Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



History took place last week in Central America.  At the shores of Lake Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega met with the CEO of the HKND Group, Wang Jing.  Together, they held hands at the water's edge and announced to the world their amazing and stunning plans.  (No...they are not having a gay marriage!  We just get dramatic at the DUNER BLOG.)  The two men told reporters they will begin constructing a new canal next year.  It will link the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  They dream of a colossal canal that will handle three times the traffic of the silly old Panama Canal.

The first question you're asking yourself is: Do we really need another trans-continental canal?  The answer: Yes.  Maersk Line is the world's largest shipping-container company.  Last year, they began re-routing most of the ships on the Shenzhen / New York route through the Suez Canal.  Why?  Because the 100-year old Panama Canal is too small and too crowded.  Next question: How much will it cost? Estimates are around $40 billion...which actually isn't that much for such a huge undertaking.  Although the canal will be three times longer than Panama's...the land is much flatter...so less digging is needed.  Actually, Teddy Roosevelt wanted to build the canal in Nicaragua, but couldn't overthrow their government as easily as in Panama / Colombia.

Readers are also curious: Why is China involved?  It's all about cash.  While the USA and China are tenuous political partners, the two rivals sure love to trade.  Americans can't buy enough Chinese products, spending $425 billion on them last year alone.  As for exports, China is very interested in purchasing items from the Atlantic Coast.  Specifically, they want American grain and Venezuelan oil.  A new canal...with special prices for Chinese ships...would be great for the P.R.C. 

The last question involves the environment.  Will the canal impact ecosystems?  Of course it will!  The main problem involves Lake Nicaragua.  The freshwater lake is huge...the largest on North America south of the Great Lakes.  Mar Dulce...as the natives call it...is home to a huge variety of plants and animals, including the endangered Nicaraguan Shark.  The introduction of salt water, sewage and human pollution would instantly contaminate the world's 19th largest lake.  Environmentalist worry something like an accidental oil spill would be catastrophic.

Lovely Lake Nicaragua.
However, none of these possible scenarios were on the agenda at last week's Sino-Nicaraguan Summit.  Rather, the speeches given by both sides were filled with lofty phrases and high aspirations.  "Our future is very bright." Jing proclaimed.  "Full of hope!"  We here at the DUNER BLOG share the hopes of the new canal.  And if anyone can build things quickly in the 2000's...it's the Chinese.  As referenced in an earlier blog (AUG 22 THE LONGEST BRIDGES IN THE WORLD), the first, second, third and fifth longest bridges in the world are all in China...and they were all built in this century!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013



Last night, a handful of Americans tuned into the NBC TV Network to watch the MISS USA PAGEANT.  Why only a handful?  It's because beauty pageants aren't as popular as they once were.  In the past, they were a cherished ratings event. From 1960 - 65, the Miss America Pageant was the most watched single event on television.  Men tuned in to ogle at the skimpy swimsuits.  Women liked to see other women speaking eloquently on stage.  And everyone loves to see a coronation.   It all added up to Nielsen Ratings Gold.

However...as gender equality increased in the next decades...many women fell out of favor with beauty pageants.  Today, the stigma has spilled over into the male audience as well.  (Simply put, men in the year 2013 are terrified to say anything about a woman's body.  No matter what...it will be construed as sexist!)  Nonetheless, beauty pageants will always exist.  Why?  Because everyone loves to snicker when someone bumbles their way through the Q&A section.  Here are the TOP SEVEN WORST BEAUTY PAGEANT QUOTES EVER.  We'll start with last night's entry from the glorious state of Utah...

Miss Utah won in 1971.
#7. MISS UTAH, Marissa Powell.
When asked about why the Gender Gap still persists, the 21-year-old replied: "I think we can relate this back to education." she began.  "The men are seen as the leaders of this and so we need to figure out how to create education better so that we can solve this problem." Speaking of education, maybe Miss Powell should re-enroll at BYU.

