Swiss approve pioneering legal heroin program - Associated Press via Yahoo! News (30 Nov 2008)Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved Sunday a move to make permanent the country's pioneering program to give addicts government-authorized heroin.At the same time, voters rejected a proposal to decriminalize marijuana.
Sixty-eight percent of the 2,264,968 voters casting ballots approved making the heroin program permanent. It has been credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts since it began in 1994.
Some 63.2 percent of voters voted against the marijuana initiative.
Olivier Borer, 35, a musician from the northern town of Solothurn, said he welcomed the outcome in part because state action was required to help heroin addicts, but he said legalizing marijuana was a bad idea."I think it's very important to help these people, but not to facilitate the using of drugs," Borer said. "You can just see in the Netherlands how it's going. People just go there to smoke."
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
30 November 2008
The complete list of choices: (obscured somewhat by glare and shadow at the top)
- bon vivant
- dog lover
- cat lover
- moose lover
- joe plumber
- joseph ex-banker
- none of the above
- all of the above
Random access memory lane
Here's a theme called Terminal that looks like a blast from the past.
I can remember some BBSes that didn't look too dissimilar to this in the 1980s, and were it not on a very wide screen, it would look a lot like an old-school VT-100 or IBM 3270 display:
(That's my spam folder, so as to protect the privacy of my correspondents.)
Originally uploaded by Patrick - msigarmy.com.
Related: 36 hours in Phoenix (NY Times, 30 Nov 2008)
That's what I pay him for
In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.
The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.
Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.
Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. "No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed," he said.
Thus, within days of hiring McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq's expanding military.
"That's what I pay him for," Timothy Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.
One man's military-industrial complex (International Herald Tribune, 30 November 2008)
White Trash in hard times
To refresh your memory, the components of the White Trash Portfolio were as follows:
- BFB - Brown-Forman Corp. Cl B
- BUD - Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.
- CHB - Champion Enterprises Inc.
- F - Ford Motor Co.
- GM - General Motors Corp.
- IGT - International Game Technology
- KO - Coca-Cola Co.
- MCD - McDonald's Corp.
- MO - Altria Group Inc.
- WMT - Wal-Mart Stores Inc
- DIA, which tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is down 28.7%.
- SPY, which tracks the S&P 500, is down 36.9%.
- VTI, which tracks the performance of the broad US stock market as a whole, is down 38.2%.
- IYC, which tracks the Dow Jones Consumer Cyclical index, is down 41.7%.
And White Trash? Down 29.9%.
In less than two years, there have been a lot of changes to the WTP.
Kraft Foods, which we didn't originally hold, was spun off from Altria Group (aka Philip Morris.)
Anheuser-Busch sold themselves to InBev.
Ford and GM look like they will need an emergency infusion of billions and billions of dollars just to make it through the next few months.
The three stocks that are consistently doing well through the downturn and keeping things from being worse than they might be: Anheuser-Busch, McDonalds, and Wal-Mart.
29 November 2008
It's a sin to kill a songbird
Why do they go after Mumbai? There’s something about this island-state that appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.Suketu Mehta, "What They Hate about Mumbai", New York Times, 29 November 2008
Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.
Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds.
28 November 2008
We were in SoHo, TriBeCa, and the Financial District. None of us had any difficulty moving on the sidewalk, and the stores weren't too packed to move around in.
That is incredibly odd... and really bad news... on what's usually the busiest (and, for retailers, most lucrative) shopping day of the year.
Meanwhile, mobs are ripping doors off the hinges at Wal-Mart and trampling people to death.
I think the economic action has definitely shifted down-market.
There's a metaphor in here somewhere; you won't have to look too hard for it
Wal-Mart Employee Trampled To Death By Customers (New York Times, 28 November 2008)A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after being trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a frenzy.
The 34-year-old employee, who was not identified, was knocked down by a crowd that broke down the doors of the Wal-Mart at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y., and surged into the store. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 6 a.m.
