Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl


Saturday, 31 December 2005

2005 Ends

Well, the year 2005 is almost over. It’s had its ups and downs, and no doubt 2006 will as well. The years keep on turning and not that much changes. But one never knows: perhaps I’ll get a promotion & a raise, meet a nice girl, see my investments take off and achieve greatness. Also, find a cure for the common cold...

Friday, 30 December 2005

Cycling Across the US

CNN Travel has a great article about bicycling across America. It takes about three months, apparently, and cost the author $4,500. Someday I would really like to do this. Even cycling across Colorado would be awfully cool.

Thursday, 29 December 2005

16 Year Old Floridian Sneaks to Iraq

A 16 year old boy from Florida ran off to Iraq for his Christmas vacation, in an attempt to try his hand at immersion journalism. Horribly foolish, and terribly irresponsible, but you know I rather envy him: it’s a great story to dine out on for the rest of his life. Who among us hasn’t wanted to enjoy a bit of an adventure? And what adult is willing to risk it? Heck, when I was 16 I would have thought this a capital idea.

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Making Marijuana Legal in Colorado?

The campaign which successfully fought to make marijuana legal in Denver is now turning its sights on Colorado, due to the fact that Denver police are still enforcing the state law. The campaigners make an excellent point: why not allow individual cities to make their own decisions? They have a very tough road to walk, and I am almost certain that this first attempt will fail, but bit by hard-won bit we will end Second Prohibition just as surely as we ended the first.

Not that I’m all that eager to smoke dope, myself. It’s the principal at stake which interest me. Although it would be interesting to see what character it would add to a nice Virginia/Latakia mixture...

Pakistani Murders Daughters to Save 'Honour'

A Pakistani wretch murdered his stepdaughter (25) and three daughters (8, 7 & 4) because the stepdaughter had slept with a boy; his excuse for killing the other three was that he didn’t wish them to do the same. The coward claims he wished he could do the same to the boy, but one will note that he slew a woman and children whilst they slept, rather than taking on a man in the light of day. It being Pakistan, one hopes that he’ll end up at the end of a rope in very short order.

What sort of backward mindset produces such acts? What sort of loathsome semi-culture can even in the slightest way encourage such a louse? I can understand being upset at one’s adult child for his way of life, and can easily see kicking him out of the house; I can even understand a father wanting to avenge himself on a man who has taken advantage of his daughter; but what perverse thoughts lead a man to so indecently destroy his own progeny?

Well, as I noted if there’s any justice in the world we won’t have to share our oxygen with this man for too much longer.

Daughters Lead to Leftism

A researcher has found that families with daughters tend to be left wing, and families with sons tend to be right-wing. Even more interestingly, parents of daughters actually become more left-wing over time, and vice-versa for sons. People actually change their political preferences over time!

Somehow I realise that any snide comment I make will probably doom me to an eternity of bachelorhood—but I think any guy can make up his own...

Soldiers Work to Save Iraqi Girl

Georgian soldiers came across an infant with spina bifida during a search, and decided to pitch in and help her & her family; they’re working to get her to Georgia, where a doctor has promised to perform the surgery forfree.

Monday, 26 December 2005

Trespassers William

Whilst I was over at my folks’ house yesterday for Christmas dinner, my kid brother introduced me to Trespassers William, a truly superb band in the same vein as Splendid and The Sundays—in other words, a band which would have fit in great on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack. And in fact, that’s exactly what they did. Say what you will about Buffy the show and it philosophical underpinnings (and there are valid criticisms of both), but it had some excellent music; indeed, some of the best in recent memory.

Anyway, Trespassers William are a great band, and you need to hear their stuff. Also, anyone whose name comes from Milne’s Winnie the Pooh (which is not to be confused with the horrid Disney version) can’t be all bad:-)

And many thanks to Stephen, for bringing them up.

Hot Beer Drinks

Whilst researching purl, I came upon a list of beer drinks for winter-time, all but one of which are served hot. This is a tradition which needs to be revived. One should note that many of these drinks have reduced alcohol contents due to the heating, and are traditionally served in small cups…

Purl

Whilst reading an article about Dickens and the revitalisation of Christmas, I came across a reference to purl, which it calls a hot punch made of beer, ginger, sugar and gin. I immediately grabbed a bottle of Lakefront’s New Grist (incidentally, a sorghum beer brewed for those who avoid gluten—it’s rather sour), tossed it in a pot, added a tablespoon of white sugar & two cloves and shook some ground ginger over it. When it was hot but not quite yet boiling, I took it from the heat, poured in a large mug and tossed in a shot of gin.

