Monday, June 30, 2008

Two Jokes

An opinion piece in The Independent led off with this:

There was a New York bagel maker called Finkelstein. He was the most unfortunate of men. The day after the insurance policy ran out, his store burnt down, which did not persuade the health authorities to drop the charges over the mice in his basement: placed there, he was certain, by a rival. On Yom Kippur, his daughter and only child announced that she was going to marry a goy. Truly, his suffering exceeded Job's. He was so desperate that he shook his fist at the sky and shouted: "God, why are you so down on me?" To his astonishment, the clouds parted, and there was God, saying: "I don't know what it is, Finkelstein, but somehow you piss me off."

Then there's this City Journal excerpt from a book as part of a review:

“In some languages,” said the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, “a double negative yields an affirmative. In other languages, a double negative yields a more emphatic negative. Yet, curiously enough, I know of no language, either natural or artificial, in which a double affirmative yields a negative.”
“Suddenly, from the back of the hall, in a round Brooklyn accent, came the comment, ‘Yeah, yeah.’”

Bugs Bunny Made Me Do It

A former poet laureate discusses a prime source of inspiration.

....I am free to confess that my own poetry would have not developed in the direction it did, for better or worse, were it not for the spell that was cast over me as a boy by Warner Bros. cartoons.

I think what these animations offered me besides some very speedy, colorful entertainment was an alternative to the static reality around me that dutifully followed the laws of the physical world.

This freedom to transcend the laws of basic physics, to hop around in time and space, and to skip from one dimension to another has long been a crucial aspect of imaginative poetry.

Strange as it may seem, these cartoons also provided me with an education about things that were not part of the curriculum of a Catholic grammar school of the 1950s. The nuns at St. Joan of Arc in Queens were adroit at teaching me spelling, geography, and lots of catechism, but Looney Tunes cartoons (despite their frivolous name) introduced me to much that lay beyond the precincts of a fairly sheltered childhood. They gave me my first taste of worldliness itself.

As unsophisticated as any nine year old, I had never been to an opera when I saw Chuck Jones's Wagnerian parody in which Bugs sings Brünnhilde's role in a blonde wig stuffed under a helmet with horns. The first symphony orchestra I ever saw was a cartoon one with a fat man playing a tiny flute and a studious-looking dog with triangle duties -- plus, a conductor wielding a "baton" and wearing "tails." There I saw my first bassoon. Before I had ever been to a French restaurant, there on the movie screen was a canine waiter twirling his mustache and pouring wine for a poodle and his date at "Café de Paris."

I had a similar experience growing up in a small South Dakota town in the 1960s. I had never heard of Gary Cooper or Gina Lollobrigida until they were mentioned in a Looney Toon.

As a young viewer, I had no doubts about the superiority of this gang to the characters of Disney. Disney cartoons were tame, conventional, Apollonian. Warner Bros.' were manic, unnerving, iconoclastic, spastic, Dionysian.

I largely agree, although Donald Duck had that barely-contained rage that would enable him to fit in at Warner Bros. This statement caught my eye....

And a Mrs. Daffy Duck? Inconceivable.

I thought I recalled Daffy having a wife......googling.....yes,indeed. (I'm not sure what it says about me that I remembered that.) He is right that domestic bliss was pretty rare in Looney Tunes.

I agree with what he said about directors Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones.

Freleng's work was energetic and zany, but Chuck Jones was blessed or cursed with a touch of divine madness.

On many occasions I have annoyed my wife (who isn't a big cartoon fan) and daughter (who is into anime) with such sentiments. One of the few items I have seen on the Antiques Roadshow that I would seriously consider buying was a Chuck Jones drawing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gun Law Guessing Game

As expected after the Supreme Court ruling, challenges to other local gun laws have been filed.
So now begins that long process that always runs with any nuanced legal issue. I commented at Faith in Honest Doubt that it resembles the game on The Price is Right where the contestant guesses a number for the price of something and the host says "higher" or "lower", then the contestant tries again. Various laws will be challenged, the Court will say Yes or No, new laws will be drawn up, and it goes round again until slowly some sort of guidelines emerges.

I found an interesting British analysis of this as part of a BBC Q&A article.....

Why does gun ownership matter to Americans?

Some observers relate the importance of firearms to the American psyche to the country's relatively recent history as a frontier nation, peopled by settlers who had to be largely self-sufficient.

Many Americans see their right to gun ownership as an essential personal liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights - and it is one they are determined to keep.

That attitude is supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful gun rights lobby.

Surveys estimate that there are now 90 guns for every 100 citizens in the US, making it one of the most heavily-armed nations in the world - although that figure covers people who own multiple guns, and many Americans do not possess firearms.

Those who support gun control argue that easy access to guns makes it more likely that they will be used and call for greater restrictions on their sale.

Firearms, including handguns, are used in two-thirds of murders and about 42% of robberies committed in the US, according to statistics from the FBI.

This tone is fairly consistent with other overseas articles I have read. Basically they think we're a little nuts about guns here.

From what I can find, I don't think South Dakota has to worry about any court challenges of this type. We pretty much let any adult who can pass the federal laws buy weapons, and state laws prohibit cities from enacting stricter laws. Only concealed weapons have any special regulation.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Water Balloons Would Have Been Easier

I don't see how this could have been worth it even if nothing had gone wrong.

Two women entered a farm in the northern village of Eberholzen Wednesday evening and started to fill the stockings with manure.
"One of them slipped into the manure tank, right into the cow muck," said a spokesman for local police. "The other one helped her out. We found their clothes in a field. One seems to have run off completely naked, the other in her underwear."

Someone somewhere is going to work this into a movie script. As with much silliness in Europe, soccer may be the root cause.

Police said it was unclear what the women had intended to do with the "manure bombs," but added the incident could be linked to victory celebrations surrounding the Euro 2008 semi-finals on Wednesday evening, when Germany beat Turkey 3-2.

Car Trouble

Reuters has an article about the trouble U.S. automakers will have attracting investors.

Bankers and analysts say Detroit-based automakers could still find partners for limited tie-ups but caution it could prove impossible to find a deep pocket overseas for the cash the U.S. industry could need to ride out the current downturn.

The Truth About Cars website has a running series of articles on the plight of GM, Ford and Chrysler. The overall consensus there is that Chrysler is a goner as soon as it's private-equity owner can sell/strip/close it, and GM and to a lesser extent Ford are in serious trouble, at least as they currently exist. From the Reuters article.....

"What's wrong with GM is it's too big now. GM is also deep in the red and no one would want to buy it. I can't think of ways to help it except through restructuring," said Koji Endo, a Credit Suisse analyst in Tokyo.

This agrees with what I've read elsewhere. GM has too many divisions for it's market share, and the constant juggling means no one brand can get steady sales momentum. I've read articles by analysts who think GM should kill everything but Chevrolet and Cadillac. The problem with that is dealer franchise agreements make it very expensive; killing Oldsmobile cost over $1 billion.

