Jesuit Bend sinkholes spur debate        

By Jason Browne

          Corvette Museum Sinkhole... an American Sportscar Tragedy        
So by now you have all probably heard about the Corvette Museum sinkhole in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  8 Corvette's were harmed, including two cars on loan from General Motors.  It's a dark day, indeed.  If you need to take a moment to reflect on this awful event, I completely understand.  Also, if you want to see cool security footage of the floor collapsing, do read on!
Well, first you should probably get some context for the situation. 

Here you can read up on the story as it was covered in the New York Times.

Here's the ABC coverage of the event:

Whatever Happened to Ecology:  (for more on ecology and the Kingsnorth letter, see this post about The Reykjavik Imperative)

Defaunation affects carbon storage in forests:


Science Magazine forest issue overview:

“When trees die, water slows”:

Swedish EPA Ozone report: (and an earlier bonus study from 1998 Ground-Level Ozone - a Threat to Vegetation:

          Pennsylvania pension reform seen by some as example for other states        
A bipartisan pension reform plan signed into law Monday by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf could provide a model for other states with high pension liabilities to pull out of the fiscal sinkhole, pension experts say. Under the plan signed by the state’s Democratic governor and passed by the Republican legislature, new employees hired by the […]
          'Anxiety, Worry? Not Me! I'm Too Blessed to be Stressed'        
By: Positive Grace
Deb’s Dozen: Stress, Anxiety, Worrying—Not Any More! I’m Too Blessed to be Stressed!__br__Too Blessed to Be Stressed by Debora M. Coty is a delightful book written to teach us how to get the negatives of stress, anxiety, worry, etc., out of our lives. Short, winsome chapters all start with a Scripture quotation and end with a few questions to help us get our minds in order to put these ideas into practice. I’ll whet your appetite for getting de-stressed with a few tidbits from the book.__br__From “Gray: The New Blond”: “… there are far too many other things to worry about (than gray hair). And I should know; I latch on to vexation like a gator on a goose. Over the years I have honed the art of worry into a science. I’ve systematically and diligently transformed molehills into mountains. I’ve whipped pesky irritants into frothy, acetic colon-coaters and fretted over annoying burdens until they invaded my dreams.” Can you relate?__br__From “The Back Forty: Years, Not Acres”: “Wrinkles form in the dead of the night. You know, if I listen closely, I can hear my flesh creasing and crinkling when I pad to the bathroom in the wee hours. (It must’ve been a woman who coined the phrase wee hours on a midnight potty run.) And “There must be a way to use gravity to our advantage. Maybe ditching our bras would pull the wrinkles out of our faces. But then we’d have to tuck our bosoms into our knee-highs to keep from tripping over them.”__br__“Humility Becomes You” gives us this instruction on humility: “My friend Rich, a teacher and father, has an infections attitude of humility. When teachers at the Christian school where he worked were told that budget cuts necessitated that staff assume janitorial duties, grumbling broke out among the ranks. During the protests and discussion that ensued, Rich quietly disappeared with the cleaning supplies. When discovered scrubbing toilets on his knees, Rich replied, ‘Kneeling at this throne is no different than kneeling at God’s throne—it’s all for His glory!’”__br__“Nurturing Girlfriends”—a very important de-stressor. (Talking about those runs in the wee hours) “Girls bond over such dribble, er, I mean drivel. Yes, girlfriends fill in the holes in our relationships with others … especially the sinkholes. Girlfriends make us laugh when we least expect it.” Aren’t you ever so grateful for yours?__br__And your last tidbit—you need to buy the book!—from “Dead Last.” “… our God is not a random God … For His specialty, His forte, His marvelous operational technique is to use inadequate, frightened people to serve as His hands and feet. Yahweh’s courage is more than enough … brilliant, really. Then there’s no doubt whom the real rescuer is.”__br__I laughed out loud, giggled endlessly, and had “doh!” moments reading Too Blessed To Be Stressed. You will, too! You’ll also want to pick up The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to Be Stressed Edition. Debra gives us in context promises to lean on while we’re de-stressing. Four stars to both books!__br__Debra and I giggled and yakked our way through our interview. Turning serious, Debra said that today stress is a front and center problem for many, many women. We have to take active steps to decompress ourselves. She writes women’s issues books that have sold more than 80,000 copies. As a matter of fact, Too Blessed to be Stressed has given birth to eleven offspring!__br__“What did you learn from writing this book, Debra?”__br__“Deb, I confirmed that there is no one way to become an expert in de-stressing. There are a variety of techniques and coping skills. I found you never really have a handle on it and have to be flexible and keep trying new things.”__br__Debra started writing at age forty-five. She said God told her, “Debra, it’s time.” Prior to starting to write, Debra was an occupational therapist specializing in hands for twenty-five years, The book that has most impacted her life other than the Bible was Christy by Catherine Marshall. She has been married to Chuck for thirty-six-plus years; they have two children in their 30s, Christy (named for Catherine Marshall’s heroine) and Matthew. Debra has had ten articles published in the last year and writes a column for the newspaper called “Grace Notes.”__br__Debra has an AA degree from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Health Sciences from the University of Florida. She has taken the Brandeis course for Christian writers and faithfully attends the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. One of her de-stressors is playing tennis—she admits to being an addict. She always wears a hat and has them in every imaginable color. When I asked her why hats, she replied, “I never have a bad hair day and don’t even have to touch up my roots very often.” With a last giggle and a wave, she was off to brighten someone else’s day.

          Downtown Flushing is more chaotic than ever        

From NBC:

Downtown Flushing — already teeming with people and vehicles on sidewalks and streets — has become all the more chaotic amid simultaneous work on sidewalks and a sinkhole.

Two major construction projects are happening in the vicinity of Main Street and Kissena Boulevard. Nearly two dozen bus lines roll through the bustling area.

The city is making emergency sewer repairs to fix the sinkhole. The DEP showed up last week, and with no notice, brought a backhoe and jackhammer to fix the mess. The result: absolute gridlock.

Flushing Councilman Peter Koo said he called the commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. That call, and others, convinced the DEP to switch gears within 24 hours. Now the repair work is being done overnight when streets are less busy.

Amid the effort to fix the sinkhole, crews are working on widening the area’s sidewalks. The result has been a dizzying mishmash of bodies, vehicles, signs, detours and construction cones.

          The Great Blue Hole, Belize        
The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off of the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 60 miles from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is almost perfectly circular, over 1,000 feet across and 400 feet deep. It was formed as a limestone cave [...]
          8 Vettes and one sinkhole…at Bowling Green’s National Vette Museum (28 Photos)        

          Trump's Main Business—Golf—Is the Symbol of All That Is Retrograde and Exclusionary in American Life        
For successful greedheads and their wannabes, golf is the most sacred of sports.

While waiting for Trump to jump the tracks, let’s savor the day when his inevitable train wreck first passed through a critical safety switch. On June 9, President Trump alienated his true base -- the reactionary rich -- by driving his golf cart onto the green at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. In doing so, he committed an unpardonable sacrilege in the high church of capitalism. It was time to start counting the days until he dropped off the scoreboard.

For successful greedheads and their wannabes, golf is the most sacred of sports, the symbol of all that is retrograde and exclusionary in American life. There’s far more to golf, however, than mere inequality or a history of institutional racism and sexism. Golf is also a waste of space and water, and a sinkhole for chemicals poisoning the local aquifer. Think of all the organic vegetables that could be grown on those swards or the walking trails and wildlife sanctuaries that could be established. Think of the affordable housing that could be built on that land. There has to be a better use for the millions of dollars that will be squandered this year on overpriced golf duds and equipment, lessons, playing fees, and memberships in the latest trendy clubs (that these days often have you-know-who’s name on them in large golden letters).

Golf is marketed as a test of character -- especially of those business school values of focus, perseverance, and self-improvement. A golf course is laid out as a hero’s journey.  You strike out from the tees (usually at different distances from the hole for men and women) onto a long carpet called a “fairway” that winds among natural “hazards” to be avoided: small ponds, sand traps, patches of undergrowth representing the oceans, deserts, and jungles that must be colonized or conquered on your 18-hole journey to capitalistic triumph.  (Golf nomenclature, including “par” and “lie,” which is where the ball comes to rest after a shot, is too vulnerable to mockery to be addressed here.)

The fairway, of course, leads to the green, a small, manicured area that contains the hole, the winner’s circle, the C-suite, the gated community, the Oval Office. It was onto such a green that Trump drove his cart -- he looks to be in no shape to walk the course -- and that is not only considered a moral crime in the world of golf, but an obvious defacement of grass meticulously preserved so a competent player can “read the green” and plan his or her final putts.

Trump is unquestionably a competent golfer, way better than average. He’s also an avid golfer and has, in the past, enjoyed the rarified company of such criminal media celebrities as O.J. Simpson and Bernie Madoff. As the Juice’s successful parole hearing was coming up recently, the former football hero told a friend, “We’ll be playing golf again soon.” Possibly as soon as October O.J. may be back home in Florida, maybe even golfing at Mar-a-Lago. (He was, after all, a guest at Trump’s wedding to Marla Maples.)

As for Madoff, long before his Ponzi scheme was busted, he was known for his oddly consistent, too-good-to-be-true golf scores. Trump, who knew Madoff from Palm Beach, crowed about refusing to invest with him and later called him “a scoundrel without par.” It takes one...

To understand golf is to understand Trump. He uses golf as a social lubricant for business, which is its most important function in American culture. Since it operates on the honor system, golf is convenient for lying cheats. As the joke goes, the difference between boastful golfers and fishermen is that golfers don’t have to produce proof. Golf jokes, invariably evoking sex or religion, are a staple of stale pale-male humor. The locker-room quip for which “golf” is an acronym -- “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden” -- may no longer be totally accurate but it certainly captures the sensibility of the game. And as a perfect complement to Trump’s own relentless boasts about his wealth, the most popular ranking of professional golfers has always been “the money list.” There are no batting averages in golf. It’s all about prize money and endorsement fees.

Trump is more than a golfer. He owns and operates golf courses. The Trump Golf website lists 18 “iconic” ones in “the world of Trump Golf,” stretching from upstate New York to Dubai. And yet none of the domestic ones even made the list of Golf Digest’s 100 top American courses. Despite widespread protests last year about his 2005 pussy-grabbing remarks, the U.S. Women’s Open was held this July at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, course, also the site of his green desecration. Only recently was it revealed that The Donald had threatened to sue the United States Golf Association if it dared move the event as some in the Ladies Professional Golf Association had evidently suggested.

For him, golf isn’t just a sideline presidential activity, it’s central to his plutocratic vision of his presidency and of the promoting of the Trump brand (clearly synonymous in his mind). His golf courses, after all, are considered a critical part of his family’s revenue stream, although typically, actual financial information on them is scanty and may eventually reveal less profit than he claims.

Recent American presidents have certainly sought out fortunes after their time in office, but Trump is certainly our first president to promote his fortune so centrally while there.  He has, for instance, reportedly spent 21%of his presidential time at one or another of his golf clubs, making himself a living billboard for the brand and the business.  (As he took office, the fee to join his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida doubled to $200,000.)  And it’s a business that desperately needs a presidential gold seal of approval.  The golf industry hit its financial high mark in 2003, and its numbers -- golf courses, players, profits -- have sagged ever since. In response, there has been a concerted effort to speed up the game for distracted millennials and to make it friendlier to women and children, while cutting costs by vigorously fighting property assessments and other tax regulations.

No wonder one of Trump’s early executive orders not only attempted to reverse Obama’s environmental progress in general but, as the Associated Press noted, called “for a review of a rule protecting small bodies of water from pollution and development,” which was “strongly supported by golf course owners who are wary of being forced into expensive cleanups on their fairways.” It seems that no future hazard is too small for our golfing president to avoid.

Duffers in Chief

Actually, it may be through golf that Trump has scored his most significant victory so far in dismantling the Obama legacy.  After all, during his first six months in office he’s probably managed to play golf far more often than his predecessor, whom he criticized repeatedly on the campaign trail for his time on the course.  (Precise comparable statistics are unavailable because Trump aides have been secretive about his golfing schedule.)  As it happens, there’s hardly been a president since William Taft who didn’t hit the links.  So let’s give Trump this: his golfing may be the most presidential, possibly the only presidential, thing he’s done so far.

Since Taft, who was criticized not only for playing badly but for playing while fat (a kind of shaming now tolerated only for Trump’s sometime pal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), golf has been the presidential sport of choice. Dwight Eisenhower, a good golfer, gave the game a boost when he had a putting green installed alongside the White House in 1954.

An expert on the subject, ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta, Jr., wrote in his 2003 book, First Off the Tee, that, despite his bad back, John F. Kennedy was the best presidential golfer. Kennedy, however, felt he had to sneak off to play because, while campaigning, he had relentlessly derided Ike for golfing too much, calling him “the Duffer-in-Chief.” (Sound familiar?)  In the end, Kennedy had to own up to his golfing habit, given rumors that his unexplained absences were not due to playing a round, but playing around.

Bill Clinton tops the “hail to the cheats” section of Van Natta’s book, with Richard Nixon, Warren Harding, and Lyndon Johnson trailing behind.  Having played with Clinton and granted him many “Billigans” (that is, “mulligans,” or replays of bad shots with no penalties), Van Natta wrote: "He followed the rules for about a hole and a half. Then he let down his guard and started taking these do-over shots, gimme putts and, at the end of the 18 holes, it took him about 200 swings to score an 82."

Soon after the 2016 election, Golf Digest anointed Trump the all-time top presidential golfer, citing his low handicap and passion for the game. While still a college junior, he began playing at a public course near Philadelphia that he claimed was teeming with “more hustlers than any place I’ve seen to this day.” By his account, he learned a lot about gambling from golf, thinks of the sport as “aspirational,” and considers it a mistake to try to sell it as an everyman’s game. After all, people should be trying harder to get rich in order to join great golf clubs like his and earn their way onto the course and into the proud sport of the one-percenters.

Arnold (“The King”) and Tiger (“The Chosen One”)

The creation myths of golf are murky, but it seems that the modern game took root and was codified in Scotland by the seventeenth century. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century, however, that it became a fixture in American sports. By the Depression, there were more than 1,000 golf clubs in the country and one of the reigning sports superstars of the Roaring Twenties was Bobby Jones, a lawyer revered by the media and the masses both for being a southern gentleman and an amateur in a SportsWorld that was increasingly turning pro. Jones founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and its most famous event, the Masters Tournament, which became the High Holy Days of the Church of Golf.

That club managed to keep black golfers off its course until 1975 when Lee Elder qualified for the Masters and had to be allowed to play. (That was the year the Justice Department and the Trump family business -- of which The Donald was by then president -- settled a lawsuit over discrimination in its New York rental properties.) There would be no black members at the Augusta club until 1990 and no women members until 2012 when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited in.

That was ten years after a feminist activist, Martha Burke, called the male-only policy “sexist.” At the time, club chairman William “Hootie” Johnson declared that the “moral and legal rights” of a private club trumped any concerns over sexism and civil rights. In the controversy that followed, CBS broadcast the 2003 and 2004 tournaments without commercials. The Masters was that important to the network and Augusta was that rich.  The sport of plutocrats indeed. 

By that time, Tiger Woods, “the Chosen One,” had replaced Arnold Palmer, “the King,” as the TV presence who would make golf great again. In the 1950s and 1960s, Palmer, the handsome, charming son of a Pennsylvania golf club groundskeeper, was the leading man in the process of making golf spectatorship, if not actual participation, a national phenomenon. Palmer, who died last September, was present in 2015, along with The Donald, daughter Ivanka, and son Eric, for the unveiling of the Arnold Palmer Villa, one of eight deluxe guestrooms at the Trump National Doral Miami.

Palmer had by then long been replaced as America’s favorite golfer by Woods, the mixed-race son of an Army colonel who groomed him for his golfing future from tot-hood. Tiger was, arguably, the best golfer ever as well as one of the greatest product endorsers in all of sports. As surly as Palmer was convivial, he was protected by the golf and sports media, being its bread-and-butter, until his post-2009 decline, which seemed to be as much about a lifetime of emotional constriction and overload as his tawdry infidelity, one-car crash, divorce, and bad back.

That didn’t stop Trump from inviting him for an extended visit. Last December, at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, Tiger played a round with the President-elect, writing on his blog, “What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash. Our discussion topics were wide-ranging; it was fun. We both enjoyed the bantering, bickering, and needling.”

Trump is reportedly an accomplished on-course trash talker, who likes to mock his male golfing partners by telling them that they should be hitting from the women’s tees. Luckily for Tiger, with all his other problems, he’s not working on any Trump golf courses, where contractors are still getting stiffed. Just recently, a South Florida judge ordered Trump Endeavor, one of his Florida corporations, to pay a Miami paint store $282,950 for work done two years ago on that Doral course with its Arnold Palmer Villa. Trump had held back payment of $34,863 on a $200,000 job. Penalties add up.  (Trump should, in fact, be credited for his lifelong efforts to increase American inequality, not just via the game of golf, but by stiffing, or underpaying, every kind of worker he’s ever hired -- from waiters, bartenders, and small businesspeople to undocumented laborers.)

Meanwhile, we await the Trump train wreck, an inevitable outcome of the president’s rich-boy sense of entitlement, his jock culture need for domination, and the sad (Sad!) reality of his incompetence as a human being.

Poor Donald. Evidently nobody told him that no man can drive onto the greens, not even the plutocrat who owns them. It’s part of the DNA of the reactionary rich. So he jumped the shark, screwed the pooch. The customs of golf, like the practices of any gaudy, useless, swollen sect, are all that hold it together.


Related Stories

          La forza dell’acqua        
E’ finito un po’ il tempo del rispetto per le nostre opere. Prima fu danneggiata da un sinkhole lo scolmatore regolare, per questo è entrato in funzione lo scolmatore d’emergenza costruito negli anni ’60 e mai testato. [Il video è di ieri altro, ora è peggio]
          Locating sinkholes in Pa.        
Wondering about the shifting ground beneath your feet? If you are wondering if sinkholes could be an issue at your home or business, you can find out exactly which areas in Pennsylvania are considered to be "karst" or a region with limestone. Sinkholes occur when limestone and or dolostone in bedrock dissolve due to acidic water formed when water and carbon dioxide mix. Sinkholes can also occur when deposits within natural rock fractures are washed away, causing the hole to open up.

The map below, courtesy the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, shows areas of Pennsylvania where sinkholes have opened up or where depressions in the earth, which could indicate a future sinkhole, have been recorded.

For more on sinkholes, click here.

          If you like Tangerine by Edward Bloor        
Tangerine by Edward Bloor

This readalike is in response to a customer's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse other book matches here.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Paul Fisher sees the world from behind glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he's not so blind that he can't see there are some very unusual things about his family's new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day? The chaos is compounded by constant harassment from his football-star brother, and adjusting to life in Tangerine isn't easy for Paul—until he joins the soccer team at his middle school. With the help of his new teammates, Paul begins to discover what lies beneath the surface of his strange new hometown. And he also gains the courage to face up to some secrets his family has been keeping from him for far too long. In Tangerine, it seems, anything is possible. (catalog summary)

If you like stories with sports, check out these other titles:

Blow Out by M.G. Higgins
Lacy Sheridan is doing her best to get over the fear she still feels after a knee injury from last season, but tough Raven McAlister is competing for Lacy's starting position and sees a chance to exploit Lacy's fear for her own benefit. (catalog summary)




Booked by Kwame Alexander
Twelve-year-old Nick loves soccer and hates books, but soon learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. (catalog summary)



          Sinkholes: “Least Studied Hazardous Phenomenon”        
National Geographic
          Massive sinkhole in Florida        
Just a short post to call attention to this spectacular and potentially dangerous sinkhole in Florida that is putting toxic water into an aquifer.
          Ep 116: Science... sort of - Subnormal        

00:00:00 - Naked mole rats are even more awesome than previous thought: their sperm is terrible. Doesn't sound like a good thing? Well how come their awful sperm still works just fine? Because mole rates cannot be stopped, that's why.

00:11:53 - Like it or not, drinks are a part of the show and thus require a moment of discussion. Charlie has an old standby in the form of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Patrick has a nondescript merlot, he can assert that it is in fact red. Ryan has a hot buttered whiskey based on a recipe he is happy to share from the book And A Bottle of Rum. And Jacob has spicy cinnamon vanilla eggnog, if that's what you're in to.

00:18:20 - This week trailer trash talk heads north to Scandinavia whilst the Paleopals try to breakdown the many incarnations of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

00:32:32 - Last year several circular holes opened up in Guatemala city, and while it may be tempting to call them sinkholes, according to an article Patrick found they should actually be called piping features. But there is still heated disagreement over karst.

00:43:43 - A man was arrested at CERN for messing with vending machines as an attempt to disrupt Higgs-Boson detection. He claimed to be from the future. A very "sort of" story as relayed by several exited Paleopals. Can they uncover the truth within the course of the segment?

00:52:41 - PaleoPOWs are a lot like time travelers, their existence is hotly debated and likely nothing more than a prank. Patrick has an extremely generous donation from John P. THANKS, JOHN! Ryan has a short sweet tweet from Sharon about painting frogs. Ryan is concerned for amphibian well-being, but hopes he's misreading things. Charlie has an iTunes review that seems have written by an SEO expert in Philippe. And Jacob explores the Facebook page for a messsage from Kendal about using our Amazon affiliate link to help the show out while doing one's holiday shopping.

Thanks for listening! It's not to late to order winter solstice gifts based on the guides written by Ryan and Patrick both available at!

Music for this week's show:

Born Normal - Dispatch

You're So Damn Hot - OK Go

Last Tattoo - Rehab

Endless Column - Blue Man Group

I'm a Fool - American Hi-Fi

          Geo 897: A Last Glance at the Lost Lake Drain Hole        
I'd say the hole is about 4-5 feet across, less than the 6 foot diameter reported in most of the stories I've read, and 2-3 feet deep. As I mentioned in the first post about this location, the layers of ash and lapilli are probably responsible for creating a tough and poorly permeable lake bed. It does seem likely to me that this is some kind of sinkhole, but I don't have any sense of what might have created the void that the rock collapsed into. The mafic lava flows in the area have enormous amounts of void space in their rubbly surfaces, and I don't feel that a lava tube is a necessary conclusion, though it might be the correct one. Perhaps someday we'll find out.

To put this in a broader context, if you're traveling across Santiam Pass, and you have a little time, this is well worth the rugged, pot-holey drive in (I'd say okay for smaller cars, just take it slow.) at least once. It's not something I'm going to feel I need to do every summer, but I'd like to visit in the late spring sometime, and given the new hole, it might be worth stopping every few years or so, to see if the area evolves further.

Photo unmodified. September 7, 2016. ZoomEarth location.
          Geo 892: Lost Lake's "Drain Hole"        
The hole is both smaller and shallower than I expected, and at this time of year, well back from the water's edge. The lake bed appears to be composed of relatively thin laminae of ash and lapilli, and well lithified. This isn't surprising, given its location near the crest of the active section of the Cascades, but it isn't what I was expecting. Rubbly basalt and basaltic andesite dominate much of the central Oregon Cascades between our location here, along Highway 20, and McKenzie Pass along Rte. 242. However, my suspicion is that under these layers of tephra, the lava rubble is present; that would allow the water draining through this sinkhole to move to the water table, and, ultimately, re-emerge at Clear Lake.

Photo unmodified. September 7, 2016. ZoomEarth location. (Location approximate- can't resolve hole.)
I didn't bother to watch the State of the Disunion address the other day. In an age increasingly detached from reality, to the point of wondering if most of the people live in some sort of virtual-reality matrix, most official announcements basically turn out to be meaningless. They become the equivalent of "duck and cover" drills from the 50s, with the intent of keeping people safe from a Soviet H-bomb dropped in the middle of town. If nothing else, I'm reminded of the scene from Fight Club where Brad Pitt is pointing out the logical flaws with airline safety pamphlets -- "Assume the position, calm as Hindu cows, and hit the water at 600 miles per hour." We're throwing trillions of dollars at a problem which can't be solved, an equation which can't be balanced, that being the dead economic model of overconsumption that we're living under.

Our society and culture as a whole need to start figuring out the transition. I don't know if it's that somehow we conflate changing the way we live with suggesting there's an end to our future. Do we believe that if we convert our worthless lawns to well-maintained small-scale gardens, that we hate America or something? Do we think that if we go back to how our ancestors did things, and live within walking distance of work or shopping, that we're the committing the socio-economic equivalent of "ultraviolence?" This sort of model was actually the norm before WW2, but the meme of "each person has their own suburban estate, well away from the horrible, horrible city" was carefully beaten into the collective consciousness of GIs returning home, and encouraged by a cabal of companies that had been engaged in defense work and wanted to keep things in the black.

Those of us who understand the issue keep looking for a sign that there is a "waking up" on the part of those who run things on a macro-level. Fantasies about new spending, or unproven technologies, or trying to maintain a broken model, are no more than a waste of time. These fantasies are coming at a time when the underlying linchpin, the price and availability of oil, is beginning to move into the "red zone" again. It's already been forgotten how much people freaked out when gas hit $3 a gallon -- any business that depended on moving things, which is to say every business, collectively freaked out at that point. when it hit $4 a gallon, things started to fail. The housing crisis got a lot of the blame, but no one seems to remember that 2008 was a year for record gas and oil prices, too.

Now, we're seeing an economy which really has not been moving forward, in spite of the official pronouncements on the subject. Gas prices are starting to rise again, and of course, "no one knows exactly why." In a day and age when we can communicate instantly, when we can send probes to distant planets, when we can store the Library of Congress on a single hard one knows why gas prices are rising? Could it just be that no one wants to admit the obvious, that the supply is starting to run out and nothing is taking its place? In the short term, it's like people in a town recovering from a hurricane getting the news that a new hurricane is on the way, and hoping that all of the trees and buildings which were likely to blow over have already fallen down. Unfortunately, it really doesn't work that way -- a better metaphor would be a sinkhole opening under a town, swallowing half of it, and everyone hoping that their house doesn't fall into it next.

I don't like to get into predictions, because complex systems play havoc with such things, but as a ballpark guess, I'd guess we're going to be seeing $5 a gallon average for gas for the first time in history this coming summer. What has been an already stumbling economy is going to trip and fall, big-time. And we will see another round or two of "stimulus spending" in an emergency effort to prop things up yet again. Each time this round happens, we seem to reset to a lower level of functioning, which makes sense. The key for us is to realize that, at some point, if we're not already there, we are going to be on the "wrong" side of that equation. Maybe this is the real tragedy for the "structurally unemployed," that they can't realize that their world has already changed permanently. And, if there's no hope for the individual, what hope is there for society as a whole to understand that the model built two generations ago is broken beyond repair?

          The Times They Are A-changin’        

The July 4th Grand Island Independent had an editorial stating that the Founding Fathers likely would not recognize the federal government as it is now. I am continually amazed at how fast our government and Country is changing.

50 Random Facts That Make You Wonder What In The World Has Happened To America

Our world is changing at a pace that is so staggering these days that it can be really hard to fully grasp the significance of what we are witnessing. Hopefully the collection of random facts below will help you to "connect the dots" just a little bit. On one level, the facts below may not seem related. However, what they all do have in common is that they show just how much the United States has fundamentally changed. Do you ever just sit back and wonder what in the world has happened to America? The truth is that the America that so many of us once loved so much has been shattered into a thousand pieces. The "land of the free and the home of the brave" has been transformed into a socialized Big Brother nanny state that is oozing with corruption and has accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world. The greatest economic machine that the world has ever seen is falling apart before our very eyes, and even when our politicians actually try to do something right (which is quite rare) the end result is still a bunch of garbage. For those who still love this land (and there are a lot of us) it is heartbreaking to watch America slowly die.

The following are 50 random facts that show just how dramatically America has changed....

#50) A new report released by the United Nations is publicly calling for the establishment of a world currency and none of the major news networks are even covering it.

#49) The state of California is so broke that Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered California State Controller John Chiang to reduce state worker pay for July to the federal minimum allowed by law -- $7.25 an hour for most state workers.

#48) A police officer in Oklahoma recently tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandma in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she couldn't breathe because they considered her to be a "threat".

#47) In early 2009, U.S. net national savings as a percentage of GDP went negative for the first time since 1952, and it has continued its downward trend since then.

#46) Corexit 9500 is so incredibly toxic that the UK's Marine Management Organization has completely banned it, so if there was a major oil spill in the North Sea, BP would not be able to use it. And yet BP has dumped over a million gallons of dispersants such as Corexit 9500 into the Gulf of Mexico.

#45) For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

#44) It has come out that one employee used a Federal Emergency Management Agency credit card to buy $4,318 in "Happy Birthday" gift cards. Two other FEMA officials charged the cost of 360 golf umbrellas ($9,000) to the taxpayers.

#43) Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo received $389,000 from the U.S. government to pay 100 residents of Buffalo $45 each to record how much malt liquor they drink and how much pot they smoke each day.

#42) The average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen to an all-time high.

#41) The bottom 40 percent of all income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

#40) In the U.S., the average federal worker now earns about twice as much as the average worker in the private sector.

#39) Back in 1950 each retiree's Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 workers. Today, each retiree's Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 workers. By 2025 it is projected that there will be approximately two workers for each retiree.

#38) According to a U.S. Treasury Department report to Congress, the U.S. national debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015.

#37) The federal government actually has the gall to ask for online donations that will supposedly go towards paying off the national debt.

#36) The Cactus Bug Project at the University Of Florida was allocated $325,394 in economic stimulus funds to study the mating decisions of cactus bugs.

#35) A dinner cruise company in Chicago got nearly $1 million in economic stimulus funds to combat terrorism.

#34) It is being reported that a 6-year-old girl from Ohio is on the "no fly" list maintained by U.S. Homeland Security.

#33) During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

#32) According to a new report, Americans spend twice as much as residents of other developed countries on healthcare, but get lower quality and far less efficiency.

#31) Some experts are warning that the cost of bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could reach as high as $1 trillion.

#30) The FDA has announced that the offspring of cloned animals could be in our food supply right now and that there is nothing that they can do about it.

#29) In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.

#28) In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has ranged between 300 to 500 to one.

#27) Federal border officials recently said that Mexican drug cartels have not only set up shop on American soil, they are actually maintaining lookout bases in strategic locations in the hills of southern Arizona.

#26) The U.S. government has declared some parts of Arizona off limits to U.S. citizens because of the threat of violence from Mexican drug smugglers.

#25) According to the credit card repayment calculator, if you owe $6000 on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate and only pay the minimum payment each time, it will take you 54 years to pay off that credit card. During those 54 years you will pay $26,168 in interest rate charges in addition to the $6000 in principal that you are required to pay back.

#24) According to prepared testimony by Goldman Sachs Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs shorted roughly $615 million of the collateralized debt obligations and residential mortgage-backed securities the firm underwrote since late 2006.

#23) The six biggest banks in the United States now possess assets equivalent to 60 percent of America's gross national product.

#22) Four of the biggest U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup) had a "perfect quarter" with zero days of trading losses during the first quarter of 2010.

#21) 1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 - a 32 percent increase over 2008.

#20) BP has hired private security contractors to keep the American people away from oil cleanup sites and nobody seems to care.

#19) Barack Obama is calling for a "civilian expeditionary force" to be sent to Afghanistan and Iraq to help overburdened military troops build infrastructure.

#18) On June 18th, two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Arab festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within 3 minutes 8 policemen surrounded them and placed them under arrest.

#17) It is being reported that sales of foreclosed homes in Florida made up nearly 40 percent of all home purchases in the first part of this year.

#16) During a recent interview with Larry King, former first lady Laura Bush revealed to the world that she is actually in favor of legalized gay marriage and a woman's "right" to abortion.

#15) Scientists at Columbia University are warning that the dose of radiation from the new full body security scanners going into airports all over the United States could be up to 20 times higher than originally estimated.

#14) 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.

#13) The FDIC's deposit insurance fund now has negative 20.7 billion dollars in it, which represents a slight improvement from the end of 2009.

#12) The judge that BP is pushing for to hear an estimated 200 lawsuits on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster gets tens of thousands of dollars a year in oil royalties and is paid travel expenses to industry conferences.

#11) In recent years the U.S. government has spent $2.6 million tax dollars to study the drinking habits of Chinese prostitutes and $400,000 tax dollars to pay researchers to cruise six bars in Buenos Aires, Argentina to find out why gay men engage in risky sexual behavior when drunk.

#10) U.S. officials say that more than three billion dollars in cash (much of it aid money paid for by U.S. taxpayers) has been stolen by corrupt officials in Afghanistan and flown out of Kabul International Airport in recent years.

#9) According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the baggage check fees collected by U.S. airlines shot up 33% in the first quarter of 2010 to $769 million.

#8) Three California high school students are fighting for their right to show their American patriotism - even on a Mexican holiday - after they were forced to remove their American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo.

#7) Right now, interest on the U.S. national debt and spending on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent of GDP. By 2080, they are projected to eat up approximately 50 percent of GDP.

#6) The total of all government, corporate and consumer debt in the United States is now about 360 percent of GDP.

#5) A 6-year-old girl was recently handcuffed and sent to a mental facility after throwing temper tantrums at her elementary school.

#4) In Florida, students have been arrested by police for things as simple as bringing a plastic butter knife to school, throwing an eraser, and drawing a picture of a gun.

#3) School officials in one town in Massachusetts are refusing to allow students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

#2) According to one new study, approximately 21 percent of children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010.

#1) Since 1973, more than 50 million babies have been murdered in abortion facilities across the United States.

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          Florida Sinkhole Might Force Condemnation Of More Homes        

LAND O’LAKES, Fla. (AP) — Ralph Terry, a 73-year-old retiree who lives in a sleepy neighborhood in Florida’s suburbs, seems particularly sanguine about living just a few doors down from a gaping, literal, void in the earth.

The post Florida Sinkhole Might Force Condemnation Of More Homes appeared first on Newstalk Florida.

          Crafting Atmosphere: Silent Hill: Downpour And The Czech Republic Influence        

Silent Hill: Downpour is being developed by Vatra Games, a new studio based in Brno, Czech Republic. The unique Central European environment has the team’s creative juices flowing. Mummified corpses beneath the streets, a huge cavern with a dark past, and a history of Soviet rule make up a portion of the inspiration they’re surrounded by. Needless to say, the country’s chaotic past has made an impact on the team, and they’re eager to share their enthusiasm for their environment.

“There’s a completely different vibe and atmosphere here,” says Brian Gomez, design director for Silent Hill: Downpour. “In fact, this place probably has far more in common with Silent Hill than anywhere I’d find in my native Los Angeles, definitely. Just the whole culture here, if you look at the history, it’s had a pretty turbulent history.

“Some of the stuff that these guys have told me just about their childhood growing up about the Soviet Regime preparing school kids as young as seven-years-old, how to throw hand grenades and defend their factories from the invading west, that’s a really heavy psychological burden to stick on a seven-year-old kid.”

The oppressive, militaristic reign of the Soviet Regime didn’t end until 1989 with the Velvet Revolution. As such, the general vibe in the Czech Republic is sullen and apathetic. Understandable, considering the barbed wire and obstacles on the borders were lifted a mere 11 years ago. Add it to a history of being invaded over and over and you begin to imagine how it may feel to live in such a shaky country.

“Our whole team is made up of people with these backgrounds, so these guys have an affinity, an appreciation for the macabre that I just don’t think you’d find in sunny Los Angeles,” Gomez continues. “You’ve walked around the town, you’ve seen the dead mummies under the street. There’s a dungeon up on the hill. There’s stuff that you can look at around the town that’s clearly from World War II. There are relics and remnants from the Soviet regime.”

The mummies Gomez refers to are preserved monk corpses under the streets of Brno, in the Capuchin Crypt. When these men of faith died back in 17th century, they performed a funeral service using a coffin with a false bottom positioned over the crypt. After a ceremony, the body would fall into a mass grave - the result of poverty. Rosaries, robes, and flesh remained intact, resulting in a grim piece of history.

When I entered the crypts I was startled by the level of corpses’ preservation. It contained the remains woman who was buried alive, her expression and limbs contorted in desperate terror. In another room rows of mummies lined the walls. Some still wore their signature robes and rosaries, and one who lived to the ripe old age of 50 lay with a cross in his arms. In the middle of the room lay a mound of miscellaneous bones – monks who could not be put back together again.

