News, commentary and fun things from the Internet and around the world.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Nefertari [photo copyright InterCity Oz, Inc]
Egyptian Company Produces Beauty Products From Ancient Recipes
Concerned about the chemicals found in her daughter's shampoo, Mona Erian, a pharmacist, started her own company, Nefertari Natural Body. While many of the recipes are from ancient Egypt, some of them are from her grandmother, and all use natural products without chemicals. The products are available in a shop in Cairo, and by email at

Ferarri In Hot Formula One Water
The ruling body of Formula One racing has fined two Ferrari racers, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, and has established a working group to look into allegations involving team orders and misconduct at the Austrian Grand Prix. Public outcry about their behavior at the podium has been tremendous.

Jordan Building Economy on Tourism
If you ask me to name the top five world-wide destinations for adventure vacations, Jordan isn't on my list. It also doesn't appear on my list of countries where I can explore the earliest human civilizations -- for political reasons and not sociological reasons. I don't consider Jordan to be a tourist destination. Taleb Rifai, the Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, hopes that I'm in the minority around the world.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Are 'tweens wanting to be more like Britney? [photo copyight Enquirer]
Sexy Teens Too Much, Too Fast?
For more than twenty years, people have been saying that we are pushing our kids to grow up too fast. It was a topic in my curriculum when I was getting ceritified to become a teacher, thanks to The Hurried Child by Dr. David Elkind. Jen commented this week about the inappropriate clothing she noticed on the junior high girls at her son's graduation. You don't have to look too far to spot signs of it. I call it the Britney Spears effect. Maybe the same thing happened with Madonna in the 80s. I really don't remember seeing that in the 'tweens back then, maybe my memory is just failing.

Email Overload
I'm an information junkie. I telecommute to provide services to a variety of clients in a variety of industries, all of which I strive to learn more about. I usually read non-fiction anyway. I sometimes find myself receiving 300 or more pieces of email a week. Then, feeling overwhelmed, I cancel nearly every email subscription. Slowly they creep back as I find gems, or realize gems that I'd cancelled were really that valuable. I've been through this cycle more times than I care to admit. Seems I'm not the only one. Christina Cavanagh, an expert on email usage from the University of Western Ontario, has released a study that says workers are spending 75 minutes a day dealing with email. Weird thing is, on her bio page, she gives out her email address. Hmmmm...

Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional
I'm not adding my voice to the flurry of opinions. I've located a copy of the ruling for anyone who wants to read it.

Fire Dangers In West Unabated
A small portion of the fire outside Show Low, AZ is under control, and it appears that the town may be spared. The Fort Apache Indian Reservation will never be the same, though. In Los Angeles, firefighters are training for the possibility of multiple simultaneous fires.

Terrorist Insider View
Regular readers know that I seldom publish anything here related to the 11 September attacks or terrorism, but I've found a resource that is too interesting to omit. It's an ongoing series from the Seattle Times, and I found it fascinating.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Work in progress on my balcony
See What Happens Without First Ammendment Protection?
The publisher of a dissenting voice website in Tunisia was arrested in the cyber cafe where he was working, had a trial, and will spend over two years in prison. Zouhair Yahyaoui is guilty of expressing an opinion that differs from the government's position, in legalese it is stated as "spreading false information" and illegally using an internet connection. Stories like this help me to realize just how great we have it in America -- our system is far from perfect, but we have such much to be grateful for while we are working to make things better.

Look, Up in the Sky... It's a Bird... It's a Plane...
It's my cell phone service provider's balloon airship! That's right. There are predictions that huge balloon ships using solar power could replace satellites as the preferred way to collect and disperse wireless information for the future.

John Travolta Becomes Quantas Pilot
We know that he loves to fly, and that he named his son Jet. Now, John has become qualified as a pilot for the Australian airline, Quantas. But rather than begining his new job, he has taken the position of Ambassador at Large, and will promote Quantas by flying his personal Boeing 707 (formerly belonging to Quantas) which he has had painted with Quantas branding, to 13 cities in 10 countries. Now he's cruising in style!

Cashing In On Prisons
Japanese towns struggling with their slow economy, have started courting the location of prisons in their town in order to collect the federal funds provided in support of the prisons. This is based on the positive experience of Yoshimatsu, a small town in southern Japan. Am I the only one who thinks this is really strange?

