Watched the short documentary Without the King, about the kingdom of Swaziland the other night. I’m eagerly awaiting the verdict of one of my cousins, who spent time there as a Peace Corps worker. The film’s essentially a series of interviews, largely with members of the Swazi royal family, including King Mswati III, his first wife Queen LaMbikiza, and the king’s eldest child Princess Sikhanyiso, who at the time the story begins is just about to set off for Biola University, a Bible college in Southern California. The other interviewees include members of various local aid organizations and inhabitants of the shantytowns where the average Swazi lives on sixty-odd cents a day and many rely on food from the UN’s World Food Programme. The king of the nation of 1.1 million people, on the other hand, lives in a palace and has a private jet. And did I mention that Swaziland has the world’s highest incidence of AIDS? The film reports one in two Swazis are infected with the virus, other reports say that’s only one in four, but it’s at the top of the charts by anyone’s measure (the rate of infection in the US stated in the film is nearly 1/70th that of Swaziland).

Crazy stuff.

But maybe not as crazy as some of the comments left on the review of the movie by a Toronto film blogger.

Why do the international media and community take one side? And why can’t these organizations take time to listen to both sides and also read the constitution of Swaziland ? And last but not least, why can’t they take time to see for themselves who the majority of Swazi citizens really support? Do the majority of Swazi citizens support the banned political parties or do they support the current Tinkhundla system of governance?

Alternatively, one might ask, since the current system of government bans all political parties (and has done so since well before the current king took his place), do the citizens have any choice about whether they support them or the current system?

Double Thai Fortune

Friday at the marvelous Khun Pic’s Bahn Thai, with great conversation with my cousin and her husband. Best of all, Kelly paid!

Treat yourself to a good book for a needed rest and escape.

Sounds like a plan!

Be prepared to modify your plan, it’ll be good for you.



One of the last articles I was ever asked to write — and definitely the last I wrote for a print publication or on Director — was for the MX Developers Journal. The incomparable James Newton was working as an “unofficial/unpaid editor” on Director-related material approached me about writing something for them, and I just happened to have finished a fairly simple kiosk — but one with live video feeds — for the Oregon Zoo that I thought was a project that could be digested in a few thousand words.

By the summer of 2004, the days of getting paid to write material on Director were already long ago and gone, despite the MX Developers Journal‘s glossy paper and four-color printing, so apart from the few copies of the magazine that I received (only after whining to the in-house editorial contact at Sys-Con the publisher, which in itself completed a circle with my first experience in magazine publishing, 30 years ago next month). I never expected any payment for the article.

Then again, I never expected anything like this, either. WHile MXDJ died long ago, Sys-Con has continued publishing online journals and sponsoring seminars. Apparently, the company launched a site called Ulitzer.com a couple of years ago, and some of the authors like Aral Balkan — a London Flash developer of some note — are just hearing about it for the first time

Apparently, some 6,000 authors who have written content for Sys-Con publications in the past are now having their work reprinted (unpaid) at Ulitzer, at subdomains personalized with their names. Moreover, no attempt appears to have been made to contact the authors to notify them that this was going to happen. Balkan was told — when he questioned being identified as a “Ulitzer author” that he could modify his biography and even apply for Google AdSense dollars generated by his pages on the site to be sent to him, but unless an author had been notified that the site existed and that this was a possibility, then presumably Sys-Con would have gone on collecting all monies from SAP, Microsoft, Symantec, and the other companies that placed ads on the site.

After complaining about Sys-Con’s practices (and getting his articles and name pulled from the Ulitzer site, for which he gave them credit, Balkan then found that Sys-Con had written calling him a homosexual and comparing him to the attempted assassin of Pope John Paul. It’s truly an incredible story that’s nowhere near over yet I feel, but Sys-Con’s actions reminded me an awful lot of someone I’d encountered before.

And just look at my personalized site on Ulitzer! Apparently I’m such an insignificant cog in their rip-off machine that they can’t be bothered to spell my last name right (see the subdomain name under the Ulitzer logo).


Geek Day

There was a time some years ago when I thought I was really interested in model railroads, but even in my wildest dreams I never envisioned Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland, “covering 16,146 square feet of space with more than 10,000 train cars running around its 6.8 miles of HO scale track.”

