Saturday, July 09, 2011

The old man & the gorilla

What does a 53 year old academic look like after clambering straight up the side of a volcano covered in rain-forest vegetation chasing a family of gorillas? this (clik the pik for an even more tired-looking Angus):

photo is courtesy of the de Leeuw family from the Netherlands, who we met and trekked with in Bwindi.

They also sent us this great shot from Ishasha:

Berg and a Mystery

So, I have written about being in Germany last month. Three belated pictures from the experience. First, our "Hotelchen" courtyard. Really, really beautiful.
Second, the YYM and a friend, at Berg. Coolness, with Maßkrüge.
Finally, the mystery. The famed G-bike was stolen in 2009. (If you want to watch the video, it can still be seen. Sad...) It had a pirate flag. No trace of the G-bike has ever been recovered...but the pirate flag has appeared in the Archiv. How? Who? Detective (defective?) Hajo is collecting photographic evidence.
Now, I do admit that the G-bike was actually stolen by the police. I have no idea why they would take it, except perhaps that it was parked in a way that was blatantly and obviously illegal, blocking a firelane. In any case, Hajo is still on the case, and if the culprit admits to the theft, in the bar or biergarten where Hajo happens to be at that moment anyway, Hajo will let us all know.

San Fran Realism

It seems it's California / China day here at KPC

The San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge half of which is in Nancy Pelosi’s 8th Congressional district is being rebuilt.

Governor Jerry Brown has decided that CA has to build the bridge without Federal Funding. Why would he do that?

Because...the buy American provisions of the USDOT would prohibit using Chinese Steel.

And using the cheaper steel saves more than the fed funding would save. Using Chinese steel is expected to save $400,000,000 on the $7,200,000,000 Bridge. The Bridge financing is made possible by two key aspects. First, the 270,000 vehicles per day on the bridge pay $6 per crossing during peak hours to $4 in the off peak currently. These user fees provide a substantial share of funding.

The second aspect is that the federal funds are not lost but can be applied to myriad of other California projects that are eligible for federal funding with much smaller surcharges for protectionism, allowing some reallocation of state user taxes to be used in rebuilding the Bay Bridge.

So...when it suits him, Jerry boy is a right capitalist, shi?

(With thanks to JS, who wrote in)

The wisdom of the American businessman

People, did you know that California was bankrupt? Me neither.

Did you know that the Chinese government "manages its economy with incredible care"? Me neither.

Do you know that the US really needs to make some cool five year plans like China (and the Soviet Union, and North Korea and Cuba)? Me neither.

That is, I didn't know any of these gems until I read Robert J. Herbold's Op Ed in today's WSJ, which is titled "China vs. America: Which is the Developing Country?" (I am not making any of this up).

Here is a link to the article and let me highly recommend it as a fun way to start your day.

If I understood how to do it, this would be a great "grand game" opportunity.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Not the Onion...Or Is It?

Some stories that are not the Onion...probably.

1. Guys take flattened, dried alligator for joy ride.

2. Duck tape used to save...ducks! And, yes, I mean "duck tape."

3. Food trucks, food trucks, what ya gonna do? What ya gonna do when the mayor comes for you? Make a ...Facebook page! And then "unlike" Mayor Bloomberg.

4. Having medical insurance increases the amount of health services
people consume. Tomorrow: sun rises in the east.

5. Rod Stewart is mistaken for author's elderly aunt.

6. Michigan Congressman had no idea that law outlawing light bulbs would put "Washington in charge of decisions over light bulbs."

(Nod to the Blonde, Angry Alex, and The Chelsea)

A day in the life of the worst aid worker in the world.

Check out this incredibly long blogpost about perception vs. reality of being an aid worker. I want to focus on the reality part, where the guy goes through his day in a very whiny, arrogant and incompetent manner, winning my nomination for worst aid worker in the world.