Ford may be in better shape because it's smaller and has taken some tough steps to turn itself around,plus it has some good small cars. That said, it also mortgaged just about everything in the process, so if things don't work out soon, it could go down fast.

Chrysler......well, as I said in a previous post, when I recently walked though a dealer lot just to browse, I didn't see anything I'd want.

That last statement is at the core of the problems all three automakers. In addition to the bad reputation they garnered over decades of shoddy quality and indifference to customers, driving those customers to Toyota,Honda and others likely never to return, they spent years living off the fat of the SUV land and neglected their car lines, so that when gas prices took off they had no fall-back plan.

It's hard to see a good ending. It's possible two of the companies could benefit from the third going under. It's also possible that the first one to go through bankruptcy (assuming one could make it; would you buy a car from them?) could emerge leaner and more competitive, causing more trouble for the others. Speaking of others, Toyota and Co. won't just stand by and wait to see what happens; making and selling cars is only going to get tougher and more expensive as new technologies get tested. It took Toyota a long time to get back the investment needed for the Prius. That kind of long-term thinking has been largely absent at GM,Ford and Chrysler, and it's not going to be easy to do now, with the bill collectors knocking at the door.

Diving Nightmare

As if it wasn't bad enough for all involved in the Philippine ferry sinking......

Ten tonnes of endosulfan were illegally in the cargo, destined for a Del Monte pineapple plantation, officials said.

Exposure to endosulfan, an insecticide, has been blamed for mental and genetic disorders, skin diseases and nervous disorders, and even death.

Vice-President Noli de Castro said the consignment aboard the ferry had been bound for pineapple plantations of Del Monte Philippines.
He said the ferry operator had "a lot to answer for", AFP news agency reported, and warned it could face legal action over the breach.

I should think so. This adds to the other problems.

.....only the tip of the seven-storey ship's bow is above the water line, with the stern resting on the edge of a reef. At least 100,000 litres of fuel are also thought to be on board.

Cavett on Depression

Dick Cavett wrote a fine New York Times piece about living with depression. It was hard to pick a particular segment; this is one of many.......

The year before I had talked to a similar group of care-givers in Omaha in front of an audience that included what you’d think would be an entertainer’s nightmare: a hundred or more people in the throes of the disease. I expected no laughs.

I had just gotten started telling the grim faces that I knew what they were going through when a large man — in pajamas, as I recall — stood up and slowly made his way toward me.
“Paranoid schizophrenic,” someone stage-whispered to me. There was general tension in the room as the man continued to approach. When he stopped two feet in front of me, and stared at me, I heard myself say, “Come here often?” Loud general laughter broke the tension. He returned peacefully to his seat — probably without having heard me or the laughter.

Miraculously, I kept them laughing for perhaps an hour. Clearly the fact that I knew about their plight from my own experience had a lot — or maybe everything — to do with it.
I was able to say to them, I know that everyone here knows that feeling when people say to you, “Hey, shape up! Stop thinking only about your troubles. What’s to be depressed about? Go swimming or play tennis and you’ll feel a lot better. Pull up your socks!” And how you, hearing this, would like nothing more than to remove one of those socks and choke them to death with it. (Laughter mixed with some minor cheering.)

The reward from this was unique in my experience. Afterwards, those in charge seemed amazed and delighted. One said, “See Clara over there? She hasn’t moved a muscle in her face for six months and you had her laughing out loud.”

Sugar Bush Squirrel

Salon led me to this site, which has apparently been around a while but has escaped my attention, possibly because I see enough real squirrels (admittedly not dressed up) that I don't seek them out on the internet.

I think this is a fair assessment......

The brilliant concept? Well, it's simple -- Florida resident Kelly Foxton dresses up her pet Eastern Gray squirrel in elaborate costumes and photographs her -- but the result is beyond warped. (I don't want to ruin all the punch lines, so let me just say this: Castro.) Oh, it's all so wrong. But then why does it feel so right? -- Sarah Hepola

Watch for Stoned Sewer Rats

Andrew Sullivan pointed me to a Los Angeles Times article on looking for drugs in sewage.

Like one big, citywide urinalysis, tests at municipal sewage plants in many areas of the United States and Europe, including Los Angeles County, have detected illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.

It's better information than what they usually get.

Surveys, the backbone of drug-use estimates, are only as reliable as the people who answer them. But sewage does not lie.

The man who suggested it isn't interested in illegal drugs.

Christian Daughton, chief of environmental chemistry at the EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratory, first proposed the tests in 2001."To me, chemicals are chemicals. All chemicals, whether legal or illegal, have the potential to get into the environment, and living organisms have a potential to be exposed," Daughton said.

Daughton, who was interested in environmental ramifications, realized that the data could help law enforcement, sociologists and others trying to gauge trends in drug abuse.

It has downsides.

"This is sensitive for various communities because these substances do have a stigma attached to them," Daughton said. San Diego, for example, refused to grant permission to researchers.

The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County don't test for illicit drugs because it would need Drug Enforcement Administration permits to handle controlled substances, said supervising engineer Ann Heil."It's too hard to test for it. We can't have morphine lying around to calibrate equipment," she said.

For now, this new drug test remains anonymous. Wastewater from thousands, sometimes millions, of people is pooled at treatment plants, so it cannot be tracked to any individual or specific location.But because waste also can be tested in local sewers, questions about privacy have been raised."You could take this down to a community, a street, even a house," Daughton said. "You can do all kinds of stuff with this. It's sort of unlimited."

I can imagine this being integrated into a police surveillence procedure for a suspected crack house or meth lab. I would feel sorry for the officer who has to install and maintain the equipment.

Just Pay the Bills

Andrew Sullivan lays out his tax philosophy.

To put it as plainly as I can: I don't believe in a governmental attempt to engineer a substantively "fair" society through taxation. I see taxation as a necessary evil to pay for those few social goods that private individuals cannot provide for themselves.
Government's primary concern is to raise money as efficiently and as leanly and as equally as possible. I'm happy with the government then setting up programs to assist the poor, to provide better education for those at the bottom, safety-net healthcare and better policing. i.e. to gear spending toward social ends that might help the poor the most. These are measurable, practical goods. What I'm not happy with is the assumption that tax policy should really be about redistributing wealth, and engineering substantive economic outcomes.

I generally agree with this, if for no other reason than the fact that attempting to use the tax code for broader purposes has resulted in a complex, almost universally hated mess that fails to achieve the larger goals anyway.

Too Young, Otherwise Could Be Vice-President

Lisa Cullen at Time seeks a position for her baby:

References: Mommy, Daddy and big sister Mika. On second thought, scratch the last one; reference was last heard asking to return this job applicant to Mommy's belly.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wombat Leave?

An Australian official is taking some time off.

Ken Henry, treasury secretary and animal conservationist, has warned that hairy-nosed wombats are "on death row".

Mr Henry will be looking after 115 hairy-nosed wombats in an isolated spot in northern Queensland, with no mobile phone coverage and two-and-a-half hours on a rough track from the nearest town.

