"He who dislikes the cat, was in his former life, a rat."
My son was on his way home from New Delhi yesterday on Northwest Flight # 59 from Amsterdam to Boston. A few hours into the flight, over Canada, there was a sudden flurry of activity towards the back of the plane. A set of seats was cordoned off with sheets and a plea was made over the P.A. system for any doctors / medically trained persons on board to come forward to assist with an emergency. Two doctors volunteered. After some time, it was announced that a new baby girl had joined the list of passengers. My son, who was a dozen or so rows in front, informed me that he and other passengers heard no screaming from the curtained area in the back. As a woman who has gone through two natural childbirths, that for me was the most remarkable thing about the incident!
BOSTON - There were 124 passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 59 when it left the Netherlands. There were 125 when it landed in Boston.
A woman went into labor and gave birth to an apparently healthy baby girl over the Atlantic Ocean during the eight-hour flight Wednesday from Amsterdam, said Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for Logan International Airport.
The plane landed without incident in Boston about 10:30 a.m., and the mother and baby were immediately taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, Orlandella said.
"It was wonderful," Dr. Paresh Thakker, a family physician from Methuen, Mass., who assisted with the mid-air delivery, told reporters at the airport. "Happy New Year for everybody in the family."
Orlandella said for customs' purposes, the baby was considered a Canadian citizen because she was born in Canada's airspace. He could not confirm media reports that the mother was a Ugandan national.
"The spirit of America is alive and everybody was there to help," said Dr. Natarajan Raman, an oncologist from Minneapolis who also helped deliver the baby, told reporters at the airport.
"It is always a joy to see a newborn baby and I was glad I was able to help," said Raman. "At the end of it, (the mother) thanked me. She seemed a little exhausted."
Season's Greetings to our readers and my co-bloggers. Hope everyone returns to A.B. refreshed and cheered after the holiday festivities are over and done with for the year. I am going on a short trip and won't be blogging for some time. Unless someone else finds the time to post, the front page will remain static for a few days. I will leave you with a potpourri of unrelated but interesting links to muse over if you find time to visit during the holiday rush.
TS Eliot on The Naming Of Cats.
An insect crime buster in Finland!
Enjoy the holidays!
The upcoming presidential election will pit against each other two contenders who differ vastly in their philosophies and temperaments. During the lengthy presidential campaign season, the world has had ample time and opportunity to observe the message, organizational skill, judgement, rhetorical tenor and demeanor of each candidate. At the end of that process Barack Obama has clearly emerged as the superior leader compared to the cranky and erratic John McCain. That realization is reflected in the widespread support and endorsements that Obama has garnered nationwide. Even the Anchorage Daily News, the home town paper of Sarah Palin, has put its trust in Obama's leadership. However, despite the favorable opinions and polls, an Obama win is not guaranteed. The outcome of the election is still uncertain. One of the principal reasons for the uncertainty is believed to be Obama's skin color.
Almost immediately upon returning home from my trip to India, I heard the depressing news that a couple of skinheads in Tennessee have been arrested for plotting to assassinate Barack Obama. The news is scary but hardly surprising. Skinheads and neo-Nazis represent the extreme racist fringes of American society and are violently opposed to accepting blacks and other minorities in positions of power. But pundits say that there may also be a substantial number of non-violent, peaceful white/ Asian/ Latino voters who even if they mostly agree with Obama, may end up not voting for him because they are uncomfortable with the notion of a black American president. I am not sure how widespread this "hidden" racist mentality may be.
People vote for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes their choice hinges upon viscerally personal likes and dislikes of persons and policies and at other times, pragmatism trumps dogma. Recently Anna wrote a post about Confederate flag flying, pick-up truck driving, socially conservative, working class white supporters of Obama - an unexpected phenomenon as conventional electoral wisdom goes. The following story, if true, is further proof that a person could vote for a black president without shedding his racist point of view.
Last week, Julie Hensley made one of her thousands of phone calls on behalf of Barack Obama. A woman answered. As Hensley ran through her short script, the husband impatiently broke in.
"Ma'am, we're voting for the n***er." And hung up.
Repentant Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan is deliriously happy at the prospect of a possible Obama presidency which he believes will end identity politics in America. I think his optimism is premature in this regard. People are good at compartmentalizing opposing public and personal views and not recognizing their own hypocrisies. Those of us who grew up in countries where rigid identity politics (religion, caste, gender) is the norm, know that sometimes voters can indeed eschew prejudice in politics without revising broader cultural attitudes. Just because a male chauvinist votes for a female head of state or a casteist elects a candidate from a lower caste, doesn't mean the end of other personal predilections. Think Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto and the status of the majority of women in India and Pakistan. In these turbulent times, out of self interest, a white racist may very well vote for a black candidate who appears to be more competent than his opponent. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the US is going to be transformed into a cheerful Rainbow Coalition if Senator Obama becomes president. In any case, we don't for sure know who will be the winner next Tuesday. We have to wait and see if Obama will become the victim of the Bradley effect or the beneficiary of the pragmatist racist vote.