“The place has an atmosphere that you could cut with a knife,” Gomez says. “I think these guys, just growing up in it, and even myself being immersed in it, has helped us shape our Silent Hill. Our Silent Hill is not going to look like Eastern Europe, but there’s just this certain heaviness that we wouldn’t have gotten if at lunchtime we were going out to the beach.”

The most obvious inspiration for Silent Hill comes from a huge gorge called Propast Macocha. Literally translating to “Stepmother Abyss,” this sinkhole drops down nearly 138 meters into the earth. The name comes from an old Czech fairytale about an evil stepmother tossing an unwanted child into the chasm. Nearly 80 unfortunate souls have thrown themselves into the famous pit in acts of suicide. For visitors uninterested in taking the quick way down, a cable car runs from the top of the gorge to the bottom. Vatra’s version of this transportation can be found in Silent Hill: Downpour in the form of the “Devil’s Pit Aerial Tram,” the game’s second level. When visiting Macocha Gorge I encountered misty woods, foreboding caverns, and underground waterways - all prime locations for a Silent Hill game.

“I guess we have different points of view on certain things, and that can help us to give something different,” says lead designer Marek Berka, regarding his home country’s influence on the survival horror game. “Maybe it’s not noticeable or describable by words, but it will be there. We hope so.”

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Be sure to read the entire Silent Hill: Downpour feature in issue #214 of Game Informer, the one with the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim cover.

          Divertimento #132        

Showerthought: "If you like to drink, you know when the liquor store closes.  If you are an alcoholic, you know when the liquor store opens."

A nice summary of how to prevent tick-borne diseases.  This year a new tick disease has been reported - bourbon virus.  One woman died after developing hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.

Video from the World Taxidermy Championships (via Neatorama).

"Why do 2,000-year-old Roman piers survive to this day, yet modern concrete seawalls embedded with steel crumble within decades?" (It's because of the pozzolanic reaction).

The latest ransomware epidemic was spread by a software update.

Video explaining sinkholes (quite interesting).

A photo gallery of world parliaments.

Kinder Suprise Eggs cannot be imported into the U.S.

"In July 1975, a 17 year old boy in Bermuda was killed when a taxi struck him, knocking him off his moped. He died exactly a year after his 17 year old brother was killed while riding the same moped, in the same intersection, by the same taxi driver carrying the same passenger."

Girls as young as nine are requesting labiaplasties.

"English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts."

A very negative opinion on Tesla.  And a cautionary view on the overall market.

How to find out what the internet knows about you.

"The frozen bodies of a Swiss couple who went missing 75 years ago in the Alps have been found on a shrinking glacier."

A child's humorous fold-out art.

65,000 people sing Bohemian Rhapsody.

"Seven north Atlantic right whales have been found floating lifelessly in the Gulf of St Lawrence... in what is being described as a “catastrophic” blow to one of the world’s most endangered whales."

Minnesota party politics is a microcosm of the national situation.  "Is Minnesota split into rival regions — a liberal island in the Twin Cities and a vast conservative sea in greater Minnesota?... The big battle not only pits Democrats against Republicans but rages within the parties — especially the DFL."

Undersea rivers are awesome.

The voyages of the Chinese treasure ships.  The fourth voyage was conducted by 63 treasure ships crewed by 28,000 men.

Paths of every solar eclipse that will occur in your lifetime (type in your birth year).

The life and death of Richard Bachman.

Retired greyhounds become professional blood donors.  "Greyhounds represent the bulk of the donors, and with good reason because they typically have a universal blood type that any dog can receive. Greyhounds also have big neck veins that make drawing blood easy."

Summary of the major themes of Blade Runner (including whether Deckard was a replicant).

When you spill a truckload of slime eels on a highway.  "The slime from one hagfish can expand to five gallons when combined with water."

If you are a senior citizen, get your lifetime pass to the national parks soon (the price goes up from $10 to $80 next month).  I got mine years ago.  Haven't used it so far, but I'm not dead yet.

How to unplug a clogged toilet.

London is experiencing a wave of attacks with acid.

Confirmation that false heads do protect butterflies (video at the link).

"22,000 people have now found themselves legally bound to 1000 hours of community service, including, but not limited to, cleaning toilets at festivals, scraping chewing gum off the streets and “manually relieving sewer blockages”. (because they didn't read their wifi terms of service)

Richard Feynman explains how railroad trains stay on the tracks on a curve since their axles don't have differentials.

"... doctors found 27 contact lenses in a 67-year-old patient’s eye..."

"The Brazilian environment ministry is proposing the release of 860,000 acres in the National Forest of Jamanxim for agricultural use, mining and logging."

The robot apocalypse is not due quite yet. (personally I wonder if someone pushed it)

Animal rights activists released tens of thousands of minks from a farm in central Minnesota.

"Up until four years ago, Rio Celeste, a 14-kilometer river in Costa Rica’s Alajuela province, was a complete mystery to scientists, who could not understand why its waters had an unusual turquoise color. And then they realized that it wasn’t turquoise at all." (TL;DR "optical illusion")

The history of the papasan chair.  "U.S. soldiers picked up papasan and mamasan during World War II and spread them throughout the Asia Pacific. Mamasan soon became slang for a madam of a brothel and, come the Vietnam War, papasan was referring to a pimp."

"How I made $290,000 selling books."

The "murderer's thumb" is brachydactyly.  It occurs in about 1% of the world's population.

"Honey, I found the spoon."

The images embedded in today's divertimento are selected from a gallery of images of a home listed for sale in Texas.  Dozens more pix at the realtor's website.  The home is yours for $1,275,000.
          New Automatic Touchless Electronic Sensor Faucet 110V With High Quality MP1        
New Automatic Touchless Electronic Sensor Faucet 110V With High Quality MP1

Brand New Automatic Infrared Sensor Bathroom Faucets Chromed Polished Mixer Taps:

  • The "Touch-Free" advantage eliminates a major source of cross-contamination.
  • Provides the user water ONLY when needed, reducing water wasting and associated costs.
  • Save upto 70% on water cost associated with related costs.
  • All mechanical and electrical components are contained in one covered controlling box for easy installation.

Great for home & commercial use!

  • Brand New in Box ready to ship.
  • Touch Free Operation.
  • 30 second automatic shut off (never worry about over flowing).
  • Chromed Polished.
  • Solid Brass Construction.
  • 1-Hole Sink Configuration.
  • Easy to install. Includes instructions.

Sinkhole Diameter G1/2 (DN15)
Water Pressure 0.1-0.6MPa
Voltage 110V
Powers ≤0.5mW(DC)
Operating Temperature 0.1-45℃

Buy Now
          VIDEO: Sink Hole in China Devours Man Alive        
Apparently China has the same kind of problems as Florida – that lonely sinking feeling when the world opens up and swallows you down. This video was originally posted on youku, shows a sinkhole open abruptly in Zhechen China, devouring a hapless security guard, who also tragically died shortly after, as he was walking in […]
          Getting Taken        

Suppose that the truth really is "out there," as The X-Files postulated, but not exactly where you might expect. In other words, rather than a vast government conspiracy to conceal proof that aliens have visited Earth, perhaps the real plot lies elsewhere. The entertainment industry, for instance, is constantly putting out films, TV shows, and pseudo-documentaries suggesting that Americans are being visited or even abducted in droves by gray-skinned, strangely kinky spacemen—and that the government wants to keep it all quiet. Dark Skies, Roswell, Fox's Alien Autopsy special … Could the real conspiracy be on the part of the mass media and designed to make people believe in UFOs because it helps ratings?

If such a plot exists, Steven Spielberg would have to be the ringleader. After all, Spielberg planted the seeds of modern UFO obsession with 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which he quickly followed up with E.T. (1982). And now it appears that Spielberg was just getting warmed up. This Dec. 2, the Sci Fi Channel will air the first installment of Taken, a 10-part fictional miniseries about alien abductions, for which Spielberg served as executive producer.

A 20-hour epic, Taken blends all the staples of our modern UFO mythology into a multigenerational tale of three families torn apart—and brought together—by aliens and the government's ruthless quest to understand them. In the first generation, Air Force pilot Russell Keys and his crew are saved by flashing blue lights after their plane is shot down over France in World War II; Army intelligence officer Owen Crawford investigates a crash at Roswell, N.M.; and Lubbock, Texas, waitress Sally Clarke is seduced and impregnated by a charming stranger who appears one night, wounded, in her barn. Two generations later, Keys' grandson Charlie and Clarke's granddaughter Lisa struggle to protect their gifted part-alien daughter, Allie, from Crawford's granddaughter Mary, who also works for the military. The final conflagration reveals nothing less than the UFOs' true intentions for humanity.

With its slogan "Some secrets we keep. Some are kept from us," Taken brings the conspiracy-mongering of The X-Files to its logical conclusion, all but demanding that the feds come clean about Roswell and other UFO encounters of the classified kind. Still, Taken, which was four years in the making, may represent the swan song of 1990s UFO culture. As Aliens in America author Jodi Dean pointed out to me recently, following 9/11, America's UFO fixation seemed to dwindle; with real invaders to worry about, it was hard to care about alien ones. With its allusions to government cover-ups, alien implants, the Roswell crash, and alien-human hybrids, Taken almost seems like a time capsule made especially for television.

The Sci Fi Channel, however, is treating aliens more seriously than ever. The network, which now reaches some 80 million homes, has billed Taken as a breakout premiere that will prove it's a "television powerhouse." Sci Fi has also prepared a slew of tie-ins: a Roper Poll announcing that three-quarters of Americans are prepared for the discovery of extraterrestrial life; pseudo-documentaries titled Abduction Diaries and The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence; and public events featuring UFO-abduction gurus John Mack, Bud Hopkins, and David Jacobs. All this might seem an odd accompaniment to a fictional TV series, but Sci Fi has gone even further. It has launched an advocacy group called the Coalition for the Freedom of Information, which plans to sue and file Freedom of Information Act requests to make the government come clean about UFOs. Of course, if the outlandish UFO information requests received by the National Security Agency are any indication, the coalition's chief achievement may be to drive a lot of bureaucrats up the wall.

Such activities certainly do suggest that Sci Fi and Spielberg are out to make people believe in UFOs. Indeed, Sci Fi's excavation of the Roswell crash site and other gimmicks threaten to drag Taken into a sinkhole of purportedly factual UFO-mongering. The evidence about Roswell overwhelmingly suggests that what crashed in 1947 was a government spy balloon; similarly, close examination of UFO-abduction claims overwhelmingly suggests they're best explained by sleep paralysis and other conditions. Those who already believe otherwise, however, will never accept these explanations. That makes battles over UFOlogy worse than pointless, especially if they're conducted by a network like Sci Fi, rather than through serious scientific channels, and presented in the context of promoting a fictional drama.

Neither Taken nor its various tie-ins present us with any new truths, but at least the series has other merits. In a fictional format, Taken deftly historicizes the UFO lore that our culture has churned out since the late 1940s, in a sense merging The X-Files with something like Forrest Gump. At times Taken even seems aware that with UFOs, what we're actually dealing with are the modern analogues of fairies and fallen angels.

What's also impressive—and characteristically Spielbergian—is how the momentous events of Taken unfold against thoroughly mundane backdrops. Sally Clarke's bizarre contraption to contact her alien lover recalls E.T.'s "phone home" gadget. When Owen Crawford, head of a top-secret government UFO project, attempts to kidnap Clarke's half-alien son Jacob, the song "Purple People Eater" comes on the radio as they drive away. In yet another scene, we learn that one useful technology the government acquired from the UFOs was Velcro. The concept of "taken" is itself a double entendre—characters are abducted and abused by UFOs, but also by the government.

The one aspect of Taken that doesn't come in for a sensitive, historicized treatment is the UFO itself—and its supposed activities. In one installment, a highly complicated crop circle appears in the United States in the year 1969 or 1970, even though the crop circle phenomenon really only got going in the mid-1970s in southern England. Similarly, Taken's aliens are short, black-eyed, huge-skulled humanoids known as "grays," yet it was only in 1961 with the Betty and Barney Hill "abduction" that aliens began to be described this way. As an "Alien Time Line" by the paranormal investigator Joe Nickell demonstrates, up through the 1970s, people were seeing blobs, insectoids, hairy dwarfs, robots, reptilians, and other types. In other words, the way that UFOs appeared to Americans was itself historically contingent on, and highly influenced by, media representations.

Granted, if Taken admitted this, it would also have to admit that Spielberg himself generated much of the lore that the series has now repackaged and dramatized. But at least the Taken crew seems willing to joke about it. In a recent interview, Taken screenwriter Leslie Bohem noted that Spielberg once said to him of alien abductions, "If this isn't true, then why are all these stories the same?" To which Bohem replied, "Maybe because of your movies?" That's not exactly fessing up to the existence of a vast media conspiracy—but it's a promising start.

          The Sound Of Aberlour (or 'Aberlou(de)r')        

Hey hey!  Both Joel and I find ourselves at an unusual point this month. Our new book, Distilled is finally out and we're really delighted with the reaction so far. It's been a hugely rewarding ride into the world of spirits and we look forward to many more years to come, writing about and enjoying great spirits in the company of great friends.  

Last week, we had a slight return to our roots back in the music business, albeit as part of a fun and engaging tasting masterclass for The Whisky Show. In fact, it was a superb opportunity to reminisce about 'the old days' of making records and generally revisit what was a fun chapter in our lives. 

Together with an old friend of ours, record producer Danton Supple, the man who produced Coldplay's X&Y album, as well as working with a host of highly successful artists from around the globe including Amy MacDonald and Natalie Imbruglia, we devised an experience for 30 passionate whisky and music fans, who were in attendance at the Whisky Show. For all three of us, there is an undeniable link between whisky and music. It has been said that whisky and rock ‘n roll are the ultimate bedfellows and that the creative energy flowing through many of the greatest and most enduring classic blues and Rock ‘n Roll songs can be attributed to the ‘spirit of the spirit’. From the raw emotion laid bare in Robert Johnson’s seminal recordings of the late 1930s, through to the hedonistic, hell-raising antics of Led Zeppelin and beyond, whisky, of some kind, seeps with abundance from virtually every pore.  

But not only is there a creative link. There are also parallels between the production of classic whiskies and the creation of classic albums and our tasting sought to highlight a number of these similarities. 

We chose the classic Speyside malt, Aberlour as a perfect example of a liquid laid bare, ideal for pairing with music. The concept was to find five unusual expressions of Aberlour, each with its very own personality to match with five similarly characterful pieces of music. Working alongside Danton,  we rattled through our combined record collections with each whisky in tow, until we felt confident that we had mirrored the individual nuances of the liquid. No easy feat, as it turned out, given that music - and tasting notes are so damned subjective. But our collective thinking was that certain styles of whisky have very distinct character traits and it was these that we hoped to highlight with each piece of music.  

Are you still with us?  - honestly, it will become clearer, we promise!

Assembling a fairly high-end stereo in the huge arched tasting rooms down in Vinopolis, the location of The Whisky Show, we laid out our plans -  and the whiskies. Had we succeeded in capturing the essence of each liquid in song form?  

First up was a real cracker: a 16 year-old single cask Aberlour matured in a wonderfully rich sherry cask, only available at the distillery and bottled at 59.1%. In fact, if you pay the distillery a visit, this is one of a pair of releases that you can bottle yourself, so a very special whisky indeed.  As a prime example of a characterful Speyside spirit filled into a clearly very active sherry cask, this whisky is powerful and brooding- rich in body and complexity. It has a mighty spiciness, which develops alongside a highly resonant fruitiness.  To us, a single cask whisky is about as near to completely immersing yourself in the spirit as possible and our idea was to pair this with a stark acoustic recording: something where you hear a song -  and the vocal - in its rawest form, with every nuance of the performance on show. After much discussion, there was only one artist who could truly take on such a mighty whisky and that was 'The Man In Black' himself, the late Johnny Cash.  

The song we chose was The Man Comes Around, taken from his beautifully recorded American IV album, released in 2002. Here, Cash's voice is arguably at its finest: As resonant and cavernous as a 300ft sinkhole, yet still in possession of a rich, spicy character. A voice that has truly lived, if you like. For us, this simple, honest recording was the perfect backdrop to the Aberlour sherry cask. We hit play and stood back.  

With our palates still tingling from such a complex whisky, our next pairing was almost the antithesis of both sherry cask maturation and the fearsome pipes of Johnny Cash. As mentioned above, there is a pair of single casks available at the Aberlour distillery and we were lucky enough to get a bottle of the sister to the brooding sherry bomb: A wonderfully light, zesty, fruity and buttery first-fill Bourbon Cask 16 Year Old Aberlour, bottled at 54.5%. Here, we wanted to try and demonstrate the contrasting lightness against the shade of the sherry release - the ethereal, soft, sweet vanilla/ tropical fruit notes of a first fill bourbon cask.  

This initially proved to be a little tricky. We were convinced that a simple, beautiful acoustic track sung by a timeless female vocalist was the way to go, but finding something uplifting and confident, yet syrupy smooth caused a few disagreements. In the end, after several reaffirming drams at Danton's studio in Shoreditch, we hit on the perfect match: Carole King and her timeless piano led classic, You've Got A Friend from the 1971 masterpiece, Tapestry. The warm, analogue notes of this recording really helped to counterpoint the unctuous notes of the whisky. So far, so good!

The third pairing was perhaps the most interesting to explore and gave Danton a chance to demonstrate just why he is one of the most in demand record producers in the world. Our task was to find a way of articulating the perfect balance of cask types found in an Aberlour 17 year old Double Cask release, bottled exclusively for the French market at 43%.  As we have previously seen, both first fill sherry and bourbon cask styles have very different flavour profiles and too much of either one can change the balance of light and shade- potentially in the wrong direction.  

It was here that Danton likened the practice of mixing a song to that of the whisky maker obtaining that perfect balance of flavours in a finished recipe and to highlight this, he bought along something you simply wouldn't get to hear every day: The multitrack recordings of one of Coldplay's biggest hits, Fix You. Using his laptop to highlight individual tracks he began with the song's simple organ part and stark vocal, building to a crescendo of instruments and emotions. Too much of one aspect (the organ and bass parts) gave the track a darker feel. Too much lead vocal and guitar, coupled with vocal harmony parts produced a mix that was sweeter and lighter, but lacked the solidity and foundations of the finished, balanced recording. In tandem, the 17 year old Aberlour hit that sweet spot of rich, darker notes, whilst building to a wonderfully balanced, sweet fruitiness. 

For the forth pairing, we wanted to really push the boat out and thanks to the almost archive-like inventory of the Whisky Exchange, we managed to locate a dusty bottle of Aberlour/Glenlivet 8 Year Old, bottled in the middle of the 1960's.  This time capsule of a whisky was unlike any modern whiskies on the palate and made us wonder about the difference of production methods back then. Today's whisky business centres on practices that deliver consistency, with a greater understanding of wood management and maturation, so you can pretty much guarantee that the bottle you open today will taste pretty similar to the one you open in a decade.  However, back in the 1960's things were a little different. Aberlour Ambassador Phil Huckle gave us some background on the distillery at the time, pointing to the idiosyncrasies that might affect the differing flavour profiles of a whisky, such as coal fired stills and less of a scientific approach to understanding the maturation process.   

For these reasons, we wanted to find a classic track made roughly around the same era, which despite the limitations of technology at the time, is arguably regarded as a groundbreaking piece of music. We didn't have to think too hard about this -  Pink Floyd's Breathe from their seminal Dark Side Of The Moon.  

With the room feeling particularly chilled out and no doubt drifting off into a dreamy whisky/progrock-induced haze, it was time to bring things back to life. Our final pairing was the most lively of all, a given, when you consider the whisky we decided to finish on. Aberlour A'Bunadh is arguably the distillery's most well known and highly regarded expression and has developed an almost cult following since it was first released in 1997. For us, this is the most extreme style of Aberlour (batch 48 is bottled at 59.7%) and our pairing needed to reflect this. In fact, it made us think of the concept of seeing your favourite band play live: You know the songs, but everything is so much more lively, loud, driven and direct. All in all, everything is turned up to 11, with everyone on stage delivering a visceral and incendiary performance. There was no disagreement as to which track would perfectly articulate this: Can't Explain from The Who's incredible 'Live At Leeds' album, rated by many music critics as the best live album of all time. The recording is brutally honest, leaving Townshend, Entwistle, Moon and Daltery no room to hide, each one at the top of their game and performing out of their skins. It's the sound of a band so accomplished, they can strip open the songs at ease and allow the listener to understand what each instrument really adds. 

Aberlour A'Bunadh has the same simplistic and powerful heart, but there are also layers of complexity amongst all the extremes. It's a whisky that transports you right back to the beginnings of the distillery with each passing sip (for those who don't know, it was a recreation of a very old bottle front he late 1800's that was found at the distillery)- much in the same way that listening to 'Live At Leeds' gives even those listening today that feeling of "I Was There'. 

What a way to finish. For those of you who would like to try and recreate the same experience at home, we've created a 'Sound Of Aberlour' Spotify playlist which you can listen to here.  

The Sound Of Aberlour

But why not try creating your own pairings? Of course, each listener and drinker has a deeply personal relationship with their music and whisky; this was ours and we're willing to bet that given half the chance, you can find your own perfect Sound Of Aberlour.  

          Bob vs. Wild: Grays Harbor Mud Flat Adventure        
You've heard of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel?  I had one of those experiences today.  I launched my kayak on the Humptulips River - follow the "Public Fishing" sign.  I paddled down the river about a mile.  Where the trees gave out I thought I had reached the bay, but I was still enclosed by banks on either side.  Away from the trees, the wind picked up and I had to fight against the wind and waves.  I sheltered for a while under the west bank that rose a few feet over my head.  At the end of the river, I landed on a small island for a rest - a standing rest.  There was nowhere to sit.  At least I could rest my arms and shoulders.

My next goal was to reach a rock standing out in the middle of the bay.  I noticed all around me that stumps and fallen trees were stranded all around the bay.  It appeared that much of the bay was quite shallow.  After another long stretch of paddling, I found my way blocked by a large, exposed mud flat.  Seagulls wandered here and there poking at the mud.  The mud flat extended as far as I could see to my right and left, so this rock was going to be unreachable.

Next, I paddled in the direction of Ocean Shores, where a promising sunbreak was developing.  Indeed, the sun did break out and lit up the bay nicely.  The birds suddenly became more active in the sunlight, with flocks of small birds flying past at great speed just inches above the water.  I paddled towards the sun and enjoyed the view as long as I dared - until I judged that I had better turn around to reach my starting point before dark.

Heading back to the river, I had the wind at my back and waves pushing me along at great speed.  I was making tremendous progress.  Then all of a sudden, the waves disappeared and I found myself stuck on a mud flat.  There was only about one inch of water beneath me - the kayak needs about three inches to float.  I tried to make some forward progress by pushing my paddle against the mud, but this was extremely tiring and progress was very slow.  I decided that I had better hop out of the boat and walk, towing the kayak by hand; otherwise, I would sit there on the mud flat in the dark.

Walking on the mud flat was frightening at first, since I didn't know how good the footing would be or whether there might be sinkholes.  A couple times I jump back into the kayak and tried pushing myself along, but that way forward was hopeless.  At length, it became clear that even my one inch of water had drained away.  I was high and dry.  The mud was firmer now, so I trudged on, looking for my river.

I had seen a historical navigation map of Grays Harbor several weeks before.  The harbor is almost completely filled up with mud, except for some narrow channels where rivers or streams flush the mud out.  I had to find the channel made by the Humptulips River.  Fortunately, there was a white house near the water's edge standing out near the river entrance.  I trudged in that direction, sticking to the higher ground.  Luckily, kayaks are fairly easy to drag through mud.  After a very long walk with my arms about to drop off my body, I spotted the river channel.  That gave me encouragement and I finished up the mud journey, reaching the river just as the sun was setting.

It felt heavenly to be on open water again.  I felt like a fish who had reached his native element.  I had another mile or mile and a half to paddle back to the boat ramp.  The going was very slow at first, since the tide was still rushing out of the channel.  But this seemed to stop and equalize and I started to make faster progress.  I took a last photo, looking back towards the harbor with the first star appearing in the sky.  It was very dark when I approached the boat ramp.  From the sound of cars on highway 109 I knew I was close.  However, I had trouble distinguishing fallen trees from the ramp.

The sight of my car at the end of the journey was quite a relief.  Of course, I had been imagining for the past two hours what would happen if the car had been stolen.

So, the moral of the story: check the tide tables before venturing out on Grays Harbor.  Time your visit with a rising tide.

See my photo album:

          Godzilla in Malaysia? Godzilla, King Kong, Ultraman, Thor, Ironman and Rosmah Caused the Sinkhole        

Meme including Thor and Loki

KUALA LUMPUR: KL Monorail service from Hang Tuah station to Jalan Imbi temporarily suspended due to two large sinkholes here have sparked off the creative juices of Malaysian creating a tide of funny memes on the Internet

Here are some:


- See more at:

Maybe footballer Luis Suarez bit the road and caused it to collapse...

          Spirit Attack - Paranormal Report #109        

December 3, 2014

Cast: Richmond SF Blog

Tags: san francisco, sinkhole and richmond district

          Finance: Still a Popular Destination?        
Almost a third of Tuck's grads went into finance

Take a peek at the latest statistics.  At many business schools, they're out and available. MBA graduates from the Class of 2013 have launched their post-business-school careers, and they haven’t avoided financial services as much as the popular impression suggests. 

True, countless thousands who've entered and finished graduate business school since the worst days of the crisis opted not to pursue banking, trading and investment management or other financial-services paths.  The industry has endured transformation of all kinds (regulation, business restrictions, non-stop restructuring, and souring popular sentiment).  And it’s true, too, the industry had become a turn-off to some smart students who in years past would have pursued investment banking without a thought.

In current times, the rewards, comforts and predictable career paths in finance are still uncertain. Don't forget, too, the knocks on jobs and roles that had once been perceived as  prestigious and awe-inspiring on the cocktail circuit.  Many MBA students at top schools, so goes popular sentiment, will likely prefer more humane, more constructive routes in a long business career.

But the statistics are out for recent business-school classes, and they suggest MBA students continue to flock to certain areas in financial services.  Finance will still attract those who are inherently interested in finance, those who have finance in their bones, so to speak. 

Perhaps the numbers are not surging as much as they were pre-2007, but they aren't insignificant.  Or  perhaps banks, investment managers, and trading firms are doubling down to make special efforts to present themselves more fashionably to students, describing career opportunities better, and promising easier lives on the work-life-balance front.   

However, perhaps the industry is more defined, better understood after all the years of restructuring and gearing up for an environment ensconced in new regulation.  Of course, some hard-core students, fascinated by markets, deals, transactions, and cash flows, will head toward finance despite what they hear, see or are told.

Compensation helps, too.  It continues to be one attraction.  Data and anecdotal evidence suggest financial institutions still pay well, even if the industry pulled back and rationalized (and reduced) compensation after the mid-2000’s splurge.

Let’s take a look at Dartmouth-Tuck, a Consortium school. Its career-advisory unit recently shared data for the most recent graduating class after it received a sufficient number of responses from departing students. Tuck is a good example, because it has an outstanding history preparing graduates for Wall Street, has attracted large numbers interested in finance since its early days, and has a reputable finance division.  

The Tuck data indicate consulting is the hot spot these days.  MBA graduates are flocking to what is referred in campus jargon as "MBB"--McKinsey, Bain and Booz. In Tuck's Class of 2013, consulting firms hired 27% of the class (and offered the highest amounts in compensation).  In all, 33% are working in consulting roles, including those working at non-consulting firms or working in the consulting arms of the big accounting firms (Ernst and Deloitte, e.g.)

For some MBA students, consulting offers an experience, similar to what they might have received at an investment bank. They get to do extensive research and analysis.  They get to study corporate strategy and make recommendations regarding growth, expansion, and acquisition. They participate in “live transactions” and prepare exhaustive presentations for clients. They travel around the country. 

They also get to have meaningful contact with clients and sit in meetings with clients' senior managers.  Some become experts in the industries of their clients. Hence, while consulting has always been a favorite first job for MBA students, consulting might be swiping a handful of those who a decade ago would have marched right into Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley (or Lehman Brothers, back then) at the first whiff of interest on the banks' part.

Yet the numbers going into finance haven’t dwindled that much. MBA graduates at top finance business schools like Tuck (and arguably NYU-Stern, Michigan-Ross, Virginia-Darden, all Consortium schools) are finding their ways back to Wall Street, but perhaps in a variety of roles.  About 30% of the Tuck Class of ’13 headed to financial institutions, and about 35% are working in finance functions. In investment banking, 14% of the class went to work there; 11% are working in classic investment-banking functions (equity or debt underwriting, M&A, client advisory, etc.)—numbers that don’t suggest a lack of interest in  this generation of students.

Tuck’s statistics, nonetheless, show a dearth of classmates headed into private equity and venture capital (only 2%).  The small percentage stands out because many go to business school with expressed interests (and great enthusiasm) about private equity and venture capital. The numbers might reflect the scarcity of opportunity in such a fiercely competitive segment and the unorthodox ways some of these firms recruit.  (Blackstone and Carlyle may recruit at top business schools across the country, but Silicon Valley venture-capital firms may recruit informally or prefer to recruit only from across the street at Stanford).

The latest statistics may also reflect the lack of opportunities on trading desks at big banks, which have had to scale back because of new regulation.  MBA graduates interested sales and trading nowadays don’t have the chance to work in structured career pathways at a Credit Suisse or JPMorgan and will likely look for opportunities, if they exist, at hedge funds, many of which struggled last year and may not be swarming business schools this year. Some students interested in sales and trading can seek similar opportunities at investment managers (Blackrock, e.g.).

Tuck’s statistics show first-year compensation in finance hasn’t fallen into a sinkhole. But the range is as wide as ever, partly because the impressive, mind-shaking salaries and bonuses have been paid out primarily at the bulge-bracket and boutique banks in financial centers (New York, Chicago, San Francisco), and not always at the smaller, regional institutions. 

Still, in a post-crisis era, compensation doesn’t seem to always drive MBA graduates’ career decisions. Indeed these are different times. MBA graduates know the time they spend at Bank of America, Aetna, or UBS right out of school won't last decades. Furthermore, they seek flexibility and a life on weekends or seek some comfort that when the next crisis occurs, they won’t appear on a bank’s long reduction-in-force list.

Tracy Williams

See also:

CFN:  Who's headed into finance, 2013? June-2013

CFN:  MBA's: Eye on summer '14, Nov-2013

CFN:  Where do you want to work? Feb-2013

CFN:  Today's bulge brackets, Jan-2013

CFN:  Goldman tweaks the banking ladder, Sept-2012

          Active sinkholes found on Comet 67P/C-G        
Cool image time! Using Rosetta’s high resolution camera scientists have located a number of active pits similar to sinkholes on Earth on Comet 67P/C-G. Based on the Rosetta observations, the team has proposed a model for the formation of these sinkholes. A source of heat beneath the comet’s surface causes ices (primarily water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide) to sublimate.
          Another cave found on Mars        
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found another cave on Mars. The cropped version of the image, shown below, shows a remarkably symmetrical crater that probably has more similarities to sinkholes on earth. In the center is a 100 foot wide skylight into a cave. The crater is almost certainly formed partly by material dropping into the cave.
          Sinkholes on Mars        
Caver alert! Releases this week from both the Mars Express orbiter and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a variety of sinkholes and collapse features on Mars, which in turn suggest the possibility of underground passages. First, there is this picture from Mars Express, showing the area called Phoenicis Lacus (Latin for Phoenix Lake). The large and long canyon in box
          Florida sinkhole threatens even more homes        

LAND O' LAKES — Ralph Terry, a 73-year-old retiree who lives in a sleepy neighborhood in this Tampa Bay suburb, seems particularly sanguine about living just a few doors down from a gaping void in the earth.

“I don't see no cracks in my blocks in my house,” he said Tuesday, peering out the front...

          Salvaged photographs from the St. Louis Street Department circa 1900-1930 catalogued in new book        
This segment was originally produced on November 26, 2016 and re-aired on August 8, 2017. Charles Clement Holt was many things: an engineer, a draftsman, a surveyor for the St. Louis Streets Department. He became so good at the latter that he eventually became head of the Streets Department. One of the keys to his success? Excessive photographic documentation. From 1900 to 1930, Holt led the group in documenting street activities across the burgeoning St. Louis community — from sinkholes being filled to streets being oiled. Along the way, he also managed to capture some “Humans of St. Louis”-style photographs of the people and places that made St. Louis tick back in the day. At its height, Holt’s Street Department produced about 6,000 images per year. Thousands of those photographs were eventually lost but during the 1950s, a city historian found 300 glass plate negatives from that era and saved them for the Missouri Historical Society’s collection. While a few at a time have made
          Vetivier to the rescue        

Paramin is famous for its beautiful, steep hills, aromatic herbs, parang music and Carnival Blue Devils—but none of these was the reason for our visit last Saturday. Instead, we all came for the grass.

Vetiver grass, to be precise. A group of UNDP representatives, Paramin residents, sustainability advocates and a small Guardian crew visited Paramin last Saturday, to see progress on the recently concluded Vetiver Education and Empowerment Project (or VEEP), which is funded by the GEF Small Grants Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Lasting from mid-2016 to July 2017, the project introduced the Vetiver System of planting to Paramin hillside farms, roadsides and cliff areas to help prevent soil erosion, landslides, and excessive water loss.

Landslides come every rainy season in Paramin like clockwork. They can make the already narrow roads even more treacherously narrow, and destroy crops and future planting areas. We saw several small to medium landslides on our way up, including one larger one which had scoured a hillside, leaving behind a long reddish stone-and-dirt gash looking like a vertical, empty riverbed.

We saw many slippery slopes slick with rain run-off and some clear evidence of erosion, including a sinkhole-like area where a past landslide had gouged out lots of topsoil, rendering that particular site unsuitable for agricultural planting.

But what if there’s a simple, home-grown solution to these issues? Enter the versatile Vetiver grass, which in many parts of the tropics, is a simple, cost-effective tool to help deal with soil erosion, landslides and water management.

Vetiver virtues

Vetiver grass—or Chrysopogon zizanioides—is a perennial bunchgrass of the Poaceae family, native to India. It grows in narrow-bladed, tall green clumps up to five feet high. But rather like icebergs, the most fascinating part of the Vetiver plant is not the small bit of it you can actually see, but the huge mass of its subterranean self. For if you could see the whole plant with X-ray vision, you’d see that the hidden root system of a mature Vetiver grass clump is several times more massive and lengthy than the grass blades above it.

The roots penetrate downwards rather than spreading out laterally, which is what makes Vetiver grass especially helpful for planting alongside crops on steep slopes. In mature Vetiver plants, the roots can form a dense vertical mat of between seven and 13 feet deep, which is excellent for binding the soil together and helping to prevent landslides, as well as sopping up extra water from rain run-off.

Jaime Romany is member of the Paramin Development Committee and project manager for VEEP. She immediately saw the project’s relevance for Paramin, and partnered with Jonathan Barcant, an engineer and local Vetiver expert, to apply for UNDP project funding to make the project happen.

Romany told the Guardian this current rainy season has seen more landslides in Paramin—about four or five major ones—than in the previous couple years. She said: “We’re using Vetiver to stabilise the land, help prevent landslips, and also using it for crafts. Farmers and residents took part. And four Vetiver nurseries were established, to provide free plants for Paramin residents.” Nurseries may also sell plants to the general population.

A tough survivor

Vetiver grass is very tough stuff indeed—it can survive droughts and wildfires, and if it is submerged in clear water, it is said to survive for up to two months without drowning. Its strong root system can grow 10 feet in just the first year. Yet, because the most commonly used commercial genotypes of Vetiver are sterile (they do not produce fertile seeds), these genotypes are non-invasive.

The Paramin VEEP project saw 25,000 Vetiver plants planted on the properties of 15 Paramin community members. All project participants helped plan the placement of Vetiver shoots, and planted and nurtured the young plants.

As part of VEEP, five workshops taught people how to prepare, install and maintain Vetiver projects, and taught some natural land rehabilitation methods. The project also included 12 craft workshops where participants learnt how to make products such as baskets, belts, mats, and chair coverings using the dried Vetiver grass.

