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Book Review: The Brief History of the Dead

Kevin Brockmeier has written a wonderful book The Brief History of the Dead.

The book was a pleasure to pick up and I lost myself in the idea that when we die, we go to an interim place, a city, that looks like the place we left. We stay there until all who knew us have died. It is not exactly like the world we left for there is a knowledge of our death and an appreciation for life itself and the interconectedness of us all.

In this book the city grows rapidly due to wars and a pandemic, a virus called “The Blinks”, an itchiness that begins behind the eyes. Then people start disappearing from the city and as more and more die. All that is left of the city are those remembered by Laura Byrd who is marooned in Antartica fighting for her life. Laura has to move from her interior station to a research station on the coast and her trip across the ice is positively harrowing; a testament to the tenacity with which we fight to stay alive.

One scene was particularly poignent, especially after seeing the movie The March of the Penguins.

Most of them were carrying eggs on the flaps of their feet, gripping them beneath the soft rounded bald patches on the undersides of their guts, which insulated the eggs from the cold. The ones that didn’t have eggs were balancing egg-sized lumps of ice there, dead little worlds that they protected as avidly as though they were real.

Brockmeier paints some wonderful pictures with words:

Her skin threw off the dry chill of a metal serving tray left outside on a winter night.

dogs that stood over sprinkler heads…lapping at the fans of water like puddles suspended in midair.

The living carry us inside them like pearls.

The book is a warning that we have the power to eliminate all life on this planet and that the one who made us could be deeply saddened if our free will took us down that road.

Brockmeier also posits the theory that alive we are composed of three parts: our physical body, our soul and the spirit that is the cord that connects the two. When the spirit is cut our body dies, and our soul lives on as long as we are remembered.

The Brief History of the Dead is a wonderful book that will fill your hours reading it with introspection.

Kevin Brockmeier Antartica Body spirit soul

Update: Hat tip to Steve Duin

Who is Jeffrey Sachs?

Dr Jeffrey Sachs has an editorial on the NYT Op-Ed page today. He writes:

AMERICANS have a perfect retort to Osama Bin Laden’s call for expanding the terrorism war to Sudan. We should respond by showing our abiding concern for the plight of Africans by helping to save millions of children who are at risk of death from disease. In honoring the sanctity of the lives of the least among us we have the best chance to defeat the ideologies of hate.

He wants to team up with world health organizations to fight measles in Africa. A byproduct of the measles initiative are its methods to get vaccines out to remote rural villages which can also serve to fight malaria.

The campaigns — in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda — urgently need around 20 million (long-lasting insecticide-treated bed) nets, at a cost under $200 million. All of these countries have significant Muslim populations; all urgently need our help.

Full coverage in these campaigns would protect 40 million children against malaria and save perhaps 200,000 lives each year.

Back in 2001 Roger Bate wrote about Malaria

Malaria is on the increase in all tropical regions of the planet – especially in Africa. In 2000, the disease killed more than one million people and made 300 million seriously ill.

Given the devastating humanitarian and economic costs of malaria, you might expect the international community to be fighting the disease with all its might. But instead, the world’s politicians are trying to force developing countries to abandon their best weapon in the fight against malaria – the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). The United Nations (UN) is even promoting a treaty that might completely ban the use of DDT across the globe.

Jeffrey Sachs is director of the Millenium Project, one of the goals of the project according to the book Global Deception by Joseph A. Klein

…wealthy developed countries, particularly the United States, must be either persuaded or forced into transferring vast amounts of wealth to poorer nations in order to supposedly eradicate world poverty and disease.

The cost of spraying DDT to kill mosquitos is miniscule and the rewards large compared to the large cost and miniscule rewards of the Sachs suggestions.

Since 1972, when DDT was banned 50 Million people have died of malaria.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) held a conference in New York in January 2004 to address this issue, among others. The conference, titled, ‘Eco-Imperialism: The Global Green Movement’s War On The Developing World’s Poor.’ CORE supports the use of DDT in African countries. CORE spokesmen Cyril Boynes and Niger Innis described how the traditional environmental movement is imposing the views of mostly wealthy, Americans and Europeans on mostly poor Africans. Paul Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, described how traditional environmental groups are “preventing needy nations from using the very technologies that developed countries employed to become rich, comfortable and free of disease.” Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace and Greenspirit also supports these views. Conference moderator Deroy Murdock eloquently described how traditional environmental groups perpetuate poverty and misery in developing countries through ‘eco-centric’ policies.

