Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The big changes occurring in the PC market

Has anyone else noticed the big changes that are happening in the PC market? I was at Staples the other day, and was looking at their selection of Desktop computers. Compact and small, with special niches to hide the keyboard in, touch sensitive monitors... they are starting to look like props in a Star Trek movie. Here are two of the computers I saw:

The HP TouchSmart IQ770 and the HP Pavilion Slimline s3100y

But its not just the look, its also the function and technology. These things have ports on them for connecting to HD TV, and all sorts of other things.

This article at Linuxinsider.com has a look at the current trends, and where they are taking the PC computer market. Some excerpts:

The State of the Desktop
The laptop computer has been gaining on traditional desktop PCs for some time. Replacing one's desktop completely with a portable computer that has enough power to handle any common task is now a feasible option for consumers, and more are heading that direction. Laptops are siphoning off sales of desktops.

As more and more customers look to smaller computing solutions, desktops are undergoing a transition. With many models, manufacturers are turning away from big, clunky, energy-hogging boxes to smaller, thinner and more energy efficient solutions.

The desktop computer market is facing a replenishment phase. Continued purchases of desktop PCs will be primarily made by existing desktop owners who need to upgrade their hardware, though more and more frequently, those consumers will seriously consider and in fact decide to spend their money on a fully powered laptop instead, according to industry analysts.

[...]

About a decade ago, computer manufacturers had few new roads to explore, having sold PCs to nearly all of the 850 million people worldwide who wanted and could afford a machine, according to Stephen Dukker, chairman of NComputing and former CEO of Emachines. Citing a Gartner Research report, Dukker said there is a potential for 755 million new computer users who can't afford desktops as they are priced today.

"The desktop market has not been growing until recently with the rise of developing countries," Dukker told TechNewsWorld.

[...]

"Green PCs use less power and give more performance," Steve Bulling, senior product manager for professional desktops and displays for Gateway, told TechNewsWorld.

For instance, new technologies are reducing power specifications for desktop PCs from 95 watts to 60 watts while still maintaining performance, he explained.

Related to the green PC influences are shifting attitudes over outfitting every computer user with top-of-the-line performance. There is a growing viewpoint in corporate management circles that few workers need maximum features and power to do their jobs, Bulling said.

"Consumers are starting to want smaller form factors and are becoming receptive to energy efficiency with the ability to put the box under the desk or behind other items on the desk surface," suggested Bulling.

[...]

"Emachine took the (US)$800 PC and sold it for $400. That was the last major expansion in user base. People still pay today about $700. The cost to build hasn't changed. Only the performance has changed," Dukker explained.

By comparison, today's PCs are supercomputers with 1,000 times more power than 10 years ago, he said. Now PC makers have to worry about a trend for all applications going to the Web.

"Nobody can make any money selling desktops. The margin is 6 percent. There is so little money that Emachines had to sell out to a competitor in a similar fashion to Compaq being absorbed by HP," Dukker said.

(bold emphasis mine) The article also gives more details about new innovations, such as terminals that run off a central PC, that only draw 6 watts of power, yet can deliver a full featured PC experience. Compared to the standard 200 watts that powers a desktop PC, by using several terminals per PC instead, the cost savings could be enormous. Then of course there are trends like Linux, as people look for cheaper options than being forced to updgrade to Windows Vista when Microsft ends support for Windows XP. Read the whole thing if you want a look into the future of computing.

The following is a link to a compilation of post I've done about the big changes occurring in laptop market place, and the changes we will being seeing soon.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is Windows Vista as bad as some are saying?


Does Vista suck? I think it depends. When you buy Vista already installed, say on a new home PC, the manufacturer has taken some steps to insure that it is compatible with all the hardware. If it also happens to be compatible with all your hardware peripherals, or devices you add to it later, you would likely have a good impression. But if it's not compatible with peripheral devices you used previously with XP, or new things you bought, you would think differently.

