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).