One delusional leader to another....

Saparmurat Niyazov, authoritarian head of Turkmenistan from 1985-2006
(history and timeline from 6th century) , has been officially succeeded by Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhammedow and how do the so-called people's representatives, the "Parliament" welcome the new leader?

With a 1 kg gold-and-diamond award! Having all that oil (and natural gas) money must be good!

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Maybe 1 kg of gold and diamond is not a big deal according to some but I am ticked because of Turkmenistan's history of abuse of power. Here is a quick recent-history lesson of this less known country...

Berdymukhamedov's predecessor Niyazov, who was appointed by Gorbachev in 1985 after a cotton-scandal replaced the then regional leader, Muhammad Gapusov after 14 years of rule, was one of the most delusional, autocratic, and repressive rulers in the world. He took the title of Turkmenbashi (Head of the Turkmen) the Great and had thousands of portraits and statues of him set up throughout the country. They include a statue in gold leaf that rotates to face the sun in the capital Ashgabat. He named the month of January after himself and April after his mother! He banned ballet, gold teeth and recorded music; he ordered the construction of a lake in the midst of the desert and a ski resort on the snowless foothills of the Iranian border. Cities, airports and even a meteorite were named after him. He introduced increasingly personal laws, and a book he wrote to be a "spiritual guide" for the nation was made required reading. There are very few textbooks in Turkmenistan's schools apart from works by Mr Niyazov such as his Ruhnama - a mix of history and spiritual guidance. Known as the Book of the Soul, the Ruhnama was required reading and was treated with the reverence normally reserved for religious works. Isolated from the rest of the world under Nyazov and criticised in the West for human rights violations, Turkmenistan has sought to reverse its isolationist policies and pursue more contacts with its neighbours. Berdymukhamedov has also pledged to improve education, healthcare and pension provision -- cut back under Niyazov -- prompting some to hope for a wider liberalisation in the tightly controlled society.- via 1, 2, 3 and the link to the portraits & statues above.

Lets hope all that gold and diamond doesn't go to his head. (Naah..its not a hope.... there is not much hope. We all know power corrupts but absolute power like this corrupts absolutely. The personality cult authoritarian rule of Niyazov, where he essentially enriched himself by keeping his countrymen poor, uneducated, and without the basic needs of life and looted the country's vast natural resources for personal profit* is not much different than the North Korean Papa and Lil Kim Jung cults. Big difference though - Turkmenistan has the oil and hence the US and European countries have friendly ties (also see update (2) below) with them (and even gave them ~8 million $s in 2006 for various programs - all of which likely ended up in the individual leaders pockets!), whereas the much reviled North Koreans have the freaking nukes! (or at least they want some!). Even countries like India and China are friendly towards this country due to their energy needs. The currently stalled
Trans-Afghanistan pipeline project (being installed by Unocal, now a part of Chevron-Texaco) is a proposed natural gas pipeline that will transport Caspian sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then India. There is news that work on this is being accelerated again but the project remains at risk since it passes through some Taliban-controlled areas on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and not to forget the blowing-hot-and-cold nature of India-Pakistan relationships.

-
* Global Witness, a London-based human rights organization, reported that money under Niyazov's control and held overseas may be in excess of US$3 billion, of which $2 billion is supposedly situated in the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund at Deutsche Bank in Germany. Income from natural gas deals rarely finds its way into state coffers, most of his five million citizens live in poverty and life expectancy is on a par with some of the poorest parts of Africa. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the country was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe in a report it published on Turkmenistan's healthcare, which it described as poor even by the "grossly inadequate" standards of post-Soviet countries. It said the culture of secrecy under Niyazov's dictatorship extended to banning the reporting of infectious diseases such as anthrax, HIV/Aids and the bubonic plague. - via wiki & this article

===
Update (1): I just realized that I had provided a link some months back about a crack in the isolation of Turkmenistan..

