Day Gotta Habit


News and Site Updates Archive 2010/08/31

Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike the least.

— Robert Bryne

Military Recruitment

The movie Winter Bone features Ree, a 17-year-old girl, who is sole supporter of her catatonic mom and 2 younger siblings.  Put up as collateral on their disappeared father's bail, the family's about to lose their house.  Ree looks longingly at the ROTC drills in the high school she had to leave.  The best possible scenario for her is military recruitment.  Actually, it's the only one on offer and the $40,000 signing bonus could save her family's house.  Michael Massing wrote in the New York Review of Books an essay entitled "Who Fights and Why?"  He said, "With its guarantees of housing, employment, health insurance, and educational assistance, the US military today seems the last outpost of the welfare state in America."  Massing's piece appeared in April 2008, before the economic crisis really hit, before unemployment reached 10% officially (and around 16% by more precise calculations — or 44% if you're in Detroit).  The US is currently shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month.  It's not just in the Ozarks that the recruiters are the only ones with jobs around.  The economy shed 125,000 jobs in June.  That's about the number of troops we have left in Iraq.  We've long heard about fighting people over there so we don't have to do it here.  Is the colder truth becoming that we're sending people over there because we sure can't employ 'em over here?  And we're scared to death of what domestic unrest might result from a massive return of men and women who've served and endured — and who expect something better for their families than starvation wages, and no social services when they get back?

A negative correlation exists between civilian unemployment and military recruiting rates.  The basic trend shows that as civilian unemployment rises (as people lose their jobs) then military recruiting rates increase.  In the military, servicemen and servicewomen enjoy high levels of job security, and earn free family healthcare and housing.  In fact, there are relatively no other jobs this day and age that provide that type of economic stability.  Today, what makes the trend more interesting is that while the US is busy fighting two wars, the recruiting levels continue to increase.  What this means is that although there are potential dangers inherent in enlisting in the military, the current recession motivates people to a greater extent to enlist than in a normalised economy.  In fact, military recruiting today continues to thrive in the weak economy and as a result fosters a civilian/military business employment cycle that can be forecast with relative certainty.

Dennis Kucinich: End the Wars, Bring our Troops Home Via Tywkiwdbi.
On 8 January 2007, Dennis Kucinich unveiled his comprehensive exit plan to bring the troops home and stabilise Iraq.  He includes the following steps:
  1.  Announce that the US will end the occupation, close the military bases, and withdraw.
  2.  Announce that existing funds will be used to bring the troops and the necessary equipment home.
  3.  Order a simultaneous return of all US contractors to the US and turn over the contracting work to the Iraqi government.
  4.  Convene a regional conference for developing a security and stabilization force for Iraq.
  5.  Prepare an international security peacekeeping force to replace US troops, who then return home.
  6.  Develop and fund a process of national reconciliation.
  7.  Restart programs for reconstruction and creating jobs for the Iraqi people.
  8.  Provide reparations for the damage that has been done to the lives of Iraqis.
  9.  Assure the political sovereignty of Iraq and ensure that their oil is not stolen.
 10.  Repair the Iraqi economy.
 11.  Guarantee economic sovereignty for Iraq.
 12.  Commence an international truth and reconciliation process, which establishes a policy of honesty and reconciliation between the people of the US and Iraq.
(Unfortunately, I can't quite agree with his stand on free trade.)

Don Wright, political cartoonist for The Palm Beach Post, has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for his skill and insight.  He is a 5-time recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award for his cartoons on foreign affairs and a 2-time Reuben Award winner.  The one at left and the 3 below were some of his I liked.

You May As Well Laugh

War with Iran?  President Obama may hope that luck will spare him the horrible fate of presiding over the death of his dearest ideals and of being the American president who destroyed the credibility of the international system and let the nuclear genie loose in the most dangerous part of the world.  Maybe sanctions will work; maybe the Iranians will change their minds.  Maybe new technical problems will crop up and slow the Iranians down enough so that he can pass the problem on to his successor — as, indeed, his predecessors handed it down to him.  After George W Bush’s failures on Iraq’s WMDs, we need to be extra careful that we don’t let our policies get too far ahead of the facts.  But those who think that President Obama’s interest in basing his foreign policy on values make it unlikely that he would go to war haven’t been paying attention.  For Iran to get nukes it will have to destroy the world Obama wants to build.  Can he allow that to happen?  There’s a possibility that he will flinch — or, to put it another way, that his Jeffersonian instincts for restraint will triumph over his Wilsonian ambition to build a better world.  But Iran is not just on a collision course with America’s core interests from a realist perspective.  It may destroy the world that American idealists want to build.  A conflict could be hard to avoid.  (Besides, Pakistan has a bomb already.  I guess there's more than one genie?)

