Monday, December 27, 2010

I can't even begin to imagine the talent competition...

The latest Miss Venezuela, the lovely Reina Bella Guerrero, is a Barbie doll. The contest was held in Caracas in early December, and the above doll won the crown and will move on to the Miss Barbie Universe pageant.

The people entering the dolls in the contest, along with designing makeup and clothes for their beauties, also give them names an even invented biographies. The dolls pose in evening gowns, swim suits and also answer questions from the judges. As the post title alludes to... I would die to see the talent competition if they have one. 

Here's a few more pictures. Try not to drool over them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Christmas Tradition of the Ex Husband

When Ambi Jr. was but a young sprout he used to love claw crane games. Those are the machines where you maneuver a little crane to grab a toy or stuffed animal.

One year, just before Christmas, he managed to snag 'Ex Husband', the unshaven, beer drinking lout pictured to the right. While I just saw it as a mighty strange prize for a claw grabber game, when my son got home with it he decided it would make a fine Christmas tree ornament and so, with my collusion, on to the tree it went.

Needless to say, Mrs. Sinistral found Ex Husband rather less charming than we did and she promptly moved him to a hidden corner in the back of the tree. 

The war on, the poor guy's bounced from the back of the tree to the front and back again ever since as one of my family's cherished Christmas traditions. Well, at least Junior and I cherish it, I suspect Mrs. Sinistral would chose a different term.

Merry Christmas to you all from Ex Husband and the Ambisinistral family.   


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stratfor and Salma Hayek

Continuing my new found sleazy tactic of coupling Strafor articles with hot babe pictures -- I probably should be ashamed of myself for it but I'm not -- this week we have Salma Hayek.

The screen cap above his her first appearance in the movie Desperado. Her entry causes a number of guys to crash their cars as she sashays across the street. I once had a friend who had a minor fender-bender going to work. He jumped the gun at a stop light and rear-ended the car in front of him. When he got out the car to talk to the other diver, that fellow laughed and said, "you were looking at the blond too, eh?" He was, so I guess her entry scene isn't completely unbelievable. 

What is unbelievable is that she runs a combination cafe/bookstore and it is always empty. One would think, since she's the only one who works there, every single guy in the town would be in the place drinking coffee and feigning an interest in literature. 

Regardless, if you haven't seen it, aside from Ms Hayek it features completely over-the-top violence, with one gun fight actually featuring members of a mariachi band firing rockets out of their guitar cases. Quite the guilty pleasure to watch.

The Stratfor article is much more somber, since it deals with the alarming drug gang violence of Mexico. By the way, if you haven't noticed, I've added Borderland Beat, which covers the situation in Mexico extensively, to the sidebar. It's grim reading, but I think it's an important topic.


Editor's Note: This week's Security Weekly is a heavily abridged version of STRATFOR's annual report on Mexico's drug cartels. The full report, which includes far more detail and diagrams depicting the leadership of each cartel along with our updated cartel map, will be available to our members on Dec. 20.

By Scott Stewart, December 16, 2010

In our 2010 annual report on Mexico's drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country's powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government's effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. The annual cartel report is a product of the coverage STRATFOR maintains on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year. In response to customer requests for more and deeper coverage of Mexico, STRATFOR will also introduce a new product in 2011 designed to provide an enhanced level of reporting and analysis.

In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year's drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.

Cartel Dynamics

The high levels of violence seen in 2010 have been caused not only by long-term struggles such as the fight between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (also known as the Juarez cartel) for control of the Juarez smuggling corridor but also from the outbreak of new conflicts among various players in the cartel landscape. For example, simmering tensions between Los Zetas and their former partners in the Gulf cartel finally boiled over and quickly escalated into a bloody turf war along the U.S.-Tamaulipas state border. The conflict has even spread to states like Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Tabasco and has given birth to an alliance between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) called the New Federation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ohh-ohh, fleas on rats, fleas on rats

Above is a rather odd song about the Black Death. I'll warn you, the "fleas on rats" chorus is liable to get stuck in your head, I know it drove me nuts as I merrily hummed it for a day or two.

It's from a series of educational songs produced to introduce various subjects in high school (at least that's what I gather from the comments). I don't know how well they work, but I imagine they are pretty good for kicking off a lecture on a given topic. People younger then me fondly remember Schoolhouse Rock from Saturday mornings, I suspect the generation now in high school will have fond memories of these.

It is from a YouTube channel called historyteachers (History for Music Lovers). If you go there you can find more of their video efforts.

Along with the Black Death one, I quite liked Copernicus ("Because" by the Beatles).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

There was to be no press coverage allowed of Obama's meeting with Clinton. No photos, no questions, not even a written statement about what happened.

That changed when Obama and Clinton wrapped up their private meeting in the Oval Office. Clinton wanted to publicly endorse the tax package. Obama is welcoming all the help he can get.

So the two presidents headed straight for the famous briefing room with no warning.

emphasis mine - source

As good as a politician as Clinton is he had to have known how ridiculous that press conference would paint Obama.

From the item quoted above it looks like Clinton may have pushed the idea to appear publically with Obama. Once at the podium he monopolized the microphone and started fielding questions. As entertaining as the part is where Obama says he has to leave, watch the part before that and pay attention to Obama's body language. The further it goes, the less happy he looks.

The screen grab above is from just after Obama said he had to leave and Clinton chuckled, gave a little wave of his hand and joked about it. Contrast their expressions as Obama turns to hurry off the stage and Clinton turns his attention back to the press. One angry, one delighted.