The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to the hospital for observation.
One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started pulling the doors from their hinges and rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hands to keep them from being caught in the crush.“
"They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.”
27 November 2008
Pakistan will find itself in a nutcracker
We will begin by assuming that the attackers are Islamist militant groups operating in India, possibly with some level of outside support from Pakistan. We can also see quite clearly that this was a carefully planned, well-executed attack.
Given this, the Indian government has two choices. First, it can simply say that the perpetrators are a domestic group. In that case, it will be held accountable for a failure of enormous proportions in security and law enforcement. It will be charged with being unable to protect the public. On the other hand, it can link the attack to an outside power: Pakistan. In that case it can hold a nation-state responsible for the attack, and can use the crisis atmosphere to strengthen the government’s internal position by invoking nationalism. Politically this is a much preferable outcome for the Indian government, and so it is the most likely course of action. This is not to say that there are no outside powers involved — simply that, regardless of the ground truth, the Indian government will claim there were.
That, in turn, will plunge India and Pakistan into the worst crisis they have had since 2002. If the Pakistanis are understood to be responsible for the attack, then the Indians must hold them responsible, and that means they will have to take action in retaliation — otherwise, the Indian government’s domestic credibility will plunge. The shape of the crisis, then, will consist of demands that the Pakistanis take immediate steps to suppress Islamist radicals across the board, but particularly in Kashmir. New Delhi will demand that this action be immediate and public. This demand will come parallel to U.S. demands for the same actions, and threats by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to force greater cooperation from Pakistan.
If that happens, Pakistan will find itself in a nutcracker. On the one side, the Indians will be threatening action — deliberately vague but menacing — along with the Americans. This will be even more intense if it turns out, as currently seems likely, that Americans and Europeans were being held hostage (or worse) in the two hotels that were attacked. If the attacks are traced to Pakistan, American demands will escalate well in advance of inauguration day.
Red Alert: Possible geopolitical consequences of the Mumbai Attacks -- Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (stratfor.com)
Also, monkeys might fly out of my butt
I have no specific details, but I want to warn everybody today that fiery rain might fall from the sky. Terrorists may have discussed this sort of tactic, and while there is no evidence yet that it's in the process of being carried out, I want to be extra-cautious this holiday season. Ho ho ho.Related: "Feds warn of terror plotting against NYC subways" (Associated Press, 26 Nov 2008)
Wikipedia for breaking news
November 20o8 Mumbai attack (Wikipedia)
Hat tip: Sepia Mutiny, where I also found this Google Map showing all of the different attack locations.
For my next trick, I'll attempt to cancel a cell phone account in under thirty minutes
The next time I had to cancel a wireless account, and was asked my reason, I informed the rep that I was headed to prison. The unstoppable rep actually asked me what I was going in for. "Arson" I shot back, matter-of-factly. In the ensuing silence, I began to gleefully suspect I'd nailed it and found a shortcut through the torture. I fully expected to hear the magic words "Sir, I've cancelled your account; if you ever desire to reestablish service with our company, please don't hesitate to contact us". But I was wrong. After the awkward silence, the rep cleared his throat and offered me one thousand free minutes if I'd obligate myself for another year. And so on.Hell Circle Du Jour: Cancelling Wireless Accounts (Jim Leff's Slog)
Today, among the many things I am thankful for: Having attained middle age and a 20+ year career in the IT industry, I now have the wherewithal and insider knowledge necessary to arrange my affairs so that, for the most part, I am dealing with the reasonably clueful and competent when I have to call for technical support or customer service.
This is how: previously-experienced or anticipated quality of support/service is a primary criterion for me when making purchase decisions. If I am making a technology or service purchase where I've got meaningful, acceptable alternatives, "who will suck and who won't when something breaks" is the hurdle most companies will never get over.
With some providers, though - power utilities, landline phone companies, cell phone companies - your choices are either nonexistent or so few and consistently poor as to be essentially no choice at all.
