Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Highly recommended
Stellarium is a freeware nightsky viewer. Plenty of options, including being able to see the stars as they are at your location, with or without meridian grids, astrological artwork (from Western, Egyptian, Chinese and other traditions), and much more.

My only problem is with setting my coordinates. I've been able to get my longitude in, but click as I might (and I closed the software and retried four or five times) I can't scroll the latitude button past a few degrees. Still, it's a commendable and elegant open source production and it's this week's pick of the crop. It's good to have something like this to refer to -- check out your stars tonight in the sky and on your Stellarium.

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Gumstool Hill woolsack races

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
Gumstool Hill woolsack races at Tetbury, Cotswolds, UK

The town of Tetbury, England leaps into festive action today when relay teams of four run carrying 27 kilo (60 lb) -- 15 kilos (35 lb) for women – woolsack to the crown of Gumstool Hill -- and back down again. The gradient of Gumstool is about 1 in 4, which is steep enough to raise a sweat. When it began in the 17th Century, this race was run between the Royal Oak and the Crown pubs. Tetbury was once an important producer of wool, and no doubt the race was originally run as a way for men in that industry to show off their prowess. These and other Cotswold district games are part of the rich folkloric customs of Whitsuntide, the time around the Christian feast day of Pentecost.

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Baptist joke

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, "Baptist!" I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Benefits of giving kids time in the natural world

"Richard Louv, author of 'Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder', says the benefits of giving kids unstructured time in the natural world include reduced stress, increased creativity, sharper observation skills, a longer attention span, a better ability to cooperate, even a decrease in the signs and symptoms of ADD. Most important is the concept of wonder, says Louv, a visiting scholar at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

"Spirituality is anchored in wonder, he points out, and a sense of it in nature is a central building block of many of the world’s religions. 'What happens to the child’s spirit when he’s away from nature?' he asks."

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Did the Communists starve the author of Dr Zhivago?

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

1960 Boris Pasternak (b. 1890), Russian winner of the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature, died.

Did the Communists starve the Nobel-laureate author of 'Dr Zhivago'?

Boris Pasternak, in the years leading up to his death on May 30, 1968, suffered appalling persecution by his own government. He had won the Nobel Prize, but, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov after him, was not permitted to leave the USSR to attend the awards ceremony and expect to return. He was even expelled from the union of Soviet writers.

Evidence that the Communist regime of the Soviet Union might have wilfully starved Boris Pasternak to death emerged in a book, 'Moscow: Under the Skin', written by an Italian journalist, Viro Roberti ...

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Lincoln Hall's friend reported dead near Everest

Prominent Australian mountain climber Sue Fear, the first Australian woman to climb Mt Everest (from the north side in 2003), has been reported as having perished on a mountain near Mt Everest, soon after having summited the world's eighth-highest mountain.

Sue Fear is a friend of Lincoln Hall who we have been writing about this week, and last year co-authored a book ('Fear No Boundary - The Road to Everest and Beyond') with the 'Lazarus' mountaineer. Let's hope that the reports of her death are as greatly exaggerated as those of Lincoln's.

Meanwhile, Lincoln is reported to be approaching Katmandu, and his friend Simon Balderstone is on his way to meet him in the Nepali capital and escort him home.

Australian climber Sue Fear missing :: She'd never give in to fear
Speculation mounts over Fear's fate :: Australia media reports Sue Fear dead, others not so sure...
Sydney Morning Herald :: The Age :: all 117 related »

Latest Lincoln Hall reports at Google News

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Did a Pacific volcano change Western history?

From May 29, 1453 The 'fall' of Constantinople was preceded by heavenly wonders. On a Tuesday, Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell to the Turks, or, as it is said in the Muslim world, Constantinople was liberated, after a siege, ending the Byzantine Empire.

It was a major turning point in world history as Constantinople, founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, was a seat of learning and the tangible presence of Western civilization in the East. It has been said that the flight of many scholarly refugees from Constantinople to Italy was the single most important mainspring of the European Renaissance. Yet the antagonists of the siege of Constantinople had the minds of the Middle Ages era, and the effect of 'ominous' heavenly wonders probably affected the outcome ...

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


Earth-wall construction - is it good insulation?

Discover the Permaculture solutions
"Latest tests by CSIRO have confirmed that rammed earth walls have poor thermal resistance -- adding hard facts to the debate about their insulation properties.

"CSIRO says this raises the question, "Why do so many Australians believe earth construction provides such a comfortable home?"

"The research, conducted by CSIRO and funded by the Western Australian Office of Energy, also produced results that effectively end the controversy over the accuracy of previously published data for the thermal resistance of rammed earth walls.

"'Our findings were based on testing of two commercially-produced rammed earth products, both of which turned out to have poor thermal resistance,' says Mr Robin Clarke, of CSIRO Thermal & Fluids Engineering (T&FE)."

