Saturday, January 29, 2005

Pearl of the Atlantic
Putting "RepublicofTogo" instead of just "Togo" into Google brings up a number of new sites, including one featuring a fetching French travel agent who really likes the place:
Where do many West Africans go for an extended holiday or weekend fun? Chances are better than average that Togo tops many of their agendas. While we were living in West Africa, my family and I will never forget the Togolese hospitality we enjoyed during our visits to that friendly country. Some say, should a popularity contest be held today, amongst all West African countries, Togo-"Pearl of West Africa" would come first. Lome, the capital city, with several five star hotels and acres of sandy, sun-drenched beaches, has become a highly popular vacation center for Europeans. For most Americans and Canadians, it's still a well kept secret. Visitors hardly need to leave their hotel area; the Atlantic ocean is one block from the heart of the city.
Unless Togo is markedly better off cognitively and financially than neighboring Ghana, though, with an IQ of 71 and GDP of $1,700, some skepticism about the abundance of Mercedes-Benzes that so impressed Miss Gaufrani is entirely appropriate. The CIA Factbook gives a per capita GDP figure of $1,500, so I guess the Togolese aren't even as well off as the Ghanaians.
Africa day - Togo (no, not "to go"!)
Assessing the state of web resources for a place like Togo, a sliver of a nation wedged in between Benin on the east and Ghana on the west in West Africa, is a bit tricky. A simple Google brings up a useful, info-packed page, although one gets the feeling the maintainers of the page have never been anywhere near Lome.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Deep Hot Biosphere - right out on the surface!
On the Saturnian moon Titan, hydrocarbons abound on the surface and, presumably, underground. Yet, wait a minute, how did they get there without dinosaurs to decompose and produce them? Isn't that how all our hydrocarbons here on Earth supposedly originated? And isn't that why the Greenie-Weenies insist that we'll run out of gasoline next week and so we'd all better start toughening up our feet so we can push our cars along like Fred Flintstone? As you may have guessed, I'm a Thomas Gold fan, only because his abiogenic theory makes so much sense. And, OK, because it would be so much fun to force the eco-freaks to admit that we actually have enough accessible hydrocarbons to last for a few thousand years, by which time enough people will have become thoroughly sick of ignorant, vicious opposition to a common-sensical nuclear power program, fission or fusion. As Gold says, "Similar hydrocarbons are widespread on many other planetary bodies". Do you think this evidence is going to be enough to make any of the doom-sayers shut their pieholes? Don't bet on it. The facts are simply amazing, though:
"What we've learned is that our speculation is really pretty good," Owen said. "The main difference, the main new thing that we have is that indeed, we can detect liquid methane on the surface. It's not seas of liquid ethane, it's really liquid methane, liquid natural gas."
Seas of gas, motorheads! Planets of petrol! Before you know it we'll be able to tell the (spit!) Saudis to put their gas back where they found it. We'll be bringing tankers in from Titan.
Vast frozen Adventureland
Having already blogged Svalbard, I figured Jan Mayen Land wouldn't be that different. But I found a great description of mountaineering on an isolated volcanic frozen island. Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing and the description is in English. "Climbing the world's northernmost volcano" is a goal anyone could empathize with. Great photos of - well, of vast frozen wasteland, which is what Friday is for! More info and pictures here.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Oceania Day - Palmyra Atoll
Or, "No-People Atoll"! Owned by the Nature Conservancy (whose mission is to apologize for and compensate the natural world for the presence of actual human beings on the planet), Palmyra Atoll is way out there in many ways. So donate to the Nature Conservancy, to help it attain its goal of making the whole world inaccessible to any of those nasty peoples! After all, without the NC, no seagulls or fish would ever inhabit the Pacific, which would be quickly turned into a gigantic parking lot for Las Vegas.
