Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

Injured kittens, elections, and worse stuff

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On the way to work today the bus got mired in traffic. Then I saw emergency lights ahead, the police were routing traffic into one lane. Getting closer I saw why. There was an injured kitten in the road, a half grown little stripey guy. One of the cops was standing so as to keep him in the shade. For some reason the sight just about to broke my heart, I cried on and off all day. So much sadness in the world, this just put me over the edge I guess. I hope the little guy made it.

I’ll be glad when the election is over. It’s been one of the uglier elections in my memory, if not the ugliest. I still honestly don’t give a crap who wins, both candidates have aspects that are so so creepy it makes my flesh crawl. Both candidates are a tool of the bankers, militarists, and energy cartel. Obama’s social policy window dressing is a bit better, but living in a theocracy might actually make Americans snap out of their revery. More on point, I think if Superman got elected, we’d still be hosed. America is like a stately old oak tree … completely rotted out inside. It looks majestic, but one of these days there will be a stiff breeze and down it goes. It’s not going to be pretty.

Obama. Barrack “kill list” Obama. I find it more than disturbing that the POTUS maintains a kill list, a list that can and has included Americans. It’s disturbing in and of itself, but that no one is upset about it is just plain scary. Nixon had an enemy’s list, and was excoriated for it; Obama has a kill list, and no one cares? People went wild over non-existent “death panels,” but don’t care that Obama has set himself up as a death panel of one? I am not reassured.

Then we have the rapist’s right’s party. Think about this: We have a Senate candidate Mourdock claiming that a rape  pregnancy was a gift from God and couldn’t be aborted. He said he anguished over this question before coming to that conclusion. I’m a little unclear what he anguished over. He couldn’t have anguished over how he would feel if he were raped and impregnated, since that can’t happen to him. So he must have anguished over how he would feel if he raped and impregnated someone. And he concluded that whoever he, or any man, chooses to rape;  if the woman is impregnated, she must bear the child. The rapist gets to choose, the raped victim doesn’t. Right. Romney endorsed this guy. Ryan holds similar view. This is crazy, a perversion of Christianity, and an example of rape culture. Again, not reassured.

I like Jill Stein, but nothing short of a miracle will get her in the White House. It might make a good science fiction story, or an unlikely Hollywood movie. I think they put Ron Paul back in cryogenic suspension, I don’t know where he went. Probably conveyed to media purgatory. There’s other stuff on ballots. I’m cynical about it all. The special interests have it locked up, even when they lose, they have the lawyers and the money to fix it. Legalized corruption on a scale never before seen in history. See, the USA is still number one! On the other hand, unlike so many people, I’m not going to freak out no matter who gets elected. Whoever gets elected has my support, at least initially. Whoever wins has an unholy mess to contend with, and the last thing America needs now is sore losers. My studied neutrality may only last to the acceptance speech, tomorrow is another day.

Lastly, so as not to be accused of excess negatively, can I envision an encouraging outcome on election day? Yes. Yes I can. I hope the winning candidate sees an injured kitten in the road, and his heart is softened and his mind is cleared, and he gives an acceptance speech that resonates with all Americans, and opens a dialog that begins to heal this fractured land. See, I can still dream.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Not being used for profit, it’s just such a lovely image, I couldn’t resist. I got it from this site. It’s destruction from Hurricane Sandy. The image says a lot to me. Who is this woman? Where is she going?)

Written by unitedcats

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Breaking News: Radioactive Cat Discovered Near Chernobyl, Next Step in Feline Evolution?

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For the past several weeks rumours of an amazing biological discovery near the ruins of the Chernobyl reactor have been circulating in Russia and Ukraine. Today at a press conference scientists revealed that the the rumours were true. Russian and Ukrainian scientists studying the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and its effects on local wildlife have discovered the world’s first known radioactive cat. Despite emitting dangerous levels of gamma radiation and X-Rays, the cat appears large and healthy, and does not seem adversely effected by his bizarre condition. A team of  expert Veterinarians from the international group Collies Without Borders examined him at great length and concluded he was a perfectly normal cat in almost every respect, if possibly a little overweight. This may be a normal situation for a radioactive cat though, as his appetite is described as “without end.”

Scientists studying the cat at the prestigious Жертва первоапрельской шутки Institute in Ukraine are as yet baffled as to the cause of his condition, but are limited in that scientists can only be exposed to him a  few minutes each day due to his lethal emission of radioactivity. Not only does he appear immune to his own radiation, scientists have observed that it actually aids him in hunting, as small birds and mammals that get too close to him are weakened by radiation poisoning, thus becoming easy prey for “Dr Sinclair” as researchers have named this remarkable moggie. The radiation also offers him complete protection against fleas, and at least partial protection against dogs as they too are stunned and weakened if they approach too close. And not only can he see in the dark, he glows in the dark.