2009: A Muslim organisation arranges to purchase an abandoned Burlington Coat factory on Park Place in Lower Manhattan; it plans to build a 13-story Islamic community centre that features a culinary school, conference hall, basketball court, swimming pool, and place of worship.  While principally servicing the Muslim community, it will be open to all.  It is to be called Cordoba House, an apparent allusion to Muslim Spain where Islam flourished alongside Christianity and Judaism starting in the 8th century.  The centre will be dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education, appreciation for NYC, and a deep respect for the planet.  "With world-class facilities, a global scope and strong local roots, the centre will offer a friendly and accessible platform for conversations across our identities."  It is 4 big city blocks away from where the World Trade Centre once stood.  Since there are already 8 mosques in Manhattan and a significant Muslim population, nothing seems remarkable about the group’s application.  The key organiser, Kuwait-born Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an imam of the Sufi school of Islam, generally described as moderate and mystical.  He holds a degree in physics from Columbia University, was been hired by the FBI to conduct sensitivity training among their agents and has worked with the US State Department.  He met NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg, who strongly supports the centre's plan.  The New York Times ran a generally-positive article on the project, citing support from 2 Jewish leaders and the mother of a 9-11 victim.  In the same month, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, guest-hosting FOX News’ "The O’Reilly Factor," interviewed Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan.  The interview was "remarkable for its cordiality" and Ingraham said she "can’t find many people who really have a problem with [the project]; I like what [they're] trying to do."  Today, however, disapproval is widespread, bipartisan, and driven by irrational fear if not hatred.  What happened?  Islamophobia...

Just 75 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, the first of many free public hospitals was opened in Damascus.  Asylums were maintained throughout the empire for the care of the mentally ill.  In the early 10th century, Spanish physician Abu Bakr al-Razi introduced the use of antiseptics in cleaning wounds and also made the connection between bacteria and infection.  Al-Hasan published a definitive study on optics (the science of light and vision) in 965.  13th-century Muslim physician Ibn al-Nafis discovered and accurately described the functioning of the human circulatory system.  Islamic veterinary science led the field for centuries, particularly in the study and treatment of horses.  Islamic mathematicians developed trigonometry in pursuit of accurate ways to measure objects at a distance.  Muslim scholars made important and original contributions to astronomy.  They collected and corrected previous astronomical data, built the world's first observatory, and developed the astrolabe.
What has changed?  Islam stressed the importance of and held great respect for learning, forbade destruction, developed discipline and respect for authority, and stressed tolerance for other religions.  Muslims recognised excellence and hungered intellectually.  The teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah drove many of them to their accomplishments in all disciplines of knowledge.  That seems no longer to be true.  Fundamentalists who wear their ignorance with pride are a danger in any culture — that includes the US.

On 1 May 1958, James Van Allen, space scientist, stood in front of the National Academy in Washington DC and announced that they had discovered something new about the planet - belts of high-energy particles, mainly protons and electrons, held in place by magnetic fields.  Today these radiation belts are called Van Allen belts.  The very same day after the press conference, Van Allen agreed with the military to get involved with a project to set off atomic bombs in the magnetosphere to see if they could disrupt them.  The plan was to send rockets hundreds of miles up, higher than the earth's atmosphere, and then detonate nuclear weapons to see if: a) a bomb's radiation would make it harder to see what was up there (like incoming Russian missiles!); b) an explosion would do any damage to objects nearby; c) the Van Allen belts would move a blast down the bands to an earthly target (Moscow! for example); and — most peculiar — d) a man-made explosion might "alter" the natural shape of the belts.  The Americans launched their first atomic nuclear tests above the earth's atmosphere in 1958.  Atom bombs had little effect on the magnetosphere, but the hydrogen bomb of 9 July 9 1962 did.  Code-named Starfish Prime by the military, it literally created an artificial extension of the Van Allen belts that could be seen across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to New Zealand.  When the bomb burst, people told of blackouts and strange electrical malfunctions, like garage doors opening and closing on their own and a sky filled with a rainbow of colours nearly all at once.  Video.  List of nuclear tests worldwide over the past 65 yearsIt numbers in the thousands.  It's a wonder we're still alive.

