Friday, March 31, 2006

That Obscure Object of Desire

Two Terrabytes Of Digital Media Euphoria

Tromping through the streets of downtown Tokyo... crunching tiny white audio players underfoot comes the iZilla. If you've been looking to step-up to a hungry man sized portable media player with incredible tech powers... this is it. First start with a whopping two terabytes of storage delivered by four 500 gig internal hard drives. Up the ante with a sweet 7" TFT-LCD touch screen... then crush your opponents with high-speed ripping capability for CD, DVD, and vinyl. A handy iPod® dock allows you to transfer songs to and from the iZilla.

Listen to the iZilla roar through the internal six speaker surround system offering 5.1 channel surround sound with up to 120 watts per channel. Or enjoy your music privately with the included DJ-Style wireless bluetooth headphones up to 15 feet away. Built in wi-fi (802.11g), Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire and USB 2.0 ports ensure the maximum capability to transfer your tunes and video to external hard drives and computers.

Take the iZilla with you anywhere. It's like having an entire home entertainment system in a handy 30 pound white briefcase. The iZilla can be powered by a standard 120VAC wall outlet, or runs off 16 D size batteries (not included).

    Product Features & Specifications
  • 2000 Gigabytes of storage
  • Built in CDRW/DVD-RW 52X/32X/52X/16X
  • Built in slot loading turntable with laser pickup
  • Plays back video and audio digital media in the following formats: MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, WMV, Divx, MP3, MP4, XviD, DVD(IFO, VOB), Ogg Vorbis, ADPCM, WMA, AAC-LC
  • Rips video from DVD (downloadable software patch required for encrypted DVD media)
  • Rips audio from CD (.wav, mp3 or Ogg Vorbis)
  • Rips audio from Vinyl (.wav, mp3 or Ogg Vorbis)
  • Transfers music to and from iPod (All iPod models with dock connector. Music from iPod must be non-encrypted.)
  • Burns DVD, Audio and Data CD formats
  • 7" TFT-LCD Touch screen 724x309 resolution
  • Touch-Screen menu system controls all functions
  • Wireless connectivity with wi-fi 802.11g and Bluetooth
  • Wired connectivity via gigabit ethernet, USB 2.0, and Firewire.
  • Wireless Bluetooth DJ style headphones included
  • Six speaker surround system offering 5.1 channel surround sound with up to 120 watts per channel.
  • Dimensions: 19" x 14" x 4.5", weight 32.8 lbs. with batteries installed
Price: 799.99 US$ + handling and shipping
To order:

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Lean, Mean Buddha Machine

After resisting for a couple of weeks, I cracked and ordered a Buddha Machine or Buddha Box. Another four weeks or so and I'm holding in my hands my own personal Buddha Machine. What's a Buddha Machine, I hear you ask. Here's what it looks like, with its cute kitshy cardboard box:

My lean, mean, tangerine Buddha Machine

It’s an inexpensive-looking small box, the size of a cigarette package (available in five different colors), that plays nine different loops through the integrated speaker (there's also a headphone jack). A toggle switch allows the user to cycle through the short loops, which will play continuously for hundreds of hours on a single pair of AA batteries. (And if the batteries do run out, the box even has a plug for DC power - not included). The box is totally self-contained, and the onboard RAM cannot be modified. It's is available in a total edition of 800, manufactured by a Buddhist-run factory in southern China.

The musical loops are performed by FM3 [actually it's FM, pronounced FM san; “san” is three in Chinese], a Beijing based duo [they used to be a trio, hence «san»], composed of American Christiaan Virant and Chinese Zhang Jian. The loops are either of a very Eastern inclination (utilizing traditional instrumentation like the gu zheng) or of a meditative New Age-y nature. In actuality, the Buddha Machine is a modified version of a device used in Buddhist temples throughout Asia, which feature repeating loops of chanting monks or nuns. "Buddha Machine" is a direct translation of the Chinese term for these devices. The drones themselves are largely wonderful, whether carefully studied or relegated to the background. Most of the drones are [...] named after animals and musical instruments, with a couple given the nondescript names of "b1" and "b2", and the final drone named after the verb "To Dance". The first drone, translated "Horse", is particularly lovely, two repeated organ-like tones that last about fifteen seconds each, which after a while create a lovely, moody, minor-key atmosphere. "Sheep" actually features a melody, which when repeated for a couple of minutes, becomes one of the most peaceful of the drones for its simplicity and use of empty space. Even "b1", composed with a single, decaying chord only six seconds in length, could slow your heartbeat with its insistence on never, ever moving.

There's even a graphic showing the machine innards. Of course, the question that is being asked repeatedly on the internet is: is there really a little buddha sitting inside the box? A kind of a Ghost in the Buddha Machine?

Who knows? Who cares? All I know is: I have never slept so well since I keep it on all night on my beside chair. I also take it to work and find myself more relaxed and more patient in my dealings with people around me.

Read all about it:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

One Laptop per Child

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a new, non-profit association dedicated to research to develop a $100 laptop — a technology that could revolutionize how we educate the world's children, by providing them with inexpensive computers, especially in developing countries. This initiative was first announced by Nicholas Negroponte, from the Massachussetts Institute of Techology MediaLab, at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005 [].

OLPC has developped three prototypes so far. The first one is the Green Machine (no hard disk, flash memory, a crank to produce energy in case of a blackout, WiFi, etc.), the Blue Machine and the Yellow Machine, using open source sofware to be developped by Red Hat of Linux fame [].

Obviously such a worthwhile project should be supported by everybody in the industry, including the major players, right? Wrong!
Microsoft Corp Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates mocked the $100 laptop computer being developed with the backing of rival Google Inc. []

"The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen," Gates said at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in suburban Washington.

"Hardware is a small part of the cost" of providing computing capabilities, he said, adding that the big costs come from network connectivity, applications and support.

His solution is to introduce Origami [], except that his machine costs between 600 to 1000$, which puts it in a completely different ballgame.

The conflict of interest did not go unnoticed. While the Green, Blue and Yellow Machines are not perfect - and how could it be at such a price - it will still be a major breakthrough in the educational field. The idea that young people all over the world will be able to communicate, to share knowledge and insights and to better understand each other, and maybe not be as prone to violence and aggressiveness as their adult parents, is a prospect that makes me giddy with hope and anticipation.

In his March 18 post called «Bill Gates l'indécent» [], Francis Pisani of Le Monde says : Bill Gates, who can be generous through his eponymic foundation, cannot stand the slightest threat to the machines that made him the richest man in the world. He's not too happy that this new system works thanks to Linux or that Google is part of the MIT project.

But when one is as wealthy and powerful as Gates, one doesn't attack a projet that aims to provide every child in the world with a global communication tool and an access to universal knowledge. And if the machine is not perfect, let him provide the engineers and the ressources required to make it perfect.

What is indecent is not a 100$ laptop, it's Bill Gates.

Image de Sorbonne et Gomorrhe

Merci, Michèle!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bwahahahaha! ROTFL! LOL! LOL!

A sleeping bag designed for walking in -

What if I want to sleep, walk and juggle at the same time? Shouldn't there be a model with zipped holes for your arms to stick out?