Who is Jeffrey Sachs? He is one of the misguided elitists at the UN who by their policies keep people in poverty. Didn’t we see the same wrong headed policies from the Democrats using welfare on poor blacks in the US?


UN Jeffrey Sachs DDT Congress of Racial Equality

The Door In The Wall

Last week I took a physical for my CDL. I failed the eye part of the test. They asked if I wore glasses and I said I have some, but I didn’t bring them with me. It has been since 1999 that I had these glasses made that I went ahead and made an eye appointment. The Doc said if I find my glasses check back and he’ll get me right in. I found my glasses so I went back to the eye doc and passed the eye test.

I still had the appointment, so I figured what the heck, and went in on the 27th. I was met by a nurse who checked my eyes. We kidded back and forth and then she escorted me to the eye doc’s examining room. The room was connected to a long hallway. The nurse had me sit in the chair and told me to wait.

While I’m sitting there, I notice that right next to the entry door, on the same wall, is another door just like the first.

I assumed it opened on the hall. I got to thinking, why would they build an office with two doors the same size, completely framed, abuting each other, opening on the hall. The second door had two of those metal doctor office chairs in front of the door. They were situated in such a way that they blocked the use of the door.

I got to wondering if they blocked the door to keep something from coming into the room or to keep me from going out. But out…where. If I opened the door would I go out into the hall or someplace else? It appeared the wall by the second door was the same thickness as the wall by the door I used to enter the room. One would think, since the doors are next to each other and both on the hall, that the second door would open on the hall. There were only two ways to solve the puzzle. Open the second door to see if it opened on the hall or go through the first door and look to see if there is a door in the wall on the hall side of the office.

I got scared, too scared to move the chairs and open the door. Instead I got up from the chair and poked my head our the first door into the hall and looked to see if there was a hall door next to the first. There was! I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Just then I heard footsteps and ducked back and sat back down.

I keep wondering about those chairs. Would I have found the hall on the other side of the door if I had moved the chairs and opened the door?

CDL Physical Doors Observations

The USD, Gold and Silver

The June contract of the USD has broken its last major low and closed below 85.97 set in September of 2005. (see chart) This is the lowest weekly close since May 6, 2005. That is a loss of 7 1/4% in the USD versus a basket of currencies since November 18, 2005.

Gold traded as high as $655.30 and settled at $651.60.

Silver hit a high of $14.52 on May 19, corrected down to $11.70 and today closed at $13.51. Silver appears poised to take out the last high.

Remember the highly paid consultant, Jeffrey Christian at CPM Group. His plan was to sell gold in April and buy it back in November. Since March 31st gold is up from $581.8 to $651.60. His latest advice about silver? Glad you asked. Four months ago he said the range for silver would be a range of $7.50 to $10.50, with an average of $8.66. Wrong! Now he says that the silver market is going to be in surplus next year (I assume therefore, he is predicting falling silver prices.) He will be wrong again. Some people are just overpaid.

USD Gold Silver Jeffrey Christian

AI – Last Night for Kellie

How about American Idol last night. The judges appologized for their rude remarks to Katharine McPhee. Simon said it is a mistake to come out here and try to sing a Whitney Houston song. You are no Whitney Houston! He said he viewed the song again and admitted he was wrong. Did he think he was really wrong or did he yield to pressure from calls to FOX? The audience and America disagreed with the judges and made Katharine, singing the opening act, and Chris, singing the closing act, the top two vote getters. Hoo Ah!

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Kellie. She admitted she butchered at least one of the last two songs and paid the price (as I predicted).

Next week, I hear that the contestants will sing a song from the year of their birth and possibly one from the current charts. Two songs! We get to hear two songs from Katharine. What a treat! Hoo Ah!

American Idol Katharine McPhee Entertainment Chris+Daughtry

How Important is the NPT?

Hat tip to Jim Sinclair: Haaretz.com writes that a 250 page classified document addressing strategic issues for the next decade, declares that if Iran gets the nuclear weapon, other countries in the Middle East will want the weapon.

A substantial chapter addresses the nuclear threat to Israel. Iran is capable of kindling the entire Middle East and constitutes an existential threat to Israel. The committee finds that if Iran gets nuclear arms, other Muslim, Middle Eastern countries will try to follow suit.

