Archive for September, 2007

Photo of the Day

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Journalist Kenji Nagai was shot and killed by a soldier.

It doesn’t get much more real, or more deadly, than this. Japanese reporter Kenji Nagai lies in the street, mortally wounded, trying desperately to catch a final shot as his life flows out of his busted body and a young soldier sprints over his prone form.

To the Dowbrigade, a pajama pundit to the core, a picture like this serves as a reminder that, all citizen journalism and alternative media aside, there is a categorical difference between a blogger or a commentator and a practicing professional journalist. We in the ‘sphere would do well to remember that without brave and crazy men and women like Kenji putting their lives on the line every single day, we pundits would have nothing to pontificate on from the comfort and safety of our digital cocoons.

Deval Wimps Out on Gaming

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TonyGovernor Deval Patrick expressed reservations yesterday about licensing a casino in any Massachusetts city, clouding the prospects for hotly debated proposals to build resort-style gambling complexes in Boston and New Bedford.


“I have some misgivings about a casino in any city, because I think the whole point is to create a resort destination,” Patrick said during an hourlong appearance on WBUR-FM, a local public radio affiliate. “And I don’t think there is a city in Massachusetts that has enough space for that kind of facility, with the entertainment and the meeting venues and maybe a golf course, the restaurants, a hotel – the whole resort complex.”

The statement appeared to be a shift for the governor, who opened the door to an urban casino when he announced last week that he wanted to license casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston.

from the Boston Globe

Suddenly our bold, free-thinking Guv is having second thoughts about letting Atlantic City into the East Boston waterfront. Could it be a case of NIMBY? Too close for comfort? Keeping the rhuemy rummies, hacks, touts and two-bit pony players camped out on the fringes of the city has worked for decades, but modern gambling is a far cry from the daily double and a coffee-stained Racing Form, and won’t be so easy to overlook.

Wake up, Guv, it’s the wave of the future. Quit the wimpy whining and grab the bull by the horns! Multiple casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston is a good start, but let’s not forget the Cape, the Blue Hills and the New York State border!

We can see long rows of slot machines at Logan, welcoming vacationers and entertaining business travelers caught waiting for overbooked flights or lost luggage. Whole families could enjoy the facilities if you would just sponsor a very reasonable law allowing children into the casinos, as long as they didn’t actually bet, and were accompanied by their families.

Then we could allow a limited number of slot machines, 4 or 5 say, into convenience stores and gas station Quiki-Marts, so that people who feel that gaming itch at odd hours or on the road can get relief right away. After all, lottery tickets are already on sale at all those spots! Why should they have a monopoly?

Hotels and bars would also be natural spots for a few slot machines, or maybe a roulette wheel or two. Keno and March Madness have already proven the inevitability of betting in bars and in hotels, and especially in hotel bars. Lonely traveling salesmen, rich foreign tourists and honest working folk would all be lining up to try their luck.

Actually, we feel that the present plan, to build a few mega-resort casinos with indoor waterfalls and golf courses is a bit discriminatory, to say the least. Not everybody is a Donald Trump or an O.J. Simpson who can just saunter into one of those places and do as they please. Some of us like our vices with a bit less luxury and closer to home.

Why not allow storefront mini-casinos in lots of the nooks and crannies of our bustling metropolis? Especially in economically distressed areas, where empty storefronts are endemic, a few thriving new businesses like mini-casinos could invigorate the economy, revitalize the street life, and encourage ancillary businesses like pawn shops and massage parlors.

Why, with the bursting of the real estate bubble, there must be hundreds of prefect properties, warehouses down on the waterfront, empty stores in suburban malls, bankrupt boutiques in the trendier sections.

Bowling alleys, retirement communities and fitness centers are other possible sites for gaming centers. Some spots might not merit a permanent presence, and so mobile mini-casinos, housed in two or three brightly painted semi-trucks, capable of being unloaded and set up as a complete gaming complex in an hour could be moved from place to place. This would allow the state to set up shop in Lowell on Cinco de Mayo, for example, or outside housing projects the days the benefit checks arrive.

It’s this kind of bold thinking that we need if we want to hit the jackpot with this whole gambling thing. The opportunities are so immense an immediate that even we are unable to imagine all the marvelous things that will come to pass once the door has been opened to gambling. In fact, we’d be willing to bet on it.