Friday, March 24, 2006

The West is from Mars, the East is from Venus

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Vietnam, I've been reading a lot of blogs written by Vietnamese and expats living/working in Vietnam and I have to say, it's getting pretty addictive. My most recent favorite blog author is Preya, whose blog is called Dreaming of Hanoi []. Preya is now in the US, but one of her posts (March19) is so wise and thoughtful that I would like to present it to you in its integrality:

The Exit Sign

Anyone would know from reading my blog that I love everything about Hanoi. Everything about it holds some special place in my heart; every place beckons some distant memory to the forefront of my mind. If anyone would hate to see it destroyed or altered beyond recognition, I would. Already, I have seen it change drastically.

You would think, then, that I would nod my head in agreement when hearing people talk of "preserving cultures." After all, McDonald’s still hasn’t arrived in Hanoi (or Saigon for that matter) and I’ll be happy if it never does. But, in reality, I find it extremely condescending coming out of the mouths of people who hail from the "civilized" world, who go home to 24-hour convenience stores, drive-through fast food, city-sized shopping malls, and every other hallmark of "civilization" one can think of. They hate it all of course and take every opportunity to complain about corporations and all of the other "evil forces of globalization" that are "taking over the world." They flinch every time another McDonald’s opens in what used to be a pristine patch of rainforest. Every time another gaggle of brown-skinned school children starts speaking English and wearing blue jeans. No matter that they themselves take advantage of whatever benefits their culture, and their being members of it, offers. Being members of a culture that already has everything it needs and wants, it's easy for them to scream and yell and cry every time another "innocent" culture is corrupted.

While on the surface this attitude might seem harmless, I find it be to somewhat racist. People have the sovereign right to evolve (or devolve!) in any manner they choose, whether or not it fits someone else’s version of the "right way." It might disgust you, but to many developing nations, the symbols of globalization that you find so evil are symbols of wealth and success. Who are you to say that they can’t have those things? How incredibly patronizing to think that you are somehow more fit to choose the fates of others. Take fast food in America for example: Burgeoning waist lines and the ever-increasing number of fast food restaurants all around country in the last decade spurred another movement: the health food craze, which, some would say, has begun to curb the excess of the 90's. The point is that societies, as a whole, change and evolve; they make mistakes, learn from some and not from others. Who are we to stop that process from occurring in developing nations? It’s one thing to try to preserve aspects of cultures that contribute to the diversity of the planet, but it’s another to treat people as if they exist for some other purpose than the one they determine for themselves.

I can’t stand foreigners who visit Hanoi and complain about the new restaurants that serve non-Vietnamese food (I have heard it too often lately). Excuse me? People have a right to eat whatever they want. A growing number of Vietnamese can afford to eat out and you think it’s your right to decide that they should stick to traditional Vietnamese dishes because an upscale Italian restaurant ruins your idea of what Vietnam "should be," doesn’t quite meet up to those "exotic" standards you were expecting? I am equally annoyed by foreigners who claim to "love" Hanoi and insist that anyone who enjoys the modernities of life there–-restaurants, bars, hotels, and swimming pools, is not truly "experiencing" the country, or is somehow being immoral. I think it’s the opposite. To the locals and those who call it home, Hanoi is all of the things that now constitute it; it’s constantly growing and changing. Ironically, it is the distinguishing characteristic of the type of expat/tourist I talk of to want to have the "authentic" experience, while avoiding anything they feel might "ruin" it, like seeing the neon exit sign at the end of an engrossing museum exhibit. They fail to see how close-minded they are being; after all, to get the "authentic" experience you need to experience as much as possible, including the aspects that make up modern Hanoi. They go to Asia to find the simplicity and serenity that they feel has been lost at home, so they get angry when others there live a modern lifestyle.

To them I say: If you really feel like "preserving" something, by all means, work on stopping the evils of globalization in your own town. Work on returning it to the 19th century and see how people feel. Renounce your own creature comforts, but don’t be so condescending as to say that others should not have or want them. People exist and live and grow and strive for their own sake, not for yours. Do not go overseas and treat the places you see and the people you meet as if their only purpose in life is to "spice up" your world and make your travels more interesting, or provide you with a place to unwind, discover yourself, etc. While nearly all of the people who say these things do so with good intentions, I would argue that it’s ultimately no different from what Chinua Achebe, referring to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, said about how the West perceives (or once perceived) Africa:

For reasons which can certainly use close psychological inquiry the West seems to suffer deep anxieties about the precariousness of its civilization and to have a need for constant reassurance by comparison with Africa. If Europe, advancing in civilization, could cast a backward glance periodically at Africa trapped in primordial barbarity it could say with faith and feeling: There go I but for the grace of God. Africa is to Europe as the picture is to Dorian Gray -- a carrier onto whom the master unloads his physical and moral deformities so that he may go forward, erect and immaculate.

So, Asia, to many expats and tourists today, is both a place to escape and find simplicity and a place to see and experience new things; the underlying sentiment is the same: Anything that is not Western is the "other"–a receptacle for all that is good, or bad about humanity. For Achebe, it was the bad. Africa was portrayed as savage, the dark part of the white man’s consciousness. The new attitude is equally disturbing; it treats "the other" as both spa and museum, meant to "preserve" the innocence and simplicity of life that you can no longer find at home, for your viewing pleasure. In both instances, the "other" does not exist for its own sake, but as a means to some end of the Western world.
Preya's analysis reminds me of David Henry Hwang's multi-award winning play «M. Butterfly», later made into a film by David Cronenberg []. I saw the play a long time ago on Broadway. It's based on real events and tells the strange tale of a French diplomat, René Gallimard, who carried on a 20 year relationship with a Chinese opera star, Song Liling, never realizing that she was really a man []. Hwang's play is a masterful study of the willful desire of certain people to see the world as they imagine it and not as it actually is. Towards the end of the play, Song tells Gallimard that, in his mind, she represents the submissive Orient while he sees himself as a symbol of the aggressive Western civilization. And the real reason why he is so upset and distraught by the revelation that she is a spy for China and a man to boot, is because she refuses to conform to his image of her. Her betrayal is all the more biting because she won't entertain his illusions about her and about the Orient.

La cigale et la fourmi, v. 2.0


La fourmi travaille dur tout l'été dans la canicule; elle construit sa maison et prépare ses provisions pour l'hiver. La cigale pense que la fourmi est stupide; elle rit, danse et joue tout l'été.

Une fois l'hiver arrivé, la fourmi est au chaud et bien nourrie. La cigale grelottante de froid n'a ni nourriture ni abri et meurt de froid.



La fourmi travaille dur tout l'été dans la canicule; elle construit sa maison et prépare ses provisions pour l'hiver. La cigale pense que la fourmi est stupide; elle rit, danse et joue tout l'été.

Une fois l'hiver arrivé, la fourmi est au chaud et bien nourrie. La cigale grelottante de froid organise une conférence de presse et demande pourquoi la fourmi a le droit d'être au chaud et bien nourrie tandis que les autres moins chanceux comme elle ont froid et faim.

La télévision organise des émissions en direct qui montrent la cigale grelottante de froid et qui passent des extraits-vidéo de la fourmi bien au chaud dans sa maison confortable avec une table pleine de provisions.

Les Français sont frappés par le fait que, dans un pays si riche, on laisse souffrir cette pauvre cigale tandis que d'autres vivent dans l'abondance.

Les associations contre la pauvreté manifestent devant la maison de la fourmi.

Les journalistes organisent des interviews demandant pourquoi la fourmi est devenue riche sur le dos de la cigale et interpellent le gouvernement pour augmenter les impôts de la fourmi afin qu'elle paie "sa juste part".

