Hello Cruel World
Monday, February 27, 2006
War Prayer, repeated again
I am re-posting URLs for a short Mark Twain story (THE WAR PRAYER) I mentioned back on the 10th of October, 2002 (just before the Bali Bombing). It might be useful to keep bringing its message back into mind in the times we are going through: www.classicalfencing.com/sorrow/warprayer.html

While checking out some things about TV series Babylon 5 (parts of which reflect current subjects of interest). One of my reasons for reading science fiction (as opposed to sword & sorcery style fantasy or space-located varieties of westerns, &c) is that it can deal with all sorts of ideas & speculations about humanity, society, reality, &c.

[In-depth analysis of Babylon 5: www.midwinter.com/lurk/toc.html; www-theory.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~aaa/B5.Ref.html; www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylon_5],
I was intrigued to find episode title "The War Prayer" (Synopsis at www.midwinter.com/lurk/guide/007.html Background at www.midwinter.com/lurk/guide/007.html came from a short Mark Twain (Samuel Longhorn Clemens) story. Pertinent whenever & wherever someone is whipping up bellicose feeling, e.g. India v Pakistan, etc, etc, etc. He also is an interesting writer in several ways. Here we are rather fond of his comments about Australia when he visited.

Links to The War Prayer (It's been used recently too, about current subjects):


An extract from the short story by Mark Twain
O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth
to battle — be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go
forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds
with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale
forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the
guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us
to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us
to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing
grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children
to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and
hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy
winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring
Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it - for our sakes
who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract
their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way
with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their
wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love,
and Who
is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek
His aid with humble and contrite hearts.


The New York Times, April 24, 1910


The Serious Side of the Famous Humorist Whose Dominant Note Was Love of Liberty and Hate of Shams.
    Call a philosopher a humorist, and for the rest of his life, though he live to be more than 70, people will grin expectantly whenever he heaves a sigh...

This is a short biography of Twain/Clemens, with links to several stories:

and a more 'literary' discussion of him, especially his skepticism:

Down at Circular Quay in Sydney here, there is a "Writers' Walk" with inlaid plaques commemorating both Australian writers' work about Sydney & foreign writers' visits or their writing about us. Think he's there, commenting on his travels in Australia.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Corvid v Primate

Re Tool Use in non-Primates
Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Oxford Uni
Tool Use in Corvids
Alexander Weir, Jackie Chappell, Ben Kenward and Alex Kacelnik

This page includes links some movies of Betty the New Caledonian Crow making & using tools.

There's also a "laymen's" report in PDF format at www.theweeklyreport.com/Newsletters/Aug12.pdf , Science (9 August 2002), 'Shaping of Hooks in New Caledonian Crows' by Alexander Weir, Jackie Chappell and Alex Kacelnik

... Showing an extremely rare capacity for an animal to understand cause and effect and create a tool out of non-natural material, the female crow bent straight garden wire -- a material she had only seen before on cage meshes -- into a hook ...
The only time in 10 experiments when Betty did not make a hook out of the wire was when her male companion Abel managed to bring the food up with straight wire. On other occasions, he waited for Betty to bring out the food then stole it from her ...

Monday, February 20, 2006
Health Care Horror — cont: Current UK Experience in Privatizing Public Health Services

The Joys of Privatization: Public Health (Current UK Experience)

Second patient dies following oxygen switch
by Celia Hall
(Filed: 18/02/2006)

www.telegraph.co.uk/ news/main.jhtml?xml=/ news/2006/02/18/ noxy18.xml&sSheet=/news/ 2006/02/18/ixhome.html
A second woman has died after chaos in the system to supply oxygen at home, which was switched to private companies at the beginning of the month ...
Mr Brady, 74, a retired engineer, said that his wife had needed three bottles of oxygen a week and that he had been unable to get through by telephone to the supplying company, Air Products, ...
The day after she died he received a call about a delivery the following day

GPs told to abandon private suppliers of oxygen
by Sam Lister, Health Correspondent

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,2-2046106,00.html

FAMILY doctors unable to obtain oxygen for their patients were advised last night to abandon the newly privatised supply service and revert to an old system to ensure that more lives were not put at risk.
As the private companies responsible for the new service continued to struggle with demand, pharmacies throughout England and Wales were asked to restart their service ...

Pharmacy leaders described the situation as shambolic and said that many chemists were now out of stock after the Government’s decision to end their £18 million contract. They said that the Government had ignored numerous warnings of the chaos that would ensue if the supply systems were suddenly switched, but had carried on regardless ...

thousands of patients have been unable to get mobile oxygen cylinders, which cost about £7.50. Some have been given £1,500 “concentrator” units instead, which they described as wholly impractical and an alarming waste of money and resources.

Blunder left trail of lethal radiation
The Times
February 18, 2006
by Andrew Norfolk

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,2-2046104,00.html

Safety cap left off toxic cargo as it travelled 130 miles across Britain
A LETHAL beam of radiation was emitted from a casket containing highly radioactive waste on a three-and-a-half-hour road journey across England, it was disclosed yesterday.