I just spoke briefly with Ruchira a short while ago.While they are currently without power, there's no structural damage to the home and the water is still on. It may be a few days before Ruchira gets back online, though.
She said that it was a very bad storm, the worst that she has ever been through. The power was restored relatively quickly to most of her neighborhood, except for her house and a couple of neighbors, who had downed trees near power lines that caused a blown transformer near them. She is not sure when the utility people will get to them, because other areas are currently higher priority. It could be a few days or even weeks depending on how bad the situation is in the worst affected areas. They may move to a hotel room if any become available, if the power isn't restored soon.
In older agrarian and trade based societies, names often reflected people's vocations or otherwise described their position in a place or tribe. Some South Indian and Scandinavian names derive from the father's first name rather than the family name (a similar system existed among older Jewish cultures). Names like Smith, Miller, Fletcher, Bauer, Baker etc. point to the type of work the name holders did. Hindu caste names routinely revealed a person's profession, business and social hierarchy. Jewish priestly names like Cohen, Katz and Levi once played a similar role. But with the diminishing role of temple priests in Judaism, these names mostly hark back to their historic significance.
Old cultural / vocational barriers having mostly broken down, our names are no longer a reliable indicator of the type of life we lead. But we cannot fully shake off the notion of a name revealing something about a person's character or expertise. Which is why there is a whole genre of off-color jokes which rely on the sophomoric play on imaginary names and the professional / artistic pursuits of their owners. (The Case of the Open Kimono written by Seymour Hare, The Yellow River sung by I.P. Daley, Dr. A. Cula - phlebotomist/ hematologist etc. I used to know a lengthy series of these in high school) Then there are names that people acquire by the dint of their real life accomplishments or character. Nicknames such as Honest Abe, Mahatma Gandhi, Hammerin' Hank, Joltin' Joe, The Brown Bomber etc. reflect how others saw those public figures of renown. These names are of course afterthoughts - names describing lives. But what about real names that live up to their promise - lives imitating names, as in those silly jokes I mentioned? In a comment I left on Dean's post about Norman Mailer, where I linked to the video of a brawl between the author and film director Rip Torn, I noted that the latter's name sadly coincided with his condition after Mailer bit off part of his ear during the violent encounter.
How many people can you think of whose first or last names later matched up with their achievements or circumstances? I haven't given enough thought to the matter and can come up with just a few that qualify, even though they require a bit of linguistic stretch and imagination.
Alois Alzheimer: Neuropathologist whose work on dementia lead to the recognition of Alzheimer's Disease. Here the connection in my mind is between Altsheim (loosely translated as old [folks] home in German) and the name of the doctor.
Alfred Nobel: His fortune went toward honoring noble human endeavors. So one could say that made Nobel a noble man.
Given the encyclopedic knowledge of my co-bloggers and our readers, I am hoping to hear a few more.
(The mention of Alzheimer's brought to mind a touching story in the news about Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her husband of more than five decades)
Update: This post first appeared in November, 2007. I am bringing it to the front as a filler post during my absence.
Dear Tony aka ‘RC’ #007
You have always stood side by side with me and I will never forget it. We will always be brothers. I always love you back
All the best
(handwritten note by author addressed to Roland Carnaby or "Tony aka "RC #007" on the fly leaf of George Tenet's book, At the Center of the Storm)
Last Tuesday, exactly a week ago, while driving across town, I heard a lengthy radio bulletin reporting a high speed police car chase unfolding around Galleria, the ritzy shopping and business district in Houston. I reached my destination before the chase had ended. By the time I got back in the car again, the suspect in the chase was dead - shot by Houston police for making "suspicious" moves after he was eventually stopped. I didn't learn much more about the dead man or why he had run in the first place after being pulled over by a traffic cop.
The next day newspaper and TV reports had accounts of the car chase and the life story of Roland Carnaby, the man who died attempting to evade police. The son of wealthy parents, Carnaby, who in life used to surround himself with "official" CIA paraphernelia and make allusions to mysterious government assignments, was known to his friends, family and casual acquaintances as a "law enforcement" guy - supposedly employed by the CIA or the FBI. Even some in Houston's police department believed him although no one was certain about the details of his credentials. It appears that Carnaby was probably neither Tony, nor the RC # 007 in George Tenet's book inscription. The CIA and the FBI will not confirm his claims. Some now suspect that Carnaby had constructed an elaborate hoax, enough to convince quite a few among those who knew him. I have heard other stories of people living out a fantasy so well that they start believing the content of their imaginary lives. What I have never understood is how they fool others around them, especially those who are in a position to detect and verify the holes in their improbable curriculum vitae.
Much about Roland Carnaby's life speaks to a long career as a devoted intelligence officer — from his effort to build a local chapter of the professional association to his personal friendships with current and former members of the intelligence community to his respect and affection for law enforcement and its dignitaries.