"Mudbrick houses, the traditional domain of conservationists and alternative-lifestyle devotees, are under threat from the Australian State Government's five-star energy standard - which, ironically, was introduced to improve the environmental performance of homes."
The Age

Google 'mud brick' australia

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

It was no ordinary eclipse in 585 BCE

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
585 BCE A solar eclipse occurred, as predicted (according to Herodotus) by Thales of Miletus (pictured; c. 635 - 543 BCE), the Greek philosopher and father of science. However, this was no ordinary eclipse, if such can be ordinary.

On this day, while King Alyattes of Lydia (619 - 560 BCE), was battling King Cyaxares (625 - 585 BCE) of Media (Iran) by the Halys River in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), this pheomenon of Nature led to a remarkable phenomenon of history.

Sobered by the sudden darkening of the sky, the superstitious Lydians and Medians promptly signed a peace treaty, packed up their gear and went home. This is one of the cardinal dates – some say the oldest – from which other dates in the human record can be calculated.

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Lincoln Hall first pictures after rescue

Readers will know that over the past few days we have been covering the reported death, then the dramatic rescue of Australian writer and mountain climber Lincoln Hall from high up on Mt Everest. Lincoln, who had been left for dead then spent a night outside in the cold, is very much alive, and smiling.

Now the first pix are in. According to this page which has the pictures enlarged, Lincoln will not lose his fingers to frostbite.

Lincoln about to leave ANC by Yak.
Photo courtesy Jamie McGuinness - (many thanks)

Lincoln in ABC the same evening he arrived.
Photo courtesy Jamie McGuinness - (many thanks)

Pictures and story here, latest news will be at And as that site says, welcome back, champ!

Update: "I imagine you are surprised to see me here"
"As the rescue continued, details emerged of Mr Hall being found alive by American climber Dan Mazur after the Australian's own team had believed he was dead, and who gave him oxygen and hot tea. Disoriented from the effects of cerebral oedema, an acute form of altitude sickness, Mr Hall was found with his legs over a sheer drop 'half undressed and without a hat', Mr Mazur told website. 'Lincoln's first words were: "I imagine you are surprised to see me here",' the website reported."
Sydney Morning Herald

Lincoln Hall at Wikipedia

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Julia Ward Howe

1819 Julia Ward Howe (d. October 17, 1910), prominent United States abolitionist, social activist, pacifist and poet.

Howe was the author of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' which was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and quickly became one of the most popular songs for the Union during the American Civil War.

Despite the bloodthirstiness of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic', after the war Howe focused her activities on the causes of pacifism and women's suffrage. In 1870 she was the first to proclaim Mothers' Day [qv], which was originally an occasion specifically for strenuous and organised opposition to war.

Early progressives in the Book of Days

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

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Climber walks into base camp

Lincoln's walked into base camp! Let's hope this time the news media have got it right.

"Australian climber Lincoln Hall has walked into the advanced base camp on Mount Everest in reasonably good health, a fellow climber says ..."

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Friend confirms Lincoln Hall's alive but seriously ill

This is the latest news to hand about Australian mountaineer Lincoln Hall who yesterday was widely reported by the media to have died on Mt Everest. I posted on it yesterday and then unconfirmed reports came through that Lincoln is alive after all.

ABC News has just reported on radio (not yet posted on their site) that his friends thought he was dead and had "abandoned" him, but he was found alive the following day and a rescue mission is now being organised to bring him down the mountain. He is apparently critically ill. This webpage appears to be the breaking news page for the official Mount Everst site.

Holding my breath and crossing my fingers. Good luck, Lincoln! Om Mani Padme Hum.

"Australian climber Lincoln Hall, feared dead after an attempt to tackle the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest, is alive, says his friend Simon Balderstone.

"Mr Balderstone had treated earlier reports that his friend had survived with caution.

"A confirmed report from one of his expedition members, Michael Dillon, on Friday night revealed that 50-year-old Hall has been taken to the North Col camp, 7,000 metres above sea level.

"The North Col is the lower point of one of Everest's three great ridges that rise to the summit.

"The Everest summit is 8,848 metres above sea level.

"Hall's Sydney friend, Simon Balderstone, told AAP on Friday night that Hall was in the hands of an expedition doctor, but there were grave concerns about his health.

"Hall's wife Barbara Scanlan and their two sons, Dylan, 17, and Dorje, 15, were waiting for more news of the dramatic turn of events ..."
The Age

( "Early this morning, climbers on their way up the mountain found Australian Lincoln Hall still alive - after his spending one night in the open at 8700m. A rescue operation was immediately launched – resulting in an unprecedented joint effort from all teams still on Everest’s north side."
Joint effort never before seen on Everest’s North side: Lincoln Hall in C1

Friend confirms Lincoln Hall's alive :: Climber 'conscious but disoriented'

Friday, May 26, 2006

The odd case of Kaspar Hauser

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1828 Kaspar Hauser showed up in Nuremburg.

