Saturday, 31 January 2009

Doing the "Time Warp" East German style

Quirky little story ..... a developer opened up a flat in East Germany and found that it was a time capsule of East German life.

Littered around the flat were long-forgotten East German relics such as "Vita" cola, "Marella" margarine, "Juwel" cigarettes, and an empty bottle of "Kristall" vodka, colloquially referred to as the "Blue Strangler." The rooms were decorated with furnishings dating from the 1950s to 1980s, and the toilet was located on the communal landing, as was common for East German tenement blocks. A wall calendar showed August 1988 and that's when the flat was last believed to have been entered.

Mr Aretz said he had found documents in the flat showing that the occupant was a 24-year-old man who had been in trouble with the police. “It’s unclear if his offences were political or if he was a petty criminal. He had spent two terms in jail and he was definitely someone who didn’t fit in with the system. I’ve kept his documents. So far, he hasn’t got in touch with me.”

Turkeys Honour?

Once again the Turks have displayed why they are not European, and are in fact an Islamic oriented country with more in common with Syria than with Sweden.

At the economic forum at Davos, where the great, the good and the not so great and good meet to discuss the world economy, the Israeli's were making what was described as a vigorous defence of their actions in Gaza. This apparently upset Turkeys Islamic party Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he considered that he should have the 'right of reply' but either didn't get any, or only got a limited time span (accounts differ on this point).

He then pulled up his skirts and flounced out, declaring later that Mr Peres' language and tone had been unacceptable, so he acted to stand up for Turkish honour. "I only know that I have to protect the honour of Turkey and Turkish people."

Well unfortunately this blog is all too aware of 'Turkish honour' with its prosecution of writers, genocide denials (of Armenians), disrespect of Christians and Churches and their regular attacks on, and suppression of the Kurds (both in Turkey and Iraq).

The rise of "Violent Nationalism" fuelled by "Turkish Honour" and interlinked with Religious Bigotry is why so many Europeans fear Turkeys attempts to join the EU. The Turkish public who met the plane to proclaim their pride in the PM, had banners greeting Mr Erdogan as "a new world leader" and chanting that "Turkey is with you."

Sounds much like the Syrians, Libyans, Saudis and not much like Norway, Germany or Spain.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Manners Maketh The Man

I have blogged a good many times on the future of human evolution and hereditary before, so imagine my amusement, when a story about how breeding and social manners, doomed 19th century British men to a watery fate, whilst brash American men avoided that same fate.

According to the story, More British passengers died on the Titanic because they queued politely for lifeboats.

A behavioural economist says data suggests Britons in that era were more inclined to be "gentlemanly" while Americans were more "individualist". Mr David Savage, from Queensland University of Technology, studied the disaster to look at how people react in life and death situations.

He said that in testimonies from inquiries in America and Britain just after the event, there were a lot of statements from women saying their husbands put them on lifeboats.

They then "went to the back of the boat to have a cigar, to stand around and be chummy, while basically the boat went down. There was one gentleman who was rather wealthy... who went back downstairs after he put his wife on the life boat... put on his tuxedo...went back upstairs and smoked... with the idea that if I am going die, I may as well die as a gentleman and well-dressed."

As the Titanic went down ocean liner went down in freezing Atlantic waters during its voyage from Southampton to New York. As it sank, the captain, Edward John Smith, shouted: "Be British, boys, be British," according to witnesses.

Mr Savage said "The American culture was set up to be a more individualist culture and the British culture was more about the gentlemanly behaviour. You've got to remember that this is the Edwardian period when to be a 'gentleman' was the peak of society." Mr Savage also concludes that social norms such as "women and children first" were very strong in British culture and survived even in such an environment.

Ah, so now we know why we lost the will to Empire and have become a colony .... we are too bloody polite.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Is it Wolfman? Not its Goatman!

If ever there was a story that proved that some the human race is still only partially out of the worlds of sorcery and ignorance, its the news from Nigeria that a crowd of local vigilantes have arrested and handed a goat over to the police.

