Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wonderfully Warm Again in Phoenix

  • 70F,
  • Intermittent light breeze,5mph
  • 27% relative humidity with a 35F dew point,
  • Anna's & Costa's & Lucifer & Ruby Throated drinking from the Aloe & Spanish Lavender & Salvias & Petunias and buzzing / tweeting / chirping all around,
  • A few verdins and fly catchers flitting about as well
  • Sky Harbor routing landings from the East this afternoon so that very few commercial aircraft passed over head,
...all combined to make a relaxing and invigourating hour of yoga poolside, on this last day of the year. With Christopher's visit last week, I only managed to do yoga twice - and it was too cold and wet outside to attempt outdoor anything. 2009 arriving tomorrow, I'll re-focus efforts to get back to 4 to 6 times a week. Weather like today's will help enable this effort.

Philadelphia Libraries receive stay of execution

Here and Now had an interesting story today about how the Philly Public libraries received a court order today to remain open, after the Mayor declared he would be closing 11 branches to save money. Philly's inner city unemployment is 1 in 4 people, according to the radio show, and 50% of the people who come to the library have no computer at home. They also mentioned that only 25% of the schools still have libraries open in the Philly area, and those libraries are only open during school hours and are often not staffed by qualified librarians. Mayor Michael Nutter, had been named Library Journal's "Politician of the Year" in 2005 - guess no honorary naming goes unpunished, when a city's running a deficit.

I've been to several of the local Phoenix library branches. They are Massively Used, busy, crowded, well staffed, and that was a Wednesday afternoon school day earlier in December.

Dostoyevsky said 'a society can be judged by the state of its prisons'. I'd modify that, since the US is such a plutocratic litigious society where more money buys more clemency and leniency, and say instead: 'a society can be judged by the state of its prisons, libraries, public schools, and non-religious soup kitchens.'

Pet Hair Be Gone! Lint Wizards have arrived!

Dr.Desert Flower ordered some Lint Wizard self cleaning lint brushes from Amazon last week. They arrived last night, and they work awesomely! Yes, there's sticky rollers that you have to throw away the adhesive sheets, and non-self-cleaning lint brushes that you have to basically transfer the lint and dander from the brush to a piece of cloth - which is annoying and wasteful. These wonderful Lint Wizard Pro brushes clean themselves with a flick of the little lever, and are easily dumped. We had one earlier this year that we got at Bed-Bath-Beyond, but I broke it as I swiped it too firmly over the big red couch here. I won't "abuse" the brush again.

If you've got pets, and you're annoyed by their hair on your clothes and furniture, try one of these. (UPC code 3554110407)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Graffiti - futile attempt at plumage

In a city of 4 million people, there's going to be immature little boys who feel the need to "tag" or mark other peoples' property, public property, just about anything that is visible in a futile attempt to "leave their mark". I see such petty behaviour as the modern equivalent of male "pissing to mark territory". It's not an "expression of art", it's a pathetic attempt to try and extend one's own insignificant sphere of influence where it does not belong and it is not welcomed. Graffiti is a visual equivalent of LOUD SUB WOOFERS on teenage and 20-something automobiles, akin to feathers on peacocks and turkeys, and peeing on trees by lower functioning mammals. Sad, futile attempts, to make a "statement" - whatever.

One of the nicest Phoenix city services that I have used, just about monthly, is the "Graffiti Busters" hotline.
(602) 495-7014 (after the fact)
(602) 262-7327 (in progress)
(602) 712-6585 (AZDOT for interstate highway tagging)
I call these nice people, and tell them where I've seen the graffiti, what color the paint was, and if it can be read (frequently, the 'wanna-be artist' miscreants make their scribble unreadable except by other miscreants), and within the next week or so, they send out a contractor who paints over the offending graffiti with an industrial spraying truck. Very nice, very efficient, very personable. I certainly hope that this wonderful service doesn't go away due to the $1.2 BILLION 2008 shortfall.

The Graffiti Buster's hotline has a $250 reward they offer, but I do not give them my name. I just enjoy seeing the impotent little taggers' hard work being obliterated.

"Like The South, Vampires, And Britney Spears, We Will Rise Again"

Since I am getting old, I leave a small note pad (dad being a retired printer, there's No Shortage of note pads around the house) on the end table beside the couch. Yesterday, I found this note: "Like The South, Vampires, And Britney Spears, We Will Rise Again" - and I could not remember why I'd written it. Google is a wonderful thing. For those of you who have not seen the early December SNL with Bill and Hillary, here's the amusing clip.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Music DVD Night, Chez Nous

As a family, we enjoyed watching The Ramones, End of the Century and 10,000 Watts R.S.L. Netflix DVD's last night. Observations on The Ramones documentary (much of the footage shot in 2002 during the 2 months between Joey's death to cancer, and Dee Dee's fatal heroine over-dose) that I did not realize:
  • The Ramones thought highly of The Clash, and Johnny Ramone thought The Clash were "as good as" The Ramones.
  • Joey Ramone thought we was going to recover from lymphatic cancer, right up to the day before he died. He didn't want a feeding tube put in, because he was afraid they would screw up his voice.
  • Johnny Rotten was afraid that The Ramones were going to "beat him up" when he met them in London, and he openly admitted to The Ramones that the Sex Pistols sucked and had no talent: "all you have to do is get out there and play".
  • It's amazing that Dee Dee lived as long as he did.
  • Johnny Ramone was an unpleasant, unpersonable, controlling, Republican ("God Bless President Bush").
  • Phil Specter was/ is a very scary individual.
Observations on Midnight Oil that I did not realize:
  • As my buddy Matt has said many times, I do apparently dance in a very Peter Garrett like spastic style - though I am not as tall, not as long limbed, and not bald.
  • When family members (and perhaps co-workers) dance like Peter Garrett in the living room, it is quite hilarious, regardless of how much alcohol has been consumed.
  • Peter Garrett is not only an Australian MP, but he is also Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and the Arts
  • Sydney Harbour, in the summer time, is extremely humid, as evidenced by the Goat Island concert footage where all the band members and audience members shown were drenched in sweat.
  • Rob Hirst is a good drummer (and lyricist), yes, but still not one of the top 22 on my list.
Great fun was had by all. Beer, wine, port, coffee, and many Christmas left-overs were consumed.

A Good Night's Sleep is Under-rated

And now scientific research is showing a link between heart disease and getting a good night's sleep. When I was younger, I used to think "sleep is for wimps". Now, I cherish each good night's slumber I get.

Page Springs, not worth the trip

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the delicious Arizona Stronghold wine that Dr.Desert Flower had enjoyed, and that were were going to go visit the winery where it's made. Sadly, the specific winery, Arizona Stronghold in Cochise county, has no wine tastings, but they are "associated" with Page Springs, and their website gives directions on how to get there, saying you can "buy" their wines there. So naively, we drove up to Page Springs on Friday, in a cold, blustery, rare-snow-flurries day here in Central Arizona, hoping to taste of Maynard's wines. What a disappointment.

