March 2009


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Green Activism: A dying tree fell onto an (empty) SUV in Hoboken last Friday

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Some electric cars kick ass:

Electric cars are no joke. Yes, it’s true that many EVs are small, ungainly-looking oddities, but the other end of the spectrum—the realm of high-performance supercars—might surprise you…

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Photos from the California coast and backroads are up at Zenfolio

Michael Totten reports: “Baghdad in Fragments”:

Many third world cities look better at night than during the day. Darkness hides shabbiness. You have to imagine what the city actually looks like. If you live in a first world city yourself, you might fill in the blanks with what you’re familiar with. It’s only during the day that you can see just how run-down the place really is.

Baghdad isn’t like that. Baghdad looks worse at night because you can barely see anything. When your mind fills in the blanks, real and imagined roadside bombs, militiamen, booby traps, and snipers lurk in the shadows.

The city can be spooky at night. Millions of people live in Baghdad, but it’s dark after hours. Few lights illuminate the mostly empty sidewalks and streets. The city’s electrical grid is still offline half the time and must be replaced. Homes without generator power are dark more often than not, and almost everyone who owns a generator turns it off when they go to sleep. Baghdad after sundown is as poorly lit as a remote mountain village…

…Many of the streets in the neighborhood were unpaved. Raw sewage ran in rivulets down the center of many.

“Local contractors were hired to fix these problems,” he said, “but they took the money and ran.”..

…I was happy to get a look at Baghdad without having to worry overly much about my own safety. Many reporters who stayed away from Iraq during the surge in 2007 and 2008 but went back at the end said they could hardly recognize Baghdad any more, that it was a different city. Those reports raised my expectations too high. It didn’t look all that different to me. There were more people out on the street. The security situation had been completely transformed. But the city was otherwise as run-down and corrupt and generally dysfunctional as it was before.

We passed beneath a rat’s nest of electrical wires. A transformer sizzled and popped over my head and blue smoke curled upward…

More…

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While going through old photos, I noticed that I never miss an opportunity to take candid camel shots. So I posted them on flickr & zenfolio.

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I’ve just signed up with Zenfolio to sell my photography online. If you’re in the mood for desert scenes, I’m currently uploading Lawrence of Arabia’s “clean” desert, Wadi Rum.

Take a look -

Thanks to Air and Space Magazine

1. Anticipate. Learn the performers’ routines, listen to the announcer, and be ready to trip the shutter at the right moment..

2. Set a slow shutter speed and follow the aircraft. The result: a photo of fast—the airplane in focus, the background blurred.

3. The chance for air-to-air is rare, but an offer to buy the gas can sometimes earn a ride…

4. To get a full propeller arc (like the ones in the photo on the opposite page), Bowen says to try a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. But use your airborne time wisely: As you fly to a site, make test shots, checking various exposures and settings….

5. Show up at small fly-ins, where the people are friendly and the mood is laid back.

6. I like to position myself strategically near interesting aircraft, and wait for the fans to show up. People interacting with aircraft adds energy to an otherwise static photo…

7. Experiment. A single airplane shouldn’t fill every frame; focus now and then on details. Look for strong geometric shapes, symmetry, patterns, and repetition….

8. Also, vary your perspective: Get up high and look down, or get on your belly and aim up…

9. Light is magic. It can transform an average scene into art.

10. Professional photographers love dawn and dusk because of the soft light and strong shadows…

More, with photos -

With his efforts to promote his new book The Life You Can Save, ethicist Peter Singer offers proof that altruism is not always a sign of goodness.

In his interview with Stephen Colbert, Singer compared charitable giving to getting an expensive business suit wet in order to save a drowning child. Basically, as he said in his New York Times interview, “If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.” Thus, in his view, when citizens of wealthy nations do not give large parts of our income to charities like his favorite UN-supported leftist NGOs, UNICEF and Oxfam, we are letting his theoretical child drown.

Singer is consistent in his efforts to guilt-trip Americans during a time of crisis. Immediately after 9/11 Singer made a similar effort to convince us to give huge sums of money to leftist NGOs and the United Nations when he said, “How can we justify giving such huge sums to the families of the firefighters and police when we do so little for people in other countries whose needs are much more desperate?”

Although many fans of wealth redistribution reviewed The Life You Can Save enthusiastically — Oxfam loved it and the New York Times critiqued it with the investigative insight of a two-month-old puppy — most noted in passing that Singer is “controversial.” Before covering Singer in wet puppy licks, the Times mentioned that Singer “has made a career out of making people feel uncomfortable.”

What on earth could this man who is so generous with other people’s money have to say that would make people uncomfortable? Well, quite a lot. From his book Practical Ethics, here are some examples of Professor Singer’s “controversial” views:

The fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. … No infant — disabled or not — has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time. …

Parents may, with good reason, regret that a disabled child was ever born. In that event the effect that the death of the child will have on its parents can be a reason for, rather than against, killing it.

These statements aren’t just “controversial”; they’re morally reprehensible and the fact that this ethicist holds these views should be a part of every interview with Singer….

More at Pajamas Media

Cute story:

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai fireman turned superhero when he dressed up as comic-book character Spider-Man to coax a frightened eight-year-old from a balcony, police said Tuesday.

Teachers at a special needs school in Bangkok alerted authorities on Monday when an autistic pupil, scared of attending his first day at school, sat out on the third-floor ledge and refused to come inside, a police sergeant told AFP.

Despite teachers’ efforts to beckon the boy inside, he refused to budge until his mother mentioned her son’s love of superheroes, prompting fireman Sonchai Yoosabai to take a novel approach to the problem.

The rescuer dashed back to his fire station and made a quick change into a Spider-Man costume before returning to the boy, he said.

Via the WSJ:

It’s only six months into the crash, but the stock market is already starting to make some early calls. The market isn’t a perfect seer of the future, but it has a pretty good track record. And a few of the calls it’s making now are challenging the conventional wisdom.

IPhone nation lives…Starbucks stock has now jumped 55% from the lows…Dotcoms strike back!

Historians note that many of the stocks which did best during the Great Depression were actually so-called “growth” companies, because they were the ones conquering the future. When a hurricane sweeps through a forest it knocks down a lot of the older, weaker trees. The younger ones survive and prosper. And so it may be in the economy.

The solution to our economic mess won’t be found in Washington or Wall Street. They caused the problems, but they’re not innovative enough to solve them. The solutions are in Silicon Valley, Mojave and other growing tech centers worldwide.

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