a light or a train?

The number of times that the Bush administration has done something I liked can be counted on one hand after an encounter with a buzz saw. I now must ad another. If only I could find my fingers in the saw dust.


A Bush administration proposal that would cut billions of dollars in subsidies to big cotton growers has struck at a core GOP constituency, setting off a battle in Republican congressional ranks that pits budget cutters and prairie-state populists against traditional agricultural interests.

The Bush plan threatens an elaborate government safety net that is the handiwork of such legendary southern Democrats as Lyndon B. Johnson (Tex.) and James O. Eastland (Miss.), as well as a new generation of Republican leaders from the region. The move reflects growing pressure to hold down soaring federal deficits and a recognition that even a business woven deeply into the history, economy and politics of the South must come to terms with dramatic changes underway in global trade (Link).


Happy friendly people working together

I didn't know anything about John Bolton until this week. Now it is clear to me that the Bush administration has yet again demonstrated its infinite wisdom. While trying to mend fences with the rest of the world, they come up with the idea of sending this dumbass to be their representative to the UN. Talk about one step forward and two steps back.


President Bush yesterday named neoconservative, unilateralist hawk John Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. By nominating Bolton, whose contempt for the United Nations is infamous, President Bush is sending the wrong message to the international community at precisely the wrong time. During an era in which the world faces threats of nuclear proliferation from Iran and North Korea, and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur, President Bush recklessly spurns multilateral assistance toward solving urgent and serious problems. The appointment of John Bolton will undermine our security and standing in the world.


Uniting the right

This story confirms my sense that the federal conservative party is a clone of frankensteins monster. The difference with the party are so large that it will be unable to shake of its heritage of social conservatism. In other words, the liberals will win the next election.

OTTAWA -- Stephen Harper may have finally succeeded in uniting the left and right wings of his fledgling Conservative Party. Unfortunately for Mr. Harper, some are uniting in anger against

Both camps were fuming yesterday after the party's national executive announced a plan that could keep what it calls "issues of moral conscience" from reaching the floor of a Conservative policy convention next week in Montreal.

The national caucus has introduced a resolution that would allow all of the party's MPs to vote according to their convictions -- and the will of their constituents -- on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. If that resolution passes, those issues will not be debated at the convention, nor would they become part of stated party policy -- although Mr. Harper could make them part of a future election platform.

Anti-abortion factions within the party and those that had hoped to prevent same-sex marriage are furious that the Conservatives may not even consider adopting those causes as policy.

And social moderates, many of whom were members of the old Progressive Conservative Party, say the resolution will justify accusations lobbed by the Liberals during the last election campaign that the party has a hidden right-wing agenda on social issues (Link).


Health Update

Feeling better now, almost back to normal, minus 10 pounds, not that I needed to loose ten pounds. I am being to look like a rake again. I should probably try to put them back on as muscle. That will have to wait, I am under orders to avoid strenuous physical activity, especially contact sports. Apparently my spleen and my liver are still swollen and injuring them now would be bad.

I peeked at my lab results when I went to my doctor yesterday. I can now understand why he was so worried last weak: my liver was displaying "unusual functionality," basicly it was on a work to rule campaign. Pretty much the only liver indicator that wasn't insane was bilirubin, the stuff that causes jaundice. If it had been as high as the others I would still be yellow.

Anyways, I got check out again, and most of the signs of mono are fading. There is a grey slime that forms on your throat when you have got mono. That is almost gone (The doctor who was checking out my throat gave a very strange squeaking noise when he found the slime).

I expect to be lasrgely back to normal by the end of the week and to have gotten rid of the last lingering effects by the end of the month.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Cheap music

Last month the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI) urged Russian authorities to take action against

But Moscow prosecutors will not take legal action because Russian copyright laws do not cover digital media, according to news agency Tass.

The IFPI said it would fight the ruling if the Tass report was correct.

In a posting on its website AllofMP3 said the service was legal and that it was licensed to sell the MP3 tracks by the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society.

But the IFPI said the site was "unlicensed to distribute our members' repertoire inside Russia and in all major markets".

According to Tass, prosecutors had decided not to pursue with legal action because Russian copyright laws only cover physical media such as CDs or DVDs and not digital files such as MP3s.

"We have received no confirmation of any decision and we do not expect it for some time," a spokeswoman for the IFPI said.

"However if it is true that the prosecutor has not taken the case this would be very disappointing considering the blatant and large-scale infringement that continues to take place.

"If these reports are confirmed we will take the case further."


