Tuesday, 30 November 2010

who carried on his shoulder a siamese cat

Diplomacy is not duplicitous and is nothing if not transparent and truthful--thought not espousing or pretending that all the details are baldly set forth for debate. Personally, I am not sorry at all for America's spillage of information and opinions that was never meant to be cast out in the open, since America readily and gleefully reserves the right to monitor any and all habits, activities and communication of any one, and with no cause.

These revelations, however, will bring about no reform, an attitude adjustment or even more caution about what one commits to email. Although such empty concepts as information-security or private-email are oxymorons, and such a daisy-chain is amazingly tough and long-lived, I believe rather than giving government officials cause to question seepage, whether it is necessary to disseminate data scattershot and indiscriminately, reward staff with super-secret clearances, or horde and encourage all and sundry to contribute to the glut of data. Any piece of covert or private knowledge is only protected by a herd-mentality--the private doings of most are not the focus of a tenacious investigation and carry little to no public interest, and while the medical histories of anyone could be plucked out of the ætherher, usually the government, press and businesses are overwhelmed with too rich a selection of low-hanging fruit. Instead of taking this leak as a point of departure, to evaluate attitudes or disposition of digitizing communications--of which, emails are not final testimony and should be never taken as such, regardless of password integrity and security obstacles--cooperation and exchange will only wither away. Turf-battles have already resulted in a lot of damaging resistance to share valuable insights, ending in missed opportunities and catastrophe. Keeping tabs on every anonymous member of the horde across all disciplines created this mentality and this blossoming mess. Diplomacy serves to promote collaboration, and it is ironic that the revealed state of the US ambassadors will yield tighter controls and tightfistedness.

Monday, 29 November 2010

tranched or enhanced pat-down

The initial leak of high-level gossip of the diplomatic corps is may or may not of been in the best taste on the more sensational items: saying one leader lacks creativity or competency or is risk-adverse is just mean-spirited and makes for poor-working relations now that all these cables are out in the open, Ombudsman 2.0, where they cannot be denied or taken back. Some of these truths are manifestly apparent, even without careless documentation, however, there is no accounting for transparency.

Disclosure does not bring down regimes, although quite the opposite is true--that secrets have vouchsafed the bad things that government does. Ambassadors are entitled to the framework of their opinions are prejudices to work within or fail trying, however, the public is also entitled to knowing, regardless how the truth is ousted, the catalogue of other information revealed: like the German government is lousy with American spies, the US has pressured EU ministries into compliance for sharing of financial data despite resistance and no popular mandate, German authorities were strongly discouraged from pursuing justice against CIA agents who detained a citizen over mistaken identity, that the UN and the Secretary General are under surveillance, Saudi Arabia continues to bankroll terror activities, or that there are conspiracies for nuclear proliferation in the making. All this was only in the first batch, and meanwhile, the damage-control continues, inviting more speculation, in contrast to the apologies issued by the press, arguing for their decision to publish. Unvarnished truths may destroy diplomacy, relations built on old niceties and inherited respect, but also dispels the illusory embassy and the propaganda of American supremacy, which even the spokesmen have come to believe.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

circuit breaker or move along, nothing to see here

The United States Department of Homeland security, the umbrella agency that has brought already such thundering farces as government sanctioned assault in one’s friendly neighbourhood airport, all sorts of theater of the absurd, wiretaps, datamining, general molly-coddling, and gross incompetence and derelictions of duty when the chance to exercise the authorities vested in them actually came around, has moved to shutter several websites, which according to their own judgment [citation needed] and estimation, facilitate traffic in pirated and counterfeit goods. Allowing the government to brandish around such power is nothing new, nothing different than any other hyper-fascist regime censoring the media, no matter what higher ground it is claiming. America’s goon squads have no proprietary rights to the world-wide web and throwing an arbitrary veil over its own doings is likely to cause headaches and quash creativity and objective reporting, and let them try to exercise their power extraterritorially since the internet is borderless.
This is a slippery slope, however, for an agency with such Renaissance interests—which could not possibly pretend to be an expert in them all, even in the name of security, employees legions of disinterested and unchecked lackeys to condemn websites—to have the final say in what content, specious connections, and other terms promote national welfare. 
Such powers, first sold out as a campaign promise to luddite lobbyists, the
entertainment cartel or the tele-communications companies, quickly spill over from making an example of a few unfortunates that did not play by the rules in the first place to redirection to suppression of any detail disagreeable. Rolling over on this or that slight has become too commonplace, since the insults are coming to quickly and without adequate recourse nor even rest to recuperate, but America should not ignore this creeping menace any longer.

