week in blog

Don't Buy It Before You PriceSCAN It!

Monday, May 31, 2004

May 31, 2004 

jest for pun

May'04 BlogThoughts

Every calendar's days are numbered.

  • All reports are in. Life is now officially unfair.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 9 out of 10 doctors agree that 1 out of 10 doctors is an idiot. - Jay Leno

  • A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.

  • Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. - Bill Gates (Business @ the Speed of Thought)

  • God runs electromagnetics by wave theory on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the Devil runs them by quantum theory on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. - Sir William Bragg

  • There is too much sax and violins in music. - Jim Loy

  • A PICTURE IS WORTH A 1000 WORDS, but it uses 1000 times the memory.

  • Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

  • Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late. - Benjamin Franklin

  • To err is human. To forgive divine. Neither is company policy.

  • Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty cool ideas.

  • eye for an eye or is it I for an I?

  • I envy people who drink -- at least they know what to blame everything on. - Oscar Levant

  • It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. - Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

  • After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. -Aldous Huxley

  • I often quote myself ! It adds wit to the conversation - George Bernard Shaw

  • Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos. -Will Durant (1885 - 1981)

  • The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. - John Milton (1608 - 1674)

  • Equations are just the boring part of mathematics. I attempt to see things in terms of geometry. -Stephen Hawking (1942 - )

  • If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

  • Vision is the art of seeing things invisible. - Jonathan Swift

  • Gravity is a Myth, Earth sucks !

  • The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. - Roger Bannister

  • I cannot sing, dance or act - what else would I be but a talk show host. - Dave Letterman

  • The Net interprets censorship as damage... and routes around it. - John Gilmore

  • All that glitters is not Hollywood.

  • Birth, life, death. Repeat as necessary.

  • The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said. -Peter Drucker

  • May 30, 2004

    Iyad Allawi named as future Iraqi prime minister

    A secular neurologist and businessman from Iraq's long-oppressed majority Shi'ite community, former exile Iyad Allawi has been chosen to head an interim Iraqi government after sovereignty is handed back on 30 June.

    Iyad Allawi is one of a US-backed clique of secular Iraqi opposition figures who lived in exile until the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003.

    But as a candidate for the prime ministership, he has the advantage - to paraphrase one commentator - of being equally mistrusted by everyone.

    Religious leaders think he is too secular, the US-led coalition now sees him as a critic, for the anti-Saddam opposition he is an ex-Baathist, while ordinary Iraqis say he is a CIA man.

    But the BBC's Jon Leyne at the UN in New York says Mr Allawi was evidently not Mr Brahimi's first choice and the UN's response has been most confused.

    The Panama Deception

    This documentary won the 1993 Academy Award for best documentary for its potrayal of how the U.S. attacked Panama and killed 3,000 to 4,000 people in an invasion that the rest of the world was against.

    “…And Then There Were None”

    “…And Then There Were None” investigates the rampant poaching of otters in India. These playful, inquisitive animals are being persecuted for their highly prized pelts, which are smuggled out of India to be made into fur coats and garment trimmings. The film documents hunting by professional poachers who use trained dogs to flush out otters from their wetland refuges, as well as the illegal trade in otter skins.

    The film “…And Then There Were None”, was supported by a grant to Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) from the British High Commission’s Devolved Environment Project Fund, was produced and directed by award winning filmmaker Syed Fayaz.

    To know more about otters read: Sea Otters by G. R. Vanblaricom

    May 29, 2004


    Recently this blog has been targeted by spammers. And am tired of deleting their *sick* comments. So for the time being the sidebar comment section is removed.

    Regular readers can still leave their comments.

    Actual writings on charts in a hospital:

    These are rather funny I think:

    And we wonder about the state of health care in the US.

    1. The patient refused autopsy.

    2. The patient has no previous history of suicides.

    3. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

    4. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

    5. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

    6. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

    7. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

    8. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

    9. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

    10. Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.

    11. Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

    12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

    13. She is numb from her toes down.

    14. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

    15. The skin was moist and dry.

    16. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

    17. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

    18. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid. [Worse than colonoscopy]

    19. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

    20. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

    21. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

    22. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized. [Amazing]

    23. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

    24. Skin: somewhat pale but present.

    25. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

    26. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

    27. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

    May 28, 2004

    Low-carb blog

    CarbWire is a great new low-carb blog. Whether you're already on a diet, or are just doing research, they provide the most up-to-date info on the web.

    The Food Section

    When it comes to cooking ability, not everyone is created equal. While some amateur chefs can sizzle up a steak worthy of Iron Chef, those less blessed have trouble boiling water. No matter what your culinary skill level, you're sure to find The Food Section's menu quite tasty. Featuring articles and photos from Josh Friedland, the site offers ideas and recipes on everything from the perfect appetizer to delicious (and unique) desserts. And, for those whose home insurance doesn't cover home cookin', there's a great section on eating out. Bye-bye belt!

    May 27, 2004

    entrepreneurs are made

    The United States is much derided around the world today, but in the area of entrepreneurship we are still the model. The European Union's recent report on "Helping to create an entrepreneurial culture" testifies of that fact:

    The image of entrepreneurs as positive role models has never been as strong in Europe as in the US. Becoming an entrepreneur has long been seen as an unsafe and risky option, not particularly appealing and less socially rewarding than other, more traditional professions. The educational systems have not in the past been geared towards the development of entrepreneurship and self-employment, the final goal of the educational path being rather to produce employees working in a big company or in public administration.

    mBlog teething problems

    Friends I am sorry the blog does not look the way it used to be. mBlog recently did some upgrades and now some of the scripts don't work. Categories, Calendar, Most Comments and Recent Entries sections on the side bar don't work as expected....

    They have disabled PHP.

    I have had some comments which were visible and in the database before the upgrade missing all together.

    Have emailed mBlog support but the emailed bounced. So am not sure what is going on, but will give them some time to sort their house.

    May 26, 2004

    Would it need aliens to build the Pyramids?

    May be not, if one knows some primitive tools and physics...


    A Buddhist approaches a hotdog vendor and says:
    "Make me one with everything."

    He gives the vendor a $20 bill and waits. Finally he says:
    "Where's my change?"

    Says the vendor: "All change must come from within."


    Marty wakes up at home with a huge hangover. He forces himself to open his eyes, and the first thing he sees is a couple of aspirins and a glass of water on the side table. He sits down and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed. Marty looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotless, clean. So is the rest of the house. He takes the aspirins and notices a note on the table

    "Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to go shopping. Love you."

    So he goes to the kitchen and sure enough there is a hot breakfast and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating Marty asks, "Son, what happened last night?" His son says, "Well, you came home after 3 A.M., drunk and delirious. Broke some furniture, puked in the hallway, and gave yourself a black eye when you stumbled into the door." Confused, Marty asks, "So, why is everything in order and so clean, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me?"