Thousands of people were put at risk by the “cavalier” attitude of workers for the privatised company in charge of transporting the hospital waste.

Only by “pure chance” was no one directly exposed to the high concentration of cobalt-60 gamma rays that streamed from the container because of the failure to install a lead safety plug.

Radiation levels up to 1,000 times higher than a high dose rate were found ... Fortunately, the narrowly focused beam was directed downwards. Had the rays escaped horizontally, they would have contaminated anyone within 330 yards of the vehicle ...
AEA Technology (AEAT) was guilty of a series of failings: the company used
the wrong safety packaging, and had not noticed the missing safety plug.

It failed to take up an offer of training in the use of the packaging and important safety documents were signed by a member of staff who had no formal training in radiation protection, he said.

The prosecutor said “The risk created . . . was foreseeable and the degree of that risk was significant. There is no “safe” dose of ionising radiation. If no one was directly exposed to the beam, that was a matter of pure chance.”

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, February 18, 2006
Unusual Films
Prelinger Archives was founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger in New York City.
It grew into a collection of over 48,000 "ephemeral" (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films. In 2002, the film collection was acquired by the Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Prelinger Archives remains in existence, its goal to collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance that haven't been collected elsewhere. Included are films produced by and for many hundreds of important US corporations, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, community and interest groups, and educational institutions.
Rick Prelinger and The Internet Archive hereby offer these public domain films from Prelinger Archives to all for free downloading and reuse.

You are warmly encouraged to download, use and reproduce these films in whole or in part, in any medium or market throughout the world. You are also warmly encouraged to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and especially encouraged to do so for free.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Low-Friction Diamonds (Post St Valentine's Day)
High Technology Finland 2005
Diamonds for lower friction
DIARC-Technology, one of the pioneers in the industrial processing of amorphous diamond thin-film coatings, has developed a new diamond coating: DIARC® Miclub. This is an ideal solution for a vast number of applications where low friction properties are a priority,

Amorphous diamond coatings produced by DIARC-Technology are much harder than thin-film coatings of hard metal nitrides or diamond-like carbon films made from hydrocarbons. It is so hard that it can only be scratched by a natural diamond. The coatings are processed at low temperatures, which makes it possible to deposit them on all types of metal substrates, as well as on ceramic materials, and even plastics.

The friction coefficient of a DIARC diamond coating against steel under dry sliding conditions is only one fifth of the corresponding figure for steel, which means that it can serve as a permanent dry lubricant.
The newly developed DIARC® Miclub coating reduces friction in lubricated contacts as well,
Monday, February 13, 2006
St Valentine's Eve? 13th February
The 28th anniversary of Australia's first putative terrorist bombing, which killed three people on George St opposite the QVB bus stop on the night of February 13th, 1978?

I am thankful that the memorial plaque, which worryingly disappeared for a year or so, has reappeared on a street-side pillar of the renovated Hilton Hotel.

I wonder if the night of the 13th should be called St Valentine's Eve? If we called it "the Valentine's Eve bomb", instead of "the Hilton bomb", it'd be easier to remember the day, and I'm sure the Hilton Hotel people would be happier, but then, it seems to be so far out of our consciousness that they don't need to worry.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Oh dear
Bloody Hell. Here I am (with help) struggling to drag mysel' from the morass of depression, despair & defeat (aka The Slough of Despond) and this is the message I get. Probly deserve it for trying the quiz in the first place.
I still wonder if my store of courage was used up by the decision to keep on trying to live (by invoking my Inner Mongrel), struggling through the months of treatment & recovery, when it would have been so easy to quietly slip away, and that's why I feel so incapable & cowardly now.

    QUIZ: How Will You Die?

You scored as Suicide. Your death will be suicide. What more can I say? Fact: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If you want to know how you will commit suicide, take a look at your second highest percentage on the bar graphs.















Natural Causes










Cut Throat


How Will You Die??
created with QuizFarm.com

Monday, February 06, 2006
Four Big Cruise Ships turned over at the Quay in a week
February, February, stinking, sticky February. I loathe Sydney's weather in February. It's come early this year, that feeling of being trapped under a grey flannel blanket with a steam-iron above it. Cockroaches bloat on the heat and damp -- the engineers back in the old wooden ferries, where you could look down a hatch into the engine room, called them 'steam flies' -- and go zooming around seeking richer pickings. One sweaty evening not long back, I had to bat one fat shiny brown and BIG buzzing critter back with folded newspaper as it flew happily in through my windows, stretched wide open to try and catch any cool evening breeze.

In the lingering heat & humidity of night, the air seems to cling and carry any scent. An overpowering sweetness from the Murraya hedges or jasmine vines, seaweed trailing over the shore, leaves and blooms quietly rotting down under the green branches pushing out.
English has several words for different types of cattle ...
I'm repeating this post below, which comes originally from the blog's beginning, in 2002, because it's still relevant, and has been discussed again recently by people around me.