His home in Pearland is filled with pieces of his patriotic past. Plaques honor his years of service to the Central Intelligence Agency. A book written by former CIA Director George Tenet is inscribed with a warm and playful message. Photos of him at CIA headquarters, in front of military aircraft and with various dignitaries are prominently displayed. A small room off the front foyer was Carnaby's study. There's an American flag on the wall and a "CIA" coffee mug on the desk.
Now, in the wake of his strange death Tuesday at the conclusion of a high-speed police chase, doubts have been raised about his oft-projected persona as a CIA operative by the agency itself. It bluntly disavowed employing him. Might the denial be little more than standard operating procedure, as his wife suggests? Or could it be that he spent years constructing an elaborate fraud, with a home filled more with artifice than artifacts?
The rest of the strange story here.
What would Easter Sunday be without a suitable Peep Show? Check out the prize-winning entries in the WaPo's contest.
NASA goes gaga over goo - now there's a headline that practically wrote itself!
The goo was good.
NASA mission managers were ebullient over a test late on Thursday of techniques to repair delicate tiles on shuttles with a kind of orbital caulk gun.
Whatever problems might remain, the mission managers were clearly enjoying the “warm fuzzy,” and Captain Foreman’s puttying. The captain was hailed as “Mr. Goo” by his colleagues, who also compared him to Rembrandt and called him “grout and tile specialist.” To the last, he replied, “Hope we don’t need one.”
When two well-known atheists walk into a screening of a creationist movie, guess who gets turned out (and no, it's not the more prominent of the two!). More on the actual event from the horse's mouth here.
Cross-posted from Fluff-n-Stuff
Googling for something else, I found this link which purports to gauge the readability of your blog. It comes with a nifty piece of code that you can use to embed it in your page as well, and I was highly flattered when it tagged my blog as being in the 'College Post-Grad' level. What marvels of prose made it adjudge my blog to be worthy of that honor, I wondered. More importantly, was it my deathless prose, or my ease of using French phrases or poetry quotes?
What was the algorithm behind this rating?
I started checking out all my favorite blogs and came up with a bunch of mixed results: Some that I rated very highly came up with 'High School', while others such as 'rushlimbaugh.com', 'microsoft.com', 'google.com' came up with 'Genius'. Could this be a sort of negative rating , meaning the higher you score, the more meaningless the result?
There are, fortunately, more reputable ways to check on the readability index, as this suite of tests provided by Juicystudio. The disclaimer for the interpretation states:
This service analyses the readability of all rendered content. Unfortunately, this will include navigation items, and other short items of content that do not make up the part of the page that is intended to be the subject of the readability test. These items are likely to skew the results. The difference will be minimal in situations where the copy content is much larger than the navigation items, but documents with little content but lots of navigation items will return results that aren't correct.
It's a relief to know that Rush Limbaugh is less likely to be a genius, and just has a lot of navigation items on his page that have skewed the results.
The results are indeed intriguing. Leiter Reports is predictably "genius." I thought A.B. would come out at "college level, undergrad" but was "high school" instead. The kicker is 3 Quarks Daily which is chock-full of art, science and philosophy articles and boasts a stable of authors many of whom are either Ph.Ds or M.Ds, came out at Junior High reading level :-)
I wonder if the assessment is skewed not just by navigational links but also by the number of images displayed on the blog (Leiter - none, 3 QD - lots), the consideration being : more pictures = easier content.
Barack Obama's name is an issue in the minds of some voters. Say Barack HUSSEIN Obama loudly and often, it is bound to conjure up some not altogether wholesome images in people's minds. Hussein = Saddam, Obama = Osama and don't forget that Barack rhymes with Iraq. No wonder his political adversaries are targeting Obama's name more frequently than his record as a legislator. The Clinton campaign has done it and I have no doubt that right wingers will not miss a single opportunity to remind Americans of Obama's un-American name. If Obama is the Democratic nominee, wait till the real fun begins when his name will become as much a campaign theme for the Republicans as war and taxes. Even Jon Stewart found reasons to joke about it during last Sunday's Oscar ceremonies.
Obama seems to have anticipated the handicap of his own name when he wrote:
I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
—Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope (2004)
But what if his name was not Muslim sounding but something else - scary like Hitler and Frankenstein, inspiring like Boldness and Clever, fiercely martial like Admiral, Britainwar or Bombersingh? How would Americans choose? Well, voters in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, have a long list of candidates with interesting names to choose from. [Thanks to Dean for the pointer]
The three men are among dozens of others with equally colorful names who are competing for legislative seats in Meghalaya, a remote northeast Indian state, on March 3. There are about 60 seats up for grabs, 331 candidates vying, and no shortage of unusual names.
There's Britainwar Dan, Admiral Sangma and Bombersingh Hynniewta -- all ready for battle.
There's Laborious Manik Syiem and Hilarius Pohchen. Boldness Nongrum and Clever Marak. Even a Tony Curtis Lyngdoh.
Meghalaya ("Abode of the Clouds") is a state of 2.6 million people. It's predominantly Christian -- but hasn't always been.
