Blacknell.net

Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: July 2007 (Page 2 of 2)

€ > $ + £ 2x > $ = !?!?!?!?!

I had a practical interest in the international currency exchanges at an early age.  When I was 10, my allowance came in US dollars, but the all the places I wanted to spend it at only accepted Deutsche Marks.   I had discovered that my one US dollar would get me much more in my hometown village of Eichenzell than it would get me at the US dollar store at the base exchange at Downs Barracks in Fulda.  That was the start of an understanding that would lead me to the thrills of the black market rates of the East German Marks when we went to Berlin, the generous exchange rate with Venezuelan Bolivars in the late 90s, and the joys of cheap Euro-denominated vacations in 2001.

But everything comes at a price, no?  I had an inkling this was coming, as my last trip back to England was pretty expensive.  But I wasn’t entirely prepared for this:

The euro rose to an all-time high against the yen and traded near a record versus the dollar on prospects the European Central Bank will signal plans to raise its benchmark interest rate at least once more this year.

[ . . . ]

The pound was near a 26-year high against the dollar on speculation the Bank of England will raise rates today.

[The Euro] was at $1.3614 against the dollar from $1.3613 yesterday and an all-time high $1.3681 reached on April 27.

[ . . . ]

The pound traded at $2.0152 after touching $2.0207 yesterday, the most since June 1981.

If you’re an American reading this, and don’t know why this matters to you, let me help – it means that it looks like you’re living on a soon to be third world currency.

Le Tour – It Starts Today!

The 2007 Tour de France kicks off with a 7.9 km prologue time trial through the streets of London.  Tune into Versus to see it, or join my friends at Podium Cafe to talk about it.

Allez!

Universal Healthcare = Terrorists Have Won

Don’t believe me?  Then let these folks educate you:

  • New York Sun tells us that national healthcare brought all these scary terrorists to British shores.
  • MSNBC helps illuminate the fact that universal healthcare doesn’t just result in “foreign born medical practitioners, but *foreign* born”  (cue ominous music)
  • And reliable old Fox News helps us understand that the NHS is a “breeding ground for terror” (I think Strep is a close second, though.)

Last time I was in an NHS facility, they took a needle or three to my big toe.  I’ll call my doctor on Monday to schedule an MRI to make sure that they didn’t implant some nefarious sleeper device.  It was 1987, but they’re sneaky bastards, you know.  Never can be too careful.  Credit to TPM for keeping us abreast of the latest healthcare threats.

New Virginia Century Ride: The Battle of North Valley’s Hills ’07

A friend recently brought inaugural The Battle of North Valley’s Hills charity ride to my attention, and it looks interesting:

[The ride] will take you from Town Park in Strasburg, VA down one of Virginia’s most enchanting Scenic Byways, through all of Shenandoah County’s charming and historical small towns, past the famous battlefields of Fisher’s Hill, Toms Brook, and New Market [full century option only] and on to Shenandoah Caverns for lunch.

After leaving Shenandoah Caverns, the real workout begins as you traverse the foothills of the Massanutten and Blue Ridge Mountains.  Steep climbs and rolling hills take you past beautiful vintage farmlands while enjoying breathtaking mountain views. This is some of the most beautiful countryside Virginia has to offer.

Much like Bike New York offers you a unique perspective on the city, long rides through the countryside will give you a chance to experience Virginia in a way that a drive just can’t replicate.   So I, along with my regular ride partner D., have decided to sign up.

There’s much to recommend the ride.  After the excellent (if challenging) route, you’ve got very enticing rest stop options, including Radner beer and Route 11 chips from the source.   Further, $25 of your registration will go to One Step Closer, a local foundation that modifies the homes of special needs families free of charge (in checking these folks out, I discovered that Virginia isn’t all that impressive, when it comes to servicing those needs).   And on top of all that, everyone who signs up this year gets half off of next year’s registration fees.  I don’t know the organizers, so I can’t vouch for them, but between the obvious enthusiasm and low cost, it seems a pretty safe bet.  Check it out.

Landis Decision Tomorrow?

Sam Abt reports on rumors that the decision in the Landis case will be announced tomorrow, just in time for the London prologue start of le Tour de France.

