Thursday, October 23, 2003

L and I are back in the United States now. Actually we spent last night in northeast Indiana. More about that later.


We drove from the Chi, through Indiana, up to Lansing, and crossed into Canada at the Blue Water Bridge. All the way through Indiana, Michigan, and southern Ontario the foliage was tremendous. Because of the up and down temperatures, there were mixtures of green, gold, maroon, and brown. As we headed north the colo(u)rs got more vivid. After an Ontarian wind storm on Tuesday, the colo(u)rs in Ontario were muted and spread across the ground. However, as we headed south, the colors got better again. What a great colo(u)r trip, and we didn't even have to travel to Cheeseheadland for it.


First of all, if you think "Fergie" above is Sarah Ferguson, get off the page right now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just leave. . . OK, so you're still here. Fergie in this case is Fergie Jenkins. He pitched for a number of teams, but his best years were with the Cubs. He was also from Ontario. Thus, when L and I passed a sign for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, there was really no debate that we would be going there. It is in a town called St Mary's. The town is sort of like Cooperstown in that you drive . . . and drive . . . and drive . . . and start thinking you are lost, and then you are there. It is unlike Cooperstown in that it is not clear where the hell the Hall of Fame is when you get there. In this case, it is at the end of a dead end street in a residential area. It was also closed. Naturally.

So, we decided to look around St Mary's, Ontario (Canada) and see what was what. As we turned on to Queen (???) Street, L noticed that the Hall of Fame administrative offices were there. I parked and walked in. L stayed in the car. I think she was scared that I'd make an ass of myself. In any case, the guy working in the office was a big baseball fan. We talked some ball (another one of these damned people who asks me what happened to America's Team), and I bought a tres swank hat, and two refrigerator magnets. It was a glorious moment.


As I said, going into Canada we crossed at Port Huron over the Blue Water Bridge. Going into Canada is usually pretty easy, with few delays. Just make sure you don't have any guns. The Canadians don't like guns.

Coming back into the United States at Port Erie (Buffalo), Windsor (Detroit), or Sarnia (Port Huron) can be grueling. It takes about a million years, and there is all kinds of pollution spewing all around you. This is true even on the high bridges at Detroit, Port Huron, or Buffalo. It is AWFUL! Anyway, L and I heard about a cool alternative from our good friend M.

Instead of driving to Sarnia and crossing the bridge, we cut south of Sarnia about 30 kilometres (silly Canadians, it is about 18 miles or so) to a small town called Sombra. It was getting late, and we were in this tiny, dark village by the water. As we drove parallel to the river, we looked for signs. Then we saw, "Ferry to US." This was it! We turned into what was sort of a dead end-looking area. As I slowed down to get the lay of the land, a car came roaring up behind us, passed us, and zipped around a corner. I decided to follow him, since there was nowhere BUT the ferry for him to go. I turned the corner, and was immediately on the ferry. They closed up behind us, and we were on our way to the United States. C$5 (silly Canadians, about $3.50) and we were bypassing all the suckers on the bridges! HA! HA! Even better, the trip is only 5 minutes, and there were only five cars on the ferry.

When we got to the United States side, we were the last car off the boat. The Customs officer gave us a real hard stare and asked us if we had anything to declare. We said no, and we were home. Fantastic.


We drove last night all the way down US 69 (he, he, he) to Auburn, Indiana. As an aside, since 69 goes from Port Huron to Indianapolis it has entered the pantheon of expressways that I have driven end to end. US 57 from Chicago to Louisiana is the other. Anyway, we got to Auburn, Indiana and decided to stop for the night. It was like 12:30 and we decided that sleep was in the cards. We stopped and checked into a road side chain hotel. We went to our room, and I immediately noted that some moron had turned the clock radio back an hour. I turned the TV on (as I am wont to do) and noticed that it was only 11:30 there too. In fact, all of the clocks we saw showed it being an hour earlier than eastern time. Auburn is just north of Fort Wayne. It is east if Indianapolis for God's sake. We still have not figured out why their timer is an hour off. Hence our assumption that Auburn is the land that time forgot (or vice versa).

I am interested in any and all explanations of this odd phenomenon.


Fred Berry died this week. He played Rerun on What's Happening? No more reunion shows for them.

Monday, October 20, 2003

OCTOBER 19, 2003

L and I were married one year and one day ago now. I have to say, it really flew by. In fact, it almost snuck up on me. Had I known it would be so good, I would have done it YEARS ago.


I have been subjected to one of those incredibly stressful events in life that are unavoidable, but no easier for that reason. I have been sent to Canada. In fact, I am among them as I type. If I didn't know I was far from home, I got a real wake up call when I picked up an Equal to put in my coffee. It was a blue packet. I saw it. But when I read it—it was . . . Sweet 'n Low! What the hell kind of country has BLUE Sweet 'n Low?

As we were coming in to the York (aka Toronto) area, L and I encountered signs for the 407. Now, one of the funny things about Canada is that they insist on numbering their expressways starting with the number "4." For instance, the 401, the 402, the 407. This creates the false impression that there are 400 roads in Canada. There are not, since that would be one for each man, woman, and child in the country. Anyway, the point about the 407 is that it is an express toll road. Our MapQuest directions had us taking it, so we did. We kept waiting for the toll booth, but never encountered one. It turns out that when you enter the road, they take a picture of your license plate. When you exit, they take another picture. They then calculate the toll, use DMV records, and MAIL your bill to you. What a tremendous make-work scheme. Seems like they ought to be able to employ the whole country with this little system. In any case, I am eagerly awaiting my bill. What a souvenir!

Today I went to a meeting here. At one point, the honored guests entered being led by a bagpiper. I felt like I was at the Highland Games, or a cop/firefighter funeral in the Chi. It was quite odd. Anyway, the honored guests got to the podium, and offered a toast to the health of . . . Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. Good grief. I am Quebecois, German, Irish, and Lithuanian. I politely ignored this strange toast to a monarch(!) my people worked hard to get away from.

L and I went out to dinner tonight. We approached an intersection that had a flashing green light. This was a new signal to me. I've seen flashing red (stop), flashing yellow (ignore it), but never flashing green. Then L noted a sign that said, "Advanced Green When Flashing." I thought it was a kind of left turn signal, where you went when the light was flashing. However, we checked and saw about a million left turn arrows at other intersections. Frankly, I am at a loss.

Finally, in the ultimate insult to right-thinking people around the world, this morning I saw World Series highlights on "SportsCentre." O, Canada!


