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Posted by wmmbb in Modern History, US Politics.
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As the Catholic Church does away with the concept of the limbo, a place for souls between heaven and hell, the Bush Administration has created a legal limbo for 82 detainees at the Guantanmo Bay prison. The Washington Post has the report.

Since it was established in 2002, the number of prisoners collected mostly in Afghanistan has been reduced by half with 385 remaining, of which 82 could be released by have no place to go. The problems at Guantanamo seem symptomatic of the personal style of the president and the Administration. They can be traced to unilateralism, legal ad hocery and a refusal to admit mistakes.


THANK YOU GOOGLE! April 28, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.
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Mist clearing over the escarpment. It works again! 28 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Showing ineptitude, I spent many hours trying to put my Friday Night Blog Together because the interface between Google and Picasa was not working. I did many things that I otherwise would not have done, and did not learn very much in the process. I use technology and am at the same time a technological dependent, which shows acutely when something goes wrong.

In this instance if you click onto the picture, and expand it, you will appreciate the mist that caught my eye. The photo was taken about 4 or 4.30pm.


Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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There are few photos to post this week, since the interface I normally use is not working, and as far as I can see the alternatives are not much. There was a lot of rain this week but it fell in the wrong places, not on the dam catchment areas. Storage levels increased by 03 per cent.

INDIVIDUALISM April 26, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Philosophy.
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Individualism, along with notions of freedom (or liberty), equality, justice, rights (and sometimes duties, if only implied), utilitarianism and rationality, is an element of liberalism, the characteristic ideology of Australian society. We may not be all liberals, but liberal ideology infuses our thinking and institutions. Liberalism is our cultural assumption. And yet assumptions can be a form of blindness, so it is worthwhile to consider whether they can stand scrutiny and from where they came. To me, individualism is the most problematic.

IQ: YOU BE THE JUDGE April 26, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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Based on what you can see for yourself reflected in the Duckpond, does any of the following make sense to you, or might it just be an example of inexact measures and wayward inferences? I did this exercise once. It is enough for me to question its validity. I do not wish to test its reliability, and get a worse outcome.

ANZAC DAY April 25, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience, Modern History.
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ANZAC Day was something for my father and grandfathers to remember. My war of choice was the Vietnam War, and I chose not to participate.

Aside from peace keeping, of which the Solomons and East Timor, wars have mostly been imperialist causes, which can be said of the First World War, Vietnam and Iraq. Afghanistan might be another case, as its geneses lies in the criminal attack of 911 by Al Qaeda, and the close relationship that existed between it and the Taliban Government. Therefore Afghanistan is ambiguous. In waging even a partial war against fundamentalist religion, we might keep in mind European history, not least the contemporary events in the Basque Country and Northern Ireland.

The effects of war are real enough for the people who participate in them, or are otherwise caught up in their machinations. War has for many, including myself, has formed and shaped our existence, even if we have never stood on a battlefield. My parents were brought together by war, which otherwise would have been an improbable event. Our lives lived in their microcosm are part of larger historical and human developments.


Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy, US Politics.
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James Carroll, writing originally in The Boston Globe, and quoted in Common Dreams connects the dots between the violence at Virginia Tech and Iraq. He makes a comparison between what he, quoting Hannah Arendt describes as “instrumental violence” and “expressive violence”. Instrumental violence is about the relationship between ends and means, and may be moral, whereas “expressive violence”, such as the killings at Virginia Tech have no possible moral grounds, with the corollary that the media infotainment news system became complicit in it.

We are left at the end of the article with the question: What is the purpose of the violence in Iraq? I think we have to ask the more political and material empirical question: Who has gained, and who will gain by the continued presence of the American Occupation in Iraq?

STOP THAT WALL April 23, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Prime Minister Al-Maliki has ordered a stop to the wall that US troops were erecting in Baghdad to block of Sunni and Shi’ite areas of the city. This order was reported by ABC News.

I wonder whether the Iraqi PM has the authority. I am guessing that the American authorities will be most irritated by this development, which is guaranteed to intensify their search for an alternative PM who will do what he is told as befits a conquered country.

ASPERGERS AND VT? April 23, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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I have just heard a interview with Tony Attwood on ABC Sydney talking about Asperger’s Syndrome. Superficially, the Virginia Tech gunman seems to have displayed some symptoms – imaginary friends, non-communicativeness and so forth. Such people often experience bullying in childhood.