CH O2 or my name is hunt hunter

H is a superb treasure-hunter and I am really fond of one of our latest additions: this vintage perpetual calendar made for an airline ticket counter.  I really like old adverizing collectibles and this one reminds me of a time when flying was glamourous and exciting and was living up to all the things that one expected or imagined that air travel should be, far-flung lands and adventures, liberated and accessible but still mysterous and demanding high, genuine accomplishment over tenacity and the wearisome and interminable planning and waiting in queues.  Though maybe not so carefree and with details and distractions easily bulldozed over afterwards, the adventure and fun, in the journey and in one's destination, has not be tarnished. 

Friday, 26 November 2010

theory and practice

Mark Twain observed that, “Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.” This rings quite true for quite a bit of the annual mandatory refresher training that they expose us to at work—dry, rote and predictable and just enough delaying tactics to bring down a lawsuit settlement in appeals. After making an obligatory appearance at a drug and alcohol awareness class, which in all fairness featured a quite funny stand-up comedian whose message was important and appreciated, though possibly just endured for those who were seeing basically the same routine for the fourth time, I realized that these required audiences, not so insufferable, are like holiday traditions, unquestioned, like watching Dinner for One (Der 90. Geburtstag) on New Year’s or It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas time. I did realize, more by its breach than in its keeping, I did miss out of this year’s winter driving safety, which was no less a chore to schedule around but anything but stale delivered by our German safety officer who speaks like Colonel Klink. And if no one takes anyway anything else from that course, replete with PowerPoint slides, he always quotes statistics that drivers, though one would expect that they are expert and accustomed to wintery conditions, panic during the first snow flurry of the year, which we are receiving now, only to decline in number of accidents and incidents as the season continues and as the roads become even more treacherous, regardless of how many hard winters, tyres swapped out, and otherwise girding themselves for danger. Maybe that says something about practice in itself.

another brick in the wall or please don't feed the tigers

Columnist Laurie Penny of the New Statesman sends a dispatch from the latest round of student protests in England against tuition rate hikes. This anger follows demonstrations in Germany and many other European countries where budgetary shortfalls, real or imagined, and austerity measures, imposed or voluntary, have undermined the ideal and priority of the equitable promotion of a literate society.  This is something worth fighting for and the students' efforts from Dublin to London to Paris to Bamberg and all points beyond and in between are valiant and should not go unnoticed or unheeded.

For those outside of the European education system, and not counting only those laureates and their families who have been direct benefits because the whole society benefits, the nominal tuitions and selective admissions process might seem unfamiliar: it amazes me that the approach to education in the States compared to the rest of the world could have diverged so greatly, on the one side, merit-based and underwritten by the state and on the other prohibitively expensive and undiscerning where even public universities are run for-profit through the Ponzi scheme of student loans and financial aid, which seems likely to be the next bubble to burst, and not to mention overcrowded, unrealistic and generally unremarkable in all disciplines. Perhaps thinking such targets of budget cuts would be forgivably (or forgettable) unpopular, politicians have been unprepared for the backlash, especially in England and Ireland, where rescue-loans from the EU and the IMF came with too many strings attached, and putting university fees on the line was one way to portend fiscal balance. This sort of sacrifice, however, is unwelcome and ill-advised, like the tragedy that will be facing Iceland--again over finances--when the next generation is forced to leave over lack of opportunity. Tripling tuition will have the same effect, leaving one's native landscape diminished and becoming more like the university system of America in price and quality, and that kind of collateral is on terms that no one can afford, regardless of their credit-worthiness.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