The rest of the press conference was just salt in the wounds. After Obama's two disastrous appearances earlier in the week, Clinton demonstrates how a pro does it. No running off for cookies on his part, instead he delivers a far more effective and gracious defense of the compromise. I wonder if he and Hilary had a good laugh about it afterwards?

I've never seen anything quite like it. Well, we all remember how Obama's campaign treated Bill Clinton. Pay backs a bitch, aint it Barry?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Stratfor and Angelina Jolie

Hah, I never figured one of these Stratfor articles would give me an excuse to post an Angelina Jolie picture. 

It has occurred to me that if I mentioned Angelina Jolie several times in this post, that all of the people searching for Angelina Jolie in Google would get the Angelina Jolie search results page, which might draw traffic to my post that mentions Angelina Jolie if my mentioning Angelina Jolie enough times gives me a high enough ranking in Angelina Jolie searches.

[Knucklehead pointed out in the comments that I spelled her name wrong. I've corrected the error]

Of course I would never stoop that low.

At any rate, my excuse for posting her picture is that it is from the movie Hackers, a silly piece of nonsense that was her first theatrical release. It features roller skating, high school attending, Elite Hackers who use Macs to pull juvenile hacking pranks and yell "hack the world" now and again. However, they're soon battling an Eeevil Hacker Dude, who also roller skates a lot, and has a nefarious plan to to blackmail the world by sinking oil tankers. It's so goofy it is actually entertaining.

The movie came to mind because Stutnex, Wikileaks and the 4chan group Anonymous (the first of whom just got arrested) and their Wikileaks revenge attacks, hacking and other computer-based tomfoolery have been recently all over the news. 

Of course, China has long stood at the nexus of government sponsored hacking, but they all face their own issues with dissidents challenging their network security.  The latest Stratfor article, which discusses China's situation follows.

By Sean Noonan,  December 9, 2010

A recent batch of WikiLeaks cables led Der Spiegel and The New York Times to print front-page stories on China's cyber-espionage capabilities Dec. 4 and 5. While China's offensive capabilities on the Internet are widely recognized, the country is discovering the other edge of the sword.

China is no doubt facing a paradox as it tries to manipulate and confront the growing capabilities of Internet users. Recent arrests of Chinese hackers and People's Liberation Army (PLA) pronouncements suggest that China fears that its own computer experts, nationalist hackers and social media could turn against the government. While the exact cause of Beijing's new focus on network security is unclear, it comes at a time when other countries are developing their own defenses against cyber attacks and hot topics like Stuxnet and WikiLeaks are generating new concerns about Internet security.

One of the U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks focuses on the Chinese-based cyber attack on Google's servers that became public in January 2010. According to a State Department source mentioned in one of the cables, Li Changchun, the fifth highest-ranking member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and head of the Party's Propaganda Department, was concerned about the information he could find on himself through Google's search engine. He also reportedly ordered the attack on Google. This is single-source information, and since the cables WikiLeaks released do not include the U.S. intelligence community's actual analysis of the source, we cannot vouch for its accuracy. What it does appear to verify, however, is that Beijing is regularly debating the opportunities and threats presented by the Internet.

A Shift from Offensive Capabilities

On Nov. 2, the People's Liberation Army Daily, the official paper for the PLA and the primary medium for announcing top-down policy, recommended the PLA better prepare itself for cyber threats, calling for new strategies to reduce Internet threats that are developing "at an unprecedented rate." While the report did not detail any strategies, it quoted a PLA order issued for computer experts to focus on the issue.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pandas with strange parents

No, the above picture doesn't show that pandas have turned to a life of crime and taken up kidnapping, or cubnapping, or whatever you would call it. 

What's pictured is a Chinese conservationist dressed in a panda costume to tend to a captive-born cub to prepare it for eventual release in the wild. Rather than hand-raising panda cubs, as they have done in the past with mixed success, they decided to shield the cubs from human contact as much as possible. Hence the panda suits.

An article and more pictures at: My mum swears she's a panda, but I'm not sure: Why scientists are dressing up to fool bear cubs.

Friday, December 03, 2010

It's steam! It's punk! It's steampunk!

Yes, it’s a steam powered record player. Playing a punk LP. The Sex Pistols – God save the Queen (Victoria obviously).

You can’t really get more steam, or punk, than that!

And yes, I know it sounds terrible.

Now steampunk is an odd thing. It’s not really my cup of tea and I got somewhat annoyed after I posted details of my Google Maps Brass Wristlet Navigator that people called it steampunk. That wasn’t the intention! It just happens to be made from brass. But I thought well, if people want steampunk then let’s do something that’s really steampunk. Hence the steam powered gramophone.

Yea, it sounds terrible, but is still a wonder to behold. More details and pictures at Asciimation, the website of fellow who made the steam powered, punk rock playing turntable (via Retro Thing).

Monday, November 29, 2010

One community organizer to another...

Except for the amount it embarrasses his bumbling administration, I can't imagine Obama really being all that upset by the antics of Julian Assange.  'Course he'll have to throw him under the bus, but it seems to me like the sort of a stunt a community organizer would admire.

From Robert Gibbs:
"It is safe to say that the president was, as an understatement, not pleased this information becoming public,"' Gibbs said. "As you saw during the presidential campaign and as during his time in the White House, open and transparent government is something that the president believes is truly important."