Soaps were another craft project: Vetiver roots were processed to make sweet smelling household items such as soaps, to freshen the home and keep away insects. The craft and nursery projects offer a chance for future income earning in the community.

Cost effective

Jonathan Barcant leads the firm Vetiver TT, a company founded in 2014 which offers environmental, land and conservation services primarily based on The Vetiver System (see Vetiver grass is a promising solution for land slippage, while costing as little as 15-20 per cent as much as hard-engineering alternatives like gabion rock baskets, retaining walls, or geotextile mats. Barcant is an important partner in VEEP, and told the Guardian:

“I always dreamed of a community project in T&T. The Vetiver System helps in slope stabilisation, erosion control, soil and water conservation, and even remediation of polluted soil. And it’s such a simple thing to implement.

“In Paramin, Jaime Romany had the vision and reached out to me, so I became the main project designer, educator and installer, while she was project manager and liaised with the community. It is the first project of this kind in Trinidad. The project took a year and a half of preparatory groundwork, before the application could be made for funding. Then the workshops and actual planting part of the project took off between July and November 2016.”

Barcant noted that although Vetiver first came from India, it’s now in over 100 countries because of its wide range of uses. A short video of the Paramin Vetiver project is being made to inspire other communities to learn. And Barcant’s firm Vetiver TT will be promoting VEEP locally and internationally. (The firm has been selected for the Swiss ReSource Award, which supports entrepreneurial solutions for resilience in water management.)

Thanks to UNDP Small Grants Programme

Rissa Edoo is National Coordinator for the Global Environmental Facility’s Small Grants Programme, or GEF-SGP, which provides grants of up to US$50,000 to community groups worldwide working to restore and conserve the natural environment. She works for the United Nations Development Programme office based in T&T. She told the Guardian:

“What we do is provide finding to non-profits, civil society organisations and community groups to do a variety of environmental projects. The main objective of the Small Grants Programme is to create global environmental benefits through small-scale community action that empowers communities and creates livelihood opportunities, while addressing issues such as climate change, land degradation, and conservation of biodiversity. This VEEP project is just one of several projects we are funding.”

Edoo noted the actual value of the VEEP project in Paramin exceeds US$50,000 because the community and various stakeholders all contributed (in cash or kind) to add to funds provided by the GEF-SGP grant.

Vetiver, once planted, can thrive year after year. This unassuming but very resilient, useful grass may be showing us how to survive better, by using inexpensive resources more usefully and profitably.

          Huge Sinkholes Are Now Appearing In The Wrong Places        
Just last week, massive holes opened up in New York City's lower Manhattan, suburban Atlanta and San Francisco.
          Added Guy Bruneau's DNS Sinkhole link to Handler Tools page.        
Added on Friday April 06, 2012. View the entire list of ISC site release notes at
          Tyre-busting sinkhole photo touches a nerve with Victorian road users        
A photograph of a deep sinkhole on a road leading to a popular Victorian camping spot has sparked furious online debate as to the condition of the state's roads.
          Boyers Road sinkhole        
          Comment on Girl Falls into Sinkhole while Talking on Cell – Caught on Video by So Cute it Can’t Be Legal | McCafferty Himself        
[…] Girl Falls into Sinkhole while Talking on Cell – Caught on Video […]
          Comment on Girl Falls into Sinkhole while Talking on Cell – Caught on Video by Stephen Colbert Roasts Dick Cheney about Iraq and WMDs | McCafferty Himself        
[…] Girl Falls Into Sinkhole While Talking on Cellphone – Caught on Video […]
          Earth Changes in an Electric Universe: Is climate change really man-made?        
This week on SOTT Talk Radio we're interviewing editors Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk, who recently co-authored a book called Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection. While official science portrays the crazy weather, more frequent sinkholes, increased meteor fireball activity, and intensifying earthquakes as phenomena that are unrelated, research put together by Pierre and Laura strongly suggests that all this (and more!) is intimately connected and may stem from a common cause. In times past, people understood that the human mind and states of collective human experience influence cosmic and earthly phenomena. How might today's 'wars and rumors of wars', global 'austerity measures', and the mass protest movements breaking out everywhere play into the climate 'changing'? Join us this Sunday 15th June from 2-4pm EST (11am-1pm PST, 8-10pm CET) for a dot-connecting discussion you won't hear anywhere else on the planet!
          Is World War 3 Imminent? Russia Vs USA, Sinkholes and Weird Weather        
This week, once again, we'll be discussing the situation in Ukraine but this time in the context of international politics and if the pathocrats really are insane enough to push the world to the brink of all-out war. Ukraine's population is split between those who are "pro EU/US" and those who are "pro Russia". The recent "revolution" and change of government in Ukraine has exacerbated political, ethnic and religious divisions (as all US-inspired provocations do, and are designed to do) among the Ukrainian people. At present, the US-backed government in Kiev and its supporters in Western Ukraine are lobbying the UN security council and NATO (the US military mainly) to "look at all ways to protect its territorial integrity." At the same time, the newly declared 'independent' parliament in the Crimean peninsula has called on Russia to protect its 'integrity'. All of which looks like the opening gambit in a possible soon to come military confrontation between the USA and Russia. So, is the real war that never came during the 'cold war' about to kick off? We'll be giving our perspective on this interesting question. We'll also be looking at recent worldwide weather and 'environmental' anomalies and bringing you a new theory of cloud formation and its link to "global warming" and a never before heard explanation of what is causing those pesky sinkholes that have been swallowing cars and people for the past several years. We'll also be explaining why, given that there has been a stark reduction in solar activity in recent years, there have been more severe storms on the planet, when, according to official science, less solar activity should mean a quieter planet, weather-wise. We hope you'll join us for an in-depth look at the recent goings-on on our increasingly topsy-turvey world. We're live from 2-4pm EST (8-10pm CET).
          Climate Change, Food Shortages and the Future        
Record snowfall in the northern hemisphere, record heatwaves in the southern hemisphere; tornadoes in places they have never appeared before; constant flooding and persistent drought; record snow cover and unseasonal deep freezes ... just what is UP with all this weird weather? Is 'man-made global warming' to blame? Is 'man-made global warming' even real? Is the planet actually 'warming' to begin with? It's claimed that rising CO emissions are heating our planet and thereby altering its climate. It's further claimed that these excess CO emissions are the result of human activity. Reduce human activity by creating incentives to reduce energy consumption, they say, and we might prevent catastrophic climate change. But is this a satisfactory explanation? Whatever is behind it all must also account for the bizarre reports of mass animal deaths and masses of animals on the move; countless eruptions of 'previously dormant' volcanoes, above ground and underwater; record numbers of earthquakes and methane outgassings; scary sinkholes and superstorms. While it's clear that something significant is happening to our climate, perhaps we need to be thinking in terms of 'Earth change' rather than 'climate change'. In this week's show, we'll be giving airtime to some alternative theories that explain why and how the climate - indeed, the whole biosphere - is changing. We're also going to look at the likely implications for humanity, not least the knock-on effects of crop failures for the global food supply. The picture isn't pretty folks, but forewarned is forearmed: if you have an idea of what's coming, then at least you can prepare for it.
          Sinkhole Swallows the White House        
WASHINGTON, D.C.--Residents are being evacuated from the White House due to a massive sinkhole that's already swallowed much of the Trump Administration. CNN reports that a depression the size of the Trump estate at Mar-a-Lago formed at around 8:...
          Crews In Granbury Working To Make Giant Sinkhole Bigger        
Rain and storms over the weekend resulted in a giant sinkhole opening up in Granbury. As crews continue to work in the area their job now is to make the crater bigger!
          Uninsured Long Island Homeowners Play Waiting Game For Flood Damage Repair        
The historic rainfall that hit western Suffolk County this week has left crater-like sinkholes in its wake and took an emotional and financial toll on homeowners.
           Needles and Haystacks (PDF, 552 Kb)         
Grades 7-8

Focus: Underwater Archaeology (Life Science/Archaeology)

In this activitiy, students will be able to explain some techniques that archaeologists use to look for paleoamerican settlements on drowned shorelines, to infer and explain shoreline features that may be associated with paleoamerican settlements, and to describe how artifacts retrieved from sinkholes may be interpreted.

           Paleo-Diving (PDF, 552 Kb)         
Grades 7-8

Focus: Underwater Archaeology of Sinkholes (Physical Science/Archaeology)

In this activity, students will be able to explain how sinkholes are formed, why they may be associated with paleoamerican settlements, and how artifacts retrieved from sinkholes may be interpreted.

          NCM Commemorates Sinkhole Anniversary With Another Restoration        

’62 Corvette damaged in sinkhole readies for restoration.
          Video Shows Sinkhole Swallowing Florida Homes        

          National Corvette Museum votes to preserve sinkhole         
The people behind the National Corvette Museum really know how to turn lemons into lemonade. From AB National Corvette Museum Board Meets Regarding Sinkhole Fate The National Corvette Museum Board of...The post does not have replies yet. Start the discussion here
          National Corvette Museum votes to preserve sinkhole         
The people behind the National Corvette Museum really know how to turn lemons into lemonade. From AB National Corvette Museum Board Meets Regarding Sinkhole Fate The National Corvette Museum Board of...The post does not have replies yet. Start the discussion here
          National Corvette Museum votes to preserve sinkhole         
The people behind the National Corvette Museum really know how to turn lemons into lemonade. From AB National Corvette Museum Board Meets Regarding Sinkhole Fate The National Corvette Museum Board of...The post does not have replies yet. Start the discussion here
          Sinkholes in Russian City Ryazan        
Russian city Ryazan is experiencing anomalous high number of sinkholes on its roads for the last few month. This one above is very recent just a few days ago. A few more inside. This one is the same recent one. … Read more...
           Geo-hazard map of cover-collapse sinkholes in the Kinta Valley, Perak Malaysia         
Alkouri, Omar and Omar, Husaini (2007) Geo-hazard map of cover-collapse sinkholes in the Kinta Valley, Perak Malaysia. In: The 6th Asian Regional Conference on Geohazards in Engineering Geology, 16-19 Oct. 2007, Hoam Convention Center, Seoul, Korea. (Unpublished)
          Hagios Charalambos: A Minoan Burial Cave in Crete I. Excavation and Portable Objects        

By Philip P. Betancourt (Prehistory Monographs 47). Pp. xviii + 120. INSTAP Academic Press, Philadelphia 2014. $60. ISBN 978-1-931534-80-2 (cloth).

Reviewed by

The volume under review is beautifully illustrated with high-quality drawings, plans, and photographs and is a valuable addition to our knowledge of Minoan funerary practices. In keeping with the tradition of the site publications of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), the work undertaken in the Hagios Charalambos Cave is published in several volumes. This is the first of five volumes and deals with the excavation of the cave and the publication of the portable objects. The pottery, the history of Minoan Lasithi, and the faunal and human remains will be published in four other volumes. The mortuary practice evidenced in the Hagios Charalambos Cave is unusual not because it represents secondary burial but rather because it is an extreme case of this funerary practice: the human remains and portable objects from closed Early Minoan (EM) I–Middle Minoan (MM) IIB funerary contexts (e.g., rock shelter or built tombs, as suggested by the state of preservation of the bones) outside the cave were moved, after decomposition of the bodies, to inside the cave in a single period in MM IIB (5, 29). The original burial place has not been located, but a MM III–Late Minoan (LM) I cemetery containing burials in pithoi was found at a distance of about 120 m (38). A group of articulated vertebrae in Room 5 suggests that the original body part had not yet decomposed when it was moved. The secondary deposition of all this material in the cave was no mean feat, considering that the original entrance to the cave was a vertical shaft leading down from the ancient ground surface into the cave. Such large-scale and temporally concentrated clearance of a cemetery in MM IIB is unattested elsewhere on Crete. Secondary burial is well attested in the house-tombs and, as recently argued by Triantaphyllou (“Managing with Death in Prepalatial Crete: The Evidence of the Human Remains,” in Y. Papadatos and M. Relaki, eds., From the Foundations to the Legacy of Minoan Society [Oxford (forthcoming)]), also in the tholos tombs, but it seems to have usually been a continuous process over a long period of time rather than a single event. Thus, in the cemetery at Sissi, for example, there is clear evidence that some (but not all) house-tombs were cleared out periodically, presumably to make space for new burials (I. Schoep et al., The Cemetery at Sissi.  Report of the 2011 Campaign [Louvain-la-Neuve 2012] 31–54). The only close parallel for Hagios Charalambos to date is the Trapeza Cave, where the arrangement of skulls along one of the sides could suggest a secondary burial. A mass of jumbled bones, however, does not necessarily mean secondary burial, as a primary burial can be affected by different types of post-depositional treatment. Pendlebury, Pendlebury, and Money-Coutts  (“Excavations in the Plain of Lasithi. I: The Cave of Trapeza,” BSA 36 [1936] 127–28) mention at least 20 mandibles and 118 skulls and fragments from the Trapeza Cave and claim that both sexes and different ages were represented.

This first volume is organized in three parts, each comprising several chapters. Part 1 discusses the geomorphology of the cave and its excavation. The cave is located on the western side of the Lasithi Plain near the village of Hagios Charalambos, and it had been formed along a fault that separates gray dolomite from limestone. Tectonic activity facilitated the degradation of the rocks, thus gradually enlarging the sinkhole, which was then further enlarged by water draining through it. Although the bedrock outcrop in which it is situated is a visible landmark, the cave itself was invisible since the end of the Bronze Age due to its collapse. It was discovered in 1976 during road work and excavated between 1976 and 1983 by Costis Davaras (Rooms 1–4). Excavations were resumed in 2002 by Betancourt, Davaras, and Eleni Stavropodi (Rooms 3 and 4, passageway between Rooms 4 and 5, and Room 5). The cave consisted originally of seven interconnected rooms, of which only five survive. The original entrance was located at the south end of Room 1.

The secondary deposit inside the cave that contained Final Neolithic (FN), EM I–III, MM I–II, and some MM III and LM I pottery was mixed and unstratified (29). The presence and position of Neolithic pottery rather than indicating occupation of the cave in this period are taken to suggest “that burials from as early as the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age were moved to the cave along with the MM II objects. Although the pottery is published in the second volume of the Ayios Charalambos series (L.C. Langford-Verstegen, Hagios Charalambos: A Minoan Burial Cave in Crete II. The Pottery. Prehistory Monographs 51 [Havertown 2016]), it would have been useful to the reader if some quantitative information about the pottery had been included in this volume. The amount of pottery from a given period would also provide an idea as to the number of burials per period and the associated demographic group. For instance, there may actually not be much pottery dating to FN and EM I–III (29).

In general, most rooms in the cave display a similar stratigraphy: a lower level of small broken bones, sherds, and some objects mixed with red soil, on top of which were placed complete skulls, vases, and/or disarticulated bones (24). Sherds and objects of different periods were scattered through this thoroughly mixed deposit. Micromorphological analysis made clear that the red soil is post-depositional and seeped into the cave through fissures in the rock. That some care was taken in the placement of the material is suggested by a gridlike arrangement of bones that formed a sort of platform to support the deposit of disarticulated human bones in the passageway between Rooms 4 and 5. Room 5, the largest in the cave, also contained a mass of small disarticulated and broken bones, pottery, and artifacts, on top of which were placed skulls, long bones, and complete vases. It is estimated that between 1983 and 2002, some 20 complete vases were looted from this room (26). Room 7 was not used in the Bronze Age, and the material found in it had washed down from Room 5.

The secondary deposition of the human bones and grave goods seems to have been accompanied by a ceremony involving the consumption of food and drink outside the cave in MM IIB. Animal bones with cut marks testify to the consumption of cattle, pigs, sheep or goats, and a hare. Because of the presence inside the cave of some MM III and LM I pottery, it is suggested that it remained open until permanently sealed in LM I (24, 29, 37–41). However, it then seems odd that although the fill inside the cave’s mouth dates to MM II (pottery, black soil from burning, animal bones with cut marks, and charcoal [34–5]) some MM III and LM I material was found inside the cave. This either illustrates the complexity of excavating a mixed secondary context or raises the question whether the MM III–LM I pottery inside the cave could be intrusive (e.g., brought in by looters).

Although there is no doubt that the deposit is a secondary burial and therefore mixed, it would have been useful to provide the reader with some quantitative and qualitative information on the human bone because it could have shed light on the treatment of the body (primary, secondary, or both) prior to the placement of the deposit in the cave. The estimated minimum number of individuals of 400 excludes much of the material from Davaras’ excavations. Because of the mixed nature of the deposit, however, it is hard to identify bones from any single individual, and thus, each bone is counted as an individual.

Part 2 contains a catalogue of all portable objects per category (larnakes, figurines, metal objects, seals, stone vases, stone tools, and others), each preceded by a very useful and up-to-date discussion of comparanda on the island. Because of the mixed nature of the deposit, the objects from the cave are dated by comparison with objects from stratified contexts. The presence of metal (bronze, gold, copper, silver, lead) and hippopotamus ivory shows that the inhabitants of this mountainous area of Crete had access to exchange networks to obtain these luxury goods. Some of the networks went via north-central Crete, others via south-central Crete. Thus, for example, the gold ring with naturalistic marine elements evokes the technology and style in Malia, and the three-prism seals point to the “Atelier de Sceaux” at that site. Other objects such as ivory theromorph stamp seals and circular seals clearly point to the Mesara. It is also noteworthy that the cave yielded the largest collection of microliths (lunates and trapezes) from the Aegean. The prismatic blades are paralleled in the funerary assemblages of Hagia Photia and the Kyparissi, Trapeza, and Pyrgos Caves.

In part 3, the chronology, stratigraphy, and use of the cave are summarized, while some thoughts are provided on the reason for moving the remains of a cemetery from outside to inside the cave in MM IIB. Betancourt suggests that the increasing popularity of a more individualizing way of burial rather than a collective one resulted in new types of burial grounds (100–1). Elsewhere on Crete, house-tombs (e.g., at Mochlos, Sissi, and Petras) and tholos tombs (e.g., at Lebena and Moni Odigitria) stop being used for burial during the course of, or at the end of MM IIB, but in none of these cases is there evidence for a single large-scale clearance of the associated cemeteries. It is therefore likely that the explanation for the use of new burial grounds is more complex and multifaceted than a mere desire for individual burial.

Ilse Schoep
Department of Archaeology, Art History and Musicology
Catholic University of Leuven

Book Review of Hagios Charalambos: A Minoan Burial Cave in Crete I. Excavation and Portable Objects, by Philip P. Betancourt

Reviewed by Ilse Schoep

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 121, No. 3 (July 2017)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1213.Schoep


          Read an excerpt from Supersymmetry        
If you like a little more science in your fiction and a little more action with your plot, and somehow you haven't tried David Walton's latest thrillers then you're really, really missing out!  The love has been rolling in for his newest release Supersymmetry.   Check out the first chapter excerpt below to see what all the fuss is about.

“Fast-paced, mind-bending, super-scientific yet fully accessible and very understandable to the layman reader.  Full of new possibilities and probabilities, Supersymmetry gives readers a peek into what the future may hold and the cost that comes with it.  This is a science fiction novel full of humanity and all its inherent beauty and ugliness. FANTASTIC - KEEPER”
-RT Book Reviews

“With a confident, deft touch...David Walton explores concepts of quantum physics while expertly weaving the narrative perspectives of two young women.... An engaging science fiction novel about an ultra-dimensional intelligence bent on destroying reality.”
-Shelf Awareness for Readers

“Propelled by high-speed action and digestible science that makes you feel smarter just by reading about it, Supersymmetry is among the best in near-future science fiction.”

“A high-octane, high-tech romp through time and space, with lots of family drama and complex characters to root for…. Fast paced, with cool futuristic science and complex characters and relationships, this is must-read series for science fiction fans.”
-Books, Bones, and Buffy

“A story with cool science and a good heart. All in all, I was completely entertained by this smart, imaginative quantum thriller.”
-Fantasy Literature



It would be the disaster of their generation, like the fall of the Twin Towers or Kennedy’s assassination. Sandra Kelley was one of the early responders, one of the first to see the stadium lying crushed, torn apart as if by an angry giant. She was less than two years out of police academy, a junior officer still doing patrol on the night shift. She had seen victims of traffic accidents, so she wasn’t entirely green, but nothing could have prepared her for this.
It seemed as if every police car, ambulance, and fire truck in the city had been routed to Broad and Pattison, but it wasn’t nearly enough. There had been a Wasted Euth concert at Lincoln Financial Field that night, so there were crowds of gawkers to control, and the number of injured in the parking lot alone was more than they could handle. Debris lay scattered everywhere.
Most of the light poles in the parking lot were still intact, but the stadium wreckage itself was dark, an unexpected hole where once 2000-watt lights had blazed out into the night. The sky was overcast, a brooding bank of clouds that hid the stars and seemed to press down on the city.
Sandra dialed her dad’s phone for what must have been the tenth time. The call went straight to voice mail, just like every other attempt. Her voice was shaking badly. “Dad, please call. Please get this. Tell me you weren’t at the game.”
She called her mom’s phone next. No answer. She had left three mes­sages already, but she left another one anyway. “Mom, it’s Sandra. Please call. Dad was there, wasn’t he? He had tickets. I don’t remember when, but I think it was tonight. He invited me, but I was on duty . . .” She choked on the words and clicked off.
She weaved her way around battered blue plastic seats, strewn across the parking lot alongside unrecognizable pieces of mangled metal and concrete. There were bodies, dozens of them. Some of them were whole. Others were not. She stopped, doubled over, and vomited on her shoes.
Her sergeant took one look at her face and pointed her toward crowd control. Facing away from the stadium as much as possible, she and a dozen other cops shouted people back and strung police tape to cordon off the whole area. The first moment she could, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and called her parents again. Nothing.
“Here.” Another cop pushed a water bottle into her hands. It was Nathan, from her class at the academy. She took the bottle gratefully, swished some water in her mouth, and spat it onto the pavement. It cleared some of the taste of vomit from her mouth, but not the acid taste of fear. She felt jittery and light-headed, like she was on some kind of uppers or a massive dose of caffeine.
“Thanks,” she said, handing back the bottle.
“Keep it,” Nathan said. He was blond and tall, with athletic good looks. The uniform fit him well. She had had a bit of a crush on him back in the day, but he had fallen for a cadet named Danielle instead, and they’d married a week after graduation.
Sandra tried her phone again, but with no result. Nathan studied her face. “You know somebody who was here?”
She nodded, swallowing hard. “My dad. He used to take us all the time, when we were . . .” Her voice cracked, and she pressed her lips together, holding back tears.
“They’ll find him,” Nathan said. “Don’t give up hope.”
She smiled as best she could and nodded her thanks. Heavy earth-moving and construction equipment rolled in, bulldozers and front-end loaders and cranes. Her sergeant pulled her back to help with search and rescue. There were people trapped under eighty-ton blocks of concrete, but no one seemed to agree about the best way to move them safely. She found herself in crews of strangers, moving what rubble could be moved by hand. She was tired, bone tired, but she knew she couldn’t stop. Peo-ple’s lives depended on the work she was doing. And one of them just might be her father.
The FBI rolled in and added to the confusion, waving their badges and trying to preserve the crime scene at the same time rescue workers were tearing it apart. No one seemed to know quite who was in charge. Without direct orders, Sandra did whatever she could, directing EMTs with stretchers, soothing panicked family members, and checking press badges for the reporters that swarmed the site like flies.
While she did all this, she recorded everything she saw. Like most police officers, Sandra wore eyejack lenses, the raw footage feeding into a huge database that could be merged into a single, time-tagged, three-dimensional image of the site. The detectives and bomb experts would study the data for clues as to what had happened. Was it a terrorist attack? Or just a catastrophic engineering failure? Feedback to her lenses told her which views and angles were under-represented, encouraging her to aim her vision in directions that would help fill in the holes.
The news she was getting through her phone told her the media was already pointing fingers at the Turks. With American forces in Poland and Germany blocking the Turkish advance, and the Turkish navy con­trolling access to the Mediterranean, this was hardly a surprise. The talking heads called it a Turkish attack on American soil, comparing it to Pearl Harbor and calling for war. The Turkish president officially denied it, and it was hard for Sandra to see what they would gain from such a move. Though she supposed terrorists operated under a different set of assumptions than most people.
She hadn’t seen her sergeant in hours, so she just wandered the site, joining gangs of workers where she saw a need. She queried the central database to see what views had not yet been covered and headed in those directions, trying to provide as much data as possible to the profes­sionals whose job it was to make sense of it all. All around her, there was the horror of death, so much death that she could hardly take it in. She felt emotionally detached, floating in a protective bubble her mind had formed around the experience. Her awareness collapsed to simple tasks.
Step over the twisted metal. Help lift the concrete slab. Check GPS and shift viewing angle to forty degrees.
Her father still didn’t return her calls.
“Hey! Officer! Could you give me a hand?”
Sandra turned to see a young man in a black Robson Forensic cap waving to her. He was struggling to haul two black hard cases on wheels over the debris-strewn ground.
“Finally,” he said. “What’s a guy got to do to get a girl to pay him some attention?”
She narrowed her eyes, not in the mood for humor. “What do you want?” “Could you take one of these? This
is really a two-person job.”
One of the cases was the size of a large suitcase; the other was big enough to hold a bass fiddle. Sandra took the smaller one. “What is all this stuff?”
“ID equipment,” the forensic tech said, puffing as he hauled on the larger case.
Sandra imagined a lab on wheels, blood testing and DNA, taking samples from the thousands of bodies and determining their identities. “You can do that in the field?”
The tech didn’t answer. They had reached a flat area with a minimum of debris. “This will do,” he said. “Open that one up, will you?”
Inside she found telescoping poles, wires, and what looked like a large security camera. “What kind of ID kit is this?” she asked.
“The best kind, I hope,” the tech said. He opened the larger case. Sandra didn’t understand at first what she was looking at. The case seemed to be stacked with dozens of small electric fans.
The tech circled around to the smaller case and pulled out lengths of pipe, assembling them with ease. In short order, he constructed a ten-foot tripod stand with the camera device on top. From the bottom of the case, he extracted a box with levers and a long antenna, like a remote control. “Stand back,” he said.
He flipped a switch, and the larger case started rumbling. It vibrated visibly, chattering against the concrete.
“What—” Sandra started to say, but she was interrupted by a sound like the buzzing of a hundred angry bees. Out of the case rose a formation of two dozen quad-rotored helicopters, each the size of a dinner plate. They dipped in unison, shearing off to the right just as a second forma­tion rose up to take their place. Each formation was a perfect rectangle, six copters by four, flying inches apart and moving as if locked together. At a cue from the tech, they left their places and flowed into a new forma­tion, twenty-four wide by two deep.
He pressed another button, and the quadcopters shot off toward the ruined stadium, doing twenty or thirty miles an hour, eight feet above the ground. Several people shouted or leapt away, but the copters veered effortlessly to miss all obstacles, breaking out of formation or angling their flight as necessary. Sandra looked after them in awe. In the darkness, their LED lights swirled like a swarm of fireflies. Above her head, the device that looked like a camera came alive, smoothly slewing back and forth as if aiming at each of the receding quadcopters in rapid succession.
Some of the people nearby threw dirty looks their way. A few picked themselves off the ground after diving to avoid the copter brigade.
Sandra forgot her astonishment and wondered if she’d just been tricked. She had no idea what this guy was doing, but it wasn’t forensics. Was he a reporter? Or was he a terrorist, out to destroy evidence or make a secondary attack?
She undid the snap that held her pistol in its holster. “Put the remote down,” she said.
He looked bewildered. “But—”
He dropped the remote and held up his hands. “You don’t understand—” “What kind of stunt are you trying to pull? You said this was ID equipment.” She reached for her radio to call him in.
“It is!” he said. “The copters have RFID readers on board. I told you the truth.”
She paused. She would make a fool of herself if she called in a real CSI. “Let me see your ID,” she snapped.
“Honest,” he said.
“ID.” She held out her hand.
Sheepish, he dug around in a pocket and handed up a laminated card. It was a University of Pennsylvania student ID.
“You’re a student?”
He looked offended. “I’m an engineering doctoral candidate in robotics and sensory perception.”
“Put your hands down.”
He put them down. “I’m allowed to be here.”
“What about the cap?”
He took it off and looked at the logo. “Oh,” he said. “Some of the forensic outfits hire us sometimes.”
“And who gave you permission to loose a fleet of helicopters in a crowded search and rescue scene?” she said.
“It’s a swarm, not a fleet,” he said. “Look, most of the people who died out there have cards in their wallets with RFIDs in them. Credit cards, gas cards, SEPTA cards. They work with magnetic resonance; illuminate them with a burst of radio energy, and they fire back a signal with a number on it. With the right databases, those numbers can be turned into people’s names. The quadcopters tag the number and the GPS coordinates, and boom: we have a map of the positions and IDs of every person on the site. Well, nearly. A lot of them anyway.”
Sandra was cooling down now that he seemed to be legit. She hol­stered her weapon. “What’s the camera for?”
“This?” he said, pointing up at the device on the tripod. “That’s the radio transmitter. I have to use a pretty narrow beam to get a strong enough return signal through the rubble. The copters can’t carry one, so I mount it here and coordinate them. Most RFID readers are two-way, but I had to split it up: the transmitter here to pulse the energy at each spot on the ground, and the copters at the right spot at just the right time to detect any returns.”
“And you had permission to do this?”
He winced. “Sort of.”
“What does ‘sort of’ mean?”
“The chief told me I could do whatever harebrained experiment I wanted as long as I got out of her way.” He gave an awkward smile. “I guess I charmed her with my rugged good looks.”
Sandra smiled in spite of herself. The tech wasn’t rugged or good-looking, not by anybody’s definition. He was short and soft, with a thick face, glasses, and a hint of a mustache. His skin was a light, mottled brown, and his hair could have used a trim months ago.
“Oh, fine,” he said. “I see how it is. You like them tall and blond.
Blue eyes, probably. Flawless skin, Swedish accent—I know the type.” “I’m just doing my job. You’d better not be lying about the chief, because
I’m going to check.” She glanced back at his ID card. “Your name is Angel?” “An-HEL. The g is pronounced with an h sound.” He rolled his eyes. Her smile vanished. “What?”
“I know what you’re thinking. Who would name a boy ‘Angel’? Typical American. I’ll have you know Angel was the fifth most popular name for boys born in Mexico last year.”
“Is that where you’re from?” she asked. “Mexico?”
“Born and bred.” He lifted his chin high. “Spent my whole life in San Antonio, until last year.”
Sandra paused. “Isn’t San Antonio in the United States?”
“There you go again, with your prejudicial comments,” Angel said. “Only Americans think it’s in the United States.”
This time she caught the sparkle in his eyes. “Are you serious?”
He grinned, breaking the tension. “I’d say about twenty percent of the time.”
She wanted to punch him. She couldn’t tell when he meant what he was saying and when he was just messing with her. In her current state of high tension, she didn’t find that funny. On the other hand, she was having a conversation, and having a conversation meant not looking at the scene around her, expecting to stumble over her father’s body at any moment.
The angry buzzing sound grew louder, and she turned just in time to see the swarm of quadcopters bearing down on her. She gasped and ducked, but the copters reined up short, breaking off into groups of four. Each group of four wheeled up to Angel, hovering around him for a few moments before banking away again. He snapped open a laptop and typed rapidly.
“It’s working!” he said, the astonishment evident in his voice. “You’re surprised? Haven’t you tried this before?”
“In the lab, sure, but not in real life.”
“You covered the whole site already?”
“No, not even close.” As the last foursome left him, the copters slid into formation and shot away toward the wreckage again. “It’ll take hours to cover everything. But that’s a lot better than days, maybe weeks, of dozens of techs with handheld readers doing the same thing. The information won’t be con­clusive; people will still have to confirm each identification, actually look at each body. But as a preliminary map, it should save a lot of effort and let family members know about their loved ones more quickly.”
He rotated the laptop to show her the screen. It was an aerial map of the site, flanked by Pattison Avenue and Hartranft Street. One corner was peppered with yellow dots. Angel zoomed in on that corner, and the dots bloomed out into numbers.
“Each of those points is a person. Probably,” he said. “There are RFIDs in other things, too.”
“And from that you know who they are?”
“Well, I don’t,” he said. “I don’t have access to those databases. But the police do, you can be certain, and if there are any they don’t have, the feds can get them.”
Sandra studied the design the dots made on the screen, swooping in zigzagging curves. It didn’t look random. “Why does it make a pattern?” Angel shrugged. “I don’t know.”
She thought about what her dad would say, seeing a pattern like that. “It might be important,” she said. “If things were thrown around in a recognizable pattern, we might be able to determine what caused this, maybe even track down the source.”
Another shrug. “I work in a robotics lab, but I’ll tell you one thing; this was no bomb.”
She cocked her head at him. “What do you mean?”
“There was no fire,” he said. “Nothing’s burned. And look at how the stadium collapsed—it looks more like it fell in on itself than like it was blown out. Most of the rubble is piled up inside, on the playing field. More like an earthquake. Or a sinkhole.”
He was right. It was obvious, now that she thought about it. There was plenty of debris in the parking lot, but it looked more like it had been pushed by the force of the falling stadium walls, not like the walls themselves had been blown out. But there had been no earthquake; at least not that anyone was reporting in the news. “Maybe there were a lot of smaller charges placed at key spots,” she said. “Arranged so that the walls would fall in and kill as many people as possible.”
Angel nodded, thoughtful. “Hey,” he said, “if we know where the people are now, and where they were originally sitting, maybe we could draw lines from their starting point to where they ended up. We could track the vectors of force.”
He was getting excited, but all she could think about was the image of her father’s body being blown out of his seat. She felt sick and put her hand over her mouth.
A female cop ran up to her, dark hair blown back in the wind. It was Danielle, Nathan’s wife. “Sandra,” she said, “you’ve got to come now.” “What is it?”
“I think it’s your father.”
Sandra’s mind rebelled at the words. She wanted to punch Danielle in her pretty mouth for daring to say such a thing. “Dead?”
Danielle didn’t answer, but her eyes told Sandra everything.
Sandra followed her at a run to where Nathan stood over a body on the ground. His shoulders were hunched, his eyes dead. He was holding a black leather wallet, worn and familiar. Sandra looked at the wallet, refusing to look down, terror gripping her throat.
She took the wallet and flipped it open. Her father’s face stared up at her from his Pennsylvania driver’s license, but she checked the name anyway. Jacob Kelley. She shook her head, trying to process what she was seeing, the information somehow failing to sink in, even though she’d been expecting it now for hours. She shook her head, trying to push the evidence away, wishing for a return to uncertainty, when it was still possible that he hadn’t been here.
Finally, she looked down. Her father lay on the pavement as naturally as if he’d fallen asleep there.
“I’m sorry,” Nathan began. She waved her hand to fend off his words, and he trailed off. He stood there, awkward, not knowing what to say. Danielle put a hand on her arm. Sandra turned and buried her face into the coarse, blue fabric of Danielle’s shoulder. She felt like she ought to cry, but the tears didn’t come. Danielle stroked her hair, while Sandra took in big gulps of air, like she was drowning.
Her phone rang.
The noise startled her. She reached for it automatically, and then nearly threw it away. She’d been waiting for it to ring all night, and now, when it finally did, it was too late. The automatic movement brought the screen up to her eyes, however, and she saw the number. It was her father’s number.
She answered.
      â€œSandra?” Her father’s voice was warm and strong and sweet and utterly recognizable.


Supersymmetry is out now!

