Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl


Tuesday, 31 August 2004

The Economics of Gilligan’s Island

The Ludwig von Mises Institute (aka the last, best hope of freedom in our time) has an interesting article on the economic condition of Gilligan’s Isle. Most interesting.

Diversity

Today at work we’d one of our so-called Town Hall meetings (really, an all-hands meeting for everyone in Denver & the surrounding areas). The speaker was our employer’s vice president in charge of diversity. What, one might ask, is diversity?

Why, it is giving funds to black student associations, and Hispanic student associations, and Asian student associations, and women’s student associations, and creating gay/bisexual/transsexual student associations. It’s funding summer camps for girls, to encourage them in a subject they are highly unlikely to excel in (rather than investing the money where it’s likely to yield a far, far, far better return on investment). It’s funding special opportunities for cripples (not in itself a particularly objectionable thing, although as a stockholder I wonder how it increases my holdings). It’s installing footbaths for Mohammedans.

The message that I took away is that my noble employer has no use for me. After all, it spends an absurd amount of money trying to attract everyone but those like me. Apparently, we spend not a single penny on those of my own sort: white able-bodied males interested in girls and worshipping the true God.

I am not against equal opportunity: in fact, I am a strong proponent of picking the best candidate for the job. When it comes to business, I really don’t care what my co-workers do in their free time: that’s their own business. I want to know that those who work alongside me are the absolute best that money can buy—I don’t care what race they are, what sex they are, what God they worship, whom they find attractive, which of their body parts fail to work, what they ingest when they’re not working, which political party they vote for or anything else unrelated to our common goal.

What I am against is unreasonable discrimination. My employer discriminates against whites: I cannot imagine it ever funding a White Engineers’ Association. My employer discriminates against men: I cannot imagine it ever funding a Male Engineers’ Association. My employer discriminates against heterosexuals: I cannot imagine it ever funding a Heterosexual Engineers’ Association. My employer discriminates against Christians: while it allows Mohammedans to conduct their prayers on-site, I cannot imagine it ever allowing Christians to pray the Divine Office at work.

All this would be forgivable if there were a business reason. But I don’t see it. Business sense is hiring the best candidate—it’s throwing money down a hole. I’m fairly certain that East Asians don’t need too much encouragement to enter the sciences, and I’m as certain that it’s a waste of money trying to encourage the vast majority of women to enter the same (although I’ll admit that I know some extraordinarily intelligent gals—much smarter than am I—in the sciences, they are statistical outliers). Men are most emphatically not equal in ability: some of us are good at one thing; some at others. That’s why Africans tend to excel in certain kinds of running; that’s what East Asians excel in certain professions; that’s why women predominate in other careers—and yes, that’s why some jobs are almost entirely staffed by guys like me. We all have our fortes; to deny someone an opportunity because of his colour or sex is wrong, but to waste resources barking up the wrong tree is just foolish.

The Apple Product Cycle

Yes, yes—we’ve all seen the Apple Product Cycle in action, from System 8, to the first iMac, to System 9, to OS X, to the Ugly iMac, to the iPod, and now to the New iMac. A very funny little page.

Monday, 30 August 2004

Noise Pollution

I live over a mile away from Fiddler’s Green, and tonight there’s what I’ll generously term a concert featuring Linkin Park, Korn, Snoop Dogg, The Used and Less than Jake. The bastards are playing so loudly that it sounds as though someone is blasting his radio outside my door. What possible reason can there be for playing music that loudly? And why the hell are they allowed to do it when some of us are trying to fall asleep?

OTOH, it is kinda cool that they are able to amplify one twit’s voice so greatly that he may be heard more than a mile away. Now if we’d only use that power for good

The Virtues of Unix

We’ve a few Exchange admins at work this week for a special project (for those of you outside the technorati, Microsoft Exchange is a mail server). One of them dropped by my cube because he was interested in the software I use to relay mail (it, too, is a mail server—I’ve just configured it to pass on mail rather than holding onto it). So I gave him a quick overview of the commands I use to see how many messages are sitting in the queue, to count the number of probably spams, and to track the progress of a message through the system, from arrival, through processing and to departure to its final destination.