"But the stealing of classified information and its dissemination is a crime."
 Oh brother, I wonder how he managed to keep a straight face as he gas-bagged on about the transparency of the Obama administration? If nothing else, at least they seem vaguely aware that espionage is a crime.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Problem solved

While looking for material for a Thanksgiving Day post I got sidetracked when I stumbled upon the Australian Brush Turkey. An interesting thing about them is they can walk up walls, particularly when they are chicks, even if the wall is inclined at a greater than 90 degree angle. Above is a video showing them in action

The scientists studying them call it wing assisted incline running. That's a wonderfully goofy phrase I'll likely try to work into a conversation sometime.

They're not actually turkeys, they're some sort of mound building bird and they can be quite a bit of pest in suburban areas.  The Australian ABC News has an article Man v bird: the brush turkey battle that discusses the problem. From the article:
Professor Jones says once a pesky male brush turkey has decided his mound, his nest which he uses to attract females, is going in your backyard, it's all downhill from there.

"It's just about impossible to get rid of the guy," he said.

"He has decided that's where he's going to put his precious mound, which is the most important thing in his world, and nothing will dissuade him.

"It happens all the time. People say 'I'm sick to death of that bloody bird', so they spend back-breaking hours spreading it all back out again.

"Next morning they wake from their exhausted sleep to find it all back in place.

"It's like the turkey is saying 'look I've made a big decision about where my mound is going and look buddy this is it, I'm staying'."
I have a suggestion for Professor Jones -- declare a national holiday, chop their heads off, jam stuffing into their carcasses and stick them in a pre-heated oven for a few hours. That should thin their flocks some.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving all. Enjoy your family, the meal, pumpkin pie and football on TV.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Important successes will be accomplished

For those that don't know, Turkmenistan is a county rich in natural gas and lunatic leaders. The combination has led to some strange and expensive construction ventures, such as gargantuan spinning statues and the Las Vegas of Central Asia among others.

I confess to having been been remiss in keeping folks abreast of the latest news of grandiose and completely crazy engineering projects moving forward in Turkmenistan. 

For example, I never posted about the opening ceremony for the Golden Age Lake that happened last year. This is a scheme left over from the Turkmenbashi (may he rest in peace). This project involves digging hundreds of miles of canals to channel water to the Karashor Depression. 

The purpose of all this is to create a 750 square mile lake in the middle of the desert. I'm not sure, but it may have something to do with the late Turkmenbashia's rather odd notion to start cultivating rice in the deserts of Turkmenistan.

Meanwhile his successor, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, is apparently quite the sports enthusiast. That's him on the horse. He's come up with the idea to blow gobs of money building a gigantic sports complex in Turkmanistan.

The suspicion is that he is building it so he can bid on hosting the Olympics. This in spite of the fact that Turkmenistan has never won an Olympic medal. My favorite bit from the article:
Since coming to power, Berdymukhamedov has earnestly cast himself as a man of action, striking a stark contrast with his epicurean predecessor, President Saparmurat Niyazov (ed - a.k.a. the Turkmenbashi), who died of heart failure in late 2006 at the age of 66. 

Niyazov did sporadically attempt to instill his subjects with an understanding of the benefits of exercise. His most eye-catching practice was to lead his ministers and government workers on an annual 8-kilometer trek up the Walk of Health, a concrete staircase built into the hills overlooking the capital, Ashgabat.

But while officials trudged up the hill, rotund Niyazov reputedly took a helicopter ride to the summit, thereby undermining the entire purpose of the exercise.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Bleg

While my contributions are nearly insignificant I do try to contribute some small amount of money to be used for the benefit of our troops and veterans. For the past few years I've done that through Wounded Warriors Project and Soldiers' Angels.

Unfortunately these charities are not highly rated by Military Money Matters Veterans Charities Ratings - both received a "D" grade. Charity Navigator rates Wounded Warriors Project at only 48.66 (presumably out of 100) - apparently because nearly 86% of their fundraising is consumed in costs. They rate Soldiers' Angels at 50.85.

Are any of our readers familiar with these charities enough to either defend or condemn them? Do you have any service member and/or veterans charities you KNOW to be top notch?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And you thought red light cameras were bad...

From the EU's Project ASSET (Advanced Safety and Driver Support for Essential Road Transport) web site:
The aim of ASSET is to contribute substantially to the improvement of safety in the field of sustainable road transportation.

ASSET will generate, process and provide important road safety information from essential system components.

Improving driver support, awareness and behaviour is a key issue.

This will be achieved through an advanced sensor/processing network providing assistance and information for drivers, traffic control agencies and infrastructure operators.

Wondering what the heck gibberish like "sustainable road transportation" is about you may delve further into the website for more information. If so, you will discover that it is "a practical holistic approach generating an overall safety theory to manage the complex interactions" which involves "a competent team of experienced and multidisciplinary experts (Kybernetikwerkstatt)" which examine "chains of interdependencies and processes will be analysed to identify critical parameters influencing road safety".

Eh, what?

The website Engadget has a post that clarifies the gobbledygook:
Each of the £50,000 (about $80,000) cameras can naturally tell just how fast you're going and, if you're speeding, take a picture of you and your license plate number. That's just the beginning. It can also look up the status of your insurance, tell if you're wearing a seatbelt, and ding you for tailgating, all while sitting alone on the side of the road, relying on a wireless data connection and an internal generator to be totally self-sufficient. 
Speeding? Seatbelts? Tailgating? So, all the happy talk at the Project ASSET website is just a smoke screen for yet another means of city hall, under the guise of "sustainable road transportation" and other such claptrap, to vacuum money out of your wallet via traffic fines. 