The murder of the teachers and students is very sad and seemingly incomprehensible, yet there must be an explanation. The striking thing to me about Cho’s explanations for his actions is the apparent lack of insight into his motivation. This is based on very limited exposure, but I did listen to what he had to say, up until I was persuaded to turn it off. Furthermore, it struck me that a English major would be incoherent.

If psychiatrists cannot identify problem people, who tend have access to automatic weapons, there is a cause for concern. Better diagnosis might be the most effective remedy.

A gun ban, although the evidence I believe suggests it would work, would be both costly and hard to implement. Tighter gun laws is probably the way to go. Allowing arms on campus, as anywhere, would increase the rate of accidental deaths.

At the very least this case is an illustration of the failure of individualism and the doctrine of individual responsibility, which may apply for normal people but not to abnormal ones, who have existential problems dealing with social environments (for which, and by whom, computers were invented, it was suggested).

Sometimes, speculation belongs only here, if it has a place at all.

A tangential thought:It occurs to me turning people into killing machines, as per military socialization programing, is only ever partially successful. Patriotism and other forms of indoctrination had a lot to answer as both motivation and balm. Aside from all the other injuries, tangible and intangible that people acquire from military service, they should have a detoxification process to allow them to participate in civilian life.

Such is the genius of the American system of the underclass and low wage labor, taken to the breast so enthusiastically by some here, there is no need to worry, since the burden will fall, as it does there, disproportionally on the poor and marginal, the otherwise useless discards.

FRANCE IS VOTING April 23, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.

There are two rounds in the French system. In the first round the twelve candidates effectively compete for the top two positions, and then there is a run-off election about two weeks later to determine the successful candidate for president. They could adopt preferential voting and save themselves the trouble and cost of holding two polls.

The BBC is reporting that early turnout is high, and that this will be one of the most unpredictable elections in decades.

As far as I can tell Nicholas Sarkozy of the UMP, Segolene Royal of the Socialists and Francois Bayrou of the UDF are the leading candidates, with the latter two fighting out the second spot. More people than ever have decided to register to vote making the intermediate and final outcomes more unpredictable.

One of the interesting things about this election, as reported by Deutsche Wella is:

For the first time in a presidential election, some of the 44.5 million registered French voters cast their ballots on electronic voting machines — an innovation that appeared to meet with general approval.

“I was a bit apprehensive at first,” said Yvette Lalanne, 70, in the southwestern city of Toulouse. “But, in fact it’s pretty simple and quick and, I hope, reliable.”


According to the BBC, Sarkozy got almost 31%, Royal 25%. Bayrou 18% and Le Pen 11%. That is 85% of the voters supported the leading four candidates. Despite what I suggested the voting system does effect outcomes and electoral tactics. According to Daniel Cohen-Bendit speaking on DW(video), Sarkozy was positioning himself against Le Pen in the first round. Francois Hollande (Segolene Royal’s husband), the leader of the Socialist Party, notes that Royal got more 10% support that their candidate last time and more than Mitterrand in 1981. The uncertainty is in the level of turnout for the next round and how the votes will be distributed. My guess is that Sarkozy has done well and is well positioned to win the second ballot, although some commentators are suggesting that Bayrou’s vote will split 50-50 (whereas I would have expected 60-40).

The deciding second round will be on 6 May.


Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.

Sasha and Dexter’s mostly daily walks are usually recorded by photos and by date. Sometimes they go out and the camera does not work. On these occasions, my first reaction is that I have dropped it once too many times, but usually the answer is either the batteries are flat, or more rarely the photo card remains attached to the computer, and not the camera.

Off the beaten track. 14 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Looking down. 15 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Time to be pleased. 15 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

A moment to be serious. 15 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

On Alert. 15 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Bright eyes. 16 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha stands easy. 17 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Looking around. 17 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Dexter steps on the side. 17 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Let’s block the road. 17 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Patience. 17 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Look at us! 19 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sitting. 19 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Something of interest. 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

What’s that? 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha takes her turn. 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Pause for reflection. 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Last light of day. 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Positive outlook. 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha: relaxed and alert. 20 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha and Dexter will be again stepping up to board Friday Ark#135 and join with the Carnival of the Dogs.


Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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As far as I can tell the Australian Government is seeking to deter refugees and deny them recourse to legal process (very much as they process to deny recourse to same legal process for citizens by their industrial laws). The methods to date have been imprisonment and incarceration at remote locations, such as Nauru.

I have seen the movie, Casablanca, so I realize there are business opportunities where refugees are concerned, as there are clear reasons why some would chose to leave their homeland. Poverty and despair would be as good a reason as political oppression, even torture and war, although I suspect the later combined with the initiative and means is the stronger motive force. Australia has been predominantly a country of European settlement, although not exclusively so, and the combination of political and economic motives have always played a part, beginning with the Penal Settlement at Sydney Cove. It seems to me the one motive does not preclude the other.