It has been just over 3 years since Boeing's 787 Dreamliner programme first paraded the shell of the aircraft in front of the media.  The Dreamliner is a $166 million, 250- to 330-seat passenger aircraft with 865 orders and an estimated $150.6 billion backlog.  Boeing has missed deadline after deadline with the 787 program (6 times over the last 2½ years) and it now looks poised to do so for a 7th time.  But will this be its last delay?  As Bloomberg wrote, delivery "may be pushed back until the first weeks of 2011 instead of later this year as flight-test delays accumulate."  Boeing has found it requires still more time to change instruments needed for testing the 787 as it waits for Federal Aviation Administration certification.  Little glitches reflect a deeper strategic problem at Boeing: the 787 is built in a fundamentally new way, and Boeing didn't adequately anticipate the risks inherent with that.  They decided to outsource 60% of the design and manufacture of the 787 and to make the aircraft out of a composite material not previously used for large aircraft.  Engineers were unable to develop software models to predict how the plane would handle flight stress.  This inability led to unpleasant surprises, such as the discovery of cracks where the wings attach to the fuselage.  Better late than never, safe than sorry.

Pilots work to avoid unstable air when they can, taking cues from weather charts, radar, and real-time reports from other aircraft.  Some meteorological indicators are more reliable than others: for example, those burbling, cotton-ball cumulus clouds — particularly the anvil-topped variety that occur in conjunction with thunderstorms — are almost always a lumpy encounter.  Flights over mountain ranges and through certain frontal boundaries also get cabin bells dinging, as does transiting a jet stream boundary.  But predicting the where, when and how much of turbulence is more art than science and every now and then it's totally unexpected.  How many feet is the plane actually moving up or down, side to side during turbulence?  To the anxious flier, those bumps and jolts often feel like plummets of hundreds or even thousands of feet.  Fewer than 50 feet either way is usual — 10 or 20 feet, most of the time.  It feels worse than it is — the plane isn't falling from the sky.  Even in the roughest air, a jet stays pretty much on an even keel.  Pilots generally see turbulence as a comfort and convenience issue, not a safety issue per se.  About 60 people (2/3 of them flight attendants) are injured by turbulence annually in the US — that works out to only about 20 passengers of the 800 million or so who fly each year in the US — or 0.0000025%.  Of course, a recent news item revealed that 26 passengers and 4 crew aboard a commercial flight over Kansas were injured in severe turbulence, one critically.  One woman hit the side of the cabin so violently that she left a crack above the window.  The airline said 20 people were injured in February and 10 suffered injuries in May, including broken bones.  That's 60 people, so no more are due this year — feel free to fly!

Inspectors from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found live roaches "too numerous to count", rodent fæces, ants, flies, debris, bacteria, and workers preparing food with their bare hands for reputable catering companies which cater a huge chunk of the country's airline meals.  In the inspection, FDA officials visited 91 kitchens operated by the caterers and found unhealthy preparation methods in 27.  The report targeted the companies for storing food items under wrong temperature conditions and for not abiding by the hygiene standards set by FDA.  Maggots falling from an overhead bin which had been in a container of spoiled meat forced a US Airways plane to return to the gate in Atlanta.  A passenger had brought the container onto the plane and other passengers noticed the maggots on the flight bound for North Carolina.  The plane returned to the gate and passengers got off so crews could clean the overhead bin.  The flight then continued on to Charlotte, where the plane was taken out of service and fumigated out of an "abundance of caution."

