Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl


Tuesday, 30 September 2003

The Rising Tide of Petty Tyranny

One of the bands which played on Saturday night was Cordero, from New York City. They said something which quite moved me: that in New York it is illegal to dance or smoke in a club—and therefor they begged us all smoke and dance, because you never know when someone’s going to take it away.

It really makes one thing, and it really gets down to the nitty-gritty of the subject: authoritarian legislation is all about taking, all about enslaving. And it makes one think how sad that folks, rather than rising in armed insurrection against such evil, merely accept it mildly, as something inevitable. But oppression is never inevitable: it requires the acquiescence of the oppressed.

To quote Ari Armstrong (originally on the subject of drinking laws):

What we are talking about precisely is fascism. Not the fascism of the death camps, but a banal, tedious, petty fascism that slowly leaches the spirit of freedom from the American soul.

That’s exactly what it is. Sure, anti-smoking laws are not as evil as death camps and secret police—but they’re still evil. I am not exaggerating here: they are denials of liberty, and liberty is simply respect for the free will with which our God has endowed us. Authoritarianism is thus the denial of free will, and inimical to the Christian.

Ironically, this was also the first time I have ever in my life been surrounded by smokers, and wished they’d extinguish their cigarettes. For whatever reason, they smelled absolutely foul that night. But I, being a respecter of liberty, would never demand that anyone be forced to cease smoking in my presence.

Auto Insurance

Having turned a grand quarter-century not too long ago, my insurance rates have gone down not inconsiderably: from $761.78 every 6 months down to $222.16! That’s absolutely incredible. There’s no way that I’m that much safer a driver now than I was several months ago. Amazing the evils an actuarial table can work upon one. If there were fairness, the rate would go down slightly every year, as one improved according to the tables, and then up, once one reaches the age of general senility.

Taxation without Reason

I sent in my car registration (i.e. property tax on ownership of the means of transportation), which has been about $25 for several years now ($23.87 this year, to be exact), only to have it returned by the county clerk. Because I have moved into an area serviced by a toll road, my taxes are increased by a further $10—nearly ½ my entire bill! Not only would this be unreasonable for any road (esp. one which I use no more frequently now than I did before I moved), but it is especially unreasonable considering that it is a toll road which should be more than paying for itself.

What this country needs if for every penny-ante legislator, bureaucrat, executive & voter who dares waste the public’s money to be forcibly expelled.

Bloody Hair

Tonight I struck my head against the underside of an iron stair, thereby occasioning the flow of rather a surprising amount of blood from my scalp. Eventually it stopped, and now my hair is caked with it. Interesting, the colour is exactly that of red-died black or brown hair, as is to be found in certain subcultures. From now on, I shall ever think they look as though they’ve hair filthy and matted with gore when I see them.

Monday, 29 September 2003

Destroy MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving: I used to think them a decent bunch of folks who did a wonderful job of educating folks about the dangers to oneself and (more importantly) others of drunken driving. I believe that I’ve even given them money. Who could oppose their agenda? As it turns out, anyone with any wit whatsoever. These harridans are not so much opposed to drunken driving (something which is a problem and should be punished), but opposed to all consumption of alcohol. Read these quotes from them and their fellow-travellers:

Lowering the legal [arrest] standard will be a deterrent for light drinkers as well as heavy drinkers. There is no safe blood alcohol level, and for that reason, responsible drinking and driving means no drinking and driving.—Catherine Prescott, former MADD President

…we do not want to overlook the casual drinker. If you choose to drink, you should never drive. We will not tolerate drinking and driving-period.—MADD President, Karolyn Nunnallee

Driving is a very serious and complex task. The thought that it can be successfully combined with alcohol on the part of the driver or even the passengers defies any logic I can imagine.—Wendy Hamilton, former MADD President

If .08% is good, .05% is better. That’s where we’re headed, it doesn’t mean that we should get there all at once. But ultimately it should be .02%.—Steve Simon, Chairman, Minnesota State DUI Task Force

Bull-fucking-shit. There are plenty of safe blood alcohol levels. There are also plenty of unsafe blood alcohol levels. The heart of intelligence is learning to discriminate, to identify where in a continuum a factor becomes an issue. These bluestockings obviously have not just far too much time on their liver-spotted hands, but also no scientific sense at all. Had they such sense, they would no that it’s not one or two—or even several—drinks which endanger, but many. Fewer, true, than is necessary to be truly drunken (e.g. one may still be able to walk & talk and yet be unfit to drive): but more than 0.

