April 30, 2008

Zimbab . . . . .

I haven't posted much on Zimbabwe since the days immediately following the election because I was too frustrated with what was going on and how the world sat around and let it go on . . . .  But, finally, a month after the election we've got some presidential results and here too there is nothing really new.  Mugabe is admitting he "lost" but insisting that Tsvangirai didn't get the necessary 51% to win the presidency outright.  So, after a month of the most heinous intimidation and scare tactics he could manage to roll out on such short notice Mugabe is "reluctantly" willing to participate in a run-off.  After the doings of the last month it is not surprising that he is confident of a victory this time around nor that the opposition wants nothing to do with it.  Chris Blattman summarizes nicely the reactions soon to come from the international community:
It's a matter of hours before the South African government says something disappointingly conciliatory, and the Brits and Americans make ridiculous and empty threats. 

George Bush, coming to a CSA near you?

From his press conference yesterday:
One thing I think that would be -- I know would be very creative policy is if we -- is if we would buy food from local farmers as a way to help deal with scarcity, but also as a way to put in place an infrastructure so that nations can be self-sustaining and self-supporting. It's a proposal I put forth that Congress hasn't responded to yet, and I sincerely hope they do.
Nobody seems to know what "proposal" he is talking about, my guess is that it concerns food sovereignty for OTHER countries but I could be wrong.

(via)

Online Video, Not to be confused with TV

Here is the video presentation of the aforementioned talk by Clay Shirky:

Limiting Factors


There is an interesting piece in the NYT that does a good job of explaining why I'm reluctant to endorse a call for the next agricultural revolution to once again be dependent upon chemical fertilizer usage.  To do so is to paint ourselves into the proverbial corner:
Then the widespread use of inexpensive chemical fertilizer, coupled with market reforms, helped power an agricultural explosion here that had already occurred in other parts of the world. Yields of rice and corn rose, and diets grew richer.

Now those gains are threatened in many countries by spot shortages and soaring prices for fertilizer, the most essential ingredient of modern agriculture.

Some kinds of fertilizer have nearly tripled in price in the last year, keeping farmers from buying all they need. That is one of many factors contributing to a rise in food prices that, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program, threatens to push tens of millions of poor people into malnutrition.

The article glosses over a few important details but it does a good job of explaining how modern, conventional farming is built upon the clay feet of chemical petroleum based nitrogen.  Limiting factors are inherent in agriculture and the ability to manipulate those factors by stepping outside of natural cycles and introducing synthetic options has always been a short term gain, even if it is not recognized as such.  So, we need solutions more creative than calls to redouble our dependence upon already crumbling structures.  The UN has already recognized this in their state of global agriculture report released earlier this month:

Business as usual is no longer an option,” the report stresses. The first conclusion: while agricultural science and technology has made it possible to greatly increase productivity in the last 50 years, the sharing of benefits has been far from equitable. Furthermore, progress has been achieved in many cases at a high social and environmental cost. The report’s authors therefore recommend that agricultural science place greater emphasis on safeguarding natural resources and on “agroecological” practices. These include using natural fertilizers and traditional seeds, intensifying natural processes and reducing the distance between agricultural production and the consumer

That sounds like good, progressive thinking.  Unfortunately, it looks like we need more creative thinkers on the issue than we currently have.  The NYT piece ends with this depressing quote from Norman Borlaug:

"This is a basic problem, to feed 6.6 billion people,” said Norman Borlaug, an American scientist who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his role in spreading intensive agricultural practices to poor countries. “Without chemical fertilizer, forget it. The game is over.”

Depressing because Borlaug, the man who may have saved more lives than anyone in history, is unable now, in the face of a starkly different situation than the one he faced earlier in the century, to think beyond the old models of development.  We need some new Borlaugs.

April 29, 2008

Same story . . .

This nice little rant from the Philadelphia Enquirer sums up nicely my reluctance to endorse Sachs's call for another green revolution fueled by conventional fertilizers and high-yield GMO's, here is a bit:
The food shortages, suddenly front-page news, are not new. Hundreds of millions were starving and malnourished last year; the only change is that as the crisis has grown, it has become more difficult to "manage" the hunger that a failed food system accepts rather than feeds.

The current global food system, designed by U.S.-based agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM and forced into place by the U.S. government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthy food for local consumption and regional stability.
Read the whole thing.

Sachs on the Food Crisis

I'm not a huge fan of Sachs.  He's a good writer, a good summarizer of information, and a good front man but his policy solutions tend to be too Western-centric and thus too heavily dependent upon throwing money at problems for my tastes which run more towards sustainable solutions.  However, like I said, he's a good compiler and communicator of data and thus I was remiss in not pointing out his piece in Time - here is his summary on the causes of the global food crisis:
The crisis has its roots in four interlinked trends. The first is the chronically low productivity of farmers in the poorest countries, caused by their inability to pay for seeds, fertilizers and irrigation. The second is the misguided policy in the U.S. and Europe of subsidizing the diversion of food crops to produce biofuels like corn-based ethanol. The third is climate change; take the recent droughts in Australia and Europe, which cut the global production of grain in 2005 and '06. The fourth is the growing global demand for food and feed grains brought on by swelling populations and incomes. In short, rising demand has hit a limited supply, with the poor taking the hardest blow.

The last three trends I don't have much of a problem with, the first I'll quibble with in a moment and while the specter of rising oil prices is underlying several of them-fertilizers, biofuels, tranportation-I'm curious as to why he didn't bring it front and center. 

His solutions to countering these trends?  First, spend a lot of money on fertilizer and high-yield seeds thus, in effect, hopefully spurring another green revolution.  I worry about this solution, especially in the case of fertilizers, as dependence upon them and the methods of farming that are incumbent with their use are heavily entrenched in the corporate led global food system.  High-yield seeds, code words for GMO's, are a matter of no small debate but unfortunately the debate is often phrased in paternalistic tones when directed at developing countries who refuse to open their markets, or fields, to their use.  Second, Sachs jumps on the biofuel bashing wagon and says America and the EU should abandon all subsidies for the fuel crops.  Third, and most intriguing to me is basically a call to develop ways to "weather proof the world's crops" by developing sustainable methods of accommodating and adjusting to changes in the global climate.