          Florida Sinkhole Forces Condemnation of 7th Home        
Florida officials have condemned a seventh home due to a massive sinkhole.
          Officials Worry About Debris in Water Near Florida Sinkhole        
Even though a Florida sinkhole hasn't grown in several days, officials said that the debris-strewn site is still considered dangerous and that residents of five homes remained evacuated Tuesday due to the dangers.
          Cookie Doesn’t Crumble After Falling Into Florida Sinkhole        
A 10-year-old pug named Cookie is safe and sound and falling into a giant sinkhole following a heavy rainstorm in north Florida.
          New York Law School: Government broadband a taxpayer sinkhole        
Despite the “very poor (and expensive) track record of GONs, a seemingly ever-changing narrative about the perceived viability of municipal broadband has succeeded in gaining some legitimacy — a fact evidenced by the FCC’s efforts and related federal initiatives,” the report stated.
          The Florida Research Ensemble and the Prospects for an Electronic Humanities        
Gregory L. Ulmer

In works such as Applied Grammatology, Teletheory, and Heuretics, Gregory Ulmer has rigorously advocated a shift from critical interpretation of culture to theoretically-charged cultural invention. His articulation of poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theories informs not merely a composite system of textual criticism but an expansive method of artistic creation. Ulmer’s theories of invention have vitalized his collaboration with the Florida Research Ensemble, a diverse group of artists and scholars who have worked for over ten years to counter the instrumentalist tendencies of new media. Instead of suggesting immediate ways to fix social problems, the FRE attempts to describe the psychological undercurrents of those problems through experimental text and interactive imagery. The Internet, which represents the FRE’s fundamental research area, serves both as the circulator of sublimated cultural drives and the medium for rendering those drives accessible to critical intervention. As a “prosthesis for a cultural unconscious,” the Internet according to Ulmer disseminates, even as it helps to construct, the desires of its users. It influences and is influenced by the evolution of cultural ideas as they travel through the “popcycle” - Ulmer’s term for the interplay of family, school, entertainment, and labor. Just as the popcycle fosters comforting illusions of personal liberation within free market society, so the Internet reproduces such costly “freedoms” at speeds hitherto unknown. Yet by raising deep-seated psychological drives to conscious awareness through the visual apparatus of the Web, the FRE formulates a potential mode of resistance. In uncovering the “repressed” of net-surfing culture, the Ensemble makes unspoken consumerist values available to deconstructive analysis.

Subjectivity, according to Antonio Negri in his “Twenty Theses on Marx,” is itself deconstructive. “Auto-valorization and sabotage are the double figure of one and the same subject,” he writes, “or better, they are the two faces of Janus, the gateway to the constitution of the subject” (160). Ulmer, while recognizing the capacity of capital to absorb the work of its critics, implicitly endorses Negri’s conjecture by locating the potential for subversion in creative (mis)uses of capital’s own advanced technologies of communication. Less militant than Negri but more self-consciously artistic, Ulmer attempts to undermine practices of domination by first theorizing, and then visually dramatizing, the repressions on which they are structured.

This process of sociopsychological demystification uncovers the possibility of alternative cultural logics. The FRE’s highly collaborative version of deconstructive subjectivity suggests new ways of collective being, ways that interlink various worldviews and disciplines in opposition to the laws of profit. The multidisciplinary Ensemble at once illustrates the corruption of the social interior and argues the insufficiency of solely personal change. Social healing requires collective critical action and long-term dedication. Without either the strength and diversity of numbers or the commitment to extended struggle, counterpower will be continually reabsorbed by capital. The work of the FRE is itself threatened by such absorption. Deeply sedimented cultural convictions persist even in the face of exposure, as conservative Web-users work to assimilate all contrary energies to their own sensibilities. Web-based forms of resistance either become commodified themselves or inadvertently prompt increasingly sophisticated technologies of oppression.

Yet the FRE represents the politics of hope, insisting that practices of poststructural psychoanalysis are constructive of new social arrangements as much as critical of existing ones. Insurgencies are often not fully contained by the regimes that spark them, and their dissident excesses suggest the “beyond” of the contemporary political economy. Deconstructive subjectivity, explains Negri, both destroys and reconstructs. As the FRE works to speed the destruction of instrumentalist approaches to technology, it contributes to the reconstruction of an Internet that privileges cooperative invention to commodity transfer. It is through such invention that the FRE aims to foster social health.

As a cultural theorist, Ulmer contends that conventional forms of social communication only partly realize the signification potential of the Internet, and he consequently fashions a counter-language that is at once graphical, parodic, and surreal. That counter-language informs the work of Ulmer’s “emerAgency,” a virtual consultancy that addresses cultural emergencies as effects of common psychological repressions. Whether considering the crises of Florida tourism in the early 1990s or the alarming number of national traffic fatalities, the emerAgency works less to offer solutions than to describe how the problems themselves suggest the interwoven and unconscious drives toward pleasure and death. Agency members describe such drives by means of image-intensive hypertexts that they collectively publish to the World Wide Web. The websites illustrate and interlink both the social allure and the terrors of established industries. Such sites depict no vacationing freedom without personal danger, no freeway flying without fatal collisions. As Ulmer himself explains, “No attraction without repulsion.”

In suggesting that unconscious repulsion intensifies rather than undermines desire, the emerAgency complicates enormously the process of social healing. Problems resist instrumental fixes because we misrecognize the impulses behind them. By more carefully theorizing those impulses, the FRE makes possible not a rapid exorcism but a critical awareness of the underside of desire. Such awareness can potentially lead to renewed ways of acting and interacting, new social policies, and more sophisticated approaches to the cultural “emergency.” The FRE’s psychoanalytic method supplements but does not displace the instrumentalist tactics of more conventional consultancies. As a “supplement” it reveals the incompleteness of those consultancies. The FRE’s cultural work, enriched by a highly graphical language and intricate theoretical rationale, provides subtlety and indirection where instrumentalism fails.

The cultural faith in quick-fix prescriptions suits capital’s need to efficiently conceal its emergent difficulties. Since the FRE seeks to reconceptualize problems rather than cover them over, it runs counter to dominant forms of consulting while diverging from prevalent modes of Internet communication. The very unorthodoxy of the emerAgency informs an indirect critique of conventional consultancy, while simultaneously opening a space for resistant practices of invention. In Ulmer’s vocabulary, this is the space of “heuretics.” As described in his text of the same name, heuretics

contributes to what Barthes refers to as the “return of the poetician” - one who is concerned with how a work is made. This concern does not stop with analysis or comparative scholarship but conducts such scholarship in preparation for the design of a rhetoric/poetics leading to the production of new work. (4)

In the following interview, Ulmer describes how the FRE’s emerAgency incorporates heuretics into Web-based discourse. His attention to the consumerist tendencies of popular culture helps the FRE form a poetics that is at once oppositional and generative. While matching the anti-instrumentalism of such radical theorists as Herbert Marcuse (One-Dimensional Man) and Herbert Schiller (Culture, Inc.), Ulmer contributes to the development of a social ethic based on non-hierarchical collaboration, image-based reason, and non-Western alternatives to binary systems of thought. In the interview, as in his work with the FRE, Ulmer evades the strict scheme of problem and solution, opting instead for a serial meditation on the internet’s potential to map the terrain of cultural “psychogeography.”

Carter: Greg, I’d like to discuss your participation in the Florida Research Ensemble’s Web-based “Imaging Florida” project. In an online essay about that project called “Metaphoric Rocks: A Psychogeography of Tourism and Monumentality,” you suggest that the FRE’s advocation of an inventive, electronically-interactive experience of Florida represents an important alternative to forms of tourism based on mere observation and consumption. Linking the FRE’s promotion of creative and participatory tourism to the Greek philosopher Solon’s notion of travel as theoretical endeavor, you argue for Florida “solonism” as a means of continually re-imagining the state’s cultural identity. Why have you and the FRE chosen the Internet as a forum for posing solonism against more highly commercialized forms of tourism? In light of the Web’s uncommon facilitation of commercialism, the “Imaging Florida” project seems significantly non-conformist both in its deployment of Web technology and its alternative conception of travel. What might the relationships be between the solonism proffered by “Imaging Florida” and practices of Internet engagement?

Ulmer: What I enjoy about e-mail interviews is their “serial” nature. Your question initiates a certain direction in our dialogue, and my reply will not be complete or final. I will start to answer the question, but in an improvisatory and partial way. I don’t like posts that are too long, even if they will be strung together into an “essay” eventually. The rhythm of the series will be one of more or less shorter installments, following an associative curve that may or may not constitute an “answer.” It may take me several posts to answer one question, nor do you need to wait but should feel free to add further questions or requests for clarification, in a sense attempting to direct or redirect the series.

I will start by providing some context. The Florida Research Ensemble (FRE) orginated at the University of Florida in the late 1980s as a group of colleagues with a common interest in electronic media. Current charter members include myself and William Tilson, a professor of Architecture. Also active are Barbara Jo Revelle (a creative photographer) and Will Pappenheimer (videographer), both in the Fine Arts Department. I am the theorist for the group. Simon Penny (now at Carnegie Mellon) was a charter member, and John Craig Freeman was our digital artist until he moved to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Not that one must be at/in Florida to work with the FRE. Craig has applied the FRE agenda to his new setting, and we have “affiliations” with colleagues at several locales in the U.S. and abroad.

Forming the FRE grew out of dissatisfaction with the old “reading group” approach to collaboration. I had always participated in one reading group or another, organized around theory. The practice is familiar: an interdisciplinary group of scholars would agree on a list of books, usually works of French theory, and we would meet regularly to discuss and argue. I learned a great deal from these sessions, and if anything they died of their own success, in that the groups tended to become too large. The chief source of dissatisfaction, however, was the homogeneity of the group. There was plenty of disagreement at the meetings, but finally we all were scholar-critics, each working individually on our separate books.

The FRE gave me an opportunity to shift from talk to action, or rather from argument to production, and from individual to collaborative work. Our organizational principle is not that of the reading group but of a “creative team,” with each member bringing a different specialized talent to the table. Each of us knows something about the others’ areas of expertise, enough to facilitate communication. The “ensemble” structure means that there is no hierarchy; we work by consensus. Our meetings are motivated by cooperative work on specific projects addressing a fundamental research problem. The products or fruits of the process (whether undertaken individually or as a group) take many forms: article, interview, exhibition, conference talk, video tape, CD-Rom, website, university course, grant application. The name of our research problem may be defined in a word - the Internet.

An important feature of the Internet is the potential connection it creates across all existing institutions and discourses. There is already a flow or circulation of ideas and “memes” through the “popcycle” of modern institutions - Family, School, Entertainment, Work (specialized expertise). I might have more to say about this popcycle later. For now the point is that the Internet potentially is a prosthesis for augmenting and raising to self-consciousness this circulation, which in heuretic terms is the key to the creativity of a society. The FRE goal is to develop a practice - a rhetoric - to realize this potential.

One lesson of the avant-garde and experimental arts, especially the lesson of its failures, is that it is not enough to invent new forms. Forms must be part of institutional discourses in order to survive and become functional. The FRE approach to inventing a practice for the Internet, then, is deconstructive: we enter into the process of invention (heuretics) by intervening in an existing institution. Keeping in mind that the Internet itself is an institution (meaning that it has an infrastructure with administrative entities managing sets of laws and codes), we chose consulting as our deconstructive vehicle, since it already is a principal means by which expertise created within the academy is delivered to sites of need in other institutions such as government and business. Our entry into consulting began with a project in my graduate seminar to establish a virtual consultancy - the emerAgency.

The emerAgency is influenced by systems art and conceptual art and their experiments that considered social and cultural processes in aesthetic terms, eliminating the barriers separating art forms from political and ethical realities. The single most important example of such art is the Free International University created by Joseph Beuys, which included among its activities a proposal to the European Union for attempting an artistic solution to the troubles in Ireland. This example of course exists in a context of arts efforts throughout the twentieth century to bring art out of the museum institution and reintegrate it as a practical part of everyday life. The FRE continues this effort, based on our understanding of digital technology, which is that the aesthetic and emotional powers of the arts are fundamental to the “skill sets” of electracy.

I need to go into more detail about how the emerAgency actually works. In the immediate context I’ll just note that the justification for a “virtual” consultancy, related to this systems and conceptual heritage, is that in a post-industrial information economy, we are in a condition of “speed” (Virilio). Ideas circulate freely apart from objects, without grounding necessarily in conventional “firms” and “agencies.” Information on the Internet has gone off the “gold standard” of literate proof. Or to use another historical (grammatological) analogy, we are in a moment similar to the one in the history of the alphabet when it was realized that the letters could circulate without being attached as labels to objects. In short, the Internet is profoundly rhetorical in nature, operating on a multi-valued logic that includes not only the true and the false but also the secret and the lie. Or, to put it another way, the Internet is the prosthesis for that part of thought, mind, intelligence, that has been theorized in terms of the “unconscious.” Poststructural psychoanalysis provides a readymade rhetoric-poetics for an image-based reason.

Carter: Whether favoring the FRE’s collaborative invention to traditional reading groups or preferring Joseph Beuys’s social activism to museum display, you clearly value the material consequences of theoretical endeavor. The heuretics of the FRE, for example, suggest attempted interventions in the material practices of Florida tourism and in the production of cultural identities. I’m excited by the Ensemble’s recommendations that state visitors seek out the abject and forgotten spaces within the landscape, explore those spaces’ relationships to larger social failures, and imagine ways to heal both cultural and environmental wounds. Like Beuys, Florida “solonists” (creative philosopher-travelers) can begin to acknowledge previously repressed wounds and treat them with what you have called “the aesthetic and emotional powers of the arts.” How might working to transform the psychogeography of Florida through artistic intervention suggest an approach to Web travel? Furthermore, if the Web is the “prosthesis” for a cultural unconscious, what practical bearing might poststructuralist psychoanalysis have on the informatics of resistance?

Ulmer: At the time of the formation of the emerAgency the crisis facing the State of Florida concerned tourism. The State government hired various advertising agencies as consultants to help repair the damage to the image of Florida caused by a string of murdered tourists, not to mention the “vice” image of Miami in general. The challenge for the FRE was to come up (uninvited) with a program that would be an Arts and Letters practical alternative or (more deconstructively) supplement to the conventional propaganda campaigns produced by the paid consultants. “Solonism” was the working term for this alternative: promoting a new dimension of tourism based on the ancient practice of “theoria.” Solon served as a “theoros” - one of a group of citizens sent to investigate places and events and report back to the State with an authoritative account. This group or theoria combined the functions of theory and tourism - a “high” or “critical” travel of a kind flexible enough to include everything from the journey of the Magi to find out the meaning of the star in the East to the wandering pilgrimages of Basho to the old shrines and legendary sites of Japan (the haiku in his journals have been compared to tourist snapshots). Solon is the one Plato credits (in Timaeus) with bringing back to Athens the story of Atlantis told to him by a priest in Egypt.

The general goal of Solonism is to introduce into conventional tourism certain features that raise awareness of the contribution that entertainment in general and tourism in particular make to the formation of national identity. There is a strong didactic element in many tourist sites as it is, that provide a point of departure for a deconstructive practice. Tourists moreover already use the Internet to gather information and make arrangements, and our program addresses real as well as virtual travel destinations. Indeed, the FRE’s first effort as a theoria was to propose to a county economic council an idea for a tourist attraction - a proposal for an electronic monument that could function not only conceptually but that literally was buildable. The planning councils in North Central Florida are always trying to figure out how to attract more visitors to their area, and we proposed that they construct a Florida extension of Mount Rushmore (a monument initiated as a way to attract tourists to the Black Hills). “Florida Rushmore” proposed to project a digitally generated hologram of a sixty-foot head (the Rushmore scale) into the Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole, a State Geological Preserve near Gainesville, Florida. Using the compositing software developed for finding missing children, and the mystorical design principles that I worked out in Teletheory and Heuretics, the head displays the “superego” of a different visitor every fifteen minutes. This spectacular display is contextualized by a museum exhibit that records the history of tourism in a way that educates visitors about how a community creates and invents its identity.

Although the economic planning council was in fact intrigued by the proposal, saying that it would probably be a bigger draw than the Dakota version, we did not follow up. A model for the kind of local institutional political work needed to realize such a plan is available in the “wrapping” projects undertaken by Christo. Instead we spun out a series of proposals for an electronic monumentality, using a practice called the MEmorial. The psychogeographical theory informing the consultancy suggests that what Solonism should add to the tourist attraction is the tourist “repulsion.” No attraction without repulsion. Again, conventional tourism already frames as attractions certain kinds of places and events that might be considered “repulsive” - sites of crime and disaster for example. The MEmorial is an Internet asterisk placed on existing monuments and memorials. It may include a “peripheral” - an electronic device located at or near a monument that symbolically extends its functionality. The related Internet site develops this new dimension, which is to extend the acknowledgement of public mourning and commemoration to activities and behaviors of loss and destruction confined to the private sphere of individual one-at-a-time disasters. The first MEmorial addressed traffic fatalities by proposing to place a peripheral at the Vietnam Wall on the Mall in Washington D.C. (or at the scaled-down replica in Pensacola). The peripheral consists of a computer and printer, printing out the names of fatalities as they occur around the nation. The goal is to help visitors understand that the slaughter on the highways is a sacrifice on behalf of a fundamental if abject value. The ideal value of “freedom” is lived abjectly through the private automobile.

It is here that Solonism transforms into consulting. The psychogeographical theory suggests that the empirical, instrumental methods of conventional social and natural sciences are not adequate for comprehending the cultural and personal dimensions of public policy problems. Neither liberal theories of individual responsibility nor Marxist theories of social construction can account fully for the annual sacrifice of forty to fifty thousand dead on the roads. J. G. Ballard’s Crash (and the Cronenberg film) open up the further dimension of repulsion/attraction of the death/pleasure principle that informs emerAgency consulting. The instrumentalist object (the wrecked car) neglects the fact (in our theory) that the car or any object in a disaster is also “das Ding,” the Thing of the unconscious, or a fetish, the “little other” (“objet petite a” - Lacan) which is the car-in-me, the metaphysical car if you like, the extimate automobile of the death “drive” (to speak in a Freudian shorthand). To the extent that policy issues include not only objects of knowledge but also objects of desire, the Arts and Letters disciplines must be involved in any consideration of “solutions.” The MEmorial practice does not claim to have better knowledge than the instrumentalists. Rather, to make a MEmorial is to perform the emerAgency slogan: problems B us: it is to experience and bear witness to the reason why instrumental solutions frequently fail (or why their outcomes are often other than expected). The “pothole” is in me, in every citizen, and it is a pothole that no amount of blacktop can ever fill. Or, to be more optimistic about the educative prospects of Solonism, once there is a collective holistic grasping of the connections between the two kinds of objects, then the society may make new kinds of policies.

Carter: The cultural attraction to the Internet resembles the attraction to the automobile in that both technologies support illusions of unfettered mobility and self-determination. The comfort provided by such illusions exacts a high price: thousands of people die on the highways, while thousands more experience and/or sanction varied forms of exploitation in online spaces. Though the high number of fatal car accidents should perhaps give rise to a critical awareness of our travel habits, we tend to repress the dangers in the interest of preserving the fantasy of personal freedom. On another level, it may be the repressed risks themselves that perpetuate our dependence on automobiles. Might the same be true for the Internet? If the net simultaneously feeds our desires for mobility and for the private indulgence of dangerous fantasies, its doubly powerful appeal perhaps accounts for the cultural tendency to downplay the social inequities pervading internetworked discourse. While some online spaces support the re-imagination of social relations, much webwriting serves to intensify the economic, racial, and sexual injustices that pre-existed the Web. As it works to widen the chasm between rich and poor, facilitates anonymous harassment, and further marginalizes groups who have limited electronic access, it magnifies deeply entrenched social problems. Problems B Us. In targeting the Internet as a research subject, does the FRE address its repulsive uses as well its attractive ones? Is every MEmorial, while an inventive look at cultural psychogeography, also a critique of Web-based instrumentalism? Do MEmorials exist that depict the Internet itself as a problem representative of its users?

Ulmer: There are considerable risks and dangers as well as opportunities associated with the emergence of electracy. The grammatological analogy suggests that the institutional and identity formations that organize our society now - the democratic nation-state and individual selfhood - are relative to literacy. Not that they will disappear in electracy, any more than did the apparatus of orality within literacy (religion and the experience of spirit). The new technology is being institutionalized in the practices of Entertainment (within a capitalist economic model), which in turn is producing new experiences of identity and ultimately new kinds of behavior. We have to be able to imagine a society that commits itself to a mode of conduct that fully meets its needs for survival and happiness but that is unrelated to religion or science.

The question for educators is how best to respond to or participate in this paradigm shift. Critique is useful up to a point, as a means of analysis, but is fundamentally limited by its literate nature. As Walter Benjamin noted, it is not what the moving red neon sign says, but the fiery pool reflected in the pavement. His point was that advertising has replaced criticism as the discourse most effective in an era of an image apparatus. The reflexivity inherent in critique produced the insight that a text-based epistemology has only limited access to the image. The strategy of “resistance” must be considered in the context of the seemingly limitless capacity of capitalist entertainment forms to appropriate and commodify the countercultural and subcultural styles mounted against the society of the spectacle. It is not that “resistance is futile,” but that the Western preference for confrontation may have to be modified by non-Western alternatives, such as the Chinese traditions of indirection and manipulation, developed for non-democratic conditions. W. J. T. Mitchell’s Picture Theory is an important book for the way it marks the pictorial turn that has replaced the linguistic turn of twentieth-century theory. Digital imaging and the Internet are to electracy what alphabetic writing and the book/library were to literacy.

Grammatology adds to this pictorial turn the suggestion that the Internet is the prosthesis of the unconscious mind-body. The implication is that the repressed of the bourgeois worldview (the WASP hegemony, the Protestant spirit of capitalism) will return online. Fantasy is becoming self-conscious, an explicit element in our discourse, manifested in the sex and violence of popular culture. The goal of psychoanalysis, stated in the slogan “where Id was shall Ego be,” is being realized at a collective level in the new apparatus. This effect is dangerous of course but also an opportunity for a more sane civilization, depending on how we respond collectively to the possibility of being able to write the unconscious. As Giorgio Agamben says in The Coming Community, “advertising and pornography, which escort the commodity to the grave like hired mourners, are the unknowing midwives of this new body of humanity.”

A difference between virtual and actual travel, notable in this context, is that dreamwork, the omnipotence of thought, and the laws of magic are to a virtual reality what the laws of physics are to our material reality. It is time to take another look (as the arts were doing throughout the twentieth century) at the pre-scientific practices of oral civilizations as a resource for inventing electracy. That William Gibson, inventor of the term “cyberspace,” turned to Voodoo possession as a metaphor for post-human or cyborg experience of memory (in Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive) is a sign of things to come. The key point here is that the new forms and practices will be hybrids, expressing a syncretism of the Judeo-Christian- Greco-Roman West with the Afro-Caribbean Black Atlantic. Hence, capitalist “possession” and Voodoo “possession” literalize what for Marx was only a metaphor: the commodity fetish. This literalization of a fetish economy in our rationalized secular lifeworld is similar to the conversion of Rome to Christianity. The consequences are not predictable. That there is reason for optimism, however, may be seen in the Ken Burns’ nineteen-hour documentary on Jazz currently showing on PBS. It remains to be seen what will come of the transfer of wealth to a few African-Americans (among others) currently taking place in the sports and music branches of Entertainment, equivalent to the moment of the robber barons (the Carnegies and Rockefellers). This perspective suggests that the problem of “access” cuts both ways. “If you don’t shake,” as the title of one of Buddy Bolden’s signature songs goes, “you don’t get no cake.”

This is where heuretics comes in, as an alternative to or supplement of hermeneutics. Heuretics uses theory to invent new practices and forms, as distinct from the hermeneutic use of theory to interpret existing works. The motto of educators, especially those charged with responsibility for literacy, should be the one Basho suggested for poets: the point is not to follow in the footsteps of the masters, but to seek what they sought. What Aristotle and the other inventors of literacy sought were the practices that made the technology of alphabetic writing useful and accessible to their community. Our responsibility is to do the same for electracy. “Accessibility” is a hot political and ethical issue. Again, the grammatological analogy reminds us of historical process. Like the Heraclitean river, the digital apparatus is different each time it is statistically sampled. The historical lesson is that access is relative and takes time, and must take into account the whole apparatus. Thus for example the technology of pen and paper is extremely accessible, but the institutional practices of reading and writing - the methods of logic, research, the essay and the like - are not so accessible. A pen costs less than a dollar but the community invests billions each year in the public schools that teach how to use the pen (with limited success). Meanwhile, over eighty-five percent of the public school districts in America are wired. The question now is the one Nietzsche posed: who will teach the teachers?

We do not yet have the practices of electrate discourse. Or rather, the materials of electrate rhetoric, logic, poetics, are dispersed throughout the history of Arts and Letters forms, but have yet to be integrated into an electrate equivalent of general literacy. A study such as Walter Ong’s Literacy and Orality indicates what to expect: electrate people will reason, tell stories, and make images, but they will do so in a way different from oral and literate peoples. The only determined aspect of this difference is the inevitability of the change. One way for educators to influence the change is by inventing and promoting the practices that adapt the purposes of learning (for expertise, citizenship, and self-knowledge) to the new apparatus.

Works Cited

Agamben, Giorgio. The Coming Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Gibson, William. Count Zero. New York: Mass Market, 1986.

—. Mona Lisa Overdrive. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988.

Makdisi, Saree, Cesare Casarino, and Rebecca E. Karl, eds. Marxism Beyond Marxism. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Mitchell, W. J. T. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Ong, Walter. Literacy and Orality: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen, 1982.

Schiller, Herbert. Culture, Inc: The Corporate Takerover of Public Expression. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Ulmer, Gregory. Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

—. Heuretics: The Logic of Invention. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1994.

—. Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video. London: Routledge, 1989.

          EFF to Tech Leaders: Stand With Users and Tell Trump We Need Strong Encryption, Internet Freedom         

Technology company leaders are reportedly meeting with President-elect Donald Trump and members of his transition team tomorrow in New York. Mr. Trump’s relationship with technology companies has been frosty, and his statements during the campaign and recent cabinet picks raise serious concerns about the new administration’s commitment to protecting the digital rights of all Americans and fostering innovation. They also point to the deep need for Mr. Trump and his team to talk to those who represent the users of technologies, not just the companies that build and sell those technologies.

Mr. Trump has criticized Apple for refusing to attack the security of the iPhone and says that fighting ISIS propaganda could require closing parts of the Internet. Users have a stake in each of these discussions, since they suffer when their technologies are insecure and when legitimate voices are censored. 

We urge tech leaders in attendance to press Mr. Trump on these topics, and let the president-elect know that they will stand with their users and the core values of privacy, security, freedom of speech, and transparency.


First up: defend strong encryption. Tech leaders must explain to the transition team that it is technically impossible to design a "backdoor" that allows law enforcement access to devices and communications without compromising everyone’s security. EFF and the overwhelming majority of the tech community supported Apple when it correctly resisted FBI efforts to force its programmers to write and sign software code to bypass the lock screen of a seized iPhone. Not only would that weaken security for all users, it would also violate the Apple’s First Amendment rights by forcing it to endorse a position—favored by the government—that it disagrees with. Tech leaders should make it clear to Mr. Trump’s transition team that talk of building backdoors for law enforcement is a non-starter.

Mass Surveillance

Second, we urge tech leaders to voice their opposition to mass surveillance by the NSA. We’re deeply troubled by Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks, such as Senator Jeff  Sessions and Representative Mike Pompeo, who have advocated the restoration of the expensive and useless mass telephone records surveillance under the Patriot Act. The program eviscerated the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans with no proof of a countervailing gain. This embrace of unconstitutional surveillance is particularly chilling given the historical misuse of domestic spying programs against political opponents.

Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General pick, has also supported requiring companies to reduce the security they offer to their users to facilitate law enforcement access, and last year floated a proposal to allow federal agents wide access to online personal information without first obtaining a warrant. Meanwhile, Pompeo, Trump’s CIA director nominee, has called for reviving metadata collection and combining that “with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database,” presumably including millions of innocent Americans.

Free Speech

Third, industry leaders should push back against Mr. Trump’s attacks on free speech and Internet freedom.

Requring social media companies to act as censors has the very real threat of going too far. Trump called those raising free speech concerns “foolish,” and he shouldn’t get away with that. Any speech-limiting practices and policies must be narrowly applied, transparent, and easily correctable, or they will inevitably be targets for gaming and harassment. Special care should be taken to protect researchers and speech that criticizes the government and its agents.

Net Neutrality

Fourth, Trump opposes net neutrality, a key principle for protecting the future of our open Internet. Tech companies should stand with their users and urge the president-elect to preserve the FCC’s open Internet order and rules that prevent companies from using customers’ private information for profit.

Protecting User Information

Finally, Trump has also talked about creating a database of some or all Muslims. He says he plans to round up and deport millions of illegal immigrants. Both of these will likely involve combing through databases of information about Americans that have been compiled for other purposes.

If the Trump administration moves ahead with these plans, it will need Silicon Valley’s cooperation. Tech companies may face unprecedented demands to build such databases, or to search for, analyze, and hand over private data of and about their users. These companies hold our private conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more. All of this is vulnerable to misuse by a hostile administration. Tech companies must tell Trump that they won’t cooperate in building, or providing user information for, systems that enable discrimination, intolerance, or ethnic targeting forbidden by the Constitution.

Many technology companies have already taken stands against previous government demands for user data, pushed for more transparency, and some have even gone to court to challenge law enforcement efforts to access customer data without a warrant or to fight gag orders. We've recommended that companies implement strategies to gather and store as little data as possible about their users so that when the government comes knocking, there’s nothing to give.

Now’s the time to double down. We urge tech leaders to send a clear message to the Trump transition team that technology companies will not be agents of the government, especially when it comes to programs that defy the Constitution and violate our civil rights. Mr. Trump is famously unabashed in his use of social media to get his thoughts and messages out. He understands the power of technology to speak directly to users and communicate to a willing audience. Tech leaders need to be equally bold. They must stand up for all of the users of these tools and reject efforts to weaken the privacy and security that their users rely on. And users need a seat at this table. Mr. Trump, we’re waiting for your call. Or tweet.

          Mysterious blazing sinkhole shocks Chinese village        
Originally posted on The Extinction Protocol :
April 2015 – CHINA – A blazing sinkhole in northwest China terrified locals, attracting tourists as well as researchers and prompting questions about its origin. The temperature on top of the burning crater was estimated to be 792 degrees Celsius (1,457 degrees Fahrenheit). Due to the deadly heat, scientists…
          NOVA | Sinkholes: Buried Alive        
Watch Wednesday, October 26 at 8pm & Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 10am on WMHT-TV | Investigate what it’s like to have your world vanish beneath your feet.
          Up to 27 'Hobbit' animals died on unsafe farm        

The Embassy Theater in Wellington, New Zealand, advertises the upcoming movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," on Nov. 19, 2012. Animal wranglers involved in the making of the movie say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals.Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps."

          Budweiser Gardens No Wiser Than the Money Pit Currently Known as the JLC        
Tear it down. The city is still paying for this enormous, hideous structure and gaining very little from the revenues they claim to receive. And *we* elect these people? A $6.4-million, 10-year deal for naming rights will see the decade-old centre become Budweiser Gardens in October. City council voted 12-3 Tuesday in favour of the name change [..] Coun. Nancy Branscombe, who said “Budweiser Gardens sounds like a beer tent to me,” said she meant to vote against the deal, but pushed the wrong voting button. An expensive beer tent at that. London is going to go bankrupt if it keeps throwing money at bread and circuses. Hockey hair and has been musicians aren't going to do anything to prevent sinkholes, potholes and rising property taxes. Even these buffoons can't push the "right" button, so you can be assured we are doomed. But those of us who have lived in London, Ontario for many years already know this. Just have a look at the metal trees that adore the crumbling streets.

Summary only. Visit The London Fog for full content and links.
          Africa’s $700 Billion Problem Waiting to Happen        
Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region. The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.
          Human Skull in Sinkhole Prompts Homicide Investigation        
Police are investigating at a Kentucky sinkhole after a human skull was spotted inside on Tuesday.
          July 15, 2016 - Celebrating A Wonderful Writer's New Offering        
As many bloggers know, Friday is the day we observe the 'Celebrations' blog hop.  It has been a joy and an inspiration (and, often, a smile-maker) for several years: you can visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits for more information.

There are always things to celebrate - you just have to look.

And today I am celebrating the arrival of a new book by a talented author who graces several blogs that I frequent and who, further research uncovers (well...  Not research, exactly.  She told us about this and it sounded wonderful the sort of thing to share)  Anyhow, after a number of pieces in anthologies - the sort of pieces that have interesting twists to them, stories that make you think and wonder and, perhaps, glance over your shoulder, she has he has published HEART STOPPER and other Stories. 

This collection of stories will send shivers up your spine and make your imagination work.  

This is not sledgehammer blood or gore, but the sort of tantalizing, slowly building tension that will send you groping for another pillow and eyeing your alarm clock to see if you might be able to read to the end and not be too impaired in the morning at work.

In her own words:

Heart Stopper and Other Stories
By Tamara Narayan 

One collection, four stories, 171 pages of suspense...

Heart Stopper: 

The disappearance of random household items baffles Dallas Radner and his eleven-year-old daughter, Tessa. Ten plastic bags, nine ballpoint pens . . . what's next? This odd countdown should end on November 1, The Day of the Dead. That's also Tessa's birthday and the one-year anniversary of her surgery, the day her heart stopped on the operating table.

Dallas almost lost Tessa once. On November 1, one thing will vanish forever. Will it be his daughter?


Fed up with her abusive boyfriend, coed Chloe Langley takes off in a borrowed car for the safety of home. She'll never make it.

One Step Away: 

Acrophobia has ruined Darryl James's marriage and stolen his son. To get Andrew back, Darryl undergoes desensitization therapy. Just as success is within his grasp, a relapse occurs with shocking consequences.


Perched on a mountain with a view to die for, Laura and Paul Alderson have it all: new house, new baby, and new challenges. But urgent whispers from the baby monitor about her infant son and the garage threaten to turn Laura's American dream into a nightmare.

Purchase these on Amazon

Heart Stopper (click to go to the book page)  (this is a geotargeted link - it will take you to your own Amazon store):

Four tales I present to tingle your spine 
Four seasons of suspense to let you unwind. 
Lives at a crossroad, a breakdown of order 
Between life and death, it’s a tenuous border. 

Halloween comes, and the Day of the Dead 
For one man this custom brings heartache and dread. 
As belongings disappear, a child makes her shrine 
Is it a ghost? Perhaps. Or a shattered mind? 

A couple spars, and fear invades 
An abused coed flees on a spring escapade. 
Across Florida’s searing and pocked landscape 
Sinkholes will assume many a shape. 

Another dreams of feathers, wings of might 
Yet experiences terror at a meager height. 
This phobia takes every dear thing away 
Then, in a brutal twist, saves a dark summer’s day. 
Peppermint, mice, and a cold-as-winter voice 
A mother must make a desperate choice. 
Heeding her instincts to save the child 
What’s lost instead, the pain won’t be mild. 

Four tales I present to tingle your spine 
Four stories of suspense to let you unwind. 
Read on to learn more before you order 
Between art and madness, it’s a tenuous border. 

You can visit Tamara at her blog HERE

And you can find her Author Page HERE

          Massive Florida sinkhole destroys homes        
The sinkhole just north of Tampa swallowed and destroyed two homes and five other homes in the neighborhood were evacuated, authorities said.
          Green Consumers Series: My Greatest Fear        
  By Chris Kane     My greatest fear is not falling off the ends of the Earth or getting sucked into a giant sinkhole—however, I do live in Florida, so getting sucked into a giant sinkhole is a possibility. No, my greatest fear today is that people won’t stand up and fight the good…
          Fixing Twitter by Blocking Trump... is Wonderful        

Let me show you a very simple trick to make Twitter about a million times better, and also how to get Twitter 'back on topic' so that it can actually be used again as a tool for work. I'm talking about blocking Trump from Twitter.

We have a problem.

The media has this absolutely insane obsession with tweeting about Trump. Sure, there are some important news items that need to be covered, like when Trump decided to drop the Paris agreement, but most tweets don't have any real news.

As a result, people are sick of it. Publications such as Quartz now have a 'Trump snooze button', and apps like Nuzzel have introduced a (very expensive) Pro plan, that allows you to block out things like 'politics'.

This alone should tell you how the public really feels about what the media is focusing on. People are sick and tired of Trump, and they want something else.

But the media doesn't stop, because Trump creates outrage and that in turn creates a whole lot of traffic. So, instead of thinking about the future, we have turned the media (and especially Twitter) into this sinkhole of despair.

Just notice how many people tweet this:

Wakes up. Checks Twitter . . . uh . . . Regrets checking Twitter. Goes back to bed.

What we are doing right now is digging ourselves into a hole, because we are making people hate using the media. And this applies to everyone.

I recently asked a friend of mine about it. He is one of those weird people who doesn't use Twitter, and also generally doesn't use Facebook. Even he was annoyed by the constant barrage of Trump related stories, most of which have no real information but feel more like an episode for the new low-end reality TV show: "Trump's White House".