Perhaps someone should get these spinsters a good stiff drink in order to demonstrate, in terms their walnut-sized brains might possibly understand (although I doubt it: 2 + 2 = 4 is doubtless the sort of thing which passes for high learning amongst their sorry sort), that a single drink does not a drunk make. I’m in favour of prosecution of real drunken driving: it’s unsafe enough that a very good case can be made that merely doing it is endangerment of others, much like firing a weapon into a crowd—even if no-one is struck, all were in danger. But there’s a very real difference between driving drunk and driving having had a drink or two or three.

Sunday, 28 September 2003

Southern Music

Last night I saw Trailer Bride play; an absolutely wonderful Southern band. Their label’s description tells of their songs of sex, death, sin and redemption, and calls them the spookiest band we know about. It occurs to me that this describes the Southern spirit to a T: we’ve done great good and great evil; we’ve been the home of honour and dishonour alike; we’ve known the joy of victory and the bitter taste of defeat. We’re trying to remedy the ill we’ve done, and increase the good we will do. Unlike Yankees, we Southerners have souls.

Saturday, 27 September 2003

The World Beard Championships

These guys are just amazing. From the Gallery Page:

Prussian whiskers sideburns moustache-and-beard Prussian whiskers goatee beard

One does wonder, though, if any of the above are married. Beard-cultivation may be one of those hobbies only a bachelor has the freedom to pursue.

We Americans are Kinder than Europeans

Tyler Cowen notes that Americans give far more per capita to charity than Europeans. We give €278 each—well over twice the next-highest nation.

State Charitable Giving
United States €278
Spain €122
Belgium €120
U.K €117
Netherlands €110
Ireland €100
France €74
Finland €70
Austria €50
Germany €39
Hungary €32
Slovakia €25
Czech Republic €25
Roumania €5

Note that the French—of whom 10,000 old folks died of heat stroke alone in their flats while millions of the young frolicked on the beaches—give only a bit more than ¼ what we Americans do. The Germans are worse yet, at just over one eighth. These wretched lice fund the Hussein régime, give us hell over overthrowing him, wallow in decadence, watch their own nations be taken over because they cannot be bothered to produce children and manage to be stingy as well. Utterly wonderful people, non?

I wonder if our relative kindness is due to the fact that we’re also relatively much wealthier than they are.

The original source for these figures is 2blowhards, who have a very interesting article on wealth.

Bloom County’s Back!

As many perhaps already know, Berke Breathed is penning a new strip featuring Opus. Let’s hope it’s as great as back in the good old days.

The Land of Nod, Part II

A old college friend sent me a note that there is another Land of Nod in the world: a children’s store for the rich & stupid. They’ve a boy’s rug for $289! It measures 34"×46"—that works out to $5.41 per square inch! What sort of moron spend five-and-a-half dollars on an inch of rug for a kid? That rug is more expensive that the hardwood floor it sits atop.

Not that they shouldn’t be able to sell such a thing, or twits be free to purchase them. But it’s a ridiculous excess and a waste of monies which could be better spent.

Are Libertarianism and Conservatism Compatible?

Samuel Silver replies to Susan Lee’s Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Libertarians have more fun—and make more sense. Lee argues that libertarians are not comfortable with normative questions, that libertarian thought promotes relativism and inclusiveness. Silver argues that this is not in fact the case. I would go so far as to argue that Mrs. Lee does not understand the basis of libertarianism. The whole point of liberty is that we men do care about normative questions—but the libertarian recognises that reasonable men can and do differ on the answers.

Further, she writes that libertarians support infanticide (commonly called abortion). Again, this is far from true: while the so-called Libertarian Party does support infanticide, Libertarians for Life does not. In fact, any libertarian who recognises the human nature of the unborn must be against infanticide, or he could not be a libertarian.

As Silver notes, one may agree with Milton Friedman that drug laws are inappropriate in a free society without accepting drug use as acceptable behaviour. That is the essence of libertarianism: decrying others’ moral choices while allowing them the freedom to choose. Mrs. Lee, on the other hand, is arguing what H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. has termed liberal cosmopolitanism. This school of thought looks at the condition brought about my libertarianism as a positive good, rather than a modus vivendi meant to prevent the war of one philosophy against another.

