Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trivia Question #2

What is the one award that is one award that has been awarded to Lawrence Welk, Eric Sevareid, Louis L'Amour, Peggy Lee, Warner Christopher and Master Sergeant Wilson Keebler? I mean what does a band leader, a newsman, a writer, a singer, a beltway insider and a WWII senior NCO have in common?

Manitoban MLA from Riding Named After Convicted Traitor Wants to Change This Flag

Manitoba flag outdated, says NDP

WINNIPEG -- Manitoba should adopt a new flag, because the current one - as well as that of Ontario - is an archaic symbol of British rule, say some grassroots members of Manitoba's governing New Democrats.

Manitoba's flag "is outdated and a relic from the days of our former British colonial heritage," reads a resolution by the NDP's Riel constituency association in south Winnipeg. The resolution is on the agenda of the provincial party's annual convention next month.

"Manitoba's flag is often confused with Ontario's flag, with the only difference being a bison ... instead of three maple leaves."

Both provinces' flags are similar to the Red Ensign that Canada used as a national flag prior to adopting the maple leaf design in 1965. There is a red background, a Union Jack in the upper left corner, and a provincial symbol toward the bottom right corner.

In 2001, a U.S.-based volunteer group of flag enthusiasts called the North American Vexillological Association ranked the flags of 72 states, provinces, territories and districts. Ontario and Manitoba placed 43rd and 44th respectively.

The group criticized flags that were not distinctive, and praised those with simple, bold designs such as Quebec's fleur-de-lis, which ranked third behind Texas and New Mexico.

The Riel constituency association is proposing the government hold a provincewide public contest to develop a new flag. But any change is likely to be an uphill battle.

Manitoba's opposition Progressive Conservatives say the current flag is an important symbol of the province's roots.

"Certainly many of our traditions came here as a result of the British democratic parliamentary system," Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen said.

Premier Gary Doer did not comment. A spokesman for the Premier's office said Mr. Doer attends conventions to listen to debates and "not prejudge what [the] convention may or may not pass."

Student Loan Scams

Student loans are often the one type of loan that can't be discharged in bankruptcy. Here is an angry discussion on this issue from On Point, The Dark Side of Student Loans. The cartoon above is Fighting Words by Abell Smith. This cartoonist is part of Cartoonists with Attitude the same group that Ted Rall belongs to.

Risk and Reward for Bankers

From Alex a wonderful argument on risk and reward.

Ad for for the Giant Hitachi Dash-6 Excavators


Old Photograph of Serra Pelada.Open Pit Mine

The photos yesterday of the gold mining in the Congo, Men Who Moil for Gold, reminded me of the Amazonian gold rush in the early 1980's where at Serra Pelada a mountain was leveled and then turned into a 100 metre deep pit by hand. The photographer Sebastião Salgado made his name with images from this mine. There was a documentary made of this gold rush but I can not find it. Maybe the other mining fans know the name of it. Here is a long (90 minutes) discussion of his work from the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

For even more information about Sebastião Salgado here is a documentary, Looking Back at You, on him and his work, (pt1, pt2, pt3, pt4, pt5 and pt6). In this documentary an art critic say that photos like the one above give him an idea what the construction of the Pyramids must of looked like.

The US is Undertaxing Itself to Bankruptcy

Chart from an NY Times article about the book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Men Who Moil for Gold

Great pictures of Congolese artisanal hydraulic miners from Reuters' Finbarr O'Reilly.

"Men who moil for gold" is a quote from Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam Magee.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Punchcard Art

The above image is from an exhibit of art made on unpunched punchcards from 1965, Do Not Fold, Bend, Spindle or Mutilate: Computer Punch Card Art - Virtual Exhibition. Recently on Boingboing there was an article on the worth of old and sometimes rare things, The Trough of No Value, that suggests objects travel through. After looking at this I wonder if there are more boxes of unused punch cards out there. Will there be enough examples left for future historians or archeologtists of mid twenith century computers to study. Will there be preserved data centres in the same way there are preserved railway lines where hobbyists work hard to recreate the technology of a vanished era.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Computers Blown Up Real Good

Today's slashdot has a story, When Servers Explode, about poor hard hardworking computers being bent, spindled and mutilated unto to death after years of faithful service. "Blown up real good". The article has links to many, many horrible tech snuff films.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Prince of Slaves Probably was a Slave Owner Himself