Scientists are hoping they can breed Dr. Sinclair and create a whole breed of mutant moggies.  Already cat lovers from around the world have inquired about getting a “Dr Sinclair” of their own. One might think that having a pet whose litter box droppings are classified as middle level radioactive waste would be a deterrent, but it’s a little known fact that under  current international law all cat waste is already classified as middle level radioactive waste. Novelty value aside, when asked of what practical use a race of radioactive mutant cats would be, Ukrainian scientists helpfully pointed out that no one has ever found a practical use for regular cats and that hasn’t hurt their popularity one bit.

The press conference had to be ended early as reporters in the front row were getting nausea and experiencing hair loss, so further news about Dr. Sinclair will be released in future press conferences promised chief researcher Dr. Джеффри Д. Повысился.

(The above image is used with the permission of the copyright holder. Dr. Sinclair is a real cat.  He likes naps in the Sun, salmon truffles, and belly rubs. This entire post is under copyright protection: Credit and copyright © Doug Stych, all rights reserved. Have a great week everyone!)

Written by unitedcats

April 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Random Notes in the Margins

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A couple of topics that I was unable to squeeze a whole blog post out on, but nonetheless wanted to say something. And yes, in some cases below I am simplifying or not adding obvious codicils:

1.  Germany’s Chancellor Merkel claims that “multiculturalism has failed.” She didn’t exactly define her terms so no one knows what she really meant. Yes, millions of foreigners, mostly Turks, have settled in Germany. As far as anyone can tell though, all she was doing was pandering to some fringe anti-immigrant parties and no real changes in German policy are in the offing. There’s basically two points I want to make here.

One is that sooner or later immigrants get assimilated. The idea that a nation will be “taken over” by immigrants simply is not supported by history, the opposite is what occurs. There’s even cases where the immigrants invaded and conquered the nation in question … and still got assimilated. The Normans in England and the Mongols in China being good examples. Yes, mass immigration, legal or illegal, does have problems. It is not an existential threat to a culture though, under most circumstances.

Secondly, how did all these million of Turks end up living in Germany? Well, after World War Two Germany had labour shortages, so people from the east, mostly Turks, were given permission to live and work in Germany for several years only. Great policy, Germany got labour, nice slow paced cultural exchanges took place, and the countries the workers came from got both money and westernized workers returning to develop their country. Why did this change? Bleeding heart liberals? Nope. German industry complained about having to train new workers every few years, so they got the government to let the workers stay.

This is one of the things that makes me mad to this day. Bracero programs, where foreign workers are allowed to come to an industrialized country to work for awhile are a great idea. The industrialized country gets the benefit of cheap labour, and the worker’s country gets bootstrapped upwards on the development scale. Alas because industry would rather blatantly exploit illegals or hire a permanent underclass, this option is almost never used. And the liberals get blamed for the downside.

2. The cat bin lady, Mary Bale. This was a huge deal some weeks ago. Some woman was walking along, petted a cat, and then tossed the cat in a residential rubbish bin. All recorded on security video, which the cat owners posted in order to identify her. And then the solid human waste matter intercepted the rotating turbine blades (thanks, Ralph Johnson.) She became a world wide Internet villain, her life was threatened, and she even had police protection for awhile. She ultimately was fined about $500 and forbidden from owning pets for five years.

Two points here. For one thing, the level of outrage generated by this is probably the greatest ratio of outrage to incident in history. I mean, yeah, it wasn’t a nice thing to do, but far far far worse happens every day. And for God’s sake, death threats? I love kittehs too, and if someone did this to my cat I’d be outraged too. However, it would be a “What the hell is wrong with you?” outrage, not an “I’m gonna kill you!” outrage. Let’s keep some perspective here folks. Secondly, and this is where a lot of people fail psychology 101, this was obviously an impulsive action on her part. All people are prone to acting out impulsively without really thinking it through, a lot of suicides are impulsive for God’s sake. This action of hers was more a sign that she was troubled and upset, not a sign that she’s some sort of evil person. Again, perspective here please.

3. The fire in Israel. Turns out Israel has done the same thing the USA has done, obsessed over defence to the point of starving much needed domestic programs in favour of the military. I mean, they have to ask for foreign help to fight a forest fire? Um, what’s wrong with this picture? In any event, this is a good article about the fire and Israel: “A Wildfire Is Burning All Illusions in Israel.”

