Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Boston Globe has a fantastic collection of photos from this freakish dust storm. Reuters has an interesting colelction of Q/A related to the dust storm. Excerpt:
IS THE DUST STORM LINKED TO CLIMATE CHANGE?
Weather scientists are reluctant to directly link climate change with extreme weather events such as storms and droughts, saying these fluctuate according to atmospheric conditions, but green groups link the two in their calls for action to fight climate change.
Dust storms in Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent with a vast desert-like outback interior, are not uncommon. Central and eastern Australia is a major global source of atmospheric dust, say weather experts. But dust storms are usually restricted to the inland of Australia. Occasionally, during widespread drought they can affect coastal areas. Australia is battling one of its worst droughts and weather officials say an El Nino is slowly developing in the Pacific which will mean drier conditions for Australia's eastern states.
Before the Sydney dust storm, one of the most spectacular storms swept across Melbourne in February 1983, late in the severe El Nino drought of 1982/83. The extended dry period of the 1930s and 1940s generated many severe dust storms, culminating in the summer of 1944/45 when on several occasions dust in Adelaide was so thick that street lighting had to be turned on.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, and given China's vastly increased importance to global economic stability, the Obama administration must recognize China's enlarged role in international decision-making. Antagonizing China's government over Tibet is no way to get it to act responsibly, whether on economic issues or on climate change. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled her recognition of this reality earlier this year when, on her first visit to China, she deliberately avoided the issue of human rights in Tibet.And, you know what Liao recommends that the Dalai Lama do?
If the Dalai Lama is to be taken seriously by China as a negotiating partner, in fact, he must emulate President Obama and learnAaw, thanks for the advice! .
Remember Ray Bradbury's masterpiece of a work, Fahrenheit 451? It is a world where technology is so advanced that everything is fireproof, and the job of firefighters is to burn books! Because reading books makes people sad and depressed. And, so what do people do instead? Why, it is advanced television, of course. Every wall in every home is nothing but a television screen in this Bradbury imagined dystopia future.
Well, that future has arrived, or is rapidly arriving. According to Intel:
by 2015 there will be 12 billion devices capable of connecting to 500 billion hours of TV and video content. ....
"TV is out of the box and off the wall," Intel's chief technology officer Justin Rattner told BBC News.
"TV will remain at the centre of our lives and you will be able to watch what you want where you want.
"We are talking about more than one TV capable device for every man and woman on the planet. People are going to feel connected to the screen in ways they haven't in the past," said Mr Rattner.
A historical footnote to the fall of the Ottoman Empire:
As the last surviving grandson of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, he would have been known as his Imperial Highness Prince Shehzade Ertugrul Osman Effendi.
Born in Istanbul in 1912, Osman spent most of his years living modestly in New York.
And, equally fascinating:
Ertugrul Osman is survived by his wife, Zeynep, a relative of the last king of Afghanistan.
The moon was sinking over the hills, the air was crystal clear, the wind was cool, and the songs of the insects among the autumn grasses would by themselves have brought tears.More here on The Violins of Autumn
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji (1010). While a lady in attendance at the Japanese court, Murasaki wrote what is widely considered to be the first novel. The work was unusual for its time, not only because it was written by a woman, but also because it was written in Japanese (Chinese was the lingua franca of the Japanese court) and in prose. The beauty of nature is a prominent theme of the story, which recounts the life of Genji, a handsome courtier, and the women he loved.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
For each of the ten events, tell us (a) when it happened (within a ten year window) and (b) what its relevance is to a course in twentieth century economic history:I am confident about my answers to six, and I think I might be right about two more, but have no clue about the other two. And these are from his freshman course! Hmmmm .....
- Launching of first Five Year Plan in the Soviet Union
- Wall Street stock market crash; start of the Great Depression
- Gandhi's “Salt March”
- “The End of the Beginning”: Battles of Midway, Guadalcanal, El Alamein, “Operation Torch”, and—most of all--”Operation Uranus”: Stalingrad
- George Marshall proposes the “Marshall Plan”
- Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community of “the six”
- The “Southern Expedition” of Deng Xiaoping
- Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain
- William Jennings Bryan [D] loses U.S. election to William McKinley [R]
- Start of Mexican Revolution
Across the continent, Greg Mankiw has these for freshmen :-)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The time and energy wasted on non-issues such as whether the president forged his birth certificate makes us oblivious to flashing signals, some more urgent than others, from around the world.
Case in point: the remarkably under-reported news that President Obama has “quietly postponed an audience with the Dalai Lama until after he visits China in November.”
The Chicago Sun Times — the president’s hometown newspaper — notes that “White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrettt, who seemed to vanish at the end of last week, was actually dispatched to India on a delicate diplomatic mission: President Obama tapped her to meet with the exiled Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama.”
Even the vice president’s visits to Iraq appear to be more transparent!
The postponement of the meeting confirms, yet again, the triumph of realpolitik over principles.
When we owe China more than $800 billion, perhaps we have no option other than to make sure that we do not upset our primary foreign lender.
However, the postponement is not without geopolitical complexities involving the United States, China and India.