Although he'll have some free time in a few months, I have a hard time imagining Henry Paulson taking off to care for manatees.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Woman and Her Body

Lemmonex clears the air with herself.

Body, I have done some awful things to you. I have not treated you the way you have deserved. I have let how you look affect my whole psyche. A lifetime of hatred towards you permeated my entire being. I lived in a strange space, where you were fully ignored and an all-consuming preoccupation.

I have compared you to countless other bodies. I have cursed you for having thicker thighs than the women I pass on the street, a fuller stomach than the girls at the bar and a wider ass than the lady sitting next to me at the coffee shop. You have been subjected to a lifetime of unrealistic expectations.

To quote a novelty poem/song; man, I'm glad I'm a man.


George Carlin and John McCain were born less than a year apart.

Whatever the practical arguments about driving with the windows down vs. air conditioning, driving down the highway with the windows down and the wind whipping around in the car can be exhilarating.

It's amazing how much noise hail can make without actually hurting anything.

Interspecies Love

A dog and a sheep develop a bond. Before the fundamentalists get the vapors, I need to point out they're of opposite sexes, so it's OK.

Crazy about Colonics

Some dedicated Russians get a monument to their profession.

A monument to the enema, a procedure many people would rather not think about, has been unveiled at a spa in the southern Russian city of Zheleznovodsk.
The bronze syringe bulb, which weighs 800 pounds and is held by three angels, was unveiled at the Mashuk-Akva Term spa, the spa's director said Thursday.

"There is no kitsch or obscenity, it is a successful work of art," Alexander Kharchenko told The Associated Press. "An enema is almost a symbol of our region."

There's something to put in the tourist brochure.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sue the Home Wrecker!

Did someone lure your spouse away? Sue!

Two spurned spouses filed lawsuits in Minnehaha County last week against the persons they say broke up their marriages.The cases are unrelated except that both plaintiffs hired the same lawyer and both are alleging "alienation of affections," a rare tort permitted by only a handful of states.

It's not easy to win.

To succeed, plaintiffs must prove the defendant's intentional, wrongful conduct caused a loss of affection or consortium in an otherwise loving marriage.

I can imagine a lot of ways to wiggle around that. There has been success,though.

In the lawyer's best-known case, Sioux Falls man Richard M. Jones won $400,000 from a Las Vegas doctor whose romantic affair with Jones's wife preceded their divorce. The jury initially awarded $950,000, but the South Dakota Supreme Court reduced it.

Efforts have been made to eliminate this law.

When the South Dakota Supreme Court was asked to abolish the law in 1999, it said the question is one for the Legislature, not the courts.Three years later, the Legislature rejected an attempt to repeal the 1877 statute, and instead made the language gender- neutral, making clear that a spurned wife could sue over the loss of her husbands' affection.

I can imagine this being used as a bargaining chip to get a more favorable settlement in exchange for avoiding more court proceedings.

This reminded me of a quirk in South Dakota divorce law. The famed catch-all "irreconcilable differences" can only be used as grounds for divorce if both sides agree. Otherwise the filing party has to use (and prove) one of these:

1) Adultery;(2) Extreme cruelty;(3) Willful desertion;(4) Willful neglect;(5) Habitual intemperance;(6) Felony Conviction

If none of those has occurred, all the other person has to do is refuse to agree to irreconcilable differences and the divorce won't happen. It seems to me the potential to use this for settlement leverage or old-fashioned spite is considerable.

As the lawyer who handled my first divorce said, the Legislature has decided to make divorce more difficult here than in other states.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Custom Rugs

Drug smugglers continue to innovate. (my italics)

Drug traffickers in China's far west are smuggling heroin into the country woven into carpets imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan, state media said on Tuesday.

This caught my eye.....

While drug smuggling into China from the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia -- including Laos, Myanmar and Thailand -- had fallen, drug trafficking was on the rise from the Golden Crescent, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Here is a long shot idea......maybe we could use this to convince the Chinese to assist us with our troubles in that part of the world. We sure could use all the help we can get.

Research: Angry People More Likely To Get Mad

Another breakthrough in the study of the obvious......

Parents who succumb to fits of road rage are also more likely to blow a fuse at their children's sporting events, according to U.S. research.

"Taking things personally is a strong trigger for anger"

Those identified as "control-oriented" more often viewed the actions on the field as a personal affront, and reported more feelings of aggression than parents identified as "autonomy-oriented", or less affected by external factors.

You now have scientific research to back you when you think the guy yelling at a Little League umpire is a hotheaded jerk.

Car vs. Deer

Doug Wiken at Dakota Today had a close encounter of the Bambi kind.

I was driving the 1/4 mile from our farmhouse to the county highway when I heard a thump and a dark thing with 4 legs hanging down over the windshield for an instant. The old Mitsubishi Eclipse is relatively low and apparently a deer had jumped nearly cleanly right over the top of the car.

As I commented there, I'm glad no damage was done. The car/deer accident is a staple of law enforcement here. It comes in various forms. Mix and match the terms below.......

(1) Car hits deer (2) Deer hits car

(a) little or no harm done except possibly to undergarments of motorists
(b) light damage to vehicle, deer runs off
(c) light damage to vehicle, deer is crippled/killed
(d) vehicle is disabled, deer runs off
(e) vehicle and deer both history
(B-E) b-e with injury to occupants of vehicle

1c and 1d are the most common. The fall rut (which is also hunting season) used to be the main time for them, but increasingly they happen year-round. It's a tribute to the deer's reproductive prowess that there are still plenty to hunt.

I continue to espouse the theory that the deer know when hunting season starts, and they decide that if they're going down, they're taking someone with them. Actually the big motivator (at least during the rut) is similar to the mental "tunnel vision" noted in my previous post; the bucks have sex on their minds, and they aren't paying attention to anything else. Other than that, it's mainly bad luck and/or inattention on the part of the living beings involved.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Less Clothing = Less Thinking

A new study confirms water is wet - well, not quite, but......

This month’s issue of the Journal of Consumer Research features a paper titled “Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience in Intertemporal Choice,” which is a neuroeconomist’s (definition in a moment) way of saying that men don’t make good decisions while checking out pretty girls in bikinis.

In the “bikini” experiments, Belgian researchers conducted a series of tests on 358 young men. In one test, the men looked at images of women in bikinis or lingerie and at images of landscapes. In another, some men were given T-shirts to handle and assess while others were given bras. Another batch of men was assigned to watch a commercial featuring men running over landscapes while other guys watched a video of “hundreds of young women, dressed in bikinis running across hills, fields and beaches.”

The men were then offered a choice of immediately getting some money, or bargaining for a larger sum sometime later.

The results (drum roll):

“I observed in my studies that men are more likely to pick a smaller immediate reward over a larger later reward,” Bram van den Bergh, the study’s lead author, tells me. “Hence I do think that men might spend money on something they might otherwise not purchase. Men would become more impulsive in any domain after exposure to sexual cues.”

