30 November 2009

A micturating Santa

Found at Bits and Pieces, via Ravings of a Semi-Sane Madwoman.

The Exploding Whale video

Every now and then someone points out to me that I'm posting something that "isn't new" - something that they saw on the internets years ago. The reason is that TYWKIWDBI is just under two years old, and lots of interesting stuff happened before we entered the cyberworld. I'm using the blog to store stuff I might want to see when I'm old(er) and (more) senile. And one of those things is the famous exploding whale - an event which occurred in 1970, reached YouTube in 2006, and Neatorama shortly thereafter.

Now this isn't the whale that spontaneously burst while being transported through Taiwan; that (low-res) video is here. The whale in the video embedded above was dynamited in an effort to expeditiously remove a carcass from a beach. Years later the reporter reminisced about the event: (Via Neatorama)
“We’re hearing this noise around us and we realize it is pieces of whale blubber hitting the ground around us (from) 1,000 yards away. A piece of blubber the size of a fingernail could kill you if it hit you in the right part of the head, so we ran away from the blast scene, down the dune and toward the parking lot. Then we heard a second explosion ahead of us, and we just kept going until we saw what it was: A car had been hit by this coffee-table-size piece of blubber and had its windows flattened all the way down to the seats.”
The news reporter doesn't explain where the whale on the beach came from; it's implied that it washed ashore. There are other possibilities...

...but no flowerpot was reported in the vicinity.

They who shall not be named...

... at least, not in this blog, because I agree with this sentiment expressed at FiveThirtyEight:
I am sick to my stomach over That Couple. And now comes news they are peddling their exclusive story to the highest media bidder. Disgusting, but hardly surprising.

No, you’re not famous; you’re infamous. You’re situated squarely at the bottom of an already too-deep and increasingly murky barrel of celebrity culture, celebrity journalism, and (un)reality TV, the depths of which are probably making even Andy Warhol cringe in his grave. I want this to be your fifteenth minute. I want your egg timer to ding now, so you can exit our national discourse as swiftly, completely and permanently as possible.

Why? Because there are literally millions of Americans who bust their asses through school and job training, who serve our country in the military in harm’s way, or merely plumb our toilets at home or change our baskets at the office—who, in short, work hard, raise their families and pay their taxes--and do all of that with zero expectation that they should win some version of the public celebrity lottery that suddenly showers them with a degree of fame and fortune that That Couple not merely aspires to, but clearly believe they deserve.
Much more at the link, including the role of the media as conspirators in the process.

via Kottke.

The destruction of New York City

I'm a pushover for any mashup or compilation of movie clips, but this one is posted for Twins fans who are tired of losing to the Yankees...

Via Kottke.

Is there such a thing as a "co-conspirator" ??

Web stories are full of "co-conspirators," many of whom are unindicted. Is this a grammatical faux pas?

I have a note jotted down from months ago (source unknown) which says that people who participate in a conspiracy are "conspirators," which leaves "co-conspirators" as an unnecessary redundancy.

My Random House doesn't list "co-conspirator." Several online dictionaries do, but define it as "a conspirator." I'm too busy now to search further, but I know there are some readers of this blog who are better wordsmiths than I am....

Flying fish

29 November 2009

Recent Neatorama posts

Video of a woodpecker battling a huge snake.

Information gleaned from the smell of old books.

Galileo's (other) finger, tooth, and thumb located.

Somebody wants Playboy - without the pictures.

Skepticism re "facilitated communication" by the Belgian man.

Optical illusion demonstrated in a short video. Impressive.

Remember when King Kong climbed the Empire State Building in the original version of the movie? The (skeleton of) that model is now up for sale.

A photo and explanation of the "green flash" seen at sunset.

An(ne) Elk has been accused of murder.

The photos are unrelated miscellaneous items found at Izismile without links to source; I'll add credits if/when I can find such.

Update: Found the door lock with a reverse image search. It's a real item - not a 'shopped image - available from ThinkGeek. And their catalogue is sitting right on my desk. Duh.

Sky burial

A monk recites the mantra for the dead while vultures eat the remains during a Tibetan sky burial.

Photo credit: Alex Lee, European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times Lens photoblog.

Stereo camera

Apparently an early version of a camera designed to create stereoscopic images. I'm old enough to remember the View-Master.

Photo credit to the New England Journal of Photographic History No 160 (2002) via FFFFound.