En réponse aux sondages, le gouvernement rédige une loi sur l'égalité économique et une loi (rétroactive à l'été) d'anti-discrimination.

Les impôts de la fourmi sont augmentés et la fourmi reçoit aussi une amende pour ne pas avoir embauché la cigale comme aide.

La maison de la fourmi est préemptée par les autorités car la fourmi n'a pas assez d'argent pour payer son amende et ses impôts.

La fourmi quitte la France pour s'installer avec succès en Suisse. La télévision fait un reportage sur la cigale maintenant engraissée: Elle est en train de finir les dernières provisions de la fourmi bien que le printemps soit encore loin.

L'ancienne maison de la fourmi devenue logement social pour la cigale se détériore car cette dernière n'a rien fait pour l'entretenir. Des reproches sont faits au gouvernement pour le manque de moyens.

Une commission d'enquête est mise en place, ce qui coûtera 10 millions d'euros.

La cigale meurt d'une overdose. Libération et L'Humanité commentent sur l'échec du gouvernement à redresser sérieusement le problème des inégalités sociales.

La maison est squattée par un gang d'araignées immigrées; le gouvernement se félicite de la diversité multiculturelle de la France.

Les araignées organisent un trafic de marijuana et terrorisent la communauté.


Pictures from: and
Merci à Rita!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Star is Born

Yes, I know the difference between skateboarding and breakdancing.

On Tuesday, a group of us went to see director/choreographer Paula de Vasconcelos' new dance show «Demain/Tomorrow» at Usine C. Our main interest was my son Forty, who was one of the dancers, the only b-boy in the troupe.

I went to the show out of loyalty and maternal love. I compare that to putting one's child's finger paintings on the fridge, no matter how ugly, or sitting through two long boring hours of a primary school year-end show just to see him dance for two minutes in a sailor costume. Imagine my surprise and my delight when the show turned out to be fantastic!

Here's the official press release description (couldn't find an English version, sorry):
Avec Demain, dernier volet de la Trilogie de la Terre, Pigeons International tourne son regard vers le futur et ceux qui le feront. Entourée de jeunes interprètes et concepteurs, Paula de Vasconcelos consacre cette nouvelle oeuvre à la jeunesse et aux possibles avenues que celle-ci prendra pour refaçonner le monde. Un spectacle de théâtre-danse, une plate-forme pour imaginer un monde nouveau en quête d’espoir.
In spite of their youth (nobody's over 25), the dancers were great, polished and professional. The choreography was so innovative and creative and modern and unsexist and enlightened. And every time Forty came out to perform, we all went wild, clapping and screaming his name like a bunch of groupies. All in good fun but I must admit, I was dazzled by his talent. I didn't know the little bastard was that good! The troupe got three standing ovations and performed a wildly acclaimed encore.

After the show, we all ended up in Chinatown for lobsters, soft-shelled crabs and tom yum gong. A great way to end a wonderful evening!

Nous sommes tous des terroristes

Voir toute la galerie à :

Les images originales ont été piratées sur Internet. Vous n'avez bien sûr pas le droit de les utiliser.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Forgetting my cellphone at work

Martin Cooper, inventor of the handheld cellular phone

The other day, I was wearing a pocketless jacket, so I had to put my cellphone in the back of my pantwaist, against my spine. As I was riding in the elevator, which was full of people because we were in the midst of a huge conference, the phone of course started to ring, and because of the vibrations it fell into my underwear. Everyone in the elevator looked at me, wondering why I was not answering, since the music obviously came from me. The ring tone was getting louder and louder (It was The Blue Danube, so sue me!) so I got off at the next stop. Once outside, I did a sort of jiggling, jumping dance, trying to extricate the phone from my underwear. That's when the elevator door opened and out came the President of the Council with a few Ambassadors and Representatives of Member States. They saw me and froze. I saw them and froze, with both hands stuck deep in my pants and that damn phone singing loudly: Tah dah dah dah dah, dit dit, dit dit. Tah dah dah dah dah, dit dit, dit dit.

And that's why I forgot my phone at work the other day. Oh, and the call, it was a wrong number.

The smooth silver thing is my cellphone*. The furry sleeping thing is a puppy.

* Nah, I'm kidding, that's not my cellphone.

Here we go, running scared again

OMYGAWD! Let's apologize!

In response to an email sent to various senators by a U.S. family threatening to cancel a Canadian vacation because of the "horrific" annual seal hunt, Quebec Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette shot back with a strongly-worded e-mail response lashing out at American policy. []

"What I find 'horrific' about your country is the daily killing of innocent people in Iraq, the execution of mainly black prisoners in the U.S., the massive sale of guns to U.S. citizens every day, the destabilization of the whole world by the aggressive foreign policy of U.S. government, etc.," she wrote.

For her crime of anti-Americanism, Senator Hervieux-Payette is being crucified by her political colleagues. So was Françoise Ducros, Director of Communications for Prime Minister Chrétien, whose description of U.S. President George W. Bush as a "moron" caused her downfall and forced her resignation a year ago. There is this perception in the States that Canadians are naturally anti-America, and maybe we are, but you couldn’t tell that from the media reports in Canada. This is a well-known sickness of Canadians, in particular in the English-speaking and/or the conservative provinces. Their worst fear is to offend the US giant and every action or statement that is deemed too offensive to our US neighbours will be shushed down and vigorously condemned. In that respect, Canadians are like dogs with their tails tucked between their legs, constantly walking on eggs and jumping nervously at every real or imagined sign of disapproval or irritation from South of the border. I remember reading a letter, published in the Globe and Mail, from an American whining about unilingual French signs in Québec and – surprise, surprise – threatening to not spend a single American cent in Canada until we change our signs policy. His letter drew an avalanche of responses from readers apologizing for the inconvenience and cursing the Québec government for their disrespect. I was the only one writing: «Why the f*ck should we change our policy to accommodate the poor linguistic knowledge of an American tourist? Do you think that the Bush administration will withdraw from Iraq if I threaten to boycott the US as a vacation destination?»

Unless a geological miracle somehow cleaves the North American continent in two, separating Canada and the United States, the two countries are condemned to live together like conjoined twins. Obviously, the US is the dominant twin, being the sole superpower left on Earth and all. But Canada is the more enlightened one (for the time being) and we should not abdicate our responsabilities to guide and inspire our brother/neighbour and try to soften his present brutal and regressive side.

Come on, Canada! Let’s stop apologizing for telling the truth. Americans already have a low opinion of us (or of the rest of the world, actually). Scraping and kowtowing to them will certainly not enhance our image at this point. Let’s stop worrying about what the US think of us and let’s worry instead about maintaining our righteousness.

Chihuaha: "Fuck you!"

Monday, March 20, 2006

Long Suffering Vietnam

Visual Gui [] is a blog that's part of my daily rounds in the blogosphere. Donny is the owner of the blog, he's also a very nice and decent person, a loving son and a very talented artist.

A few weeks ago, I got entangled in a flame war on his blog, because of the musical slideshow that he created and posted, called «Bonjour Vietnam» [], illustrating a Marc Lavoine song, interpreted in French by Ms Pham Quynh Anh. The flame war started because a lot of Vietnamese living in North America do not speak French and some people started spouting all kinds of nonsense based on their idiosyncratic misinterpretation of the song. One of them in particular posted a racist rant against the French, accusing Mr. Lavoine of the imaginary crime of anti-Americanism, blaming him for past crimes committed by French colonials and scolding anybody who likes the song for having a slave mentality. It was wild! Of couse, I couldn't let such stupidity go unchallenged and a vigorous exchange of nasty comments followed.

