Friday, March 28, 2008

Chalk caves at the Battle of Arras


Note the life expectancy of a British pilot there after von Richtofen showed up with his Flying Circus. Sheesh.

Robert Hardman has the story in the Daily Mail.

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Zack in perkier days: March 2007

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Viva la Revolucion: Cuba legalizes cell phones! And microwave ovens!

Will Weissert for the AP:
Raul Castro (issued) a decree Friday allowing ordinary Cubans to have cell phone service, a luxury previously reserved for the select few...
Of course: To each according to his needs. Gotta love a system where the dictator just decrees things to be legal, or illegal. Ever so much more efficient, and democratic.
Until now, the only people legally allowed to have a cell plan were foreigners, Cubans working for foreign companies and top government officials...
Especially those top government officials.
"Finally. We have waited too long for this," said Elizabeth, a middle-aged housewife waiting in line to pay her home telephone bill. She wouldn't give her last name because she already has a cell phone through a foreign co-worker of her husband.
And she doesn't want to go to jail for an illegal cell phone: You meet the dregs of Cuban society there: people who ran unauthorized libraries, aka librarians.
The new program could put phones in the hands of hundreds of thousands of Cubans, especially those with relatives abroad who send them hard currency. But they will remain out of reach for most on the island...

"I'd love one!" said Juan Quiala, a retiree living on a $10 monthly pension. "But how am I going to pay for it?"
I guess your niece in Miami will pay for it, Senor Quiala. You won't be, unless you develop a time share program for your phone.
The government controls over 90 percent of the economy, and while the communist system ensures most Cubans have free housing, education and health care and receive ration cards that cover basic food needs, the average monthly state salary is less than $20...
Timeshare plans for phones: Revolutionary.
Of course, if unrest were to develop, Cuba's phone monopoly could close down such transmissions with the flick of a switch....
Well, Raul will see to it that Cubans develop a rest ethic. Unrest would be ungood.
...A few phones on sale Friday offered basic camera functions, but those retailed for as much as $280.
Unrest, ungood, and unaffordable. But decreed legal. Unbelievable, except in a socialist paradise. And they have 100% literacy, and 100% health care. According to Castro's own figures.
The decree came a week after a resolution promising consumer goods including PCs, DVD players, car alarms and televisions of all sizes will go on sale in state-run stores Tuesday. Those goods previously could be purchased only by foreigners and companies.
And all affordable by the resting Cuban on $20 a month salary. Big screen TVs will flood the market.
And in December, the government distributed about 3,000 microwaves made by South Korea's Daewoo Electronics. Local authorities say the pilot program...could lead to a nationwide offering of microwaves on long-term credit.
Long-term credit, and time-sharing for microwaves.

It really is nice to live somewhere in unCuba: we can a give a microwave of a finger to Raul and Fidel without going to a microcell in a mega prison. With all the criminal cell phone users and librarians.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Plover decoys

Have you had a chance to spend some time watching a shorebird closeup? I did this evening, sitting in the front yard under the shower tree, while a golden plover in winter plumage spent a couple hours feeding. I played the game of Name That Decoy Maker: of which decoy maker does its pose of the moment remind me?

In Milwaukee I'd do that from time to time with the geese, mallards, and blackducks in the pond below the bluff near my old apartment. There my reaction for each specie was most always: Ward Brothers.

Here with plover I thought Elmer Crowell and Bill Bowman, and came to a new appreciation of Bill Bowman, or, as some argue convincingly, Charles Sumner Bunn. I've long thought Crowell managed to put more life into his shorebirds, but today realized how Bowman/Bunn captured the poised moment. He didn't manage the quirky movement which Crowell did in his best with his turned and tilted heads and leaps forwards, but in the pause, looking about, the moment of rest, the stretched neck, he caught the sense of life.

I also thought of my favorite maker of feeders, Obediah Verity in the negative: he created wonderful lyrical curves, which have no relation to what a plover actually does in feeding. It doesn't keep its body erect and create a curving neck to feed: it stretches its head and neck out nearly straight and tilts its whole body. Beautiful, and I'd love a shelf full of them, but no, not accurate.

Watching this one today made me wonder how many of the shorebirds we identify as runners were actually intended to be seen as feeders. Simply pushing the stake into the ground at an acute angle would turn the bill into the ground at the right angle for feeding.

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Oh, my: Obama wants to raise the capital gains rate, but...

....guess what: Obama doesn't seem to have much invested in anything upon which to pay capital gains. Or so says John Fund, at the Wall Street Journal.

If the good Senator did have some investments, he might understand that people refrain from committing taxable acts when the tax rate is too high, and do commit such indiscretions when it is relatively low.

Which is more likely to produce income for his favorite institution? And which is more likely to be better for the economy?

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I feel safer already

TSA made a woman remove her nipple rings with a pair of pliers before letting her board her plane.


Monday, March 24, 2008

David W. Dunlap blames himself

New York Times reporter David W. Dunlapblames himself for getting beat up while on the job.
After about two minutes, one man asked me why I was taking pictures. “Because what you’re doing is illegal,” I replied.

He answered, “Breaking cameras is illegal, too, but if you don’t stop taking pictures, I’ll break your camera.”

...The approach came so swiftly, I cannot even say whether it was from in front or behind. But I do remember a furious face inches away from mine as the man said he had warned me not to take any more pictures.

The next few minutes are — as they say — a blur. I was suddenly on my back on the sidewalk, near the curb, trying to hold on to my camera and fend off my assailant, with my right leg pressed against his chest.

...I’m not inclined to press charges. While my assailant’s actions were frightening, they resulted in part from what he interpreted as provocation: that is, my taking pictures after he had explicitly warned me not to. He did not take my wallet, cash or briefcase; something he could easily have done while I was on the ground. Nor do I recall him using much more force than was needed to wrest the camera from me. He didn’t kick me gratuitously when I was down. He did what he threatened to do, but no more.

In the greater scheme of things, my quarrel isn’t with him, anyway. It’s with the suits who made the decision in the first place to undertake an illegal marketing campaign.
Quite of few of his commenters agree. Here is Number 109:
“Because what you are doing is illegal?”

That was a pretty incendiary reply...Didn’t you think the person was capable of engaging in dialogue about their conduct and actions and the larger scope of your story?...

“Because what you are doing is illegal?”
That is the fascist mentality, inform on people not bothering you.

Go photo violent cops at demonstrations or landlords kicking out people of their lifelong homes to build glass and steel towers. The misbalance of shock and scorn is well crafted by society...
Read the whole thing: it isn't long (except for the comments, many of which are pro-prosecution) and it gives a heck of an insight into the mind of at least one New York Times reporter. Let's hear it for intellectualizing victimhood into ruling class oppressordom. Robert Fisk would be proud of him. Sick, sick, puppies.

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