For me it's even worse, because, as a media analyst, I'm constantly surrounded by journalists and editors and, through my work, I need to look at what they do. As such, my Twitter has pretty much stopped working.

This morning I decided to count just how many tweets there were about Trump (directly or indirectly), and it turns out that it was about one in every 3-4 tweets.

That means that my Twitter experience is: Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump.

That's insane!

And I have started to feel sad about using Twitter, as in, it actually had a real impact on my mental state. Some days, I would wake up, read Twitter, see all this insanity about Trump, get angry, and then I would start my work.

But because I was now in a negative mood this had a negative impact on my ability to write constructively and efficiently. And as one who makes a living from writing about the media, this is catastrophic.

So, I have now (partly) fixed this problem, by very aggressively blocking all mentions of Trump from my Twitter feed.

This is my current list of blocked words:

Note: There are several ways you can do this. I have set this up in Tweetdeck, because that is the main way I use Twitter, but you can also do it for Twitter as a whole. Here is a text version of the block list.

What this does is that it excludes any tweet containing any of these words. And the result is that, instead of 1 in every 3 tweets being about Trump, with the block in place, it's now 1 in every 15 tweets.

It doesn't completely block Trump, because people often Tweet about him without mentioning him or his associates by name, but it clears out a lot.

Some of the extra filters I added are because of how the media just can't help itself.

For instance, you will notice that I have #Covfefe as a blocked word, because the media's obsession with Trump turned this into a tweet storm. CNN even asked a spelling bee student to spell it on live TV.

Are you kidding me? Stop with this Trump obsession! Not every story has to be about him. This student is a remarkable person, but CNN completely ignored that story and turned it into another Trump thing.

So, this is not a fixed list. This is a constantly evolving list that I modify whenever something becomes too noisy.

The result of doing this is remarkable. Twitter is now once again useful to me. I don't get angry when I look at it anymore (well, I can still get angry at a single tweet, but I don't get angry using Twitter as a whole). And this has a big impact on my day-to-day level of happiness.

But more to the point, by blocking these, I can now also use Twitter for work again. Meaning that, as a media analyst, I can once again look towards Twitter for news and insights about the media industry as a whole.

These tweets were there before, of course. But with Trump's absolute dominance, I just didn't see them. Now I do, and it's wonderful.

So, I highly recommend that you do this as well. It will save your Twitter feed, and also quite possibly your mental health :)

But... "Wait-a-minute", I hear you say (and some of you have). "Isn't this a bad thing? Isn't filtering out content a problem?"

Well, let's have a talk about that

The filter bubble, FOMO ... and the media trends

Whenever I have mentioned to people that I'm now filtering out Trump, many react with hesitation and skepticism.

Specifically, there are two concerns that people ask me about.

The first one is the problem of the filter bubble: The danger that by filtering out these things, I put myself into a filter bubble, which is distorting my world view.

The second concern is that of FOMO, being 'the Fear Of Missing Out'. When you do this, they say, don't you miss out on important news?

The answer to both of these is 'no', but let me explain why.

First of all, let's talk about the filter bubble.

Most people in the media think that any type of filtering forces you into a filter bubble because you only see what you want to see. And while this might be true for some people, it's generally not true for you and me.

This is because of what the media is.

I have talked about this before, but we have a very unhealthy focus in the media of only looking at the world in a certain way. The best way to illustrate it is like this.

In the media, we look at the edges of society, the people who do bad things, and then we dominate everything with just those people. The result is that we end up with a narrative that completely, totally distorts what the world is really like.

It's not just about Trump either.

There was recently a massive carnival in my country, with about 160,000 people attending. And when I looked at this on Instagram, I came across thousands of pictures of people having a really great time with a lot of amazing events.

But then, when I turned to the largest national newspapers in my country, none of them covered this. Instead, they had posted 3 articles about this event with an entirely different focus.


Mind you, I'm not saying this isn't important news. What I am saying, though, is that the real world is about much more than what the media focuses on. We are distorting reality, not balancing it.

How sad is that?

So, the reality is that if I want to get a more balanced view of the world, I should spend less time reading the news.

It's the same with me filtering out Trump related topics. By doing that, I'm allowing more space in my Twitter to be filled up with other things. So, by filtering, I'm actually getting out of the filter bubble.

You see what I mean?

The reason you filter is to remove those elements that dominate your stream. Now that I filter out Trump, I see a much more varied world than before, and that helps me understand the real world in a better way.

As a media analyst, this is absolutely critical. I need to see as much of the world as I can, but I can't do that if one in every three tweets is about Trump.

Now let's talk about FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

The fear of not hearing about something is very real in the media industry. Every journalist and editor suffers from this.

The reality, of course, is that this isn't a problem in the digital world. FOMO is a completely irrational behavior that has no relation to how communication spreads online.

You know the saying: "If it's important enough, it will find you"? This is certainly the case online.

Let me give a simple example.

You will notice that one of the words I'm filtering out is "ailes", which is referencing Chairman and CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes. But on May 18th he died, so guess how quickly I heard about that?

Here is a hint:

Yep, I actually saw people talking about this before the media started writing about it. It was only a few minutes before, but still.

It was the same when Trump announced he was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Even with my block in place, I still heard about it within seconds of him announcing it (and I then spent the next two hours tweeting about it too).

This is how crazy the digital world is. We are so tightly connected that if a story is important, you will know about it as quickly as anyone else.

The only thing that filtering does is to remove most of the noise. But I still see tons of stories about Trump every single day.

In fact, we actually have the opposite problem. In that if you are not filtering, you will miss important tweets because they are drowned out by all the rest.

I have noticed this with my own Twitter feed. Before I started filtering my feed, I constantly missed important news about the media industry itself, because these tweets were buried in this sea of Trump related outrage.

Today, now that I am filtering, I see those tweets much more clearly, which helps me stay up to date.

Finally, let's talk about something even more important, which is the media trends.

Trump is not a media trend

Several people have questioned how I, as a media analyst, can filter out Trump, because, as they say, look at what he is doing to us (the media).

We also have tons of articles titled: "The future of media in the age of Trump", as if the media is now completely different.

My answer to this is quite simple. Trump has almost no influence on the future media trends.

I know what you are thinking. "Are you crazy", you ask?

But this is another example of the reality distortion field that exists in the media. Trump is not that influential.

First of all, when we talk about Trump and the media, we are really talking about an extremely narrow part of the overall media landscape. Specifically, we are talking about big national newspapers within their political editorial focus.

This might be very important for the New York Times and The Washington Post (and a few others), but for everyone else it's not.

For instance, if you are the Chicago Tribune, being successful in the future and getting people to subscribe has almost nothing to do with Trump. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if it started writing more about Trump, fewer people would subscribe.

It's the same with all the magazines. Think about magazines like Wired, Men's Fitness, Southern Living, PRWeek, Motor Trend and many others. None of what Trump is doing has any relation to their world of media.

So, while everyone in the media is obsessing over Trump, he has almost no impact at all. He is just a massive distraction.

For instance, most of my friends in the media were really upset about Trump having a meeting with the Russians, where he banned US media from attending. Instead, we had to rely on photos from a Russian photographer. And, from a general perspective, that was pretty bad.

But from a media trend perspective, it's a non-story, because even if Trump had allowed US media access, that would still mean just a few photographers from maybe NYT and AP.

If you are, again, the Chicago Tribune, you probably wouldn't have sent a photographer anyway.

So, we are talking about a form of media that represents a tiny part of the media world. Within that world, there are a lot of problems. But from a general media perspective, it's not part of any trend.

More to the point, as a media analyst, I look at the future of media. As a minimum, I look 3 years into the future, but often it's more like 5-10 years.

This means that the trends that I look at right now, all exist after Trump is no longer president. And I see no change in any of the macro trends because of Trump.


At the same time, none of the really exciting new trends in the media relate to Trump either. You even see this at media conferences, such as the latest conference from INMA. Here, all the exciting talks about media were about things that had nothing do with US politics.

So, as a media analyst, having my Twitter stream filled with Trump related tweets is simply not helpful. It actually makes it harder for me to spot the real trends.

But this is not just about the media.

We even see this on a political scale.

There is a lot of talk about Trump and the environment, but what we forget is that the public has already changed. When Trump is talking about bringing back coal, we forget that that whole discussion is irellevant because the public are already demanding renewable energy.

So the trend is happening with or without him.

What Trump is doing to the media (and the rest of the US) is severely damaging the USA's reputation in the world. Remember, the USA's greatest strength in the past was its ability to export US culture.

For instance, Hollywood would never have been the Hollywood it is today, if it wasn't able to export US-style movies to the rest of the world.

But look at it today.

The US no longer looks like a shining example of progress in the world (think healthcare, obesity, living standards, income inequality, gun legislation, ethics and many other things), and this makes it harder for US publications to expand globally, and also to attract people from other places. A US centric culture is now an obstacle rather than a strength.

Finally, Trump is also hurting people's trust in the news. We see this quite clearly in several studies.

Remember though, when we say 'news' we are generally speaking about the type of stories published on the front page of the Washington Post (or similar). But, again, that is a tiny part of the realm of media.

For instance, do you trust the fitness magazine Men's Health? Or what about Sports Illustrated? You see how that whole question suddenly changes meaning.

So Trump is definitely hurting political media, or rather, he is dramatically polarizing its audience. But as soon as you look outside of that, the overall media trend is much less about Trump and far more about how we define the value we offer.

And when we look outside of the US, where there is an even bigger media world. How do the trends evolve here?

You see what I mean?

So, blocking Trump from Twitter is something that I absolutely recommend that you do, especially if you are working in the media. The exception is if you are the editor of a national newspaper or a political journalist, but most media people don't have that role.

The key is to bring balance back to Twitter, so that no single topic or person dominates your stream.

Blocking Trump (and Trump related tweets) will bring the value you once had on Twitter. It will allow to get out of the filter bubble you are currently in, to see more things that were drowned out before, and it will help your overall mood.

It won't stop you from learning about all the stupid things, but it will help you to not be dominated by them.

So... enjoy!

          OHIO SINKHOLE        
A woman drove her car into an Ohio sinkhole!
          CHICAGO SINKHOLE        
A large sinkhole opened up in a residential Chicago neighborhood swallowing up three cars and injuring dozens.
          FLORIDA SINKHOLE        
A massive sinkhole opened up in a residential neighborhood in Windermere, Florida that was 100 feet across and nearly 50 feet deep.
          GERMAN SINKHOLE        
GERMANY - A giant sinkhole under a residential street opened up on Monday in central Germany.
          Dahsyatnya 8 Lubang Besar di Bumi        

Bumi tiba-tiba berlubang, menelan orang-orang di atasnya. Bencana ini terjadi di Guatemala dan bisa dilihat pada gambar pada daftar di bawah.

Lucunya, dari 8 lubang yang ada, sebagian besar justru karena perbuatan manusia. Apalagi alasannya kalau bukan karena pertambangan. Saat ini mungkin hanya kami sajikan 8 lubang besar di bumi ini. Entah 5 tahun mendatang, bisa jadi tambang di Freeport bakal masuk daftar.

1. Tambang Berlian Mirny di Siberia


Lubang ini akibat pertambangan berlian. Diameternya 525 meter dan kedalaman 1200 meter. Disebut juga sebagai tambang berlian terbesar di dunia. Pesawat dan helikopter dilarang terbang di atas lubang ini, karena bisa tersedot masuk ke dalamnya.

2. Darvaza - Lubang Neraka

Pada tahun 1971, ahli geologi menemukan deposit bawah tanah besar gas alam di situs ini. Saat menggali, sebuah rig pengeboran secara keseluruhan jatuh ke dalam gua bawah tanah. Gas alam di tempat ini terus terbakar bahkan sampai hari ini, karenanya disebut juga pintu atau lubang neraka. Lokasinya di Turkmenistan.

3. Kimberley, Afrika Selatan

Di Kimberley, Afrika Selatan juga ada lubang pertambangan berlian. Dalamnya 1.097 meter dan tahukah kamu, lubang sebesar ini digali oleh tangan-tangan manusia secara manual. Sebelum ditutup tahun 1914 bisa menghasilkan hingga 3000 kg berlian.

4. Monticello Dam - California

Bentuk lubang pada bendungan terbesar di Amerika ini memungkinkan air mencapai kapasitas 48.400 kubik lalu bisa mengalir ke bendungan.

5. Diavik Mine - Kanada

Tambang berlian Diavik lokasinya sekitar 300 kilometer dari Yellowknife di Kanada. Tambang ini menghasilkan 8 juta karat (1.750 kg) berlian per tahun.

6. Sinkhole-Guatemala

Pada tahun 2007 sebuah lubang tiba-tiba saja terbentuk di Guatemala dan menelan sekitar selusin rumah. Lubang ini dalamnya 300 kaki

7. Great Blue Hole - Belize


The Great Blue Hole adalah lubang pembuangan air di lepas pantai Belize. Lokasinya sekitar 60 mil dari Belize City. Diameternya sekitar 305 meter dan kedalamannya 123 meter.

8. Well Of Chand Baori

Chand Baori terletak di dekat Jaipur Abhaneri, Rajasthan, India. Dibangun pada abad ke-9. Terdiri dari 13 tingkat dengan kedalaman hingga 100 kaki.

          Traffic Alert: Sinkhole Forces Closure Of 33 Mile Road        
Crews are inspecting a what appears to be a pothole-turned-sinkhole in Macomb County.
          How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean (From The Hindu)        

Draw up three schedules to keep your cooking space clean, says Cecilia David who looks after hygiene at Vivanta By Taj-Surya. A daily, weekly and a monthly break-up of the cleaning chores will keep your kitchen clean 24X7. It is also an opportunity to get more eco-sensitive and learn about cleaning/disposing garbage responsibly.
Tip: Always clean from top to bottom. Do the floor last. The entire process should not take you more than half an hour.
After cooking and transferring food into the serving bowls, move them aside (to the dining table or side of the counter). Transfer soiled vessels from the countertop to the sink. Clean the stove, the blender, oil canister as it usually sits next to the stove, the tiles behind the stove, and the counter top. If you have used the microwave/over, wipe them out as well. Pay attention to areas around and under kitchen gadgets.
Put washing liquid concentrate on heavily greasy vessels (kadai, tava, etc) and allow to soak. In the meanwhile, wash the lighter vessels and crockery with a sponge. A coarse scrubber may leave scratches on the glassware/non-stick vessels. Rinse well till water runs clear and there is no residual soap on the vessels. Now move to the soaking vessels. Scrub with warm water if necessary to remove the grease. Allow water to drain from the vessels. Wipe, dry and put away.
Clean out the bins.
Sweep and mop the floor, taking care to cover the areas behind the cylinder and under the refrigerator.
Kitchen cloths should be washed every day. Damp smelly cloths lead to unpleasant odour. Keep the kitchen dry.
This is a more thorough cleaning. This means inside-out cleaning of heavy equipment.
The Fridge Defrost and empty the fridge of all its contents. Remove the trays, including the ice-trays. Wipe the fridge inside out with a combination of water and white vinegar in equal proportion. Pay attention to the nooks and crannies, behind the rubber piping, handles… Wipe clean with fresh, soft cloth. Take care to organise your food in the refrigerator. Freshly cooked food should be on the topmost rack. The raw meat and fish should be stored at the bottom shelf so that it does not drip into the cooked food. This prevents cross-contamination. Change the water in the ice trays. Clean water-bottles well with warm water and a bottle brush. Pay attention to the caps. Dry well before refilling and putting them in.
Check the foodstuff. Throw out anything that is date-expired/spoilt/can’t remember when you put it in. To tackle food odour in the fridge, take a small quantity of baking powder in a container and keep it inside. Alternatively, dilute a drop of peppermint essence/oil in water and dipping a cloth in it wipe the fridge dry. But be careful you don’t use too much of the essence as it is strong and could overpower other foodstuff you have in your fridge.
Microwave Clean the inside thoroughly with a cloth dipped in water/vinegar combination. Remove the glass tray and the ring and clean them too.
Blender Put a mixture of dishwashing liquid and warm water into the blender. Run the machine. This will take care of any food particles stuck beneath the blade. Throw out the water and run the machine again more than once with just warm water so that it takes out any residual soap.
Coffee Maker Mix vinegar and warm water in equal parts and run a brewing cycle. Repeat the cycle another couple of times with only warm water.
Drainage Most important! Clear the sink and clean with soap and water. Pour equal parts baking soda (not baking powder) and white vinegar into the sinkhole. Allow to stand. You will notice some foaming which means the cleaning is underway. After a few minutes pour boiling water to chase down the soda/vinegar. This will clean the drain pipe, remove any grease and kill bacteria.
Once a month you have to clean the draw pulls, the tap heads, door handles, wall tiles, exhaust, cobwebs, window mesh, light fixtures and switches. All of the above can be cleaned with a combination of water and white vinegar. Be extra careful when you are wiping down electrical fixtures. If there is heavy grease, then use just vinegar. Stubborn stains can also be cleaned with baking powder. Use a toothbrush to reach the corners. Even if you use garbage bags for the bins make sure you clean the bins thoroughly once a week. Segregating kitchen waste is beneficial to health.
Check the cupboards and vegetable tray before you set out to buy your monthly provisions and fresh produce. It is a good way to discover things you have put away and forgotten about. This is also an ideal time to bring down storage containers and wipe the shelves clean.
Do you have these in your kitchen?
The idea is to use as little chemical-based cleaning agents as possible. One never knows what we are allergic to, and the long term harm of some of the harsher chemicals.
Peppermint oil/essence (use diluted and sparingly, to clean surfaces. Fruit-flies hate the smell of peppermint!)
Baking powder , white vinegar, scrub, colour-coded bins, bottle brush
Soft wipes (old vests and tee shirts make great wipes).

          National Corvette Museum retrieves two Corvettes from sinkhole        

Corvette Museum pulls out ZR1 “Blue Devil” and 40th Anniversary Edition from sinkhole The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, extricated the first of eight Corvettes to fall in a sinkhole beneath the museum on February 11. Before crowds filled with construction personnel, media, museum visitors and staff, the 2009 “Blue Devil” ZR1 emerged from the depths of the sinkhole this morning at approximately 10:35 a.m. CT. The process […]

The post National Corvette Museum retrieves two Corvettes from sinkhole appeared first on Old Cars Weekly.

          The state of free comics, 2017        
I've been taking advantage of the annual Free Comic Book Day each year since it began but not every year yields fine results. Many publishers use the event as an opportunity to push promotional material (usually a brief fragment of a story) rather than printing something which truly stands on its own. Ideally, every book on Free Comic Book Day should be an engaging story which stands on its own yet is representative of other works (more from that series or more by that author).

This year I snagged 10 books so let's approach this as a top 10 list, starting with the best:

New England Comics: The Tick

The Tick has become the most reliable of all the FCBD offerings. This time there are two stories by Jeff McClelland & Duane Redhead. In the first, the Tick realizes he's never celebrated a birthday; in the second, the Tick witnesses a political debate drawn from the headlines (to give you a clue, one candidate vows to build a prison and get super-villains to pay for it). It's clever, funny, and truly all-ages.

Humanoids: The Incal

I've been remiss about getting into European comics and certainly Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius' Incal is one of those titles everyone nods respectfully at. This free book features the first three chapters of The Incal and it features the kind of awe-inspiring futuristic cityscapes I expect from Moebius and weird sex perversions I expect from Jodorowsky, plus a cosmic whatsit and... y'know, I have this feeling that when I do read all of The Incal I'll groan, "So that's what The Fifth Element was ripping off!"

Drawn & Quarterly: Hostage & Poppies of Iraq

I'm already a fan of Guy Delisle so a free preview of his most recent book Hostage is most welcome and the second feature, an excerpt from Poppies of Iraq by Brigittte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim also impressed. Both are non-fiction works, the first about a man held hostage in Chechnya, the second an autobiography of a woman who grew up in Iraq during the 1960s. I will definitely seek the full versions out in the future.

Epicenter Comics: Tex: Patagonia
<|P>I'm not exactly a fan of the western genre but I had a suspicion that Tex would feature some decent artwork. Sure enough, it turns out that Pasquale Frisenda is a masterful artist reminiscent of Al Williamson and this (another European work) is the opening pages of a full graphic novel. I notice that there are a lot of Tex graphic novels and I'm a little afraid of falling down a sinkhole of more and more of them, but it's good to know that if I ever need something new to read, Tex is out there and it's very handsomely made.

Lion Forge: Catalyst Prime: The Event

After years of silence, Christopher Priest is suddenly everywhere! He's an architect of this new super hero shared universe which Lion Forge is selling, though I don't know if he's writing any of the actual titles. This one-shot (drawn by Marco Turini) explains where Lion Forge's superhumans' powers came from and it's a lot like other shared universe start-ups like the New Universe or Milestone where virtually everyone got their powers in the same place. The story itself is actually satisfying, as it gives barely a glimpse into each of the people who will be protagonists of Lion Forge's super hero line but the antagonist - who is not established as such until the closing pages - is brought to life very sharply and seems to fit the mold of other Priest masterminds. If Priest were writing any of the titles, I'd definitely buy them; as is, I'll consider it.

Dark Horse Comics: Avatar & Briggs Land

So I'm that guy, that guy who liked Avatar. Back when it came out I was very busy writing for Marvel and didn't have time to see what the movie fan websites were saying, but in recent years there are certainly a lot of thinkpieces stating it's either overrated or was never any good to begin with. Yet it's the highest grossing film of all time? Who else liked it? I only went three times, it didn't raise the roof on my cash.

But despite my love for the film I am uncertain about Avatar as a franchise. I'd be fine if James Cameron just quit while he's ahead - I fear a sequel would rehash the first film. How weird that now, of all times, we have an Avatar comic. Written by Sherri L. Smith and drawn by Canada's own Doug Wheatley, it's a story set between the scenes of the film, showing more detail of the part where Jake Sully tames the Turok. It's okay, but I imagine if you (like evidently 99% of the populace) disliked the movie you won't find anything to like here.

Marvel Comics: Guardians of the Galaxy & The Defenders

I quit working for Marvel before Gerry Duggan came on the scene but his name has popped up a lot due to his work on Deadpool. To promote him taking over Guardians of the Galaxy, timed to the release of the new movie, Duggan and artist Aaron Kuder contribute a brief story here about the Guardians breaking out of a prison and stealing a ship and acting a lot like their film counterparts. However, unlike Duggan's predecessor, he appears to have done his research as the story includes the Nova Corps and the Fraternity of Raptors, tying things back to when Andy Lanning & Dan Abnett revitalized the Guardians of the Galaxy brand. Outgoing Guardians writer Brian Michael Bendis also contributes a story promoting he and artist David Marquez's new Defenders book, featuring the same foursome who will be appearing as the Defenders on Marvel's Netflix show and utilizing a Netflix villain as their antagonist. I suppose the hope is that fans of the film & TV versions of these characters will pick up this freebee and want to try the print version. Good luck, would-be fans; take it from one who knows, so far as getting into comics today it s the best of times, it is the worst of times.

Youneek Studios: Malika: Warrior Queen

I grabbed this because of my fascination with Africa. It's from a new comic book company trying to develop properties which feature black protagonists. This one is about a female African warrior queen, by writer Roye Okupe and drawn by Chima Kalu. I'm not really the audience for this work but the full graphic novel version of Malika is probably going to be a good one for school library's (or my instutition's education library).

Fantagraphics: World's Greatest Cartoonists

You really get a bang for your $0 here as this is a massive 60 page tome with tons of creators who publish their works through Fantagraphics. I feel at times too much of Fantagraphics is avant-garde and impenetrable. Here, at least, there are a handful of contributions with hooks I could understand. Ed Piskor's autobiography Mudfish seems particularly interesting and I will keep it in mind.

Chapterhouse: Captain Canuck: Year One #1

Oh, Canada. You would think with a "Year One" in the title that this would be a great jumping-on point but nope; just reading the recap of the new Captain Canuck's origin on the first page is a dizzying task, then you spend a great deal of time being confused as he's not a super hero yet but is instead serving in Afghanistan... and his bosses are all corrupt, I guess? They're a private military force of some kind? And I spent so much time not know who anyone was (soldiers can be hard to tell apart) or which of them was supposed to be the hero. Like, the hero is narrating but I would become confused as to which person on the page was supposed to be him. This is not a bad comic, but it is not told (courtesy of writers Jay Baruchel & Kalman Andrasofszky with artist Marcus To) in a way which is welcoming to first-time readers. Whose bright idea was it to make the free, promotional Captain Canuck comic one where he never puts on the costume he's wearing on the cover?

COMICS! One day a year, they're free.

          Comment on Strange trumpet-like sound recorded in Nottingham, UK by Jeanette        
I recently watched a video showing the alarming number and size of sinkholes worldwide. The video includes an interesting theory that changes in the energy from the sun are causing the Earth to be pulled slightly out of round (to be precise, slightly MORE out of round than it usually is), and the associated stress to the planet's crust is causing cracks, sinkholes, earthquakes (and related tsunamis), volcanic activity, and strange sounds. The photos of some of the massive sinkholes are shocking; it's worth watching the video just to see those, let alone the theory at the end.
          The Devil's Sinkhole        
A year or so ago I was contacted by The University of Texas Press to illustrate the 2nd book in a trilogy by writer Bill Wittliff. It was a difficult assignment for me to accept considering that the 1st book in the series (The Devil's Backbone) was beautifully illustrated by the late, great Jack Unruh. Needless to say, it was a daunting prospect to follow in his footsteps. However, after much consideration (and with generous support from Jack), I decided to jump into the Sinkhole. The novel is set in Central Texas in the 1880's. It's a tale that combines a kind of Mark Twain quality with magic realism. I did a total of 21 drawings, here are some.

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Calls for end to Wall Street fund managers speculating with retirees' money


"Don't let anyone tell you that the problems with public pensions are the results of groups of avaricious kindergarten teachers and DMV workers...The fault lies with Wall Street. They abused these funds--while pocketing billions to run them into the ditch." -- William Lerach

By Miriam Raftery

May 10, 2011 (La Mesa) – “What might we be able to do to avoid financial Armageddon?” asked William Lerach, who led prosecutions against some of America’s most powerful corporations including ENRON, recovering billions for defrauded shareholders. “Next year, 77 million baby boomers will hobble into retirement.”  He warned that corruption and mismanagement by Wall Street managers has led to public and private pension funds that are severely underfunded. He calls the situation a “ticking time bomb” -- and proposes a solution.


Lerachblames Congress for repealing consumer protections that were enacted in the 1930s. Repeal of those laws has allowed speculation with pension funds to occur--leading to huge losses.


While occasional abuses such as pension spiking may merit some benefit reforms, those are minor compared to a largely unrecognized scandal, the financial expert indicated. “The fault lies with Wall Street,” he concluded. “They abused these funds--while pocketing billions to run them into the ditch.”

How did this happen—and what can be done now?


A look at the past suggests that the adage "those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it" is indeed true. In the early part of the 20th century, financial robber barons known as “banksters” preyed on unsuspecting investors, leading to the 1929 financial crash.  Crash of the stock market “ended the dreams and hopes of an entire generation,” Lerach said of the event that triggered the Great Depression. “By 1932, Wall Street faced ruin. They were cornered.”


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration opted against nationalizing the banks and instead decided to protect capitalism by creating a highly regulated system, Lerach noted. The Banking Act of 1933, also known as the Glass-Steagall Act, imposed a stringent regulatory framework designed to prevent the destruction of wealth that had occurred in the pre-regulatory era.

“Over time, assisted by World War II, the U.S. recovered and became a financial colossus,” Lerach recalled. “We created more wealth than ever in the history of mankind.”

But then Wall Street captured control of Congress, which dismantled regulations. “Citizens were seduced by the promise of greater prosperity by tearing down regulatory framework,” Lerach explained. Glass-Steagall was repealed, allowing big banks and Savings and Loan institutions to combine. In addition to deregulating S&Ls, Congress restricted the rights of investors to hold companies accountable.

In addition, Lerach said, “Wall Street made sure the regulatory agencies were in the hands of those who were actively and overtly hostile to regulations.” As a result,enforcements were curtailed and rules rolled back, resulting in behemoth-sized banks and less regulatory oversight—which in turn resulted in the collapse of the S&L industry, causing investors and taxpayers to lose trillions of dollars. Then came the meltdown in 2000 and 2001, followed by the Enron and Worldcom collapses which cost pension funds trillions and further Wall Street scandals. “Ten trillion dollars were lost by investors again, in months,” he said.

Among the “reforms” passed by Congress was a Private Securities Reform Act known on Capitol Hill as the “Get Lerach Act”, following the securities lawyer’s success in winning huge returns for defrauded shareholders of companies including $7.2 billion for ENRON shareholders.

Lerach says the loss of investors’ funds in the banking industry collapse and other scandals that have rocked the financial world were “a direct result of tearing down regulatory frameworks put in place 75 years earlier, when we had created the safest markets in the world….We forgot our history.”

Though speaking at a La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club meeting last Wednesday night, Lerach (who has also spoken to a local lawyer's association)  faulted members of Congress in both parties for bowing to Wall Street special interests. He faults Republican and Democratic legislators for dismantling regulations and rules, and criticized President Obama for appointing former Goldman Sachs executives as economic advisors in the White House and high-ranking spots the U.S. Treasury.


“We had to save the banks,” he said of the bailout, “but why didn’t we make the banks agree that we’ll reimpose Glass Steagall? …Instead we let them go.”

He predicts that pension funds will be the next financial crisis in America. What’s happened is that Wall Street money managers have taken control of pension funds once managed by individuals or state employees who invested conservatively. “Wall Street saw honey pots and captured them,” he said.

Corporate pensions in the U.S. were estimated to be close to $500 billion underfunded by 2008-09, he noted. After speculating wildly with pension funds and discovering there was not nearly enough money to pay out pensions earned by retirees, Wall Street then persuaded Congress to create 401K funds, which he calls a “scheme” that resulted in “all too many pigeons for the unscrupulous.” Losses of over $2 trillion resulted, he said.

America’s public pensions are in even worse shape, having lost money in frauds in 2000-01 and in the 2008-09 financial collapse. “Funds lost $1 trillion in just one year. CALPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) lost $72 billion in just 11 months.” Barrons has described public pensions as a “$2 trillion hole.”

“Conservatives scapegoat public employees as a privileged protected class,” he said, citing the battle over public employee pensions in Wisconsin as an example. To cover losses from irresponsible investment of pension funds, politicians backed by powerful financial interests now seek to cut pensioners’ retirement benefits and create two-tiered systems so new employees will have to pay more and have lower retirement benefits when they reach retirement age.

Such proposals amount to a cover-up for state pension fund managers who failed to set aside enough money, Lerach suggests. In some cases fund managers set aside only a fraction of what actuaries recommended as needed—and lost money in risky investment while pocketing enormous fees. “The truth is, public pension funds have become sinkholes,” he said, adding that the fault lies not with employees, but with fund managers.

It wasn’t always that way. After World War II, public pension funds were handled to people who were careful, under a regulated system, to invest in fixed-income assets such as bonds. But Lerach observed, “Wall Street can’t make much money on that…so they bribed legislators” to repeal regulations “while promising deregulation would pay. They could not be more wrong.”

The University of California’s pension fund is a “tragic example of abuse,” he said. Once, it was managed wisely by five state employees who made careful investments. Up until 2000, the UC pension fund was 100% funded, Lerach noted. “But with George W. Bush boots on the ground, a new chair fired those five employees, fired 13 Wall Street managers and paid them $32 billion. Huge losses resulted.” Next the fund managers “did what gamblers often do—they doubled down,” Lerach said. “They took pensioners’ money and invested in hedge funds and collateralized debt obligation…that led to hundreds of billions of dollars in losses. Today, guided by Wall Street, they are taking even bigger risks.”


Another problem is unrealistic assumptions about return on investment.  The UC pension fund today is at least $50 billion underwater if one believes the U.C. Regents' assumption of 7.5-8.5 percent rate of return on investment portfolio for infinity, assumptions Lerach calls “Matterhorn-sized whoppers.” If you assume a rate of return of just 4.5 to 5 percent, the fund could be underfunded by as much as $500 billion,” he said. He faults a nationwide system of “corruption and kickbacks to corrupt officials” for making “horrific investments” such one large investment that lost “every single penny CALPERS put into it.”

Lerach isn’t alone in sounding the alarm about California’s public pensions. In early April, the Wall Street Journal reported that a study by Stanford University estimated that California's three largest state-operated, public-employee pension funds—the California Public Employees' Retirement System, California State Teachers' Retirement System and University of California Retirement System—currently face a total shortfall of more than $500 billion.

That figure dwarfs the funds' own combined shortfall estimate of $55 billion as of July 2008, according to the report, which doesn't account for the more than $100 billion loss sustained by the funds during the recession. “That adds a further wrinkle to California's already precarious fiscal situation,” the Wall Street Journal concluded.

Why don’t the courts intervene? “We have the most pro-corporate Supreme Court in history,” Lerach noted; the court is currently controlled by Republican appointees with a strong record of ruling for large companies over the interested of employees, investors or consumers. The court recently held unlimited corporate spending on elections to be protected as free speech.

So what is the solution?

A cartoon displayed by Lerach shows a grim-faced retiree quipping to his wife, “If we take an late retirement and an early death, we’ll just squeak by.”

Lerach proposes a better way.

“There is a solution, if it’s not too late,” he said.

To protect pension funds, Lerach proposes, what’s needed is to “get the hands of Wall Street money managers off pension funds so we can stop the speculating.”

Next, he would create a new treasury bond that would pay 7 to 8 percent interest and be inflation protected. “Over seven or eight years, I would have all big pension funds transition so that 80% of funds are invested in these treasury bonds.”

This solution would not only save money on fees currently paid to Wall Street money managers, but would also assure a sufficient rate of return . In addition, it would help to pay down our national deficit.

“At least this way, we will be paying money to our fellow citizens,” he concluded, but concedes that he is not optimistic about the prospects of seeing such reforms implemented in time to forestall a major financial crisis for America's future retirees.

William Lerach’s career was chronicled in the best-selling book, Circle of Greed. Not without controversy himself, Lerach was convicted of paying incentives to plaintiffs in class action lawsuits. Formerly one of the nation’s most effective securities lawyers, Lerach is now taking aim at Wall Street on the lecture circuit, speaking to lawyers’ organizations and community groups as he predicts that failure of public and private pension funds will be the nation’s next major financial crisis.


          Sinkholes and the like        
Saturday’s ride brought refreshing, cool air and clear skies, the kind of weather cyclists dream about in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I stayed away from sinkholes and other unseen hazards to complete my ride.
          Something New        

 NOTICE TO READERS: For six years, Reid's Reader has been presenting an entirely free service to readers with commentary on books new and old. Reid's Reader receives no grants or subsidies and is produced each week in many hours of unpaid work. If you wish to contribute, on an entirely voluntary basis, to the upkeep of this blog, we would be very grateful if you made a donation via the PayPal "DONATE" button that now appears at the top of the index at right. Thank you.]
We feature each week Nicholas Reid's reviews and comments on new and recent books.

“STAR SAILORS” by James McNaughton  (Victoria University Press, $NZ35)

            About two-and-a-half years ago (14 February 2015, to be precise) I wrote for the New Zealand Listener a review of James McNaughton’s first novel New Hokkaido, which was a kind of tongue-in-cheek romp about what New Zealand would be like if it had been taken over by the Japanese in the Second World War. I judged it an enjoyable enough piece of fluff, marred by its uncertain tone (now farcical, now serious) and its many improbabilities, even as “counter-factual” fiction goes.

Imagine my mortification four months later when I found in New Zealand Books (June 2015) a review of New Hokkaido by a censorious academic who said that it was a piece of rampant racism and Yellow Peril hysteria. Oh the shame! In my ignorance and imperception I, clearly not as sophisticated or finely tuned to subtle undertones as the academic, had almost praised a book that should have been ritually burned for its lack of PC….

It’s so damned easy to take too seriously what shouldn’t be taken seriously in the first place, isn’t it? (Especially if you lack a sense of humour.)