Lucy the Elephant

I love weekends, which I save for exploring all sorts of websites. The trouble is I don't have time to research the stuff I find (Vikings game starts shortly...).

This photo is labeled "Lucy the Elephant, Margate, New Jersey, September 12th, 1939." There must be an interesting story behind this creation.

Photo found at (OVO).

Update: Lucy has her own webpage, and there's a YouTube/History Channel video. And there's the Wiki.

"Bombardement de Nancy, 1916"

Found at (OVO).

We're all getting older

Credit to Bizarroblog.

Ready for the prom...

My father lived for quite a few years in a trailer park, so I don't label people who do so with the typical epithets.

But I do have to admit it's unfortunate that this young lady happened to have her photo taken next to the trash can...

Found at Could it be Madness-this?

Lighthearted photos to start the day...

Found at Snuh.

28 November 2009

Meet Paro - the "furbot" for dementia patients

He's a robotic seal developed by Japanese researchers to help dementia patients feel that they have companionship and a feeling of security, without the responsibilities of a living pet. Made to emulate a live pet as much as possible, he can cuddle, nod and blink his big black eyes. Paro is currently being tested with patients in Baden-Baden and there are already 1,000 robot seals deployed in long-term care homes in Japan.
The image comes from a gallery at Der Spiegel featuring submissions to Focus magazine's "Beauty in Science" photo competition. Paro has been on the market for several years and was featured in an article at AARP's website:
...the world's first therapeutic or "mental-commit" robot - designed to provide relaxation, entertainment and companionship through physical interaction. This adorable furbot was modeled after a baby harp seal literally from the inside out. Sensors beneath Paro's fur and whiskers trigger the seal to move and respond - wriggling with delight when petted and showing displeasure when ignored. Its eyes open and close, and its flippers can move as well. Other built-in sensors allow Paro to respond to sight, sound, temperature and even posture. Covered in soft white antibacterial fur, Paro's artificial intelligence means it can mimic animal behavior and over time, even develop its own character. The latest Paro model, (8th generation) can recognize seven different languages: Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish...
I don't know whether to be delighted that mankind has developed a robot that learns and recognizes seven languages, or to be saddened that such technology is necessary to replace a function that used to be performed by humans...

Paro's homepage.

Thanksgiving weekend

Bangladeshi child laborers work at a balloon workshop in Kamrangir Char, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, Nov. 19. AP / Pavel Rahman

Children wash clothes and bathe at a water pipeline surrounded by sewage in Mumbai, India on Wednesday, Nov. 18. AP / Rafiq Maqbool

Children push a cart through a darkened street in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Nov. 20. AP / Mustafa Quraishi

Everyone has something to be thankful for. Just the fact that you're able to read this post means that you have fared well on the so-called "genetic lottery."

I've been trying to remember the name of a prominent person (?author) who suggested that persons in power should formulate their foreign policy on the presumption that they might be reincarnated as a child somewhere else in the world.

The photos above of "the world's children" are selected from a group of about 20 at a Sacramento Bee photoblog.

TYWKIWDBI has a new feedburner feed

As an amateur I stumbled through the process this morning.

The new feedburner link is here.

Or alternatively [xml] here?

I don't know whether this new feed is equivalent to/better/worse than the feed I currently have posted in the right sidebar. I haven't added this to the sidebar with a widget because I'm not sure if I should "redirect the Blogger feed to the Feedburner feed" or not.

Stormy weather

This video was taken on the 7th of december 2007 in "Raz de Sein" at the western tip of France, in Brittany, on a (very) stormy day.

Those lighthouses isolated in the open sea are/were called "Hells" because of the roughness of living conditions inside these isolated buildings, frequently harassed by the elements.

The first one seen in the video is Ar Men ("The Rock" in Breton), one of the best known lighthouses because of its isolated situation and the considerable difficulties its construction has presented (14 years were needed to build it !!), and the danger in evacuating its personnel. Considered as one of the most challenging workplaces by the community of lighthouse keepers, it has been named "The Hell of Hells".
The text above is excerpted from the description at the YouTube link, where there is also information on the other lighthouses in the video and on the coast.

Video found in the archives at Scribal Terror.

