Saturday, April 30, 2011

My heroes

Brigid put up a very well-written post today, which she titled "Big Damn Heroes". It started me thinking, and remembering. Several sad thoughts and a few tears later, I'll try to add my $0.02 worth to the discussion. It's not going to be easy to put it into words, because the faces of my dead haunt me . . . but for their sake, I'll do my best.

Brigid wrote:

The dictates of chivalry are not some formal guide to etiquette. I hope I die before I see a "Chivalry for Dummies" book. It's not a checklist, it's an understanding of things for which a man needs no checklist. It's not bowing before one's nation's enemy, it's never turning your backs on them. It's not holding the door open for a women because she's weak and lesser than you but as a sign of courtesy. It's a way of thinking, not an era or a specific rule.

I've written on this blog more than once about the wimpification of the modern male. But being a strong man does not mean you are completely closed off to emotion, treating sex like an oil change, and a woman as a somewhat lesser accessory. The strongest man I know can convey in one look, one touch, what I mean to him. But one can understand where the mixed signals come from. The view from the media is one of abject consumerism, relationships that manipulate, sex as control and the worst "if there's a man involved, it's his fault". Our nation has more material comforts than the knights could ever imagine, but for many people, it's prosperity without purpose, it's passion without principles.

People espouse the middle ages as being little more than Pestilence, Black Death and no YouTube with the concepts of that day being outdated, or worse, by their own basis, misogynistic. What do we have now to replace it? Materialism without ethics or effort, and baby daddy's, greedy trophy wives, teen moms,and crass bimbos who all get their own reality TV shows without any bit of skill or talent. This is our alternative to "the Dark Ages" a generation of people who fail to understand the difference between "can" and "should"?

Epictetus said it best "for it is better to die of hunger, exempt from fear and guilt, than to live in affluence with perturbation."

But the spirit of chivalry has not been entirely eradicated from the human heart, even in our pacifist, feminist, age. A chivalrous man today is a warrior with something to live for - and is willing to sacrifice his life either to protect or further it. Being a warrior does not not necessarily make him a man of war, but a man prepared to do battle for that which he loves. The battle can be one of ideology, not warfare, but his life is marked by preparation for something worthwhile, and thus is lived pursuing those ideals and interests which for him hold true value.

If this man is willing to die for something he loves, it is because he loves deeply and with great passion.

There's more at the link. Her entire post is well worth reading.

I think that sums up very well the team of people with whom I worked in South Africa to try to help the victims of politically-motivated violence during the period 1976-1994. Those eighteen years saw rolling civil unrest in opposition to apartheid. At times and in places it amounted almost to full-scale civil war. I wrote about it a few years ago, when remembering Mike.

The Government ruled its Black subjects by force of arms and legalized violence. The terrorists fought the Government by trying to make certain areas ungovernable, and used extreme violence against anyone who wouldn't support them, including murder, torture, rape, robbery, arson and anything else you can think of. The ordinary people were, of course, caught in the middle, unable to escape the violence of both sides.

Gradually a group of believers formed. We were from many different races: several African tribes, White, Indian, Colored (in South African parlance, that means a person of mixed race) and Asian. We had all sorts of different religious backgrounds: the various Christian churches, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Animist (i.e. African traditional religions). The common "glue" that bound us together was that each individual felt that his or her understanding of God and faith had called them to help the victims of violence. Nothing else mattered. Our differences of race, culture, education, religious perspective, theology and doctrine were completely submerged beneath this common calling.

As a result, those of us involved learned to have a profound respect and admiration - yes, even love - for one another. We didn't care a hoot about the differences. We were united in a common cause, a common purpose. Ever since those days, I've never cared what someone else professes to believe: I've cared only about how he or she actually lives their faith. Actions speak a damn sight louder than words. I have atheist friends whom I regard as far more Christian in their way of life than most believers, because they live the values to which many Christians pay only lip service.

For well over a decade we worked to get the victims of violence out of the nightmare situations in which they found themselves. Sometimes we'd go into the thick of a fight to get the people out. At other times we couldn't do that (it was, for example, illegal for people of one race to be in an area designated for another, particularly during an "emergency", and many of us ended up in police detention at one time or another), and we had to wait for the worst of the violence to pass before we could do our work. By rough count, we assisted, evacuated, fed, sheltered and got medical attention for several thousand people during those years. We didn't bother to keep an exact tally.

It was often extremely dangerous work. Twenty-seven of our group died during the 1980's and early 1990's. Some died during our operations. Others died because they were identified as members, and attacked at home by those who didn't want us (or anyone else) bringing any hope, however faint, to those they sought to rule by terror and fear. Our Black members were particularly vulnerable to this, because they lived in areas that were more often than not terrorist-controlled.

Again, more at the link.

I've never forgotten the heroism of my Black and Coloured friends during those years. They lived in racially-segregated townships, in the midst of crime and violence (sometimes aimed specifically at them because of their work to help the suffering). Many had no electricity in their homes, and no running water (they had to fetch buckets of water from communal taps set every few hundred feet in the street). Some had no sewer systems; their toilets emptied into buckets, which left a noxious, never-ending stench over the whole township. It permeated one's clothing, so that after a trip there, I had to wash my clothes (sometimes more than once) before I could both feel and smell clean when wearing them again. Many washed in tin baths, filled with cans of water heated luke-warm over a kerosene stove; sat together at night in the dim light of candles and kerosene lamps; and shivered under threadbare blankets, sometimes wearing all their clothes and huddling three or four together for warmth, in the freezing temperatures of a Highveld winter. Yet, despite all this, they kept on working, harder than I would have believed possible, to help the helpless and bring what hope they could to those in despair. Several paid with their lives. Others, like my friends Fanyana and Inyati, soldiered on through the hopelessness and despair, and saw our hopes become reality with the end of apartheid and the advent of democracy in 1994.

In contrast, I could go back to my relatively safe suburb each night (reserved for Whites only under the apartheid Group Areas Act). I could shower, cook a decent meal on my electric stove, watch TV, read a book by electric light, and go to bed warmed by heaters in winter, with an electric blanket if I wished. On numerous occasions I had Black friends and colleagues staying with me in my apartment, so that they could get away from particularly dangerous situations for a while, or avoid police or political activists who were looking for them. I was always uncomfortably reminded of my life of relative privilege by the look in their eyes when they realized that they could shower or bathe in unlimited hot water, and read under bright lights for as long as they wished, and sleep in warm beds in a heated room. (My four-bedroom apartment, where I lived alone, was two or three times larger than their ramshackle township homes shared by up to a dozen people.) It shamed me, sometimes.