And customer service experiences with these organizations are usually awful.
Like when you try to cancel a cell phone account.
26 November 2008
The horror, in depth and up to the minute
Metroblogging in Mumbai.
Also, be sure to take a look at Mumbai coverage on Twitter via Tweetgrid.
Hat tip for Metroblogging and Twitter tips: Carrie (who is picking them up from Metafilter.)
25 November 2008
Fall Valour-IT fundraiser is underway
Please donate to Project Valour-IT during the Thanksgiving fundraiser; click the link below or in the sidebar.
Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Technology supplied includes:
- Voice-controlled Laptops - Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
- Wii Video Game Systems - Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions.
- Personal GPS - Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to TBI and severe PTSD.
24 November 2008
North Carolina authorities say a shopper clubbed an alleged carjacker with a frozen turkey as he tried to steal a woman's car in a grocery store parking lot Sunday.
Police say 30-year-old Fred Louis Ervin of Raleigh stole money from a gas station before running across the street to a Harris Teeter store in a town just south of Raleigh. Garner police say he began beating Irene Moorman Bailey while stealing her car.
Other shoppers came to her rescue, including one who hit Ervin with the turkey. Police did not release the person's name.
Despite serious head injuries, Ervin got away in Bailey's car and hit several other cars as he fled. But police arrested him a short time later.
Associated Press: NC carjacking suspect clubbed with frozen turkey
22 November 2008
Oh dear, this can't be good
Evidence is still being collated, but preliminary results suggest that the Earth was destroyed pre-emptively by scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, before the commencement of their experiments to locate the Higgs Boson, as a precautionary measure to ensure that the experiment itself could not result in the destruction of the Earth.
The cluetrain left the station some time ago
There are many ways to measure how screwed Republicans are after the last election.
You can look at the avalanche of swing states that broke big for Barack. You can look at the demographic shifts that left McCain-Palin with decisive wins only among voters over age 60 and towns with populations under 50,000. Or you can look at my emergency telegram from John McCain.
For the uninitiated—and that would be anyone under 60—telegrams were the instant-message of the horse and buggy era, the Internet boom of the 1850s.
Telegrams don’t exist any more. Western Union sent its last telegram without much fanfare in 2006, after modern technology (beginning with the telephone) left it nothing more than a sentimental novelty.
But nostalgia is apparently alive and well at the RNC. They’ve been sending these same fundraising letters since at least the 1970s, when a portion of the population could still equate “telegram” with “urgent.”
Technology Gap - John Avlon @ The Daily Beast
Pricelessly (and tellingly) a source interviewed for this article goes on to describe McCain's election strategy as "...trying to scare the Abe Simpson vote."
And: on Meetup.com, McCain was not only comprehensively outdone by Obama, but in sheer numbers, by Bob Barr!
If you participate in enough graft, the interests cancel each other out
Depressingly, he also "earned at least $1.3 million from 2000 to 2007 giving marketing lectures for drugmakers" without disclosing this income--or the potential conflict of interest that it represents--to his listeners, his syndicators, or NPR:
He's hardly alone in the research community, where influential academic researchers can earn sneaker endorsement-sized secondary incomes for lending their imprimatur to the pill, powder or potion du jour:Dr. Goodwin’s weekly radio programs have often touched on subjects important to the commercial interests of the companies for which he consults. In a program broadcast on Sept. 20, 2005, he warned that children with bipolar disorder who were left untreated could suffer brain damage, a controversial view.“But as we’ll be hearing today,” Dr. Goodwin told his audience, “modern treatments — mood stabilizers in particular — have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children.”That same day, GlaxoSmithKline paid Dr. Goodwin $2,500 to give a promotional lecture for its mood stabilizer drug, Lamictal, at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. In all, GlaxoSmithKline paid him more than $329,000 that year for promoting Lamictal, records given to Congressional investigators show.