I gotta say that those Victorians may have been on to something. There’s a tang which I’d like to avoid, but otherwise this could be the start of something grand. I think my next attempt will leave out the cloves, and possibly toss in some nutmeg.

The Christmas Truce

In December 1914, just a few months into the Great War, British & German soldiers stopped firing and celebrated Christmas together. A relic of a better, nobler time.

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Merry Christmas!

Let us all celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; God who became Man that we might become like Him; Creator of all Who was born of a virgin. Today is a festival day second only to the feast of His Resurrection; it and the following days should be kept with joy. Decorate your homes; throw parties; ring bells; put on your Sunday best and tell the entire world the good news!

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Jews for Trucks?

I just found a blog entry alleging that the Germans were willing in 1944 to trade one million Jews in return for 10,000 trucks along with coffee, tea, cocoa and soap. I’ve no idea if this is true or not, but if true then apparently the Allies refused the deal.

How to Drink Vodka and Stay Sober

A Russian blog has an article on how to consume massive quantities of vodka and stay sober, as the Russians do. It boils down to preparation & pacing. On the preparation side, one eats some boiled potatoes and drinks raw eggs & olive oil (an American book of the ’30s recommends a regimen of olive oil for the same reason); this fills the stomach with pure carbohydrates and then coats it with oils, which moderate the absorption of alcohol.

On the pacing side, he recommends only drinking vodka, no beer, wine, water, juice or carbonation. This is because once one has gone into heavy drinking mode, and water will merely strip the protective oil lining in one’s stomach. He also makes a point of eating sour, salty & oily foods. These replenish the protective lining and give the body plenty of the substances it needs to deal with alcohol properly. The third component is constant intellectual conversation; if one is slow or morose then the alcohol clouds one’s mind. Finally, close the evening with some tea and cakes to cap off the stomach and feed a little bit of stimulants in.

Now, this doesn’t so much keep one from being legally drunk (one would still be over the legal limit for driving) as from actually drunk and sotted. All in all, a highly useful guide.

For beer drinking sessions, I recommend a similar regimen, with plenty of greasy, salty foods, e.g. a Reuben with a sideof deep-fried potatoes.

Courtney Love Does the Music Math

I just found a link to Courtney love Does the Math, from a speech the musician gave some time ago (a few years, IIRC). In it she points out the absurdity of the recording industry and how artists are underpaid while the industry makes a very great deal of money. She also points out the corruption of our political system: a congressional aide named Mitch Glazier fraudulently inserted an amendment into an unrelated act to redefine music as a work for hire—for this service he was made a lobbyist by the RIAA. I don’t care for Miss Love’s music nor her politics in general, but on this issue in particularshe is spot on.

In Praise of Procrastination

Paul Graham writes in praise of procrastination. He points out that since one can’t so everything which needs to be done all at once, one must prioritise and do the high-priority tasks first; this means that one is not working on the low-priority tasks. He notes that an absent-minded professor who forgets to shave or iron his coat is working on a problem the solution to which he will be famous for; which is better: to shave this morning or to win undying fame?

Friday, 23 December 2005

Reservations of an Airline Agent

An airline reservation agent illustrates the awesome ignorance of our fellow men.

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Feuerzangenbowle

Seeing some pictures taken by Buzz Andersen, I really discovered the Cult of Feuerganzebowle. I really want to do this some year.

The Mediaeval Hat of Benedict XVI

My acquaintance John noted that Benedict XVI was seen wearing a mediæval papal hat. I gotta say that in many ways I’m liking the Catholics’ choice for pontiff: he’s apparently a traditionalist theologically, liturgically and in terms of haberdashery. We’ll see how he turns out, of course. But any man who resurrects mediæval fashions can’t be all bad!

On Vitalism

Some days ago I wrote against mechanism, that folly which believes we are all but machines, carrying on like robots. There are several philosophies which deny mechanism, but the one I’m interested in today is called vitalism. The basic idea is that there is something which makes living matter different from dead; some vital force or energy, something additional which gives life.

Many believe that vitalism was dealt a death-blow by Wöhler’s synthesis of urea. The argument was that artificially-produced urea is chemically indistinguishable from the natural stuff, and therefor there’s no difference between the natural and the artificial. This is, quite obviously, just so much nonsense. Certainly, the chemically-produced stuff is chemically indistinguishable from the natural stuff, but isn’t that to be expected? A blind man may find an elephant indistinguishable from a tree when all he can perceive are its legs, after all.

