Weblog Archives




  Saturday   April 2   2005

engineering art

Ramelli's Machines: Original drawings of 16th century machines


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 10:28 PM - link

why they hate us — part 623

'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man'

We speak with John Perkins, a former respected member of the international banking community. In his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man he describes how as a highly paid professional, he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies.

John Perkins describes himself as a former economic hit man – a highly paid professional who cheated countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars.

20 years ago Perkins began writing a book with the working title, Conscience of an Economic Hit Men.

Perkins writes, "The book was to be dedicated to the presidents of two countries, men who had been his clients whom I respected and thought of as kindred spirits – Jaime Rolds, president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama. Both had just died in fiery crashes. Their deaths were not accidental. They were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate, government, and banking heads whose goal is global empire. We Economic Hit Men failed to bring Rolds and Torrijos around, and the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in.

John Perkins goes on to write: "I was persuaded to stop writing that book. I started it four more times during the next twenty years. On each occasion, my decision to begin again was influenced by current world events: the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1980, the first Gulf War, Somalia, and the rise of Osama bin Laden. However, threats or bribes always convinced me to stop."

But now Perkins has finally published his story. The book is titled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. John Perkins joins us now in our Firehouse studios.


  thanks to BookNotes

 10:22 PM - link


Singapore: Taoist Festival

The following photos were taken on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. It is an important day for Taoists in Singapore as this day is for receiving the Emperor of Heaven for the New Year. The festival for this Taoist shrine is officiated by Taoist mediums or 'Tangki' in the Hokkien dialect. 'Tangki' conducts seance that allows Taoist deities to enter their body so as to divine the future, bless devotees and also conduct exorcism. In this particular occasion, 3 'Tangki' who served as bodily embodiment of the Monkey Deity, Celestial General and Celestial Boy officiated the ceremony. The most unforgettable scene was the unsuccessful seance attempted by a novice 'Tangki' that lasted for almost an hour, which left the young 'Tangki' collapsed in exhaustion. The 'Tangki' for the Monkey Deity even lacerated his tongue to bless talisman with his own blood! He was obviously oblivious to pain and the deep wound miraculously closed after the ceremony! The shooting of this festival left me completed exhausted at the end and I personally have yet to expose so many rolls of film in such a short period of time. The constant rythmic banging of gongs and drums had an almost hypnotic effect on the spectators and it made everyone there totally immersed in the spectacle that unfolded before them . I would like to thank 'Nan Tian Gong' Taoist shrine for allowing me to document the ancient rituals at the festival. Even for a local, this is the first time I witness their religious devotion at such close proximity.


  thanks to RangeFinderForum.com

 10:17 PM - link


China's Strategy
They're happy to let us worry about North Korea while they assemble long-term plans to counter American hegemony.

PERHAPS THE WISEST WORDS ever uttered--or attributed--to Ronald Reagan were: Don't just do something, sit there.

Would that the Gipper were still around to guide U.S. strategy toward North Korea and the "Six Party Talks" meant to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear program. Every time an American starts wringing his hands over the failure of the talks, someone in Beijing smiles contentedly. While we're whipping ourselves over the fact that the North Koreans won't come back to the table--which, actually, is supposed to be China's responsibility--Beijing is advancing its other interests, particularly in putting pressure on Taiwan. The more frustrated and fixated we get, the better the Chinese like it.


  thanks to War and Piece

 09:36 PM - link

magazine art

A *huge* collection of covers.

Galactic Central


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 09:42 AM - link


Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.


On Not Quite Getting It
That's it... come on... you've almost got it. Oh, dear...

Late last summer, dozens of scientists aboard a trio of icebreakers visited a submerged mountain range in the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. They drilled core samples fourteen hundred feet beneath the sea's surface along the Lomonosov Ridge, recovering sediments that revealed clues to the planet's past: a period 49 million years ago, for instance, when for several hundred thousand years "so much fresh warm water apparently topped the Arctic's oxygen-starved salty depths that the polar sea became matted with tiny Azolla ferns, resembling the duckweed that can choke suburban ponds." What the new cores show, Dr. Henk Brinkhuis, a geobiologist from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, told The New York Times, is that "you can get a really strong cascade" of events toward global warming that can then last for eons.