I am mostly puzzled by the lateral thinking in the announcement that Australia and the United States of America are going to exchange 200 prospective refugees each per year. The BBC carried a report. The refugees from Sri Lanka will be exchanged for those from Haiti and Cuba. We are told this move will act as a deterrence. Somebody had better write something in good clean Orwellian style other than the existing doggerel on the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Odd is not that governments who have refused to trade in carbon, but are prepared to trade in humans. Perhaps they are historically regressing respectively to the heroic experience of penal settlement and slavery.

In the absence of carbon trading, or some other method to counter the causes of global warming, it is likely that the pressure to emigrate from those parts of the world most effected will increase. By that time, Howard and Bush, will be long gone, and so might our respective, in some respects very successful experience and experiments, in liberal democracies.

While these governments stitch up this deal, they simultaneously refuse to accept responsibility for the refugees created by their invasion and occupation of Iraq and its concomitant generation and radiation of terrorism.

One thing we can be sure about is that Howard would not be announcing this counter-refugee policy if he did not thing it was an electoral plus for his government.

Oops I am sorry, as a good media consumer I should have bought into the government’s talking points, and if necessary double thought my way past them.

1984 is the policy manual for our time.


There is more to this story than meets my eye. The fuller story will be told over time.
I posted at Tim Dunlop’s Blogocracy. I was intrigued by his question: What is in it for the Americans? At the time, I was either muddled, or multitasking. I will take this opportunity to say what I meant.

The shortest distance between Cuba and Florida is about 140km. Escaping Cubans use a variety of means to get across the water. If they get to US landfall they are home free. If they get caught at sea, they might get sent to Guantanamo. The same principle applies to Haitians, except the distance is somewhat longer, and consequently one supposes that there are more Haitians than Cubans in the refugee processing centre.

Haitians might for a number of reasons find settlement in the US more difficult than Cubans, who have an well-established Spanish speaking community they can connect with. Haitians by contrast are more likely to be French speaking, be poorer, more prone to diseases such as HIV, and have a smaller and less resourced host communities within the US. So if true, it is reasonable to suppose, Haitians may be less successful, or at least more expensive as immigrants and new settlers.

No problems. John Howard has the Pacific Solution (not as I understand some ironical reference to The Final Solution). He will trade Tamil Sri Lankans, who also may have heard about cricket, and possibly speak English, for those people held at Guantanamo.

No doubt there is some deeper Machiavellian explanation that escapes my perception.


Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, US Politics.
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Jason Soon, at Catallaxy sets up the discussion by contrasting a quote from Hilary Clinton and Virginia Postel.

I suspect based on my experience that the State does a superior job for greatest majority of people in providing such services as health care and education. I think it is plain nonsense to suppose that people are economically empowered by a market system that provides employment conditions, often strangely entrenched by government regulation, that systematically diminishes their potential as human beings and their capacity as citizens. The mixed economy, combined with reasonably regular changes of political orientation, offered a means of checks and balances, a clockwork economy, not of stasis but progressive economic advancement.

Other than direct experience I have nothing to say. Perhaps these discussions are like the expositions of the philosophers on the floating island in Gulliver’s Tales (I saw the movie).

Still this is a fundamental political debate, presented often in black and white, but in political reality a series of spectrum shifts, that become quantum jumps, whereby in one realization the State becomes the instrument of corporate interests enmeshed in a military-industrial complex and monopoly media determined to set the consensus with a distinct coloration.

Declaring assumptions is not thinking, but sometimes a necessary precondition. What is required I suppose is an inquiry into the wealth of nations rather than mere thinking, however clever, which is often the selective and partial use of evidence.

Contrary Opinion:

Hans Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God that Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order, Traction Publishers, 2001. (via Modulator)


Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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I made mention here of my email I sent respect to my dismissal from my casual outsourced job for a department. I have now a reply from the Premier’s office. The context is that I was responding to work colleagues who were more outraged by my treatment than I was.

The letter, edited to preserve anonymity, is as follows;

The Premier has received your recent email concerning a workplace issue.

[Reference to the relevant Minister]

You may be sure that your comments will receive close consideration.

Yours sincerely

I was thinking about the reply from the Department. To be honest I was not going to take it further, but I did think there was a question of public policy concerning outsourced staffing for a department by means of a commercial contract. It seems, I would guess that such staff are effectively working for the Minister as temporary public servants. This is the perception of the public who deal with them.