4. And there’s been a frightening new development in Iran. Iran just announced that they have produced some Uranium ore of their own. Yes, the dastardly Iranians have discovered … mining! International figures actually expressed outrage at this, and some claimed it’s further “proof” of Iran’s evil intentions. No, it’s proof Iran wants to make their own fuel for their own reactors, since they aren’t going to be able to acquire it abroad. Once again, Iran is a signatory to the NPT and their nuclear facilities are carefully monitored by the international community. Which hasn’t stopped certain people from murdering Iranians in the streets, where’s the international outrage on this terrorist act?

Ah well, more and more I think I’m living in Wonderland. Or its evil twin. Did Lewis Carrol have an evil twin? Watching Inception twice this weekend before sleeping has also damaged my already struggling brain. (I highly recommend it.) I’ll try to carry on though. The TSA’s plan to create more crowds for terrorists to  attack should be covered, what’s up with that? Then there’s more wikileaks stuff, the jury is still out on whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing.

Have a great week everyone.

(The above image of the fire in Israel is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s central to illustrating the fire, it’s not being used for profit, and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: Reuters/Nir Elias. I chose it because it’s a lovely dramatic image. And, well, to point out the transcendent absurdity that both Muslim and Jewish religious fanatics are blaming the forest fire on God! When Hamas and Israeli religious fanatics agree, can the end times be far behind?)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm

If this is a Russian house cat, I don’t even want to see a Russian dog …

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Clearly Russians are tough. Or crazy. Maybe both. Definitely a good reason to avoid a war with Russia. Theres’ plenty of more pictures of the cat on line as well, the damn thing even plays with a grenade: The Russian Cat of Death. Moving right along, it was a long weekend and I’m too tired to continue with my World War Two ramblings. In no particular order, a few random rants regarding recent news.

Obama and the pirates. Sigh. This probably deserves a whole post but it’s too depressing. Yeah, go team. Obama’s a big hero now … he ordered Navy Seals to gun down 3 Somali teenagers. In terms of military victory street cred, I dunno. But, but, he saved an American’s life! No, not really, the Captain’s life wasn’t really in danger, unless you count ordering snipers to shoot his captors. The Somali pirates haven’t been running around killing people, it would be bad for business. In fact this “piracy” is basically commercial extortion. Yet it’s portrayed as this huge threat to the world.  (Odd how anything that threatens giant corporation’s profits is now automatically a threat to the world, nu?) And now we all have a live version of a 24 episode to feel all warm and fuzzy about. Gimme a break. What most bugs me about this (aside from the fact that it’s just going to make things worse, radicalize more Somalis, and result in dead Americans) is the pathetic mainstream news coverage of the whole situation. There’s rarely any context or history in the news, but lately it seems like it’s just they have stopped even trying. In any event I don’t approve of piracy, but this is a problem where shooting is going to make things worse, not better. And for those that can get their minds around it, here’s what a Somali has to say about the situation.

Meanwhile the so called “War on Terror” appears to be expanding in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Eritrea. I used the think that World War Three as going to be the First World fighting the Third World. I still think that. In fact, that’s pretty much what the story of the last 500 years or so has been, while there has been some squabbling over the spoils, the end result has always been the same. The west gets the spoils and the aborigines (third worlders) get the dregs. And if they don’t compliantly do what they’re told, we just make it harder for them.

Speaking of defiant foreigners, I read an interesting article on the recent North Korean missile launch. The basic point was that the Korean missile is a multi-stage liquid fuelled rocket, and that pretty much by definition this is not a military system. Liquid fuelled rockets cannot be left fuelled up and ready to go, it takes days to fuel one up. Days where it is sitting on a launching pad in full view of American spy satellites and drones. So this is not a first strike weapon, nor even much of a retaliatory weapon. In other words, once again a foreign “threat” has been wildly exaggerated.

Then there’s the whole Bush torture memo thing. Not much to say here, I don’t see it as being much more than a distraction. And maybe payback for the Republicans who simply can’t seem to open their mouths without claiming that somehow Obama is “endangering the country.” The Republicans have become one trick ponies, eight years of  “We’ll protect you, they’ll sell us out to our enemies” is getting pretty stale at this point. What’s endangering the country is mindless militarism and letting the rich call the shots.  I mean, spending more money that the rest of the globe combined hasn’t made us any safer, and the greatest upward transfer of wealth in history doesn’t exactly seem to be tricking down. The only thing trickling down from Washington smells funny and will ruin your nice Italian loafers if you step in it. Granted very few of  us can afford those nice Italian loafers now.