The look on his face was priceless. Stunned, he said something along the lines of Now I understand why you guys love Unix so much; it’d have taken us twenty minutes to do that, and with no guarantee of the correct result. It had taken me something rather less than a minute.

Yes, Unix has a bit of a learning curve, but once learnt it is part of one’s being, and its capabilities are tools which lie ready for one’s hand. All useful skills require a bit of learning, but the payoff is worth it.

For those who are curious, mailq is a command which prints out a list of the messages currently queued up, whom they’re from, whom they’re to & their status, and finally prints the number of messages sitting in the queue & the number of bytes their contents sum to. tail is another command which shows the end of a file (its tail, you see); so I simply typed mailq | tail -1, which shows the very last line of the output from mailq.

Since I know that a message sitting in the queue for MAILER-DAEMON is probably a bounce from a spam (genuine MAILER-DAEMON messages are almost always delivered instantaneously), I just search the output of mailq for the string MAILER-DAEMON. Fortunately enough, there is a Unix command to search for things: the general regular expression parser (which can do much more complex things than look for a particular string, of course), or grep, so I can run mailq | grep MAILER-DAEMON and see only those lines which contain that string. Of course, that’s not overly useful—I don’t really care to see them; I just wish to count them. There is another command, wc, which counts the number of characters, words and lines in a file (the name comes from word count), so all I need to do is run mailq | grep MAILER-DAEMON | wc -l (the -l tells wc that I just want the line count, not the rest of the info); since each line corresponds to a single message, I know the number of messages. So now I know how many messages there are for MAILER-DAEMON, and I know that messages for MAILER-DAEMON sitting in the queue are almost certainly undeliverable bounces from spams, I know how many of the messages in queue are likely to be caused by spam.

Likewise, when tracing the progress of a message through the system, I just have to examine the logs. They’re simple text files which I can search with grep, perhaps looking for the address of the sender or the recipient—from that found line I can get the ID of the message, and from that I can search the logs for only those lines pertaining to that message. I can see it arrive; I can see the mail server (postfix, a truly excellent bit of software) pass it back-and-forth as it determines where it needs to go & examines it to see whether it might be spam, and I can see it leave.

All these examples use standard bits of the Unix toolkit. Unix was first used for word processing, and those text-oriented tools make searching through system logs dead simple. Since a large portion of a sysadmin’s work involves examining logs, that means that Unix makes my job dead simple.

I pity those yoked with lesser systems.

Those Lost Minutes

Diana West points out that while Bush is castigated for continuing to read to children for six or seven minutes, Franklin D. Roosevelt spent 18 minutes doing nothing—and Kerry spent half an hour in shock, by his own account. My own thought is that this doesn’t matter. The President needed some time to collect his thoughts and consider the implications: the landscape had changed, and he needed to think about it. Why not spend that time reading to kids? All in all, that was probably the most quiet time he got all day, and I daresay he pondered the issues well during that time. Reading to kids hardly taxes one’s mental skills.

Sunday, 29 August 2004

Sporting Clays

Today I’d the opportunity to shoot sporting clays with a fellow-parishioner. Much, much, much more difficult than simply shooting skeet. The clays can come from several directions: underneath one; crossing right-to-left, or left-to-right; towards one, and rolling along the ground like a jackrabbit. The intent is to give one practise in hunting: the choice of which clay is shot is up to the guy controlling things, and thus the shooter must be alert and keep his eyes open.

The problem was that the cross-wise clays were apparently a lot closer than they looked, and one needed to lead them by quite a bit. We were both quite unused to having to lead (despite my shooting-partner’s hunting experience), and as we didn’t know we needed to lead, we were driven nearly crazy. It was the worst shooting I’ve done in my life. Then, when we settling up the fees, the range officer mentioned the bit about the trajectory being closer than it appeared.

News we could have used.