27 November 2009

Avoiding the need for dental anaesthesia

At times, in his practice, to break down the iron will of an incorrigible patient, the author has resorted to the towel procedure. It is drastic, but "the spirit must be conquered before the flesh can be subdued." The mother must necessarily be excused, and, as she leaves the room, the latch should be turned on the door---otherwise, she will be back at the crucial moment and destroy all that has been accomplished.

To proceed, take a towel in your left hand. Put that arm around the headrest, placing the towel over the child's mouth while holding his two hands in your right hand, which is also pressed down against the body, holding him firmly in the chair. Talk directly into his ear, saying, "As soon as you stop crying, I will let go." If, after a minute or two, no response is given, close the thumb and finger of the towel hand over the nose, shutting off the air supply. In a few seconds he will exhibit symptoms of reasoning and will agree to submit, but the moment the hand is released he will yell loudly for his mother. Immediately replace the towel and proceed again. This time pay no attention to the initial overtures, and hold him until he experiences some discomfort. Prior to releasing him say, "Will you help? Are you sure? Are you sure? Sure?" This time when he agrees to cooperate he will be as good as his word, and the crying will be but momentary. Immediately take the mirror and, in a gruff tone, remark, "Now open your mouth and let me look at your teeth." Almost before the child realizes it, the mouth will open like a trap suddenly sprung, and one may proceed with the examination. The rest is easy.

It is recognized that there is a great deal of criticism of this so-called manhandling procedure. However, the reader must bear in mind that it is only the very rare child who must be treated in this manner; it does not occur with greater frequency than once or twice a month. Certainly it is not a pleasant thing to do, yet when a child has a history of having created an embarrassing scene in three or four different offices, it is necessary if anything is to be accomplished. It should be a means of last resort, the last card in the operator's deck of possibilities.

From "Incorrigible Children," in Juvenile Dentistry, a textbook by Dr. Walter C. McBride, published in 1941 . An excerpt from the book appeared in issue number 12 of Chip's Closet Cleaner, a 'zine published in Chicago by Chip Rowe, republished at ChipRowe.com.

Reprinted in Harper's Magazine, August 1995, p. 26

Mommy's leg

"An Afghan girl touches her mother's artificial leg the ICRC Ali Abad Orthopaedic centre in Kabul November 12, 2009. The center, which is run mostly by disabled people, aims to educate and rehabilitate landmine victims and people with any kind of deformities, to help them integrate effectively into society. They also provide the patients with a 18-months interest free $600 micro credit loan." (REUTERS/Jerry Lampen).

Found at The Big Picture's photoessay on Afghanistan.

Afghan fashion

"A woman tried to keep warm as she waited at a food distribution site for widows in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday. The food rations from CARE include wheat, cooking oil salt and beans. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)."

That pleated, embroidered fabric is beautiful, and quite striking. Click to enlarge.

Found at the WSJ's Photoblog.

Santa Claus

A Santa Claus at the KaDeWe department store in Berlin posed in front of a colorful Christmas tree Wednesday. (Michael Gottschalk/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images).
A nice reminder that there's more than one possible outfit.

In what category should we file Sarah Palin?

"A bird's eye view of Gov. Sarah Palin talking with Americans and signing her book "Going Rogue" at Borders bookstore during the third "Going Rogue" book signing event Thursday, November 19, 2009, in Noblesville, IN. Photo by Shealah Craighead. Copyright SarahPAC."

Note the signs. As you stand in the store, she would be to the right of politics, and under...

Hat tip to The Pajama Pundit.

26 November 2009

"Gaza zebras"

"An unhappy donkey has tape stuck to its coat in an attempt to transform it into a zebra. Due to Israeli blockades on the Gaza Strip, it has become impossible for a Palestinian zoo to import wild animals. So after the last two zebras died, the owner of the Marah Land Zoo painted and taped two donkeys into zebra lookalikes. The unfortunate creatures have become symbols of the blockade. It would cost over $40,000 (€26,600) to smuggle a genuine zebra from Africa, via Egypt, through secret tunnels built under the blockaded border. Whereas, the zookeeper told the Chinese Xinhua news agency, the donkeys only cost $700 (€470) each. Plus paint and masking tape, of course."
Text and photo from Der Spiegel. The masking tape is of course a temporary measure for the coloration process. The final product is shown below in a photo from the Huffington Post.

Those who consider this cruel should take a moment to reflect on the normal life of a donkey as a beast of burden, and should compare this treatment with what Americans do to dogs.

