Friday, August 31, 2007


When U2 sang of a place where the streets had no names, they were obviously speaking of the Faroe Islands, or, more specifically, the town of Tvøroyri.

I was reading about Tvøroyri this week and stumbled upon this sentence, "as yet, streets remain unnamed." I found this most curious because, with a population of about 1,100 people, Tvøroyri is one of the bigger towns on the Faroes. They even have their own football team (I'm guessing they play here) and rowing club. They've also got a grocery store, a heliport, a bank, a car rental agency... all the trappings of civilization. (See a live webcam image of the town here.)

But nobody has gotten around to naming the streets during all the hundreds of years people have been living there.

A note to the people of Tvøroyri: My current work contract ends in a few months. If you need someone to come over and name some streets for you, allow me to offer myself as a candidate. But be warned, at least one of your major roads will likely be called Workman Way.


Thursday, August 30, 2007


First, a little background. Nielsen Media generates ratings for TV stations across America. They send out diaries, people fill them out, and Nielsen determines how many people are watching your station. It's an imperfect system but, oh well.

They also carve up the nation into Designated Market Areas, or DMAs. There are 210 DMAs in the US. New York City is #1, Glendive, Montana is #210. If you work in TV, you generally want to work in the biggest DMA you can. The bigger the market, the more money you make.

Nielsen adjusts its DMA rankings each year to reflect population changes and the 2007 results are in and I'm pleased to announce that I no longer work in market #141. Medford is now market #140, replacing Beaumont, TX. And watch out, Topeka, Kansas, we're after you next.

And, on behalf of all my colleagues in the news business, allow me to request a retroactive pay increase. It only seems right that we start making market #140 money. 141 cash just won't due.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?
I see a red bird looking at me.”

With those two short sentences, a literary atrocity was foisted upon the English speaking world. Bill Martin Jr’s 1967 book may be considered a classic, but it’s got plot holes so big you can drive a truck through them.

These flaws may not be apparent on the first few hundred reads, but once you’ve read it 700 or 800 times (and most parents have) the problems can no longer be ignored.

Brown Bear begins with the titular question, and the bear replies that he sees a red bird looking at him. Fair enough. The narrative travels through a series of open doors that ultimately lead nowhere. The red bird sees a yellow duck, who sees a blue horse, who sees a green frog, who sees a purple cat, and so on, and so on, and so on.

But the story really breaks down when the sheep hits the scene. (It seems like sheep are often a source of trouble.) In the book, the sheep is asked what he sees, and he claims a goldfish is looking at him. This, in my opinion, is utter nonsense.

I can accept that a duck would have occasion to see a horse (be it blue or otherwise), and a frog would be in a position to see a cat. But I can’t think of any circumstance where a sheep would be in the same room with a goldfish.

Perhaps, somewhere in the world, there is a kid who has an irrational attachment to his goldfish… who has to carry it with him in a bowl wherever he goes… who just so happens to be visiting a petting zoo. But that would change this supposed children’s book into a psychology text book. If nothing else, the sheep would have at least made mention of this extremely unlikely circumstance:

“Black Sheep, Black Sheep, what do you see?”
“I see a child with a severe mental disorder who needs to be spending more time with a professional therapist and less time at this farm.”

The book continues with the goldfish being looked at by a teacher, who in turn is looking at children acting like various animals. Perfectly reasonable scenarios, but by the time I got there, I had mentally checked out. Once credibility is lost, you really can’t get it back.

Martin seeks to cover up these flaws by writing almost the exact same book again and calling it “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” In this book, various animals claim auditory hallucinations that take the form of peacocks, walruses, zebras, etc. This time, the book is set in a zoo, so I guess that makes it all plausible. Whatever.

But perhaps Martin’s most audacious move was to write the entire “Brown Bear” book a third time. This time it was called “Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do you See?” and, once again, a series of animals sees a series of other animals. The hook this time is that they’re all endangered species, but that only makes all the more unlikely that they’d actually see each other.