    His son replies, "Oh that! Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she tried to take your pants off, you said, "Lady, leave me alone, I'm married!"

    A self-induced hangover - $100.00
    Broken furniture - $200.00
    Breakfast - $10.00
    Saying the right thing - priceless

    (via Lambertus Meyer)

    May 24, 2004

    Blog Songs

    "Having followed a number of weblogs for half a decade now, it's an appropriate time for me to reflect on the cultural impact they've had outside of our insular corner of the Internet. No, there's no sitcom about bloggers or any major musicals based on the lives of our breed of geeks, but there is one type of expression that weblogs have embraced for years that hasn't been properly documented.

    Blog songs. There are a lot of really entertaining songs by, for, and about bloggers, and some of them are even deliberately entertaining." Anil Dash

    popular press and weblogs

    Cameron Marlow's analysis: journalists don't bother to explain weblogs anymore.

    scribe, mozilla plugin

    For all those who always find themselves hitting "ctrl-s" when writing entries, this is a godsend.

    May 23, 2004

    Sensitive Light

    When you have a hobby you thoroughly enjoy, you don't worry if you're good at it -- the point is to have fun (and hopefully learn something along the way). Sensitive Light, a collection of photographs by a recent retiree, applies the pleasure principle with panache. While this amateur shutterbug doesn't aspire to go pro, you'll quickly see that's not due to a lack of talent. Indeed, after a look around the various galleries of friendly faces, stunning landscapes, and electric nightlife, you may feel inspired to pick up a new hobby or revisit an old favorite from years past.

    Black Ships & Samurai

    This fascinating site from two MIT professors examines the first encounter of America and Japan on Japanese soil. Until the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853, Japan was largely a closed society. Here you can examine documents and artwork side-by-side to see how the Japanese regarded their American visitors and vice versa. The detail-filled and thoroughly researched exhibit will take you back to a time when steam ships were state of the art and feudalism ruled the land. Don't miss scrolling through visual narratives for an engaging look at the meeting. Even if you're not a history buff, this look back at a seminal moment in American and Japanese history will have you clicking full steam ahead.

    May 22, 2004

    Is Bill Gates Looking to Take Over the Blogosphere?

    Look out Google and Moveable Type. Bill Gates has discovered blogging for business.

    Gates touted the wonders of blogging to CEOs of some of the world's top companies at the eighth annual CEO summit put on by Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.

    Weblogs (blogs), online communities and spontaneous websites will be the key to collaborative working in future, according to Microsoft.

    Speaking at Microsoft's Chief Executive Summit the company's chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates predicted that 'bottom-up' collaboration would be the new way of working.

    Describing the corporate dilemma over how to give staff freedom without creating problems for the business, he said: "The next generation of collaboration is about bottom-up collaborative websites, where the IT department doesn't get involved."

    Gates also pointed to blogging and Rich Site Summary notifications as easing the sharing of information.

    "What blogging and these notifications are about is that you make it very easy to write something that you can think of, like an e-mail, but it goes up onto a website. And then people who care about that get a little notification.

    "The ultimate idea is that you should get the information you want when you want it," he said.

    Gates outlined Microsoft plans to use knowledge it has gained from the Microsoft Developer Network to create community-centric Office features.

    And he promised that the company would make available to customers the tools it uses internally to track software and hardware reliability, and user satisfaction.

    "We're taking these tools that we have used and handing them over to the IT departments," he said, but did not specify when.

    Other developments highlighted by Gates included voice web portals and customer self-service software.

    On the productivity front, Microsoft is working on email authentication technology, with the aim of fighting spam mail.

    The company is urging mail vendors to agree over caller ID-style authentication protocols, which force strangers to identify themselves or risk being blocked by default.

    Interesting Facts from the 1500's

    Interesting Facts from the 1500's

    The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how (and why) things used to be.

    Here are some facts about the 1500s: Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

    Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children-last the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually loose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

    Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometime the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "Its raining cats and dogs."

    There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

    The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying "dirt poor."

    The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

    In the old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit a fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

    Sometimes they would obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with their guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

    Those with money had plates of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

    Bread was divided according to status. Workers got to the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

    Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

    England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When re-opening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they though they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie a bell on it. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered to be a "dead ringer."

    And that's the truth! Now, whoever said History was boring!! Educate someone - share these facts.

    May 21, 2004

    Francois Gautier: The white woman and India

    The white woman and India

    By Francois Gautier for rediff

    May 20, 2004

    The spectacle on the night of May 18, of all these Congress leaders, many of them intelligent men and women, debasing themselves in front of Sonia Gandhi, pleading with her to lead the country, made me feel sick. If Sonia had any dignity, she would have stopped it, but she just listened, with a slightly bored expression, right till the last Congressman and woman had wallowed in dirt before her.

    And again I asked myself the question which has baffled me for 35 years, although I am myself a white man and a born Christian: why do Indians have such an attraction towards the white skin?

    After reading the newspapers on Wednesday morning and seeing how newspapers such as The Times of India still root for Sonia Gandhi, with columnists such as Dileep Padgaonkar saying that her becoming prime minister would be in tune 'with the highest Vedantic ideals,' I wonder: does India, one of the most ancient civilizations on the planet, need a white woman to govern her?

    I am sure Sonia has great qualities, but are Indians so dumb, stupid and backward, that they cannot find among themselves someone intelligent enough, non-corrupt enough, to lead them? And what about this craze for Mother Teresa? She may have been a saint, but nobody has harmed India's image in the 20th century so much: when you say India in the West, their eyes light up and they answer: 'Mother Teresa/ Kolkata/ poor people/ dumb people/ starving people/ who do not know how to care after their own underprivileged/ who need a white woman to show them how to pick up the dying from the streets/ to look after orphans'!

    Is this the image Indians want today? An image that is harming them, which is stopping Western investors from investing in India? Yet, Mother Teresa is worshipped here, from Kolkata to Chennai, from Delhi to Bangalore, and when she will be made a saint by the Vatican, perpetuating this colonial, superior-minded, Christian symbol of white superiority over the brown/black man, all the Indian media will rejoice in its own mental slavery and the Indian government will probably declare a national holiday!

    Why don't Indians understand that brown is beautiful? White people spend hours on the beach and put on a hundred creams to get tanned. And in winter they even artificially lie under infrared lamps in beauty parlors to get brown! Why this obsession for the Indian woman to have white skin?