These aren't bad solutions but neither are they quick solutions and in the face of our 100 million global neighbors now facing the threat of starvation its hard not to ask how we didn't see this coming

Inevitable

He looks tired and disappointed while he is doing it but given the way politics in America works it was inevitable that he would have to do so, which is as big a tragedy as anything else in the whole mess.

Something for the Ladies

These early Flight of the Conchords videos broadcast on a regional/local access channel are great on so many levels.  Here's "Something for the Ladies" but all are highly recommended:


We were bummed to hear that they wouldn't be back on HBO until next year, so here are a few more classics to tide you over:


April 28, 2008

Apocalypse Cow

The Simpsons take on feed lots:




The whole thing is worth a watch.

Instant Kitchen

I really like these kitchen designs by Hansen Living.  The folks at Apartment Therapy gave them a look see while in Copenhagen (also in NYC, but nowhere near me) and came away with this inspiration tip:
Knud explained that when he embarked on designing Hansen's product line, he asked some of the best chefs in Copenhagen what made them 'laugh at the typical consumer kitchen.' Then he did the opposite. The result is a collection of free-standing units with no overhead cabinets, but rather drawers below counters. Each drawer is lined with a metal perforated bottom to allow air circulation. The base pieces are raised on legs to allow access for cleaning the entire kitchen floor.

The chefs and Knud agree that overhead cabinets decrease the use of available counter space, increase the chances of hitting one's head while chopping vegetables, and make any space look smaller. They also agree not to "give people too much space" or they might try to fill it with things they don't need. In fact, Knud told me, if clients, ask for more cabinets once the kitchen is delivered, he encourages them to think about it for 6 more months and if they still feel a lack of space, they can call him and he'll concede. According to Knud, they never call.
This is their Instant Kitchen designed for small studio-type dwellings which, if it were installed in our 350 square-foot apartment would be infinitely more useful than our current gerrymandered kitchen configuration:

Non-Ideological Transcendent Challenges of the 21st Century: Food

Ok - this is my second introductory interlude (see italics below).  I should just delete the whole thing but I'll leave it for posterity.  I'm even less ambitious this, my third time around, to try and finish this post but I feel the need to post something regarding the current food crisis since its makes up about 2/3 of the links I've been bookmarking over the past month and actually makes the case for my original post even stronger.  Unfortunately, that means that this has devolved into nothing more than a glorified links post, sorry, but I'll only include the best/most helpful for your and my sake.

The Washington Post has just started a new five-part series that gives a good introductory overview and so far seems to be pretty solid.  Including this pretty sweet graphic which gets at the heart of the net import/export issue (at least on a nation state issue - see original post, way down there, for how that plays out in-state) and who that makes more vulnerable:



The folks at the Center for Global Development blog call for a New Deal style trade policy on hunger and then rightly point out what will NOT help things get better, the adaption by Africa and Latin America of American/European style subsidies which are themselves part of the problem: 

If that were not enough, despite the current global food crisis, the farm bill retains an additional subsidy to U.S. shipowners, as well as farmers, by requiring that U.S. food aid be purchased in the United States, packaged here, and much of it shipped to where it is needed on U.S.-owned ships. That means that roughly half of the already-inadequate U.S. food aid budget goes for distribution and transportation, rather than to feed hungry people in poor countries.

(This single fact alone is why Care International decided last year to stop receiving $45 million in federal aid money from the US Government.)

Reuters also has a good round up of articles/coverage on what they are calling Agflation with the incumbent maps and graphics, I'm a sucker for those.

If you are visual/auditory oriented check out Bill Moyers' recent segment which focuses more on America but has a good segment on subsidies and an interview with David Beckmann from Bread for the World.

For your online economist's roundup try these posts by Chris Blattman, Simon Johnson here, Tyler Cowen here, Dani Rodrick's response to Cowen and his taking to task of the World Bank's Zoellick, Tyler's response to Rodrick's response, Paul Collier here

There is, of course, more but that will get you started and up to speed and if anything of interest pops up I'll let you know.

April 14th - This post has been sitting in my draft box for about 2 weeks now as I just haven't had the energy to pull it together and say all I wanted to say, because, let's be honest, I'm writing it for myself.  But over the last four or five days there have been a number of articles, op-eds, and blog posts that say, from much more credible sources, pretty much everything I wanted to say and they say it better so I'll try and pull them all together and make some sense of the conglomeration.  

April 6'th - There were several, more worthy, contenders for the title of "transcendent challenge of the 21st century" that came to mind when I pointed out John McCain's elevation of the confusion between cause and effect to the level of a national security issue.  The first, actually it may have been second, is not nearly as sexy, especially in an election year, as "radical Islamic extremism" but it seems like it should be an important issue regardless since it finds a spot on most lists entitled "Necessities of Life."  Food.

Food is getting a lot of buzz these days as global prices are on the rise and that is a challenge worthy of some weighty contemplation.  For Mr. McCain and his ilk such contemplation can easily be phrased in the language of, "What contextual factors might lead to the creation or inflammation of breeding grounds for 'radical Islamic extremism'?" and valid cases for concern are readily forthcoming. (1 scoop of poor governance + 2 extremist conflicts + 1 skyrocketing price of palm oil = Pakistan)  However, there are a number of other reasons to be worried about rising global food prices that have nothing to do with playing the terrorist card.

The global commodities market has long been a damned if you do, damned if you don't affair when it comes to food prices.  Low prices on global markets are bad news for rural farmers who can't make enough money off their crops to feed their families or recoup for next season's planting, but the urban poor are awash in cheap cereal crops that get off loaded onto developing markets in a sea of "generosity" (sticking it to the rural one more time by driving their local prices even lower).  High prices on global markets are good news for rural farmers because they can actually turn a profit on their crops (thanks in part to the absence of the aforementioned "generosity" which suddenly has a market elsewhere) both locally and globally and lay aside a bit for the future, but the urban poor get the short end of this one with no food aid arriving and no recourse to grow for profit. 

So, what do you do?  My hope, when one or two of these stories started emerging at the end of last year was that this would be hunger's "peak oil" - i.e., it would spur a rash of rethinking when it comes to the commodities market, global agriculture, and sustainability resulting in a call for newer, better methods and technologies that were rooted in the realities of the issue, a realization of the necessity of local production and a foot firmly in the marketplace.  I'm not sure that is happening.