There were other heroes, too. I remember some Indian friends. (In the South African context, that means people descended from laborers and clerks who were brought from India to Natal during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mohandas Gandhi, the Mahatma, was one of them.) Some were Hindu, some were Muslim, others Sikh or Jain; but all worked together in perfect unity with each other, despite the religious violence which had divided (and continues to divide) those communities in India itself. They got on well with the rest of us, too, with our mixture of various forms of Christianity, Judaism, African animist beliefs, and a smattering of several other faiths.

During the late 1980's, we encountered Mujahedin who'd returned to South Africa after fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, and who were now trying to establish a fundamentalist Muslim society. They founded an organization known as Qibla, which later spawned PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism And Drugs). In time, the latter became a pseudo-terrorist and criminal organization in its own right. On more than a few occasions, members of Qibla tried to force my colleagues and I to channel our aid to the victims of violence through them, in areas where they were active. (They would have distributed the aid "with strings attached", and used it to boost their image in the community, ignoring us.) When we refused, they turned nasty - sometimes violent. (Such incidents confirmed for me, the hard way, the truth of Clint Smith's maxim: "You can say 'stop' or 'alto' or use any other word you think will work, but I’ve found that a large bore muzzle pointed at someone’s head is pretty much the universal language.")

My Indian Muslim friends saved my life, and the lives of my colleagues, more than once by putting themselves at risk to get us out of harm's way. I'm sure that on two occasions at least, I would have died but for them. To this day, I'm angry to hear unthinking, unknowing, ignorant people condemn as evil all Muslims, and the entire religion of Islam, solely because of the terrorism espoused and practiced by some Muslims and some sects within Islam. (There are so-called "Christian terrorists" too [e.g. the IRA, the UVF and - here in the USA - the Order], and "Jewish terrorists" [e.g. Irgun , Lehi and Kach], and terrorists from many other faiths; but they don't condemn their faiths because of the evil deeds of some of their followers.) There are good Muslims as well as bad, just as there are good and bad Christians, good and bad Jews, and good and bad in every religion ever known. It's always the individual that matters, not the group. To quote Sergeant 'Buster' Kilrain in the movie Gettysburg: "Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time."

Twenty-seven of our group died during those years of violence, and four more have died since then. Many more of us bear scars to remind ourselves of the "dark ages", as we not-so-jokingly referred to them. When I think of heroism, I think of those men and women, many of them unarmed, putting their lives on the line to protect the victims of violence, terrorism and injustice. Too many of them paid the ultimate price for their sense of duty . . . but that didn't stop most of their friends from coming back the next day, and continuing their work. Heroism indeed. (I don't include myself among such heroes. I did a lot less than many of them, and didn't have to live in the constant danger of a township environment, as most of them did.)

I think, too, of the men and women of the armed forces with whom I served. Some of my liberal, left-wing acquaintances argued with me back then, and still do. They allege(d) that my military service amounted to de facto support of the apartheid policies of South Africa's government. I denied that emphatically at the time, and still do. The armed forces were trying to stop terrorism. I've seen at first hand, and in far too much detail, what terrorism involves . . .

  • It's the landmine that blows up a farm tractor towing a trailer with fifteen kids on the back, heading for a school. The dirt of the road is transformed, in the words of a well-known song by Juluka, into "mud colored dusty blood" (listen to it here). Vultures wheel above us as we pick up the shattered remains. They'll take care of anything we miss before the sun sets.
  • It's the car bomb that explodes as a young secretary is passing, smashing her head into an unrecognizable pulp against a building, leaving swatches of her blond hair torn out at the roots, embedded in the brown stone, stained with blood and gray brain matter.
  • It's the 'community organizers' who bring their bully-boys to attack the home of a suspected informer, the wife of a labor organizer who's currently in prison. They gang-rape his wife in front of her three children, forcing them to watch; then they douse a tire in gasoline, hang it around her neck, and set fire to it, dancing around her writhing, screaming body as her head is burned into a ghastly caricature of a human being. (It later turned out she was not, and had never been, an informer . . . but by then it was too late for her, and for her children.)
  • It's the terrorist who plants a limpet mine beneath a table at a fast-food restaurant. Later that day, it blows the legs off a mother and her eight-year-old daughter as they sit eating their food. The blast leaves the woman broken, lifeless, on the floor, and her daughter screaming hysterically, trying to claw her way to her mother, dragging the stumps of her thighs across the blood-slick tiles, to die lying across her body.

You want to know what any or all of those things look like? Sound like? Smell like? I wish I could show you my mental images of these and other incidents. They're seared across the inside of my eyelids. They haunt my nightmares still. No . . . I supported any and all means to stop such terrorism then, and I'd do the same thing again in a heartbeat. Show me a terrorist, and I'll pull the trigger on him without a moment's hesitation. Such people have no place on this earth. In opposing them and their tactics, I certainly wasn't supporting the system against which they were fighting. I opposed them because they were worse than that system. (Somehow, my liberal and left-wing friends have never been able to wrap their brains around that. To them, the end excuses, even justifies, the means, whereas to me, evil means can never achieve a good end.)

Some of those servicemen were heroes, too . . . and they bear the scars of their heroism to this day. Some didn't survive their service, and I honor their memory. Some survived at the time, but were scarred for life, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. I remember Gavin, who was a member of a patrol that found a baby, too young to walk, sitting in the middle of a dirt road in a township, crying. As the point man and a couple of others walked up to see why the baby was just sitting there, the terrorists waiting in ambush blew up the landmine they'd buried beneath her, killing the point man and savagely mutilating the other two soldiers. Bits of flesh and blood from the soldiers, and the baby, splattered all over Gavin . . . across his face . . . in his eyes, nose and mouth.