It seems like poor Donny is a controversy magnet, because he posted two other musical slideshows and was rewarded for all his troubles with vicious attacks, to the point where he had to take down the slideshows. You can read all about it on his blog, but most importantly, be sure to view his two slideshows, which are now up again. They are very poignant and emotionally engaging, especially the first one, A few Gifts for My Homeland []. Here's the link to the second one, Vietnam in Memoriam: [].

Bravo, Donny, another job extremely well done!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nun Chaku

This is a video of last year's graduation ceremony of Iranian policewomen, shown on Iranian national TV. The policewomen are wearing chadors that make them look - to me - like nuns, so it's quite a thrill to see those «nuns» rappel down a wall, lean out of cars shooting at bad guys and swing nunchucks like Bruce Lee. Enjoy!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Man of a Million Lies

That’s one of Marco Polo’s nicknames after he got back from his travels around the world and wrote a book describing all the marvels he has seen. His tales were so fantastic that they strained credibility. After Marco Polo's, the European account of the exotic Orient that had the widest readership in the early modern era was probably the ''Peregrination'' of the Portuguese adventurer Fernao Mendes Pinto, called ''The Travels of Mendes Pinto.'' His descriptions of China, however, seem to be the result of what he heard or read and have been characterized as ''arrant nonsense'' by one later critic. In fact, even in the 17th century, the fabrications were so obvious that Mendes Pinto had become a synonym for liar. []

Nowadays of course, traveling abroad is no longer a privilege of the rich or the adventurous, so lying about one’s trips abroad is not as safe nor as tempting. And yet, some fools are still trying!

One of them is apparently «a 55 year old American embarking on a year of travel apart from my job, family and friends on a sabbatical to encounter three Asian cultures and countries (with a bunch of side stops in between)». The man has a blog [] where he writes about his stay in Vietnam and his meetings and conversations with the local people, and where he posts pictures he supposedly took on his trips. Unfortunately for him, one of the pictures he posted of a homeless kid living under a bridge, which he described as a newspaper seller near where he lives, was recognized by another blogger as being taken by a friend. That blogger is the director of the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation [], a volunteer organization registered in Australia, with Vietnamese and international volunteers working together to help the most vulnerable children and their families in northern Vietnam. After recognizing the picture, he put a comment on the Father’s blog (yes, the guy’s a priest!), denouncing the fakery and demanding an apology. He also reported the incident on his own blog []. With his lie exposed for the whole world to see, the Father quickly deleted all his previous posts save for the last two, and emptied his archives. And now, it turns out that it was not the first nor the only picture the good Father posted as his own. Go read the details at the Vietnam Street blog and hurry and visit the Father’s blog before he shuts it down completely and goes spread his lies somewhere else.

Hai, who was living under a bridge in Hanoi until Blue Dragon staff met him, befriended him, and eventually assisted him to return to his family in Thanh Hoa province.

The French has a saying for this syndrome: «À beau mentir qui vient de loin». I don’t have an English translation at the ready. [Update 25th March - Someone suggested: 'Tis easy to lie when you're from faraway]. All I can think of is : Liar, liar, pants on fire, Father!

Update on 18-03-2006:
Too late! The travelling priest has deleted his blog. He's probably started a new one somewhere else. It's too bad, cause it's always less painful to deal with one's problem when it's still in its infancy. Once it's become part of your character, denial (no, not the Egyptian river) will be an automatic reaction.

Are we there yet?

Les survivants du génocide de 1994 viennent à peine de relever la tête...


Les enfants-parents du Rwanda
LE MONDE | 16.03.06

© Le

Et puis, il y a Darfur ....

A civilian killed by the Sudanese Government backed Janjaweed militia in Farawyaiah, West Darfur. The soldiers in the background are from the Sudanese Liberation Army, one of many military factions in the region. Photographed August 24, 2004, by Lynsey Addario. This is the first in an on-going RBN series of photos from the east African nation.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Compassion or Commerce? = Cake or Death?

Pictures from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963)

Releasing animals has been a traditonal practice of Buddhists. This action is probably inspired by the vows to save all beings from suffering, which incidentally also helps the person gain some merits.

When we were still living in Vietnam, my mother, like thousands of other Buddhists, would buy birds, fish or turtles sold at pagodas and set them free. Even at my young age, I was able to point out to her the futility of her gesture, since the people who sold her the animals would immediately catch them back for resale, but of course, what mother would ever listen to her young child, especially in religious matters.

An article in the Washington Post looks at the tradition from a public health point of view:
«.. the tradition, in which devotees seek blessings for this life and the next, could now prove to be a curse. Animal health experts warn that the practice of capturing wild birds, holding them in confined quarters and then turning them over to human hands could spread avian flu among birds, across species and on to people... So far, avian influenza has not been diagnosed in any of the birds released at the temples of Buddhist Asia, from Thailand to Taiwan. But that is only because so few have been tested, according to Martin Gilbert, a field veterinarian with the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society. The virus, which has killed people in at least seven countries, including Cambodia, and infected birds on three continents, has been discovered in some of the same species that are sold in front of Buddhist shrines.

Though the ritual of releasing birds is practiced in several Asian countries with Buddhist populations, the tradition in Cambodia is intertwined not only with religion but national identity. The king frees doves, pigeons and other wild fowl about four times a month -- in especially generous numbers to mark royal birthdays -- and this has complicated efforts to curb the practice.»
But even without the health risks, a tradition which may be valid during the Buddha time doesn't make much sense nowadays. The Buddhist Channel site explains:
The action of releasing birds has by itself sprouted an industry for it. For a religion that talks about compassion, it does seems strange that our actions can bring about an industry that catches birds in the wild, hold them in small and cramped cages (usually with many other birds) and then allowing people to buy and releasing them back to the wild again, just so that we "humans" may feel that we have done a good deed.

One of the methods used by these vendors to catch the birds is to set up a net across the woods. As the bird flies through they get entangled inside it. Many of these nets are not meant for a harmless capture, unlike those used for research. The entangled birds often gets injured or exhaust themselves as they struggle desperately to get free. By the time the bird catcher comes and collects the birds, they are either exhausted or starving. Many either die in the net or while being transported to the market.

Those that live are then stuffed into a cage which hosts many other birds as well, often in unhygienic conditions. We don't even know if the vendors feed the birds at all. Due to the cramped conditions, some of the birds fight among themselves in the cage. Some suffocate or bleed to death because of the fights. By the time anyone comes along to buy these birds for release they would have already suffered for a few days. So, for every bird released, probably five more would have died.

Such acts of cruelty are not just consigned to birds, but also to other species such as fishes, terrapins and tortoises. In order to catch the animals, some vendors would have their habitats destroyed or poisoned, some animals are ripped apart from their flock or have their entire flock killed. Like a lot of marine fish (which are not bred in farms), many of them are caught by locals using dynamites or cyanide poisoning. In the process, their habitats are ruined, which in turn condemns those not caught to suffer and live in a poisoned environment. Many of the shop owners who buy fish and other animals care very little about their habitats or the methods used to catch them. Their main concern, obviously is the bottom line.

The moral argument here is not about being for or against the releasing of animals, but about the economics behind the action, that is, the payment of ransom for their release. Whenever we pay to buy something, we encourage the vendors to continue their trade.