When the indigenous tribes first converted to Christianity, the locals named their children after the missionaries who preached to them. Subsequent generations started favoring words and names they were familiar with but didn't have a good understanding of.
Prashant Naik, the chief electoral officer of the state, told CNN that a candidate's name matters little to the electorate -- because so many voters and politicians themselves have peculiar ones.
"You have Australia, you have New Zealand, there's even a Thailand," Naik said. "I don't think that should matter in how people vote."
It certainly hasn't in Hitler Marak's case. He has been elected to public office before, with one of his stints as forestry minister.
"Maybe my parents liked the name and hence christened me Hitler," he once told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
" I am happy with my name, although I don't have any dictatorial tendencies."
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has picked up the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle also reports that despite the old and influential network of the Clintons in Texas, a huge victory for Hillary Clinton is not guaranteed due mainly to a trend of younger voters leaning toward Obama. We'll have to wait until March 4 to find out.
The presidency of the United States is a powerful bully pulpit. The occupant of the White House must not only issue orders, but also inspire and advocate for all Americans.
Of the two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Chronicle believes Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is best-qualified by life experience, skill and temperament to be the standard bearer for his party. In a conference call, Obama told the Chronicle editorial board that "more than any other candidate, I can bridge some of the partisan as well as racial and religious divides that have developed in this country that prevent us from getting things done."
The 46-year-old Obama has expanded his base of support, winning new legions of supporters. The more people see and hear him, the more they like him. As the Hawaiian-born son of a Muslim Kenyan father and an Anglo Midwesterner, the devoutly Christian Obama transcends race and religion. His life has been one of involvement with disadvantaged Chicago residents, excellence at Harvard Law School and eight years as an Illinois state senator. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, only the third African-American to serve there since Reconstruction.
Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies.
The passion and excitement that Obama has brought to the race can only stimulate more citizens to participate in the electoral process. The Chronicle urges Texas Democrats to cast what could be decisive ballots for his presidential nomination.
Obama also has an unlikely but enthusiastic constituency in a faraway land which can neither vote for him nor influence public opinion in the US. Residents of the western port town of Obama, in the Fukui prefecture of Japan are watching the US presidential contest with keen interest. They have a clear favorite - they are nuts about Obama.
OBAMA, Japan — Barack Obama has never been to this port town on Japan's snowy west coast, and residents only know him from news reports about his faraway campaign for the U.S. presidency.
No matter. Obama the town is nuts about Obama the man. Obama's name is on posters hung in the main hotel. Headbands and T-shirts with drawings of the candidate's face will be available soon. Local confectioners are designing Japanese-style sweet bean cakes with Obama's portrait on them Policy doesn't seem to matter much either to this Obama, which is well-known in Japan for its lacquerware. Instead, the overriding issue is simple: Obama's name.
"Obama gives good speeches and has a good voice, so I want him to do well. And, of course, we share the same name," said Seiji Fujiwara, a hotel executive and leader of a local support group established earlier this month for the Illinois senator.
As fanciful as it may seem, leaders in Obama — which means "little beach" in Japanese — are serious about forging a relationship with the candidate. The mayor, Toshio Murakami, sent Obama a letter a year ago with a gift of lacquerware chopsticks, a DVD introducing the city, and a guidebook, but no one knows if the package arrived because they never received a response.
The town 250 miles west of Tokyo is undaunted. Murakami plans to send Obama another care package, this one with a fist-sized lacquerware good-luck daruma doll with the word "victory" across the chest in Japanese calligraphy.
"We want to ask him to stop by Obama as president if he visits," said Sadakazu Tsu-bouchi, an official at city hall.
In early 2005 an amusing urban legend did the rounds of the World Wide Web. The story involves the city of Houston and a public toilet. It asks a question that tests the threshold of the fact / feeling barrier in our minds and our comfort level dictated by unscientific associations.
Two days ago, I got a mass mailed message from a friend containing the same apocryphal (as far as Houston is concerned) story asking the same question and the same accompanying images. The e-mail goes as follows:
Now would you ... COULD you use it ????
As I said, there is no such public toilet in Houston. At least I haven't seen it or heard about it and neither has anybody I know. The Houston Architecture Forum (they should know) wondered about its whereabouts when the story first made its appearance. A google search shows that several sites were discussing the toilet in 2005 and one claimed that the toilet is actually to be found in Switzerland.
But wherever the toilet may be, take a look at the photos below. Two years later, I am repeating the question about knowledge and perception:
"Knowing that no one on the outside can see you even though you can see them, would you feel comfortable using this toilet located in the middle of a busy street?"
(click to enlarge)
Anna sent me a link to this article in LA Weekly from food critic Jonathan Gold, about what he claims is a rise in regional specialization among the Southern Indian restaurants in Artesia (a suburb of Los Angeles):
Gold, who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for criticism, made his mark enthusiastically opting to report on restaurants in ethnically distinct commun ities rather than the latest French Bistro in Beverly Hills.