Page Springs had their own vintages, that were "ok" at best, not "WOW!", not "great". They said they don't offer tastings of Maynard's wines because they are "too expensive". The wine pourer treated us like we were amusement park attendees waiting for a roller coaster ride. He exhibited few personal insights, no rapport, no warmth, and had conversational skills of a disinterested and dispassionate Tire Salesman. It was $10 a piece to taste 5 wines, in cheesy little glasses, that didn't present the wine's bouquet. No pallet cleansing snacks were offered or available. Very blase. They had Maynard's Caduceus wines on display, and available for purchase, but none to taste.

Back in 2000, I drove from Sydney to the Hunter Valley with my metallurgist buddy Jerry. We visited 4 different vineyards, each with exceptional whites, rose, and reds. We paid no "tasting fees" and we had great conversations with passionate wine makers on a lazy Saturday afternoon. In 2002, Dr. Desert Flower and I toured Bordeaux's Janoueix Châteaux La Croix, and had a personal tour arranged by M.GOURDON, which was fantastic. (we purchased 1/2 a case of this Janoueix Pomerol at the time, yum!) Page Springs was less than 1/10th as personal, delicious, flavourful, interesting, meaningful, or recommended.

Yes, it was a pleasant and scenic drive up and back, and it was an effective reconnaissance trip. However, when die hard Tool fans and wine lovers like my buddy Ryan come to visit in AZ, I will not be wasting our time going up to a lackluster vineyard, with marginal-to-adequate wines. One bait-and-switch afternoon of tasting wines in which we were not interested & being denied the opportunity to taste wines we desired, is enough.

On the upside, the Grasshopper Grill in Cornville does serve a delicious BYOB (build your own burger) hamburger, and it shows the latest in turkey hunting Outdoors Channel videos.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

They don't run, walk, move quickly, but they do ruminate.

My son showed me this t-shirt today. I thought it was pretty funny. Other funny ones are here, here, here, here, and here. The main page is here.

Isaac Toussie's pardon reversal

Earlier this week, W pardoned 19 felons who contributed to his party's coffers, or are politically connected. Then, late Christmas Eve, the White House reversed one of the pardons, that of Isaac Toussie, who defrauded the Department of Housing and Urban development of millions of dollars. Publicly, the WH says it is because it learned of Toussie's father's donation of $28,500 to the RNC. But privately, this looked like SUCH a quid pro quo, that it made the whole Mark Rich pardoning thing look almost trivial.

I heard on NPR's Diane Rehm show 2 weeks ago, when Holder was announced as Attorney General Nominee, that the Republicans would be picking 1 or 2 or 3 (but not more than 3) nominees to fight. Eric Holder, looks like Toussie's pardon reversal, combined with your Blagojevich failure-to-disclose links, and your Clinton era taint, just sealed your fate. You shall not be Obama's A.G. Yes, considering the incompetent fools and ideologues who came before, you are an admirable and more than capable candidate for the position, but you are tragically flawed and opposition is lined up against you. I'll be incredibly surprised if I am wrong about this, come February. Even more surprised by a Senate confirmation, than by the unprecedented pardon reversal we've just witnessed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chihuly installation at DBG, is remarkable




In addition to the FSM sighting, there were a myriad of beautiful Chihuly glass art installations at the Desert Botanical Garden. Here are a few we captured at night.

We'll probably go back during the day, after the rain stops here this week, with a tripod. (these were taken while I held my breath, and stood very, very still)

FSM spotted in our home!

This is a blessed holiday season indeed! Not only did we see the FSM at the Desert Botanical Garden last weekend, but last night, in my own home, in front of our own Christmas tree, Dr. Desert Flower and I spotted the FSM right behind our son! What a fantastic holiday we are having!

McCain's big mistake: shielding Palin from the media. LMAO!

Crooks and Liars has a wonderful post, summarizing the embrace of Palinmania. As much as I wanted her to just go away last month, I've come to my senses now, and now I realize what a massive gift this vacuous, quick creationist, hypocritical, fundamentalist, pseudo-folksy, beauty queen is.

FSM spotted at Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden!

This weekend, as a family, we went to the Desert Botanical Garden's Luminaria & Chihuly exhibit. The weather was pleasant, the crowds were large, and much to my wondering eyes did appear, but a cluster of glass-like pasta, and 2 not-tiny meat-balls. The FSM is everywhere! Ramen!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Palin's shielding of future inlaws

compare and contrast. Sherry Johnston, 42, mother of Levi Johnston - self proclaimed redneck and father to Palin's unborn grandchild - gets arrested and all details or the arrest are withheld. Justin McIntyre, 18, gets arrested and all details are given to the media. If only Justin would've banged Bristol, he could've stayed out of the media. Her arrest. His arrest. Compare and contrast. That's the Real America! You bet'cha! The way to get things done on "Wasilla Mainstreet", is to keep the police under tight control, don't let'tem say anything to that gotcha media. Not at all like they do things down in dat big city of Valdez.

Tip o' the hat to

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2009 AAAS Annual Mtg - Our Planet and Its Life: Origins and Futures

In February this year, more than 10,000 respected, intelligent scientists, many of them the brightest and most informed minds, from 50 countries, will be meeting on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in Chicago at the AAAS annual meeting. There will be 175 symposia, seminars, workshops, lectures. I wish I was going, but I am not a AAAS member.

Will they make room for the intelligent designers? The "speed of light is changing" proponents? The "incest did not lead to inbreeding in the Old Testament" crowd? The "climate change doesn't matter because Jesus[TM] is coming again" rational voices? The "all carnivorous animals were complete herbivores until after the Great Flood[TM]" voices?

Or will their tent only be big enough for those scientists who rely on data, observation, method, peer review, concurrence, facts, and not beliefs, to participate?

Imagine what a different outlook the meeting would have if Palin, or Huckabee, or Brownback, had made it into National Office!

After we're all gone...

After we're all gone, next year (after the Rapture[TM] or other mythological occurrence), or in a dozen or so years (after an Indo-Pakistani trigger nuclear exchange that leads to a Putin/China/French/US volley, resulting in a global nuclear winter), or in hundreds or thousands of years, if humanity can be so "lucky", these are the critters who will out-live us all (courtesy of JPL). And from these EVOLVED species, others will follow, and flourish. YES, EVOLVED. See, Noah didn't have acidophiles (who live in a pH akin to battery acid) or Archaea Strain 121 (who THRIVE at temps above 121 C), or Bacillus Infernus (who live 2 miles underground), or Hesiocaeca methanicola (Methane Ice Worms), or Deinococcus Raiodurans (who thrive on radiation millions of times higher in intensity than what humans can take) on the mythological ark he built after his 500th birthday.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dunbar Shumbar, 150 mon cul!

I heard people on ScienceFriday talking about Dunbar's Number on the radio today, regarding social networking. Well, I'm not on Facebook, or Myspace, or Twitter, etc, but on my company's inter-office instant messaging system (which runs in a Lotus Notes "Sametime" shell), I have over 400 names of people with whom I communicate on a regular basis. On my gmail distribution list, I've got another 200 (few of them over-lapping with work), and on this blog, there's just about as many people who look at it more than once a week. ...and I am NOT a "people person" (INTJs really aren't) - I'm a word and mechanism and idea and application and get-it-done person, sure, but not really a "people person".