Sino-Indian relations, which had been improving in the 1990s, have been on a downturn over the past couple of years.
The downturn has even resulted in very brief military incidents. One of the main sore points is over Arunachal Pradesh, a state in northeastern India. China has always claimed Arunachal Pradesh as its territory and considers it a part of Tibet.
The territorial boundary that China disputes — the MacMahon Line — dates back to 1914, before the independence of India and before the founding of the China we know today.
India became independent of Britain in 1947, and the People’s Republic of China came into existence in 1949. It can be argued that neither India nor China was party to the MacMahon Line, but both have been forced to coexist with that boundary in the rugged Himalayan terrain.
So, where does the Dalai Lama fit into this territorial dispute, even when he is in no way directly responsible for the recent tiffs between these two countries?
For one, the Dalai Lama has lived in northern India — in Dharmasala — ever since he fled Lhasa, Tibet, in 1959. The Dalai Lama’s escape path out of Lhasa went through Tawang, which is in Arunachal Pradesh and whose monastery is the second oldest after Lhasa’s.
A few years after his arrival in India, the Dalai Lama was requested by the Tawang Monastery to send a lama who would be qualified to be the abbot, and this further cemented his association with Tawang.
In 2008, when the Dalai Lama planned to visit Tawang, the Indian government prevented him from doing so because it did not want to upset the Chinese government, which considers this trip a political act by the “splittist” Dalai Lama.
This year, however, the Indian government has approved the Dalai Lama’s plans to visit Tawang in November, perhaps sensing that continuing to appease the Chinese government might be interpreted as a sign of weakness and could cloud its sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of Chinese military incursions into Indian territories.
All of these things have concerned the Indian government so much that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was compelled to react, and promptly accused the media of blowing things out of proportion.
It was against such intense geopolitical backdrop that the Dalai Lama was scheduled to meet with Obama during the Dalai Lama’s visit to the United States in October. This meeting is now a no-go.
Of course, the story continues. In mid-November, Obama is scheduled to go to China on his first official visit, which is, ironically, about the same time as the Dalai Lama’s fifth visit to Tawang.
However, unlike the president, the Dalai Lama is not quite in control of his own calendar.
Buddhists — monks and laypeople alike — in India’s northeastern states have begun special prayers hoping that these would ensure the Dalai Lama’s visit.
Let us see if the prayers bear fruit. And, maybe, the Dalai Lama will even get to meet with Obama at the White House.
For The Register-Guard
Appeared in print: Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009
Why such a rigmarole, you ask?
The vans leave Turkey on cargo ships owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. Once they arrive in Baltimore, they are driven into a warehouse, where 65 workers from the shipping company's WWL Vehicle Services Americas Inc. convert them into commercial vehicles amid the blare of rock music and the whirring of industrial fans.
On a recent afternoon, a handful of vans passed through the warehouse unmolested as passenger wagons. But the vast majority were lined up to have windows pulled out, and they all had their rear seats removed.
In one lane, supervisor Robert Dowdy watched as two workers removed the rear side windows. They cut out the rubber seal with a special knife and popped out the glass using suction cups. The space is plugged with a metal panel that cures for 15 minutes before being tested outside for waterproofing.
At the start of that same lane, Mayso Lawrence unhooked a rear seat belt as easily as he would pop the top off a soda bottle. Using a drill, he quickly unscrewed six bolts to free the seats. Workers at the other end dump the seats into cardboard boxes, which are hoisted onto an open tractor-trailer and shipped to Ohio. Ford says the shredded seat fabric and foam become landfill cover, while the steel is processed for other uses.
"I never thought about why we take out the seats, but if that's what the customer wants, that's what we'll give them," Mr. Lawrence said.
With the seat removed, Mr. Lawrence puts in a new floor panel to cover the holes, toots the horn to signal he's finished, then gets to work on another van. The whole process takes him less than five minutes.
Rob Stevens, chief engineer for Ford's commercial vehicles, says the auto maker decided against shipping the seats back to Turkey for use in the next wave of vans for the U.S.
"We thought going through the recycling process was best," he said. "The steel is valuable."
The company's wiggle room comes from the process of defining a delivery van. Customs officials check a bunch of features to determine whether a vehicle's primary purpose might be to move people instead. Since cargo doesn't need seats with seat belts or to look out the window, those items are on the list. So Ford ships all its Transit Connects with both, calls them "wagons" instead of "commercial vans." Installing and removing unneeded seats and windows costs the company hundreds of dollars per van, but the import tax falls dramatically, to 2.5 percent, saving thousands.Kleenex time?
We still cling on to the old world of speech and composition, and are oblivious to the explosive communication possibilities that have opened up via blogging and micro-blogging (like Tweeter), video-broadcasting, .... Most Communications curriculum are nothing but about forensics, critical theory, and voices of the minorities. These are important topics, yes, but communications is way more than that now.
Yes, I truly value the ability to write well--something I am still trying to master. But, I see no reason to expect every incoming freshman to be a Hemingway or Kafka. And not everybody will ever become orators a la Obama.
But, I can see many, many students being a lot more productive--in their jobs, relationships, and as citizens--if they get a good feel for putting some of these emerging (emerged?) technologies to use. If only we could show them some of these from day one .....