And aren’t I in a good mood this week? Don’t you wish this was another  World War Two Hitler post? In closing I will quote from my favourite US president, the man who tried to warn us about letting the military and the arms industry run the show. He must be spinning in his grave now:

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

— from Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation, 17 January 1961

By every measure of military might and spending we are more secure than any nation on Earth ever was … feeling prosperous yet?

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. Credit and copyright: A cool Russian couple and their cat. It’s an Asian Fishing Cat by the way, an endangered wild cat that lives in Southeast Asia. It’s unusual in that it has webbed feet and likes to swim, which it does skillfully. It’s diet? As the image above shows: whatever it wants.)

Written by unitedcats

April 20, 2009 at 8:17 am

Posted in Cats, Crime, Obama, World


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Press Release
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Contact: Doug Stych

In a move that stunned both the Democratic and Republican parties, Binky, a calico cat residing in Berkeley, announced her write-in candidacy for President of the United States. Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, and John McCain and were reportedly rendered speechless by the news. Ralph Nader is expected to withdraw from the race momentarily, reportedly saying “With the feline-rights and catnip industry union vote locked up, Binky is unbeatable.” Ron Paul immediately withdrew from the race and threw his support behind the redoubtable feline, saying “Finally, a non mainstream candidate that can win.”

A few reporters questioned Binky’s qualifications for the highest elected office in the land, asking how she could possibly be old enough and have resided in the United States long enough considering that she was born in 1999. She responded by pointing out that “…there is no doubt about my American birth and in kitty years I am sixty years old and have resided in the United States the entire time. The constitution is rather vague on the issue of kitty years vs. human years, so that is an issue the Supreme Court will clarify after I am elected. She went on to outline her cogent and workable plans for world peace and an end to terrorism, but the details were drowned out by thunderous applause from her supporters.

After the applause died down, she demonstrated that she can pronounce the word “nuclear” clearly and correctly; an apparent reference to certain sitting presidents who mispronounce the word as “nukuler.” Numerous Republicans in the crowd were observed hanging their heads in shame at this point. When asked about health care, Binky unveiled an amazing plan that will provide every American (human and cat alike) with cradle-to-grave health care, to be enacted within four hours of being sworn into office. This to be funded by a modest $10 per can tax on dog food.

World stock markets responded positively to the amazing news of the Binky candidacy, and the US dollar promptly recovered its value. Numerous world leaders immediately pledged to support any and all American policy directives originating from this remarkable cat. The UN will meet in an emergency session within hours to discuss a joint resolution calling for Binky to be sworn in as President of the World after her term of office expires in the United States.

In related stories, the Fast Food Industry announced that henceforth “Freedom Fries” will be called “Binky Fries,” Microsoft was changing its name to Binkysoft, and the Eiffel Tower will be renamed the Binky Tower.

(The above image: Copyright © Doug Stych 2002 All Rights Reserved. That’s Binky in a tree in rural Oregon in the winter of 2001-2002. The image may be used for non-commercial purposes so long as it is properly attributed and a link to Doug’s Darkworld is included.)

Written by unitedcats

April 1, 2008 at 7:36 am

Posted in Berkeley, Cats, Elections

My Cats are Plotting Against Me

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OK, so I let my cats out a few hours before dawn. Awhile later I hear the sound of fighting cats in the yard. I figure it’s the stripy orange guy, he fears nothing and will fight any cat on the planet. While I am getting dressed I can hear the fight is getting closer…moments later a cat flees into the apartment. Who got thrashed? The stripy orange guy! WTF? While I am contemplating this peculiar development…my fluffy black cat, the most non-violent cat on the planet, Gandhi’s cat reincarnated…runs out the door and proceeds to beat the crap out of the intruding cat! I’m like: Oh My God. Did aliens sneak in during the night and swap my cat’s brains? Are they trying to drive me insane?

Makes me think, I can’t even figure out two animals with brains the size of walnuts, and I’m going to make meaningful observations on a world of six billion people? To add insult to injury, I was wondering the other day why I always felt like an idiot around this tenant at a client’s house. So out of curiosity I googled her name. Well, turns out I feel like an idiot around her because compared to her I’m a chimp. Sigh. She won a Nobel Prize at seventeen or some such, yeesh. Sometimes I envy people of average intelligence, most of them seem blissfully unaware that there are people much smarter than them. I on the other hand am just smart enough to know how limited I am compared to people who are really smart.

