Archive for February 27th, 2004

Eternal Egypt On-line


Catapults, another of the Dowbrigade’s adolescent fascinations was Ancient
Egypt. Today we tend to see Egypt as an interface
between European Enlightenment and Deepest, Darkest Africa and a sort
of Political Sphinx sitting in the Middle of the Middle East; not a democracy,
not a dictatorship, not a friend to Israel, not really an enemy either.

But when Egyptian IT, art and medicine were the most advanced in the
world, the Europeans were living in caves and fighting with sticks. Facets
of the ancient world that captivated the young Dowbrigade? Secret burial
chambers in mountainous pyramids, the Serpent God Set, the birth of Monotheism
under Amenhetep, the wonderfully titled "Book of the Dead", and the
whole area of mummification, the real kind not the swathed-in-bandages
Hollywood kind.

Last week the Egyptian government and IBM unveiled the results of a
remarkable 3-year cooperative project to create a state-of-the-art virtual
repository for the best and most advanced artifacts and digital displays
of the art, science and culture of Ancient Egypt.

Called "Eternal Egypt" it is chock full of multimedia, Shockwave, interactivity
and 360 degree VR views, live webcams and high-resolution, zoomable images.
we wish
we could have discovered this 35 years ago! It could have changed our

from the
New York Times

Eternal Egypt Site

Haiti Update: Chaos or Conspiracy?


The story from Haiti gets stranger and stranger. We still
haven’t located any authentic Haitian bloggers.  One interesting
lead was John Engle, an American who WAS blogging from Haiti until Tuesday,
when he and his family quite sensibly bailed.

The word we are getting, however, from inside (second and third hand)
and outside of Haiti, is that the "Rebels" and their leader, Guy Phillippe,
are Very Bad Men, in the
and represent the worst sort of virulent strain of Latin American military
dictatorship we had hoped had been forever eradicated from the American
continent. According to the Boston
, they make up in viciousness
what they lack in numbers:

Western diplomatic sources estimate that they do not number more than
300 men. But rebel leaders claim to have recruited scores of new members
since the uprising began Feb. 5, despite their reputations in Haiti
as brutal soldiers and policemen, drug traffickers, and death squad

Philippe is a former army lieutenant and police captain. The front’s
second in command, Gilberto Dragon, is a former military officer and
police major. Both are cited on numerous government and diplomatic reports
for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking and racketeering.

The group’s strongman is Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former military general
who later headed the FRAPH, which stands for Front for the Advancement
and Progress of Haiti, which specialists describe as a paramilitary group
responsible for murdering thousands of Aristide followers in the early
1990s. The group’s systematic use of rape and torture as weapons sparked
the massive exodus of refugees that ultimately led to US military action.

"We’re very concerned about the reappearance of these people," said
Joanne Mariner, Deputy Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights
Watch. "FRAPH was a paramilitary group that committed massacres,
extrajudiciary executions, that helped keep repressive control over
Haiti. Chamblain was essentially the operational leader, very much
in the details, the actual abuses committed."

Even after Aristide returned to power, both Philippe and Dragon were
part of the new police force. Philippe became the police chief of Cap-Haitien,
Dragon the commissaire of an important area in Port-au-Prince. Throughout,
they maintained their esprit de corps.

They and 10 other officers soon took on the name "Latinos," because
they had trained together in Ecuador and spoke Spanish. Philippe fled
to the Dominican Republic in 2000 after he and several other Latinos,
including Dragon, were tied to a coup plot.

Egads! An "Ecuadorian Connection". However,
the Dowbrigade can testify first hand that the Ecuadorian Army’s Officer
Training Institute
includes no courses in "Running a Voudou Drug Gang".

this is also a serious setback to the disarmament movement worldwide.
joined a select list
of countries, mostly small island nations, which have abolished their
armies: Costa Rica, Dominica, Kiribati,Lichtenstein, Mauritius, Maldives,
Monaco, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, San Marino, St. Vincent and the
Solomon Islands, and Western Samoa.

In fact, it appears that the drugged out remnants of the recently abolished
Haitian army are part and parcel of this "Rebellion." Latest reports
from Port
au Prince
say the city is in the hand of drugged out criminals and armed bands
of wacked-out youths. Now, the Bush administration has just announced
that President Aristide should "leave the country".  It
is starting to look more and more like an orchestrated campaign to get
rid of this one-time US ally who may have become an inconvenience to
an administration more interested in control than in conversation.

from the
Boston Globe

Spacewalk Cut Short by Wardrobe Malfunction


CANAVERAL, Fla. – A riskier-than-usual space walk outside the International
Space Station was cut short last night because of a malfunction that
left one of the two crewmen with a warm, damp space suit.

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri made it safely back inside despite the problem.

from Newsday

Last Teaching Day Before the Great Experiment


Finally, the day arrives! Parting is such sweet sorrow. The fates conspired to deliver a class for the record books this final, abbreviated six-week semester, one which we will not only not miss, but one which reminded us on multiple occasions that we have been in the mocrowave long enough and were getting while the getting was good.

We had a group that was 80% Asian, without the diversifying leavening of Europeans, Latins and Middle Easterners who usually offer so man oppertunities for cross-cultural comparison exercises and comic relief.

Our one non-Asian was a Saudi named Bashar who had a disconcerting habit of falling asleep in class. Now, in the name of full disclousre the Dowbrigade must admit he once fell asleep in Prof. Eliot’s Greek Drama lecture in Sander’s Theater, but he was hidden on a back bench high in the upper balcony of the theater, far from the podium and the professor’s awareness, and our mere presence at a 9:00 class at the tail end of a 72-hour drug binge should stand as testimony to the rare power and eloquence of professor Eliot.

Bashar has fallen asleep at least a dozen times, and right in front of the teacher and the other 7 students in the class! In nearly thirty years of teaching, this is the first time such a thing has happened to the Dowbrigade. Another sign that it is time to hang it up and move on to something else.

That something else begins in a few short weeks with our departure for South America. Part two of the Great Experiment begins July 1 when we return to the US determined to live the life of a homeless blogger while readying the Great Leap Forward of the final phase. Look for more details this weekend in this space.

Meanwhile, today, our last day, we recieved our long awaited and much anticipated raise, the first in two years, retroactive to the first of the year, and it amounts to an extra whopping $188 in our check. Definitely time to move on. But first, let me go and bid a found Adieu to the current band of miscreants. Lunch at a Brazilian meat market and then a sorry Sayonara…..

Cheaper Than a Cat Scan


A security screener at Denver International Airport was reprimanded for
sending his body through an X-ray machine.

"The screener went through the X-ray machine voluntarily," Fierberg
said. "I cannot ascribe any sort of motive to why anyone would do this."

The screener, who was working at a passenger checkpoint, was disciplined, he
said. Fierberg wouldn’t release the screener’s name or the exact nature of the

"The screener in question did not jeopardize the safety of any passengers
or aircraft," he
said. "But it was clearly behavior that is not acceptable.

"We expect more from our screeners and, by and large, they are a highly
work force."

from the
Rocky Mountain News