Sunday, April 30, 2006

Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis Night) for witching

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

This second feast of St Walpurgis, or Walburga (Beltaine Eve) is one of the main holidays during the year in both Sweden and Finland, along with Christmas and Midsummer.

Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis night) in Germany has been celebrated for centuries. Farmers used to place crosses and herbs above stable doors to protect their livestock from the witches that fly around tonight en route to their evil covens on Germany’s highest mountain, the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains. German cartographers of the 18th Century sometimes added to any map of the Harz Mountains a few witches flying on broomstick towards the summit of the Brocken.

German villagers used to light fires in the fields. Any crop illuminated by the firelight or touched by the smoke was sure to be fertile. Or, so it is said.

Tonight's traditions stem from an ancient pagan Spring festival. The deities Woden and Freya were the parents of Spring ...

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The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

I've always been a big fan of, so the Articles page at the Almanac has a feature that updates every time you refresh the page: "Newly posted at Sacred Texts".

I just noticed something new there that is a good find: The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, complete with his illustrations.

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Liam Quin's Pictures from Old Books

I've mentioned Liam Quin's Pictures from Old Books here before, but I like his free resource so much I thought I'd give it another plug. You might even like to contribute or help Liam clean up scans.

"Remains of Ruined Castles, Deserted Abbeys, Old Manor Houses, mansions and stately homes; also engravings, woodcuts and pictures of Old England and Wales; also other subjects mentioned below, including Pictures of old books, scanned, prepared and published by Liam Quin ... Some common searches: castles, gravestones (tombstones), siege engines, pictures of books, oxford, Scottish castles, English castles, Welsh castles, manors." Pictures are in colour and B&W, updated almost every day, and he even feeds RSS and Atom thumbnails. Good on you, Liam.

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My desk

My desk
My desk,
originally uploaded by wilsonsalmanac.
Where would I be without my John's Background Switcher? Maybe in a worse mess.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Robert Scheer and Richard Dawkins

Highly recommended
I have two pick sites today.

First: Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

Where have I been? This is a new site to me, but apparantly it was launched in November. It's a must. The founder-editor is Robert Scheer, who has interviewed every US president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. Between 1964 and 1969, he was, variously, the Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts Magazine -- and, by the way, naturally David Horowitz, his old Ramparts colleague, can't stand him (with some good reasons with which I concur, I might add). Some more from Scheer is posted today in Yellow Pages.

It's at Truthdig that I learned that Rush Limbaugh has been arrested, and that I found 'An Atheist Manifesto'. All good reads.

Second: Audio of lectures on The Selfish Gene Turns 30.

"This year is the 30th anniversary of the publication of Richard Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene, and to mark the occasion The London School of Economics hosted an event chaired by writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg. The speakers were Daniel Dennett, Sir John Krebs, Matt Ridley, Ian McEwan, and the guest of honour, Richard Dawkins."

See also the Dawkins Multimedia page -- some good downloads and streaming

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Cowper Thornhill's big day out

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

1745 Cowper Thornhill, keeper, from 1730 until his death in 1759, of the Bell Inn on the Great North Road at Stilton, now in Cambridgeshire, in the former county of Huntingdonshire, England, made what was at the time the greatest horse-ride ever known: 213 miles in twelve hours, 17 minutes.

The ride was from the Bell Inn to Shoreditch Church in London (bringing to mind the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons'), then back, and back again to London.

Thornhill must have been a remarkable man. He is also generally referred to as the man who popularised Stilton cheese (one of my favourite delicacies). He discovered a distinctive blue-vein cheese while visiting a small farm in rural Leicestershire, fell in love with the product and forged a business arrangement that granted the Bell exclusive marketing rights to blue Stilton.

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A slice of bread from my fridge


Worldwide rallies to help Darfur

Click for more global actions one person can take

"Save Darfur, an alliance of more than 155 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations, is holding rallies across the United States on April 30, 2006. The demonstrations are part of the Million Voices for Darfur campaign to

"generate one million postcards for delivery to President Bush, who recently pledged to push for additional UN and NATO help to protect the people of Darfur. We applaud the President's leadership, but the work is far from done. We are urging President Bush to take steps necessary to end the genocide and build a lasting peace."

