Wednesday, January 31, 2007


You sometimes made me angry, sometimes frightened. Often you made me laugh; you always made me think.




Chavez now a dictator

I'm not suggesting that my recent trip to South America qualifies me as an expert in these issues, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But I think we all have to regard this as a Very Bad Thing.

As Reuters (and surely every other news outlet) is reporting, the Venezuelan Congress has given El Presidente Hugo Chavez the authority to rule by decree. The opposition parties boycotted the last election, so his supporters won virtually all of the seats, and this is the natural outgrowth of that.

There was a mighty suspicious and short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002, which was strangely announced to Congress before it actually happened. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that some U.S. officials gave "green light" signals to the coup-plotters. There's a pretty good Wikipedia entry on that event. Interestingly, Chavez himself spent time in prison for his part in a Feb. 1992 coup attempt against the Perez government (more Wikipedia).

I've been entertained by Chavez over the years, and even snickered aloud when Pat Robertson issued a fatwa against him. But I had higher hopes for him than this. The neocons in this country attacked him as a dictator long before he actually was one, and my feeling was that we should support the right of Venezuelans to choose their leaders, and try not to meddle too much. So I was somewhat sympathetic to his desire to frustrate the American politicans and corporate big-wigs who have been trying to push Latin America around for decades. I still think we'll do best by just keeping our powder dry, but who knows what happens next?

There have to be spooks in various U.S. agencies champing at the bit to go slip some radioactive powder in his tea, or to launch a full-scale assault.

Chavez has certainly gone down the dictator's path now, but I think we should let the Venezuelans take care of their own democracy.

PHOTO CAPTION: Venezuelan congressmen vote during an open-air National Assembly session in Caracas January 31, 2007. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


What's being shown in this photo?

1. Figure skating as you might see it in Poland.

2. Act I, Scene I, of a XXX-rated movie.

3. A comedy routine on Saturday Night LIve.

4. Another answer --- be creative.



that in the pillow fighting championship in New York, Jan. 20, CHAMPAIN defeated Betty Clocker , and thus retained her championship for another year.

Absolutely no one in our readership has shown any interest in this item, but we let you know anyhow. :)


Monday, January 29, 2007

Paint and Peace

Being quite familiar with the ilk of protesters, especially anti-war, anti-violence protesters, I was very surprised to learn that some of them painted on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Somehow, that doesn't seem to be congruent with the nature of a peace demonstration, but of course, it is what it is. Back in a former time, a litle paint would have been hardly noticed in the general mayhem of the anti-Vietnam movement.

We know that however many it was who spread paint on Sunday, it was a small and feeble minority of those present. And, I was pleased to read that the Capitol functionaries say the paint was easily cleaned up, so the graffiti were not permanent. Those who want to make similar statements should recall, that when they paint "This is our house," that it is my house, too, and in fact belongs to the whole country, and please treat it accordingly.

NEVERTHELESS, whatever little dirt may have been put on the Capitol by a few demonstrators this weekend, it is nothing compared to the filth and degradation heaped upon that honored institution in the past few years by some of its legal occupants, like Ney and Foley and Cunningham and Delay. It will take more than a janitor to clean up that damn stinking mess.

Furthermore, we in the Arboretum think the war should be stopped right now!

Sunday, January 28, 2007



Once there was a little boy who babbled way too much

He talked of war and politics and civil rights and such.

He told his secrets all around and on the internet.

And nasty folks was listenin' and taking notes, you bet!

And when he sent an email to his bestest chicks,

They listened in the govamint and copied all his clicks.

And when he said some nasties about the President,

They tapped his phones and planted bugs in his heating vent.

So when he went to bed at night away-y-y up stairs,

They knew what he was thinkin' and if he said his prayers.

Well, his mammy heard him holler and his daddy heard him bawl,

and when they turned the covers down, he wasn't there at all!

They sought him in the attic and in the basement, too.

But all they ever found of him was just his pants and shoe.

So before you open up your mouth and speak your mind about,

Remember! that the goblins will getcha if ya don't watch out!

[Modern Mama Gooser]


Begrudgingly, I take time to give winter its due. It must deserve something besides curses and insults.

Yes, right now, it's beautiful. In Michigan, it can be stunning at times, and watching out the window while the landscape dresses itself in frosting is a pleasant enough activity.