I am a conservative, and a Christian. I believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, One God. I believe that extra-marital sex is wrong (although not the worst of sins: gluttony and sloth are worse, and pride is the worst of all); I believe that no religion save Christianity is right; I believe that it is probably morally wrong to indulge in hard drugs—and yet I will not support legislation outlawing extra-marital sex (or over-eating, or laziness, or pridefulness); nor legislation which attempts to impose my own faith on anyone else; nor legislation which prohibits drug use. I ask only for the freedom to preach my beliefs, and to live according to them, and hopefully to persuade others that they are correct. I am a conservative, and a libertarian.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin on Detractors of Gibson’s The Passion

In the online edition of National Review, Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin takes on those who are opposing Mel Gibson’s latest film, The Passion.

Something he mentions in passing is that many of those involved with the horrid image of the Mother of God spattered with elephant dung were Jewish—I didn’t know this. Why is the artistic freedom of anti-Christians more important than the artistic freedom of Christians?

I do disagree with one part of the good rabbi’s article: he writes that it is ignoble to ignore the wrongs done to others while loudly deploring those done to us. I’m not so certain. After all, harm to one’s own group is obviously going to both incense and worry one more than harm to another’s.

How to End the Illicit Sex Trade

Donna Hughes writes about the sex trade, a scourge which ruins the lives of many women and children. They are persuaded to emigrate from their home countries with promises of honest work, and once they find themselves in a strange place, they are forced into prostitution through various means. It’s a horrible trade, and one which should be stopped.

I don’t believe, though, that the answer is more laws; rather, the solution is to legalise and regulate prostitution like any other trade. The reason that prostitutes are so badly treated is that their work is criminal; they are afraid to go to the police because they’ve been breaking the law. Employers of honest workers don’t beat or harass their employees, but pimps can get away with it because they know that they’ll get away with it.

Prostitution is certainly immoral, from both sides of the transaction: it’s wrong to sell one’s body for sex, and it’s wrong to purchase sex. But immorality is hardly sufficient grounds for making something illegal. Were it, I’d campaign hard for the abolition of short pants for anyone over the age of thirteen.

What is the situation of prostitutes in those Western states where it is legal—Holland, France and Nevada? Are they safer, more secure from harm &c.? From all accounts, yes.

Lent, not Loaned

The past tense form of the verb to loan is lent, not *loaned. There’s no such word as loaned; its mis-use marks the speaker or writer as ignorant beyond words. So don’t use it.

Great American Beer Festival

Just got back from the GABF. Loads of fun: lots of great beer. Loads and loads and loads and loads of really cute mädchens. I enjoyed myself immensely. More beer than a stick may be shook at, and more cute girls than a pint-glass may be waved in the direction of. Those who live not in Colorado get what they deserve for their heresy.

The beer was good.

(de | fr | it | ru) []

Friday, 26 September 2003

Conviction of Woman Sentenced to Stoning Overturned

The woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery has been set free. This has attracted a lot of worldwide attention, but I believe that much of it has been over-vehement. After all, what’s the particular difference between making fornication illegal and making the use of certain drugs illegal? And while everyone focuses on how harsh Sharia law is, it only applies to Mohammedans. I daresay the objection is mostly to the method of death, which is rather unusual.

Now, as a libertarian I’m strongly against civil law being religious—but as a Christian I’m not opposed to people also being subject to the law of their faiths. As long as one is free to leave one’s faith, and thereby release oneself from its rule, it seems perfectly appropriate to me that one should be held accountable under its particular laws, whatever they might be. Of course, one problem with Sharia is that it’s a capital crime to convert to another faith.

I’m unclear on the particulars of the case in question. Was the woman raped? That would cast a very different light on the question. But presumably even the law of Mohammed isn’t so cruel as to condemn a woman because a man attacked her. I’m glad to see that she’ll live—it’d be as rotten a thing to die for having sex as it is to be cast into prison for smoking a planet.

BlogStreet

Another tool for bloggers is BlogStreet; I’ve just submitted myself there.

Land of Nod

According to Richard Johnson there’s a village in East Yorkshire called Land of Nod. English place-names are so cool. Me, I want to live in Lower Weems.

Structure vs. Presentation?

JWZ writes that he’s confused by the promotion of CSS by the W3C et al.; I don’t believe that he quite understands the issue—or if he does, he professes to be ignorant in order to win some rhetorical point.