For years, Gavin would start awake in the small hours at night, a scream of horror on his lips. "They blew up a baby! A baby!" Gavin's wife eventually left him, because she couldn't handle the strain of living with his nightmares. Psychiatric treatment couldn't break the cycle; nor could alcohol, or drugs (legal and illegal). Gavin took his own life at last, too tormented by what he'd seen to endure any longer, in the small hours every night, the parade of images across his closed eyelids. He was a hero in my book . . . and I'll always remember him as such.

# # #

One of the little touches I most enjoyed about Friday's Royal Wedding in England was that the bride's bouquet was laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior the day after the wedding.

Royal brides have done this in England since the Tomb was inaugurated, starting with Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. H. V. Morton said of the Tomb:

... An official guide, wearing an armlet, came up with two Americans, husband and wife. They read aloud the inscription:

'Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land....' And so on to the splendid end: 'They buried him among the kings because he had done good towards God and towards His House....

'That's beautiful,' they said quietly, 'That's the most beautiful thing in London.'

'Those brass letters,' explained the guide,'are made from cartridge cases melted down ... cases picked up in the British lines in France after the war.

They went over to the Union Jack, and beneath it they looked at a small frame, in which is the blue-ribboned Congressional Medal of Valour, the gift of the people of the United States, the highest order in their power to bestow.


They went away, lingering here and there under the vast arch of the nave. I stood there thinking. There were flowers - a few tulips, freshly pulled, and daffodils, the first of the year....

This tomb and the Cenotaph bear witness to the greatest emotion this nation has ever felt. Children are brought here every year; and so the memory, without the sharpness, perhaps, felt by us who lived through it, goes on with another generation. In this way a nation keeps alive its holy places. Wonderful to think of this unknown boy, or man, lying here with our kings, our captains, our prophets, and our priests. It is the first time in the history of the world that this has happened. His fame is greater, too; he is Everyman who died in the War. No matter how many mothers believe that he is theirs, they are right; they are all of them right - for he is every mother's son who did not come home from France.

Always, as long as England stands in history, this marble stone will tell the story of the only unknown man to whom the great Abbey of Westminster opened its arms, saying: 'Come in, you Unknown Warrior, among the kings and the great ones of all time, for you too are great, you too spent your life nobly, and you too are for ever holy in the memory of this people.'

There's more at the link.

My fallen heroes aren't commemorated with the bouquets of Royal brides. They're not honored by an entire Empire or Commonwealth. Most are nameless, faceless, except to those of us who knew them . . . and as our memories fade, and we too pass from this world, they - and we - shall be forgotten.

But until then, I shall remember them. They're as much heroes, in my book, as all those honored by the wider world. Until I die, I shall thank God that I've known heroes. Until then, I'll try to keep their memory alive in small ways like this blog post . . . so that at least someone will remember them when I'm gone.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Some amazing video effects

A few months ago, I wrote about Ryan Woodward's use of animation based on real-life movement in a music video. I've continued to research this animation style as and when I have time, and I've found some rather intriguing productions out there.

One of them is a music video, "Rippled", produced for All India Radio, an Australian group, by the Oh Yeah Wow production company, which comments:

"we painstakingly created long exposure light paintings, frame by frame to form animated sequences in the night sky over a 6 month production period. Winner of Best Animated Music Video at St Kilda Film Festival and shortlisted for exhibition at the Guggenheim."

Here's the video.

That's some pretty nifty photography there. I can only guess at how many individual frames had to be shot, then combined to create the video in totality. No wonder it took them six months!


Looking for a stolen camera?

I came across a very interesting Web site via a link at Dark Roasted Blend. It's called "Stolen Camera Finder".

It works like this:

Every photo you take with your digital camera contains hidden information about both the image and the camera such as the make, model and date. This information, called exif data, can also include a unique serial number which identifies your camera.

stolencamerafinder crawls the internet searching for photos, collecting the serial numbers of the cameras that took them.

When you use the drag & drop feature, stolencamerafinder reads the unique serial number from the exif data of your photo and uses it to match against serial numbers it has stored.

I guess this won't be worth the trouble to use for a low-cost point-and-shoot camera, apart from the curiosity factor; but if you're someone like Oleg Volk, with many thousands of dollars invested in cameras and other photographic tools, it might be helpful in recovering very valuable equipment.


A useful answer to high-speed rail evangelists

I'm sure readers are familiar with the current brouhaha over high-speed rail passenger transportation. Some recent developments include:

Personally, I'm far from convinced about the financial viability of this technology, particularly given the abysmally poor record (fiscally speaking) that overseas projects have compiled in recent decades. This week, my views were reinforced by Warren Meyer at Forbes, who's written a very penetrating analysis of high-speed rail in the wider context of the state of rail transportation in general. Here's an excerpt.

Writers like Thomas Friedman and Joel Epstein in the Huffington Post have eulogized China and its monumental spending projects.

. . .

These writers worry that the US is somehow being left behind by China because its government builds more stuff than we do. We are "asleep". Well, here is my retort: Most of the great progress in this country occurred when the government was asleep. The railroads, the steel industry, the auto industry, the computer industry - all were built by individuals when the government was at best uninvolved and at worst fighting their progress at every step.

In particular, both Friedman and Epstein think we need to build more high speed passenger trains. This is exactly the kind of gauzy non-fact-based wishful thinking that makes me extremely pleased that these folks do not have the dictatorial powers they long for. High speed rail is a terrible investment, a black hole for pouring away money, that has little net impact on efficiency or pollution. But rail is a powerful example because it demonstrates exactly how this bias for high-profile triumphal projects causes people to miss the obvious.

Which is this: The US rail system, unlike nearly every other system in the world, was built (mostly) by private individuals with private capital. It is operated privately, and runs without taxpayer subsidies. And, it is by far the greatest rail system in the world. It has by far the cheapest rates in the world (1/2 of China’s, 1/8 of Germany’s). But here is the real key: it is almost all freight.

As a percentage, far more freight moves in the US by rail (vs. truck) than almost any other country in the world. Europe and Japan are not even close. Specifically, about 40% of US freight moves by rail, vs. just 10% or so in Europe and less than 5% in Japan. As a result, far more of European and Japanese freight jams up the highways in trucks than in the United States. For example, the percentage of freight that hits the roads in Japan is nearly double that of the US.