There, now, I've said it. Enough. Time for Spring. I don't mean the dreary gray and cutting weather that my friend Sparty calls "the three months of March," but rather, the bird chirping, warmish, green-bustiing spring.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Global warming a meltdown for ski resorts
PARIS, Jan. 16 (UPI) --
Global warming could turn European skiing into a sport available only for the very rich, a new report says.

The report for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris predicted that two-thirds of the resorts in the Alps could be out of business in the next 30 years, The Daily Mail said. Every increase of 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in average temperature is likely to end skiing at 100 resorts.This year, with unusually warm temperatures in the Alps, about one-quarter of the resorts have yet to open.


Italian farmers worried about warm winter
ROME, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Farmers in Italy are worried that an unusually mild winter could be a disaster for the country's agriculture industry.

Apricot, peach, cherry and almond trees are already budding in many parts of the country, ANSA reported. The crops will be ruined if the weather turns cold again.

The lack of snow is keeping river levels below seasonal averages, which could mean a shortage of water for irrigation later this year.

A task force of climate experts and meteorologists is meeting to discuss the situation.

Guido Bertolaso, the head of the Civil Protection Department, said the mild winter is a symptom of global warming and that the country needs to be better prepared to face "extreme situations."


Have you heard that when he was younger,George W. Bush was so dyslexic that he kept walking into bras?

(thanks to Dashman)

Friday, January 26, 2007

SYCMU: World's Tallest Man Saves Plastic-Eating Dolphins

SYCMU stands for "Stuff You Can't Make Up."

I'm going to try to make this a regular feature. I have plenty of examples handy, and seem to run across these stories once a week. These are items not just unusual, but which you almost literally could not make up, even if you had a squadron of B-movie scriptwriters at your disposal.

This is a story from mid-December which I missed the first time around. The way it came to my attention is sort of complex and not a terribly good story, so let's just say it was Providence, and leave it there.

I think the best part of the whole thing -- a detail omitted from the headline -- is that the world's tallest man happens to be a herdsman from Inner Mongolia. I mean, what are the chances!?!?!

AP: 2 dolphins get helping hand from the world's tallest man



Using machine guns as props, Nugent, 58, appeared onstage as the final act of the inaugural ball for Texas Governor, Rick Perry. He was wearing a shirt decorated with the Confederate flag, and he shouted offensive remarks about non-English speakers, according to people who were there.

Perry's spokesman, Robert Black, downplayed the Tuesday-night incident and said that Nugent would have been invited even if it were known ahead of time what he'd wear.

Another Republican strategist, Royal Masset,disagreed. "I think it was a horrible choice," Masset said. "I hope nobody approved it."

The guitarist — known as the "Motor City Madman" — lived in Michigan most of his life before moving to Crawford in 2003. Crawford is also the location of President Bush's 'ranch.'

"Whenever someone sports the Confederate battle flag, many Texans will be offended, and rightly so, because of what it symbolizes — the enslavement of African-Americans and more recently the symbol of hate groups and terrorists," said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Here at the ARBORETUM, we don't want to censor anyone, nor condemn anyone's choice of clothing, especially when it reflects a political point of view. But, we cling to our right to laugh at some of them. And for Michigan and Texas, we think Ted's relocation was definitely a "win-win" situation.


Neil Havens Rodreick II
a 29 year old previous sex offender who shaved off all his body hair and attempted to enroll in a charter elementary school in Arizona as a 12 year old. The school saw through his ruse and had him arrested. It is assumed that the man enrolled to get close to younger boys.

Also nabbed: several older men with whom Rodreick was living; on a variety of charges


good news



Last February, the Province of British Columbia, Canada, acted to preserve what remains of the Great Bear Rainforest on their Pacific Coast. Now, the Canadian government itself has decided to pitch in.

according to the BBC:
"Canada has pledged to spend millions of dollars to help protect the world's largest temperate rainforest.

The government will allocate CAN$30m (US$26m, £13m) to maintain the area of British Columbia known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

The area is home to indigenous people, ancient trees and rare wildlife.

The 64,000 sq km (25,000 sq mile) forest is about twice the size of Belgium and spans the Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island north to Alaska
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said voters do not believe his Conservative government has focused enough on environmental issues since coming to power.

The federal cash will be matched by money from the government of British Columbia."