Since there are not any rallies concerning Darfur in Germany, we have joined the German Bloggers Liberale Stimme and Extrablog to demonstrate online and call for the German government and the EU to do more to help Darfur. You can demonstrate virtually by commenting at Liberale Stimme or sending a trackback from your blog. WordofBlog provides the HTML-code for the badge."
Atlantic Review

Darfur - A Genocide We Can Stop.

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Listen free to Neil Young's new album online

Neil Young Talks About New Song ‘Let’s Impeach the President ...

Neil Young's protest album to go online

Neil Young Doesn't Hold Back With War Album Lyrics
Chart Attack, Canada - 3 hours ago... which concludes with a 100-piece choir singing "America The Beautiful." On one of the more straightforward songs on the record, "Let's Impeach The President ...
Neil Young's Anti-War Album Goes Online This Week
Neil Young's Living With War To See Online Release Next Week FMQB
Music's anti-war drumbeat grows Pioneer Press
all 13 related »
Soul Shine
Neil Young New album causing a Big Buzz

Listen free to Neil Young's new album online

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Da Vinci judge's secret code revealed

"A secret code embedded in the text of a court ruling in the case of Dan Brown's bestseller 'The Da Vinci Code' has been cracked, but far from revealing an ancient conspiracy it is simply an obscure reference to a Royal Navy admiral.

"British High Court Justice Peter Smith, who handed down a ruling that Brown had not plagiarized his book, had embedded his own secret message in his judgment by italicizing letters scattered throughout the 71-page document.

"In Brown's book, a secret code reveals an ancient conspiracy to hide facts about Jesus Christ.

"The judge's own code briefly caused a wave of amused speculation when it was discovered by a lawyer this week, nearly a month after the ruling was handed down.

"But the lawyer, Dan Tench, cracked it after a day of puzzling. The judge's code was based on the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical progression discussed in the book ..."
Yahoo! News

Friday, April 28, 2006

Horror spree killing led to hope for a nation

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

10th anniversary of world's most horrific spree killing

1996 Port Arthur Massacre: At Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, the world's worst 'spree killer' of all time, Martin Bryant, killed 35 innocent men, women and children, and wounded another 22 (some sources say 18).

The only good thing that came out of it was that the Australian government decided to bring in strict laws against long-arm automatic weapons, and since then there has been a dramatic decline in gun deaths in Australia, although there is still a problem with still-legal firearms including handguns ...

Australia remembers Port Arthur massacre
Mourners remember Port Arthur massacre
Mourners mark Port Arthur massacre
PM recalls Port Arthur horror
Sydney Morning Herald - ABC Online - all 120 related »
Port Arthur gun measures 'worked'
Push for new control of guns
Gun control 'reduces shooting crimes'


Thursday, April 27, 2006

How many US fed workers does it take to keep a secret?

How many US government workers decide each day whether to seal records on national security grounds?

Three million, according to US William Leonard, head of the National Archives' information security oversight office, in a briefing with reporters.

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Will you still need me when I'm 64 ... MB?

Joe Hockey, Australia's Federal Human Services Minister, admitted when questioned tonight by Prof. Graham Greenleaf on Australia Talks Back, that the Australian ID card (euphemised as 'smart card') will contain a chip holding a staggering 64 megabytes.

It made a mockery of his spiel that had all the hallmarks of having been written by a junior PR officer: "The smart card is good for you; it will clean up welfare fraud; you will feel safer; you will have more privacy; we don't want to keep much data; they require more personal data from you at VideoEzy; trust us, we're politicians; trust future politicians; blah blah blah").

They could hold your family history, half of Wikipedia and all of War and Peace on 64 megs. Plus a few podcasts. To put it in perspective, I know someone who easily wrote a 100,000-word Ph.D. thesis on a 20 megabyte Mac. The first Windows PC I bought was only 40 megs and it could do a lot of stuff in glorious colour.

Twenty years ago the Bob Hawke (Labor) Government tried to bring in the 'Australia Card'. Well I remember the early days of campaigning against it, when people wondered what a very small number of activists were whingeing about -- and about 80 per cent of the Australian population thought such an ID card was a good idea.

