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The flowering of prosperity

Qumqats, or kumquats, are used during Chinese New Year as a symbol of prosperity: apparently the word sounds something like "gold" in Cantonese, and the bright orange colour resembles gold (incidentally, this is a typical example of so-called "imitative" or "sympathetic" magic: i.e. something is believed to affect other processes in the world due to its plastic properties, another example would be the phallic-shaped asparagus that are believed to be aphrodisiac).

Anyway, I have a kumquat tree which I bought for RM12 about three years ago: it never amounted to much until I transplanted it from the pot to the ground, and now it's flourishing well and measures about a metre high.

Here are photos demonstrating the different stages of the flowering and development into fruit.

The bud...


which then develops into a flower - here you can also see a caterpillar (sneakily disguised as a bird dropping) which will gobble down much of your leafs unless you remove it...
Continue reading "The flowering of prosperity"

Middle East nightmare scenario #5682

--This is an old post that didn't travel over into this blog: originally posted 4 Dec. 2006--

A read of these two articles, one by a “senior security adviser” (Sherwell) to the Saudi government, and another from the Sunday Telegraph has suddenly given me a glimpse into a possible, hellish and bleak, future of the Middle East.

As Iran says, “The kind of service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us – no superpower has ever done anything similar” (Sherwell). The Americans got rid of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and have placed the Iraqi Shiites on the throne of Iraq; now Iran is well placed to extend its influence all the way to Syria, which is an ally by convenience, and into Lebanon – where the Shiites are in the ascendance too.

It’s important to remember that Al-Qaeda and their ilk hate Shiites almost as much as the Americans, which is why they get on so well with the Sunni/ex-Baathist insurgents in Iraq. Also: let’s not forget that the Wahhabism of the Saudi state is also resolutely opposed to Shiism.

Ironically, if the neo-con plans laid out in the infamous PNAC are to be believed, Iran was actually one of the main targets of the whole exercise…

Now: we see that America is going to have to pull out sooner or later and leave the mess they made of Iraq behind them. They will try to find some face-saving device, but it will happen.

If the articles are correct in their analysis, they will find themselves choosing between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They will probably choose Saudi Arabia because: it is an ally, they buy lots of oil from it, and it is less belligerent towards Israel.

So, expect covert funding of Sunni groups, etc. etc. And further strengthening of Al-Qaeda/Wahhabi groups. There will have to be a ‘rebranding’ exercise of ‘terrorists’ to cast the shadow over Hezbollah etc., as ‘terrorists’ who attack Israel. I’m curious as to how long it will take before they manage to take the spotlight off Al-Qaeda somehow… OK I’m probably being too cynical there, but there will have to be some glossing over of the fundamental differences between these two strands of radical Islam; and the same ‘terrorist strongholds’ the Americans have been attempting to pound into submission will suddenly become victims of brutal aggression by Shiite ‘terror groups’…

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Obaid, Nawaf. “Stepping Into Iraq”. Washington Post. 29 Nov. 2006. 4 Dec. 2006 http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article15768.htm.

PNAC. “Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century”. 2000. 14 June 2006 http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm.

Sherwell, Philip. “Saudis and Iran prepare to do battle over corpse of Iraq”. Sunday Telegraph. 2 Dec. 2006. 4 Dec. 2006 http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article15797.htm.

Net Neutrality

--This is an old post that didn't travel over into this blog: originally posted 27 Nov. 2006--

To be honest, I didn't pay much attention to this issue before; probably because, as Danah of apophenia notes, I didn't (don't?) really understand what it's about. Which I should, shame on me.

Anyway, she wondered how to make the issue more relevant to Mr. Joe Smith out there, and one of the commenters came up with this example which hit me... well the comments page is not displaying, so I'll say what I can remember: something about wanting to phone for your local pizza delivery store and being told that you'll have to wait two minutes to be connected to your local pizza store, but can get connected immediately to Pizza Big Brand if you want.

Another analogy might be: imagine a highway with many cars, at rush hour everyone goes slower, but everyone can use it in the same manner. The highway operator charges everyone a flat rate to use the road. Then one car who has paid for 'priority routes' (or something) comes along, preceded by escort cars that force everyone to clear one lane to let this car speed by, meaning everyone else will go slower.

You can also see a short informative film on YouTube

Part 2 also available Continue reading "Net Neutrality"