You see, passenger rail is sexy and pretty and visible. You can build grand stations and entertain visiting dignitaries on your high-speed trains. This is why statist governments have invested so much in passenger rail - not to be more efficient, but to awe their citizens and foreign observers.

But there is little efficiency improvement in moving passengers by rail vs. other modes. Most of the energy consumed goes into hauling not the passengers themselves, but the weight of increasingly plush rail cars. Trains have to be really, really full all the time to make for a net energy savings for high-speed rail vs. cars or even planes, and they seldom are full.

. . .

The real rail efficiency comes from moving freight. As compared to passenger rail, more of the total energy budget is used moving the actual freight rather than the cars themselves. Freight is far more efficient to move by rail than by road, but only the US moves a substantial amount of its freight by rail. One reason for this is that freight and high-speed passenger traffic have a variety of problems sharing the same rails, so systems that are optimized for one tend to struggle serving the other.

. . .

Oh, and by the way, that Chinese rail system so admired by American intellectuals? It is $271 billion in debt, and has been forced into radical austerity moves to try to avoid financial disaster.

The Japanese MITI-managed boom of the 80’s, the American housing boom of the last decade, the Spanish green energy program, and now the Chinese rail boom all share this in common: When governments take steps to divert capital from its most productive uses to sexy, high-profile, politically populist uses, busts always follow.

There's more at the link.

I've never before seen an analysis of high-speed rail that took into account the alternative use for rail transport - freight. I find Mr. Meyer's argument sufficiently convincing (and my experiences traveling on European rail networks lend credence to his perspective) that, on purely economic grounds, I no longer support high-speed rail passenger transport at all.

I also suspect there's more than a grain of truth in George Will's perspective on high-speed rail:

So why is America’s "win the future" administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons - to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they - unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted - are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Time was, the progressive cry was "Workers of the world unite!" or "Power to the people!" Now it is less resonant: "All aboard!"

Again, more at the link.

I highly recommend reading both Warren Meyer's and George Will's articles in full. They offer a great deal of food for thought.


Useful emergency medical information

Via a link at Lifehacker, I was led to "Austere Medicine Books and References", a list of free online medical information resources. (Link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format.) It lists many useful books and references for emergency situations, home medical needs, and resources intended for use in more remote parts of the world, where medical assistance may be many hours or even days away (not to mention hundreds of miles distant).

Some of the resources listed (all .PDF files) include:

There are many more resources at the link. Very useful if you want to have comprehensive medical care information available in case of emergency, particularly if you aren't sure whether medical assistance will be available when needed.

(If readers know of any more useful references like that, how about posting a link to them in Comments? That way we can all benefit.)


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three Musketeers . . . plus ninjas and pirates???

I can hardly believe the trailer for the new 3D version of "The Three Musketeers", scheduled for release in October this year. It . . . words fail me! See for yourselves.

How ninjas, pirates and sailing airships managed to get into the court of Louis XIII of France is utterly beyond me . . . but I daresay we'll enjoy the movie anyway!


Forget Apple and Google - how about TomTom?

I'm sure most readers are familiar with the controversy that erupted this week over reports that Apple's iPhone and iPad, and smartphones using Google's Android operating system are surreptitiously recording details of the phones' locations, for reasons not made clear by these companies.

It now emerges that these companies aren't the only ones recording such information about their users - in fact, others are even making it available to governments! The GPS firm TomTom has just been caught red-handed doing so in Holland.

Satnav device manufacturer TomTom has apologised for selling customer data which police then used to set speed traps.

The firm today admitted Dutch police had obtained traffic information from the government and used it to clamp down on drivers in targetted operations.

In an emailed apology, TomTom chief executive Harold Goddijn said the company sold the anonymous data believing it would be used to improve safety or relieve traffic bottlenecks.

'We never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it,' he wrote.

He promised licensing agreements would 'prevent this type of use in the future'.

TomTom devices gather a vehicle's speed information automatically. This data is then backed up on a database so the satnav firm can improve their products' performance.

. . .

TomTom's statement said: 'We make this information available to local governments and authorities.

'It helps them to better understand where congestion takes place, where to build new roads and how to make roads safer.

'We are now aware that the police have used traffic information that you have helped to create to place speed cameras at dangerous locations where the average speed is higher than the legally allowed speed limit.

'We are aware a lot of our customers do not like the idea and we will look at if we should allow this type of usage.'

There's more at the link.

I'd love to know whether the same thing is going on here in the USA. This might be a fruitful line of inquiry for investigative journalists . . .


Bouncing bunnies!

I'm sure many readers are familiar with the equestrian sport of show jumping.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

It seems a different version of the sport has become increasingly popular in Europe. The Daily Mail reports:

That rabbits like to hop is hardly a secret. But now European rabbit enthusiasts have harnessed their bunnies' natural talents to create a new spectator sport... rabbit showjumping.

Invented in Sweden in the early Eighties, Kaninhop involves bunnies bouncing their way around courses consisting of several small jumps of varying height and length.

. . .

Over the past few decades to sport has spread far from its Scandinavian homeland and clubs have now sprung up in several other European countries, the U.S., Canada and even Japan.

Rules vary from country to country, but generally the more jumps a rabbit clears the higher its score. There is also sometimes a time element to competitions.

As well as the dressage-style courses, there are also long-jump and high-jump challenges. The world height record is 99.5cm while the best distance is fully three metres, according to Swedish fan site

. . .

Animal rights activists are alarmed by the past-time. Sweetrabbits, a private animal rights initiative in Germany, has criticised the use of leashes in Kaninhop competitions.

The group has even accused trainers of using the tethers to pull uncooperative rabbits over the obstacles.

But Miss Fehlen points out important practical reasons for keeping competing rabbits leashed: 'We use them in tournaments for safety,' she said.

'Just think of what would happen if a male were to break free. We want to avoid uncontrolled reproduction. It has happened before.'

There's more at the link, including more (irresistibly cute!) photographs. I must confess, I had to laugh at the thought of using leashes to prevent uncontrolled coney copulation!

Here's a video clip of the bouncing bunnies doing their thing.

I wonder what happens to those that can't make it in competition? Rabbit stew?


Are US weapons fueling the drug wars in Mexico?