What if there were more than the merely chemical? Were that the case (and I believe it is), then a substance which acts identically to another in the chemical sense may in fact act oddly in other senses. Something to consider.

Vitalism bears on medicine in particular. Is the business of a physician to fix what’s broken, or to restore a balance such that the body can (normally) heal itself? Does the concept of balance even compute? I’ll be writing more on this...

Ovid's Art of Love

I’ve no idea if his ideas are any good, but Ovid’s books on love have been around for quite a long time, so they are probably not wholly incorrect. The man was a poet, after all—and we all know what sort of reputation poets have; on the other hand the very first book of his Art of Love goes on at length about the capture of the Sabine women, so perhaps his ideas are just a touch too old-fashioned…

Support the Kilt!

A young man in high school was refused entrance to a school dance for wearing a kilt. He was wearing the kilt, white shirt and black tie—nothing rude or course, from the sound of it. And yet the insufferable twit who is principal there wouldn’t let him in.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Movie Puppet Theatre

Movie Puppet Theatre is a collection of hand-puppet parodies of well-known films. Quite amusing.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

The Nuclear Eagle Scout

Have you ever read about David Hahn? As a teenager, he built a primitive nuclear reactor and ended up endangering up to 40,000 people. A very cool story about just how easy it is to do such things. And to think that I wasted my time writing encryption programs…

Tobacco Saves Lives

A scientist has engineered tobacco to produce an anthrax vaccine. The current vaccine has severe side effects; the tobacco-derived vaccine does not.

Jorf, the Language Which Could Have Been

Spotted an article about Jorf, a programming language which came out at about the same time as Perl and Python, and had some neat ideas—unfortunately, nothing came of it.

Monday, 19 December 2005

Cyrano de Bergerac

I just finished watching the Gerard Depardieu version of Cyrano de Bergerac. What a film! To be able to write of love as he did would be a gift indeed. If you’ve not seen it yet, get thee to a rental store or Netflix and check it out.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Against Mechanism

I’d like to write today about what I believe is a highly erroneous philosophy, albeit one which is hugely popular nowadays: mechanism. What is mechanism? It’s the theory that all phenomena may be explained by physical causes. That is, a billiard ball moves as it dœs because of the force and angle with which it was struck, the gravitational pull of every other object in the universe, the interaction of the ball’s atoms and the felt’s and so on. That’s good enough so far as it gœs.

But mechanism gœs even further: it believes that life can be explained the same way. A plant exists as it dœs simply as the result of various physical processes which have been continuing since life first arose; a dog runs because of other processes; and a man lives, breathes, loves & believes due to the chemical interactions going on in his body.

In short, mechanism denies the existence of the soul; in its view, love, belief, hatred, envy and so forth are merely chemical phenomena. So baldly stated, one would hope that most folks would reject it, but many do not. Indeed, many embrace it; in their view men are merely machines. A criminal is not jailed because what he did is wrong, but because he is broken (thus the focus on fixing him, rather than on punishment).

An interesting—and recent—argument against mechanistic theory derives from Gödel’s proof in the early 20th century that there are statements which we know to be true, but which are mathematically unprovable. A machine can only prove what is mechanically (i.e. mathematically) provable, and therefor cannot prove these sentences. And yet we know they are true, and thus we cannot be machines.

What is the alternative to mechanism? Vitalism, about which I shall write further...

Friday, 16 December 2005

Yerba Mate

I recently purchased a mate (a gourd cup), a bombilla (metal filter-straw) and a supply of yerba mate. Yerba mate is a South American herb used to make a tea which is both stimulating & healthy, similar to but better than green tea. It’s all the rage in Argentina & Brazil, and is becoming popular here in the US. Me, I figure I can use another hobby which involves herbs and specialised hardware—after all, I can’t be smoking a (tobacco, of course) pipe all the time...

Taliban Kill Girls' Teacher

The Taliban killed a man for teaching girls. This is the sort of thing we’re fighting!

