A flower offering. Better image here.
I finished a large and important chapter of my book last night. That leaves me two short closing chapters to go and I’ve actually got the book finished — first draft anyway. My revised deadline of the end of June is definitely attainable. If the World Cup proves less than riveting, I might even get the manuscript out of the door and on its way to publishers by then!
I spent more time at the Vancouver Central Library yesterday; perhaps my final day of research on the book. As I finished more quickly than expected, I took time out to marvel at this wonderful building yet again. I remember so long ago voting for this design during the public consultation process, never really believing “they” would allow such a radical idea to win the contest. Sometimes “they” surprise us.
Make a cup of tea, relax and watch this brilliant and very funny 20 minute talk by educator Sir Kenneth Robinson in which he makes the case that creativity is as important as literacy to a useful education, and that modern schooling stifles this potential.
This is from TED 2006 and was posted on Twitter today. I wish I had seen it four years ago, but I am glad to have caught up now.
One of the true joys of breadmaking is simply the feel of the dough in your hands as you knead it. This morning I am making a sourdough loaf from a culture I started a few days ago. I made the “sponge” last evening and let it sit overnight. That allowed me to make the starter this morning which in turn meant I got to begin my day with hands in the dough. Almost nothing finer!
Part of the glory of the Sun Yat Sen Gardens in Vancouver. Better quality image here.
In a situation where her personal — rather than her professional — opinion was sought, 89-year old Helen Thomas, one of the most iconic representatives of an inquiring press, made a statement that did not support the let-Israel-do-anything-they-want-without-consequences zeitgeist that has ruled Washington DC for fifty years. And what happens? The chattering classes explode in one of the most vicious examples of cold-blooded hypocrisy we have seen for a long time, crucifying the old girl and destroying her glorious career.
The same press that runs to the Supreme Court to protect their right to hide their criminal sources, that cavorts with gangsters and spies and sex-soaked starlets, that claims to revere the First Amendment, refuses to allow Thomas the right to say whatever she wants without losing her job.
It is sad — though not a surprise — to see the White House piling on with those hypocritical hyenas; and it is desperately sad to see such a paragon of a free press be obliged to deny her own words merely to protect a little of her reputation.
And no, it doesn’t matter what she said. If you believe in freedom of speech, in freedom of thought and in freedom of conscience then the treatment of Helen Thomas has to be a sorry spectacle.
North Korea is a truly fascinating country; I have followed developments there for many years. But you can’t do that in any real sense using mainstream media. The recent rash of stories after the sinking of the South Korean ship and the revaluation of the North Korean currency have been typical, full of economic and social collapse. However,
[m]uch of the “evidence” we have for the latest uptick in internal tensions following the currency redenomination consists of recycled stories from unproven or unreliable sources relating anecdotes from small slices of the country. These publicly available sources for North Korea are very subjective and come through the lens of defector groups and humanitarian non-governmental organizations that, quite frankly, have their own agendas. Corroborating these reports is often impossible.
That quote is from a long and very valuable article by Alexandre Mansourov in which he paints a far more complex and interesting picture.
North Korea is not static and inflexible. Indeed, there tends to be a very dynamic picture once you look below the surface … However, there is little or no sign that current tensions, caused by changes in the distribution of power within the leaderships’ core cadre, positioning for succession, or economic reforms are eroding the overall strength of the regime. While such tensions may spill over into society, there have been no signs that they have risen to a level that significantly weakens the regime or have made it feel that drastic action is needed.
Mansourov claims that, far from the American media’s accounts of starvation and State bankruptcy,
Pyongyang is, in fact, on a path of economic stabilization. Last year’s harvest was relatively good—the second in a row—thanks to a raft of developments including favorable weather conditions, no pest infestations, increased fertilizer imports from China, double-cropping, and the refurbishment of the obsolete irrigation system. Thanks to the commissioning of several large-scale hydro-power plants which supply electricity to major urban residential areas and industrial zones, North Korea generated more electricity in 2009 than the year before … Despite a decline in inter-Korean commerce and international sanctions imposed after the North’s missile and nuclear tests in early 2009, foreign trade did not contract in any meaningful way thanks to burgeoning ties with China. Moreover, Beijing seems to be committed to dramatically expanding its direct investments in the development of the North’s infrastructure, manufacturing, and service sectors.
Importantly, Mansourov gives a far more nuanced picture of the significant economic changes that have been pushed through in the last year or so.
In view of the ongoing preparations for the leadership succession, the redenomination could be viewed as a populist measure aimed at inflicting pain on less than 10 percent of the population through wealth redistribution in order to win support from more than 90 percent of the population who still live on state salaries and have not seen any improvement in their life despite burgeoning market activities. North Korea is still fundamentally a socialist society, and Kim Jong Il’s regime probably won some measure of support from the vast majority of North Koreans for its crackdown on corruption and abuses by rich traders and corrupt government officials who benefitted the most from bustling activity in black markets.
The whole article is a very good read and a more than useful corrective to the demonizing pablum we are fed by the MSM.
… and while I’m up and about and looking around, I’m glad to see that the world is still full of important — neh, vital — news. Such as Subway changing the way they put cheese on their sandwiches!
I’ll be watching them closely next time I get a 6″ Italian BMT with extra cheese. And I’m also glad to have found out that Charlie Sheen’s jail time for domestic violence will not affect the schedule of “Two and a Half Men“. I mean, really: Now I can sleep nights without worrying about that.
And Big Al and Tipper Gore splitting up! What a shocker.
Postings have been sparse lately. Why? I’ve been writing a book for the last six months and I am now just 14 days away from my deadline for completing the first draft, and it going to be tight. The first fifty thousand words are in decent shape, but the next thirty thousand are still a bit rough. So I have been as disciplined as I can be about putting in the time each day, and that has kept me away from the blog.
But today I just needed to poke my head up for a few minutes, breathe clear air, see what else is going on.
Good to see you. Thanks for stopping by!