Colourful Birds

Despite the blockade, Cuba has achieved healthcare results comparable with those of most of the developed nations.  Cuba’s average life expectancy is the highest (78.6 years) and it also has the highest density of medical doctors per capita (59 doctors to 10,000 people) and the lowest mortality rate for children under one year of age (5.0 per 1,000 live births) and infant mortality (7.0 per 1,000 live births) among the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Cuba's success is attributed to greater emphasis on prevention and primary care (with one of the most advanced primary care systems in the world).  The education of its population in disease prevention and healthcare promotion has made them less dependent on medical products to keep healthy.  The opposite happens in the US which depends highly on medical provisions and technologies at very high economic costs.  Cuba has the highest rates of vaccination in the world as well as the highest number of baby deliveries assisted by expert healthcare workers.  Medical care is free of charge for patients.  Clinics are as abundant as a Starbucks in Seattle and they never close.  Each Cuban is scheduled to visit a polyclinic twice a year for a check-up.  If a patient fails to make the appointment, a health worker goes looking for him.  As a result, Cuba’s rates of vaccinating children and providing safe births are both higher than in the US.

Abandoned Structure in a Russian Forest

The comments suggest high-voltage equipment, a tesla generator, a static wave generator, or a tectonic weapon.  Another comment maintains that the structure is NOT abandoned.

Take your pick.

Unusual Human / Human Interactions: Human thought, for the majority, is not simply the individual outcome of our evolved neural architecture, but also the result of our borrowing of the immense symbolic and intellectual resources available in language.  What would human thought be like without language?  (I've often wondered how animals represent to themselves the idea, "How can I get this dense human to open that door for me?" without words.  Do they imagine the action?  The result?)  A profoundly deaf Mexican immigrant, Ildefonso, grew up in a house with hearing parents who could not teach him sign language or any other form of communication.  He figured out how to survive, in part by simply copying those around him, but he had no idea what language was.  He observed people’s lips and mouth moving, unaware that they were making sounds, unaware that there was sound, trying to figure out what was happening from the movements of everyone's mouths.  Despite being quite intelligent, he thought everyone else could figure things out from just looking at each others’ moving mouths and only he couldn't.  What happened when he finally grasped the idea of language?  "All of a sudden, this 27-year-old man — who, of course, had seen a wall and a door and a window before — started pointing to everything.  He pointed to the table.  He wanted me to sign table.  He wanted the symbol.  He wanted the name for table.  And he wanted the symbol, the sign, for window.  The amazing thing is that the look on his face was as if he had never seen a window before.  The window became a different thing with a symbol attached to it.  Then he collapsed and started crying, and I don’t mean just a few tears."  Today, he doesn't want to talk about it.  For him, that was the "dark time" and he says he can't remember how he thought then.

Birds that Aren't So Colourful

Other Animals that Aren't So Colourful

Coming through the Lye: Undertakers in Belgium plan to eschew traditional burial/cremation and start dissolving corpses instead.  The move is intended to tackle a lack of burial space and environmental concerns (573 pounds of CO2 are released for each cremated corpse).  Under the process, known as resomation, bodies are treated in a steel chamber with potassium hydroxide (KOH) (caustic potash) at high pressure and a temperature of 180ºC (350ºF).  Thus the body reaches a similar end point as in standard cremation — just bones left to be crushed up — in a mere 2 to 3 hours.  Six states in the US have passed legislation to allow resomation (already used by medical and veterinary schools).  The body is placed in a silk bag, itself placed within a metal cage, then loaded into a Resomator.  The machine is filled with H2O and KOH.  The end result is a small amount of green-brown tinted liquid containing amino acids, peptides, sugars, salts, and soft porous white bone (easily crushed).  The white ash can then be put into urns and handed to the deceased's next-of-kin.  The liquid can be recycled by being used to fertilise a garden or tree or simply put into a sewer.  Resomation will consume around 90 kilowatt-hours of energy, while a cremation consumes 250 kilowatt-hours.  According to resomation equipment suppliers, its total carbon footprint is 18 times less than cremation.

At present, the relatively sudden appearance and explosive spread of HIV throughout Africa and around the world beginning in the 1950s has never been adequately explained.  Could this phenomenon be somehow related to the eradication of smallpox followed by the cessation of vaccinations?  Vaccinia immunisation, as given to prevent the spread of smallpox, produces a 5-fold reduction in HIV replication in the laboratory.  Smallpox vaccinations may have played a role in providing an individual with some degree of protection to subsequent HIV infection and/or disease progression — a protection which has now been lost.