This dilemma is constantly played out with animal conservationalists in areas with a lot of wildlife like Africa. They constantly have to struggle with their personal emotions to refrain from buying a young primate (e.g. gorilla, chimpanzee or gibbon) from the market place because once they do that, it will encourage the sellers to catch more of those animals to sell them to the conservationalists. And to catch these young primates usually means that the parents have to be killed in order to pry them off from their arms. So in effect, by buying an animal off the streets, people are not saving an animal but are rather causing the brutal death of two or more animals.

What about those whose livelihood depends on such sales? Well, life is certainly not easy for anyone caught in such a moral dilemma. It is also hard for a wise and compassionate Buddhist to weight the proper merits of each action. This is something for all concerned to ponder in depth, for there is no easy solution.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Crazy Dog

Just testing the embedding thingie..

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I am the Dalai Lama's evil twin


Did you read about the weird «evil twin» scenario that is being bandied about to explain
the bizarre case of Claude Allen, former top advisor to President Bush, who was arrested a few days ago and booked on shoplifting and fraud charges? The poor man is innocent, his evil twin did it, see? []

It made me think how convenient it would be to have an evil twin that can be used as scapegoat every time you're caught doing something you shouldn't be doing. While googling for my evil twin, I found out about the
face recognition programme at the MyHeritage Site (Free registration required) []. The idea is: you upload your photo and the computer analyzes your facial features and compares your face to that of various celebrities.

MyHeritage Face Recognition program runs in 3 steps:

1. The digital photo (or scanned photo print) that you provide is loaded.
2. Specialized technology is applied to automatically detect human faces in your photo.
3. Additional technology is applied to recognize the faces detected in the previous step.

Recognizing faces is done by algorythms that compare the faces in your photo with all faces previously known to the face recognition program, through photos and meta-data contributed by yourself and other users. So the more photos are added to the system, the more powerful it becomes. If people in your photos are not recognized well, it is likely that the program has never encountered them before. If more people add their photos to database and annotate them manually, the program will «learn» these faces and will be able to recognize them in future photos, even in different ages of the same person's life.

My results? Believe it or not, I look like: Naomi Watts, Paris Hilton, Kate Hudson, George Soros, Julia Roberts, HH The Dalai Lama, Zhang Ziyi and Madonna. Yes!

I realize of course that a one-time trial cannot yield conclusive results and I probably should upload more pictures to get a decent comparison. Still, there doesn't even seem to be any similarities in the list of faces I was associated with (Julia Roberts and Paris Hilton??!!WTF??!), unless you consider «human» to be a valid common characteristic.

Heck, they might as well say I look like these people:

In the meantime, Your Holiness, if you ever need an evil twin to blame some shit on, you can count on me.

I for one welcome our new Snowclone Overlords

My son Asparagus has been teaching me about the Internet/Slashdot culture, language, jokes, etc.. Stuff I've learned: «All your bases are belong to us», «Pwned», the use of «teh», etc..

Since the start of my education, Asparagus and I have been exchanging various types of jokes based on these expressions, as a practical exercice. He particularly likes to take my most inocuous statements and fling them back to me in variations of the famous Smirnoff's joke "In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, the Party can always find you!", the more nonsensical the better.

Imagine my surprise and delight to find this sentence while reading a list of Robert Green Ingersoll's quotations:

«Honest investigation is utterly impossible within the pale of any church, for the reason that, if you think the church is right you will not investigate, and if you think it wrong, the church will investigate you.» -- Robert Green Ingersoll, "Individuality" (1873)

Shade of Smirnoff, don't you think? Anyway, if like me, you are interested in/intrigued by the new Internet literati's parlance, go to these sites: and

It's from the last website that I learned the concept of «Snowclones» []. I used to try to slip in the word «Entropy» in all my conversations. From now on, it's gonna be «Snowclones» and «Internet memes».

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm surprised they haven't fired me yet

This is a baggy dog

My English is so bad, and I think the problem is that I don't really know and understand the words. Instead I think in French in my head, then try to translate the thoughts in English, at the speed of sound, if not of light. Since the words are not equated to meaning but are just sounds to me, I sometimes switch the order of the words, without realizing how weird the new combination sounds. It's a sort of a verbalized dyslexia. Examples of the funny stuff I say:
  • baggy dog, instead of doggy bag
  • crooks and nannies, instead of nooks and crannies
  • covey doover, instead of duvet cover

Vive la Révolution!

Mon ami Bernouille et moi discutons ce matin de l'obligation pour la population de payer les frais d'avocats de Chrétien et Cie pour l'enquête Gomery. Bernouille est révolté à cette idée, alors que je suis plutôt résignée:

- Oeuf corse, Bernouille, le peuple va casquer. Les politichiens ne payent jamais rien de leurs poches!
- Si le peuple accepte ça, c'est qu'il a les dirigeants qu'il mérite.
- Mon pauvre Bernouille, le peuple a perdu le pouvoir depuis longtemps! Depuis que la «démocratie» a été acceptée comme système de gouvernement en Occident. Tous les gouvernements dans les pays développés sont des variantes du même régime, à savoir l'alternance entre le parti Bandit et le parti Escroc. Ils vont à tour de rôle s'assoir sur le trône pour se remplir les poches et trouver du travail à leurs familles et leurs amis. Certains sont plus discrets et plus subtils que d'autres, mais en bout de ligne, ils sont tous, tous sans exception, des loups pour les moutons qui les ont élus en pensant bêtement que leurs intérêts seraient défendus.

Bernouille reste inconsolable. Je lui explique que c'est à tous les niveaux. D'ailleurs plus le type en position d'autorité est bas placé, plus il veut imposer son arbitraire. Il n'y a pire tyran qu'un gardien de parking, par exemple. Une fois, j'ai eu maille à partir avec une préposée à la mini-bibliothèque qui existait autrefois à la station de métro McGill. J'avais perdu un livre emprunté et j'ai dû payer le prix fort pour le remplacer. Fair enough, ce n'est que justice. Mais voilà: deux jours après avoir payé l'amende, je retrouve le bouquin. Je l'apporte toute fière à la biblio avec mon reçu et je tends le bouquin à la bonne femme en question, à qui je demande qu'on me rembourse l'amende.

- Ah non, dit-elle, on ne rembourse pas les amendes. Vous avez égaré un livre, l'amende sert à son rachat.
- D'accord, mais c'était il y a seulement deux jours. Vous n'avez pas eu le temps de racheter le livre et je viens de vous le remettre. Je veux bien payer une amende pour le retard, mais pas pour le prix du livre.
- Ah oui, c'est ben de valeur, mais Dura Lex Sed Lex.
- Donc, si je comprends bien, votre dura lex c'est de me faire payer un livre qui n'est plus perdu, puisque vous le tenez en main. Vous avez à la fois le beurre et l'argent du beurre?
- Ben oui, désolée. C'est comme ça.

Okaaaay. Je lui fais un beau sourire, et le lendemain je suis revenue emprunter un beau livre d'art que je n'ai jamais rendu. Je l'ai encore chez moi. Il y a eu une ou deux lettres de rappel, que j'ai mises à la poubelle, puis la mini-bibliothèque a fermé ses portes.

Ai-je mal fait? Et comment! Je me suis appropriée quelque chose qui ne m'appartenait pas, j'ai privé les autres lecteurs de la possibilité de lire le livre et j'ai peut-être contribué à la fermeture d'un service public très utile. Est-ce que je regrette ce que j'ai fait? Absolument pas!

