Shouting Into the Void

Commie Ball

Cuban players have long been a mainstay in baseball. After Fidel Castro made it impossible for people to leave the island, the flow of players stopped to a drip. That changed with the defection of Rene Arocha in 1991.

The potential to make big money has led to more defections. Joe Cubas is the most prominent agent working with these players.

Michael Lewis recently wrote a great article in Vanity Fair about the lives of baseball players in Cuba and looks at the saga of defector Yuniesky Betancourt and his agent, Gus Dominguez.

Players are still defecting.

The House on Garibaldi Street

The capture of Adolf Eichmann is one of the more daring spy operations in the post WWII era. The story spans 17 years, beginning with Eichmann's clandestine escape from the Allied forces and the Nuremberg trial, and ending with his hanging in Israel.

After WWII, Eichmann was able to escape the Nuremberg trials and the subsequent efforts of Nazi hunters in Europe. He worked as a farmer for 5 years, before he was able to gain passage to Argentina with the help of an organization that helped ex-Nazis defect to South America.

However, Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal never forgot about Eichmann and the crimes he had committed. After years of chasing false leads, the Mossad finally found Eichmann and assembled a team to capture him. This team included Rafi Eitan and Peter Malkin. The team followed Eichmann and planned his capture, which ended with the Israelis smuggling a drugged Eichmann aboard an El-Al plane and making two transcontinental flights that pushed the plane's limits.

The operation caused embarrassment for some of the world's superpowers. But, the trial went on nonetheless.

Subsequent generations have studied this capture and the impact it had on the world as a whole.

You can find repositories of Eichmann related documents here, here, here and here.

*Slap!* Sir, I demand satisfaction

Few things in history are as compelling as the duel. Refined and barbaric at the same time, this practice has had a checkered history. The rules of dueling were codified by the Irish in 1777 in the Code Duello (summarized here), which was codified at Clonmel Summer Assizes in 1777.

As evidenced by these documents, dueling was in practice prior to the Irish rules being drafted. The procedure and philosophy behind duels is illustrated in this article.

Dueling gained some traction in America in the 19th century, culminating in the famous Burr-Hamilton affair. There are many more resources to find out more here. For a list of famous duels, you can check out this list. Lest you think men were the only ones dueling, here are a [few short anecdotes]

( of women dueling. Reportedly, dueling is still legal in Paraguay, as long as both parties are registered blood donors.

Paper money as art

Banknotes are a fascinating look into the artistry and culture of the countries of the world.

To get started, you can spend hours exploring Ron Wise's database, Tom Chao's galleries, Islamic Bank Notes, KCShop's gallery, and ATS Notes.

There are several resources for collectors as well, here and here.

For some of the artistic elements of paper money, you can read Michael Bierut's analysis of the best and worst paper money, the designs of the new Philippine bank notes, a primer on paper money art, see some downright weird and amazing uses for paper money in art, and a group of collages made or influenced by currency.

For the citizens of the Commonwealth among us, see how Queen Elizabeth II's portrait has changed on the face of the various Commonwealth nations' currencies.

If you're feeling up to the task, you can help create a symbol for the Indian rupee.


Abdelrahman Zeitoun is a Syrian American businessman who spent the days after Katrina paddling around New Orleans in a canoe, saving elderly people and feeding stranded pets. His efforts were brought to a halt when he was detained by the Bush administration on suspicion of being a terrorist.

Here is an earlier story about Zeitoun's exploits. Zeitoun also wrote about his experiences during Katrina and about being detained.

You can see Zeitoun talking about his ordeal here. Eggers, like with his last book, has set up a foundation in Zeitoun's name where the profits from the book will go to help Katrina's victims.

Get your schadenfreude here

Recently, there have been a host of websites that delight in exposing the inanity and stupidity of our society. There is the granddaddy, Overheard in New York, which recounts silly conversations heard in the Big Apple, as well as a host of similar sites. There are now a variety of such websites, dedicated to different aspects of our society.

First, there are the ones targeted at different groups: STFU, Marrieds, STFU, Parents, STFU, Believers, and My Roommate is Such a Dick.

Then, there are the ones that expose the silliness and inanity in our communications: Texts From Last Night, My Drunk Texts, Passive Aggressive Notes, and Lamebook.

Relationships and sex loom large as well: Disgusting People I Have Made Out With, Why My Ex Sucks, and I Bang the Worst Dudes.

Finally, there is just plain bad luck or failure: F My Life and FAIL Blog.

Bonus: Awkward Family Photos and Hot Chicks With Douchebags

Panda Smuggling

This week’s post concerns a plan I’ve had in my mind for quite a while. It’s a bit unorthodox, but I am convinced that if I can pull it off, I will be rich and notorious beyond my wildest dreams.

With the advent of democracy throughout the world, there has been increased attention paid to public works. Part of these public works are zoos. As most people know, the more animals a zoo has, the better. The panda has long been a subject of fascination in the U.S. I remember back in the day when the major networks’ nightly newscasts had a panda sex watch for the two pandas in the DC Zoo at the time. I later learned from my pal Chiangstein that the reason these pandas didn’t do the nasty was because the wily Chinese government gave the silly Americans an old male panda and a young female panda. Think Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Entrapment”. Yeah, I wouldn’t have done it either.