Abbas Raza, editor of 3 Quarks Daily, recounts three tales of major and minor horror in The Smart Set. All are first person accounts; they variously involve a case of mistaken identity, a pompously pious immigration official, the unexpected outcome of making an illegal left turn on a Manhattan street and some terrifying hours spent in jail. (We are thankful that Abbas came out of the ordeals with his sense of humor intact.)
Mr. Sampson, I Presume?
It was about five years ago. I was returning from Pakistan and standing in the immigration line at JFK, completely exhausted after a 20-hour flight. When my turn came up at the counter, the INS agent looked at my papers, typed a few things into his computer, and then asked me to follow him to a large room at the side of the immigration hall. I was informed that I was being detained. Two agents handcuffed me and led me to another smaller room. When I asked what I had done. They said things like, "Oh, you know what you've done. We know who you are."
“Who am I? What have I done?”
“You should know that better than we do, now shouldn’t you?”
When I asked to contact a lawyer, I was informed that I hadn't yet been admitted to the United States, and so had no legal standing. No lawyer would be called, nor would I be allowed to call anyone else. They took my cuffs off, fingerprinted me (very difficult because of my sweaty palms), recuffed me, and then left me there.
It was at this point that my knees went a little trembly. I had heard many stories of Pakistanis being held for months without charges under the Patriot Act, and now I had visions of Guantanamo in my head, and I became almost dizzy with the adrenaline rush of fear. I thought that I must have been mistaken for someone else, God knows who, and there would be no chance to clear my name. I sat in that room for a few sweat-drenched hours before a couple of INS officers came in with two police officers from the NYPD. The NYPD officers told me that they had a warrant for my arrest. This immediately came as a huge relief to me, because whatever it was they wanted with me, I would rather be held by the NYPD in New York, than in some INS facility. I felt like whatever it was, I would be able to clear it up..... (Do read the whole story - all three adventures.)
Abbas has posted the link to this piece at 3 QD. Despite the light hearted and self deprecating tone he injected into the narrative, the response of readers (including mine) ran the gamut of faint amusement, disbelief and alarm. Many interpreted the stories as describing the common fate of south Asian and middle eastern men in post 9/11 America. But the author assures us that his experience of living in America for nearly a quarter of a century has been nothing but peaceful, friendly and enjoyable. He just seems to encounter a disproportionately greater share of Kafkaesque adventures than most people. Here is his response to the concern of readers who saw the shadow of unfair profiling in these episodes.
Let me emphasize this: I have NEVER, at work, at college, at university, or elsewhere (except for airports after 9/11) felt that I have been mistreated because of race or religion or ethnicity in America. On the contrary, America has been remarkably fair in its treatment of me. (Even the citizenship was granted on appeal, after all.)
Even after the horrific attacks by Muslims on 9/11, I have never once felt singled out for mistreatment or suspicion in New York City, nor has anyone else I know, including many Arab friends. It is a remarkable and beautiful thing, really. Europe is far more xenophobic, and I have already had run ins with the Carabinieri here (sorry Bhaisaheb), and solely because of how I look. (My Pakistani friend--a prof at Oxford--and I, were stopped, for example, walking on the street and asked to show our papers and held there for a half hour until they could check up on us. My wife's sister said to me that it was just a random check. I asked her how many times she has been randomly checked in the past 30 years here. The predictable answer: zero. I have been stopped several times in 3 months.)
There is an ease with which America assimilates its immigrants that is very different from Europe. My stories were just meant to be funny. Please don't take them as some sort of complaint. I have no complaints.
(Abbas is currently on a sabbatical in small town in northern Italy near the Austrian border.)
Last Sunday the Crown Plaza Hotel in the Medical Center area of Houston was demolished through "controlled implosion." Everything went as planned and the local news channels covered the demolition of the presumably "vacant" hotel. A home video has now surfaced which casts doubts on whether the hotel was indeed completely vacant at the time it went down. The angle from which the video was shot seems to show a shadow and a door closing on one of the hotel floors just before the building buckled and crumbled. The Houston police department is now investigating and searching the rubble for human remains to determine if someone had sneaked into the hotel without the knowledge of the demolition crew.
The video that set the investigation rolling is here. It is eerie. Watch the area highlighted by the oval. Do you see a shadow? Do you see a door closing just before the blast?
This BBC report on a possible dramatic split in the future within the human race based on superior and inferior genetics provides an interesting sci-fi twist to our recent discussions about genetics and IQ. Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics predicts that by the end of the next millennium, human beings will fall into two distinct sub-species based of physical stature and beauty in which current day racial differences will have been ironed out to give rise to a uniform race of coffee-colored people.
Update: According to Razib: this guy's an idiot. he pulled this s--t last year.
Update # 2: Okay, Oliver Curry is not an idiot after all. That honor goes to the journalists.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.
The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.
People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added. The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.
Race 'ironed out'
But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims.
Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.
Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.
However, Dr Curry warns, in 10,000 years time humans may have paid a genetic price for relying on technology. Spoiled by gadgets designed to meet their every need, they could come to resemble domesticated animals.
A few interesting links I picked up over the past week:
Right Brain or Left : Which type are you?
