Apr. 8th, 2006

rfmcdonald: (Default)
When I was passing a La Senza in the Eaton Centre this evening, I could hear the store manager speak loudly to two sales clerks even through the gated closed door.

- You've got Friday and Sunday as stat holidays, so don't even think about calling in sick on Saturday.

On Holy Saturday, Christ is reputed to have rested; but then again, these young women aren't Christ.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
It's been rather too long since I've visited my corner of the blogosphere, and so, a perhaps inexhaustive survey.

  • Edward Hugh writes at Bonoboland that Japan's economic recovery might be endangered by its very tight labour market, itself the product of what is now a negative rate of population growth. China's booming in the meantime, not least because of outsourcing from Japan.

  • Centauri Dreams suggests, based on the latest astronomical surveys, that planetary systems in multiple star systems may be much more common than once was thought.

  • [livejournal.com profile] autopope examines
  • the mechanics of the United Kingdom's new national identity card system. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they're completely unworkable.
  • City of Brass points to the fallout of Fukuyama's defection from the neocon camp to, well, the reality-based community, and Charles Krauthammer's continued issues with reality.

  • Francis Strand meditates on the sadness of funerals without mourners.

  • At The Glory of Carniola, Michael M. highlights the kerfuffle over the Wikipedia versus Brittanica encyclopedia comparison recently published in Nature. Among other things, he notes that one edition of Britannica--spectacularly incorrectly--claims that Slovenia's war of independence lasted several years.

  • Opinionated Lesbian's Eleanor Brown judges the theory that Einstein actually stole the theory of relativity from his wife to be false, then wonders why people would like this to be true.

  • Pearsall's Books is now inactive, but the owner has been kind enough to assemble a collection of his best posts for ease of reading.

  • Geitner Simmons' Regions of Mind features an in-depth survey of the United States' religious geography. It makes for good reading. Nice county-level maps, too.

  • Ryan Pollard reports tyhat the Encounters with Canada program is about to be axed. Say it ain't so! Perhaps more usefully, sign the petition.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Portuguese rule in Angola ended very badly. Portugal is to Angola what France is to Algeria, or Britain to Ireland, that is to say, the colonizer left to deal with the colonized. The main difference is that Portugal-Angola have shared a rather more traumatic mutual history. Imagine, for comparison's sake, that the French war in Algeria was waged not by the reasonably democratic Fourth Republic but rather by a repressive right-wing fascist dictatorship that had mishandled things to the point that a goodly chunk of the French population had emigrated, and that the insane unwinnable war only ended with a successful left-wing coup by elements of the military that promptly segued into a minor years-long revolution. Portuguese disengagement, as chronicled by Ryszard Kapuscinski in his Another Day of Life, remains a case study of how not to decolonize.

At least Portugal's disengagement from Angola was mercifully quick for the Portuguese. Angola, in the meantime, was left with a three-way civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, sowed so many landmines as to make great swathes of the country uninhabitable, and made the country the poorest in the world. The dead remain dead and the landmines remain as devillishly impossible to extract as ever. The economy is booming, though, oil exports propelling an economy projected to grow by 27.9% in 2006. If Angola's oil reserves prove as plentiful as some people hope, Angola's growing population of 11 million people might manage to make it to a better future, assuming as always that the rampant corruption and theft of the country doesn't dissipate everything.

Now, thirty-one years after it left, Portugal is returning to its former colony. Humanitarian issues aren't motivating this reengagement, though Portugal is sending school teachers to bolster a fragile Angolan educational system. Cultural issues play a role, thanks to the two countries' membership in the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries and the continuing growth of Angolan Portuguese but not much of a role. The attractive economics of Angolan oil and Portugal's flagging economy, rather, justified the recent visit of Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates to Angola, leading a team of businessmen ready to sign contracts on the model of Jean Chrétien's Team Canada government-backed trade missions. If Angola is booming, then Portugal is stagnating, a multi-year recession leaving Portuguese companies that had prospered in the growth years of the 1990s stranded. Brazil has its own domestic champions; Angola, now, not nearly so much.

The result is an increasing Portuguese entanglement in the affairs of its largest former African colony. Now, almost half of the turnover of Portuguese construction company Soares da Costa comes from Angola, while Portuguese banks are making a nice profit thanks to their entrenchment on the ground in a country that really didn't have a modern banking system. There is even talk of a new talk of a Portuguese-Angolan strategic partnership. In the Lusophone world, Portugal is always necessarily going to remain in second place behind the subcontinental giant of Brazil, with its trillion-dollar economy and large Angolan-origin population and overwhelming cultural influence. There's still some niches for Portugal, though, and quickly modernizing and Lusophonizing Angola isn't likely to object. Why bother when there's so much cash floating around?
rfmcdonald: (Default)
A while back, [livejournal.com profile] acrabtree strongly encouraged me to read Frank Herbert's famous novel Dune. When I told him that, in fact, I'd owned the 1999 Ace paperback edition for two years but hadn't cracked the pages open, he upgraded his suggestion to a command. It seemed like a good idea, so why not?

Its datedness reveals its importance. )<lj-cut?
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