The 2006 study also mentioned must have been interesting to conduct.

......they asked men to masturbate while answering a series of questions on a computer. (They helpfully created a system that could be operated with one hand.)

One of the researchers analyzes the findings.... and other strong drives “produce a kind of tunnel vision.”
“Drives are designed to motivate you to focus on specific goals; they have evolved for that purpose, to focus on the goal to the exclusion of other goals or considerations,” he says.
So a man who is aroused literally narrows his view of the world. When we’re thinking about sex, pretty much all we can think about is sex.

I think my dropping jaw may have bruised my sternum. However......

In fact, studies have shown that sexy ads don’t really make men remember the product. We’re so lasered in on the sexy stuff, we don’t care what brand of beer it is, or how long it takes the car to go from zero to 60.

So why do advertisers make sexy ads if they don't work? I think it's a result of the effect mentioned. The advertisers are probably men, and imagining sexy ads messes up their thinking.

Giving of Yourself

A Chinese policewoman gets rewarded for providing unique assistance to earthquake victims.

Jiang Xiaojuan, 30, left her own baby with her parents and took part in the disaster relief work, breastfeeding nine babies, earning her the nickname of "the police mum" in the press.

She has since been awarded titles of "hero and model police officer" and "excellent member of the Communist Party," was appointed to the Communist Party of China Committee of the Jiangyou Public Security Bureau and became the bureau's vice commissar, Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

There were some objections.

"They said an official position should not be used to promote a moral model."

Personally, I think China, or any government, can use all the good moral models it can get.

There were also supporters of Jiang's promotion, saying that what she did showed she was a good public servant.

Indeed, and probably a little bit sore.

Friday, June 20, 2008

More TV News Than You Can Possibly Stand

James Lileks provided this link. Quoting him:

It aggregates TV feeds from across the country and the world, and there’s a moderator on webcam who tells you if anything interesting is happening in the world.
(Detroit Fox 2 is showing penguins from the zoo!)
Holy cow, there’s a huge fire in an unoccupied restaurant called “Old Salty’s” in Miami.
The site also has a comments box; registered users can comment on what everyone’s watching, because nothing builds community like like rank speculation expressed without punctuation or capitalization.

It also shows the lengths to which stations will go to fill airtime. Nonetheless, I think I'll add it to my link list. It may come in handy for breaking news.


Via e-mail from my pun-loving Dad......

Here are the 10 first place winners in the International Pun Contest:

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The flight attendant looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says "Dam!

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it immediately sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says "I've lost my electron." The other says "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?", they asked as they moved off. "Because," he said," I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has identical twins and is forced to give them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're identical twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent Florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis. And finally,

10. There was the person who sent ten different puns to friends with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Cold War Relic

The rest of the world makes the U.S. look silly about Cuba.

The European Union has lifted sanctions imposed on Cuba in 2003 in protest at the Cuban government's imprisonment of more than 70 dissidents.

The decades-old US trade embargo against Cuba remains in place.

Whatever you may think of the Cuban government, an embargo can't work if no one else is doing it. I suppose both Castro brothers will have to die before anything will change.

Meet Your New Sister

A dog steps in to help a tiger cub.

Beefs Are Not Just With Meat

The BBC talked to some South Koreans about the U.S. beef protests. One quote from each person shows a pattern....

This is a serious situation. The government didn't want to listen or to change their political way. The government is inflexible.

I didn't take part in the beef protests. I don't think the beef is unsafe. And I don't think the protests are just about beef safety.

Most people participating in the demonstrations think the government does not listen to what people say.

The protests were about resentment of the government.

This more of a trust problem than a beef problem.

Don't Let the Door Hit You

A British perspective on the end of George Bush's presidency.

So perhaps Mr Bush's most significant legacy, as far as Britain is concerned, will be the destruction of the instinctive trust of America and its leaders that once prevailed here. It is no exaggeration to say that Mr Bush has done more damage to relations between our two nations than any president in living memory. This rupture is not an accident of circumstance; there are no impersonal forces of history to blame. This sorry state of affairs is the consequence of the actions of a single leader and his small coterie of advisers.
And whatever the future holds for transatlantic relations, there will be very few in this country who watched President Bush's plane depart yesterday without a feeling of profound relief that the end of this disastrous presidency is finally in sight.

I think that last statement could be applied to many locations, both foreign and domestic.

Gotta Post Something!

A few short thoughts.......

I had a chance to try this Wednesday, and it does work; all five of my eggs popped out nicely. They did emit a disconcerting high-pitched squeal, but it was otherwise pretty slick.

I watched the movie Desire Under the Elms on TCM Wednesday night. It was a good movie, but what struck me was Burl Ives playing a hard-bitten SOB. In the three movies in which I remember him, Big Country (for which he won an Oscar) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof being the others, he played the same type. Having grown up knowing him as an amiable folk singer and the voice of the snowman on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, seeing him playing someone like that is still a bit startling.

Although for playing against type, it's hard to beat Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd. He shows a hard, cold, conniving cynicism that would shock Andy Taylor and Ben Matlock.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Austin Powers vs. Hindus

Some Hindu groups don't like Mike Myer's latest film.

They say that in the West so little is known about Hinduism that even a parody like Love Guru could be misinterpreted by teenagers and give them a skewed view of the religion.

I think that I can safely assure them that anyone who watches a Mike Myers film knows better than to take it the least bit seriously.

Socializing in Qom

A BBC reporter visited some Iranian opposition figures.

"Welcome to your house."
This is how I was greeted in English when I met Grand Ayatollah Hossain-Ali Montazeri at his home in Qom.

Hardline supporters of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attacked this house in 1997 when Ayatollah Montazeri questioned the unaccountable rule exercised by the supreme leader.

I asked him how the Sharia law that sanctions the killing of Muslims who convert to other religions could be justified.

He said the Prophet Muhammad ordered apostates to be killed because his enemies were deliberately converting to Islam and then converting back to their old religions in order to give Islam a bad name.
He emphasised that such a ruling doesn't apply to the modern world and people should be free to choose their religion.

In contrast to Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Rouhani is a traditionalist theologian and his opposition to Ayatollah Khomeini was from a more conservative viewpoint.

In his opinion, Ayatollah Rouhani said, the supreme religious leader of an Islamic state should not be selected by an assembly of other clerics, but rather chosen by divine powers.

Ayatollah Rouhani opposed a range of other government policies and disapproves of such things as the playing of chess and listening to music.

He told me that he was the highest Shia authority in the world and nobody, including Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, could be compared to him.
Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei's house was my next destination. I had no prior appointment but when his assistant told him that I was from the BBC he greeted me warmly.

Ayatollah Sanei is seen as one of the most progressive theologians in contemporary Iran.

He was the highest judicial authority under Ayatollah Khomeini but later decided to move to Qom to devote his life to theological issues.