Orange Pore fungus (Favolaschia calocera)

"Found in Madagascar and Australia, this species has become invasive in New Zealand."

Found at Electric Orchid. Can any kiwis out there comment?


The remarkable hands of a woman in Srinagar, Kashmir. The photo above enlarges with a click, or you can download a wallpaper version at National Geographic.

Via Voluspa.

An Obama/GOP alliance?

An interesting essay today at Counterpunch. Herewith some excerpts:
With Obama pushing a huge troop escalation in Afghanistan, history may well repeat itself with a vengeance. And it’s not just the apt comparison to LBJ, who destroyed his presidency on the battlefields of Vietnam with an escalation that delivered power to Nixon and the GOP.

There’s another frightening parallel: Obama seems to be following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who accomplished perhaps his single biggest legislative “triumph” – NAFTA – thanks to an alliance with Republicans that overcame strong Democratic and grassroots opposition...

To get a majority today in Congress on Afghanistan, the Obama White House is apparently bent on a strategy replicating the tragic farce that Clinton pulled off: Ignore the informed doubts of your own party while making common cause with extremist Republicans who never accepted your presidency in the first place...

For those who elected Obama, it’s important to remember the downward spiral that was accelerated by Clinton’s GOP alliance to pass NAFTA. It should set off alarm bells for us today on Afghanistan.

NAFTA was quickly followed by the debacle of Clinton healthcare “reform” largely drafted by giant insurance companies, which was followed by a stunning election defeat for Congressional Democrats in November 1994, as progressive and labor activists were lethargic while rightwing activists in overdrive put Gingrich into the Speaker’s chair...

Today, it’s crucial to ask where Obama is heading. From the stimulus to healthcare, he’s shown a Clinton-like willingness to roll over progressives in Congress on his way to corrupt legislation and frantic efforts to compromise for the votes of corporate Democrats or “moderate” Republicans. Meanwhile, the incredible shrinking “public option” has become a sick joke.

As he glides from retreats on civil liberties to health reform that appeases corporate interests to his Bush-like pledge this week to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, an Obama reliance on Congressional Republicans to fund his troop escalation could be the final straw in disorienting and demobilizing the progressive activists who elected him a year ago...

Throughout the centuries, no foreign power has been able to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, but President Obama thinks he’s a tough enough Commander-in-Chief to do it...

When you start in the center (on, say, healthcare or Afghanistan) and readily move rightward several steps to appease rightwing politicians or lobbyists or Generals, by definition you are governing as a conservative.

It’s been a gradual descent from the elation and hope for real change many Americans felt on election night, November 2008...
More at Counterpunch.

Baby coelacanth photographed

It's good to see one photographed alive after all the situations where specimens had been dragged up from the bathysphere in nets only to die of barotrauma.

Japanese marine researchers have found and successfully filmed the young fish at a depth of 528ft in Manado Bay off Sulawesi Island, Indonesia.

Video footage shows the 12.6-inch coelacanth, coloured blue with white spots, swimming slowly among rocks on the seabed for about 20 minutes.

A similar-sized juvenile was once discovered in the belly of a pregnant coelacanth. It is believed that their eggs hatch inside the female and the young fish are fully formed at the time of birth.

Coelacanths are commonly regarded as having evolved little from prehistoric times and were thought to be extinct until a living specimen was discovered in 1938 off the coast of southern Africa.

Found at the Daily Mail. Here are links for the Association for the Preservation of the Coelacanth and for the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme.

Offered without comment...

Found at Fail Blog, via Titam et le Sirop d'Erable.

Addendum: Extensive commentary is now available at this Telegraph article, which reports that Southwest Airlines is investigating the incident. Discussion at the link indicates that he was probably seated in the two seats immediately behind him and was sitting on the armrest to chat with a friend when a stewardess took the photo.

Giant centipede vs. snake

Centipede wins, presumably via envenomation of the snake. The video lasts 7+ minutes, but the interesting part is over by about the 2 minute mark.

Polar bear vs. human

We'll call this one a tie...

Via Geeks. For those of you interested in learning how to cope with an actual polar bear attack, there is a two-minute instructional video.


Archaeologists working at Jamestown, Virginia, have been excavating what they believe may be the first well dug at James Fort in 1609 by Captain John Smith. This summer they retrieved an unusual artifact from the well - a slate tablet inscribed on both sides with drawings of people, plants, birds, words, and numbers.