So now I am reviewing James McNaughton’s second novel Star Sailors and I am treading very carefully. I do not take it too seriously. I know that, as in his first novel, much is sheer piss-take. There is not much that is offensive in the “message” of Star Sailors. A dystopian fantasia set in New Zealand about thirty years hence (the 2040s), it hits many buttons that will set purring ecologists and people concerned with social justice and those who like their satire broad. But (alas, alas, alas), at nearly 500 pages (487 to be precise) it is simply too damned long, too unfocussed, too digressive, has too many side issues and sets too many hares running. At some point a rigorous and judicious editor should have gone slash, slash, slash and made it the trim and engaging thing it could have been.

On top of which, the sheer bulk of Star Sailors almost forces us to take it more seriously than it merits.

In the preceding two paragraphs you have in effect read my review of Star Sailors, and if it is only a verdict you are seeking, then you need not read on. But I prefer to prove what I have asserted, so what follows is documentation.

In the 2040s of Star Sailors, the Earth has suffered near complete ecological collapse. Gobal warming has triggered rising seas, floods, permanently inundated coastlines and shrinking arable land at a time of rising population. All this is expressed most fully by Bill, a former journalist in his 80s, as he watches the new-style de-brained television news:

“ ‘The golden age of news’, as it’s privately called by reporters, depresses Bill, yet he occasionally finds himself watching. The days when he felt a sense of relief at being in New Zealand, spared from the rest of the world’s numerous natural disasters, resource wars, civil unrest, and general social and economic disarray, are long gone. Now the scarcely believable images wash over him, leaving him tired and dazed. He succumbs to them. Fires burn night and day in forests and cities; climate refugees battle fences, surround watertankers, overturn emergency food trucks. Deep cracks open in parched land, lakes empty, sinkholes appear by the dozen, trees and animals die, thousands of dead fish wash ashore and rot in the sun, sea walls break, super-hurricanes drown thousands, tent cities spring up, explosions, acres of flyblown bodies, public executions of looters by officers in the uniforms of various failing states, wide-eyed orphans, hospital tents littered with the languid dying, beatings, rapes, machine-gun fire and shelling. All kinds of horrors….” (p.297)

Once upon a time, it was thought that New Zealand was immune to this sort of thing. As an Aussie chef says insouciantly, relatively early in the piece,  â€œThere’s a lot to be said for splendid isolation in the South Paciic, a relatively small population, plenty of precipitation and a government striving to remain transparent and democratic.” (p.109) New Zealand as refuge from global catastrophe is an idea at least as old as Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence (written in the 1940s), and it is a fantasy that some still cling to in our own times.

But in Star Sailors, the fantasy has proven not be be true. In the NZ of 2045, wealthy Americans and others make (relatively) safe NZ a bolthole, bringing their values with them, corporations still rule with their evil neo-liberalism, wealth is not shared equitably, and the global ecological disaster is nibbling at the collapsing coastline. In Wellington, where most of the earlier sections of the novel take place, the poorer “Outers” cower behind unstable seawalls near sea-level, where crime is rife; the populace can afford to eat only cheap junk food and therefore obesity is also rife; and there is seething discontent which could coalesce into rebellion or revolution.

Meanwhile the wealthy or “Inners” live in a gated and guarded community The Mount (which seems to be ranged around Mount Victoria) or they disport theselves at The Beach (a domed luxury resort for rich people only) and live largely hedonistic and exploitative lives.

Obviously, this extreme dichotomy of society has its antecedents in much dystopian fiction. I immediately think of H. G. Wells’ Elois and Morlocks in The Time Machine (tho’ McNaughton isn’t as biologically extreme in his dichotomy as Wells was). Or, more relevantly, the hedonistic idlers living in their Paradise and the oppressed workers in the Depths in Fritz Lang’s 1920s film Metropolis. Or even the starving masses not let into the unbreakable dome of the Immortals in John Boorman’s flawed but interesting 1974 film Zardoz.

Sump’n’s gotta give in the socially divided world McNaughton depicts and it seems to be coming when, in the first section of the novel, a terrorist bomb goes off in the wealthy hedonists’ domed Beach. Immediately the “Inners” respond by beefing up their security and there is a sequence set at a gun show.

It is in the world of the Inners that Jeremiah and Karen Broderick, the presumptive protagonists, live. Both originally came from deprived part of society, but managed to claw their way into wealth, he as a lawyer, she as a model – so there is at least some modicum of social mobility and the state still has some of the trappings of democracy. One strand of plot has Karen and Jeremiah (who have a young son modishly called Mandela) testing the strength of their apparently fragile marriage and testing their own moral integrity. Will they or won’t they see the corruption of their privileged lives? Will they see through the neo-liberal mantras that money is the bottom line and the welfare of the whole population is of secondary importance?

Reader, I will not test your patience with more “plot summary” on this matter, save to say that “selling out” on one’s integrity is part of it, as well as a long party scene among the exploitative rich, which is half orgy and half the Masque of the Red Death. Oh how disgusting are the filthy rich! (And oh how that author conveniently has to show their disgusting-ness in explicit sexual detail to make his point!) And come to think of it, a long party revealing the moral rot and vacuity of the upper classes is a very well-established trope in social satire (reference Wyndham Lewis’s The Apes of God; Jean Renoir’s La Regle du Jeu; Jean Gremillon’s Lumiere d’Ete etc. etc.)

Often, while ploughing through the Karen and Jeremiah sections (yes, I do recognise the irony of naming a protagonist after a prophet of doom), I thought that James McNaughton might have done better to address his satire directly to the age in which we are living, rather than deferring it to some future dystopia. Surely the widening social gap between rich and poor, the phenomena of gated communities and deprived suburbs, and the effects of neo-liberalism are all things that already exist in New Zealand. McNaughton has simply extrapolated from current trends. They might have been attacked more pungently if the attack had been head-on, unvarnished with fantasy, and realistic.

Ah yes, but as well as the social satire there’s the global ecological mess, which is most fully attached to the second line of narrative. Married to a fashionista called Trix is the erstwhile journalist Bill. Long, long ago, in the 1980s, when he was a young reporter in Hokitika on the West Coast, Bill encountered Sam Starsailor, whom he understood to be an extraterrestrial who had apparently come to Earth to deliver some momentously important ecological message to the human race.

Of course in this far past year, Bill was ridiculed for his belief. But now, in the 2040s, Sam Starsailor (or an extraterrestrial very like him) has turned up in New Hokitika. You see, the old coastal town sank beneath the rising sea, so New Hokitika has been built on higher ground. The action switches to New Hokitika. (Thinks – with this name was James McNaughton making covert reference to hs first novel New Hokkaido? Dunno.) The new, and apparently comatose, Starsailor is a sensation with the media and old Bill becomes the ET’s official companion in front of the cameras.

So what will the alien’s great message to the world be? And will the neo-liberal-corporation-controlled media allow the message to get through? And will there be a revolution?

A clear narrative line leading to answers should have been the trajectory of Star Sailors. Regrettably, it isn’t, and this is my major beef with the novel. The side-issues, the digressions, just pile on and on, spinning the narrative beyond the point where whatever it has to say is clear.

To satirise corporatised news – the decline of real journalism and control of media by corporations – is one thing. But to do it at length in a novel that is already top-heavy with social and ecological issues is quite another. When they are one-liners, there is no problem with the intrusion of robot servants, “robotistas” (robotic baristas) and robot cars. But it is hard to see how a long passage on finding a parking space adds much to the tale. The emphasis on old, rich, sexually-jaded men fuelled by rejuvenation tachniques (and some sugical equivalent of Viagra) may be a fair extrapolation of old, rich baby-boomers – but this detail leads us into stuff about sex holograms and the use of stolen personalties for porn. Surely the decadence of the rich didn’t need to be spelled out at such length? The details about fashion and fashionistas were worthy of a few brisk quips at most.

Most intrusive of all is the subplot about Bill’s obese son Simon and his wife Cheryl’s promiscuity and disputed son. Again, it could have been disposed of more concisely without harm to the novel.

I suppose it would be redundant to note that the novel’s topicality makes at least some of its satire very perishable. On p. 91, Bill considers unswimmable rivers and notes : “…the statistic about faecal bacteria isn’t even news, and hasn’t been since the dairy industry went bottom up in the early 2020s with the introduction of synthetic milk. White and mainly water, yet no one saw it coming.” But I guess this sort of thing is inevitable when you set your satire in the future.

I have the distinct impression that, with a good central idea as his first inspiration, James McNaughton then let his mind run too free over a whole raft of things that either amused or dismayed him. There is no real sense of purposeful structure, but more an amble. When it comes, the denouement with the ET is a sad fizzler. And after the bloated novel passes this point, there is a hasty 16-page coda explaining the aftermath of a revolution but sounding like a doctrine of withdrawal. Solve the world’s problems by silence, exile and cunning, I guess, but it seems more like the convenient quietism of the well-to-do.

There are amusements along the way, but I regret the focused thing this dawdle could have been.

          WEDNESDAY: Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore        
Retired Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore joins Jim in the studio to discuss a plethora of issues and topics. In his usual passionate, loud and outspoken manner, the General talks about leading the Green Army, a loose network of environmental groups which tackles environmental issues such as saltwater intrusion in the Baton Rouge aquifer, the sinkhole at Bayou Corne, coastal erosion, and wetlands preservation. He touches on Louisiana's HIV problem, the seafood industry, and "holding Louisiana politicians accountable" for what they say and do, and specifically what they don't. The General wraps up the show by chiming in on Russia's invasion of the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and what might ensue as a result of Putin's actions.
          Nerve Gas Terrorist Attack In Syria Caught On Tape        
Video footage and images emerged showing the aftermath of a poison gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus that wiped out 1,300 people as they lay sleeping in their beds. **************************** STORIES BELOW: – Nerve Gas Attack In Syria : – Nerve Gas Attack Videos 1: – Nerve Gas Attack Video 2: – Sinkhole Swallows Trees: –...
          Digging for fossils in the Petrified Forest        
By Tom Kaye

The sky was crystal clear as my wife Carol and I geared up for our first day “on expedition” at Petrified Forest National Park in northern Arizona. This trip was particularly exciting for us because Petrified Forest had recently acquired a huge new tract of land and we, along with several colleagues from the Burke Museum, were the first team going in to look for fossils!

Specifically, we were looking for fossils of huge predators from 210 million years ago during the Triassic Period. We knew that most of the fossils we found would belong to extinct groups known as aetosaurs and phytosaurs. The former sported armor plates and foot-long spikes to ward off attacks. The latter were the Triassic equivalent of crocodiles: aquatic predators that you didn’t want to mess with.

Hunting for fossils isn’t as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be. It was never less than 100 degrees on the desert floor thanks to the sun’s reflection. We wore SPF 50 sunblock made for children so it didn’t sting when the sweat runs in your eyes. We were almost never in sight of anyone else. And the best fossils are ALWAYS the farthest from the truck.

So, I hope you enjoy the pictures and know that you’re getting the best parts of the trip right here!

This is the “badlands,” appropriately named by the early settlers because nothing would grow there. However, this is prime hunting ground for fossils from long-dead animals. The dirt erodes down the hillsides oftentimes exposing fossils. This erosion causes some fossils to break up and go down the hill, so we were on the lookout for “bone trails” where we’d follow a trail to hopefully find the remainder of the skeleton sticking out of the ground. 

I found the leg bone from a phytosaur just sitting in pieces on the desert floor. This is a 215-million-year-old crocodile-like reptile. This guy was probably more than 15 feet long. 

A tooth from a phytosaur. Definitely someone you would not want to mess with!

This is the largest petrified log we saw in the park. It was probably
larger, but most of the outer layers have fallen away.

This is an "ice" rock. Not a formal name but appropriate. This happens when a crack forms in the ground and then minerals fill it in. The dirt erodes away leaving the mineral on the surface.

On first look you might think this is a fossil snake but it’s actually a fossil root!

This photo shows me crawling into a sinkhole to get some shade.
This is where the rattlesnakes hang out during the day and is not advised.

See the dark markings at an angle? They are called "cross bedded sandstones" and tell us the direction the water was flowing in the stream 215 million years ago. In this case, it flowed from right to left. Putting together many of these can help map how the rivers flowed in this area in ancient times.

A desert waterfall. It’s pretty even without water.

The GPS tracker showing where Carol and I walked through rough desert terrain over the 10 days—more than 50 miles combined! Yellow line = 1 mile. The average elevation change per day was 500 feet over hillsides completely covered with marble-sized gravel. Everyone on the team went down the hill on his or her backside at least once during this trip.

The Burke Museum team looking very happy after 10 days in the field. Front row, left to right: Dr. Christian Sidor, my friend and colleague who is the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum, Jackie L. starting her PhD this year and way stronger than she looks, Chuck B. working on his PhD at the Burke, and as always, they put the old people in the back.

In the end, our most exciting find was a bone bed containing fossils of a rare “dinosaur mimic” beaked reptile called a shuvosaurid. Despite walking on two legs, this animal is more closely related to crocodiles than dinosaurs! Over a two-day period we must of have collected more than a hundred pieces of small bone, not much bigger than a finger, as we scoured the desert surface. We then quarried out a large block of the bone bed for further examination.

The block of bone bed is now in the Burke’s fossil lab, where the bones can be carefully extracted under a microscope. We estimate that there are more than 100 bones in this block, so stay tuned for more fossil discoveries!


Tom Kaye is a research associate in the Burke Museum's vertebrate paleontology collections. 

Mark your calendars! Dino Day is coming up on Saturday, March 7, 2015! 

          Así se forman los socavones por agua subterránea        

En el vídeo How Do Sinkholes Form? los chicos de Practical Engineering explican cómo se forman los grandes socavones que a menudo vemos en las noticias y que se tragan una carretera o un edificio como salidos de la nada. En una simulación con arena y agua, los autores muestran de forma sencilla cómo la erosión subterránea puede provocar que el terreno ceda súbitamente y se trague lo que haya en la superficie. Y muchas veces por acción de los humanos.

Vía @HdAnchiano

          The Brooklyn-Grown Archeological Shop Inspired by Sacred Mayan Sinkholes        
EarthSeaWarrior is a great Etsy storefull of modern whimsical home decor heavily influenced by nature.Combining animal skulls, antlers, antique dolls and bottles, crystal clusters, plants and other found natural objects, its creator Ursula Manaf artfully breathes new life into objects that some might discard or overlook, creating ephemeral pieces that [...]
          Dissecting Discouragement        

There's nothing like the sudden crash of discouragement that follows a period of solid, positive action. You've been doing all the right things, making great progress, and then suddenly find yourself in a blue funk, utterly depressed by the seeming futility of your actions. It's an emotional sinkhole.

I find that increasing my understanding often gives me a feeling of control over situations that otherwise leave me feeling helpless. I'm going to start by defining the word, "discouragement":


noun \-mənt\
: the act of making something less likely to happen or of making people less likely to do something
: a feeling of having lost hope or confidence
: something (such as a failure or difficulty) that discourages someone

- Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014

The derivation is fascinating. It literally means "to lose heart." Kind of an ironic thing to be writing about on Valentines Day.

This is ridiculous, of course. You can't lose your heart. You still have it. It's still there.

We forget sometimes just how alive we are. Setbacks, failures, reality adjustments -- these remind us that we are not superhumans. They are a kick to the ego-crotch. Of course we feel less alive and less vital. Of course we "lose heart."

The solution to discouragement, as near as I can tell, is to increase a personal feeling of vitality. Learn something new. Listen to exciting music. Get out and do something physical. Hell, just washing the dishes, accomplishing something as mundane as that can make you feel that much more vital.

The important thing is to remain active. To keep pushing, keep moving, keep on keeping on. And just like popping the clutch* on a car with a dead battery, you'll be fired up and racing off in no time.

*I realize this metaphor will be lost on most people. You know what? Google it sometime when you're feeling discouraged. Learn something new!

          Cost of Destination Wedding in Udaipur        
Wedding season is around the corner in India, and you can look at many, splashing money on marriages in Udaipur as well. So, if your wedding planning somewhat includes the word “destination wedding in Udaipur” then definitely you should nail down the numbers to avoid the uncommon sinkholes of budget.
          Massive Sinkhole Between Two Central Florida Homes Filled        
Crews have filled a sinkhole that opened up beneath two homes located in a Central Florida neighborhood on Sunday morning. The sinkhole opened up on Saturday in a residential neighborhood on Chalmer Terrace in the Villages, swallowing a family yard and barely keeping a driveway intact. Workers with Helicon Property Restoration worked overnight Saturday and into Sunday morning to fill the hole with a sand and cement mixture. They will […]
          Sinkholes cause headaches for many in Springfield        
Recently, it was reported that a sinkhole opened up just outside of a local elementary.  A few days later, another small sinkhole appeared just down the road.  What exactly causes these massive, spontaneous depressions in the earth's surface and what are their consequences?  Let's do some mental spelunking!
          Woman Hanging Laundry Plunges 9 Feet Into Sinkhole (PHOTOS)        
Sinkholes have joined the ranks of sharks, jellyfish, the hole in the ozone layer and baby-eating dingoes on the list of things in Australia that can seriously mess you up.
          Gravel lanes, potholes, and sidewalk repair part of summer maintenance plan        
Now that spring street sweeping is complete, Calgarians can expect to see Roads crews working on a variety of summer maintenance projects. Gravel lane repair is a major summer project taking place across the city.

All gravel lanes in Calgary will be inspected, and those requiring maintenance will be graded and 
repaired. Issues that crews will be looking for include severe drainage issues, low or high manholes, excavation issues, and sinkholes.

Watch for gravel lane signs around your neighbourhood to stay aware of when work is being done, and when vehicles need to be moved. If the lane remains blocked when work is scheduled, crews may not be able to complete the repairs.

“Just like during Spring Clean-up, we need help from Calgarians to get our summer maintenance work done,” said Roads Maintenance Manager Bill Biensch. “Give crews plenty of rooms to work, whether it’s on a road, sidewalk, back lane, or boulevard. Pay attention to gravel lane repair signs in your community, and remove vehicles, bins, and any other obstacles from the lane when crews are working.”

Other summer maintenance work includes:

·                     Repairs to sidewalks, curbs and gutters, guard rails, fences, and concrete barriers
·                     Repairs to roadway surfaces, such as cracks, manholes, potholes, and sinkholes
·                     Maintaining over 1,400 hectares of boulevard green space along major roadways
·                     Returning to some areas for additional summer street sweeping

The best time to repair potholesis when pavement is dry and the temperatures are warm. You can help crews more easily locate potholes by reporting them with the 311 app and including a photo.

Boulevard maintenance includes monthly mowing, spraying for weeds, and pest management.  Crews also respond to concerns about litter, long grass, dandelions and other weeds.

Sidewalk repair is another major part of summer maintenance work. Repairs are prioritized according to severity and safety implications. Crews repair sidewalk cracks, sunken concrete, and tree root distortion.

Calgarians are encouraged to contact 311 via phone, web, or the app to report potholes or sidewalks in need of repair.
          Sinkholes and Road Destruction After Flash Flooding in Central New York        
Mother Nature left behind quite a mess after dumping several inches of rain in central New York. Many streets and roads were flooded over the weekend, creating sinkholes Continue reading…
          NADA Headlines September 2, 2014        

This Issue's Headlines:

Fiat Chrysler Clears Way for Oct. 13 IPO

The Fiat Chrysler IPO that will result in the combined automaker's listing on the New York Stock Exchange could take place on Oct. 13, CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters Saturday in Italy.

GM Eases Rules on Techs' Work Reports

General Motors has retreated from a controversial policy that required dealership service technicians to essentially punch a time clock for every repair order.

How to Tell if a Car Needs Recall Work - You Could Look It Up “To improve vehicle safety, NADA urges every car owner who receives a recall notice from a manufacturer to visit his or her local new-car dealership to have the vehicle inspected, and if necessary, fixed at no charge,” said Forrest McConnell, NADA chairman and a Honda and Acura dealer in Montgomery, Ala.
Reminder: 'Do-Not-Call' Registration Requirement; FTC Announces Increase in Registration Fees Before making any telemarketing call (or having one made on your behalf), you generally must ensure that the number called is not contained on the National “Do-Not-Call” (DNC) registry. As a reminder, any dealer seeking to access the DNC registry must first register with the FTC and, if applicable, must annually pay the associated fees.
Nissan Exec Palmer Leaves to Become Aston Martin CEO

Andy Palmer, the car-guy chief planning officer at Nissan Motor Corp., who was once tipped as a possible future CEO, is leaving the company to head UK sports-car maker Aston Martin.

Automakers Vie for a Dent in 'Unminivan' Market

Without much fanfare, Ford has been seeing sales gains for its "unminivan" — a passenger version of its newly redesigned Transit Connect small, commercial van.

Study: Women More Comfortable with Negotiating than Men

Negotiation. Easily one of the least desirable aspects of buying a car for most shoppers. But it seems a large portion of the population is growing more comfortable with the haggling process: Women.

GM, Museum to Restore 3 of 8 Prized 'Vettes Damaged by Sinkhole

General Motors and the National Corvette Museum will restore three of eight prized Chevrolet Corvettes damaged in February when they tumbled into a giant sinkhole that developed beneath the floor of the museum in Bowling Green, Ky.

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          NADA Headlines April 23, 2014        

This Issue's Headlines:

Toyota Outsells All Other Carmakers in First Quarter
Car-Industry Insiders Ready to Retake Steering Wheel
GM Splits Engineering into 2 Divisions with New Leaders; Calabrese to Retire
2014 NADA Convention Recorded Workshops Are Available Online
Luxury Automakers Scramble to Woo Young Chinese
Corvette Museum May Keep Some Damaged 'Vettes, Sinkhole on Permanent Display
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          NADA Headlines April 10, 2014        

This Issue's Headlines:

CFPB and Indirect Auto Finance: Strategies for Mitigating Fair Lending Risk
Toyota, GM Recalls Push US to Near-Record Pace
Survey: Cadillac, Buick Dealers Wow Customers
Ford Reveals the Extreme Testing Endured By the 2015 F-150
NADA: Used Vehicle Price Index Reaches All-Time High in March
Ally Raises $2.38 Billion in IPO Priced at $25 a Share
Senate Panel Votes to Protect Driver 'Black Box' Privacy
Last of Corvettes Pulled From Sinkhole in Ky. Museum
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          NADA Headlines March 4, 2014        

This Issue's Headlines:

Big Auto Makers Post Weaker February Sales
Mercedes Stokes U.S. Lead as New Models Fuel February Record
Geneva: Automakers Cast Wary Eye Toward Russia
Large Ford Stores Say Cost of Aluminum Body Shop Will Surpass $70,000
Apple Debuts CarPlay Technology for iPhones in Vehicles
First Cars Pulled From Sinkhole at Corvette Museum
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          NADA Headlines February 14, 2014        

This Issue's Headlines:

U.S. New Auto Inventories Highest Since '09
Ford Banks On Shift From Cars to SUVs
Toyota Revamps U.S. Marketing into 'Dynamic' Product Teams
After Crisis, GM Expected to Add 400 Jobs at 3 Plants
Fiat: Decision 'Not Even Close' On Investment in Canada Factory
Chrysler to Stop Publishing N.A. Production Reports
Twitter, Eyeing $15 Billion Auto Ad Market, Says Users Buy More Cars
GM to Restore Corvettes that Fell into Ky. Sinkhole
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          Rootering around        
    Last week we found ourselves confronted with a situation of “soil subsidence.” Translated, this means that a small area of lawn near the sidewalk that divides our driveway from that of our next-door neighbor was showing signs of being some kind of sinkhole. We contacted the Sewer Department and braced ourselves for the worst, but
          The Lost River        
Sinkholes, springs and caves - oh my! Southern Indiana is dotted with these interesting karst features, through nothing is more fascinating than the sinking stream known as the Lost River.
          Do Focus Groups Dream of Synthetic People?        
April was one of those months. Vanilla skies with no news, followed by a vanilla religious holiday, concluding with a vanilla hailstorm of moral panic complete with pitchforked lightning and a flood of recanting politicians.

The Easter shopping anomaly went to 11 this year, with everything open in Wanaka over the mandated religious period except the pubs. Apparently the town was tipped off that there would be no enforcement of the archaic law against Easter trading (unless you were a pub or an unsuccessful special event applicant, in which case there would be). This fickle absence of enforcement gave Wanaka an excemption reserved in legislation only for Taupo and other listed 'tourist towns'.

Alcohol was still available at the traditionally excempted premises. If you were middle class enough to afford to dine in licensed premises, you could drink booze uninterrupted over Easter. This exclusion is an artifact from before the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, when every Sunday was Easter Sunday and all the pubs were closed. Churches could still serve booze (to minors!) in the Eucharist, Synagogues could still serve booze (to babies!) at circumcisions / genital mutilations. For the secular Gentile others, we had to stockpile booze at home over Easter like a survivalist.

Survivalism sounds like what is increasingly a pastime for the residents of the Flockton sinkhole. The recent rains have washed away more hope from them, with the balance between fight and flight swinging inexorably towards the latter. Winter is coming, and there may be more once-in-a-century floods on their way. There's no sign of help from King Gerry, who has kicked the problem firmly into the city council's realm to deal with.

Not entirely dissimilar to the buck-passing bug in last year's visionary Psychoactive Substances Act, which led to hicksville mayors around NZ landed with responsibility for a new and complex regime they knew absolutely nothing about. The upshot of this led to the government siding with vigilante arsonists in banning legal highs outright last week.

In retrospect, all the signs were there. Nationwide protests that looked like a working class Sensible Sentencing Trust lynch mob took place. Associate Minister of Health (and temporary drug czar while Dunne was in the naughty corner last year) Todd McClay agreed with a Rotorua crowd that legal highs were bad. Labour party shadow drug czar Iain Lees-Galloway appeared in Palmy saying legal highs were bad. Only Peter Dunne was singing the Act's positives until last Sunday night, when Dunne finally capitulated and agreed that legal highs were, as they say, bad.

Blame for this vanilla victory rests firmly with National and Labour. National for under-funding the project to the point of sabotage, and its ignorance of what was at stake beyond "The focus group said no." Labour for the inane local government authority bug they inserted into the Psychoactive Substances Act, demonstrating that they have learned precisely nothing from the local government fallout over the Prostitution Reform Act. Secondly, Labour's populist crusade ran counter to their support for the original bill.

It shows bad faith from both main parties. A lack of imagination from the Nats is to be expected, but Labour's faults are unforgivable. Thank Dagg for MMP and third party software, because there's too much salt sown in the fallow fields of Team Blue and Team Red.
          Simple Yet Effective Ways to Cut Back on Home Renovation Costs        


Renovating your home can be a costly affair if you do not make a plan or keep cost-cutting initiatives in mind.

Many people often find that they start a home renovation project and blast through their budget before completing the renovation works, leaving their homes and lives in the lurch.

If you have embarked on a home renovation and have found yourself running out of cash faster than expected, or you are about to start a home renovation project and want to prevent yourself from ending up in that situation, then here are some simply yet utterly effective ways on cutting back on costs. By following these simple tips, you are guaranteed to save money without compromising on finish quality.

1. Scale down your project

Home renovations projects are by nature ambitious, but you should not let your imagination run away with itself. Always keep in mind how much money you have to complete your home renovation works with, and go forth from there. This can often mean scaling down the project you initially envisaged. Instead of doing every room in your house, why not do one or two, and save the rest for a later time?

2. Pay more for the basics than for the decoration

If you are going to invest large sums of money, invest wisely. It is better to spend the majority of your money on the fundamentals than on option decor items; you would rather have a well-wired house done by a professional electrician or a good plastering job than spend unnecessary money on fancy wallpaper or sparkly doorknobs.

There is no point making the outward features of a room look great if the underneath is lacking. Ensure that structural work, plastering, welding, electrical work and plumbing are financed and finished before you spend money on things like carpets, wallpaper or furniture. You can always buy those sort of things later when you have the cash.

3. Decide (realistically) if there is anything you can DIY

One of the surest ways to cut down on home renovation cost is to do some of the leg-work yourself, but always factor in that work within reason and with realistic expectations of your abilities. Almost anyone can paint a room or sand down some doors, but not everybody can rewire a room or relocate a pipe.

Cut out professional painters and finishers because those kind of jobs can be completed just as well by yourself if you dedicate your time and energy, but if you don’t have the skills, don’t try and do more complicated jobs like wiring or plumbing: you may end up costing yourself more if you make a grievous mistake that costs extra cash to fix. This is a sure way of cutting renovation costs.

4. Barter, thrift, recycle and reuse

When you’re running low on cash, it is time to get back to basics and think old-school in order to complete your home renovation project. Source your furniture from thrift stores and give them a sand and paint to make them look as good as new.

If you have a particular skill (like you are an accountant or a lawyer), offer to trade your services to a potential builder, plumber or decorator in exchange for theirs. If you have any leftover paint or other materials from previous renovation work, then make sure it doesn’t go to waste. These simple but effective steps can all help chip away at your home renovation expenses and cap your final bill of home renovation costs.

5. Keep your professional work time frame small, and your DIY work time frame large

Professionals usually charge by the hour or day, so try ensure that the timeframe for the work is kept to a minimum in order to keep the bills down. Large projects that swallow up professional builder and decorators times tend to be the sinkholes for home renovation cost, so by getting everything done as quickly as possible, you will save yourself some cash.

On the other hand, you should spread out of the work you do yourself over a larger period of time, so your money isn’t leaking out all at once. Once you get a room to a living standard, you can work slowly at painting, decorating and adding those finishing touches to limit the home renovation cost and spread out the payment.

All in all, it is easy to save yourself money and cut back on home renovation costs if you get creative and always keep a keen eye on how much money remains. If you are patient with time and are willing to invest your own energy, your home renovation cost does not need to be through the roof.

          The Power of Alienation        

A Burleson mother discovered something in 2006 about Texas law that shocked her, dragged her into a sinkhole of misery, and pushed her family to financial ruin. She found out how easy it is to lose custody of a child even when there are no accusations of molestation, no physical battering, no drug or alcohol […]

The post The Power of Alienation appeared first on Fort Worth Weekly.

          Bye Bye, Homo sapiens!        
Have you checked the recent statistics on earth changes: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, extreme weather, sinkholes, pole displacement, massive animal deaths and meteorites? It’s absurd! Each of these manifestations shows an exponential increase, along with others related more closely to the human society crawling over our quickly-transforming planet: chronically-ill ...
          The Dell Buyout: Storm Warning for the Tech Industry        
Michael Dell is engaged in a lengthy struggle to take his company private, and if you’re focused on the smartphone and tablet markets, you probably don’t care. It’s hard to picture an old PC company like Dell pushing the envelope in tech, so from one perspective it doesn’t really matter who runs the company or whether it stays public or private. But I think Dell’s situation is important because it shows how the decline of Windows is changing the tech industry, and hints at much more dramatic changes that could affect all of us in the future.  In this post I’ll talk about what’s happening to Dell, why it matters, and what may happen next.

Why is Dell going private?

I should start with a quick recap of Dell’s situation: Michael Dell and tech investment firm Silver Lake Partners have proposed to take Dell private in a transaction funded in part by a $2 billion loan from Microsoft. The proposal has angered shareholders who believe the company is worth more than what was offered, and two competing proposals have emerged from Carl Ichan and Blackstone Group. Dell now apparently faces an extended period of limbo while the competing proposals are evaluated.

Given how messy this process could be, it’s reasonable to ask why Michael Dell started it in the first place. I’m surprised at how many conflicting explanations have surfaced:

—The deal is largely a tax avoidance scheme, according to Slate (link). Like many tech companies, Dell has accumulated a large pool of profit overseas which it can’t bring back into the United States without paying 35% income tax on it. If Dell takes itself private, it can use that money to pay off the interest from the buyout without paying tax on it.

—It’s a financial shell game according to some financial analysts, including Richard Windsor, formerly of Nomura. His scenario is that after Dell takes the company private, it will sell or spin out the PC half of the company to pay off the buyout. That will leave Michael Dell and his partners owning Dell’s IT services business at low cost (link).

—It’s a way for Michael Dell to get some peace. In this scenario, Michael Dell is a sensitive man who’s grown tired of taking criticism from investors. The buyout is a way to get away from them. This explanation showed up in a large number of press reports immediately after the proposal. For example, here’s PC World: “Michael Dell apparently grew tired of running his company to the whims of a stock market that often favors immediate return over long-term investment.” (link)

—It’s a necessary prelude to broad organizational changes at Dell. The Economist put it this way: “Making the kind of wrenching operational changes Silver Lake typically prescribes would be tricky for a public company anxious not to panic shareholders.” (link)

—Michael Dell did it to save his job. According to BusinessWeek, Michael Dell was afraid that an activist shareholder might take over the company and force him out as CEO. So he proposed the deal as a pre-emptive strike. (link).

The problem with analyzing a company’s motivations is that you tend to assume there’s a logical explanation for the things it did. Often there’s not. Company managers are frequently fearful or misinformed, and sometimes they just make dumb mistakes. It’s possible that’s happening with Dell. But if we assume a basic level of rationality, then we can probably discount some of the proposed explanations. For example, I personally doubt Dell can pay off the deal by selling the PC business, because I don’t think anyone would buy it. It’s not like there’s another Lenovo out there hungry to get into PCs, and Google already bought one floundering hardware company; I doubt it has the appetite for another.

I’m also skeptical that after a lifetime in business Michael Dell is so thin-skinned that he can’t stand shareholder criticism. If you have the ego and drive to build up a company from scratch to the size of Dell, you usually don’t care much about complaints from puny mundane humans.

And I find it hard to believe that Dell had to take the company private in order to reorganize it. If Dell took a machete to the PC business, I think most investors would cheer rather than panicking.

The explanation I lean toward is that Michael Dell was afraid he wouldn’t be left in charge long enough to finish transforming the company. You can make a case that as 15% owner and with a base of investors focused on long-term gains, his position was secure from takeover threats. But after I looked in more detail at the company’s finances, and some market trends, I started to suspect that he felt a lot less secure than you’d expect. There are big storm clouds on the horizon for Dell, and they’re darkening rapidly. Those trends also threaten the rest of the PC industry.

A storm’s a-brewin’

Dell’s problems have been developing for years. The company’s power probably hit its peak in about 2005, when it was the world’s #1 PC vendor with about 17% of the market. Dell was the upstart beast that had dethroned the PC powers like Compaq, HP, and IBM. But after 2005, the PC industry adapted many of the flexible manufacturing practices that had made Dell so powerful. PC sales also shifted toward notebooks, which are much less customizable than the desktop computers that made Dell successful. The company’s market share started to erode. Dell tried for several years to turn around the PC business through innovation and new product categories, with no effect. Then in late 2008 it changed strategy and started evolving itself into an IT services company (like IBM, but supposedly aimed more at small and medium businesses). Starting with Perot Systems, Dell made a long series of IT services acquisitions, a process that has continued to this day.

Throughout this process, Dell gradually lost PC share, dropping to 12% by 2011. But because the PC market was growing, Dell’s actual PC shipments were more or less flat, giving the company a financial cushion to fund its transition to services.

Then in 2012, the situation changed. For the first time in years, overall PC unit sales shrank. What’s more, Lenovo (the new upstart beast in the PC market) was taking share from the other leaders. The combination of a shrinking market and a growing Lenovo caused a big drop in Dell’s PC sales.

Worldwide PC (desktop and notebook) unit sales
This chart shows worldwide PC revenue for calendar 2006-12. Until 2012, PC sales were growing fairly steadily, and I'm sure the management of Microsoft and the big PC companies found that reassuring. But in 2012, total PC unit sales dropped while Lenovo (the green wedge) continued to grow. This combination put huge pressure on sales of the other PC leaders, including Dell. (Source: Gartner Group)

Dell revenue (fiscal years)
This chart shows what that did to Dell’s revenue. The new parts of the company -- storage, services, and software -- were flat to slightly up last year. Servers grew as well. But they couldn’t grow quickly enough to offset the major declines in desktop and notebook computers. Dell’s total revenue dropped substantially. (The chart shows Dell’s financial years, which are about a year ahead of the calendar. So FY 2013 in this chart is roughly calendar 2012. Note that Dell did not break out its revenue by product line in FY 2010.) (Source: Dell financial reports)

I think the most disturbing thing for Dell about this revenue drop is that it happened in the face of the launch of Windows 8. Traditionally, new Windows launches have usually led to a nice uptick in PC sales as customers buy new hardware to go with the new software. Even the unpopular Windows Vista didn’t reduce PC sales. I’m sure Dell was expecting some sort of Windows 8 bounce, or at least a flattening in any decline. Instead, as we learned from the latest PC shipment reports, PC shipments dropped after the launch of Windows 8 (link). That indicates that the channel was probably stuffed with new Windows 8 PCs that have not yet sold through.