Oh well. Could be worse. I could be on the Berkeley city council. Yes, some of them are backpedaling over their hasty decision to subsidize Code Pink in their efforts to get a Marine Corps Recruiting Center kicked out of Berkeley. Not surprising, I mean, some of them must have at least some interest in running the city…and having millions of dollars in federal funding cut off because of their using city resources to help a protest group is going to hurt. Anyone heard that Code Pink is offering to pay two million dollars for the parking space the city gave them? I didn’t think so.

In any event I walk by there every day and usually there is nothing going on. I’ve pretty much calmed down about the issue, it mostly makes me mad cause it’s all so dumb and counterproductive and divisive. I understand the protester’s point of view, but their message would play a lot better in Peoria if they chained themselves to a gas station. And the city simply shouldn’t be giving city resources to select protest groups, did they think through the consequences of that at all? In any event, the story once again made CNN, great. There will be a huge protest and counter protest on the 12th, I’ll be there and report all about it. And no, I don’t plan on attacking any protesters, but anything is possible when mobs form.

I have been updating my Countdown to War with Iran page as new ideas and information crop up. I’m still very worried that Bush will indeed attack Iran before he leaves office. From any reasonable standpoint it’s a pretty crazy idea and far riskier than our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately to a large extent decisions in the Bush administration are made by a committee of powerful advisers. And it’s not widely known, but groups will take riskier decisions than individuals will. Basically with a group people know on some level that they can avoid taking personal responsibility if things go bad, a strong central leader can’t make that rationalization as easily. And of course in the Bush administration it appears that no one ever takes responsibility for any failure whatsoever…so an attack on Iran is a definite possibility until Bush is out of office.

And speaking of taking responsibility, I’ve decided that Bush’s “surge” in Iraq has nothing to do with Iraq, it’s actually a trap for Bush’s domestic political opponents. First of all there really is no surge, adding a few extra tens of thousands of men for awhile is just a drop in the bucket. The reality is that Sadr’s Mahdi Army, the largest insurgent group in Iraq, declared a cease fire last August, so Bush knew the violence would be dropping some. So the Bush administration quickly invented the “surge” to take credit for it.

The beauty part was no matter what happened, they were golden. The violence dropped of course, though not nearly so much as is commonly portrayed. And now that the compliant media has bought into it and many Americans believe “the surge is working,” no matter what happens the war proponents make out like bandits. IE if violence stays at the merely horrible levels they are at now, they can claim the surge is working as the election approaches. And if violence flairs up again, as it might very well do, why…it’s the liberals fault for not supporting the surge! So, sadly, I suspect that the only result of the surge will be to propel another militarist, likely McCain, into the White House this fall. And frankly, I have a sneaking suspicion that’s all the surge was ever intended for in the first place.

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is only a portion of the original image, low resolution, and converted to grey scale. Its use here does not interfere with the copyright holder’s use of the original image, arguably the opposite. Credit: Copyright © 1995 Art Shaman. The full size colour version of the above image can be viewed here: Digital Artwork Gallery Four. Cats, sigh.)

Written by unitedcats

February 8, 2008 at 11:35 am

Posted in Berkeley, Cats, Elections, Iraq, Peace

Tatiana was Framed! And what does a tiger attack have in common with the Battle of the Bulge?

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I wanted to wait until a few more facts were in evidence in the San Francisco Zoo tiger attack before commenting on this sad situation. And the truth is out, Tatiana was framed. As anyone who isn’t avoiding the mainstream media knows, a few weeks back a tiger leaped out of its enclosure at a zoo and attacked three drunken young hooligans who were standing on a railing taunting it. (Imagine the looks on those guy’s faces when Tatiana performed her superfeline leap and came at them.) Sadly the youngest boy was killed, he was only sixteen. The two older boys escaped with only a mauling. I’d say maybe they learnt a thing or two, but it’s been clear from the beginning that they learnt nothing since they tried to lie their way out of any responsibility for their actions.

In any event, damned shame about the dead teenager and the dead tiger. In a way both were victims of an unfortunate chain of events. And this chain of events and similar chains is what strikes me as interesting about this disaster. This pretty much was a classic disaster, though obviously smaller than the typical disaster; a zoo animal leaping out of its enclosure and killing a spectator is a pretty disastrous outcome for the parties involved. The thing about disasters big and small is that almost invariably there is a chain of events or a combination of circumstances that led to the unfortunate outcome. And if even one of these links in the chain had been cut, the disaster would have been mitigated or prevented.