This is a story that intrigues me as much for the way it captivated the German people of its day and succeeding generations, as for its intrinsic oddness.

On this day, at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a youth of about 16 or 17 years of age showed up in a pathetic condition in the marketplace in Nuremburg, Germany.

The boy was dressed in peasant clothes, and had with him a letter addressed to the cavalry captain of the city. He was led to the captain and interrogated, and it was found he could scarcely speak. To every question he replied “Von Regensburg” (from Regensburg) or “Ich woais nit” (I don't know). Except for dry bread and water, he showed a violent dislike to all forms of food and drink. He seemed ignorant of commonplace objects. He carried a handkerchief marked ‘KH’ and a few written Catholic prayers.

In the letter that he carried, it was stated that the writer was a poor day-labourer who had ten children of his own. The man had found the boy deposited on his doorstep by his mother, and had secretly brought the boy up as his own, keeping him confined to the house, somewhere in Bavaria. The boy, said the letter, had expressed an interest in becoming a horse soldier. Accompanying this letter was also a note purportedly from the boy's mother, saying that she, a poor girl, had had the baby, named Kaspar Hauser, on April 30 (Walpurgisnacht, the witching time), 1812, and that his father, an officer in Nuremburg's sixth regiment, was dead.

A burgomaster named Binder took a kindly interest in Kaspar. In the course of many conversations with him, it was discovered that the boy had been kept underground all his life, in a space so small he could not stretch to full length. He had been fed only on bread and water by a man who never showed himself ...

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Lincoln Hall dies on the Mother of the Universe

It's with a very heavy heart that I report the death of an old friend, Lincoln Hall, 50, who died yesterday on his descent from the summit of Qomolangma ('Mother of the Universe') -- Mount Everest.

Lincoln, father of two sons, was a member of the first Australian expedition to reach the summit of Qomolangma, Mt Everest, but on that 1984 expedition, he himself only got within a few metres of the top. If there is any good to come out of this terrible news, it is that Lincoln did in fact reach the summit this time, and perhaps if he had to choose a place to depart this world, I might assume it would be on the roof of the world.

Lincoln Hall was one of Nature's gentlemen. I have met few people for whom I felt more admiration and with whom a greater sense of fellowship. He was a strong, handsome man and highly intelligent, yet sensitive and gentle, and surprisingly humble and softly spoken. I loved the way this Australian hero would respond to a question or statement with "Quite", like an old-fashioned English gent, and I admired the innate humility that seemed to exude from his every word. If I felt a lesser man than him, it was not of Lincoln's doing.

Lincoln did an exclusive interview with His Holiness The Dalai Lama for 'Simply Living', a magazine I was editing in the mid-'80s, and (I think in the same issue) he also gave me a scoop story about how the Chinese were testing nuclear submarines in a lake in Tibet. Lincoln recounted to me that he had seen, from high up on Mt Everest, what he believed to have been a nuclear explosion in Chinese territory -- he presumed he had seen an above-ground testing of a nuclear bomb.

It was Lincoln who told me the Tibetan name for the great mountain, Qomolangma.

I was, as you might guess, very fond of this man. Occasionally we helped each other out -- he might see me when he needed a hand with something, and sometimes I would ask him for help on a certain project. I have no idea how he felt about that, nor about me, but I do know how I felt -- I was always delighted to see him and supremely honoured to have him in my home. Like your almanackist, he was a writer and novelist, so I believe we 'clicked' (despite my total lack of athletic prowess) and I felt a special bond with him. As I said, he seemed to me one of the best men I have ever met, so I deeply regret his tragic and untimely death.

'Vale', Lincoln Hall. I'm glad it was on Qomolangma.

Australian Lincoln Hall among three fatalities at Mount Everest

"Hall reached the summit of the world's highest mountain on May 25 with a team including Thomas Weber (Weber) from Germany and guide Harry Kikstra from Holland ... "
Australian Lincoln Hall dies on Everest

Thomas Weber and Lincoln Hall lost, Abramov confirms
Top Aussie climber dies on Everest :: Everest claims another life
The Age :: Independent Online

Tales from the grave: Rescues on Altitude
Everest claims lives of two more climbers Radio New Zealand
First Everest, now climber must tackle Hillary

Stop Press!: 'Sydney Morning Herald' reports Lincoln Hall 'still alive'!!?

Everest rescue underway for Australian
"A dramatic rescue operation is underway in the hope of saving the life of an Australian climber given up for dead on Mount Everest.

"Lincoln Hall, 50, and one of Australia's leading climbers, was reported by a Russian expedition leader to have died on Thursday while descending from the summit of the world's highest mountain.

"Friends in Australia mourned Hall after Russian Alexander Abramov declared on Everest news websites that the climber's death 'was verified', and was probably due to cerebral edema.

"However, the reports were thrown into confusion on Friday by a new website posting by Australian climber and Everest summiteer Duncan Chessell, who said a climber had found Hall alive and set in train a rescue operation.