Vices

Tips on reducing your coffee consumption:

1.  Use a smaller cup/mug - 8 ounces max.

2.  Brew the best coffee you can afford at your own home.  Develop a taste for the good stuff and if you are like me your own budget constraints will self-limit your consumption and keep you away from the swill generally available at convenience stores and Starbucks by making you an insufferable coffee snob.

April 27, 2008

Links

I don't agree with everything this guy says but its an interesting read regarding intellectual opportunity costs, the amount of TV we watch as a nation annually-about 2000 Wikipedia projects worth, and what might be possible if we harness even a fraction of that.

My prediction: this will be the most "entertaining" Olympics ever, it will have nothing to do with the actual games and before its over everyone, Chinese officials included, will regret the day Beijing won the right to host.

Free wireless in Starbucks:  if you're an At&t broadband customer, a Starbucks Card holder  or a Starbucks employee.  (capped at two hours daily it looks like, and rolling out store by store)

Prompted by the Aliza Schvarts hubbub here is a convenient list of outrageous art projects that have already been done so you don't have to.

About a month ago I tried to find a way to filter my google search results by date of "publication" and  I couldn't really find anything helpful, but this URL trick does exactly that by inserting a handy little drop down box like that found in Google News.  Very useful - and if you look in the comments someone has posted a java script that you can drop into your bookmark bar.

Delta is finally going to give some love to coach with new roomier seats?

For some reason, we were talking about Miley Cyrus last night (don't ask) and our general consensus was that there are definitely worse options out there for the category of "teen idol" and that her parents seem to be doing a decent job raising her.  All that to say that it will be interesting to see if there is any fallout from the "topless" Vanity Fair photo shoot.  Three thoughts:  To quote Miley, they don't seem "skanky," in fact they seem more "bad senior portrait" than anything else; you do what Annie Liebovitz tells you to do; she's fifteen and whomever is really minding her career knows that despite the possible (inevitable?) pitfalls it is better to go the Britney Spears route than the Hilary Duff one.

Breaking (old) Lost news: they've added an extra hour of Lost content to the season finale, basically giving us one more episode than we thought we would have.
 
Sorry.

  

The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized

That is the title of a very good article in April's Harper's Magazine.  We were talking with some friends last night about the current state of the food industry so this was one of many paragraphs that stood out:
I asked Stoker if he’d ever considered returning to a smaller, healthier style of farming. “If I had a way to provide for my six kids and have a comparable standard of living I would do that,” Stoker said. “The way it is now, I’m more stressed, the animals are more stressed, our crops are probably more stressed. There’s nothing I would like more than to go back to that, but I’m too stupid to figure out how.”

The problem isn’t Stoker’s intelligence; it’s what he calls the “dishonesty of the market.” Advertisers promise that consumers can have the healthiest possible food from happy animals in idyllic settings at current prices. This obviously is a lie, but it’s a lie that most people accept. Although American consumers are periodically outraged by the realities of modern agriculture, they never stop demanding cheaper food. Stoker doesn’t mind playing the hand he’s been dealt. He’s good at producing cheap food. But, he acknowledged, “cheap food makes for expensive health care.”
I drank raw milk almost daily for a year while working on the farm and was none the worse for wear.  My biggest take-away impression was how, when compared to raw milk, the normal offerings from the supermarket are nothing more than white water - no depth of flavor whatsoever.  Worth a read.

April 26, 2008

Bud Brothers: Snoop and Willie

I suppose its not all that surprising that they should know/befriend each other considering their common interests.  The first few minutes of the video are blank but it has the best audio and (eventual) video of the offerings on YouTube:



In answer to your question:  According to IMDB Snoop is 6' 3½" and Willie is 5' 6"

PS - About a year ago I was part of a group that toured Willie Nelson's "organic farm" just outside of his hometown, Abbott, TX, that was supposed to be producing food for his Willie's Place venture opening just north of Abbott on I-35.  (Organic farm is used VERY loosely here as there was nothing whatsoever in the ground at the time, although it was a very nice piece of property with great potential.)  Willie has been a supporter on the edge of local, organic food production for a while as a corollary to his long standing broader support of farmers and involvement in bio-fuels.  We were there in theory to see how we could help get things off the ground but it was apparent from the beginning that there were lots of big ideas but very few resources.  To this date, as far as I know, the land is still fallow and about all that came of our visit was a meal with Willie's farm manager at the Turkey Shop (tread with care) and lots and lots of jokes about Willies "real" cottage industry of organically produced cannabis.  

April 25, 2008

More on . . . .

Public intellectuals.


(via)

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation

We're getting close to go time for the new Indiana Jones movie so I've been nosing around refreshing myself on Indie lore and came across something that I was completely unaware of -  Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark:  The Adaptation.  Its a shot-by-shot remake of the original Indiana Jones movie made by three teenagers in Mississippi from 1982-1989 and it is freaking brilliant on so many levels, or at least what I've been able to track down makes me think so.  The best source is this great (very long) 2004 article from Vanity Fair detailing the making of the film and its emergence on the cult/underground movie scene.  It is SO worth reading, here's a bit:
The show went on. Eric began transforming his basement into a Nepalese bar. His father may have drunk too much, but all those empty green wine jugs made nice props for this sequence, which required two scary elements: (1) fire, which engulfs the bar after a gunfight, and (2) a girl to play Marion Ravenwood, Indy’s love interest. A classmate named Stephanie Ewing got the part, because she had the right hair color and said yes. Jayson checked a magic book to find the ratio of isopropyl alcohol to water necessary for creating flames that would burn out quickly.

Eric figured it might be a good idea to film the bar sequence when his mom was out, since he’d be setting the basement on fire, not to mention himself. To play the bit part known in the Raiders of the Lost Ark credits as Ratty Nepalese—probably the most dangerous role in the film, since the character seemingly burns to death—Eric wore a turban, a fake mustache, and a long purple robe with clothes underneath as protection. Action. Enter the Himalayan henchmen, led by Toht the Nazi torturer, played with evil glee by a baby-faced kid named Ted Ross. Ted held a flaming poker close to Stephanie, who delivered her lines in a Mississippi drawl. Chris, as Indy, cracked the bullwhip, and the poker fell from Ted’s hand.