Oh well—it was great fun anyway. It’s always great fun to go shooting. And now I’ve something else to practise at, for this fall I plan to be the king of the field.

Saturday, 28 August 2004

Stones & Glass Houses

Tim Dawson, who is himself often an intelligent & thoughtful critic of the Society for Creative Anachronism, has addresses some of the critiques of the SCA made by others.

Friday, 27 August 2004

What Odd Weather for an August!

Today we’ve a low of 48° & and a high of but 57°; and yet, Sunday is predicted to be in the 80s. It’s August and I’ve worn a sweater not once, but twice!

I could grow to like this.

Hanson on Kerry’s Service

Victor Davis Hanson has written perhaps the most thoughtful reflection on Kerry’s service I have read. He neither condemns nor applauds, but simply notes that the present situation could have been avoided. Well worth reading.

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Wikibooks

Most folks have become familiar with the term wiki, referring to a user-edited website; Wikipedia is a well-known example of a free example (I myself have contributed to pages on less and myself); well, there is a related effort known as Wikibooks whose effort is to develop free textbooks. Perhaps I should add my bachelor recipes to it, in the recipes section.

Cousin Marriage and the Iraqi Situation

Steve Sailer has written that the widespread practise of marrying first or second cousins may explain the Iraqi and Middle Eastern situations. His thesis is that it tends to encourage family feelings at the expense of patriotism, and that does make a certain sense: when one’s family is bound to one by multiple lines of descent, and all of one’s extended family is trusted by, or at least well-known to, one then that could indeed be the case. Interesting that nearly half of all Iraqi marriages are to a cousin. No wonder they’re so bloody backward.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

TeX by Topic

TeX by Topic is now available as a PDF on the web, directly from the author. Very cool.

troff

Most folks don’s know this nowadays, but one of the first production uses of Unix was as a writer’s tool. The typesetter used back then was called troff—a rather arcane and often odd little language which did its job nonetheless. roff is still used as the format for the man (short for manual) pages which remain the bedrock of Unix documentation.

An Introduction to LaTeX

Last night I discovered Peter Flynn’s excellent Formatting information, A beginner’s introduction to typesetting with LaTeX. It looks like a valuable introduction to the only way to format text.

National Security Agency

The NSA budgets more for electricity in a year than the entire state of Maryland. Wow.

In the Beginning Was the Command Line

Neal Stephenson’s masterpiece, In the Beginning was the Command Line, is available online these days.

Monday, 23 August 2004

What Has WYSIWYG Done to Us?

Conrad Taylor wonder what WYSIWYG typesetting has done to the typesetter’s art—and the answer’s not pretty. From 1996, but as true today as it was then.

Mac OS X LaTeX

As everyone knows, LaTeX is the absolute best text formatting system ever created, ever. Well, Getting Started with TeX on Mac OS X tries to ease one into the strange universe of text markup. As I’ve mentioned, LaTeX is where it’s at.

TeX

All I can say about TeX is this:

Knuth says that TeX is for producing beautiful documents, and he went to great lengths to build in a lot of typographic know-how. The hyphenation algorithm alone was the subject of a PhD thesis.

I credit LaTeX for my excellent grades as a senior in college. My writing hadn’t improved that much—’twas all the text formatting. Great beautiful margin, footnotes like God meant them to be mathematical equations Euler would kill for: LaTeX is where it’s at.

Hypertext in 1912?!?!

DigiBarn claims that working hypertext implementation was available in 1912. I rather think that they are pulling one’s leg, but OTOH I have read of 1930s-era fax machines, so who knows?

Le Contract est Finis

Or words to that effect. This morning we were informed that our account intends to terminate our contract in November. Personally, though, I figure that it’ll be closer to October, or possibly even late September. I’m confident that I’ll be able to find new work—still, it’s dashed annoying. This was my first real job, and I really hate change. Oh well.