People who live in the world of smartphones and tablets are probably saying “so what?” But I doubt that was the reaction at Dell.

If you haven’t worked at a PC company, you’ll have trouble understanding how profoundly disturbing the current sales situation is for Windows licensees. The PC companies married themselves to the Microsoft-Intel growth engine years ago. In exchange for riding the Wintel wave, they long ago gave up on independent innovation and market-building. In many ways, they outsourced their product development brains to Microsoft so they could focus on operations and cost control. They trusted Microsoft to grow the market. Microsoft is now failing to deliver on its side of the bargain. Unless there's a stunning turnaround in Windows 8 demand, I think it’s now looking increasingly likely that we’ll see a sustained year over year drop in PC sales for at least several more quarters.

This is an existential shock for the PC companies. It’s like discovering that your house was built over a vast, crumbling sinkhole.

Prior to the PC sales decline, I think Michael Dell probably assumed that his PC business could continue to fund its growth in services for the foreseeable future. He has probably now reconsidered that assumption. If Lenovo continues to grow and the market continues to shrink, Dell’s revenue will drop further, and the company could be in a world of financial trouble a year from now. It’s the sort of trouble that can get a CEO fired even if he does own 15% of the company.

So here’s the sequence of events: By fall of last year, the troubles with Windows 8 were already becoming clear to the PC companies (remember, the Windows licensees have much better information on customer purchase plans than we get from the analysts). Michael Dell must have realized that he was headed for a significant decline in revenue. At the same time, we now know, one of the company’s major shareholders approached Michael Dell to float the idea of a buyout. That was apparently the trigger that started the whole buyout process.

Put yourself in Michael Dell’s shoes: the shareholders are getting restless already, and you know the situation is likely to get worse in the next year. Proposing a buyout now would be a pre-emptive strike to keep control over the company you founded. That’s what I think happened.

What happens next? After more confusion, someone will eventually win the bidding Dell. All of the bidders seem to agree that Dell should continue to invest in services, so the real debate is over what happens to the PC business. Michael Dell says if he wins, Dell will re-engage with the PC market (link):

“While Dell's strategy in the PC business has been to maximize gross margins, following the transaction, we expect to focus instead on maximizing revenue and cash flow growth.”

In other words, Dell will cut its PC prices.

It seems strange that Dell would want to refocus on PCs after treating them like a cash cow for years. If the business was unattractive when PC sales were growing, why would it be attractive now? Maybe Dell decided that it needs strong PC sales to get its foot in the door to sell services. That seems like a reasonable idea. But shouldn’t the company have known that years ago?

Or maybe Dell feels that the interest and principal payments on its buyout will be smaller than the profits required of a public company. That might allow Dell to compete more aggressively in PCs while it still invests in services.

Maybe that’s the purpose of Microsoft’s $2 billion loan, to let Dell stay in PCs while it also grows services. It says something sad (and alarming) about Microsoft’s business if it now needs to pay companies to stay in the PC market.

What it means to the rest of us

I think the Dell deal is just the beginning of the Windows 8 fallout. There are several other, bigger, shoes waiting to drop.

What will the other major PC licensees do? If you’re working at a company like HP or Acer, everything about this situation feels ugly. Your faith in Windows has been broken, you’re losing share to Lenovo, and now Microsoft is subsidizing one of your biggest competitors. I’d be tempted to fly out to Redmond and demand my own handout. And I’d also be willing to look at more radical options. There are several possibilities:

—Exit the PC market. HP considered this in 2011, but backed away after a change in CEO. I wonder if the company will think about it again. Meg Whitman says no, that the PC business is important to HP’s other businesses, such as servers, because they buy many of the same parts. Exit PCs and you costs will go up because you won’t have the same purchase volumes. That’s a pretty backward endorsement of the PC business, but I guess it’s possible.

Acer doesn’t really have the option of dumping PCs. They make up most of its business, so it has to stay in computing hardware, one way or another.

—Find a new plough horse. In this option, you replace Windows with a platform that has better growth prospects. That lets you continue to use your clone vendor skills, but in a market that’s growing. Acer and HP are both dabbling in Chrome netbooks (link) and Android tablets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see many more experiments along these lines. But it’s not clear how much market momentum Google can generate for its tablets and netbooks. HP and Acer could easily spend a lot of money for very few sales, and in the meantime create a rift with Microsoft that would be hard to return from if Windows 8 does eventually take off.

—Reinvest in creating differentiated devices. This is the other option: get off the clone treadmill and be more like Apple, a device innovator. The trouble with this is that many years ago, the PC licensees laid off the people who knew how to build new markets and new categories of computing device. Recovering those skills is like trying to grow a new brain – very slow, and hard to do when your head is stuffed with other things. You need to be incredibly patient during the learning process, and accept that there will be failures along the way. It’s hard for public companies to show that sort of patience.

So maybe you buy a company that knows how to make new-category devices. For example, you could have bought Palm. As time goes on, HP’s handling of that transaction looks more and more like a business Waterloo.

There aren’t many other hardware innovators that you could buy. RIM, maybe? Or HTC? But then you’re in a meatgrinder smartphone market dominated by Samsung and Apple. The PC market, even if it’s shrinking, might look more inviting.

Personally, I’d look at buying Nook. Not necessarily because I want to be in the ebook business, but to get a team that knows how to design good mobile devices and is familiar with working on a forked version of Android.

I don’t think any of these three options look very attractive, but the slower the takeoff for Windows 8, the more desperate the Windows licensees will get, and the more likely that they’ll try one or more radical “strategic initiatives” in the next year.

What if Microsoft gave a party and nobody came?  The situation for Microsoft is becoming more and more complicated. Windows is not dead. It has an enormous installed base of users who are hooked on Windows applications and won’t go away in the near future. However, Microsoft faces some huge short-term and long-term challenges, and many of its possible responses could make the situation worse rather than better.

I think it’s pretty clear that we’ve entered a period of extended decline in Windows usage, as customers use tablets to replace notebooks in some situations and for some tasks. The tablet erosion may be self-limiting; I don’t think you can use today’s tablets to replace everything a PC does. If that’s the case, Windows sales may eventually stabilize and even resume growing once the tablet devices have taken their pound of flesh.

On the other hand, it’s equally possible that tablets and netbooks will continue to improve, gradually consuming more and more of the Windows market. That’s certainly what Google is hoping to do with Chrome. What would happen if Apple made a netbook and did it right?

Microsoft had hoped to head off all these problems with Windows 8. By combining the best of PCs and tablets, Windows 8 was supposed to stop the tablet cannibalization and also set off a lucrative Windows upgrade cycle. Unfortunately, at least for the moment, Windows 8 is looking like the worst of both worlds – not a good enough tablet to displace the iPad, but different enough to scare away many Windows users.

This puts Microsoft in a nasty dilemma. If it believes that Windows 8 sales will eventually rebound, then Microsoft should invest heavily in keeping its PC partners engaged. In that context, the $2 billion loan to Dell is a reasonable stopgap to prevent the loss of a major licensee.

On the other hand, if Windows sales are entering a long-term period of gradual decline, Microsoft should be doing the exact opposite. Rather than spending money to keep licensees, it should be allowing one or more of them to leave the business, so the vendors that remain will still be profitable and willing to invest. It’s better for Microsoft to have seven licensees who are making money than ten licensees who all want to leave and are investing heavily in Chrome or Android or other crazy schemes.

Microsoft also faces a difficult challenge with Lenovo. Even if Windows sales turn up, Lenovo has been taking share so fast that it will be hard for other Windows licensees to grow. At current course and speed, Lenovo is likely to end up the largest Windows licensee. In the past, Microsoft didn’t care if one licensee replaced another; they were interchangeable. But Lenovo has close ties to the Chinese government, which has repeatedly shown that it’s willing to lean on foreign tech companies. That has to make Microsoft uncomfortable.

In that case, the $2 billion investment in Dell starts to look like a defensive measure to get someone to compete against Lenovo on price. But if Microsoft subsidizes a price war in PCs, that might give the other licensees more reason to disinvest, enabling Lenovo to gain share even faster.

This is the true ugliness of Microsoft’s situation. It is in danger of falling into a series of self-defeating actions:
—To combat tablets, it creates a version of Windows that accelerates the Windows sales decline.
—To keep its licensees loyal, it makes Windows overdistributed, which increases licensees’ incentive to leave.

The situation is becoming more and more fragile. As I said above, I don’t expect Windows to collapse instantly. But many companies are reconsidering their investments in it, a process that is likely to eventually give customers second thoughts as well. We could end up with an unexpected series of events that combine to break the loyalty of Windows users and start a migration away from it that Microsoft couldn’t stop.

The key question is whether Google, Apple, or some other vendor can give Windows customers and licensees an attractive place to run away to. So far they haven’t, but the year is still young. I’ll talk more about the possibilities next time.
          PromEvil - part 4 "Home before Curfew"        

See who lives, who dies, and who finds romance at the Polk High prom, in this, the final installment...

Part of 19 Nocturne Bouelvard's 1st anniversary celebration!

Music Links:

          PromEvil - part 3 "What a doll!"        

Part 3:  "What a doll!"

Trapped in Polk High with some kind of murderer, Hal, Lyn, Gee (and all the rest) must fight for survival!! 

Find out who's doing the killing! 

Part of 19 Nocturne Bouelvard's 1st anniversary celebration!

Music Links:

          PromEvil part 2 "Ins and Outs"        

[Part 2 of 4]  19 Nocturne Boulevard and Wheeality Productions presents our very first "audio movie"! 

Part 2:  "Ins and Outs"

Will Hal and Lyn ever run into each other?
Will Todd find his true love?
Will Barb ever shut up?....

Part of 19 Nocturne Bouelvard's 1st anniversary celebration!

Music Links:

[note:  some harsh language]

          PromEvil, part 1 of 4        

From 2009

[Part 1 of 4]  19 Nocturne Boulevard and Wheeality Productions presents our very first "audio movie"! 

PromEvil takes you to that most horrifying of places - HIGH SCHOOL.  On prom night, naturally.  And something horrible is about to come out of the woodshop, and we don't mean Hal in his school mascot costume....

Part of 19 Nocturne Boulevard's 1st anniversary celebration!

Music Links:

          Higgs Boson Magnetism Inauguration (03)        
Again ideas about Higgs boson magnetism inauguration have to be clarified and organized inside a well understood frame in order to push brains to think seriously to come up with few interesting words to make my discovery to Higgs boson assisted and supported.

The idea of Higgs boson magnetism influence on soil decomposition is reflecting a true and real scene of how far Higgs boson experiment took effects in planet earth. What I want to say here is that the level of landslides, sinkholes and earthquakes magnitude is at increasing and fastening process. Geologists have a huge task to bring coordinates as proofs of the existence of Higgs boson magnetism which is also increasing to turn our planet earth into rubble, just last week the world has assisted a very high number of earthquakes, avalanches and landslides; all this has to be part inside Higgs boson magnetism field frame to make it's inauguration real.

My intention to add a second idea is to raise awareness of higher seas which are inundating huge surfaces of land and even creating kind of tsunamis; and this is what happened last week in Greenland where some villages were inundated. Higgs boson magnetism is making seawater rising vertically with the attachment of it's particles to the atmosphere's particles. The coordination of higher seawater and Higgs boson magnetism is a true and real phenomenon which should be analysed by scientists.

Tornadoes of the new era of life are acquiring strength not only from depressions but also from Higgs boson magnetism particles waves which are making them more powerful by rotations supporting their spinning and pulling their particles higher and higher. I think that the world is seeing a huge increase in tornadoes number and an unprecedented increase in their intensity. Now the idea here is to include tornadoes in Higgs boson magnetic inauguration frame by identifying the existing link of tornadoes with their new image in the new era of life and Higgs boson magnetism as their assistant and provocateur.

A last idea to close this post; Higgs boson magnetism is increasing the sun's heat on planet earth and this is by breaking it's atmosphere's particles into smaller energies. Most molecules and chemicals are breaking in the atmosphere in order to be pulled outside it; and this is what makes the atmosphere lighter, lighter and lighter to allow the sun's heat penetration into earth and that's why the world is seeing records breaking in higher temperatures. The increase of the sun's heat is a serious fact and it should be taken in consideration to be added inside Higgs boson magnetism inauguration frame, and scientists of the world  should look deeply at whats causing higher temperature on earth and not only saying oh!!! This is due to the carbon emission without noticing that CO2 is decreasing in the atmosphere. 

          Dispatches From Fallujah        

Every infantry unit has ghosts. They are conduits to the heartbreak of war, reminders of the brutal individual sacrifice often required so that others might live. The infantry is a guild. So what happens when there are no knights to emulate? Tears of anger dry, days pass, and the ghosts—and war itself—become mythical.

Before arriving in Fallujah this February, the 1st Marine Reconnaissance Battalion had produced no ghosts since the storied days of Vietnam, when recon Marines operating in small teams had clashed with entire North Vietnamese battalions. In 1974, the fallen were not mythical creatures but fathers and husbands and sons and friends. Alongside emulation came bugles and flags and sobs. Thirty years later, their achievements stood tall. But their collective sacrifice had dimmed.

On April 7, 2004, the ghosts returned. One gave his hands. One gave his legs. One gave his arm. And one gave his soul. Those men are no longer in-country, but Marine units are like giant families, and families do not dismiss tragedy. They embrace it. There's a sweet-and-sour mix of pride and despair that accompanies the memory of bravery under fire.

Capt. Brent Morel had missed Iraqi Freedom I. Not that the men in his platoon really cared. Yes, most of them had seen combat, but they valued decisiveness as much as experience. And Morel had plenty of pluck. If inexperience made him a bit eager on the battlefield, that was just fine with them.

The recon platoon was traveling in the first five Humvees of a convoy, each man watching a sector of landscape. The terrain was perfect ambush territory—the road was elevated and exposed, it was paralleled by a series of chest-high berms, and there was even a canal that could act like a moat if the insurgents picked a fight. Some of the Marines hoped they would. A week earlier, Fallujah had erupted when four American contractors were murdered. The desire for contact was not driven by revenge, however. It was something innate that was swelling even as Fallujah deteriorated, a mix of adrenaline sprinkled with just enough dread to make it confusing. There was going to be a big fight. Might as well start today.

The lead vehicle was hit first. A rocket-propelled grenade sailed over a berm and slammed into the machine gun Corp. Eddie Wright had mounted on his door. "Grenade" is really the wrong term for this weapon; its warhead is the size of a football. When it exploded, all five men in the lead vehicle were wounded. Wright lost both hands. Shawn Talbert, standing behind the machine gun on the roof, was raked with metal below the knees. Something broke Eric Kocher's arm. The other two men took minor injuries—"minor" for Marines meaning bits of tumbling steel burrowing into the skin like hornets. Concussions, blown eardrums, and non-arterial blood flow. Minor.

The enemy—insurgents, mujahideen, Syrians, Fedayeen, who cares?—opened fire with machine guns and rifles from the safety of the berms, 100 to 150 meters away. In Marine infantry school, this is known as a close ambush. And the only way to escape a close ambush is to attack it. The last part always elicits a few chuckles: Who would be crazy enough to charge a machine gun?

Capt. Morel was in the second vehicle. "Stop and dismount," he said, already running toward the enemy position. Those other Marines in the bullet-swept column that could follow him did so, racing toward the berms before their brains caught up with their legs.

Sgt. Michael Mendoza was one of them. He hadn't seen combat in the first war either. Now bullets were sailing all around his head, cracking like whips as they snapped through the sound barrier. When he reached the first berm (alive!) he took cover, pumping some rifle grenades into the enemy position. That's when he noticed the guys were moving again. Hell, he thought, I'd better go too.

Morel had practically hurdled the first berm and was now scrambling across the second. Sgts. Dan Lalota and Willie Copeland wondered if he was ever going to stop. They were providing cover fire, then sprinting to catch up. The incoming fire was thick now. It was a big ambush. Maybe 50 people. All five Marines followed Morel into the canal and started to wade across. It was chest deep and had a sinkhole bottom. None were aware that a second element of the platoon was rolling up the right flank.

Seeing the first three vehicles in the kill zone, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Griego had turned the last two platoon Humvees and rumbled up a road to provide a flanking element. When they crested the hill, the Marines saw dozens of Iraqis scrambling around behind the ambushers. They opened fire, killing a few Iraqis and disabling two vehicles that looked to be shuttling soldiers into the ambush and taking bodies out. The Iraqis shifted their attention and fired on them with a machine gun, but the Marines kept pouring it on.

Across the canal, the band of attacking Marines paused behind the final berm. "Cover me. We're assaulting through," was all Morel said.

"You want to assault through?" asked Lalota.


"Roger that."

Brent Morel crested the hill and shuffled down into the open ground. He was struck by a bullet that penetrated his arm and disappeared under his armpit. The exit wound was found on his lower back. It was likely an armor piercing round.

Lance Cpl. Maurice Scott was the first to reach Morel. He dragged him across the open ground into a small culvert, 18 inches deep. Other Marines piled in to help, terribly exposed to fire, shocked that their leader had fallen. By some miracle, no Marines were shot as they gently stripped their captain's gear free and applied battle dressings. Maybe it was Griego's crew pounding the ambush position. Maybe one brave Marine—and another's hands, and another's legs, and 30 Iraqi lives—was all the war required that day.

A press release would be drafted reading: "Captain Brent Morel was killed while conducting security operations in the Al Anbar Province, Iraq." It would be sent after the personal notification of his wife by the casualty assistance team.

"I thought about Capt. Morel a lot," says Michael Mendoza, who was sent spinning by a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded at his feet as he crested the final berm. "What we could have done differently. Could he still be alive if we said, 'Sir! Stop!'? Maybe others wouldn't be. I don't know."

          Comment on A Russian City Is Being Swallowed by Giant Sinkholes (15 photos) by william haddad        
aquele verde amarelo na guia da calçada será uma alusão à um certo país tropical muito parecido com eles lá na europa ?????? acho que é só impressão minha.
          Vacation without an agenda can open unexpected doors to fun        

Devils Tower, a geological oddity, can be seen from miles away. The unearthly-looking monolith rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fouche River valley and was the country’s first national monument. Mary Lee Hagert photo

Upper left, at Vore Buffalo Jump archeological site, visitors walk down into the natural, steep-sided sinkhole that Plains Indians used to trap bison from about 1550 to 1800. Mary Lee Hagert photo

Mary Lee Hagert’s son Kevin is an interpreter at the site this summer and points out stone tools and perfectly preserved bison bones. Mary Lee Hagert photo

For generations, kids and adults have been climbing on the giant jackalope at Wall Drug and saying, “Cheese!” as their loved ones snap photos. Inset photo, Christopher poses atop the Fiberglas statue, just as he and his brother, Kevin, did when they were grade-schoolers. Mary Lee Hagert photo

Black Hills: river gorges, wildlife & archeological digs

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          Louisiana Town Swallowed By Sinkhole [VIDEO]        
While there have been incidents with sinkholes swallowing a car or even a house, the unfortunate town of Bayou Corne in Louisiana is vanishing. Continue reading…
          Guatemalan Woman Discovers 40-Foot Sinkhole Under Her Bed        
A small sinkhole opened up overnight in the bedroom of a home in Guatemala City. Measuring 32 inches wide and 40 feet deep, neighbors heard a sound reminiscent of a gas explosion or a car crash when the hole opened up under 65 year-old Inocenta Hernandez&#8217; bed. Fortunately no one was injured. Continue reading…
          Scott MacKay Commentary: Time To Perk Up R.I. It's Summah Fer Gawd Sakes        
Once again, Rhode Islanders are making national news for the low regard we have for our tiny state. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says it’s time to stop taking Rhode Island for granted. The Gallup poll discovered that Rhode Island is the state least appreciated by its own residents. Just 18 percent of Rhode Islanders said our small slice of southeastern New England was the best place or one of the best places to live. The New York Times picked this up. Times reporter Kit Seeyle wrote that ``poor Little Rhody’’ was a sinkhole of a state ``sized just right to contain its pride.’’ This came in the wake of a public opinion survey commissioned by Bryant University, the Providence Journal and Channel 36 that showed just two percent of Ocean State voters rated state leaders as ``effective’’ while the vast majority, 82 percent, said our political hierarchy rates as ``fair’’ or ``poor.’’ Call Rhode Island the low self-esteem state. Or perhaps the glass-half empty state. What’s a well
          Wordless Wednesday: La Iguana        

When we were vacationing in Huatulco this past December, we found our hotel had another kind of guest… It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this iguana was rather large and lived in a little sinkhole between the grass and the concrete along the path to our room. Each morning, the hotel staff set...

The post Wordless Wednesday: La Iguana appeared first on The Other Side of the Tortilla.

          Earthquakes, volcanoes and the August 21, 2017 Great American Eclipse        
Earthquakes, volcanoes and the August 21, 2017 Great American Eclipse
Update on latest earth changes including another blood river!!
Let’s look at some fascinating facts about the August Eclipse. According to an article on the Countdown Site:

– The August eclipse occurs exactly 33 days before the Revelation 12 Sign, beginning in the 33rd state (Oregon), and ending in South Carolina at the 33rd parallel.
– 2017 eclipse max time is 2 min 42 sec and the 2024 eclipse max time is 4 min 28 second – add both together and total time is 7 minutes even.
-The day of the eclipse is August 21, 2017 – (7 + 7 + 7 = 21)
-The eclipse is also exactly 40 days from Yom Kippur and the path of totality will be 70 miles wide. The zone of totality arrives onshore at 1716 UT – same exact time of sunset in Jerusalem.
– 7 years later another eclipse, and both form an X over the United States that rests right over a region in southern Illinois called “Little Egypt.” The exact point where the two paths cross is in the town of Makanda, which used to be called the “Star of Egypt.”
– The first major city that will witness the eclipse is Oregon’s state capital, Salem. Salem is the shortened version of “Jerusalem,” which is the most prophetically significant city in the entire Bible. Jerusalem was originally called Salem in the days of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18) and the closest road to the exact point where the two eclipses cross is Salem Road in Makanda, Illinois.
–The eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse that only affects the United States since 1776, founding of the country.
Now let’s move forward into the area of speculation.
The Space and Science Research Center (SSRC) performed a review of historical records – for 350 years of volcanic activity (1650-2009) and seismic activity (1700 to 2009) within the continental US. It then compared the results with the sun’s record of sunspots, a measure of solar activity.
This study revealed an impressive degree of correlation for global volcanic activity – greater than 80.6%. It also revealed a pattern for the largest US earthquakes.
Knowing this, let’s examine what may transpire during the August 21, 2017 rare total solar eclipse. Here’s the deal: The New-Madrid seismic zone is on the direct path of the eclipse.
Will the increased gravitational pull of the sun and moon alignment have any effects on the planet Earth?
The moon itself creates the tides – its gravitational pull has enormous effects.
So the question arises, when the moon and the sun are perfectly aligned during this eclipse, will the combined gravitational forces cause unusual activity as it passes over?
Years ago, I recall there was a geologist who insisted that the moon had potential effects on fault zones. He made very good arguments.
I notice that the eclipse will cross over the New Madrid fault line. In 1811 and 1812 arrived four of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in America.
Some even say that one of the earthquakes (February 7, 1812) was potentially a magnitude 9.0 or larger! It actually destroyed a town–New Madrid Missouri–and rang church bells a thousand miles away in Boston and New York City!

UPDATE: Powerful earthquake kills at least 13 in China, 175 injured

At least 13 people were killed and 175 more injured late Tuesday after a powerful earthquake struck a popular tourist area in southwest China, according to state media. Of those hurt, about 28 had been severely injured, state-owned media outlet Xinhua said. The quake struck Jiuzhaigou County in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province late on Tuesday night. At least five of the people who died were tourists, Xinhua reported, citing the information office of the provincial
government. About 2,800 people were evacuated from the severely damaged Intercontinental hotel. Rescuers are still working to clear the rubble, and there are people buried beneath the debris, state broadcaster CCTV said. There was some disagreement over the size and power of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude-6.5 quake 35 kilometers (22 miles) west-southwest of Yongle, Xinhua reported it was 7.0-magnitude, citing the China Earthquake Networks Center.  READ MORE

UPDATE: Massive sinkhole in Florida keeps growing, 7 homes affected

A sinkhole that opened up July 14, 2017 in the Pasco County’s Land O’ Lakes community near Tampa, western Florida continues to grow, authorities said Sunday, August 6. Pasco County authorities said over the weekend that 4 additional homes were being condemned. Another one was added to the list on Monday, August 7, bringing the total to seven homes that are now unlivable.  As reported last month, the sinkhole was first reported 07:21 EDT (11:21 UTC) on July 14 as a
depression. It started out as the size of a small pool under a boat on the property of one of the destroyed homes in the Ocean Pines Drive. Over the next 15 minutes, the hole swallowed the boat and was starting to move toward one of the houses. Shortly after, the house located at 21835 Ocean Pines Drive went into the sinkhole. By 08:23 EDT, it reached the roadway, partially swallowing another home and forcing authorities to evacuate 11 nearby homes. READ MORE

Another blood red river flows through Sumatra, Indonesia, killing thousands of fish (video and pictures)


Locals in Pematang Siantar City were shocked and frightened as their pristine river, The Bah bolon, suddenly turned blood red on August 7, 2017.

Some witnesses suspects industrial waste to be responsible for the strange red phenomenon, which has already killed thousands of fish.

Here some pictures of the unexpected red river in Indonesia:
blood red river, blood red river video, blood red river picture, blood red river indonesia august 2017, blood red river indonesia august 2017 video, blood red river indonesia august 2017 picture
A river turned suddenly blood red in Indonesia in August 2017. via Facebook
blood red river, blood red river video, blood red river picture, blood red river indonesia august 2017, blood red river indonesia august 2017 video, blood red river indonesia august 2017 picture
It is unknown what cause the color, but locals suggest it is industrial waste. via Facebook
blood red river, blood red river video, blood red river picture, blood red river indonesia august 2017, blood red river indonesia august 2017 video, blood red river indonesia august 2017 picture
The deep red color killed thousands of fish in the river. via Facebook
blood red river, blood red river video, blood red river picture, blood red river indonesia august 2017, blood red river indonesia august 2017 video, blood red river indonesia august 2017 picture
There will be blood flowing the the rivers! via Facebook
What is responsible for the blood red water?

Death Valley suffocates from the hottest month ever recorded on Earth

The average temperature in Death Valley in July 2017 was a suffocating 107.4 degrees.

It was the hottest month ever recorded in the United States as well as in the world.

Death Valley just experienced the hottest month ever recorded in the US and across the WORLD, july 2017 hottest month death valley, july 2017 death valley hottest month around the world, the hottest month on place is death valley
July 2017 was for the Death Valley the hottest month ever recorded in the US and across the WORLD. via WP
The temperature didn’t fall below 89 degrees at any point in the month of July at Death Valley. On three nights, the “low” temperature was 102-103°F degrees:
It seems that King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia had a hotter month in August 2014, during which the city’s average temperature was 107.44°F (41.91°C).
But, a climatologist found the weather station in King Khaled was only recording temperature between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time, so not at night, when it’s cooler. This new evidence shows the value from King Khaled to have been in error. Thus the Death Valley figure from July 2017 is the warmest single month (average monthly temperature) reliably measured to date in the world.
death valley heat record july 2017, Death Valley just experienced the hottest month ever recorded in the US and across the WORLD, july 2017 hottest month death valley, july 2017 death valley hottest month around the world, the hottest month on place is death valley
Caution Extreme Heat Danger at Death Valley. via
Also note that many cities in the West and in the Southeast US had their hottest
month on record in July:
Salt Lake City: 85.3 degrees > 84.1 degrees in July 2013
Reno: 80.5 degrees = July 2014
Tonopah: 78.9 degrees > 78.6 degrees in July 1931
Ely: 71.8 degrees > 71.6 degrees in July 2003
Bishop: 80.8 degrees > 80.6 degrees in July 2005
Miami: 85.7 degrees > 85.5 degrees in June 2010


For more earth changes news:

          Top 7 Things to Do on Mexico’s Riviera Maya        
Exploring the Ancient History and Natural Wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula by Sylvie Greil Snorkeling with enormous turtles in warm, turquoise waters; scaling ancient jungle pyramids; exploring phantasmagorical sinkholes amid stalactites and stalagmites… the “Riviera Maya” feels a million worlds away. But really it’s just so close, in our neighbor country, Mexico. And it’s one … Continue reading Top 7 Things to Do on Mexico’s Riviera Maya
          Mexico experts: Outdated drain caused July's deadly sinkhole        
A panel of experts in Mexico has determined that an old drainage pipe was to blame for a sinkhole that killed two men last month. It concludes that the 34-year-old … Click to Continue »
          Seoul's Sinkholes Still Causing Headaches        
Earlier this year, more than 100 sinkholes were discovered in Seoul, & with an additional 246-kilometer section of the capital yet to be scanned, that number could rise to as many as 300 or more. Korea FM’s Chance Dorland spoke with David Weary, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia, & Jessica Canaan of Florida-based Champion Foundation Repair, to learn how sinkholes are formed & what could be done here in Seoul to both repair & prevent more sinkholes from developing in the future. Rate & Review this podcast at This episode is brought to you by Podcast Assist's $30 per hour flat rate podcasting voice overs, editing, mastering, transcriptions & even hosting (select a topic & they'll create & host the podcast). Visit for more information. Subscribe to this & other Korea FM original content via: iTunes - Overcast - RSS - Stitcher - audioBoom - Player FM - Tunein - Acast -
          Mexico experts: Outdated drain caused July’s deadly sinkhole        

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A panel of experts in Mexico has determined that an old drainage pipe was to blame for a sinkhole that killed two men last month. It concludes that the 34-year-old drain…

The post Mexico experts: Outdated drain caused July’s deadly sinkhole appeared first on WTOP.

          ENCORE: Sinkholes in Florida        
More people are touched by sinkholes in Florida than everywhere else in the world. Professor and scientist Dr. Robert Brinkman writes in his new book “ Florida Sinkholes: Science and Policy ” that at least one sinkhole forms somewhere in the state doing some type of property damage every week although most form between March and May.
          Subterranean river found underneath Mexican pyramid        
A subterranean river has been found 20 metres beneath El Castillo, the main Maya pyramid at Chichén Itzá. Geophysics expert Rene Chavez said on Thursday that the underground river chamber is naturally covered by rock. Such underground rivers often connect the open cenotes, or sinkhole lakes, that dot Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. The discovery was made [&hellip
          We went back to Super Mario Odyssey's demo and discovered even more        

It's been a week since I first played Super Mario Odyssey and got a brief glimpse at its brilliantly bizarre worlds - as well as its slightly baffling motion controls. It left a big impression, but I couldn't help feel like I needed more time to properly understand everything happening on screen before me.

So, towards the end of E3 week, I went back for a much longer follow-up session. No longer limited by time, I was able to better explore the two Kingdom areas of Odyssey playable on the show floor. After my initial 30 minutes with the game I'd thought I'd got a decent glimpse of what these two areas had to offer. But, after a further hour, it became clear that any initial playtime really only scratched the surface. I also got to play using the Switch's Pro Controller, which proved far easier to get to grips with.

Above everything else, the one thing which became obvious from more time with the game is how much of Odyssey lies hidden. The game's Kingdoms are stuffed with things which you'll initially overlook. New Donk City appears to be only a handful of city blocks. The Sand Kingdom's Tostarena is just a handful of dusty buildings. And yet each of their levels stretches much further, includes rocket ships and warp pipes to whole other areas, and hides secrets atop buildings and frozen within oases. Or, for example, this whole ice platforming section hidden beneath a sinkhole (skip to 6:30 in the video below):

Read more…

          FAS3 to Offer Sinkhole 101 CE Class at the Southeastern Builders Conference in Orlando on July 24        

Builders will bring their sinkhole concerns/inquiries to the "Sinkhole 101" continuing education class being offered by the Florida Association of Sinkhole Stabilization Specialists (FAS3) at the Southeastern Builders Expo and Conference in Orlando.

(PRWeb July 18, 2014)

Read the full story at

          PICS: The Corvettes Are Finally Being Rescued from the Museum Sinkhole         
Finally the Corvettes are being rescued after the Museum Sinkhole. The damage looks quiet bad, as to be expected. What a tragedy. It could have been worse, but at least not all is lost and they ...... The post has 1 replies so far. Read more and discuss here
          Mexico experts: Outdated drain caused July's deadly sinkhole        

          FuseBox Radio Broadcast w/ DJ Fusion & Jon Judah #209 – June 2, 2010         
itunes pic
This is the latest episode of the syndicated FuseBox Radio Broadcast with DJ Fusion & Jon Judah for the week of June 2, 2010 with some new and classic Hip-Hop & Soul Music, news and commentary. Photobucket R.I.P. Gary Coleman Photobucket R.I.P. Ali-Ollie Woodson Photobucket R.I.P. Little Benny This week's show commentary focused on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision where you have to SAY that you want to remain silent to activate your Miranda rights, the current political & economics effects of BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the gigantic sinkhole in Guatemala & it's possible causes, R.I.P. acknowledgments to actors Gary Coleman & Dennis Hopper, Ali-Ollie Woodson of the classic Soul Music group The Temptations, DC Go-Go Music Legend Little Benny (of Little Benny & The Masters & Rare Essence) and some other things here and there. There is brand new Black Agenda Report segment for this week's show (due to college summer break, there is no new Direct EFX segment). FuseBox Radio Playlist & Charts for Week of June 2, 2010 Top Spins (Music Still Lasting in Rotation/Music Played Live on Air Each Week/As Well As Music Requested By The Listeners) 1. Janelle Monae/Wondaland/Wondaland Arts Society, Bad Boy Ent. & Atlantic (Played Live) 2. Madvillian/Papermill/Stones Throw & Williams Street Records/ (Played Live) 3. JUDAH feat. Chase/Sundresses and Sandals/ (Played Live) 4. Jagged Edge/Lay You Down/Slip-N-Slide (Played Live) 5. 4-IZE feat. Nick Hagelin/New Day/White Label ( (Played Live) 6. Muthawit/Wasted (Fill My House With Salt)/BossTon Communications and URB ALT Museo (Played Live) 7. Yahzarah/Love (Come Save The Day)/FE Music (Played Live) 8. Just-Ice & KRS-1/Blah Blah/Who?Mag Distribution (Played Live) 9. Arthur Verocai/Balada 45 (Jnerio Jareal RMX)/Mochilla (Played Live) 10. Grand Agent feat. Lord Finesse/Know The Legend/Interworld & Soulspazm (Played Live) 11. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson/Take Notice/Mochilla (Played Live) 12. Alex Cuba/Caballo/Caracol Records (Played Live) 13. Declaime feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow/Declaime MC/SomeOthaShip & E1 (Played Live) 14. N.E.R.D. feat. Nelly Furtado/Hot 'N Fun/Star Trek (Played Live) 15. Theology 3 feat. Tona & Andreena Mill/How I Flow Part 2 (inst.)/ (Played Live) 16. Nas & Damian Marley feat. Lil' Wayne & Joss Stone/My Generation/Republic (Top Song Requested) 17. Freddie Gibbs/The Ghetto/White Label ( (Top Song Requested) 18. Dwele/What's Not To Love/RT Music Group & Koch/E1 (Top Song Requested) 19. Ty fat. D-Cross/I Get Up/BBE (Top Song Requested) 20. Omega Band/Glide/White Label ( (Top Song Requested) 21. MF Grimm/Angel Without Wings/Day By Day Ent. (Top Song Requested) 22. Reflection Eternal feat. Estelle/Midnight/Blacksmith Ent. (Top Song Requested) 23. DoItAll/Surrender/Lord Gang (Top Song Requested) 24. Senica Da Misfit & Jimmy Flight/Average Duke/White Label ( (Top Song Requested) 25. DJ Bless & Donnie Darko/I Made It/Never So Deep Records (Top Song Requested) Top Adds (New Joints Played Live On This Week's Broadcast) 1. The Roots feat. John Legend/Doin' It Again/Def Jam 2. Estelle feat. John Legend & Nas/Fall In Love/Homeschool & Atlantic 3. Green Tea fat. Dri Fish/Get Off That Road/White Label ( 4. Everliven Sound feat. El Da Sensai/Elements/Freedom Entertainment 5. Stevie Wonder/All Day Sucker (Diwon RMX)/Shemspeed 6. C.A.B./Sociopath/Imperia Music Group & Vintage Beatz 7. Gappy Ranks/Put The Stereo On/White Label ( 8. AZ/Fire (inst.)/Legal Hustle Records 9. T.I./Yeah Ya Know (Haters) (inst.)/Grand Hustle & Atlantic DJ Fusion Flashback Tracks: Little Benny & The Masters/Who Comes To Boogie/Bluebird & 10 Records (R.I.P.) Little Benny & The Masters/Big City Groove/White Label (R.I.P.) Kimara Lovelace/When Can Our Love Begin (Richard Bamshaw Main Mix)/King Street Records PLUS Some Extra Special Hidden Tracks in the Jon Judah Master Mix w/ Old School Black Music Classics and Independent Music Finds
          Sinkhole in Japan        

News in Levels

This news is from Japan. A sinkhole opens. It destroys a big intersection. The city apologises for the sinkhole…

Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3

          Lubang Misteri Muncul Tiba tiba Di Kolam Ikan.        