"'Lincoln Hall is still alive,' Chessell said on a DCXP/Project Himalaya team website in a report headlined 'Lincoln Hall still alive after one night out'.

"Chessell said he had been told by radio that Hall, of Blackheath west of Sydney, was being helped down the mountain by Russian team Sherpas and had been gaining in strength.

"'This is perhaps the most dramatic rescue on the mountain,' Chessell said on the website."
The Age

Update (9.30 AM Saturday, May 27):
Climber 'conscious but disoriented'
Friend confirms Lincoln Hall's alive
This will be the last update placed on this post. We'll be keeping an eye on the news and keeping our fingers crossed.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Captain Thunderbolt allegedly shot dead

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

1870 Captain Thunderbolt (Frederick Ward), the notorious Australian bushranger, was allegedly shot dead by Constable AB Walker. Thunderbolt had been the scourge of inns and mail coaches around Bourke and Uralla, New South Wales, and had done at least 80 robberies netting him £20,000. Many of these ill-gotten gains, however, were in the form of cheques and half notes, pretty useless to a highwayman out in the Armidale tablelands wilderness.

A number of years ago I sometimes used to stay on Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour. The house I stayed in had once been the mansion of the governor of the notorious Cockatoo Island Prison that existed during the convict days of Australia -- like a mini-Alcatraz or Robbin Island. In the old sandstone prison yard I have seen the iron rings on the walls, with which prisoners were restrained as they were scourged with the cat o’ nine tails, a leather whip sometimes made more fearsome by the addition of small pieces of sharp lead at the end of nine knotted thongs. Cockatoo has only recently been opened to public tours so visitors can get a feel for what a terrible living tomb it was.

On September 11, 1863, Fred Ward and Frederick Britten were the only prisoners ever to escape from the hell of that place, which they did by covering their heads with boxes and swimming a kilometre or so to land. Some say that Thunderbolt was shot dead on May 25, 1870, but a respectable theory has it that Thunderbolt lived a long life and died in a Sydney boarding house in the 1920s. Ward family members have long asserted that it was not Fred at all who was shot, but his brother William (known as ‘Harry’), and word has it that there was a tall, veiled ‘woman’ with a masculine gait at the funeral, but no one ever saw ‘her’ face. Was Fred having a larrikin lark at his own interment? ...

See also Highwaymen, outlaws, bushrangers, pirates, gangsters, etc in the Book of Days

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Edmund Hillary blasts climbers who left dying man

"Mount Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary said Wednesday he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their own attempts on the world's tallest peak.

"David Sharp, 34, died apparently of oxygen deficiency while descending from the summit during a solo climb last week.

"More than 40 climbers are thought to have seen him as he lay dying, and almost all continued to the summit without offering assistance.

"'Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain,' Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press Association."

"An explorers' group which runs a news website monitoring attempts to climb Mt Everest says it has been battling to provide more transparency on the way some climbers die on its slopes ..."
'Raise hell' over Everest deaths secrecy

Everest: Why I left dying man :: Death on Everest divides climbers
Everest death climb outcry :: Monsters and :: ABC Online :: all 201 related »

Everest fatality silence mystery solved: British David Sharp left to die by 40 climbers

Useful computer trick

Bill Donoghue writes:

"This is great! Wish I'd known it a long time ago!

"Many people have a problem reading small text, so this is very useful when trying to read small e-mail or web page print.

"If you hold down the Ctrl key on your key board and turn the small wheel in the middle of your mouse, the print size will change -- it will either get larger or smaller - depending on which way you turn the wheel. Try it -- you'll be amazed at the difference!

"Please pass this on to others who may find it useful. I'm sure glad somebody told ME!!!"

This email was cleaned by emailStripper, available for free from

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

AA's longest sober member dies with 64 yrs sobriety

In a similar vein to my previous post, here is a recent death notice:

"COSTELLO, CHAUNCEY LLOYD; of Pontiac; age 95. Born Dec. 30, 1910. Surrendered to God May 11, 2006 surrounded by family and friends. Beloved husband of Vivian for 80 yrs.; father of Robert (Marge) of Houghton Lake; preceded in death by children Arthur Costello, Delores Shear, Grace McCullum, and Dawn Chancy; grandfather of 14; great grandfather of 26; and great, great, grandfather of 10. Long time member of All Saints Episcopal Church. Owner and operator of Costello Excavating for 40 years. Recognized as the longest living active member of AA with 64 years of sobriety."

I dips me lid to Chris Keeley for this one.

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The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away

Heathen though I may be, I was very saddened to hear recently that Sydney's St Barnabas's Anglican Church, Broadway went up in flames in the early hours of May 10. It was an unprepossessing little church overshadowed by large modern buildings, but perhaps that was half of its charm.

I used to have a job in Bay Street, just off Broadway, and every morning on the way to work I would see a spiritual message posted on St Barnabas's noticeboard, which was always wittily responded to in turn on a sign outside the hotel on the other side of Broadway. The riposte was composed by Arthur Elliott, the hotel's publican.