Here's the beginning of "the reality"

6.00 am. The alarm goes off. I open my eyes and I stare at a ceiling I swear I’ve never seen before. I hear the sound of excessively honking traffic and gridlock and recognize the stark-white detailing of some mid-range hotel in yet another third-world city, virtually indistinguishable from the last. I’m feeling a rough. Probably the combination of a little too much cheap local beer without a confirmed % Vol. rating, and the dodgy sushi restaurant we tried last night around the back of the block. There’s something about raw fish when you’re several hours’ journey from the nearest seaport.

So the guy is some combo of stupid and irresponsible, drinking too much and eating dangerously on a work night. Not a good start. I'm going to go on a limb and assume that aid workers are not actually required to do this.

6.35 am. I’m in the shower. All lathered up with generic hotel-room shampoo that oozes out of the little bottle like that slimey thing from Ghostbusters. I’m standing beneath the spout when the water suddenly runs cold. I don’t react, because it’s happened so many times before, but the little pulse of revulsion it sends through my gut is unavoidable, as I attempt to finish my wash as quickly as possible. I tell myself I really ought to speak to reception about getting my room changed, but I know it won’t make any difference, so I don’t bother.

OMG, the hot water ran out. Let the revulsion flag fly. Oh the unimaginable horror! Plus I love the assumption of the worst about the hotel management.

7.05 am. The hotel has a buffet breakfast. Dry turkey-bacon, watery scrambled eggs, stale bread for toasting, salty baked beans, fresh buns with little packets of Anchor butter and bowls of jam you never know if you can trust or not. It’s open-air and mild, but the flies aren’t out yet. It’s early, so the clientelle are all professional. There’s a bunch of despondant-looking aid-worker types mixed in with Chinese businessmen and the occasional wizened long-termer, generally white with greying hair, wrinkles, and a red veiny nose. I try and decide which group I least want to sit close to and work through my tea and toast in peace.

Every piece of food gets it’s own scornful adjective (dry, watery, stale, salty), and our hero, seeing no one of his high level in the dining room breakfasts alone.

7.30 am. My teeth are brushed (I’ve risked using tap-water this morning) and I’m waiting by the front entrance to the hotel for the office driver to pick me up, laptop, notepad and file in the backpack slung over one shoulder.

7.55 am. My driver arrives

OMG again. His DRIVER is late. Let’s flog him as a lesson for next time.

8.25 am. We’re still in traffic. It’s rush hour, and there’s four lanes of moving metal slowly extricating itself through a narrow two-lane intersection. A bus the size of a small ocean-going liner is sitting directly above our rear-bumper, sounding its air-horn and telling us in no uncertain terms that if we don’t move forwards it will turn us into fine and somewhat stained aluminium foil. Two taxi cabs are trying to usurp the two square feet of space in front of us between a produce lorry and an expensive Mercedez sedan with tinted windows. A street vendor is banging on my window and trying to sell me my choice of cell-phone cards or a pack of cigarettes. The driver has the air-con cranked way too high and my finger-tips are actually hurting from the cold, but I’m frightened that if I crack the windows, we’ll both die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Hey Genius. Rush hour = traffic. If you don’t want to be stuck in traffic, don’t start your commute during rush hour. Mrs. Angus and I lived in Mexico City for 2+ years and had to do exactly that. We made sure to leave the house (driving ourselves by the way) by 7:00 to ensure that our 20 minute commute didn’t turn into a 90 minute nightmare. Take some responsibility for yourself, dude. (Notice that he’s complaining about the cold. That will change)

8.40 am. The office elevator is out of order again, so I climb the three underlit flights of stained, grimy stairs that reek of cheap cologne and stale spicy food until I reach the right floor. In the humidity, I’m already sweating and my shirt is clinging to my back, my sides, and the cleft below my neck. I tell myself I need to spend more time in the hotel gym if I can’t handle three measly flights of stairs. I walk in on the morning operations briefing ten minutes late and cop a dirty look from the Office Manager.