Sometimes people get strange ideas in their heads and just won't give them up. The Moscow Times had a story about the Russian train station at Khasan in the Russian Far East. It seems that Khasan is the border station between North Korea and Russia. The Russians have a vision of a railroad line extending from South Korea, through North Korea, into Russia and thence to Europe. Apparently it currently costs about $2000 to send a container to Europe from Asia by ship, but would only cost about $800 by train. Of course, you'd be shipping your stuff through NORTH KOREA, but apparently that doesn't raise a red flag for the Russians… Oh, and North Korea needs a couple of billion dollars in infrastructure upgrade to do this.

Similarly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a story on the Torture Chamber of International Championship Wrestling, the only professional wrestling school in Western Washington. Wow, only one in ALL of Western Washington!?! Anyway, the story talks to these guys who drop $2000 apiece to go to a wrestling school. You know, for that money, they could ship a container from Korea to Europe. Anyway, the story is plenty entertaining, but the most important data are at the end, where they explain the following facts:

• Wrestlers who play the good guys: Faces
• Wrestlers who play the villains: Heels
• A basic move that slams you on your back: Bumping
• "Like a rabid junkyard dog in heat": Interview mode
• The age you have to be to wrestle in the pros: 18
• The cost of professional training: $2,000
• One recruit's guess at his odds of making the big time: 1 in 250
• The Hammer, The Chef, Rainman: Students' nicknames


In Japan a 220 pound bear charged through the waiting room of a hospital in Japan TWICE at 5:45 in the morning on a Wednesday. Witnesses were reported to be "stunned." The bear was not captured.


Central Europe (for me, the area encompassed by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, and Germany) has many of the same issues as the Baltic region (part of which is Central European) and the Balkans. People moved to the region before they knew about the homogenous nation-state. By the way, neither of the articles is linked, since the Financial Times and New York Times have crappy on-line policies.

In any case, both articles discusses a movement in Germany to ensure that the fact that between 12 and 15 million Germans were expelled from the former German east after World War II. This has angered Poles who (a) suffered tremendously under the Nazis, and (b) experienced a forced population shift similar to that of the Germans when they were expelled from cities like Lviv (Lwow, L'viv, Lemburg) and shipped to cities like Wrocłow (Breslau), while the German population of Breslau (Wrocław) was expelled across the Oder River. This creates a situation in which the Germans are trying to ensure that they don't forget Breslau, Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Budweis, Preßburg, and other cities in the old east while the Germans and Czechs and other easterners demand that their suffering being acknowledged, and that the Germans do not begin to soft peddle their history. As the New York Times article says, "once history has happened, it has happened forever, and as long as people wish to forge their identity on the basis of collective memory there can be no annulment of its consequences."

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a story about a Czech family in Seattle that makes cut Bohemian crystal by hand from raw Bohemian crystal. The original glass maker started north of Brno in Moravia sometime around 1905 (then Austria-Hungary). He learned to cut glass in Moravia, then emigrated to New York state. He made his way to Seattle (maybe he just ran out of country…) in 1912, and opened his own manufacturing concern in 1914. The family continues to hand cut the crystal, essentially as he did. That is another, more positive, element of eternal Central Europe.


I personally consider eastern Europe to be the lands east of central Europe. They tend to use the Cyrillic alphabet, and include Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, etc. These countries sometimes seem to have a different quality of news coming out of them. For instance, the Moscow Times had an article about elephants in Moscow. Elephants have been there since the 1500s, and have been through a lot, including being bombed by Hitler. One particularly hilarious elephant apparently liked to fling its poo at visitors. I know that feeling. Anyway, you have to feel for the elephants when you read the following: "Elephants are something between dogs and children," said Natalya Istratova, a spokeswoman for the Moscow Zoo, which these days is home to seven adult elephants -- three Asian and four African. "They are more intelligent than dogs, but at times very sensitive, touchy like children, but always unforgiving." Something between dogs and children? Ummm, I guess.


I am watching Scooby-Doo. You might remember the episode. It's the one where the kids encounter an apparently abandoned place and uncover a mystery. In this one, they got a note saying, "leave Haunted Isle." Thelma says, "I think someone wants us to leave Haunted Isle." I have no comment. In addition, I just realized that Daphne sounds an awful lot like Malibu Stacey. Finally, it turns out that the ghost was a person dressed up to scare people away from a treasure. What are the odds? Hmmm. They have pre-empted Bugs Bunny on the Cartoon Network with Scooby. Did one of the stars die or something? Fred!?! Stay away from the light! Come back to us Fred! Or was it Shaggy. Like maybe he was high, and he started to die, and he thought it felt kind of groovy, and he said, I'm Shaggy. I wonder if I can die. If you got that last reference, you have watched too many Hendrix documentaries.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Is this a bad sign? I have been through so much roller coaster with the Cubs that I am watching through the Yahoo! gamecast at work. I do have a lot of work to do, and this is giving me something other than the game to fixate on. I am abusing a piece of gum and working, and looking at the 1"x2" square on the left of my screen, and praying (I actually have a rosary in my office. You can never be too careful). Good grief am I a basket case.

Go Cubs.

By the way, I have a ton of excellent blog articles. Blame the Cubs and my employer for my lack of output. I usually blog over lunch, and lately that has not been working, since I am going home early for the Cubs games. Maybe sometime in the near future I will get them all ina coherent blog. Since I won't be leaving work until not staying at my desk seems to be working best for the Cubs, I may have time tonight...
Oh, the pain. To be a Cub fan. Tonight we've got Wood, and if the Marlins can take Prior and Woody on consecutive nights at Wrigley, they just plain deserve it more than the Cubs. Also, for all of the people whining about the "fan interference" in the 8th—get over it. The fan didn't cause Gonzo's error, Sammy to miss (another) cut-off man, or Farnsworth to groove that three run double. There is plenty of blame to go around for that eighth inning, and the fan gets very, very little of it.


According the Nation's Finest Newspaper, Cat "Yusuf Islam" Stevens is making a rare appearance and playing his music. He will be appearing at the "Peace Train Charity Night" concert in Kuala Lumpur. There will also be Malaysian religious bands. Good tickets still available.


Yesterday the Christian Science Monitor ran a story that was half tongue-in-cheek about where God stands on the baseball playoffs. What is strange is that people all concluded that God is a Cubs or Red Sox fan. Is this because He inflicts suffering on fans of those teams? It just doesn't make sense. It sure seems like the Yankees are the blessed team...

Monday, October 13, 2003


Reuters had a very interesting story regarding the use of new symbolism in loyalist graffiti. In Northern Ireland both the loyalist and the republican sides in Belfast paint graffiti with their imagery on the walls. Traditionally the republicans use Celtic themes and scenes from Irish history. The loyalists were somewhat more limited in that they generally used British themes. Now, in an effort to reinvigorate the Ulster-Scots identity of (most) of the loyalists, Americans with Northern Irish (Protestant) connections are being used. The funniest example is Davy Crockett, whose people come from County Derry. Crockett died at the Alamo defending the right of the local population to leave an oppressive country and pursue their destiny on their own. How this applies to the loyalist cause, which seeks to keep the republican population in Britain against its will, is beyond me.