This wilderness is the primary habitat of the Kermode Bear. The Kermode bear is a subspecies of black bears. Many of the bears are born with white fur. These are known as "spirit bears" and were believed by native peoples to be a reminder to humans of the misery of the ice age.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


15 Days after an air force pilot (retired) reported seeing strange lights in the sky, "not of this world," the Air Force has pushed forward a spokesperson to say that the lights were flares which they dropped over Arkansas on parachutes. Some of you may recall that this is the same explanation they gave for the Phoenix lights.

We doubt this could be the true story for the following reasons:
1. The report is too soon. At least 20 years need to elapse between a "sighting" and the true story to emerge from the government.

2. The explanation does not fall within the parameters of explanation which are officially accepted in the ABORETUM. Angels, we accept. Temperature inversions and other "freak" weather, we accept. We even accept "weird weather." We accept balloons and planes and the Star of Bethlehem. If the Air Force wishes its explanations to be credible, it will have to frame them within officially established boundaries.

3. Officially, the ARBORETUM Plenary Session of the Mammal Caucus has determined that the "object" was really the planet Mercury dancing around in the sky as it is likely to do in the eyes of "some people" (wink-wink). Reconsideration of our official decision would have to await the next meeting of the Plenary Session which is scheduled for Oct XX, XXXX (Classified).

4. George W. Bush, shown here, was an Air Force pilot. Not sure of the relevance of this except he sometimes even now straps on a flightsuit, and although he mayn't have shown up for actual flying, he could tell Mercury from flaming balls.

Here judge for yourself. One of these is Mercury, the other is the "light not of this world." You tell which is which.

Even George couldn't tell those orbs apart.
So, that's it, case closed.
No flying saucers.


Another (borrowed) WOODCHIP of WISDOM

"It is an uncomfortable doctrine which the true ethics whisper into my ear. You are happy, they say; therefore you are called upon to give much."

- Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


A group in Britain has formed EDGE to try to rescue animal species which are on the edge of destruction.

EDGE= "Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered" species.


Scientists try to save world's rarest creatures
Mon Jan 15, 2007

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists launched a bid on Tuesday to save some of the world's rarest and most neglected creatures from extinction.

With an initial list of just 10 -- including a venomous shrew-like creature, an egg-laying mammal and the world's smallest bat -- the programme will give last ditch conservation aid where to date there has been little or none.

"We are focusing on EDGE species -- that means they are Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered," said Zoological Society of London scientist Jonathan Baillie.

"These are one-of-a-kind species. If they are lost there is nothing similar to them left on the planet. It would be a bit like the art world losing the Mona Lisa -- they are simply irreplaceable," he told Reuters.


These picture show the bumblebat (or bumblebee bat) and the slender loris.


(see below)

quoted without comment from us

The Texas Strategy
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 15 January 2007

Hundreds of news articles and opinion pieces have described President Bush's decision to escalate the Iraq war as a "Hail Mary pass."

But that's the wrong metaphor.

Mr. Bush isn't Roger Staubach, trying to pull out a win for the Dallas Cowboys. He's Charles Keating, using other people's money to keep Lincoln Savings going long after it should have been shut down - and squandering the life savings of thousands of investors, not to mention billions in taxpayer dollars, along the way.


RANGER X who brought our attention to this matter, has gotten an apology to the world from PEER, an employee's organization that mistakely claimed that Park Rangers were not allowed to state the true age of the Grand Canyon. It turns out, they can.

This is part of the on-going dispute with certain religious groups which claim the Canyon was created during the "great flood" of Noah less than 6,000 years ago. They're welcome to that odd notion.



Tuesday, January 23, 2007


(Yes, it's real)

NOTE; Last Week's quiz asked you to tell who was the guy whose predictions about the Iraq War were correct.
This is he:

HOWARD DEAN (The wild-eyed,
crazy 'ya-hooing' man)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Honeymoon snapshots: The falls at Iguazu

It's now about 10 days since I left Paraguay and South America behind. It was a trip that changed my perspectives in some pretty fundamental ways, and I'll try to share some more thoughts and images from that trip over the next few weeks. It takes a while to sort through the hundreds of pictures and thousands of little memories.

Of all the experiences I had, the one that was most overwhelming was visiting the cataracts at Iguazu, the largest falls in the Western hemisphere. The location is perhaps most famous to Americans as the setting of the Robert DeNiro movie "The Mission." But this place doesn't need to borrow any fame from movie stars; it's sufficiently impressive on its own. It's a wonder on par with the Grand Canyon, and little else in our hemisphere.

