Daytime fireworks?

I’d never heard of firework displays in broad daylight, but apparently they’re not that uncommon. Instead of exploding lights in the sky, they use colored smoke to create their visual impressions. Here’s a video clip of a daytime fireworks display on the occasion of the opening of the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar earlier this year. The man behind the display, Chinese designer Cai Guo-Qiang, has produced several others. You’ll find video clips of some of them on YouTube. Peter

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Of pensions, unions, politicians and corruption

You may have noticed a news story today about a Philadelphia councilwoman who’s retiring for precisely 24 hours, in order to collect a pension check for almost half a million dollars, then will return to duty for her next term of office. Sound corrupt to you? Maybe . . . but it’s nevertheless legal, according to Philadelphia’s municipal statutes and regulations. If this sounds unbelievable to you, too insanely nonsensical to be real, rest assured it’s by no means the only example. Remember the protests against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his plans to rein in the power of education

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The “Flash Crash” threatens to return

A few months ago we examined the impact of automated, computerized trading systems on stock exchanges around the world. A commentator noted at the time: The digitised financial machine does not work for us: we work for the machine. And I do not believe that our political leaders have the faintest idea how to bring it under control. Now CNBC warns that such computer systems risk bringing down the entire global stock market trading system. Here’s an excerpt from their article. … could 2012 produce a repeat of the “flash crash”, the bizarre episode that hit the U.S. equity markets

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Rule Four, people – RULE FOUR!!!

An article at a Swedish news site reminded me forcefully – yet again – of the wisdom of the late Col. Jeff Cooper and his Four Rules of Firearm Safety. A Swedish elk hunter who felled her first elk with a single shot that passed through the animal only to hit and then kill a cross-country skier, has been acquitted of manslaughter charges by the district court in Växjö in central Sweden. The 32-year-old hunter had held her license for six years when her first elk was felled in December 2010 with a single shot, a shot with tragic consequences.

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This made me laugh out loud!

I found this video clip irresistible. It shows a young cat attacking a musical greeting card, which is producing cat-like sounds. I can’t help wondering what the card is saying in cat language, to elicit such an enthusiastic and aggressive response from the kitten. Judging by the flying leap in the second attack, the card’s probably insulting his mother, or something like that . . . Peter

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I guess they hoped we wouldn’t notice . . .

Perhaps the politicians thought journalists would be asleep, or that the rest of us would be so preoccupied with Christmas celebrations that we’d miss the numbers . . . but, fortunately for us, the Washington Post didn’t. Releasing information on the Friday before a big holiday is a time-tested way to bury bad news. So when the Government Accountability Office’s fiscal 2011 financial statements for the federal government were released on the Friday before Christmas, it made sense to read them closely. Since 1997, the United States has been a rare example of a government willing to publish financial statements

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Looks like ‘tunnel rats’ were part of ancient warfare, too

I’m sure many readers are familiar with the accounts of so-called ‘tunnel rats‘ during the Vietnam War (particularly in the infamous Cu Chi tunnels). In more recent years, their successors have been hard at it in the karez irrigation tunnels, or qanats, of Afghanistan. I’d known that tunnel warfare dates back to medieval siege warfare, where a besieging force would try to undermine the walls of a castle by burrowing beneath them. The same technique was used in World War I to plant mines beneath enemy defenses, which sometimes led to counter-tunnels and fierce fights far below ground between the

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A great example of making more with less

I was very interested to read an article in the Daily Mail about an English couple who’ve refurbished their apartment using reclaimed, recycled and salvaged goods. In the process, they’ve paid about $4,500 for goods and articles worth well over $50,000 – a bargain in anyone’s language! The couple have turned their hard-won skills into a joint business venture. The article appears to be as much publicity for their business as a news item, but in view of my own background (of which more below), I nevertheless enjoyed it. Here’s an excerpt. In these belt-tightening times, it always helps to

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