Therefore to sack a person, the more so because it was a summarily dismissal, who was acting in accordance with instructions, which may be inconsistent, and with the implied policy of the Minister, is fundamentally wrong, or at least is “harsh, unreasonable and unjust.” Of course, the facts may not accord with the description, but at the very least they should be independently reviewed. But the wider issue is that of public policy that goes to the questions of the way in which the contracted companies manage their public duty and the way in which the supervises the behavior of the contracted companies staff in fulfilling the public duty.

Of course, it is not difficult to understand why government departments and businesses outsource work during peak flows. No doubt they will continue to do so. However, the Work Choices legislation has made a significant difference. The contracted companies are “trading corporations”. This legislation has therefore effected a change in the way in which public services are implemented, to the effect that the staff of companies have no effective legal rights. So why should they care. They can be, and probably will be sacked, dependent on the employee, because of arbitrary reasons.

The casualization of labor force has been met with a resounding silence, suggesting that does effected by the flexibility requirements of business do not count personally or politically. The lowest common denominator rules, which may be good mathematics,  yet poor policy.

I await the Minister’s response.

PURGEGATE April 15, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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Despite Joe Klein of Time declaring these matters to be minor, The New York Times’ editorial begs to differ:

It is vital that Congress get to the truth about these firings. Last week, the Republican National Committee threw up another roadblock, claiming it had lost four years’ worth of e-mail messages by Karl Rove that were sent on a Republican Party account. Those messages, officials admitted, could include some about the United States attorneys. It is virtually impossible to erase e-mail messages fully, and the claims that they are gone are not credible.

The only solution is to get these issues out into the open. It is good that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will finally testify in the Senate this week. But Mr. Rove, who seems to be at the heart of this affair, should also be required to testify under oath — and in public. Even the Wizard of Oz eventually came out from behind the curtain.

Attorney General Gonzales looks gone at this point. The axe is set to fall, which will be a blow to the Bush Administration. Once the curtain has fallen, Karl Rove will be not seen any more as the magician he was once thought to be (not least by me).

Alberto Gonzales claims in The Washington Post that he did nothing wrong:

What began as a well-intentioned management effort to identify where, among the 93 U.S. attorneys, changes in leadership might benefit the department, and therefore the American people, has become an unintended public controversy.

Somebody has got the wrong end of the stick, or to change the metaphor is walking up, or down, the wrong garden path. We can only await further developments.


Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.

I should have been told, or otherwise discovered, but I continued to live in the Newtonian Universe, which seems to work pretty well, but does not explain the wider Universe. It seems Albert Einstein was right, about this aspect of this theory on general relativity.

The Guardian reports:

The early results from Gravity Probe B, one of Nasa’s most complicated satellites, confirmed yesterday ‘to a precision of better than 1 per cent’ the assertion Einstein made 90 years ago – that an object such as the Earth does indeed distort the fabric of space and time.

. . . But this – what is referred to as the ‘geodetic’ effect – is only half of the theory. The other, ‘frame-dragging’, stated that as the world spins it drags the fabric of the universe behind it.

The theory is explained:

When Einstein wrote his general theory of relativity in 1915, he found a new way to describe gravity. It was not a force, as Sir Isaac Newton had supposed, but a consequence of the distortion of space and time, conceived together in his theory as ‘space-time’. Any object distorts the fabric of space-time and the bigger it is, the greater the effect.

Just as a bowling ball placed on a trampoline stretches the fabric and causes it to sag, so planets and stars warp space-time – a phenomenon known as the ‘geodetic effect’. A marble moving along the trampoline will be drawn inexorably towards the ball.

Thus the planets orbiting the Sun are not being pulled by the Sun; they are following the curved space-time deformation caused by the Sun. The reason the planets never fall into the Sun is because of the speed at which they are travelling.

According to the theory, matter and energy distort space-time, curving it around themselves. ‘Frame dragging’ theoretically occurs when the rotation of a large body ‘twists’ nearby space and time. It is this second part of Einstein’s theory that the Nasa mission has yet to corroborate.

The demonstration confirming the partial explanation is impressive. What might be more impressive is the imagination and thinking that created the theory in the first place.

BLOOD PRESSURE April 15, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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The BBC reports:

The cause of high blood pressure may lie within the brain, rather than with problems relating to the heart, kidneys or blood vessels, research suggests.