Monday, June 24, 2002

Watching the fire approach Show Low, Arizona.  [photo copyright Sydney Morning Herald]
Arizona Ravaged By Fires
It's far enough away from me that I am safe, at least for now, but there is something very unsettling about a force of nature running wild. Arizona Central has coverage of the fires in the White Mountains, in eastern Arizona, the largest fire in our history. It's even on the news in Toronto, Japan, and Australia! The Los Angeles Times has a photo gallery from Show Low. In a related story, fireworks will not be part of many town July 4th celebrations this year because of the ongoing drought and high fire hazard conditions. And there are huge fires outside of Arizona, also.

Jamming Cell Phone Signals Authorized in Canada
As part of the security measures to prepare for the upcoming Group of 8 (G8) conference in Kananaskis, Alberta, near Calgary. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defense have been authorized to jam the airwaves if that is determined an appropriate course of action to maintain security in the area. What a huge responsibility they have. The world could use a break... here's to hoping that all goes according to their plans.

The FBI Wants To Know What You Are Reading
And they won't have any trouble getting a warrant to retrieve your reading records from the local public library, thanks to a provision in the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11th. I guess the moral of this story is... if you have an account to use materials that are purchased with public funds, like a public library, you are subjecting yourself to scrutiny. I'm wondering what potential terrorists are reading these days... Tom Clancy? Certainly not Barbara Taylor Bradford!

How To Sell Newspapers -- Lesson #9
Mention Princess Di.

I Hate Hearing This
I don't know any of the facts around Russell Crowe's extortion lawsuit, but I'm afraid that this news means that Russell's temper will be put to the test. Don't be surprised to hear in the near future that he is under arrest for assulting these guys to extract his own justice. Russell, don't do it!

Threats and More Threats
I looked into doing some travel over the July 4th holiday, and I have to admit, the thought did cross my mind that perhaps it wasn't the best time to travel by air. I quickly dismissed that thought, however. I will not be bullied by an unseen enemy. I will live my life as I have planned, and I will trust that I will find my way to the right place at the right time.

More Arizona News
Rafters through the Grand Canyon are reporting a mysterious illness, and water contamination is suspected.

Friday, June 21, 2002

[copyright Dr. Pepper / Seven Up, Inc.]
What's UP With 7-UP
Somehow, I missed hearing about this when it happened. It seems that 7-Up created a TV ad for MTV that involved a reference to sexual abuse in prisons. And apparently, the honchos didn't realize that was the joke, at least that is what Philippa Dworkin, Vice President of Corporate Communications said when confronted about the ad. It's been pulled. But 7-Up has a history of creating commercials that others consider to be in bad taste. What's up with this? Are people being too picky? Is 7-Up run by people who are so out of touch that they don't understand the ads other people are creating for them? Or is all of this just another ploy to get media attention, under the belief that bad press is better than no press at all? Or am I being cynical?

Industrial Theft & Espionage Exposed?
Everyone learned in school that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. So why did the US Congress pass a resolution stating the Bell isn't the inventor, bestowing that honor on Antonio Meucci instead? I'm smiling ear-to-ear over here... not because I'm a fan of Meucci, or because I don't like Bell, but because time has a way of uncovering all truths.

Illegal Migrant Farm Workers Discovered
A very sad story about a group of agricultural workers who were living in slavery-like conditions because they were in the US illegally.

Making Graduates Plan Ahead
What reason would a school district have to keep a graduate from participating in their school commencement ceremony? In some schools in California, it wasn't enough to complete the coursework... students also had to submit a life plan that involved college, military service or a job. While I think getting kids to think seriously about the future, and begin to envision it is a great idea, why didn't these schools just make it a required assignment to pass something like a senior Civics class instead?

Friday, June 14, 2002

Why Does Our Government Not Want This Book Published?
During the 1990s, Danny Stillman, an intelligence officer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, made nine trips into China and interviewed their leading nuclear scientists. He did not travel for work, and he was debriefed after each trip. Now, Stillman has written a book about what he learned, and our government is fighting him to keep the book out of our hands. Now, a federal judge has ruled that the Bush Administration can't cloak their decision to classify his manuscript from judicial review. I'm fascinated, aren't you?

