Thursday, July 4, 2013

Potato Salad

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." --Erma Bombeck

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Google Lat Long: Trekking the Grand Canyon for Google Maps

Google Lat Long: Trekking the Grand Canyon for Google Maps: In our ongoing effort to create the perfect map—one that’s as comprehensive, accurate and easy to use as possible—we’ve gone well beyond ju...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My dad took me hunting upland game birds, starting from age 8. I have shotgunned and killed many Ring-necked Pheasants as a result of this wonderful father and son bonding exercise. My dad’s hunting companions’ term for RNPH was Chink, in honor of the pheasant’s Chinese ancestry. Charming men, they were. They are all dead now, too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nuke Evolving

It appears that the technologies of nuclear power have evolved in response to both advocacy and opposition. Fukushima did not stop nuke in its tracks, but it did shift development of new nukes to more advanced designs, with passive safety features. Especially in China which is still likely to build 60 nuclear plants by 2020.

Though a few countries will pick nuke to be a part of their energy portfolio, in the U.S., the Shale Gale blowing cheap gas out of North Dakota is right up there with anti-technology ideology or dread of meltdown and proliferation as a deterrent for new nukes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Scramble for Africa

Book Review
Pakenham, T., (2003). The scramble for Africa: White man’s conquest of the dark continent from 1876 to 1912. New York: Perennial. (Original work published in 1991)

This is a book about the occupation, colonization and conquest of Africa during the Victorian Era. The author, Thomas Pakenham, is an Anglo-Irish historian who writes mostly about Victorian and Post-Victorian British history. Initially, I thought that the title was of the author’s invention. However, I found out from a popular online encyclopedia, that the Scramble for Africa is a term of art for this period from 1876 until World War I.
I struggled to get into the book because I have little interest in Victorian history, and Mr. Pakenham doesn’t help matters by assuming a British audience will appreciate his wry characterizations of European historical figures. Not being British, and lacking a British history education made Mr. Pakenham’s dry humor very dead for me. In addition, I was expecting the book to be more Afro-centric. I was, instead, learning more than I cared to, about Queen Victoria. However, as I struggled through the first few chapters, enough background developed to generate interest for the remainder of the book. It was then that I could begin to appreciate the meticulousness of the research of this in-depth history of the Victorian Era land grab in Africa.
The Scramble for Africa has as its central theme the contrast between the humanitarian motives of David Livingstone, and the profit-taking of Belgium’s King Leopold. Livingstone, as a Christian missionary, represented social progress moving away from Africa’s slave trade. His philosophy was the triple-bottom-line of the day: the 3 Cs of Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization. “Trade, not the gun, would liberate Africa” (p. xxii).
Unfortunately, the fourth ‘C’ of Conquest eventually became the rule as King Leopold made his rubber money, and Cecil Rhodes made his gold-and-diamond fortune. Human rights atrocities were commonplace as Europe imposed its will with the barrel of a gun. All of this makes a kind of historical sense. But, surprisingly the fallout from the Scramble helps to explain the civil wars and anarchy that continue in Africa to this day, even though independence from Europe has been won for many years.
The rebellion against, and the withdrawal of, Europe is understandable, but the new independent African states, unprepared for party politics, split along ethnic and regional lines. Civil war and anarchy were, and are, the result. I suppose it would have been too much to ask of the European conquerors, which scrambled to divide up Africa, not to have just as quickly scrambled back out of Africa, leaving a political power vacuum in the wake of their evacuation. I suppose it would have been asking too much of the European conquerors to not have better educated their subjects while occupying Africa. And so, I wonder how many Africans today would like to turn back the clock to 1875. For good reason, this book has been reprinted a number of times since its first appearance in 1990.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A scenario for Greece

One wonders how events will play out in Greece. One scenario goes like this:
• Foreign bankers lend
• Then, financial controllers see that the interest is paid.
• Then, foreign advisers take their cut.
• Finally, when the country is bankrupt and helpless, it is time for the foreign troops to ‘rescue’ the government from its rebellious people.
• Then, the country is gone.
This is a script played out many times in history (Pakenham, 2003, p. 126).
Pakenham, T., (2003). The scramble for Africa: White man’s conquest of the dark continent from 1876 to 1912. New York: Perennial. (Original work published in 1991)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tucson Audubon Society Blog: San Rafael IBA Survey a Great Success!

Tucson Audubon Society Blog: San Rafael IBA Survey a Great Success!: By Jennie MacFarland, AZ IBA Conservation Biologist The San Rafael IBA Survey Team! Saturday February 11 th dawned cold and clear ove...