ISSN 1188-603X

No. CCCLXXVI April 1, 2007 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


Poem written in 1878 by the Czech poet Jan Neruda.

It is poem #22 in his collection of "Cosmic Songs" (Písně kosmické):
Frogs sat around a puddle
And gazed at heavens high
Frog teacher pounding into skulls
The science of the sky.

He spoke about the heavens
Bright dots we see there burning
And men watch them, "astronomers"
Like moles they dig for learning.

When these moles start to map the stars
The large becomes quite small
What's twenty million miles to us
They call one foot, that's all.

So, as those moles did figure out
(If you believe their plan)
Neptune is thirty feet away
Venus, less than one.

If we chopped up the Sun, he said
(Awed frogs could only stare)
We'd get three hundred thousand Earth's
With still a few to spare

The Sun helps us make use of time,
It rolls round heaven's sphere
And cuts a workday into shifts
"Forever" to a year

What comets are is hard to say
A strange manifestation
Though this is not a reason for
Some idle speculation

They are no evil sign, we hope
No reason for great fright
As in a story we got from
Lubyenyetsky, great knight

A comet there appeared, and when
It rays were seen by all
The cobblers in a tavern
Began a shameful brawl

He told them how the stars we see
So many, overhead
Are actually only suns
Some green, some blue, some red

And if we use the spectroscope
Their light tells, in addition
Those distant stars and our Earth
Have the same composition

He stopped. The frogs were overwhelmed.
Their froggy eyeballs rolled.
"What more about this universe
Would you like to be told?"

"Just one more thing, please tell us sir"
A frog asked, "Is it true?
Do creatures live there just like us
Do frogs exist there too?"

Translated by D.P. Stern


Date Released: Thursday, March 8, 2007

48th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2007
Joni Marie Gutierrez


WHEREAS, the state of New Mexico is a global center for astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico is home to world class astronomical observing facilities, such as the Apache Point observatory, the very large array, the Magdalena Ridge observatory and the national solar observatory; and

WHEREAS, Apache Point observatory, operated by New Mexico state university, houses the astrophysical research consortium's three-and-one-half meter telescope, as well as the unique two-and-one-half meter diameter Sloan digital sky survey telescope; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico state university has the state's only independent, doctorate-granting astronomy department; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico state university and Dona Ana county were the longtime home of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto; and

WHEREAS, Pluto has been recognized as a planet for seventy-five years; and WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is three billion six hundred ninety-five million nine hundred fifty thousand miles from the sun, and its diameter is approximately one thousand four hundred twenty-one miles; and

WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons known as Charon, Nix and Hydra; and

WHEREAS, a spacecraft called new horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015; NOW,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that, as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet and that March 13, 2007 be declared "Pluto Planet Day" at the legislature.


From: A.C. Patella, Open Bluffs Consulting

If you want to get your development project approved, look for the consultant who would help you to get it through the environmental assessment process.

The fool-proof technique is to hire a reputable consultant from far away. If you want to develop the Pacific Ocean waterfront, any consultant from Alberta seems to be the best bid, because of the lack of experience with the ecology of the ocean coastline. Big names supported by a large list of the overseas contracts will guarantee you - a developer - that the local governments approve any destruction of the environment your development might have caused. On the contrary, you may even get a national award for the most environmentally friendly development in the area, and possibly, in the whole Canada.

For the Garry oak (Quercus garryana, also known as Oregon white oak) ecosystems in British Columbia, the best way to get your environmental assessment accepted is to hire an arborist. The word "arborist' sounds better than anything "environmental" (e.g., "environmental services" or "environmental consulting"). The arborist will consider all our native oaks knurled and he will tell you that all the oak trees are either dying or they will eventually die. Nobody can prove him wrong. I met an arborist who came to write an environmental assessment for the development of a major retail store complex in the Victoria area with oak (i.e., the RED-listed plant community). He came from Vancouver, BC, where they do not have any oak trees except the street alleys with European oaks. When he came to the site that he was supposed to evaluate, he looked sheepishly around, and said, "So this is that Garry oak?" waiting for our confirmation. Needles to say, the business complex is now standing on the site that used to have quite extensive RED-listed native Garry oak vegetation.