Dunbar came up with the 150 person limit rule, for 3 standard deviations of upper primate brains. I do not agree. I have close personal ties with a few dozen, and extended ties with many hundreds. It's apparently easy to not fit into Dunbar's paradigm or classification system.

Io eruptions

If you missed it last November (I did), here's the photos taken by the Galileo probe of Io's crypovolcanic eruption. This is 100s of kilometers above the moon's surface. Very cool. There's a zoom-in bar when you mouse over the image.

Other cool images of this 18 BILLION YEAR OLD universe (not 6000 like the bible myth says) are thumbnailed here.

How much should you spike your eggnog?

Worried about salmonella? Raw eggs (1/20.000) can be infected. Scientists at Rockerfeller University prove that 20% alcohol kills salmonella, and all the other bacteria that naturally occurs in the eggnog. Unspiked eggnog is laden with little critters.

Not an inhaler


It'll be interesting to see how many of these start showing up in airport security lines, bingo tournaments, soccer games, holiday gatherings, police evidence rooms, etc.

Thanks to the moronic Bush-manned FDA for approving this as a “Daily Activity Assist Device" worthy of Medicare reimbursement.

Tip of the hat to Jesus' General for this gem.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chilled Pastafarians

The FSM was written in on a ballot in Minnesota for Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor, alongside Al Franken's name. The Republican blasphemers, who of course are non-believers in The Almighty, challenged the ballot. The "Lizard People" also got a vote, but it was thrown out as an over-vote. It'll be 2009 before a winner is declared.

The next time Huckabee starts talking about chromosomes...

The next time Huckabee starts talking about chromosomes and what constitutes a 'human life'... he needs to be told to shut the hell up, and look at the pictures in this disturbing Pharyngula post.
excerpts:
"An unfortunate child in Colorado ... Diagnosed with a brain tumor, when surgeons opened up his skull, they found fragments of a fetus inside: two tiny feet, part of a hand, coils of intestine. The surgery was successful and the child is doing fine now, but this was the most well-organized 'tumor' I've ever heard of."
"Something struck me when I saw the photograph of this particular surgery. Here it is, a photo of a fetal foot flopping out of a bloody baby's brain (don't click if you're squeamish). As I'm sure you've noticed, anti-choice people love to parade about with gory photos of aborted fetuses, and they love to dwell on little details like a recognizable hand or face. This picture is exactly like those, yet realize this: there was no human being behind those little baby toes. The existence of these fragments of non-sentient tissue endangered the life of a child, and there was no question that they needed to be extracted."
"Those are beautifully patterned collections of differentiated cells, but there is no person there."

Obama reaches across party lines and angers extremists

I was listening to "Talk of the Nation" today on NPR, and they were discussing Obama's pick of conservative evangelical (and all-you-can-eat-buffet frequenter) Rick Warren of Brokeback.. I mean Saddleback Church to delivery the invocation at the Presidential Inauguration. A Lesbian emailer, whose correspondence they read on the show, stated that she and her partner were strong supporters of Obama, but that Warren's pick lost that support. Really? Who else are you going to throw your support behind? Nader? McCain? Pat Robertson? Chavez? Pluh-ease!

For my Atheist, Agnostic, and Extra Terrestrial friends, perhaps it's a disappointment that Obama did not pick Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher or Oderus Urungus. Warren's work on addressing African poverty is admirable, even though he is an intolerant bigot regarding and acceptance of same sex couples. Let's see what happens, going forward in 2009, after the 5 minute invocation that won't matter 5 seconds after it is finished.

Merry Christmas, Joyful Saturnaria, Blessed Eid (late), Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year

From Dr. Desert Flower and I, to the nearly 300 readers of this blog.

[There aren't any Hindu or Taoist holidays this month]

Christmas Gift possibility, for Men

My godfather, Uncle Joe sent me this in email. I laughed heartily upon looking at it closely. I personally, don't need one of these remotes. I'm very happy with what I've got, but for others who are less fortunately, it could be a useful gift idea this holiday season. =) Maybe you'll laugh too.

I wonder what kind of battery life one of these has?

Medjool over Deglet Noor, Anyday

Growing up in the Midwest, and living in the South East for the last 40 years, I didn't have much exposure to delicious fresh dates. Moving to Phoenix, we have a COSTCO within walking distance, that has Californian and Mexican dates, in bulk, readily available. I've come to learn that Medjool dates are amazing, perfect snacks, tasty, plump, savory, in a word "Yum!". Deglet Noor on the other hand, resemble palmetto bug exoskeletons in color, texture, & crunchiness. They're relatively tasteless, and yield about 1/100th the papillae enjoyment when eaten. Occassionally, in a batch of Deglet Noors, you find a semi-squished, darker, tasty one, but it's just trying to mutate into a Medjool.

I've stopped my prior consumption of decades worth of pop-tarts, granola bars, cereal bars, caribou coffee bars, and other processed snacks, as I've recently been reading "An Eaters Manifesto" by Michael Pollan - it's really a good book. I now have things like dates, dried apricots, apples, cashews, mangoes, bananas, water, water with lemon (lemons grown organically in my own back yard, future posts here to include pics later this week). Arizona's geographic location near CA, TX, and Mexico, as well as Phoenix being a major market, provides much fresher and healthier nutritional choices.

Secretary Abraham's policy of "encouraging consumption"

I've been trying for the last 30 minutes, to find on Whitehouse.gov the quote from Spencer Abraham, W's first Secretary of Energy (and flesh golem), the quote that went something like this: "we have an Energy Policy in this country, and it is one that encourages consumption". He said it in 2001, before 9-11, when Republicans thought it was fashionable to flaunt consumption of fossil fuels from countries who really don't like the US. Frustratingly, I have not been able to find this quote / comment. I distinctly remember hearing it, when I lived in SC. I'll buy lunch for the first person who can find it - a nice lunch, not a fast food one. 30 minutes of googling is about my saturation point. Molly Ivins railed about W's energy policy & Abraham in general, but didn't quote Spencer directly.

With the pick of Berkeley's Steven Chu as Obama's Secretary of Energy, the diametric contrast to W's and Cheney's moronic, consumption based, closed-door-meetings-with-energy-executives-policy-meetings, will be refreshing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soleful W


Tip of the hat to my buddy JoeM for this fun time waster. (I'm on vacation this week, so I have time to waste)

Kudos to Matt for this hybrid gif:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Marichyasana as a go-no-go gauge




I've developed a theory, that Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, which was not only very useful for figuring out cubits & other Architectura, but it helps to point out - especially during the holiday season when Americans tend to gorge - when one has eaten too much.