Sunday, 22 August 2004

Æroport Screening

Diane Dimond writes in Newsweek about her 78 year old, WWII veteran father being run through the indignity of æroport screening. She states of course we need to screen airplane passengers, but I disagree. Why should we screen free citizens of a free republic? Why shouldn’t we allow citizens to bear arms on a plane, just as our Second Amendment mandates? Let’s be frank: a citizenry afraid to defend itself deserves everything it gets. 11 September would never have happened—or rather, the impact would not have been so great—had more than 1 in 4 Americans been brave enough to stand up to violence and tyranny.

Saturday, 21 August 2004

The Boulder Pledge

In 1996, at CU Boulder, Roger Ebert devised the Boulder Pledge:

Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.

I’ve taken the pledge; you should too.

The Evil Overlord List

Years ago, Peter Anspach compiled the Evil Overlord List, consisting of the top 100 things he’d do were he an evil overlord. Stuff like, I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door, and when I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice. Brilliantly amusing.

The Bulge

And folks thought codpieces were a thing of the past. At least the historical variety were obviously fake (and thus a little humourous), and in fact served to further modesty, believe it or not. This is just sad.

Friday, 20 August 2004

Harsh Reality of the IT Project Life Cycle

Seen recently on Slashdot:

Phase 1
Uncritical Acceptance
Phase 2
Wild Enthusiasm
Phase 3
Dejected Disillusionment
Phase 4
Total Confusion
Phase 5
Search for the Guilty
Phase 6
Punishment of the Innocent
Phase 7
Promotion of Nonparticipants

Apparently it dates back to the ’70s. It’s true, too.

Eli & Conrad Married

My brother Thomas’s good high school friend Mr. Conrad Layman was married to the former Miss Eli Quick last Saturday in Grand Lake, Colo. Here is a nice photo I was able to snap of the event (returning the favour Mrs. Layman did me at my own brother’s wedding):

A nice couple, no? I wish them all the luck in the world.

Wedding Etiquette Hell

The Wedding Etiquette Hell site describes a plethora of horrid things which can happen at a wedding. Now that my brother & my sister-in-law are married, I can share this with the world—I’d no desire to scare them before the fact.

Is Metadata Unuseful?

The always-interesting Cory Doctorow some time ago wrote an article arguing that metadata will be unsuccessful. His points are several:

Man Lies
His point is that folks will lie in their metadata, just as searching on an old-style search engine for just about any term these days turns up porn. True—but one of the cool things about RDF and the frameworks built upon it is that anyone can annotate anything, and thus I can choose to rank metadata providers, or choose someone else’s ranking. The trouble with in-page metadata was that it was provided by the author, who had incentive to lie; out-of-band metadata may be provided by anyone. Might there perhaps arise a market for metadata marketers, much as there’s a market for Consumer Reports? I can easily imagine it.
Man is Lazy

His point is that authors are unlikely to annotate their own pages. This is not quite true: already, there’s a blossoming market in search engine optimisation. Now, some of it is deceitful, but much of it is concerned with presenting a page such that a spider such as the Googlebot can easily understand it. It’s a small step from that to maintaining separate metadata.

Moreover, as I suggest above, it’s quite likely that there will arise a market in metadata. Yes, man is lazy—but there already exists a mechanism to get him working: it’s called a job.