Several years ago I met an arborist from Duncan, BC (southern Vancouver Island) who was convinced (and who tried to convince me as well) that all the arbutus/madrone trees (Arbutus menziesii) in British Columbia would die within five years. People like him are the best to hire, if you want to get the development in the British Columbia RED-listed communities with Arbutus menziesii.

Whomever you hire as your environmental consultants, you have to stand behind them. If you see or expect some opposition, pledge the full support to them by saying something like "if you have questions or wish to have an increased understanding of all the environmental issues of this particular area, please, feel free to contact the following individuals [include the names of your hired consultants or arborists]. These individuals have provided relevant, ground breaking research into this problem in recent years." I.e., all the other views are irrelevant and have their views biased, obtained from other than ground breaking research.

In the larger projects that are exposed to much wider public scrutiny, you have to apply another, highly effective technique. This is the so-called "Falconridge Bluff", named after the inventor of this technique. If you see that the environmental consultants would strongly oppose the "Alternative A" because it would have a significant negative impact on that particular site, you have to offer them an "Alternative B" that might look like a feasible, win-win solution. All the environmental consultants hired for such a project (get as many as you can!) would all be strongly in favour of the "Alternative B", they would praise the advantages of that alternative, and they would either ignore the unacceptable "Alternative A", or they would reject "Alternative A" without saying too much how bad it is. After you get all those environmental assessments together, you would make the announcement that the "Alternative B" is not feasible (e.g., "because it would represent serious safety hazards") and that the "Alternative A" is then the only way to go. Those environmental assessments would not bring too many arguments against the "Alternative A", since they would consider it totally stupid to start with, and they would all spend their ink on praising the "Alternative B". At the same time, they would all be silent, since they would be embarrassed that they fell into this smart trap. If you want to apply this "Falconridge Bluff", the "Alternative B" has to be selected with great caution, that is, you have to make the "Alternative B" credible to the environmental consultants. No Leonardo da Vinci or Jules Verne fantasies, such as - for instance - a suggestion to build a freeway bridge over an extensive raised bog on large sunken polyurethane blocks. You may not find too many consultant who would take your "Alternative B" seriously.

My experience tells me that in most cases, the environmental statements are just a required formality. I know some cases where the habitat destruction went ahead in spite of of the fact that the environmental assessment recommended otherwise. In most such cases, the developers or managers either ignored the statement, or, most probably, they did not read it at all.

I wish all the best luck to all the environmental consulting companies, especially those, who do not have an arborist on their staff! My Open Bluffs Consulting is hiring three of them in the next coming months.


From: Alexander B. Murphy

[Author's permission to post this article in BEN is greatly appreciated. AC]

Amid all the recriminations over the disaster in Iraq, no one has placed the ultimate blame where it properly belongs: with the president of Harvard University. No, not poor hapless Larry Summers, but his predecessor, James Conant, who announced in 1948 that ''geography is not a university subject.''

That pronouncement lies behind both the American schoolchildren who locate North Korea in Australia and an administration that thought of Iraq as a contemporary, interchangeable counterpart of the Japan and Germany of the 1940s.

During the course of the 20th century, geography virtually disappeared from elementary and secondary schools, and it was abolished at some of the nation's leading universities. This has served to undermine our capacity to understand America's role in the world or to consider how something as basic as ethnic distributions might be relevant in our foreign engagements.

Only a geographically illiterate public could have been hoodwinked by the characterizations of Iraq spouted in Washington at the time of the invasion. Yet even ''educated'' opinion -- normally a brake on the worst sort of policymaking stupidity -- could not and did not act as a brake because it, too, was uneducated.