#6. MISS HAWAIINadine Tanega.
This hula-girl contestant was asked: "Why do you love America?"  Her reply: "We are truly the land of the great. From the rocky shores of… Hawaii…to the beautiful sandy beaches of … Hawaii … America is our home." Sounds like someone needs a trip to the mainland...

#5.  MISS VENEZUELA, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero.
This one is a gem!  Pageant Host: "Miss Venezuela.  Would you rather be smart or beautiful?"  Miss Venezuela: "Umm...  Could you repeat the question?"  Umm... That won't be necessary.  You just answered it.

#4. MISS CALIFORNIA, Leah Cecil.
You shouldn't ask difficult political questions to beauty queen contestants.  Hence, something complex like 'Euthanasia' is definitely off-limits.  Here is Ms. Cecil's reply:   "That’s one of the things I’m not educated on so I need to look up on what that means … but I do know that’s a vaccine.”

#3. MISS IOWA, Jeannie Anderson.
Then again...Beauty Pageant Contestants can mess up any subject.  When asked what she felt was the most important event in American History, Miss Iowa said: " "In my opinion, Pearl Harbor which occurred on December 7, 1941 was because [long pause] because it ended the great depression and forced us into the World War II, and... [long pause]. Thank you, Vegas!"

 #2. MISS CALIFORNIA Carrie Prejean.
The Golden State prides itself for 'Pro-Gay' policies.  So it angered many to find out that their representative believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She said it's unfortunate that "we live in a land where you can chose same sex marriage or opposite marriage."  What the hell is an 'opposite marriage' anyhow?

#1.  MISS SOUTH CAROLINA  Caitlin Upton.
Perhaps the most bruising blow to the integrity of Beauty Pageants occurred in the 2007 Miss USA competition.  The subject was America's terrible geography skills.  Specifically, why can't 25% of Americans locate their state on a map?  To which, the 18-year-old gave the most incoherent, rambling, bumbling, long-winded, disjointed and circuitous, reply ever!

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as, uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.” 

Well said... Caitlin...Well said.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013



We here at the DUNER BLOG just love the science-fiction movie Jurassic Park.  What separates this film from the million other silly dinosaur movies is author Michael Chichton's plausible premise.  It goes like this:  If we find dinosaur blood... that means we have 'Dino DNA'...so then we can re-create dinosaurs in the laboratory!   Well folks, fiction may soon become fact.  (The only problem is the animal discovered is less popular than T-Rex.)  Nonetheless, it could happen.  Last week, insane scientists recovered a 10,000 year old Woolly Mammoth carcass on Lyakhovsky Island off Siberia's Arctic Ocean coast...complete with DNA. 

Yakutsk in Winter.
The research team is from the nearby University of Yakutsk.  Prior to the discovery, Yakutsk's only claim to fame was an obscure achievement in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Specifically, Yakutsk is the site of the coldest (non-Antarctic) temperature ever.  In 1961, a temperature of -82°C (-116F) was recorded at the aptly named "Pole of Cold."  Yakut folklore says it gets so cold in winter, that one's words become instantly frozen in the air and cannot reach your friends.  However, during the spring, the snow melts and your words thaw and will be heard.  Anyhow, the only other thing (aside from native wisdom) found in Yakutsk is diamonds.  That's why Stalin moved Russians there and built a Soviet city on the banks of Lena River in the 1930's.

Re-creation courtesy of the New York Post.
Oops...we got a little off-subject.  Back to the mammoth.  The research team, led by famed mammoth hunter Semyon Grigoriev, has been looking for specimens for decades.  Lately, their search has been aided by global warming, which effects Siberia immensely.  This year, the permafrost is at an all-time low and once unapproachable Arctic islands can now be explored.  Dodging frozen icebergs and fierce polar bears, the research crew finally found their specimen.  Relentlessly, they excavated the body and returned to Yakutsk with a hero's welcome!

But can Woolly Mammoth blood really last 10,000 years?  Let's ask Professor Grigoriev.  "The blood is very dark.  It was found in ice cavities bellow the belly.  When we broke these cavities with a poll pick, the blood came running out." Next, the samples will be shipped to research facilities around the globe. Soon, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and Toronto University will be busy analyzing data.  However, we here at the DUNER BLOG are more interested in South Korea' Sooam Biotech Foundation.  Their "Mammoth Rebirth Project" is getting precariously close to recreating a living mammoth.