In the same vein, today is Columbus Day. Maybe someday our kids will be shocked that we ever celebrated Columbus. We are now taught that he (a) didn't discover anything, since people living here already knew about what he "discovered", (b) brought the slave trade to the New World, and (c) launched the beginning of the native genocide in the Western Hemisphere. It seems to me that the historical record is a little more ambiguous than that, and that Columbus was a creature of his age. Thus, blaming him for cultural insensitivity in 1492 with regard to slaves and natives seems a little unfair. Similarly, blaming him for discovering in a southern European context what was apparently well known to the Norse and western hemisphere natives just means that the Norse and Natives failed to propagate their knowledge. Again, not Columbus's fault. Therefore, in sum, leave poor old Cristobal alone and teach the real good and bad of history without attacking him.


The Denver Post ran a story about some of the Catholic movements that are based in Denver. Apparently, the Pope's visit to Denver in 1993 inspired people to change the nature of their worship, and to do it in Denver. One is the Community of the Beatitudes, which apparently calls for laity and religious to live together committed to poverty, prayer, and obedience. I thought it sounded kind of cultish. Then the article talked about Sarah Conley. She was a member of the Colorado University Gold Rush Dance Team, which means she dressed like an exotic dancer at sports events. She says she is there because, "she wanted to wear a habit." She also said, "I don't want to be rebellious," Conley said. "I don't want to be anybody who changes anything. I want to follow the tradition in all of its beauty."

Next the article talked about how the Denver community honored its antecedents. For instance, the community holds Shabbat dinner on Fridays and stages Jewish dance on Saturday nights in the convent basement to honor the Jewish roots of Christianity. The white walls of its chapel are lined with the icons of saints, an Orthodox tradition to honor Catholicism's history with the Orthodox churches. Community members dress only in brown, symbolizing the earth, and white, for the Resurrection. They live simply, sharing a Toyota Corolla with 248,000 miles and a broken taillight. Their modest budget relies on donations, marriage preparation classes run by a founder, and two priests' diocesan salaries.

Finally, the article discussed the only single lay man in the house, Patrick Mercado. He said he never felt drawn to poverty. But he too said he wasn't satisfied with his work as a stockbroker, paralegal and writer - a common refrain among adults in their 20s and 30s drawn to the new movements. "I just got tired of finding the right job, the right wife," said Mercado, who still hopes to marry and have children. "With the economy going bad, I thought I would at least give it a try. I don't know if this is it. My ultimate goal is my relationship with God, and right now, the community is where I am finding that."

And now I know that we Catholics DO have our own cult right here in America. What a relief!


The Chicago Sun-Times has a very disturbing story about a family in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Both of the parents are big Cubs fans. I understand this. I am a big Cubs fan. Their oldest son's name in Addison Buck Dynek. Their second son is Clark Dynek. Their third son is named Sheffield Dynek. Their daughter is Grace Dynek, after the street that held the convent I wrote about a few days ago. They parked there too. Their last daughter is Ivy Marie Wrigley Dynek. Thus, Addison Street (south edge of Wrigley Field), Clark Street (west edge), Sheffield Avenue (east edge), and Grace Street (perpendicular to north edge) are all honored in their kid's names. How they failed to name a child Waveland is beyond me. And L thought I was bad for wanting to name a son Ryne.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Yeah. I knew they could not win for three reasons. First, this morning before church I drove around Wrigleyville taking pictures of cool Cubs stuff. I was planning to have pictures of the morning they won the pennant for the first time since 1945. Mistake one. Second, I decided that I could try to watch this game in public. I wanted to be able to celebrate outside of our place. Mistake two. Finally, I actually was curious about the World Series schedule. Mistake three.

I apologize to all of my fellow Cub fans. Josh Beckett was good, but it was my fault.

By the way, in heading out to take picture after dropping L off at St Al's, I stopped by a truly unique Chicago store. It is the Julius Meinl coffee shop on Southport and Addison. It is a Viennese company, and this is their sole location in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, it seems that this may be one of their two locations. If you go there, get a melange. It is unique, and great, and better than any Starbuck's you will ever have.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

This weekend there are three Cubs-Marlins games in Miami. The series is a best of seven. The Cubs lead 2-1. It is possible that Monday the series will be over. Unlike the Bulls playoff runs, this is killing me. With Michael you never actually thought you might lose. The Cubs, on the other hand, have never done anything other than smash my heart. Thus, I have adopted a stance of cautious optimism. Good grief, this is killing me.


Today I had a taste for German breakfast, and a $25 gift certificate from our wedding to Delicatessen Meyer in Lincoln Square. All I needed was a way to get L to go over to Lincoln Square and get the goods. That didn't work out at all, and after I finished the dishes (!) I went over to Meyer's. You just can't beat Schwarzwalder and/or Westfalen Schinken, Tilsiter and/or Emmentaler cheese, some nice Brötchen and some butter for breakfast. Had we had a nice soft-boiled egg, I would have thought we were back in Germany.


After Wednesday night's Red Sox-Yankees game, Derek Jeter was quoted as saying, "Wakefield didn't even know where his pitches were going.'' Now, Tim Wakefield is a knuckleball pitcher, which means he really doesn't know where the ball is going. BUT… did Jeter mean that the pitches were so good that even Wakefield didn't know where they were going, or that Wakefield was just heaving the ball and didn't even know where his pitches were going? I guess we'll have to review the tape.

Speaking of the Red Sox, the Boston Globe has a story about an Episcopal convent with eight women in it. They have in excess of a combined 240 years of devotion to the Red Sox, which averages over 30 years apiece. Frankly, looking at the picture with the article, I'd guess that 240 was an author trying to be cute. I bet it is closer to 400. Anyway, the sisters love Tim Wakefield, but think Nomar takes too long to get into the batter's box. They are right on both counts. They are also rabid enough Red Sox fans that when they were late for chapel because they were watching the game, one said, "God will understand, God is a Red Sox fan."
Cute, but God is a Cubs fan. I know this because I always saw the nuns down Grace Street with their Cubs helmets on over their habits when I was a kid. They used to rent parking in their lot for Cubs parking, and they were always out in white habits with blue Cubs batting helmets on, directing traffic and collecting money. Hence, God was a Cubs fan.

By the way, the Yankees are leading in the bottom of the ninth in game 3. Manny Ramirez is a punk for charging the mound, and even though Zimmer went after him, Pedro Martinez is a punk for throwing a 72 year old man with a plate in his head to the ground. Maybe it's the Curse of the Punks and not the Bambino after all.