Radio Host Has Drug Company Ties (New York Times, 21 November 2008)In October, [Senator Charles] Grassley [of Iowa] revealed that Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff of Emory University, an influential psychiatric researcher, earned more than $2.8 million in consulting arrangements with drugmakers from 2000 to 2007, failed to report at least $1.2 million of that income to his university and violated federal research rules. As a result, the National Institutes of Health suspended a $9.3 million research grant to Emory, and Dr. Nemeroff gave up his chairmanship of Emory’s psychiatry department.In June, the senator revealed that Dr. Joseph Biederman of Harvard, whose work has fueled an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children, had earned at least $1.6 million from drugmakers from 2000 to 2007, and failed to report most of this income to Harvard.
“More than 10 years ago, when he and I got involved in this effort, it didn’t occur to me that my doing what every other expert in the field does might be considered a conflict of interest,” Dr. Goodwin said.
He defended the views he expressed in many of his radio programs and said that, because he consulted for so many drugmakers at once, he had no particular bias.
“These companies compete with each other and cancel each other out,” he said.
Lovely. If you're on the take from enough different sources, that makes it all right... and hey, everybody's doing it!
21 November 2008
The Urban Jungle Book
Shere Khan, let me rock you, let me rock you, Shere Khan...Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson welcomed a baby son late Thursday night. The 7 lbs, 11 oz. baby was named Bronx Mowgli Wentz.
The inexorable sadness of pencils
Kafka of the Cubicle - Washington Post, 21 November 2008The American poet Theodore Roethke called it "the inexorable sadness of pencils." It's the desolation of time lost and dreams forsaken while sitting in an office.Japanese office workers know that sadness in their bones. Millions of them linger dutifully at their desks until well past 10 p.m.
Now they have their own poet.
He is Makoto Yoshitani, a 30-year-old systems engineer who himself lingers late into the evening in an office in Tokyo, where he customizes accounting software for corporate clients.
Sometime after 10 p.m., Yoshitani goes home, stays up late with pen and ink and transforms office indignities into dolorous pop art that is part Dilbert, part Kafka, part symbolic self-immolation.
19 November 2008
Worst case scenario: Suddenly homeless and broke
My answers:Imagine you just lost all your possessions and money, and you were suddenly living in the streets.1. What’s the first move you would make?2. What’s the first organization you would turn to?3. What would your extended plan look like?
(1) The Campbells travel as a family, so I hope I'd have my wife with me, even in those dire circumstances. The thought of being separated from her while living in luxury is much more disturbing than the thought of being together in abject poverty.
Assuming that I was in full possession of my faculties (big assumption) I would start at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (food and water, clothing, shelter, personal safety) and start clawing my way up from zero: priority one is find a job, any job, ideally one that paid cash but I'd work for food cheerfully at first. I would do whatever was necessary to not be *living* on the street.
If I had friends or family that I could reach--and hadn't alienated in the process of losing all my money and possessions, such as with a drug habit or highly offensive behavior caused by the sudden onset of severe mental illness--I am confident that enough members of my social network would step up to give me some kind of boost.
(2) First organization I'd reach out to: A church (synagogue, mosque, Hare Krishna temple, etc.) I don't think my religious beliefs (Deist/New Mysterian with heavy Judeo-Christian traditional overtones) would qualify me as a believer under anyone's system, but just because I don't believe in their concept of God, doesn't mean I don't believe in the goodness of some *people who believe in God.* Close second would be to throw myself to the mercy of whatever social welfare programs I could locate.
(3) Extended plan: Leverage my network, if any remains (see #1 above) and work hard on extending it. Get the job that will get me the job that will get me the job that I want. Work like a bastard for long hours at whatever pay I can get. Take every opportunity to learn, and teach, and contribute however I can.
What You See Is All You Get
WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") word processors, which show you an accurate screen-based simulation of exactly what you'll see on the printed page, have ruled the roost since the advent of the Macintosh user interface and the ascendancy of its vastly more popular copycat edition, Microsoft Windows.