Fancy a drive

The Murmansk-Vladivostok Expedition Trophy race, featuring 36 teams of two cars, broke the record for the longest winter rally in a single country.

The first prize, 10 kg (22lb) of gold, was won by the Moscow Sea Wolves team.

The race follows the opening last year of the 12,000-km (7,456-mile) trans-Siberian highway - the longest road in a single country.

The 36 teams - each consisting of two cars - set off from Russia's north-western port of Murmansk on 23 February, negotiating thousands of kilometres of little more than gravel and ice on their way to Vladivostok.

They competed over seven stages, with several losers eliminated at the end of each stage.


Why to go on strike

RIVERBEND - I don't understand why Americans are so shocked with this incident. Where is the shock? That Sgrena's car was under fire? That Americans killed an Italian security agent? After everything that occurred in Iraq - Abu Ghraib, beatings, torture, people detained for months and months, the stealing, the rape… is this latest so very shocking? Or is it shocking because the victims weren't Iraqi?

I'm really glad she's home safe but at the same time, the whole situation is somewhat painful. It hurts because thousands of Iraqis have died at American checkpoints or face to face with a tank or Apache and beyond the occasional subtitle on some obscure news channel, no one knows about it and no one cares. It just hurts a little bit.

The event of the week occurred last Wednesday and I was surprised it wasn't covered by Western press. It's not that big a deal, but it enraged people in Baghdad and it can also give a better picture of what has been going on with our heroic National Guard. There was an explosion on Wednesday in Baghdad and the wounded were all taken to Yarmuk Hospital, one of the larger hospitals in Baghdad. The number of wounded were around 30 - most of them National Guard. In the hospital, it was chaos - patients wounded in this latest explosion, patients from other explosions and various patients from gunshot wounds, etc. The doctors were running around everywhere, trying to be in four different places at once.

Apparently, there weren't enough beds. Many of the wounded were in the hallways and outside of the rooms. The stories vary. One doctor told me that some of the National Guard began screaming at the doctors, telling them to ignore the civilians and tend to the wounds of the Guard. A nurse said that the National Guard who weren't wounded began pulling civilians out of the beds and replacing them with wounded National Guard. The gist of it is generally the same; the doctors refused the idea of not treating civilians and preferring the National Guard over them and suddenly a fight broke out. The doctors threatened a strike if the National Guard began pulling the civilians out of beds.

The National Guard decided the solution to the crisis would be the following - they'd gather up some of the doctors and nurses and beat them in front of the patients. So several doctors were rounded up and attacked by several National Guard (someone said there was liberal use of electric batons and the butts of some Klashnikovs).

The doctors decided to go on strike.

It's difficult to consider National Guardsmen as heroes with the image of them beating doctors in white gowns in ones head. It's difficult to see them as anything other than expendable Iraqis with their main mission being securing areas and cities for Americans.



I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

- Harriet Tubman


Friendly Fire

The recent attack on aItalian hostage rescue team by American soldiers lead me to think that there have been a fair number of friendly fire incidents in both Afganistan and in Iraq. Of the top of my head I can think of the following incidents:
  1. Canadian soldiers training in afganistan bombed. Four dead.
  2. A Bulgarian soldier in Iraq shot. One dead.
  3. Italian convoy in Iraq shot. One dead.
  4. British tank in Iraq attacked by aircraft. One dead.
Can anyone think of more examples? Can anyone think of an example where Americans were on the receiving end of the friendly fire?


Monday, March 07, 2005


Harbour Island, Bahamas Posted by Hello


Bush attacks women's rights

For all George Bush's courting of Europe, when it comes to women's rights he is closer to Iran and Syria than the EU. In 1995, representatives from 189 countries met in Beijing and agreed a major programme on women's equality and human rights - the Beijing platform for action. This statement was ambitious, and the UN commission on the status of women is currently meeting in New York to review its progress over the past decade.

The meeting was to publish a statement reaffirming international support for the platform for action. But the US has refused to support it unless it is amended to say that the platform does not create any new human rights or the right to abortion.

But it doesn't actually give the right to abortion. States are called on to "consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions", but the platform is clear that "any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process".

But that's not how the US is presenting it. Countries are being warned that failure to support the US amendment could allow the platform to be used to push through a "right to abortion" and take away the right of countries to determine their own laws. Activists are furious. Annette Lawson, of the European Women's Lobby, said the US is "simply trying to mislead the rest of the world" (link).