In this tiger attack scenario there are a number of these links. First, we have the three men trying to taut the tiger. Second we have a zoo enclosure built to out of date standards. Third we have an aggressive tiger at the prime of her life in top physical condition. These three are all critical. If the wall had been higher, the men had been well behaved, or the tiger was too old or too young to scale the wall…we wouldn’t have this topic to talk about. There were some smaller links in this chain too. It was Christmas day so very few folks were at the zoo, and it was late in the day so it was dark and even fewer folks were around. And lack of a video surveillance system also figures in here. These smaller links in the chain nonetheless contributed to the outcome, since if any of them had been different there’s a better chance the drunken men would have been seen and expelled from the zoo before they got attacked.

Another excellent and quick example is the crash of the Concorde. There were four links in that chain. First, the plane had a known design flaw that made its fuel tanks vulnerable to debris kicked up from the plane’s tires. Second, the last plane that landed on the Concorde’s runway did indeed drop a chunk of metal on the runway. Third, the crew that normally visually inspected the runway before the Concorde took off was busy with a security drill, and they didn’t inspect the runway. And fourthly of course, the Concorde’s wheel hit the debris at just the right speed and angle to fire it up into the Concorde’s fuel tank and cause a disastrous fire and crash that killed 113 people. Roll the dice enough, and eventually four snake eyes in a row will come up.

People who study disasters professionally try to identify as many of these chains of events beforehand, hopefully finding critical links that can be fixed and thus prevent all sorts of problems. Obviously if the tiger wall above had been higher, the tiger wouldn’t have been able to get at the guys until they drunkenly tumbled into its pit. And if the Concorde hadn’t had the design flaw, the chunk of debris on the runway wouldn’t have been a problem.

My point here is that any time an endeavour or a project is proposed, even a layman can make a sober analysis of potential disaster chains and come up with a considered opinion as the the wisdom of the proposed project. (Yes, the week is just about over, back to depressing reality.) This sort of analysis is why I was so against the war in Iraq from the outset and am so against an attack on Iran. In Iraq there were all sorts of potential chains of events that could lead to serious problems, and way too many people including the people who conceived of the idea, simply ignored them or rationalized them away. Now maybe some are still claiming Iraq isn’t a disaster, but at the very least it’s proved vastly more costly in every respect than was confidently predicted.

Even worse, sometimes people not only wilfully overlook the potential problems, they engage in plans where not only does disaster have to be avoided…a series of unlikely events has to occur for success to be achieved. A wonderful example is the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last gasp near the end of World War Two as they launched a bold surprise attack against the western allies. In order for the German plan to have any chance of success, it was essential that they capture stockpiles of allied fuel. Think about that, launching a major tank attack that requires captured fuel to keep the tanks running! I mean, it was insane, and the result was predictable. The Germans ran out of fuel for their tanks in the middle of the battle and the American’s won easily.

My point here is that not only did the USA engage in some pretty optimistic thinking re the proposed invasion of Iraq, I still terribly fear that the Bush Administration is going to make the wrong decision about Iran, and launch one last “Battle of the Bulge” based on rosy expectations about the results of such an attack. And the worse the economy gets and the more Bush is against the wall and seeing his “legacy” turn to ridicule, I think the more likely he is to do this. Yikes.

Have a great year everyone. ;)

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is a low resolution grey scale copy of the original, it is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: San Francisco Chronicle. RIP Tatiana and Carlos Sousa.)



Written by unitedcats

January 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm

What’s shaking in Berkeley?

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Well, that was exciting. The biggest quake in the Bay Area since Loma Prieta in 1989. It wasn’t all that big, only 5.6 on the Richter scale. A lot of stuff knocked off shelves, a few windows broken, a few things fell down. Here in Berkeley the building gently swayed for about 15 seconds, nothing to be alarmed about, but I knew from the duration of the ground movement that this was a decent size quake some near distance away. The media found a few hysterics to quote, a few pics of broken bottles, just another day in California. My cats didn’t even wake up, so much for animals detecting earthquakes.

Speaking of cats, my cat travails have continued. My eldest decided he was going to start sleeping on the shower curtain rod again. Aside from the dirt he sprayed around (Cats are clean animals only because they use our possessions to clean themselves on and around,) when he fell he was clawing long strips in the shower curtain. So now when I shower it looks like my shower was the site of a Freddy Kruger attack. Appropriate for Halloween I suppose.