The most popular WYSIWYG word processor on the market today is Microsoft Word. Word is absolutely great for casual users but absolute hell on professional writers.
(Word is designed for people who don't know much about computers, and makes it easy for them to write short, simple documents like letters and brief reports. Ask any writer who works with complex documents about their experiences using Word, and you'll hear war stories, I guarantee it. Formatting nightmares. Corrupted documents and style sheets. I could go on. Oh man, could I ever go on.)
WYSIWYG has not always been so dominant. And for some of us, it still isn't: technical and academic writers have very different needs from casual word processing users. Tech writers regularly produce long documents (with complex structures and lots of graphics) on the job. And so even today, in the WYSIWYG era, many writers who work with long, complex documents prefer to use markup-language based systems, which completely separate content from formatting.
HTML, the basic markup language of the Web, is an example of a markup language that most people (who would hang out at this blog) are at least a little familiar with.
The advantages of a markup language are many, but chief among them: you can take the same source document and spit it out in a bunch of different formats without altering the source.
And mysterious, unexplainable problems that crop up in (say) Word documents just don't occur.
Among commercial products these days, the best examples of markup language-based publishing systems would be Adobe FrameMaker 8 and MadCap Flare. Both of these systems use XML. (There are many, many free, open-source implementations of XML, but these products are more like Erector sets than authoring and publishing systems; you have to figure out and customize a great deal of the workflow yourself.)
I use FrameMaker, and I'm evaluating Flare.
But as the saying goes, you never forget your first.
Let me, at this point, wax nostalgic for a moment about Sprint.
No, no, not the phone company - Borland Sprint, the best PC-based word processor it has ever been my pleasure to use.
Sprint, based on an award-winning early markup language called Scribe, was so far ahead of its time that it's not funny.
Unfortunately, it arrived on the US market just as the Mac and then Windows were taking off like rockets, and WYSIWYG, that pixel-painted hussy, led the unwashed masses down the garden path with its fancy interface and seductive graphics. :-)
But for one brief shining moment - ok, a couple of years - I got to produce documents using the nicest PC-based system a professional writer could hope for.
The Wikipedia article on Sprint lists some of the product's features - and they do not exaggerate, not one little bit:
Crash-proof: Sprint [had] incremental back-up, with the swap file updated every 3 seconds, enabling full recovery from crashes. At trade shows, demos were made with one person pulling out the power cord, and the typist resuming work as soon as the machine restarted. Swap files could also be saved separately and transferred between machines.Not only was it a superior system for its time, you could still do useful, professional work with it today... since you could output to PostScript, a PDF is only a step away.
Spell-as-you-type: With this feature, Sprint could beep at you in real time when detecting a typo. (MS-Word needed almost ten years to have the red snakes under the suspect words.)
Multilingual editing: Sprint included dictionary switching, support for hyphenation, and spelling and thesaurus dictionaries that have yet to be matched by the competitors.
Separate formatter and programmable editor: These have been very useful features for corporate environments aiming at standardizing documents or building "boilerplate" contracts. In France, for example, sophisticated applications were built for Banques Populaires (loan contracts) or Conseil d'Etat, while some local government agencies created specific applications for tenders and contracts.
Powerful programming language: Programming in Sprint is done with the internal language of the word processor - a language which is very much like C.
Programmers have the ability to "get under the hood" and to add modifications and extensions to an extent not possible with other word processors. Once written, Sprint programs are compiled into the interface, and run at full speed.
Interface switching: Modifications and extensions to Sprint can be saved into separate interfaces which can be easily and quickly switched. This is very useful for people working in different languages, as the keys can be mapped to the accents and characters of each language, depending on the interface.
File handling: Users can work in up to 24 files at once.
Handling large documents: Sprint has the ability to publish very large documents (hundreds of pages) with strict formatting consistency and automatic table of contents, index generation, tables of figures, and tables of authorities. These features made Sprint a leader in the production of technical documents - and Borland itself did all its manuals on Sprint, for years.