The words on the slate include the phrase "A MINON OF THE FINEST SORTE."
According to Straube, "minon" is a 17th-century variation of the word "minion" and has numerous meanings, including "servant," "follower," "comrade," "companion," "favorite," or someone dependent on a patron's favor. A minion is also a type of cannon—and archaeologists have found shot at the James Fort site that's the right size for a minion.
Above that phrase are the letters and numbers "EL NEV FSH HTLBMS 508" interspersed with symbols that have yet to be interpreted.

The images on the tablet are difficult to see, because they are the same dark gray color as the slate (presumably enhanced in the photo embedded above), and they overlap. The colonists would have written on the tablet with a small, rectangular pencil made of slate with a sharp point. This would have made a white mark—and fortunately for archaeologists today, it also left a scratch...

He hopes eventually to sort out the sequence of the images with the help of NASA, where scientists at the Langley Research Center are using a high-precision, three-dimensional imaging system similar to a CT scanner to help isolate the layers and provide a detailed analysis of the tablet.

That report was written up in National Geographic in June. I've not seen any followup report as to the interpretation of the unusual phrase.

Photos via 1609 Chronology.

25 November 2009

Socotra "dragon trees"

Thoroughly surreal, and totally new to me. I even had to look up where Socotra was. Another tree shown here.

Photo credit to Edoardo Scepi, via Electric Orchids.

Light Echoes

In a light echo, light from the flash is reflected by successively more distant rings in the complex array of ambient interstellar dust that already surrounded the star. V838 Mon lies about 20,000 light years away toward the constellation of the unicorn (Monoceros), while the light echo above spans about six light years in diameter.
I don't quite understand the science (which is further explained at Astronomy Picture of the Day); blogged primarily because of the beauty of the image. Click photo to enlarge.

Alfred Russel Wallace's cabinet

TYWKIWDBI has a particular affinity for stories about "cabinets of curiosities." These "Wunderkammer" were storehouses of interesting things, and were particularly popular in the Victorian era. One of the great Victorian naturalists was Alfred Russel Wallace, discoverer of Wallace's Line in the East Indies. Today Discovery News featured an article about Wallace's personal collections cabinet.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of Darwin's seminal work, On the Origin of Species by the Means of Natural Selection. It is therefore fitting that the American Museum of Natural History has just unveiled Wallace's cabinet, which is now on display in the museum's Grand Gallery. It's a stunning piece, made of fine-crafted rosewood. The exterior, however, is no match for the interior. Nearly two thousand sorted and labeled beetles, moths and plants fill its drawers.
I've included a photo of a sample drawer of moths. Other photos at the link show drawers of butterflies, beetles, shells, and seeds.

The "strangest cities" in the United States

Someone at a company called Tableseed analysed all the Associated Press "strange news" stories that were released in the past year. The state with the greatest number of such stories was Florida, followed by New Hamshire (?) and Alaska.

The top ten cities yielding strange stories were...

1) New York City, NY
2) Lincoln, NE
3) Madison, WI
4) Philadelphia, PA
5) Chicago, IL
6) Cinncinnati, OH
7) Boston, MA
8) Detroit, MI
9) Dallas, TX
10) Pittsburgh, PA

The full dataset includes the ranking of 51 states (I'm very surprised that Kentucky came in 51st) and 75 cities. It's meaningless, of course - but you'll probably want to check where your state and city rank...

Via Within the Crainium.

Impressive meteor captured on video

"A streaking fireball briefly illuminated parts of the Utah sky to daylight-level conditions early Wednesday. Surveillance video from an observatory shows a blinding flash of light at 12:07 a.m., followed by clear images of the object."


Oxford names a common room "Gryffindore"

The student body voted on Sunday to pass a motion renaming the house after JK Rowling's equivalent at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It is the first time Magdalen College Junior Common Room has changed its name during its 550 year history.

Students are now campaigning to rename Christ Church, St Hughs and Merton colleges common rooms after the three other houses in Hogwarts; Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.

Islands seen from space

Top to bottom - the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia, The Maldives, The Galapagos (I wonder if there are seahorses in the waters there...), and Atafu Atoll in Tokelau.

From an assemblage of about a dozen at Wired, where there are further details re the islands.

Troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban

The Taliban is the bottom circle. Click to enlarge.