It was one of those weird, rather lonely times for activists -- like a few years ago when people scratched their heads and wondered why you were saying that the USA wasn't invading Iraq because of WMDs. Maybe like 1850 when people thought you were nutzo to oppose slavery. Then, comes the dawn!

Within two years of Hawke's expensive and initially successful PR campaign for the card that knows everything, the overwhelming majority of citizens had woken up to the dangers of such a thing. Hawkey's supposedly progressive government was forced into humiliating defeat -- by the same conservative party which is now busily trying to spin the fantastic plastic into our wallets. Back then (1986-87), 'Australia Card' became like a dirty word that no one would utter. At a guess, about 50 - 80 per cent vehemently opposed it, and it became dead in the water. Labor had to drop it for political survival.

I'm sure they will make the card look very pretty (they can spend millions on design and psychological research) but it will be interesting to see whether this one gets up. Certainly it's patently clear that due to a host of reasons such as increased concentration of media ownership, the rise of the fundo Christian Right, educational dumbing down, and TV addiction/shortened attention spans, the populace is less connected to issues and activism today than in the 1970s and '80s. Certainly the various transnational corporations' lobbies involved with this 64 megabyte monster are far more powerful than two decades ago. Nonetheless, I like to believe that Australians, who have always believed they live in a country with hard-won great personal freedoms, won't take Australia Card Mark II lying down. I hope for a repeat of Hawkey's 1987 defeat.

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Wilson's Almanac and phenology

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

Nature and calendar side-by-side

Cuckoo Day is a good time to think about how Ma Nature's clocks are 'going cuckoo'. I like to think that Wilson’s Almanac has something to say about our place in Nature, and how 'seizing the day' is best when we seize it with all its glorious natural wonders that surround us. I hope that when you visit the Almanac, you'll learn with me more about how Nature has always had a huge influence in the conscious and unconscious life of humanity.

There is now a science of studying the calendar in relation natural phenomena that will probably interest Almaniacs. Phenology is the study of the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena, such as the migrations and breeding of birds, the flowering and fruiting of plants, and so on.

Webster-Merriam’s Dictionary defines it thus: “a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (as bird migration or plant flowering)”. Phenology is related to biometeorology, an interdisciplinary science studying the interactions between atmospheric processes and living organisms – plants, animals and humans.

Wikipedia notes in its article on phenology that in Japan and China the time of blossoming of cherry and peach trees is associated with ancient festivals and some of these dates can be traced back to the eighth century. Such records form an important part of climate change research. The pinot noir grape can also be used in historical phenology. Writing in Nature, Isabelle Chuine and co-workers describe how French records of pinot noir grape-harvest dates in Burgundy can be used to reconstruct Spring - Summer temperatures from 1370 to 2003. Chuine found that 2003 summer temperatures were probably higher than in any other year since 1370.

Phenology UK has a good website which puts it this way:

“Phenology is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena especially in relation to climate change. It is recording when you heard the first cuckoo or saw the blackthorn blossom. This can then be compared with other records.”

In these days of climate change, you can see how important folklore and Nature observation can be when they work together. Sometimes we can tell much about the damage being done by our lifestyles, by comparing today with yesterday. The rapidly disappearing Springtime song of "Cuck-oo! Cuck-oo", such a prominent sound in old British calendar customs, gives just one example of how all this ties together, and why I recommend 'amateur phenology' to Almaniacs.

A very useful collection of global (but mostly Northern Hemisphere) phenology links is to be found at Phenology Web Links, and here are some more. Canada has its NatureWatch, while the Backyard Nature site is just one of a growing number of sites where amateurs can learn more about the seasons around them. Nature Detectives is an online phenology research and education project for under 18s in the UK.

For Australians, the Scribbly Gum website is an interesting place to read up on Aussie natural phenomena through the calendar, and Macquarie University (Sydney) has its Biowatch phenology project ...

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ActiveX popup comes from new Microsoft patch

Apparently I'm not the only one having problems with MS Internet Explorer, which (because of a new patch) is causing an annoying ActiveX popup to appear any time there is anything like an embedded music file on a page.

