Part the First: Our German Shepherd

The Pope looks good.  You would think that an 80 year old man with crushing responsibilities would be hobbled and drawn two years into his pontificate, but Pope Benedict looks surprisingly well.

A full head of hair, an unlined face, and a certain aura of serenity seem to suggest that Poping agrees with this man.

Ad Multos Annos!

Part the Second: Freedom

My friend Chris beamed me over a September 2003 article by [Farmer] Joel Salatin entitled, “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal”.  Salatin bemoans the fact that government now intrudes into every facet of his life.

In part, it reads:

Any power tool — including a cordless screwdriver — cannot be operated by people under the age of 18. We have lots of requests from folks wanting to come as interns, but what do we call them? The government has no category for interns or neighbor young people who just want to learn and help out.

We’d love to employ all the neighboring young people. To our child-awning and worshiping culture, the only appropriate child activity is recreation, sitting in a desk, or watching TV. That’s it. That’s the extent of what children are good for. Anything else is abusive and risky.

Then we wonder why these kids grow up unmotivated and bored with life. Our local newspaper is full of articles and letters to the editor lamenting the lack of things for young people to do. Let me suggest a few things: digging postholes and building a fence, weeding the garden, planting some tomatoes, splitting some wood, feeding the chickens, washing eggs, pruning grapevines, milking the cow, building a compost pile, growing some earthworms.


The government has no pigeonhole for this: “I’m a 17-year-old home-schooler, and I want to learn how to farm. Could I come and have you mentor me for a year?”

What is this relationship? A student? An employee? If I pay a stipend, the government says he’s an employee. If I don’t pay, the Fair Labor Standards board says it’s slavery, which is illegal.

Read the rest here.

Part the Third: Apologies

Just before I went away, Vache Folle tagged me with a meme that went unnoticed until my return.   I extend my sincerest apologies for my breach of blog etiquette and promise to respond promptly to all future tags.


…but there’s a bear in the woods.

First the Kremlin sponsors procreation camps to encourage Russian youth to breed for the Motherland. The same Russian youth who are starting to believe that Stalin may not have been so bad after all.

I can live with that. Negative population growth gives leaders the jitters and a bleak economic outlook might spark some xenophobia and nostalgia here and there, but THIS worries me:

RAF fighter jets were sent to intercept a Russian bomber which was heading towards British air space over the North Atlantic, it emerged this evening.

  An RAF Typhoon Eurofighter intercepts the Russian Bear-H bomber
Eurofighter intercepts the bomber

Two Typhoons were sent from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to meet the Bear-H aircraft after the early warning radar system detected it heading towards UK territory, according to the Ministry of Defence.

It is the first time the Typhoon Eurofighters have been scrambled since they took on operational duties on June 29.

No more details have been released about the incident, which took place last week, but it is bound to heighten tensions after a number of assertive acts by Moscow.

Iraq’s a quagmire; Cheney wants to bomb Iran; China’s rising; energy prices are soaring; and now Russia’s on the move.

Two words: BUY GOLD


… when she eats chocolate (Which, by the way, is rich purple) I can see that you’re orange (confused)

Well, for Ingrid Carey, “numbers and letters, sensations and emotions, days and months are all associated with colors”.

Bad acid trip? Mental illness? Nope, turns out it’s a legitimate neurological condition where two or more senses entwine and the result is synesthesia.

The synesthesia of those in the “perceptual” category is triggered by sensory stimuli like sights and sounds, whereas “conceptual” synesthetes respond to abstract concepts like time. One conceptual synesthete described the months of the year as a flat ribbon surrounding her body, each month a distinct color. February was pale green and oriented directly in front of her.

Richard Cytowic, a neuroscientist and author of “The Man Who Tasted Shapes” (Bradford Books, 1998), has watched the scientific shift in attitudes toward the condition in recent years.

“Many of my colleagues claimed that synesthesia was ‘made up’ because it went against prevailing theory,” Cytowic told LiveScience. “Today, everyone recognizes synesthesia as no mere curiosity but important to fundamental principles of how the brain is organized.”

If this sort of thing fascinates you as much as it does me, then read more here.

This is Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and she talks to Angels:

But wait, there’s more! Not only does the Scandinavian princess communicate with heavenly beings but she can also teach you to do it!

Looking for a creative learning environment where your child can really spread her wings? On Thursday, Norway’s Princess Maertha Louise opened a school for students interested in contacting angels. For $2,100 per semester, the Astarte school affords pupils the opportunity to communicate with the “forces that surround us and who are a resource and help in all the aspects of our lives.”

Needless to say, none of this is going over very well with the commoners. A princess who claims contact with disembodied intelligence doesn’t really make a lot of friends in the bland, state Lutheranism of Norwegian society.