Wonderful. Just wonderful. 

Friday, November 05, 2010

Gunfight in Matamoros

I've recently began following a blog called Borderland Beat. It is covering the escalating violence in northern Mexico. It is depressing reading (and be forewarned if you follow the link -- it sometimes has rather graphic pictures). 

Today the Zetas (one of the criminal cartels fighting to control the drug trade) and the Mexican federal police backed by soldiers engaged in a large scale gun battle. So far 47 people have been reported killed, including Tony Tormento who was one of the cartel's leaders. The astonishing video above is gives a feel for the volume of gunfire. I don't speak Spanish so I don't know what the camera men and the people on the streets are saying to each other. Brave man, the fellow who filmed that.

Most sobering to a U.S. citizen is that Matamoros is just across the border from Brownsville Texas and the gunfight was so intense that the University of Texas at Brownsville and Southernmost Texas College had to cancel or move some events. With violence increasing in northern Mexico it seems only a matter of time before a serious and deadly border incident happens.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sorry suckers, but the race goes to the swift

I'm in Atlanta this week. To the left is the TV news I can watch here. The local coverage is about Georgia races I know little about. It doesn't matter, I voted in Florida last week before I took my trip.

As for my vote, after observing Al Gore's life style I decided that if I aligned my self as a member of the Elite Class I could, with a clear conscience, have a huge house filled with many flat screened TVs, incandescent light bulbs, SUVs parked in the drive and what-not,  so I voted a straight Green ticket. 

'Course, there's a rather different fate in store for you. I'll now be exhorting you to live in a hovel, eat nothing but locally grown gruel, and in general keep your carbon footprint as small as possible. Sorry for tossing you all under the bus, but -- what can I say -- a weasels gotta do what a weasels gotta do.  Go Green and Hoo-rah!!!

Anyways, here's to a happy election day and bear in mind, whatever else may happen, at least we won't have to watch any of those damn campaign commercials for a while.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh darn, he's caught on to me.

John Kerry, speaking in the Boston Globe (emphasis mine): "We're in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don't weigh in. It's all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics."

All I've got to say in reply is, "lighten up pal -- the bleachers are all I can afford. Not all of us can manage to land a prickly Ketchup Heiress who will buy us box seats."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where the Luddites are...

I've noticed there has been a huge uptick in articles about biodiversity in the last few weeks. Much of this is driven by that fact that the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Biodiversity (COP10) is being held in Nagoya Japan. 

Biodiversity is a problem, particularly in the area of over fishing controversy and the difficulty in setting fishing polices between nations. Larger exotic mammals are also threatened, and of course there is the frightening problem of the resurgence of  wheat stem rust. All serious topics for conservationists.

Unfortunately, the biodiversity issue is also a powerful Luddite magnet In fact for a brief time, after the Great Hole in the Ozone Crisis and before the rise of AGW, it was the Luddite issue of choice. I suspect with Climate Change losing steam it will return to the front burner with that group.

On biodiversity we're already seeing things like the following:

Prentice argues that biodiversity protection is not just up to national governments.

"Municipalities have to share that responsibility," he said. "And, frankly, all of us as citizens have to be interested in protecting the biodiversity of the planet."

Heather Hamilton, executive co-ordinator of the Canadian Biodiversity Institute, agrees that most biodiversity issues are local issues.

She cited the plight of the Blanding's turtle in the South March Highlands of the Ottawa suburb of Kanata. The turtle is an threatened species and shares the Highlands with 18 other threatened species. That didn't stop the City of Ottawa from splitting its habitat in half with a road extension.
Back to the Biodiversity Drawing Board

and this:

The strategy says biodiversity should be ''mainstreamed'' - that all Australians must take responsibility for improving wildlife protection if threatened ecosystems are to have the best chance of surviving climate change.
It calls for a 25 per cent boost in the number of Australians and organisations taking part in biodiversity conservation.

''If we continue to live unsustainably, we risk the degeneration of the ecological systems that support our life and our nation's productivity,'' says the report, endorsed by state and federal environment ministers. The Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council strategy is likely to receive a mixed response from green groups, which have called for more ambitious targets to protect threatened species.
Biodiversity plan to lock up land 

and of course what Luddite could ignore genetic engineering in an issue like this:

The 12-day Convention on Biological Diversity summit in Nagoya is intended to head off the rapid loss of plant and animal species that is happening around the world. The belief is that a more diversified global ecosystem has a better chance of protecting life. 

To facilitate this, summit participants are looking at things like hard targets to prevent deforestation and implementing new rules and regulations that would see victims of biodiversity loss compensated. They are also examining potential rules on sharing genetic material to ensure corporations don't get a stranglehold over biodiversity.
But Canada has already been blamed for being obstructionist in several aspects of the biodiversity meetings. Chief among these is the fact that Canada objects to a reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a protocol over sharing the proceeds from the sale of genetic material with sovereign populations.

For that, Canada has already won a "Dodo Award"—similar to the Fossil Awards handed out during climate change summits—by a network of NGOs following the bio-diversity summit. 

Government opposes biodiversity protocols

Let's see... turtles, check; sustainability, check; UN Declaration, check. Been there and done that, and  I'm also sure there is a shake down of money in there somewhere that I've missed.