Microsoft Suffers Patch Problems
"Two patches released in Microsoft's April batch of security updates are causing system hangs, Windows crashes and the appearance of strange dialog boxes."

Update: This remedy worked beautifully for me:


William S Burroughs book covers

Chris Keeley sent this: A great collection of William S Burroughs book covers.

Kaavya Viswanathan’s story gets a new plot

Mumbai (Bombay), India: "Kaavya Viswanathan, the 19-year-old Harvard University undergraduate, has admitted that her highly publicised novel, 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life', features material from another author’s work.

"But her acknowledgement, rather than relieving the US publishing industry of embarrassment, has made two distinguished companies square off against each other.

"Kaavya's publisher Little, Brown, and Random House, which commissioned Megan McCafferty's books from which Kaavya is said to have plagiarised, have been exchanging brusque communiqués through their counsels.

"Kaavya has said that her borrowings were 'accidental'. But her association with 17th Street Productions - a book development firm specialising in teen narratives, which helped her plan the plot - has pushed the issue from being a case of plagiarism to a scandal threatening to undermine US publishing."
DNA Mumbai

NRI teen novelist 'sorry' beyond words
McCafferty rejects Kaavya's apology

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Robert Owen gets 3rd degree for liberating children

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

On April 26, 1816, Robert Owen (1771 - 1858), Welsh-born philanthropic social reformer, pioneer of the cooperative movement, founder of New Lanark and New Harmony communities, appeared before Sir Robert Peel's House of Commons Committee, UK.

Question: At what age to take children into your mills?

Robert Owen: At ten and upwards.

Question: Why do you not employ children at an earlier age?

Robert Owen: Because I consider it to be injurious to the children, and not beneficial to the proprietors.

Question: What reasons have you to suppose it is injurious to the children to be employed at an earlier age?

Robert Owen: Seventeen years ago, a number of individuals, with myself, purchased the New Lanark establishment from Mr. Dale. I found that there were 500 children, who had been taken from poor-houses, chiefly in Edinburgh, and those children were generally from the age of five and six, to seven to eight. The hours at that time were thirteen. Although these children were well fed their limbs were very generally deformed, their growth was stunted, and although one of the best schoolmasters was engaged to instruct these children regularly every night, in general they made very slow progress, even in learning the common alphabet. I came to the conclusion that the children were injured by being taken into the mills at this early age, and employed for so many hours; therefore, as soon as I had it in my power, I adopted regulations to put an end to a system which appeared to me to be so injurious.

Question: Do you give instruction to any part of your population?

Robert Owen: Yes. To the children from three years old upwards, and to every other part of the population that choose to receive it.

Question: If you do not employ children under ten, what would you do with them?

Robert Owen: Instruct them, and give them exercise.

Question: Would not there be a danger of their acquiring, by that time, vicious habits, for want of regular occupation?

Robert Owen: My own experiences leads me to say, that I found quite the reverse, that their habits have been good in proportion to the extent of their instruction ...

Early progressives in the Book of Days

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Mysterious airship over Texas in 1897

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1897 As reported in the Houston Daily Post of April 28, at Merkal, Texas, people returning from church followed a heavy object dragging along the ground. When they caught up with it, they found it to be an anchor hanging from an airship. A small man in a blue sailor suit came into view; he cut the ropes and left the anchor, which the townsfolk exhibited in the local blacksmith shop.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Scientists dump cold water on astrology

"One of the largest studies of the possible link between human traits and astrology has found little, if any, connection between the traditional Sun signs of the zodiac and people's characteristics.

"The study adds to the growing body of evidence that there is no scientific basis for star signs, like Aries and Taurus, signs that are based on the place of the Sun in relation to someone's date of birth ..."
ABC Science

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California, Illinois vote to impeach Bush

Wilson's Almanac news and current affairs blog
Lots of important news on the impeachment front ... see Impeach Bush news.

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Anzac Day, public holiday, Australia and New Zealand

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, commander of Turkish forces at Gallipoli, showing great magnanimity to his former enemies

Today we mourn the dead and the criminal stupidity of those who send them to their fate. It is the anniversary of the Allied invasion of Turkey at the Battle of Gallipoli on this day in 1915.