Thursday, June 13, 2002

American crow [photo copyright Animal Pictures Archive]
Eating Crow
I love crows. I can tell you more facts about them than you would believe. (For example, they are songbirds and not birds of prey.) I know more references to crows in literature than I care to admit. The phrase "eat crow" is sacred to me (as well as being something that I try to avoid doing). Well, there is one man on the planet who differs from me on that point. Ong Tiong Sing of Singapore believes there is a market for crow meat, and he is trying to make the international distribution of crow meat a main line for his business, Resourceco International. So far, officials at the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has not received any requests to export crows. But Mr. Sing should be aware of the legendary status of the crow and perhaps catch up on his reading of the Aesop before he thinks he can outsmart these wonderful birds. All I have to say is this -- some people will eat at a place called the Roadkill Cafe. 'Nuff said.

Cheerio For America
Paul Simon gave us fifty ways to leave a lover. Now, Matthew Engel gives us fifty ways to love America. It's interesting to see what a Brit thinks is best about America, listed in order. He mentions the First Amendment, like a good journalist!

Asylum Seeker In China In Trouble
If you are North Korean, and you want to get political asylum to Korea, what is your least likely strategy? Ask for asylum at the Korean consolate in Beijing. Today, a father and son attempted to seek asylum, only to be pulled out by Chinese "security guards" from the consolate, after injuring some of the consolate staff. There are 18 asylum seekers in the Korean consulate, and 2 in the Canadian consolate. The Chinese are using barbed wire to prevent more events like this. Some of the allegations in the Telegraph article are quite shocking. Apparently, the defection rate has been quite high this year, and many have successfully left North Korea through China.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Windows of a monastary at Bodhnath, the possible home of Double Dorje [photo copyright Dave Underwood]
What Do You Get...
When you cross a monk with a disco? Double Dorje. This is one of the funniest culture pieces I've read in a long time, written in Nepal about an experience of nightlife in Thamel.

Andrew Meldrum Trial Begins In Zimbabwe
This article gives some of the basic story of what happened and why Meldrum is being charged. But remember, this is part of a bigger effort to silence the press in that country. [previous entry on Meldrum] [previous entry] [Guardian Special Report]

Soccer/Football Passions
Not being a sport fan, I missed this on the sports news here. What is it about sports that brings out such competition in people? I'm seeing a montague of images: parent screaming at kids at a Little League game, men sitting around a TV screaming at the TV when their players mess up, fires set in couchs in my hometown when the local college team would win (or lose) in the playoffs. What is this about? Not being a sports fan, it just seems to me that I am missing something. Any suggestions?

Since When Is Flirting on the Job Good For You?
Read the title article, and then check out this full blown report. Is anyone besides me shocked to read this?

AA Goes Spanish in Japan
Everyone should get the support they want in the language they know best, and thanks to Donald G., they are.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

The brains behind Dixie Stampede [photo copyright Dixie Stampede]
Dollywood Founder Eyes Florida Expansion
Yep, the queen of country music, Dolly Parton, is expanding her entertainment empire to include a new dinner theatre that will be located in Florida near Disney World. It's not the first Dixie Stampede she has opened in a tourist area, and it certainly won't the last.

Canadarm2 Repairs Underway
The essential mechnical arm for the International Space Station, Canadarm2, has not been working for the last two months due to a wrist injuiry. But this week, the shuttle Endeavour has brought replacement parts, and they will be assembled during space walks on this mission.

Bitter Fighting in the City of Angels
You say "Los Angeles" and I say "Hollywood..." A move is on to splinter Los Angeles neighborhoods into separate cities, including the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. Their current goal is to win secession in the November election. Everyone who is everyone is joining the fracas, and most seem to be against the split. In fact, it seems to me that the only winners are the people who are providing the advertising services to groups on both sides of the issue.

Egypt to Get Viagra
It doesn't take long for good news to reach around the world. An announcment that Egyptian officials would allow a license for a local pharmaceutical company to make Viagra caused pharm company stocks to rise, even though Pfizer Egypt claims that they will be the only company making the "magic blue pill" because Pfizer hold the patents. Many people are hoping that a generic will be made by another company, but again, that would violate the patent laws.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Terry Gilliam (the Monty Python era) [copyright Pythonline]Sydney Film Festival
There are some great movies being shown here at a festival that is known for documentaries as well as movies. Movies include: Texas, a documentary about Russell Crowe's band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, which includes scenes with Meg Ryan, Black & White, starring Robert Carlyle, about a murder trial in Adelaide that changes the Australian justice system and involved the then-young-upstart Ruppert Murdock, and Lost In La Mancha, a documentary about the failure in the making of Terry Gilliam's film version of Don Quixote.

