When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

30 June 2008

The Age of Reagan

Brad DeLong:
The true history of the U.S. since 1980, IMHO at least, is not Sean Wilentz's "Age of Reagan" but is instead composed of a half dozen or so deeper and broader tides, like:
  1. The end of the Cold War
  2. Other winner-take-all factors that have, in combination with education, pushed American income polarization back to Gilded Age levels.
  3. The failure of American taxpayers to support their state and local governments in expanding funding for public education--and the impact of reduced public education effort in sharpening the distinction between rich and poor.
  4. The computer revolution in productivity growth.
  5. The rise of China (and soon, we hope, India) as industrial powers.
  6. The extraordinary social liberalization of America--if you had told any Republican in 1980 that 2008 would see (a) a Negro with an Arabic-Swahili name beating a veteran figher pilot in the presidential polls and (b) gay marriage as the big cultural issue of the day, said Republican would have blown several gaskets. And if you had said that this would have been the result of an "Age of Reagan" said Republican would have melted down completely.

Freedom is a term of art with the specific contextual meaning of "nothing left to lose"

Over at Pencil Roving, Carrie has found a very amusing scholarly article about judges citing popular music lyrics in their opinions.

Don't cheat on me with cornbread

Last night, New York City's Beacon Theater played host to alt.country royalty: Lyle Lovett and his Large Band were in town, and for over two hours they rocked the house with a potent mixture of Texas swing, gospel, and "newgrass."

Carrie and I had third-row seats, and though they weren't cheap, we got full value for money out of the performance last night, which left us exhausted and happy in the way that only an up-close-and-personal encounter with real art can do.

The Large Band lives up to its name. Lovett was touring with 11 instruments (two guitarists besides himself; a mandolin player; a cellist; a fiddler; a bassist; two percussionists; a pedal steel player; and a piano player), plus a power trio of backup singers.

A local gospel choir, God's Generation, from Danbury, CT, is touring with Lovett in the Northeast and provided enthusiastic support at the beginning and end of the show.

Lyle is a delightful eccentric, and though many of the songs he played last night were very familiar (I've been a fan for over 20 years), a few of them were new to me. Here's a song he played last night about being unfaithful on the road... with food.

"Keep it in your pantry." :-)

27 June 2008

Elmer Fudd, Fwench suwwealist?

As an early devotee of Looney Tunes cartoons, I was fascinated by the strange freedoms of these characters, especially their ability to shape-shift -- like Ovid on speed. Clearly, Bugs Bunny knows as much about leaping, not to mention whirling, zooming and, of course, hopping, as any of the great Spanish poets whom Bly credits with the knack of slipping through walls from one room of the psyche into another. Bugs can be in two places at once, which he is whenever Elmer Fudd points his shotgun down one of the two holes of the rabbit's underground residence. And just as Pirandello and other modern dramatists sought to break down the actor/audience barrier, so Looney Tunes allowed an animated character to talk directly to the movie house audience or to criticize the very hand of its animators, thereby betraying the text itself. In one cartoon which mixes animation with a live action sequence, Porky Pig barges into producer Leon Schlesinger's office demanding to be let out of his contract. Another cartoon opens quietly with the figure of Elmer Fudd in full hunting regalia tip-toeing left to right through the woods. Then, as if noticing a noisy late-comer to the theater or the sound of a shaken box of candy, Fudd stops, turns to face the audience, puts one of his four fingers to his lips and says in a seething whisper: "Shhhh! It's wabbit season." Ah, Elmer, you unlikely modernist! What were your creators reading? Was animator Chuck Jones curling up at night with a volume of French surrealist poetry?
Former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, writing in the Wall Street Journal, on inspiration derived from classic cartoons: "Inspired By A Bunny Wabbit."

26 June 2008

The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed

In a landmark civil rights decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution does, in fact, create an individual right of firearms ownership for American citizens, striking down the District of Columbia's strict gun control laws:
[The Court] said that the government may impose some restrictions on gun ownership, but that the District's strictest-in-the-nation ban went too far under any interpretation.