We entered Brazil in the usual way: A 4-hour wait at the border in Ciudad del Este for reasons that were never entirely clear -- then a brisk trip across the border as the "guard" waved across a line of dozens of cars, unchecked. We spent the night at a nice little 60's -era hotel up the road from the falls and headed for the park first thing in the morning.

Once inside the park, you leave your car and ride the comfy and modern double-decker buses virtually to the brink of the canyon. It's probably a little TOO convenient, as I'd think the approach is a good part of the overall experience. All things considered, I'd prefer at least an hour hike through the jungle to get to the falls; it would be worth the trip, and more rewarding. As it was, we decided to get off the bus a little way downriver and approach by the canyon path.

These are considered the "minor" falls, and I thought them more majestic than anything I'd ever seen -- and that includes Niagara Falls. I was somewhat in disbelief. It's difficult to really appreciate the scale of this in Web-friendly images. Just try to find a full-size tree to get your bearings.

This is my lovely wife standing on the industrial-strength walkway in front of an area called "The Devil's Throat." It's a point where water is coming in from about 270 degrees, or 3/4 of the compass. I remember thinking I wish nobody else was there but our little group. I spent a lot of time trying to tune out the wretched masses of tourists (of which, of course, I was one).

The Devil's Throat again, with no signs of human interference. There are no trees in this picture -- the rocks are covered with hearty grass-like lichens and mosses. Standing here, you can't help thinking thoughts about God, and our own hubris and insignificance.

I wonder what the first European visitors to this site thought and felt. The falls must have been well-known to the indigenous peoples... Did the Europeans believe the stories they heard? Can you imagine arriving here after a long, difficult boat journey in a time when there were no cities or roads over the horizon?

That evening, we had the chance to see the dam at Itaipu illuminated from the Brazilian shore. Itaipu is about 20 miles from the falls, and the two rivers merge. The dam straddles the river between Paraguay and Brazil, and each country owns half the output. The dam produces 94% of the power Paraguay needs, and it's still able to sell most of its half back to Brazil, so it's a huge economic engine for the country. I'm told the impoundment behind this dam flooded a series of impressive falls which, though smaller, were similar to Iguazu.

I have over a hundred photos of our trip to the falls -- these are just the best views. To see more, check out Google Maps here.


Rhesus Wept!

We've heard it said that, considering the state of the environment mankind has created, even the monkeys are turning into creationists and denying evolution.



Exclusive photos of the "botched" hanging in Baghdad.
The pictures were taken by a small child who made the camera out of old artillery shell pieces and depleted uranium, employing a shiny cover from a MRE for a reflecting surface, and then had them smuggled out by Faux Reporters.



On another track but on this same theme, this question has come to our attention. Can someone out there please help us? There has been the repeated use of the word "botched" to describe the execution. In what way was it "botched?"

Sunday, January 21, 2007


There is so much excitement in the ARBORETUM as Tuesday evening approaches.

All the denizens here are atwitter with anticipation for the STATE OF THE UNION message. We have heard that there has been a metamorphosis in attitudes in the White House. We're anticipating huge new announcements:

1. he'll decide that our children can come home from Iraq. They've been wanting this for so long. Oh, Thank you! Thank you!

2. he will ask Congress for new appropriations for alternative energy research. We are so grateful.

3. he will restore the cuts he made to the National Forest Service. Oh, Joy! Now we can save the beech trees and the ash trees.

4. he will call for restoring scholarship cuts. Now our owls will be able to hoot once more. All our little progeny may now reach for greatness, just as if they'd been born rich and priveleged.

5. he will ask Congress for a new Department of Global Warming. Chills run up and down our spines!

6. he will announce that the world has been found to be spherical. That, according to recent research, water runs downhill. That a sunny sky is blue. That bears shit in the woods. That it will soon be possible to fly to the moon on gossamer wings.

OH HELL, Maybe snowballs will turn into ice cream.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY --- that's 'SMU' for you sports fans --- is locked in the throes of an argument over President Bush. No, it's not his policies, it's him! Many of the SMU-chers don't want George's liberry built there, as he has threatened to do (even if it is, ahem, functionally small.) The anti-building effort has been joined by a flock of professors.

We are announcing that Bush's liberry is not welcome in the ARBORETUM either. We have these reasons:
1. It would detract from the peaceful ambience of the Arboretum.
2. It would artract an unwelcome clientele.
3. He's an idiot.