Mexico Get A Freedom of Information Act
Mexican President Vicente Fox signed a new law that will allow the citizens of Mexico access to government documents, much like our own Freedom of Information Act. It also requires Mexican federal agencies and the Bank of Mexico to make many of their internal documents available on the Internet within one year.

What's Up With The Mystery Rash?
In the last 8 months, there have been reports of school kids getting a mystery rash. Weird thing is, most of the students have been female, and no real cause has been identified. Was it the parvovirus, or just a psychogenic outbreak? Is it terrorism? Anthrax? Teenage girl hysteria? Maybe time will give us the answers. Schools reporting outbreaks include: Quakertown, PA; Prince William County, VA; and Gig Harbor, WA. In total, the CDC researched cased in 14 states.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

photo copyright Outside magazine
Yucca Mountain Saga
I haven't been writing about this because it is showing up everywhere, but I decided that I need to say something about it. Nuclear waste is a logical consequence of our atomic/nuclear lust, and now, Congress has decided to ship all of the nuclear waste from every location around the US by truck and train to a central location in Nevada, Yucca Mountain. Did I mention that the waste they are going to start shipping there is radioactive? That is poses a threat on every road, every track, and in every intersection it travels? Learn more about the Skull Valley area, and what people there think about this. But the problem doesn't end at Yucca Mountain... it will be arriving there daily from locations all over the continental US.

Microsoft Stocking the Cookie Jar
It turns out Enron isn't the only company cooking the books. Microsoft, that perpetually cash-rich company that has created more personal wealth for its employees than any company in history, has been fudging about its income. Claiming less income when times are high, and putting it aside for a rainy day... pulling it out on quarters where it didn't really meet the analyst expectations. They have agreed to stop doing this, but have not really admitted they did it at all. Funny, but most of the companies that are being investigated by the SEC are in trouble for reporting income they don't have... Microsoft lied about money it did make. I guess with the monopoly lawsuit, they didn't think it would be politically correct to claim their full revenues, and might given the Justice Department something else to look into.

Who Says You Can Have Washboard Abs Without Exercising?
The companies that make ab belts, that's who. These companies are under investigation by both the US Federal Trade Commission and Health Canada, and include: AB Energizer, AbTronic, FastAbs, and others. The FTC is changing the face of middle of the night TV by running some of my favorite infomerical companies out of business. We've already lost Miss Cleo... now AB Energizer? All that will be left is Proactive, Bowflex, and the guy who teaches you how to place classifed ads.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Today's Theme: Artistic Expression Has No Limits
photo copyright Bob Yen
Celestial Performance Art to Happen on Monday
Phoenix is one of the great places to see the solar eclipse on Monday. Everyone is talking about it. Don't forget, you are not supposed to look directly at the sun during this time -- it will damage your eyes.

Starbucks Takes Vienna By Storm
Vienna, that quintessential European city of coffee, has four successful Starbucks now. In a region where 40% of adults smoke, the Starbucks is smoke-free, and growing in popularity. Cafes are Europe, so if you are curious about how Starbucks is pulling this off, how this upstart American company is earning a place in European culture, you must check his out.

The Commercialization of Space
Maybe space tourists and corporate logos on rockets are the only way governments can fund their space programs in this economic and political climate. The Russians, unencumbered by the US laws that prevent government employees from appearing in commercials, have been accepting commercial advertising and sought out marketing opportunities to gain funding for various space programs. But commercial products have also appeared in various US space ventures, although they haven't been exploited for marketing cash like the Russian events. Whether or not Lance Bass is the next space tourist, corporate America will be sponsoring the trip.

The Dangers of Allowing Gallery Visitors
When is an art gallery the most safe? When the visitors are not inside. It seems that security is best when the doors are locked and those pesky people aren't inside, where they can steal art from right under the understaffed guard staff's noses. Some smaller museums, castles, and galleries are finding this out the hard way, like the Château de Blois that was robbed in broad daylight. According to the Museum Security Network, this type of crime is growing and becoming a serious threat to art collections around the world thanks to crooks like Stéphane Breitwieser, whose mother is believed to have destroyed the evidence of the crimes by chopping up the stolen art. A record of stolen art is kept at Art Loss Register.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Today's Theme: Good News Is Hard To Find!
Happy sisters [photo copyright Jamaica Observer]
Calling All Women
We all know about the problems happening with Catholic priests... and now a crisis for nuns. It seems that fewer and fewer women are willing to take up the cross, take the vows of poverty and chastity, and consider themselves married to JC. And wear penguin suits. (That's my Catholic upbringing speaking. At least I didn't mention the perpetual snapping of rulers on wrists...). Many of the orders are facing questionable futures.