The New York Times (registration always required) quotes the Russians defense minister talking about United States military bases in former Soviet Central Asia. He is quoted as saying "we have always been proceeding from the fact that those bases exist solely for the period required for the final, definitive stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan." This is interesting, since nobody has ever really been able to bring "final, definitive stabilization" to Afghanistan. Maybe he is just saying he wants us in former Soviet Central Asia forever.

The Moscow Times had one of the most useful articles I have seen in a long time. It clarifies a number of issues that I know come up pretty much all the time. For instance, in Russian, готовить is used for any kind of cooking. Я готовила ужин (I made dinner). For anything you cook in water or liquid, you use варить; for anything you fry in some kind of oil, you use жарить; and for anything that is cooked in a pot with the top on, in the oven or on the stovetop, you use тушить. In addition, If you want to dice something, you say, нарезать кусочками; to mince is нарезать мелками кусочками (literally, "in very small pieces"); to cut something into julienne strips is нарезать соломкой (literally, "like a matchstick"). Finally, Кекс for Russians is more like a muffin than an American cake. Бисквит is, alas, not a biscuit, but a sponge cake. And when you are enjoying dessert, if someone says: "Ой! Кофе убегает!" -- it doesn't mean your coffee has sprouted legs and is dashing out the door. It means the coffee is boiling over. Thank God we cleared that up.


The BBC ran a story saying that Italy is about to return an obelisk they took from Ethiopia in the 1930s when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. The Ethiopians said that they would do anything "short of war" to get the obelisk back. Given that the Italians have not actually beaten anyone in a war since 1870 or so, it looks like the Italians benefited from their NATO membership. Otherwise it seems like a good bet that the Ethiopians would have just TAKEN their obelisk back.


The Ottawa (Ontario) (Canada) Citizen reports on the United States reaction to the Canadian Prime Minister's comments about possibly smoking some pot after he retires. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying he had never tried marijuana, but might once decriminalization legislation is approved by Parliament."I don't know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal," he said. "I will have money for my fine and a joint in the other hand." The current nonentity we are calling the "Drug Czar" replied that Canadians "are concerned about the behaviour of their prime minister, joking that he is going to use marijuana in his retirement," Mr. Walters said to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They're ashamed." Yeah, I'm sure Canadians are just mortified. What a moroon.

Thursday, October 09, 2003


Yesterday I heard Bill O'Reilly on Fresh Air on National Public Radio. The host certainly asked him questions and read him passages that she would not have if she were sympathetic to his viewpoints. However, about 36 minutes into the interview, O'Reilly has a hissy fit and just leaves. It was a fantastic piece of radio not because the interview was very good (it wasn't), but because O'Reilly spazzed so badly about things that are well within the range of his own behavior. If you have a high speed connection, check out from about minute 36. I also love when he gets POd that she says that Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them is satire. Jeez Bill, what did you think it was? Al Franken is a humorist. He writes satire. What a dork.


The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts House of Representatives rejected a bill to allow liquor stores (known as package stores in New England) to open on Sundays. The state already allows packies to be open on Sunday if they are within ten miles of the Vermont or New Hampshire borders (states that allow sales on Sundays), as well as the Sunday before Thanksgiving and each Sunday from Thanksgiving to the Sunday before New Years. What this really comes down to is a punishment for bad planners and regular drinkers. It seems to me that Massachusetts sells liquor on Sundays during amateur season (the holidays), when all of the amateurs least need it, and withholds Sunday booze from good, solid, consistent alcoholics who keep a steady consumption up all year. That doesn't seem right.


An AP story from yesterday suggests that the old adage that you get better by playing the best may be true. It seems that the FBI in Philadelphia bugged the mayor's office, but the bug was found in a routine police sweep. Now, here in the Chi, where corruption is an art form, the FBI has to be much more clever. This keeps them on their toes and keeps embarrassing incidents like this from occurring. They should have sent the Operation Silver Shovel team out to Philly.


The Washington Post has a great story about the fish market in Tokyo. In Japan, the aesthetics of seafood are much more important than here and leads tobargaining on bases other than freshness. However, the most outstanding thing in this article is when a number of buyers have all bid the same price for some eel (which is very good), and need to decide who will walk away with the eel. They play rock, paper, scissors. As some of you may know, L absolutely OWNS me in rock, paper, scissors. I guess I am lucky I don't make my living beating her at that game.


As I have expressed before, I am always interested in places where people live in a nation-state of a nation other than their own. In other words, they are a minority in a relatively homogenous country. This was true of the Balts I wrote about, as well as the Uighurs, and Tibetans. Today there are FIVE articles that touch on these issues.

First, the Financial Times (free until next week) has a story about Sikkim. India annexed this former kingdom in the Himalayas in 1975, and China refused to recognize the annexation. This entire area between China and India in the Himalayas exists between two forces almost as powerful as those that created the mountains they live in. Tibet went to China, Sikkim to India. Nepal and Bhutan remain independent, but heavily influenced by India. It seems likely that in the long term neither China nor India will tolerate long term independence between their common borders.

From the Himalayas, the Financial Times takes us to the Mediterranean, where the island of Cyprus sits. Cyprus is ethnically divided between Greeks and Turks, and has been politically divided since the 1970s between these two groups. The European Union wants to admit Cyprus, and wants to do it as a single entity. The article is a profile on a Turkish opposition politician who supports a federative solution to the island's split so that the two entities would have a loose common government for EU affairs and foreign affairs. Otherwise they would control themselves. It will be interesting to see if Greeks and Turks in Cyprus can solve their millennial dispute for the benefits of EU membership.

Meanwhile the Christian Science Monitor has a opinion piece on a different solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Assuming that the two-state solution to the conflict is not in the cards (i.e. there will not be a viable, independent Palestine any time soon), the writer proposes a South African solution—one person, one vote. Create a real, single democracy from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. This is different from the Cypriot solution in that it is a simple majority-rule formula. Thus, the entire Zionist project in Israel of a Jewish state in historic Israel would be out the window. This is interesting because (a) the writer ignores the tremendous problems in South Africa with crime and AIDS that make South Africa something less than a model for first world Israelis contemplating majority Palestinian rule, and (b) it ignores the post-World War II unwillingness of at least some Jews to be vulnerable to others in a state they didn't control. Turning power over to the people who vote for Arafat and support Hamas would be particularly hard to contemplate. In fact, a Cypriot-type solution seems like a better option for Israel/Palestine than one person, one vote ever will be.