cornucopia

What sort of daily sentiments, gems of wisdom, especially shop-talk or the poetic haikus of sociopathic rage that the boss of my boss has scribbled on all too ephemeral note pads, would you like to turn into keepsakes? Crochet it on a pillow? Steotch, the New England needle-artists, has produced a vast selection of such samplers, adding a touch of kitsch and permanency to tag-lines and memes, internet doctrines and covenants not necessarily captured in tee-shirt form, from Transportation Security Administration awkwardness to LOLCats (give us this day our daily cheezburger) to Peanut Butter Jelly Time to O RLY owl to Double Rainbow.  A happy and humourous Thanksgiving to everyone... Om Nom Nom.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

allons-y, alonso


A bloggeur on Tumblr has a sizable and tasteful collection of animated GIFs from great films, the bulk from modern classics by Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Jean Luc Godard and Tarantino under the blog If we don't, Remember Me.  Unfortuneately, I can only share a static image from the compliation, but I really admire the scences, just a few frames each, that the author choose for their subtle expressions and nice quotes.  Animated GIFs remind me of those Cracker-Jack prizes, little postage stamp sized things with varigated surfaces, that when turned askewed revealed a new picture and the illusion of movement and change.  To get that right in the limited framework of available technology, like within the parameters of a graphic file, is much more impressive than embedding flashier presentations.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

beyond thunderdome

Der Spiegel, via thelocal, reports on a tip from a would-be defector that warns of a Mumbai-style terror attack on the German Reichstag to be carried out in the Spring. Since when is kicking it Bombay style a way to talk about stratagems, as if it were comparable to à la russe or Stockholm Syndrome, because as dreadfully effective and tragic as it was for the city of Mumbai, storming Parliament and running amok is on a different level. It is just tacky shorthand.

Given the calm and collected reactions of the Ministry of the Interior, taking these developments in stride, I feel confident that with this warning and insight, the public will be kept safe—though Germany’s quitting Afghanistan altogether would probably be a cheaper and more expedient way to curb terror threats. One other item about this tip that seems suspect, however, is the speed with which authorities leaked this to the press and how quickly the news filters to the public forum. Transparency and disclosure are very important and ought to be expected, but maybe this threat, source and intelligence was too quickly put up for speculation and argument, even without all the details. That the luggage bomb couriered from Windhoek to Germany turned out to be a security test, a dummy, which no one is taking credit for planting, would also make me a little wary of tipsters and possible self-fulfilling prophets of gloom. When the news broke, before it was discovered that the suitcase was a tester model, I tried to fill in the blanks, remembering that Namibia is a former German colony, but now the country is a bit upset over the bad, and misdirected, publicity. Much of the war against Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein was prosecuted on the testimony of exiles, some of whom were later shown to have more complicated agendas and motives, but despite purity of evidence, it was taken as such because that was what the defenders wanted to hear. The exiles were very obliging.

Friday, 19 November 2010

flying dutchman or space ghost coast-to-coast

As the BBC reports, astronomers from the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg have discovered the first exo-planet that seems to have originated outside of the Milky Way galaxy. Researchers believed that this planet, found in orbit around an ancient star in a stellar stream, formed before its host dwarf galaxy was absorbed by our own. These wispy bands of red giants are the remnants of once independent galactic bodies. Nothing yet, as with all distant planets, can be determined about is composition, nor is there reason to believe that it would betray any kind of departure from the imagined and the expected, as if anything could be safely assumed about alien worlds--rather, it is more evidence of the abundance of stars hosting planets. It also reminds me of the Martian meteor found in the 1980s in Antarctica. Without even addressing questions of extra-planetary biogenesis and whether the imprints on the rocks surface are fossils, just the fact that material could be ejected or otherwise shrugged off of Mars and travel through space and be captured by Earth's gravity to be found later by rock-hounds at the bottom of the world, just seems amazing and almost lyrical, purposeful and mysterious all at once.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