A new world in Turkmenistan: The first two internet cafes have opened in reclusive Turkmenistan, as Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, the new President, declares that all schools will soon have Internet access - once they learn to spell his name. (Just kidding.)
Aah...maybe there is hope? (Naah... they'll learn from the Chinese to "cleanse" the internet of things that are critical of their government!)

Update (2): via Metafilter
"Even the best-endowed regimes need help navigating the shoals of Washington, and it is their great fortune that, for the right price, countless lobbyists are willing to steer even the foulest of ships." Journalist Ken Silverstein poses as a representative of the government of Turkmenistan to see if Washington lobbying firms will take on the job of making a country with a considerably less-than-stellar human rights record more palatable. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials calls Silverstein's work disingenuous; others disagree.

Red knickers in a twist

on June 29, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Wimbledon officials are getting their knickers in a twist (or as Americans would say it...panties in a bunch!)... only the Brits could create a fuss not over the visibility of panties during tennis (which is one of those things that happens and is not like a Victorian era exposed ankle!) but over its color!


Tatiana Golovin had the Wimbledon referee reaching for his rule book when she sought to appear on court wearing red underwear. Was she violating the "predominantly white" dress code laid down by the tournament that is such a stickler for sartorial etiquette?

A Blue Moon is said to occur when there are two full moons in one calendar month. Americans had a blue moon on May 31st, with the first full moon of the month being May 2nd). Owing to time zone differences, Europeans are enjoying a blue moon tomorrow on June 30th. This phenomenon doesn't occur often, thus giving rise to the phrase "once in a Blue Moon" - find out about future occurances using a Blue Moon calculator. - via

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More importantly... look at the full moon today. And look at Jupiter, and Venus and Saturn in conjunction..close to each other...the really bright Venus and the small dot next to it is Saturn..

This page gives more details..

Night Sky Note for June 30, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007
Venus passes 0.7° to the south of Saturn. This is the best pairing of naked-eye planets this year. At 0.7°, both planets should fit into the field of view of a telescope with a wide field eyepiece. Venus is a 36% crescent. Saturn's rings are tipped 13°. Look with the telescope while the sky is still blue to get a better look at Venus' crescent shape. The Moon, which turned Full at 9:49 am EDT, will be rising in the southeast.


Night Sky Note for June 29, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007
Venus and Saturn are about 1° apart. Look to the west in the evening.
The asteroid "17059 Elvis" makes its closest approach to the Earth. Today, Elvis is only 135 million miles from the building. The asteroid, named to honor the King of Rock and Roll, was discovered in 1999. It's a main-belt asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. 17059 Elvis is much too faint to see without a large telescope and a good finder chart.


The Bush effect?

on June 27, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Not sure where the sample population was from but one hopes they took care of that basic requirement of sampling i.e. take out bias by taking a representative sampling of the entire population - not that of a sub-segment of the population..... but if this poll result (pdf*) is to be believed young Americans are leaning left. May be just an effect of Bush being the President that a large segment of the population has turned away from the Republican party and the Bush administration's hard-nosed conservative stance on many issues.

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* Why is that people (and I just follow norms online) have to mention that a hyperlink is a pdf file whereas they do not do it for .doc files or other kinds of attachments. Can see why you don't do this for html files (the norm) as well as pictures (jpgs etc.) but what is the difference between pdf files and doc or xls files? I cry software discrimination...

An update to an earlier post where I wondered who Pratibha Patil was... turns out there is a lot of information of her background now and its not all pretty.

Amit Varma has a nice summary (and an update here) on the reasons why Indians should say No to Pratibha Patil as President

eems NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg will likely join in the race for President as an independent. (He used to be a Democrat...then left the party after 9-11 and ran for mayorship of NYC after Guiliani as a Republican!). See this great cartoon about his possible candidacy. Brilliant :)

While some think this will benefit the Democrats, others think he is going to put a spanner in the works for both parties. People are predicting he will have a Perot-like effect on the 2008 elections (maybe even more significant? Probably not...he is really popular in NYC and with some business leaders but doubt the south and the midwest are going to vote for him en-masse.)