Usually the pub's rejoinder was corny, but always a bit naughty and cheeky, and the decades-old tradition must have put a twinkle in the eye of both the publican and the parson every week when they changed their signs. It was a much-loved part of Sydney culture for saint and sinner alike. The sign at St Barny's when it burned to the ground was "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away". I can't report what the corresponding sign said at the pub that day.

The church was 148 years old, and was the place of conversion of a person whose cultural impact on the life of Sydney was without parallel -- it was the little building in which Mr Eternity was converted to Christianity.

Mr Etenity
Mr Eternity (Arthur Stace, born February 9, 1885) had been a methylated spirits-drinking, hopeless alcoholic and derelict in the streets of Sydney, when he was converted to Christianity at about 46 years of age. He had returned from World War One shell-shocked and soon became a scout for brothels, a petty criminal, and a 'cockatoo' (lookout) for two-up schools (illegal gambling rooms where the Australian game of two-up is played).

Just after his conversion to Christianity at St Barnabas's, Stace heard the evangelist John Ridley at the Burton Street Baptist Church preach about a man who was converted in Scotland through 'Eternity' being written on a footpath. Ridley cried out "Oh for someone to write Eternity on the footpaths of Sydney!" Arthur Stace said to himself, "Here is something I can do for God." He did so, writing the word in the pre-dawn with yellow chalk in perfect Copperplate italic script on footpaths half a million times over nearly four decades.

As a child, many was the time I saw 'Eternity' written on the footpaths of Sydney. On January 1, 2000, the worldwide telecast of 'millennium' celebrations showed the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a city's tribute to one of its treasured eccentrics.

Arthur Stace passed into Eternity on July 30, 1967, aged 83. People and church buildings come and go, but Eternity ... that's something different.

St Barnabas fire: new message to be posted :: Rob Forsyth on St Barnabas

Who was St Barnabas? (in the Book of Days)

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9/11 updates

Judicial Watch caught pulling a 180 on Pentagon footage
"The president of the organization that sued for the video footage, also made an appearance on Fox on the same day of the government-released video clips. He appeared for a few minutes on Mr. O'Reilly's show, on which the new footage was also aired. On that show, the JW president made the absurd statement 'this definitely proves a plane was present.' Even O'Reilly, well known as a staunch supporter of the administration was forced to state 'I can't see a plane there.'"
Global Research

A united call for a further investigation of 9/11
"Some of the people whose testimony or writings challenge the official account:
Michael Meacher MP, John Pilger (journalist), Richard Clarke, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, Sibel Edmonds (FBI interpreter), Josef Bodansky, (director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare), David Shayler (former MI5 officer), Morgan Reynolds (economist in GW Bush administration), Scott Ritter (UN Weapons Inspector), Republican Congressman Ron Paul (2, 3), Andreas von Buelow (2) (German government minister), Indira Singh (whistleblower), Max Cleland (Former 9/11 Commissioner), US Green Party (2), Fire Engineering Magazine, Greg Palast (BBC journalist), Catherine Austin Fitts, Charles Grassley (Republican Senator), David Schippers (Attorney), Peter Dale Scott (1),William Rodriguez, Gore Vidal (journalist), Cynthia McKinney (US Congress), former ISI director-general Lt-Gen Mahmud Ahmad, Dan Ellsberg (Former Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), DOD) and over 100 of family members (1,2, 3, 4) and many, many more ..."
British 9/11 Campaign

"Fire Engineering magazine, the 125-year old journal of record among America’s fire engineers and firefighters, recently blasted the investigation being conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the collapsed World Trade Center as a 'a half-baked farce.'"

Thank you, Trudy W from Australia.

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Million seed balls

Discover the Permaculture solutions

7 Million People. Million Seed Balls. One Day. Green Bangalore.

"Imagine then, a clay ball the size of a large marble.
Imagine also that it contains seeds for a complete habitat.
The seed ball: it could contain plant potential for an entire ecosystem.
It can be made by anyone, anywhere in the world where there is clay, compost, seed and water."

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Happy 65th birthday Bob Dylan

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

Dylan cover of Oz magazine (more such covers), by Martin Sharp

Birthday boy Bob Dylan is known more for his genius with words and tunes, and for deadpan (once, asked by a journalist how many children he had, he said "Some") than as a comedian.

However, he also has a fondness for silly wisecracks and is known among fans as a real joker at gigs. Sometimes he’s corny, but his cornball jokes are loved by the audience. Here are a few of his quips, and if you have any more, I'm collecting them.

At one gig, Dylan apologized, saying that "I almost didn't make it tonight ... had a flat tire. There was a fork in the road."

At Western Connecticut State University in 1997, when he introduced Bucky Baxter he said, "When I first met Bucky, he didn't have a penny to his name. I told him to get another name."