red herring

Whenever we enjoy a bottle of Portuguese wine, which is not limited to Port incidentally, I recall from my MBA training one tract about the origins of trade and economic theory: the text posited that two not so very hypothetical countries, England and Portugal, who discovered a mutually beneficial arrangement in the exchange of English fabric for Portuguese wine. This barter sounds rather simplistic but was lucid and the example's transparency allowed one to discover all the nuances as trade blossomed into more complex markets--wine-making was less labour intensive to the people of Portugal than to the people of England, natural endowments were taken into account,worth, novelty, currency exchange and so on were considered.   But, like a toy poodle or a liger, this system could not evolve organically into a situation where hedging, speculation, and unabashed gambling are the chief financial expressions of the markets.  These, I believe, could only be successful through fear and manipulation, a reverse psychology, which comes after the pride of inventing a new outlet for wagers and getting the rating agencies and one's peers to vet it, when bookies can convince investors that missing this opportunity would be a grave mistake.  It is the antithesis of the fear driving most other news and developments, of which I have certainly not been immune, the fear of inclusion, assault by an airport-screener even though it only happens to a select few or some animal hybrid-based influenza-become-raging-hypochrondria or of terrorism itself or of jonsing to keep up with the Joneses.  While preoccupied with the sour idea of exclusion, meanwhile, the book-makers are concocting the next novel and impenetrable way to perpetuate this losing game.

#blurmany or good fences

Though it is difficult to determine how long this will last and how it should be judged, the hive--the swarm has digitally captured great metropolitan swaths, presumably of the willing exhibitionists only, of Germany, inviting a virtual tour, a stakeout of neighbourhoods and destinations. I cannot say if the whole operation should be expanded or quite puzzle out the exact nature of the resistance, however, I would probably opt out myself if given a choice. Vicarious visits are never as exciting or insightful as the real thing, especially for those for whom it is possible (which is why I do not see a rush for neighbours and stalkers spying on one another and being generally nosy) and images are a strange time-stamped slice of street life, but of course, it is nice and novel at first, and by turns a little frightening and repulsing, and a good resource to see the environs of one's real estate or hotel accommodations. The enterprise has gotten untenable in Europe, with too many legal challenges, redactions and pixilations to sustain, and it seems better to err on the side of restraint or allow individuals to fill in the blanks of this mosaics, rather than institutionally force unwanted and untried attention on the public.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

abwesenheit von lärm

“Meine Damen und Herren,” German Interior minister de Maizière began in a press-conference, “there is cause for concern but no cause hysteria,” citing foreign intelligence that gave more substantial leads on a possible terrorist plot to carry out attacks in Germany at the end of November. Such news could also transform into nebulous and scary, but necessarily de Maizière cautioned that response and vigilance should not negatively affect the hallmarks of a free society. Some critics claim the minister and whole security apparatschik for not sharing the urgency that the US unloaded a few weeks past about an even vaguer threat fear the blowback when something might materialize: at the time, it was offered that there was not need to change routine; now however, de Maizière excused this press conference precisely because people might see their daily routines disrupted—there might be a more noticeable police presence, and he just though “the public to know why.”
To call it a tempered and reasonable response sounds like the political talk that signifies nothing, but it is refreshing and affirming that not only are scare-tactics not unleashed wontingly, though the statement was brief, the news is also constantly repeated, including all the admonishments, with analysis and the public parsing every word. It is a lot different than in the US where measures, arguably morale crushing and furthering submissiveness, are only escalating. Statistics record that with the past decade tragically about three thousand people perished as a result of terrorist related air travel, albeit mostly on one day. When draconian response is not at all commiserate, then the boogeymen need do nothing else.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