He seems to be annoyed that so many folks hated the presentation-oriented markup which Netscape introduced. He ignores the fact that structural markup leads to Good Things: automated indexing; improved searching; automatic transformation of presentation while leaving content unchanged, reading by the disabled (whether physically or technologically, e.g. those with old computers) &c.

He is correct that presentational markup is also important. People want to be able to design attractive pages, and to do that they’d like some control over the way the page will look. CSS is a nice (albeit imperfect) attempt to create a flexible presentation-oriented language. As long as the designer is smart, pages will be attractive at various resolutions, window sizes &c., but he will have a lot of power at his fingertips, using a tool meant for the job (CSS) rather than a mess of hacks (HTML-based presentation). And if he really wishes to ignore certain populations, he’s free to do so.

The situation with CSS is in many ways much better than with presentation-oriented HTML, and in none worse.

Car Free Sunday?!?

According to Adam Curry:

Every couple of months the city of Amsterdam shuts down access by automobile. These are known as Car-Free Sundays.

How utterly totalitarian: fine people for daring to drive their cars along city streets. Never mind that they might wish to do so, on roads their fuel taxes pay for. Never mind the fundamental freedom to travel. And in a wonderful bit of Doublespeak, it’s all part of a Mobility Week—encouraging mobility by denying it, I suppose. Freedom is Slavery. War is Peace. Love is Hate. Immobility is Mobility.

Not that I cannot sympathise; cars are certainly not nearly so romantic as horse-drawn carriages. But they’re nowhere near so polluting, nor so inefficient (and hence bad for everyone). Would you rather die of cholera at 8 (from horse excrement in the roads and air) or lung disease at 80 (from auto exhaust)? Would you rather use oil—itself a nasty, toxic substance pulled out of the ground in inhospitable places—or hay—which wastes farming space which could be used to feed men—to fuel your transportation?

But that’s the problem at the root of so much that is European: a fondness for theory over fact and for ideology over practicality. I’m reminded of the decadent French elites who would venture into the countryside and imagine themselves shepherds and noble savages. These same elites would give birth to the butchery of the French Revolution. I’m also minded of a group of German Romantic Pagans, but that’s a tale for another day; I don’t wish to invoke Godwin’s Law.

Get Your ISSN!

If you publish a serial, you are eligible to apply for an International Standard Serial Number. This applies to magazines, journals, memoirs—and weblogs: anything which is a non-terminating serial issued in some medium. Unfortunately, the registrars are beginning to resist; apply while you’ve still a chance.

I do sympathise with them, though: the ISSN is only 7 data digits, plus a check digit, and this means that it is only possible to register some 10,000,000 serials. This is hardly a large number: 1 number for every 600 men on earth. The solution, of course, is to extend the number, and write it in hexadecimal. A 7-digit hexadecimal code would have 268,435,456 possibilities; an 11-digit code (with the check digit, it would yield a pleasing 12 digits) would have 17,592,186,044,416 possibilities—nearly three thousand for everyone now alive. Heck, extend it out to 16 digits (including the check digit), and the range won’t run out before the sun does.

Dylan Lay-off

Those who are old Mac hands like myself might recall an old abandoned Apple project of the mid-90s, Dylan. Mike Lockwood has an interesting tale of the layoff of the guys who developed it. The kind of layoff that could only happen at Apple. The article’s worth reading solely for the screenshot of the Dylan IDE the guys were working on. A long time ago I read an article (which I can unfortunately no longer find) by a fellow who wrote that source code needed to be more than just files, but actual living data, which could be manipulated in various useful ways; it looks as though the Dylan guys might have been headed in that direction.

To be honest, Dylan looks like a mostly warmed-over C/Algol/Pascal/&c. to me, in much the same way that many folks who construct their own languages end up with cyphers for English; it at least has closures (essentially, true first-class functions). I’d rather just go straight to using a Lisp, to be honest. Arc looks more promising.

The same site has a lot of other cool Apple tales.

Thursday, 25 September 2003

Suspenders!

Yesterday I bought a pair of suspenders for my socks (wot Americans often called garters), the culmination of years of searching. They’re just not something often in stock these days. Very cool—now I needn’t toss a pair of socks just because the elastic has gone; instead, I can keep darning them until the weave’s naught but empty air. Life is good.

Running Shoes

Yes, my brother is the sort of person who buys running shoes. And runs marathons. I’m so ashamed. BTW, when I write my brother, I mean Thomas; it’ a holdover from until I was four years old—when he was my only brother. Old habits die hard; in this case, it’s been more than two decades…

Wednesday, 24 September 2003

Nobel Booby Prize

Laugh; it’s funny.

