Saturday, June 25, 2005

I know next to nothing about Iranian politics beyond the story that a religious council holds most real power in the country and that those fellows are widely deemed (by journalistic types elsewhere) to be unpopular. That and the one about the reform-minded president who has spent several frustrating years countering the religous council.

This, in a nutshell, seems to be conventional wisdom about Iran: widespread frustration among the middle class and urban types with the religious council is leading to the rise of reformist politics. Freedom on the march, one might say.

Either that isn't as true as the conventionally wise would prefer or shenanigans are on the march, however. You will have heard that an "ultra conservative" (a term in search of context to have much meaning) former head of the police (no context needed) just won the presidency by a country mile. He had been mayor of Tehran, and Tehran is massive, so it seems safe to say that the folks in a position to know him best must have thought he was ok (the countriside being where the ultraconservatives are said to live). But could the fix have been in? If so, it was clever to add that less than 50% of the eligible turned out.

I just don't see much indication that the world is getting any better.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Confederations Cup continues to be fun to watch. Today Japan upset Greece 1-0 (I was put in mind of Alexander, who never made it to Japan before dying) and then Mexico upset Brazil 1-0 (just like the Battle of Puebla, but with Brazilians instead of French).

Awesome. Viva México!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tom Tomorrow has recently gotten into gangblogging. I don't much care for it. It seems to me that one of the charms of a blog is that it is personalized. Each blog is a competing edition of Me Magazine. In this way, you can gravitate towards the blogs written by people you think seem pretty cool (Tom Tomorrow, for example, or Tim on the Road to Surfdom) and away from folks who strike you as not as cool (I see no reason to mention any names). With a group blog, you get a group. And groups are bad. (well, not intrinsically). Billmon posts on TT's blog now. Why? I've known about Billmon's blog for a few years. If I wanted to read it (and I do sometimes) I would go there and read it. It only takes a few keystrokes. When I go to This Modern World it is for Tom.

But Greg! What if Tom can't be bothered to blog frequently? Well, then, I guess everyone will just sit there staring at his page, refreshing now and then, and waiting, right? Um. If they are idiots. If they aren't, they could go elsewhere. Tom could even make it easy for them to go elsewhere. We have the technology. It is called a LINK.


Anywho. Tom Tomorrow points out, and I point out in turn, that there is a really funny thing to look at for long periods of time. It isn't new, but it is new to me. And perhaps to you.

It is Superdickery, which centers on the premise that comic book evidence shows that Superman is a dick, and also presents scans of odd, stupid, creepy, offensive, and hillarious comic book pages and covers from the past. Watch out for Batman's Boner, for example.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

As Eldan notes, in the comment below, the Metaphoracaust is still in full swing. We are entering a phase of the Metaphoracaust one might usefully compare to the Great Leap Forward. I'm thinking "Let a Hundred Metaphors Bloom" might be my new motto.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Germany just defeated Australia 4-3 in an opening round Confederations Cup match in Frankfurt. It was a sloppy game, but there was a bright spot for fans of German Fussball: this was the youngest German national team (average age of around 22 or 24 if I heard right) to take the field since the invention of forever. So the kids are allright.

It crossed my mind that this was just like Gallipoli, by the way. Of course, there were fewer Turks, more Germans, fewer guns, and more guys playing soccer. And, of course, this took place in a stadium, rather than on the shore of a peninsula, and just finished a few minutes ago instead of 90 years ago. And Winston Churchill was not involved in the planning for this.

But the Aussies losing reminded me of Gallipoli. That and the limping Mel Gibson.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mike Jackson is a free (what is the word?) celebrity? Anyway. Either he really, genuinely is not guilty, or the prosecution did a spectacularly horrible job. In any event, all hoops have now been jumped through.

Coming soon, the civil trial. And that, after all, is what this has always been about, right?

Friday, June 10, 2005

I ironed my pants and shirt last night, and my tie, so as to save time this morning. I catch the train at 6:02 on Fridays so that means getting up around 5:00: if I wanted to shower AND iron before work I’d have to get up even earlier, so I tend to either iron at night or not shower. Today I needed the shower, though.

She probably didn’t sleep last night, but she may have ironed. She wanted to look halfway decent this, her big, morning.

For various reasons, mostly pertaining to my coffee and news addictions, I very nearly missed my train, or thought I was going to. Fortune smiled upon me, however, as I discovered two things when I got to the bottom of the hill which all but guaranteed that I would make it on time. 1) My clocks are all a few minutes fast. 2) A bus pulled up just as I got across the street and offered a 3-minute ride (sparing me an 8-minute walk). I had time for a cigarette (my last one: I had time to pick up a new pack in the Dortmund station at the kiosk at the foot of the stairs when I got out of the train).

Did she unplug the iron? Better go back and check! Yes. Did she have her wallet? Yes. Gas in the car? Hmm. Let’s see. . . . It was 6:15. Not enough time: She would just have to hope it was enough.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rhein-Wupper Express from Aachen to Dortmund with stops in Wuppertal-Barmen, Wuppertal-Oberbarmen, Schwelm, Ennepetal, Hagen, and Witten will be arriving shortly on track 2. Bitte Vorsicht bei der Einfahrt des Zuges.