obarmate

If you agree that elevating refudiate to a literate status is the very height of impudicity, then you might enjoy the finely crafted site Save the Words (sadly no more) from the Oxford Dictionaries consortium.  This is a great resource that celebrates the poetic exactness of the English language and rehabilitates obscure and nonce-words.  Who, in his quiver of vocabulary, would have sinapistic (consisting of mustard) at his disposal when singing the praises of the Grey Poupon marketing campaign?  Or that primifluous (that which flows first) is an excellent term to describe the tapping of the keg that opens Oktoberfest, when the master-of-ceremonies adimpleates the Munich Burgermeister's Maß?  One can register to receive a word a day or adopt a neglected word, pledging to use this word in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible and to the very best of one's ability.

rock lobster or divide and conquer

There ought to be no surprise that the provisions of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act were a slippery slope, window-dressing and wallpaper, though load-bearing it may be in terms of supporting belief and angst, and that the public would be lulled into submission by this new normal, like a lobster in a pot slowly brought to boil. It is a welcome sign, however, that the American people and those early-adopters (one may want to follow the money-trail, in case the US market actually does wither away) and dwindling list of social-callers have reached their collective boiling point over Department of Homeland Security/Transportation Security Administration's hyperbole and traumatic and taming options for flight: either molestation or a starring role, exposed, in a conscripted bawdy film, which are neither discreet, private, nor effective. I cannot imagine how anyone could abide by a loved one or even a fellow traveler faced with this uncomfortable choice, much less submitting to either a gratuitous physical violation or potentially dangerous and enduring memento--especially to very young or older people. It is just terribly sad that the means of control and influence have stooped this low and is sure to significantly curb airborne travel and keep North America as a destination to avoid. Perhaps the makers of aircraft should be rethinking their giant-capacity air-galleys if there is this much vitriol in mass-transit.
Pilots and crew are a source for solidarity with passengers, however, I suspect that the unions that rightly argue that the exposure to the scanners is unsafe, attended by an endless army of untrained goons deputized, baptized with too much authority and hubris and snared with fear themselves over job-security in a poor economy, will be given a concession, a pass in the form of an alternative screening that alleviates just enough industry pressure to give the travelers no recourse. I am happy that this holiday season, I do not have a need to travel to the States, the Atlantic has certainly gotten wider, but I don't relish the thought in the future either. If flyers just grin and bare it, resigned as intended, things will only get worse, more invasive and more unreasonable.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

stitch-witchery or hobby lobby

Though maybe not the sort of realization of the Star Trek style replicator or teleportation that the purist might be hoping for, three dimensional printing, using a variety of media from fast-setting goop to foam to ceramics, seems to have a lot of promise for empowerment and expression. Taking the idea of speedy prototyping and delivering it straight to the cottage industry, items (and any item), given the patience, can be sprouted layer by layer in exacting detail, from a three-dimension scan or original design—or assembled like a model airplane from a punch-out sheet. To revive the care, dexterity, and continued concentration for modeling, tools and fittings and generally smithery and carpentry and pottery, is a very positive detour away from art, progress and participation measured on only flat planes.
Of course, malleability and ruggedness will only improve over time and perhaps the potential for domestic manufacturing will explode, already with talk of fabricating architectural elements, sculpture, ginger-bread houses, integrated circuits, clothing and even human organs. Boing Boing, MAKE and many other websites host creative conversions about 3D printing innovations regularly. Just see what you can find. Design will be customized and revolutionized, with no restraints or anything extraneous. There will be, no doubt, a Gutenberg moment of singularity when the means are available to all, and surely there will be some businesses that want to ensure that their designs are protected and maybe computer companies will someday soon turn to peddling patterns, like the Simplicity paper cut-out guides in fabric stores and turn spiteful like those who belittle homemade Christmas presents over the store-bought variety. Clay might be the business of the future.  Perhaps contemporary designs will retain some proprietary protections, but I am sure that any home would be happily and comfortably outfitted with Art Nouveau and Classical motifs—brilliant and timeless and in the public domain.