One of my reasons for reading science fiction/speculative fiction (as opposed to sword & sorcery style fantasy or space-located varieties of westerns, &c) is that it can deal with all sorts of ideas & speculations about humanity, society, reality, &c. This edited extract deals with a subject that's been discussed very many times.
From "Inheritor" by CJ Cherryh (p 365 of my paperback edition): Third in a series set on an alien world where stranded humans are co-existing uneasily with another race who are said not to have emotions in the same way as humans. CJC tends towards the 'higher' end of 'space opera' — lots of action & excitement, but reasonable characters and touching on bigger themes — tho' she also does other sub-genres. The protagonist is a translator.
"Not love, he thought to himself. And then thought, ... maybe they'd had such rotten luck with the love and man'chi aspect of relations because that word in [English] blurred so many things together it just wasn't safe to deal with.
They were lovers. But Ragi said they were sexual partners.
They were lovers. But Ragi said they were associated.
They'd made love. But Ragi said there they were within the same lord's man'chi.
They'd made love. But Ragi said there were one-candle nights and two-candle nights and there were relationships that didn't count the candles at all.
They'd made love. But a Ragi proverb said one candle didn't promise breakfast. ...
He was quite out of his depth trying to reckon that. But with Jago he certainly wouldn't count the candles. Whatever they could arrange, as long as it could last from both sides, that was what he'd take."

Saturday, February 04, 2006
Thinkin' about Numbers
bellatrys on Nothing New Under The Sun (the ARX acta diurna) tries to help us get things in perspective.
USA Census: What 298 Million looks like (21-Jan-2006)
First, download this PDF ( oddlots.digitalspace.net/ARX/downloads/100k.pdf ). It contains 100k dots in approx 5pt type (Times Roman), arranged in blocks of 1000 (4 columns of 25 blocks = 100,000) on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of digital paper (standard US letter - slightly different to A4) thanks to the wonders of step-and-repeat.

Then, get 6 reams of paper and print out the "100k" pdf onto all but 2 of them. You will now have one dot for every person in the United States, as of the latest census estimates (www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html), give or take a few ten thousand.

-- No, don't really go print off 6 reams of dots, wasting toner and paper. But stack up six reams and look at them, ( but don't drop them on your foot, paper=wood ( )), six blocks of 500 sheets, and imagine every one of them covered in all those tiny dots, and every dot standing for a name, as if microfiched down in a spy story... [more]
[NOTE: I highly recommend this writer, and blog. There is very much good analysis & information in it; this little note is just a small thing that caught my imagination, like this in Hello Cruel World, a while back now.]

A comparable Australian number
Imagine each of those dots is an Australian dollar note — if you can remember what they looked like — or dollar coin. Don't leave off those last two pages, making up the full 300 sheets. That's the amount of money that our wheat farmers (and other taxpayers, I suspect, less directly) paid supposedly to transport our wheat exported to Iraq under the "Oil for Food" program. These were seen as payments to 'facilitate' the process (= bribes) by the Australian Wheat Board (now a private company called AWB), which was iffy enough, but is often seen as the price of dealing with "different cultures". (I won't discuss that problem here.)

It turns out, however, to have been funneled fairly straight to the higher levels of Saddam Hussein's regime, rather than the standard excuse that bribes support poorly-paid lower levels of the government. Whether much of it went towards supporting their extravagant way of life, got socked away in secret overseas bank accounts, paid the army & secret police, or was spent on armaments is probably less important than just the fact that it didn't go into the "Oil for Food" program to buy food, medicine or public health works for the general Iraqi public, whose sufferings were used for propaganda by their regime. The population of Iraq is somewhat larger than the population of Australia, which is 20 million people, but not huge (Iraq is about one-third the area of New South Wales, or twice the area of Victoria). So $300M would buy a fair amount to spread among them. At least it seems they did get the wheat in good condition. One hopes it made some difference to the people's hunger.
Friday, February 03, 2006
The Corpuscle speaks
... reality is a thug and the thug doesn't much care ...

Reality gets things done, you know? Without reference to rules and regulations, or even the best laid plans of mice and men. And it ain't afraid of nuthin' ...

the big kahuna thug has already made sure that all those guys will at least go down in history as the minor thugs they are. In fact, they are already just smears on the windshield, even though the action of the wind gives the illusion their wings are still beating. Surely they have ruined many people's lives, and will ruin even more of them, but the big kahuna thug doesn't much care about individual lives. That's what gives us the feeling that there isn't any real justice in the universe. There is, though. Maybe we can't take much comfort in it. Maybe it doesn't satisfy us the way somebody clearly getting their just desserts always does. But there is some comfort in living in a universe where even the most notorious of the minor thugs the human race generates eventually get sick, rot from the inside, and then die.

Is it human justice? Of course not. Does it make up for all the harm they do to their victims? Not in our minds. But they do, eventually, get what's coming to them. They eventually get pounded by the thug, just like the rest of us.

Powered by Blogger
Feedback by backBlog

 / . Lives in Australia/New South Wales/Sydney, speaks English. Eye color is hazel. I am what my mother calls unique. My interests are photography, reading, natural history/land use, town planning, sustainability.

This is my blogchalk:
Australia, New South Wales, Sydney, English, photography, reading, natural history, land use, town planning, sustainability.