The real story of Palmyra is considerably different from the tropical-paradise-unspoiled-by-man that the treehugger collectivists would like you to believe. Pirate treasures and curses do go together, it seems:
"Palmyra is one of the last uninhabited islands in the Pacific. The island is a very threatening place. It is a hostile place. I wrote in my log: "Palmyra, a world removed from time, the place where even vinyl rots. I have never seen vinyl rot anywhere else." He also wrote that "Palmyra will always belong to itself, never to man. It is a very forbidding place."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

North America Day
Including the Caribbean on Wednesday makes it possible to explore the web info available for a wide variety of countries with a wide variety of palm trees and tropical drinks. Having never been to the Caribbean, I can say it would be boring, just so many casinos and beaches and Spanish fortresses. But I don't really know. Statia, for instance, appears to have a lot of history and gourmandizing to offer. The Blue Bead, on Gallows Bay, sounds like it could keep me interested for the evening.
Burns Day
Tonight is the traditional night for the commemorative Burns Supper, wie haggis and a'(via Colby Cosh). I have always been ambivalent about Burns, who I've viewed as turning my hard-living, neurotic forebears into cartoonish Caledonian clownsters. "Oh, look at the man in the funny skirt! He's drunk! What quaint Scottish charm!". My father's family lived in Edinburgh until he was eight, and, the way I've always heard it, they were relieved as hell to make it to Boston, America, where you weren't going to starve or freeze without a fighting chance. For all those other Speirses who spent dreary lives eating fish and oatmeal on the Isle of Arran while Atlantic gales drenched the bare rocks, I intend to live as intensely pleasure-filled a life as I can prod my suspicious Scottish soul into.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

South America Day - southern (very southern!) Chile
I've been worrying about running out of countries for the Weekly World Tour, but then it struck me - some of the countries are hundreds of times smaller than some of the others. So why not blog to the particular areas of countries that catch my eye, instead of assuming that one blogtrip to Santiago, for instance, disposes of the wonders of Chile? Very southern Chile is quite large, with thousands of islands, many towns and lakes. And there's plenty left for next week, next month, next year.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Close to bedtime
Past eleven-thirty now and all the Law and Order episodes are over and I'm watching this History Channel program about the handling of dead bodies over the centuries. Interesting, but somehow unsettling. Some day my body will be one of those. I don't have a great attachment to this particular bodily form. I could be a frog or horse or platypus and be just as mystical. Hey, if I were a platypus, I would just have to deal with eggs, not children!
Moving around without pain is a great pleasure. Reversion to "normality" deprives one of this pleasure, but is probably preferable to going through the pain in order to enjoy its absence when treatment becomes effective. Most of us waste so much of our lives anyway, that it almost seems to make sense to dedicate a portion of our lives to pain in order that another portion will be more enjoyable because of its freedom from that pain. OK, I may have to think about that a bit. But Balzac and Stendhal and even Voltaire would, I believe, understand.
More Gout-blogging
OK, so gout-blogging is for me, not any reader. But, then, I don't have many readers. So why not please myself? Nine-thirty now, and I'm wondering if the gout remission caused by the one capsule of indomethacin I took at five-thirty is going to last until midnight, when I take another so I can sleep without pain. It's a different world from the moaning agony of the weekend, though. And I've got four Law and Orders (Laws and Orders?) to watch this evening. My indignation at the liberal mindset exhibited in most of the cases is moderated by the fact that justice is sometimes done, or at least seen to be done.
More Gout-blogging
Eight-thirty and the whole world is a bit woozy. Thank God for Law and Order, the universe where I always feel at home, because I always know what to expect. It's getting well under seventy degrees inside here, which should trigger the heat fairly soon. Walking without pain is a wonderful experience. Thank you, Doctor Carter.