They claimed that the goat was actually a car thief who had changed into a goat to (unsuccessfully it appears) escape capture. Many members of African communities still believe in witchcraft, voodoo, shape changing and zombies etc.

These kinds of stories come out far too regularly to be dismissed as just 'eccentricity' and this small sample from this century;
shows that its well spread both in Africa and amongst African/Caribbean communities.

Of course non African cultures such as the Saudis believe in witchcraft as well, and no doubt in the multicultural world in which we now live, these beliefs are of 'equal value and validity' as science and the age of reason ..... however the wisdom of that kind of PC nonsense aside, and ignoring the fact that there is much laughter in Nigeria, and elsewhere, at the story, there is a more serious point to this story.

Much of Africa is ill educated and ignorant (frankly not much different than before the colonial era), and there lies the key to its continuing failure as a continent.

Until all Africans are given a free, secular education, they will never escape the primitism and tribalism that scar the post colonial history of sub Saharan Africa.

Justice Makes A Small Advance

Accustomed as we have all become to CSI solving crimes inside an hour on slick US crime dramas, it comes as a welcome bit of news that a new forensic test, devised by British Boffin, John Bond (licenced to skill), is helping catch murderers who walked away from crimes years ago.

The British inventor's new fingerprinting technique has given fresh impetus to half a dozen unsolved cases, and could help police identify the killer of a man shot dead 10 years ago in the US. Oddly the 10 yr old murder, is the only unsolved killing on the books of the city of Bristol, Connecticut. That's helluva a detection rate, and one the people of Bristol, England can only dream of.

As we have just been handed UK figures showing once again that serious crime is continuing to spiral out of control, and that custodial sentencing is falling in the UK, it may seem pointless catching criminals, but if it helps societies that still lock up criminals, it still has to be good news.

A Rose By Any Other Name?

The Bard said that "A Rose By Any Other Name. would smell as sweet" ..... Well some people in the US are so worried by the rise of 'Spanish' as an alternative 'official' language to English in the US (actually the US has no 'official language' at the federal level, and according to urban myth it was nearly German just after independence), that, led by the ProEnglish group, they have been taking measures to counter that threat, and make English the unofficial 'official language' of cities, and states.

However this campaign took a bit of a set back when Nashville voted 41,752 votes to 32,144 against the "English First" amendment, but as it stands, thirty states, including Tennessee, and at least a dozen cities have declared English their 'official' language, according to ProEnglish.

Actually, despite the forecasts that White Americans will no longer constitute an overall majority in the US by the year 2042, probably no other group will ever constitute an absolute majority either. History shows that no language is permanent .... Latin never survived as a living native language even after 600 years of the Roman Empire, but usually its very hard to supplant an established language, even with a complete cultural displacement, and can take centuries.

Norse French (as brought by the Normans) eventually died out in England, and in native Indian areas of Mexico and South America, Spanish is not the main language even after 500 years of suppression of native culture.

The 'Hispanics' will amount to about 30% by 2050, and although in the black economy you might be able to survive with out speaking *English, its hard to imagine English disappearing for several centuries.

*Inside some communities its possible to exist without speaking to any non member of the community. Some Yiddish or Hebrew speakers in the early 19th century in New York will have never had to learn English. Many Pakistani immigrants in the UK and Europe speak no local language.

Its a dangerous trend, encouraged by "Multiculturalist's", and stops assimilation. The term 'Little Italy' etc was an outward manifestation of this phenomena.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Human Cost Of War

I am usually pretty hard on the militant forms of Islam that threaten the existence of, what I consider to be better cultures, however I am not personally discriminatory against individuals, who I treat as I find.

So I was as moved as any normal human being would be, over a particularly sad story from Gaza, where an ordinary Gazan and his family have paid a very high price for the intransigence of the movements that sweep that part of the world.

Its sometimes easy to forget how many terror groups have, or still operate in Gaza and Palestine. Yasir Arafat's Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palestine Liberation Organization, Palestine Liberation Front, Abu Nidal's Fatah faction, al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, Hizbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda.