Friday, 12 November 2010

blackletter fraktur

Deutsche Presse Agentur announced that the German ligature Esszet, ß, will be deigned allowable in internet domain names beginning soon by the shadowy registrars that determine such protocols. For those unused to such foreign characters, there is always a bit of reluctance and apprehension of unleashing a letter transcribed as an "ss," "sz," "B," Greek beta or ampersand or could insert some wild and rogue, non-displayable carriage-return.  Some degree of oversight is needed to maintain functionality across the world-wide web: just think of relative uselessness of the @-sign not so very long ago.  Until just last year, all the world was at the hegemony of the standard Roman alphabet, and while it could present particular challenges to those not immediately able to input an umlaut or other diacritic or fancy ligature, websites with native characters would be more targeted to local use and still not relegated to internet obscurity, like the nonsensical strasse.de instead of straße.de. Aside from potential loss of foreign traffic and idle looky-loos, I suppose internet watchdogs want to be able to keep easy access to their wards. They would not have their clerks undone for want of an extended alphabet. In addition to Chinese and other Asian syllabics, now it is even possible to navigate in Arabic with traditionally right-to-left order. This is a pretty significant and positive development--and I probably betray my own cultural hegemony when I admit I marvel at a Cyrillic or Japanese typewriter--and I think it is an appropriate celebration of one's language, expressed properly, and ensures that no flavor is lost conforming to arbitrary standards.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

atom-mill

Sometimes the bi-weekly dispatch for Bad Karma is neither very informative nor topical, seemingly shying away from anything controversial, including town markets and events until after they have occurred, but sometimes it excels with coverage. Today it reminded readers that Bad Karma was chosen as a model city for developing electric-mobility as an alternative to traditional forms of transit, and had two articles, including some historic background, broaching a highly provocative subject: atomic energy. With the protest that dragged along every angry inch of the shipment of spent nuclear fuel and sundry to the transitional depot in the community of Gorleben in Niedersachsen, discussion is ensuing regarding the power plant in the neighbourhood that I spy in the distance from my office window. I call it our “Cloud-Maker,” cheerfully but defraying what it really is and the trade-offs it represents. It is a divisive subject, and while I understand the argument it is a bridge technology that some believe should endure until such time as truly clean methods of energy production can be installed, it does seem a dangerous and unretiring curse that I would not want in my backyard, and for which I am glad our local paper could address.

QEII is not just a luxury liner or deconstructing dorothy

National Public Radio's Democracy Now! posits in an interview with economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz that the US Federal Reserve's latest round of quantitative easing is an act of aggression--though possibly less familiar than more traditional methods of hostility like invasion, religion, piracy, regime-change and building up banana republics, skirmishes surrounding devaluation, igniting currency-wars, have happened before, perhaps most famously after the Great Depression of the 1930s that erupted into World War II. It is rather insidious that loose credit, transnationally at least but banks are no more eager to lend to regular customers, awash in cheap dollars when more hoarding is necessary to retain any semblance of value, can be hewn into weapons, and that the hottest commodity being produced, at least in places where the shell game of government debt is ran by the central banks, is bonds--i.e., debt.
Response will be in kind. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, always a quirky non sequitur, too, was a complicated if not sometimes opaque allegory, railing against notions of money by government fiat. Maybe when it premiered, audiences who had read the book groaned at a thinly veiled economic policy critique turned into a theatrical production but I am sure such underlying messages were quickly lost in the spectacle of Technicolor. Maybe poverty is meant to be memorialized as a perennial favourite like this, a more welcome survivor and witness than the realities of contraction and hyper-inflation.