That's interesting—and it accords with a thousand other puzzle pieces that pile up weekly in the scientific journals, all showing that we stand on the brink of changing the planet's climate so abruptly that the world we were born into will be thrown into wild chaos.

But what's more interesting was the reaction to the news. It wasn't: Oh my gosh, let's get to work on global warming. It was: Let's find out if there's oil down there. If sandstone and clay formed a lid over all those dead ferns, then perhaps they've been cooked into petroleum in the intervening years. "This could be a promising sign for oil and gas prospectivity in the Arctic Ocean," a former exploration geologist for Shell told the Times. "Oil prospectors will be very excited, and will be watching the results of analyses with keen interest." Indeed, the Times editors chose the headline "Under All That Ice, Maybe Oil."


  thanks to BookNotes

 09:36 AM - link




  thanks to Conscientious

 12:23 AM - link

fair and balanced lies

'Balance' and the tipping point

Now, there is such a thing as real balance. Real balance is a genuine striving for truth: a willingness to both recognize and honestly explore the multiplicity of viewpoints as well as facts that are part of the naturally complex nature of truth. It is complicated and hard work. Of course, real, hard truth is elusive and rare; but the striving is what brings us closer to it.

However, a genuine balance does not countenance obvious falsehoods where it encounters them. It does not treat misinformation as a legitimate "counter" to reasonably established facts, as though a falsehood were just another opinion. It does not put lies on an even footing with facts.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what we have gotten, in increasing doses, as standard practice from the nation's press for the past decade. As I argued previously regarding the growth of "intelligent design" as a right-wing religious stratagem:

The key piece of illogic is one that has especially lodged itself in the media in recent years: The notion that a demonstrably true fact can be properly countered by a demonstrably false one -- and that the two, placed side by side, represent a kind of "balance" in the national discourse. This is the Foxcist model of Newspeak, in which "fair and balanced" comes to mean its exact opposite.

This kind of "balance" is a direct product of the right-wing myth of the "liberal media". Having worked in the media for many years, I can attest that it may often exhibit a bias, but it is not a liberal one; it is a self-interested one. And having dealt with many ideologues of all stripes in my various media capacities over the years, one of the distinguishing characteristics of movement conservatives that I observed is their knee-jerk and oft-shouted belief that any position contrary to or critical of their official party line is, by definition, "liberal."

What "balance" has become, in essence, is a fig leaf for broadcasting falsehoods on behalf of right-wing propaganda efforts. In the process, it has become a major means for transmitting extremist beliefs into the mainstream. The Schiavo matter is only the most prominent recent example of this.


 12:17 AM - link

hard camera cases on a budget

I've mostly been a hard case kind of guy. Blaine turned me on to these some time ago. They used to be called Train Cases. They are small traveling cases made by Samsonite and can be found at the finest thrift shops. You used to be able to get these for $5. They may be higher now. I used to have just one but my photography kit keeps growing and so do the number of cases. These are particularly useful for medium format cameras. The Samsonite cases are 15" long, 8" deep, and 8 1/2" high.

I started out with a single brown one for my Mamiya Universal. Then I bought a Super 23 that I flat topped. The Universal/Super 23 is a system camera and the different pieces kept multiplying. The brown case now houses the Universal body, a notebook, pano head, 6x9 back, a Vivitar 283, hand grip, assorted things like cable releases and batteries in the large cloth bag, and a light meter. I use pouches, mostly leather, for everything. That gives me a lot of flexibility to change things around.

Then I got a green one. It now has the Super 23 body, 100mm lens, 65mm lens, pinhole, ground glass back, Polaroid back, dark cloth, Black Cat Exposure Guide, and assorted manuals.