The greatest criticism seems to come from people who have tried to upgrade existing Win XP computers to Vista. Here is one example from Steven J. Vaughan Nichols at Desktoplinux.com, who talks about his friend, and avid Windows user, who is uninstalling Vista from all his machines:

Second-rate Vista has Windows fans looking to Linux
[...] I'm now editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise, which means I get to stick my nose into just about any technology that interests me, and Jim's just left being the editor in chief of PC Magazine to take over Revision3, an Internet television network focused on developing programming for the on-demand generation. When it comes to operating systems these days, I'm now using SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 SP 1 and MEPIS 6.5 on my work desktops and Jim's switching back from Vista to XP on his workday machines.

Yes, that's right. A loyal Windows user of more than 15-years is throwing in the towel on Vista. You can read his story for why he finds Vista so annoying, but I'll sum it up for you: Vista sucks.

The drivers don't drive, running programs won't run or won't stop running, applications don't apply and networking won't net. I feel his pain.

I keep two copies of Vista Ultimate up so that when I want to compare Vista with a Linux desktop I'm able to actually use Vista so I can make a fair comparison between Vista and its Linux competition. Vista just doesn't cut it. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Yikes! Read the whole thing for more details. Is it any wonder so many people are saying this a window of opportunity for Mac OS and Linux to make big inroads in the Desktop market?


I think Microsoft has always been too content to release buggy software, and too willing to expect people to just put up with it. I know one friend, a business woman, who is wanting to buy a new PC, but is putting it off, because she doesn't want to deal with Windows Vista.

Apparently many people feel that way. Have you noticed how cheap the price of computer memory is lately? That's because a surplus was manufactured, in anticipation of people wanting to upgrade to Vista. But the rush they anticipated hasn't materialized, so they are cutting prices and selling memory cheap.

I once worked for an accountant, who advised "Never buy the first version of ANYTHING by Microsoft. Let other people be the guinea pigs first." I have found that to be sensible advice. I only got Windows XP after it had been out for a while. I got it already installed on a new computer I bought, and service pack 2 had just come out.

My experience with XP has been mostly positive. It helped that many of the bugs had been corrected by the time I started using it. Perhaps this will become true for Vista too; only time will tell. But in the meantime, alternatives like Linux, BSD and Mac OSX may find lots of new customers.



Windows Vista is the best thing to happen to Apple
[...] I do work on both an Apple and a PC – but haven’t yet upgraded my PC to Windows Vista as of yet; don’t know if I ever will. I am consulting with a start-up in northern Virginia and their entire team upgraded – I’ve heard nothing but endless complaints since. I thought it was funny that Vista has so many options and all seems to miss the mark. [...]

It will be interesting to watch how this all unfolds. More viable choices in the marketplace could only be a good thing for everyone in the long run, IMO.
     

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Belgium Crisis continues... will Belgium?

Paul Belien at the Brussels Journal has these articles about the ongoing crisis in his country:

King Summons Unelected Councillors to Solve Crisis. Will France Annex Wallonia?
[...] On 10 June the Belgians went to the polls to elect a new Parliament. Instead of seeing their elected representatives dealing with the country’s political problems and putting a government together – as would be the case in democratic countries – they now see an unelected official, the King, and a group of unelected “wise” men, most of them politicians from the last century, usurp the duties of their elected representatives.

[...]

Yesterday the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro published a column by Alexandre Adler in which Adler urged the French President Sarkozy to prepare for the annexation of Wallonia by France. Adler said Sarkozy should not miss this historic opportunity “to govern an enlarged France.” He referred to the example of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who in 1990 grabbed the opportunity to incorporate East Germany into the German Federal Republic. Last week a survey in the Netherlands showed 77% of the Dutch in favour of reuniting the Netherlands and Flanders. [...]


After Belgium: Will Flanders and the Netherlands Reunite?
Belgium is rapidly unraveling. Following the June 10th Belgian general elections, won by Flemish-secessionist parties, the Belgian parties seem unable to form a government coalition.