Scalia wrote that the Constitution leaves the District a number of options for combating the problem of handgun violence, "including some measures regulating handguns."

"But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table," he continued. "These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

The court also held unconstitutional the requirement that shotguns and rifles be kept disassembled or unloaded or outfitted with a trigger lock. The court called it a "prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."

Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Gun Ban (Washington Post, 26 June 2008)

This is the first time in U.S. history that the Supremes have deigned to comprehensively interpret the Second Amendment, and the decision, which establishes that the Second Amendment protects individual rights (just like the other nine amendments comprising the Bill of Rights) is historic and highly significant.

Related: Full text of the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia et al v. Heller (PDF)

Excerpt from decision syllabus:

1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.Pp. 2–53.

(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.

(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.

(c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28–30.

(d) The Second Amendment’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms.

25 June 2008

Don't let me catch you again with a Marlboro, son. Now, pass the hash pipe.

The Dutch, bless them, are about to implement the reductio ad absurdum of anti-smoking laws. As Reason's Hit and Run blog reports:
A Dutch ban on smoking in businesses open to the public takes effect on July 1, and owners of marijuana-selling "coffee shops" are worried. They're not worried because the ban will prevent their customers from smoking pot. Although the combustion products of any dried weed include toxins and carcinogens, cannabis is exempt from the law, which is ostensibly aimed at protecting employees. It's hard to see what purpose this disparate treatment serves, aside from horrifying American conservatives with the prospect of a topsy-turvy world in which you can smoke pot but not tobacco. But since European pot smokers often mix tobacco into their joints, The Independent reports, coffee shop operators are afraid the smoking ban will cut into their business...
"I Swear, Officer, It's Only Marijuana!" (Hit and Run)

Whose quality of life is it, anyway?

In the spring of 2001, Bill Thomas, dressed in his usual sweat shirt and Birkenstock sandals, entered the buttoned-down halls of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. His message: Nursing homes need to be taken out of business. "It's time to turn out the lights," he declared.

Cautious but intrigued, foundation executives handed Dr. Thomas a modest $300,000 grant several months later. Now the country's fourth-largest philanthropy is throwing its considerable weight behind the 48-year-old physician's vision of "Green Houses," an eight-year-old movement to replace large nursing homes with small, homelike facilities for 10 to 12 residents. The foundation is hoping that through its support, Green Houses will soon be erected in all 50 states, up from the 41 Green Houses now in 10 states.

"We want to transform a broken system of care," says Jane Isaacs Lowe, who oversees the foundation's "Vulnerable Populations portfolio." "I don't want to be in a wheelchair in a hallway when I am 85."


The $122 billion nursing-home industry arose from the 1965 birth of Medicare and Medicaid, the government health-insurance programs for the elderly and poor that provide billions in government reimbursements. Made up of both not-for-profit and for-profit companies, the industry still generates most of its revenue from Medicaid and Medicare.

Now, many nursing homes are aging, and the industry has suffered through so many scandals involving patient care that many elderly shun the thought of entering such institutions. A 2003 survey by the AARP, an advocacy group for older Americans, found that just 1% of Americans over 50 with a disability wanted to move to a nursing home.

WSJ: Rising Challenger Takes On Elder-Care System

22 June 2008

New to the blogroll

New to the blogroll: Fugitive Ink.
Fugitive Ink addresses issues of politics, art and literature from an unapologetically idiosyncratic, vaguely High Tory perspective.

21 June 2008

Public art and architecture has rarely been so exciting

Here's the best photo caption I've seen in a while:
People drink wine at the unveiling ceremony of an enema syringe in a sanatorium in the southern Russian spa town of Inozemtsevo June 18, 2008. A health spa in Russia has unveiled a bronze monument of three cherubs carrying an enema, a design inspired by the 15th century Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli.
Russian monument to enemas inspired by Botticelli (Reuters)

Good companions

Chows Bella and Fun, left to right, 1997:


Chows Bella and Fun, left to right, 2008:

Chow Bella and Chow Fun June 2008
The loyalty and devotion that dogs demonstrate as part of their natural instincts as pack animals closely mimics the human idea of love and friendship, leading many dog owners to view their pets as full-fledged family members. Conversely, dogs seem to view their human companions as members of their pack, and make few, if any, distinctions between their owners and fellow dogs. Dogs fill a variety of roles in human society and are often trained as working dogs. For dogs that do not have traditional jobs, a wide range of dog sports provide the opportunity to exhibit their natural skills. In many countries, the most common and perhaps most important role of dogs is as companions.
"Dog." Wikipedia.