Finally, the International Herald Tribune ran parallel opinion pieces on the controversies in France and Germany regarding the wearing of headscarves by Muslim women in the respective countries. In France, the controversy is wearing headscarves in public schools. France strongly enforces the separation of church and state, so that in theory you are not allowed to wear religious symbols in public schools. However, as one politician is quoted as saying, "if you wear a small cross or hand of Fatima around your neck, no one will bother you. It has to be made clear to Muslim fundamentalists that they should stop trying to test the republic." Suddenly the controversy seems much more racist than embodying a high minded secularism. France has five million Muslims in it, and will need to figure out how to treat these people as French, and not other.

In Germany, the highest court in the country said that a Muslim school teacher could NOT be banned from wearing a headscarf in class without specific legislation barring headscarves in the classroom. Six of the 16 German Länder have already said they will pass such a law. Ironically, the author of this piece advocates a law banning ALL religious symbols from the schools as a way to keep Muslims from being singled out. In other words, a law like the one getting France into so much trouble. He inexplicably fails to call the Germans to the carpet fro passing discriminatory laws based on one's faith. They do have a certain history there and ought to know better by now.


The Christian Science Monitor carried two stories today about a very American phenomenon. The movement of people. First is an article about the ever-dwindling number of people remaining on farms in the United States. As of 1997, the United States had twice as many farmers 65 and over as farmers 35 and younger. This reflects a lot of forces, but the interesting thing the small farm advocates are trying to deal with is land prices that have risen too high. This is great if your retirement is tied up in the value of the land you own. It is terrible if you are trying to buy land. They say that as long as this is true, people will keep leaving the farms for other opportunities. This also appears to reflect an unintended consequence of farm subsidies. As it becomes more profitable to grow more corn and soybeans, farmers rent and buy more land, which increases the prices, which locks new farmers out, which leads to further consolidation of land ownership, and so on, and so on, and so on.

The second article addresses the trend of new immigrants to big, expensive cities migrating to smaller, less expensive cities after they have been in the United States a little while. For instance, the Little Guyana in Queens has been emptying as approximately 5,000 Guyanese have moved to Schenectady, New York, where homes are 20% the price of homes in Queens. As one person in the article said, this just shows that these migrants are becoming more American as they embrace the most American more—the search for opportunity.


The Japan Times carried a story about a study on the differences in gestures used to describe an event among various language groups. First, the study indicates that competent bilingual speakers change their gestures when they change language. The study seems to indicate that we use gestures that in some ways mirror or linguistic structures, so that in languages that easily reflect changes in manner and space (he rolls down the street), the gesture reflects this, while languages that do not easily do this (He descend as he rolls) do not have gestures that reflect both simultaneously. The researcher states that "my research suggests that speakers of different languages generate different spatial images of the same event in a way that matches the expressive possibilities of their particular language." That is intuitive at one level, but would be a fascinating finding at another, since it goes to how we even conceive of the world we see.


The Boston Globe has an article about mixed marriages on the East Coast. These are Red Sox-Yankees marriages. I know much of such a relationship, since L is a born and bred Cardinal fan, and I have been a Cub fan as long as I can remember. Love sometimes overcomes good sense. The people they talk to in this article do things like sit in separate rooms, make agreements about never asking the score, and banished each other to corners of rooms when the Red Sox and Yankees play. One couple had Nomar and Jeter bobblehead dolls on the table at their wedding reception. This article speaks to my experience in a way very few ever have. Oh, and one of the Yankee fans is quoted as saying, "Bolshevik Revolution, 26, Bill Buckner" whenever his Sox-loving wife gets feisty. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1918 was the last time the Sox won the World Series. 26 is the number of Yankee World Series wins since 1918. Bill Buckner let the 1986 Red Sox World Series dribble between his legs for a loss.


The Cubs tied their series with the Marlins at 1 game apiece. Sammy Sosa, of whom I am a tepid fan, hit a HUGE shot to center field. It went 495 feet and was probably 100 feet from the scoreboard. I guess nobody will ever hit the scoreboard.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Today is L's birthday. I thought I knew how old she was, but she kindly pointed out, after a swift smack to the noggin, that I was a year off in my calendar. That leaves me doing that math to figure out how old she is. I went to law school so I wouldn't have to do math. Thus, she gets a simple Happy Birthday, I Love You without benefit of the year.


The Straights Times of Singapore has an article about Bobby Jindal, who is running for governor of Louisiana. He is a Republican, which used to be a big impediment in the South, but is not now. He is also neither white, nor black, which used to be very near impossible in most of the South. Jindal is the son of South Asian immigrants. He was born Piyush Jindal, but changed his first name to "Bobby" in honor of the youngest Brady boy. He has also had a remarkable and successful public career in Louisiana. The fact that the same state that ran David Duke not so long ago is now running Bobby Jindal may be the best indicator I have ever seen that times really are changing.


The Christian Science Monitor has a story today about the Forbes magazine list of 40 best cities for singles, and the fallout for "uncool" cities on that list. The first thing they missed was that Forbes magazine is as about uncool a publication as exists. Thus, the Forbes list is kind of like the MTV guide to the top 100 large cap funds. Who cares?

Anyway, the article mostly focuses on Cincinnati and the challenges it faces (which are considerable if you've ever been there). Chicago was 11, behind Dallas, but ahead of Miami and San Diego, while St. Louis was 19, behind Houston, but ahead of Orlando and Sacramento.


The New York Times has a story (registration required) about an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the photographer of the works exhibited. The photographer was a social anthropologist in France and decided to photograph the "quintessential Jew." He went to Jerusalem and photographed Hassidim there. However, as he began to explore the topic further, he photographed non-Israeli, non-American, non-Ashkenazi (European), non-male, non-white Jews. He eventually reached the conclusion that "religious identity is nested in layers of culture, race and nationality." This is a tremendous insight that is interesting because of all of the pictures this guy took, but also in relation to yesterday's posts about the Anglicans, and other changing church issues. In some ways this is an easier concept for some Catholics to grasp, since we, for instance, have English Mass, German Mass, and Spanish Mass. There is a church near us that has Tagalog (Filipino) Mass. There are plenty with Polish Masses. Thus, we are confronted with our diversity all the time. Nevertheless, it is nice to see that conclusion reached when someone tries to photograph the perfect exemplar of their faith.


The New York Times (registration still required) also has a short piece about the guy in the projects in Manhattan who kept a 400 pound tiger. The guy sounds pretty loopy, but I love the fact that the guy's mother and her two foster children moved out of the apartment EARLIER THIS YEAR because they feared the tiger. First, good idea, family. Second, does New York not do any home visits for foster families? How did they explain away the feral cat in the front room?

In another example of wild animals being wild, the Chicago Tribune (registration required) picked up an LA Times story about a couple that was mauled (to death) by grizzly bears in Alaska. Apparently these people enjoyed camping on bear trails, and otherwise pursuing grizzly bears (even into their dens) on the theory that these bears (a) were not inherently dangerous, and (b) would understand that they just wanted to learn about the bears. Apparently they were wrong on both counts.