The flames rose and died quickly, as planned. Then came Eric’s big moment as the Ratty Nepalese. For a reason no one recalls, he asked that the back of his robe be doused not with isopropyl but with gasoline. The gas was lit. Eric screamed. Jayson got the shot. Two kids were supposed to put Eric out by smothering him in a blanket, but in a panic they fanned him. The flames rose. The smell of singed hair filled the room. Chris grabbed a fire extinguisher they had on hand and blasted his friend with the powdery spray. “No!” screamed Eric—not because he was on fire but because he wanted the extinguisher emptied only in an emergency, and this, in his opinion, didn’t qualify. It costs real money to refill a fire extinguisher. One month into filming, Eric was already thinking of the budget.

Back at WLOX, the boys really liked what they saw. It was cool. But a tech worker was not so thrilled by footage of a screaming 13-year-old kid with a burning back in a room full of flames. He told a colleague—Chris’s mother. She watched it, horrified, and called Eric’s mother to tell her what had been going on in her house while she was out. By order of the moms, production was shut down, at least for the rest of the summer of ’83.
 
Next, you can get a taste of their dedication in making the film by watching the first ten minutes on YouTube:



The film is still popping up at festivals and several sources I saw mentioned that Paramount had purchased the rights to make a film based on the story of the remake.  For a kid growing up a few hours north of Ocean Springs/Biloxi who had a similar love affair with comic books, Indiana Jones, and tramping through imaginary worlds with his friends this is just about the best thing I've read in quite a while.

April 24, 2008

For My Wife

Who had a hard day.

I'm in

and I think that I was right they do have more info.  It will be interesting to see how it stacks up to Wikipedia in the days ahead.

Two cool things: the in page video and the same page "references" and "more from" entries.

PS - they put a one year term on the free access.  

April 23, 2008

R. Kelly > Shakespeare - ?

Today is supposedly William Shakespeare's birthday and as a result there have been a number of odes to the bard in print and on the airwaves, but what I haven't heard are speculations as to who a present day Shakespeare might be.  My vote?  R. Kelly.  

There are plenty of reasons to find Kelly repulsive as a human being but if you can't remember the mid to late 90's then you may have forgotten that this guy was putting out songs (and the videos to match) that transcended genre - see here, here and here for examples.  He's got everything: star-crossed lovers, tragic untimely deaths, despotic "rulers," innuendo out the wazoo, and all of it packaged nicely for the masses.  However, his magnum opus, his Hamlet if you will, has to be his 22 episode hip-hopera Trapped in the Closet.  While I've never actually made it through the whole thing in one sitting -for reasons which will become abundantly clear- you can start your journey here and should be able to piece together the whole thing.  However, check out the episode below for a little taste of what you've been missing (NSFW language).

 
Classic.  Shakespeare would have eaten that stuff up.

Knowledge for Life: Weights and Measurements

Via a throw away comment in this NYT article, one M&M weighs approximately one gram.

April 22, 2008

Tobias Wolf

Heard on NPR this morning that Tobias Wolff, one of my favorite authors, has a new collection of short stories out entitled Our Story Begins.  

To provide a bit of symmetry with my last post, one of my favorite McSweeneys' features is Stephen Elliott's Poker Report, and one of my favorite entries is from February 12, 2005 (you've got to scroll down to it) in which Tobias Wolff makes a cameo appearance:

The party was filled with poets and storytellers and, eventually, after 6, upon Andrew Miller's arrival, a thief. Adam Johnson was throwing the party. Ron had mentored Adam before Adam found his own success with Emporium. Adam and Tom McNeely had made a gumbo. Sponsored by the English department, they'd bought hundreds of dollars' worth of fish and it swam in the oyster roux, a giant cast-iron pot in front of a white table in the long backyard.

There was some rain, which was fine. The rain grew stronger before it abated. I was in the kitchen with Ann and ZZ Packer, who aren't related but who both know a thing or two about how to get by in this world. I was listening intently when out of the corner of my eye I saw Andy Miller beneath the yard light speaking with Ron and Tobias Wolff. I thought it was odd, in a house full of writers, that Andy Miller would be alone in the back with Ron and Toby in the rain. I thought, There are two men who have influenced the shape of American literature, and there is Andy Miller, whom I invited because he works nearby and owns a truck. I've always liked dishonest people, and without Andy Miller, my life wouldn't be very interesting, but I'm also aware of the risks of bringing him into civilized society, particularly people I work with. Toby wore a leather jacket and a cap and was listening to Ron, who wore a waterproof jacket. Andy wore a cheap cotton coat, the kind that looks like wool but isn't. His face was pinched and plotting. A mist rose from Andy's curly hair.
    

Devotional Thought of the Day

Mild sacrilege from McSweeney's, "First Drafts of the Parables of Jesus": 

Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

One of the disciples asked, "What of the man who builds his house inside the house built on the rock? Surely his house will be even less damaged by water and wind. Is this what we should do?"

And Jesus said, "No, don't do that."

April 21, 2008

Quiz Yourself: Public Intellectuals Edition

Foreign Policy and Prospect are doing another rendition of their top 100 public intellectuals, not to be confused with those private bastards who keep their intellect all to themselves.  So, click here.  Look through the list and count how many names you recognize - we'll set the bar low, you're not required to name any works produced or contributions made - just names recognized.  Also, keep track of how many of that number that you have actually "consumed" some form of their intellect - again, low bar - it doesn't matter the form: book, essay, article, blog post, NPR interview, whatever.  Post your score in the comments - fun for the whole family!

My Score:  38 and 27

Some thoughts on the list:
1.  Only four religious figures and only one of those Christian, the Pope, while the other three are Muslim.  I wonder what affect the shift of the epicenter of the Christian church to the global south has had in this regard.  Which is not to say that this has resulted in a loss of intellectual acumen but that it is much easier for the West to deem you unimportant when you fall below the equator - as demonstrated by the "where do they come from" section of the list.
2.  No visual artists?!  (Do you count Rem Koolhass, they probably are?)  Or rather, no artists who aren't authors?!  No musicians?  No film-makers?  Do writers have the only artistic medium producing globally intellectual work these days?  Artist's of other persuasions (or more informed devotees thereof) who read this blog help me out here, is this true, who would you nominate?  I'm fairly uninformed but I could make a pretty strong case for a posthumous inclusion of Tupac.
3.  No bloggers.  Or rather no individuals who have risen to prominence solely due to an online presence, although the influence and exposure of a number of these folks has certainly been expanded by the web.  How long will that hold true I wonder?
4.  Lots of economists.  You expect there to be a lot of politicians since they are far better positioned to influence on a global scale, but economists?  Is that a result of our current obsessions or are economists really so vastly intellectually influential? (A quick glance down the 2005 list, below, seems to show fewer economists)  Don't get me wrong, I love economists . . . 
5.  Here are the results of the last time they did this in 2005.