Many anti-gun organizations have claimed for years that smuggled guns from the USA are arming drug cartels in Mexico. Like most of their claims, this one is seriously flawed. It's true that some stolen, illegally purchased and smuggled guns reach Mexico from the USA; but these appear to represent only about 10% of the guns that are recovered from criminals there. They're certainly not the main "combat" weapons of the narco-terrorists, who rely on full-auto assault rifles for their primary firepower (weapons which are heavily restricted in the USA, and aren't available for sale in most gunshops).

It's now becoming more clear where these full-auto assault rifles and other heavy weapons are coming from. Many are, indeed, being supplied from the USA . . . in the form of US military aid to Central American nations. Corrupt politicians and officials in those countries are passing these weapons to the drug cartels, as recent reports make clear.

The Sacramento Bee reports that drug cartel activity in Central America is becoming commonplace, and so brazen as to be almost flaunting their presence and relative immunity from interference.

Even by the brazen standards of cocaine cowboys, what happened a few months ago at an air force base here [Honduras] set new levels for audacity: Drug traffickers snuck onto the heavily guarded base and retrieved a confiscated plane.

Confederates at the airbase had already fueled and warmed up the motors of the Beechcraft Super King Air 200, a workhorse of the cocaine trade. Within days, it would be again hauling dope from South America.

The stunt was a black eye for the Honduran military, and just one of many signs that parts of Central America have fallen into the maw of international organized crime, threatening decades of U.S. efforts to stanch the tidal wave of drugs headed to American cities and towns.

Washington has spent billions of dollars to help push drug cartels out of Colombia, and to confront them in Mexico. Now they've muscled their way into Central America, opening a new chapter in the drug war that almost certainly will exact further cost on U.S. taxpayers as American authorities confront drug gangs on a new frontier.

The extent of the infiltration is breathtaking. Drug cartels now control large parts of the countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America. They've bought off politicians and police, moved cocaine processing laboratories up from the Andes, and are obtaining rockets and other heavy armament that make them more than a match for Central America's weak militaries.

Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, told a March 30 Pentagon news briefing that Central America "has probably become the deadliest zone in the world" outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Homicide rates in cities such as San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras are soaring, making them as deadly as Mogadishu, Somalia, or the Taliban home base of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The political influence of the drug gangs is burgeoning. One former member of Honduras' Council Against Drug Trafficking estimated that fully 10 percent of members of the Honduran congress have links to drug traffickers.

"The overall situation is alarming, definitely," said Antonio Luigi Mazzitelli, the head of the U.N. office on Drugs and Crime for Mexico and Central America.

The heavy footprint of the traffickers is visible everywhere.

There's more at the link.

So, the next time you hear anti-gun individuals, organizations or reporters try to claim that the Mexican drug wars are fueled by smuggled US guns, and therefore private gun sales and purchases need to be more heavily regulated . . . point out to them that they're misinformed. The problem could be more realistically and effectively addressed if the US Government were to suspend all military arms sales to Central American nations!


Balls of brass, or thick as a brick???

I can hardly believe the nerve (or is it stupidity?) of the person who stuck around to shoot this video of the huge tornado (currently estimated to have been at least a Category F4, and possibly a Category F5, on the Fujita scale) that hit Tuscaloosa in Alabama yesterday evening.

In his shoes, I'd have been putting the pedal to the metal and making tracks in the opposite direction as far as possible!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More twisted toilets

A couple of days ago I wrote about a new super-sophisticated toilet. One of the commenters on that post directed me to a couple of advertisements for a Korean super-toilet, which certainly gave me pause for thought! Here they are.

Of course, when Westerners use these things, the results are . . . er . . . awkward. Here's a hilarious video clip shot by a father and his sons in their Korean hotel bathroom, which was equipped with one of these thrones.


The sea gives up her riches (hic!)

I was amused to read that bottles of whisky are still being discovered after being 'rescued' from a sailing ship that went down off the Welsh coast more than a century ago.

Sailing ship Stuart set sail from Liverpool on Good Friday 1901, bound for New Zealand carrying cargo that included pianos, cotton bales, porcelain and thousands of bottles of whisky.

The vessel came to grief near Porth Colmon on the north coast near Tudweiliog on a foggy and drizzly Easter Sunday morning. But Capt Robert Hichinson and his crew of 18 got ashore without injury or loss of life.

Llyn Peninsula, Wales, near Port Colmon

Locals made the most of the wreck taking away everything of value - especially the whisky - before Customs and Excise men arrived from Caernarfon. And by all accounts there was a huge party.

Historian Tony Jones, who has researched the shipwreck, said: "The incident mirrors the wreck of the SS Politician off Eriksay in the Hebrides. This was later made into the comedy film Whisky Galore. But this happened some 40 years beforehand. S4C should turn this story into a film."

Mr Jones said the crew managed to re-board their ship only to discover it was hopelessly lodged. He added that, over the years, fact and fiction have become mixed up.

"The two became increasingly difficult to disentangle, but one thing is certain, when word got around about the wreck and especially her cargo it changed this part of Lln for a long time.

"To wake up and find an Aladdin’s cave full of goodies on your doorstep, especially with the poverty people endured back then, it would have taken a lot of willpower and faith to stay on the right side of the law.

"So hordes of people descended on the Stuart like a swarm of locusts, and within no time they were helping themselves to her cargo.

"This was before the 1904 Religious Revival that swept through Wales and alcohol was frowned upon for many years after that. The Customs & Excise arrived en masse from Caernarfon with Mason Cumberland in charge.

"But the locals were already away with a lot of the goodies. They even buried barrels, and shoved bottles down rabbit holes. Some are still being found because at the time they were so much under the influence they couldn’t remember where they’d hidden them, and the party went on for months."

As the wreck disintegrated bales of cotton were carried away by the tide. A story from the time describes how a bale was washed ashore on Bardsey with a rat clinging to it. But an islanders spotted him and he was shot.

"Many poems and ballads were written about the occasion, along with scathing sermons from chapel pulpits, condemning the behaviour of the masses for taking advantage of their free gifts that arrived by boat that Easter. The congregation weren’t listening because they were still drinking the whisky and were under its influence," said Mr Jones.

Many local households still have dressers adorned with the porcelain, and the odd bottle of whisky unopened, while the keel of the Stuart is visible on a very low spring tide.