In what I think could be a big new fad, I'm going to use my blog as a daily diary of the progress of my gout treatment. My doctor today took some synovial fluid out of my knee joint today, for examination and diagnosis. He put me back on indomethacin, for the pain and stiffness, until we can figure out how to make the transition to a daily dose of a preventative gout drug. I think it's called Prebenasin or something like that. I had an excruciating weekend, trying to avoid taking any other drugs, since my previous supply of indomethacin ran out. On Monday I finally broke down and used some OTC naproxen sodium. At five-thirty I took the first indomethacin capsule. It's now six-thirty and I'm feeling a little better. Some of the stiffness and pain on movement is dissipating. Can't wait to have a pain-free sleep tonight. Tomorrow is going to be a better day, when I won't have to worry about my aches and pains, but can concentrate on dreaming of great accomplishments. I'll take another capsule at midnight or so, when I go to sleep.

Seven=thirty now, two hours since I took the first indomethacin capsule. Getting extremely sleepy. Knee is freeing up and I can once again walk without limping too badly. Time for a martini, which may send me off to dreamland. Will take one more capsule before bedtime, so I can wake up pain-free. And no nagging pain all night, which drastically limited my sleep rations the last three nights. Progress.
Europe day - Moldova
Ah, beautiful Moldova! I remember well writing the condominium law for Moldova back in the Nineties. Or helping, anyway. And I didn't ask any awkward questions, like why Moldova needed a condo law. Here's Ungheni city's web page, in, notice, Romanian, the un-Cyrillic side of Moldova. Well, since Ungheni's right on the Romanian border, one can understand why they speak Romanian there. Unlike the silly trans-Dniester folks, some of whom insist on sticking to Russian. More info here. IQ number not available, but Romania's is 94.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Blogging Blog
Read Hugh Hewitt's Blog this week. I wonder how this book is going to look in ten years? HH does a good job of explaining why blogs are important and in documenting blogdom's coming of age in the 2004 elections. The book will certainly be a valuable historical resource. Maybe in 2014 its message that individuals can affect how whole cultures view political and social events will seem obvious. Strikes me, though, that the nature of blogging - idiosyncratic, iconoclastic and skeptical - fits far better with the self-reliance and rebelliousness that characterizes the libertarians and objectivists than it does with either wing of the mainstream political spectrum. If there's a story Hugh missed, perhaps that's it. Bloggers don't believe anything until it's been critically examined by thousands of knowledgeable observers with no ax to grind. In this way, blogdom at its best resembles the world of open source software versus the big MS/Apple combines, as laid out in Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The Cathedrals, of course, would be NBC, ABC, CBS and around the world the BBC and other governmental media tyrannies.
Blogdom's refusal to take any truth as proven separates bloggers from conventional religions as well as conventional political and cultural authorities. HH compares the rise of the blogs to Luther's confrontation with the Catholic hierarchy in the 1500s. It's well to remember, though, that the Protestant upwelling did not lead to a cohesive theology, but to innumerable schismatic sects. And Luther at the end of his life, like Marx, seemed to regret the chaos he had instigated. I just hope that HH and the religio-bloggers don't turn against free thought when they see their ideas losing out in the new ideological bazaar. Belief as an end in itself is entirely at odds with the freedom we now find within our grasp.
Asia Day - Macau
I've always loved colonialism. One of the best things about it is wondering how a little place like Portugal could hang onto a beautiful prosperous city halfway around the world in the days of sailing ships. Yet Macau was a focus of Portuguese trading efforts in Asia from before 1600 until 1999. You could argue it wasn't a real colony, because millions of Portuguese didn't ship out from Lisbon to take up residence there. Of course, China never needed more people! Macau was, like Hong Kong, its sister city just forty miles away, a port of entry into the China trade. From what I've been able to see on the web, though, the Portuguese presence in Macau is of much longer standing than the Brits' in HK. Oh, some may kvetch and call Macau "South China's Sin City" but such a moniker didn't hurt Las Vegas. I wonder if Macau is still a transition point where travelers from China can get a flight to Taiwan, which is impossible directly from China?
This cool slideshow made me feel like I was walking around the city. Bet it's hot and humid in the summer.