“Panda Bear” really jumps the shark when it gets to the macaroni penguin. That animal has no place in this book. First, the syllables don’t fit. “Macaroni Penguin, Macaroni Penguin, what do you see?” Nope, I’m not buying it. But then I did a little research and learned that macaroni penguins (which I previously thought the author had made up for this book) aren’t even endangered. As a matter of fact, the International Penguin Conservation Group (and Wikipedia) says macaroni penguins are the most numerous of all the world’s penguins.

(Fun fact: the macaroni penguin was named after the line in “Yankee Doodle” about the guy putting the feather in his cap.)

So what are we to make of “Brown Bear,” and all the bear’s that have followed him? It is clear the author believes he can make a fool of his reader, and this is unfortunate. These days it’s more important than ever that we… hang on… I’m going to have to finish this later, my kids want me to read the book to them again.

Oh well.

Next in our children’s book series, we take a look at the post-modern classic “The Monster at the End of this Book”

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Julie: I got a treat for you at the store, a box of Ho Hos!

Me: Something's not quite right here.

Julie: I know, the "sell by" date on the Ho Hos is September 11th.

Me: No, it's not that, you bought Ding Dongs.

Julie: Ding Dongs? I could have sworn I got Ho Hos.

Me: Perhaps you did, but these are Ding Dongs, and that means what the Bush Administration says is really true.

Julie: What's that?

Me: September 11th changes everything.


Monday, August 27, 2007


So Karl Rove is leaving the White House, and there aren't a whole lot of tears being shed across America this week. But Karl's retirement will end a fun bathtime game at the Workman compound. We can no longer play Lil' Karl.

I started playing this game several months ago when I noticed that our babies looked a little like Karl Rove when you slicked their hair back. For instance, here's Will pretending not to answer a subpoena from Congress.
And check out Nate pretending to leak our identities to Roberk Novak.But now that I look at these photos, they actually don't look all that much like Karl. There are a few reasons for this. First, their fat little faces are starting to thin out...And they've got more hair...But there's something else that doesn't fit, either. Will, wants to whisper the secret to me...Oh, how could I have forgotten: Nate and Will aren't cankered vessels of hate and evil who are intent on destroying American democracy. Karl Rove is. How could I have gotten that mixed up? Will is frankly upset I even made the comparison.And Nate is none too pleased either.I'm sorry, guys, I'm really sorry. Please, don't spread false rumors in the press that I'm secretly gay.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007


Just a little quickie for the weekend. My little sister forwarded this clip to me a week ago and I just got time to watch it now. I just about peed my pants laughing. It's from an HBO series called "Flight of the Conchords." I may have to start subscribing to HBO.


Friday, August 24, 2007


The Faroese are very proud of their standard of living, which is said to be one of the best in the world. Having never been there, I have no way of objectively judging that claim, but I've uncovered a nugget that suggests things may, indeed be pretty good in the Faroes.

Faroese television broadcasts The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Their website describes the program as "Emmy virðislønt amerikonsk speisending," which I'm sure is something pretty good.

The way I see it, any country that has The Daily Show must be doing ok. Now how long until Colbert invades their shores?

This week's Faroe photo comes from this guy's flickr photostream. He's been to some pretty amazing places so, naturally, I hate him.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


Gordon Brown has been Prime Minister of the UK for about two months now, and I’m still trying to figure him out. You see, we Americans are suckers for the fast talking huckster who will tell us anything we want to hear, so Tony Blair was quite popular over here. And as an avid watcher of Prime Ministers Questions on C-SPAN, I was a big fan of Mr. Blair’s quick wit at the dispatch box.

Mr. Brown seems to be quite a different character. He stutters when he speaks, wears somewhat ill-fitting suits, and appears in every way to be the kind of dull stereotype of a bureaucrat. But when he gave his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister, he proposed stripping himself of several important powers like the power to declare war and dissolve parliament. It was a pretty bold agenda delivered by a guy who’s had 10 years to prepare the speech. So that’s Brown’s thing, I guess, he’s both bold and dull.

All of this has changed the dynamic of my favorite soap opera, the British House of Commons. Unfortunately, it’s in summer reruns until October, but they did have a few episodes with the new lineup before the summer hiatus.