There's more at the link.

I wonder what that whisky tastes like? After all, it was a few years old when it was bottled, and it's had a further 110 years to age! That should make it delectably drinkable . . .

As for the wreck of the SS Politician, that's given me a great deal of amusement and interest over the years. There's a lot of information about it that's not generally known. I think I'll blog about it tomorrow. Watch this space!


Larry Correia does it again - and in fine style!

My blogging, guns and writing buddy Larry Correia is on the verge of a very busy eight months. His third book, "Hard Magic - Book 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles", is published this week.

Larry has three more books coming out before the end of 2011. To make matters even more interesting, he's one of five finalists for the Campbell Award for "the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2009 or 2010". That's some going!

I had the privilege of being one of Larry's advance readers for "Hard Magic". It's very different from his first two in the "Monster Hunter" series. I'm not going to give anything away, but if you like steampunk mixed with magic, with a liberal dash of 1920's Prohibition-style gangsterism thrown in, you're going to love "Hard Magic". I've already ordered one of the limited-edition hardcover copies (signed by the author). If you want one, get your order in fast at that link (i.e. now!), because they're almost gone.

I can't think of anyone who deserves this success more than Larry. He's worked like a slave at running his own business while writing his first manuscripts; faced disappointments from agents and rejection from publishers; "bitten the bullet" and self-published his first book, "Monster Hunter International". Not surprisingly (given the work he put into writing, polishing, publishing and marketing it, the latter with the help of his friends), sales took off like wildfire. This attracted the attention of Baen Books, who (sensible people!) signed him to a multi-book contract. He's an inspiration to me, and to all his friends.

Congratulations, Larry. Keep 'em coming!


A loss . . . and a laugh

I note that the inventor of the teleprompter, Hubert J. "Hub" Schlafly Jr., died last week at the age of 91.

Inevitably, one of the more famous users of his invention has received mention in this regard. The blog "A Trainwreck In Maxwell" notes: "Obama reported to be speechless."


The eternal military conundrum of "collateral damage"

I was saddened to read in Stars & Stripes that former civilian residents of Wolmi-do Island, near Inchon in South Korea, are trying to obtain compensation for their losses in life and property, caused during the Battle of Inchon in 1950.

... Jeong and 160 others who used to live on Wolmi Island are suing the South Korean government for compensation for property their families lost in the bombing.

Also named in the lawsuit are the city of Incheon, whose boundaries include the island; the United States; and the United Nations, which oversaw the international coalition that fought the North Koreans and Chinese forces.

The lawsuit, filed in Incheon District Court in February, asks that about $2,750 be awarded to each of the 44 households represented in the suit, though some islanders say they might ask for more.

The group’s members, many of whom fled Wolmi in the days before the bombing, say their case is different from those of other South Koreans who were affected by the war because they were never allowed to move back to their village. The small, wooded island - then home to a village of about 600 people - is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel.

Map of Inchon and Wolmi-do (circled in red) at the time of the 1950 invasion
(This image and most others in this article courtesy of Wikipedia)

They say the U.S. bulldozed the homes left standing on Wolmi soon after the bombing to make way for a U.S. military base. The island later became a South Korea naval base that was eventually closed and turned into a park.

Many never recovered the bodies of the dead, including Jeong, who believes his father’s body is buried underneath the broad sidewalks and grassy lawns of Wolmi Park.

His father, then a 35-year-old fishing captain, packed up his young family when he heard rumors that the North Koreans were coming, and moved them to a neighboring village off Wolmi. He went back to the island alone several weeks later to pick up food and supplies. There, he was likely captured by North Korean troops and forced to work alongside other islanders building strongholds for the North, Jeong said.

Then came the U.S. bombing.

The next day, Jeong’s mother returned to the island and found her husband’s body buried under rubble, and wrapped it a straw mat before U.S. troops forced her to leave. She was not allowed to return, and the family never learned what happened to his body.

"My father must be buried somewhere here," Jeong said, tears rolling down his cheeks as he looked across the park. "I feel I have not done the right thing as a son, but there is nothing I can do."

There's more at the link. The New York Times also has an interesting in-depth article on the tragedy that overtook the civilians on Wolmi-do.

I can't help but feel sympathy for the plaintiffs; but I also have to acknowledge that military action against the island was unavoidable. As the Free Republic points out:

Koreans have a peaceful and picturesque name for Wolmi-do - Moon Tip Island. The pyramidal hump of land that thrusts 351 feet up from the sea is by far the highest point of land in the Inchon vicinity. Wolmi was the resort area for that sultry, humid seaport. Across its narrow eastern causeway picnickers, swimmers, family parties, and lovers streamed in the summertime.

After South Korea was invaded, Wolmi's complexion changed abruptly. It became "out of bounds" to the local populace, and the once- placid island vibrated with activity. Trenches were dug; pillboxes built; guns were brought in; barbed wire was strung; mine-fields were planted. Along the southern causeway, which stretched 1,000 yards into the channel, barricades of heavy mesh wire were stretched, supplemented with coils of barbed wire, and every seven feet cast-iron land mines were laid. These deadly cylinders each contained a third of a pound of du Pont dynamite. At the end of the causeway, the tiny island of Sowolmi was a nest of harbor defense guns.

In military jargon, Wolmi-do thus "commanded" the sea approaches to Inchon, the harbor, and the beaches. No ship could pass into the port's tidal basin, the inner harbor, or transit Flying Fish channel without coming under fire of the island's guns. Like an unsinkable battleship, it stood flat-footedly in the path of any invasion scheme - formidable, deadly, immovable. To capture Inchon first demanded capture or at least neutralization of Wolmi. The Reds calculated their advantages and the enemy's disadvantages: First, the tides; second, the current; third, the small, winding channel, which would expose them to point-blank enfilade fire; fourth, the water's lack of depth. Obviously, the Reds concluded, only small ships such as destroyers could get up there, and on their arrival they would be forced to anchor because the current would otherwise dash them into the mud. And if they anchored, the destroyers automatically gave up their prime advantages - speed and maneuverability. Such ships would indeed be sitting ducks for Wolmi's guns. Or so thought the Reds.