Another op-ed however deemed Bloomberg the Anti-Perot, writing:

The presidency for sale? Forget the Perotistas: the idea of purchasing the presidency will leave much of the public queasy, if not angry. Before his eccentricities became visible, a folksy Ross Perot connected with many American voters. We shouldn’t assume Bloomberg can make a similar connection. Perot was influential because his money enabled him to speak for voters who felt they didn’t have a voice. His campaign began as a bottom-up movement. Bloomberg has far, far more money than Perot, but his appeal is top-down. What cause does “Mayor Mike” represent other than his own advancement?

This piece speculates about the prospects of a Bloomberg-
Schwarzenegger P-VP candidacy...

All a bit too premature as he has not officially declared he is in the race... but it sure does set up an interesting prospect and spews debate even on whether he is a Third Party Spoiler Or a Real Contender!

Almost sounds like something the Onion would come up with -- Pope replaces old 10 commandments with the "Drivers' Ten Commandments"..or something like that! ;)

10 commandments from Vatican
The Vatican on Tuesday issued a set of the "Drivers' Ten Commandments," telling motorists to be charitable to others on the highways, to refrain from drinking and driving, and to pray you make it before you even buckle up.
Elsewhere, other religious leaders also go crazy....with Egyptian religious leaders indulging in a fatwa free-for-all!
First came the breast-feeding fatwa: It declared that the Islamic restriction on unmarried men and women being together could be lifted at work if the woman breast-fed her male colleagues five times. Then came the urine fatwa: It said that drinking the urine of the Prophet Muhammad was deemed a blessing.
WTF, you say? Yes...I had the same reaction. Read the details in the article!


And of course the self-appointed moral police in India finds new reasons each day to find umbrage over myriad topics! (I have blogged about one such instance just earlier this week).

with 0 comments » |

Should Yale University return its relics of Machu Picchu? And who in Peru would actually benefit if it does? - NYT Magazine

See this slideshow with pictures of some of the relics.

Rated-R

on June 23, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Lucky Amit... seems his blog is rated PG-13. Turns out my blog is rated R!



This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • hell (7x)
  • sex (3x)
  • dead (2x)
  • kill (1x)
What the fu#k..who gives a damn... holy crap! Now it fits..there you go... gotta live up to my reputation you know!

Art for the rich

on June 22, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Britain's Damien Hirst has been crowned the world's most expensive living artist at auction, lifting a title held for years by America's Jasper Johns. Hirst took the title on Thursday when Sotheby's sold his "Lullaby Spring" pill cabinet for 9.6 million pounds ($19.1 million).

Earlier last month,
Damien Hirst had unveiled a diamond-encrusted human skull worth £50m - said to be the most expensive piece of contemporary art.

After I saw Amit's Linkastic post about the comic about Secret Worlds, I looked thru the next few.

This one is such a great demonstration of the geek being a little social-klutz and awkward when it comes to love. beautifully done..

P.S. There are many more really good ones ...do click through the rest to enjoy the series. It is 10 minutes worth spent.

Superpower for the 21st century - 3

on June 21, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Two posts for this series..both from India Uncut...(Amit blogs way too regularly for me to get a story before he does :)

Quote of the day

He can’t even eat by himself. How will he throw stones at the police? -- Kamti Devi, the aunt of a two-year-old boy in Patna who has been ”accused of leading rioter in an attack on policemen in Bihar.

and ...

Vibrating condoms and Indian culture go head to head....or rather youknowwhat-to-youknowwhat ...

The above post links to a CNN video...do see it but do not blame me if will keel over laughing and hurt yourself when you hear the BJP leader say, and I paraphrase from memory: ...why only MP - any civilized literate society should ban such things that interfere with the natural order of things ;)

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Earlier in this series: 1, 2.

Moreso today than in 1947, we have a tryst with destiny. Are we ready to shape our future?

I just read a very interesting article (via India Uncut), which was published some months back in the
Bloomberg News (crossposted at IHT).