In a world where Iraq was little more than a blank space in most people's minds, few were in a position to point to the obvious once America moved in: the importance of strengthening institutions such as the Iraqi army that promoted state nationalism (not recognized); the strategic advantages that could come from securing Iraq's borders against foreign intruders (not prioritized); the need to guarantee a sharing of oil revenues given the lack of significant oil fields in Sunni areas (not considered); the value of showing that the United States had no long-term military designs on Iraq (not only ignored, but undercut as plans went ahead for new military bases).

The blinders that got us where we are today have not disappeared. The debate centers on what is going on inside Iraq itself. Yet what are the implications of the invasion of Iraq for the larger geopolitical picture? What impact has it had, for example, on America's influence in Southeast Asia? What role does Iraq play in widening the geographic scope of violent extremism?

The crisis in Iraq should not distract us from the gravity of such questions. Unless they become the focus of attention, the administration can continue to claim, without challenge from significant segments of the electorate, that Iraq is at the leading edge of the war on terrorism.

The absurdity of this claim becomes clear when one considers that the Iraq invasion has been used relentlessly and effectively by those seeking to undermine American influence in other parts of the world. Al-Qaida sympathizers from Europe have gone to Iraq, and then returned to Europe in a position to wreak more havoc than they ever could have imagined without the training Iraq had provided them. We cannot have a serious discussion of the role of Iraq in the larger terrorism picture if such matters are not part of the conversation.

In a world where the gap between political rhetoric and reality is growing by the day, public accountability is impossible in the absence of a basic level of global understanding and inquisitiveness. There will always be differences of opinion on policy initiatives, but the Iraq venture has been conducted and promoted through a combination of on-the-ground illusions and unasked questions -- all made possible by a geographically challenged general population.

The results now lie starkly before us. If we are to salvage anything reasonable from the wreckage and avoid similar policy pitfalls in the future, we can no longer let political grandstanding trump serious consideration of the cultural, political and environmental character of the contemporary world.

Alexander B. Murphy is vice president of the American Geographical Society and a past president of the Association of American Geographers.



Anyone who's been to Moravia will most probably have sampled a glass of slivovice, the potent clear spirit usually made from plums, which is synonymous with the region and which the local inhabitants are extremely proud of. Although many Moravians distill their own slivovice, there are also a handful of Czech firms who sell it on the Czech market, but this might be about to change. A new proposed regulation before the European Parliament could mean that these distilleries might not be able to call their product slivovice in the future.

In April a new regulation is to go before the European Parliament which - if passed - would define slivovice as a spirit made from plum juice with alcohol added to it. If this is approved, it means that the traditional distilled Moravian liquor would no longer be able to call itself slivovice. Naturally, distillers - some of whom have been selling slivovice for decades - are up in arms about the proposed move. They say changing the name of their product could have a detrimental effect on their business.

I spoke earlier with the owner of a small, family-run distillery in Moravia, Martin Zufanek, and asked him what Moravian slivovice is actually made from:

"Slivovice has always only been made from plums. Here in Slovacko we have always made Slivovice from various kinds of plums. We use ordinary, plain plums as well as different cultivated plums, such as the Stanley. So, it's a mixture of plums, but, it's always been just plums and nothing else."

Mr Zufanek says that if the proposed legislation is passed it could have major repercussions for his company:

"If the new EU regulation is approved and the new definition of slivovice means that it becomes kind of liquid made from fruit juice with alcohol added to it, our company would have to think about a new name for our products. We take pride in producing our slivovice and various fruit liqueurs using nothing but fruit, without any extra alcohol added. The new legislation would therefore have a negative impact on our company's strategy and philosophy. At the moment, I don't know what exactly we would do..."

One thing Mr Zufanek is sure of, however, is that his company would sell less slivovice than before, because it would take some time for customers to get used to the new name of the product. One small consolation for Mr Zufanek, however, is that Czech diplomats and members of the European Parliament have promised that they will fight tooth and nail to try and "save" Czech slivovice and change the definition in the legislation before it is voted on next month.

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