July 4th Shocker: An Emergency Plan Actually *Works*

So there are big storms rolling in (which is why I’m here, instead of out grilling), and the National Park Police decided to evacuate the Mall.   I’d be a little ticked if I were one of those poor sods that arrived at 10am to stake out a primo spot in the shadow of the Washington Monument, but it sounds like the prudent thing to do.  So nothing noteworthy there.  But then – get this – the evacuation plan actually *worked*.  People calmly filed into a number of pre-selected buildings surrounding the Mall, where the plan is to wait until the storm passes, and then make a mad dash for spots on the Mall.   Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time a Federal emergency response plan anticipated a problem, addressed it adequately, and was then executed correctly.  But it happened today.  There may yet be blue skies ahead . . .

Sly Stone: Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

If you want me to stay
I’ll be around today
To be available for you to see
I’m about to go
And then you’ll know
For me to stay here I’ve got to be me

If You Want Me to Stay, Sly & The Family Stone

I don’t write about music much, because . . . well . . . I can’t.  Just never have found the words to capture what it is that grabs me about a song, composition, or artist.  So I’ll just leave it at this, for now: if I were packing my bags for the Desert Island Permanent Vacation, I’d be sure to include the entire works of Sly & the Family Stone.   It’s not just a soundtrack of my life thing – it’s a brilliant music thing.  Which brings me to the next part:  the reason that we’ve got that brilliant music –  Sly Stone.

He’s not dead, you know.  His appearance at the Grammy’s last year probably reminded a few people of that.  For the most part, though, I think he’s rather widely assumed to be dead.  Most of the best stars of his time are, right?  Well, this Vanity Fair interview (!!!) reminds us that he’s not.    For the most part, I’ve very little use for celebrity.  I don’t care who Tom Cruise is keeping in his basement, and please god get the pictures of Britney away from me.  But there are still a few public figures I’d really like to know more about.  Sly is one of them.  From the interview:

Sly Stone is my favorite of the rock-era recluses, and, really, the only big one left. Syd Barrett, the architect of Pink Floyd’s entrancingly loopy early sound, passed away last summer at the age of 60, having resisted all entreaties to explain himself or sing again. Brian Wilson, the fragile visionary behind the Beach Boys, has been gently coaxed out of his shell by his friends and acolytes, and now performs and schmoozes regularly. He doesn’t count as a recluse anymore. But Sly has remained elusive—still with us, yet seemingly content to do without us.

Content to do without us.  See why I like this guy?

I start the interview in earnest with the most obvious question: “Why have you chosen to come back now?”

At this, he grins. “‘Cause it’s kind of boring at home sometimes.”

Read it.  And then cross your fingers that he’s going to alleviate that boredom in front of us.

Bush to Rule of Law: Screw You

I look forward to Bush taking a personal interest and action in every other federal sentence handed down to ensure that it isn’t too harsh.

This is so indefensible as to leave me speechless.

Updated to add this bit of perfect context:

The Bush administration is trying to roll back a Supreme Court decision by pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals.

[ . . . ]

Republicans are seizing the administration’s crackdown, packaged in legislation to combat violent crime, as a campaign issue for 2008.

In a speech June 1 to announce the bill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged Congress to reimpose mandatory minimum prison sentences against federal convicts — and not let judges consider such penalties “merely a suggestion.”

Such an overhaul, in part, “will strengthen our hand in fighting criminals who threaten the safety and security of all Americans,” Gonzales said in the speech, delivered three days before the FBI announced a slight national uptick in violent crime during 2006.

What’s next, rain dances?

I dropped the Alabama bashing the minute I left Georgia (because really, what fun is it if they can’t hear you?), but this is just too good not to share:

With the state’s weather forecasters not delivering much-needed rain, Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday turned to a higher power. The governor issued a proclamation calling for a week of prayer for rain, beginning Saturday.

Riley encouraged Alabamians to pray “individually and in their houses of worship.”

“Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for his blessings and to hold us steady during times of difficulty,” Riley said. “This drought is without question a time of great difficulty.”

Mississippi, you might yet move out of 50th place. God willing, of course.

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