September Porter

Well, I’ve just finished brewing my latest beer, the beer of the month at my local homebrew shop, Beer at Home. I hope that it will be pretty good; with luck, it’ll be the beer on hand over Thanksgiving weekend, when my brother and his fiancee are in town.

For this batch I tried something I’ve not attempted since high school: after the brewing I cooled the beer in a sink full of ice and cool water. It worked amazingly well, which is odd, as last time the beer was still warm the next morning. I’m going to do this every time from now on, as I was able to pitch directly after the cooling. It’s really quite incredible.

Since my shop doesn’t archive its recipes, here it is:

Quarter Porter

  • 7 lbs. Amber Malt Extract
  • ½ lb. Crystal Malt, 120°
  • ¼ lb. Chocolate Malt
  • ¼ lb. Black Malt
  • ¼ lb. Karaffe Malt
  • ½ oz. Chinook hops @ boil
  • ½ oz. Willamette hops @ 45 min
  • White Labs London Ale Yeast

And I believe that I neglected the black malt—so maybe I’ll have a brown ale instead!

PETA & Prejudice

One of the gals at work happens to belong to PETA and thinks my desire to go bird hunting is obscene—and yet she wears leather shoes and carries a leather bag. One wonders if she believes leather comes from trees.

As far as slaying, butchering and eating animals goes, it seems to me that the PETA-ites are hoist on their own petard. Animals eat other animals; thus why should men not? Ah, they might say, we need to be higher than the beasts. But if we are higher, why should we not use them for our advancement? Either we are naught but animals—and thus free to eat them as they eat one another, or we are better than they are, and free to treat them as one would one’s inferiors.

It is impossible to be a member of PETA and be a Christian, for God Himself allowed Noah to eat meat, and thus it cannot be wrong to do. It is possible to be a vegetarian and a Christian, at least in theory, as monks are vegetarians (but not vegans: they’ll eat milk, cheese and eggs in the proper seasons, and fish on feasts). It is certainly more holy to kill no thing, nor profit from any beast’s death—but it cannot be truly evil not to do so.

Behold: the Chupaqueso!

A rare taste treat from the pages of Schlock Mercenary, the chupaqueso is essentially toasted cheese wrapped around more cheese.

Monday, 22 September 2003

Paul Graham on Taste

Paul Graham writes on the topic of taste that although we live in a relativist time, when one considers the facts, it’s really quite obvious that taste is not subjective, but objective. The implications of this are as staggering to us as they would be matter-of-fact to our forefathers. Think about it.

Sunday, 21 September 2003

Work Sucks

I put in 25½ hours at work this weekend. Not as bad as some did, I’ll grant—which indicates the magnitude of the suckage. And I’m so worn out that I’m not driving up to Boulder to hang out with some folks from Radio 1190. I just want to sleep.

Friday, 19 September 2003

Drei Ecken Hat Mein Hut!

Listening to Radio 1190 tonight, I heard a jazzy rendition of a song I invented way back when I was learning German: Mein Hut, Es Hat Drei Ecken—My Hat, It Has Three Corners!

Mein Hut, es hat drei Ecken
drei Ecken hat mein Hut
Und ob es hätte nicht drei Ecken
Es würde nicht mein Hut sein!

Yes, life is good. And yes, I know that a better translation is:

Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken,
Drei Ecken hat mein Hut
Und hätt’ er nicht drei Ecken,
so wär’ es nicht mein Hut.

But give me a break, eh?

Christmas Parties

Dennis Prager, a Jew, argues that Christmas parties should be called that, not holiday parties. He makes an excellent point.

Boot Faster & Better

IBM developerWorks has cool article on faster booting using make. What I find most interesting is the way that it uses an ancient tool for a new purpose. This is enabled by the Unix philosophy: small programs which do one thing very well. These small programs can be tied together in a myriad of useful ways; in this case, make’s ability to calculate dependencies is utilised to start various services, and its ability to run jobs in parallel is utilised so that one need not wait for each to start before continuing.

Another example is the guy who uses lpd to play MP3s. lpd is the line printer dæmon: its job is to spool files to a printer. But because of the way Unix represents devices like printers, and because of the flexibility of lpd, it can also be used to spool songs (not just MP3s—again, because Unix is so cool, the fellow switches based on whether the music is MP3, Ogg Vorbis or mod) to the speaker.