From Gold Pages to Web Pages

In light of recent remembrances of thumbing through encyclopedias there is interesting news from the folks at Britannica that they are making their complete online collection available for free to web content creators:
If you’re a Web publisher—a blogger, webmaster, or writer—you can get complimentary access to the complete Encyclop√¶dia Britannica online. It’s a rich trove of reliable and high-quality information that you can use to check quick facts, research topics in depth, or just read to enjoy.
Just today I was disappointed by the info that I found at Wikipedia and other online sites and I'm betting Brittanica would have had more to offer on the topic.  I just submitted my registration so we'll see if I make the cut.

(via)

Recently Spotted: Earth Day Eve Edition

This is the brightest green anole that I have seen so far this year, most have still had shades of brown in their skin.  The coloring and puffed out dewlap, which marks it as a male, are two more signs that spring and all that it implies is in the air.




Earth Day: Yahoo

Yahoo has a clever, animated Earth Day themed logo up.

April 20, 2008

The New Mathletes

Two professional gamers will be carrying the olympic torch in China.  According to these folks the two cyber athletes will be XiaoFeng "Sky" Li and Jaeho "Moon" Jang
Both Sky and Moon are professional Warcraft III players, with the former being recognized as the world's best Human-class player, and the latter as the one of the world's best Night Elf-class players.
That is all.

Why Bother?

This isn't the best thing that I've ever read by Michael Pollan but it is, I think, rightly reasoned on a number of levels and applicable to more than just the topic at hand.

But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen. Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools. You will have reduced the power of the cheap-energy mind by personally overcoming its most debilitating weakness: its helplessness and the fact that it can’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve division or subtraction. The garden’s season-long transit from seed to ripe fruit — will you get a load of that zucchini?! — suggests that the operations of addition and multiplication still obtain, that the abundance of nature is not exhausted. The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
I'm curious as to what effect Pollan's interactions with people like Wendell Berry, whom he draws upon heavily in this article, and Joel Salatin has had on his faith or lack thereof.  

April 19, 2008

Wines Under 100 Dimes

We were talking with some friends recently about the problem of finding a decent wine that hits the sweet spot where our budgets and consciences meet - its around the $10 mark for us.  For a while now I've been collecting a list of wines that in theory meet the dual requirements of affordability and drinkability so as a public service I'm going to start posting them here (which will have the added benefit of allowing me to get rid of some of these slips of paper).  Very few, if any, of these are my own personal discoveries - I've simply kept my eyes open the last couple of years for magazine articles, newspaper articles, and blog posts that recommend good, affordable wines and jotted them down in a little notebook I carry around and when/if I find them in the grocery/liquor store we give them a try.  When I can I will point to the original source but for most of these I can't remember where they were first discovered so apologies for that, but I will try to point to what others who supposedly know better than I say when possible.  I'm also no sommelier so I won't be including colorful or helpful descriptions.  Your recommendations would be appreciated as well.  Here's our first offering:

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2006, $9.99 - this is a nice dry red wine from France that we enjoyed with a light tomato pasta and sauteed kale, 12.5% alcohol.

From The Wine Lovers Page, on the 2005 vintage: 
This is a very dark reddish-violet wine, clear at the edge and almost black at the center. Its aromas and flavors are classic Beaujolais: Juicy strawberries and clean, "dusty" earthy notes, crisp and mouth-watering, refreshing and balanced. Fine Beaujolais, and about 30 minutes in the refrigerator brings it to a perfect serving temperature.

The crew at Cork'd gives it an 83.7.

The highly esteemed Columbus Dispatch likes it as well.

My wife says:
It doesn't make me sleepy.

We found it at our local HEB you can use Wine-Searcher to see if it is in your neck of the woods.

Recently Spotted: Urban Safari




Occasionally Music: Plagiary (?) Edition

I'm a pretty big Paul Simon fan.  But I've never heard this story from an interview with Los Lobos before:

Speaking of doing a lot of different records and working with a lot of amazing songwriters, I own a ton of the records that you've done over the years. One, in particular, I'd like to ask you about is Paul Simon's Graceland. I obsessed over that thing when I was young. Do you have any recollections of working on it?

Oh, I have plenty of recollections of working on that one. I don't know if you heard the stories, but it was not a pleasant deal for us. I mean he [Simon] quite literally – and in no way do I exaggerate when I say – he stole the songs from us.

. . . . So Paul was like, "Let's just jam," and we're like, "Oh jeez. Well alright, let's see what we can do." And it was not good because Louie wasn't comfortable. None of us were comfortable, it wasn't just Louie. It was like this very alien environment to us. Paul was a very strange guy. Paul's engineer was even stranger than Paul, and he just seemed to have no clue - no focus, no design, no real nothing. He had just done a few of the African songs that hadn't become songs yet. Those were literally jams. Or what the world came to know and I don't think really got exposed enough, is that those are actually songs by a lot of those artists that he just approved of. So that's kind of what he was doing. It was very patrician, material sort of viewpoint. Like, because I'm gonna put my stamp on it, they're now my songs. But that's literally how he approached this stuff.

I remember he played me the one he did by John Hart, and I know John Hart, the last song on the record. He goes, "Yeah, I did this in Louisiana with this zy decko guy." And he kept saying it over and over. And I remember having to tell him, "Paul, it's pronounced zydeco. It's not zy decko, it's zydeco." I mean that's how incredibly dilettante he was about this stuff. The guy was clueless.
Wow. You're kidding me?

Clue... less about what he was doing. He knew what he wanted to do, but it was not in any way like, "Here's my idea. Here's this great vision I have for this record, come with me."

About two hours into it, the guys are like, "You gotta call Lenny right now. You gotta get us out of this. We can't do this. This is a joke. This is a waste of time." And this was like two hours into the session that they wanted me to call Lenny. What am I going to tell Lenny? It was a favor to him. What am I going to say, "Paul's a fucking idiot?"
Somehow or other, we got through the day with nothing. I mean, literally, nothing. We would do stuff like try an idea out and run it around for 45 minutes, and Paul would go "Eh... I don't like it. Let's do something else." And it was so frustrating. Even when we'd catch a glimpse of something that might turn into something, he would just lose interest. A kitten-and-the-string kinda thing.