    How come the two most popular actors in India have fair skin and nearly blue eyes? Why this craze for 'fair' brides? If you find the answers to these, you will understand why the fatal attraction for Sonia Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

    Obviously, colonisation has frozen the Indian mind in certain patterns and the British made sure, through Macaulay's policies, of leaving behind an enduring inferiority complex among Indians, by constantly harping on the flaws of Indian culture and inflating them. That is why today Indian intellectuals repeat like parrots what their masters had said before them: 'Hindus are fundamentalists/Brahmins are exploiters/Gowalkar was a Nazi/Indians are corrupt and no good.'

    But that does not explain everything: most colonised countries have aped their masters after having hated them. No, in my mind the greatest factor behind India's love for the white is the absurd theory of Aryan invasion

    According to this theory, which was actually devised in the 18th and 19th centuries by British linguists and archaeologists, the first inhabitants of India were good-natured, peaceful, dark-skinned shepherds called the Dravidians, who had founded what is called the Harappan or the Indus Valley civilisation. They were supposedly remarkable builders, witness the city of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistani Sind, but had no culture to speak of, no literature, no proper script even. Then, around 1500 BC, India is said to have been invaded by tribes called the Aryans: white-skinned, nomadic people, who originated somewhere in western Russia and imposed upon the Dravidians the hateful caste system. To Aryans is attributed Sanskrit, the Vedic or Hindu religion, India's greatest spiritual texts, the Vedas, as well as a host of subsequent writings, the Upanishads, the Mahabharat, the Ramayan, etc.

    This was indeed a masterstroke on the part of the British: thanks to the Aryan theory, they showed on the one hand that Indian civilisation was not that ancient and that it was posterior to the cultures which influenced the Western world -- Mesopotamia, Sumeria, and Babylon -- and that whatever good things India had developed -- Sanskrit, literature, or even its architecture -- had been influenced by the West.

    Thus, Sanskrit, instead of being the mother of all Indo-European languages, became just a branch of their huge family; thus, the religion of Zarathustra is said to have influenced Hinduism, and not vice versa. On the other hand, it divided India and pitted against each other the low caste, dark-skinned Dravidians and the high caste, light-skinned Aryans, a rift which is still enduring. Yet, most recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries point out that there never was an Aryan invasion and many historians, including the malevolent Romila Thapar, are distancing themselves from it. Yet, most Indians still believe in this absurd theory.

    Wake up O Indians: you are as great, if not greater than the white man. You can do as well, if not better than the white man. Not only did your forefathers devise some of the basic principles of mathematics, astrology, and surgical medicine, not only are your people among the most brilliant in the world today -- half of Silicon Valley is of Indian origin, 30 percent of the United Kingdom's doctors are Indians -- but you still hold within yourselves a unique spiritual knowledge, which once roamed the world but which has now disappeared, replaced by the intolerant creed of the two major monotheistic religions which say: 'if you don't believe in my true God, I will either kill you or convert you'.

    Wake up India, brown is beautiful, smart and it is the future. Dr Manmohan Singh, whatever has to be said about the Congress, you have partly redeemed India's pride, and our good wishes are with you.

    Francois Gautier is the correspondent in South Asia for Ouest-France, the largest circulation French daily (1 million copies)

    lost in translation

    As you might have guessed Dr. Singh's reply "Say, make Singh the PM and you should be fine!!'

    James Carville

    Friends, James Carville:

    "Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote for Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true!"

    "This current administration cannot even bring home a soldier from Iraq and they talk about putting a man on the moon.. didn't the Democrats whose candidates were elected in the last 3 presidential elections do that?"

    George W. Bush Meets Moses

    George W. Bush was walking through an airport last week, when he saw an old man with white hair, a long white beard, wearing a long white robe and holding a staff. He walked up to the man, who was staring at the ceiling, and "Excuse me sir, aren't you Moses?"

    The man stood perfectly still and continued to stare at the ceiling, saying nothing. Again, George W. asked, a little louder this time, "Excuse me sir, aren't you Moses?" Again, the old man stared at the ceiling motionless without saying a word. George W. tried a third time, louder yet. "Excuse me sir, aren't you Moses?" Again, no movement or words from the old man. He continued to stare at the ceiling.

    One of George W's aides asked him if there was a problem, and George W. said, "Either this man is deaf or extremely rude. I have asked him three times if he was Moses, and he has not answered me yet." To which the man, still staring at the ceiling finally replied to the aide, "I can hear him and yes, I am Moses, but the last time I spoke to a bush, I spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness."

    May 20, 2004

    Signs of Life

    Signs of Life: Photographs of signs that transcend their objectivity to reveal our humanity.

    "Signs of Life" created signage to tell us about our complex world and help us navigate through it. But what do signs tell us about ourselves? This site presents signs that call to mind familiar human traits, such a penchant for stating the obvious. Whether it's a monolith up ahead or directions on where to find parking, sometimes you just can't be too explicit. Other times, brutal honesty can backfire, scaring away valuable customers with our dirty laundry. Drastic warnings are needed for those with hard heads: Be on the look-out for high surf, falling coconuts, and wayward beach logs. Some people need things spelled out, while others need a picture to get the message. Viewing this international collection, you'll find some signs lost in translation, while others will have you wondering whether you're coming or going.

    May 19, 2004

    Modern Corporations = Psychopaths?

    After three years of corporate scandals and executive prosecutions, "The Corporation" is only the latest movie to put big business on the barbecue.

    The Corporation is a documentary, but it's hard not to feel the rising terror of a horror flick while watching it. There are the stock, doomed good guys and a raft of sinister villains. Scariest of all is the premise that if left unchecked, the corporation, as the dominant institution of our day, will eventually be our undoing.

    The Corporation, which has played to sold-out houses in (not surprisingly) Canada and opens in June in American theaters, is based on Joel Bakan's new book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan (Free Press, 2004), a title that isn't subtle about its intent.

    May 18, 2004

    Gmail Goes to 1TB!

    Apparently "kicking it up a notch", Gmail now indicates that users have a full terabyte of disk space! Mine says:

    You are currently using 0.9 MB (0%) of your 1000000 MB.

    Is this a mistake or a genius leapfrogging of their competitors? (You've got to imagine that few, if any, users will go past 1GB making this mostly a marketing gimmick.)

    MRI Movie Maps Brain Development

    With its 100 billion neurons, the human brain is remarkably difficult to decipher. A report published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides a new, 15-year view of how the organ develops.

    Red Rectangles: Stairways to heaven?

    Astronomers have photographed intriguing ladder-like structures surrounding a dying star.

    'Junk' DNA throws up precious secrets

    A collection of mystery DNA segments, which seem to be critical for the survival of many animals, are causing great interest among scientists.

    May 17, 2004


    Connor Dickie, just presented Eye-Contact Sensing Glasses and eyeBlog at CHI 2004 in Vienna, Austria. ECSGlasses and eyeBlog are a video recording and publishing system that responds to human social interaction.