There were also Jewish terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi (Anti British), and Haganah and Palmach to fight the Arabs in the 30's and 40's (5,000 Arabs were killed by these groups, against 400 Jews, and 200 Britons).

This list disregards even smaller splinter groups, and means that ordinary people have little or no chance of living with out having to pay money, or pledge allegiance to, the various gunmen and criminals who naturally gravitate towards these organisations.

Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish , who recently lost his wife to leukemia, has now lost two of his children when an Israeli tank fired a shell through his house and others are severely wounded and maimed. Apologies hardly seem adequate to express sorrow for such a terrible loss.

"Collateral Damage" is a term that is often loosely bandied about without enough thought. The terrible grief that Dr Abuelaish's family will suffer for the rest of their lives, is what 'collateral damage' really means in far too many cases.

So while I struggle to sympathise with the cause of Palestinian Arabs, who could so easily be absorbed into the wider Arab world, (rather than living in a permanent state of 'refugee status', just to allow militants to keep the 'struggle' alive), I have to feel sorry for those who suffer on behalf of the gunmen; they so rarely get a voice.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Mars Farts Are Signs Of Life?

Yes, as I blogged merely a couple of weeks ago, the circumstantial evidence that there is life on Mars continues to mount up.

Mars Methane ....

This week, NASA has admitted that they have evidence of Methane appearing over certain areas of Mars.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

African Innovation

The Ivory Coast, despite a civil war and political troubles has displayed an unexpected bit of self reliance and produced the first locally designed and produced bus (I think South Africa produces buses but they are foreign designed).

The engineering arm of the national transport company, Sotra, decided it could create a bus better suited to African conditions, whilst saving money and employing local talent as well.

"We want the transfer of technology in Africa, and we want to build our own buses with our own specification," says Sotra's director Mamadou Coulibaly. "In Europe the technology is very sophisticated with lots of electronic devices. In Africa we don't need this. We just need robust buses because our roads are not very well done like in Europe. This is an African design for Africa."

They may not be great buses (no AC in Africa is tough driving!), but I expect that they do the trick (Remember, the T-34 in WW2 was not a polished engineering feat, but the Russians produced lots more of them cheaply, than the Germans could Tigers), and more importantly show the Africans what is possible if you put down the begging bowl, stop complaining about "White Colonialists" and do some work.

They have already have orders from their local neighbours, so it looks like it has a chance of succeeding.

Bulgarian Bogs, Bugs Bulgars

Sometimes the brightest of ideas can have the strangest of results. The Czech's, proud of holding the revolving presidency of the EU, commissioned what they thought was work from 27 European artists for a display. Unfortunately it was all the work of a local boy David Cerny, who then satirised the whole European Project, much to the annoyance of the Czechs neighbours.

Most angry were the Bulgarians whose country was portrayed as a series of squat "Turkish style" toilets, which hints at the centuries of occupation by Turkey, and who have complained, forcing an apology from the Czech's. The Bulgarians, in a Borat fit of humour have sent Mr Cerny a toilet bowl ..... hmm is that actually ironic or just plain stupid?

He has a go at quite a few countries, Holland for example is shown as a series of minarets submerged by a flood - hinting at the Islamic immigrant flood that is submerging Holland. The UK simply is not included, as we are notoriously sceptical about being in Europe.

Anyway, if you want to see what all the fuss is about, go here.

Makes A Nice Change!

The Iranians are finally getting the "hang" of this "Equal Opportunity" thingy, however it may need a little refinement before it meets EU standards!

News was out this week that two men convicted of adultery were stoned to death in north-eastern Iran last month, but a third convicted man managed to escape, according to Iran's judiciary spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshid.

Normally the man is either not even charged, or bribes his way out of trouble, whereas the poor women get hanged, stoned, or shot (and sometimes all three), so this has to be taken as a great advance in equality in Islamic jurisprudence.

The escapee? Ah well he was a wily Afghan who apparently managed to dig himself out of the hole (Men are buried only to the waist, but women to the shoulder ...... Hmm, seems a bit unfair that, but have to walk before we can run eh?), and therefore escaped execution.