An estimated 131,000 Allied soldiers were killed and 262,000 wounded (sources vary widely); about 250,000 (some sources say 450,000) Turkish men were killed or wounded in an area measured in a handful of square kilometres. Anzac (or ANZAC) Day, named from the acronym of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, commemorates the landing of British and ANZAC forces on the beach at Gelibolu (Gallipoli), Turkey, on this day in 1915, in a failed campaign against the Turks in World War One.

Gallipoli was the most heavily defended and best-prepared position in the Ottoman Empire, and the Allied assault was marred by great incompetence. The British First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) was responsible for initiating the debacle. Mustafa Kemal (1881 - 1938) led the Turks, and became a hero to his nation; he is better known today as Kemal Atatürk, or 'Father of Turkey', first President of the Turkish Republic ...

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Miroslav Tichy and his home-made camera

"Tichý is truly one of the great ‘finds’ of an unknown artists who worked on the outside edges of the art world. Following the communist takeover Tichý spent some eight years in prison camps and jails for no particular reason other than he was ‘different’ and was considered subversive. Upon his release in the early 70’s, Tichý wandered his small town in rags, pursuing his obsession as an artist with the female form by photographing in the streets, shops and parks with cameras he made from tin cans, childrens spectacle lenses and other junk he found on the street. He would return home each day to make prints on equally primitive equipment, making only one print from the negatives he selected."
Michael Hoppen Gallery

I dips me lid to Chris Keeley for this one.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Cyclone Monica may be Australia's most severe storm

Discover the Permaculture solutions
"Cyclone Monica is a category 5 system and is expected to hit near the Coburg Peninsula later today.

"Weather bureau spokesman Mike Bergin says Monica could be the most severe tropical cyclone seen anywhere along the Australian coastline."

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Free Speech Australia

Announcing a new website, Free Speech Australia.

Australians are finding their civil liberties undermined at an alarming rate, with the excuse (and it is only an excuse from cynical politicians) being the so-called 'war on terror'. You're cordially invited to visit for news on this vital topic, and also to register, post and leave comments. And, of course, bookmark it and return.

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Their impure blood should water our fields

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1792 Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760 - 1836) composed 'La Marseillaise', the French national anthem ...

The French Convention accepted it as the national anthem (decree passed July 14, 1795), but 'La Marseillaise' was banned by Napoleon during the Empire, and by Louis XVIII on the Second Restoration (1815), because of its revolutionary associations.

In the 19th Century, 'La Marseillaise' was widely used in many countries as the anthem of all kinds of radical groups, but during the early 20th Century was generally replaced in this role by 'The Internationale' which itself was originally intended to be sung to the tune of the French revolutionary song. The French anthem is still sung, although today it shocks with its delight in murder: “Let us march, Let us march! That their impure blood should water our fields”.

Ironically, de Lisle was himself a royalist and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new republican constitution.

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Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq

In a big page of statistics, Unknown News estimates at least 239,786 killed and at least 510,711 seriously injured in Afghanistan and Iraq, and says:

"For each of the 2,986 people killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, about 75 Iraqis and 4 Afghans have been killed during and since the US attacks."

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Why Don't We Do It on the Internet?

A sensible Newsweek article by Steven Levy about a big mistake that the Beatles' Apple Corps has made:

"The Beatles' stance only hurts the band. Their obstinacy has not deterred millions of fans from loading Beatles music on computers and MP3 players—it just means that no one pays for the songs. Even George W. Bush has figured out how to get Beatles songs on his iPod."

French settlement on Tasmania

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

1792 Australia: While on an expedition to find Captain Jean François De La Pérouse, who had vanished after departing Botany Bay on March 10, 1788, French admiral, Joseph-Antoine Raymond de Bruni d’Entrecasteaux (1739 - 1793) and crew set foot on Tasmania.

The mission was also fitted out with scientific instruments, and accompanied by a selection of some of France’s finest scientists, and was in fact the largest and best-equipped scientific expedition dispatched from France in the 18th century. Aboard were botanists, hydrographers, astronomers, artists – even a gardener, who left his mark on the island.

