Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl


Thursday, 21 February 2008

John of Bohemia

I just discovered the tale of John I of Bohemia. He died at Crécy a few days after his birthday. He was blind, but desired to take part in the battle and so had two of his knights tie their horses to his own, saying, God willing, it will never happen that a Bohemian king runs off a fight!

Meanwhile his son Charles ran away.

Hat-tip to my brother John for the story.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Islamic Rules Against Hygiene?

Apparently some Moslem nurses in the UK are claiming that washing their arms is against Islamic modesty. I realise that the vast majority of Moslems don’t think this—but the fact that it’s becoming an issue is extremely worrisome.

Hat-tip to my brother Tom.

Ethanol Fuelling Food Prices Increases

From Canada comes an article describing how ethanol is driving food prices up. The most damning fact is this: a single tank of ethanol uses enough corn to feed a man 2,000 calories a day for a year—and it’s burnt up in a few hours of motoring.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Random Beer Name Generator

Just found a random beer name generator. Some of the names are pretty lame, but I rather fancy a Black Christmas Doppelbock.

Thursday, 07 February 2008

A More 'Progressive' America is a More Fascist America

Jonah Goldberg demonstrates how progressivism and fascism were intertwined in the early twentieth century.

Why We Fight

Here’s a truly disturbing picture: an Iraqi woman holding her slain six-year-old son in her arms. The family was headed home after enrolling the boy in school when terrorists fired on their car, killing one boy and wounding another. Different people have different reactions to it: some people want us to leave Iraq; others react with hatred towards Bush; but I have a different reaction entirely.

I believe this picture show why we must remain in Iraq. We’re there to prevent murders like this when we can and to punish them when we can’t. If we leave, we give men like those who slew this boy leave to do whatever they will to other sons and daughters.

Whether or not we should have invaded Iraq in the first place is immaterial now; whether our invasion caused more death and suffering than would otherwise be the case is also immaterial. We invaded; that’s a fact. Whatever death and suffering we have caused has already been caused. The question now is what the best course of action going forward is. If we stay, there will be some amount of death and suffering; if we leave, there will be some amount of death and suffering.

I hold that our staying is better than our leaving, that if we leave the misery will be greater than if we stay. We fight in order to hunt down and punish the men who killed this boy; we fight in order to stop men like them from killing others.

As a side-note, if your response to the photo is to want to leave Iraq, the you and people like you are part of why the boy was killed. One of the goals of his murderers is to drive us from Iraq; they believe they can do that by killing innocents.

Wednesday, 06 February 2008

Sheldon Brown, RIP

Sheldon Brown, famed cyclist, died on Sunday of a heart attack. His website was invaluable when I started cycling; I hope it’s kept online in the future. May his memory be eternal.

How Xerox Lost Big

Most folks don’t realise that Xerox passed up the chance to be the computer company. Back in 1975—almost a full decade before Apple released the Macintosh—Xerox had a dynamic programming language, a windowed GUI, a cool computer and more. Alan Kay recollects how Smalltalk 76 was born.

Tribes of Terror

Stenley Kurtz offers a deeply insightful analysis of Akbar Ahmed’s books about Waziristan and their implications for our broader war against Islamist terror. If you read nothing else today, make it this.

Tuesday, 05 February 2008

The Caucus

Tonight I did something I’ve never done before: I attended my party’s precinct caucus. To be honest, I’m not quite certain exactly how the process works: we voted both for presidential candidates and for county and state caucus delegates. I’ve a feeling that the candidate votes don’t mean much and that it’s the delegates who do, but I could be wrong.

The turnout was interesting. There was one Huckabee supporter (our precinct leader), four Paul supporters, five McCain supporters and maybe eight Romney supporters. One of the Paul supporters was a young woman named Star—her heart was in the right place, but I’m afraid her head wasn’t. I’m partial to his candidacy too, but she was…crazy. Her speech for delegate pretty much repeated his name over and over as though it were some form of protection against harm. Goofy stuff. I appreciate her enthusiasm, but the man is no divine avatar; he’s just a politician. Besides, goofiness just gives his campaign a goofy appearance.