Happy Caturday!

You never know, a bird might be perching on the fire escape.

It has happened before.

19 June 2008

Say it isn't so

Know someone who loves gadgets and can't wait to buy the newest model? Chances are you would describe them as assertive and a strong leader -- and possibly arrogant, according a U.S. research.

An online study evaluating the characteristics of 25,000 American adults found avid technology consumers tended to score highly in personality traits such as leadership, dynamism and assertiveness -- but low in modesty.

Reuters: Gadget buyers seen as assertive, even arrogant

18 June 2008

Thank you, John Scalzi...

...for writing these eminently sane observations on the same-sex marriage issue:
First and foremost, the idea that marriage in general needs to be “protected” by denying it to same-sex couples is ridiculous, just as it was when people believed that marriage needed to be “protected” by denying it to interracial couples. Second and more specifically, the idea that my marriage needs to be protected by a bunch of hyperventilating ninnies in the midst of a queer panic makes me want to retch. Please do keep your clammy, quivering, homophobic fingers off my state of matrimony, if you please. My marriage has not once been threatened by same-sex marriage; heck, I’ve been to Massachusetts at least four times since same-sex marriage was made legal in that commonwealth. Roving bands of same-sex married couples did not trample my marriage rights while I was there. But even more specifically, claiming to “protect” marriage when in fact you are intent of destroying potentially thousands of loving, legal marriages is an abomination.
As a blissfully happy, married, heterosexual male, all I have to add is: Amen, brother.

The notion that my marriage is going to somehow be diminished by allowing gay couples to get married is egregiously, noxiously offensive.

Consider the lilies of the flour aisle

Yet another hallowed Southern tradition is now officially endangered: White Lily flour will no longer be produced in the South.
For generations of Southern bakers, the secret to weightless biscuits has been one simple ingredient passed from grandmother to mother to child: White Lily all-purpose flour.

Biscuit dives and high-end Southern restaurants like Watershed in Atlanta and Blackberry Farm outside Knoxville use it. Blue-ribbon winners at state fair baking contests depend on it. On food lovers’ Web sites, transplanted Southerners share tips on where to find it, and some of them returning from trips back home have been known to attract attention when airport security officers detect a suspicious white dust on their luggage.

White Lily is distinctly Southern: it has been milled here in downtown Knoxville since 1883 and its white bags (extra tall because the flour weighs less per cup than other brands) are distributed almost solely in Southern supermarkets, although specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma and Dean & DeLuca have carried it at premium prices.

But at the end of June, the mill, with its shiny wood floors, turquoise and red grinders and jiggling armoire-size sifters, will shut its doors. The J. M. Smucker Company, which bought the brand a year ago, has already begun producing White Lily at two plants in the Midwest, causing ripples of anxiety that Southern biscuits will never be the same.

Southern Bakers Worry as a Treasured Flour Mill Moves North (New York Times, 18 June 2008)

I grew up making biscuits with Martha White flour (produced on the same principles as White Lily) - it produces light biscuits of uniform density, and there really is no substitute for a proper biscuit flour. (For extra cracker credibility points, Martha White is the longest running sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry.)

Damned if Smucker's didn't buy Martha White, too.

Oh, lord. I hope the Jelly Barons at least leave me my locally-produced stone-ground cornmeal.

Weezie, call your office

"I mean, 'whitey?' That's something that George Jefferson would say."

- Michelle Obama, commenting on a Clinton-supporting blogger's unsubstantiated claim that she made an incendiary speech about white folks using tired 1970s terminology.

It's a valid point in general terms--does anybody really say "whitey" anymore?--but I think that, technically, George probably would have used the word "honky."