Wired Plugs In To A New Audience
After years of being the cutting edge technology magazine for geeks and geek-wannabes everywhere, Wired is expanding its target audience to include more people, according to the Editor-in-Chief, Chris Anderson. Heck, maybe I should get my definitely non-geeky dad a subscription for Father's Day, he might enjoy the cover article about Steven Spielberg.

"Dead Men Tell No Passwords"
I love stories of technology gone wrong. Here is a classic case for why security systems need backup plans, and why at least two people should know all of the important passwords. Just ask the people at the Ivar Aasen Centre of Language and Culture in Norway, where they have enlisted the help of hackers to get access to secured documents after the only guy who knew the password died.

Perot's Company Provided Energy Manipulation Strategy to Enron
Ooops, I was trying to find good news.

The Court Jester In Trouble
The tiny Kingdom of Tonga has learned a financial lesson the hard way. After Jesse "JD" Bogdonoff was given access to the small country's savings, it disappeared. A former Bank of America employee and a Buddhist, Bogdonoff knew of the country's savings account with the bank. He left his job and created a new company, and successfully outbid both Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo to get the contract to manage the fund. Part of the plan seems to have been to invest it in a pseudo-bank in Montana. Here is something really scary -- he is on the board of Youth Mentoring International Foundation, which, as you can guess, mentors high school kids. What's he doing, encouraging the already disadvantaged kids to switch to white collar crimes? But I've saved the best for last... King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV had given Bogdonoff a royal position -- as the court jester. And, to top it off, Bogdonoff's birthday is... yep, April Fool's Day. Whose the fool now?

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Today's Theme: I'm Back!
Donor Alpha & Donor Beta (semen providers) [photo copyright Clone International]
Jizz Demand Creates Need For New Technology

OK, I added this one because it makes me laugh. The dairy cattle in New Zealand must be really fabulous, because the demand for their semen has outpaced their supply! (Imagine that!) Now, the solution may be offered by Clone International, which is planning to clone the semen to increase the supply. The plan involves the user of Donor Alpha and Donor Beta, two commercially cloned calves, whose semen will be harvested and used to meet the demand.

City Planning: The Gay & Bohemian Factors
I love this article. Someone has finally noticed that cities with a "fringe" element, cities that allow people to live outside of the social norms, that allow creativity in all of its forms, and that allow free thought and expression -- are cities that thrive! Now, thanks to the work Richard Florida, a professor at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management and a participant in the Software Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, city planners are hearing a new theory for city growth: creative capital theory. In a nutshell, he is telling cities that unless you have an environment where creativity can flourish without looking weird, you won't get innovations. Not only does he have a new book out, The Rise of the Creative Class, but he writes a column for Information Week.

Costco: America's Vinter
I don't know much about wine. I always have a hard time picking out a wine. In fact, I hate to admit this, but I usually buy wine based on how much I like the design on the label. (I guess that's the wine equavalent of judging a book by its cover.) Now, I discover that my unassuming neighborhood Costco is the numero uno wine retailer in America. Maybe I should go and stand in front of their wine selection to look for pretty labels.

Do We Really Want To Stop The Snowbirds?
I live in the Sun Belt, and in the winter, our population swells to include those winter visitors we affectionately call "snowbirds." A good deal of them come from Canada. But now, with the new visa restrictions that are part of our brave new post-9/11 world, our Canadian snowbirds would be restricted to a 30 day visit when they have been used to having 180 days. Deputy Prime Minister John Manley is meeting with Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge, to discuss the possibilities of exceptions for our Canadian snowbirds. With a herd of about 100,000 annually migrating here, this is one migration we really don't want to stop!

Choose Wisely
No, I'm not quoting the famous lines from the Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade where the Holy Grail must be chosen from an assorted collection of cups. This is cutting edge marriage success advise from Neil Clark Warren of eHarmony, a singles matching service. He says that people aren't making intelligent choices when they marry, and that mistake alone is the cause of unhappy marriages. So, who do you know who used his or her noodle instead of their heart to choose a life partner? What about falling in love? What about romance? He makes it sound more like a negotiating a business merger than a loving life partner. (You can probably tell I'm not keen on his advice....)

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Diamondbacks Screensaver
Download and install this free screensaver, an official Diamondbacks 2002 World Champs screensaver, from America West, the official airline of the team.