Italians Nearly In Outer Space

There was a time when "Italians in Outer Space" was only a jokey LP title by Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, an excellent spoof rock band, formed in Manchester, England in 1973. I was living there at the time, and saw this band on the club circuit, especially as the Punk Rock scene got going.

Anyway, that thought crossed my mind as I read this story on the BBC web site, about an Italian astronomer Andrea Boattini. who has spotted Six comets in one year, which is the most found by an Italian astronomer since the mid-19th Century, even if it is not a world record.

He is part of the the Catalina Sky Survey, which is part of a Nasa project to find and track near-Earth objects (NEOs) ..... Comets, Asteroids, and anything else that could bump into us. Asteroids are far more common in the Solar System than comets, and potentially far more hazardous to Earth. As they are mostly rockier, smaller and less spectacular than comets, they are usually harder to find, but there is a vast belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

The team that Andrea Boattini is a part of is looking for NEOs larger than one kilometre (0.62 miles) in diameter, and has found 763 asteroids and 82 comets in that category. That is 81% of the estimated total of near-Earth asteroids wider than 1km. However new technology means that their task has been expanded to include logging NEOs as small as 140m (460ft) in diameter. The target is to find 90% of these by 2020.

Why is this work important? Well when you realise that a rock about 50m wide, which exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908 (Known to all X Files followers and UFO fans as "The Tunguska Event"), levelled a vast area of forest, and the impact energy was comparable to a modern nuclear weapon of between 10 -15 megatons ...... you can see how big a bang one of these NEOs can cause!

If you want to see the effects of one smallish nuclear weapon, go here and select your target of choice e.g Washington. Click on map to place explosion site in region.

So keep up the good work Andrea!!

Note: An object is classed as an NEO if it comes within 45 million km (28 million miles) of Earth's orbit. Astronomers call that within 0.3 astronomical units (AU) - one unit being the distance of the Earth from the Sun. If the distance is only 0.05AU or less it is a potentially hazardous object.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Double Standards in Middle East

I came across the video "Hamas in their own voices", via a link to another blog on the Burnt Toast website .... This American voiced video on You Tube shows various HAMAS supporters and MP's on their local or Arabic TV.

All the broadcasts were from before the current Gaza crisis, and its a real pity that our politicians and liberal broadcasters aren't forced to watch this, then ask the Muslims marching down our Streets, why they march to support this regime, and why they don't march to protest Hamas rockets?

As I have remarked before, the double standards of the Arab world and their Western apologists are breathtaking.

They feel that they can

  • Launch missiles at civilian targets from their 'sovereign territories' (No UN comment or anything less than full support from the Muslim world, even though its a 'war crime') and expect no one to fight back.
  • Use human shields while attacking Israel then complain about civilian casualties when fire is returned.
  • Preach for the death of all *Jews but complain about a cartoon "offending" Islam.
  • Call for the Conquest of Rome (like Constantinople) whilst banning non Muslims from Mecca or Medina.
  • Call for the the conquest and forced conversion of Western Europe, but complain about any restriction in Muslim emigration to these same "crusader" lands.
  • Threaten both Americas and Eastern Europe with the same fate that they plan for Western Europe, but complain about "Crusaders" being in Muslim lands.
  • Request the right to use a Spanish Cathedral to pray whilst refusing Catholics use of a church in "European" Turkey - Similarly Turkey denies the Sophia Hague to the Greeks.
  • Demand respect for their cult, but refuse to give the same to anyone else.
  • And kill more fellow Muslims each day than any 'crusaders' would ever dare (or want), but cry crocodile tears if a non Muslim even looks harshly at them.

Ironically if they followed the tenets of the 'peaceful and tolerant religion' they claim to be, they would have their own state, would not have barriers raised against them around the world, and not be feared or despised.

The fact that they deliberately use schools such as the UN school hit by Israel last week is graphically shown on this Israeli Defence Force video, again from You Tube.