And that is the problem. The NPT that has worked since 1968 when it was signed, now is threatened. That’s why President Bush has been so forceful on the issue. Tomorrow the UN’s 30 days ultimatum comes to an end. Will the UN extend the deadline and talk some more, giving the nation of Iran more time to perfect its bomb? Will Bush recognize the UN for what it is, a toothless bureaucracy, and take action on his own? Will Israel continue to sit back and wait? I suspect the UN will dither and dump the whole mess in Bush’s lap.


Did You Feel It?

At about 7:24 AM: 2006/04/26 14:24:06

MAP—-3.0 magnitude earthquake 6 mile ESE of Scotts Mills, OR 45.024 -122.555 19.1 Km deep

American Idol – April 25th

Tonight was a night for love songs with Andrea Bocelli and David Foster as American Idol’s coaches.

Katharine led off with Whitney Houston song. She was gorgeous in the low cut yellow dress and the split up the front.

(the girl looks like she has a little junk in the trunk.) I thought she nailed the Whitney song and she showed the most life of any week. Yet it did not go over well with the judges. They said if you are going to do a Whitney song, you had better sing it better. “They know Whitney and she is no Whitney!” I thought she was and, have you seen Whitney lately, even she could not sing that song today.

Eliott keeps getting better and he was great, even bringing Paula to tears.

Kellie was next singing Unchained Melody and it was slow and boring. She hit the big note, but quickly fell off of it. She is in over her head.

Paris sang a Barbara Streisand song. She looks great, but I just do not connect with her.

Taylor sang well, but I don’t think he has grown for the last few weeks.

Chris, after being in the bottom three last week, needed a big song tonight or he might have been out. He absolutely nailed it. He and Eliott brought down the house.

Bottom three: Kellie, Paris and Taylor. Kellie should have gone last week, this is her week to go!

American Idol Katharine McPhee Entertainment


Is Oil Demand Inelastic?

Back on October 30th of 2004, I found some analysis by Bridgewater warning us of $100 to $120 oil.

How does Bridgewater arrive at $100 to $120 per barrel? It seems that the demand for oil is inelastic. It causes big increases in price to get consumers to change their behavior. Oil consumption today is about 2.7% of GDP. At its peak in the 1980’s it took consumption at 8% of GDP to curb demand and interest rates were 16% briefly. It would take oil at $120 for consumption to equal 8% which would curtail demand (and slow economic activity).

I was reminded of their spot on report when I saw this article on Financial Sense Online,

Whatever Happened to Oil Price Elasticity? by Andrew McKillop. He writes

Getting back to the narrow question of why oil demand (and world gas demand now growing at around 5%-per-year) are much less than unaffected by rising prices, but are directly increased by higher oil and gas prices, we finally call on facts.Price elasticity of anything has an underlying notion, hard to quantify, of ‘satisfaction’, and another of ‘substitution’. Neither of these have much place for the vast majority of oil and gas users. Nobody uses oil and gas ‘for the fun of it’, or at least very few persons. Equally, the famous ‘hi-tech emerging new energy’ substitutes and alternatives simply don’t exist. They may exist on the Nasdaq or in people’s heads and PCs, and in cute business video presentations, but not in the real economy.

Mckillop believes

When we go back to economic theory notions of ‘elasticity’, as mentioned above, we soon see that they don’t apply in large measure, or any convincing way to explaining what is happening.

McKillop thinks that until and unless interest rates are sharply raised to double-digit rates, oil and gas prices can go on crawling ever up.

Bridgewater thinks the market will take care of itself, thank you very much, if you let the market take its course. My money is on Bridgewater. It would be too bad if politicians short circuited the process with the unintended consequences of delaying alternatives that develop as a result of the high oil prices.

Andrew McKillop Bridgewater Oil+Inelasticity

Doncasters’ Sale Approved to Dubai Firm

From Tammy Bruce, US Approves Second Dubai Deal. British owned Doncasters has been approved to be sold to Dubai firm.

Doncasters makes engines for our military aircraft and parts for tanks. Their projects include the Stealth Joint Fight Striker.In buying Doncasters, the Arab Islamist country, which also does business with Iran, takes possession of operations in nine U.S. locations and manufactures precision parts for defense contractors such as Boeing, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney and General Electric.

I still say we are nuts to allow these things to happen.

Doncasters Dubai Finance

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