Grow your own greenhouse.

A very interesting plant from one of my favorite places on earth (the high places of Asia) – the Noble rhubarb. This plant grows at high altitude (4000m) and one of it’s adaptations to the extreme conditions in the alpine zone it inhabits is a mini-greenhouse formed of translucent leaves.

A picture of a few in a mountain valley (Nepal?):

And a wonderful plate from 1855 (via BibliOdyssey):

While you’re at it, wish for a pony.

Another radio-inspired post… I listened to Talk of the Nation this afternoon – the topic: A Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon: Can It Work? I’ve been scratching my head about this idea since I first heard it – after listening to Col. Gary Anderson (U.S.M.C. Ret.), I don’t feel so alone. Some key turns of speech employed by Col. Anderson in response to some of the obvious considerations: “thats the $64,00 question”, “not sanguine about that”, etc. I got the impression he was doing his best to inform folks, though not in so many words, that this whole concept had a snowball’s chance in hell. Here’s a short list of what I see as obstacles to deployment of ‘aggressive peacekeepers’ (we’ve seen how well standard issue peacekeepers do in the area):

  • Hezbollah. If they are not on board with the peacekeeping mission, it will be a nightmare. Hezbollah have already surprised the IDF with their fighting ability – I’m not sure why anyone thinks a different force (with a longer logistic ‘tail’) will be orders of magnitude more effective. Why would Hezbollah want to be disarmed now? They are winning – at least on the public relations and recruiting front (one blogger suggested that it would not be long before there was a Maronite Christian wing of Hezbollah, given Israel’s strategy of holding all of Lebanon hostage).
  • Who? NATO? *crickets chirping* One of the Arab states? Israel will be comfortable with that I’m sure. A possibility that seems to be getting some play is Turkey (a NATO member, I know) , but I wonder if they may want to keep their troops close at hand for ‘pacification’ of Iraqi Kurdistan when the next phase of the Iraqi civil war gets under way.
  • A corollary to the ‘who?’ question – assuming we can find a couple battalions with the requisite capabilities and without local baggage (not likely, but play along for a minute) – how willing will the supplying country be to take casualties? For how long?
  • The logistic ‘tail’ – how would one supply these peacekeepers? Supply routes are vulnerable in a guerrilla war situation and Hezbollah are masters of what’s now known as IEDs.

It sure doesn’t seem like a bet I’d be willing to make…

The title of the post comes from here. The short form: “It’s like when you can’t decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not — be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony!”

update 7/27 AM: The ‘who’ is getting a little clearer – some European countries (France, Italy) are indicating a willingness to participate in peacekeeping. The ‘how/what’ remains unclear – will this force attempt to disarm Hezbollah? enforce an already agreed-upon cease-fire? will they shoot in self-defense only or will this be the aggressive force that has been suggested? For really high-quality Middle East blogging, read Juan Cole’s Informed Comment.

“Unaware of local obstacles and hazards.”

Up for a massive dose of educational schadenfreude? Pay a visit to the Navy Safety Center for pictures of people doing things they really should think twice about or the aftermath of same.

A whole lot of Darwin Award competitors are documented. Apropos of a couple of pictures – kids, if a foreman asks, “Do you climb?” the default answer is “No!” (Really. I mean it.). via BoingBoing

Pee-pee pants conservatives

Driving home from work yesterday listening to the radio, I heard tape of ace toady Pat Roberts (R-Lickspittle), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, emitting his infamous quote, “I would only point out that you really don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead.” As I came to instant boil, I thought of some of the folks that would disagree with Mr. Roberts’ outlook if they were here – probably not respectfully – Patrick Henry comes to mind. Then I looked at the license plate on the car ahead of me. I’ve always thought that our state motto was a little over the top; I no longer feel that way. John Stark’s full toast is: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” It would be nice if some of the bozos currently selling our institutions down the river in order to provide themselves ass-cover should something bad happen again could keep this in mind, but given the evidence they have provided over the past five years – ain’t going to happen.

The word of the day is:

Batrachomyomachia. It literally means ‘the battle of frogs and mice’ and is the title of a comic epic describing a one day war between, appropriately enough, frogs (led by Puff Jaw) and mice (Bread Nibbler, Slice Stealer, et al.) with a bit appearances by Zeus. Batrachomyomachia is now used – when it’s used at all – to describe a stupid dust up – all the civilization-threatening conflicts that when viewed with a little perspective (like two inches away) reveal themselves to be nothing more than a piss-hole in a snowbank.


The German language version – Froschmausekrieg – was used “by Helen Dukas (Einstein’s secretary and literary executor) to describe the long and bitter dispute between the School of Math and the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study.”*

Either version is good to keep in mind when you are considering going to the mattresses over the thermostat setting in the office…


The critters in the post below got me thinking about gaffs – taxidermy where one cobbles together a mount from pieces, parts and whatever is handy. The canonical gaff is/was P. T. Barnum’s Feejee Mermaid; she’s not what I think of when I think mermaid, but she’s “This way to the egress” Barnum all the way. A while ago I ran across the work of Sarina Brewer whose gaffs include mermaids and Jenny Hanivers among other wild stuff. The etymology of Jenny Haniver is worth the detour into the world of aberrant taxidermy by itself.