Related: "The Jeffersons" (Museum of Broadcast Communications)

Critter Creator

Spore Critter In Progress
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
Maxis, the mad geniuses behind the SimCity (and later, SimEverything) series of games, have an almost guaranteed to be blockbuster game called Spore coming out later this summer. From the Wikipedia article:
It allows a player to control the evolution of a species from its beginnings as a unicellular organism, through development as an intelligent and social land-walking creature, to levels of interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture. It has drawn wide attention for its massive scope, and its use of open-ended gameplay and procedural generation.
Whoo... ambitious. Can't wait.

Yesterday, Maxis (and Electronic Arts, their distributor) released the first elements of Spore into the wilds - the Spore Creature Creator, which allows you to play Intelligent Designer and stack the evolutionary deck with your fantastic creations. Said creations can be uploaded to Spore's servers, and will be used to populate the Spore universe when the game goes live in a few weeks.

I didn't get to play with it much last night - long day at the office - but above, a quick snapshot of my critter, before I stuck the legs on. From the looks of it, the Creature Creator tool, whatever else it might be, is a $9.95 machinima studio.

Carrie is a huge fan of Maxis games, too... I think we'll be buying a couple copies of this.

P.S. Keep your eye on the "spore" tag on photo-sharing sites like Flickr... people are already uploading snapshots of their creations.

17 June 2008

Stories from The Show

An exquisite, sentimental masterpiece by Dave Sheinin in today's Washington Post:
To get an audience with the oldest living ex-major leaguer and the last remaining ex-teammate of Babe Ruth's, you agree to show up at the retirement community where he lives, at a precise time that falls between his morning and afternoon naps, and that also happens to be lunchtime. In the clubhouse dining room, you take a seat to his left, because that's his good ear. And of course, you'll have what he's having -- a hot dog with onions and a little bit of ketchup, and an iced tea -- because, hey, he's nearly 100 years old and ought to know by now what's good.
Meet Bill Werber, who played eleven seasons in the majors alongside players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig: Ex Big-Leaguer Werber Has Many Stories To Choose From (Washington Post, 17 June 2008)

Kids, dogs and cats

James Fallows has a bone to pick with Al Gore regarding his endorsement speech for Obama:
Gore's well-crafted rhetorical sequence of reasons why "elections matter," after the jump, had one off-key element. Supreme Court appointments -- fine. War and peace? Of course. Wounded veterans, yes -- and Katrina, and impending recession, and the mortgage crisis. The environment? We were waiting for Gore to say it. But lead-tainted toys from China, and pet food?? Those items built toward the nice line about even dogs and cats knowing that elections matter. But they're out of scale with the rest of the list. And willing as I am to blame George Bush for just about anything, it's much more of a stretch to connect a mis-managed Mattel factory in Guangdong Province with White House policies than it is with the other, graver problems Gore mentioned. So, the dog-and-cat line is nice, but the logic behind it can use some work. Peace, prosperity, accountable government, saving the planet -- those should be enough.
Gore endorses Obama (James Fallows, 16 June 2008)

Democrats wishing to rally their base must pander to protectionists and unions, especially in an election year. The highly publicized scandals with tainted food and medicine from China are a free trade opponent's wet dream; I expect to hear a lot of indignant, economically illiterate faux-populism surrounding these issues in the coming weeks and months.

(Personally, I'd be hitting the fake heparin story hardest of all, but issues affecting children and pets apparently pack more emotional punch.)

16 June 2008

Most livable cities - World edition

1. Copenhagen: out in front by virtue of its scale, a good airport, all those bike paths and handsome locals.

2. Munich: almost a winner, but it should have committed to building the Transrapid airport rail link.

3. Tokyo: the world’s best big city by far. Unfortunately, last week’s stabbing spree hasn’t done much for its public safety record.

4. Zurich: more relaxed neighbours would put it in first place.

5. Helsinki: a European capital with a foot firmly in Asia.

6. Vienna: one of Europe’s greenest cities.

7. Stockholm: the city wants to go vertical ­– a tricky mission.

8. Vancouver: the best of North America in a beautiful frame.

9. Melbourne: the best neighbourhoods in the southern hemisphere.

10. Paris: its visionary mayor has made the old dame internationally relevant again.

Financial Times: A league table of livable cities (13 June 2008)

We're dead, we're over, we're roadkill, we're AltaVista.