    Gender Similarities and Differences among Teenage Bloggers

    David Huffaker's excellent thesis.

    May 16, 2004

    British Pub Etiquette

    The strange and subtle rules + customs of the British pub.

    In 1992, the BLRA asked the experienced social scientists at SIRC to apply the same research techniques in the British pub. Some of SIRC’s findings were published in Pubwatching with Desmond Morris (1993) and its sequel Women in Pubs (1994). In 1995, for Passport to the Pub, the SIRC Research team – led by Research Manager Joe McCann and Senior Researcher John Middleton – embarked on yet another six-month anthropological pub-crawl. In total, the research on which this book is based has involved observation work in over 800 pubs, consultations with over 500 publicans and bar staff and interviews with over 1000 pubgoers – both natives and tourists.

    Coming to a Store Near You: Chinese Cola

    SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's largest beverage maker is going where no other Chinese firm has gone before -- it has shipped the first retail batch of its own cola to the home of the carbonated soft drink, the United States.

    May 15, 2004

    India: The Jurassic Park for next five years?

    India: The Jurassic Park for next five years?

    Newsletter at India Cause

    Pakistani fundamentalists are thrilled and the Italy is already celebrating India's election results. Why? Obviously, they have a strong reason to celebrate. Now there is a hope that India can be taken back by few hundred years…There is a possibility that India can be ruled by the 'Jurassic Park' ideology for at least 5 years.

    "Clearly, the quality of governance has progressively ceased to matter to India's voters and this must be a cause of serious worry, for it sounds sharp warning bells for the country's economy and polity. It is now for the Congress to tame some of its radical partners and continue the magnificent work done by the Vajpayee Government. Good governance may not be an election winner as this result shows, but there is no alternative except to persevere with it."

    The feeling is sinking in. The stock market crashed 6% yesterday as it become apparent that the support for the Congress from the Left parties will come with many strings attached.

    Writes Shekhar Gupta (Indian Express):

    The politicians of the Left, quite similarly, do not know the markets, its style, temperament, sensitivities, swings, the thinness of its skin. It is time both learnt a little bit more about each other. This is a globalising India in a globalising world, so the Left cannot hide from the markets. Similarly, the presence of the Left in the power structure, the message of impatience from the voter in this election, is a reality the markets have to make provision for.

    One thing you would say for the NDA is that while it had its Togadias and Swadeshis snapping at its heels, or generally hunting for headlines, it kept them in check, or at least mostly insulated them from its policy-making. As the dominant leader of this coalition, it is for the Congress now, as it recovers from the shock and awe of its unexpected victory, to restore sanity — among its leftist partners as well as the equally sentimental bourses.

    The Economist writes:

    Bad for the credibility of almost every pundit and pollster; bad for political stability; even perhaps bad for economic reform. But the outcome of India's election has been a triumph for democracy, and the ordinary voter's refusal, after being subjected to months of self-congratulatory government propaganda about “India Shining”, to accept rhetoric over results.

    The prospect of a period of political jockeying and potential instability will worry investors, who also fear that the election will be taken as a popular rejection of the liberalising reforms of the Indian economy, recently championed by the BJP. In two state-assembly elections held simultaneously, well-known reformist leaders have been ousted.

    Congress, for its part, traditionally too proud for grubby coalition politics, had this time assembled an impressive haul of allies. But parliament will be hung, and to form a government it will still need the support of the left, and perhaps of one or two other uncommitted parties, of which the biggest are Samajwadi and the Bahujan Samaj, two lower-caste based parties with their strength in India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh. Some of these potential partners may balk at supporting Mrs Gandhi as prime minister. One rumoured alternative from within Congress is Manmohan Singh, a respected former finance minister.

    An unstable coalition government, relying on the support of the Communists, is unlikely to prove radical, and may be short-lived. But the presence of Mr Singh in Congress—as a senior policymaker, at any rate, if not in the top job—is one reason for guarded optimism that the election result will not mean the stalling of economic reform. It was Mr Singh who launched the opening up and liberalisation of the economy in 1991. Congress's manifesto commits it to a policy of sustaining and even accelerating current rates of economic growth. That will not be possible without more reform: cutting the fiscal deficit; continuing to foster competition; privatising more state-run enterprises.

    There are other reasons for cheer. First, one of Mr Vajpayee's dreams commands consensus support and will surely still be followed: building a lasting peace with Pakistan, a project dear to Congress the last time it was in power. Second, the electoral rebuke for the BJP from rural India might intensify efforts to spread some of the alleged shine to the gloomier parts of the countryside. Properly interpreted, it should not thwart reform, but spur it.

    Yan Sham-Shackleton: Born and Banned in China

    Born and Banned in China: Tiananmen Square and Internet Censorship

    Around late March/early April every year for the last 15, the Chinese government goes on alert. April is a sensitive time for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), because not only do human rights NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) such as Amnesty International file their previous year reports after the first quarter, it is also the month the 1989 democratic movement began in China.

    more ...

    (Ms. Yan Sham-Shackleton is a Columnist for PopMatters)

    May 14, 2004

    Pianist Maksim Mrvica

    Amazing link please check it out.

    It's not a webpage, your media player will show you a video of a young pianist playing 'the flight of the bumble-bee', classical but with rock style.

    Croatian pianist, Maksim Mrvica - you can read more about him on his offical website.

    (via sof)

    Greenpeace on Trial

    I received this today..

    Dear friends,

    As a supporter of Greenpeace, you're going on trial on Monday for protecting the rainforest in the Amazon.

    For the first time ever, the US government has decided to prosecute an entire organisation for exercising its right to free speech through non-violent protest.

    The trial begins on May 17th, and results from a protest against an illegal shipment of mahogany headed for the Port of Miami in Florida two years ago. Unable to find a suitable law against calling attention to environmental crimes, the Attorney General has charged Greenpeace under an obscure 19th-century law designed to stop prostitutes from boarding sailing vessels.

    If we are found guilty, it will mean being branded a criminal organisation

    While Greenpeace is in the dock, those who logged, imported and sold the illegally imported mahogany continue to operate.

    Not only is this a wholly unwarranted and politically motivated attack on an organisation that was attempting to prevent a crime, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for the future of free speech and the right to civil protest in the US. It could also be used as an example in other countries to curb non-violent direct action. The case has been attacked in articles and editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Miami Herald. Senator Patrick Leahy of the US Judiciary Committee wrote to US Attorney General John Ashcroft saying his selective prosecution of Greenpeace could "have a chilling effect on free speech and activism of all kinds." Al Gore called the case "highly disturbing" in a speech to MoveOn members. Fellow environmental and civil rights groups have rallied to demand Ashcroft drop the case. But Ashcroft's not listening.