I just got a second green one from my mom and I'm setting it up for the 3.25x4.25 Speed Graphic. It has a grip and film holders. It will eventually get some flashholders and flash bulbs. The first two are hard like fiberglass. The third one is a little softer.

If these aren't big enough or sturdy enough you might try surplus ammunition cases. I've got two that I've been carrying around for years. A couple of days ago I cut up a couple of blue plastic sleeping bag pads that I no longer use, and lined the ammunition cases. These cases are indestructable. The first one now has my Burke and James 5x7, 4x5 back, film holders, and loupe. The lenses will be in lens wraps. Scrap pieces made nice dividers. Keep it flexible. The second ammunition case houses my Lowel Tota-light, reflector, umbrella, cord, flashbulbs. There will be more flashholders in the future.

The Samsonite cases are pretty indestructable. Of course, the ammunition cases are *really* indestructable. The ammunition cases have a really tight seal making them air and moisture tight. The ammunition cases are also really heavy. They can be carried short distances without permanent physical damage but I've started to build a little hand truck, with pneumatic wheels, for moving them around. Something I could take down a trail. I've order a couple of 10" wheels off of eBay for $7.90 and will be using some scrap lumber.

 12:03 AM - link

  Tuesday   March 29   2005


For Army Recruiters, a Hard Toll From a Hard Sell

The Army's recruiters are being challenged with one of the hardest selling jobs the military has asked of them in American history, and many say the demands are taking a toll.

A recruiter in New York said pressure from the Army to meet his recruiting goals during a time of war has given him stomach problems and searing back pain. Suffering from bouts of depression, he said he has considered suicide. Another, in Texas, said he had volunteered many times to go to Iraq rather than face ridicule, rejection and the Army's wrath.

An Army chaplain said he had counseled nearly a dozen recruiters in the past 18 months to help them cope with marital troubles and job-related stress.

"There were a couple of recruiters that felt they were having nervous breakdowns, literally," said Maj. Stephen Nagler, a chaplain who retired in March after serving at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where the New York City recruiting battalion is based.


Follow the Money
Watchdogs are warning that corruption in Iraq is out of control. But will the United States join efforts to clamp down on it?

By many accounts, Custer Battles was a nightmare contractor in Iraq. The company's two principals, Mike Battles and Scott Custer, overcharged occupation authorities by millions of dollars, according to a complaint from two former employees. The firm double-billed for salaries and repainted the Iraqi Airways forklifts they found at Baghdad airport—which Custer Battles was contracted to secure—then leased them back to the U.S. government, the complaint says. In the fall of 2004, Deputy General Counsel Steven Shaw of the Air Force asked that the firm be banned from future U.S. contracts, saying Custer Battles had also "created sham companies, whereby [it] fraudulently increased profits by inflating its claimed costs." An Army inspector general, Col. Richard Ballard, concluded as early as November 2003 that the security outfit was incompetent and refused to obey Joint Task Force 7 orders: "What we saw horrified us," Ballard wrote to his superiors in an e-mail obtained by NEWSWEEK.

Yet when the two whistle-blowers sued Custer Battles on behalf of the U.S. government—under a U.S. law intended to punish war profiteering and fraud—the Bush administration declined to take part. "The government has not lifted a finger to get back the $50 million Custer Battles defrauded it of," says Alan Grayson, a lawyer for the two whistle-blowers, Pete Baldwin and Robert Isakson. In recent months the judge in the case, T. S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Virginia, has twice invited the Justice Department to join the lawsuit without response. Even an administration ally, Sen. Charles Grassley, demanded to know in a Feb. 17 letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales why the government wasn't backing up the lawsuit. Because this is a "seminal" case—the first to be unsealed against an Iraq contractor—"billions of taxpayer dollars are at stake" based on the precedent it could set, the Iowa Republican said.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

 12:50 PM - link


I'm sure I've linked to this before but he keeps posting great pictures. A new picture every day. Some are better than others but I keep coming back.