Famous historical figures who contracted smallpox include Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, Ramses V of Egypt, and Peter II of Russia in 1730 (who died from it).  Prominent families throughout the world often had several members infected by and/or perish from the disease, for example, several relatives of Henry VIII survived but were scarred, including his sister Margaret (Queen of Scotland), his 4th wife (Anne of Cleves), and his two daughters (Mary I and Elizabeth I — who, as an adult, often tried to disguise pockmarks with heavy makeup).  His great-niece (Mary, Queen of Scots) contracted the disease as a child but had no visible scarring.  Henry VIII's only surviving son (Edward VI) died from complications shortly after apparently recovering, thereby rendering his sire's infamous efforts to provide England with a male heir moot.  Louis XV of France succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV through a series of deaths via smallpox or measles among those earlier in the succession line.  He himself died of the disease in 1774.  William III lost his mother to smallpox when he was 10 in 1660; his uncle (Charles) became his legal guardian which indirectly sparked a chain of events leading to permanent ousting of the Stuart line from the British throne.  William III's wife (Mary II of England) died from smallpox as well.  In China, the Qing Dynasty had extensive protocols to protect Manchus from smallpox.  The Kangxi Emperor was promoted to the throne because he had survived the disease, ahead of older brothers who had not yet had it.  Mozart and Beethoven survived the disease as children; both had visible facial scars.  US Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln all contracted and recovered from smallpox - Washington on a visit to Barbados in 1751, Jackson after being taken prisoner by the British during the American Revolution, and Lincoln during his Presidency (possibly from his son Tad); he was quarantined shortly after giving the Gettysburg address in 1863.  Stalin fell ill with smallpox at age 7; his face was badly scarred and he later had photographs retouched to make pockmarks less apparent.

Unusual Animal / Human Interactions

Unusual Pet

Unusual Encounter

Unusual Interaction

The penguin (at right above), pursued by killer whales seeking dinner, suddenly hopped aboard a rubber raft full of whale watchers.
After anxiously checking frustrated whales circling the boat, he realised he was now safe and proceeded to say hello to everyone on board.

Israli Judge Tzvi Segal: "The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price — the sanctity of their bodies and souls.  When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims — actual and potential — to protect their wellbeing.  Otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled, while paying only a tolerable and symbolic price."  Gideon Levy, liberal Israeli commentator, was quoted as saying: "I would like to raise only one question with the judge.  What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman?  Would he have been convicted of rape?  The answer is: of course not."  Sabbar Kashur, 30, was under house arrest for 2 years before his trial, which resulted in an 18-month-sentence for "rape by deception".  A lawyer with the Public Defenders’ Office claimed the court had gone too far.  Said Elkana Laist: "The test the court used is problematic.  Every time a man tells a woman he loves her, based on which she sleeps with him, he could be convicted of rape."  The victim had known Kashur only a couple of hours when the sex took place and she waited 45 days before going to the police.  (Perhaps she wanted to see if he would call?)  Judge Segal added that the rehabilitation of the defendant did indeed seem "accessible and possible".  How exactly will the man’s "rehabilitation" be measurable?  The likely answer (no more sex with Jewish women) is almost the worst part of the story.

The US Food and Drug Administration is seriously considering approval of the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat — salmon that grow at twice the normal rate, an Atlantic strain containing a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant salmon relative.  Normally salmon don't make growth hormones in cold weather, but the pout’s on-switch keeps production going year-round.  The result?  A fish that can grow to market size in 16 — 18 months instead of 3 years (theoretically, modified salmon shouldn't end up any bigger than conventional fish).  Critics say the evaluation process doesn't allow full assessment of possible environmental impacts and blocks public input.  The developer of the fish, Aqua Bounty, claims fertile salmon won't escape and damage wild salmon stock because only a small, sequestered breeding stock is allowed to remain fertile.  When mixed in a tank with wild salmon, both thrive as long as enough food is available.  Faced with shortages, however, genetically-altered fish in the mixed group out-compete their wild tankmates, growing larger than both those fish and the ones living in genetically-altered-only groups.  Wild salmon in the mixed group exhibit reduced growth compared to the wild-salmon-only group and survival rates are significantly reduced — sometimes to the point of extinction.  Some fish appear to have died from attacks by others, including several instances of cannibalism.  However, individuals in the wild-salmon-only groups constantly increased biomass over the 14-week period of low rations without even having to nibble on each others' ears.