Just from watching TV, it would appear that dashing young Conservative leader David Cameron has the upper hand. Cameron is a rich white guy who went to Eton. His main task these days is trying to prove to voters that the Conservative party is no longer just a bunch of rich white guys who went to Eton. He seems energetic and confident and loves to talk about the future. Sounds like a young Tony Blair.

Meanwhile, Brown appears ill at east during question time, and Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell just seems like a cranky old man who wishes these kids would get off his lawn. With that understanding, Gordon Brown seems destined to follow in the footsteps of short-timer Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

But I understand the perception on the ground back in the UK is quite different, and there are two reasons why that’s not apparent from watching TV.

First, American’s are suckers for English accents. Anything said in an English accent will sound brilliant to an American. A Brit could stand up and read the phone book aloud and most Americans would think he’s quoting Shakespeare. (The opposite is true with southern accents, which could make rocket science sound primitive.) So when a guy like David Cameron speaks, I’m completely blindsided and unable to filter out BS like any normal person should.

But most importantly, from this far away it’s impossible to see just how sick the British public is of Tony Blair. I’ve heard it from enough places (news reports, personal contacts, comments left on this very blog) to believe it’s true, but it’s pretty hard to see from here. I mean, Tony Blair seems like such a nice guy, and he speaks with this great English accent… oops, there I go again.

So perhaps the Brits are looking to cleanse their palates after a decade of American-style sleaze. If so, a rumpled Scot who looks a little bit like a koala bear may just fit the bill.

And perhaps there’s something else going on. Perhaps Gordon Brown isn’t as dour as he seems. When the new PM met Our Brave Leader a few weeks ago, President Bush described Brown as “the humorous Scotsman.” This is significant because Bush didn’t try to look into his soul, which can apparently cause a guy to turn into a steely dictator.

But maybe the president is on to something (there’s a first time for everything). Maybe Gordon Brown is a barrel of laughs just waiting to come out. Maybe he’s spending the summer working up some zingers to hurl at David Cameron (feel free to use my Eton joke, Gordon).

Alas, we American television viewers will have to wait until October to find out.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I was saddened to learn of the death of Tony Wilson this month. To be honest, I didn't even know the man existed until I saw an excellent film about his life in 2002. Then I realized that he was responsible, either directly or indirectly for much of what I enjoyed during the 80s and early 90s. A recent article in Slate sums up Mr. Wilson's life better than I can, but, in a nutshell, he opened a club, started a record label and helped start the Madchester scene that spawned a lot of great music. If you own any records from New Order, the Happy Mondays, or Joy Division, you owe Tony Wilson a debt of gratitude.

Wilson was also a journalist and a TV presenter. His show was the first to broadcast legendary British punk acts like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Below is a very cool clip of the Sex Pistol's first TV appearance. Tony Wilson is the guy who introduces the band. I really like this clip because it's the sound of history being made while nobody was paying attention. It was the sound of something big starting.

And people like Tony Wilson made it possible for stuff like this to eventually find its way across the Atlantic Ocean and into the hands of impressionable young boys in upstate New York. Thank you, Tony. We never met, but you did a lot of things that made me happy.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I'm running a little short on pics this week, so I'll just post two with promises to have more next week. These pictures were taken just as the boys woke up from a nap. Nate woke up happy...And Will woke up sad.They both cheered up a little bit later. More to come...

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Monday, August 20, 2007


During the course of my work, I sometimes have the occasion to meet someone famous. Mostly they're congressmen or governors, but once I interviewed Marie Osmond in Texarkana. I also interviewed Tracy Lawrence, who I thought was a woman until I learned he was a country music star of some repute.

You see, I don't know much about country music (it wasn't all that popular in upstate New York), but I certainly know who Charlie Daniels is. So when my boss asked me to travel up to a rural county fair to introduce Mr. Daniels, I said, "yes."