Sebuah lubang gergasi atau sinkhole tiba-tiba muncul di kolam ikan milik petani dari  Baisha, Guangxi, di wilayah China Selatan. Sinkhole ini bahkan telah menelan 25 tan ikan milik petani bernama Yang.

Yang mengaku terkejut apabila mengetahui ikan-ikannya hilang dalam semalam. Pada masa menyiasat ternyata muncul sinkhole di kolam ikan miliknya.

"Saya pertama kali sedar tahap kedalaman air di kolam menurun secara drastik pada pukul 04:00 pagi," kata Yang. "Pada masa itu saya sedang memeriksanya."

"Kira-kira pukul 09:00, hampir sebahagian besar ikan saya telah mengalir ke dalam sinkhole," tambahnya. Sinkhole tersebut berdiameter 4 hingga 5 meter.

Yang mengaku sedih kerana rugi gara-gara munculnya sinkhole tersebut. "Seandainya ikan-ikan saya tumbuh sayap dan boleh terbang," katanya.

Di China fenomena sinkhole memang kerap berlaku. Berkaitan insiden ini, penduduk tempatan menyalahkan aktiviti perlombongan di sekitar tempat kejadian. Mereka berpendapat perlombongan itu mengakibatkan munculnya sinkhole di kolam ikan milik Yang.

          Mexico experts: Outdated drain caused July's deadly sinkhole        
A panel of experts in Mexico has determined that an old drainage pipe was to blame for a sinkhole on a major highway that killed two men last month when … Click to Continue »
          Random Friday News Blog 30 (PS4 Edition)        

Well PS4 is out today Next-Gen is finally starting for console. Hope everyone who got it is enjoying their new console. Now lets get into the news.



Seems interesting

Nebraska (2013) Poster

Nebraska (2013)

Certificate R 115 min   -   Adventure | Drama

Metascore: 83/100 (26 reviews)

An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.


Alexander Payne


Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk

Watch Trailer Add to Watchlist

THE BUZZ: There's lots of chatter concerning the box-office risk of releasing a black & white film, even though Oscar winners (The Artist) and indie breakthroughs (Frances Ha) neutralize the matter. We'd rather focus on Alexander Payne's braver choice to cast Bruce Dern and Will Forte as the father-and-son duo, since Payne had starrier options -- such as the chance to reunite with Jack Nicholson. The word from the Cannes Film Festival indicates this is a quiet, elegant triumph.

The Best Man Holiday (2013) Poster

The Best Man Holiday (2013)

Certificate R Comedy

Metascore: 58/100 (26 reviews)

When college friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited.


Malcolm D. Lee


Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa, Taye Diggs

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THE BUZZ: We hear a reunion dinner brought about this sequel to the 1999 hit, and the original cast -- most of them swoon-worthy -- is being wooed to reprise their roles. We love you, Sanaa Lathan!

Charlie Countryman (2013) Poster

Charlie Countryman (2013) - [Limited]

Certificate R 108 min   -   Action | Comedy | Romance

Metascore: 28/100 (15 reviews)

While traveling abroad, a guy falls for a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart has its origins in her violent, charismatic ex.


Fredrik Bond


Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger

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THE BUZZ: Way less newsworthy than the LSD trips Shia LaBeouf took to flesh out this character is the fact that he left this project, was replaced by Zac Efron, and ultimately returned to the leading role. Fredrik Bond wasn't the original helmer, either; Arthur Newman's Dante Ariola once had this lined up as his directorial debut.

Dear Mr. Watterson (2013) Poster

Dear Mr. Watterson (2013) - [Limited]

99 min   -   Documentary

Metascore: 56/100 (13 reviews)

A documentary film about the impact of the newspaper comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson.


Joel Allen Schroeder


Berkeley Breathed, Jef Mallett, Stephan Pastis, Seth Green

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THE BUZZ: Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson does not appear in this fan-letter documentary that tells the story of the notoriously reclusive cartoonist's victories in the once-crowded funny pages, and his influence on millions of loner kids and families alike.

Faust (2011) Poster

Faust (2011) - [Limited]

Certificate Not Rated 140 min   -   Drama | Fantasy

Metascore: 69/100 (12 reviews)

A version of the German legend in which a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge.


Aleksandr Sokurov


Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky, Isolda Dychauk, Georg Friedrich

Watch Trailer Add to Watchlist

THE BUZZ: For a solid background on director Aleksandr Sokurov, the history of his Tetralogy of Power, and how Faust may or may not be a satisfying fourth and final chapter of said tetralogy, head over here.

12-12-12 (2013) Poster

12-12-12 (2013) - [Limited]

Certificate R 105 min   -   Documentary

Metascore: 50/100 (7 reviews)

A mix of live performances and behind-the-scenes footage from the televised benefit concert to raise relief funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.


Amir Bar-Lev


Jon Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, David Grohl

Watch Trailer Add to Watchlist

THE BUZZ: We don't think this well-intentioned documentary has much of a theatrical chance, but we also bet it sounds and looks great on the big screen, and that's pretty much the reason for its release.

Nothing anything big this weekend in terms of movie releases.

LEGO Characters Outrun The Sinister Lord Business In New LEGO Movie Poster. Link-












Star Wars: Episode VII Behind The Scenes Photo Features J.J. Abrams With R2-D2. Link-










Independence Day 2 Gets Pushed Back A Year. Link-

Fantastic Four Reboot Pushed Back To Summer 2015. Link-

Guardians Of The Galaxy's Chris Pratt In Talks To Take The Lead In Jurassic World. Link-

Mission: Impossible 5 Finds A 2015 Release Date so many movies are coming out in 2015 going to be a great year for cinema. Link-



Now even though i will be getting a Xbox One over a PS4 does not mean i cant recognize how awesome Second Son looks like

Microsoft Tweets Sony Congratulations on PS4 Launch. Link-

Free Games for Gold Coming to Xbox One. Link-

After "strong reactions" from press and community, Eidos Montreal decides to drop Quicktime events from upcoming game. Link-


PS4 News :D

For all PS4 videos and stuff heres the youtube channel:

All PS4 Reviews so far:

PS4 First Impressions. Link-

PlayStation "defines gaming" says Sony. Link-

Naughty Dog reveals Uncharted for PS4 and new Last of Us DLC. Link-

Metal Gear Solid V on PS4 will let you play as classic Solid Snake. Link-

Destiny beta hits PS3, PS4 first. Link-

PlayStation Network experiencing connection issues following PS4 launch Not surprised since it just launched. Link-


World News

Madrid Trash Strike. Link-

Official: Some Philippine typhoon victims surviving on coconut juice. Link-

Toronto's City Council votes to strip embattled mayor of some power. Link-

Police expand search for man who fell from small plane off Florida coast. Link-

Sinkhole in Florida swallows up house, threatens others. Link-

Florida State star Winston cooperating in sex assault case, lawyer says. Link-



This is pretty awesome

Trending Channel:

Check out the rest of their channel:

Today in History-

My Music Pick

found this really catch


Well thats it for me Hope everyone enjoys the weekend and Happy Gaming to the people who got their PS4's later :D



          See Raw Footage of Giant Sinkhole That Swallowed 8 Cars at Corvette Museum [VIDEOS]        
The video is devastating. Nature gobbled up some of the fastest -- and coolest -- cars to ever roll off a GM assembly line. Continue reading…
          Blog Post: Cross-platform Fun With The Wii U And 3DS        

The Monsters Hunter series is a roaring success in Japan, but can never quite seem to gain the same footing in the U.S. Despite this, Capcom continues to support its niche Western fanbase by bringing the latest entries overseas. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will be available on both the Wii U and 3DS, supporting cross-platform play. Ignoring graphical and performance discrepancies between the 3DS and Wii U, each version of the game is identical. Players that purchase each version can swap their save data between their home console and portable system, as well as link four 3DS units with a Wii U for local co-op action.[Excerpt]

The Monster Hunter series is all about joining up with friends to take down huge beasts, recovering resources from their bodies, using it to create awesome new gear, and repeating the process. My brief hands-on time with the game was par for the course. I controlled the action with the Wii U GamePad, watching the TV as I wandered around a hub town. A mixture of UI information is spread across the TV and GamePad screens, and you can move each meter and menu between them for a custom view. Want a clean look at the action on the TV? Move all the UI details to the GamePad screen. The same applies for the 3DS’ upper and lower screens. 

My fellow 3DS-wielding adventurer and I eventually meet up at the quest bulletin board. He’s posted a mission, which I accept. We’re hunting a gigantic dragon across the wiles. Venturing forth into the next zone, we immediately stumble upon a gigantic red dragon. The beast spits fireballs, flails its massive tail, and flies around the environment when we engage it in battle. A new targeting feature allows me to keep the camera fixed on the creature as it soars out of view (especially useful on the 3DS). My ally and I lay gigantic bear traps and sinkhole hazards to impede the creature. We focus our attacks on the tail, eventually severing the appendage and negating one of its attacks. The dragon begins limping and drooling, indicating that it’s fighting spirit is waning. The dragon sulks off to another zone, and we take the opportunity to cut some scales off its severed tail, which may be useful for crafting later.

Back on the hunt, we follow the dragon’s path towards a new area filled with local fauna. The dragon tries to recover its stamina by eating the surrounding animals, prompting us to kill all its potential meals. We continue wailing on the beast, and a few health potions later the thing is dead at our feet. The huge beast yields several more dragon scales, which can be combined to make some tough red armor for future hunts.

The formula is simple yet satisfying, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate’s doubled bestiary is sure to keep addicted hunters coming back for more. The prospect of taking your game on the go with your 3DS and seamlessly swapping over the big screen via the Wii U is also tempting. Capcom says online play will be available with the Wii U, but that the 3DS version is limited to local play. The JRPG grind may not be for everyone, but I like the idea of bringing my 3DS to a friend’s house and helping them quest while they game on their Wii U. 

          Blog Post: Cross-platform Fun With The Wii U And 3DS        

The Monsters Hunter series is a roaring success in Japan, but can never quite seem to gain the same footing in the U.S. Despite this, Capcom continues to support its niche Western fanbase by bringing the latest entries overseas. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will be available on both the Wii U and 3DS, supporting cross-platform play. Ignoring graphical and performance discrepancies between the 3DS and Wii U, each version of the game is identical. Players that purchase each version can swap their save data between their home console and portable system, as well as link four 3DS units with a Wii U for local co-op action.[Excerpt]

The Monster Hunter series is all about joining up with friends to take down huge beasts, recovering resources from their bodies, using it to create awesome new gear, and repeating the process. My brief hands-on time with the game was par for the course. I controlled the action with the Wii U GamePad, watching the TV as I wandered around a hub town. A mixture of UI information is spread across the TV and GamePad screens, and you can move each meter and menu between them for a custom view. Want a clean look at the action on the TV? Move all the UI details to the GamePad screen. The same applies for the 3DS’ upper and lower screens. 

My fellow 3DS-wielding adventurer and I eventually meet up at the quest bulletin board. He’s posted a mission, which I accept. We’re hunting a gigantic dragon across the wiles. Venturing forth into the next zone, we immediately stumble upon a gigantic red dragon. The beast spits fireballs, flails its massive tail, and flies around the environment when we engage it in battle. A new targeting feature allows me to keep the camera fixed on the creature as it soars out of view (especially useful on the 3DS). My ally and I lay gigantic bear traps and sinkhole hazards to impede the creature. We focus our attacks on the tail, eventually severing the appendage and negating one of its attacks. The dragon begins limping and drooling, indicating that it’s fighting spirit is waning. The dragon sulks off to another zone, and we take the opportunity to cut some scales off its severed tail, which may be useful for crafting later.

Back on the hunt, we follow the dragon’s path towards a new area filled with local fauna. The dragon tries to recover its stamina by eating the surrounding animals, prompting us to kill all its potential meals. We continue wailing on the beast, and a few health potions later the thing is dead at our feet. The huge beast yields several more dragon scales, which can be combined to make some tough red armor for future hunts.

The formula is simple yet satisfying, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate’s doubled bestiary is sure to keep addicted hunters coming back for more. The prospect of taking your game on the go with your 3DS and seamlessly swapping over the big screen via the Wii U is also tempting. Capcom says online play will be available with the Wii U, but that the 3DS version is limited to local play. The JRPG grind may not be for everyone, but I like the idea of bringing my 3DS to a friend’s house and helping them quest while they game on their Wii U. 

          City have enough Pep to edge Jose’s Devils        
LAST season's Premier League was supposed to be the Pep-Jose Show, but an Italian master produced a Blue renaissance.

This season? The smart money – and much of the transfer money – is on the two old enemies rejoining battle at the top of the bill.

The Manchester clubs have certainly been the most purposeful in the market and may each have another major addition in their sights. In laboured and frustrating contrast, the rest of the Big Six have not found the summer window an easy one to crack.

Of the two Iberian icons, Pep Guardiola is perhaps under even more pressure than Jose Mourinho. He may have finished three places higher but his erstwhile nemesis did snaffle two trophies and City are in no position to be sniffy about their quality.

The Catalan is well aware that having friends in high places and a courtship of five years won't save him if there should be a repeat. So he has not been shy about using his £300 million (RM1.67 billion) budget.

In came Benfica's young keeper Ederson and Monaco playmaker Bernardo Silva, the latter for what now seems a steal at £43 million. Three attacking fullbacks followed for a combined £120 million but still you feel there are cracks.

Central defence is the most glaring even if Vincent Kompany can remain in one piece. Any recurrence of injury, real or imagined, however, would mean a sinkhole reappearing at the heart of defence.

With neither Nicolas Otamendi nor John Stones up to the task, the lack of interest in Virgil van Dijk – surely the identikit Pep defender – seems strange. Another curiosity is his lukewarm attitude to Sergio Aguero.

And if, as seems certain, his pursuit of Alexis Sanchez ends in failure, just how the City legend and ace goal scorer will fit in with Gabriel Jesus, we are left to wonder.

But the pre-season has been encouraging with impressive wins over Spurs, Real Madrid and West Ham. And despite going down in the derby, they have looked a lot more fluid than Mourinho's men.

If, as Yaya Toure claims, Pep is turning City into Barcelona, Mourinho is a long way from getting United to look like Real Madrid. That was apparent even before being outclassed by them in the Super Cup.

They won't have to face anyone of the meringues' calibre in the Premier League, but the gulf between his former club and current one may still have been a rude awakening for the manager.

Don't even mention Ronaldo – just compare Chris Smalling with Sergio Ramos! Matteo Darmian with Marcello! Jesse Lingard with Isco! And still we see Marouane Fellaini being brought on as an impact bruiser. At the Bernabeu, the big Belgian wouldn't get a job as a bouncer.

The lack of a busy, creative talent (a No.10) was also glaring. City have two in Bernardo and David Silva, Arsenal boast Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla (when fit), Spurs have Christian Eriksen and Liverpool are clinging to Coutinho – for now.

His midfield was out of its depth with Paul Pogba – even on this occasion – disappearing yet again. United have the power to push over the lesser lights but Juan Mata's guile is going to be needed to prize open the better defences.

Expect another attempt to lure Gareth Bale as Real need the money to pay for Kylian Mbappe and the Welshman looks the most expendable member of the squad.

With Bale, United would be a lot more like a Mourinho counter-attacking team – and a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League at least.

The summer's biggest surprise has been at Chelsea where the Italian job for the ages seems to have been curiously unappreciated by the Blues' hierarchy. Antonio Conte is struggling to raise a squad and unless he gets the players he wants, you can't see them competing on two fronts.

Spurs fans will also be disappointed that building a new stadium has taken priority over topping off an almost-completed team. That it happens to be the best White Hart Lane has seen since the 1960s makes it harder for long-suffering fans to bear.

At least they prevented Kyle Walker's departure from leading to a mass exodus but, like Chelsea, they lack the depth to build on last season's momentum.

Completing a hattrick of disaffection in the capital, Arsenal have just been Arsenal.

They made an astute acquisition in Alexandre Lacazette and a shrewd free signing in Sead Kolasinic, while also daring to dream that Arsene Wenger's French connection could land Kylian Mbappe at least for an interim period.

But key for them will be hanging on to Alexis Sanchez. Cave in and sell him to City or Chelsea and Wenger will have the fans on his back from the start. On the other hand, if he can get big bucks out of PSG for a player who will go for nothing next year, it will be no threat and good business – as long as it is reinvested.

The Bosnian Kolasinic made more impact as a sub on Sunday than Xhaka, Gabriel, Chambers and Mustafi combined (at a cost of nearly £100 million) and his muscle and aggression has been what's been lacking for a decade. If they can keep Sanchez and get Cazorla fit, Arsenal could be in with a shout.

Liverpool fans already feel as if they've been through the wringer before a ball has been kicked. Delight that the owners have been willing to offer big bucks for Jurgen Klopp's targets has been tempered by not landing them.

As a result, they still can't be sure whether they'll be title contenders or Europa League also-rans.

If the torturous pursuit of Naby Keita has ended in failure, the fates of Van Dijk and Philippe Coutinho are still in the lap of the paymasters. With both the Saints defender and Brazilian playmaker in their line-up, they can challenge; without them, a top four place may be out of reach.

Still, it would be a surprise if the title didn't return to the north-west, although not necessarily to Old Trafford.

City may just have enough class in midfield and firepower up front to make up for their dodgy rear. For that reason, Pep looks the man to beat this time around.
          Trouble Magnet by Alan Dean Foster        

Pip & Flinx Walk on the Dark Side

One of Alan Dean Foster's abiding creations is the telepathic orphan Flinx and his Alaspin mini-drag pal, Pip. In Trouble Magnet, Flinx continues the search he began in Running from the Diety, looking for a Tar-Aiym weapon powerful enough to defeat the dark forces headed for the Humanx Commonwealth from the depths of space.

Don't worry if the foregoing doesn't explain anything — it just means you haven't encountered this redoubtable pair before, but you don't need any prior knowledge to enjoy this novel. Suffice to say that Flinx has the power to read minds, and his flying pet has the power to kill those who threaten him.

Flinx is depressed, and wondering why he should sacrifice his time and efforts to save a society he can barely tolerate, when he could be sipping Margeritas beside the pool with his girl-friend, somewhat like a Marine musing why he is watching for IEDs in Baghdad instead of Wii Bowling back home in his parent's basement.

He diverts his journey to visit Las Vegas — sorry, make that the planet Visaria, another known sinkhole of depravity — to see if he can find a spark of human decency to persuade him that humanity is worth the effort. He's obviously loading the dice by choosing this particular place for his search (although Foster belabors the point again and again in case the reader missed it.) What he finds is a teenage thug named Subar engaged in a struggle with a pair of thranx, and a lively mystery. Why did the rescuing officers shoot at all of them, not waiting to discover who was assailant and who was victim?

Led to aid Subar in his escape by a hint of familiar motives and patterns of thought, Flinx sees a reflection of the young thief he was as he grew up. Will Subar provide the motivation for Flinx to continue his quest to save society? Or perhaps he is just another diversion that Flinx has seized upon, in his desire not to continue.

As Flinx is drawn deeper into the doings of Subar's gang, he learns something that further derails his determination to find the weapon that will save Humanx society: a hint of who is father is, and where to find him. Judging by the title of the next Pip & Flinx adventure, Patrimony, I guess the Commonwealth will be waiting a bit longer for the Tar-Aiym super-weapon.

As with all Foster's Pip & Flinx novels, this is a light, enjoyable read, nothing too demanding. You can even enjoy a Margerita by the pool as you read.

          Water back on after break that left Target Center dry        
The water is back on at Target Center after a break in a 16-inch main left the facility without water for most of the day. The water opened a large sinkhole a downtown Minneapolis street.
          Rick Santorum Has Intimate Knowledge Of Satan; Coincidentally, It's Also The Only Thing He's Intimate With        

I'm sure by now you've probably heard some vague rumblings about the mysterious substance surging through the nation, oozing its frothy, God-fearing, Santorum-y essence across the vast, toxic, anal sex-ridden, pagan and homosexual wasteland that is OBAMA'S United States.

But just who is this frumpy Jesus freak in a sweater vest spreading the gooey missionary (style) gospel of one whiny, frightened, sexually frustrated, middle aged white man who loves the ladies, save for that scary sinkhole tucked between their aspirin hugging knees?

And even more importantly, just what exactly is "burning down there," Rick? The eternal flame of a 2,016 year-old Jewish carpenter who somehow made his way into his already-bunched up tighty-whities?? The volcanic force of thousands of pent-up erections ready to explode inside virginal Christian wombs the world over?

The work of the great S-named force of evil plaguing our once-pure, once-chaste, once-white Christian nation? No, no not Sex. Give up? Why Satan, of course!
"Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition."
Please don't say the pussy willow, anything but pussy please!
"This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost 200 years, once America’s preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.”
Likely after they sowed their freedom juice into the French hookers Ben Franklin was kind enough to share with the rest of his fellow founding brethren.

Naturally, Santorum defended his comments at a rally in Phoenix, saying that unlike his Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, it's "absurd" they resurfaced in the first place.
“It's a joke, it's absurd," he said. "I‘m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil. I think if somehow or another because you’re a person of faith you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president."
Don't be ridiculous, Rick! You and your freaky, sex-hating, loin-burning, misogynistic Christian lunatics are more than welcome to run for president. It's just the winning part that's off-limits.
"Our president refuses to call evil – evil. He refuses to even name it, refuses to confront it. He tries to appease and cajole it in an effort to reduce America's commitments around the world - that if we just have paper or if we just try to make nice with those who are actively doing harm to America and its allies, that somehow or another that threat will go away or be ameliorated."

"And what we have found is that is simply, from history, it doesn't work."
Sort of like whatever Rick's got "burning" down there.

With polls showing Romney and Santorum in a statistical dead heat and primaries looming in both Arizona and Michigan, Rick appealed to the audience about the importance of the upcoming contests.
"You are going to have a huge impact," he said. "Everybody is focused in on Super Tuesday. But more than anything else, what happens in Michigan and Arizona next week is going to have the biggest impact on Super Tuesday and this election than any two states."
Well, other than his favorite states, denial and suppression.

Let's just hope Santorum doesn't blow his load first. Err, lead, I meant lead!!

After all, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist. If it wasn't for that damn trail of Santorum left behind!

[image via AP]
          Mexico experts: Outdated drain caused July’s deadly sinkhole        
MEXICO CITY (AP) — A panel of experts in Mexico has determined that an old drainage pipe was to blame for a sinkhole on a major highway that…
          Running on "E".        
 The term running on "E", dates back to the days when we lived in New Zealand. Invariably I was the one who drove the car to take the children to and from school, and to go to the nearest shopping Mall to get our groceries, etc. 
Gom on the other hand, used the car for Hotel business, and other outings involving using the car. Therefore, it was agreed, he would be the one to see to the mechanical wellbeing of the car. Which included filling the car with petrol.

Imagine my wrath, when I would discover I was driving a car with a petrol indicator pointing to "E".

It would happen too often, and sometimes I ended up stranded, with children, on the road, with miles to walk to the nearest petrol station. Of course I would feel quite enraged.  Usually, I had to try to find a phone, to call Gom for rescue. 
This was the days before mobile phones.

Well, you may say, why was I a slow learner? Why did I believe his faithful promises it would never happen again?  Why did I not check the petrol situation before I set out in the car? Well, I would reply, I was running a Restaurant in the Hotel, and would quite often be running a little late after the lunchtime clean up, to go and collect the children, so Gom's carelessness was the last thing on my mind. Plus there were no easily accessible petrol stations near our Hotel, which is why Gom agreed it was logical for him to fill the tank.

Often when we set out for long trips, Gom would suddenly discover, in the middle of nowhere, lo and behold! Somehow, we were once more 'running on E'! Many hours were wasted, while children and I waited for the return of Gom, after some trek into the distance to find some petrol.
When I would berate him for the fact he hadn't checked the petrol, he would blithely reply that he was sure we had enough to get to  our destination. "It is never empty when it says E!"

To say it was infuriating, is a huge understatement. I told all and sundry of Gom's habit, and it became a standing joke among our friends, that any life situation, when things were not going well, was a "Running on E" situation.

Much of my recent life has been running on E.

On to other topics. 
This is a photo of Zane and Honey just owning the sofa, at my new home. 

They seem to be happy enough leading happy lives, apart when I leave the house for any length of time. Zane has taught Honey how to howl and bark, which is odd, because they never did this, at the house. It is a real bother, because if I have to be out or away for any length of time, out of consideration for my neighbour, I need a dog sitter. 

As I now have a date at last for my shoulder replacement, I am lucky enough to have a very good friend, who has offered to come and stay with the dogs for me. I am not sure how long I will be in Hospital, but it would seem overnight will be a tad too short.

I am booked to have the surgery on 10th September, which is rather close! 
I am not sure whether to be happy or nervous.

This next photo is of Colin. He is my doorstop, used while I have the back door open. I did not make him, though I once upon a time would have. I decided he looks so sadly, I had to give him a name.

These are some tulips I bought myself.  They are over now, but they looked lovely while they lasted. I have been trying to get some pots in the courtyard area, to try to cheer the sad yard up.

I also got some Polyanthus, which seem to last well, but as they have to be in a pot too, they are a bit sad looking at the moment. I have some herbs which seem happy, and some that are just bloody miserable looking!

The courtyard is a dismal failure at present. The sinkhole has still not been attended to, and the ugly bricks are all uneven, and now growing green. A maintenance man came to water blast the green away, as it is a danger, but when he saw the mess in the yard, he went away. Said he will be back once the damage has been repaired. Hah!

I am still waiting for the plumber to return and instal a new sink for me.

Come and live in a Retirement Village they said. You will love it they said. It will be relaxing they said. It will be peaceful and tranquil in the rainforest they said. All your cares re maintenance will be taken care of they said.

Well Har bloody Har! Doesn't seem to fit the description at the present.
Every day there are water blasters, leaf blowers, roof blowers, edge trimmers, lawn mowers. Vehicles reversing, sirens blasting for testing the emergency evacuation/fire procedure.

Some days I feel like screaming "Shut up! I came here to die in peace!"

Not really. Only kidding.

Shane Nicholson, Second Hand Man. 

As a Postscript, I very sadly learned that my longterm Blog and Facebook friend Ann, of Ancient One's Place, has passed away. I send sympathy and respect for her loss, to her family, and many friends. 

When The Lights go Down

Days go by with rapid succession, seemingly faster as I age.
Posts write themselves in my head, but I fail to get them written down. I also find navigating this blog is harder on the iPad, and the Mac laptop. Need to get some brush up lessons. Would love to upload some photos of my few plants, but I have also lost the track to do that?

It is nice when it is sunny, and we have had some lovely clear days just lately, but, oh! the freezing days, and frigid nights! Remaining indoors is the best option, but Zane loves a walk, and I feel mean when I don't take him. Poor dear little Honey is so slow on walks now, I try to sneak off without her. Her little legs are buckled and bent, making her progress so slow, poor Zane gets rather impatient to be off. Honey is happy, and well, just elderly, and slow.

I have a courtyard, with brick paving, and I had it fenced so that the dogs can get out. I also bought some fake turf, for their use. Unfortunately the pavers were very uneven, and as I am afraid of having further falls, I requested that the sinkage be rectified. Finally, some men came to do the paving repairs, but then they discovered there is a sinkhole in the corner of my courtyard! 
After much consternation, examination, and exclamation, the hole was barricaded, with an ugly blue bin, and bright orange barricade 'gates'. The dogs can access the damaged part...I refuse to try to deal with any deposits they may leave, inside the barricades.
It is going on for two months since the subsidence happened and in the meantime many people have come to inspect. Finally, I am told the problem has 'been given to a Contractor'. Oh yeah? Well, that is news to me. Zane did try to nip a foolish man, who came to inspect the site...with no permission from me. Really, Zane was within his rights, I guess, though I a, sure if he had taken a chunk of calf, it would be seen in a very different light.

I still await surgery dates for the shoulder. Frustrating .

Also, the lights going down... Well, odd things seem to be happening in that area. My internet gets turned off on my iPad and phone, unexpectedly. Thinks go bump in the night, phone rings once, at odd hours. A curtain fell off the window, seemingly impossibly.  

I am for the most part, happy with my little villa. It is just the right size for me. I am still settling the way I want my furniture, but at the moment I am happy.piece by piece I am getting things 'my way'.

I can't get this to do as I wish, so I will close.  Music for today, All About The Bass. Morgan James

          Holiday Sinkhole Engulfs Car Study Reveals Online Security Concerns Are Driving Consumers to Shop Small Businesses This Holiday Season - Yahoo Finance

Monday, she noticed the tires of her car seemed to be sinking into the driveway at 1728 Torch St. In just about 15 minutes her Hyundai Accent was hood down in a 10 foot by 10 foot sinkhole. She was forced to quickly grab as many of her belongings as she could to get out. She blames the hole on nearby construction to build a sewer lift station. Jones say, "I don't think it's anything else because of the fact that we are in Florida and it's mostly sand - you know - the land is sand." She adds that the construction is extremely loud. " Many mornings I have to get up from bed - from 7 o'clock at 12 o'clock at night." Emergency Management is recommending that five other homes in the vicinity be evacuated. Larry Pickering is the property manager at Holiday Travel Park where she lives. He worries about whether others could be at risk.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

*Online survey fielded by Toluna Research from September 19-26, 2014, with a +/-1.5% to 2.0% margin of error at 95% confidence at the 3,039 "all respondent level" and a +/-3.5% to 4.4% margin of error at 95% confidence for the 1,003 small business decision-makers. ** Target and Neiman Marcus Shopping Risks About Group, Inc. ( WWWW ) provides a full range of Internet services to small businesses to help them compete and succeed online. meets the needs of small businesses anywhere along their lifecycle with affordable, subscription-based solutions including domains, hosting, website design and management, search engine optimization, online marketing campaigns, local sales leads, social media, mobile products and eCommerce solutions. For more information, please visit ; follow on Twitter @webdotcom or on Facebook at .
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Keeping the joy in whole-grain holiday baking - Yahoo News

( JOEZ ) introduces Joes Intimates, a new collection of high quality lingerie and loungewear. Joes Intimates has been created with licensee Onis Design Group and will be sold in all Joes full price stores, various department stores, and on . Select styles will also be sold in Joes outlet stores. With a focus on luxurious European fabrics, laces, and trims, the line places an emphasis on fine detail and exceptional execution to complement and expand Joes lifestyle brand. Our vision was to make our intimates the perfect accompaniment to our other womens collections, said Joe Dahan, founder and creative director. These pieces are delicate, sexy, comfortable, and designed to appeal to our customers for a lot of the same reasons as our clothingflawless fit, chic details, and premium quality. Inspired by both contemporary and vintage fashions, Joes Intimates include lingerie such as bras, underwear, slips, camis, and bodysuits, as well as luxe loungewear items.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit

Joe?s® Launches Joe?s® Intimates Collection for Holiday 2014 - Yahoo Finance

The trick with maki ___ Start to finish: 1 hour Makes 16 cookies View gallery This Nov. 3, 2014, photo shows chocolate almond crescent cookies in Concord, N.H. The trick with mak In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. Add the salt and half the flour. Mix on low until well-blended. Add the remaining flour, switching to mixing by hand if too thick. If the dough is too sticky, add another teaspoon of flour. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk.
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          In the News        
Every morning, Richie goes out to our driveway and brings in the newspapers.   There are two reasons he goes out for the papers - I refuse to be seen outside the house without full make-up and two it is a male thing to want to make sure his street is sill okay - no sinkholes, fallen electric poles - guy stuff.   

This morning he dumped the LA Times on the dining room table and said, "Barbara Sinatra died, age 90" and I, thumbing through the front section of the Daily Breeze, said, "Serves her right."

As my grandmother would have said, "No better than she should be."  Using Frank's money, she established herself as a major charitable donations person in Palm Springs.  She knew PS well, having spent most of her marriage with second husband Zeppo Marx there. 

A former beauty queen and drum majorette in an annual parade at the Springs, she spent 13 years chasing Frank Sinatra. Once she divorced Zeppo and bagged Frank, she wheedled for Frank to adopt her son Bobby from her first marriage.  More of an inheritance that way ...(Sinatra refused.)

She kept Frank out on the road far longer than he should have been solely for the money and was quoted once as telling him that she needed money for such-and-such charity so go out on the road and do some concerts and she would get half of the money.  She was a pip all right. 

But I think her most egregarious insult was titling her biography "Lady Blue Eyes."  Elevating herself to ladyhood when the title should have been gold digger ... didn't go down well with me.  "Lady" my sweet patootie. 

I was cheered though, deep in the Letters section to read this: 

End of Gov. Brown's term can't come soon enough *

Professional politician Gov. Jerry Brown, 79, has been in politics for 48 years less a six-year hiatus during which he studied Buddhism in Japan and helped out at one of Mother Teresa's hospitals. 

Forty-two years of government funding, housing and perks.  Maybe it's someone else's turn at the trough.
     Nina Murphy, Redondo Beach

* Letters to the Editor are always given a title by an editor at the newspaper.  I did not write that headline although I must say I agree with it wholeheartedly.

          That Sinking Feeling        
I've said throughout my whole life that I never got "the car gene." My grandfather owned a Chevy dealership when my dad was a kid and my dad has always had an affinity for cars, especially corvettes. He passed on his love of cars to my sister and brother, but I never was one to get too excited about them. When my dad was younger he had two vettes - a blue '68 and an orange '72, but as legend has it, he sold the cars when he got married to 'have kids.' He's a great dad and he instilled in each of us the qualities of hard work, perseverance and determination. My dad never wants much and is always happy with just the basics in life. He worked in an aluminum factory for all of my childhood and eight years ago when the workers went on strike and he was out of work, he got a job in a coal mine an hour away. He's nearly 70 and most times works seven days a week underground...

Two years ago, we decided it was time - time to get something that he has worked his whole life for: another corvette. Of course, my sister and brother took more of an interest than I did. They ordered the customized black 2013 vette and within 6 months it was ours (not his). He wanted us all to share in his joy. 

Instead of having the car delivered to us, we decided to get 'museum delivery.' We drove the five hours to Bowling Green, Kentucky together, knowing that on the way home we would be in two cars. We first took a tour of the corvette assembly plant, which honestly was one of my highlights. It's amazing in the plant. So much organization. Everything worked like clockwork. The workers smiled as we were led on our tour and it was evident that they were proud of the masterpieces they were creating.

Next, we went to the Corvette Museum. We had been there about ten years prior but I remember this trip much more vividly solely because when we walked in, one of the eight cars that sat in the main lobby area was 'ours.' The museum has installed security cameras in this area and some of our family members were able to watch online as my dad received the keys to our corvette! 

After getting the keys we took a guided tour of the museum. My favorite part was the uniquely built Skydome. The structure was incredible, the cars are rare and the story told in the building is amazing. The walls and celling are lined with the faces of major contributors to Corvette history. The car that I most remember is the 1983 corvette for two reasons. Not only because I was born in 1983, but because it is the ONLY 1983 corvette left because the cars never went to production that year. 

The "Skydome" Courtesy of @CorevetteMuseum's Twitter Account