You didn't hear about Nelson Mandela's death, did you? Neither did I or the rest of the world. But George W. Bush, the president of the most powerful nation in the world thinks Mandela is dead. Not just that - but that Saddam Hussein may have killed him. How's that for breaking news? I watched Bush's press conference and when I heard this claim, I nearly dropped the plate I was washing in the kitchen. The statement is so incoherent that I can't quite figure out if it was a Bushism, a subtle metaphor or another depressing example of presidential ignorance. Can you tell? The White House has not issued a clarification.
Here is part of Bush's exchange with NBC's David Gregory:
Q I'll ask you about Iraq. Efforts to curtail the deployment of troops is an ongoing debate right now. One of the things you spoke about in your address last week had to do with impatience with the Iraqi government. And you spoke about that, but not in much detail. How is that dynamic changing, your level of frustration with the lack of political progress? And how long can Americans reasonably expect you to wait before you take some kind of action that really forces the Iraqi government's hand to reach the goals of reconciliation that you set for them?
THE PRESIDENT: In my speech, I made it clear that there has to be a change in security for there to be reconciliation. And I also said that progress will yield fewer troops. In other words, return on success, is what I said.
There are two types of reconciliation, David. One is that reconciliation, that very visible reconciliation that happens through the passage of law. In other words, it's reconciliation that shows the Iraqi people that people from different backgrounds can get along and, at the same time, that government can function. Clearly there needs to be work there. In other words, there needs to be the passage of law. For example, we strongly believe that an oil revenue-sharing law will send a message to Sunni, Shia and Kurd alike that there is an effort at the national level to achieve reconciliation. .....
.... Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where's Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. He was a brutal tyrant that divided people up and split families, and people are recovering from this. So there's a psychological recovery that is taking place. And it's hard work for them. And I understand it's hard work for them. Having said that, I'm not going the give them a pass when it comes to the central government's reconciliation efforts.
And just minutes ago I heard the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad make this outrageous claim.
Asked about widely documented government abuse of women and homosexuals in his country, Ahmadinejad said, "We don't have homosexuals" in Iran, and that women did have freedoms.
What do you do if you want your child to stand out among a billion plus of his fellow countrymen in a nation where only 129 different surnames account for 87% of all family names in use? Surely, you give him a modern name that is at once easily recognizable and different from everyone else's. How about the symbol @ which stands for "at" in email accounts? Short, sweet and universally recognized.
So figured a Chinese couple who have caused a stir by choosing @ as the name of their newborn son. Although it may seem a bit preposterous in English, the @ symbol makes more traditional sense when spoken in Mandarin. Pronounced in English as 'at,' the symbol @ sounds like the Chinese phrase "ai ta", or "love him". Officials in China are not happy with such modern innovations because it is difficult to incorporate new words of foreign origin into the pictorial Chinese language which lacks the phonetic alphabet.
I think the Chinese authorities should let @ into the vocabulary. After all, as "ai ta," it has a more loving connotation than this one, when a Chinese baby got his moniker from the combination of the two most fearsome names in 2003!
A Chinese couple seeking a distinctive and modern name for their child chose the commonly used @ symbol., much to the consternation of Chinese officials.
The unidentified couple and the attempted naming were cited Thursday by a Chinese government official as an example of bizarre names creeping into the Chinese language.
"The father said 'the whole world uses it to write emails and translated into Chinese it means'love him'," Li Yuming, the vice director of the State Language Commission, said at a news conference.
The symbol pronounced in English as 'at' sounds like the Chinese phrase "ai ta", or "love him".
Written Chinese does not use an alphabet but is comprised of characters, sometimes making it difficult to develop new words for new or foreign things and ideas.
In their quest for a different name, Li said that the parents of baby "@" were not alone.
As of last year, only 129 surnames accounted for 87 per cent of all surnames in China, Li said, suggesting that the uniformity drove people to find more individual given names.
Li did not say whether police, who are the arbiters of names because they issue identity cards, rejected baby "@" and the others.
But nationwide last year there were 60 million people's names that used "unfamiliar characters," Li said.
Last week I reported the story of Glenn McDuffie, the Houston man who was recently identified as the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square in the celebrated 1945 Life magazine photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt. The picture seen and recognized by millions, is an historical moment captured by a photographer's lens, marking the end of World War II.
Upon being identified, McDuffie, who had served in the US Navy during WWII, described what the day was like when he went into Times Square with a couple of his buddies and later bussed the nurse in celebration.
On Aug. 14, 1945, he was in Times Square when the word came.
"When I got off from the subway, a lady told me the war was over, and I went into the street yelling. I saw the nurse and she was smiling at me, so I just grabbed her," McDuffie said. "But we never spoke." .....
In addition, Gibson (the forensic artis who identified McDuffy) said she "always wondered" about one aspect of the Eisenstaedt image: Why was the sailor's arm crooked in such an odd way? Only McDuffie could provide the answer, she said.