Monday, 8 November 2010

ornithopter or kid icarus

The aerodynamics of the American economy many individuals, and not just those solely concerned with the next boom and bust cycle or their own portfolios, have declared a dangerous drag on the world's financial health. American enterprise and innovation, somewhat shrouded in mystique and mythos like the notion of American exceptionalism, have been repackaged and resold over and over again, exhausted like a field over-farmed and never allowed to fallow--until only the service job-set, from brokers and financial advisors to hotels and restaurants to traders, are the only businesses going. Being ravenous from the easy, non-committal profits from trafficking and spell-binding in exotic financial instruments on speculation and forgiving credit, has successfully driven the US out of manufacturing and any meaningful industry. The stock market is not the same as the market place, and there is ample evidence that this too can thrive with a bit of diligence and discipline, because the gradient for honest commerce is still sustainable, but the Americans may end up excluding themselves, desiccating their wealth and not be the world's bursar any longer, with sufficient quantitative-easing and policies that undercut the natural equilibrium of others. Aside from losing the US consumer as a potential customer, the escalating panic of free-fall will snatch out for any support it can reach, beggar-thy-neighbour, and throw down possible cushions for the hard landing.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

pharmacokinetics or better living through chemistry

Before repairing to bashing the industrial standards of Asian maunfacturers for toothpaste with high lead-content, and eliding over our own thiftiness for going with the lowest bidder in the first place, the Western world makes and has made for decades quite enough poisonous products all on its own.  One piece that rather made my skin crawl and left me shuddering for the checkout girl where H and I went shopping just a little bit earlier concerned studies showing that Bisphenol A leeches from thermal-receipt paper through the skin and into the body just from casual handling.  It's nearly as devastating as the formaldehyde that leaks out of new furniture and carpeting.

Though Bisphenol A (BPA) has been synthesized since the 1930s, more familar as the acetone in finger-nail polish remover and paint-thinner--what a compliment to one's home chemistry set--it has never been proven safe, and the substance, ubiquitous and seemingly innocent, sparks the occasional uproar, like not practicing microwave cookery in microwave-safe plastic containers, PVC piping, and because it mimicks estrogen and acts as a replacement for the hormone, it has been attributed to a wide range of disorders that could  seem to have no other explanation, like frequency of breast cancer, premature birth, liver disfunction and even obseity and attention deficiency.  Even places, like the European Union and Canada, that have enacted restrictions against environmental BPA probably are not looking to their cash registers yet.  In Germany, one's receipts are forced on one or left to gather as trash at the end of the shopping conveyor belt, but there was a trend that's gone away not to handle money, at least not to put change in the customer's hand but offer it up on such a tray.  Surely the thermal printer and point-of-sale cartels could be convinced to employ safer means.  Next time, everyone should refuse a printed receipt, when it's not needed, and tell the cashier exactly why.

Friday, 5 November 2010

trojan horse

Results of the investigations were not completely clear and I was under the false impression that a gun powder black ink-jet was the latest cachet noir in concealing terror paraphernalia, but earlier in the week, it was disclosed that the suspected couple of mad bombers from Greece hid their postal bombs in hollowed out charity brochures. This technique, and fortunately falling just short of their targets and without causing serious harm, delivered explosives to the doorsteps of embassies, chancellors and presidents and blockaded all Greek commercial shipping for a few days. Using some innocuous religious books as disguises was a work of diabolical genius, wily like Odysseus: no one would look twice at a load of Watch Tower magazines or Hare Krishna pamphlets. I am sure that spy or terror networks of all ilk make scatter-shot announcements through equally bland and insipid spam and junk mail, and no one would give it a second glance, and hiding in plain sight like the purloined letter and unlike numbers stations or other more lively red herrings.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

