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January 7th, 2005

Stay Out of the Bloody Medicine Cabinet!

"Those times i burned my guitar was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar."
Jimi Hendrix


Dear Folks,

The way the world is coming to the aid of the Tsunami victims is inspiring and, if it's not too much to hope for, could set a precedent and benchmark for how the more affluent nations can assist poorer and disadvantaged ones in the future. I'm especially proud of Australia's generous contribution.

Closer to home, my partner Lin has just gotten a 'suspected' thyroid cancer diagnosis (i.e. they can't tell from the biopsy - 5 -10 % possibility) and are recommending she has some partial surgery. Now neither of us are big fans of cutting, unless some Cake is involved, so we are researching alternatives and second opinions and anyone who has any successful experience with affairs of the thyroid, and feels like sharing, feel free to write me.


Being a bit picky, but you know how incorrect stuff on the internet gets confused with fact. The undersea earthquake south of Tassie you mention as coming directly after the Indonesian hit was in fact a couple of days earlier. The Tassie one hit at 2am (eastern daylight saving time) on Friday 24th December, the Asian disaster started at 11.59am (edst) on Sunday 26th December. The letter from the friend of your Sri Lankan mate was similar to an email I received from a friend who materially supports an entire village in Burma with some of life's basics, schoolbooks and pencils, medical supplies and the like. He'd just installed a water treatment plant (out of his own pocket) and at last mailing had no idea if anyone out of the entire village had survived, the Burmese regime being what it is. Mike

(Note: the following excellent letter is quite long and detailed so I have reprinted a couple excerpts with a link to the complete letter. Joe)

Hi Joe,
Read the letter from Stefan Abeysekera. With you in spirit, mate, keep going. Sincere condolences to all who have been hit. Below are some ideas. If you could find space for them or some of them, that would give this lot a web presence. Maybe your readers could add better ideas and help push these along if they think them half sensible. Ta. The emergency teams do not seem to be loading drilling gear yet, except for Medair in Switzerland. Any help passing this on would be much appreciated. Regards, Peter Ravenscroft.
Dr David Nabarro
Head of Crisis Operations

Drilling in Tsunami Hit Areas for Deeper Clean Water, and Cheap Water Filters

1. Drilling
As clean water is one of the most urgent needs following the recent tsunami, what follows may help. It is highly likely there is a very large supply of uncontaminated groundwater in the deeper strata than that currently being tapped for wells and boreholes round the continental coasts of the Bay of Bengal, and hence now contaminated. The Bay is a sedimentary environment, probably mostly continental shelf, hence the shallow water, the flat coasts and the tsunami's destructiveness. There should be decent deep aquifers under most of it. There is not likely to be much previous drilling of those postulated aquifers or much useful mapping to the sort of detail that wil be useful, so though the geology and seismic maps should be all collated and carefully checked, the best thing to do is to start drilling as rapidly as possible, that deeper water can be drilled for at speed, if a decision to make the effort is taken. The bores can be cased as they are drilled, using concrete and poly casing, so that contamination by cholera and other bacteria can be avoided. As depths of the order of perhaps 100 to 200 metres may yield clean water in quantity in many cases, relatively small drilling rigs can be used, probably 1 or 2 tonners would do in most cases. Larger rigs to 20 tonnes can be deployed where the smaller ones do not find water at the maximum of their depth capability. I have worked with drillers on both types who have achieved drilling rates up to 700 metres per day with first-rate equipment. The smaller rigs can be helicopter deployed. The rest could stay on their trucks, and be moved on miliary landing craft. Holes should go down a few hundred metres back from the shoreline, to avoid sucking in salty water from the marine watertables. (more)

2. Back Yard Water Filters
Very cheap and effective clay water filters can be made on an ordinary charcoal fire by mixing suitable clay and fine pulverized charcoal 50-50 by volume. The filters tested by others removed 98 percent of the E. coli present. The WHO standard is 93 percent. If the filters are put in the fire once a day, they can be sterlized repeatedly. Those could perhaps be made both by village and town people and by the potters of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia etc. Australian National University ceramicist David Goggins worked with World Vision on this. (see Google)

In passing, we proposed earlier a system of coastal klaxons, satellite linked, to avoid repeats of the warning failure. Long blast for hours to the estimated time of arrival, short blasts for minutes. Warnings are essential, but people need somewhere to run to. Many areas are flat for kilometres. I suggest the populated centres each need an elevated soccer field, with gently sloping sides, long axis perpendicular to the coast, surface say 10 or 20 metres up, with elevated stands on secure poles above that where possible. The field size should accommodate the local population within warning distance. That will also help reduce angst, and construction in each case can be a calming community effort. (more)

Peter Ravenscroft
on behalf of the South Pacific Scientific Research Society
Email: raven@samford.net
PO Box 108
Samford, 4520,

Queensland, Australia.
complete letter

Researchers have found that doctors who spend at least three hours a week playing video games make about 37% fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery than surgeons who didn't play video games.