And in the same email from DVICE, there’s a notice about this image (and two others) used to promote the airing of the wretched Aliens Vs. Predator movie on Rupert Murdoch’s SKY network:

Predator vs. Alien Chess

Everybody Wan Lung Tonight

A double fortune from the Wan Lung in Clackamas last week. I believe there may be a typo in the latter which —if corrected — would bring it in line with the former.

You discover treasures where others see nothing unusual.

You will soon receive an usual (sic) gift freely given. Accept.


I just had a really bad fall

And this time it was harder to get up than before

I shouted to the heavens and a vision appeared

I cried out “Can you help?”, it replied “Not at all”

After the fall is over

You’ll be on your own

After the fall is over

So I fell on my arse, now I’m feeling the pain

But the feeling will pass and so will the shame

The bigger the ego, the bigger the fall

When your reputation counts for nothing at all

Ah, but when the mist clears, the sun will shine again

I will greet you when the sun shines again

After the fall (after the fall is over)

There’ll be a better day

After the fall is over

—Ray Davies, “After the Fall,” Other People’s Lives


Tunisian pilot who prayed as his plane went down jailed in Italy

A pilot accused of praying when he should have been taking emergency measures to avoid a crash in which 16 people died has been sentenced to 10 years in jail by an Italian court.

Captain Chafik Gharby was at the controls of a plane belonging to the Tunisian charter airline Tuninter that crashed in the sea off the coast of Sicily four years ago. The 23 survivors were left swimming for their lives, some clinging to a piece of the fuselage that stayed afloat after the turbo-prop aircraft broke up on impact.

I wish I could say that it was me who immediately thought of this clip from the Upright Citizens Brigade TV show, but it was Barbara, when I read the story to her from the paper this morning.

On a very related note, if you want a good movie about how the laxity of government enforcement in an industry can cause disaster, check out the Argentinean film Whisky Romeo Zulu, which I saw last night. It’s the story of a fatal airliner crash which ended in the convictions of a number of company officials, as well as members of the military who oversaw (or were supposed to oversee) safety enforcement and training.


Pictures of Barbara and myself from the 2009 smart car rally to Multnomah Falls, where we encountered some antiques coming the other direction. Courtesy of mikie and Dunerunner (respectively) of the smart Car of America forum.

Two car rallies meet west of Multnomah Falls on the Old Columbia Gorge Highway

Barbara and Darrel on the road

Escape From Paris

I heartily recommend director Pierre Morel’s District B13 [Banlieue 13], a French action thriller full of great chase scenes (mostly parkouer, running and jumping using building structures as hand and footholds), gritty scenery (a slum district in Paris), and thugs (beaucoup).

In fact, except for the details, it’s virtually a direct transplant to France of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. Instead of walling off an island and throwing the prisoners in, a slum district — including women and children — has been walled off and left to fester. Instead of the President of the United States and his important information that would end the war, a neutron bomb that could wipe out much of paris is inside the walls. A prisoner is recruited to go in and stop the coming Armageddon, but has to face up against a scheming criminal overlord and fight an ogre.

There are more than enough differences to make it worth your while, but as a fan of the Carpenter movie (and I was enough of one that I wrote a parody script treatment — Escape From Eugene — and devoted my electronic music class project to creating a theme for that) I can only say that the differences — plus some late twists minus the inevitable plot holes — add up to a snappy flick.

Waxing On the Wane

Brazilian Wax Ban? NJ Considers It After Two Women Are Injured

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey is drawing the line when it comes to bikini waxing. The state Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling is moving toward a ban on genital waxing after two women reported being injured in their quest for a smooth bikini line.

Both women were hospitalized for infections following so-called “Brazilian” bikini waxes; one of the women has filed a lawsuit, according to Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the cosmetology board.

Technically, genital waxing has never been allowed — only the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms are permitted — but because bare-it-all “Brazilians” weren’t specifically banned, state regulators haven’t enforced the law.

Spa owner Linda Orsuto, who owns 800 West Salon & Spa in Cherry Hill, estimates that most of 1,800 bikini waxes performed at her business last year were Brazilian-style.

“It’s huge,” she said, adding that her customers don’t think their bikini lines are anyone’s business but their own. “It’s just not right.”

She said many customers would likely travel across state lines to get it and some might even try to wax themselves.

Or the mob might get involved.