Between 1990 and 2005 more than 2 million people from 1 month to 101 years old in the US were rushed to emergency rooms for ladder-related injuries.  (What was a 1-month-old doing on a ladder?)  An average of 136,118 Americans every year — that’s 49.5 per 100,000 people — set out with the goal of going up a ladder only to fall down it.  Men make up 76.5% of ladder-related injuries; foot and leg fractures account for 30% of injuries; 10% of falls require hospitalisation; 97% involve homeowners and farmers.  Unintentional falls account for 7.4% of deaths for people 45 — 55, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.  In 2007, accidental falls were the single largest cause of emergency room treatment across all age groups except for 15 — 24-year-olds.  A sudden storm in Melbourne, Australia, damaged many homes; in less than a day, emergency crews had taken dozens of people to the hospital for falling while trying to repair storm damage; 10 fell off a roof and 24 were going down ladders.  An estimated 80% were men over 50.  Would a ladder stopper help?  This is an anti slip device designed to stop slipping at the base of the ladder.  Compatible with most ladders, it can be used internally or externally and is easily stored.  Ones have been tested on slippery surfaces, wet and dry, showing up to 450 kilograms can be placed on the top rung of a ladder without feet slipping (assuming your ladder even holds that much).  There are also ladder clamps to help stabilise the top.  Why take chances?  I did notice that the price for such gizmos varies several hundred percent for different brands.  I have no idea if this is justified by increased quality or if it's merely opportunism.

Girl and Dearest Friend (Her Cow)

I'm betting this girl has just discovered that her now-nearly-grown pet Holstein heifer isn't slated to become the family's milk cow, but will instead be mechanically milked at some huge agribiz dairy farm whose operators won't even bother to learn that Daisy has a name.  I've decided that whoever took this picture (I'm going with Mom or Dad) was so touched, he or she relented and gave Daisy a year's reprieve (until Daughter is so into boys that she doesn't even notice Daisy's absence for 2 or 3 weeks).

In certain part of New Zealand and Australia, travel underground and suddenly it appears as if the night sky has followed you.  Thanks to the Arachnocampa, more commonly called "glow worm", cave ceilings are turned into stunning bioluminescent points of light.  Granted, they're not actually worms, they are larvae of the gnat fly.  They spin a nest of silk on the cave ceiling and then hang down as many as 70 threads with drops of mucus (yum!) attached to snare prey.  The larva all glow (even more brightly if they haven't eaten in a bit) to lure victims to the threads.  Incredibly, nearly 100% of the energy input is turned into light (compared to the best light-emitting diodes at just 22%).

Fatima Ptacek recently turned 10 years old.  She has earned around $350,000 a year in modelling and acting fees since she was 5.  Ptacek has appeared in more than 50 television commercials and on the covers of numerous national magazines.  She is one of the few child models who has had the privilege of walking the runway at Bryant Park during the annual Fall Fashion Week in New York City.  She's landed a lead role in the upcoming movie The Miracle of Spanish Harlem.  Television shows she has appeared in include Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street, where she appeared with First Lady Michelle Obama.  She's currently signed with New York modelling agency Wilhelmina Models.  Fatima is said to read at a 10th grade level, is fluent in Spanish, and is the 13th best gymnast in New York State.  She is currently in the Academy for Intellectually Gifted Children and plans to go to Harvard (like Barack Obama).  After that, she'll defend innocent children (unless making too much money gets in the way).

Who is this mystery lady?  (Click her picture for a larger view.)

Via Tywkiwdbi

The Arrival of That Magic Man

 Manny the Magician's arrives at the Cosmo Theatre for his performance in tonight's showing of his headliner magic act, "The Art of Illusion".  But first, Manny spots his friend Penny, pianist with the otherwise all-male Cosmo Orchestra.  (Penny often plays the spinet piano for guests relaxing in the Green Room Lounge when she isn't needed at the grand piano in the main house.  She occasionally sings if someone has a request, but not too often because she doesn't believe her voice is very good.)  Manny gives Penny a quick personal performance because she doesn't have a very good view of the show from where she sits at the piano in the orchestra pit.  But Manny soon realises he'd better get going — he needs to get backstage to check over his props and calm his bunny before tonight's show begins!
Manny's magic show is being produced by Thaumaturgy Studios, Ltd of Wellington, New Zealand.

The problem with political jokes is they get elected.

— Anonymous

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