Two landfalls were made on the Tasmanian coast at Recherche Bay – in April, 1792 for 26 days, and again in January, 1793 for 24 days. Records show that the French and Australians enjoyed each other's company in very respectful ways, which was not altogether usual in the annals of European colonisation. The French entertained the locals with music, including the performance of excerpts from a popular opera of the day ...

He was a she
In the ship’s company was a steward, Louis Girargin, aged about 38, who was in fact a woman disguised as a man – the first European woman in Tasmania. Her name was Marie Louise Victoire Girgarin ...

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Save the Internet

Click for more global actions one person can take

"[USA] Congress is pushing a law that would abandon Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Network neutrality prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deciding which Web sites work the best — based on who pays them the most. Your local library shouldn’t have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to have its Web site open quickly on your computer.

"Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech. If the public doesn’t speak up now, Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online.

"This isn’t just speculation — we’ve already seen what happens elsewhere when the Internet’s gatekeepers get too much control. Last year, Canada’s version of AT&T — Telus— blocked their Internet customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to workers with whom Telus was negotiating. And Shaw, a major Canadian cable TV company, charges an extra $10 a month to subscribers who dare to use a competing Internet telephone service.

"Congress thinks they can sell out and the public will never know. The SavetheInternet.Com Coalition is proving them wrong.
How this affects you


You want to keep this revolution going? Be ready to fight for it
So says Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit.

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The Wandering Jew: A curious medieval legend

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

1774 The Wandering Jew appeared in Brussels.

In the middle ages it was believed that there was a Jewish man still alive who had been alive at the time of Jesus Christ; the belief persisted as late as 1868 which is perhaps the last notice we have of ‘the Wandering Jew’. The tale has obviously anti-Semitic origins and the central character of the enduring legend may be seen as a sort of medieval Ancient Mariner or Flying Dutchman.

Cartaphilus, who was about thirty years old then, has remained the same age ever since (despite Gustave Doré's representation of him as an old man). Having insulted Jesus Christ on the last day of the latter’s life, he is condemned to wander the earth until Judgement Day ...

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Alan Bond and 50 million years jail

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
He was our national hero, an entrepreneur who strutted the world stage, who mesmerised all with that Grand Canyon of a smile ... Medical experts were procured to testify that Bond was a brain-dead ignoramus who could not take the stand ... A couple of days before he was released after less than four years' jail for a fraud involving $1.2 billion, a Northern Territory man was sentenced to one year's jail for stealing $23 worth of cordial and biscuits. Had the same formula been applied to Bond, he would have been in jail for 50 million years.
Sydney Morning Herald, October 7, 2000, on Alan Bond, disgraced Australian businessman, born on April 22, 1938

1938 Alan Bond, crooked Australian businessman, one-time billionaire whose business empire came unstuck after his 1987 purchase of Vincent van Gogh's Blue Irises for $49 million. Bond served less than four years in prison for various corporate crimes and was bankrupted, with no noticeable deleterious effects to his famously opulent lifestyle ...

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Thank you, from my Squidoo

Thank you for taking the Wilson's Almanac On This Day Squidoo from a rating of approximately 23,500 to 218 in its first 48 hours. With your rating, maybe it will get in the Top 100. Gee whiz, that would be nice.

In the right-hand sidebar you will see links to the Almanac's other Squidoos. I hope you enjoy them as much as the 'On This Day'.


George W Bush sings Imagine by John Lennon

It's here (Dubya's birthday) in the Book of Days.

Thanks, Nora from Extra!Extra!

(Caution. If you are easily offended, this video contains some disturbing war photos. The embed code is here if you want it on your own site.)

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Eight Hour Day demo 150th anniversary

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

Banner from the Melbourne, 1856 demonstration

1856 The first eight-hour working day procession in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

In March, 1856, stonemasons working on Melbourne University held a public meeting and agreed that from April 21 they would work for only eight hours a day. Each working day should be one-third sleep, one-third work and one-third leisure. It was not a new concept; Robert Owen (1771 - 1858) had raised the demand for a ten-hour day as early as 1810, and instituted it in his socialist enterprise at New Lanark, Scotland. As early as 1817 he had formulated the goal of the eight-hour day and coined the slogan "Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest".