Katrina Harmed Whites Disproportionately

Despite the leftists’ claim that Katrina harmed blacks more than whites, the hurricane killed whites in disproportionate numbers. Interestingly, the numbers of men vs. women were proportionate. I wonder why it was that race was a factor. There’s some interesting research to do there. Perhaps more whites (being on average wealthier) are homeowners, and stayed with their homes, while blacks left rented properties to seek shelter elsewhere? That’s just a guess, though.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Feed Four to Six for $45

I saw a cool menu plan to feed a family of 4–6 for $45/week. It dœsn’t appear to be terribly healthy, but when money’s short health can wait.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Federal Express Flight 705

I’d never heard of this, but back in ’94 a disgruntled Federal Express tried to kill the crew of an æroplane and crash it into the company’s headquarters. Fortunately for all concerned, the crew managed to subdue him, albeitat great personal cost.

Frenchman Woos Mother

A Frog managed to court his own mother online. I just want to say, as a devoted watcher of Brit-com, that I am laughing very, very, very smugly right now.

Hey Crackhead

A motorcyclist named Matt had his ride's sparkplugs sawed off for use as crack pipes, rendering it immobile. Twice. In a row. And thus he has written this finely crafted rant against the folks who did this. Me, I think he should go for Options 2 & 3.

Cal Thomas on Wishing Merry Christmas

Cal Thomas has an interesting perspective on wanting to hear Merry Christmas; he asks why so many Christians feel a need to hear others acknowledge Christmas. I don’t fully agree with him, although there is some merit to his argument. I would like folks to quit pretending that 25 December is some generic festival day.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Pride and Prejudice

Last Thursday I took my final vacation day of 2005; this was my schedule: rise at about 1030; shower; shave; walk down to the local C.B. & Pott’s for a beer; walk over to the theatre to watch Pride & Prejudice; walk back to the Pott’s for some more beers; then walk on home. It was a nice day.

This rendition of Jane Austen’s classic is in some ways more faithful than others, but overall I wasn’t all that impressed. First, the good bit: Mr. Darcy is much more like he is portrayed by Austen herself: aloof and unlikable. The problem is that she dœsn’t really give us much reason for us to root for him in the book, and this film dœsn’t either. As for the rest of the cast, they turn in performances of varying quality. Donald Sutherland was essentially phoning it in, which is a pity as the character of Mr. Bennet is in some ways the most sympathetic of them all. Brenda Blethyn dœs an excellent overwrought job as Mrs. Bennet. Kelly Reilly is a non-entity as Miss Bingley—she should have studied Anna Chancellor in the ’95 BBC/A&E production. Rupert Friend is barely there as Mr. Wickham.

As for Miss Knightly (who plays the part of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, our heroine), I found her more annoying than anything else. For one thing, the director found it necessary for her to giggle at the most inapt times. I’m not certain why this was done, save perhaps to drive home the point that she’s younger than we would expect (in two other places, references to brides of 15 are made, so perhaps this was part of a scheme). Regardless, it’s a damned nuisance. Girlish laughter is wonderful in its place, but silly otherwise—and it’s definitely on the silly side in this instance. Regarding Miss Knightly herself, I don’t find her all that attractive: sure her figure has its appeal, and she has a lovely long neck, but there’s something about her face which is a real turn-off to me. She should be lovely, but somehow…isn’t. Now, Jennifer Ehle isn’t a great beauty herself (and is in fact less of one than Keira Knightly), but she is a fine actress with great talents, and her portrayal of Miss Bennet was excellent; Knightly hasn’t talent to fall back on. I will give her this much: she has poor teeth, and yet is widely accounted a looker. I’m very heartened by this: unlike so many actresses who starve themselves, who suffer surgery and otherwise mold themselves to fit some imagined ideal, Keira Knightly hasn’t bothered to get braces. There’s something quite laudable in that. Now if only she were an actress to boot...

As an aside, I’ve always wanted to think that I’m Mr. Darcy, but I rather fear that I’m actually Mr. Collins.

Top 10,000

I have broken into the ranks of the top 10,000 traders on the Hollywood Stock Exchange—9,883 today, to be exact—with a net worth of H$88,362,504.50. I’m unsure when this happened, to tell the truth; it must have been some weeks. Regardless, I’m quite pleased with myself: I have bested 98.53% of the traders out there. Now comes the long hard slog of advancing further yet, until finally the coveted #1 spot is mine. Given that the current top-ranked player has had a 351,090% gain and I’ve only had a 4,242% gain, this should take me awhile…

At this year’s rate, that works out to about 1,500 years if my math is right. So I’ve some work ahead of me:-)

Return to Boulder

Today I returned to the IBM facility in Boulder for the first time in many months. I used to go up there at least once a month, often twice or thrice, and my old teams were based out of there, but it’s been a long time since either has been the case. This time I & a co-worker were up there to meet with our peers on the Distributed Ops side of the house (IBM have lately realised that perhaps it’s not the best idea to have employees working together who’ve never met; it leads to finger-pointing between teams, whereas a firm social foundation helps solve problems more quickly and builds professional respect—but that’s another blog entry).