OMG yet again. The elevator is out! How this guy has the courage to keep soldiering on in the face of these epic adversities is beyond me. Plus, now he's too hot!

In the course of the rest of the day, he gets reamed out at a meeting and does nothing to defend himself, eats a communal lunch with everyone else at the office and later claims that the lunch made him ill (not the beers or the sushi, or the brushing teeth with tapwater, but the lunch that no one else is complaining about), gets mad because the office won't reimburse his expenses without receipts, and turns his phone off for two hours, mightily pissing off a donor that wants to give his agency $4 million.

He also has nothing but scorn for local government officials. Check this part:

1.45 pm. We’re sitting on a sunken brown couch in a hallway in some minor government administration building. It has no springs left and is the sort of thing that my buddies might put in their basement den after finding it at a yard sale, cover with an old bedsheet, and drink beer while watching the hockey. In front of us, men in suits are striding up and down the corridors trying to look important, their footfalls echoing between the bare walls. Cheap wooden doors have brass nameplates on them. There’s no air-conditioning and the place smells vaguely of detergent and cigarette smoke.

1.55 pm. The Humanitarian Coordinator knows we’re out here. We know he’s in there. We know he’s in there alone, and that he’s not doing anything useful, except maybe putting some purple ink-stamps on various pieces of superfluous paperwork so that he can justify drawing a salary in the name of frustrating the international community’s efforts to help his people. But he’s going to keep us sitting out here for, ooh, another five minutes I reckon. Just because he can.

Busted furniture, "cheap" doors, the employees are "trying to look important" and the official they came to see is "not doing anything useful" which our hero can divine right through the closed door (it must be very flimsy indeed). The evil local guy is apparently actually trying to hurt his own people by "frustrating" the westerners with his bad sofa and no air conditioning.

I can just imagine the local official telling the purchasing department. "no don't give me any of that designer furniture or aircon units. Let's make it real nasty up in here so we can frustrate the bejeesus out of those damn do-gooder westerners.

This guy is just the worst. His post should have been titled "how not to be an aid worker".

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Standing on shaky ground

Well, I have picked up one ally in the "don't take the deal" battle. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you....uh, Karl Rove???

"Thus, in backroom negotiations recently, the administration offered roughly $1 trillion in phony savings—mostly money that would never have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next 10 years anyway, along with $500 billion in interest savings on the trillion. It has also offered another supposed trillion in domestic and entitlement savings, but with cuts starting in 2014 and unlikely ever to be realized.

If the administration's spending cuts are mostly fake, its desire for tax increases is not. While the proposals are constantly shifting, you can be sure the president is looking to grab big chunks of cash from lots of people (and small businesses) who make less than a million a year."

Right on, brother Karl!

I'll say it again people. Phony cuts and deferred cuts in exchange for immediate real tax increases is not a deal worth having.

Score one for the wombats, eh Tyler?

Iz our children learning?

No George, but our teachers are cheating and that's almost the same thing, innit?

"Award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by 178 named teachers and principals, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday. His office released a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that names 178 teachers and principals – 82 of whom confessed – in what's likely the biggest cheating scandal in US history.
This appears to be the largest of dozens of major cheating scandals, unearthed across the country. The allegations point an ongoing problem for US education, which has developed an ever-increasing dependence on standardized tests.
The report on the Atlanta Public Schools, released Tuesday, indicates a "widespread" conspiracy by teachers, principals and administrators to fix answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), punish whistle-blowers, and hide improprieties."

Sounds like a RICO case just waiting to be filed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Don't take the Deal!

David Brooks, Tyler, & Megan all implore the Republicans to "take the deal", meaning to accept some tax increases in exchange for "trillions in spending cuts" as conditions for raising the debt ceiling.

I disagree.

But, Angus, those are smart people, smarter than you, what is your problem?

Thanks for asking.

