Why do so many people move to the Falkland Islands?

[Why do so many people move to the Falkland Islands? - By Ian Mount - Slate Magazine ]

My wife and I stumbled upon the Falkland Islands a few years ago when we were exploring Patagonia, and we thought it was just about the best place we visited. Not the prettiest. Not the best climate. Not the most accessible. Certainly not the most exciting. But there was a certain charm about the place, a homeliness, that made it welcome and inviting.

The locals told us there were only about 100 trees on the islands, and we believed them. They probably also told us how many sheep there were -- a very large number, for sure, but I have long since forgotten. But I remember huge swarms of sheep crossing the roads, blocking what little traffic there was for so long that natives simply turned off their car engines and waited for the last one to pass.

I said cars, but I don't really mean that. There aren't many paved roads, and most folks drove Land Rovers. Unlike here in the States where suburban moms use Land Rovers to chauffer kids and to navigate Interstates on the way to the mall, Falklanders really need the rugged vehicles to cross the bogs and tend their flocks -- or, more likely, to take tourists to remote areas where penguins hang out.

We ran into a lot of Brits who immigrated to the Falklands after being stationed there during their military service, often marrying a local. And we were astounded at the stupidity of the Argentine strategy in defending the islands -- they mined the beaches they thought the Brits would use for an invasion. Nevermind that the British just avoided those areas or parachuted in. The end came quickly.

Unfortunately, vast areas are still pocketed with land mines and off limits to people and sheep. You see signs warning of mines all along the coast. But the mines have a tendency to pop up from the bog and are periodically removed. It will be a long process.

We have traveled all over the world, and there are a handful of cities we would return to in a heartbeat -- Paris, Rome, Santiago, Vancouver, San Francisco, and homely Port Stanley. Go figure.

–Paul Knue

"It shakes. It sweats"

Best known for her San Francisco series, Hickok casts Jell-O in handmade molds and with the help of lighting, recreates a sparkling, jiggly city.

[From The Scavenger : White House Jello Shots]

And check out the pictures here.

How true, how true

"The easy way out is to blame the pig," said Robert Webster...

[From Flu? Don't blame the pig - Los Angeles Times]

Sweet vindication

The largest contractor on the Big Dig pleaded guilty yesterday to 39 federal charges of overbilling and lying about construction defects on the project, but prosecutors dropped five other charges that had implicated the company in the fatal 2006 collapse of the ceiling of the Interstate 90 tunnel.

The Cambridge company, Modern Continental Corp., hailed as vindication the decision by the US attorney's office to drop the five charges resulting from the accident that killed a car passenger, Milena Del Valle.

[From Big Dig contractor pleads guilty - The Boston Globe]

Another mystery resolved

Why do government workers in Chicago get Casimir Pulaski Day off work?

Because Pulaski is easier to pronounce than Thaddeus Kosciuszko (Ko-SHOOSH’-ko)....

[From Kosciuszko more influential than Pulaski: author :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Books]

First swine flu, now the sow's ear

The U.S. unemployment rate in April hit 8.9%, its highest in a quarter century, the Labor Department said Friday. But the pace of job losses slowed, in new evidence the economy was no longer deteriorating as quickly as it was earlier this year.

[From Jobless Rate Rises to 8.9% But Pace of Losses Eases - WSJ.com]

The 20 percent solution

WASHINGTON — The top American general in Iraq said Friday that one-fifth of American combat troops would stay behind in Iraqi cities even after the June 30 deadline that the United States and Iraq had set for the departure.

[From General Sees a Longer Stay in Iraq Cities for U.S. Troops - NYTimes.com]



Why cyclists never carry umbrellas.

[Click The Week in Pictures- msnbc.com]

–Paul Knue

Derby Wedding

Photo: Phil Compton

Well of course...

...you wouldn't expect the CIA to...

The CIA cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of details in a memo outlining who was briefed on the CIA’s “harsh interrogation” program, a letter obtained today reveals.

[From Raw Story » CIA can’t vouch for claims in torture briefing document, agency director says]

Whoa. Wait. Did you say CI freakin' A?

Brings a tear to my eye

Hard times...

But, wait – here are some lively prospects for debt collectors: the dead. Yes, there’s a boom in dunning the deceased!...

We’re not talking about collecting from big time debtors who still owe several hundred thousand dollars on their yacht. No, these are workaday people who died while still owing maybe a couple of hundred bucks on their bank credit card, health insurance, or utility payment. It’s not possible, of course, to squeeze money out of a corpse, so the target becomes the bereaved next of kin. “Hello, I’m very sorry for your loss, but there’s this $211.36 balance on your mother’s Visa, and we wondered who will be covering this?”

By the way, there is no legal requirement whatsoever that the debt of those who’ve passed on must be paid by relatives out of their own pockets. Thus, what the industry calls “deceased collections” requires a delicate dance to cajole money out of the family without actually demanding it. The industry actually rationalizes its work as a service to those who have departed. As one insider asserts: "We want the dead to rest easy, knowing their obligations are taken care of." How benevolent.


Derby Hat Series, #6

Photo: Phil Compton

Can you spell "chutzpah"?

BERLIN — Microsoft will argue against a European Commission proposal that it promote competing browsers in its Windows operating system on the ground that such a move would strengthen its rival Google’s dominance in the global search-advertising market....

[From Google’s Strength May Be Part of Microsoft Defense Strategy - NYTimes.com]

The GM caper

The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas.

[From Under Restructuring, GM To Build More Cars Overseas - washingtonpost.com]


The federal government reported yesterday that the financing arm of General Motors will need to raise $9.1 billion in new capital...

