Monday, October 15, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde

Robert Louis Stephenson, novelist, was born in Edinburgh Scotland in 1850.  162 years later his work lives on.  His book, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, is now recast as a dark modern musical at the Hobby Center, Houston.

The adaption is inspired, with plenty of time kill off the bishop, and the rest of aristocracy.  A truly evil Mr Hyde, was also Dr Jekyll, a scientist who was willing to experiment on himself for the betterment of humanity.

Who knows?  RLS might have been proud.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Relative Dangers

How dangerous is travel?  How dangerous are foreign places?  I suspect much less risky than normally assumed:

I was in Beijing in 1989 taking pictures of the troops in the trucks parked near the hotel.  The locals were shouting and pestering them.   I do not think these were the same troops, that moved into Tienanmen Square later than night.  I watched the US CNN coverage in the hotel room; it took three days for the government to cut it off.  On day four I left for the airport and flew to Singapore.  Two weeks later I was back in Beijing.  I took a pedicab to Tienanmen Square and evidence of the carnage was nowhere to be seen, just some damaged metal barriers, mangled by the tanks.

In London in 1993 the IRA blew up a bus in Threadneedle Street.  We had walked down that street a few hours earlier.

In London in 2006 my wife walked past by the Sushi restaurant in Piccadilly, just before the news broke about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with Polonium. A few days later is was cordoned off as a crime scene.

I will be in Israel later this month, and I hope Israeli/Iran relations stay calm and civil.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


We are swamped with data and statistics,  Especially for historical data, I love Gapminder, a program to display data in an absorbable way from

Example, Wealth and Health of nations:

"Gapminder is a non-profit foundation based in Stockholm. Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview. Our method is to make data easy to understand. "

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Pilgrim Problem

  • Or how we keep making the same mistakes; the knowledge is available, but not used
Once upon a time I lived in Dallas, Texas, which has a continental climate, hot and dry in the summer and cool sometimes very cold in the winter.  The local saying is, "The only thing between Dallas and the North Pole is a barbed wire fence in Kansas."

In the store you can buy seed packets, with attractive pictures of healthy plants grown in Oregon.

The clues were all there.  I bought lupine and delphinium seeds.  I love lupines and delphiniums.   In dug a large bed, removed the Bermuda grass and added bags of peat moss to ameliorate the clay.  Read the instructions on the packet, planted the seeds and waited.

And waited.

The seeds were totally not suited to the climate and soil.  They are cool weather plants that grow in England or Oregon.  Seems the Pilgrims, in 1621, needed local help to plants things that grew in their local micro climate too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Scary Take Three - Paul Ryan and the Gun Lobby

First the data, then the politics

The Data

From the Economist using global data from 2009, for 10-24 year olds, per 100,000 population


 "America stands out for having the highest mortality rate. It has a particularly high rate of traffic deaths, despite laws that ban drinking until 21. Where America is truly exceptional, however, is in its violence. At 8.9 per 100,000 population, the rate of violent death (such as from homicide or accidental shooting) is 18 times higher than in Britain."

Now the politics

Paul Ryan was seen this week buying camouflage gear for his oldest daughter.  For Christmas she got her first rifle.  He is quoted as saying, "She is old enough this year to hunt on her own."

She is 10 years old.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Scary Take Two - The Scary Baby Hotel

In honor of Halloween, one can never start too soon ............

Scary Take One - Ban the Bomb, Still a Good Idea

A pretty, innocent symbol in retro hippy colors with a sinister association.

The Ban the Bomb logo has morphed into a Peace symbol.  The unbelievably scary threat of nuclear annihilation has faded after 1989, when Eastern Europe reverted to democracy, and in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart.


In 1991 we were down to a healthier Midnight minus 17 minutes, but have since crept back to Midnight minus 5 minutes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Life of a Travelling Antique Dealer

The antique show at Warrenton is held twice a year in March and September, and tents and awnings are clustered near the road for miles.  Some of the vendors are local, but most are travelling from one event to another across the country.  Most seem to own a travel trailer in which the live, onsite, and while travelling.

During the day they are tied to the tent to sell the goods they have bought and are reselling.  There is usually a place somewhere in the tent where they have a fridge and a book to read, a little haven when times are slow.  Sometimes well hidden.

They must live cheap, they have to rent the space, travel between sites, and eat!  The money comes from the price difference between the buying and selling price.  All sales are negotiable, and one can usually get 20% off.

Some vendors have new stuff, most have "vintage" stuff, not strictly antique. They have to be always replenishing their stock, and making it more valuable by painting, mending, polishing, whatever it takes to make it look valuable and catch the eye.