    Now it's your turn to make sure we don't let this case go unchallenged. We need your help. Sign on to our letter demanding Bush and Ashcroft prosecute illegal loggers rather than Greenpeace. To date, 37,000 people have joined this appeal. We want to have 50,000 signatories by Monday. We need to show the US government that people all over the world are watching this trial. We need to remind them they can't silence Greenpeace without silencing everyone who supports Greenpeace.

    Don't let Bush and Ashcroft silence you. Take action now

    Find out more about the case

    Meet some of the people involved and the history of the action and prosecution

    Send this fun animation about the case to your friends

    As a supporter of Greenpeace and Non violent protest I feel strongly about this! All those who feel the same way please support the campaign!


    (via elspeth)

    food for thought

    Yahoo Boosts E-Mail Storage

    Company challenges Google with plans to offer subscribers 100MB of space.

    Responding to the Gmail offer, Yahoo plans to raise the storage limits for its free e-mail users later in the second quarter or third quarter of this year from the current 6MB to 100MB, a U.K. spokesperson for the company confirms Friday.

    Meanwhile, premium subscribers--who currently pay close to $50 a year for 100MB of storage--will be given "virtually unlimited" capacity later this year, the spokesperson says.

    May 13, 2004

    Just so you know

    Did it!

    I have been meaning to have my dream feature in 'Frequent Commenter' section but had no time to do it.

    What I wanted was a link on the Commenter either to their URL address or to their email id. I tried asking a lot of MT gurus and they all said one thing : "Can't be done using mblog; you need to host your own site, and install MT and MySQL database". Well ... I had immense faith in my ability, so today I took less than an hour to get it working -- using, ahem, mblog (let's hear the "Ooo"s and "Aahhh"s ).

    Now that this option is working I do not have to Blogroll my regular readers.

    Check it out and see if your blog is listed in it or not. :)


    A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment.

    Suddenly the man realized that the next day he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight.

    Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 AM." He left it where he knew she would find it.

    The next morning the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't awakened him when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.

    The paper said, "It is 5:00 AM. Wake up."

    Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests.

    May 12, 2004

    dawn of the Maya

    Thanks to more than 100 years of research, much more is now known about the classic Maya period, an era of great cities ruled by powerful kings. Now, a revolution in Maya studies is pushing back the clock as scientists discover the dawn of the Maya. This program travels to the jungles of Guatemala, where National Geographic archeologist Richard Hansen has discovered a previously unknown dynasty. (airdates on PBS 8:00pm Wednesday, May 12 and 1:00pm Sunday, May 16)

    Russian Empire in photographs

    Great visuals of Russian life before the "October Revolution" and in the immediate years after it.

    May 11, 2004

    Picture of the week!

    Get up early enough and you may see this!

    and this..

    for more info...

    Fat-destroying pill?

    One way to treat obesity may be to starve the fat cells. University of Texas researchers have designed a drug that selectively kils the blood vessels that supply white fat cells. Massively fat mice given the drug lost 30 percent of their weight in one month. Eventually, the researchers told New Scientist, a similar approach could be used to help obese humans.

    May 10, 2004

    A Geometric Superformula

    A simple equation that you can use to generate a wide variety of geometric shapes!

    41 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena

    "The term “optical illusion” has pejorative connotations, as if exposing a malfunction of the visual system. Rather, I view these phenomena as bringing out particular good adaptations to standard viewing situations. These adaptations are “hard-wired” into our brains, thus under some artificial manipulations they cause inappropriate interpretations of the visual scene. Or, as Purkinje put it (according to Teuber, 1960): “Illusions of the senses tell us the truth about perception”. - by Michael Bach


    Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

    May 09, 2004

    Tailor's bird has customers in stitches

    A brainy cockatiel has learnt to sew after watching his owner working in a tailor's shop.

    The nine-year-old bird called Baggio learnt how to stitch by copying Jack Territo.

    The pet can now pick up a pin and thread it through the material with his beak.

    Mr Territo, 60, who runs a tailor's shop in Park Street, Bristol, said: "I've never heard of a bird that can stitch but Baggio has a great sewing action.

    "He has become a real hit with our customers."

    Blonde an endangered species

    Blondes 'to die out in 200 years'. Scientists believe the last blondes will be in Finland. A study by experts in Germany suggests people with blonde hair are an endangered species and will become extinct by 2202.

    Did you know?

    To erase permanent marker marks from the whiteboard, try tracing over it with non-permanent marker and immediately erasing it.

    300 images from 1800 sites

    A wide, useful compendium of icons from around the web!

    May 08, 2004

    Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms

    Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms

    Every master artist needs a showcase. So, the Institute for the Promotion of the Less than One Millimeter proudly presents Mother Nature's most overlooked works of art -- previously visible only through a microscope -- now enlarged and reproduced for your viewing pleasure. Not to be outdone by upstarts like da Vinci and Dali, nature's handiwork is a testament to natural selection and eons of technical fine-tuning. Notice the intricacy and elegance found in her freshwater collection, rife complexity in the Diatom Depot, whimsy in the Ciliate Center, and festiveness Water Flea Circus. Over in the saltwater collection, we see an explosion of texture in the Radiolaria Lounge. This enigmatic microfossil shows she can be cryptic as well. The fascinating egg chamber reveals gestating ideas, while the algae exhibit blatantly displays her full range of talent and emotion.


    Museum of Bad Art

    Few people are as pretentious as the denizens of the art world. If a picture is worth a thousand words, they usually see fit to analyze it with a couple thousand more. No review of art would be complete without "hegemony," "duality," or "personae." But what about the art that gets no love, the bad art that defiles walls across our nation? We're not even talking about Thomas Kinkade or Patrick Nagle -- we're talking truly bad art, painful to most eyes. Thankfully this museum has seen fit to thumb its nose at art snobs and aggregate the worst of the worst. The gallery is truly astonishing in its depth and breadth; we can only suggest a few starting points: the frightening Jerez the Clown, the creepy floating head of Eileen, and the head-crushing specter of the Vortex. Those tired of the reverence attached to art, should take a stroll in this offbeat museum.

    May 07, 2004

    Calls needed to ban canned hunts in NYS

    Please put this on your blog, email your friends - let's STOP this brutality. Let us all contact Speaker Sheldon Silver.

    Thanks to all of your calls and e-mails, the New York State Assembly Bill, A 10188a, which will ban the killing of non-native mammals such as lions, zebras, Corsican rams, and wild boars at Canned Shoots, passed out the Environmental Conservation Committee!!

    Now, we need to take the next step of making sure this bill passes out of the Codes Committee.