On April 21 there was a march to Parliament House with other members of the building trade. The movement in Melbourne was led by veteran chartists and mason James Stephens (1821 - 1889), TW Vine and James Galloway. The government agreed that workers employed on public works should enjoy an eight-hour day with no loss of pay and stonemasons celebrated with a holiday and procession on Monday May 12, 1856, when about 700 people marched with 19 trades involved.

By 1858 the eight-hour day was firmly established in the building industry and by 1860 the eight-hour day was fairly widely worked in the State of Victoria. From 1879 the eight-hour day was a public holiday in that state. The initial success in Melbourne led to the decision to organise a movement, to actively spread the eight-hour idea and secure the condition generally. Australia became the first country in the world to legislate for an eight-hour day...

Source: Wikipedia

Early progressives in the Book of Days :: CounterCulture Wiki

See also 'The Abolition of Work', by Bob Black, in the Almanac's Scriptorium

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Death of the Holy Maid of London

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
You might have noticed that today's Google logo has a Miro theme.

Yes, today is the birthday of Spanish surrealist Joan Miro.

Also today in the Book of Days:

1534 England: Elizabeth Barton (b. 1506?), the mystical ‘The Nun of Kent’, also known as ‘The Holy Maid of London’, was executed at Tyburn, for treason. She was put to death by King Henry VIII largely because of her prophecies ...

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James Lovelock and Gaia's revenge

"The architect of a new way of seeing the planet rings a passionate warning about the dangers to its survival. Camilla Toulmin assesses James Lovelock's vision.

"James Lovelock's passionate and provocative book The Revenge of Gaia (Penguin, 2005) takes us on a beautifully written journey through the dangers that beset our planet. The language is crafted to inspire a sense of urgent pragmatism. As such, it provides an excellent further twist to the hurricane of opinion whirling around energy policy, climate change, and globalisation today ...

"Iconoclastic and idiosyncratic, he argues that all human civilisation is in imminent danger. The language is apocalyptic, even violent. He makes frequent reference to war, the need for defence against the coming attack, proposes the rationing of goods and fuel, and urgent plans made to ward off the chaos ahead. He thinks we cannot rely on international agreements to solve climate change – instead individual nations must start, here and now, to find ways of protecting themselves from the risks ahead, regardless of international agreement ..."

Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock, at (other books by James Lovelock)

James Lovelock in the Book of Days

An interview with James Lovelock on this book with be available in audio here in a day or two.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My years in captivity

Moazzam Begg was abducted and handed over to US forces. Here he tells of endless interrogations, of torture - and one bright moment

"Shackled and hooded, I arrived in Bagram from Kandahar in spring 2003, hoping I was prepared for the worst - whatever that might be ...

"Like Kandahar, the whole place was illuminated with mobile floodlights that were off only during a power failure. I had to cover my head to try to sleep. I found it very difficult to move around with the handcuffs, but then, thinking myself lucky to be small, I twisted my wrists and found that the shackles slid off. I slept every night with the handcuffs tucked under my blanket - empty - until they were finally removed ...

"On the evening of the second day, the person who had told me that I was going to Guantánamo, Jay, turned up. My heart sank when two others arrived, Marti and Niel, the two FBI agents from Bagram. They were both huge, obese, in the style of New York street cops. 'We want you to read and sign these documents,' they said, placing six typed pages in front of me on the table. They had written my confession.

"I read through the pages in utter disbelief. My first reaction was, 'This is terrible. The English used here is terrible. Nobody could ever believe that I would write such a document.' Then I thought, 'This could actually be good - anybody who knows my style of writing would know that I am not the author.'

"It sounded more like the ramblings of a hysterical 16-year-old college dropout than what one would expect from the FBI ..."

Excerpt from Enemy Combatant, by Moazzam Begg

Moazzam Begg (born 1968) is one of nine British men who were held at Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay by the government of the United States of America. He was released from detention on January 25, 2005 along with Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar, without charge though he recived no compensation or an apology. (Source: Moazzam Begg article, Wikipedia)
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Primrose Day, England

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
The anniversary of the death (1881) of British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, the season in England when primroses are at their best. Primroses are placed on Disraeli's statue in Parliament Square, London today.