This is why we Unix admins wear such smug looks all the time.

syndic8

I’ve added Octopodial Chrome to syndic8, which means that it has its own page where it can be managed by you, the reader.

Octopodial Chrome Now Featured at Weblogs.Com

Yes, that’s right—I’ve been added to the list of recently changed pages at Weblogs.Com. I’ve also written a small script to monitor when the a new item is added, and then notify that site of the fact. In this way various blog monitors will be able to tell that my site is active—and hopefully folks will be drawn to my site. Ain’t I cool?

Thursday, 18 September 2003

Airport-Screening Dweebs

This article concerning a friend who was convicted of disorderly conduct for having a rude note in his luggage has been retracted.

Wednesday, 17 September 2003

Neo-Puritans Attack Alcohol Advertising

The unmitigated assholes who support drinking-age legislation are at it again, this time targeting advertising for so-called flavoured malt beverages (those godawful froo-froo drinks so popular now: Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi What-Have-You &c.).

In my opinion, what was done to that proto-Puritan Oliver Cromwell should be done to these neo-Puritans. The student of history will recall that when the son of his victim retook his rightful throne, Cromwell’s body was dug up, hanged on a gallows, beheaded, the head being displayed on a pike and his remains burnt. Well, perhaps not—after all freedom, even a freedom to be as evil as these, is a precious thing.

The New York Times Mis-Reports—Again

Back in January the New York Times misquoted a naval officer. Charming people, really quite charming.

Why the Attack on Straight Men?

So ask Gary Aldrich and Ashley Varner. Among other points, they ask one to entertain the notion of a man’s equivalent to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: guys train gals not to complain about the toilet seat, to enjoy drag racing &c. That’s just as offensive as that loathsome show.

The Man from Elysian Fields

I watched The Man from Elysian Fields last night. It stars Mick Jagger, Andy Garcia, Olivia Williams & James Coburn, and is about a writer (Garcia) who is forced by straitened circumstances to find employment at a male escort service run by Jagger’s character, where he meets a beautiful woman (Williams), who happens to be married to a great writer (Coburn). Not at all what one might consider to be an edifying film, one might think.

But in reality, it is. What it’s really doing is showing the results of iniquity. Garcia trusts Williams because he believes they share affection—but she cannot be trusted: it’s sex ohne love. Williams betrays her husband’s trust as well, despite the fact that he was quite enthusiastic about her adultery. Jagger, towards the end, says something along the lines of, I've spent my life trying to pleasure women, when I should have spent it pleasing one woman. Garcia goes on to find professional success but not personal happiness because he loves his wife. It’s a morality play: the message is that men and women should be paired off and faithful to one another, and that when they’re not, they are deeply unhappy.

Quite interesting.

Microsoft Excel Unsuitable for Statistical Work

According to this article, Microsoft’s Excel product is unsuited to statistical analysis and gives erroneous results. Use software such as Gnumeric—or just write your own in a real language such as Scheme or Lisp.

Tuesday, 16 September 2003

G.L. Pease Cumberland

Right now I’m smoking G.L. Pease’s Cumberland. It includes a twenty-year old tobacco which had lain unnoticed in a shed in Kentucky; when it’s gone there will be no more. From the tin:

Robust and possessing a subdued sweetness, Cumberland is a delightfully orchestrated suite of American tobaccos, featuring a rare and exquisite mahogany Kentucky, aged in bales for twenty years. Red and matured Virginias establish a theme; the Kentucky and a pianissimo of perique create the variations. Pure, natural tobacco flavours are harmonised by delicate arpeggios and underscored by deep, resonant tones. The coda is lovely and lingering—a perfect finish to a rich performance. Best savoured slowly.

Non-smokers can only wish they were men enough to enjoy such a treat.

French-System Advocates

Popular Science has in an article about the worst jobs in science. They’ve an amusing bit about federal advocates for the French system of measurement (commonly mis-termed metric units). One of them cannot even give his own height in metres, which really says all one needs to know: without forcing people to use the half-witted things, they will not be able to think in them.

Far from perfect, the article also weeps for those poor researchers unable to dismember infants for scientific gain.

The Man in Black

As y’all no doubt know, the great Johnny Cash fell asleep on 12 September. Steve Beard eulogises him much better than I ever could. He was a great singer, an excellent songwriter and a good man.