India Argues as Window of Opportunity Closes

Every modernizing society reaches a demographic inflection point where the returns from speedy -- and progressive -- economic policy-making rise exponentially. China was at that point in the early 1980s, and it made the most of it. India's clock has started ticking now.

The next 20 years are crucial. India can choose to act now and get rich, or its people can continue to argue, stay poor -- and become old. Indian policy makers can't continue to chew cud on state-asset sales, urban renewal, capital account convertibility and labor-market flexibility.

Vijay Kelkar, a former top bureaucrat in India's finance ministry, recently spelled out a pragmatic agenda for the government in his paper titled ``India's Economic Future: Moving Beyond State Capitalism.'' The paper, which Kelkar co-wrote with researcher Ajay Shah, makes suggestions that are as valuable as they are controversial. They include privatization of several government services, cash transfers to the poor, full currency convertibility and an end to exchange-rate targeting so as to make full use of monetary policy. ``This is our last chance,'' Kelkar said, presenting his paper in October last year. ``If we miss this opportunity, then we'll be in the dire straits of being a poor, aging country.''

Here is a presentation and the paper by Kelkar outlining what the Bloomberg article summarizes.

Also, some related papers:
- Connect and Catalyze
- Economic growth and India's future
- India - Strategies & Impacts
- India Rising - Faster Growth, Lower Indebtedness (World Bank)

All links above, except the last, are pdf files.

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The Bloomber article refers to Amartya Sen's Argumentative Indian (Reviews:1, 2, 3, 4. Excerpt: 1). I bought the book when I was in India earlier this year but have not started reading it yet. Late last year, I read the first 1/3rd of Sen's
Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny and was very impressed with his eruditeness.

Both these books are definitely a must-read...some day I shall make the time to read these instead of books like
New Sudden Fiction (which is a good book actually - it is a collection of short pieces (4-7 pages long, at most), which I started reading this week. The instant gratification provided by short pieces is good for someone like me who seems to suffer from a shorter and shorter attention span as I grow older and do not seem to have the time (patience?) lately to read for hours lately... oh woe!)

A lonely guilt pervades us all

on June 19, 2007 with 0 comments » |

"From the penthouse suspended silently so high above the winding traffic's iron lamentation, forty straight-down stories into those long, low, night-blue bars aglow below street-level, a lonely guilt pervades us all." - Nelson Algren in Nonconformity - Writing on Writing.
The book is a hotch-potch collection of essays from Nelson Algren, which were not published in the 1950s due to McCarthy's witch-hunt. (One particular essay (more about it later) really rings a bell in today's context of the "war on terrorism".) There are some really good essays in the book while some are really difficult to read and follow. The cover flap says it is full of quotable quotes and I sure enjoyed much of it, especially since he seems to share my penchant to quote others (definitely a "substitute for wit", in my case.)

For the time being, here is another gem from the first page of the book -- where Nelson quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald*

" ...that the natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain than you are.. only adds to this unhappiness in the end..."

Reading this, I am reminded of my earlier post on tristesse and Amit Varma's post where he writes:
Both make me sad in different ways, and remind me of how futile this whole game is. And so, recursively, we progress.
* Note to self: I really should invest the time to go back and read the so-called great American novel - The Great Gatsby - instead of spending time reading a number of non-descripit books, as is my wont! There are so many 19th and 20th classics that I have not read... but have read many books from the last 20-25 years that perhaps no one will remember in another 20 years even, let alone a century or two later!

Pratibha who?

on June 16, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Never even heard of her till I just now read about Pratibha Patel being the likely next President of India.