The government could end up providing much, if not all, of the needed capital....

[From U.S. Orders GMAC to Raise $9.1 Billion in Capital - washingtonpost.com]


I can't bring myself to look

Saying that such-and-such is the greediest bank on Wall Street is like someone claiming to have the biggest hairdo in Dallas...


Derby Hat Series, #5

Photo: Phil Compton

Water 2.0

The EPA has identified small quantities of more than 100 pharmaceuticals and personal-care products in samples of the nation's drinking water. Among the drugs detected are antibiotics, steroids, hormones and antidepressants. Last year, the Associated Press reported that trace amounts of drugs had been found in the water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas; water piped to more than a milllion people in the Washington area had tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

[From Governments Offer Advice but No Assistance in Disposing of Unused Drugs - washingtonpost.com]

Just a test

Awed by the odd

Today, 5/7/9, is "Odd Day."

Three consecutive odd numbers make up the date only six times in a century. This day marks the half-way point in this parade of Odd Days which began with 1/3/5. The previous stretch of six dates like this started with 1/3/1905---13 months after the Wright Brothers' flight.

–Noted by Midwest Bureau Chief Phil Compton


Derby Hat Series, #4

Photo: Phil Compton

Exploring religions

Here's an interesting web site that lets you check out and compare religions. Not bad.

–Noted by Paul Knue

Plus, he probably won't shoot you

Mr. Vice President, should Americans be worried about the swine flu?

[From This Modern World | Salon Comics]

OK, he's a bit weird. But he's not scary like that last guy.

–Paul Knue

Are those birds in your pants or...?

Sony Dong, 46, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March after an inspector spotted bird feathers and droppings on his socks and tail feathers peeking out from under his pants, prosecutors said.

[From Calif. men accused of smuggling songbirds]


Derby Hat Series, #3

Photo: Phil Compton

Puff one for the team

In an effort to kick-start the Chinese economy, Communist Party officials are being asked to do their bit – by smoking. In Hubei province's Gongan County, the order has come down from above that local government staff must consume 23,000 cartons of locally made cigarettes every year...

[From Have a smoke and help save the economy, China tells party officials - Asia, World - The Independent]


MCMINNVILLE, Ore. – Police said a man was stopped and cited with driving under the influence of intoxicants charges twice in one day. In both instances, police say, the 52-year-old man was driving the same pickup and stopped near the same state liquor store.

[From Ore. police: Man stopped for DUI twice in one day]

Banks must "refill coffers"

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. is expected to direct about 10 of the 19 banks undergoing government stress tests to boost their capital...

...officials believed as many as 14 banks would need to raise more funds....

[From More Banks Will Need Capital - WSJ.com]

So does this mean they're planning a big bake sale or something? Or maybe going door to door with cookies? What do banks do when they need to raise funds?

To refill their coffers. Is that some kind of Republican thing, coffers? Who has coffers? I don't have no coffers, bunky, you can bet on that. George W. whatzisname, the jerk, has coffers - he said he was going to refill his. Maybe I should get a few. Do they sell them at Walmart?


Ford Truck

The Devil is in the details

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent to intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.

[From Bybee Torture Memo- The Full Text]

Mine That Bird

Photo: Phil Compton

So not all bad

“SWINE flu” last week was the most searched term on Yahoo, displacing “American Idol.”

[From Link by Link - The Hunt for Insights in Online Chatter of Swine Flu - NYTimes.com]

When they talk about catching a few z's...

People of Chicago, while you sleep, the Zombie Readiness Task Force worries, with admirably straight faces. In the event of an outbreak of the dead, should bodies of the deceased rise from their graves and stalk the streets of Chicago muttering for a bite of brain, the Zombie Readiness Task Force has a plan of action.

[From It's the dawn of the zombie zeitgeist -- chicagotribune.com]


Derby Hat Series, #2

Photo: Phil Compton

Teach your children well

RALEIGH, N.C. -- His once-prominent political career is buried and the turmoil of his marriage is playing out in public. Now, John Edwards is facing a federal inquiry.

The two-time Democratic presidential candidate acknowledged Sunday that investigators are assessing how he spent his campaign funds _ a subject that could carry his extramarital affair from the tabloids to the courtroom. Edwards' political action committee paid more than $100,000 for video production to the firm of the woman with whom Edwards had an affair.

The former North Carolina senator said in a carefully worded statement that he is cooperating.

[From John Edwards faces federal investigation - washingtonpost.com]

Sadly, one of the most promising politicians in recent times is being investigated by the feds for pissing away campaign money to pay off the woman he was having an affair with -- while his wife was battling cancer and his presidential campaign was going down in flames.

I say "sadly" because I really believed in John Edwards. If you studied the candidates a year or so before the election, he was the one who was right on the issues. He was the one who would undo the evils of the Bush years, end the war and put our nation on the right track.

His candidacy came at a time when I was almost physically ill about Dubya's policies and the direction of our country. I was ready to drop everything and go on the road full-time to elect Edwards. Luckily for me, I had a heart-to-heart with an old friend -- a Republican who had believed in, and fought for, many candidates over the years, and who had often been disappointed by them.

My only hesitation, I told my friend, was that I was reluctant to be away from my grandchildren for weeks and months at a time. My friend wisely told me that my time and energy would be better invested in the grandkids.

He was right.

--Paul Knue

Derby Hat Series, #1

Photo: Phil Compton

Hard times all around

NEW YORK -- CEOs are taking a hit from the recession...

An Associated Press analysis shows the median pay package for CEOs of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 7 percent to $7.6 million in 2008.

[From Recession takes toll on CEO pay in 2008 :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Business]