Belgium is a multinational state, the model for the European Union’s efforts to turn Europe into a single multinational state. Belgium is made up of 60% Dutch-speaking, free-market oriented Flemings and 40% French-speaking, predominantly Socialist Walloons. The Belgian Constitution stipulates that the government should consist of 50% Flemings and 50% Walloons. Belgian governments always have to rely on a majority in both Flanders and Wallonia, since major decisions need the support of both parts of the country. In practice this means that 20% of the population (i.e. half of the Walloons) can veto every decision. This has made the Parti Socialiste (PS), the Walloon Socialist Party, the power broker in the country.

The refusal of the PS to reform the welfare state system has caused growing Flemish frustration, and turned what used to be a linguistic conflict into a dispute about economic and welfare policies. While Flanders pays most of Belgium’s taxes the bulk of the money flows to Wallonia. There a welfare-receiving electorate votes for parties which for over three decades have been blocking any attempts at reforming the collapsing welfare system.

[...]

Apart from the media in Belgium and the neighbouring Netherlands, the international papers and broadcasters have hardly reported about the disintegration of the EU’s host country. On Tuesday a survey of the Dutch [Netherlandish] television network RTL4 showed that 77% of the inhabitants of the Netherlands are in favour of the Netherlands and Flanders merging into one country.

In Belgium, an internet poll of Flanders’ largest newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, showed 50.9% in favour of reuniting Flanders and the Netherlands. The Flemish provinces were part of the Netherlands until 1831, when the international powers established the Kingdom of Belgium.

(bold emphasis mine) Belgium is sometimes referred to as Yugoslavia in slow-motion. It's been held together artificially for so long... how much longer can it continue? Frankly, I hope it doesn't. The EU is using Belgium as a role model for it's master plan for Europe. It's a terrible role model. The sooner if fails, the better.

The following are two more links about the forces at work in the situation:

Why Belgium Is an Artificial State. And the United Kingdom, Switzerland (and Even Austria-Hungary) Are Not

Belgium, the EU’s Destiny. The End of Nothingness
     

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Farm Report 08-25-07

We didn't want any baby chicks this year, and have not allowed any of the hens to hatch any out. But despite our best efforts to control our fowl population, a few of the sneaky bantams succeeded in hatching some babies.


The first one was one of the grey hens. She hatched out one chick in the woods. One morning just when I was about to open the hen house door to let them all out, I heard this peeping noise at my feet. I had almost stepped on this tiny chick. The mother was trying to bring it in to the coop to feed it.

It's cute, but we think it's going to be a rooster, so I don't know how long it's going to last.


Then about two weeks later, I'm working at my computer and faintly in the distance, I hear the sound of peeping new born chicks. I followed the sound into the tool shed/shop. that building has a cat door, and one of the bantams had gone in there and made a nest. She hatched two babies; they were lost amid the tools; she was running around outside, frantic.


I think she was wanting to get them into the coop, but could not get them to follow. Also, there was a lot of broken shells in there, and the cat was looking quite contented, so perhaps the pussy had something to do with abbreviating the hen's family. I don't know for sure, I didn't find any body-parts.


New born bantam chicks are extra-small, and therefore extra cute, making it extra-hard to just leave them there as fresh catfood. So I put them in an old rabbit cage.


We didn't want them, but here they are. So we are going to let the mothers raise them, if they can. No heat lamps, no fancy measures to keep them alive. If the mommies can raise'em, they can keep'em.


So far they seem to be doing a pretty good job. They have even taught the chicks to jump up on perches already.


I thought baby chicks were very delicate, but these moms let them out in cold mornings and windy days, and they seem to do fine.


In these pictures they are already a few weeks old; they were as small as my thumb when they were born.


Right now, they are partitioned off from the general population; I don't know at what point I should let them join all the others. The grey chick already sleeps on a perch with it's mother. The nights are getting colder, and they would be warmer sleeping with the other birds. I think we will have to try to intergrate the grey mother and baby soon. We'll see how it goes.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Genetically altered GloFish create controversy


Fish that glow! They are banned in California, Canada and the European Union, but it seems you can buy them as pets in most of the United States. From Wikipedia:

GloFish
The GloFish is a trademarked brand of genetically modified (GM) fluorescent zebrafish with bright red, green, and orange fluorescent color. Although not originally developed for the ornamental fish trade, it is the first genetically modified animal to become publicly available as a pet.