PostScript capabilities: Sprint could print in-line EPS images with dimensioning, and also had the ability to add in-line PostScript procedures. This made the product rather popular in the printing industry. For example, making a 200 page novel fit into 192 pages was simply a matter of changing the point size from 11 to 10.56. Sprint could size by 0.04 increment and scale the line spacing and kerning accordingly. (The 192 pages size is important in the printing industry, where the number of pages often has to be dividable by 32. A 200-pages book would have to be printed using 224 pages, the extra 24 pages being empty.)
If only I could get my hands on a copy.
Well, would you look at that.
Uncle Mark helps you with all your holiday gift-giving needs
I'm happy to announce the new Uncle Mark 2009 Gift Guide and Almanac available for download, right now: download it here.If you have read Uncle Mark in the past (this is the sixth year!), you'll still find new material in this year's guide, such as...
• my favorite iPhone apps
• a new board game pick
• new items and gifts for new parents
• two new documentaries to watch
If you're not familiar with Uncle Mark, here's the deal: I review all the major consumer technology products and give my ONE favorite pick in each category... not the "17 coolest cameras" or whatever, but the ONE product that I recommend. The guide concludes with an Almanac section where I say whatever comes to mind, mostly tips and tricks that I can't fit anywhere else.
Please do share the guide: print it, e-mail it, forward it, and pass it along. If you have a coworker, friend, or loved one who needs a clue about today's technology choices, just hand them Uncle Mark 2009.
Get it here: http://unclemark.org/unclemark2009.pdf
You can also tell a friend.
17 November 2008
Smokin' the good stuff
Letter from Central Texas - By Meat Alone: The Best Texas Barbecue In The World (Calvin Trillin, writing in The New Yorker)...Snow’s BBQ turned out to have the sort of layout found in a place like Kreuz Market, except in miniature. It’s a small dark-red building that has room for a counter and six tables—with a few more tables outside, near the cast-iron smokers that in Texas are referred to as pits, even if they’re not in the ground. A sign listed what meats were available, all for $8.45 a pound: sausage, brisket, pork, pork ribs, and chicken. The sides offered were “Mrs. Patschke’s homemade coleslaw and potato salad,” plus free beans. There were only a couple of people ahead of us in line.
Burka stepped up to the counter to order.“Are there five of you?” the young woman slicing the meat asked, as Burka tried to figure out how many pounds we needed.
“Well,” Burka said, glancing at Evan Smith. “Four, really. One is . . . he has a big meal coming up.”
“You’re ashamed of your friend,” I whispered to Burka. “You’ve abandoned him.”
“I just couldn’t say the V-word,” Burka said. He looked sheepish—not, I would guess, a normal look for him.
The "V word", in case you hadn't figured it out - "vegetarian."
Hat tip: deVille
Breaking up is hard to do
Found today while looking up something else: an absolutely fascinating (and long!) list of currently active autonomist and secessionist movements, including some here in the US.
Sure, because of the recent news coverage related to Sarah Palin, you might have become aware of the Alaskan Independence Party... but this was the first I'd heard of the proposal for the Free State of Tri-Insula (the three islands being Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island...)
New York magazine picked the idea up and ran with it (tongues planted firmly in cheek) in 2004:
The Independent Republic of New York (New York magazine, August 2, 2004)
Consider: If New York were its own country, its army, the New York City Police Department, would be the twentieth-best-funded army in the world, just behind Greece and just ahead of North Korea. Its GDP, $413.9 billion, would be the seventeenth largest, just behind the Russian Federation and just ahead of Switzerland. With more than 8 million residents, it would be more populous than Ireland, Switzerland, or New Zealand; roughly half the countries in the Middle East (including Israel); most of the former republics of the Soviet Union; and all the Scandinavian countries besides Sweden.