The shame of it is that this is a serious issue. Conservation, like pollution reduction, is a worthy goal. However, already I'm seeing the usual buzzwords, wild 'goals' being demanded and tisk-tisking over humans daring to cast their shadow on the Earth.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

14 Years later

The album which morphed into the Buena Vista Social Club was originally intended to be a collaboration between musicians from Cuba and Mali. Problems with passports, visa or scheduling caused the Malian musicians to miss the original recording date so the producer cobbled together the group that eventually recorded the well received album.

As Will Hodgkinson in his article AfroCubism: Buena Vista take two relates, ""The conversations I  had with the Malian musicians after Buena Vista came out consisted of two subjects. They were: 'Oh shit', and 'When can we try doing it again?'" says Gold, who has finally made his planned Afro-Cuban collaboration happen, 14 years after the event."  

Above is a clip of the musicians finally playing together. 

Such a collaboration isn't at all surprising. West African music moved across the Atlantic with the slave trade and through the Caribbean where it split north to the States and south to Brazil. Since then the Caribbean, American and Brazilian have reflected their influences back to West African.  

Below is a clip featuring Toumani Diabate, from the AfroCubism clip above, playing with Ali Farke Toure who's music I linked to in my previous post Father & Son. In that earlier clip the blues influences were obvious, in this clip one can hear the subtle Latin influences.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Throwing cameras into the air

Ceth Studio has a post about Kinetic Photography. Above, and after the fold, are some examples of pictures taken using the technique. It is something a number of people are experimenting with. There are flikr streams with more examples of it and, if you want to risk your camera tossing it into the air to try it yourself, there is information on how to at  Camera Toss (The Blog).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Madness to their method

It may be my imagination, but the Democrats' national campaign sure appears to have gone off the rails.

Colbert's appearance before a Congressional Committee was baffling. First off, why would they think that anybody would believe that he had anything to offer to the immigration debate? Secondly, could they not anticipate how unserious they would look giving a comedian their hearing as a stage?

Since then Obama has spent an inordinate amount of time on college campuses. Yea, that's part of their base and he's polling bad, but at some point don't they feel they have to defend their record instead of making jokes about Republicans drinking slurpees after they drove that car off of the road? Do they think nobody notices their darting and weaving?

And the planned MTV appearance... do they really think hiding the President in the manufactured 'coolness' of MTV is not going to look silly? They would be better off releasing pictures of him playing golf then putting him in that venue at this point of the fall campaign.

Finally, the Colbert and Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" vs "March to Keep Fear Alive" stunts the weekend before the election. Ka-boing! Obama is spending his time trying to hector youth into voting and the last image they're going to get before the polls open is some sort of ironic mockery of rallies. Eh, what good is that supposed to do the Dems? 

What are they thinking?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Stratfor on terror alert and uranium in India

Below is another article from Stratfor. It concerns the current warning of possible terror operations like those that occurred in Bombay two years ago. The idea he discusses -- what is the correct level of response to such warnings -- is a difficult one to answer.

As an example, today we have news of a man arrested with 1kg (2.2lbs) or uranium in India. It is frightening to consider its intended customers and usage.


Terrorism, vigilance and the limits of the War on Terror
By George Friedman, October 5, 2010

The U.S. government issued a warning Oct. 3 advising Americans traveling to Europe to be "vigilant." U.S. intelligence apparently has acquired information indicating that al Qaeda is planning to carry out attacks in European cities similar to those carried out in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. In Mumbai, attackers armed with firearms, grenades and small, timed explosive devices targeted hotels frequented by Western tourists and other buildings in an attack that took three days to put down.

European security forces are far better trained and prepared than their Indian counterparts, and such an attack would be unlikely to last for hours, much less days, in a European country. Still, armed assaults conducted by suicide operatives could be expected to cause many casualties and certainly create a dramatic disruption to economic and social life.

The first question to ask about the Oct. 3 warning, which lacked specific and actionable intelligence, is how someone can be vigilant against such an attack. There are some specific steps that people can and should take to practice good situational awareness as well as some common-sense travel-security precautions. But if you find yourself sleeping in a hotel room as gunmen attack the building, rush to your floor and start entering rooms, a government warning simply to be vigilant would have very little meaning.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Dot, the world's smallest heroine

Nokia sells the N8 Smartphone which has a 12 MP camera with Karl Zeis optics. A company called Fletcher has added optics to it and created a unit called CellScope which can be used for mobile medical microscopy. This allows a microscope to be taken into the field, a photograph taken with it and then sent via the phone to be analyzed. Altogether a remarkable confluence of technologies.

To market it Nokia partnered with Sumo Science to create a number of films show casing it. Above is the world's smallest stop action heroine Dot as she flees across a miniature landscape from a fraying carpet. Below is a video that shows how they made the film. Both are well worth watching

Thursday, September 30, 2010


A Polish man living in Germany went to have a cyst removed from the back of his head. When the doctors did the operation they discovered a bullet embedded in the back of his skull instead. 

The 35 year old man remembers being extremely drunk at a New Years party five of six years ago and being clunked in the back of his head. Apparently that's when he got shot.

Police don't suspect foul play. They think it was probably a round shot in the air during the celebration.

The news report seems suspicious to me because the man is never named, but the story has been widely carried. Then again, if I was so drunk that I got shot in the head and didn't notice it for years I guess would try to keep my name out of the papers as well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't worry, the UN is on the case

We can all sleep a little easier with the news that the UN has appointed Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, as Earth's official Walmart Greeter Space Alien Ambassador.