Because of comment in an NPR segment about on black history month, Do We Need A Black History Month? someone mentioned an actual West African price who was a slave. Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori was a prince of Kingdom of Fouta Djallon in the highlands of Guinea, which oddly enough had as a capital a town/city called Timbo. As a teenager he had studied in Timbuktu. In his twenties after leading his father's troop to defeat was captured and sold into slavery.This was a personal tragedy for him it must be asked if previously he had sold POWs into slavery. Slavery was practiced by moslem kingdoms in West Africa. The slave trade in West Africa and East Africa was only wiped by force of arms. However slavery is still "popular" in muslin Africa. One of the motives of the Sudanese government forces in Darfur as well as in Sudan's Christian south was enslavement. The final little kicker is that Wiki ascribes the downfall of Timbuktu with competition from European trading ports on the coast:
The city began to decline after explorers and slavers from Portugal and then other European countries landed in West Africa, providing an alternative to the slave market of Timbuktu and the trade route through the world's largest desert.
This Prince of Slaves lived in countries that enslaved, probably owned slaves, probably enslaved those he captured and studied in fabled Timbuktu which had along with its cattle, camel, salt and gold markets also had a noted slave market.

The comment made by Eve Sander (evergreeen), which she triple posted, is taken by as a bad example of "celebrating" history as a means to personal affirmation and self esteem. History shouldn't make you feel better, that is what beer is for, it should inform, enlighten and even disturb the reader.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

GINI Ratios Since WWII

For more information on GINI ratios here the Wiki page for GINI Coefficients, where I also got this graph.

The Bottom of Top 1% of US Households not that Well Off.

From the blog Visualizing Economics comes this graph of the top 1% of US households. Instead of viewing this group as a whole it divides them into 4 groups: the 99% to 99.5%, the 99.5% to 99.9%, the 99.9% to 99.99% and the top 0.01%. One can sort of understand the anger of the top investment bankers demoted from the top 11,ooo families down to the "proles" with as many as half a million households above than them "earning" more money.

The problem with the cost of living in certain areas like New York, LA and Washington is the high concentration of billionaires and multimillionaires. This expands service industry for the wealthy but causes psychic pain to the the merely well off. The lower edges of the top 1% who would feel wealthier in other communities if not for the competition with many more people that have 5, 10 , 50 and 100 times more money. In other times and places it was colonels being outbid by generals when on campaign the supply of luxuries and even necessities was limited. Whereas in their regitmental depots colonels could feel wealthier.

On a related note here is a an article by Michael Lewis, The Mansion: a Sub Prime Parable. Michael Lewis has been a successful writer and commentator for 2 decades. He has reached that pinnaclethat many aspire, where he can make a living and even a a good living writing. The impression in this article is that he is in the top 1%. However when he moves back to New Orleans he rents a house that could only really be afforded by someone in the top 0.01%, that is by someone truly rich.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Scene Almost out of movie The Day After Tomorrow

The above looks like a giant ice stalagmite formed when a pipe burst in a abandoned shopping mall. In reality this is a mass of ice purpose built in a Swiss stadium for Ice Cimbing championships. If you look at image below you can see a climber and tiers of spectators.

(from Pruned)

Coffee For Zombies

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It Isn't Easy Being A Flower

It isn't easy being a flower as this animation, Such is Life..., by DHaynes, shows.

The End of The News

For more fun and depressing news about the death capital N News here is a radio discussion, The Future of the News.

(Cartoon by Ted Rall)

Higher Costs and Less Value

In the recent controversy about the US government forcing pay ceilings on bailed out bankers and the UK enacting similar punitive schemes on banks they bought many have complained that banks will be unable to recruit or keep the talented, see Living On Half A Million In NYC. The apologists for the corrupt and/or incompetent bankers complain that quality has a price and no one is willing to work for nothing. However when one looks at the sweep of history this is not quite clear.

There have been jobs and sectors that in the past were much more remunerative. But today we see that these jobs will not longer a path to riches can attract as good or even better people. When some jobs are so rewarding a couple things happen society as a whole over invests in these type of jobs. Second such overly rich posts attract people more interested in the the pay than the work or vocation .

Up until recently, less than 200 years ago, there are two types of "public sector" jobs that used to be much more highly rewarded. In the past senior religious and military officials used to be better paid in both relative and absolute terms. Bishops would and could build palaces, administer trusts and sometimes rule in their own right as temporal rulers. see The Barchester Chronicles. Popes used to be able lay up fortunes for themselves, their clans and their "nephews". When the Papacy was rich and powerful the only type of person who crawled his way upwards was someone dedicated to the pursuit wealth and power 24/7. Clerics still aspire to sees and bishoprics however they do so knowing that the reward will be mostly be in heaven then on earth. Successful generals and admirals could make fortunes large enough to keep their families rich for generations, see John Churchill). That was then now senior officers can only make a fortune if take over their governments, like Nasser, Gaddafi, Idi Amin, the Burmese Junta and other assorted thugs and malcontents. However at this point they are no longer strictly military officers and in the case of Nasser not even competent ones.