Two minutes late. I would have made it even without the bus, and could have bought my cigarettes here instead of waiting until Dortmund. Oh well. No smoking on the trains anyway.

The 6:02 is usually pretty quiet and empty. I took a seat, as is my custom, facing the back of the train. Ever since the big ICE crash a few years ago it has seemed to me that I would be less likely to suffer severe injury in the case of a sudden stop if I sat like this than if I sat facing forward. This is both a natural assumption and not really all that clever: if a train stops suddenly, then you are bound to be in trouble no matter where you are sitting, because trains just can’t really stop suddenly.

The Rhein-Wupper Express is not, sadly, an ICE. It usually doesn’t go much more than 120 kilometers per hour.

Ennepetal has a lovely old wooden train station. EVERY TIME I pass through there I think that thought, and I also think that someone should do something to spruce it up. It appears to be empty (just platforms and ticket machines) and it is covered in grafitti.

It was 6:20 when I thought this today (as it usually is when I think this on Thursdays and Fridays). We are usually in Hagen by around 6:30 and in Dortmund by 6:55. Today’s break from the routine would have been for a pack of cigarettes, but otherwise I planned to just go into the office, get some more coffee, and then go off to my 8:00 appointment.

She would have, perhaps, noticed that the train was running late by a couple of minutes. Time enough to check her makeup and read the letter one more time. Having established that everything was in its proper place she got out of the car and glanced around. Nothing stirring. That’s why she picked this place. The good people were mostly or all still a’bed, not that it really mattered. She closed the door but didn’t lock it. She wanted everyone to understand that she was not a twit wandering aimlessly in search of a locksmith: they must see the keys (just as they must see her purse and letter) there in the front seat of her unlocked car. She couldn’t risk them being lost when

I collected the first piece of evidence suggesting that my fear of a sudden stop was unfounded. We stopped quickly, to be sure, but *relatively* quickly. I did look up from my magazine, though, because the conductor had not announced Hagen and so we should not yet be stopping. But we were. Out the left side of the train I could see a few old factories and a working-class apartment block or two. Out the right side I could see the tidy, boring, quiet middle-class neighborhood between the tracks and the hill.

The conductor’s voice apologized for the fact that, due to an accident, we would be going no further for a while. He would keep us posted and thanked us for our understanding.

The conductor’s voice apologized again one minute later. If there is a doctor or a nurse or anyone with similar skills on board, would they please come see him at the front of the train?

I soon noticed the conductor, and then a young blonde woman walking along the side of the tracks back the way we’d come. A few minutes later I noticed a police officer.

This train was a double-decker. It was quite nice and comfortable, and in most senses an improvement over the older trains that run on most routes (and sometimes on this one). One thing I don’t like about it, though (and I just noticed this today), is that you can’t open the windows very far. Just about 4 inches. I slipped my cell phone/camera though the window and used the zoom function (I tried to get a basic model that just does telephony, but those are hard to get now, so don’t mock me) to try to see what was going on. I could just make out something, but it wasn’t clear what I was looking at.

I called in to cancel my appointment at around 7:30. Even if we started immediately I wouldn’t make it for 8:00.

At around 8:15 I took a hike up to the front of the train (I had been back in first class, because there was no one else there). Some folks had taken advantage of the temporary anarchy to smoke in the train. Which is forbidden. I wished that I’d bought cigarettes in Wuppertal.

The conductor and engineer were talking. They weren’t saying much. I sat down near enough to them so that I could learn something if something worth learning came up.

Then the young blonde woman, followed by two young men (one brunette, one bald) and a police officer came out of the bushes along the side of tracks. The conductor opened up and let them in.

The policeman said he saw the keys. He noticed that the door wasn’t locked. He saw her purse and the letter. He knew that she was born in 1941. The conductor and engineer hadn’t been sure whether they had seen a woman or a man, as it all happened so fast. So it was a woman, eh? Yes.

The young men didn’t have much to say, but I did learn that one was a paramedic and the other was a nurse. They had both seen this sort of thing before in other contexts, they said, and were sure they would be fine. The conductor was quite shaken up, and said this happens, on average, once a day somewhere in Germany. The engineer has experienced this sort of thing 4 times in his 38-year career. He said it doesn’t usually happen on days, like today, when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. The young blonde woman had a lot to say and said it. She was a doctor’s assistant and, I assume, had not seen this sort of thing before. She said it bothered her a great deal. She had questions. She learned that the crew of the train would have some time off and go to the company doctor for a little talk. She might try that herself, I think, or something like it. What shocked her the most was that the woman was just sitting there on the tracks. Like she was just tired of walking and the rails were convenient. Turns out she had a severe head wound, though. Not much blood, but it looked bad. Probably a severe concussion, said the paramedic. She probably wasn’t really conscious, although she was moving her eyes around at first. She was definitely dying though, as she had had her legs amputated (one just above the knee and one right at the hip). She was bleeding profusely.

She closed her eyes right after they got there.

I have lots to write about, including the story of how I helped kill someone this morning on my way to work (not kidding). But first . . .

I can't resist mixing pathos and bathos so I will point out that if you EVER refer to a certain fast food chain as "Mickey Dee's" I will refuse to show you any respect whatsoever. This may soon go for any reference to "Sunny Dee", too, but my jury is still out.