    Therefore, please contact Speaker Sheldon Silver to urge him to use his authority as the leader of the NYS Assembly to urge Assembly member Joseph Lentol to pass "The Canned Shoot Bill" out of his Codes Committee ASAP so it can be voted on by the entire Assembly. (That's all you have to say!)

    Speaker Sheldon Silver: 518 455 3791, Speaker@assembly.state.ny.us

    If anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

    All the best,


    for more information click on continue reading...


    Canned shoots are commercial hunts in which trophy hunters pay large fees to shoot animals in enclosed areas. These animals, who are often "retired" from zoos, circuses, or roadside shows, or may have been bred on the canned hunting facilities, often amble over to lick the hand of the shooter or trot up to the "guide's" vehicle expecting to be fed as usual.

    Animals at canned shoot "preserves" have no chance of escape, and they die in agony because hunters shoot them numerous times in the gut so as to avoid shooting them in the head. Hunters want to keep the "trophy heads" intact for mounting on the wall. This form of hunting is so deplorable that many hunting organizations, whose members adhere to "fair chase" principles, condemn canned shoots.

    The current bill, sponsored by Assembly member Scott Stringer, bans the use of non-native big game mammals on all canned shoot facilities regardless of acreage. (Examples of non-native big game mammals are: lions, zebras, Corsican rams, wild boars.)

    May 06, 2004

    Roger Bannister - first to run mile in less than 4 minutes

    On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in recorded history. The 25-year-old native of Harrow on the Hill, England, completed the distance in 3:59.4 at Oxford. At the end of the year, Bannister retired from running to pursue his medical studies full-time. He later became an eminent neurologist, he was knighted in 1975.

    Roger Gilbert Bannister (born March 23, 1929) was a British athlete best known as the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes. He was born in Harrow, Middlesex, England.

    The achievement was called the "Miracle Mile" because some doubted a four-minute-mile was possible.

    This historic event took place on May 6, 1954 during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University. With winds up to 25 miles per hour, the event was almost canceled. However, the persistent Bannister prevailed and was rewarded with the honor of running the "miracle mile." His time was 3:59.4. The race was paced by Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway, both of whom went on to establish their own stellar track performances.

    Bannister wore the number 41 on his jersey that day.

    He was the first recipient of Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" award.

    Books written by Roger Bannister:
    - The Four-Minute Mile, Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition
    - Brain and Bannister's Clinical Neurology (Oxford Medical Publications)

    I'll be there for you ...

    May 05, 2004


    In today's broadcast world, microphones are discreetly tucked under a lapel, attached to a sports reporter's belt, or used as a fashion accessory by the likes of Britney Spears. This site journeys to a time when pros gabbed into enormous mics that often resembled blow dryers, magic wands, rolling pins, shower heads, and even your noggin.

    This is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at early radio and TV production, as well as the audio science of vintage mics, some of which are still used today. Listen to the unique sounds of many of the mics featured, including an intriguing clip from President Harry S. Truman.

    Don't miss the galleries of celebrity mic shots in an era when the likes of Orson Welles, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole captivated people with their unforgettable voices.

    May 04, 2004

    Emily Parker: Chinese computer nerds outwit the censors

    Received an email from a friend which said, "'I've been gone a few days and, catching up, just came across the article copied below which provides fascinating details on how internet chatrooms in China got at Vice President Cheney's doctored speech at Fudan University:"

    Uncut: Cheney on China's Web

    By Emily Parker
    April 29, 2004

    When U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's speech in Shanghai earlier this month was drastically censored by Chinese state media, despite Beijing's promise that it would do no such thing, it proved that China's long-awaited political reforms have a long way to go. But the coarse attempt to conceal the truth revealed at the same time how much things have changed over the past decade.

    For while China's government can still control the press, its grip over the spread of information is slipping. China's dedicated cybernauts stepped into the breach and posted on the Internet unexpunged versions of the veep's speech. Chinese Web sites can indeed expose the cracks in the party's control over the media.

    For this reason, right after it emerged that Chinese censors had blotted out the parts they didn't like in Mr. Cheney's comments, I went exploring mainland-accessible Web sites to see if there were any discussions or essays on the topic. Of course, China's Web sites are carefully monitored; by both electronic and human censors. And the Chinese authorities went to great lengths to ensure that some leading Web sites contained the version of the Cheney speech that was censored. In state-media versions, the vice president's references to individual liberties and political freedoms were omitted, for example. When Mr. Cheney referred to "rising prosperity and expanding political freedom" across Asia, the Chinese version only mentioned "prosperity." Expressions like "the desire for freedom is universal" were also cut, as were references to the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Taiwan Relations Act. The cleansing was so thorough that when I first started sifting through Chinese-language Web sites, I didn't think I'd find anything that deviated too far from the party line.

    It turns out that you just need to know where to look. There are Chinese-language chatrooms that are accessible on the mainland -- and largely frequented by young, educated Chinese -- that constantly challenge the government by printing the truth. These Web sites stay afloat by skillfully dancing around the censors.

    After spending some time scouring these chatrooms for comments on the censorship incident, I finally struck gold in a popular chatroom that I had heard was known for pushing the envelope. The fact that Mr. Cheney's Shanghai speech had been censored was mentioned in the title, and the contents proceeded to give concrete examples of how the official version of the speech deviated from Mr. Cheney's original words. The report mentioned the fact that references to political freedom had been censored.

    While this essay was exactly what I was looking for, it still took me longer than usual to find it. I had been scanning chatroom discussions for the two characters in Mr. Cheney's Chinese name, "qie ni," but was coming up with nothing. I later found out why. In the essay mentioned above, the writer replaced the character "qie" with a completely different one that has a similar pronunciation. With a little time and effort, it was easy enough to connect the dots. But a computer or net-watcher who was told to look out for Mr. Cheney's name would just as easily overlook the controversial report.

    My pride in my code-breaking ability was counterbalanced by concerns that others might not be able to find what the authorities wanted concealed. Then I realized that finding information about Mr. Cheney's speech wasn't nearly as difficult as I had thought. I discovered an even longer and more detailed account of the censorship on another Chinese Web site, and this version printed the correct spelling of Mr. Cheney's name. The report took care to note exactly how Mr. Cheney's phrases had been altered or deleted in the official state-media version.

    At the conclusion of the essay there was a forum for discussion. While the comments were often carefully and vaguely phrased, some respondents made no efforts to conceal their displeasure at the censorship:

    "I just have just two words, shameless and deceitful," said one. Another said: "China's news media is just a propaganda tool of the Communist Party!" In this phrase, the characters for "Communist Party" were mixed in with letters of the roman alphabet; again, possibly to throw the censors off the scent.