Man is Stupid
Doctorow notes that on eBay and other such sites are rife with misspellings, and that this means that folks will not accurately categorise their data. As I noted above, there will be a market, and a market is an excellent mechanism for driving some minimal level of quality. Yeah, McDonald’s is not the greatest food in the world, but one is much less likely to contract typhoid from it than from food a century-and-a-half ago.
Mission: Impossible—Know Thyself
He notes that every man is a rotten judge of his own character. Well, duh. But others—especially the cumulative of others—are often pretty good at it. Solved, once again, by the market.
Schemas Aren’t Neutral
Doctorow points out that every producer will argue for a scheme of classification which represents his interests best, and denigrates those of his competitors most. Once again, he’s correct, but both in law and in finance we’ve somehow managed to overcome that to a very great deal. That’s part of the beauty of schemas which are created from the bottom up: driven by hackers such as those who brought us the World Wide Web in the first place, they become standards before any special interest can affect them over-much. Either that, or they are created from the consensus of those same interests. Whichever path they take, they tend to end up decent; those that don’t die off, once again due to market pressure.
Metrics Influence Results
His point here is that whatever we rate by tends to influence that which is rated, e.g. mandatory school testing leads to teaching to the test. His greater point is that it’s wishful thinking to believe that a group of people competing to advance their agendas will be universally pleased with any hierarchy of knowledge. Well, of course: I don’t doubt that there may be multiple competing schemas. Generally, that which delivers the most to the most will win. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the best (see Windows), but it will be mostly sufficient (again, see Windows). But over time, it will improve (see Linux).
There’s More Than One Way to Describe Something
As he says, reasonable people can disagree forever on how to describe something; true enough. Yet somehow we all manage to agree on traffic rules; and those of us who disagree (say, on the question of whether McDonald’s or Le Central affords one better food) somehow don’t come to blows over it: we form separate communities. Where reasonable men disagree, there may be a divergence of standards, but where we agree there will be uniformity. Isn’t that the ideal anyway?

It’s an interesting article, and his points are cogent, but I believe that in the long run they become irrelevant. Most of them are defeated once there is a market for metadata, and the rest are made minor over time.

Friend-of-a-Friend

FOAF is a project which attempts to create a machine-readable web of pages describing people, their interests and their inter-relationships. That is, I’d have my FOAF file, describing who I am, where I live, what I’m interested in and whom I know; those people could in turn have their own pages with the same. As the inter-connections between people grow, pretty one can see how many degrees of separation connect one and anyone else on earth.

FOAF is based on RDF, which is a standard for storing metadata (data about data)—the big win about this is that one can use various standard tools to create & manage it.

One interesting thing about FOAF is that one can use a single file to represent an entire database of information: the people I say I know are just more entries in my file, and I could specify (incompletely) whom they know and what kind of relationships they have with one another. For example, both my brother and my sister-in-law in my file; nothing prevents me from noting that: they are married to one another; each has met a few of my friends; and so on. If I’d one of Emily’s brothers in my FOAF file, I could note that they are siblings, and so on and so forth. Nothing stops me from populating more information about each of them, such as birthdays, interests, job &c.

Nothing except politeness. The general rule is that one should only reveal data about oneself; thus almost every entry in my file for anyone besides myself is minimal: full name and SHA-1-hashed email address (the addresses are hashed so that spammers cannot snarf them—a hash is a one-way encoding of a string: e.g. postmaster@irs.gov hashes to 7c44e262e4f3331dd5d7af5c571ad94794ec38bc; since each address hashes to a unique string, if I know who 84567345abc4375… really is, and you say you know him, then I know whom you know, but if I don’t, I can’t). The only exception I make is when the person-knows-person relationship is interesting: my brother Thomas has met my buddy Phil and his fiancée Jess, which is surprising and may help make for an interesting six-degrees inter-relationship. If Tom’s file notes that he’s met Admiral Stockdale, suddenly Phil & Jess are only two steps away from Stockdale, and three away from any number of presidents and politicians.

FOAF only addresses the simplest relationship: X knows Y. It doesn’t specify how well X knows Y, or even if Y knows X. For that, there is an additional relationship vocabulary which specifies things like siblingOf, worksWith, wouldLikeToKnow &c.

FOAF+relationships ends up being similar to XFN, but the two are actually different. FOAF is supposed to be encyclopædic, containing everyone one knows and to what degree (at least ideally); XFN only comes into play when one links. FOAF utilises RDF; XFN gets a free ride atop XHTML. FOAF addresses shared interests and locations; XFN’s primary goal is to provide information about whom one has met. The two are complementary ways of finding friends-of-friends and building a web of inter-relationships.

The easiest way to get started with FOAF is to use the FOAF-a-matic tool: it prompts for your name, title, email address, homepage, work & school homepages and a list of your friends and their names & emails; it then generates a FOAF file with all that information nicely encoded (and email addresses protected).