A few years ago he caused uproar in conservative religious circles by declaring that women were completely equal to men in all aspects of political and social life and went as far as saying that a woman could even become the supreme religious leader.
The ayatollah's views are in total contrast to his brother's, Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, who as the chairman of an Islamic charity put a bounty on Salman Rushdie's head after his book The Satanic Verses was deemed blasphemous.

He then attended a wedding.

Both the bride and groom's father were clerics. They had hired a modern public hall in the city for the wedding.
When I was introduced to the bride's father as a BBC journalist he treated me as a guest of honour and asked me, jokingly, to broadcast the ceremony live on the radio.

Women and men were separated. The groom was the only man allowed to the women's section where the bride was sitting.

When he came to greet us one by one I noticed that he was wearing a Western-style suit with bow-tie and his hair cut was ultra-modern, a style usually disapproved of by the authorities.
The groom's close friends were all wearing bow ties. In fact most of the guests were wearing ties. Ties are normally frowned upon of as a western or imperialist import in Iran. I was one of the few guests without a tie!

I asked a cleric who was sitting next to me whether the groom's father approved his son's outfit and hairstyle. He said the poor father had no say in the matter.

Amusing Ourselves and Knowing Others

Garrison Keillor notes the decline of the motor home:

.....Winnebago stock has fallen about 50 percent in the past year. If you are selling a big box on a truck chassis for as much as a quarter-million dollars when gas is at $4 and rising, you are aiming at a rather select clientele indeed, folks who might rather buy a beach house in Costa Rica than go cruising the Interstate.

He forecasts other changes as gas-powered travel and recreation become more prohibitive and people stay home or walk.

I predict that banjo sales will pick up. The screened porch will come back in style. And the art of storytelling will burgeon along with it. Stories are common currency in life but only to people on foot. Nobody ever told a story to a clerk at a drive-up window, but you can walk up to the lady at the check-out counter and make small talk and she might tell you, as a woman told me the other day as she rang up my groceries, that she had gotten a puppy that day to replace the old dog who had to be put down a month ago, and right there was a little exchange of humanity. Her willingness to tell me that made her real to me. People who aren't real to each other are dangerous to each other.

I thought that last sentence was worth highlighting; it nicely summarizes the source of many human tragedies.

Don't Make Me Write Jokes About You!

Shazia Mirza laments what technology has done to her:

Before Google I actually had hobbies, and before I started owning computers I actually had a life.

She did find it helpful in a dispute with a travel agency.

I have learned, from previously blackmailing people, that nothing scares a corporate person more than telling them you're a comedian. So I rang the travel agency again and told them that if they didn't put my real name on the ticket, I would name them and use them as material in my next comedy show. "Comedy?" screamed the woman on the phone. The staff refused to believe I was a comedian, concluding that I must be winding them up."Google me, then," I said.

A new ticket arrived in the post the next day. Google does have some good uses, after all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interpersonal Gravity

I felt the need to comment on a Mark Vernon post in which he mused over a behavioral change while travelling alone.

During that time, I noticed a massive increase in the frequency with which my partner and I exchanged the commonplace, 'I love you'. Normally we hardly ever say such things to each other at all.

He interpreted it this way....

It is only when physically apart that it becomes necessary to rehearse the fact of being psychologically together. Hence the exchanges of the phrase, 'I love you'.

I agree with the general reasoning, but as I commented there, I think there's more to it. It's a reflexive attempt to compensate for the absence of the physical "chemistry" that exists when you're with that special person. He did refer to it when he mentioned holding hands, but I think it's even more subtle and basic, almost a slight gravitational attraction that is so natural and pervasive that it's absence causes a feeling that something is off-kilter and you have to try to do something to maintain balance until it gets fixed.

Faith, Active and Passive

The always thoughtful Mark Vernon, while reviewing a book about the early Christian Church, writes about how people regard their faith.....

As an active virtue, faith is the ground upon which you stand in your search for truth. When and if that ground shifts, your faith evolves too. As a passive virtue, faith is submission to authority. Truth is still recognised as being fundamentally unknown. But instead of encouraging speculation, it is discouraged or banned, for fear that it would be theologically blasphemous and politically subversive (as indeed it inevitably is.) The intellectual effort that would have been directed at speculation is re-channelled into elucidating the insights of orthodoxy, which are not, of course, without value. Similarly, the ethical character of the speaker ceases to the basis for their authority. Instead, in the religious case, God is understood to be speaking through an authority and so what matters is that authority's place in the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

I think this is seen in many Christian (and other) denominations today; parishioners quietly treat their faith as an active virtue and the church leaders say it's a passive one, but no one pushes it. This explains why people can justify staying with a church for social or personal reasons even though, if pressed, they would disagree with many points of it's doctrine; they've philosophically moved on, and they pretend their church has also. Meanwhile the church leaders avoid pressing too hard on such matters lest they drive people away. Barack Obama is a prominent example of this coming undone.

Mark applies this idea to a another current argument....

These two different ideas of faith dog debates about theism and atheism today. Typically, protagonists accuse their opponents of exhibiting only the passive sort, and claiming the active for themselves. Thus believers accuse the new atheists of scientism, the belief that knowledge is found only by the scientific method. And atheists accuse believers of placing their faith beyond rational scrutiny. There are some atheists and arguably more believers who are guilty as charged. But not all, at all.

I think this idea can be applied to debates about many issues, which often suffer from the tendency to see the other side as rigid and doctrinaire while you're flexible and reasonable. It's easier to argue against a static rule than an evolving philosophy. Unfortunately this usually accomplishes little since both sides end up talking past each other.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Just Kidding About Your Friend Dying

Jon Carroll writes about an appalling incident at a California high school.

One day last month, representative of the California Highway Patrol visited classrooms to deliver some bad news: Some classmates of theirs had been killed in traffic accidents. Alcohol apparently was involved. The students, as might be expected, were stunned. Many wept. Some screamed. School stopped as people comforted each other.
Then, a few hours later, the administrators announced that it was all a joke. Well, not a joke - it was an educational experience. The administrators had set up the stunt to make the students understand how very sad death is, and how drinking booze and driving is a bad thing.

.....a majority of the parents in Oceanside thought there was nothing wrong with this little experiment.

I hope the parents who do think there was something wrong have contacted attorneys and plan to make every school board meeting pure hell until heads roll, because the people in charge of that school obviously have no regard for the students as human beings and shouldn't be in that line of work.

Seven-figure Legs

Oh poop...... Cyd Charisse died. I guess I'm a sucker for a great pair of legs, and they don't get much better than this (via IMDB):

In 1952 she had a $5-million insurance policy accepted on her legs.

Wandering the Car Lots

Saturday both my wife and I actually had time and energy to go for a drive/walk. Since one of the car dealers was having a sale at the nearby mall parking lot, we decided to stroll though the cars just to browse. We ended up checking out all three of the new car dealers here, representing (1) Chevrolet/Cadillac (2) Ford/Toyota and (3) Buick/Pontiac/GMC/Chrysler/Nissan. No Honda, Mazda, Subaru or Korean or German makes here.