Early development

The original zebrafish (zebra danio) from which the GloFish was developed is a native of rivers in India and Bangladesh. It measures four centimetres long and has gold and dark blue stripes, and over 200 million have been sold in the last 50 years in the United States ornamental fish market. Despite the number of zebrafish sold, they have never established any reproducing populations in the United States, primarily because they are tropical fish, unable to survive in the U.S. climate.

In 1999, Dr. Zhiyuan Gong and his colleagues at the National University of Singapore took a gene from a jellyfish that naturally produced a green fluorescent protein and inserted it into the zebrafish genome. This caused the fish to glow brightly under both natural white light and ultraviolet light. Their goal was to develop a fish that could detect pollution by selectively fluorescing in the presence of environmental toxins. The development of the always fluorescing fish was the first step in this process. Shortly thereafter, his team developed a line of red fluorescent zebra fish by adding a gene from a sea coral, and yellow fluorescent zebra fish, by adding a variant of the jellyfish gene. Later, a team of Taiwanese researchers at the National University of Taiwan, headed by Professor Huai-Jen Tsai, succeeded in creating a medaka (rice fish) with a fluorescent green color. [...]

(Bold emphasis mine) I can see why the U.S. allows the zebra GloFish; it can't naturalize here, because the temperatures are too extreme. But I don't know about the Medaka. I believe it's a rice-paddy fish, and since there are parts of the southern U.S. where rice is grown, maybe it could naturalize?

I do know that the next time I'm at the local Walmart Superstore, I'm gonna have a look and see what they've got in the pet section.

Visit the link to Wikipedia for more info on the GloFish and the controversy surrounding it.


Related Link:

Genetically Modified Organisms In the Aquatic Trade?

[...] In Taiwan, fluorescent greenish yellow Medakas (Oryzias latipes) will be ready for their international launch in the aquatic trade. And, in several countries, research continues to find new areas for employing genetical engineering in the production of new fish varieties, often supported by government offices and research institutions.


Efforts do not only focus on improving colour and shape, but also on developing characteristics such as faster growth, resistance to infection and tolerance of lower temperatures. This last point, in particular, would certainly open up the debate on invasiveness and environmental risks. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) I think in one way these fish are really cool. But if they get released into an environment where they could be naturalized, it could get really complicated. The article says the breeders are doing everything they can to make sure the fish can't reproduce. But remember a similar argument in the movie Jurassic Park? Nature found a way to circumvent careful human planning. Fishy, scaly, amphibian type critters have all kinds of ways to insure their survival and reproduce. Genetic engineering sure is going to make the future more complicated.
     

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fewer happy days for the American North East?

From the NY POST:

HAPPY DAYS HERE AGAIN
August 15, 2007 -- A surprising 94 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with their lives - although far fewer in New York and other Eastern states think they're better off than they were five years ago, according to a new survey.

The Harris Poll of more than 1,000 people reported the overall "satisfaction" level, defined as people who said they were either very or somewhat satisfied with their lot, was up 4 percentage points, from 90 percent two years ago.

But only 42 percent of people in the Eastern U.S. said things had improved since 2002. By contrast, 60 percent of Southerners and 62 percent of Westerners said their lives had improved.

I can only guess at the reasons. A loss of gumption? The North East, where I was born and raised, seems to be wanting to become more like Europe, which IMO, isn't a good role model for anything but self-destruction (see Paul Belien's article, Europe’s Dreaded Affliction). I do know that I'm happy to be living in the American North West, where at least in the rural areas, gumption is still valued and admired.
     

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Islamist AKP chooses Gul for President

Just as it was predicted earlier, it has now come to pass:


AKP's Long Awaited Decision Comes: It Is Abdullah Gul For President
Turkish news agencies are announcing that during the AKP’s Central Executive Board (MIK) meeting that just ended, it was decided for FM Abdullah Gul to be AKP’s candidate for president.