The Petty Tyranny of the Anti-Smoker

Jay Nordlinger—whose quality can be irregular—offered this tale in a recent Impromptus:

Janos Starker—the great Hungarian-American cellist—was to perform the Elgar concerto with the South Carolina Philharmonic, in Columbia. The concert hall was smoke-free, and he was informed that he could not have a cigarette even in his private dressing room.

So he said to the orchestra—assembled for rehearsal—I have lived through fascism, and I have lived through communism. But I cannot abide the petty tyranny into which this country is falling, and neither should you.

With that, he left—left rehearsal, and left town. The orchestra was silent for a minute. Then a clarinetist began to play Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

There’s a lesson there, for him who has ears to hear and eyes to see.

Saturday, 13 September 2003

It’s Finally Getting Cold!

The weather here is finally getting down to a reasonable temperature. Right now the Weather Channel says that it’s 46°, and that tonight it’ll get down to 36°! The day is overcast; there’s a bite to the air, and that sweet fibrous smell which heralds snow, soon dances across one’s nose. At long last Sol, that hideous yellow ball of flame which blights our skin and burns our eyes, is beginning his long slow defeat.

The pagan Romans used to have a feast, Sol Invictus (The Unconquered Sun), to celebrate the return of the Sun. I think we should have a feast Sol Victus to celebrate its long slow waning.

Of course, it’s not permanent: winter never is. Even this cold snap will soon pass: later this week the temperature will return to the ’80s. But for now, I’m relishing the day. There’s a fire in my hearth, a pipe on my lips and a song in my heart!

Friday, 12 September 2003

Killing Time Killers

An ancient develop has some great programming tips written by Bob Johnson. Good points, all, although some are pretty obvious. Well-worth taking to heart, though.

Thursday, 11 September 2003

Two More Recipes

I've added two more recipes to my Bachelor Recipes Collection. The first is a quick-and-easy way to grill up a chicken breast: my Basic Grilled Chicken; the second is an excellent dish, well suited to impressing a fair maiden: my Tequila Lime Chicken. Both are, of course, quite easy to prepare, which is the focus of my Bachelor Recipes.

No Microsofties or SCO Minions Need Apply

Gotta love Damage Studios’ job page. If you send a Microsoft Word-formatted resumé, they delete it unseen. If your resumé includes SCO after May ’03, they delete it. Good to see an employer exercising some discretion in whom it hires.

I'm So Out of Shape

Yesterday I rode my bicycle to work. Man, am I out of shape! It's pretty humiliating, actually. Not six months ago I would easily do twice the distance and not even really think about it, but this time I actually started to get the dry heaves. I'm going to have to start biking to work every day and get back into shape.

At least my diet is beginning to kick in: today I weighed the least I've weighed since April.

Wednesday, 10 September 2003

Al Franken is Inconsistent and Presents Half-truths

As Byron York demonstrates.

Streaming MP3 Device

An interesting geek toy to send MP3s to one's stereo. It looks pretty sweet, although the OGG suport is kinda shaky (it re-encodes to MP3 on the fly, which eats CPU). I want one.

Tuesday, 09 September 2003

We Won Vietnam

John O’Sullivan argues that we won Vietnam: it’s now capitalist, and by fighting therein we manged to stave off Communist socialism in much of the rest of Asia. Indeed, Gorbachev once pointed out that Singapore (a single city) exported more than the entire Soviet Union (the largest state in the world)!

Anniversary of the First Actual Bug

According to the US Naval Historical Centre (Go Navy!), he first computer bug was logged on September 9, 1945 at 15:45: Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1945. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: First actual case of bug being found. Note that the term bug pre-dates computers by quite awhil.

Charles Bronson, RIP

Paul Greenberg reflects on the life & times of Charles Bronson.

Monday, 08 September 2003

Medical Marijuana

Rich Lowry writes about medical marijuana. Choice quote:

Eight other states have legalised [medical marijuana] as well, creating friction with the feds, who don't want grievously ill patients to get relief if it means taking the untoward expedient of lighting a joint.

It’s time to legalise the stuff.

Friday, 05 September 2003

Beer Can Save Lives

It's true, as demonstrated in this advert for Greene King India Pale Ale. Greene King's Abbot Ale was the first legal beer I had, in the pub at the base of my hotel in the late morning/early afternoon of 31 December 1998. Good stuff, and one reason why I had to return to England.