Shoulder Shopping

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The Dowbrigade’s local supermarket has been undergoing a major makeover, and it was as if, had we been a pre-super hunter gatherer, the bison herd had suddenly disappeared.

Despite completely reoutfitting and reorganizing the entire store, they managed to stay open 24-7 throughout, doing most of the dangerous, disruptive work late at night. For three months, we couldn’t find anything. It was like a black market, or a sidewalk sale, where the goods one was perusing could suddenly up and move to the next corner at the approach of a flatfoot.

Now that they’ve finished the work and reinagurated the branch (witnessed by a photo of the store manager and the regional manager posing around a frosted blue cake) things are barely better. Either the new layout is designed to confuse, or the Dowbrigade is getting too old to adjust our grazing patterns. Little things irritate us; the boxes of apple crisp are no longer on top of the apples and the Lactaid is now on a different aisle than the regular milk. How dare they!

But the worst is the fact that the newly expanded “Nature’s Choice” health food aisle has been relocated directly across from the snack food aisle. As we shamble down the aisle in our polyester Hawaiian shorts, fishnet tank top and fur-lined slippers, it is like we have a tiny angel on one shoulder and that damn little devil on the other.

“Oh, get the fat-free rice cakes. They make great snacks.”

“Forget that junk! We got candied macadamia nuts over here.”

“Well, if you must have something sweet, why not Granny Ruth’s Organic Granola with Carob?”

“Are you kidding? Grab some Nacho chips and Cheese-like Dip. They’re on sale!”

Our head rotates back and forth as though we were courtside at Wimbledon. Fearing whiplash, or worse, the dreaded 360 degree Exorcist headspin, we flee the premises. We may have to find another supermarket, where the food doesn’t talk to us.

Signs of the Apocolypse #885

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fr0h.jpg

Frog-deforming infections caused by tiny parasites are increasing because of North American farms’ nutrient-rich watershed, a new study shows.

The excess nitrogen and phosphorus found in farm runoff causes more algae to grow, which increases snail populations that host microscopic parasites called trematodes, said Pieter Johnson, a water scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Deformed frogs first gained international attention in the mid-1990s, when a group of schoolchildren discovered a pond where more than half of the leopard frogs had missing or extra limbs, Johnson said. Since then, widespread reports of deformed amphibians have led to speculation that the abnormalities were being caused by pesticides, increased ultraviolet radiation or parasitic infection.

Parasite infection is now recognized as a major cause of such deformities, but the environmental factors responsible for increases in parasite abundance have largely remained a mystery.

“What we found is that nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agriculture, cattle grazing and domestic runoff have the potential to significantly promote parasitic infection and deformities in frogs,” Johnson said.

from LiveScience.com 

Comic of the Day

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This has become a regular point of contention between the Dowbrigade and his main feline spiritual advisor, Chiqui. Rather than walk on our face (always a risky proposition) Chiqui sits calmly and prudently a few inches to one side and gently paws somewhere in the nose-mouth region. What he means is A) fix my breakfast (he manages to survive on a protean diet of Sensitive Systems hi-tech dry food and boiled chicken breast B) scratch me, and C) don’t you have to be somewhere so I can have the bed to myself the rest of the day?

We have become used to this routine,and occasionally are able to perform our duties in a sufficiently somnambulistic manner to return to dreamland for a few precious minutes afterward. However, lately we have noticed a perturbing precision in Chiqui’s wakeup calls which have us wondering about collusion and outside agendas. Turns out Chiqui has been awakening me at precisely sunrise.

For example, today, according to the Boston Globe, the sun rose at precisely 6:21. Sure enough, at Chiqui’s first touch I looked at the clock, and it read 6:21. Yesterday, it was exactly 6:17, and the day before 6:14. Obviously, this is good news going into the Fall, as eventually we will be allowed to sleep past 7. But it is precisely the precision which has us wondering.

Has Chiqui learned to read the clock, and the Globe? Does he have some feline, or human, co-conspirator giving him cues? Does he have an internal clock even more precise than his master’s (we have never owned an alarm clock, and have never missed a plane)?

We are thinking of installing “Kitty Cams” to find out what he really does all day while we are at work…..