Presumably, she's the one who approaches the alien craft with a broad smile and promises of peace. Of course, as a connoisseur of B Movies I know this just means she is slated to be the first Earthling to be fried by a death ray or turned into a pod person. Ah well, better her than me.

Regardless, I certainly hope the US has bumped up its contribution to the UN to cover the salary of this most important UN official.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

We'll vote for the Village Idiot before we'll vote for you lot.

Christine O'Donnell won the Republican primary in Delaware and in the process she created a firestorm of horror in political circles, both on the left and the right. 

To the right is the picture the German newspaper Spiegel  used to illustrate its article about her win. The single closed eye, crazed toothy grin and triple chins of the photo are obviously meant to caste her as a lunatic. 

Not being from Delaware, I don't know much about her. Apparently she was against masturbation at one time, dabbled in witchcraft in her youth, has struggled financially with her student loans and holding a job in general, as well as having some paranoid sounding worries about people hiding in her bushes and such. How much of this is true, and how much of it inflated, I have no idea.

Regardless, while I can see the Democrats piling it on, I'm puzzled as to why the Republicans would do the same. She may be a raving loon, but she's a raving loon who non-Progressives are sharing a foxhole with at the moment. I say hope for the best and if she turns out to be a liability, cut her loose after the election. 

At the end of the day she represents Delaware and nothing more and it is not wise to assist in the Progressive's attempts to paint her as the face of the Tea Party movement. She is not that significant -- she is just one more sign that a large portion of the electorate is trying the pull the political center to the right, and for that, regardless of how she fares in the general election, her primary victory was useful and welcomed.

The blogger Borepatch (via The Gormogons) has a fine post on the matter. Here's a sample of it:

This [Castle] is the sort of candidate that the Republican Establishment wants us to support? But more significantly, why then should we think that the Republican Party is less reckless in its spending than the Democrats? There's a very clear pattern that has emerged in the GOP's support for Castle, Murkowski, et al - support the Usual Suspects, protect their power and privilege, and pay lip service (if that) to actual fiscal reform.
Like I said, phooey. 
This November will see the breaking of the Democratic Party, which is half the battle. But everything will come to naught if the Republican Old Guard is not also broken. There is quite frankly no evidence that they will change their old ways unless we break them. Christine O'Donnell may be crazy like a Cat Lady, but she serves the purpose of breaking them. She is particularly useful in this, because it sends the following message:
We'll vote for the Village Idiot before we'll vote for you lot. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An auspicious day

Due to the importance of this date, this post needs to be reflective, engaging and thought provoking. 

Alas I'm writing it, and me being me, it will veer off into silliness instead. Sorry about that.

To the left is a photo of a person dressed up like a pinata, who has given his girl friend a baseball bat. That strikes me as being an extraordinarily bad idea, what with the natural urge to whack pinatas. Better safe than sorry, if you ever feel the urge to dress in that costume -- don't.

At any rate, why am I claiming this date is so important? On this date five years ago MeaninglessHotAir posted the very first post to this blog. The blog was a group blog started by people who commented at Roger Simon's pre-Pajamas Media blog. Since then some people have joined it and others have moved on.

So to all our post authors over the years, Roger who inspired us, our commenters, lurkers and one time visitors -- heck even to the Chinese spambots who inflate our modest traffic --  I hope you'll join me in wishing a Happy Fifth Birthday to our little corner of the internet.   

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Father & Son

No comments, just videos by the two great Mali blues musicians, Ali Farka Toure and his son Vieux Farka Toure. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Never forget

The picture above was taken by Bill Baggert. Shortly after it was taken the North Tower collapsed. Four days later his body was found in the wreckage, his cameras destroyed, but with one undisturbed compact flash card containing his final photographs. Rest in Peace Mr. Baggert.

You can read a little about him, see more of his pictures and other projects at the website Bill Braggert Photographer.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Cry me a river...

A preacher with a minuscule congregation in north Florida threatens to burn a Koran and idiocy ensues. 

Would I burn a Koran? No. 
Do I care if a Koran gets burned? No. 
Do I want the Arab street to dictate the shape of tolerance and the limits of free speech? Hell no.

I'll end this brief post with a word to our political leaders who feel they have to preemptively apologize about this -- STFU already. Americans aren't ashamed of the First Amendment,  Terry Jones is an inconsequential lout, and walking on eggs won't keep the Cartoonophobes from blowing a gasket over some perceived slight or another.

Besides, it's not like they have a good track record when it comes to this sort of thing...

Hellooooo visitors from Don Surber

Monday, September 06, 2010

Prince Charles is bad enough, but now this?

I must confess my faith in the common sense of the English has been badly shaken. Newslite has an article which lists, according to a poll of 3,000 Brits, the 20 most useless gadgets of all time. 

Topping the list is the electric candle, which is hard to argue against. Also on it are such things as Laser guided scissors, egg boilers, fondue sets, electric carving knives and waffle irons; all which are admittedly useless things that end up cluttering the recesses of your kitchen cabinets.

So far so good. However, shockingly the Back Scratcher comes in number 7 on the list. Backer Scratchers useless? I think not! 

If you have an itch below your shoulder blades the only options you have us to become a contortionist, run into the back yard and rub your back against a tree like a cat in heat, or reach for your handy miniature wooden hand on a stick. I know the choice I prefer.   