Tomorrow Gul will visit opposition leaders to seek their support. After his round of visits with all the opposition parties, Gul will officially announce his candidacy.

CHP, MHP and DSP have declared their opposition to Gul’s candidacy for president and have been demanding that PM Erdogan keeps his promise to find a compromise candidate that would be acceptable to all the parties.

Source: Hurriyet, Yeni Safak, Turkey, August 13, 2007



Turkish Columnist Ozdemir Ince: Gul's Presidency Violates Democracy, Secular Nature of Public Space
Hurriyet columnist Ozdemir Ince wrote that he has nothing to say to the Islamist writers and media who passionately campaigned for Gul’s presidency because their goals are clear: They want an Islamist republic and they want to take their revenge from [on] the secular state that they are opposed to.

But to those who tried to connect Gul’s presidency with democracy, Ince says that public space is neutral as described by the constitution. Nobody can carry his faith that is in his private domain to the public space. Public space belongs to everybody equally but is not owned by anybody. It cannot belong 47% to AKP, 20% to CHP, 14% to MHP and so on. Even if a political party gets 99% of the vote it cannot claim the public space as its. The 1% - believer or non-believer - is equal to the 99% in the public space. Bringing one’s own private religion and its political symbols to the public space that should essentially be neutral, is against democracy, against equality, secularism and the law.

Source: Hurriyet, Turkey, August 14, 2007

(bold emphasis mine). Gul's candidacy is one of the major contention points that led to the call for new elections. This is sure to make a lot of people angry.

Many people maintain that devout Islamists know how to play the multi-culti game, by pretending to be respectful of views different of their own, even making promises they have no intention of keeping, until such time as they can take power and enforce their own views. Is that what we are seeing here?

More on why this matters: A Synopsis of Turkey's Political Situation.
     

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Will AKP's Gul be Turkey's President?

Erdogan (on the left), talking to Gul

Sabah Columnist: "It Will Be Gul, 100%"
Columnist Rusen Cakir of mainstream Turkish daily Sabah who is well connected with AKP circles, wrote today that the new president will be Gul, with 100% certainty. Cakir argues that despite the views of the mainstream media that reflect the wishes of the 53% of the people that did not vote for AKP in the elections, and their expectation that PM Erdogan will keep his promise to seek compromise on the candidate for president, Gul will soon be declared as the only candidate and will become the next president.

According to Cakir AKP cannot ignore the will of its Islamist base - that will always remain as the party’s core and backbone – despite the illusion of its slide towards the center.

Source: Sabah, Turkey, August 11, 2007

(bold emphasis mine) PM Erdogan and Gul both have wives who obey Sharia law and cover their heads. One point of contention that led to calling of new elections was Erdogan's plan to appoint Gul as president, because of his conservative Islamist views. During the last election Erdogan implied he would choose someone more moderate to fill the presidents position, for the sake of national unity. The AKP won with more votes than any other party, but not a majority of total votes. Everyone now is waiting to see what Erdogan will do.

Supporters of secular government in Turkey fear the Islamist AKP will bring Religion into government and reintroduce "backwardness" as the dominant force in Turkish society and culture.

What is "backwardness"? It could be many things, but the following is a good example:


Honor Killings in Turkey Claimed Lives of Mother, Daughter
A woman (47) deserted her husband in Kars, in eastern Turkey, and moved in with her divorced daughter (27), mother of three. They were located by the husband/father and his son who came yesterday to the women’s home in Kocaeli, where the 19 year old son brutally killed his mother and his sister by beating them on the head with a bat, with his three young nephews watching.

Source: Hurriyet, Zaman, Turkey, August 10, 2007

(bold emphasis mine) Great example for those young nephews to learn by, eh? No wonder the women were fleeing. Imagine what it must have been like living with such men? Such men and their beliefs, that's backwardness.

One can argue that perhaps not all of the AKP members approve of such "honor killings"; Yet there is little doubt that the men who do approve of such practices support the AKP. Is it any wonder why so many Turks are concerned about religion in government overtaking their country?