I had never been asked to introduce a musical act, but I had been to literally hundreds of concerts, so I had a pretty good idea of how to go about it. The most important part is not spending too much time doing it. Nothing is more annoying than waiting for your favorite band to take to the stage, only to be confronted by some self-important radio or TV person mugging on stage for what seems like an eternity. So a simple strategy seemed the best: welcome the folks out, get them to scream, introduce the band, and get the hell off the stage.

It's an old military truism that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. This would prove to be the case last Wednesday. My co-anchor and I arrived about 30 minutes before the show, and Charlie Daniels was in his trailer doing a meet and greet. About 100 fans were lined up outside, waiting to get photographs, a handshake, and perhaps an autograph from The Man Himself. (This is extremely cool; I respect any artist who will sit down and meet his fans like that.)

As we're standing around, we meet with the tour promoter who gives us an important piece of information we didn't know before we arrived: we wouldn't actually be introducing the band.

"So what exactly will we be doing?"

"Whatever you want. Welcome the crowd out. Tell people 'hello.'"

"Is there anything Charlie wants said before the show, like 'hey, don't throw bottles.'"

"Nope, we've got that all taken care of."

"After we come on, how long until the band takes the stage?"

"About four minutes."


All of the sudden, I understood why all those other TV guys looked like jackasses... they had nothing to do once they took the stage. And in about 10 minutes, I wouldn't have anything to do, either.

The promoter pointed to a stage entrance and said, "We're getting close here, go to stage left and wait for someone to hand you a microphone."


We went to our assigned place and waited. Out comes a woman from the local country music station. She's holding an autographed guitar and explaining how they're going to give it away the next morning on the air.

"Oh crap," I think. "We don't have a guitar. We should really have a guitar."

The woman finishes her presentation and exits the stage. Nobody comes by and hands us a microphone. Moments later, the band takes the stage.

I look around and realize that the corner we were standing in was not stage left, but stage right. They guy pointed us towards the wrong entrance.


We stayed and watched most of the show (his live version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is really quite excellent), then headed off to the fair for kettle corn deep fried food on a stick. A pretty fun night, actually.

Note to regular readers: I usually post baby pics over the weekend, but the camera is not handy tonight. I'll have some posted within the next 24 hours or so.

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Friday, August 17, 2007


I've got it on good authority that there's not much happening in the Faroe Islands lately. Just some rain, some political infighting in advance of a January election, and a boat crash. The rain can be pretty spectatular, just check out these live webcams on the Faroes. (It's not always raining, so you might actually see something.)

But there is some news coming from the Faroes during these soggy dog days of summer, it seems the Faroes are exporting something other than fish... rock snot. Rock snot is an aquatic plant that can get into waterways and kill all native species. Wildlife officials in Canada and New Zealand are quite concerned with its spread. Now some American waterways are threatened as well. According to a column in the Poughkeepsie Jounal, the first descriptions of rock snot came from the Faroe Islands. Yahoo.

This week's photo of Skálafjørður comes from a photo album that can be found here. He's got lots of great pics there.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


More than a decade ago, the funniest sketch troupe since Monty Python hit the airwaves. They were called The State. Their comedy was fast paced and utterly absurd. Check this out.

Some of their sketches made me laugh, even though I had no idea what the joke was supposed to be.

And some humor needs no explanation...

So you can imagine my joy when I learned this.

I'm counting down the weeks.


Sunday, August 12, 2007


These photos are a few weeks old, but, well, I still like them. (For those keeping score at home, Nate is in the blue and Will is wearing red.)

Several weeks ago, the little guys learned how to stand up. They're not able to balance for very long, but they're quite expert at leaning on things. One of their favorites is the play wall.They often stand there together and play games which usually involve removing small rattles from the top of the wall.Sometimes an impromptu boxing match will break out.On the wall Nate and Will also fulfill the terms of their mutual teething assistance agreement.And sometimes they'll just make silly faces.And, of course dream of the day when they'll be walking.It'll happen, boys. Very soon.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


This week's Faroe Islands fact is all about sheep, the Faroe Islands have more sheep (about 75,000) than people (about 50,000). While my blind, completely unjustified obsession with the Faroes remains, this is cause for some concern.