I'm a bit of an auto industry follower, being a 30-year reader of Car and Driver and Road and Track (Has it really been 30? sigh) and a regular visitor to a couple of industry-following websites. It's always interesting to see how what I read translates into what's on the lots.

The thing most apparent at the mall was what the dealer (number 3 above) made most visible by lining them up along the highway that runs past; full-size GMC pickups. The current plunge in sales of such vehicles has been well reported, and it's no doubt true here as well, but pickups have always sold better than average here because farmers and ranchers need them; they're not just a style choice (although they are for some; a co-worker of mine, a middle-aged single woman with grown children, drives a full-size 4-wheel-drive Dodge pickup despite never towing anything larger than a jet ski). The other dealers also have pickup-heavy lots. I did notice some interesting incentives on SUVs, though; gas cards up to $1000 at one dealer. I've never had the need to own such a vehicle, and I can't imagine driving something so large everyday, so I tend to walk past them.

It always strikes me as I look at the selection that my taste in vehicles must be unusual, because there are very few vehicles that I would consider buying. I've always tended toward smaller vehicles, and I like the convenience of hatchbacks or wagons. Such vehicles are not common on the lots here; the Nissan Versa and the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix (essentially the same vehicle) are the main choices for me. I would like to see a Honda or Mazda dealer here. Both the Honda Fit and Mazda 3 seem worth considering, and someday I would like to own a Miata. I could go elsewhere to buy one, but the nearest dealer is 160 miles away.

I also wonder how the possible changes I read about will affect things here. Chrysler is regarded as a dead company walking at some sites I read; they're a big presence at the biggest dealer here. The need for GM to reduce dealers is also frequently discussed, and I wonder how splitting their lineup between two dealers here can be justified, although as far as I know both are doing OK.

Bovine Mammary Enhancement

I first encountered the tawdry underbelly, so to speak, of cattle shows via a Dave Barry column.

There are men in Wisconsin who are using artificial means to make their cows' udders more attractive. Why? Because these men are very, very lonely.

As you know (like HECK you do), a standard cow has one udder, which is divided into quarters, each of which has a nipple, or "teat."

Livestock judges - who, I'm guessing, are predominantly male - prefer cows with big, round, firm udders. The judges are not interested in cows with droopy udders, even if these cows are smarter and have nicer personalities.

Here's where the scandal comes in: There are people whose job is to prepare cows for livestock shows. These people are called (I swear) "cow fitters." Most cow fitters are honest. "As honest as a cow fitter" is an expression you hear frequently in the Heartland. Unfortunately, in recent years, a growing number of "bad apple" fitters have been artificially enhancing udders using various injections.This ticks off honest dairy farmers such as (I swear) Elmo Wendorf of Oconomowoc, Wis., who is quoted in the Journal Sentinel as follows:
"What they're trying to do is make both rear quarters absolutely equal, both 36 double-D. It's kind of like women having a breast implant. People really hate it when I compare cows to humans, but it's kind of the same."

The tampering is invisible to the naked eyeball, and most cows are too loyal, or just plain too scared, to squeal on their fitters.
Fortunately, there is hope, thanks to the work of cow scientists at the University of Wisconsin. According to the Journal Sentinel, these scientists have developed a technique, using ultrasound, to check udders for tampering.

As Dr. O'Brien told the Journal Sentinel (I swear): "We think we could clean up the Miss America contest with the same technology."

Further research (because who can resist typing "udder tampering" into Google?) found this 2004 Australian scandal.

The four offenders, and their cows, have been sent home in disgrace.

I hope the cows were able to regain their self-respect.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Monkey Brain

Steve Wilson at the Smart Set recalls hiking from San Fransisco to Los Angeles.

As the novelty of walking vanished, and as I entered a three-week period of solitude, my brain turned inward and began digging around among old piles of National Geographic and dusty stacks of vinyl records, looking for entertainment. This was my introduction to what Buddhists call Monkey Brain, the ceaseless chattering of the mind.

This kept up for about 4 weeks, until.......

I was tired, carrying a slight virus, I think, and aiming for the beach. The anxious voice chattered away, complaining about my feet, fretting over getting ill, worrying about the distance to the beach.

Then, suddenly, I heard, “Shut up!”

This was alarming. It is one thing to have a monologue in one’s head, but quite another thing to have a dialogue.

It Explains the Paunch

A Bangladeshi man has a tumor removed.

"It was bigger than a jackfruit," the doctor said - the tumour had grown 81cm (31 inches) long and 61cm (24 inches) in width.

But the tumour was not cancerous, and he said that the patient would soon be back on his feet.

Misallocation of Resources

Nice to see Afghanistan is under control.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said 30 insurgents on motorbikes and two suicide bombers attacked Sarposa Prison and freed about 400 Taliban members.

Abdul Qabir, chief of the Sarposa Prison, also said hundreds of prisoners escaped, but did not provide an exact figure. He said some inmates stayed at the jail, which also held criminals.

The prison attack came just a few hours after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told his counterparts in Europe that NATO members need to bolster their military effort in Afghanistan, where violence has been escalating.

Dramatizing his report, Gates said that for the first time, the monthly total of American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan had exceeded the toll in Iraq during May.

So while things go to hell in Afghanistan, where the actual terrorist threat was and probably still is harbored, the US tries to get Iraq to let us keep a huge troop presence where we're not wanted. The thought that John McCain wants to continue this policy gives me intestinal cramps.

Rude Awakening

2Blowhards led me to this New York times article on people learning the hard way that Nature gives no quarter.

City people tend to take up gardening in their yards or at their summer houses with a generous attitude toward summer’s bounty, ready to live and let live. The woodchucks want a few zucchini? No problem, there are enough to go around. The rabbits are decimating the lettuce? Get a humane trap and move them elsewhere.

Soon enough, though, they realize it’s not that simple. The animals do not take one or two tomatoes as if they’re in a greenmarket in the Hamptons; they go down the row sampling, so that everything is ruined. Or they uproot and destroy a crop, without eating a thing, in their search for insects and grubs.

Eventually some people snap, like this lady who encountered a porcupine in her garden.

And when she saw it, “strolling along, munching away,” she could stand no more.
“He was after my carrot crop,” she explains. “I said, I just cannot handle this anymore. He sees me and tries to wander off, but they can’t run very fast. I got him with the sledgehammer. He tried to dodge me, but I got him on the head.”

Others try to be humane and fail, looking silly in the process.

Jessica DuLong, a Brooklyn writer and marine engineer, managed to grow a fruit-bearing cherry tree on her roof, but even in the wake of what she calls the Great Cherry Massacre of 2007 she was not interested in punishing the squirrels who preyed on it. She trapped one in a live animal trap and set out to Prospect Park with good intentions.