I've been doing yoga 3X to 6X/week, pending work schedules, weather (I was doing it poolside, until last week, when it got too cold to wear shorts, and it's raining today) for the last 3 years. A seated twist posture that is a hybrid of Marichyasana (also known as "Sage Twist") and Parsvokonasana (also known as "Prayer Twist") wherein you raise your right knee, and then wrap the inside of the left elbow around your knee, and the grasp the outside of your left elbow with your right hand (pictured below, here). This twists and flexes the abdomen nicely, pressing the right quads along the rib cage and liver, and takes Deliberate Effort to breathe calmly this way. Now symmetrically, try to do the same thing, with your left knee raised, and right arm wrapped around raised left leg, after eating a large meal - even 2 or 3 hours after eating a large holiday meal. Left side anatomy makes this Very Difficult to do without an empty stomach.

So if you can't wrap your arm around your raised leg, bringing knee to chest, your stomach may be more full than is normal. I am no yoga master, and still have a great deal to learn in my novice attempts to increase flexibility, reduce stress, stay toned, and focus on wellness, but I think my go-no-go gauge theory is sound. Personally, it makes sense and works for me.

Now, if I can hold a Naukasana (boat pose) for more than 8 slow breaths or be able to touch my foot behind my back in a bound lotus , that'll be some serious progress!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Joe's Top 22 Drummers

  1. Neil Peart
  2. Stewart Copeland
  3. John Bonham
  4. Danny Carey
  5. Bill Bruford
  6. Mike Giles
  7. Gene Krupa (...and he was Polish!)
  8. Terry Bozzio
  9. Chad Sexton
  10. Carl Palmer
  11. John Dolmayan
  12. Tim Alexander
  13. Alan White
  14. John Densmore
  15. Stephen Perkins
  16. Keith Moon
  17. Anton Fig
  18. Tre Cool
  19. Dave Hartman
  20. Dave Grohl
  21. Matt Cameron
  22. Alex Van Halen
And almost made the list:
Chic Corea but he's a Scientologist, so he falls off.
Buddy Rich, because he personally was an asshole to me at River Oaks in 1985 when he played a free concert there
Aynsley Dunbar; yes he played for Zappa, but he also played for Whitesnake, Hagar, and others of less than stellar repute.

I've amended the list, due to vocal criticism, but I shall have to endure the fatwa.

Hypocrisy Greater Than Self

“Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you in return.” ~ John Sidney McCain the Third

Why I changed my mind about McCain from 2000, to 2008:

“I’d never seen anything like that ad. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield — it’s worse than disgraceful. It’s reprehensible.” - John McCain, circa 2002, regarding Saxy Chambliss' smearing Max Cleland.

"McCain (R-Ariz.) will come to Georgia on Thursday to help Chambliss. Though details were still being confirmed Monday morning, McCain will likely appear in Cobb County on Thursday afternoon. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will also come to Georgia for Chambliss, and an invitation has been extended to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has not confirmed." - John McCain, 2008.

Hat's off to "Women For John McCain".

"Just a Hockey Mom" - LMAO!

This posting, from www.womenforjohnmccain.com is So Telling! Amazing what all the sheep of the fundamentalist flock will desperately cling to, despite all the facts. I'm looking forward to 2012, and seeing such a clueless, two faced, "Trump bimbette" try to run for national office, again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kudos to KitchenAid

Sometime ago, Dr.Desert Flower and I were looking for a espresso machine - and thanks to all of you who commented here and emailed with tips. As we were shopping around, we saw these KitchenAid Bowl-Lift Stand Mixers Professional HD models for $200 with a $50 off coupon at COSTO (note the KitchenAid website price of $350). So I brought up all the intricacies of proper bean grinding, and roasted bean sourcing, and retained retail value of Rancilio Silvia, and we opted for the mixer that she always wanted, opposed to the fabulous espresso machine we'll get someday when our progeny is no longer financially dependent upon us.

Later on the day of purchase, we picked up some persimmons at the grocery, and today, Dr. Desert Flower has made both cookies and persimmon pudding, utilizing our wonderfully capable new mixer. This should be added to the list of possible Christmas Kitchen gifts that persons like my friend Ron are making, if you are sans-mixer, or looking to upgrade.

Baking is a good thing to do now that the interior ambient temp has dropped down to 72F, and today was the first day of Winter this season where I said while watching a spectacular sunset "it's too damn cold for shorts outside!" - in another 4 months it'll be 100F again outside. We've still not turned on our heat yet.

A Delicious Arizonan "Tool-ed up" Wine

Dr.Desert Flower and I went out for a nice company sponsored Christmas dinner last Friday night, to a nice all organic, locally grown, sustainable restaurant called Quiessence in South Phoenix. The food was ok, cheese was great, service was slow (3 hours that easily could have been 90 minutes) but much to our my surprise and delight, the wine list included a 2007 Arizona Stronghold "Mangus". The blend of 43% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Pfeffer, 3% Petite Sirah, made in SE Arizona, was delicious. Tool & A Perfect Circle lead man Maynard James Keenan and winemaker Eric Glomski are the driving force behind Stronghold, an expansion on Keenan's already established Caduceus Cellars, north of Phoenix (near Senator McCain's ranch in Page Springs). The Phoenix New Times had an excellent article on Keenan and his passion for wine: (from Page 4)
"Keenan turns grouchy when he talks about the music industry, and the expectations people put on him as a songwriter, as if his lyrics can heal them — let alone himself. "If these songs are so cathartic, then shouldn't I should be fat and happy now? If it doesn't help me and I don't move on, how is that gonna help you?"" ... "As soon as conversation turns back to wine, though, Keenan perks up, chatting about the free-run juice versus juice pressed from the grape skins, and how the characteristics of Arizona fruit are more European and acidic than Californian and fruity."
Keenan is indeed passionate about wine.

When Christopher gets here next week, we're going to drive up to Cornville and Jerome and go to a wine tasting up there, pick up a few bottles as well. Excellent stuff. I'm looking forward to it. And I thought Sedona was just for 'aging hippie liberal douches', crystal worshipers, naive vacationers with more money than sense, and vortex seekers. Who knew that just south of it, excellent wine is being made!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

28 Days, Not 28 Weeks Later

I just finished sending back my Netflix's DVD of "28 Weeks Later" - what a disjointed, disorganized disappointment! I saw "28 Days Later" in 2002 in the theater with my son, and it was scary as all hell, believable, intense, well done in my perspective. "They're infected with rage" ...and the movie was non-stop, gripping, an interesting case study in how society degenerates following a deadly virus outbreak, and reminiscent of several nightmares I had as an adolescent and young adult, in short stories I'd written in High School and College. So 5 years later, Director Danny Boyle gets replaced by writer and director Juan Fresnadillo, and stupidity plays a main role in the nonsensical, not-believable, laden with technical and plot flaws, not-worth-the-DVD-plastic-its-burnt-onto farce.

I made the mistake of looking at the "extras" on the DVD, and there's Fresnadillo all joyfully smiling and animated in a psuedo-Tarantino-esque way saying "for the first time, we follow one of the infected to see how their character develops". What a load of crap! Robert Carlyle's character not only gets infected with rage, but he uniquely understands how to wait, and stalk, and use his "all access" card swiper to get through a heavily guarded military compound... yeah, right. Malarkey!