Well..
Times of India writes:
I will not be a rubber stamp President: Pratibha Patil

while Hindustan Times writes:
I will not be a rubber stamp, says Pratibha Patil

Wonder if there is a third paper has her saying "I will not be a stamp" or even "I will not be a rubber President"? ;)

--
P.S. A few days back Amit Varma suggested we elect the mango as the next President, but looks like bloggers do not have enough clout in India yet for people to take them seriously :)

P.P.S. Amit withdrew his nomination for the mango and decided to elect the actress Mahima Chaudhary instead after reading an insightful quote by her:

Giving birth is like running a nation! And women who go through it, are truly angels.
And if you are wondering what the current President should do..at least per Amit...well, the BCCI is looking for a coach for the Indian cricket team, no? Read his post on why Abdul Kalam will make a great coach! :)

Random Links - 11

on June 15, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Got lazy today and did not keep track of the source for each link. All links are from Boing-Boing, Digg.com, and a few other sites I perused through this evening.

1. The Daily Mail has an article about how kids have been restricted from roaming far from their houses when they play or go to school, and why this is bad for their mental health. It includes a map that shows how, over four generations, the roaming range afforded to kids has shrunk to the size a a backyard..

2. Gallery of homemade Chechen guns seized by Russian police.

3. Master pranksters The Yes Men crashed the Gas and Oil Exposition 2007 in Calgary this week, impersonating a rep from the National Petroleum Council at a keynote in which they proposed to convert people who died from climate change disasters into fuel.

4. An interview with several anonymous doctors who tell of mistakes they've made and deaths that they have caused.

5. From Sea to Shining Sea
Check out this stunning visualization of flight patterns over the US, created with FAA data.

6. This story is straight out of Taiwan, this child's body is actually magnetic and so is his fathers. Watch as they hang silverware and an iron off of their bodies. Apparently it all started after he was in the army.

7. Awesome... If you took a picture of the Sun at the same time each day, would it remain in the same position? The answer is no, and the shape traced out by the Sun over the course of a year is called an analemma. Here's a picture of it take over the course of a year.

8. Prisons of the World | Interesting locations, harsh conditions and little known facts, includes images and video. - via Mefi

9. Ph.D. candidate presents thesis in her underwear
Jennifer Chowdhury demonstrates her Ph.D. thesis project at New York University, an interactive game called Intimate Controllers. A set of sensors embedded in underwear direct the action on a video game. Players touch each other to control the game.

10. Holy Crap, I want to be a caveman!
"Practices ranging from bondage to group sex, transvestism and the use of sex toys were widespread in primitive societies as a way of building up cultural ties."

11. Beauty is more than skin deep. - via Mefi

12. The Third View project is a fascinating presentation of "rephotographs" of over 100 historic landscape sites in the American West that presents original 19th-century survey photographs, photographed again in the 1970s, then once again in the '90s - from the original vantage points, under similar lighting conditions, at (roughly) the same time of day and year. - via Mefi

Amazing... if this can happen in LA, it may be going on in other cities as well!

Criminals growing marijuana inside suburban mansions

A blue-blooded lobster

on June 14, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Never heard of a blue lobster

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that the blue coloring occurs when lobsters produce an excessive amount of protein because of a genetic mutation. But if blue lobsters are cooked like their red brethren, they too turn red.

Update: No big deal says this man from Canada, who surgeons found had green blood! There is a limerick somewhere in here about the man from Vancouver.. but I can't write limericks!

More entertainment from around the world.

First up....

Judge orders man not to have girlfriend
Elsewhere, a prisoner escapes from prison because he misses his girlfriend. Awwwww... :-)

That must be some super titanium-alloy walking frame! After all, the others were running helter-skelter after being 'attacked' by this 'savage' beat? :)

Pensioner kills savage squirrel
A squirrel went on the rampage in Germany and attacked several people before it was killed by a pensioner with his walking frame.
NO.. not in Iran. Not in Saudi Arabia. Not Pakistan or Afghanistan either. Not even in sometimes retrograde India. Its in the US. Click on the link and find out where..

Town bans saggy trousers
And the problem being...? People pay good money for little purple pills that do the same! Recognize the serendipitous discovery and team up with the company that makes them to market it, young man! Won't even have to pay a stiff percentage (sorry!) to the lawyer!