"Flying Fish channel was well named," commented Capt. Norman W. Sears, who commanded the Advance Attack Group that captured Wolmi-do. "A fish almost had to fly to beat the current, and to check his navigation past the mudbanked islands and curves in the channel. Wolmi-do was the whole key to success or failure of the Inchon operation. Admiral Doyle told me that this mission must be successfully completed at any cost; that failure would seriously jeopardize or even prevent the Inchon landing. He emphasized that we had to capture Wolmi no matter what the losses or difficulties."

Again, more at the link.

As a result, Wolmi-Do was heavily bombarded by ships and aircraft before being invaded. Wikipedia reports:

On September 10, 1950, five days before the Incheon landing, 43 American warplanes flew over Wolmi-do island, dropping 93 napalm canisters to "burn out" its eastern slope in an attempt to clear the way for American troops.

As the landing groups neared, cruisers and destroyers from the United States and Canada shelled the fortified Wolmi-do Island and checked for mines in Flying Fish Channel. The first Canadian forces entered the Korean War when HMCS Cayuga, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Sioux bombarded the coast. The Fast Carrier Force flew fighter cover, interdiction, and ground attack missions. Hundreds of Korean civilians were killed in these attacks on the lightly defended port.

Canadian Tribal class destroyer HMCS Athabaskan

At 07:00 on September 13, Destroyer Squadron Nine, headed by the USS Mansfield, sailed up Eastern Channel and into Incheon Harbor, where it fired upon enemy gun emplacements at Wolmi-do. The attacks tipped off the North Koreans that a landing might be imminent. The North Korean officer at Wolmi-do assured his superiors that he would throw the enemy back into the sea.

. . .

The destroyers withdrew and allied cruisers proceeded to bombard the North Korean batteries for the next three hours from the south of the island.

That night Admiral Struble decided on another day of bombardment, and the destroyers moved back up the channel off Wolmi-do.

On September 14 the destroyers and cruisers bombarded the island again and planes from the carrier task force bombed and strafed.

. . .

At 06:30 on September 15, 1950, the lead elements of X Corps hit "Green Beach" on the northern side of Wolmi-do island.

Marines approach Green Beach on Wolmi-do Island, September 15th, 1950

The landing force consisted of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and nine M26 Pershing tanks from the 1st Tank Battalion. One tank was equipped with a flamethrower (flame tank) and two others had bulldozer blades. The battle group landed in LSTs designed and built during World War II. The entire island was captured by noon at the cost of just 14 casualties.

Marine tank fitted with bulldozer blade during invasion of Wolmi-Do Island

The North Korean forces were outnumbered by more than six to one by the U.N. troops. North Korean casualties included over 200 killed and 136 captured, primarily from the 918th Artillery Regiment and the 226th Independent Marine Regiment.

Marines mop up on Wolmi-do Island, September 15th, 1950

Again, more at the link.

I guess the islanders of Wolmi-do join those of many other islands occupied by larger powers for their own purposes, including the residents of Bikini Atoll, Diego Garcia, and other disputed territories. At least the latter weren't bombed, shelled and burned out of their homes, and didn't have to leave their dead behind! Sadly, all too many islanders in the Pacific had to do just that during the invasions and counter-invasions of the Second World War (as did countless civilians in Europe, Africa and Asia, for that matter); and following the Korean War, the same experience has caused untold suffering in many countries. There's never been a satisfactory answer to the problem of "collateral damage" in war . . . and I doubt there ever will be.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More on the monsters from Group B

A few weeks ago I put up a slow-motion video clip of the monster Group B rally cars of the 1980's. It had a musical soundtrack to suit the slow-motion views, of course - you couldn't hear the engines.

The same user has posted this video on YouTube, which shows the Group B cars in all the awesomeness of their flat-out performance - with sounds to match!

That brings back all sorts of memories . . .


Doofus Of The Day #469

Today's winner is from Dover in Delaware.

Police say [Bruce] Manlove walked into a 7-Eleven around 3:15 a.m. and handed the clerk a note that read, "This is a robbery."

The clerk handed over the cigarettes but refused to give the note back. Police say the note was written on the back of Manlove's Department of Correction paperwork.

Police spokesman Capt. Tim Stump says this was one of the occasions when a defendant makes things easy for investigators.

There's more at the link.

I'm sure Delaware Department of Corrections personnel heaved a resigned sigh when they saw Mr. Manlove coming back through the same door from which he'd so recently departed . . .


Remember the shipwrecked champagne?

In July last year I reported that what may be the world's oldest champagne had been discovered in a shipwreck in the Baltic. Here's a video clip providing more details.

In November I reported that two of the bottles had been opened and tasted. Again, here's a video clip with more information.

Reuters reports that two of the surviving bottles will be auctioned in June.

Two bottles of champagne, thought to be about 200 years old and part of a cache of 150 salvaged from a 19th century shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, will be auctioned in Finland in June.

The cache, which belongs to the government of Aland, an archipelago in the Baltic, includes a bottle from the house of Veuve Clicquot and another from Juglar, which closed its doors in the early 19th century.

Acker Merrall & Condit, of New York, will auction the two bottles on June 3.

When the first bottle was recovered from the sunken two-masted schooner dating from about 1780-1830, Swedish champagne writer Richard Juhlin estimated it would fetch about 500,000 Swedish krona [about US $81,850].

. . .

Erikson said he felt a bit guilty about drinking some of the champagne straight from the bottle.

"If I'd known it was worth so much, I would have at least poured it into a glass first," he said.

Aland, an autonomous region, is a duty free port, so the buyers will not have to pay any taxes, according to Bjorn Haggblom, head of communications for the government of Aland.

The government intends to use the auction's proceeds to fund maritime archaeological work and benefit the Baltic Sea environment.

There's more at the link.

I hope the buyer actually drinks them, instead of putting them away for posterity. Assuming they're standard-sized bottles, there's something awesome about the prospect of drinking champagne that costs almost $14,000 per glass, or a thousand bucks per sip!