If you run a blog or other website, use XFN on all your links, as applicable. Create a FOAF file and link to it from your homepage like this: <link rel="meta" type="application/rdf+xml" title="FOAF" href="/~ruhl/foaf.rdf" />. It’s the cool thing to do.

Thursday, 19 August 2004

XHTML Friends Network

I recently added support for XFN, which is a way of indicating relationships with the people to whom one links (one’s blogroll, in the case of blogs). The links to my brothers, for example, indicate that they are my brothers and that we’ve met. Automated tools can spider this info and display one’s relationships with one’s friends, family &c.

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

The Gay Defence

Dennis Prager points out Gov. McGreevey’s brilliant use of the gay defence. Had a normal man had an affair with a woman and given her a security job for which she was eminently unsuited, he would be ridden out of town on a rail; but because he’s homosexual, that somehow excuses things. Likewise with Barney Frank: if a normal man had hired a call girl, and let her run a prostitution ring from his home, his political future would have been dim. Yet somehow these things are more forgivable when it’s homosexuals who err. Ridiculous.

Franks Lied?

Rich Lowry points out how General Tommy Franks’s new book gives the lie to the Bush-lied crowd. To believe that Bush lied, one must also believe that such men as King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt lied, at the military officers engaged in an elaborate ruse, making sub-optimal plans which purported to assume the existence of Iraqi WMDs.

I’m no very great fan of George Bush (the man is a socialist), but I do believe that he’s honest, and I think that he’s done about as well as can be expected.

Hamilton ’95

You need Hamilton ’95, the OS of the future.

Monday, 16 August 2004

Kids Anger 120,000 Bees

Kids annoyed 120,000 bees by throwing rocks at their 500-lb. hive. How droll—I used to do exactly that as a child, but even then I was smart enough not to assault a huge hive. Only got stung two or three times, too.

My War

An unknown infantryman writes My War: Fear and Loathing in Iraq, a fascinating blog. Some of the events it chronicles are quite hard to imagine. Take a look.

A Capitalist Defence of Free Software

David Adams has a capitalist defence of free software and makes some excellent points. Yes, the rise of free software means that proprietary software producers will suffer—but software consumers will benefit. The rise of the automobile was bad news for buggy whip manufacturers, but it was great news for shipping and for anyone who wanted to travel a good distance in a day. Do read the article.

My Brother is Jack Black!

After watching School of Rock last night, I came to a startling conclusion: my brother Tom is Jack Black, only with an eight of an inch of hair, no beard and a career as a naval aviator. Strange but true.

Sunday, 15 August 2004

One More Thing

Lest I forget, I am the studliest of studs; the manliest of men. Why, for centuries—millennia, even—man’s constant study has been to try to achieve a slight fraction of the coolness I now possess. It must be tough to be another guy—for no other guy is me.

Why am I so keyed up? Yesterday, I asked a gal for her number, and she gave it to me. Granted, it might not be her number, but still… It’s the first time I ever asked, and I count any response but Hell, no! as a success:-)

Garlic Greens

Believe it or not, but Matha Stewart is useful. Her article on garlic greens proved that they are a useful ingredient.

Thursday, 12 August 2004

Some Account of Myself

Matthew Thomas has recently translated Some Account of Myself, which I noticed in and old blog entry of his. It’s a fascinating account of a man’s professional life, and quite valuable for giving a hint of how religious even Regency England could be. Read it.

Unfit for Command

Tony Blankley points out that if Unfit for Command is truthful, John Kerry has no business being President—but if it is false, it is a malicious libel. Either Kerry is a hero, or he is a poltroon. Either his (few) veterans are telling the truth, and the 254 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are bald-faced liars—or his veterans are bald-faced liars and the SBVT are telling the truth; there really is no middle ground.

Is Terrorism Unislamic?

Mustafa Akyol argues that the murder of civilians or execution of POWs is against the Koran. Perhaps they are; one must admit, though, that Islam has hardly been a good neighbour.