The repatriation of the UK at the beginning of the film shows heavily armed NATO soldiers out-numbering civilians almost 2 to 1, but suddenly, when the virus breaks out again in the containment zone, all those 30 and 50 caliber Brownings and 30 round clip assault rifles are absent. Crowds of 100s of raging infected are left to roof top snipers - yes, a dozen roof top snipers vs 100s of rage infected civilians - to be "picked off". What a freakin joke! It started off strong, and I didn't fast forward until about 30 minutes into it, and then the 110 min movie was done in far less than an hour.

Next up on my Netflix's list, is Sunshine. I hope it's far better than "28 Weeks Later", but if not, that's the beauty of rental DVDs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NFL Network's sound sucks!

Watching, and Listening to da Bears beat the New Orleans Saints in the 1st 1/2 of this Thursday Night game on the NFL Network, I gotta say, the NFL Network's sound crew and director suck. Granted, I am 4 beers into it already, but there's NO crowd involvement whatsoever on the TV coverage. Collinsworth drones on inanely. If I was not a Bears fan, I'd have been lulled into unconsciousness already. I don't like Madden's moronic commentary, but at least CBS, NBC, and Fox understand how to adjust volume, and have crowd noise be part of the broadcast, to help inject a little bit of energy into the broadcast. Matt Forte (#3 rusher in the NFL) comes back onto the field after a leg injury in the 2nd quarter, and Collinsworth says "he'll get quite an ovation" ...but the murmur broadcast over the NFL's channel was reminiscent of 1970s era Blackhawk games I used to listen to with my Grandfather on AM radio, where no one was scoring, and the game ended in a tie. YAWNNNNNNN!

And in overtime, da Bears win! Da Bears!

Loudest dissenting anti-US Auto Senators

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the LOUDEST dissenting voices who are against a Detroit bailout, are from states who have non-unionized transplant automotive presences? In the last week I have heard Kyle (AZ), dim bulb DeMint (SC), and Shelby (AL) all saying really negative things about any kind of assistance to Detroit based automakers. Kyle's got a Toyota R&D center and finance HQ in AZ. DeMint's got BMW, Bosch and a host of European & Japanese component and assembly facilities. Shelby's got a Huntsville Toyota plant and a massive Lincoln AL Honda SUV plant. I agree with the Daily Show's assessment on auto-erotica - we gave $700B to banks to bet on possible future guarantees of loans they are not making in a failed effort to stabilize the banking industry, but we can't loan $34B to Detroit to make cars, even if most of them are crappy & inefficient cars, that when all is said and done, at least the affected American owns a useful car?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Find The Creature Living Inside of You!

Tip of the hat to my friend Jill the master librarian, for this gem. As Jill aptly put it "rarely does an anti-creationist, pro-evolution librarian get to star in a video game." "Zoo Race" - amazing what lengths Fundamentalists will go to further their own delusional agenda and distort the value systems of pliable children's belief paradigms.

I don't know... if the animal inside you does not chew the cud and have cloven hoof, then you'd be an abomination, unclean, shunned by your friends and neighbors. And the anthropomorphic aspects strike me as antithetical to the pure, American, holier-than-thou trailer park protestantism this country was founded upon. I doubt they have Kzinti or Wookies as options in the race anyways. =)

Illinois Governors - WTF?

What is it with Illinois Governors? When I was a kid, I remember "Big Jim Thompson" being governor of the neighboring 'Land of Lincoln' state of Illinois, 4 times. Granted, I was alot younger, but I don't remember there being alot of scandals or other outrageous crap coming out of Springfield back then. But after Thompson, another Jim (Edgar) comes in, and his term is rife with controversies. Illinoisans then elect the marvelous George Ryan. You remember George Ryan dont'cha? Massive contractor & influence peddling scandals, indictments, and convictions? (No relation to Jack Ryan, who tried to run for Senate in Illinois but withdrew from the race after a sex scandal was revealed where he tried forcing his reluctant wife to go to sex clubs and orgies with him internationally.)

Now, Governor Rod Blagojevich is arrested by the Feds for trying to sell Obama's vacant seat to the highest bidders. Doesn't mater if they are Democrats, or Republicans apparently, they get in the Governor's office, and they rapidly decompose. Maybe The Illinois Governorship and Florida's 16th Congressional District (Foley & Mahoney) are somehow linked - held by idiots who can't refuse making such massive screw ups that their predecessor's infractions look minor?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Concurrence about Wine on the radio

Listening to NPR's Fresh Air this afternoon, they had on Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher who write about win in the WSJ, I learned they agree with me on several things:
1) this wine enthusiastic couple, who have been together for 28 years, agree with me that there's lots of delicious wines under $10 or $12 a bottle
2) you pay for 'staying in your comfort zone': go with the popular cabernet and it will cost you; get the Santa Margherita and it'll be much more expensive than lesser known but much more delicious wines on the same menu. Just because you can pronounce its simple English name doesn't mean it's good. Go off the beaten path, and there's lots of delicious wines to enjoy.
3) cheap wine glasses are better than expensive ones; break a cheap wine glass and I'll get you some new ones next year
4) Spain and Italy and South Africa and other regions have some really tasty wines for < $10 a bottle out currently
5) Wines by the glass are really a gamble ("it might've been opened in the Clinton Administration"), get a demi bottle, or a full bottle and in most of the lower 48 US states, it's legal to take the left-over wine home.
6) Wines with animal names are typically not very good ("Beastly & Foul")
7) Many US Wine makers have gotten high on their own myopically perceived greatness, trying to mass produce wines that should be small vintages, slapping "Reserve" on many bottles meaninglessly,
8) Champagne and other sparkling wines do NOT need to be consumed in flutes
9) all wines have sulfites in them naturally occurring, it's just the Americans who are so damn litigious that they have to label that sulfites are contained.

What they failed to mention, were the naming conventions and standards that the Europeans use, (Appellation d’Origine Controlee in France, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) Indicazione Geografica Tipica in Italy, Denominación de Origen for Spain, by example) to help guide one when selecting a bottle.

I also learned that I may have a lucrative career ahead of me in writing about wine, if I ever need to make a career change. If you're interested in getting my one page summary of inexpensive red wines - I updated it recently for a few SW Ohioian friends who wanted a copy - please let me know. [my profile here has an email link, if you don't have my address already].

Anti-Malaria Drugs causing reoccurring nightmares and psychosis, I want that!

Getting my Typhoid and other injections last week, I had a long conversation with the local Travel doctor contract office about anti-malaria drugs. See, back in 2000 was traveling through Singapore, enroute from Sydney to Hong Kong, and I was given the anti-malaria drug Larium to take, in case I got stuck in Singapore, as the rural areas in Malaysia around the Island State of Singapore are Malaria affected regions. I remarked to the nice doctor how it sucked that once someone takes Larium, they run a 40% chance of having a "false positive" test result for malaria. She acknowledged that as true, BUT, said the side effects for Larium make it a real concern. NIGHTMARES and PSYCHOSIS are the most serious side effects.