You see, several years ago, I had a famously negative encounter with some Scandinavian sheep. It is a story that has been told many times by many people, and people still mock me for it. But only two people were actually there, and I was of them. And now I will tell you what really happened.

The year was 1999 and Bill Clinton was still in the White House, and we saucy Generation X-ers were getting fat on the billions of dollars investment bankers were throwing at dot-com startups that would be bankrupt a year later. It was during these heady times that I accepted an invitation to visit Norway with my friend Thomas... who is Norwegian. In the great tradition of Scandinavian socialism, Thomas offered to pay for a large portion of my trip.

I don't consider myself a lover of The Great Outdoors, and I've never been a fan of hiking. But once I landed in Norway, all that changed. Perhaps it was my Viking roots kicking in, or perhaps it was the sea air. Whatever the case, I found myself not resisting as Thomas dragged me up into the Norwegian country side for a series of marathon hikes. As a matter of fact, I really enjoyed the hikes. We'd hike through vast Nordic plains and past shady hills that still had patches of snow in August.

These hikes were in some pretty isolated areas. It wasn't uncommon to hike for 5 or 6 hours and never see another person. While this allowed us to have vast stretches of unspoiled countryside all to ourselves, it was also a bit disconcerting for a city kid like me. We were miles from... anything. What if I broke my leg? Where's the closest hospital? What if we're attacked by young thugs who hang out by glaciers? It all seemed a bit risky. But Thomas was a native, and he didn't seem to mind the isolation, so I just kept my mouth shut and kept on hiking.

Then came the sheep incident.

About two hours into our hike we came across about a dozen sheep grazing in a pasture. I thought it a bit odd that sheep who clearly belonged to somebody would be left out in the middle of nowhere, but Thomas said there were sheep all over the hills.

As we walked closer, about three sheep walked onto the trail and stood facing us. As we walked closer, the sheep didn't move. They just stood there looking at us. Now I'm no large animal veterinarian or anything, but I know one thing about animals: when we humans walk towards them, they're supposed to move out of the way. They can scamper off if they want, but they definitely have to clear off hiking path when I get within 10 yards. These guys weren't budging, so I stopped walking to assess the situation.

"What are you doing?" asked Thomas.

"Something's wrong with those sheep."

"There's nothing wrong with those sheep."

"Yes there is, look at them, they're just staring at us."

At this point, Thomas gets out his video camera and I protest further.

"They're looking at us and holding their ground as we move forward. That's very aggressive."

"That's not aggressive."

"Yes it is, I'm sure I read about this somewhere."

At this point, Thomas is laughing so hard he can barely hold his camera. He decides the scene needs a little more action and pushes me towards the unyielding wall of sheep.

The sheep do not give way, but one sneaks up behind us and nips at my heels.

"OK, that's definitely an aggressive maneuver!"

"No it's not"

"How is that not aggressive? That sheep is trying to bite off my foot!"

At this point, I'm doing the grim arithmetic. There are about 12 sheep out there, and only two of us. They can run faster than we can and are good at biting. We are wearing shorts and t-shirts are are armed with nothing more than a video camera and a bottle of water. If these sheep wanted to gang up on us, they could easily subject us to death by a thousand tiny little bites.

Meanwhile, Thomas is giggling like a girl as he watches me figure out what to do next. Eventually, he rolls his eyes at me and strides with confidence through the wall of sheep. Apparently, there's some sort of arrangement between Norwegians and their sheep where each will allow the other safe passage , because they part like he Red Sea as Thomas walks by.

This annoys me a bit as Thomas is no less a city kid than I am. Sure, he grew up in a small-ish Norwegian town, but he's lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade and is an editor at Access Hollywood. If anything the sheep should be attacking him for filling the world with too many Britney Spears stories.

After much coaxing, I slowly make my way through the throng of hostile sheep, and the rest of the hike is fairly uneventful.

But when we get back into town, Thomas begins telling this story every opportunity he gets. Mostly he tells it in Norwegian and I can tell when he gets to the part where he pushes me towards the sheep because everyone in the room looks at me and starts laughing. I just kind of smile and nod.