"My ex-wife left me again. She's a tennis player. Love means nothing to her."

"This is a love song. We love to play it."

"David Kemper on the drums. David's turning 21 tonight. David never lies unless he's in bed."

"David [Kemper] and I drove here tonight in a car singing songs on the way. We were singing cartoons."

"David swallowed a roll of film today. We’ll see what develops."

More today in The Wilson's Almanac Book of Days.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Born again converter

Click for Wilson's Almanac SiteMap
Millihelen: The unit of beauty required to launch one ship.

But if you want serious measurements and conversions of weights, measures, currencies, temperatures, international times and all like that, you want the Wilson's Almanac Converter.

The Wal-Mart effect

According to Charles Fishman, author of the 2006 book 'The Wal-Mart Effect' (which is not overly critical of the mega-corporation), 90 per cent of Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart store, and 100 million Americans shop at Wal-Mart once a week.

There's an interesting article on Criticisms of Wal-Mart at Wikipedia. There's also a number of books that are critical of Wal-Mart, such as 'The Case Against Wal-Mart', 'How Wal-Mart is Destroying America and the World' and 'The Bully of Bentonville'.

Also of related interest is David C Korten's bestseller, 'When Corporations Rule the World'.


Deaths of Bonnie and Clyde

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

Bonnie and Clyde clown for the camera

1934 Near their hide-out in Black Lake, Louisiana, bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed and shot dead by Texas Rangers in a hail of bullets. Before police brought their rampage to an end, the notorious young couple had killed twelve people.

Bonnie was something of a poet, it seems, and shortly before she died, she sent the following ballad to the Dallas, Texas 'Dispatch'.

'Saga of Bonnie and Clyde'
By Bonnie Parker
You've read the story of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you're still in need;
of something to read,
here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde ...
Read on at May 23 in the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Bush announces Global Peace Imaginatorium

President Bush announces his Global Peace Imaginatorium

Is it satire, is it prophetic, or is it just maybe a good idea?

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Those Mooslim towelheads will get you with muffins

"We have new information on those tainted muffins ..."

Hilarious video (truly, a genuine news clip) from the very country that turned the Western world onto most of the planet's illicit and dangerous drugs. And who says pot doesn't make people paranoid?

Joint Terrorism Task Force deployed because of marijuana in muffins

Watch closely Jeff, the newsreader. He failed Recesss at acting college, but got a 'B+' in Ken Doll 101, which headed him straight for a career in TV news. And keep your eye on John McSwain, who is from the Joint Terrorism Task Force and collects stamps and Swedish "nature" pictures in his spare time -- apparently he is a real human being and not an actor like Jeff. (John-boy only failed Recess at Junior High.)

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Video - Who is behind Iraq's death squads?

Thanks Trudy for sending this clip.

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Cindy Sheehan Australian meetings

Cindy Sheehan arrives in Sydney tomorrow and there is a lot of interest from the media.

For more info on Cindy and Salam, visit this page.

For public meetings in Brisbane and Melbourne, and info on the national peace conference visit here.

Cindy Sheehan is one of the most prominent voices in the US anti-war movement, and has become a symbol of the resurgence in the strength of the movement in the US over the last year. Cindy began campaigning against the Iraq war after her son Casey was killed in Iraq while serving in the U.S. army. Cindy captured national media attention after setting up a peace camp outside George Bush's Texas ranch in 2005, demanding to know for "what noble cause" her son had died. She is one of the founding members of Gold Star Families for Peace, formed by families who have lost relatives in the Iraq war and are campaigning for an end to the occupation.

Dr Salam Ismael is secretary-general of Doctors for Iraq, leading teams of volunteer doctors in crisis situations in Iraq. His trip will be an opportunity to hear first-hand about health conditions in occupied Iraq, and to raise awareness about the humanitarian plight of Iraqis living under occupation. Dr Ismael was one of the first independent observers to enter the city of Fallujah after it was destroyed by US and allied occupation forces in November 2004. The Doctors for Iraq Society has brought to the world's attention numerous US atrocities in western Iraq. They are campaigning for an independent inquiry into human rights abuses in Fallujah.

[By the way, Dr Ismael says that since Bush, Blair & the Coalition of the Killing invaded and occupied Iraq, 3,000 doctors have fled for their lives and 61 senior doctors have been killed, as well as many ordinary doctors. Baghdad's radiology facilities have had to close due to lack of senior staff.]

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Sherlock author, Wicca founder duped by girls

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1859 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (d. July 7, 1930), Scottish physician and author, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

After his son died in World War I, he dedicated himself to spiritualistic studies. An example is The Coming of the Fairies (1922) in which he supported the existence of ‘little people’ and spent more than a million dollars on their cause. He was apparently totally convinced of the veracity of the obviously faked Cottingley fairy photographs, which he reproduced in the book, together with theories about the nature and existence of fairies.