This being the internet I'll point you to Back Scratcher World where you can buy one online. Who knew you could pay up to $30 for a Premium Back Scratcher? 

They also have pages on how to select, use and care for you back scratcher, as well as an informative Back Scratcher FAQ. What can I say -- unlike the silly English these people take their Back Scratchers seriously. 

Thursday, September 02, 2010

New feature - Stratfor articles

I subscribe to Stratfor, a website that provides analysis of global affairs. As part of the subscription they email me frequent items. After a couple of years of getting them  I've recently noticed, observant devil that I am, that some of them come with a copyright that allows me to reproduce them on my website.

You may be interested in reading them, so as an experiment I'm going to start posting them. If you like the articles I'll continue to post them. Leave you comments for or against. Here is the first... 


By Scott Stewart

The drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq has served to shift attention toward Afghanistan, where the United States has been increasing its troop strength in hopes of forming conditions conducive to a political settlement. This is similar to the way it used the 2007 surge in Iraq to help reach a negotiated settlement with the Sunni insurgents that eventually set the stage for withdrawal there. As we've discussed elsewhere, the Taliban at this point do not feel the pressure required for them to capitulate or negotiate and therefore continue to follow their strategy of surviving and waiting for the coalition forces to depart so that they can again make a move to assume control over Afghanistan.

Indeed, with the United States having set a deadline of July 2011 to begin the drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan -- and with many of its NATO allies withdrawing sooner -- the Taliban can sense that the end is near. As they wait expectantly for the departure of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan, a look at the history of militancy in Afghanistan provides a bit of a preview of what could follow the U.S. withdrawal.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Disturbing the peace

A blog I read regularly is Kent Frost's Nanny Knows Best. He's an English fellow who posts about the small outrages perpetrated by the bureaucrats of the Nanny State. His posts are not generally about large scale abuses, rather they cover the small absurdities of local officials gone wild.

He recently posted an item about Dominic Payne of Colchester's problems over frogs croaking too loudly in his pond. It seems somebody filed a complaint to the Colchester Borough Council about noise coming from his property.

The Council dispatched environmental health officers who lurked around his property taking decibel readings of the mating frogs croaking in his pond. Some how or another they figured out that the frogs were Marsh frogs, which are native to the European mainland, but not Great Britain.

Yoiks! Not only a rowdy bunch, but an intrusive non-native species to boot!

This lead to two police officers showing up to investigate the matter. They spent their time trying to photograph the mating frogs. They then informed him, and his neighbor who also had a pond full of the amorous amphibians, that the police were going to have to remove the frogs, either by killing them or relocating them.

Presumably, although I can't say for sure, considering the British government's squeamishness in deporting terror suspects to their home countries where they might be tortured, the Marsh frogs would not have been relocated back to France where the locals have a taste for frog legs.

Anyways, the end result of all this tomfoolery was, after a barrage of mockery from the press over their idiocy, the police dropped the matter.  I was rather surprised by that. Usually in these depressingly silly matters the bureaucrats stick to their guns as best as possible to save face.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mad as hell, and not going to take it any more!

Actually I'm not mad, I just needed an excuse to post the above picture of a pissed-off dinner roll with a knife in its teeth. Although not as artfully done as the bread sculptures of Kittiwat Unarromhas, it serves it purpose as one of my pointless running blog themes. I call this theme -- Fun with Bread.

The above picture comes from BreadBlog. Although not a large blog, it has a good collection of odd things done with bread, including bread furniture, boxing gloves, toast with Hitler's face on it and a sandwich made from Legos. 

More pictures below the fold.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Things You Never Knew

So Saturday I'm sitting on the patio with the Better Two-Thirds and a neighbor and we're having a beer or two and chatting. Out of the corner of my eye I see something in the Mrs. impatiens that I take for a big wasp, maybe one of those cicada killers.

I need to pay attention 'cause maybe it is and maybe it ain't, but some wasps or bee types can render me quite ill if they decide to zap me. But this thing is very odd - there it went again.

I finally went over and looked and here's what I found - a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Never knew such a thing existed. Lovely little critter.

Just in case you've never seen a cicada killer wasp.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Have you no sense of decency, madam?

Obama stepped into a political mine field when he waded into the Ground Zero Mosque issue. 

He allowed the notion of tolerance, which by itself is a laudable goal, to trump any consideration of other issues surrounding the proposed mosque. In particular, he dismissed the skepticism much of the American public feels towards the motives and funding sources for the mosque.

His political miscalculation has inflamed the issue, and in fanning the flames he has forced many of his fellow Democrats to take a stand on an issue they would rather avoid. Perhaps the most bizarre and tone deaf of all is the reaction of Nancy Pelosi. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Pelosi told San Francisco's KCBS radio that "there is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded," she said. "How is this being ginned up?"

Again, the American public who are opposed to the mosque being built so close to Ground Zero oppose it because they see it not as an act of outreach, but as an act of triumphalism. They also, since the backers of it are opaque, suspect that it is going to be funded by sources inimical to the U.S.

Pelosi blithely dismisses those concerns as nothing more than a smoke screen for political opportunism, and rubs salt into the wound by distastefully, and absurdly, questioning the funding sources of the people who are arguing against the mosque's location. Further, she calls for an investigation of opponents to the project.

However, we're still not done. It gets even more absurd. From the Washington Examiner we discover that at the same time she is working herself into a lather over the anti-mosque cabal her colleague  Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla, an addled-headed nitwit I'm sorry to say is from Florida, is sending out the following emails:

Fire Pelosi!