There are many arguments -some of them compelling- in support of the AKP. They do enjoy support even from outside their core Islamist constituency. But it's the beliefs of that dominant core that have so many worried.

Here is a compilation page showing this and all my other prior posts that talk about or mention Turkey. There are lots of photos from the protests in support of secularism.
     

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Here it comes...



Just a reminder about the meteor shower. From Pat at Born Again Redneck:

Perseid meteor shower
In the Middle Ages the Perseid meteor shower was known as "The Tears of Saint Lawrence" because it occurs on the anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence. This year it will be particularly spectacular because it's a new moon i.e. an invisible moon. If you've never see it before, treat yourself to some celestial fireworks. The first time I saw it, I gave up counting shooting-stars after I reached 52 in less than an hour. [...]

Read the rest for more details, pictures, links, and a NASA video too. And a link to my prior post on this topic.
     

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Scams, Dumb People, and Dumb Scammers.

(Click on image to see a larger version)

Sometimes it's hard to believe how dumb people can be, falling for scams. Sometimes, the ones doing the scam are even dumber. Born Again Redneck has a post with examples of both types:

One born everyday

With some of them, you won't know wether to laugh or cry.
     

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

China's own answer to OLPC's XO laptop?

The Sinomanic Tianhua GX-1C subnotebook is designed specifically
for primary and secondary school students in China. Sinomanic has created four different models for distribution to very specific markets.
Will they eventually try to market it abroad? Would you buy one?
(Click on image to see a larger version)

Actually, China has more than one answer. They were initially interested in the OLPC project, but changed their minds when they realized they were capable of creating similar solutions themselves. The following article by Wayan Vota at OLPCnews.com, looks at some of the solutions China has in the works:

OLPC China: Laptop Competition in the Middle Kingdom
[...] He then goes on to list the many options that Chinese parents (and kids at heart) have in the affordable computing space. Options like:
Yellow Sheep River's Municator
Why should China rely on American do gooders when they can build their own cheap laptops? Yellow Sheep River has come up with a spec for a $150 Chinese Linux laptop with a 40 GB hard drive. It has Chinese Godson chips that offer similar performance to Pentium III chips that were around in the late nineties. This device also plugs into televisions. Read more here.

Dream Dragon
We don't know much about this product except what we read on this website: The "Dream Dragon" computer, being developed as a joint venture by the Jiangsu Menglan Group and China's Institute of Computing Technology (ICT), is currently set to cost about US$131. It utilizes a line of low cost central processing units (CPUs) named "Loongson" being developed by the ICT and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Like the Classmate and XO-1, it runs on Linux, though it is aimed at low income and rural Chinese students. See: this Speroforum post.

Sinomanic
Sinomanic is a Chinese branded laptop that will go on the market for $129 to $392.
As of this weekend, there is yet another cheap laptop competitor in the Chinese market - none other than Lenovo, arguably the original cheap Chinese PC computer manufacturer. [...]

China isn't just working on cheap laptops for kids, but also cheap micro computers for homes, that can even plug into TV sets. It's part of a strategy to bring their large poorer inland population on-line.

Read the whole article for more links and a photo of the small (but practical?) Municator.

Click here for a compilation of this and similar posts on this topic.
     

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sarkosy Commits an August Vacation Sacrilege

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with his son, on vacation in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. (photo by Reuters)


Nicer than Nice
[...] For the French establishment, steeped in reflexive anti-Americanism, Sarko’s summer vacation in America is the ugliest in a series of sad events. First the handshake with Bush, then the friendly election-eve speech, then jogging, and now this. If you’re a French élitist, about now is when you think you might as well teach the poodle to hunt.

This is about a vacation, so nobody — except of course Le Monde, which saw in the woods of New Hampshire hidden symbols linking Sarkozy to Bush — wants to over-think this. But if the secular calendar of the French state has one sacred spot, it’s the month of August, four 35-hour weeks all rolled into one giant entitlement, a holiday taken far more seriously in France than Easter or Christmas.

[...]