and now for something completely different

Either overcome by the rapid news-cycle and breaking developments about the US election and mail-bombs or dismissed as totally incredulous, this interesting piece about a life peer in the houses of parliment speaking about a mysterious and shadowy Foundation X was first picked up and circulated by Charlie Stross via Boing Boing.  It appears that the lord's overtures to the assembly actually took place on the evening of 1 November (where is C-SPAN3 when it's needed?) and that the lord is not some unsuspecting penioner about to be taken in by the promises of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of Nigerian National Bank, PLC, and offer Britian's account information to some friendly stranger on the internet.  This so called Foundation X is prepared, however, to disseminate its enormous wealth, to the tune of an initial five billion pounds of gold buillon, to the UK government to fulfill social projects, with an additional seventeen billion by Christmas--unconditionally.  Who might be interested in extending this kind of charity?  And to what end?  I wonder if MI6 has already complied a short list of possible candidates behind Foundation X, who have courted the member of parliment surreptitiously:
Skeletor
COBRA
The Vatican
Mephistopheles
Dr. No
Madonna
The Ferengi
The Templars
The Illumnati
This is just too strange, and I am sure that this was not, even after twenty weeks of development with the representative, the sort of deus ex machina that Britain expected to revive her economy.  I am certain Britain would not be without competition also interested in entertaining such an unbelieveable bargain.

no theatre

Maybe enough has already been said about the impact of the re-dyeing of the US in redder tints, and what it means to liberals and the progressively-minded--without restoring to sour-grapes.  Maybe a lot of crypto-Republicans were replaced with representatives whose stance is clearer, and the issues that conservatives and opponents of the current regime hope to errode or otherwise gloss over do not simply sublimate, regardless of all the the in-fighting, busking, gerrymandering, filabustering or creation of pseudo-scandals that they can muster.  This vote, and unfortuneately not so different from many campaigns the world-around, was low content and low context, despite advancements that were jeopardized by a populace too weary to abide on patience and promise any longer, and should not be broadly interpreted as more than frustration and opportunism.  Blame excuses nor solves nothing and only serves to make hypocrisies all the more haunting.

symbols of state or no we canntibus

All these instant discussion of gridlock that will be visited on the American people from the power-shift away from the Democratic Party, aside from seeming like this was a baited, rehearsed response, made me wonder a bit at the metaphor and all the taut analogies and wonderful anachronisms in common parlance.
There are no gatekeepers or linemen, even by abstraction, in politics and unhealthy, dispirited debate could result in an impasse that could at least mitigate reprisals and minimize the statecraft of compromise that undoes better intentions. Figuratively, we deal in icons and language that no longer resembles the product or the process they represent, not recognizable except as their pictograms and few would have the experience or dexterity to use them: no one uses a telephone with a rotary dial, emails appear as envelops, padlocks, there are no dollar signs on the dollar, piggy-banks, search with a magnifying glass, megaphone, few have paint palettes or could translate musical notation, played on a victrola.
Maybe venom and vitriol are good offense but maybe like the icons, they hark back to some exercise that has fallen away. In addition to the altered topography of capitol-players, which may or may not be attributable to apathy over choice, Californians have folded on their efforts to regulate, milk and otherwise to decriminalize marijuana, spooked by the legal liability being a forerunner could present.

Monday, 1 November 2010

prisoner of zenda or don’t let it rest on the president’s desk

It is rather difficult to keep composure over the tenor of the elections in the US and not being impatient with the results, although tutored in civility and reminded of our own catastrophic lunges towards insanity and overbearing. I truly wish some of the theater could be dispensed with, the ugliness and the cries of anguish and the cries of victory, however much that is not the political game, just like effecting change in government never should have been piecemeal and possibly too weak to resist the revisionists and spin-doctors or aimed so finely.

One cannot hope to alter those strategies any more than altering the game itself: a fragmented front with diluted messages quickly gives in and attention, whether rightly or wrongly or cynically, turns towards the truly local component in the saying “all politics is local.” I hope that the American voters and global underwriters can penetrate the smoke and mirrors and realize that whoever is left at the helm has inherited an enormous responsibility, and conditions, well-being, liberty, fiscal, legal, welfare, and diplomatic, are not allowed to be subsumed by a stale promise. Those interests who walk away from the polls with a respite are the biggest threats.
The German public, while enjoying in measurable terms--and I am sure some intangibles as well--historically low unemployment and an industrial juggernaut, have avoided austerity to a large extent, and while not boastful are neither ascribing the recovery to some preternatural government influence—maybe only helping bootstraps and not roadblocks, restrictions, or appeals to unfettered greed.