So let me get this straight. You're in a foreign tropical country, you're trying to be a responsible business traveler and take your company's medical staff's prescribed medications to keep you healthy so that you can continue to help your corporate bosses out-source your job elsewhere, and in the course of taking an approved medication, you get NIGHTMARES and PSYCHOSIS, in a tropical foreign land? The nice doctor told me she had one patient who said "everytime I closed my eyes, I saw things that I knew were not there. Scary things. I could not function".

NO WHERE did my direct employer EVER mention to me the side effects of NIGHTMARES and PSYCHOSIS. I'm thankful I listened to my Colbertian gut instinct and did not take the Larium I had back in 2000. Instead, for my January trip, I've been given Malarone to take as a prophylaxis against Malaria. Malarone's side effects are much closer to the ever popular Placebo (not to be confused with the band of the same name), and DO NOT include NIGHTMARES and PSYCHOSIS. Note: Malarone is 3X more expensive than Larium - completely worth it to retain my sanity! [Link to CBS News story on Larium linked to the Ft. Bragg multiple spousal killings in 2003]

I'm picturing my friends and colleagues trying to take me to a Bangalore hospital to have me committed if I'd taken Larium. "He has always been rather strange, but his claim of being an elephant riding on the back of a mouse is something he just won't stop focusing upon. We no longer know who this man is. Please do the needful..."

We shall see how things go. Parkalam!

Post-Script: "“She just became completely psychotic in the van,” says Bob. “(She”) started taking her clothes off and she had called people back from the dead. And they had a doctor at this lodge that came into the van. And she looked at Jane and she said, ‘Did she take Lariam?’ She said she had seen this in many Americans.” So had three other doctors in Africa, who confirmed the diagnosis. Jane Daehler was flown home, strapped to her seat with a bedsheet. At home, she spent a month in a psychiatric hospital, in and out of psychosis, with terrifying hallucinations. At the U.S. hospital, she was diagnosed with Lariam-induced psychosis. “They were just horrific. I thought that people were trying to kill me all the time. I thought that my family was going to be killed,” says Jane. "

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Éternel Reserve Saint-Clair

Éternel Reserve Saint-Clair Bordeaux 2006 - $4.99/bottle, purchased from the "Fresh & Easy" chain of mini-grocers. Delicious stuff! Bottle didn't last more than 3 hours with DVD watching last night. Yum! Even if you don't like Bordeaux so much (ahem, Tim) at $5 a bottle, it's a shame not to try this. Dr. Desert Flower says she detected a tiny bit of a "bite" at the finish, but I thought it was mighty tasty. This goes up on my 'wall of awesome bottles under $10'. I hope you can enjoy this too! - Please let me know if you concur, or dissent.

Factual Summary & Perspective for the International Traveler to India

The following info, I received in an email from my employer's travel aid subscription sub-contractor "International SOS" this morning. I found it to be very factual, succinct, and thorough, compared to other bits-and-pieces rushed out for public consumption from traditional media outlets. So I am posting it here, in it's entirety, since I believe the open dissemination of factual information in society is a positive force. "Thinking people", when given the facts, have a better chance of performing "right actions" than uninformed ones, and the international MSM have done a piss poor job, in my opinion, of covering the situation. While this may be anecdotal to many of this blog's readers, it's extremely relevant to me as I was injected with Typhoid & Influenza vaccinations boosters last Friday, making my final plans for January's trip to Bangalore.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Security Situation Updates

India

Terror attack in Mumbai: assessment, impact, consequences
Updated: December 07, 2008 11:13 GMT

A sea-change?

Attacks that took place on 26-29 November in Mumbai stand apart from recent terror strikes on the sub-continent in their relative sophistication, the tactics employed, the nature of the targets that were the primary objectives of the assault and the actual and psychological impact of the attacks.

There are critical questions for international companies that need to be answered in the wake of the attacks. Can we expect this to be a model for future attacks by Islamist extremists in India? Does this signal a change in the risk to international travellers? Will it drive improvements in the capabilities of the security forces that will have a broader beneficial outcome for security in India? Will it act as a major influence on some of the various extremist groups that operate in India, leading the way for more effective and destabilising attacks?

Impacts and implications

The success of the terrorists’ operation has damaged India’s reputation – leading to high-profile resignations, halting a city of 18m for more than two days and demonstrating that Western interests are vulnerable in this global business hub.

As a result, it is expected that business traveller numbers will be reduced for a period, security costs will rise for companies doing business in India and some companies will think twice before sending their people to the sub-continent. Whether the impact will be temporary or longer-term will depend on the incidence of further targeted attacks against foreigners.

It is the first time that foreign nationals have been systematically targeted in this manner in India, but it is not the first time that a significant assault has been launched on the heart of the country’s financial capital. Nor is it the first time terrorists in India have realised the paralysis that a well co-ordinated small arms attack can inflict on a major centre.

There is little likelihood that the Indian security agencies will quickly close the gaps exposed in the intelligence failures and poor co-ordination of the response to the recent attack. Both the scale of the challenge and the bureaucracy of the Indian system will make this a very long process of improvement. The Indian security services are likely to continue to be challenged in combating the risk of terrorism in the country, despite increased support and co-operation with major Western governments.

The less-sophisticated terrorist bombings that have increased in tempo over the past four months are expected to continue. These attacks continue to pose an incidental risk to business travellers, as they target local markets, entertainment venues, religious and tourist sites and transport hubs.

The success of the Mumbai action is likely to inspire further targeted attacks against foreigners in India. There are many extremist groups: local, regional and international, which have demonstrated the capacity and motivation to carry out such attacks.

As has been the case for Indonesia, Turkey and Egypt, where there has been a strategic shift towards targeting foreign interests, such incidents are likely to be repeated, though on an infrequent basis. Such incidents do have an impact on the willingness of some business travellers to go to these destinations

Sequence of events

The death toll from the Mumbai attacks stands at 195 people, including at least 22 international travellers and expatriates. Another 370 people were injured. The security forces suffered approximately 18 casualties as they killed nine terrorists and captured one.

There are conflicting reports about the number of terrorists involved, but initial investigations indicate that these attacks were executed by a small, mobile team of ten to 14 operatives. The events unfolded in the following sequence:

26 November

Multiple dispersed attacks were intended to inflict mass casualties and distract security force attention from assaults on the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers and Trident-Oberoi hotels and Nariman House.

