PfRC will be taking an extended sabbatical soon for adventures in Ligûria and Toscana.
Thursday, 22 May 2014
PfRC will be taking an extended sabbatical soon for adventures in Ligûria and Toscana.
Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
It could be that the US Central Bank never really introduced a tapering-scheme, meant to ween the economy off of its massive subsidy programme and has actually increased its printing of script, each bill redeemable for less and less.
In one of the more heinous admissions to come of late out of the US spy community, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and other members of the Homeland pantheon have pledged never again to use medical humanitarian operations as a honey-trap—as it were. Revealing much about its tactics and ethics—since I suppose the stalled disclosure of an already open secret has no strategic value, the agency helped set up a sham triage to vaccinate the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan against a resurging epidemic of polio (or Hepatitis B, according to some sources) in order to infiltrate the communities and gather genetic information to locate terrorists.
Monday, 19 May 2014
Writing for BBC Future Magazine, Michael Bond presents an engrossing feature article exploring the human mind’s resiliency and fragility through the lens of deprivation and isolation. From time to time, everyone craves peace and quiet and everyone has a different social threshold and defines interactions differently but no one wants or ought to feel secluded and lonesome. Citing several extreme cases, experimentally self-imposed and on long, solitary adventures or with imprisonment and ransom, Bond examines the physical and especially the mental toll that lack of human contact causes. The metrics have already been established when it comes to the inability to focus and concentrate properly as well as degraded immune and slower rates of healing when it comes to bodily health and performance, but the psychological yardstick is something that was only measured in feats too brave or too dangerous and cruel to be repeated—mostly.
Sunday, 18 May 2014
An older but enlightening and reassuring post from the archives of Today I Found Out was really something to assuage the fears of silent-worriers, explaining the nature of those strange and sometimes persistent odd shapes that glide over ones field of vision. I always thought that these transparent zeppelins were microbes darting around ones eyeball (always there but easier to discern when focused on infinity—blue or grey skies—or in any visual landscape of low-contrast), which usually receding just to the periphery if one tried to focus on them, only to return to the centre of ones eye when not looking.
TIFO informs readers, as a public service it seems since there were quite a lot of people relieved to find out it was not some dread sign of the onset of blindness, poisoning or the effects of staring at the sun too long as a kid during long car trips, that the phenomenon is common to everyone, even if they are loath to discuss such optical figments as they are hard to articulate—and besides, it sounds a bit crazy and may be a sign that something is seriously wrong with them—and goes by the name mydesopsia (eye-floaters—or en france, mouches volantes und auf Deutsch, fliegende Mücke, flying flies) and are gelatinous bits of the vitreous humour coming loose from the rear of ones eyeball and then floating around inside of it. The squiggly flashes that avert themselves from ones gaze and cannot be studied (or fretted over directly) are usually the electric impulses released as bits of the vitreous humour detach and bump against the receptors and nerves of the eye, the discharge interpreted by the sense of vision as flashes. The article has some bonus facts and some warnings and disclaimers, as no one should take this or any accounting as a substitute for a professional diagnosis, nor be afraid to share ones own weird mirages.
Researches in the jungles of Chile have discovered a species of ivy that has advanced chameleon-like abilities to blend into its surroundings—hitherto a trait almost exclusively reserved to select members of the animal kingdom.
Not very long ago, we had a newborn come into the community and the mother named her Voilà, which I think is pretty cute—ta-da! Presto—here I am! There is a young adult here called uniquely Atreu, after the alter-ego hero of The Never-Ending Story.
Saturday, 17 May 2014
Kottke shares an intriguing review of a new book out by marine biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin on the curious lifestyle of jellyfish and increasing success in the world's oceans.
Several companies world-wide, including the Frauenhofer Institute in Germany, are developing applications that can process unfiltered data through algorithms which the program can fetch autonomously from the æther (with apparently little mentorship, apprenticeship or copy-editing) to formulate news articles, written in natural language.
Thursday, 15 May 2014
Move along—nothing to see here. There is an odd instance of disclosure yielding a sort of hybrid-transparency—that’s middling somewhere between rank-hypocrisy and demanding a blessing—with the news of the son of the vice-president of the United States of America being appointed to the board of directors of a Ukrainian natural gas concern.
Wednesday, 14 May 2014
Even during the height of the Cold War, American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts flaunted the diplomatic rhetoric of their governments and carried out many joint operations. I remember those mission patches with Snoopy and the Soviet Bear mascots for the Soyuz project and I recall how the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, this past-future is just a few years hence but still set in a multi-polar world, where cooperation ultimately won the day.
While there is at least a modicum of public discussion and public outrage over the trade-deal, negotiated in secret after a model of corporate supremacy, between the United States and Europe, there is barely a bald mention of the pseudopodia of lobbyists who have no allegiance to any greater good are reaching out in the other direction—eastward.