Prepare thyself for lots of pictures of kids this week. I can feel the edge of Spring, and it feels better than I can ever remember…


 12:36 PM - link

oil or the lack of oil

The Long Emergency
by James Howard Kunstler

Oil Rises to a Record on Concern Demand Is Outpacing Supply...
A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred points because, CNN said, government data showed no signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call planet Earth.

Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.

It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency.

Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it.


  thanks to The Mike Runge Peak Oil Archive

 12:12 PM - link




  thanks to Conscientious

 12:05 PM - link


US scatters bases to control Eurasia

The United States is beefing up its military presence in Afghanistan, at the same time encircling Iran. Washington will set up nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia.

With al-Qaeda defanged and the Taliban split, one would tend to believe that the Afghan situation is well under control. But then, how does one explain that a bomb went off in the southern city of Kandahar, killing five people on March 17, the very day US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in Kabul on her first visit to Afghanistan? And why has Karzai pushed back the dates for Afghanistan's historical parliamentary elections, originally planned for 2004, and then to May 2005, now to September 2005?
One thing that is certainly not under control, and is surely the source of many threats to the region, is opium production. During the US occupation, opium production grew at a much faster rate than Washington's, and Karzai's, enemies weakened. In 2003, US-occupied Afghanistan produced 4,200 tons of opium. In 2004, US-occupied and semi-democratic Afghanistan produced a record 4,950 tons, breaking the all-time high of 4,600 tons produced under the Taliban in the year 2000.

Though the problem is known to the world, the Pentagon refuses to deal with it. It is not the military's job to eradicate poppy fields, says the Pentagon. Indeed, it would antagonize the warlords who remain the mainstays of the Pentagon in Afghanistan, say observers.

Back on the base
When all is said and done, one cannot but wonder why the new military bases are being set up. Given that al-Qaeda is only a shadow of the past, the Taliban leaders are queuing up to join the Kabul government, and the US military is not interested in tackling the opium explosion, why are the bases needed?


 12:01 PM - link


A voyage round Great Britain

Whitehaven in Cumbria. The mine workings are visible in the distance on the left.


  thanks to BookNotes

Incredible engravings. I wish they had reproduced all of them. This a book of the month club selection from a book of the month club that is not your ordinary book of the month club. Check out the archives:

Book of the Month Archive

 11:53 AM - link

the imperialistic army

Four books, four views of American militarism – trouble ahead, trouble behind ...

Of the range of issues covered by these authors, the most important is American militarism. It is the handmaiden and unavoidable consequence of U.S. imperialism, which alienates peoples and nations around the world. We were warned against it by George Washington in his farewell address ("Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican liberty," 1796) and by Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address ("In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex," 1961). Militarism accelerates the hollowing out of American democracy, and, as Bacevich puts it, "If history is any guide, it will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economic, and in abject failure."

One need look no further than President Bush's proposed budget for 2006, in which he cuts civilian expenditures across the board but raises outlays for the military to a record $419.3 billion – not including costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending on nuclear weapons or support of our retired and wounded veterans. This calamitous state of affairs threatens not only our own lives but is capable of inflicting unimaginable harm on the rest of the world.


  thanks to Antiwar.com

 11:40 AM - link

typewriters — the keyboard without an "enter" key

I came across the word "typewriter" yesterday and a synapse in my brain fired. (It doesn't happen often so it's a remarkable occasion.) When I was 13 (1958), I spent my summer earnings on two items: a Petri 35mm rangefinder and a portable typewriter. But this wasn't just any portable typewriter. It is one of the most beautiful typewriters ever made — an Olivetti Lettera 22. Olivetti, is Italian. In the 1950s, Italian industrial design was on a different planet that in this country. And the Olivetti products were good examples of Italian design. The Lettera 22 was the best of them all. Even the ads were beautiful. I have been wanting to restore mine. Yes, I've been dragging it around for decades. I think I last used it in the early 1970s. I found it and lovingly enticed it out from it's hiding place. When I get through working on cameras I think I will clean this thing up. I might even write something on it.