Its hard to see how this video from outside the very UN school that made the news can be denied, so no doubt it will just be ignored by the UK and EU governments calling for an end to "Israeli aggression".

*"Israel should be wiped from the face of the Earth. It is an animal state that recognises no human worth. It is a cancer that should be eradicated," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led government. This was in 2006, following another Israeli retaliation to a Hamas rocket attack which resulted in a large number of civilian casualties.

And What Rough Beast?

With Gaza still afire and dominating another weeks news, one can't help having a poem by W.B Yeats "THE SECOND COMING" cross ones mind.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Its amazing how much mythology and symbology centres on "The Holy Land" as being where the final days will start.

The last two lines of the poem "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" seems particularly pertinent at the moment.

To Have And To Hold On To

"To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part" etc etc Amen .... these are the hopeful vows that many couples make at weddings. Sadly we are all too aware that this state of bliss often lasts only a small period of time .........

However an American couple are making the news at the moment, because they are taking the marital split to new levels, with the man, Dr Richard Batista demanding the return of a kidney (or a monetary equivalent of $1.5m), that he donated to his soon to be ex-wife Dawnell, in better times.

He said he had not only "given his heart to his wife", Dawnell, but also "donated his kidney to save her life" and that therefore the value of this 'gift' should be included in any final settlement. Her divorce lawyers say a donated organ is not a marital asset to be divided.

The issue is due to be placed before a judge this week ...... we watch with some interest.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Something Righteous And Hopeful For A Change?

In keeping with my righteous and hopeful New Year blogging stories, this story made me smile.

Two (very) young German children plus their 'mature witness' attempted to elope to South Africa "where it is warm" to get married because they were "very much in love".

Anna-Lena aged 5, and Mika aged 6 packed bathing costumes, sunglasses and a lilo, and with Anna-Lena's older sister Anna-Bell aged 7 in tow as the 'official witness', headed for Hamburg airport.

The tiny trio walked 1km (approx half a mile) to the local tram station at Langenhagen, where they hopped on a tram for Hanover central station, but alas the path of true love never runs smoothly, and as they waited for a train to the airport, the police were called in by an alert railway guard (who should be commended).

Police Officers persuaded the children that they would need some tickets and money to get any further, but offered them the alternative of a free tour of the police station instead, until they were later picked up by their parents.

Although their immediate marriage plans have been put on ice for now (well at least until they have saved up their euros for the tickets), the police did not altogether rule out the possibility of an African wedding. "They can still put their plan into action at a much later date," AFP quoted the spokesman as saying.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Surprising Landmark

The news so far this year is sadly dominated by the war in Gaza, and in fact killings around the world. Well like my favourite character from "Kelly's Heroes", Oddball says, "Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?" So I will.

Mars exploration has been profoundly boosted by the surprise survival of NASA's very own little WAL-E's, Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Rovers. They were predicted to last about three months in the extreme conditions on Mars, when they landed in January 2004.

But five years later, they are damaged but still operating and performing mission objectives. The results are the equivalent of twenty mars missions and are likely to provide even more data in the next twelve months.

They have given so much information that our whole knowledge of the eco-history of Mars has been rewritten.
  • We definitely know that Mars continues to have water locked in the subsoil in vast quantities.
  • Mars had slowly running water for long enough periods to lay down sedimentary rocks in the past.

  • We now know that the basics for life existed in the past and maybe now.
  • They have found that there are caves that are warmer than the ground level temperatures, and that are deep enough for different conditions to pertain ..... they won't explicitly say it, but if life survives, its likely to be in deep in caves, where protection from UV rays, atmosphere, temperature, and water may exist in the stable temperatures.
  • Snow falls in the Mars atmosphere and water frost forms on the surface.
And finally, they have passed us fantastic views of another planet ..........

How Cool Is That?

NB: The European Space Agency has a web cam which is flying through space around Mars, although it hibernates in the winter .... Sadly both Nasa and Esa have announced delays to their next Mars missions so when these brave little rascals pack up, it may be many years before more space craft land on the Red Planet.


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