  • 21.20 (local time): Random firing outside Trident-Oberoi hotel at Nariman Point in south Mumbai.
  • 21.30: Indiscriminate firing in Leopold Café at Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai.
  • 21.40: Terrorists forced entry into Nariman House, housing the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. Firing also occurred near Bade Miyan café, behind the Taj hotel in Colaba.
  • 21.45: Indiscriminate firing inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) (formerly Victoria Terminus (VT)) railway station in central Mumbai. Several killed and others injured.
  • 22.30: Firing at municipal corporation headquarters gate two, opposite CST.
  • 22.35: Firing at Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) hospital, near CST.
  • 22.40: Firing at Cama Hospital, near CST.
  • 22.50: Firing at Metro cinema in south Mumbai.
  • 22.55: Terrorists enter Taj Mahal hotel and open indiscriminate fire.
  • 23.00: Bomb blast in a taxi in Vile Parle in north Mumbai.
  • 23.00: Bomb blast in a taxi in the Mazgaon Dockyard in south Mumbai.
  • 23.10: Firing and two explosions at Napean Sea Road in south Mumbai
  • 23.30: Bomb blast at Dhobi Talao in south Mumbai.

26-29 November

  • Taj Mahal hotel: At approximately 22.55 on 26 November, three to four terrorists entered the Taj and commenced indiscriminate firing. The terrorists took hostages during the siege, which lasted for almost 58 hours before the security forces killed the last terrorist on 29 November at 08.46. At least 22 hotel guests, two commandos and four terrorists were killed in the attack. The sixth floor and several other areas in the hotel suffered extensive damage.
  • Trident-Oberoi hotel: Terrorists entered the Trident-Oberoi hotel at approximately 21.30 on 26 November. The hotel was stormed by the elite National Security Guard (NSG) in the early hours of 27 November. The flushing-out operations at the hotel were completed by 15.30 on 28 November. At least 26 people were killed, including two terrorists; 124 hostages were rescued.
  • Nariman House: Two terrorists stormed Nariman House at approximately 21.00 on 26 November. Both the terrorists were killed in an NSG operation that concluded at 08.40 on 28 November. The terrorists killed nine hostages, including a rabbi and his wife.

Assessment

Preparation

The success of the attacks in Mumbai was built on extensive planning, detailed reconnaissance, close co-ordination of assault elements and developed military skills and tactics. The accounts of freed hostages (including hotel staff) and eye-witnesses indicate that the terrorists at the Taj and Trident-Oberoi were very familiar with the internal layout of the hotels. Their ability to assemble a substantial cache of small arms and explosives and infiltrate the hotels stands testament to the degree of planning involved and points to a significant local logistical support base that remains intact.

Preliminary investigations indicate that a number of the perpetrators were staying in the Taj and Trident-Oberoi hotels for several days prior to the attack and had set up ‘bases’ or control rooms to store the stockpile of explosives and weapons and to maximise the length and impact of the attack.

The successful execution of a multi-phase amphibious raid involving the hijack of a boat, the neutralisation of security positions, simultaneous diversionary attacks and denying India’s premier counter-terrorism force the realisation of key objectives for nearly 60 hours indicates a capable, well-prepared and professional terrorist force.

Method of attack

The noteworthy features of the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the terrorist group include:

  • entry by sea, probably from Pakistan.
  • selection of soft, iconic, foreign and business targets.
  • assembly of a substantial cache of weapons including small arms, grenades and RDX (explosives).
  • modified fidayeen-style attack (often employed by Kashmiri militants and involving infiltrating a military or government installation and using small arms fire to inflict maximum casualties).
  • the objective of inflicting the maximum casualties. Initial investigations have revealed that the majority of victims were killed within the first few hours of the assault.
  • holding target locations and seeking Western hostages.

Motivation

The direct targeting of Westerners and iconic symbols at the heart of India’s financial capital indicates the primary motives of the attackers were:

  • the pursuit of global jihad.
  • to undermine India’s economic progress by disrupting business and tourism.
  • to ignite the cause of radical Islam in India.

The attacks also coincided with the Pakistani foreign minister’s visit to India and the previous day’s home secretary-level talks in Islamabad.

The attack may also represent an attempt to derail the fragile Indo-Pakistani peace process and reignite regional tensions. While such attacks have a long lead time, the terrorist cell may have been operationally ready for some time. Pakistan-based militant groups have in the past timed terror attacks with important diplomatic events. A notable example is a bomb attack on the Samjhauta Express train service between Pakistan and India in February 2007, which occurred a day prior to a visit to India by the Pakistani foreign minister that aimed at reviving stalled peace talks.

There has been no immediate religious violence in the wake of the Mumbai attacks although this cannot be discounted in the near term.

Who was responsible?

There are strong indications that the attack was planned and executed by Pakistan-based militants and specifically the jihadi organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). While attributing responsibility for terrorism in India to Pakistani militants is a reflex action for the Indian security services, there is mounting information indicating the LET’s involvement in the Mumbai attack. This includes:

  • information obtained from captured terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amir Iman claiming he is a member of the LET and was trained in LET camps in preparation for the attacks;
  • satellite phone records tracing calls from the Mumbai terrorists to known LET militants;
  • the tracing of an email from the Deccan Mujahadeen – which claimed the attacks – to a user in Lahore (Pakistan) via a Russian server. The Deccan Mujahadeen is likely to be a front organisation and the name seems to be an attempt to appeal to Indian Muslims (the Deccan is a plateau in south India); and
  • the evident sophistication of the attack and the capabilities of the individuals involved.

While the LET was established by the Pakistani intelligence service to further its objectives in Kashmir, the group has increasingly gravitated to an expanded agenda of global jihad and is no longer an exclusively state-sponsored or controlled organ. LET indoctrination is not only aimed at India but vehemently anti-Western and anti-Jewish. The LET has previously been implicated in the planning of terrorist attacks within Pakistan and outside the region.

By its nature, the LET is also a broad organisation with strong ideological, personal, financial and operational links to other jihadi groups in Pakistan. Jihadi training camps in Pakistan continue to develop militants feeding in from a range of affiliated organisations.

The senior al-Qaida leadership continues to be based in Pakistan. Its sponsorship of regional militancy and the convergence of its interests with those of jihadi groups including the LET has increased. Recent attacks on the Marriott hotel (September 2008) and Danish embassy (June 2008) in Islamabad (Pakistan) used al-Qaida’s modus operandi, with the group claiming responsibility for the latter attack. It is premature to assess whether al-Qaida provided any planning or operational support to the Mumbai attacks; however, the direct targeting of Westerners and Jews is consistent with its global jihadi agenda.

It remains unclear whether the Mumbai attacks are connected to a terrorism campaign in India that had gathered momentum over the past four months. While previous attacks have been of lower intensity and have not targeted foreigners, this campaign has also pursued an agenda of disrupting the Indian economy and provoking religious tensions. At a minimum, this campaign shares an agenda of advancing the cause of radical Islam on the sub-continent.

There are emerging indications that at least some of the attackers had spent time in Mumbai prior to the attack and much of their operational information could have been gathered with well executed reconnaissance and surveillance. Such tradecraft is common to Pakistani jihadi organisations and international terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and is a fundamental aspect of such successful terrorist attacks.

Several recent terrorist attacks in India have been claimed by the India Mujahadeen (IM), believed to be a front movement for regional jihadi group Harakat-ul-Mujahadeen (HUJI) and the local Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The connection between the IM and Deccan Mujahadeen is unclear, but both appear to represent thinly veiled attempts to present an indigenous face to the terrorist attacks in the country.

