arcana imperii :: the book of j


these are the times

«these are the times that try men's souls. [...] tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.»

~thomas paine, the american crisis, 1776


headline of the day

«witnesses report seeing nothing unusual...»

at first glance one is tempted to scream, wondering whether the journalist responsible finds himself on a peaceful and deserted beach somewhere, but even then he could surely report on the weather, the scenery or his state of mind! i mean, with much taking place all round us meriting our attention, this headline's almost offensive... at first glance...

the fact is that not only did it catch my attention and peeked my interest, but it even prompted me to tell you about it.

the story refers to four armed men who stole several famous paintings friday, including a Picasso and a Monet, from a Rio de Janeiro museum and then slipped away in a crowd of carnival revellers... who, allegedly, did not see anything unusual...

quotation of the week

«it's time, again, to put a bit of stick about.»



quotation of the week

«if one morning i walked on top of the water across the potomac river, the headline that afternoon would read: "president can't swim".»

~lyndon b. johnson



fourteen february

Happy Valentine's Day.


real estate bubble

DC's Real Estate Bubble to Burst?
washington city paper's brian beutler has written a most interesting article on the current state and future of DC's real estate bubble.

by the way, a real-estate bubble or property bubble (or housing bubble for residential markets) is a type of economic bubble that occurs periodically in local or global real estate markets. it is characterized by rapid increases in the valuations of real property such as housing until they reach unsustainable levels relative to incomes and other economic indicators, followed by rapid decreases that can result in many owners holding negative equity (a mortgage debt higher than the value of the property).


«shy swedes fail to seduce gay penguins»

ananova reports today that swedish female penguins have failed in their mission to seduce gay male humboldt penguins in a german zoo.

bremerhaven zoo had introduced the female penguins to try and establish more breeding pairs in its penguin pens, since it has far too many male penguins, while kolmarden zoo in sweden has an oversupply of females.

at bremerhaven, the birds, which find new mates every year, form all-male pairs and adopt pebbles as if they were eggs. last year, officials said the females had arrived too late for pairing. and this year, the birds arrived in time, but were too shy.

zoo chief executive heike kueck said that the swedish penguins are rather stand-offish.

four local females were quickly snapped up but the rest of the 22 penguins ignored the newcomers and formed male couples.

last year, homosexualists bombarded the zoo with emails and protest letters, claiming it was interfering in the penguins' freedom of sexual orientation.

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say what?!

go ahead, say: seventy-seven seasick sailors were nursed by seven fair nurses. nothing to it... but try, sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor... aha! see, the problem is that the sj's and sk's involve pronouncing a voiceless palatal-velar fricative (also voiceless dorso-palatal velar fricative, voiceless postalveolar and velar fricative, voiceless co-articulated velar and palatoalveolar fricative) which for non-native swedish speakers presents a bit of a prob, especially since the swedes themselves pronounce it differently, according to dialect and even social class.

listening repeatedly to the soundtrack of various films and to swedish pop songs as well as my language tapes it sounds to me like an "sh" sound followed by an "h" (as in hat) and a "w" then whatever vowel comes after the sj/sk... but not quite and not always.

maybe it's time to try mandarin and/or arabic...

common sense

yesterday afternoon, i heard panelists on a radio show discuss for an hour how to draw children away from television and interest them in reading. not one suggested SWITCHING OFF THE TELLY...

the visual thesaurus

the nyt says it's «inventive. imaginative. ingenious. fanciful». the washington post says that «the whole interface feels almost alive... it's a rare, rewarding example of a paper-bound process that has been radically rethought...» the chicago tribune points out that «...a user is continually surprised at the insights and solid results that each search delivers» and yahoo adds that it's «a near-perfect combination of content and design».

the visual thesaurus is described as a tool for people who think visually; a thesaurus and dictionary with an interactive display allowing one to explore and understand language in a new way. it presumably allows the user to find the exact word he needs, to write descriptively, to see connections and relationships, brainstorm, get synonyms and antonyms, hear words pronounced correctly, build vocabulary, explore new words and meanings, understand 39,000 proper nouns and more.