Le peuple est complètement impuissant dans une démocratie. On lui fait croire qu'il a le choix, mais choisir entre la peste ou le choléra n'est pas un choix. Les résidents de Mirabel se sont fait prendre leurs terrains pour un aéroport qui est maintenant fermé. Les contribuables de Montréal se sont fait imposer un stade olympique qui était censé être financièrement autonome mais dont ils payent encore le coût. Sans parler du grand parc construit dans une banlieue de Shanghai, pour le bonheur des quelques centaines de Chinois qui l'ont visité. Et que dire de la fusion des municipalités que le gouvernement a enfoncée dans la gorge des citoyens? Démocratie? Je crache dessus! Ptoui!

Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,
Les aristocrates à la lanterne ;
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,
Les aristocrates on les pendra ;
Et quand on les aura tous pendus,
On leur fichera la pelle au c...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Victory for the Victims

I went with a friend today to visit Galerie Noel Guyomarc'h on Laurier St. One of my favourite artists who has a permanent exhibit there is Barbara Stutman. Ms Stutman's signature technique is to spool-knit and crochet silver and other coloured metallic wires into sculptural necklaces, bracelets, brooches, etc. I was presented with a brooch from a previous collection, called Portrait of a rape victim (no.3 in the pictures below - Holding the piece in my hand, I was stricken by the deepest feeling of despair and helplessness. It was the saddest piece of jewelry I have ever seen, and yet so beautiful and powerful in its sincerity.

Here are the names of all the pieces: 1. Maintaining the status quo, 2. Raped, 3. Portrait of a rape victim, 4. Dark cloud from the past. The idea of turning a tragedy into jewelry is an admirable concept, in my opinion. When you cannot change a catastrophic event in your past, instead of letting that event define your future, you can proudly display your scars for the world to see, as one way of spitting in the face of your persecutor - be it man or fate - and showing that, by refusing to be destroyed, you are victorious after all.

That's what Ali Shalal Qaissi has decided to do. Remember him? He's the man under the hood in the infamous picture from the Abu Ghraib prison.

According to the New York Times [], Mr. Qaissi «was arrested in October 2003, he said, because he loudly complained to the military, human rights organizations and the news media about soldiers' dumping garbage on a local soccer field. But some of his comments suggest that he is at least sympathetic toward insurgents who fight American soldiers. "Resistance is an international right," he said. Weeks after complaining about the garbage, he said, he was surrounded by Humvees, hooded, tied up and carted to a nearby base before being transferred to Abu Ghraib. Then the questioning began...»

«Mr. Qaissi is today a self-styled activist for prisoners' rights in Iraq. Shortly after being released from Abu Ghraib in 2004, he started the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons with several other men immortalized in the Abu Ghraib pictures». This is his calling card:

«Financed partly by Arab nongovernmental organizations and private donations, the group's aim is to publicize the cases of prisoners still in custody, and to support prisoners and their families with donations of clothing and food.

Mr. Qaissi has traveled the Arab world with his computer slideshows and presentations, delivering a message that prisoner abuse by Americans and their Iraqi allies continues. He says that as the public face of his movement, he risks retribution from Shiite militias that have entered the Iraqi police forces and have been implicated in prisoner abuse. But that has not stopped him.

Last week, he said, he lectured at the American University in Beirut, on Monday he drove to Damascus to talk to students and officials, and in a few weeks he heads to Libya for more of the same.

Despite the cruelty he witnessed, Mr. Qaissi said he harbored no animosity toward America or Americans. "I forgive the people who did these things to us," he said. "But I want their help in preventing these sorts of atrocities from continuing."»

He is free from fear and hatred. I call that a victory.

Update on 16-03-2006:

Salon [] has now raised some doubts about the accuracy of the NY Times' article.

«In an e-mail interview, a spokesman for CID [US Army's Criminal Investigation Command] confirmed that investigators had concluded the photograph shown on the front page of the Times was not Qaissi. "We have had several detainees claim they were the person depicted in the photograph in question," the CID spokesman told Salon. "Our investigation indicates that the person you have cited from the NY Times is not the detainee who was depicted in the photograph."

Ethan Bronner, the deputy foreign editor of the Times, said the newspaper was now investigating the possibility that two people were depicted in the photographs. He said the newspaper was no longer certain that the picture it ran on the front page depicted Qaissi. "Serious legitimate questions have been raised," Bronner said...

A lawyer representing Qaissi confirmed to Salon Monday night that the Times had made a mistake. "He [Qaissi] believes that there are two different people depicted in the photographs," said Jonathan Pyle, of Burke Pyle LLC. "Ali believes that the picture of himself is the one with his arms pointed diagonally down." Qaissi uses this photograph on his business card.»

Friday, March 10, 2006

New Hair

OK, so I went to the hair salon to have my hair done. I forbid you to laugh. Grrrr!

Journée de la femme - Suite et fin

Nooooon! C'est pas vrai!!?? Je défaille!

Quoi!!!??? Oh non! Les pauvres femmes!!! Je défaille itou!

Bon, allez, c'est fini! On n'en parle plus de la Journée de la femme. Jusqu'à l'année prochaine...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's a new world

Once in a while, I stumble upon a new piece of information, a new concept or a new voice, and my head spins and my heart beats faster; it's like falling in love! And it doesn't take much either. For example, look at what I just found at

The poster has this comment, which I find amazing: «Of the top ten spoken languages, it is split evenly between European and non-European. Factoring in colonialization, at least half of the world's largest nations have been colonial subjects at some point in their history and very few on the list have been major colonizers (although some on the list have been both colonizers and colonized, China for example). Of the major European colonizers: Great Britain, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, France, none make the largest nations list. In fact, surpassing Germany in the last several years, Vietnam is now larger than every European nation.» The mind she boggles.

The same blog also directed me to this definition of «Vietnamese» at the Urban Dictionary site:


1. n. Used to identify people who are from Vietnam. They often are quiet and hardworking individuals. Most common last names are Nguyen, Tran, and Le.
Ex: I live in a Vietnamese neighborhood.

2. A special breed of beings who are patient, hard working, smart, courageous, determined, respectful, and all that forged in their blood. They have survived and won many, many wars in the past thousand years. They have overcome numerous obstacles other people would fail attempting to pass it. The bigger the obstacle the tougher they get. Almost the perfect warrior.
Ex: In the game of life it's the survival of the fittest. The Vietnamese are born survivors.

A noble and intelligent race.
Ex: Just by the way that he presents himself, he must be Vietnamese!

4. A person from Viet Nam. Mostly F.O.B's but we crazy.
Ex: Damn that Vietnamese foo can fight.

For some reasons, they forgot to mention that the Vietnamese are also a modest and humble race. Shameless!!!!

La Journée de la Femme

Même cadeau que pour la Fête des mères!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

God: «I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!»

«Somebody stop me before I smite his bony ass!»

By Terry Jones, Wednesday March 8, 2006:
Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python alumnus

A high-level leak has revealed that God is "furious" at Tony Blair's attempts to implicate him in the bombing of Iraq. Sources close to the archangel Gabriel report him as describing the Almighty as "hopping mad ... with sanctimonious yet unscrupulous politicians claiming He would condone their bestial activities when He has no way of going public Himself, owing to the MMW agreement" (a reference to the long-established Moving in Mysterious Ways concordat).