That’s the mindless mantra of Republicans and their wild-eyed Tea Party supporters as we begin the final sprint to Election Day. In fact, Republican Chairman Michael Steele just announced a “Fire Pelosi” national bus tour to distract voters and demonize Democrats.

Let’s show the Tea Party crowd that they’re no match for our grassroots strength. Stand with us against the Right’s despicable attacks and their fat cat fundraising by joining Team Pelosi — an elite group of grassroots Democrats who are leading the fight against radical Republican candidates in races nationwide.
We have set a goal of reaching 10,000 new members for Team Pelosi. House Republicans are claiming to have experienced a five-year high fundraising surge. We can’t let up now — we must keep pace. That means we need just 11 new members from Washington by our deadline this Thursday.

Please contribute today to become our newest member of Team Pelosi right now.

As a member of Team Pelosi you will receive the inside scoop on what’s happening in our campaign to strengthen and secure our House Majority. You will be invited to attend members-only phone and web-based political briefings by top Democratic experts and receive special Red Alerts about breaking campaign news.
So, at the same time she is calling for an investigation of the funding of wide spread and genuinely grassroots anger over the mosque situation, she is sending out a mass emailing begging for money and feigning popularism. Have you no sense of decency, madam, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

By the way, if you so desire, you too can bolster your grassroots, street cred by owning your own Team Pelosi tote bag. You'll have to Google for it though, I can't quite bring myself to link to the thing. 

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gone fishing...

I'm on vacation at the moment so posting will be erratic. Then again, my posting is always erratic so likely nobody would have noticed.. The wife and I flew to Manuas in Brazil. Odd airport. The runway was, outside of a dirt strip in Masawa, the roughest I've ever landed on. The plane bounced and rattle during it's entire roll out. To reduce a traveller's confidence even more, pushed onto the grass were three or four completely filthy cargo jets.  The whole place had a slap-dash feel to it.

We stayed in Manaus for only one day, and then headed for a place called Juma Lodge in jungle. The a picture is of one of their cabins. I didn't take it, I swiped it off of the internet. perhaps when I get back I'll post a photo or two of my own.

I must say the rain forest was not at all what I expected. Many more people were living in it than I expected (the place I stayed is only about 4-5 hours south of Manaus -- I imagine human habitation thins out considerably the farther upriver one goes). I expected to be swatting bugs endlessly, but they really weren't a problem at all. The heat was oppressive during the day, but at night there were nice breezes that were refreshing.

The jungle was very peaceful. Above all, it is very nice to be out of the news loop for a bit and just laze in the hammock.At any rate, 'll be off the blog for a bit, so the Chinese spambots will have a field day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's not as bad as it looks...

“Of course, people were shocked and thought that I was mad when they saw the works. But once they knew the idea behind it, they understood and became interested in the work itself, instead of thinking that I am crazy.”
Thai artist Kittiwat Unarromhas has a Masters degree in Fine Arts and has experimented with painting and sculpture. When he returned home to run his family's bakery, he combined that training, along with a knowledge of anatomy and trips to forensic museums, and began to bake bread shaped like body parts.

He bakes loaves shaped like heads, hands, feet, and even internal organs. He also claims to take as much care with his bread recipe as with his art, continuously refining it to make the bread as delicious as possible. If you're in Ratchaburi Thailand you can visit his gallery/bakery (many more pictures at the link).

Quite grotesque to say the least. Still, while I think it would be rather creepy eating a bread head, I think I would prefer it to edible bread shoes that somebody may have worn.

What's with this younger generation of bakers?

more and more

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A turning point

As if any of us can avoid posting about, as John Hinderaker at Powerline called it,  the Breitbart-NAACP-Vilsack-Sherrod affair...

It strikes me that nobody involved in the mess has exactly covered themselves with glory: Breitbart seems to have tarred her a bit unfairly to make his point about the NAACP, the NAACP fumbled about and looked like idiots as usual, Vislack acted precipitously in firing her, and Sherrod seems still enamored with the notion of dividing people into Us and Them as she babbles on and on.

Still, that out of the way, there is one part of the story that has caught my attention. This is the first story I can think of that broke with such speed and was driven by the new media.

As such, this story is a turning point. In the past, and for that matter with the current Journolist story, the MSM would have, in their role as gatekeepers, sat on the story until it died or was stale. Now, they can no longer rely on the fact that the control which stories get spiked or which get column inches.

Credit has to be given to Breitbart for how he has manipulated the legacy media's weakness against itself. The speed at which this story grew is a direct result of how he rolled out the ACORN story. The legacy media has lost its monopoly on what is news and what is not. I think that will prove to be the real significance of this kerfuffle.

Monday, July 19, 2010

An ancient riddle has been solved

"British scientists believe they have cracked the answer to the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? 

Researchers have found that a protein called ovocleidin (OC-17) is crucial in the formulation of eggshells, and it is produced in the pregnant hen's ovaries, the Daily Express reports."

 As the article 'Chicken or egg' question finally answered  points out, scientists have established that a chicken's body chemestry is necessary for the formation of eggs. Therefore it is clear that chickens had to have come first. Whew, finally I can scratch that off my list of mysteries to ponder.

Still, I expect there will many Egg-Firster zealots who refuse to admit the truth. Lord knows, they've always been a deluded lot. We can only hope they don't turn violent when they hear the news.