Look, I would never admit this to anyone in public, but the truth is that our deal with Google marks the end of the first great battle of the Internet era -- call it Internet 1.0 -- and we've lost. That's what it means. We've capitulated. We've surrendered. We're dead. We're over. We're roadkill. We're AltaVista. We're Lycos. We've admitted we can't survive on our own and have turned to our biggest enemy to save us. When they write the history of the Internet, Yahoo! might be more than a footnote, but not much more.

Sure, we'll try to spin it otherwise, but we won't have much luck because we're about as good at spinning as we are at running our company, which is to say, not very. Have you ever seen our PR people in action? Me either. Do we even have any PR people? I have no idea. Whatever we're paying them, it's 100% too much. Who else could go into a PR battle against Microsoft and come out looking like the low-IQ side of the equation? Honestly, I've never ever in my entire life seen an organization that handles marketing and public relations as badly as we do, except maybe Facebook, but that's only because they don't do anything at all. They don't even try.
The Secret Diary of [Steve Jobs] Jerry Yang: The first great battle of the Internet is over...

14 June 2008

You never see them in the same place at the same time, do you?

This never occurred to me before, but in retrospect it's quite clear:

Mario Batali and Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons... separated at birth?

Ah, Google Ads

I have not been wildly successful in my attempt to monetize enrevanche, but the Amazon and Google Ads do bring in a few bucks on a pretty steady basis.

Saw a Google Ad at the top of the page this morning when I loaded up the browser.

"Dead? How Come?"

It was for a malpractice and personal injury attorney, apparently.

Life is a condition with a 100% mortality rate, as far as we know.

13 June 2008

Feed the cat first

This is a feline intervention, staged by Mister Gato.

"You're not going to check your work e-mail yet. You've made coffee... but didn't you forget something?"

Gato says feed the cat first_scaled

"My dish won't fill itself with nuggets."

(See The Modulator and The Carnival of the Cats for more bloggers' cats from around the world.)

12 June 2008

A raw box in the Brutalist style: my doctor's office building

Via Kottke:

In the July 2008 Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens ponders (among other things) a bit of a dispute about urban planning in New York City's West Village:

Since 1984, when St. Vincent’s Hospital knocked down the Elizabeth Bayley Seton Building, dating from 1898, to put up a raw box in the Brutalist style, the intersection of Greenwich and Seventh and 11th to 13th Streets has been slightly scarred by an inconsiderately ugly, if unobtrusive, division of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Now, under the pretext of expanding health-care facilities, St. Vincent’s has gone into partnership with the ever ambitious Rudin Management Company, a family real-estate concern. Together, the two investors propose a huge demolition on either side of Seventh Avenue. The inaugural plans featured on one flank a vast new medical building of half a million square feet, standing 329 feet tall and 288 feet wide, and on the other flank a Rudin condo tower of luxury apartments, also consisting of half a million square feet, while standing 265 feet tall and 208 feet wide. (If you have the desire to keep abreast of this battle for human scale in the living and working streets and squares of Greenwich Village, I invite you to visit www.protectthevillage.org.) Like two huge toads, these ugly and tedious and uninspired structures would impede the view and block the light of one of New York’s historic neighborhoods: a district that in a previous generation survived even Robert Moses and his plan to slam a neo-Brutalist urban highway through Bohemia. (The story of that battle is told by Jane Jacobs in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities.)


I could easily have guessed what the advocates of the big, expensive, tall buildings would say. They would claim that those who opposed them were “elitists.” And so it proved.

The friends of St. Vincent’s and the promoters of the Rudin super-condo claim that their Village opponents are of the sort who prefer buildings to people. And this is true if the buildings are on a human scale like the O’Toole and if the people are the ones who have already annexed most of the modern cityscape and fashioned it to suit themselves. Can they really not rest until every street and every block reflects their own ambition back to them, and until one size fits all? All of the hospital’s designs—which, along with the application for demolition of the O’Toole Building, were returned to sender by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, but have been resubmitted under the self-pitying rubric of “hardship”—look like a plan made by Donald Trump’s people on an especially uninspired day.

