Day: February 2, 2005

Those who forget history

I have heavily edited this passage, but if you aren’t already familiar with it, you owe it to yourself to click here to read the unedited original. You may be amazed*.

“United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in (the) presidential election despite a …terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from (the capital), 83 per cent of the … registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the (rebels).

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the (insurgents) to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting…

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in (the) President…’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes… The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began (fifteen months earlier), to which (the) President … gave his personal commitment when he met… the chief of state… in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the …Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays…” [thanks, walker]

*(or at least nostalgic)

Book Review: Born Losers

“‘Nobody wins.’

This may be a core truth, but it’s usually ignored or scanted by historians and social scientists, for whom triumph is an irresistible story and who tend to write about losers only when they go down in spectacular flames: Napoleon at Waterloo, Hitler in the bunker, Sonny Liston flat on the mat. Yet though the losses and setbacks with which most of us are familiar rarely are dramatic, they are intensely human and have a lot to say about us as individuals and about the society in which we live. They are stories that deserve to be told.

Which is what Scott Sandage has attempted to do in Born Losers. By examining the lives and careers of a number of businessmen who failed during the 19th century, he portrays what we reflexively think of as the dark side of the American dream but what is, in reality, an only slightly exaggerated mirror of the reality with which ordinary people — i.e., thee and me — are fated to contend.” (Washington Post)

R.I.P. Jim Capaldi

//graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/01/29/arts/music/29capaldi184.jpg' cannot be displayed]Mainstay of the Rock Band Traffic Dies at 60: “Jim Capaldi, a drummer and songwriter who played with the classic British rock band Traffic on ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘You Can All Join In’ and other songs, died early yesterday in London. He was 60 and lived in Marlow, England.” (New York Times )

‘Bird Brains’ No More

Some New Names And New Respect: “Today an international group of experts is publishing a call for scientists around the world to switch to a new set of words to describe the various parts of the avian brain — a wholesale revision of terms that is rarely seen in science and the first total makeover of bird brain anatomy in more than a century.

The new system, which draws upon many of the words used to describe the human brain and has broad support among scientists, acknowledges the now overwhelming evidence that avian and mammalian brains are remarkably similar — a fact that explains why many kinds of bird are not just twitchily resourceful but able to design and manufacture tools, solve mathematical problems and, in many cases, use language in ways that even chimpanzees and other primates cannot.

In particular, it reflects a new recognition that the bulk of a bird’s brain is not, as scientists once thought, mere ‘basal ganglia’ — the part of the brain that simply coordinates instincts. Rather, fully 75 percent of a bird’s brain is an intricately wired mass that processes information in much the same way as the vaunted human cerebral cortex.” (Washington Post)

As Clinton Shifts Themes, Debate Arises on Her Motives

“In a recent series of public appearances, Mrs. Clinton has generated considerable attention – and, in some cases, scorn – by imbuing her remarks with mentions of God, faith, prayer and the need to be more tolerant of people who are opposed to abortion and gay marriage because of their beliefs.

By design or not, Mrs. Clinton has displayed remarkable timing. Her comments come against the backdrop of the Democratic Party’s efforts to shed its secular image after suffering major electoral defeats in November at the hands of Republicans, who emphasized Christian values in their campaigns.

The recent pronouncements of Mrs. Clinton, who is widely considered a possible candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, are a matter of considerable debate.” (New York Times )

Simon Singh’s Big Bang Reviewed

Course: Cosmos Explained. Prerequisites: None.: “The Big Bang, at first glance, seems incomprehensibly big and dauntingly abstract. But turn on a good FM radio, twiddle the dial and tune it in. There, in the intervals between stations, you hear a shushing sound. A tiny part of that sound is caused by radiation emitted just after the universe came into being , primordial light waves that stretched with the expansion of the universe and became transformed into radio waves. The Big Bang was way back then, but it’s also here and now, and never more so than in Mr. Singh’s stirring tale of scientific adventure.” (New York Times )

The Waiter You Stiffed Has Not Forgotten

“Grievances, including friction between kitchen and dining room staff, rapacious management and near-universal bitterness over tipping, are being revealed with gusto on the Internet by restaurant staff members. As a customer, to read Web sites like www.bitterwaitress.com, www.waiterrant.blogspot.com and www.webfoodpros.com is to wonder nervously, ‘Could they be talking about me?’

Each month, www.stainedapron.com publishes a new extreme example of customer obnoxiousness. (One forum is titled “Keep Your Brats at Home!”) On bitterwaitress.com, the most popular page is an annotated database of people who give bad tips (defined on the site as “any gratuity under 17 percent for service which one’s peers would judge as adequate or better”). Anyone can add a name to the database, along with the location, restaurant, amount of the check, amount of the tip and any details, most of which cannot be printed in a family newspaper. (A disclaimer reads: “We are not responsible for submissions. Uh-uh, no way, not in the least.”) There are almost 700 entries.” (New York Times )