Animals Had a Sixth Sense About the Tsunami

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Wild animals seem to have escaped the Indian Ocean tsunami, adding weight to notions they possess a "sixth sense" for disasters, experts said Thursday. Sri Lankan wildlife officials have said the giant waves that killed over 24,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's coast seemingly missed wild beasts, with no dead animals found. "No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit. I think animals can sense disaster. They have a sixth sense. They know when things are happening," H.D. Ratnayake, deputy director of Sri Lanka's Wildlife Department, said Wednesday.(article)

There is a bar in London that sells vaporized vodka, which is inhaled instead of sipped.

Blu-Ray vs HD DVD
Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Build a DVD Library

Blu-ray is expected to replace VCRs and DVD recorders over the coming years, with the transition to HDTV. The format is also likely to become a standard for PC data storage and HD movies in the future.

BETA REPLAY?  Sony has been fighting for nearly 30 years to take the lead in the lucrative home-entertainment wars. In the early 1980s, its Betamax videotape format lost out to the rival VHS standard.

(Note: I was one of the first cabs off the rank back in the 1980 to purchase a complete Betamax portapack camera and player. I carted that army-style 'backpack' around Japan and most of the world, only to get gazumped when VHS became the accepted commercial format. (By the way, anyone out there still have any 8-track tapes? You fools!)

Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD) is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of leading consumer electronics and PC companies (including Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson). The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (HD), as well as storing large amounts of data. A single-layer Blu-ray Disc can hold 25GB, which can be used to record over 2 hours of HDTV or more than 13 hours of standard-definition TV. There are also dual-layer versions of the discs that can hold 50GB. While current optical disc technologies such as DVD, DVD±R, DVD±RW, and DVD-RAM use a red laser to read and write data, the new format uses a blue-violet laser instead.

Both formats provide far sharper pictures as well as vastly increased storage space, which the studios intend to use to provide interactive capabilities that will allow viewers to buy merchandise, play games, and call up bonus material even while the movie is being shown. The Sony-backed Blu-ray disk can hold about six times the capacity of existing DVDs, while the Toshiba's HD DVD can hold about four times as much as standard DVDs. (article)

Astronauts cannot burp in space. There is no gravity to separate liquid from gas in their stomachs.


Millionaire Musicians to Lose Irish Tax Free Status
Anthony Garvey

The tax free status accorded to writers, artists and musicians in the Irish Republic is to be reviewed, with a minimum tax rate or sliding scale of reliefs likely to be introduced for top earners. The review has been announced by finance minister Brian Cowen in response to widespread public anger that millionaires in the music business and other fields have been using relief schemes that allow them, legitimately, to avoid paying any tax on their earnings. Cowen has promised that the changes recommended by the review will be put in place in his budget for 2006. The tax free scheme for writers, artists and musicians was introduced more than 30 years ago by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, an arts patron who was then finance minister. The scheme, unique to Ireland, was intended to show how the country valued artistic and creative talent, as well as being of practical help to struggling artists. At the time there were few high earners in the Irish arts. Today, music groups like U2, The Corrs and Westlife, singers including Enya, Van Morrison and Chris de Burgh and shows like Riverdance, are earning millions worldwide. Under the scheme, according to figures from the Irish Revenue Commissioners for 2001, 28 artists and musicians earning between half a million and ten million euros paid no tax. In total there were 1,323 claims for tax exemption involving 80 million euros in income, with just 446 of these from artists earning less than 5,000 euros. (article)
(Thanks to Maireid Sullivan)

Jay Jay French: A Twisted Interview

In 1987, the rock & roll world was knocked on their a**es by a new New York based Glam Band performing under the name of Twisted Sister. With theatrics rivaling KISS and a shock factor that Alice Cooper would be proud of, the band released Stay Hungry which yielded the hugely successful singles and videos "I Wanna Rock" and "We're Not Gonna Take It". The extensive touring that followed kept them near the top of the charts for many months to come and made the band out of Long Island a household name in America. Epiphone's Don Mitchell recently had the chance to talk to founding member and lead guitarist Jay Jay French.