This is where I come in. I propose to outfit a truck as a portable panda habitat. I would spirit pandas away from their homes in southern China, smuggle them into Laos, and then sell them to the highest bidder among the world’s zoos. I’ve already accounted for the fact that I will need panda handlers, a translator, and some seed capital for bribing guards and outfitting the truck.

My girlfriend claims that this is the most foolhardy plan I’ve had since I thought of teaching monkeys how to be jewel thieves (detecting a pattern here?). Anyways, she claims I’ll get raped by the 400 lb. pandas well before getting to Laos. I say she should be happy that I am trying to get us financially secure for the future. What can I say? I’m a dreamer.

My hatred of the French

My friends say that my hatred of the French and France is an overreaction on my part. They say that I was only in the airport, and thus did not get a true picture of the French as a people. To these points I say boo. If you would have been in my shoes on that fateful day in December of 2005 when I had the misfortune of landing in the Most Horrid Country On Earth™, you would feel the same as I do.

Before I begin my tale of woe, let me make two points:

  1. I should not be expected to know French culture and customs if I am simply in transit: I was told by a couple of people that the French have different sensibilities than Americans do. You need to talk to them differently in order to get them to be nice to you. I call B.S. on that one. I was being nothing but polite, and was given the run-around by the frogs.
  2. de Gaulle airport needs to have some English signage: It is yet another sign of hostility towards the outside world that de Gaulle airport has very sparse English signage. Thus, when I was lost and trying to find my way, I could only guess at where I was going or what I was doing. Any reputable international airport servicing people needs to do better than Paris.

Let me give you the tale in chronological order:

  • 8.30 AM: Land in Paris from Chicago. Ask two men on jetway where the transit lounge is. They give me a cold look and answer in French. I decide to follow the crowd.
  • 8.35 AM: Crowd leads me to immigration line. I get a stamp in my passport and end up in the arrivals lounge.
  • 8.40 AM: Start looking for Emirates Airlines ticket counter so someone can tell me where the hell to go for my connecting flight.
  • 8.55 AM: After scouring the various ticket counters, no sign of Emirates. Decide to walk out of Terminal 2C to see if it’s elsewhere.
  • 9.10 AM: Reach Terminal 2A. Ask woman at Air France counter where I can find the Emirates ticket counter. In a snooty French voice, she replies, “Eet eez in Tair-minal 2C. Go zere, you weel find eet.” (It is in Terminal 2C. Go there. You will find it.)
  • 9.25 AM: Back in 2C. Start looking for Emirates ticket counter again. 9.45 AM: Still no sign of it. Decide to go towards 2F.
  • 10.05 AM: Reach 2F. Ask man at counter there for directions. Get essentially same response as from woman in 2C. Start walking back.
  • 10.25 AM: Reach 2C. Begin lamenting my horrible fate. Begin to worry that I will never make it out of this accursed country.
  • 10.30 AM: Man approaches me and asks where I’m from. I tell him I’m from Pakistan. He’s from Bangladesh. We make a pact to work together in combing this horrible Terminal 2C. Agree to meet back in 20 minutes.
  • 10.40 AM: Success! I find Emirates ticket counter, nestled in a miniscule booth by the Korean Airlines counter. Return to meeting place
  • 10.50 AM: We proceed together to Emirates ticket counter and ask where we go to catch the flight to Dubai. Lady tells us we need to talk to ticketing agent. She is not French, so she is pleasant to deal with.
  • 11.00 AM: We happen to spot the Emirates ticketing agent. She is a cross looking woman reading a newspaper and eating what seems to be a baguette. We ask for assistance. She looks at us and says, “I am not on duty until eleven-thirty!”. We wait and stare while she eats baguette and reads paper.
  • 11.30 AM: Ticketing agent finally condescends to put her paper down and help us. Points us to where we need to go. Sneers at us as we leave.
  • 11.45 AM: We are in the departures terminal and locate the flight! We will leave this place after all!

As you can see, my time in France was spent in anguish. The natives did nothing to help, only sneering and giving snippy answers. After this experience, I vowed to never again touch French soil.

I wanted to see if my experience was an isolated incident, so I began to talk to my fellow Dubai bound travelers. The ones who had been through Paris before said something to the effect of, “I told my travel agent never to route me through here again.” The newbies like myself said, “This is bar none the most hostile and unfriendly place I have ever been to.” That means something from people who have been foreign workers in the Middle East.

On my return trip, I was forced to go through Paris again. Thankfully, my bitterly gained knowledge and the Emirates ground crew’s directions prevented a repeat of the above experience.

I now despise everything French. The language sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me. The memories of the people rank among my worst nightmares. The place is the ninth circle of hell to me.

I make it a point to tell all my brown pals that Paris is not the place for people like us. If I’m ever transiting through Europe again, I think I would rather have a connecting flight going through Sarajevo than Paris. At least those Serbians know how to treat people right.