    As I continued reading the comments, I was also glad to see that some online politicos hadn't lost their sense of humor: "I don't think the censors were thorough enough. The best thing would have been to also delete the two characters for 'Cheney' and replace them with an East Asian name." Another said, "We all should have known that words like 'political freedom' couldn't possibly exist in the Communist Party dictionary!"

    Yet another referred gamely to a famous point of discord between the U.S. and China: "This is an infringement of Cheney's intellectual property rights."

    The final comment in the discussion expressed gratitude for receiving access to uncensored information. "I deeply thank [the person who posted this piece] for providing us with these valuable extracts." According to the site, the passage had been visited over 1,500 times. Tiny, to be sure, but this was just one site.

    This presents a paradox. The Chinese government risked the wrath and derision of critics, both international and domestic -- and earned a rebuke from the U.S. Embassy -- in its efforts to conceal information from the population. At the same time, Web sites that exposed this were accessible in Mainland China. In fact, Beijingers could simply visit the American Embassy Web site to see Mr. Cheney's uncensored words translated into Chinese. Maybe this contradiction is simply due to the fact that China's censors have neither the time, energy nor inclination to sift through the overwhelming contents of cyberspace.

    The censorship of Mr. Cheney's speech undoubtedly dismayed China watchers who had been arguing that China's rapid economic development would inevitably compel the leaders to loosen their grip on the media. But while China's days of censorship may be far from over, some savvy Internet writers prove that it's getting harder all the time.

    (Ms. Parker is an editorial page writer at The Asian Wall Street Journal.)

    Andy Borowitz: creepy resemblance shocker


    Saddam Loyalist to Look Less Like Saddam

    The U.S. military command in Iraq has ordered former Iraqi Maj. Gen. Jasim Mohammed Saleh to undergo what it called a “Queer Eye” makeover to make the former Saddam Hussein loyalist look less like Saddam Hussein, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed today.

    In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, General Richard Myers said that the U.S. had been ready to transfer authority over the city of Fallujah to General Saleh “until someone at headquarters pointed out that he looked creepily like Saddam.”

    In explaining the Joint Chiefs’ misgivings about General Saleh, General Myers said, “We felt that giving military authority to a gentleman who could basically take Saddam’s date to the prom without her suspecting anything was, under the circumstances, ill advised.”

    After an intense round of discussions at the Pentagon, the U.S. decided to order a so-called “Queer Eye” makeover for the former evildoer, dropping style guru Carson Kressley into Fallujah by parachute.

    In a conversation with reporters today, Mr. Kressley said he had urged General Saleh to shave his Hussein-like moustache and ditch his Republican Guard uniform in favor of a tailored suit by the German designer Jill Sander.

    “I took one look at that Republican Guard uniform, and said, ‘WMD – Wrong Men’s Designer,’” Mr. Kressley quipped.

    Mr. Kressley said that although General Saleh was resistant at first to his “Queer Eye” makeover, by the end of the process the fascist and the fashionista had “totally bonded.”

    “I have no idea what a Baath Party is, but I like the sound of it,” Mr. Kressley said.

    At your age..

    Want to know what successful people accomplished at your age?

    May 03, 2004

    Hooray For Bollywood

    My Sunday morning was made when CBS Good Morning America had a special on Bollywood.

    - The Indian film industry is the biggest in the world. Hollywood releases approximately 450 movies a year. India releases nearly 1,200.
    - Yes, more people see Bollywood films than Hollywood films.
    - The most expensive Bollywood extravaganza ever made, "Devdas," cost just over $10 million.
    - Indian cinema is a religion
    - In 2002, a Bollywood film called "Lagaan", was nominated for an Oscar.

    India outlaws smoking in public

    A law comes into force in India which bans smoking in public places, on pain of a 200 rupee fine.

    Mind your language

    English Slogans in Japan

    May 02, 2004

    Attention GMAIL users

    Attention GMAIL users, you can invite two friends to GMAIL. Go login to your GMAIL account and send your invitations now!

    The Graying of the Middle Kingdom

    The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington has just come out with an excellent study of the problem of aging in China. Titled The Graying of the Middle Kingdom, "it explores the economic and social implications of the coming age wave. It warns that China may face a crisis later in the century unless it takes adequate steps to prepare."

    A few more quotes are illustrative:

    -- By 2050, there will be nearly 100 million Chinese aged 80 and over.

    -- Most of today’s workers have no pension or health care coverage at all.

    -- For most elders, the only backstop against a destitute old age is the family.

    -- Funded pensions are the ground zero where China’s development and aging challenges meet.

    -- Without reform, China will soon have tens of millions of indigent elders who lack nearby families, pensions, and access to health care.

    The research study was done by two men:

    Richard Jackson, who writes on public policy issues arising from the aging of America’s and the world’s population and is a Senior Fellow at CSIS, where he directs the Global Aging Initiative, and

    Neil Howe, an historian, economist, and demographer who is a Senior Associate at CSIS, where he works with the Global Aging Initiative,

    The report runs to 42 pages, of which about 30 are the text of the article. It lacks an "executive summary", so I have gone through it and pulled out section headings and chart titles which, when pieced together, give a pretty good idea of the content, as follows:

    How China meets its aging challenge will determine whether it becomes a prosperous and stable developed country. Within a generation China will have an older population than the United States. Most of today’s workers have no pension or health care coverage at all.

    Today’s great powers became affluent societies before they became aging societies. Despite its recent rapid growth, China remains a low-income country.

    The case for funded retirement savings is a compelling one. If China fails to prepare for its age wave, it could face a crisis of immense proportions later in the century.

    China accounts for a fifth of the world’s population, but produces less than 5 percent of the world’s GDP. The aging of its population will test China’s ability to provide for the old without imposing a heavy burden on the young. The number of working-age adults available to support each Chinese elder is declining rapidly.

    There are two fundamental forces behind China’s age wave: falling fertility and rising longevity.
    Behind China’s age wave: A dramatic decline in fertility rates. In Beijing and Shanghai, the fertility rate has fallen to about 1.0.

    China’s working-age population will soon begin to shrink. When its boom generation starts retiring around 2015, China’s age wave will arrive in full force. By 2050, China could lose between 18 and 35 percent of its working-age population.

    Within a few decades, China’s total population will peak and begin to decline. China is poorly prepared to care for a rapidly growing number of elders. Even in the cities, China’s public pension system leaves nearly half of the work force uncovered. China’s pension system is aging faster than the population as a whole.

    The downsizing of the state-owned sector is rendering China’s pension system unaffordable even
    before the age wave rolls in. High pension contribution rates are leading to massive evasion.
    The total payroll tax rate in China approaches 50 percent ­- on a par with Europe’s most generous welfare states.