"The 80's were fun and entertaining. In the 90's when Grunge and then the whole Ozzfest thing happened, the scene became very depressing. Some of them are good players and nice people and all that but I think that the scene became very depressing with the whole "my life sucks", "the world sucks" attitude. You know, if it sucks why do you have to sing about it and depress the shit out of the rest of us....Why do you have to make records just to depress the crap out of everybody? Why do you have to bitch and moan? You're being paid millions of bucks, you're in a limousinewhat the fuck is your problem"....Jay Jay French (Interview)

Plate glass is actually a very thick liquid.

The Ends of the World as We Know Them
By Jared Diamond

 History warns us that when once-powerful societies collapse, they tend to do so quickly and unexpectedly. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise: peak power usually means peak population, peak needs, and hence peak vulnerability. What can be learned from history that could help us avoid joining the ranks of those who declined swiftly? We must expect the answers to be complex, because historical reality is complex: while some societies did indeed collapse spectacularly, others have managed to thrive for thousands of years without major reversal.

When it comes to historical collapses, five groups of interacting factors have been especially important: the damage that people have inflicted on their environment; climate change; enemies; changes in friendly trading partners; and the society's political, economic and social responses to these shifts. That's not to say that all five causes play a role in every case. Instead, think of this as a useful checklist of factors that should be examined, but whose relative importance varies from case to case.

For instance, in the collapse of the Polynesian society on Easter Island three centuries ago, environmental problems were dominant, and climate change, enemies and trade were insignificant; however, the latter three factors played big roles in the disappearance of the medieval Norse colonies on Greenland. Let's consider two examples of declines stemming from different mixes of causes: the falls of classic Maya civilization and of Polynesian settlements on the Pitcairn Islands.

Maya Native Americans of the Yucatan Peninsula and adjacent parts of Central America developed the New World's most advanced civilization before Columbus. They were innovators in writing, astronomy, architecture and art. From local origins around 2,500 years ago, Maya societies rose especially after the year A.D. 250, reaching peaks of population and sophistication in the late 8th century. . . (more)

The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.

The Top Ten War Profiteers of 2004
The Center for Corporate Policy

    1. AEGIS: In June, the Pentagon's Program Management Office in Iraq awarded a $293 million contract to coordinate security operations among thousands of private contractors to Aegis, a UK firm whose founder was once investigated for illegal arms smuggling.
   2. BEARING POINT: Critics find it ironic that Bearing Point, the former consulting division of KPMG, received a $240 million contract in 2003 to help develop Iraq's "competitive private sector," since it had a hand in the development of the contract itself.
    3. BECHTEL: Schools, hospitals, bridges, airports, water treatment plants, power plants, railroad, irrigation, electricity, etc. Bechtel was literally tasked with repairing much of Iraq's infrastructure, a job that was critical to winning hearts and minds after the war. To accomplish this, the company hired over 90 Iraqi subcontractors for at least 100 jobs.
    4. BKSH & ASSOCIATES: Chairman Charlie Black, is an old Bush family friend and prominent Republican lobbyist whose firm is affiliated with Burson Marsteller, the global public relations giant. BKSH clients with contracts in Iraq include Fluor International (whose ex-chair Phillip Carroll was tapped to head Iraq's oil ministry after the war, and whose board includes the wife of James Woolsey, the ex-CIA chief who was sent by Paul Wolfowitz before the war to convince European leaders of Saddam Hussein's ties to al Qaeda). Fluor has won joint contracts worth up to $1.6 billion. Another client is Cummins Engine, which has managed to sell its power generators thanks to the country's broken infrastructure.  Most prominent among BKSH's clients, however, is the Iraqi National Congress, whose leader Ahmed Chalabi was called the "George Washington of Iraq" by certain Pentagon neoconservatives before his fall from grace. BKSH's K. Riva Levinson was hired to handle the INC's U.S. public relations strategy in 1999. Hired by U.S. taxpayers, that is: Until July 2003, the company was paid $25,000 per month by the U.S. State Department to support the INC.
    5. CACI AND TITAN: "Titan's role in Iraq is to serve as translators and interpreters for the U.S. Army," company CEO Gene Ray said, implying that news reports had inaccurately implied the employees' involvement in torture. "The company's contract is for linguists, not interrogators." But according to Joseph a. Neurauter, a GSA suspension and debarment official, CACI's role in designing its own Abu Ghraib contract "continues to be an open issue and a potential conflict of interest." In August the Army gave CACI another $15 million no-bid contract to continue providing interrogation services for intelligence gathering in Iraq; In September, the Army awarded Titan a contract worth up to $400 million for additional translators.
    6. CUSTER BATTLES: At the end of September, the Defense Department suspended Custer Battles (the name comes from the company's two principle founders - Michael Battles and Scott Custer) and 13 associated individuals and affiliated corporations from all federal contracts for fraudulent billing practices involving the use of sham corporations set up in Lebanon and the Cayman Islands. The CPA caught the company after it left a spreadsheet behind at a meeting with CPA employees. The spreadsheet revealed that the company had marked up certain expenses associated with a currency exchange contract by 162 percent.
    7. HALLIBURTON: In December Congressman Waxman (D-CA), announced that "a growing list of concern's about Halliburton's performance" on contracts that total $10.8 billion have led to multiple criminal investigations into overcharging and kickbacks.
    8. LOCKHEED MARTIN: Lockheed Martin remains the king among war profiteers, raking in $21.9 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2003 alone. With satellites and planes, missiles and IT systems, the company has profited from just about every phase of the war except for the reconstruction. The company's stock has tripled since 2000 to just over $60.
    9. LORAL SATELLITE: In the buildup to the war the Pentagon bought up access to numerous commercial satellites to bolster its own orbiting space fleet. U.S. armed forces needed the extra spaced-based capacity to be able to guide its many missiles and transmit huge amounts of data to planes (including unmanned Predator drones flown remotely by pilots who may be halfway around the world), guide missiles and troops on the ground. Industry experts say the war on terror literally saved some satellite operators from bankruptcy. The Pentagon announced in November that it would create a new global Intranet for the military that would take two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build. Satellites, of course, will play a key part in that integrated global weapons system.
    10. QUALCOMM: Two CPA officials resigned this year after claiming they were pressured by John Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for technology security to change an Iraqi police radio contract to favor Qualcomm's patented cellular technology, a move that critics say was intended to lock the technology in as the standard for the entire country. Iraq's cellular market is potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues for the company, and potentially much more should it establish a standard for the region.
(More details)