Moonbats and wingnuts baffle me

I've long since given up trying to figure out how moonbats and wingnuts think. By "moonbat" I don't mean someone who has different political, social or economic views to those I hold, so long as they're rationally argued and thought through. I can agree to disagree with such a person, and usually have a stimulating, mutually respectful and enjoyable conversation, where both of us learn something from the other. By "moonbat" I mean far-out, way-left-of-center, ideologically blinkered idiots; and by "wingnut" I mean their intellectual cousins on the far-right-of-center. Extremists of any persuasion are weird. You can't have a rational discussion or debate with them.

Nevertheless, when I run across moonbattish or wingnuttish behavior, I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief. Three examples in the past couple of weeks have had this effect.

First, there's a fundamentalist pastor in Florida by the name of Terry Jones. He seems to be divorced from reality. He's long threatened to burn the Koran (the sacred book of Islam), ignoring numerous warnings (including one from General David Petraeus) that this would be harmful to US interests, and possibly put the lives of soldiers, aid workers and others at risk. He finally did as he'd threatened last month, staging a mock "trial" of the Koran at which it was "found guilty of what he described as crimes against humanity". Following his public incineration of the Koran, precisely as others had warned, rioting broke out in several parts of the world, most notably in Afghanistan, where protesters killed 12 aid workers. Nevertheless, according to USA Today, Jones denies any responsibility for the deaths.

Jones denied responsibility, and said Islam, not he or his church, must be held accountable for inciting the crowds to violence.

"The United States government and the United Nations itself must take immediate action," Jones said in a statement. "We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities."

There's more at the link.

Let's see now. Jones was specifically and explicitly informed that if he did A, B would result. He did A, and B did, indeed, result . . . but now he denies any responsibility for B. If he had not done A, B would not have ensued. How is it possible that he can't see this? How is it even remotely feasible that someone can be so blind?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a definitive Wingnut.

Next, we have the doctors who circulated among protesting trades union members in Madison, Wisconsin during recent demonstrations there. They made no examinations of anyone, and did no diagnostic tests; yet they wrote out hundreds, if not thousands, of notes certifying that the person concerned was not at work because of some medical condition. (For actual examples, see here.) This was clearly a blatant and fraudulent breach of both medical ethics and the demonstrators' conditions of employment. Both the demonstrators and the doctors were lying in their teeth . . . and it's therefore not surprising to me that there will be consequences.

The state Department of Regulation and Licensing and the Medical Examining Board said Wednesday that they had opened investigations into eight individuals who allegedly wrote doctor excuse notes for protesters at the state Capitol during rallies in February.

Last month, the Department of Regulation and Licensing said it had identified 11 people who may have provided the medical excuses, and it asked them to submit information about their activities at the Capitol.

Three members of the Medical Examining Board reviewed the information and decided to open investigations on eight of the 11, according to a department news release.

The eight being investigated are all licensed physicians, department spokesman David Carlson said.

Investigations were not opened against three people because the panel concluded no violations had occurred, the news release says.

The 11 were identified by complaints to the department. Nine of those named are licensed physicians and two are unlicensed, the department said.

The investigations will include a more extensive fact-finding process to determine if any violations of law occurred, according to the news release.

At the conclusion of each investigation, recommendations will be made about whether disciplinary action should be pursued.

The state Department of Regulation and Licensing previously has said disciplinary action could include a reprimand, license limitations, suspension or revocation.

There's more at the link.

To me, this is logical, rational and entirely appropriate. If these doctors were caught lying in public, and disgracing their professional responsibilities, they should be held accountable for it. However, the Left has exploded in righteous (or should that be "lefteous"?) indignation, accusing Governor Scott Walker of "going after" these doctors. Wonkette sneers:

Doctors better think twice about helping out the proletariat in the future if they want to stay rich and drive their fancy cars. Medicine should never associate itself with socialism.

Don't they get it? Can't they understand that any deliberate public lie, and any abuse of an official position, merit investigation and punishment? I'd want that to happen to any doctor, of any political persuasion, who misused his or her position for any reason whatsoever. I don't believe for a moment that the Wisconsin state government's investigation is politically motivated. I'd hold the state government accountable if they didn't investigate! To think otherwise is so ridiculous that it's beyond stupidity . . . it's moonbattery, pure and simple.

Finally, two teachers were recently caught on tape, as the Washington Post reports.

Sarah Knopp, a Los Angeles teachers union leader (in the Tax the Rich shirt) and Megan Behrent a New York City teacher affiliated with the International Socialist Organization, explain how to push Marxism in the public school classroom.

More at the link, including a video clip of their explanation.

Unsurprisingly, voices on the Left are now outraged that these teachers' propaganda efforts have been exposed, and are calling it 'underhanded' and 'an attempt to silence progressive voices in education'. I don't see it that way at all. They spread a message that's regarded with contempt and derision by many (including myself); they were caught at it; and now those opposed to their message are calling them on it, publicly. That's the way it is - just as those on the progressive side do precisely and exactly the same thing to those trying to propagate messages and views with which they disagree, such as abstinence-based sex education, school vouchers, etc. Both sides have the absolute right to publicize what they're doing, and to publicize what their opponents are doing. That's called "freedom of speech". Why complain and get all bitter and twisted about it?

I don't know why I've wasted all this time writing about these cases . . . I guess it's just that I get so darn frustrated with idiots sometimes. Call this a catharsis post, if you like.


Monday, April 25, 2011

I'd be scared it was going to talk back to me!

I can hardly believe my eyes . . . Anthony Watts gleefully reports:

What sort of new appliance is so hip, so cool, so stylish, so sophisticated, so much a work of art ... that you’d put it in your glass penthouse living room, so that you could impress your hot model girlfriend? Don’t look just yet. I’ll give you a hint. It has an iPod dock, speakers, a light, motion sensor activation, motorized access, and a touch screen remote. It only costs $6400.

Yes that’s right, the new NUMI super toilet from Kohler flushes green dreams and your cash!

... imagine the howling that will now ensue with the worlds largest indoor plumbing fixture company ... reincarnating [the toilet] as a must have hipster item that is marketed in a way like a Ferrari is marketed to a guy with only one thing on his mind.

There's more at the link. Here's Kohler's advertising video for this . . . thing.

Personally, if I'm going to pay $6,400 for a toilet (plus tax, transport and installation charges, of course - let's not forget those!), I'm going to want the damn thing to perform routine urinalysis and stool sampling for my doctor while it's at it! I may as well get my money's worth, after all!