New York is already an island off the coast of the United States. And its mayors already act like heads of state. When terrorists first tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, David Dinkins was in Osaka. When Rudolph Giuliani was in Gracie Mansion, he entertained Tony Blair and threw Yasser Arafat out of Avery Fisher Hall. “Every time a leader came to City Hall,” says Jerome Hauer, the former director of the Office of Emergency Management, “people at the State Department started taking Maalox.”
The idea of secession has been suggested before, and it has always been dismissed as patently inane. (So now we need passports to go to the Hamptons? How would we get our water, our electricity, our Social Security? Are we supposed to form a navy?) What is interesting, though, is how persistent the fantasy of secession remains in the New York imagination—how intuitively logical it seems, how tantalizing and how real, and how quickly everyone grasps the concept. “It’s impossible, but it’s not crazy to think about,” says Leslie H. Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, “especially given that the city is chronically shortchanged by Washington and Albany and yet still retains financial strength and the great creativity of its citizens.”
After contemptuously dismissing the idea, even the crustiest, crankiest city officials will say that, yes, the Democratic Republic of New York is a very interesting place to contemplate. How fabulous our national anthem would be. How cool our currency, the york, would look. Vera Wang could design our flags, Groucho Marx would be on our stamps; we’d all agree not to have a national bird (sorry, pigeon). Bill Clinton could be president again—assuming, after eight years of presiding over the Free World, he has the patience to worry about potholes—though Ed Koch jokes he’d volunteer for the job, adding he’d name an international airport after himself and call it EIK.
Before Amazon, there was Scholastic
Man, I was a happy little geek when the Scholastic book shipment arrived. I get a much milder variant of that buzz whenever a box from Amazon appears at my office, but it’s not the same. :-)
Back in the day we had to bring forms home for our parents to sign, and return them with a check. These days, of course, it's all online.
Nostalgia for the Scholastic Book Club, circa 60s and 70s (Flickr photoset)
Hat tip: Chap
"Meh" enters the dictionary
At least someone is excited about "meh."
The expression of indifference or boredom has gained a place in the Collins English Dictionary after generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm among lexicographers.
The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.
"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.
The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."
'Meh': Apathetic expression enters dictionary (Associated Press via Yahoo! News)
Idiom Police, sir. I'm going to have to place you under arrest.
[Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility] said that if Obama cuts Pentagon spending, he will not have to work hard to help the other six agencies [Labor, Housing and Urban Development, veterans Affairs, TSA, EPA and the Social Security Administration in addition to Defense].Source: Obama Wrote Federal Staffers About His Goals (Washington Post, 17 November 2008)"These domestic discretionary programs are peanuts in the grand scale of things," Ruch said. "A small diversion from the Iraq conflict, if they were put into Interior, EPA or NASA, those agencies would be in their salad days. The National Park Service is laboring under a [maintenance] backlog that would be cured by a month and a half of Iraq expenditures."
Leaving aside the very interesting questions of budget allocation between and among various bits of the Federal government: with increased funding, the agencies would be in their "salad days"?
No, no... or at least, let's hope not.
"Salad days" is Shakespearean in its elegant origins, and refers to a time when one is "green in judgment" -- in other words, youthful, inexperienced, callow, enthusiastic:
CLEOPATRA: My salad days,With enough diverted Federal funding, the career employees of the various Federal agencies would be in fat city, in high cotton, aboard the gravy train, etc.
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I'll unpeople Egypt.
(Anthony and Cleopatra - Act I, Scene V)
But not, please, in their salad days.
15 November 2008
Thought for the day
Sometimes the mind, for reasons we don't necessarily understand, just decides to go to the store for a quart of milk.- Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider (executive producers of, and writers for, Northern Exposure)
Global West Village
Well, in the context of how small businesspeople are hurting in the credit crunch, actually.
Small business [sic] such as the Jefferson Market, in Manhattan, will be among the first to fall.
Angelo Montuori, who owns a grocery shop in the market, says his store is almost empty most days.