Allies are great

GIULIAN SGRENA, IL MANIFESTO, ITALY - "Congratulations they said you are leaving for Rome." For Rome, that's exactly what they said. I experienced a strange sensation because that word evoked in me freedom but also projected in me an immense sense of emptiness. I understood that it was the most difficult moment of my kidnapping and that if everything I had just experienced until then was "certain," now a huge vacuum of uncertainty was opening, one heavier than the other. I changed my clothes. They came back: "We'll take you and don't give any signals of your presence with us otherwise the Americans could intervene."

It was confirmation that I didn't want to hear; it was altogether the most happy and most dangerous moment. If we bumped into someone, meaning American military, there would have been an exchange of fire. My captors were ready and would have answered. My eyes had to be covered. I was already getting used to momentary blindness. What was happening outside? I only knew that it had rained in Baghdad. The car was proceeding securely in a mud zone. There was a driver plus the two captors. I immediately heard something I didn't want to hear. A helicopter was hovering at low altitude right in the area that we had stopped. "Be calm, they will come and look for you. . . in 10 minutes they will come looking for." They spoke in Arabic the whole time, a little bit of French, and a lot in bad English. Even this time they were speaking that way.

Then they got out of the car. I remained in the condition of immobility and blindness. My eyes were padded with cotton, and I had sunglasses on. I was sitting still. I thought what should I do. I start counting the seconds that go by between now and the next condition, that of liberty? I had just started mentally counting when a friendly voice came to my ears "Giuliana, Giuliana. I am Nicola, don't worry I spoke to Gabriele Polo (editor in chief of Il Manifesto). Stay calm. You are free."

They made me take my cotton bandage off, and the dark glasses. I felt relieved, not for what was happening and I couldn't understand but for the words of this "Nicola." He kept on talking and talking, you couldn't contain him, an avalanche of friendly phrases and jokes. I finally felt an almost physical consolation, warmth that I had forgotten for some time.

The car kept on the road, going under an underpass full of puddles and almost losing control to avoid them. We all incredibly laughed. It was liberating. Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell. Nicola Calipari sat next to me. The driver twice called the embassy and in Italy that we were heading towards the airport that I knew was heavily patrolled by U.S. troops. They told me that we were less than a kilometer away. . . when. . . I only remember fire. At that point, a rain of fire and bullets hit us, shutting up forever the cheerful voices of a few minutes earlier.

The driver started yelling that we were Italians. "We are Italians, we are Italians." Nicola Calipari threw himself on me to protect me and immediately, I repeat, immediately I heard his last breath as he was dying on me. I must have felt physical pain. I didn't know why. But then I realized my mind went immediately to the things the captors had told me. They declared that they were committed to the fullest to freeing me but I had to be careful, "the Americans don't want you to go back." Then when they had told me I considered those words superfluous and ideological. At that moment they risked acquiring the flavor of the bitterest of truths, at this time I cannot tell you the rest.


Why I buy books...

KOMO-TV, WA - A Burlington, Washington man has been ordered to pay a library $150 and do community service after he was arrested for overdue library books. The arrest was for failure to appear before a judge to answer charges of "Detaining Property." The property was library books the man had checked out last July.

Jeremy Jones called Burlington police to his apartment recently to report an incidence of mail theft. Police ran a background check and told Jones and his girlfriend there was a warrant for Jones arrest. They explained about the library books.

Jones insists he tried to give his overdue library books to police. "They wouldn't even take them. That kind of irked me," he said. "I told them they are right on the table, take them. They said 'No, we have a warrant, we have to arrest you.'"

"They handcuffed him." said Jones' friend, Misty Colburn. "He didn't put up a fight or anything, but they handcuffed him and went away."

Arrested for, among other things having the book: Mysteries of the Unexplained, How ordinary men and women have experienced strange things. Jones was released after spending an hour at the county jail.

At the Burlington Library, they insist this isn't strange. They tried over and over again to get their books back. Letters and seven phone calls they said. "After months of dealing with this we sent a letter from the police chief giving them one last chance." said Librarian Christine Perkins. "And warning if they do not respond they will be invited to talk to a judge about it."


Health Update

Still feeling some effects of my fight with mono, but I seem to be getting better. I am telling myself that I'll be ship shape for the weekend, and if I continue to improve at this rate I don't think it is impossible.

Seeing my doctor tomorrow.


The view from Syria

The City’s air is rife with all sorts of untoward rumors, everything is now possible: there is talk of arrests, purges, coup d’états, assassinations, sanctions, invasions, anything and everything, except, of course, freedom. Everything is possible except freedom. Freedom is never mentioned. Freedom never comes to mind. Freedom remains a distant dream.