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

Dive into Python

Mark Pilgrim has written Dive into Python, a fine introduction to a fine programming language. Python’s a great language. The implementation could be a tad faster, but the syntax and libraries are just a joy to program in.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Hail? In Summer?!?

Yup, today we’d a bona fide hailstorm here in Denver. When I rode home at approx. 1730 it was hot and sunny; when the picture below was taken at 1829 the hail was coming down in great chunks. There were a few pieces on my patio which exceeded ice cubes in size.

Ain’t Colorado grand?

Why Apple Has Low Marketshare

John Gruber examines the myth that if only Apple had licensed the Mac, it’d be Microsoft today. A highly interesting article, and well worth a read.

Monday, 09 August 2004

Romeo & Juliet…in Greece

Sports Illustrated carries the tale of a pair of Grecian gymnasts whose love for one another apparently encompassed long drops onto hard asphalt. You know, as utterly stupid as they were (for God’s sake, why were they shacked up together?), one must admit that the end result is pretty much identical to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Those crazy Mediterraneans—it’s why we Northern Europeans have won every war since we discovered bronze: we can save our emotions for another day.

Shakespearean Insults

No-one could fling the insults quite like old Will. Enjoy.

Boys More Affected than Girls by Prematurity

According to CNN, premature boys have significantly smaller brains later in life. I was six weeks premature, and my IQ is 143—one can only wonder what it might have been:-)

Sunday, 08 August 2004

Florida Xbox Murders

Well, it turns out that those ghastly slayings in Florida were over an Xbox. Wow. If you’re going to kill over a theft—which is not an inherently unreasonable thing, after all—shouldn’t it be over something more than a video game console and some clothes? Like, one’s life savings or something, perhaps. Just a thought.

Saturday, 07 August 2004

Bad Cover Version

When Pulp needed to make a video of their song Bad Cover Version (which is all about a former girlfriend’s new boyfriend being a poor reprise of oneself), what else could they do but hire a bunch of bad singer-imitators to make a cover version of their song? The video of Bad Cover Version is absolutely hilarious, albeit two years old.

The Good Life Ain’t That Hard

It’s really not: today I ate a sun-dried tomato & herb couscous for lunch and home-made pasta for dinner, and drank several very good beers (Stone’s Levitation is particularly fine) and am now enjoying a wonderful espresso (the secret to good flavour is to use the lightest roast available). We live in the wealthiest and happiest of all civilisations: if you aren’t happy, it’s your own damned fault.

Sluggy Freelance & Schlock Mercenary

If you don’t read Sluggy Freelance and Schlock Mercenary, all your so-called friends are laughing at you behind your back. Really.

Friday, 06 August 2004

Terror Strike Imminent?

Well, CNN states that intel is troubled by a drop in terrorist chatter. I know that twice in as many days my employer (Fortune 500 company, with 300,000+ employees and a history of working with the State) has sent out instructions for what do in case of a civil emergency; I wonder if one of our government contacts has passed on any information.

If al Qaeda or its supporters believe that a strike will lead to a repeat of the Spanish cowardice, I believe they will be sorely disappointed. We Americans are slow to anger, but our wrath is not the kind of thing anyone in this world can survive. If we are attacked again, and more Americans die, it will go very badly indeed for al Qaeda, its sympathisers and its supporters. In fact, if the incident is bad enough it might go quite badly for anyone who has been neutral.

Lizzie Borden

Florence King wrote the most wonderful chronicle of Lizzie Borden I’ve ever read. Completely and utterly wonderful vintage King.

Citizens Use Weapons to Aid Cops

The NRA have a series of short blurbs about citizens using their firearms to assist the police. Cool stories all.

Forty Reasons for Gun Control

Yes, forty reasons to support gun control. Tongue-in-cheek, of course.

Is Windows Easier to Install?

Dave Fancella’s wife had more difficulty installing Windows than Linux. A good read, with some interesting points, most notably that the Windows install made her feel unintelligent, but the Mandrake Linux install made her happy.

The Perils of the Hyphenated Name

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes about all the troubles her hyphenated last name has created. Amusing, no?