Last Call, Bohemia (Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, July 2008)

This proposed development is right around the corner from where I live; there's a picture of the building (and surroundings) in the VF article.

I understand the theoretical importance of things like historic landmarking, but I've *been* inside the building they're proposing to tear down. A medical specialist I saw once or twice has an office in there. The building (inside) is a poorly designed space. Look, it's a toilet of a space, okay? And it ain't so beautiful on the outside, either.

If Rudin and St. Vincent's tear down that building and build this new space, it's going to disrupt my life, personally, for the duration of the demolition and construction periods and beyond. As I said, we're right around the corner from this spot.

But being against change in New York City is like resenting the tide for coming in.

11 June 2008

To check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death?

[Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist] wrote that there was “genuinely dangerous” speech that did not meet the imminence requirement [of what was considered outside the realm of First Amendment protection.]

“I think we should be able to punish speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience, some of whose members are ready to act on the urging,” Mr. Lewis wrote. “That is imminence enough.”

Harvey A. Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., disagreed. “When times are tough,” he said, “there seems to be a tendency to say there is too much freedom.”

“Free speech matters because it works,” Mr. Silverglate continued. Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

“The world didn’t suffer because too many people read ‘Mein Kampf,’ ” Mr. Silverglate said. “Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea.”

Mr. Silverglate seemed to be echoing the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., whose 1919 dissent in Abrams v. United States eventually formed the basis for modern First Amendment law.

“The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” Justice Holmes wrote.

“I think that we should be eternally vigilant,” he added, “against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”
American Exception: Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech (New York Times, 12 June 2008)

The Net, rewiring our nervous systems

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
"Is Google Making Us Stupid?" - Nicholas Carr, The Atlantic, July 2008

Management theory, OSS style

The Office of Strategic Services, WW II-era precursor agency to the CIA, had these helpful management tips to offer back in the day:
(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of per­sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­able” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
Of course, they were describing how to sabotage an organization from within. (Follow the link to download the PDF of the original document.)

Hat tip: Joho the Blog, via BoingBoing


Originally uploaded by mira d'oubliette.
Mira's cat Freya has a new look, after sleeping on a drawing done in (thankfully, non-toxic) chalk pastels.

10 June 2008

Hey, careful where you point that thing...

The proprietress of Magick Sandwich just got some bad news--she's not moral enough to participate in BlogRush:
This message is to inform you that
we have carefully reviewed your blog:
Magick Sandwich
And your blog did not meet the
strict BlogRush quality criteria.

Reason Your Blog Wasn't Approved:
Inappropriate Content Or Advertising: Obscene or Disgusting
Naturally, she was delighted:
Oh my God, this is so exciting- my content is obscene or disgusting! Not to quibble, but obscenity and disgust aren't mutually exclusive are they?

But this is not a wholesale rejection- oh, no. If I can "improve the quality" of my blog, I can reapply after thirty days. Does this mean I just need to be more tastefully obscene? What does this word mean, anyway?
It's a new blog, but it shows a lot of promise, and a certain twisted sensibility that I think enrevanche readers (both of you!) will enjoy.

(I can't imagine what the bluenoses at BlogRush were objecting to. Oh, wait...)

Blogrolled: Magick Sandwich.

Long bets: index funds vs. hedge funds

Will a collection of hedge funds, carefully selected by experts, return more to investors over the next 10 years than the S&P 500?

That question is now the subject of a bet between Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Protégé Partners LLC, a New York City money management firm that runs funds of hedge funds - in other words, a firm whose existence rests on its ability to put its clients' money into the best hedge funds and keep it out of the underperformers.

You can guess which party is taking which side.

Protégé has placed its bet on five funds of hedge funds - specifically, the averaged returns that those vehicles deliver net of all fees, costs, and expenses.