We fly back to Los Angeles and the story makes the rounds of our friends. When I met the woman who would later become my wife, various versions of the story are told to Julie. Even today, when Julie reads a story that includes sheep to our little twins, she adds an aside like, "Baa, baa, black sheep... who wants to eat your daddy!"

The thrust of all these stories is that I am a stupid city kid (correct) who was giving into a baseless fear of a bunch of cute little sheep (incorrect). In fact, in 2005, Thomas finally admitted that, "Those sheep were behaving quite strangely."

Now I ask you, Thomas, where do I go to get my good name back?

I still have a deep desire to visit the Faroe Islands, but I need to ask my Faroese readers (yes, there are some now) one simple question: Do you have aggressive sheep, and what must I do to defend myself against them?

Once I get that figured out, I can start booking my travel to the islands.

Today's picture of Faroese sheep was found on this guy's Flickr photo stream.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007


...But not always.
Several weeks ago, the babies were being cute, so we had to break out the camera.And Nate and Will did their part by acting even cuter once we started snapping the shutter. Check out this move from Nate.Then Will comes up with his crazy-cute towel-on-the-head move.Then he even moves in for the extreme close up.It's a scene so cute that it sent expectant mothers into convulsions. But then... something turned. Nate crawled up and did his impersonation of that one doll that comes alive in that one movie and starts killing people.And just when it can't get any more freaky, this happens...Even Nate looks frightened by whatever was happening with Will. But then, just as quickly as it started, the twins turn back into their extra-cute selves.Breathe deeply. Breathe deeply. Move on.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


I've really been nothing short of a selfish bastard for the last 5 months. Back in March, I stumbled upon the podcast of a program called Radio Lab, and I haven't shared it with you. I've listened to more than a dozen episodes now, and I firmly believe it is the best program ever broadcast on radio.

That's really saying something right now. While traditional over-the-air commercial radio is so awful I can't bring myself to listen to it, public radio has been creating some great programming. And with the advent of podcasting, anyone with an Internet hookup has access to great shows from all over the world. On my iPod right now I've got Australian shows on brain science and sound art, a music nerd talk show out of Chicago, weekly drum and bass mixes from the UK, and, of course, the biggest radio nerd show of them all, This American Life.

But Radio Lab stands out even among this distinguished company. The show is about science and builds on the basic This American Life storytelling platform. You could call it This Scientific American Life. But while TAL takes an abstract idea or notion and invites a variety of writers to do stories on that subject, Radio Lab takes things in a different direction.

Hosts Jad Abumrad and Martin Krulwich take a concept like time, or morality, or memory and then launch a one hour exploration on the subject. But the result is much deeper and richer than that simple explanation can provide. Abumrad and Krulwich have a talent for taking mind bogglingly complex subjects and making them interesting and accessible.

But Radio Lab is out for more than mere edutainment... they're out to solve all the mysteries of Life, the Universe, and Everything in the course of 60 minutes. And what's amazing is that they almost succeed. A program on zoos reveals insights on materialism and happiness. An exploration of space becomes a moving story about enduring love. Music is even found in a looped sample of an audio recording. Every episode contains a jaw-dropping, mind-bending, pull-your-car-off-the-side-of-the-road-and-listen-more-closely moment.

As a matter of fact, I wouldn't listen in your car at all. Instead, get out some headphones. The show is expertly edited and a good set of headphones helps bring out all the details.

My only complaint with the show is that there isn't enough of it. They make about 5 per year for reasons I don't understand. But there are about 15 episodes available either via iTunes or on the show's website, and they are all excellent examples of what can happen when radio is in the hands of intelligent, creative, and curious people. I recommend it as highly as I possibly can.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Depending on who you believe, the Faroe Island's unemployment rate hovers between 3% and 5%. That's among the lowest in Europe (although many Faroe Islanders don't consider themselves European).

The Faroe Islands economy is heavily dependent on fishing and tourism.

This week's photo of Suduroy comes from a gallery of great looking Faroe Islands photos that can be found here.


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