Man sues over erection drink
A man is suing the maker of a vitamin-enriched health drink, claiming it gave him an erection that would not subside.
Ouch... NOT funny.. but I suspect there is a joke in here somewhere! And slipped on a soap and impaled himself? Yeah right.... :)

German impaled on plunger
A German almost died after using a sink plunger as a bath plug and impaling himself after slipping on a bar of soap.
This is precious! :)

Man 'shot wife's PC'
A US man allegedly shot his wife's computer after he caught her chatting to other men on MySpace.
What do you call a pig with six legs and two willies?

A piglet born in Croatia with six legs and two penises has been nicknamed Octopig.
Speaking of pigs, the follow-up to the story of the gargatuan pig that kid in Alabama shot is that it appears it was all hogwash - just another case of someone trying to hog some attention! Ok.. I'll stop with the corny (porky?) punning now!

But I'll end this with the freaky animal roundup :)

and last but not least..

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Previously: 1

You say there is nothing good on TV this summer? Tired of the re-runs? Just switch on the baby monitor :)

Baby monitor picks up video from NASA
Since Sunday, Natalie Meilinger's baby monitor has been picking up black-and-white video from inside the space shuttle Atlantis.

And if you are wondering what those guys in space suits are doing... well..just fixing computers! What a world we live in - its likely the blue-screen-of-death will haunt us in space too? :)

It's a dog's world - 1

on June 13, 2007 with 0 comments » |

I have for some time now wanted to start a new series called "It's a dog's world" or in Hindi - "kutton ki duniyan hai"... but never got around to it. But today, I make a start - prompted by a post at India Uncut. (Stick to cows, let the dogs be, Amit :))

1. Doggles ...Goggles for Dogs! Think it is a silly idea? Well..some guys became millionaires selling just that to suckers like you and me!

2.
Horny Dog Relief - Doggy Sex Doll
I think someone should put this up in a gallery somewhere as 'art'...after all, there is no saying what can pass as art these days! :)

3. There is a cruel joke somewhere in this story but I can't think of it and will refrain from taxing my brain muscles too much! Seems, a Chinese man whose genitals were eaten by a dog when he was a child was said to be happy with a new penis built from his chest muscles and hip bones.

4. Wagging the Dog, and a Finger - NYTimes
An increasing number of diners are seeking to bring dogs inside restaurants for emotional support. WTF...! Maybe next they will want to bring their miniature horses as Emotional Support Animals

And to think some people are whining about other people's noisy kids in restaurants!

5. Not always a dog's world.. some months ago we learned that a Las Vegas shelter killed 1,000 dogs, cats!

In the Foreword to the Best American Poetry 2005, the series editor, David Lehman writes about a study published in April 2004 in the Journal of Death Studies that revealed that poets tend to die younger (age 62, on average) than other writes (playwrights at 63, novelists at 66, and nonfiction writers at 68).

Ofcourse this was from a study of almost 2000 dead writers from different countries and different centuries...and so the conclusions of this "study" can perhaps be easily argued against but I say only a poet could come up with an appropriate riposte to this :)

Franz Wright, who learned earlier in the same month that he had won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, was asked to comment on Professor Kaufman's study. "Since in the U.S., the worse you write the better your chances of survival, it stands to reason that poets would be the youngest to die," he said gloomily.
Game, Set, Match... to the poets! :)

From the Best American Poetry 2005 comes this great insightful poem by Samuel Hazo, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly (subscription needed to access this link.)

Seesaws

The bigger the tomb, the smaller the man.
The weaker the case, the thicker the brief.
The deeper the pain, the older the wound.
The graver the loss, the dryer the tears.

The truer the shot, the slower the aim.
The quicker the kiss, the sweeter the taste.
The viler the crime, the vaguer the guilt.
The louder the price, the cheaper the ring.

The higher the climb, the sheerer the slide.
The steeper the odds, the shrewder the bet.
The rarer the chance, the brasher the risk.
The colder the snow, the greener the spring.