So that's day one. We leave there and it's like, "Ok, we're done. We're never coming back." I called Lenny and said it really wasn't very good. We really didn't get anything you could call a song or even close to a song. I don't think Paul likes us very much. And frankly, I don't think we like him very much. Can we just say, 'Thanks for the memories' and split?" And he was like, "Man, you gotta hang in there. Paul really does respect you. It's just the way he is. I'll talk to him." And we were like, "Oh man, please Lenny. It's not working." Meanwhile, we're not getting paid for this. There was no discussion like we're gonna cash in or anything like that. It was very labor-of-love.
. . . . Well, "It would be good for the family." That was it. So we go back in the second day wondering why we're there. It was ridiculous. I think David starts playing "The Myth of the Fingerprints," or whatever he ended up calling it. That was one of our songs. That year, that was a song we started working on By Light of the Moon. So that was like an existing Lobos sketch of an idea that we had already started doing. I don't think there were any recordings of it, but we had messed around with it. We knew we were gonna do it. It was gonna turn into a song. Paul goes, "Hey, what's that?" We start playing what we have of it, and it is exactly what you hear on the record. So we're like, "Oh, ok. We'll share this song."
Good way to get out of the studio, though...

Yeah. But it was very clear to us, at the moment, we're thinking he's doing one of our songs. It would be like if he did "Will the Wolf Survive?" Literally. A few months later, the record comes out and says "Words and Music by Paul Simon." We were like, "What the fuck is this?"

We tried calling him, and we can't find him. Weeks go by and our managers can't find him. We finally track him down and ask him about our song, and he goes, "Sue me. See what happens."

Bitter grapes?  Who knows.  First Scientific American, then Nalgene, now f-ing Paul Simon?!  


(via)

What's Killing Me This Week: Plastics Edition

This announcement from Nalgene is actually two days later than I thought it would be.  My assumption is always that companies know about these risks long before the public does - see exhibit A: tobacco companies - and that they are already doing alternative research to remove or lessen the effects of ("insert name of dangerous substance here") but will not actively do so until the dangers come to light from a third party because their systems of production are so invested in the old manufacturing methods and it doesn't make financial sense to do so until they absolutely have to.  I'm confused why there have not been similar announcements from baby bottle makers already - there is nothing whatsoever on Gerber's website that I could find.  Thankfully, when my wife and I were out for a walk yesterday we were sipping our water with a clear conscience thanks to my brother's Christmas gift.

Can't/Don't Touch the Ground

A friend and I were trying to explain the game "Can't Touch the Ground" to his son the other day, as we spent quite a bit of time playing this together as kids, we considered ourselves "hall of famers" so to speak.  So I was quite intrigued to see an online advertisement* yesterday showing a man leaping through the air under the headline "Don't Touch the Ground!".  Clicking through led me to this site advocating for land mine awareness.  Their hook is that they drafted a free runner to see if he could cross 50,000m2 of London landscape without touching the ground.  The video and map interface are pretty cool and worth checking out, but my real point is that my friend, my brother and I pretty much invented this whole thing when we were about 6 years old and somebody should really update that Wikipedia page.

* So, the advertisement was on this page at Scientific American's website.  I found the article because it had made its way up to the del.icio.us popular page and I'm always intrigued by anything with a slightly "religious" theme that does so - 99% of the time it is something along these lines or a neoatheist diatribe, which I guess is also along those lines - not surprising considering the constituency I guess.  Anywho, the article itself doesn't really excite me - it is pretty typical stuff pitting science vs. religion and in some places this one is more charitable than most towards religion, but what interested me was the title of the article.  "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.  

Again, the article isn't surprising and in the interest of full disclosure I am a person of faith who has a firm belief in a creator God and when reading this and other pieces like it that faith is in no way threatened.  But, "creationist nonsense"?  I don't read Scientific American but I assume that it is a reputable periodical with a professional editorial board so since when has it become ok with the AP style guide that you characterize one side (either side) of a debate as "nonsense"?!  I would be equally appalled if a theological journal presented a similar but opposing viewpoint with a headline reading "15 Answers to Evolutionary Nonsense."  I would have expected a journal like Scientific American to be more interested in advancing civil discourse rather than petty cheap shots.  As you can see from the screen grab above the article was originally penned in June of 2002 but it made its way up to the del.icio.us popular page just yesterday - I assume it is being forwarded around in response to Ben Stein's new movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed - which from the early reviews that I've read doesn't seem to do any better job of advancing such discourse than Scientific American.  

Links: Overly long, slightly outdated edition.

I can't count the number of references I've seen to this commercial for The Discovery Channel with comments that read something along the line of: "for some reason this makes me extremely happy."  If I wasn't so lazy I would make a connection between the visceral responses to this type of unabashed sentimentality, support for Barak Obama and the popularity of Judd Apatow movies.



Here's video of a "real world" advertising campaign for Google videos - I'm a sucker for this
 type of thing. (via)



Food porn filter:  Here's a very interesting post and great moment by moment run down of a trip to El Bulli.  This is bit from the restaurant's Wikipedia entry:

The restaurant has a limited season from April to September; bookings are taken on a single day in the previous October. It accommodates only 8,000 diners a season, with 800,000 people calling to try and book places — around 400 requests for every table. The average cost of a meal is €250; the restaurant itself has operated at a loss since 2000, with operating profit coming from El Bulli-related books, and lectures from Adri√†.
(via)

Three interesting pieces on microfinancing:  as trend, commercialized, debated.  Update: here's some commentary on the last one via Chris Blattman.

The "open-handed gospel" of my former seminary president, who also blogs.  (Disclaimer:  I love this guy)

Can the "cellphone help end global poverty?" - long, but interesting throughout.  I haven't been to Africa in almost seven years now but even then cellphones were ubiquitous.  Asian companies were flooding the market (which often meant that the 85 year old grandmother in the bush had a more advanced cellphone than anything I had ever seen in the states a that time) and the amount of capital it costs to set up a cellular network as compared to a traditional land line is so disparate as to be laughable.  Its entirely possible that some of these emerging markets will never have a land based telecommunications infrastructure.  Crazy.  

Also overly long but equally interesting expose of Pat Robertson in the VQR.


Hmmm, pattern developing here . . . interesting, longish piece on abstinence clubs at Ivy League campuses.

