Proximity to Power

This is Cecilienhof, once home to a German crown prince before being used as site of the Potsdam Summit in August 1945.  Look, this is THE NEGOTIATING TABLE. These are THE SEATS in which the big three sat, Truman in the high-backed chair, center, Churchill in the similar one, left, and Stalin, right.


Stalin’s desk. It’s the very desk he sat behind in this very building. In the original, uninflated sense of the word, that’s pretty awesome.



Exception: Proximity to power is not always seductive. When Argentine President Cristina Kirchner came calling on Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa in Quito, her entourage bumped all of us from the club floor in the Sofitel Quito. That busted up our happy hours with, among others, the KLM Cargo pilots who ferried flowers to and from Amsterdam. We had had to take cocktails with the hoi polloi on the ground floor.

Not seductive.

I like to think the collective pox we and the pilots cast on the Argentine President contributed to her troubles today.

From the Eventual Book: Paraguay

We've spent some of this winter-that-won't-end proofreading and polishing up the eventual book Common Sense and Whiskey. As we take the edit pen to the various chapters, we thought we'd post them here. Last week's entry: Climbing Mt. Kinabalu. Today, enjoy a longish chapter about a drive across Paraguay.

The farthest back water
washes to a national capital must be Asuncion, Paraguay. It’s as if its
residents didn’t ask for the honor, but the capital had to be somewhere and so
they amiably accommodated.

 Maybe parts of Africa are
less vital. Think Ouagadougou, maybe, or Bangui. Even somnambulent Vientiane,
which is in Laos, shows more vitality than here, smack in the middle of South

 They’d rolled up the
streets by the time we installed ourselves in the Sabe Hotel. The front desk
spoke not so much as “hello,” no English. Here in the national capital.

 The TV wouldn’t work until
tomorrow because it was New Years Day and they couldn’t get anybody out to fix
it, but it was a nice enough place. Except a picture hung partly over the
window in the hallway.

 I was out early, through
the business district and down to the Paraguay River. It’s not very big,
downtown Asuncion, and it wasn’t very busy.

 The main Plaza de los
Heroes, down a few blocks. Asuncion has a building modeled after the Pantheon. Birds were loud and it
was hot hot hot by 8:45.

 Sales ladies’ tables along
Avenue Palma offered up the usual languid market fare: watches and underwear
and (allegedly) Nike clothes and plastic toys.

 Down at the river, General
Fransisco Solana Lopez’s white-washed mansion, started in 1860, stood
shuttered. Beyond it, children pumped water at a clutter of squatter shacks. A
sand spit stretched out to two rusting shipwrecks, resting just on the edge of
the water. Here in the national capital.



But let’s start at the

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On Antipodean Weather, and a Story of Australia

The northern hemisphere marked the Summer Solstice at 1:45 a.m. EDT yesterday. In the southern hemisphere, of course, winter and summer solstices are exchanged, so that as we bask in these longest sunlit days, it's the middle of winter and days are short down under.

Conditions today in Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina, both at the southern tip of Patagonia, are forecast to be similar. Punta Arenas looks for a 30% chance of snow the first part of the week, with temperatures just either side of freezing, while Ushuaia expects about the same, with perhaps just a little more snow.

Moving east, there's a fifty/fifty chance of rain today in Stanley, Falklands, with snow likely later in the week. Cape Town, too, is wet, but positively balmy by comparison, with a forecast high tomorrow of 57 (14). Farther east into the Indian ocean, next stop the very remote French Kerguelen Island (previous posts on Kerguelen: 1, 2), it's wet every day, with an even chance of snow on Wednesday. Finally, at Hobart, on the southern tip of Tasmania, temperatures stay shy of 60 (15), with a chance of rain the entire last half of the week.

(Incidentally, find your own personal antipodes with this handy tool. Here's ours.)

Photo of Hobart, Tasmania from See photos from Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia on, and here are two stories (1, 2) about our visit to southern Patagonia.

Read on, after the jump, for a new story from our visit to Tasmania:

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It’s OURS. No, we still say it’s OURS.

ArgarmyApparently,  Argentina isn't comfortable within its boundaries. It has reasserted its claim to the British overseas territories of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas to Argentines) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In addition Argentina claims part of Antarctica as Argentine Antarctica, a claim which overlaps British and Chilean assertions.

And a 50 kilometer (31 mi) long border with Chile in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field is awaiting demarcation as required under a 1998 treaty.

Argentina occupied the Falklands in the 1982 Falklands War. To reclaim them, Britain staged its bombers and troop carriers from the mid-Atlantic island of Ascension, refueling them in flight.

As for tourism today, the Falklands bills itself as "a sanctuary for rare and spectacular wildlife. From cliff-top colonies
of nesting black-browed albatross, to sprawling elephant seal harems –
the Falklands offer unrivaled wildlife access."

Lan Chile ran a weekly Saturday morning flight from Punta Arenas to the Falkland capital for years, but I don't see it on the Lan timetable just now. The other way in by air is via the British Ministry of Defense's MoD Airbridge – twice weekly non-commercial flights from the United Kingdom.

"Flights fly south from the RAF base at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire every
Sunday and Wednesday, and north from the Falklands every Monday and
Thursday. Flight time is appproximately 20 hours, including a
refuelling stop on Ascension Island at the mid-way point (where
visitors can stop-over should they choose)."

We'll have much more about the MoD Airbridge in December, as we're planning an Airbridge flight from Ascension to Brize Norton.

(Photo of Buenos Aires from the Argentina Gallery at

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Friday Photo Quiz #15

Like last time, this week's photo quiz has more than one correct answer. The series of 275 waterfalls in today's photo stretches more than a mile and a half along part of the border between two countries. It's wider than Victoria and taller than Niagara.

Can you name either country, or the falls?

The answer is after the jump.

A good weekend to all from Common Sense and Whiskey &

(Photo from

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