The High Court of the European Union ruled in favour of the “right to be forgotten” and is granting individuals the right to petition internet search-engines to remove indexed results that the individual esteems to be libelous, misleading, dated or simply incorrect—to include public documents and news articles. Search-engines do not host content and merely return results—based on several metrics which may or may not be biased, although we have been shown that the “internet” can be bought to skew perception or ease-of-access like when an oil company responsible for a grave environmental disaster paid to have negative publicity deflected or America’s assault on net-neutrality, and having a haunt from the past disappeared in one or several search engines does not mean that the offending characterization is gone and cannot be found with some old-fashioned muckraking;
the websites that archive such stories or photos have no mandate to take down their content just because it is no longer indexed but the hopes are that such unwelcome material will wither away. It is very significant to side for individual privacy and reputation and afford regular people the chance to challenge the medium, which is normally reserved for the powerful or litigiously patient, but it seems a lot of questions remain unaddressed and there’s no mechanism in place to queue ones petitions. What onus does the individual have to prove hardships caused and what are the criteria for infamy? Also—how specific would a take-down request need to be worded, since cause-celeb tends to splinter and branch-off down a dozen different pathways and the searchers and browsers would quickly find loop-holes? I think there’s little danger of white-washing or further compartmentalizing history in the ruling of the justices as it is presently issued and it will help undo some incriminating acts of youthful indiscretion and the like, so maybe some people will be able to take back a few poor choices—to an extent, but I still think it prudent to fear, in terms of censorship and revision, what sort of precedent might be prized from this right to be forgot.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
The New York Times has an interesting feature about the collective-awakening (for America, at least) among mental health professionals and patients regarding the stages of inattentiveness which manifests itself at different ages either as hyperactivity, a deficit-disorder or senility.
Here are some more images from our recent trip to the Kassel area.
Kassel became a garrison-town for American soldiers instead, but immediately following the Potsdam Conference (in order to ensure that the exchange of foodstuffs from the Soviet Union for raw materials from the Ruhrgebiet was administered properly) the Office of Military Government, United States established its economic ministry in nearby Minden and the headquarters of the British Element of the Control Commission for Germany was also close by in Bad Oeynhausen.
Having not participating in the Potsdam talks, French forces originally clung to the western border but later joined the US-British condominium to administer the so-called “Trizone” until the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) on 23 May 1949 (Germany turns 65, retirement age soon).
Although the endonym for Germany is and was Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the initialism BRD was never used by West Germans and was only a foil to DDR (East Germany, Deutsche Demokratische Republik) to keep either nation from calling itself Deutschland.
All of these challenges barn-stormed the plain, the corridor in this part of northern Hesse (earlier still, those Hessian mercenaries that fought alongside the rebel forces against the British during the American Revolutionary War hailed from Kassel and earlier still) and it is unfortunate that the inner-town was ravaged and wiped clean—without an ensemble to jar these long memories, but happily the periphery was spared and is cherished.
Monday, 12 May 2014
Austria's talented entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest is highly deserving of all her accolades and acclaim and has managed to unite a big part of the world in respect. The evening did not go so well for Russia and affiliates that took a sour-grapes attitude after being the brunt of much booing and jeers, not only the performance but also when the viewer and jury votes were tallied and anyone voted for Russia.
Sunday, 11 May 2014
In a very beautifully terse and compact analysis, Maria Popova writing for Brain Pickings weekly thoughtful digest looks at the nature of happiness and discontent through the focused lens of Søren Kierkegaard's fragment of life: Either/Or.
Groaning about the working title for the next episode of the Star Wars trilogy “the Ancient Fear” has elicited many comments on the subject of facelifts and remastering and general bad story-telling. Among things as bad or worse than the character Jar Jar Binks (though there was similar criticism for the Ewoks), the list includes Darth Vader having actually been the one to build C3PO, re-inserting scenes that were on the cutting-room floor simply because now the producers had better technical capabilities and the introduction of the midichlorians—the microoganisms that are the welders of the Force (the director's nod to the fact that a human being cannot remain healthy and functional without his hitchhikers in the form of gut-flora).
I don't care for such trends at all—they did this not just to the Jedi but to the vampires and werewolves as well, implying that these powers are a treatable or manageable condition with the right drug-therapy and are not attributable to something supernatural. Fan at large Bob Canada also has a nice related review on kind of lame action figures that were brought to market for the prequels, including Ms. Jocasta Nu, librarian of the Jedi archives. Walk-on roles can be pretty fun, nonetheless.
Saturday, 10 May 2014
RT reports (на панглийском языке) how new policies being instituted at the behest of America's Intelligence Czar are poised to seriously change the journalistic landscape of that country and make reduce the candor and transparency that is already lacking among officials:
Friday, 9 May 2014
Thursday, 8 May 2014
H's mother shared with me an interesting morning—or with iterations throughout the day (there’s much to be said for the discipline of routine, of course, and accomplishing the entire battery of anything in one fell swoop is good practice, however the constraints of time and distraction usually break things up into a nagging continuum) set of exercises called she-do in, a kind of self-massage like acupressure or shiatsu, to improve circulation.