Mr Blair went public about God on Michael Parkinson's TV show. "If you have faith about these things," he said, "then you realise that judgment is made by other people. If you believe in God, it's made by God as well." As is customary with Mr Blair's statements, it's rather hard to tease out what he is actually saying; but the gist is clearly that if God didn't actually tell him to bomb Iraq, then the Almighty would certainly agree it was the right thing to do.

"If Tony Blair thinks his friendship with George W Bush is worth rubbing out a couple of hundred thousand Iraqi men, women and children, then that's something he can talk over with me later," said God. "But when he starts publicly claiming that's the way I do the arithmetic too, it's time I put my foot down!" It is well known that God has a very big foot.

A source says Gabriel has spent days trying to dissuade the Almighty from loosing a plague of toads upon the Blair family. Gabriel reminded God that Cherie and the children had nothing to do with Tony's decisions. God's response, it is reliably reported, was: "Blair says the Iraqis are lucky to have got bombed, so how can he complain if his family gets a few toads in the bath?"

The archangel is said to be ticked off with God's ability to provide glib answers without even thinking.

What has particularly incensed the Almighty is that Mr Blair made the claim on the Parkinson show. "If he'd done it on Richard and Judy I could have forgiven a lot," He is reported to have said.

The archangel reported that the Almighty has become increasingly irritated with the vogue for politicians to claim that He is behind their policies - especially if these involve killing large numbers of humans. According to Gabriel, God spake these words: "That George W Bush once had the nerve to say: 'God told me to go end the tyranny in Iraq, and I did.' Well, let me tell you I did no such thing! If I'd wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I could have given him pneumonia. I didn't need the president of the United States to send in hundreds of heavy bombers and thousands of missiles to destroy Iraq - even though I appreciate that Halliburton needed to fill its order books."

"How do Bush and Blair think it makes me look to all those parents who have lost sons and daughters in this grubby business? Don't they know that the Muslims they're taking out worship the same Me that they do? It's a public relations disaster that ought to set Christianity back hundreds of years. Though knowing the fundamentalists, it'll probably have the reverse effect."

The archangel further revealed that he had been advised by no less a person than Alastair Campbell to warn God to keep out of politics. "But it's hard to get God to do anything He doesn't want to," sighed the archangel. "It's all to do with what He calls 'free will', though a lot of us have a problem working that one out, since He's omnipotent and omniscient."

God, the archangel says, is also disturbed by Mr Blair's remark that while religious beliefs might colour his politics, "it's best not to take it too far".

"How would he like it if I went round claiming that he gave me his full backing when I sent the tsunami last year?"

International Women's Day

Picture from

This year, as every year, my place of work celebrates International Women's Day by making the women (not the men) dress up in their national garb and listen to long speeches read by men, then time for some chips and photo-ops. The invitation message was quite clear: «You are requested to be seated by 2:50 p.m. at the latest, prior to the arrival of our guest speakers and guests of honour». I guess it's the paternalistic tone of the order that steams my rice. So I got to work this morning in my usual garb (Same Old Sicilian Widow Look) and look forward to not sitting in the auditorium waiting for the VIPs.

International Women's Day, like Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine, etc... are all artificially created dates, the purpose of which is to make society reflect on the significance of the corresponding symbols. However, whatever you do that day is a unique gesture that will not be repeated during the rest of the year. And even that unique gesture doesn't have much impact on the welfare of the people being celebrated. In the case of the Women's Day, it's going to be the same old, same old routine. Women will still be paid less than men, will be doing most, if not all the chores in the house, including raising children, and will continue to be raped, beaten, bullied, despised, deprived of education and otherwise treated like sub-humans by men.

So this year, I will skip the speeches and try to be useful instead. Because women are still not allowed to have complete control over their bodies, I am reproducing below instructions for an abortion, as posted by Molly on her blog Molly Saves The Day []. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you disapprove because of some teachings from an abstract deity, I have to tell you that I don't care, I'm not posting this for you.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, when abortions were illegal in many places and expensive to get, an organization called Jane stepped up to the plate in the Chicago area. Jane initially hired an abortion doctor, but later they did the abortions themselves. They lost only one patient in 13,000 -- a lower death rate than that of giving live birth. The biggest obstacle they had, though, was the fact that until years into the operation, they thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do, something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering the life of the woman.

They were deceived -- much like you have probably been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a relatively easy procedure to perform. And while I know, women of South Dakota, that you never asked for this, now is the time to learn how it is done. There is no reason you should be beholden to doctors -- especially in a state where doctors have been refusing to perform them, forcing the state's only abortion clinic to fly doctors in from elsewhere.

No textbooks or guides existed at that time to help them, and the equipment was hard to find. This is no longer true. For under $2000, any person with the inclination to learn could create a fully functioning abortion setup allowing for both vacuum aspiration and dilation/curettage abortions. If you are careful and diligent, and have a good grasp of a woman's anatomy you will not put anyone's health or life in danger, even if you have not seen one of these procedures performed.

Today, I will discuss dilation and curettage -- what used to be the most common abortion procedure before vacuum aspiration took its place. Vacuum aspiration is an easier method, but sometimes remaining fetal/placental material necessitates doing a "cleanup" D&C anyway, so you should know how to do this procedure first.

DISCLAIMER: I am posting this as information only. Whether anyone chooses to act upon this information is their own concern. I believe in the free exchange of information and ideas. I believe this information has been kept from women for too long, and there is no reason they should not know about a procedure being performed on their own body, and no reason women should be kept in the dark about how to perform it -- especially if someone they know is having their health jeopardized by this law.

Instruments needed and their uses

You will need:

One set of uterine dilators (any equipment may be purchased from numerous websites. If you need assistance in finding this equipment, do not hesitate to email me at
Vaginal speculum
Pregnancy test
One set of uterine curettes
One pair of uterine forceps
One pair of regular forceps
Sterile bags for medical instruments and medical waste
A course of antibiotics
Sedative medication
Pressure cooker
Container of bleach solution: one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water
Strong soap
Sterile latex gloves
Water-based lubricant
Maxi pads
Clean plastic sheeting and towels
Exam table
Wet wipes

First, let's talk instruments, before we talk implementation:

Cervical dilators come in many forms. Some hydroscopic dilators work by absorbing moisture from the vagina into the dilator, gradually increasing its diameter until it is workable. However, the "old-fashioned" way is with a set of dilators -- metal instruments of varying sizes. It would probably be best for an illegal practitioner to use these, as they are essentially infinitely reusable as long as they are sterilized between uses. Essentially, the practitioner begins with the smallest instrument and inserts it into the cervix. Then, he or she moves on to the next smallest, and so forth, until the cervix is sufficiently dilated to allow the uterine forceps to be used. This is the easiest part of the abortion, and one that requires very little knowledge other than the placement of the cervix.

Uterine forceps look like a hybrid of a scissor handle and a bird of prey's talon. Their use, once the cervix is dilated enough to allow access to the uterus, is simple: they remove the fetal material from the uterus -- as much as can be removed in this manner.

Curettes are perhaps the most foreign-looking of the implements used. Essentially, they look like small spoons with sharp edges. These are used after the uterine forceps, to make sure the rest of the fetal material and placenta is scraped from the sides of the uterus.

A course of antibiotics is CRUCIAL. The most common cause of death post-illegal abortion is due to infection. When your uterus has been opened up, it is more prone to infection. Do not fool around with this: antibiotics are absolutely necessary post-abortion. Antibiotics can be purchased from Mexican pharmaceutical supply houses for less than $2 per course.