The world is changing around us, but we, Damascenes, Syrians, Sunnis, ‘Alawis, Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Circassians, or however we define ourselves these days, including perhaps heretics, can’t feel any hope in that. Nothing has touched us so far. Nothing seems to loom in the air, except for rumors and hearsays, none of which particularly inspired or inspiring. The face of an ugly and malevolent god still stares down upon any possibility of hope within us.

A reported wave of arrests has already swept a variety of "low-key" dissidents, that is, those whose arrest is not likely to generate much notice abroad, or even here, no matter how terrible this may sound. But then, everything sounds terrible these days. Despairingly terrible. There is hope all around us, but somehow there always needs to be some pit of despair somewhere meant to serve as a continuous reminder of how things were or could again be. But those whose fate is to live in such a pit have themselves to blame as well. If history teaches anything it’s that such punishment is always earned somehow. We earned it with our long and studious silence.

Being a potentially high-profile case, not to mention, of course, a heretic, my punishment is doubled, tripled and quadrupled: I have to watch others arrested while I am spared, I have to live in the anticipation of a potentially worse fate when the “right” time finally comes, I have to face the look of sickly blame on my sullen wife’s face, and I have to come back home at the end of another long day feeling numb and defeated, regardless of any achievements made.

Khawla and I have indeed reconciled ourselves to the fact that things seem to be like a race against time now: our decision is not simply about leaving the country, but about leaving it before it’s too late, that is, before events catch up with us and prevent us from traveling, together, or at all…

All these years I spent abroad without ever trying to obtain if not another citizenship then simply another residency seem increasingly wasted to me now. All this misplaced love for and belonging to the homeland is coming back to haunt me.

But then, idealists never prosper, do they? Do they?

On the positive side though, I feel like I have enough materials for a quite a few bestselling novels. One day this should make us all rich. One day (Link).


A New Hobby

Running this blog is a hoot. I truly enjoy digging around for whatever strange tidbits I can drag out of that streaming cesspit we call the Internet. It is truly incredible how much madness there is in the world, but when you find a few words, lovingly crafted by a master of letters, the world becomes bright again.

This blog has just become that much more amusing since I added google's contextual ads. I am giving their system hissy fits. I add a link to the European Space Agency and the ads are for "Free Spyware/Adware Removal." My next story is about a mother who refused to spank her child and I see ads for "Foster Parents Plan." Then I copy a story from a Syrian blogger and the top ad is "Date Military Men."



Spank your boy or else!

A 6-year-old boy who often talked too much in class was suspended from 1st grade at Schaumburg Christian School last week after his mother refused to spank him.

Chandler Scott Fallaw, a rambunctious boy, had been piling up disciplinary notes for talking, chewing gum, bringing toys to class and not finishing classwork, said his mother, Michelle Fallaw-Gabrielson. "By no means is my child perfect," she acknowledged.

But she never anticipated the ultimatum delivered at school Wednesday.

When she arrived to pick up Chandler, she said, assistant administrator Linda Moreau told her the school needed assurances that the boy would be disciplined. "She said, `Either he gets a spanking before he leaves today, or I'm suspending him,'" Fallaw-Gabrielson recalled.

She said she refused to spank her son and left with the assistant administrator calling after her: "You know he's suspended, and that's a very serious matter on his record."

Fallaw-Gabrielson withdrew Chandler from the school the next day (link).


The Rim of Crater Huygens Posted by Hello


Pretty Pictures

This is a link to ESA's Mars Express project. The center of this page is an image viewer with some cool pictures (link).


Bono the Banker

He is world famous, and there is no doubt he cares passionately about development. Bono, the Irish rock singer, has many qualifications to be the next president of the World Bank -overseeing global development efforts, a job that becomes vacant in June when James Wolfensohn resigns.

The Bush administration is not ruling Bono out. In fact, the US treasury secretary, John Snow, went out of his way to say nice things about him in a discussion about the forthcoming vacancy yesterday. "He's somebody I admire. He does a lot of good in this world of economic development," Associated Press quoted him saying. Asked about the shortlist for the post, he replied: "I am not going to review here all the candidates that are on the list."

It sounded like a maybe, at least. By tradition, it is up to the US to appoint the World Bank president.

Other names mentioned include Carly Fiorina, a businesswoman who was recently sacked as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, the office and consumer electronics company. Bono can claim experience working with the Bush administration. He went on an "odd-couple" tour of Africa in 2002 with Mr Snow's predecessor at the treasury department, Paul O'Neill, and seemed to have gone some way to convincing him of the need for more development aid.


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