i thought i'd give it a go, and looked up solipsism. i was not impressed. for instance, i found that googling define:solipsism provided rather straightforward and brilliant results.

cannabis cough cure

in most countries, using cannabis is likely to land one in trouble with the law. but the substance has also inspired a cure for coughing fits discovered under sponsorship of the US government.

tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, besides its well-known effect on the brain, also latches onto the nerve cells in the upper airways of mammals and short-circuits the signals that cause coughing spasms.

the US government's national institute of health (NIH) has been paying the university of california in oakland to develop a cough cure based on this effect. researchers found that a recently discovered relative of THC – arachidonylethanolamide (anandamide) – can have a similar cough-quelling effect, but without also making users high [er... what's the point again? ah yes, the coughing cure...].

anandamide can be puffed into a person's airways from an aerosol inhaler and latch onto the same nerve cells as thc. but it binds so tightly to the cells that it will not get into the bloodstream.

the drug has so far been tested on rats and guinea pigs, which were given the treatment and then sprayed with pepper. microphones inside the animal's cages counted the coughs – and they were significantly reduced after the aerosol cure was administered.

you may read the cannabis cough cure here.

source: new scientist.


black history month

february is celebrated as black history month here in america and something different i've noticed this year is that there's an emphasis on the fact that we are all africans.

the prejudiced, along with the willfully and stubbornly ignorant who refuse to accept the fact of evolution and what science in general and archeology in particular teach us about the origins of humans find this a hard pill to swallow.

the opening in san francisco of the museum of the african diaspora has reportedly done a splendid job in communicating our origins to visitors. at least two npr stories enlighten us in this regard: San Francisco Opens African Diaspora Museum and Museum Charts Spread of Africans Across Globe.

BBC radio has producded a superb series, the strory of africa which tells the story of the continent from an african perspective. i listened to a fascinating three-hour installment last night on WETA-FM which covered the origins of humankind, africa & the nile valley, the berbers, the bantu migrations, traditional religions, and the coming of christianity. further episodes will air sunday evenings.

WETA-FM here in DC is also featuring a series of non-commercial radio adverts called «moments to remember» highlighting pioneering and pivotal events in american black history.

i recommend spending some time visiting the HistoryMakers, Six Weeks of Black History and AOL@SCHOOL Black History websites. the stories of success against the odds and of achievement in the face of adversity told here should inspire all.

quotation of the week

«excuse me. i wonder if you'd care to follow me this way towards the hillside of enlightenment?»

~babe, the imaginary sheep-pig,
standing between us and total moral decay.



to bat a thousand

i heard two gentlemen on the radio this morning trying to answer some questions and they weren't doing very well and just before their last attempt the host warns the caller not to get his hopes up since they were «batting a thousand today». i thought the expression meant the opposite... and it does.

to bat a thousand: american idiom meaning to do something extremely well and better than one had hoped to do it.

now, what would be the opposite equivalent expression? wait, is opposite equivalent the right term?!


the State of the Union: a look between the lines

bush said last night that ending US dependence on foreign oil is a national priority. successes in iraq were cited and warnings to iran issued regarding nuclear arms. he also mournedd the passing of coretta scott king even though he radically and militantly opposes some of the freedoms that she and her late husband fought for throughout their lives. NPR reporters offer insights on what was said... and what wasn't.

also worth a listen is fact-checking the State of the Union Address.

the controversial cartoons

regarding the controversy about the european cartoon depicting the prophet mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb and others, i'd like to remind all that so-called blasphemy is protected by democratic freedom of expression. when islamist terrorists act they do so in the name of their deity and religion. muslims who claim that such acts do not represent the beliefs of all muslims and that they should not all be "grouped together" should also accept that the view of the cartoonist is his own and may not represent the views or beliefs of all westeners and that calling for boycotts is nothing short of hypocrisy. why not hit the streets in protest of terrorism, for instance, each time a westener is kidnapped and threatened with death by beheading in the name of islam, the deity and its prophet? don't they consider terrorism as or more blasphemous than the cartoons in question?