I didn’t just roust him with no thought as to where he would sleep of course. I built him a lovely shelf up in the skylight where he could laze about and actually relax, instead of sleeping fitfully draped over a beam. Did he want to use the bed I made for him? Oh no. He was determined to sleep somewhere even more inappropriate than the shower rod. Thus began a week long ordeal of me tossing my cat out of the kitchen cupboards, off the back of the toilet, off the kitchen counter, out of the dish rack, etc. With every eviction he seemed determined to find an even more inappropriate spot to sleep. Finally he decided the shelf I built was suitable for his sleeping needs.

In fact he’s decided it’s so appropriate that he hasn’t come down for days, I wouldn’t even know I had a third cat except for the food missing during the night, the litter box deposits, and the occasional glimpse of some portion of cat anatomy protruding in a relaxed fashion over the side of his platform. That’s the problem with having a battle of wills with a cat, victory isn’t an option, only a draw. I’m thinking of tying a mirror to a stick so I can at least occasionally look at the cat I am housing and feeding.

Yes, it’s Halloween. I came across this article speculating about how American horror films are about gentrification and surrounding issues. I thought it was interesting and recommend it for people who are curious about how our culture’s outward appearances mask, compensate for, and signal our collective inner demons. I find stuff like this fascinating. I read a book last year conjecturing how the TV shows Gilligan’s Isle and The X Files were signs of their times so to speak. It was interesting, and true as far as it goes. The problem with theories such as these is that one can easily find the evidence one wants to support one’s theory, so they remain in the realm of academic speculation rather than hard science. Heck, I read a book some years back where the author tried to make a case that the modern art movement was ultimately responsible for the rise of fascism and the holocaust. Now that had some tortured logic, Picasso and Salvador Dalí caused the holocaust? I don’t think so.

No real point here, except the oft belaboured one that if you want to blame something bad on people you don’t like, it’s usually not too difficult to find reasons to do so. Much harder to look at the bigger picture and see how bad things are usually the result of numerous factors, including the human tendency to blame bad things on other people. Like how the holocaust was partly justified by Germans blaming the loss of World War One on a (fictitious) Jewish fifth column. I rest my case.

Happy Samhain everyone.

(The above image of Alice Eastwood examining the “mole track” left after the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake precedes 1927 and is public domain under US copyright law. She had quite a life actually, and didn’t pass away until 1953, a few years before I was born. Read about her here.)

Written by unitedcats

October 31, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Britney Spears makes death threats, can the republic survive? And other minor news items August 1st 2007.

with 2 comments


Last night I tried to pre-write a post and made great progress, but finally realized that the post I was working on would take many more hours to finish to my satisfaction. It’s a post about logical fallacies, and somehow I felt that a post about logical fallacies shouldn’t contain any logical fallacies. Does that make sense? It’s harder than one would think, we live in a society so permeated with logical fallacies that one can hardly turn around without stepping in one. So once again my readers are stuck with a rambling post about my take on the day’s headlines.

Iraq: Well, US deaths in Iraq were down in July. That’s good news, fewer dead Americans is a good thing. Still, 20 odd fewer deaths is not much to hang one’s hat on, though of course the Bush administration is hailing it as “progress.” Iraqi deaths are up, the Iraqi government is falling apart, and other grim reports are making the news. In other words the Bush administration continues it pretend that it has a policy in Iraq beyond “hang in there till we can pass the buck to the next administration.”

US Economy: The stock market is all over the place, home sales are down, mortgage foreclosures are spiking. There’s all sorts of other economic reports and such, I really don’t try to keep up with it. People have been predicting the imminent melt-down of the US economy since at least the eighties. I think there’s way to much wealth floating around the nation for anything like that to really occur. At least not without some trigger like a world war or climate catastrophe. My economic fear is that the USA is slowly turning into one giant company town. We’re still making progress down that road. And the world stock meltdown can’t be a good thing.

Middle East Peace Conference: One would suppose that the US proposed upcoming Middle East Peace conference is a good thing. Since the conference is only going to include parties the US approves of, if it even happens at all, this is more of the same old same old. IE do nothing, make noises about peace, then blame it on our Arab enemies when it fails. A peace conference that does not include Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran among others is not actually a peace conference, it’s a continue-the-status-quo conference.

Darfur: A joint United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force has been approved for Darfur in the Sudan. Peacekeepers don’t seem to have a particularly good record at actually keeping the peace, but I suppose one could see this as a good thing. The ugly truth is that governments can do pretty much what they want to the people living inside their borders, and there’s usually little the world can do about it. The even uglier truth is that all governments like it this way, they only protest when they can score political points by doing so. No government on Earth is proposing redrawing the world’s outdated colonial borders in a fashion that makes sense or setting up actual human rights standards that have to be followed. So this is good news for the people of Darfur if the Sudanese government is actually on board with it, or simply UN cover for further atrocities of the government if Sudan wants to play it that way. I’m betting the later.