Doyle’s gullibility possibly was heightened because he had first been told about the photographs by his fellow devotee of esoteric matters and enthusiastic believer in the pictures, Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca. By May 1920 Gardner was using slides of the Cottingley pictures at lectures. Doyle saw the first two photos and Gardner convinced him they were real, whereupon Doyle wrote an article on the subject in The Strand, the magazine that published his Holmes tales. Doyle did, however, say that the photos should be tested by disinterested people.

While Doyle was in Australia on a lecture tour in 1921, Gardner sent him information about three more photos that he had been shown by the Cottingley cousins, and Doyle shed any doubts that he might have had, apparently believing that Gardner fit the bill of his "disinterested" person.

Doyle at this time was a major international celebrity, but his fascination with ghosts, fairies and "the afterlife" drew ridicule worldwide. In 1923, as he toured America, an editorial in the New York Times said: "Again Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is placing on many of this country's inhabitants the embarrassing task of trying to strike a balance between their long-established liking for him and their equally well-settled dislike for what he is doing."

Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two young cousins living in Cottingley, near Bradford, England. The children took a total of five photographs between 1916 and 1920 of what appeared to be fairies dancing ...

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UK and Aussie PMs both aware of WMD lie

Wilson's Almanac news and current affairs blog
"A former U.N. biological weapons specialist is asserting that the prime ministers of Australia and Britain knew at the time that pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was false."
UK and Australian Prime Ministers were both aware of WMD lie

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Lawmaker: Marines killed Iraqis 'in cold blood'

Navy conducting war crimes probe into violence in Haditha

"A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines 'killed innocent civilians in cold blood,' a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

"From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

"One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. 'The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,' she said, 'and shot him.'

"On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

"Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right.

"A videotape taken by an Iraqi showed the aftermath of the alleged attack: a blood-smeared bedroom floor and bits of what appear to be human flesh and bullet holes on the walls.

"The video, obtained by Time magazine, was broadcast a day after town residents told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes on Nov. 19 and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine."

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

What's wrong with this video?

Highly recommended

Sarah McLachlan's 'World On Fire' Video

What IS wrong with this video?

The Internet doesn't get any better than this.

Give till it hurts.

Lid dip to a truly excellent new blog, Maryannaville. Well worth taking out an email subscription to, or put Maryannaville's feed into your feed reader.

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Armand Hammer. Bucks or ideology?

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1898 Armand Hammer (d. December 10, 1990), American physician, entrepreneur, oil magnate, art collector, founder of Occidental Petroleum when he was in his 60s.

New York-born billionaire Dr Armand Hammer led a most extraordinary life as an American businessman and a confidant of US presidents as well as Communist dictators. As a youth, he met Lenin and was the first capitalist to gain a business concession in the USSR; during the 1920s he was a courier for the Soviet government to the American Communist Party. It might be a job he continued into his old age.

The new Marxist-Leninist regime in the USSR gave Hammer the rights to sell old Czarist paintings in the West, and he amassed a fortune as a young man. Many American and other art galleries and institutions as well as private collectors still own Russian masterpieces that the Communist regime and Armand Hammer shipped out of their rightful homeland.

Good guy/bad guy?
His autobiography painted him as a philanthropist and worker for peace, though other biographies portrayed him as a liar, a Communist propagandist (and possibly an espionage agent through several US administrations), a bully and a briber. He always seemed to skirt prosecution, perhaps because his fortune and fame protected him, though he did come under investigation for a bribery scandal in Venezuela where he had oil concessions. In 1976 he pleaded guilty to charges of concealing a $54,000 contribution to the re-election campaign of Richard Nixon, receiving just a small fine and eventually a pardon from President George Bush (Daddy).

A man of immense energy, Hammer created the transnational giant, Occidental Petroleum, after he was 65 years old, and worked seven days a week until 91 years of age. And he bought or created many more corporations. In his autobiography he boasted that when he bought the corporation that owned Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Company, he was fulfilling a childhood dream of owning his namesake. He wrote that his father Julius Hammer had named him after a character, Armand Duval, in La Dame aux Camellias by Alexandre Dumas, fils.

Bucks or ideology?
In fact, according to his biographer, Carl Blumay (The Dark Side of Power, Simon & Schuster, 1992), his former press agent of many years, Armand Hammer was named after the arm-and-hammer insignia of the Socialist Labor Party that became, under Julius Hammer's leadership, the Communist Party of the USA ...

Other late starters & late achievers in the Scriptorium

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Bush Countdown Clock

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The Karl Rove indicted? story

I'm so glad I was cautious and put a question mark in my headline Karl Rove indicted?

Here is Truthout's apology (a bit half-arsed if you ask me) for Jason Leopold's original piece (the headline of which definitely did not have a question mark), which went all over the blogosphere as fact.