"I was kissing her, and then I heard someone running up. So, I realized there was someone taking our picture. I moved my hand so that the nurse's face would show," McDuffie said.
Hmm. So, they never spoke (not even a "Thank you Ma'am!) and McDuffy positioned his arm so the nurse's face would show in the picture? Certainly looks like he was showboating and there was a certain amount of calculation in the pose which is widely interpreted as a spontaneous celebration. Also it appears that the nurse in the photo was not McDuffy's first target of affectionate display - he was on a kissing spree that day. He had gone around Times Square grabbing and kissing several women before the memorable photographic moment. Also, it is reported that the nurse SLAPPED HIM after they disengaged from the embrace. Does explain why they never talked. [Link: Namit Arora]
(The link at the end of the post opens to a page of Images That (supposedly) Changed the World. The page is a bit iffy - the images are sometimes visible and sometimes not. Click to find out if you can see them. The picture of the Kiss in Times Square is called V-J Day, Times Square,  .It is halfway down the page.)
On the same page I came across a portrait of Winston Churchill taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh. The portrait reminded me of an ancient pen and pencil sketch of Churchill I had made ages ago. I am posting both portraits below for your critical viewing.
Two animal posts in a row - no it's not going to be a pattern. Having written a harrowing and depressing story yesterday about cruelty to animals, I hope to cheer things up a bit with a heart warming and curious tale of peaceful animal-human co-existence.
I have a favorite old Edward Gorey t-shirt. The caption reads: "Books. Cats. Life is sweet." The following story may well inspire t-shirts and other parphernelia with the logo, "Family. Friends. Purring Cat. Death is peaceful." ....... In a nursing home for the elderly in Providence, Rhode Island, lives Oscar, a two year old cat adopted by the staff who literally "sniffs" out death. Oscar unerringly picks out patients who are about to die - very soon. He gets in the bed with them and waits until they are gone - purring all the while. His record is so impressive that doctors and the medical staff at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have begun to depend on Oscar to alert them to the impending deaths of patients, so they can notify family and loved ones. When families cannot make it to the bedside in time, Oscar also provides companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone.
Oscar's amazing ability prompted Dr. David Dosa, geriatrician at Rhode Island Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, to dedicate an essay to him in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (the NEJM link is subscription only. I am copying most of the essay below).
Oscar the Cat awakens from his nap, opening a single eye to survey his kingdom. From atop the desk in the doctor's charting area, the cat peers down the two wings of the nursing home's advanced dementia unit. All quiet on the western and eastern fronts. Slowly, he rises and extravagantly stretches his 2-year-old frame, first backward and then forward. He sits up and considers his next move.
He takes a few moments to drink from his water bowl and grab a quick bite. Satisfied, he enjoys another stretch and sets out on his rounds. Oscar decides to head down the west wing first, along the way sidestepping Mr. S., who is slumped over on a couch in the hallway. With lips slightly pursed, he snores peacefully — perhaps blissfully unaware of where he is now living. Oscar continues down the hallway until he reaches its end and Room 310. The door is closed, so Oscar sits and waits. He has important business here. Twenty-five minutes later, the door finally opens, and out walks a nurse's aide carrying dirty linens. "Hello, Oscar," she says. "Are you going inside?" Oscar lets her pass, then makes his way into the room, where there are two people. Lying in a corner bed and facing the wall, Mrs. T. is asleep in a fetal position. Her body is thin and wasted from the breast cancer that has been eating away at her organs. She is mildly jaundiced and has not spoken in several days. Sitting next to her is her daughter, who glances up from her novel to warmly greet the visitor. "Hello, Oscar. How are you today?"
Oscar takes no notice of the woman and leaps up onto the bed. He surveys Mrs. T. She is clearly in the terminal phase of illness, and her breathing is labored. Oscar's examination is interrupted by a nurse, who walks in to ask the daughter whether Mrs. T. is uncomfortable and needs more morphine. The daughter shakes her head, and the nurse retreats. Oscar returns to his work. He sniffs the air, gives Mrs. T. one final look, then jumps off the bed and quickly leaves the room. Not today.
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice in Wonderland would say.
The Obama-Hillary feud has burst into new prominence, with much finger pointing going on at the Obama campaign for penning a couple of memos viciously bashing Hillary Clinton's support of 'outsourcing'. It started with this report about memos trashing the Clintons' stock investments.:
The Clinton Campaign was sent an oppostion document drawn up by the Obama campaign yesterday. Camp Clinton sent it on to The Mouth.
The document trashes Bill Clinton's stock investments, his fees from out-sourcing and down-sizing companies and Hillary Clinton's support from well-off Indian Americans who also profit from out-sourcing. It describes Hillary's political affiliation as (D-Punjab), apparently riffing on a joke made by a supporter about how well the senator understands India's issues.
Apparently, The New York Times also got the doc, which they bury in a story about the Clintons selling off the stocks in their blind trust to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interests.
'The Mouth' referred to in the above snippet appears to be the NY Daily News column 'Mouth of the Potomac'. So the Clinton campaign appears to have sent the Obama memos to the NY Daily News.