Impact and consequences for business travellers and expatriates

National picture

A deterioration in India-Pakistan relations is anticipated in the wake of the Mumbai attack. A 2001 attack on parliament in Delhi led to a major face-off between India and Pakistan and the deployment of Indian troops to the western border. In the face of their own failures, there is great pressure on India’s political leaders to respond strongly to Pakistan. Impassioned language that refers to strikes against terrorist camps on Pakistan soil illustrates that India is at risk of returning to the sabre-rattling that brought the countries to the edge of conflict in 2002.

In the wake of the attack, India has sought the support of the US and the international community to pressure Pakistan. This may result in the temporary closure of transport routes and borders between the two countries in the coming week.

Direct targeting of foreigners

The Mumbai attacks represent a clear escalation in scale and modus operandi from the recent pattern of terrorist attacks in many of India’s major cities. Foreigners were directly targeted at the Café Leopold, popular with Westerners, and at the Taj and Trident-Oberoi hotels. There are corroborated accounts of gunmen targeting British and US passport holders as hostages. The assault on Nariman House was also a clear attack on Israeli nationals based in the building.

The targeting of hotels popular with the business fraternity also increases the incidental risk for the local staff of foreign companies in Mumbai and across India.

Outlook

Outlook for business travellers and expatriates in India

Ongoing lower intensity acts of terrorism in India’s major metropolitan areas are expected to continue. These attacks represent a primarily incidental risk to business travelers, particularly in markets, entertainment venues and major transport hubs. A potential connection between these blasts and the Mumbai attacks cannot be discounted, particularly at the regional jihadi level.

It is uncertain whether the intensive targeted attack on Mumbai will be replicated or represent the commencement of a targeted campaign against foreigners in India. It is however likely that India will experience similar attacks targeting foreigners due to:

  • The nature of Pakistani jihadi groups. The LET and other Pakistani jihadi elements have a strong anti-Western and anti-Jewish agenda in addition to their focus on India. They retain strong organisational, training and operational structures and have the motives to conduct further attacks on foreigners in India.
  • A convergence of motives. The direct attack on foreigners represents the most effective way to disrupt India’s business and tourism sectors and ultimately its economic course. It is this convergence of motives that may be exploited by local Indian militants.
  • Pakistani politics. The Pakistani government is impotent in the face of the militancy in its country. Power in Pakistan still rests with the military-intelligence apparatus, which has less reason to curb the activities of groups such as the LET since former president Pervez Musharraf’s departure from office in August 2008.

While there are no clear indications of further targeted attacks on foreigners, tourist sites and popular locations remain vulnerable and such attacks can be expected to occur. This includes sites in all of the major metros in addition to Goa, Agra and the tourist towns of Rajasthan (particularly Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur).

For such targeted risks, the profile and nature of venues are as significant as actual locations and the modus operandi of hostage-taking is of increasing concern to the Indian authorities. The aviation industry remains another point of vulnerability and there have been several threats against the sector in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Annex: Terrorist attacks in 2005-08

  • Firing and three explosions at multiple sites in Mumbai in November killed 195 people and injured 370; the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility, but the involvement of the LET is suspected.
  • Eighteen explosions in markets in Assam killed 77 people and injured 450 in October; the Indian Security Force-IM (ISF-IM) claimed the attack.
  • Four explosions at markets in Tripura in October killed two people and injured 90.
  • Two blasts in Maharashtra and Gujarat in September targeted Eid celebrations, killing seven people and wounding 79.
  • Thirty people were killed and 90 others injured in five blasts in busy markets in Delhi in September for which the IM claimed responsibility; another market explosion in the city later that month killed four and injured 22.
  • Seventeen blasts in Ahmedabad in July that were claimed by the IM killed 57 people and wounded 160 others.
  • Two people were killed and 15 injured in eight explosions in Bangalore in July.
  • The IM claimed responsibility for eight blasts at markets, a temple, a palace and other locations in Jaipur in May in which 80 people were killed and 150 others injured.
  • In November 2007, six bombings at court complexes in Uttar Pradesh killed 15 people and wounded 80 others.
  • The involvement of the Sikh separatist Babbar Khalsa group was suspected in a blast in Ludhiana in October 2007 that killed seven and injured 40.
  • Three people were killed and 17 injured in an explosion at an Islamic shrine in Ajmer, Rajasthan in October 2007.
  • Three blasts in Hyderabad in August 2007 killed 42 people and injured 70.
  • Another explosion in Hyderabad in May 2007 killed 13 people and wounded 50 others; the involvement of HUJI was suspected.
  • Sixty-eight people died and 12 others were injured in two blasts in Haryana in February 2007.
  • Three explosions in Maharashtra in September 2006 killed 40 people and injured 312 others.
  • Seven blasts on local suburban trains in Mumbai in July 2006 killed 210 people and injured 714 others; the authorities suspected the involvement of SIMI and the LET.
  • The Lashkar-e-Kahar claimed responsibility for two explosions that in March 2006 killed 28 people and wounded 101 others in Varanasi.
  • A scientist and five terrorists were killed during a shooting attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bangalore in December 2005.
  • Three explosions in Delhi in October 2005 killed 62 people and injured 200 others; the attacks occurred at markets and were claimed by the Inquilab Mahaz, which has links with the LET.
  • Militants in July 2005 stormed a makeshift Hindu temple constructed at the site of the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya; the security forces killed six terrorists.

Friday, December 5, 2008

WV Mountain Top Mining

Listening to NPR yesterday, I was both amused and disgusted by the twisted logic that removing the tops of mountains and dumping the tailings into streams gets exempted from the "Clean Water Act" because it obliterates the stream entirely. Incredibly narrow minded. Eastern KY & TN (mostly east of I-75, that I used to traverse many times each year when I lived in SC and visited Midwestern relatives), western VA, and most all of West Virginia are regions where this is practiced often. I get absolutely no hits from West Virginia (or servers or IP addresses located within WV geographically), so I have the penchant to say "so what, let'em ruin their own local environment". I know that's short sighted, but I'm not one to strap myself to a mammoth drag bucket to try and preserve Appalachian wilderness when the local denizens are saying ""those damn environmentalists, they took our jobs!"

Zim's blog

From the original
  • reviewer of non-AP History homework, commenting "Needs more verbs" in Mr.Young's class at Highland High School
  • creator of "heart on a stick" cartoons
  • driver of the yellow Skyhawk at +100 mph speeds on I-80/94 while racing from Friar Tucks in Cal City to the theater arcade in Gary on Ridge Road US6
  • driver of the white Pinto, fast enough to go back-in-time from Lafayette to Highland
  • frenetic singer and Korg player on "Daddy's a Mortician" in Idiot Savant
  • originator of the successful ISA company years ago, before it was swallowed up by a bigger fish
  • and a host of other things I can't say here, or you'd have to be executed
...just a handful of memorable traits of Zim, who now can be found at his own blog (since a few months ago). http://zimfest.blogspot.com/ [his site also sends alot of traffic here]

Check out his interesting insights, when you have a moment.