Happy Passover.

April 18, 2008

Recently Spotted: Air Chilled Chicken


In our home, meals with meat tend to be relegated to special occasions or the appearance of  dinner guests.  Don't get me wrong, we like our meat in a variety of packagings but the truth is that we can't afford to eat the kinds of meat that we're morally comfortable buying all that often so we just eat less of it.  My wife returned home yesterday from a busy week of playing the job interview game so I felt it warranted a bit of protein.  While browsing around the meat counter for some chicken I noticed a new addition to the very small corner of the counter reserved for the  natural/organic poultry - several packages of chicken with a very large typeface emblazoned across the front reading:  "Air Chilled Chicken."  At which point I thought to myself, "What the hell does that mean?"  Butchers tend to be some of, if not the, nicest and most helpful employees of grocery stores so I would normally have asked but I was running late so I grabbed my normal package of "All-Natural" chicken (and I assume by the absence of the 6o point font, conventionally chilled) and headed off confident that in time Google would reveal to me the secrets of air chilled chicken. 

Well, air chilled chicken is apparently a new trend to the American chicken processing market that has been around Europe and other places for quite some time.  I became fairly intimate with the "conventional" method of chilling poultry last year when I oversaw the raising and butchering of 100 turkeys that we sold for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and the 1000 times more onerous process of being licensed by the state to sell said turkeys.  Conventionally (by which I mean at whatever point in the past humanity had the ways and means to decide that it was a good idea to butcher more birds than they could cook and eat in one go - which I assume was the advent of refrigeration) poultry is butchered and then placed in an ice bath to bring the internal temperature of the bird down to between 40-42 degrees fahrenheit as quickly as possible.  This is done for a couple of reasons.  Preservation is obvious.  The sooner you get the bird down to a temperature at which it is difficult or impossible for bacteria to survive-in the case of poultry salmonella is the main nemesis-the better chance you have of presenting to the public a product that won't make them puke their brains out.  There are also some flavor and texture issues at play.  The colder and more rigid the bird gets the fewer natural toxins are released and the more flavorful the bird remains.  We chilled our birds by placing them in two large stainless steel tubs that we filled with tap water (after it passed a state purity test) and lots and lots of ice (which, oddly enough had to pass no test).  So, you butcher the bird, clean it up, wash it off, and dunk it in.  It usually took anywhere from 40-60 minutes to get the birds down to the right temperature depending upon how hot it was and how many turkeys were in the bath already.  In large scale poultry production, compared to which we were anything but conventional, you have enormous ice baths with hundreds of chickens floating in icy chlorinated water moved around with giant paddles. 

Air chilling however circumvents the whole process by getting rid of the ice bath (they still get hit with a chlorine spritz) and running the birds down a series of conveyer belts along which they are blasted with super chilled air that lowers their body temperature to the appropriate degree - I couldn't find anything on how long that process takes.  The supposed benefits of this process are less time soaking in chlorine water (for those who are anti-chlorine water) and supposedly "more natural" flavor.  Oh, that and being able to charge $8.99 lb. for boneless, skinless breasts.  (As opposed to the $5.99 for the "natural" and $1.99 for the conventional)

I don't know enough about the chlorine water issue to speak to it.  For good or ill chlorine is pretty ubiquitous in food production and water supply these days so I'm not sure what to think.  The flavor issue I profess to being skeptical about.  I have never claimed to have the most refined palate so I confess to being able to taste little difference between any poultry regardless of how it was raised.  I have eaten chicken whose journey from butchering block to my plate could be measured in hours and it tasted remarkably similar to that which you pull out of the freezer after who knows how long.  So, air chilled isn't necessarily a value added commodity I'm looking to pay an extra $3/lb. for.  I'm much more interested in buying my chicken (and meat in general) from producers who took that bird from egg to market within the context of a worldview that treated it with the intrinsic, and not simply utilitarian, value that I believe it possesses.  That, I'd be willing to pay an extra $3/lb. for.

So, there you go.  Air chilled chicken.  Keep an eye out for it and its freakishly large font.

You can read more here, here and here.

April 10, 2008

Productivity Danger Ahead

There are some really funny skits on this list.

April 5, 2008

Spring Mix

Pre-washed and ready to eat.

April 4, 2008

Dr. King

This is one of my favorite passages from King, on this the 40th anniversary of his death:
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth."
- Martin Luther King Jr., from his speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence 
You can read/listen to the whole thing here.  It was, I just realized, given on April 4, 1967 - exactly one year before his assassination.  King's writings and rhetoric from his later years don't get quite as much attention as do those of his earlier, but some of my favorite remarks come from this period.  His focus was expanding from civil rights to more broadly include issues of peace and wide sweeping social justice - themes that were always there but which grew more prominent in the final years of his life.  The continued power of his oratory-even 40 years removed - surprises me every time I read him.

Overheard: Classroom Edition

Tenured Professor:  "Whenever I open my mouth the learning stops."

Ok, context matters.  To be fair its an IT computer lab, but still funny.

(via: my wife)

April 3, 2008

Which Way Zimbabwe


Things seem to be stuck in limbo in Zimbabwe.  Most are predicting a runoff for president despite no official results having been released for the presidential balloting (!) but reports of opposition offices being raided and journalists detained smack of a distinct reluctance to let go of power on the part of Mugabe.  ZanuPF leaders are supposedly meeting to try and decide if the whole thing is worth another round of voting or if maybe this is the time to let somebody else sort things out.  I'm running out of predictions on this one.  If you are Mugabe why go through all the posturing if you're just going to claim victory in the end - why care about the appearance of fair play now when your neighbors and the international community have already fully demonstrated their willingness to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Zimbabweans?  I still think there is the possibility that he is trying to end well and leave with some appearance of face but its looking more doubtful.  I'm not sure anyone thinks that a runoff would be allowed to proceed legitimately.    

Justification

In lieu of the previous post, from the New Yorker:
I found the below video on Idolator, and my immediate reaction was: “Whew! It doesn’t matter if rap is over.” That is (in more words): this animated nonsense has given me minutes of pleasure, and suggests that the secondary exploitation of original content may be so much better than the real thing that we don’t need to worry about what anyone releases anymore.