On the other side, Buffett, who has long argued that the fees that such "helpers" as hedge funds and funds of funds command are onerous and to be avoided has bet that the returns from a low-cost S&P 500 index fund sold by Vanguard will beat the results delivered by the five funds that Protégé has selected.
Buffett's Big Bet (Fortune)


Long Bets: “Over a ten-year period commencing on January 1, 2008, and ending on December 31, 2017, the S & P 500 will outperform a portfolio of funds of hedge funds, when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs and expenses.”

09 June 2008

Herding cats

I don't know who said it first, but it's a truism: managing IT projects is like herding cats.

turned the concept into a very funny television ad:

08 June 2008

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2008

The weather in NYC today: 95 degrees, humidity 48%, heat index 99+...

Red White and Blue scaled
Red, white, and blue. There's more barbecue down 26th St, citizen.

And yes, we were foolish enough to go out in this weather to eat some barbecue.

Eating City Grocery's Crawfish and Okra Hushpuppies
This blog's proprietor, eating City Grocery's (Oxford, MS) crawfish-and-okra hushpuppies.

More pictures at Flickr, from me and others.

The line for City Grocery


Gato atop bookcase

Gato atop bookcase
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
From a high vantage point. Lord and master of all he surveys.

04 June 2008

My boxes. Let me show you them.

Been a while since we've had any catblogging around here.

Mister Gato, lover of boxes and heights, combines two great experiences by lounging atop document storage boxes, which in turn rest on top of our living room bookshelves.

In LOLspeak:

My boxes. Let me show you them.

02 June 2008

Rest in peace

“I was out to destroy the audience. I wanted to destroy 'em, just make the toughest dude in the crowd pat his foot. I'd find a groove to get 'em by watching feet, and once I got one guy moving, I'd start working on the dude sitting next to him.” - Bo Diddley

01 June 2008

Tough crowd

Significant arrests for joke-telling probably began in 1933, when “anekdot-telling” is first described as an anti-Soviet activity in the proceedings of the Communist Party at the Central Committee Plenum of January 1933. Matvei Shkiriatov, a Stalinist zealot and future member of the Central Committee, gave a speech which presaged the purges of the Great Terror, warning of “those within our ranks who ... go about clandestinely organising operations against the party”. Among the activities of these unwelcome communists he declared: “I would like to speak of one other anti-Party method of operation, namely, the so-called jokes [anekdoty]. What are these jokes? Who among us Bolsheviks does not know how we fought against Tsarism in the old days, how we told jokes in order to undermine the authority of the existing system? ... [Now] this has also been employed as a keen weapon against the Central Committee of the party.”

As the arrests began, the joke-tellers imagined the following scenario:

A clerk hears laughing behind the door of a courtroom. He opens the door. At the other end of the room the judge is sitting on the podium convulsed in laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asks the clerk.

“I’ve just heard the funniest joke of my life,” says the judge.

“Tell it to me.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I just sentenced someone to five years’ hard labour for doing that.”

Comedy of terrors (Financial Times, 30 May 2008)

House proud

On a recent KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight, a business-class passenger stood up and addressed the cabin: "If anyone doesn't want their house, I'll take it," recalls another traveler, Mieke de Boer.

For 56 years, KLM has handed out a coveted souvenir: small ceramic replicas of historically significant houses filled with Dutch gin and topped with a cork. Many people can't get enough of them. The rarest houses -- given only to honeymooners -- can trade for upwards of $1,000.
The Ultimate Dutch Status Symbol: House-Shaped Booze Bottles (Wall Street Journal, 31 May 2008)

Everything's relative

The US “war on terror” has restricted the freedom of individual Americans – but to a lesser degree than in previous conflicts, a study said on Monday.

Freedom House, a US group best known for its work overseas, expresses “grave concern” at measures such as extraordinary rendition, “mistreatment of those in US custody” and warrantless wiretaps.

But it says: “The war on terrorism has resulted in ­significantly fewer violations of individual freedom than previous conflicts.”

The other incidents it cites include the mass detention of Japanese-Americans during the second world war, and Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency investigations of thousands of US ­citizens opposed to the Vietnam war.

Report warns of threats to freedom in US (Financial Times, 5 May 2008)