Unfortunately, the squirrel had no way of knowing this. It threw itself against the walls of the cage with such ferocity it cut itself; it defecated; it ran back and forth inside the long cage in a frenzy so that the cage flipped up and down like a manic miniature seesaw. New Yorkers, seeing a fluffy tail in distress, yelled at the human involved.

“This entire class of preschool kids was out in one of their little preschool wagons, and the squirrel is looking rabid and bleeding at the mouth,” she says. “It was not what I had in mind when I started this humanitarian project.”

As someone who grew up on the edge of a very small town with badgers and gophers living in our yard (flushing out and killing gophers was a fine activity; just don't accidentally flush a badger), and who recently watched a deer eat out of a neighbor's bird feeder, I found most of this story hilarious, especially the naive tone with which it was written. Some of these people need to watch more Animal Planet and less Disney Channel. Wild animals are trying to survive, and are capable of great ingenuity, relentlessness and violence in fully exploiting any opportunity for easy food.

This probably made a lot of readers queasy......

Oskian Yaziciyan lives in Homestead, Fla., about a 20-minute drive north of Key Largo, where he runs Goldfish & Koi U.S.A., a two-and-a-half-acre ornamental fish and water lily farm.

Herons, which are a protected species, are a problem, as are crows, Mr. Yaziciyan wrote in an e-mail message, because they eat the eyes out of fish and snatch surface swimmers.

“I got a lot of blind fish,” Mr. Yaziciyan says.

This says it all..... The food chain is a brutal business.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flying Cow

Via, WCCO in Minneapolis reported some really high winds.....

The Barnes County Sheriff's office says a livestock barn 10 miles north of Valley City was destroyed. Authorities say the owner of the barn reported seeing a cow blown in the air by the high winds.

When I worked at KEVN in Rapid City I took a call from a man who reported a tornado touching down near his Wyoming ranch. It didn't damage any property but it picked up their horse, flipped it around a bit, then set it down physically unhurt. I would bet that from then on it got a bit skittish when the wind came up, though.

The Truth Hurts

James Lileks linked to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article reporting how the author of a National Geographic feature which gave a generally bleak picture of North Dakota reacted to criticism.

"Get over it," writer Charles Bowden told KFYR-TV in Bismarck, in an interview following a speech at Bismarck State College on Tuesday.

Bowden added that North Dakotans would have to be "perfect fools [to be offended] since I said the state is lovely, and one of the nicest places in the country to visit.

"I mean, I can't deal with the willfully dishonest and illiterate."

I read that article, and while the tone was very downbeat, it was pretty much accurate. Sometimes it takes an outside observer to point out bad news.

South Dakota has similar conditions; a few growing cities with depopulation and dying towns elsewhere. In the course of a conversation with my wife the other night I got out the Rand McNally and noticed how many counties here have one dominant city/town with the rest of the population scattered over a wide area. Sometimes it's because the city is relatively large and the county small in area (Sioux Falls/Minnehaha, Watertown/Codington). In other cases (Murdo with 612 of Jones County's 1067 people, Fort Pierre with 1991 of Stanley County's 2815) there just aren't any other towns.

Another way to show the problem is to look at the drop off in city size.

10 largest cities (2005 est.): Sioux Falls, 139,517; Rapid City, 62,167; Aberdeen, 24,098; Watertown, 20,265; Brookings, 18,715; Mitchell, 14,696; Pierre, 14,052; Yankton, 13,716; Huron, 11,086; Vermillion, 9,964 (from

Those ten have 41% of the state's population. It's also worth noting that Sioux Falls spillover into northern Lincoln County has made it the third most populous in the state, yet it's next-largest city has 3110 people.

The accompanying problems create their own momentum. Widespread populations make schools and other services expensive and difficult to maintain, which causes more people to move,which makes things worse, etc. The State government makes some accommodations for small/sparse school districts, but the small schools say it's not enough and the bigger areas don't like forking over tax dollars to fund other schools. It really is hard to see how this can change barring some large influx of people (who also will tend to go to the larger areas anyway).

Talk all you want

James Lileks at, while commenting on a dispute over the time and route of a planned protest at the Republican Convention, repeats a sometimes forgotten corollary of the First Amendment.....

The right to speak does not obligate others to listen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


A Boston Globe article comments on the Butterfly Effect and it's misinterpretation. I had been unaware of it's origin.....

As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?"

In the paper, Lorenz claimed the large effects of tiny atmospheric events pose both a practical problem, by limiting long-term weather forecasts, and a philosophical one, by preventing us from isolating specific causes of later conditions.

Which is why weather forecasts over a week in advance aren't much good.

Philosophically I put this into a group with the Uncertainty Principle, which is a quantification of the Observer Effect. They all essentially say that we can only account for so much without messing it up, or as Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force, "A man's got to know his limitations".

Brokeback Opera

Via Andrew Sullivan.....Another movie I've never seen (well,the novel on which it was based) is being made into an opera. This seems like a better idea than the last one.

Love and Dementia

A story at Slate that's sad on many levels. Unless there's more to it, I think the man's son should be beaten with something heavy and jagged.

New-Fangled Contraption

James Lileks picked up his daughter in a loaner car.....

(G)Nat liked it because she could roll the windows down with a crank. COOL! Much more interesting than the boring old push-button style. When I put the car in the garage and turned the engine off she said NO WAIT, she hadn’t rolled up the window. I said you could do them with the power off. COOL!

Wonders never cease.

My wife's 2003 Dodge Neon has crank windows. She specifically looked for them and chose the car over another otherwise identical vehicle (except for color, but it wasn't a factor). They are tough to find. I recall reading somewhere that engineers have gotten the electric window systems down to the point that they weigh less than the hand crank mechanisms.

My car has electric windows which after 11 years are starting to act up; some of the door switches don't work, although the switch on the driver's door for that same window rolls it down. Once in a while it would be nice to roll them down with the power off, but it hasn't been a big deal. Of course,when they finally give out I'll probably trade the car in.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Do It Every Day

The New York Times interviews two couples who wrote books about their (separate) efforts to reinvigorate their sex lives by having sex every day for a considerable length of time.

The Mullers are Bible-studying steak-eating Republicans from Charlotte, N.C. The Browns are backpacking multigrain northerners who moved to Boulder, Colo. The Mullers’ book, “365 Nights,” is rather modest and circumspect in its details. The Browns’ book, “Just Do It,” almost makes the reader feel part of a threesome, sharing everything they used to stimulate sexual desire (it’s hard to visualize and even harder to explain).

Personally, I can't imagine finding the time and/or energy every day, although the effort might be interesting.

Mr. Brown summed it up this way......

“I’m glad we did it,” he said. “But as far as a practical message, nobody needs to do it 100 days. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest to understand alpine sublime.”

308 Pounds

As I recall, that's the equivalent of 22 stone as mentioned in this article (via Megan McArdle) about an English family, their dog, and an unlucky would-be thief.

.....the dog's owner heard a 'scream, a roar and a commotion' from the back garden.