Which is why I like trends like this one:
If only higher education would move at a speed that is at least a tad faster than glacial. Hey, wait a minute, even the glaciers are rapidly melting away :-(
Part of the draw for students still flocking to journalism schools is a new generation of courses retooled for new media. The same rapidly changing technology that is creating headaches for many media executives appeals to a generation of students who grew up playing computer games and texting and now tweeting their friends on the microblog Twitter.
"These students are also very comfortable multitasking, and they like the allure of doing different things every day," says Ms. Hines, who is director of Howard University's graduate program in mass communication and media studies. ...
... "Any technological skill you teach them in 2009 will be obsolete by 2012, but we want them to understand that this is the beginning of a lifelong process they need to be open to."
The University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism also requires incoming graduate students to participate in a multimedia boot camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for five days. Lessons in multimedia storytelling are reinforced in a required class in Web publishing skills that runs parallel to one in basic reporting. Students learn how to use digital video, audio, and photo equipment.
Students were also blogging last month from American University's three-week multimedia boot camp and sharing videos of the speakers on YouTube. ....
"There's not a great future in working for mainstream media," says Mr. Harper. "The future is for smart, hard-working students to band together, create their own media, and make a business out of it—and that's what a lot of them are doing."
Christopher Wink hopes to be part of that reinvented future. He graduated from Temple last year and spent three months stringing for daily newspapers in Pennsylvania before heading on a European backpacking trip with a journalism-school friend.
"We returned to an economy in recession and the print industry in free fall and said, 'Hell, let's build something of our own,'" he says. In February the duo began publishing Technically Philly, a news site that covers local technology and innovation.
Monday, September 21, 2009
With the culturally condescending, poverty-fixated, cliché-ridden Western vision of a populous nation of a million contradictions undergoing marked dilution, a new India is beginning to emerge in the cinema of the world.It is about time!
This BBC report says that "A new India emerges at the movies". It is a review:
Three major films in the official line-up of the 34th Toronto International Film Festival - The Waiting City (Australia), Google Baby (Israel) and Cooking with Stella (Canada) - narrate Indian stories while eschewing the clichés associated with the country.From what I read, I think I like "Cooking with Stella" the best.
Apparently, Lisa Ray, whom I recall from Water and the light-hearted and satirical Bollywood/Hollywood, has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
quotations taken from inmates’ last statements in Texas. The statements, delivered before family members, relatives of victims, friends and the pressThe compilation is here.
Here is another:
I would like to say goodbye
The strangest thing is that while postmodernists tend to be way left of center, such an approach to competing to truths in the public sphere is practically the same one preached by conservatives of many colors--the neoconservatives and those who challenge natural selection and evolution.
Irving Kristol, who died a couple of days ago, and considered to be the father of the neoconservative movement, said (HT)
"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work,"Postmodernists will be very happy with such an explanation of how there exist multiple truths, and that there is no single meta-narrative that will fit one and all.
I suppose it is not that difficult to imagine Kristol being a postmodernist; after all, he was a Trotskyist, who later underwent a conservative conversion while holding on to many of his original notions. As one commentator noted back in 2004,
Irving Kristol began his political life at the City University of New York in the 1930s as a follower of Trotsky, whose own critique of the USSR allowed Kristol to abandon an early flirtation with Marxism.So, when there are competing truths, and the permanent revolution seeks to export democracy, well, it is no wonder we then came across a bizarre "postmodernist" statement by a senior adviser to President Bush:
From Trotsky, Kristol drew one important lesson: the idea of "permanent revolution" and the "export of Communism" without any concession made to other political ideologies, such as nationalism (or "socialism in one country"). If Trotsky wrote of "exporting Communism", Kristol's junior Joshua Muravchik wrote, in 1991, of "exporting democracy", where "democracy in one country" is insufficient, since it has to be exported around the world if it is to be sustained.
''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
It is a depressing thought, no?, to think that most of the time we fight the good fight not in the hope of winning it? So, what is the context in which Professor Wills writes this? At how much the change in the White House has not translated to significant directional changes that would indicate a move towards restoring the ideals of the constitution. The entire essay, which is not at all lengthy, is a great read. Excerpt:
A president is greatly pressured to keep all the empire's secrets. He feels he must avoid embarrassing the hordes of agents, military personnel, and diplomatic instruments whose loyalty he must command. Keeping up morale in this vast, shady enterprise is something impressed on him by all manner of commitments. He becomes the prisoner of his own power. .... He is a self-entangling giant.But, we fight, not in the hope of winning because, as Professor Wills puts it:
.... in the nuclear era, the Constitution has become quaint and obsolete. Few people even consider anymore Madison's lapidary pronouncement, "In republican government the legislative authority necessarily predominates." Instead, we are all, as citizens, asked to salute our commander in chief. Any president, wanting leverage to accomplish his goals, must find it hard to give up the aura of war chief, the mystery and majesty that have accrued to him with control of the Bomb, the awesome proximity to the Football, to the Button.
Nonetheless, some of us entertain a fondness for the quaint old Constitution.Yes. We do.