The visit felt a lot like my homecoming; both I & my co-worker ran into many folks we’d worked with in the past, and walking around the campus was like walking around AC’s or one’s old neighbourhood: things had changed, whilst others remained the same, some people were still there and others had long gone.

It was a bittersweet visit, but I’m glad that I went.

Chicken Fried Bacon

Sodolak’s Original Country Inn has invented chicken fried bacon. So bad it sounds good...

Monday, 12 December 2005

Happy News

Happynews.com is a website for good news only. Not my cup o’ tea, but if one’s an optimist perhaps one would find it congenial.

Local Food Aid

Most nations which contribute aid to foreign countries allow that aid to be used to purchase local goods & food; not so the United States, which mandate that it be used to purchase US goods & food. This of course puts money into the pockets of agribusiness, and harms the local economies of the areas being aided. President Bush tried to liberalise this, but the Congress voted it down. It’s a pity, as it would help our aid be more effective and its positive results longer-lasting.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

More on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Warning: the following post contains spoilers if one has not read The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe!

One thing which I think the filmmakers did excellently was in their handling of the White Witch. She, of course, represents Satan and sin, and is very attractive and friendly at first; there’re some obvious reasons for Edmund to be attracted to her. Just as is often the case with sin, he was given reasons not to fall in with her—and yet he chose to join her anyway. Of course, once he had cast his lot with her, he suddenly realised how wrong he has been: what had been attractive was revealed as ugly and rotten, but by then it was too late.

Or not quite yet too late, for of course it’s never too late to be extricated from a sinful life. And that’s exactly what Aslan d&œlig;s: rescues and redeems Edmund. Very well done, I thought.

OTOH, for some reason there were some beast-headed humanoids on the good side, which I think g&œlig;s against everything Lewis wrote. IIRC, the good creatures of Narnia are either beasts or fabulous creatures with beasts’ bodies and men’s heads (e.g. centaurs or satyrs), while the evil creatures are sometimes beasts and sometimes creatures with men’s bodies and beasts’ heads (e.g. minotaurs). But perhaps I misremember something…

Saturday, 10 December 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I went to see The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe with my folks and youngest brother last night (one of the worst things about having a dispersed family is not being able to go to big premiers together). Our verdict? Very good. Not the most technically apt film ever (there’s actually one bit with obvious blue-screening…), but it dœs a very good job in most bits. The acting is actually pretty decent, unlike what most reviewers have reported. It’s just great to finally see the Narnian world on the big screen.

Thursday, 08 December 2005

Free Introduction to Microeconomics

R. Preston McAfee has released a free Introduction to Economics. I’m not able to judge its quality, but it looks reasonably good.

Pearl Harbour vs. John Lennon

Yesterday was Pearl Harbour Day; I don’t believe I saw mention of it in a single source. Today was the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder—and every TV I’ve seen had something about it. How wrong is that?

Five Deadly Sins

Peter Drucker sets forth the Five Deadly Business Sins. Something to keep in mind if one’s running one’s own firm.

Wednesday, 07 December 2005

More Days Off?

This week I’m using up the last of my vacation time and am only working two days: today and Friday. You know, it’s been so nice that I’m seriously considering taking a 20% pay cut and working only four days. Heck, a 40% cut and I could only work three days a week, every week. That could be pretty damned nice, really. And I think I could just make it work...

Watch Louis Wain Go Mad

An artist in the late 19-teens slowly went insane due to schizophrenia; a thought-provoking website chronicles this through his work. In each painting one can see the man slowly losing his grip on reality. Quite remarkable, really.

Tuesday, 06 December 2005

'Megachurches' Closing on Christmas

CNN reports that many megachurches will be closed on Christmas Day. Why? Because it’s a family day. No, Christmas is not about family; nor is it about giving; it’s about the birth of Jesus Christ, Son of God and God, our Lord and Savior. It’s not about us. Repeat, for all you megachurch-gœrs: it’s not about you! I may be one of the vainest, most pompous, most egotistical, most self-centred folks out there, but even I haven’t the sheer chutzpah to think that Christmas is about me!