My dusty Lettera 22

Lots of information on typewriters:

The Classic Typewriter Page

These people have typewriter ribbons for my Olivetti and a lot of typewriters for sale:


And more typewriters for sale:


You can even send email on a Lettera 22:

Housefold Objects in the act | Aparna Rao | Interaction Design Institute

In collaboration with Mathias Dalhström, 22 Pop was inspired by my mother’s own fruitless attempts to imbibe the practices and conventions of the ‘connected’ world, and her growing sense of despair and exclusion from all social exchanges that take place exclusively over email. To her, instant electronic communication is a fascinating idea and so close at hand; yet any attempt to use a computer leaves her feeling flustered and inadequate. A simple email operation is a daunting task. She is not alone in her misgivings and inability to keep abreast with digital technologies constantly in flux. In India, typewriters were a commonplace object in the home, and associated with popular street culture to this day. With the influx of communication dissemination systems in India in the 80’s, and the sprouting of little kiosks with phone, fax and photocopy facilities on every street; the typewriter still has its much-cherished corner. Outside many buildings, a portable office and typewriter is seen.

22 Pop (‘22’ because of the Olivetti typewriter classic, Lettera 22 it is modeled on; ‘pop’ as a reference to the email protocol used) is simply a portable typewriter that sends and receives email. An ordinary Lettera 22 is embedded with electronics, which enables any letter that is typed, to be sent as an email. Through the use of various sensors concealed in the body, a small chip interprets all the mechanical operations of letter writing. When the letter is completed and the paper pulled out of the typewriter’s carriage, the email is sent to its addressee via a telephone cable that fits into the back of the machine.



 11:28 AM - link


Collision Course

Europe is in the process of trying to pass a new constitution, and it is going to be a delicate business. Le Figaro reported that, for the first time, more than half of French surveyed were against the new constitution, and the opposition asked Chirac to put his own political weight behind its passage.

Why should this be of interest to the US, and even more so to the opposition to Bush? Because Europe and the Bush are on a collision course, over a deep issue: what kind of world we will live in. It is a global game of chicken over wages and prices.

What is this division? George Bush and Alan Greenspan are pushing a world where materials prices are higher, wages are lower, and the profits of large corporations are higher. They are doing this by running very high budget deficits, having very low interest rates, and using China as a vast engine of deflation to keep wages, and thus consumer inflation in line. This leads to what Professor David Hackett Fischer called a "money drought" in his book The Great Wave. We can see the results: oil has gone from a rock bottom $11 a barrel, to hovering over $55 dollars a barrel. Real wages in the US have barely moved, and yet Wall Street banks are showing record profits. Bush wants everywhere to look just like here: high profits, low wages, and a rush for mining and drilling.


 10:39 AM - link

camera rebuilds

I was on a roll yesterday. I finished recovering my Agfa Isolette II in leather.

Once I got started it went pretty quickly. I have one of those big old paper paper cutters with the Giant Knife of Death on one end. Not one of those sissy rotary paper cutters. This one will remove fingers. It cut leather just fine. I used Barge cement to hold it on. I need a sharp X-acto knife blade to do some final trimming but it came out pretty good. However, I would definitely used die cut leather if it was available. (See Camera Leather.) But it wasn't for the Agfa. Now to attack the lens. I need to free up the focusing ring and clean the lens inside and out. I think I will put off the new bellows for now. I can repair the one it has. I want to get on with taking pictures!

Then I went to work on the Speed Graphic.

It's almost done! It still needs the strap, another piece of leather, and the infinity stops and rangefinder need to be adjusted. The shutter should get a CLA but the fast speeds seem fine. It's just the slow speeds that aren't working. I plan on just using this as a handheld camera so I probably won't need the slow speeds. The fast speeds go down to 1/25 sec. Now I need film and I need to build a light tight box to mail the film in. Does this mean I will have to take pictures with it?

 10:32 AM - link

  Sunday   March 27   2005

happy easter

 12:07 PM - link