Skirtchasing No More

Today I was reading the Netscape portal and happened upon a link to various Men’s Health articles. While reading advice on how to attract gals, I had an epiphany: I don’t care anymore; it’s not worth the effort. Every article is all about how not to be oneself; how to bear this & that in mind; how to seem to be what a girl is looking for. Well, to hell with all that: I am me, and that’s that. If some lady should take a fancy to me, I’ll be quite happy (overjoyed, actually), but forget trying to be aught other than I am. To mine own self am I true: take it or leave it.

Thursday, 05 August 2004

The First Spill

Today I’d my first spill from a bike since I was a boy. Quite embarrassing, really, but also unavoidable. I was whipping ’round a traffic cone to get back onto a sidewalk, and upon passing it discovered that a crack in the street lay in my path; I attempted to avoid, but the only other course available to me led—at an angle—into the sharp edge of the kerb. Did my best to remain upright, but the various vectors, moments & angular momentum acted ’gainst me, and I fell. Got off pretty easily, actually: some road-tar on my white trousers (had they been black, of course, it would have been white stripe-paint); a small slice from my elbow; and some twisting of my left hand. All-in-all, a cheap experience.

I’m rather proud of how I fell, to tell the truth: no permanent damage (i.e. to clothing), and managing to keep my head and shoulders from ever contacting the ground, or any other obstacle.

Wednesday, 04 August 2004

Ants in the Flour

This morning as I prepared to bake some French loaves, I discovered five or six small ants in my flour! There were no more, and none in the pantry: just those few; their eggs must have gotten into the flour somehow. Very odd—one would have thought that the days of mealworms and the like were long gone. I didn’t bother to sift them out: they’re so small that they’d have gone right through my sifter; anyway, ants are harmless, just a bit of extra protein. Heck, the Froggies eat them all the time, dipped in chocolate.

Tuesday, 03 August 2004

Under the Milky Way

I was just listening to The Church’s Under the Milky Way and was struck by that one bit which sounds awfully like bagpipes. I wonder if that’s what really played, or if ’twas just a synthesiser of one sort or another?

Regardless, it’s an utterly wonderful song. Any fellow besides me who can’t win at least a kiss whilst it plays just isn’t trying (I, of course, with all the Italian poetry, French wine, English manners, German resolution and American invention in the world can’t expect to win even the time of day, but that’s another matter). Beautifully romantic little ditty.

Sunday, 01 August 2004

Green Spade Tarock

As every educated person knows, tarot (or tarok, or tarokk, or tarocchi, or tarock) games have a long history (first found in the mid-15th century they predate the 18th century fortune-telling use of cards) and are quite popular in Europe. Despite their similarity to bridge or whist (they are almost all trick-taking games, with the extra suit serving as trumps). Back in 1922, August Petryl & Son of Chicago attempted to rectify this by producing the Green Spade Tarock, subtitled The American Cards. It’s an amusing variant on the French tarot deck: black clubs, yellow diamonds, pink hearts and green spades; the king, queen, knight & page have been replaced with Indian chief, Indian squaw, white rider and white scout; the fool is Uncle Sam (!), and the trump suite seems to feature Western & Indian scenes. What an interesting little card deck—I’d love to acquire a copy.

Groomsman’s Knife

As a groomsman’s gift, my brother Tom gave each of us one of these nifty knives, each engraved with the recipient’s initials:

It is a real beauty: light and comfortable in the hand; opens with a flick of the wrist; the blade is fierce. How cool can it get?

Two Hundred Miles

On Wednesday my bike’s odometer hit 200 miles. That’s two hundred miles in less than two months (I bought it the 6th or 7th of June). Not too shabby for a fellow who put less than that on his old bike in a year-and-a-half.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I just finished watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a film I first saw as a college sophomore approx. a thousand million years ago. Odd film about a gigolo and a fallen woman falling in love. I’ll say this though: Audrey Hepburn was a certified, bona-fide looker. Just goes to show how far fair skin and dark hair can go to make a girl beautiful.


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