Goodnight Moon Damaged

HarperCollins have decided that young children are too delicate to be exposed to a picture of Clement Hurd, illustrator of the beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon, and thus the picture will be censored—digitally altered to remove the cig from Mr. Hurd’s fingers. A Web site, Goodnight Reality, has been created to oppose this revisionism. As it points out, Stalin altered photographs to remove inconvenient facts. Heck, when even the New York Times mocks you, maybe you should reconsider.

The Dumbest Project Manager in the World

Gene Stover has written an amusing account with one of the dumbest mouth-breathers in recorded history; unfortunately the demi-ape in question was managing the project he was working on at the time. Incredible.

Time-Lapse Family Photos

Every year since 1977 Diego & Susy Golberg (an Argentinian couple) have taken a picture of each member of their family. The result is an interesting time-lapse view of their family’s growth and ageing. It also provides an unique example of how differently men and women grow old.

Fellow-Parishioner Named Rhodes Scholar

Jeff Stout, one of my fellow parishioners, was named a Rhodes Scholar. He’s a sharp young man with a bright future in front of him: not only is he a Rhodes Scholar, but he’s also a subdeacon at St. Mark’s and will be married in January (Antiochian subdeacons are allowed to marry; I don’t know if Russians are or not, but suspect not; the Greeks don’t use subdeacons in this country). From my few conversations with him he ranks among the most intelligent men I’ve ever known. Congratulations to him!

French versus American School Lunches

Some years ago Idle Words compared two randomly-selected public school lunch menus, one French & one American. The difference is quite remarkable: each French lunch is structured, with an appetiser (generally a salad, but once a liver paté with a pickled gherkin), a main course, a vegetable, a cheese course and a dessert. The French children are being educated about eating, even while dining at school. Meanwhile, their American peers get a single course consisting of spare pig, chicken or beef parts (i.e. hot dogs, chicken fingers & burgers). The whole analysis is really quite interesting.

Monday, 05 December 2005

How to Survive Freefall

David Carkeet delivers some notes on how to survive freefall. Of course, it’s all a joke—if you follow its advice and die, don’t blame me...

How to Become an Early Riser

Steve Pavlina wrote a quick little guide to getting better sleep and less, then wrote an addendum a short time later. Worth reading.

Aristotle on Moderation

I saw this on Slashdot of all places!

But though our present account is of this nature we must give what help we can. First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in the case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things); both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it. So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and courage and the other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears everything and dœs not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but gœs to meet every danger becomes rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.

—Aristotle, the Nicomachean Ethics.

In other words, everything in moderation.

Sunday, 04 December 2005

MoinMoin

On Friday I started playing around with MoinMoin Desktop Edition; it’s a personal wiki. The idea is that it can act like a free-form personal information manager. Playing around, it looks pretty neat; I’ll be using it over the next month or two and will see how it actually works out in practise.

Saturday, 03 December 2005

Cunnan

Just discovered Cunnan, a wiki for mediævalists and re-enactors, with a pretty strong SCA focus. I’ve already done some work on mediæval recipes and cookbooks.

Friday, 02 December 2005

Pre-Owned

My old acquaintance and college roommate John Gipson writes about the absurdity of the term pre-owned; he's right, of course. It's a ludicrous phrase invented by some sad fellow stuck in a little cubicle somewhere. The proper word is, of course, used.

Nguyen Tuong Van Executed

This morning Singapore executed a young Vietnamese with Australian citizenship was executed. His crime? He had carried nearly a pound of heroin into an airport there, while in transit to some other destination. Many across the world are outraged, but for exactly the wrong reasons.

Indeed, most opposition has been based on a misguided hatred of capital punishment rather than a recognition that no legitimate crime was committed. Was the hanging wrong because hanging is somehow barbaric? Hardly—a properly carried out hanging is a fairly humane procedure. Was it wrong because execution is wrong? Hardly—execution is a proper punishment for certain horrendous crimes (e.g. murder, rape, treason, perhaps kidnapping and possibly certain kinds of theft). No, the execution of Nguyen Tuong Van was wrong because there is no more wrong with carrying heroin than with carrying boxes of soap. That, not some theoretical folly regarding the death penalty, is the problem here. Many opponents of the hanging would have been satisfied with life in prison for a man who had done naught wrongat all.


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