US Politics: In the latest round of chest thumping, Obama claims he would send US troops into Pakistan if elected president. American politics, a 21st century political system still based on the quaint 18th century US tradition of electing the best damn Indian Fighter to office, it’s kind of sad really. My current suspicion is that the Republicans will manage to manoeuvre the Democrats into running another un-electable candidate for the White House in 2008, and that the Republican candidate will slide in under the wire with the media pointedly ignoring any problems that might suggest something funky with votes in a few key states. And by unelectable, I mean a candidate that middle of the road red state voters simply could not jump ship for. I’m thinking an Obama/Hillary ticket myself, that should clinch the Republicans another 4-8 years in the White House easily.

End Time News: Britney Spears has been making death threats, cell phones and laptops may be killing us after all, and a major new effort is underway to demonize marijuana.

What does it all mean? Beats me, all I know is that the people who seem most sure they know what is going on are the ones who make the biggest mistakes. There’s a blog post in there somewhere I’m sure, but enough digression for today. The picture of happy cats at an animal sanctuary is just that, don’t those cats look happy? It made me smile. My cats mostly look asleep, it doesn’t photograph well. Have a good and peaceful August everyone.

(The above image of happy cats at the Peace Plantation Animal Sanctuary is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is at least somewhat related to the post, and in no way harms the sanctuary in question or the photographer. Credit: The Meditative Cat.)

Written by unitedcats

August 1, 2007 at 9:39 am

Are there cats in heaven?

with 8 comments


There have been cats in the news a lot lately, so I thought I’d take a break from the increasingly depressing headlines and cover a few cat stories. Granted not everyone likes cats, but no one is perfect. They are far more evolved than humans in almost every respect, the only thing we have going for us is the swelling at the end of our spinal cord. And the jury is still out on whether or not that is a good thing.

First a story of cat heroism by a fearless orange tabby. (My orange tabby assures me that all orange tabbies are fearless.) Their bright colour astounds and blinds their enemies, I mean, how many orange animals are there? Besides tigers, who are just basically overgrown orange tabbies? In the picture above, Jack, a cat in New Jersey, twice treed a black bear that made the mistake of entering his yard. The bear was only able to escape after his people locked Jack in the house. OK, a case can be made that orange tabbies aren’t fearless, they are stupid. I mean, a bear? My black cat attacks dogs, but I think he would be bright enough not to chase a bear. I hope. I think Jack is lucky he didn’t get to prematurely investigate the cats in heaven issue.

Next an interesting story out of Rhode Island, USA, where a cat named Oscar can apparently tell when a patient in a nursing home is going to die. Normally he isn’t the friendliest cat, but a few hours before their death he curls up with the soon to be deceased. While this is comforting to some, some families have asked that the cat be removed so they can spend the last hours alone with their loved one. Oscar apparently paces the hall outside the door meowing in protest when this happens. While he is not always accurate, he has been right 25 times so far. So much so that staff of the nursing home calls families when Oscar curls up with their relative.

Is Oscar psychic? Can he predict the future? Doubtful. There is probably a biochemical explanation, IE people start to smell different as their body starts to shut down. Or there is some other subtle cue he is picking up on. While of interest, this is going to be something that is tough to study in the lab, so it’s unlikely that this story will be anything but a curiosity. Still, who knows, if we could tell when someone was starting to die, maybe they could be saved? It certainly presents some intriguing possibilities, and shows that their is much still to learn about how the world works.

This reminds me of a similar story a few years back. An old fellow in a nursing home was adopted by a kitten, who lived with him for two years, hardly ever leaving his side. They were the best of buds, then the guy died, his kitty curled up beside him. Shortly thereafter, the attending family realized that the kitty had also died. Coincidence? Certainly an amazing one if so, and a sad but touching story in any event. I like to think that our animal friends will join us in heaven. It wouldn’t be heaven if they didn’t, would it?

Are there animals in heaven? Beats me. I hope I find out some day, I don’t want to spend eternity with the bad Lassie, you know, the one that bit Timmy. Though I suppose if one was in the bad place and there were bad animals there, it would be comforting to know that the good cats were up in Heaven. Soiling God’s potted plants when he wasn’t looking. Fertilizing plants is a good thing, right? By that standard, all calicos go to heaven.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. And yes, the bad Lassie joke was ripped off from the Simpsons. Image credit: AP)

Written by unitedcats

July 27, 2007 at 7:12 am

Posted in Cats, Philosophy, Religion


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