(via)

Ultimate YouTube Smack Down

There are so many reasons not to post this South Park clip and you all know what they are but well, its pretty dang funny seeing all these You Tube sensations trying to cash in.  Admittedly not very funny but further proof that we live in strange times where its not only the lines of good taste that are blurred.   Probably NSFW, or for kids, or for your mom which is to say that it is a clip from South Park:



If you're unfamiliar with any of these fine entertainers here's a roundup:


The only thing I can't figure out is why they didn't end with a Dear Sister, it was the perfect setup - I wonder if they couldn't get the song rights or something.

Ok, I feel like I've regressed ten years.  I'm gonna do some work now.

(via)

April 2, 2008

Sneaker Wars

I have been accused by my wife on more than one occasion of being overly infatuated with athletic shoes (although, in my defense, its been years since I bought a new pair), so I was interested to see this review in her newest copy of Business Week of the new book Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud that Forever Changed the Business of Sport (aside: subtitle are out of control these days).  Their bottom line on the book seems to be: starts slow, gets better, but this bit in the review was pretty fascinating:
Bizarrely, the bickering brothers continued to share a villa, with their wives and children, in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach until 1948, when Rudolf and employees loyal to him formed a rival shoe company called Puma. Adi renamed his outfit Adidas. So great was the animosity between the brothers that the whole town became embroiled. Residents declared their loyalty to either Adidas or Puma according to the shoes they wore and sometimes refused to speak to members of the other side.

Shoe gangs!  How good is that!  This is the type of thing that I have come to expect Wikipedia to be golden on but unfortunately the pages for both Rudolf Dassler and Adolf Dassler are pretty slim.  

Oh.  Yeah, they were Nazis.


At least as strange as fiction


Reading this article in yesterday's NYT on military "black budget" ops and looking at the accompanying pictures (slideshow) of the patches worn by the soldiers involved, I came up with the plots for 37 summer blockbuster movies.  All of which would feature Lou Gossett, Jr

Early Adopters: Division of Labor

 Ok, not funny, BUT this is some serious plays well with others:
A group of children ages 8 to 10 apparently were mad at their teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, authorities say.That led the third-graders, as many as nine boys and girls, to plot an attack on the teacher at Center Elementary School in south Georgia.

Police Chief Tony Tanner said the students apparently planned to knock the teacher unconscious with a glass paperweight, bind her with handcuffs and duct tape and then stab her with a broken steak knife.

The scheme involved a division of roles, Tanner said. One child's job was to cover windows so no one could see outside, and another was supposed to clean up after the attack.

I would assume this means that this is going to be worked into an upcoming teacher's workshop.

PS: 18

A Change Gonna Come?

Four days after polls closed the ZEC finally announces that Mugabe's ZanuPF party has lost control of the parliament.  STILL no official word on the presidential outcome . . . 

April 1, 2008

Gapminder Updated

The folks at Gapminder/Google have recently (? or did I just miss it) updated their incredibly cool Gapminder World tool.  When I first came across this tool several years ago I spent hours playing with it and was a bit anxious when Google bought the technology from Gapminder last year as I was worried that it would be pretty low on Google's development totem pole but the union continues to be a good one.  They've added a number of new data sets in categories like population, health, economy, technology, education; expanded some of the displayable time periods, added links to the data that display in Google spreadsheets with references to sources, and added the ability to link to specific data display configurations.  As previously mentioned, hopefully they will begin to mine the UN data that was recently made available to continue to expand the tool even more.

Honorarium

In honor of National Poetry Month, which begins today, McSweeney's gives us a look at the far too often overlooked (figuratively of course, not literally, because, you know they're giants so its hard to overlook them . . . . ) "Giants of Poetry."  I haven't read very much poetry in the last few years so perhaps I should make an effort to do so this month - a friend recently gave me a wonderful gift that included several volumes so perhaps I will look at them with more earnest in the next few weeks.  If we didn't have plans this evening I would try to make it over to hear Li-Young Lee read at the local university - I really enjoyed this NPR interview with him some months back.

The Jewel of African Democracy

While we wait for news out of Zimbabwe, this news out of Botswana provides the starkest of contrasts in the hopes and promise of democratic rule of African nations and continues to demonstrate why the "noble land" is known as the jewel of African democracy:

President Festus Mogae of Botswana hands over power to Ian Khama on Tuesday, joining the small group of African leaders who have left office without seeking to extend their rule.

While living in Botswana I was struck by how hotly contested, yet extremely civil, political contests were - due in part, I think, to how they build on traditional structures of village and tribal leadership and debate. (Forgetting for the moment the pickup trucks with megaphones that wind their way through the streets at 4:30 in the morning rallying the party faithful)  Everyone, and I mean everyone, had an official picture of Mogae hanging in their office or home - regardless of where you stood politically, the office was incredibly respected as an instrument of good for the people and the nation.  Khama was head of the military and VP while I was there and seemed to be a good man - with the added bonus of being the first born son of the enormously esteemed, nigh unto worshipped, first president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama he shouldn't have any trouble gaining the people's support.  Well done, Rra Mojae, gosiame.  

Update:  The BBC is stealing my post titles

15 Minutes and Counting?

According to Sokwanele, things may be coming to a head in Zimbabwe:

Not that long ago all the Dead BC (ZBC) had was a programme about dolphins. No kidding! Maybe its an attempt to calm the mood?

But headlines now are that 140 results have been declared. We have reported 141 but maybe ZTV aren’t including the one unopposed seat.

ZBC is also saying that “Zimbabweans must maintain peace, that the army is on high alert”.

This sms flying around: “apparently we all need to be watching zbc at 8.30pm. apparently good news, but we will have to wait and see.”

So, I got my sms, I ran to the shower, I washed my hair, I put on my favourite MDC T-shirt from the 2005 elections. It reads, “a new zimbabwe, a new beginning“.

Even if we have to wait a little longer than 8.30, the energy right now is worth it.

Zimbabwe is 7 hours ahead of us so 8:30 will be about fifteen minutes from now. Here's hoping things hold together for a a bit longer and Mugabe exits peacefully stage left.

The Appearance of a Strong Man

These are the first two pieces I've seen that suggest Mugabe may be negotiating to step down. Forgetting for the moment that by all accounts he should be facing tribunals, he does hold all the cards. I don't see how the opposition can "force" him out so if he accepts the election results, or is just too tired to thrust himself on the people once again-even for a deluded megalomaniac, what pleasure can there be in running a country that is so desperately at its wits end, finding a way for the strongman to step down while still saving face will be a big deal.

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