However, it’s all a case of mistaken identity. There was a mistaken idea that the primrose was Lord Beaconsfield's favourite flower, since Queen Victoria sent them to his funeral. And so the custom took root and flowers to this day.

Send a Primrose Day or Spring flowers free e-card to a friend.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Granny turns 175

Happy birthday to 'Granny', as she has long been known -- The Sydney Morning Herald.

It is one of the world's oldest and largest-circulating newspapers. IMHO it was also once one of the best, but it has slipped since it fell out of the hands of the Fairfax family who owned it for 149 years.

It was around that time that the management (clearly by then more important than the journalists) decided to eradicate all references to 'Granny', and took a little Granny logo off 'Column 8' which had been there for decades (I'm trying to find a copy if you have one).

This 'heralded' a change from tradition to modernism, which sounds fine until you realise that it also meant a shift from excellence in journalism to a fondness for anything to do with pasta, Michael Jackson and Ikea.

But happy birthday anyway to one of the world's important institutions of journalism. To old Scotchman Fairfax who started it, after his bankruptcy in the Old Country, I say, "lang may your lum reek", and that I for one remember the days of auld lang syne.

SMH website :: History of the Herald

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Rose Summerfield's eventful life

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

1864 Rose Summerfield (b. Rose Stone at Middleton Creek, near Ballarat in the gold mining districts of central Victoria; d. April 14, 1922), Australian socialist and pioneer feminist.

Rose Summerfield was active in the Australasian Secular Association (ASA) in Melbourne by 1886 and in that year (March 23) the 21-year-old Rose married fellow freethinker Henry Lewis Summerfield, a 55-year-old well-to-do Sydney businessman to whom she bore a son. She wrote articles for the Hummer (soon to become the Sydney Worker) under the name 'Rose Hummer', from April, 1892. In the same year, she campaigned in Bourke on behalf of William Lane's utopian scheme in South America, called New Australia, and she delivered lectures on progressive topics in Sydney. Following the death of her first husband, she married Jack Cadogan, a shearers' cook in the spring of 1897.

A state socialist (she was a valued campaigner and speaker in the Australian Socialist League), disillusioned and embittered by the labor politicians she knew in Australia, who she believed had sold out the working class, Rose Cadogan and her husband travelled in 1899 to New Australia in Paraguay, where they had four more sons. In 1908, like many others before them, they left William Lane's failed utopia and settled in Yataity, north of the town of Villarrica, where Rose worked as a kind of district nurse, selling her own herbal preparations, and Jack opened a store. It was Rose Cadogan, nee Summerfield, who claimed the body of mercurial activist (some may call him a terrorist) Larry Petrie after he was hit by a train at Villa Rica railway station in March, 1901, where he worked as a watchman following his own disillusionment with Lane's communalism ...

Wilson's Almanac Activism Page :: CounterCulture Wiki

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The official Beatles website is pathetic

If you think my website is crap, or your website is crap, or any website is crap, take a look at the official Beatles website. It looks like some beginner's Geocities site. You could build and run a site like that for a couple of hundred bucks a year.

And the official John Lennon site news page hasn't been updated since September, 2005. I know he's dead and all, but what about loyalty to the fans who forked out billions of dollars? Apple Corps and Yoko Ono/the John Lennon estate should really do something about it, don't you agree?

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Benjamin Tucker

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1854 Benjamin Tucker (d. June 22, 1939), American publisher, journalist, propagandist, theorist, leading proponent of individualist anarchism in the 19th century, born at South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA. Tucker translated into English Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s classic work What is Property?

Benjamin Tucker's contribution to American anarchism was as much through his publishing as his own writing. In editing and publishing the anarchist periodical, Liberty, Tucker both filtered and integrated the theories of such European thinkers as Herbert Spencer and Proudhon with the thinking of American individualist activists, Lysander Spooner, Ezra Heywood, Stephen Pearl Andrews, William Greene (William Batchelder Greene) and Josiah Warren, as well as the uniquely American free thought and free love movements in order to produce a rigorous system of philosophical or individualist anarchism ...

Early progressives in the Book of Days :: CounterCulture Wiki

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