(news item)

"Amsterdam's red-light district will soon get a new attraction: a statue to honor prostitutes around the world. The statue, designed by artist Els Rijerse, will likely be unveiled at the end of March, Dutch news agency ANP reported."(Reuters)

Ya, ya. We love the use of that word "unveiled." Very nice work, Reuters. :)

The ARBORETUM is planning on inviting some of the honorees to do a commemorative tree planting in the confines of our green haven. A cherry tree would be appropriate we thought.


WE, here in the ARBORETUM, are avid fans of the World Women's Pillow-Fighting Championships. Steve the Scientist is especially avid; he has a soft spot for pillows. Or is it women? We know that the finals were held in New York last night, but have been unable to find out who the winner was. If any of you were there, please let us know who won. In this picture, Betty Clock'er is shown defeating Polly Ester in a qualifying match held earlier in the week.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Philadelphia lawyer, Larry Charles, 43, who was arrested when he was allegedly found naked in a courthouse interview room with a 14 yr. old girl.

The lawyer was charged on Tuesday with a host of felonies - burglary, false imprisonment, statutory sexual assault, contact with a minor, unlawful restraint, corrupting the morals of a minor, criminal trespass and endangering the welfare of a child. (Now, mind you, we are talking about a lawyer!)

There is a very old expression, "Sharp as a Philadelphia lawyer," which I have always taken to mean, overly clever and capable of all sorts of chicanery. Hmm .... has the definition changed? He seems to have been practicing without the proper license.
(I would not object if someone nominated Michael Devlin of Missouri, although I believe he may be more than crazy. He may be simply evil.)

my 2 cents worth

It seems to me that the 2006 election has already had a great effect on the country. Every once in a while, in a nation's history, there will be a 'defining election' in which the outcome makes a great difference in the direction that events are moving. One such election was 2000 when a certain faction of the Republican party was able to seize control of the country.

Now I am reading that the man in the White House is having to change some of his policies, simply because he can no longer continue to act as if he's dictator.

1. He's had to withdraw many nominations of ultra conservative or religiously oriented judges. They would never have been confirmed by the new Senate.

2. He's had to take John Bolton out of the United Nations because he knows the Senate won't approve him.

3. He's decided not to seek new permission for warrantless spying.

4. He's considering signing the new minimum wage.

Democracy should not be simply defined as "free elections." That was your elementary school concept of what democracy is. But there is no denying that an election can be stick in the hands of the people to, now and then, spank a government that has gotten too big for its britches.

Maybe American democracy has saved itself, at least for a while.


Have you heard that in the process of trying to clone insects, scientists have actually made a flea from scratch?


In the past couple of weeks, we've shown you pictures of the fastest trains in the world. They're in France, Germany, Spain, Taiwan and Japan.

Old Chip and Chippie have had the pleasure of riding one of those trains, from Barcelona to Madrid. What a great experience that was!

In order to run such trains, there must be improved track maintenance and a definite end to allowing auto/truck traffic to cross the tracks. This means bypasses or overpasses. This means a lot of money.

In America, there is really only one fast train. It is usually called "The Acela" and it runs on this line:

The Acela, which has many stops on its route, can briefly attain 150 mph on some stretches, but in gneral, tracks in the Eastern corridor are not constructed to handle high speeds.

This is a picture of the Acela sitting in the station at Providence R.I.
The most serious incident which the Acela has had was striking a teenaged boy who attempted to cross the tracks in front of it. The Acela has vastly increased customer use of Amtrak in the Boston-Washington corridor.

If the US government would spend as much money on fast trains as it spends on airlines and trucking routes, there is little doubt that we could once again enjoy rail travel.

Thursday, January 18, 2007



YES FRIENDS! We are familiar with the recent reports they are talking about, of a flying saucer over Arkansas. We know they are saying it was reported by an Air Force pilot. We know that they claim there are pictures. Sure, they say all kinds of things.

Once again, it is time for us to state the official ARBORETUM position.


1. No reliable witness in the history of the world has ever seen a flying saucer.

2. People who see UFO shit are drunk, stoned, crazy or liars.

3. If something is there, it is either a weather balloon or "weird weather" or an airplane or a meteor or the planet Mercury on the horizon or an angel or the Star of Bethlehem, or according to one of my closest allies, "The Flying Spaghetti Monster".


"Flying saucers" seen over my house.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007



"Because of your work, children who once wanted to die are now preparing to live."

(Bush, talking to well-educated health professionals -- White House summit on malaria.)