The Chicago Sun-Times reports that former congressman Mel Reynolds is planning to run against Jesse Jackson, Jr. for Mel's old Congressional seat. Mel is apparently going on the assumption that nobody remembers his trial in 1995. He had a 16 year old girlfriend. She agreed to call him on a phone the police were recording to incriminate him. The transcript is absolutely priceless (although very explicit), and is capped off when Mel discusses the possibility of a threesome with a 15 year old she made up…

MEL: Interesting. Where does she go to school?
BEV: Uh, she said, uhm, oh goodness, I think it's Our Lady of Peace, something like that.
MEL: Lady of Peace? A Catholic school?
BEV: Huh? Yes.
MEL: Jesus, a Catholic --
BEV: A Catholic school girl, right?
MEL: Did I win the Lotto?

Yes, Mel. The Federal prison Lotto.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


As some of my previous posts have made clear, I am fascinated by the way geography and time interact, particularly in cities. In the last two days there have been three articles that really reflect this.

First, the Moscow Times reports that Shanghai's city government is contemplating a limitation on building skyscrapers in the city. This measure would have three benefits. First, it would help minimize the very high winds that can be created between very tall buildings. Second, it would help alleviate overcrowding by lowering housing density. Third, and this is really something, it would help slow the rate at which Shanghai is sinking. It turns out the city is sinking between 1.5 and 3 centimeters per year. Even more amazing is that this sinking is largely due to the overpumping of underground water. So, a city like Shanghai—which once was set t house the world's tallest building—creates a vicious cycle for itself by growing to 15 million, which causes them to pump more water and create more dense housing, which causes the city to sink.

The Christian Science Monitor carried a story on the way the Arab-Israeli conflict is changing the geography of Jerusalem. The Israelis are currently building what is essentially a new Berlin Wall to cut huge sections of the West Bank off from Israel proper. This barrier is directly impacting Jerusalem. This is especially problematic because Jerusalem has tremendous emotional meaning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and is claimed as the capital of both an Arab entity and Israel. Interestingly, the current route of the Wall through Jerusalem is actually dividing Arab neighborhoods, rather than creating a barrier between Jews and Arabs. The article also discusses how the Israelis have used urban planning to change the demographic and cultural mix of parts of Arab East Jerusalem, by barring building, or only giving rare approval for new buildings. Thus, while this area becomes more run down, people start to look elsewhere for nicer places to live, and they are replaced by people more agreeable to the government, who then get permission to build. This is very similar to practices in the United States until the Supreme Court outlawed them. 54% of the Arab areas are under a "building forbidden" order. This article is interesting because it reminds me of the design of the apartheid city I learned in Geography 110 back in college. Contain, restrict, and contain.

Finally, the Chicago Sun Times carried a story about a proposal to convert the site of a steel manufacturing and warehousing facility into a mall. The city of Chicago often opposes moves like this, since the new development destroys any infrastructure that may be used to lure manufacturing jobs to the city on the future. However, apparently this site is "better suited for retail use." And thus, a city on the make continues to change and try to maximize its resources.


Two articles in the last few days really highlighted the importance of words. The first is from the Boston Globe and is about the "director of defining" for Merriam-Webster, Inc. The role of the director of defining is to "look for evidence of new vocabulary." Thus, "barista," "wack," "burn" in the sense of burning CDs, and "dead presidents" for money all made the cut. The important thing is that a word be used in writing, not just spoken. Thus, "gnarly" got a boost when Drew Barrymore used it in a published Rolling Stone interview. Three things coming up in the future: (1) the word "spendy" for expensive is supposed to be moving from the Left Coast across the country; (2) the word "blog" as an up-and-commer for the dictionary; and (3) MW is planning a "Learner's Disctionary" for residents of foreign countries who want to learn American English. While this last is certainly interesting to Wife L, it could also be of use to too many people I know—who were born here!

The New York Times (registration required) reports that officials at Guantanamo are concerned that some of the Arab-language translators they used may have sabotaged interviews by mistranslating (on purpose) the questions and/or answers of Taliban and al Queda suspects. This is an amazing bit of work to pull off at Guantanamo, but it also touches on a statement I read in an article about interrogation in the Atlantic Monthly. They spoke to an Israeli interrogator who did all of his interrogations in Arabic, locally accented for the suspect. This not only was intimidating to the suspect, but also served to cut out any possible mistranslation of the type we are concerned about. It is hard to believe that we do not have Arabic speakers who can do this…


Staying with the theme of change, there were two interesting articles about tensions in different religious communities around the world and the changes they are creating. The Nation's Finest Newspaper somehow stumbled on a substantive story about the Jewish community in Baghdad. The Iraqi Jewish population once numbered approximately 130,000, and had been in Iraq for about 2,600 years. However, in the wake of the Israeli declaration of independence, a wave of anti-Jewish violence swept through Iraq (and much of the Arab world), sending about 120,000 Jews to Israel by the end of 1940s. Under Saddam this number dwindled to about 200. Now, two men observed Yom Kippur together in Baghdad. One is planning to emigrate, the other is an 82 year-old diabetic who refuses to leave Iraq. They believe that there may be about 22 other Jews in all of Iraq right now. Thus, one small commuter plane flight to Israel could represent the end of 2,600 years of Jewish history in Iraq. That is an amazing thought.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the way the issue of homosexuality is tearing the Anglican church apart across the world. Africa is now home to half of the world's Anglicans, with Nigeria alone having 17 million Anglicans (there are about 2 million Episcopals in America). However, while Anglicans and Episcopalians in the West are becoming more liberal with regard to homosexuality, in Africa homosexuality is often against the law and is taboo. Thus, the African Anglicans are very upset with the actions of the West, and are pressing for changes like the creation of a separate conservative Anglican province in North America as an alternative to the more liberal Episcopal Church. This is an interesting issue that is a preview (to a certain extent) of the sort of conflict the Catholic Church could expect if it attempted to move sharply to the left to satisfy some of its American and European members. It bears watching.


The Christian Science Monitor (again) also carried a report on the continued emigration to Argentina. For many in the United States, it is easy to think of Argentina as a relatively homogenous country, with mostly descendants of the Spanish and Indians. In the past three years, 10,000 Ukrainians have moved to Argentina, joining the other one million foreigners among Argentina's 38 millions. Argentina has large Italian, Spanish, and German populations, along with a large Jewish community, Arabs, Armenians, and other South Americans. The most amazing thing is that the Ukrainian woman they interviewed wanted to go to the United States, then to Canada (both English-speaking). However, after 9/11 that was too difficult, so she opted for Argentina (Spanish-speaking) instead. I guess if you are going to change alphabets and language families anyway, Spanish is as easy as English.