The moves are structured simply and intuitively and requires no special training or preparation—however certain parts of the body are excluded because they are better left in the hands of professionals, namely the feet and the ears, and the kneading motions, beginning with the hands, working up the meridians of the arms and shoulders, then across the face (approximating oil-pulling to work out ones mouth) and neck, down along the torso—massaging the abdomen and then giving the calves a good rubdown. The guide advised that these exercises should be done symmetrically and systematically with thirty-six repetitions in order to activate and warm-up the different regions and order and regiment are certainly the first steps in establishing a positive habit, but there is a secret (not that am I an expert or know more than a smattering about reflexology): after going through this sequence enough times or at least ones resolve and intentions are vivid enough, just visualizing, imagining oneself doing these exercises elicits the same benefits.
Wednesday, 7 May 2014
The half-day visit between German and American leadership in Washington earlier this week was punctuated with pleasantries and expert—most brave, circumlocution that resulted in neither the Chancellor nor the President crossing swords nor shields over the scope of American survellience.
We saw some pretty neat sites in the region, including the Bergpark at Wilhelms- höhe—more to come on that soon, whose palace was temporarily renamed Napoleonshöhe in honour of the conquering emperor’s family when his brother Jérôme was created King of Westphalia (and a defeated Napoleon III was later imprisoned there after the Franco-Prussian War), but the half-timbered homes and wall of the village on the banks of these important waterways was especially enchanting. There was certainly an abundance of culture and history besides associated with Hann. Münden, but one of its more infamous sons really came across as a curiosity: Doctor Johann Andreas Eisenbarth, an itinerant snake-oil salesman who ingratiated himself amongst the ruling families. This quack from Baroque times, however—with no formal accreditation and probably peddled more harmful elixir than helped, did demonstrate a singular talent with self-promotion and advertising, setting the industry-standard for wonder tonics and giving pharmaceuticals memorably made-up names.
The village has embraced Dr. Eisenbarth, ridiculed for his outrageous claims and confidence in folk-songs (who could make the blind to walk and the lame to see—Gloria, Viktoria, widewidewitt juchheirassa!), with quite a few monuments and even consulting hours during the summer for those tourists who might benefit from procedures a step above leeches.
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
Despite the fact that the verdict is still out on the existence and nature of Providence and most of the fighting and dying for all of Humanity’s history has been concerned with that subject, there is a perceptibly hopeful notion that manmade intelligence will be something benign and perfect.
In post-soviet Russia, it has been declared a crime to willfully distort the image of Russia’s actions during the Great Patriotic War.
There is at least one other easy target to play distraction, of course—and many terrible things came together and were torn asunder. A whole spate of other bills were signed into law as well, including strict censorship measures for print, film and television and the back-handed acknowledgment that bloggers that garner over a certain threshold of views are considered mainstream journalism and thus subject to the same etiquette. The punishment, however, seems relatively mild and one might do better to mutter “Molotov–Ribbentrop” (in reference to the pact between the Soviet states and Nazi Germany that carved up Europe that held until 1941) than risk besmirching that other pitching and wheeling Delta Dawn and be faced with being disappeared indefinitely and forever libeled under the ægis of Homeland Security. The spoils of victory, of course, include the chance to be the authoritative historian and the existence of such a gentlemen's arrangement (outside any context) was vehemently denied until Glastnost, and the dissolution of the USSR , and now such allusions are again most unwelcome and discomforting. The latest push towards revisionism began with a stray blog comparing the games in Sochi with the propaganda of the 1936 Olympics and the purges begin, it seems, when people refuse to listen after the construction “yes...but” and prefer the apologies. After all, perspective can be either most unforgiving or accommodating.
I had a chance recently to attend a political rally held in a pretty unique venue. German Green Party (Grüne Partei) head and veteran German parliamentarian in
the Europe Union Cem Özdemir spoke at an indoor skate park, introducing
the nominee that the Hessen faction is championing as their EU
representative and talked to the audience about immigration reform, environmental stewardship, lobbyists, Ukraine and trade negotiations.
Rigid cardboard stools were the seating on the level floor between the plywood peaks and valleys of the skate-ramps, and one could pen questions on them for Özdemir to address during the rally—though symbolically then giving up ones seat. Between segments there was a DJ and a demonstration by a couple of skateboarders, who did some pretty neat tricks.
I am still not altogether certain what is that the EU assembly does and whether its powers and potential aren’t something redundant or bare—there is certainly an air of apathy or real insouciance over the elections, with only around twenty percent of voters bothering in many jurisdictions—but his words nonetheless got me motivated, not only for the kindred platform but also to learn more about what happens between Berlin and Brussels and Strausbourg.
Thursday, 1 May 2014
To help correct the drift of manmade calendars away from cycles, mundane and celestial, time-keeping systems have adopted a series of complex intercalary or epagomenal units of time to compensate. In ancient times—and yet today for countries like India and China that maintain lunisolar timetables, there were leap months added to the year to keep observances in their seasons. The year cannot be divided equally among our measures in any case, but cherishing regularity and symmetry, the Romans (with many inheritors) counted three-hundred sixty days to the year, with some uncountable days.