Rove might well be indicted, but Truthout's presentation of the story was not a good way to go about things.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Shhhh! Don't tell the fundos this one

"The separation between the ancestors of modern humans and chimpanzees was not as far back as evolution researchers had always thought ..."
Ancestors of humans, chimpanzees, may have interbred

Humans and Chimps Still Messed Around After Split
You May Be A Monkey's Uncle, Study Says
Ancestors of humans, chimpanzees, may have interbred :: all 321 related »

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Why isn't Gitmo closed already?

Wilson's Almanac news and current affairs blog
Everyone wants Guantanamo closed. Some because they hate torture and the imprisoning of people for year after year without charging them.

Some have less altruistic motives: they want it closed because they hate the USA getting a bad name internationally, and they know that the more the USA is hated for it, the more endangered their lives become.

There must be lots of other reasons.

For more than four years the whole world has known Guantanamo Bay is a vile concentration camp containing hundreds of people from many countries, including Australia, who have not been charged with any crime.

So why isn't Gitmo closed yet?

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World's first film for paying audience

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1895 Australian boxer Young Griffo (1871 - 1927) starred in Young Griffo vs. Battling Charles Barnett (filmed on the roof of Madison Square Garden, May 4, 1895), the first motion picture to be screened before a paying audience, on this day at 153 Broadway in New York City.

It premiered more than seven months before the Lumière brothers showed their film at the Grand Cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines, Paris, on December 28 – the event usually said to be the first movie-by-ticket screening in the world.

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Historic Tree of Knowledge poisoned

According to one legend, the Cross of Jesus Christ was built from the Tree of Knowledge. And in 1549 Ket's Rebellion met under the Oak of Reformation.

Well, Australia has its Tree of Knowledge, beneath which thousands of rebels met, discussed, argued and debated, and laid the foundations of a progressive social movement that created the first democratic socialist government in the world. The Tree of Knowledge marks the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party and many of the civil rights, freedoms and privileges enjoyed by Australians -- and others -- today.

I speak of the Shearers' Strike of 1891, and the Tree of Knowledge, a Ghost gum in Barcaldine, Queensland beneath which the striking workers sang our national poet Henry Lawson's great poem 'Freedom on the Wallaby' with its stirring final lines:

"So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We'll make the tyrants feel the sting
O' those that they would throttle;
They needn't say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!"

[From Wikipedia: The last two stanzas of the poem were read out by Frederick Brentnall MP on July 15, 1891 in the Queensland Legislative Council during a 'Vote of Thanks' to the armed police who broke up the Barcaldine strike camp. There were calls in the chamber for Lawson's arrest for sedition. Lawson wrote a bitter rejoinder to Brentnall, 'The Vote of Thanks Debate'.

The Rebel flag is the Eureka Flag that was first raised at the Eureka Stockade in 1854, above the Shearers' strike camp in 1891 and carried on the first Australian May Day march in Barcaldine on May 1, 1891.]

Well, sadly, someone has poisoned Australia's great icon, the Tree of Knowledge. It comes at a symbolic time, as the conservative Howard Government is dismantling most of the IR (industrial relations) rights for which thousands at Barcaldine in 1891 struggled against police and militia who came bearing rifles, bayonets and cannon.

"Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley said the poisoning was 'vandalism of the highest order' but would "not stop the great traditions of the Australian labour movement".

"'It is highly symbolic of these times,' Mr Beazley said.

"'In 1891, the shearers had to stand for the right for collective action and it is the same now.

"'The industrial relations system has been comprehensively poisoned by John Howard as has the tree.

"'Labor will fight to revive the IR system.'"

Historic 'Tree of knowledge' poisoned
Fears held for Tree of Knowledge's survival
Historic tree of knowledge 'poisoned'
Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge poisoned
Courier Mail :: ABC Online :: all 32 related »

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Lawson & Co: associations with Henry and Louisa Lawson

Free Speech Australia : Wattle Day, Australia

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Pentagon attack footage

Is the new footage really any good? When I heard that the US Government had been forced to release security cam footage showing the plane hitting the Pentagon on 9-11, I went to the CNN site and had a look at the video. I played it twice.

There wasn't anything I could see that looked anything like a plane hitting the building, as opposed to what the conspiracy theorists say. Does anyone know of an online version of this new footage that is as good as the conservative media say it is? I seriously would like to see something that looks like a passenger plane hitting the Pentagon. Bear in mind that I don't have a TV so maybe everyone else has seen it -- but I still would like to.

On the conspiracy side of things, I've started watching the long video Loose Change from Google Video, but I have dial-up so I've only seen the first ten minutes of it. Based on my limited viewing of both videos, I'd say the conspiracy nuts are winning 1-0.

I won't forget this quote in a hurry:

Here we're talking about plastic knives and using an American Airlines flight filed with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building and similar (inaudible) that damaged the World Trade Center.
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaking of the September 11 attacks; interview with Lyric Wallwork Winik, Parade Magazine, October 12, 2001 [emphasis mine]

Update: Trudy, an Aussie Almaniac, has kindly sent me this link to the footage and neither she nor I can make out a plane.

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