Many think she’s taken leave of her senses and have urged her to seek medical help, and a growing number want her to renounce her claim to the Norwegian throne. (She’s currently 4th in line so there’s no real danger of her ever becoming Queen)

And because this is the XXIst Century, when a royal princess (allegedly) takes leave of her senses and establishes an angel school, you can bet your last Krone (Norwegian currency; crown) that the school will have a website! In Norwegian AND ENGLISH!


Also worth a read:

The Sopranos of the Rockies: Colorado hit men try to use rattlesnakes to whack “dems dat had it comin’ ”

The plan was to build a wooden box for Sowash to stand in that would hold the snakes, and “the lid was to be built to allow Sowash’s legs to be put inside but not pulled out.” The plan was to leave the rattlesnake-bitten Sowash on a hiking trail.

And, oh yeah, the Australian (Liberal) opposition leader Kevin Rudd went to New York, got drunk in a strip club, people saw him and… Oh well, you know the rest.

As political Neanderthals go, I’m pretty enlightened on the subject of immigration. When America attracts smart, hard-working people who are committed to bettering themselves and raising their families’ standard of living, we all benefit. Open wide the gate and let them pass! But on the way in, please remind them to learn English.

Yesterday the mayor of Newark, New Jersey (Cory Booker, pictured at right) held a press conference to announce the arrest of a particularly vicious murderer. Good on the Newark police, kudos to the mayor, etc. but halfway through the appearance — in response to a question posed in English – His Honor responded in Spanish and it was all downhill from there.

I’m sure we were all very much impressed with the mayor’s language skills but I don’t understand Spanish – I had no idea what the man was saying and, to be frank, it pissed me off. The three victims of this horrible crime were black and their families (who are very much entitled to an explanation from city officials) speak ENGLISH. As should the mayor; as should everyone else who makes America his home either by birth or by choice.

Even though I worship at the altar of a Mexican-American, I’m sure I’ll be accused of racism but I’ll take that risk. For the moment, I’ll skip the language as unifier spiel and cut to the results of a new diversity study:

IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam — famous for “Bowling Alone,” his 2000 book on declining civic engagement — has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.


Putnam claims the US has experienced a pronounced decline in “social capital,” a term he helped popularize. Social capital refers to the social networks — whether friendships or religious congregations or neighborhood associations — that he says are key indicators of civic well-being. When social capital is high, says Putnam, communities are better places to live. Neighborhoods are safer; people are healthier; and more citizens vote.

The results of his new study come from a survey Putnam directed among residents in 41 US communities, including Boston. Residents were sorted into the four principal categories used by the US Census: black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. They were asked how much they trusted their neighbors and those of each racial category, and questioned about a long list of civic attitudes and practices, including their views on local government, their involvement in community projects, and their friendships. What emerged in more diverse communities was a bleak picture of civic desolation, affecting everything from political engagement to the state of social ties.

And it goes on from there…

I’m actually a big fan of ethnic diversity. I grew up with Lebanese-Americans and by the time I was ten I was familiar with a few common Arabic expressions. The Christmas celebrations of my childhood were enriched by exposure to Swedish customs and during young adulthood I supped with the Poles on December 24th. Ethnic diversity, properly understood, is a wonderful thing. The problem arises with the imposition of an exclusive (read: excluding) alien sub-culture that fails to engage the dominant culture by means of that great unifying force: a common language.

If the first generation of immigrants has a problem with the lingua franca, I can sympathize. The fact that Grandma speaks Russian, or French, or Spanish at home won’t toll the death knell of the Republic. But when the second — and even third and fourth — generations still need an interpreter to buy a loaf of bread then we run the risk of a devastating social fragmentation that could eventually destroy this country.

Every guy asks himself this question at least half a million times before reaching the ripe old age of seventeen. Turns out what we thought they wanted — bad boy, bulging biceps, rippling abs — didn’t even come close.

What do women want? They want…women:

Two male faces, one more masculine and one more feminine, were presented side by side and the participants were asked to select the face they thought showed more of particular traits including dominance, ambition, wealth, faithfulness, commitment, parenting ability and warmth.

Faces with more masculine features (such as a square jaw, larger nose and smaller eyes), were judged to me more dominant, less faithful, worse parents and as having less warm personalities than those with more feminine features (such as fuller lips, wide eyes and thinner, more curved eyebrows).

Except, you know, for brief flings when the eggs are boiling:

Another recent study found that women who were in the fertile stage of their menstrual cycle preferred more masculine-looking males for short-term relationships, but more feminine-looking males while they were less fertile.

This just proves the hypothesis that guys tend to put forward by the age of twenty. No matter who you are or what you look like, you cannot win!

But the research does explain why chicks dig the New York Yankees:


(I’ll stretch any point to take a shot at the Yankees…)

This one takes the prize. Can you imagine a more obscure niche than:

Cats that look like Hitler?

ht: Dylan

Slightly less niche but almost as funny:

The first IT support call

ht: Julie

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