By the way, for the first time since 1908, the Cubs won a post-season series. Now, I know that they are no closer to being world champions than they were in 1984 or 1989. On the other hand, winning a post-season series is a necessary step to winning a World Series and with a young pitching staff, and some good young players, it is a good start.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Today is the anniversary of the Wiedervereinigung (reunification) of East and West Germany in 1991. Therefore, if you tried to call Germany today, you didn't get any answer because the whole country is closed.


Last month I had several links regarding beer. Well, the cold weather is coming, so what goes great with beer? Chili. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran an informative piece (registration required) about chili yesterday that is worth a look-see. Now this is not hard-hitting news, but it will keep you hip as you drive cross country eating chili (with the windows open, presumably).

Important chili-related trivia to impress your friend(s) with from the article:

• Chili was apparently originated in San Antonio, Texas.
• Chili is American, not Mexican (which is redundant to point one above, but I repeat it for the geographically challenged).
• There are no beans in Western or Southwestern chili.
• There are beans in Eastern chili.
• Chicago is an Eastern chili city.
• Cincinnati chili, which includes beans, also includes cinnamon and allspice, as well as chocolate flavors. Over spaghetti it is two-way, with spaghetti and shredded cheese it is three way (no jokes from the peanut gallery about having a three way), with spaghetti, cheese, and onions it is four way, and with all of that plus kidney beans it is five way. Kate and I have had Camp Washington chili in Cincinnati, and everything over four way is too much.
• "Chili" is the finished dish known as chili.
• "Chile" is a pepper (or a country, I presume).
• "Chili powder" is a mixture of ground chile and other seasonings.
• "Chile powder" is ground chile.

What the article is completely lacking is the advice from L's mom. A little brown sugar takes the patoot out of the beans. On a long car trip that could be the best advice in the whole article.


The Boston Globe achieved Master of the Obvious status by reporting that the Pope is ill. The man is 83, has Parkinson's disease, and has held an extremely demanding job for 25 years. However, the Archbishop of Vienna (Austria, not Virginia) was quoted as saying that the Pope was in the last weeks or months of his life. A moment's reflection should make clear that we all are, it is just a matter of how many months. Still, this was considered news. The one really good part of this article was a quote by the Pope's secretary of 25 years, and newly minted Archbishop Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz who said, "Many journalists who in the past have written about the pope's health are already in heaven.'' I'm sure many of them are, but where are the rest of them? Also, don't you think this guy needs to buy a vowel?


The Detroit News Auto Insider yesterday carried a story about counterfeit auto products. They pointed out that counterfeit products damage companies that make the real thing, and cost manufacturing jobs. However, the great part of the piece is the list of examples they have seen of counterfeit goods. This reads like something from a Simpson's episode.

• A fire extinguisher filled with flour. Apparently this actually feeds fires… I can see Homer actually shooting this into his mouth. "Mmmmm. Fire retardant."
• Brake linings made of compressed grass, sawdust, or cardboard. Well, the good thing about these is you should know you got counterfeit goods about two stops after you pull away from the mechanic. Yeah, I can see Homer making these in the garage.
• Transmission fluid that is actually dyed cheap oil. Oh yeah. This has Homer all over it. I see him adding the dye, putting it in the car, brushing his hands together and saying "done, and done."
• Filtering components on oil filters that consist of rags stuffed inside. This is SO Homer I don't even have a comment.

The article also says that some of these companies have copied products, then proposed joint ventures with the legitimate producer. I guess they feel like they have a lot to offer. I mean, they've already proven they can pull a MacGyver and make an oil filter out of a peanut, a rubber band, and a rag…


I have not written about my beloved Cubs being in the playoffs. This is because there is nothing more to say. Without reservation, I want desperately for them to win every single game. Thus, there is nothing to write. Still, at least I am in the Chi and get to see the games. The Christian Science Monitor has an op-ed piece from a Cub fan who moved to Rome (Italy, not New York) before this season started. It is very funny, and worth clicking over to. Anyway, it seems that Roman efficiency has kept him from getting his DSL hook-up, and a friend's SKY satellite was also, um, impeded by Roman efficiency. Finally, he had the following exchange with a sports bar owner, " You are going to play the playoffs and the World Series," I said. "Certainly," he said, with a typical Roman smile. "But if the games start at 9 p.m. in New York, that's 3 a.m. in Rome," I said. "Yes," he replied. "So what time do you close?" I asked. "2 a.m.," he replied. "So how will we see the Series?" I asked. He shrugged. There but for the grace of God go each of us…

Moving further south, the subject of the Astros and mold naturally dovetail in a story today from The Nation's Finest Newspaper. As a side note, the article is written by Dino Cappiello of Houston, Teaxs. Yeehaw, that was some might fine ravioli! Anyway, apparently the retractable roof at Enron, er, Minute Maid Park is covered in mold, bacteria, and other assorted germies described by a public health official as "the sort of stuff that grew in my dorm refrigerator." Now, I know what my dorm frig looked like, and that's nasty. Anyway, it couldn't happen to a nicer team.


The Japan Times had an interesting story about the partial failure of the tsunami prediction system after last week's earthquake off Hokkaido. It was a partial failure because the system warned people, but predicted waves of 6 meters (about 18 feet), while the actual waves were 12 meters (about 36 feet). Nevertheless, there were some fascinating items in the story.
• Japan has six regional tsunami information centers, which monitor offshore seismic activity. When a quake or undersea landslide occurs, a supercomputer program is used to make wave predictions based on epicenter and magnitude. Alerts can be issued within minutes.
• Unlike surface tides, tsunami can travel at great depths and at speeds of up to 800 kph. As the water becomes shallow, the waves, slowed by the upward slope, rise higher.
• In 1993 a 30 meter (approximately 90 foot) tsunami hit an island killing 200 people.
• One of the earliest recorded tsunami was a wall of water that leveled the building around a giant statue of the Buddha in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 1498.
• Japan's most devastating tsunami in recent history struck in 1896, killing more than 21,000 people.

Pretty amazing stuff.


The BBC ran a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger under the headline "Arnie Denies Admiring Hitler." Whatever you think about Arnold, this is the headline equivalent of asking him if he still beats his wife. I would expect this of the Houston Chronicle (aka The Nation's Finest Newspaper), but not the venerable BBC.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


In Chicago, we periodically get a glimpse of our history when people dig east of Michigan Avenue downtown. Much of this area is landfill from the Chicago Fire, and the area just north of the river is landfill from Streeter's garbage dump. In addition, Grant park (or parts of it) were once a municipal cemetery. Two stories today touch on this sort of history.