The braver the bull, the wiser the cape.
The shorter the joke, the surer the laugh.
The sadder the tale, the dearer the joy.
The longer the life, the briefer the years.

I especially liked what Hazo writes in the Contributor's notes.
"Seesaws almost created itself as a litany of balances, but all the balances seemed in conflict. Each of the things listed created its opposite, but there was always more there than simple opposition. The more I wrote, the more the irony became apparent to me. It was an irony that reminded me of a comment of Aristotle in the Poetics that the essence of drama (read: life) was the presence therein of a seeming contradiction: that the worst, for example, always happens when we think the worst is over; and that there is always a discrepancy between appearance and reality."

Started reading Best American Poetry 2005 and loved this poem by Sarah Manguso (originally published in Conduit)

Hell

The second-hardest thing I have to do is not be longing's slave.

Hell is that. Hell is that, others, having a job, and not having a
job. Hell is thinking continually of those who were truly great.

The kind of music I want to continue hearing after I am dead is
the kind that makes me think I will be capable of hearing it then.

There is music in Hell. Wind of desolation! It blows past the egg-
eyed statues. The canopic jars are full of secrets.

The wind blows through me. I open my mouth to speak.

I recite the list of people I have copulated with. It does not take long.
I say the names of my imaginary children. I call out four-syllable
words beginning with B. This is how I stay alive.

Beelzebub. Brachiosaur. Bubble-headed. I don't know how I stay alive.
What I do know is that there is a light, far above us, that goes out
when we die,

and that in Hell there is a gray tulip that grows without any sun.
It reminds me of everything I failed at,

and I water it carefully. It is all I have to remind me of you.

Also this poem (originally published in Image) by Garret Keizer was great, though admittedly I did not get it all.

Hell and Love

Hell is always grander to paint
Than the bliss of a resurrected saint;
More fun to show the lecher's doom
Tits and ass in the flicking gloom.

Yet love inspires more than hate,
A head caressed than on a plate,
And even should his colors wash,
I'd put Chagall in front of Bosch.

The passion is a painter's dream,
With hell and love a single theme --
The human body stripped to show
A death both merciful and slow.

... and maybe Delhi isn't far behind!

I did not know that Germany was a solar power-house. This is pretty cool... er.. hot...er.. you know what I mean! :)

Cloudy Germany emerging as a solar energy powerhouse
When it opened here in 2004 on a reclaimed mining dump, the Geosol solar plant was the biggest of its kind in the world. It is so clean and green that it produces zero emissions and so easy to operate that it has only three regular workers: plant manager Hans-Joerg Koch and his security guards, sheepdogs named Pushkin and Adi. The plant is part of a building boom that has made gloomy-skied Germany the unlikely global leader in solar-generated electricity. Last year, about half of the world’s solar electricity was produced in the country. Of the 20 biggest photovoltaic plants, 15 are in Germany, even though it has only half as many sunny days as countries such as Portugal.

Update - July 2007: Bavarian farmers set shining example

Also, CNN reports:

The former East Germany, once one of the world’s gloomiest places, has become home to one of the world’s brightest industries: solar power. In late April ground was broken at a former Soviet air base near Leipzig for a $176 million, 40-megawatt photo-voltaic power plant, four times the size of the largest existing solar plant in the world. The facility, being built by Germany’s Juwi International, is scheduled to begin production in late 2009. When it does, it will add significant capacity to eastern Germany’s mushrooming solar power industry.


Meanwhile, in India:

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) aims to save electricity, become more eco-friendly, reduce power theft, and do away with some of the headache of wiring — all at one go. The civic body is planning to replace all streetlights with solar-powered ones. It will be the first in the country to go ahead with the plan on a large-scale. Already, a pilot project that began in the Chanakyapuri area in November 2006 has, despite some hiccups, proved a success. NDMC has tentatively set a 2010 deadline for replacing all streetlights.