The message of history is paying fortunes means getting aggressive and ambitious losers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good and Bad Exemplary Druggies

...that as Chancellor of Germany Adolf Hitler made some very poor policy and strategic decisions, at least some of which might be attributed to the daily injections of amphetaimes his doctor had him on after ’42 or so, and that the bad end to which he ultimately came was a direct result of his own poor judgment. Among others, he committed the most famous of the classic blunders: Never Get Involved in the Land War in Asia. A textbook meth-head move. In a clichéd denoument straight out of so many drug education filmstrips, he ended up shooting his wife and himself in an underground bunker while the Russian army closed in around his crumbling empire and his body was doused in gasoline and set on fire, and now he is the most hated person in world history. "You see? You see what happens, Larry? This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass." -Walter Sobchak.

Tim Kreider explaining his cartoon, What Can You Do On Drugs?, that while Michael Phelps, William Faulkner and Miles Davis were able to perform under the influence Hitler did not quite succeed when high on amphetamines.

Muslim Ban on Yoga

So several Muslim authorities have banned the practice of yoga, by Muslims because of its Hindu or Kaffir origin, see report by The Guardian. I am surprised that other Muslim authorities and propagandists haven't claimed that Yoga is a purely Muslim invention like the zero another ancient Indian invention.

A commenter, xyberia, on one of The Guardian reports on this laughable story calls the MUI, the Indonesian Ulema Council, the Indonesia governmental Muslim "brain trust" as Many Unintelligent Individuals.

Here is an old but relevant story on anti-yoga activities in Malaysia from my friend's blog The Eleventh Hour.

The Day the Muzak Died

According to reports the Muzak Corporation has filed for Chapter 11. In rosier times bankrupt companies were found it easy to borrow new money and to refinance their debt. Currently in the states even people and organizations with good credit are having problems borrowing money. What hope does a zombie corp have in getting brains, sorry I mean refinancing.

The Destructiveness of Swords

The Destructiveness of Swords

In this day and age of age of cheap semiautomatic weapons we forget hiw effective swords can be. Swords can be effective at close range (>1 metre) and in enviroment where it is difficult and impossible to shoot more than 3 rounds a minutes. Here and above is concise demostration on the power of the sword. When I first saw this I realized, if anything, that Dungeons & Dragons underestimated the the damage that a single sword can inflict.

Remember, go to cold steel for all your blade needs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Animals who Butcher and the Humans Who Excuse Them

Christie Blatchford latest piece comes down hard on Taliban murderers who saw the heads off their victims, Sanitizing atrocity serves only Taliban's interests. In the comments section most were more offended by our own armed forces who are combating the Taliban, then by the Taliban / Moslim / Al Queda /islamically motivated murderers / terrorists / bandits / jihadi shits who find religious justifications to blow up schools and rape 8 year-olds. Unfortunately in the same way that fanboys of Stalin could be found while he was straving the Ukraine lots idiots / fellow travelers / true believers / adventurers / traitors / thrill seekers / sincere patsies /conspirators can be found to cheer on the people who want to kill us.

Newsweek Praises Canada - Trolls Reacts

The editor of Newsweek has a piece in his latest issue about Canada's good fiscal management, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. The piece points out our the lack of a banking crisis, a decade long record of of trade, current account and federal government surpluses.

The comments are filled with the kind of badly spelled knee jerk reaction that one can expect on the web. Following are some of the more insightful and stupid comments to this piece.

harrylogy: Frozenbutts,your banks don't fail for the same reason that dwarfs don't fall out of windows...They both r not big enough...

Illiterate and illogical
harrylogy: u pose as a doctor & u cannot even write " colleagues " correctly...

Crazy Anarchism
The real "success" of Canada isn't that they had more regulation, but that they had less government distortion of the market. If Canada had unregulated banks in addition to not distorting the home market they'd be doing even better than they are now. This merely illustrates once again that government isn't the solution to our problems, government is the problem.

Finally a Canadian reaction to being noticed.
weilim: I think the article is a bit overboard with the beaver loving.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Bad Project Mangement

Some engineers and astronauts at NASA have produced a short video about the bureaucratic barriers to good engineering. Here also is a NPR story about this short video.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Uses and Abuses of History on TVO

Here is a panel discussion between some professional historians. The program repeats at 11:00 PM EST.

Phelps Likes Pot and Who Cares

There are two issues with the big stupid fake controversy about Phelps taking a bong hit. First can we just get away from the concept of "role model". If the last US El Presidente could be an alcoholic coke head what is to stop an athlete to from being normal. This issues goes back to the sometimes disconnect between professional and personal ethics. If Phelps was found to cheating with performance enhancing drugs like steroids that would be a much worse offence because of the long term nature training with steroids. In the same way I would consider a hitman with a long and successful career to be worse than a one time "civilian" murderer.