Why did he do it? As he explained to Libération, he had never had a chance to visit the USA when he was a kid because, in his family, “that wasn’t done.”

[...]

Sarkozy also offered another bizarre reason for visiting America: “I like it here,” he told astonished reporters. Outrageous. Most of official France is phoning in their contribution to the construction of this artificial press controversy, but Leftists are doing what they can to keep the flame of French indignation alive. Les Echos quotes an angry Socialist politician: Sarkozy, he said, seems to like “expensive and remote destinations.” [... ]

The exchange rate with France is very favorable to the French for vacations right now. Almost a million French tourists visit the US every year. Sarkosy is also visiting as the guest of friends.

But by spending part of his vacation in the US instead of France, Sarkosy is upsetting French Socialists? Awwww, poor babies. Maybe they get upset too easily?

New Hampshire is a lovely place to take a Vacation. How could anyone begrudge someone that? All the fuss sounds like Socialist Sour Grapes to me.

Related Link:

New Hampshire town welcomes Sarkozy’s vacation
     

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The US faces diplomatic mine field with Turkey

US Works to Ease Tensions With Turkey

This article by DESMOND BUTLER at TownHall.com explains many of the issues between the U.S. and Turkey that are making our diplomatic ties with them so very difficult to navigate. It's not a long article, but it lays out the dangers pretty well. I haven't posted excerpts, because there are too many important points mentioned, it's hard to pick just one or two. It's worth reading the whole thing.

In other recent news from Turkey:

ODP, Sixth Party in Turkish Parliament
Independent MP Ufuk Uras joined the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) bringing the number of the political parties represented in the new Turkish parliament to six. Uras, a leftist, was ODP’s former leader. He had resigned from his party prior to the general elections to run as an independent, thus overcoming the barrier of the necessary 10% threshold for political parties. Yesterday, Uras joined his party (ODP) again.

While only two parties (AKP and CHP) were represented in the previous parliament, July 22 general elections have produced a wider representation in the legislature.

The current distribution in the 550 member parliament is as follows:

AKP: 341; CHP: 99; MHP: 70; DTP: 20; DSP: 13; ODP: 1; Independents: 5; Vacant (due to the death of a MHP MP): 1

Source: Sabah, Turkish Daily News, Turkey, August 7, 2007

(bold emphasis mine) Hopefully this new more diverse parliament will ease some of the tensions that the previous parliament created.

I can only wonder at what the name "Ufuk Uras" sounds like in Turkish. I don't know how one would pronounce it in English on radio or TV, if the need arose. He has his own website at: www.ufukuras.net.

You can click here to see a compilation of this and other posts I've done about Turkey.
     

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Our Local Garden Club Tour

Yesterday we went on a tour of six home gardens, sponsored by our local garden club. Here's a few pics:



Most of the homes were along the bay, or the sloughs that are connected to it. One house had access to the beach:


This little boat on the beach reminded me of many a summer's day from my childhood, when my family vacationed in Maine:




Here I am, standing next to a giant tree stump washed up on the beach:



Much of this tour focused on landscaping more than flowers. This garden was a work-in-progress; the owners are intending to put in a stream where the gravel path is. The gazebo was very elegant, with a gas fireplace in the center of it.



The last house we visited had several natural streams running through it. One was channeled through their garden into this beautiful waterfall...



... which was used to fill their serene Koi pond. Further downhill, it irrigated their fruit orchard. One of the things I love best about Western Oregon is the abundance of water. That, and the temperate climate!

Pat has some more photos from the tour on his blog, also some photos of our farm.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Annual Perseid meteor shower is coming soon

Be sure and treat yourself to this natural wonder:

The 2007 peak of the Perseid meteor shower
[...] It’s expected to display the greatest number of meteors Sunday morning (August 12), late Sunday night and Monday morning (August 13) before dawn. But you’ll see some Perseids Saturday (August 11) before dawn, too.

The moon is new on Sunday, or between the Earth and sun. This new moon will leave the night sky dark all this weekend for the Perseid meteors. These meteors are named for the constellation Perseus the Hero. If you trace the paths of the meteors backwards, they seem to stream from this constellation.