Let's ignore the fact that our economy is still in a big mess with high unemployment and underwater homeowners and just look at the terms of the deal.

The "cuts" are over a 10 year window. People, we have seen this movie before. Presidents are elected for 4 years, House members for 2 years. Current decisions are non-binding on future politicians. The cuts are a joke.

The tax increases, I'll wager, will NOT be coming over a 10 year window.

All current politicians can credibly do is cut NOW. So Republicans, please: cut or get off the pot.

It will never happen, but what we actually should do is (1) raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached. (2) Cut, not raise taxes, (3) pray that our credit holds out long enough for the economy to get healthy. (4) when either the economy gets healthy or our credit runs out, then cut spending down to size.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Loud Penis

You did not know this.

And you did not even know that you did not know that.

But now you know.

(Nod to Tommy the Brit)

We Like to Watch

"Q: Will Transformers: Dark of the Moon serve any purpose for society? A: After watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon, even the most hardened of patriots will finally understand why the terrorists hate us...Q: Should I see Transformers: Dark of the Moon? A: Probably not, but you will anyway. And you will leave the theater a less intelligent human being, but you will also leave slightly happier." [Mike Ryan, Vanity Fair]

"One study, for example, found that children who had just finished playing
violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in 'explo_e' with a 'd' (so that it reads 'explode') than with an 'r' ('explore')...The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest." [Justice Scalia, majority opinion (footnote #7) in support of First Amendment protection for violent video games]

"Among the most popular 'casual' games (so called because they are quick and simple to play) are twisted, violent games with names like Beat Me Up, Bloody Day and Boneless Girl. Young people don’t need to rent or buy casual games. They are available on computers, tablets and cellphones — free. (California’s law wouldn’t have applied to these games, even if it had survived the court’s scrutiny, because they are not rented or sold.)" [Joel Bakan, NYT op-ed]

(I had never seen "Boneless Girl." WTF? I mean, WTFingF?)

(Nod to Kevin Lewis)

You say it's your birthday.....

This has got to be the best song ever with the words "4th of July" in it, and one of the best songs Dave Alvin ever wrote.

Norman Rockwell and Independence Day 2011

We have two sons. They are both alive and well. A lot of people have lost sons, or daughters, whom they will mourn today, and every day for the rest of their lives. Because our troops are fighting three wars, and doing a lot of other things they were asked to do.

The picture below captures, with a Norman Rockwell-like clarity of composition, a little of how most of us feel about the fallen. The casket contains the remains of 2nd Lt. James Cathey. The honor guard covered the casket with a flag, and prepared to meet the family on the tarmac. The passengers watched, letting Lt. Cathey get off the plane first. (Todd Heisler, photographer)

The night before the burial of her husband's body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of 'Cat,' and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. 'I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it,' she said. 'I think that's what he would have wanted'. (Todd Heisler, again)

(The pix are from 2006, but for some reason have been circulating as an email in the last weeks...Besides, for the family that's only five years. It is never going to be long enough ago. Thanks to AB for sending this to me).

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Russ and John talk about FotC Video on CSPAN

This is more than a month old, but some interesting stuff. For instance, I did not know that Eddie Murphy's brother Rich sang the refrain of the rap song. (The CSPAN show is an hour long. So it's probably only for real fans...)

A Tangled Web: Papiss, Pliss

Hey, who told you that you could use that sunscreen, kid!?

Camp comes down hard on unauthorized sunscreen users!!

“The camp is just doing what the state ordered them to do,” said Paul Basken, a father of two children who attend Barrie camp. “But this can’t be serious. I mean, if I didn’t feel safe about the camp, I just wouldn’t send my kids there.”

Oh, Paul: They are NOTHING if not serious. I just hope these same legislators and bureaucrats can soon be put in charge of whether or not I am "authorized" to take my aspirin. Show yoah papiss, pliss.

(Nod to the Anonywife)