First, the Moscow Times has an article about remains of Italian soldiers from World War II being returned to Italy from Russia. These soldiers were sent into Russia with the Nazis in Operation Barbarossa. For decades the Soviets would not even say where their graves were, but now the Russians and Italians are working to repatriate the remains to Italy. Proving that Hitler was not a good ally, the article indicates that fewer than half of the 230,000 Italian soldiers sent to Russia in the war returned alive.

Second, the New York Times has a very interesting article (registration required) about the reburial tomorrow of the remains of 400 black people buried in New York City during the Colonial Era. The tale of the disinterment of these remains is not very interesting. However, the article does have several interesting tidbits that I, for one, was unaware of:
• At one point during the Colonial era, up to 20% of the population of New York (then only Manhattan) was black;
• New York had more slaves than any city other than Charleston, South Carolina during this era.
• The New York City slave exchange was at South and Wall Streets. Yes, the very same Wall Street…
The pure number of slaves in New York makes some amount of sense, since Philadelphia, while wealthier than New York, was still heavily influenced by Quakers, who would not have owned slaves. Similarly, Boston was still heavily influenced by the Cotton Mather types and also would not have looked kindly upon slavery. Still, it is interesting, since we think of slavery as a Southern phenomenon.

Finally, the article contains a fine example of the problem with Manhattan addresses. Because there is no centralized point from which all street addresses start , even when you have an address (here, 290 Broadway), you need the intersection to actually know where it is (Broadway at Duane Street). That's just silly.


The Nation's Finest Newspaper picked up a story about the musical a Mr. George O'Dowd composed and wrote the lyrics for. You might know Mr. O'Dowd by his alter ego—Boy George. The story is not very interesting (at all), except for a little casting tidbit. The principal character in the musical is Boy George, with a man named Leigh Bowery being another important character. However, George O'Dowd chose to cast himself as . . . Leigh Bowery. Some Scots kid was cast as Boy George. I bet THAT was a surprise.


As many of you know, Rush Limbaugh recently resigned from ESPN's football show because of the reaction to comments he made stating that Donovan McNabb was favored by the media and NFL because he was (and is) black, and that he was overrated. These comments (particularly the latter) are demonstrably false. However, now it appears that Rush may have an excuse for these idiotic statements. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Rush's former housekeeper claims to have procured thousands of prescription pain killers for Rush over the course of four years. She also alleges that she has an e-mail from him saying, "you know how this stuff works . . . the more you get used to, the more it takes." Finally, the authorities are alleged to be investigating this, although they have no comment at this point.

A few things are striking about this story. First, as little as I like Rush, I don't believe that even he would be stupid enough to send an e-mail regarding his illegal drug dealings. Second, for all of us his law-and-order rhetoric, if these allegations are true, he should be sentenced for drug crimes equivalent to the street value by weight of crack for these pills.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I have not had time to blog in a while, but there has been some awfully good stuff happening in the world in my absence, so I will try to catch up now.


The Nation's Finest Newspaper picked up a story about a Houston-area man who lost his wallet in 1996. Last week it magically appeared behind a cash register at the Big Lots where, in retrospect, he thinks he lost it. The money was gone, but the identification, pictures, etc. were still there.

If there are gremlins and other assorted such creatures, they would probably do something like steal a wallet, hide it in the same place for seven years, then have it appear behind a cash register in a Big Lots seven years later.


The Moscow Times had a fantastic quote, saying that the following quote from George W. Bush, were it less "windy," would have made "a haiku of disconnect." The quote, in poetic form is below.

For decades, when the leaders of our two countries met,
they talked mainly of missiles and warheads,
because the only common ground we shared was the desire to avoid catastrophic conflict.
In recent years,
the United States and Russia have made great progress in building a new relationship.


Poor Roma (as the Gypsies are now known). First, one of their princesses (the daughter of a "self-proclaimed king") storms out of the middle of her wedding ceremony. To some extent this is to be expected, since she is only 12 (or 14, nobody is sure). Then, the story is picked up by the international press, as the linked Canadian Press and BBC stories show.

However, there a few legal aspects of this case that make it really dicey. First, as mentioned above, the bride was the daughter of a "self-proclaimed" king. Now, in reality, I guess that essentially all royalty are self-proclaimed at some point. I mean, royalty seems to have started as a meritocracy. Win, and your self-proclaimed status is reinforced. Lose and die. Still, Gypsy king status seems like it ought to have a little higher of a bar than just plain ol' king, since the gypsies are an international group.

Second, the Canadian and British reports disagree on the legal minimum age for marriage in Romania. Neither believes that it is legal for a 12 year old to get married (sorry Mr. Lewis), but the Canadians think it is 18, while the Brits think it is 16. I guess with what we know of the Canadians, it seems more reasonable to believe the Brits. On the other hand, I am guessing that a Romanian jail is a little harsh, so you might want to wait until you gypsy bride turns 18—just to be on the safe side.


America's Finest Newspaper picked up an LA Times story with my new favorite word in it: "Papabili." This is apparently Italian for "pope-ables," and denotes those Cardinals thought to be possible candidates for Pope if and when John Paul II dies. I try to use "papabili" at least once a day.


The Moscow Times reports that the Ukrainian President has indicated that Ukraine should stop aspiring to EU membership. Instead, it should focus on its customs union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan and building trade with those countries. Isn't this how the Ukrainians ended up a Soviet state in the first place? Does he really think that Belarus and Russia will be better economic allies than Great Britain and Germany? Poor Ukraine. Seems like their president may be taking a page from the Belarusian dictator's playbook and becoming friends with the country that doesn't care if he ever holds elections.


America's Finest Newspaper does occasionally run an actual news story worth being printed. For instance, today, they ran a story about Christians in Iraq. It is estimated that about 5% of Iraqis are Christian (mostly Chaldean Catholics). Anyway, it is a good article, but the real gem comes from a Shiite leader, who says of his Christian countrymen, "Christians should listen to the instruction of Jesus Christ, who didn't take alcohol at all, and also to the Virgin Mary, who didn't wear makeup or take drink."
Now, I have a little quote here from the Gospel of John (2:1-11) which I think may, just may, undercut the no alcohol argument:

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with His disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."

And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you."

Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it.

When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew, the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.

This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Now, I'm no scholar, but the fact that Mary basically ordered Jesus to make more wine implies to me that (a) wine was not theologically problematic, and (b) that Mary might have had a little sippy sip herself. On the other hand, I can find no reference to Mary at the Lancôme counter at the Jerusalem Nordstrom's, so the Shiite guy may have a point about the make-up.

Here is a link to the second half of the Christian Science Monitor article on the Uighurs in China. It is an excellent article and worth a read (if not commentary).