Now that we've discussed the more uncommon instruments, let's move on to discussing the procedure itself.


Sterilizing instruments is absolutely critical. The most professional way to sterilize instruments would be with an autoclave -- but this is something to get only if you have an extra few hundred dollars to spend in the name of efficiency. Sterilization is no joke, and nothing to be skimped on, but you can sterilize instruments very well with a household pressure cooker. Ordinary boiling water does not kill all pathogens; while boiling water was the best people could do 100 years ago, it is not the best we can do now. Check your pressure cooker's manual carefully and figure out how much water needs to be placed in it to stay at 250-260 degrees for 30 minutes. Be sure to refer carefully to the manual, or injury and damage to the cooker could result. Place the water and instruments into the pressure cooker and allow it to "cook" them for 30 minutes at the 250-260 temperature. This will steam-sterilize your instruments. If you have an autoclave, lucky you! Follow its operating instructions.

Assuming you have no autoclave, follow the instructions for opening your pressure cooker, then remove the instruments with an already-sterilized pair of ordinary forceps. set them in the sterile bags. Now your instruments are prepared. From now on, be sure to only touch the instruments on the handle side, rather than on the side coming into contact with the cervix and uterus. Wipe down your table with bleach solution, allow it to dry, and then place clean plastic sheeting over it.

Your patient should be naked from the waist down and should have her pubic area shaved. Request that the patient does so the night before. Administer a sedative to the patient long enough before the procedure begins that it will be fully effective during the D&C procedure. Prior to the procedure, conduct an ordinary pregnancy test on the woman. This may seem like a silly step, but pregnancy tests are never 100% accurate, and women have been known to come to abortion clinics and test negative. Ask your patient how long it has been since her last period. If it has been eight weeks or less, the procedure itself will take less than 15 minutes after dilation begins. The length grows, however, until at about 13-14 weeks (the limit for a D&C procedure because of the limited dilation ability of dilators) it will last up to 45 minutes. Honesty is IMPERATIVE, because dishonesty could endanger the woman's health.

Once the patient has "assumed the position" in the stirrups, wipe the vulva and anal areas with separate wet wipes, including the labia majora and minora. Once the patient is clean, lubricate the vagina with water-based lubricant and use the vaginal speculum to open the vagina and examine the cervix (information on how to use a speculum properly is widely available online and in print and does not need to be reprinted here, but please be sure you understand how to use the speculum prior to conducting this procedure).

The cervix is a small, round, smooth-looking muscle at the top of the vaginal canal. Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the female reproductive system prior to performing any procedure such as this. The cervix is the entrance to the uterus. A non-pregnant uterus is only as big as a small pear, but it grows bigger even in the earliest months of pregnancy -- at 8 weeks, it is the size of a peach, and at 14 weeks, the size of a grapefruit. I didn't make up all these fruit-sizing terms, other people did, and I apologize for making anyone uncomfortable whilst eating fruit salad from now on.

It is important to know the approximate size of the uterus because that's where you're headed. Get out your smallest dilator and insert it slowly and gently into the cervix. This hurts -- it's part of why your patient is sedated. Novocaine is sometimes injected to numb the cervix, but when you are just starting, it is probably preferable to stay away from needles entirely. Insert each dilator in turn. Even the largest dilator, as you will notice, doesn't give you very much room -- less than an inch of opening. There's no way you can see into the uterus. From here on out -- this is the scary part -- you will have to operate on feel alone. Don't feel too afraid. Each element in the uterus feels different from the others, and as long as you are careful and understand exactly what the procedure involves at each step, it will not be too difficult.

The first step is to break the membrane holding the fetus inside. You can feel around with the forceps for it. To get an idea of what each part looks like -- and to see the texture so that you understand better how it will feel -- I recommend looking at books with photographs of first trimester fetuses (personal recommendation for its astonishing photographs: A Child is Born), The membrane should be easily broken with the forceps. Depending on how far along the pregnancy is, varying quantities of clear or pinkish fluid may come from the vagina. As you grasp the sac with your forceps, twist it away so that it detaches. You will now need to remove small pieces of fetal material and membrane from the uterus with the forceps. Some of these pieces will be distinctly identifiable as fetal material. Save the material until the end of the procedure on a piece of plastic, so that you can be sure the entire fetus has been removed. If doing this sounds too ethically challenging, remember that fetuses do not have the capacity to feel actual pain until the third trimester. You are not "hurting" it, and it has no awareness, nor the capacity for awareness, that you are extracting it.

This portion of the abortion procedure should not be particularly painful for the patient.

While you are removing fetal material, you will also be removing pieces of placenta. However, because the placenta is attached to the uterine wall -- and because it is the blood source for the baby -- bleeding may begin at this time. It is imperative that if bleeding begins at this point in the procedure, you do NOT stop. Stopping the procedure and attempting to stanch the bleeding will not work. The bleeding will stop on its own once the placenta is totally removed from the uterus. It may be scary, but keep going.

Once you have removed most of the material that is removable, you must move on to curettage. By now you will have felt the walls of the uterus with the forceps, and you must move on to using the spoon-shaped curettes. Find the spot on the uterine wall where placenta still clings -- the curette will make a sound much like metal on metal on a clean uterine wall, but will not make the same scraping sound on a place that still needs material removed. Scrape from the uterine walls, scraping material toward the cervix. Use the same general form of stroke you would use to scoop ice cream, and don't be afraid to scrape fairly hard. Scraping softly could leave tissue behind, and if there's anything you don't want, it's that. The other cue that will inform you the uterus is clean is that the patient will generally report feeling a cramp when the clean uterus is scraped, whereas a scrape of placenta will not feel as painful. Listen to your patient and listen to your curettes.

Once the material is removed from the uterine wall, any excess bleeding will generally slow or stop and it's uterine forceps time again. Take the remaining material out with the forceps. Most pieces of fetal material will come out with a simple tug on the forceps (again, don't be too afraid to use force and put a bit of muscle into it). However, at 13-14 weeks the fetal head may be slightly big to bring out. Pinch it with the forceps and take it out in pieces, as well. Make absolutely sure all bone fragments are removed from the uterus, as well as all other material. If necessary, use the curette again to remove remaining material and repeat the procedure with forceps.

By this point, bleeding should be no more than in a normal period, and likely quite a bit less. If the patient is still bleeding heavily at this point, get her to a hospital -- it means you likely did not curette completely, and the hospital will generally complete the procedure as her life is assuredly in danger.

When you feel the curettage and removal is complete, make sure you examine the fetal material you have already extracted. If you're missing anything obvious -- for instance, a head -- make sure to find and remove it.

Allow your patient to rest comfortably on the table if she wishes, or to get dressed. She will likely have some residual bleeding, so make sure you have maxi pads on hand (I would not risk infection from tampons so soon after the procedure). Give her the course of antibiotics and stress to her how imperative it is that she use them as directed. Make sure that she understands any bleeding or problems means she needs to call 911 immediately. When she is ready, allow her to leave -- if sedated, do not allow her to drive home herself. Follow up in a few days and make sure she is not experiencing much bleeding or pain.


I will be following up this article with directions for performing vacuum aspiration for first-trimester pregnancies and inducing miscarriages for later ones. I hope this can prove educational for the next generation of women, who may have to start a second Jane program. I am sorry we live in times where it is necessary to publish this material, but if women work together, an abortion ban doesn't mean that women and girls are left with no choices.