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321 (blast off!)


Talking Dog

A guy is driving around and he sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog For Sale."
He rings the bell, and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes into the backyard and sees a Labrador retriever sitting there.
"You talk?" he asks.
"Yep," the Lab replies.
"So, what's your story?"
The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young, and I wanted to help the government.  So, I told the CIA about my gift. In no time at all, they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one
figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger, so I wanted to settle down.  I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
"Ten dollars."
The guy says, "This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"

"Because he's a liar. He didn't do any of that shit."
(Thanks to Maireid Sullivan)

A baby is born without kneecaps. They appear between age 2 and 6.
 1.  Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace. 
 2.  Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become:  Poly, Warner Cracker. 
 3.  3M will merge with Goodyear and continue as: MMMGood. 
 4.  Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa. 
 5.  FedEx is expected to join its major competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP
 6.  Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild. 
 7.  Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become:  Poupon Pants
 8.  Knotts Berry Farm and the N.ational O.rganization of W.omen will become: Knott NOW! 
 9.  Victoria's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name: Titty Titty Bang Bang.
(thanks to Stephen Ross)

40% of all people who come to a party in your home snoop in your medicine cabinet.


Goulash with Brandy and Star Anise

I made this over the past week and it is now part of my 'can't wait to make it again' collection!

Olive oil
1 1/2 kg beef, thickly diced
1 onion, halved and sliced
3 lemon grass stalks, white part, cut in halves
4 whole star anise
medium piece fresh ginger, cut in quarters
750 ml beef stock
125 ml brandy
70 g tomato paste
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
optional: 2 tbles cornflour

Heat oil in fry pan until smoking. Cook beef until brown. Transfer to crockpot. Add onion, lemon grass, star anise, and ginger to fry pan and toss for about 10 minutes. Transfer to crockpot with beef stock, brandy and tomato paste. Bring to boil, lower to simmer and cook on low heat for about 3-4 hours, or until beef is tender. Add the carrots and salt to taste and cook for a further 1 -2 hours. Add more beef stock if necessary and at the end of the cooking time, if the sauce hasn't already thickened naturally, mix the cornflour with a little water and stir into the goulash. Serve with rice.


Return often and take me,
beloved sensation, return and take me -
when the memory of the body awakens,
and desire again runs through the blood;
when the lips and the skin remember,
and the hands feel as if they touch again.

Return often and take me at night,
when the lips and the skin remember. . .

~ c.p. cavafy ~
(transation by rae dalven)