Christopher Hitchens On Facing Death

Journalist, lecturer, and world-class thinker, Christoper Hitchens’ remarks on facing his impending death from cancer. He gives it out honestly and with humor and aplomb. Just what I would expect from him, and what I admire about him as well.

What a Small World It Is

Waikiki Beach wasn’t part of Rick Hill’s vacation plans last Monday, but the Lunenburg, Massachusetts resident and his family decided to make a quick stop. Joe Parker, who grew up in Leominster, Massachusetts, but moved to Hawaii to escape a troubled upbringing and a failed relationship, wasn’t supposed to be on the beach that day, either. An event planner for a resort, he had hustled down to secure a last-minute surfing lesson for a client.

Hill’s fiancee was about to take a snapshot of Hill and their three children when Parker offered to take a picture of the entire family. Parker immediately detected Hill’s accent; instead of asking the family to say “cheese’’ he asked them to say “Leominster.’’ “When he said that, it took us by shock because we live in the next town over, and what are the chances of a stranger in Hawaii saying that,’’ Maureen Howe, Hill’s fiancee, said.

And then the name game began. Parker threw out several, including Dickie Halligan. Hill responded, “That’s my father!’’ Standing in the glistening white sand, Parker lowered his sunglasses, squinted at Hill, and declared, “That’s my dad, too!’’ A flood of emotion hit everyone they said. Tears flowed down Howe’s cheeks as the two men studied each other’s face and hugged.

“I can’t really put it into words,’’ Parker said, describing the feeling of meeting his half-brother for the first time, some 6,000 miles from where they grew up. “If I had to, I would say it was chilling, paralyzing, and an out-of-body experience all at once.’’ Hill, who had just returned from the trip, said: “To find a brother midway through life is weird. We spent the last week together, just getting acquainted.’’

Below is a news video about the reunited brothers.

The Dead Weather – Will There Be Enough Water

This video from The Dead Weather is awesome, both in video content and in musical content. The band is one of three bands formed by Jack White in the last decade and a half, arguably the best three bands formed anywhere during that timespan. The other two are The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. This is one of the bluesiest songs you’re likely to hear today and not to be missed if you love this style of music.

Pat Robertson, Doddering Old Man

I watched this video twice and still am scratching my head. If this is the best he can do, perhaps it’s time for Robertson to be put out to pasture. His thought process is clearly muddled and befuddled, and one must wonder at his value to the discourse at hand.

End of the Line for Typewriters

It’s the end of the line for typewriters: the last standing typewriter factory in the world, Godrej and Boyce, is closing its plant in Mumbai, India.

Just several hundred typewriters, most of which are Arabic language models, remain.

According to the Daily Mail, “Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India – until recently. Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers.” The devices had been a status symbol in India, notes the Business Standard.

Typewriter sales have plummeted in the past several years: the company sold less than 800 machines in 2010, down from the 50,000 it produced every year in the 1990s.

“From the early 2000s onwards, computers started dominating. All the manufacturers of office typewriters stopped production, except us,” general manager Millind Dukle told the Business Standard. “We are not getting many orders now. But this might be the last chance for typewriter lovers. Now, our primary market is among the defense agencies, courts, and government offices.”

Another one of Godrej and Boyce’s typewriter plants in Shirwal was shut down recently and is now used as a refrigerator manufacturing unit.

Native American Roots Found in Iceland

Researchers at the University of Iceland have discovered genetic evidence that suggests at least one woman from North America may have traveled to Europe 1000 years ago.

Ten years ago, Agnar Helgason, a scientist at Iceland’s deCODE Genetics, began investigating the origin of the Icelandic population. Most of the people he tested carried genetic links to either Scandinavians or people from the British Isles. But a small group of Icelanders — roughly 350 in total — carried a lineage known as C1, usually seen only in Asians and Native Americans. “We figured it was a recent arrival from Asia,” says Helgason. “But we discovered a much deeper story than we expected.”

Helgason’s graduate student, Sigridur Sunna Ebenesersdottir, found that she could trace the matrilineal sequence to a date far earlier than when the first Asians began arriving in Iceland. In fact, she found that all the people who carry the C1 lineage are descendants of one of four women alive around the year 1700. In all likelihood, those four descended from a single woman. And because archeological remains in what is Canada today suggest that the Vikings were in the Americas around the year 1000 before retreating into a period of global isolation, the best explanation for that errant lineage lies with an American Indian woman: one who was taken back to Iceland some 500 years before Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492.

For now, the story of the lone American Indian woman taken on a Viking ship to Iceland remains a hypothesis. To prove it will require finding the same genetic sequence in older Amerindian remains elsewhere in the world — family members, as it were, of that 1,000-year-old woman who ended up so far from home.