Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Christmas Gift From Turkmenistan!

My PalInTurkmenistan pulled off a major coup for me - it seems that all of that sequestering in the hotel gave her time to catch up on my blogging, which enticed her to sneak outside and put herself at risk to satisfy my desires....


So, here it is, FaithfulReaders, the rotating statue of the departed Turkmenbashi!

You have no idea what I had to go through to get this. It is illegal to take pictures of it. It involved a lot of look-outs, hiding in trees, then running from a guard when he came towards us!

Things here are still pretty calm, but today is when they announce when the "elections" will happen.

It will be interesting to see what really goes down.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006


From the NYT's -

In Vietnam in the mid-1960s, some 200 civilians were at one point trapped between battling South Vietnamese and Vietcong forces and seemed to be doomed to die in the crossfire.

Suddenly a band of 18 monks and nuns appeared — unarmed and politically unaligned — and walked into the combat zone.

The shooting stopped.

They escorted the civilians to safety.

The Buddhists had given the right gift to the right people at the right time and asked nothing in return.

If there is such a thing as a perfect gift, that is it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

That'll Make Me Scream

According to a 200-page assessment given to Oslo police, damage resulting from the theft of Edvard Munch’s Scream may be too severe to be repaired.

Ingebjorg Ydstie, a museum curator, reported:

Water has been absorbed by one corner of the paperboard, and there is abrasion damage on the lower part of the painting. We have a large swath that is very visible.

But wait, FaithfulReaders -what to make of this:

On September 1, 2006, Munch Museum director Ingebjørg Ydstie said that the condition of the paintings was much better than expected and that the damage could be repaired. Our skilled conservators will be able to repair the damage.

Or not, apparently.

Which is it, Ingebjørg? And why the change in title from the earlier museum director to the lowly curator? Hmmmm...

More Holiday Gifts Have Arrived!

Look what the fine folks at the wire service sent me for Christmas! -Live from the Everglades!

Yep - an alligator AND a Burmese Python. This time, I don't think the python is going to win...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

So Here's What's Happening

Turkmenistan's President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov died suddenly of cardiac arrest at age 66 on Thursday after 21 years of tirelessly crushing all dissent with his iron rule over his country whose major assest is its huge natural gas reserves.

His death raises a risk of political instability in the energy-rich country that some fear could have an impact on Europe's gas supplies.

So this is not a good sign, given what some administrations will do to control energy resources (not naming names here):

I expect there will be a massive fight for power now in Turkmenistan and it's likely to take place between pro-U.S. and pro-Russian forces, said a Russian gas industry source, who declined to be named (can you say: polonium?). Gas will become the main coin of exchange and the key asset to get hold of.
That's great.
Under the Constitution, Parliament Speaker Overzgeldy Atayev is to take over as acting president until elections that must be called within two months. The Constitution, however, bans Atayev from running for president in that vote.

Originally a Soviet apparatchik, Niyazov took the title of Turkmenbashi (Head of the Turkmen) the Great and had thousands of portraits and statues, including one in gold leaf that rotates to face the sun in Aşgabat. I hope MsLee gets a photo of that if she is ever able to leave the hotel.

His death means a terrible shock for the republic, its residents and the political class. It's comparable to a shock the Soviet Union felt after Stalin's death said Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Moscow-based Politika think tank.

Ooooh - do you think they will embalm and put him on display like Stalin and Lenin...or better yet, wheel out his preserved corpse to oversee all of the big meetings in the country like the great Jeremy Bentham? That would be in keeping with his ego, and it would be cool!

Amongst his accomplishments, Niyazov renamed the month of January after himself as well as a sea port and even a meteorite.

How much do I love that?

His funeral in set for December 24th.

Word From My Friend In Turkmenistan

You know, only my friend, MsLee, would be sent to a place that no one has ever heard of, where nothing ever happened, and find herself in the vortex of world changing events...

Here is her email I received at 9:10 am this morning:

Check out CNN.com for the news story on what is going on here. Everything is pretty calm, but there is A LOT of uncertainty about what is going to happen. There have been strict curfews put in place here. At least we will officially become volunteers tomorrow, that way if for some reason we get sent home (I don't think we will) we get all the benefits of being volunteers. As trainees we would get no benefits.

For right now we are all being kept at a hotel in Ashgabat. We are not allowed to leave, and are on a "wait and see" plan. We will definitely be here through the 28th, but some are suspecting until the first of the year.We are safe, and things don't feel scary. There's just a lot of uncertainty and questions about what will happen here. It's an interesting time to be here- BIG history in the making for this part of the world. It will be interesting to watch how things progress and change.

Being kept in a hotel...I suppose there are worse things to do in Ashgabat.

Like spending the day at the Ak Bugday (White Wheat) Museum.

From My Inbox

Got home from work early this morning, and received this brief and cryptic note:

please check any world news.

big situation just happened in turkmenistan.

we are at the hotel, we are safe.

Of course, after reading that, I just went to bed.

It can wait til morning, I'm sure. I mean, what could be possibly be news in a made-up country?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Today's Task - A Daunting One

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is, to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Monday, December 18, 2006

My Christmas Wish List Item

Well, last year, FaithfulReaders, I asked for the lovely Olive Symphony - as I believe in the quality, and not quantity of gifts.

That did not pan out. NO Olive Symphony anywhere to be seen.

But I will try again, with this : As I am a marketer's dream consumer, being swayed unreasonably by stylish design and classic good taste - I became overcome with avarice when I layed eyes on this beauty : The Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd. The latest in the FinePix Z-series of slim (19.4-mm) digital cameras sports a 6.3 megapixel CCD sensor, 3x optical zoom, 2.5-inch LCD, a likely worthless ISO 1600 sensitivity, 26MB of internal memory, a new blog mode (don't care what it is, love the sound of it) and the hardware-based Face Detection technology seen in their higher-end cameras.

And the color choice? Mocha Brown, of course. Yum.

Yes, I know I have the hallowed, gorgeous and magnificent (not to mention 4x as costly) NIKON D70, but sometimes you want just a little, wee camera to take with you. And what a beauty. After reading the reviews, I got online to see who was carrying them so I could run out and buy me one, then I noticed the fine print - available in MARCH 2007.

Santa, you are on notice.