    The rapid growth in out-of pocket health-care costs is an ominous development for an aging China. Only a fraction of Chinese elders can count on personal savings to finance their retirement years. As of 2000, less than 1 percent of China’s work force had a supplemental employer pension.

    Relatively few Chinese elders work compared with other Asian countries. For most elders, the only backstop against a destitute old age is the family. Most Chinese elders still live in extended families with their children.

    By 2050, there will be nearly 100 million Chinese aged 80 and over. China’s bride shortage will eventually become a care giver shortage.

    Successful retirement reform will require more radical steps. By the mid-1990s, it became clear that China’s public pension system needed a bailout to avoid near-term financial collapse. The government’s plan to extend pension coverage to the private sector is running into resistance. The personal accounts set up by the 1997 reform have turned out to be entirely unfunded. To the extent the Liaoning pilot project is working, it is due to massive government subsidies.

    The foundation of the retirement system must be a universal floor of poverty protection. Socializing SOE legacy costs is necessary, fair, and affordable. To ensure that real savings occurs, personal account assets should be independently managed.

    Foreign financial services firms will be crucial to the success of a genuinely funded system. In China, bank deposits still dwarf the stock and bond markets. Funded pensions are the ground zero where China’s development and aging challenges meet.

    Without reform, China will soon have tens of millions of indigent elders who lack nearby families, pensions, and access to health care. With funded pensions, China’s living standard will no longer be at the mercy of demography.

    China’s development agenda will increasingly depend on the vitality of its capital markets. Successful retirement reform could help steer China toward a more dominant role in world affairs.

    China’s economic development is underpinned by massive foreign direct investment. As the developed world ages, China’s reliance on foreign capital inflows will become dangerous. The economies of today’s rich countries may be increasingly hobbled by the enormous fiscal cost of their age waves. Personal retirement accounts could help the government manage the transition to a float.

    The whole world has a stake in China’s success.

    Read the entire report .

    Lost Treasures From Iraq

    The perils of war! One of the places ravaged by war includes the Iraq Museum, which has some of the earliest tools made by man (think 9,000 B.C!)

    May 01, 2004

    Henry Graff: The American Presidents Series

    Historian Henry Graff Says American Presidency Is Losing Prestige

    Henry F. Graff, who taught this country's first course on the history of the Presidency, is uncomfortable with the way America's highest-elected public office is being perceived and conducted. He cites the coming Nov. 7 election as a signal that reverence for the position of our nation's highest officer has dangerously diminished.

    "There's a levity in this campaign, a new cynicism about politics," said Graff, professor emeritus of history. "This is very worrisome. In the new century, there's no sure way of saying what problems are coming down the line."

    When Ronald Reagan started his second term as president, Henry Graff claimed, "He has a chance to make somebody move over on Mount Rushmore. He's working for his place on the coins and the postage stamps." Newsweek published his quote in their January 28 issue in 1985 and Simpson's Contemporary Quotations republished it in 1988.

    Graff's observation was one of a long history of public discourse that recently earned him the Kaul Foundation Award of Excellence in the field of education, an honor that includes a $100,000 prize.

    In The Presidents: A Reference History United States presidents from George Washington to William Jefferson Clinton are profiled in depth. Excellently indexed, Henry Graff's work makes for a reliable presidential reference as well as an absorbing and enlightening read.

    Walter Cronkite: SECRECY AND LIES


    The initial refusal of President Bush to let his national-security adviser appear under oath before the 9/11 Commission might have been in keeping with a principle followed by other presidents - the principle being, according to Bush, that calling his advisers to testify under oath is a congressional encroachment on the executive branch's turf. (Never mind that this commission is not a congressional body, but one he created and whose members he handpicked.) But standing on that principle has proved to be politically damaging, in part because this administration - the most secretive since Richard Nixon's - already suffers from a deepening credibility problem. It all brings to mind something I've wondered about for some time: Are secrecy and credibility natural enemies?

    When you stop to think about it, you keep secrets from people when you don't want them to know the truth. Secrets, even when legitimate and necessary, as in genuine national-security cases, are what you might call passive lies.

    Take the recent flap over Richard Foster, the Medicare official whose boss threatened to fire him if he revealed to Congress that the prescription-drug bill would be a lot more expensive than the administration claimed. The White House tried to pass it all off as the excessive and unauthorized action of Foster's supervisor (who shortly after the threatened firing left the government).

    Maybe. But the point is that the administration had the newer, higher numbers, and Congress had been misled. This was a clear case of secrecy being used to protect a lie. I can't help but wonder how many other faulty estimates by this administration have actually been misinformation explained as error.

    The Foster story followed by only a few weeks the case of the U.S. Park police chief who got the ax for telling a congressional staffer - and The Washington Post - that budget cuts planned for her department would impair its ability to perform its duties. Chief Teresa Chambers since has accepted forced retirement from government service.

    Isolated incidents? Not really. Looking back at the past three years reveals a pattern of secrecy and of dishonesty in the service of secrecy. Some New Yorkers felt they had been lied to following the horrific collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Proposed warnings by the Environmental Protection Agency - that the air quality near ground zero might pose health hazards - were watered down or deleted by the White House and replaced with the reassuring message that the air was safe to breathe.

    The EPA's own inspector general said later that the agency did not have sufficient data to claim the air was safe. However, the reassurance was in keeping with the president's defiant back-to-work/business-as-usual theme to demonstrate the nation's strength and resilience. It also was an early example of a Bush administration reflex described by one physicist as "never let science get in the way of policy."

    In April of 2002, the EPA had prepared a nationwide warning about a brand of asbestos called Zonolite, which contained a form of the substance far more lethally dangerous than ordinary asbestos. However, reportedly at the last minute, the White House stopped the warning. Why? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which broke the story, noted that the Bush administration at the time was pushing legislation limiting the asbestos manufacturer's liability. Whatever the reason, such silence by an agency charged with protecting our health is a silent lie in my book.

    One sometimes gets the impression that this administration believes that how it runs the government is its business and no one else's. It is certainly not the business of Congress. And if it's not the business of the people's representatives, it's certainly no business of yours or mine.

    But this is a dangerous condition for any representative democracy to find itself in. The tight control of information, as well as the dissemination of misleading information and outright falsehoods, conjures up a disturbing image of a very different kind of society. Democracies are not well-run nor long-preserved with secrecy and lies.

    (Write to Walter Cronkite c/o King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail him at mail@cronkitecolumn.com.

    (c) 2004 Walter Cronkite Distributed by King Features Syndicate )

    Loved his book:Reporter's Life

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    what blogs are good for, aside from ego expression... Sort of like putting your face, life story and personal opinions on a milk carton so other people can see them.