While every Siberian dreams of herds of Woolly Mammoth, plodding along the frozen tundra again, it's important to remember: Unfortunately, we are still a long way off from building an actual Jurassic Park amusement parkSee, the only time humans have successfully re-created an extinct species was in Japan in 2009.  For seven glorious minutes, a Pyrenean Ibex came to life in a laboratory.  It had a pulse and produced body warmth.  Then...BAM!  It died of lung failure.  While we have faith in the South Koreans, we don't want to get any one's hopes up!  But rest assured...if an mammoth, ibex or brontosaurus is ever brought back to life...we here at the DUNER BLOG will bring you the story...FIRST!!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013



While on vacation touring the ruins in Upper Egypt, a bored teenager got an idea.  Waiting for the just the right time...he snuck away from the organized group.  Alone amongst the 300 foot high columns, he quickly rummaged through his pockets.  What did he want?  Candy? No...  Phone? No...  Pocket knife? Yes!  Careful not to be seen, he climbed the base of a column.  Quickly, he carved his message onto the 3,400 year old granite, where it would remain forever.  From now on, anyone who visited the Luxor Temple, would read his astute message: "Ding Jinhao Was Here!" 

For the next two years, tens of thousands of tourists visited Luxor Temple  They all walked past the Chinese graffiti.  No one seemed to care or notice.  (Let's face it: There is a lot of graffiti in Egypt!)  However...two weeks ago...everything changed.  That's when a fellow Chinese tourist also got bored at the same exact spot.  He stopped and noticed Ding's tagging and got angry.  But this was no ordinary visitor...  Nope, it was a blogger / tourist. (Yikes!)  Instantly, he whipped out his Smart-Phone and zeroed in for the perfect shot.  Next, it was just a quick tap-tap-tap.  Then.. SEND!  Seconds later, all of China logged into his post and became outraged.

Attached to the downloaded picture, the blogger wrote: "The saddest moment of my trip to Egypt.  I'm so embarrassed.  I said to the Egyptian tour guide: 'I'm Sorry!'"  As we all know, the Chinese are very sensitive to their national image.  Other people from other countries might do vandalism...but not citizens from the People's Republic of China!  Within minutes, the correct Ding Jinhao was located and contacted by authorities.  The juvenile delinquent is now 15 years old and goes to high school in Nanjing.  Amazingly, he had told his parents about the incident when it happened and had already been punished.  Nonetheless, his mother issued the following statement:  "We want to apologize to the Egyptian people and to people who have paid attention to this case across China."

At this point, you might be asking yourself:  Is this subject really worthy of a DUNER BLOG?  Aside from bringing up the subject of China's state-insured-nation-worshipping, what point are we trying to make?  Answer: We want to warn fellow international travelers of a new trend: Chinese Tourists.  According to the World Tourism Organization, China now has more international travelers than any other nation on earth.    Last year, they spent $102 billion dollars on overseas trips.  That means Germany is now #2 and the USA and UK are #3 and #4.  The other surprise on the list is Russia at #5.  It's another communist nation that recently lifted restrictions on international travel for its citizens...who are leaving in droves.

Finally, we'd like to touch on the odd nature of graffiti itself.  See, Ding Jinhao's tagging has now become a tourist spot in itself.  It's not the first time this has happened in Egypt either.  Napoleon's armies carved messages on the great pyramids back in 1805.  Nowadays, people go to Cheops to see the graffiti.  Also in the 1800's: Lord Byron notoriously carved his name on the Temple of Poseidon in Attica.  Nowadays, people crowd around to photograph that!  Despite these exceptions, we here at the DUNER BLOG feel graffiti and all forms of vandalism are bad.  Even if you're a famous poet, conquering soldier or a snotty-nosed teenager...don't do it.  

NOTE: This does not include the dozen "DUNERs" written in wet cement on Berkeley and San Francisco sidewalks.