George Watson, 43, had been having a bath and ran outside in his towel, to see the thief zooming off down the driveway in his van.

Apart from a very agitated dog, the only evidence the man left behind was the torn Tshirt.

We had a St. Bernard-Black lab mix when I was in high school. He weighed about 180 pounds or so, and stayed in shape by dragging around 20 feet of 1/4-inch-link tow chain, eventually wearing a nice 8-inch-deep arc in the yard. We had to use that when he was outside because he snapped standard dog chain whenever he felt like it. For the first few years I was the only one of the kids big enough to even hang onto him when he got loose, and that only happened after he'd gone on a merry jog around town and decided to let me catch him.

Because Cops Don't Have Enough To Do

The Minneapolis City Council decided to limit non-traffic vehicle idling to 3 minutes. James Lileks has some objections......

You’re warming up the car in the winter, remember you forgot something on the kitchen table, but you don’t dare go get it because the car’s been idling for 2 minutes and 37 seconds, and you don’t want to break the law. There could be an unmarked squad car across the alley with one of those new radar stopwatches. So you turn off the car, wait a few seconds, then turn it on again. Does that count?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thong Bandits Caught!

This is certainly a relief, at least to the women from whom they procured them.

The two men used skimpy underwear as masks, but much of their faces remained visible in a CCTV tape.........

Somehow I get the feeling this wouldn't be on the BBC website had they worn ski masks.

Neighborly Chat

Iraqi President al-Maliki is visiting Iran.

"We will not allow Iraq to become a platform for harming the security of Iran and neighbours," Iranian state-run media quoted Mr Maliki as saying after late-night talks with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

"Iraq is looking forward to Iranian companies taking part in developing its infrastructure," Mr Maliki is quoted as saying.

Let's see.....the Iraqis want us out; if we stay they wouldn't cooperate with any action against Iran; they hope to do business together. Two members of the old Axis of Evil, once sworn enemies, now are friendlier than they've been in a long time, and looking forward to working together to clean up the mess the US made. Actually this is probably the best chance for peace there, but it's not exactly what Bush & Co. had in mind.

It's times like this when George Bush's limited capacities serve him well. If he were sentient he'd be ashamed and embarrassed.

An Inconvenient Opera

I have never seen and have no opinions regarding Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, but this seems a bit much.

La Scala in Milan has commissioned a musical version of An Inconvenient Truth, the apocalyptic eco-documentary presented by Al Gore, the former American vice-president.

Gore will be replaced on stage by a cast of tenors and at least one soprano as the story of man-made climate change is told. The makers believe this format will be more suited to the 230-year-old opera house than the graph-heavy lectures given by Gore in his Oscar-winning 2006 film.

Hmmm....opera singers better than graph-heavy lectures for this.....I suppose that's true, in the same way a hammer is a more suitable tool than a socket wrench if you wish to pound nails into your toes.

The music is being written by Giorgio Battistelli, whose past operas include works based on the Frankenstein story and on the writings of Jules Verne. “Opera makes you reflect. Artists make you see things differently,” he said. “When we see a painting by Francis Bacon or a film by Sydney Pollack, we get a very precise idea of the problems of our century.”

“I thought it could be a good idea to deal on this important occasion with a subject that involves not only Italy but the world,” Battistelli, 55, added. “It will be about the tragedy of our present situation. It is a great challenge to write an opera on such an unusual subject. It is certainly not the story of Romeo and Juliet.”

Considering both Romeo and Juliet ended up dead, the difference may not be as pronounced as he thinks.

Sympathy for Ted

Ariel Leve tries to imagine what Ted Kennedy went through.....

If they were about to encroach on a part of the brain that served a function like speech, keeping him awake meant they could test it out. Like repeatedly ask him questions like who the President is or to identify objects in pictures and then as long as he got the correct answer, they knew they weren’t messing up.

That seems like a lot of pressure. I know that when I’m on the spot, I tend to freeze. What if the surgeons asked me a question and I hesitated because I needed more time to come up with the answer. Would I be able to say, “Wait, I’m thinking – give me a second”? I wouldn’t want to be rushed. Or what if I got the wrong answer?

This brought back a memory.....

Also, if I’m wide awake that means I’ll be able to hear them talking. I can see it now - I'm lying there, fully conscious, unable to move, and the doctor says: “Oops.”

When I was 10 or so I was at the dentist. Normally a man of few (almost no) words with a demeanor that would make Dick Chaney seem bubbly, he was working away on something in my mouth when he suddenly stopped, frowned even more than usual, and said "oh fudgesicles". He then silently continued working while I sat in stark terror trying to decide whether I should bite him just to get his hands out of my mouth so I could find out what happened, or if it was best to remain ignorant. In the end I opted for the latter, and never did find out what happened.

Just Say No To Anthropomorphism

Jeremy Clarkson on the error of humanizing animal behavior....

I like my dogs very much. Sometimes I talk to them as though they are my children. I’ve even trained them to fetch sticks and sit down. In other words, I’ve attempted to make them more human. But this is futile because they are not human.

I know this because they spend most of their day in the paddocks eating horse shit. When they’ve had their fill, they come into the house and vomit onto every flat surface they can find.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two Into One = A Bad Feeling

Currently cell phone service choices here are Verizon and Alltel, so this is of considerable interest.

Verizon Wireless said on Thursday it would buy rural mobile phone service provider Alltel Corp for $28.1 billion, including debt, which would vault it to first place in the U.S. market ahead of AT&T Inc.

Verizon and Alltel have an overlap of about 15 percent of their network coverage..... Which includes this area.

Has something like this ever been good for consumers? My household is one of roughly eight on earth that does not have a cell phone, but for those here who do, I'm inclined to agree with this.....

Gigi Sohn, president of the non-profit advocacy group Public Knowledge said the deal would "speed the unfortunate trend of giving consumers fewer, rather than more, choices in telecommunications services, while giving a few companies more control over the lives of consumers."

Many people around here have switched from one to the other for a variety of reasons. Now they will have to accept what the company deigns to offer or suck sand.

Partying for Salvation

Suppose this is what Led Zeppelin meant?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ed McMahon

He's having a tough time.....

McMahon defaulted on $4.8 million in mortgage loans with a unit of Countrywide Financial Corp., which filed a notice of default in March, according to ForeclosureRadar, a company that sells default data pulled from public records.

The 85-year-old pitchman for various products, including American Family Publishers, is the highest-profile person to be caught up in the nationwide real estate downturn and mortgage crunch."He's not alone. There are plenty of people affected by the weak economy, bad housing market or bad health," McMahon's spokesman, Howard Bragman, said late Tuesday.

Bragman said McMahon fell and broke his neck about 18 months ago and has been unable to work since."The ideal situation would be that he would be healthy and able to earn a living to pay for his house," Bragman said.

Ed has always seemed to be a likable guy, and I hope it turns out OK, but I think he could have used a reality check. When you're 85 and have a seven-figure mortgage for which you have to work to pay, it's apparent that your financial planning has been askew.