Real Men Rarely Cry

Rich Lowry writes about the plague of weeping men which afflicts us. He’s quite right: the ethos of wimpery is weakening us all. Wonderful quote: the rise of confessional daytime TV, which is a kind of emotional pornography. This is exactly my objection to the let’s-talk-it-out school of pseudo-thought. Some things are best left unsaid; to even discuss certain topics is injurious to oneself.

The Oath of Allegiance is Changing

I read that the Oath of Allegiance is changing. The new version, to be frank, sucks rocks. Compare the current:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

To:

Solemnly, freely, and without mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state. My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support, honor, and be loyal to the United States, its Constitution, and its laws. Where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either by military, noncombatant, or civilian service. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God.

What a namby-pamby silly bunch of claptrap. Never mind that it also merely renounces allegiance only to foreign states, leaving those to people untouched. And it cuts the bit about bearing arms on behalf of the United States. Damn hippy fools. And this is under a Republican administration!

Victor Davis Hanson on Two Views of the Current Situation

VDH has a great piece on differing views of our war situation: essentially, one group believe that we are not at war, and that 11 September and related incidents should have been treated as criminal disturbances, while another believes that we are at war with enemies who wish our destruction. It's a useful piece. I must admit that I incline slightly to the first viewpoint in some ways. It'd surely be cleaner and simpler that way. But realistically, the second view is the one practical one to take: it's as silly to try to criminally hunt down and charge every terrorist on earth now as it would have been to do the same to the Japanese or Nazis of the Second World War. At the end of all this, yes we'll need to have at least a few trials—but they're not really the goal. The goal is defeating our enemies and securing our safety.

Wednesday, 03 September 2003

The Sacramento Tales

John Derbyshire has written a wonderful filk concerning the California recall. Absolutely hilarious: imagine Chaucer writing about the mess. Only it's not dirty, which is ¾ the fun of Chaucer…

Beer is Better than Juice

I was feeling a touch of illness coming on this morning, so I figured I'd drink orange and cranberry juices (lots of Vitamin C, don't you know). Well, imagine my surprise to find that they're more unhealthy than beer: per pint, OJ has 873 BTUs, 15 grains of fat, 833 grains of carbohydrates and 62 grains of protein; cranberry juice has 1,143 BTUs, 15 grains of fat, 1,127 grains of carbohydrates and no protein; beer, the health drink, has 782 BTUs, no fat, only 278 grains of carbohydrates and 15 grains of protein.

Look at that: beer has 90% the BTUs, none of the fat and one-third the carbohydrates of orange juice. It doesn't have as much protein, but that can easily be remedied with a steak on the side. Beer has only 68% as many BTUs as cranberry juice, none of the fat, and ¼ the carbohydrates—and as much protein. Also, beer has much less sugar (better for the teeth), as most has been converted into alcohol. Which is something else beer has in its favour.

In this day and age, we know that low-carbohydrate diets are the key to keeping off the pounds. It follows logically that it's better to drink beer than juice.

Health Facts, per Pint
Drink Energy Fat Carbohydrates Protein
Orange Juice 873 BTUs 15 gr 833 gr 62 gr
Cranberry Juice 1,143 BTUs 15 gr 1,127 gr 0 gr
Beer 782 BTUs 0 gr 278 gr 15 gr

BTW, readers (I fancy I have two or more) no doubt noticed that I use BTUs and grains rather than calories (really, kilocalories) and grams. Are you at all surprised? Intelligent science uses English, not French, units.

Tuesday, 02 September 2003

Arming Pilots

John Lott recently wrote in National Review Online about arming pilots. He's in favour (no surprise there). Some interesting things to note: the Transportation Security Administration acknowledges that many lethal weapons are undetectable (and hence, cannot be guarded against); pilots of planes carrying mail used to be required to be armed (in order to defend the mail in case of a crash); military pilots flying outside of the US must carry sidearms; pilots were allowed to bear arms as late as 1987; studies from 1996–2000 show that only eight thousandths of one percent of assaults on police officers resulted in them being killed with their own weapons. Also, the argument that a few bullet holes would destroy the plane is foolish: 14 Boeing aircraft have survived in-air bomb explosions! Every Boeing aircraft which has experienced handgun fire has landed safely. As always, Lott shines light on the subject.

Monday, 01 September 2003

Water-filled Vases a Safety Hazard

Did you know that a water-filled vase can act as a lens to focus the sun's rays? This means that it can set things on fire—like your home.


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