From an article at the Guardian, via The Daily Dish.

24 November 2009

Faces burned with acid

Most people are aware that in some cultural settings, women and girls are punished by having acid thrown in their face. Typically these stories circulate without photographs of the victims, perhaps in part because of the shame felt by the victim, but also because of hesitancy of the mainstream press to inflict such images on the public.

This week I found at the All Eyes blog at TampaBay.com an essay on the subject accompanied by a set of a dozen portraits, each accompanied by a brief biographical sketch. Here are some examples:
Irum was burned on her face, back and shoulders twelve years ago when a boy whom she rejected for marriage threw acid on her in the middle of the street. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times...

Shameem was raped by three boys who then threw acid on her three years ago. Shameem has undergone plastic surgery 10 times...

At the age of five Najaf was burned by her father while she was sleeping, apparently because he didn't want to have another girl in the family. As a result of the burning Najaf became blind and after being abandoned by both her parents she now lives with relatives. She has undergone plastic surgery around 15 times...

Bushra was burned with acid thrown by her husband five years ago because she was trying to divorce him. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times...

Menuna was burned by a group of boys who threw acid on her to settle a dispute between their family and Menuna's...
The Tampa Bay article links to a NYT column by multiple-Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof which further discusses these acid attacks.

I found the Tampa Bay blog link in a Reddit thread, where this topic is discussed at length, and where there are links to several organizations which provide support to these women, and which accept donations: The Acid Survivors Trust International, The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, and the Acid Survivors Foundation, Pakistan.

I suppose there will be visitors to TYWKIWDBI who will be distressed to be confronted by these faces on arriving at the blog. I don't care. These women have been "below the fold" too long. It's hard for me to describe how high my respect is for the raw courage these women display, not only in pursuing their lives with such an enormous cosmetic defect, but in being willing to be photographed. I encourage you to view the other portraits and admire the quiet dignity of these women.

Photos by Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press.


Erté was the working name of Russian-born French artist Romain Tyrtov. His initials were R.T., so he used the pronunciation of the letters as his pseudonym.
Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the Art Deco period in which he worked. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognizable, and his ideas and art still influence fashion into the 21st century. His costumes, program designs and sets were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923 [and] many productions of the Folies Bergère...
The best online collection of his work that I've been able to find tonight is at Purple Dragon's Erte page.

Image above via Ordinary Finds. Click to enlarge.

These cigarette warning labels kick ass

Clove cigarettes in Malaysia. Click to enlarge.


"President Barack Obama plays peek-a-boo with Maeve Beliveau, the daughter of Director of Advance Emmett Beliveau, in the Outer Oval Office, Oct. 30, 2009." Credit.

Taken out of context, a variety of other captions would be possible. The Reddit thread was entitled "Obama bows to everyone."

Blogged because some of you will be interested to learn that the White House has a Flickr photostream with about 800 photos in it. These photos are classified as "U.S. Government Work" and thus are copyright-free:
A work that is a United States Government work, prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties, is not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no U.S. copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work...

"Those who do not learn from history...

... are doomed to repeat it" (George Santayana).

The BBC ran a piece last week recalling the end of the Soviet venture in Afghanistan, and comparing it to the current one...

By the late 1980s, Moscow's exit strategy was basically the same as Nato's today - to build up an allied government in Kabul with sufficient trained army and police forces to defend itself, thereby allowing foreign troops to leave.

But even with the backing of a 100,000-strong Soviet army and billions of rubles in aid, the Afghan government struggled to establish its legitimacy and authority much beyond the capital - much like President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed administration today.

This bleak assessment of the situation in late 1986 by the Soviet armed forces commander, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, sounds eerily familiar.

"Military actions in Afghanistan will soon be seven years old," Mr Akhromeev told Mr Gorbachev at a November 1986 Politburo session.

"There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.

"The whole problem is that military results are not followed up by political actions. At the centre there is authority; in the provinces there is not.

"We control Kabul and the provincial centres, but on occupied territory we cannot establish authority. We have lost the battle for the Afghan people".

More at the link, and if that is not sufficiently cautionary, one can think back to the British experience in Afghanistan in 1842.

Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody interpreted by the Muppets

(found at Boing Boing)


The Dynosphere

This invention achieved speeds of 30 mph. The latticework in front of the driver was not a visual impediment while in motion.

Physics humor


Blue Shift

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