I kinda wish that we’d been able to give speeches. Before I left for the precinct I looked up the president’s oath of office. It’s remarkably short: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability[sic], preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. That’s it. I’d have liked to have asked my fellow precinct-members this one question: which candidate do you believe can say that with a straight face? That’s really what choosing a president is all about: who will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution? Can you say that McCain will? He hates the first amendment. Can you say that Giuliani will? He hates the second. Can you say that Huckabee will? He wants to rewrite the Constitution to better fit his religion. Can you say that Romney will? He doesn’t seem to care about anything other than gaining power. The only candidate who would say those words, and mean them, and follow them up with action; the only man who has kept his sworn word; the only candidate who has preserved, protected and defended the Constitution to the best of his ability; is Ron Paul. He’s crazy, and he’s wrong about a lot of issues. But he’s right about the most important issue of all: he’s right about the importance of the Constitution, of a government of laws rather than men.

I could and would vote for a McCain, a Huckabee, a Romney or a Giuliani—I might even be able to vote for an Obama or Clinton—if any of those actually gave a fig for the Constitution of the United States of America, if any of those wouldn’t be forsworn within hours if not minutes of swearing. That’s the only issue which counts; all others are subsidiary.

In other news, my dear brother John is now a delegate to the Mesa County and Colorado caucuses: congratulations to him! I take some small credit for his achievement, since I was the one who walked him through the precinct caucus business and looked up his caucus location for him. It was his first one, and he managed to suitably impress his neighbours. Good for him!

Monday, 04 February 2008

Windows Games That Crash Vista But Work on Linux

We all know that Windows Vista breaks a lot of things. What’s surprising is that it breaks Windows software so badly that running that same software under Linux and Wine (a free Windows implementation) can be a better choice. Here’s a list of games which run better under Linux+Wine than under Vista. Microsoft sure have some egg on their face with this one.

The Hottest Chili Pepper in the World

The bhut jolokia is the new hottest chili pepper in the world at 1,041,427 Scoville units. That means that it would require 1,041,427 drops of water to dilute one drop of the pepper such that the heat would be unnoticeable. A jalapeño is only about 5,000 Scovillle units.

I want one. I want several, actually. I want to grow a bhut jolokia plant.

Best two quotes from the article? When you eat it, it feels like dying, reads the advertising copy from one retailer. We’re about the only species who like hot peppers; you can’t even train a rat to like them, says a taste researcher.

Saturday, 02 February 2008

Sic Transit Gloria Christmas

Well, today is the feast of the Purification which marks the end of the Christmas season and the start of the brief interlude before Great and Holy Lent. To quote Robert Herrick (1591–1674):

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall.
Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve

Today I took down my Christmas decorations. I’d a cool pine swag with lights and all over the fireplace, which I took down and burnt. I’d also a small live tree which was given me by my farmers; I’ve kept the tree but removed the garland and ornament it had borne. I’d already removed my advent calendar after Twelfth Night.

And so begins the wait until the Resurrection.

Friday, 01 February 2008

Bring Your Mug

A pair of Boston-area men are campaigning to replace paper cups with mugs at coffee shops. It makes sense if you’re a frequent coffee drinker: bring a mug every day instead of throwing away a paper cup daily.

Navigator Mortuus Est

Today AOl has killed Netscape Navigator. I remember using Mosaic on Solaris and Macs, and when Navigator came out I thought it was just a ripoff of Mosaic (which is was—in fact, IIRC the first version was called Mosaic…). But then it became extremely popular, setting several records (including buggiest software ever).

The best thing Netscape ever did was free its code, giving us Firefox. The rest is…well, it happened: that’s the best which can be said for it.


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