Interestingly, on clicking on the document mentioned in the above story, and selecting File, Properties, then selecting properties, we get the cryptic info that the Author is a mysterious '4NG0MC1' of the company 'Obama for America'.
Note that with low security settings for Microsoft Word documents,it is remarkably easy to go into Microsoft Word and edit these properties so that the author appears to be Mickey Mouse of company Disney. Click on the thumbnails below for a larger screenshot of the NY Daily News version. Also, don't forget to check out the 'Obama' memo created by Mickey Mouse of company Disney (Hmmm. wonder what stake he would have in this race...)
Next, on to the Huffington post, where the Clinton-Obama 'Attack Memos' are headlined, while the actual article calls it the Obama-Clinton Attack Memos, with links to two separate memos below. Opening up these and checking the document properties now reads Author : Lisa Tozzi. These documents are Adobe Acrobat PDFs, converted from Word documents. Screenshots of the Properties for the document below (Click on thumbnail for larger image)
Who is Lisa Tozzi? Is she connected to either the Hillary or the Obama campaign? No. Why does her name appear instead of the mysterious 4NG0MC1 of Obama for America on the New York Daily News blog linked document which references the NY Times article?
Ms.Tozzi appears to be a journalist of some repute, currently a news editor and reporter for the NY Times, having been a Columbia Journalism Review intern in the late 1990's, penning surreal mini-essays for The Austin Chronicle, co-authoring articles on Cuban immigrants in on Salon. She is a news editor. Ergo, she must have been given electronic copies of the documents created by the mysterious 4NG0MC1, which she or a subordinate might have converted to PDFs which were then embedded in the New York Times story (subscription needed for reading) by Adam Nagourney. He writes:
There is nothing unusual – and, most reporters and ethics experts will say, unethical – about this practice. Most of the major presidential campaigns this year have repeatedly sought to circulate information – typically, a record of past votes, public statements, campaign contributions or biographical information on campaign contributors – designed to undercut opponents. (In the vernacular, these are known as “quotes and votes.”)
Campaign aides try to persuade news organization to accept the information on a not-for-attribution basis. A news organization can refuse the condition or accept it. A reporter who gets such information culled by a campaign’s opposition research operations – which in these days of newspaper cutbacks dwarfs the internal research operations of most newspapers — use it only as a starting point; they confirm whatever they find and do reporting to expand upon it.
Here's where my head started to spin. NY Times claims it has been given the memos by the Obama campaign. They add links to the memos in their article about the Clintons and their investment divestiture. The links show documents apparently converted from 'Microsoft Word-Document in BLOG ITEM.doc on the NYTimes editor Ms.Tozzi's Mac computer to a PDF format. NY Daily News posts the reference to the NY Times story, but this time with a link to a MS- Word document which has a weird author name/Obama for America reference.
Who is supplying these electronic copies to be edited and passed around? What is their provenance? Why should we even bother about all this 'flapping'? Who gains from this manufactured 'feud'- Hillary, Obama or someone else?
We are all falling down the rabbit hole, so just remember while falling to keep your eyes on the ball, ladies and gentlemen!
Eighteen year old Samantha Larson of Long Beach, California has climbed the highest seven mountain summits on all continents. On May 16th she reached the top of Mount Everest, making her the youngest American to have achieved this feat. During her Everest climb she packed her oboe along with her climbing gear so as to be ready for a band concert upon her return. And she BLOGGED during this grueling adventure! How did she do it without internet access in the rarified atmosphere of the Himalayas? She called her mom in New York via satellite phone and relayed the messages to be posted on her blog. Wow! But then Samantha is an exceptionally motivated and capable young woman. Read more about her adventures and accomplishments here.
(Samantha preparing for the climb)
From Earth's tallest point, the message was understandably breathless.
"We made it to the top!" Samantha Larson told her mother via satellite phone Thursday after reaching the summit of Mount Everest. "Now all we have to do is make it back down."
Larson, 18, of Long Beach, became one of the youngest people to scale the 29,035-foot peak, reaching the summit with a group that included her father, David Larson, 51, an anesthesiologist at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
The honors graduate of Long Beach Polytechnic High School put off her arrival as a freshman at Stanford University by a year to scale some of the world's highest mountains.
She began posting reports on her Everest trek last month at www.samanthalarson.blogspot.com, continuing her blogging until she was more than halfway up the mountain. Her mother, Sarah Hanson, and her brother, Ted, added Samantha's triumphant comments. ....
[W]hen father and daughter "finally started our summit push yesterday, making our way from base camp to camp two," Samantha wrote Sunday. "We don't have Internet access up here, but we were able to relay this information to our correspondents in New York via satellite phone. We're taking a rest day today, and plan to press on tomorrow. If all goes well, we should summit on the 17th."
Tom Sjogren, one of the founders of explorersweb.com, an extreme adventure news portal based in New York, said that as far as they know Larson is the youngest to crest the seven summits. But with such high numbers of climbers, statistics are hard to verify.