Elsewhere in India, household solar systems have turned sunlight to electricity for 100,000 rural Indians, thanks to a UN program and also at a housing estate at a housing estate (old link expired; new link with an update from July 2008 inserted in Sep 2008) in Calcutta/Kolkatta.

In other sunny news:

No other way to label these guys!

Poachers kill one of last two white rhinos in Zambia

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A few days ago I read about people breeding lions to provide for canned hunting escapades later...

Inside Africa looks at the issue of hunting lions in South Africa

...and was very disturbed by the inhumanity of it all! Or maybe I should say the humanity of it - because it is humans who indulge in such savage acts time and again..

(Apparently, this is not a new practice. These earlier articles from 2001 and 2005 talk about the same practice.)

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I've compiled more links about Wildlife Conservation here.

Gratitude

on June 5, 2007 with 0 comments » |

What are you thankful for? Reading the Book of Gratitude can be an hour well spent....

1. What are you thankful for? Reading the Book of Gratitude can be an hour well spent....

2. Where are you on the Global Rich List?... (via Linkastic)

I wonder if there is a similar happiness meter and if one could plot a Happiness Index for individuals versus the Richness index, would there be a correlation? I think not....


Update: Seems people (specifically, the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck) have tried to define a
Gross National Happiness (GNH) index for countries in "an attempt to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross National Product."

Others have defined a
Happy Planet Index while others study the economics of happiness.

Also,
via Mefi and wikipedia:

Meet Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- author of the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which "investigates the happiness of doing, how the balance between stress/anxiety and slack/boredom effect experience and happiness, and how we can all use it to our advantage."

Csikszentmihalyi is a Professor of Psychology and has "devoted his life's work to the study of what makes people truly happy, satisfied and fulfilled" and is one of the world's leading researcher on positive psychology.[1]

In an interview with Wired magazine, Csikszentmihalyi described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."[2]
And here is a Ask Mefi thread about finding flow in everyday life.

Another renowned name in the area of positive psychology is Barbara Fredrickson, who is
Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina where she is also Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory.

Two Holocaust related stories in the news today

- A mass grave holding the remains of thousands of Jews killed by the Nazis has been found in southern Ukraine near the site of what was once a concentration camp...

- The diary of a 14-year-old Jewish girl dubbed the "Polish Anne Frank" was unveiled on Monday, chronicling the horrors she witnessed in a Jewish ghetto

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Labeling this post, I ruminate that history is not the past. History still lives. And this is current and affects all of us. I have always been highly irritated by those that do not respect or want to understand the past.

Random Links - 10

on June 4, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Hit by a train in 1988 and in a coma for 19 years, a Polish railway worker just woke up to a world so different he can barely believe it. No Communist government, no food rationing, people in the streets talking on cell phones; he tells TV stations he has "no complaints."
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Found this and other tidbits here.


McDonald’s restaurants will buy 54,000,000 pounds of fresh apples this year. Two years ago, McDonald’s purchased 0 pounds of apples. This is attributed to the shift to more healthy menu options (the Apple Pie, which has been at McDonald’s for years uses processed Apple Pie Filling).

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Another interesting post via the same site...


Shift Happens - a 67 slides slideshow covering many things you may not and might want to know about the past and future trends of the world.

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crazy!!



The world's highest swing is situated on top of a 1,100ft (335m) TV tower in Harbin city, China. It is set on a 700ft (213m) high viewing platform on the tower. People get to sit on a steel seat and swing out over the city, beyond the edge of the platform. The swing is called “Game for brave people”, reports Harbin Daily.

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NG takes us on a wild and amazing tour of the New York City Underground.

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Ewwww..

Heavy runners lose toenails. I know, ew. But what if those toenails weren't lost -- what if they were repurposed, as a necklace? - via BB

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How many whale testicles equal the weight of one mid-sized car?

(Answer: 3.2449998471)

More weird conversions here.

- via BB
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Hilarious...
A seventies-era softporn film remixed and redubbed to become a SFW video about the Vietnam war, created by a student for an American history class. - via BB