Scientists at Bristol University say the findings could lead to new ways of treating the condition, which affects about one in five Britons. The scientists isolated a protein, JAM-1, which appeared to trap white blood cells, obstructing blood flow. This can cause inflammation and result in poor oxygen supply to the brain. Professor Julian Paton and colleagues believe these, in turn, trigger events that raise blood pressure, the journal Hypertension reports.

The usual qualifications apply. This looks to be a fruitful course of research and the full story is not fully understood. Still, I suspect, if problems have been identified with the heart, arteries or kidneys these are likely to causes, even if there may be other factors. Anyway something to talk my specialists about.


Posted by wmmbb in Duckspeak.
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I do not know the answer, but the question ought to exercise our collective minds: Which is the greater challenge to democracy – terrorism, in particular suicide bombing, or the egregiously described ‘war on terror”, in particular the counter insurgency field manual now going through its paces in the proposed gated communities of Baghdad?

They are both insidious, no less the practice of counter insurgency as expostulated by General Petraeus, according to one reader of his manual. The army, through the practice of counter insurgency it seems, is transmogrified from a military organization to a political one. Fascism is such a sweet remedy.

Jorge Mariscal observes in Counterpunch:

At the heart of the counterinsurgency effort is the propaganda war.

The field manual’s recommendations resonate with the language of the Republican National Committee and even some postmodern cultural theory. “Control of the narrative” and “shaping the information environment” are the primary objectives:

Command themes and messages based on policy should be distributed simultaneously or as soon as possible using all available media Polling and analysis should be conducted to determine which media allow the widest dissemination of themes to the desired audiences at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

1984 remains the field manual for our times.


Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth, US Politics.
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Source: Time Magazine (Brooks Kraft/Corbis)

Joe Klein, in the latest issue of Time, considers that Bush has not committed the “treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanours” of the Constitution that would require impeachment by Congress. In fact, he considers talk of impeachment to counterproductive and nutso. There are, he alleges, no high crimes, just a bad presidency. Purgegate, as one example, is a relatively minor matter. Klein’s article, if within the frame of MSM conventional thinking, is an indictment of Bush for maladministration and personal failings.

Others have taken a contrary view, and have been arguing the case for impeachment for over a year. Commentators, including blog writers, are I suppose entitled to make declarative statements. A reader might be expected to find consideration for the case made for impeachment.

David Lindorff, who with Barbara Olshansky wrote, The Case for Impeachment, the grounds for impeachment are as real as they were, but that the priority should be changed. He writes, via Common Dreams:

At this point, arguably, Bush¹s greatest crime is not the Iraq War, terrible as that has been. Nor is it his revocation of habeas corpus or his authorization of torture. It is not the usurpation of the legislative power of the Congress. It is not the felonious violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or his obstruction of the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

His biggest crime is a deliberate campaign of inaction and active obstruction in the face of a clear need for the United States to act decisively to stop or slow catastrophic climate change.

The Bush Administration and its sponsors, the special interests, have not only done nothing, and so made things worse, but lied to the people about the dangers posed to the society.

Joe Klein’s argument is supported by Lindoff:

Stupidity, pig-headedness and yahooism are not impeachable offenses. The Founding Fathers pointedly rejected a proposal by George Washington that maladministration be included as grounds for impeachment. Rather, they stuck with “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which they took to mean acts that threatened Constitutional government, or endangered the people or the nation.

And Lindoff then argues that Bush by his dithering, interference, indifference and active obstruction has created the conditions that will lead to predictable consequences. So Bush should be impeached for negligence.

The question not asked, as far as I am aware, by Lindoff or Kein, is how did so plainly an unfit person ever become president, and be re-elected?

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – सो आईटी गोएस ANOTHER WEEK April 14, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Time goes past, and all I have to remember are the photos of the dogs from one day to the next. We are stuck in our routine. I think the dogs like their daily schedule, or least they look at me strangely if I let one day go by. We have mini-bikes with mini-riders to negotiate, the occasional silent cyclist who are upon us often without been seen, and then there are other dogs. The photos seem to exist in a world of their own, freed of their context. सो इत गोएस.(Hindi via Google).

Look this way. 08 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

. . . or that way. 08 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha beneath the bottle brushes. 08 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

At the front door. 08 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha has had enough. 08 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Almost at the top. 09 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

A closer look. 09 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

In the shadow of trees. 10 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Keeping close to the ground. 11 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

No ducks at this end of the dam. 11 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha stands on a slope. 12 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Enjoying the view. 12 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha takes a stand. 12 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Dexter’s interest is aroused. 12 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

A happy outlook. 13 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Dexter looks pleased. 13 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

We will again seek to board Friday Ark#134 at Modulator and join the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings. These photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.