You don’t need to identify Perseus to enjoy the meteor shower. The Perseids are an especially rich and dependable meteor shower. They shoot all across the sky – often leaving persistent trains – and occasionally lighting things up with bright fireballs. To watch the show, find a dark, open sky. Get away from city lights, and give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adapt to the dark. The Perseid shower favors northern hemisphere skywatchers. Again, the best time to watch: Sunday morning, late Sunday night and Monday morning before dawn. At its peak, the Perseids typically produce 60 or more meteors per hour. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Last year, we watched for it and it was quite a show, although the moonrise made for less than optimal conditions. Still, I had never before witnessed such large, streaking meteors. And so many, so often! The viewing conditions this year promise to be even better than last year, if there are no clouds or fog.

If you have not seen the Perseid Meteor shower before, treat yourself this year and mark your calendar. It's really worth it! No photograph can do it justice; you must see it in action for yourself.

Dark sky to better view of Aug. meteor shower
[...] The Moon will be out of the way, leaving dark skies for good viewing as Earth plunges through an ancient stream of comet debris. Little bits, most no larger than sand grains, will vaporize in Earth's atmosphere, creating sometimes-dramatic "shooting stars."

"It's going to be a great show," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. "The Moon is new on August 12, which means no moonlight, dark skies and plenty of meteors."

[...]

"The August Perseids are among the strongest of the readily observed annual meteor showers, and at maximum activity nominally yield 90 or 100 meteors per hour," said Joe Rao, Space.com's Skywatching columnist. "However, observers with exceptional skies often record even larger numbers." [...]

(bold emphasis mine) See the rest of the article for viewing tips.
     

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Hangings in Iran increase, to silence dissent

Here is a video of a recent public hanging of 3 people, two men and a woman:



More such videos can be seen here.

I know some people think "Well they are probably criminals, so who cares?" But ARE they? There has been rioting and unrest in Iran due to a number of factors; high unemployment, gasoline rationing, censorship,electricity outages, and a growing crackdown by the fashion police to enforce sharia law. I've read many, many reports like the following, citing trumped up charges used to execute political dissidents. This article refers not to the video above, buy to yet another hanging of two young men:

Hanging caught on video reveals Iran's crackdown on dissidents
[...] The film shows the public hanging of Alireza Gorji, 23, and his friend Hossein Makesh, 22, in July in Broudjerd, Iran. According to official versions of the charges, they were put to death because they had behaved 'immorally'. The truth, according to anti-government campaigners, is that the two men were among increasing numbers of political activists being executed by Iran on trumped-up charges.

'Both these men had been involved in anti-government protests in their home town and everyone who watch the hanging knew this,' said a human rights observer in Tehran.


On Tuesday the UN General Assembly condemned Iran for human rights abuses and the video - filmed by a Revolutionary Guard, smuggled out by opposition activists and seen by The Observer - is rare evidence of Iran's efforts to quell dissent. Amnesty International last year documented at least 94 public executions although many more are suspected to take place in secret - in September the authorities told a lawyer for Valliollah Feyz-Mahdavi, 28, that he had died after a suicide attempt in prison. Feyz-Mahdavi had been arrested for membership of Iran's main opposition - the People's Mojahedin Organistation of Iran.

Tehran has now been condemned on more than 50 occasions by the UN for severe human rights violations. [...]

(bold emphasis mine). Each of the public hangings usually have several people being hanged. The numbers have been increasing dramatically each year.

Cranes are used so as not to break the neck, but rather, insure the suffering by slow strangulation, which can take as long as six minutes to complete. It seems to increasingly be the preferred way to both silence political opposition and deal with a rampant unemployment problem.

For crimes like adultery there are also more traditional methods of execution still in use, like stoning people to death [video]. A nice social event for the religious men-folk.


Related Links:

Hanging in Iran
This is a prior post of mine, with more photos and details on this tragic topic.

Thousands More To Hang in Iran
A growing trend, with no end in sight...
     

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