He says that after a very slow summer, he does not have the money to re-stock and is looking to the banks for help.
"If we get the credit, we get the merchandise, I think everything will work out fine. Most of out customers are loyal here. They come in now and say I hope you make it," Montuori told Al Jazeera.
"The problem is, bankers aren't lending new money in case they don't get it back as more and more businesses are beginning to show signs of failing."
"If we can't get the merchandise it will be very difficult ... and we need a lot of merchandise."
Al-Jazeera English - Europe - Stocks climb on hopes of US bailout
I'm betting that Al-Jazeera's New York correspondent either lives in my nabe or knows someone who does pretty well... Jeff Market is a wonderful place, but definitely of local interest (usually) only.
See also... Photo gallery: Jefferson Market in happier times @ nymag.org
Socialism? You're soaking in it...
"Socialism"? It's already here - George F. Will, Washington Post, 15 November 2008Conservatism's current intellectual chaos reverberated in the Republican ticket's end-of-campaign crescendo of surreal warnings that big government -- verily, "socialism" -- would impend were Democrats elected. John McCain and Sarah Palin experienced this epiphany when Barack Obama told a Toledo plumber that he would "spread the wealth around."America can't have that, exclaimed the Republican ticket while Republicans -- whose prescription drug entitlement is the largest expansion of the welfare state since President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society gave birth to Medicare in 1965; and a majority of whom in Congress supported a lavish farm bill at a time of record profits for the less than 2 percent of the American people-cum-corporations who farm -- and their administration were partially nationalizing the banking system, putting Detroit on the dole and looking around to see if some bit of what is smilingly called "the private sector" has been inadvertently left off the ever-expanding list of entities eligible for a bailout from the $1 trillion or so that is to be "spread around."The seepage of government into everywhere is, we are assured, to be temporary and nonpolitical. Well.
14 November 2008
Who do they think reads this blog?
13 November 2008
Loans built to self-destruct
...[T]he scarcity of truly crappy subprime-mortgage bonds no longer mattered. The big Wall Street firms had just made it possible to short even the tiniest and most obscure subprime-mortgage-backed bond by creating, in effect, a market of side bets. Instead of shorting the actual BBB bond, you could now enter into an agreement for a credit-default swap with Deutsche Bank or Goldman Sachs. It cost money to make this side bet, but nothing like what it cost to short the stocks, and the upside was far greater.The End of Wall Street's Boom - Portfolio (11 November 2008)
The arrangement bore the same relation to actual finance as fantasy football bears to the N.F.L. Eisman was perplexed in particular about why Wall Street firms would be coming to him and asking him to sell short. “What Lippman did, to his credit, was he came around several times to me and said, ‘Short this market,’ ” Eisman says. “In my entire life, I never saw a sell-side guy come in and say, ‘Short my market.’”
And short Eisman did—then he tried to get his mind around what he’d just done so he could do it better. He’d call over to a big firm and ask for a list of mortgage bonds from all over the country. The juiciest shorts—the bonds ultimately backed by the mortgages most likely to default—had several characteristics. They’d be in what Wall Street people were now calling the sand states: Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada. The loans would have been made by one of the more dubious mortgage lenders; Long Beach Financial, wholly owned by Washington Mutual, was a great example. Long Beach Financial was moving money out the door as fast as it could, few questions asked, in loans built to self-destruct. It specialized in asking homeowners with bad credit and no proof of income to put no money down and defer interest payments for as long as possible. In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.
Real-life Rube Goldberg machine
Best Rube Goldberg Ever - Watch more free videos
Hat tip: Greg
The fact-checker as endangered species
A Senior Fellow at the Institute of Nonexistence (New York Times, 13 Nov 2008)It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.[...][The hoaxsters] say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish, 40.
Hat tip: Carrie (and special notice to enrevanche regular wtf, who managed to post this in the comments before I had a chance to blog it this morning!)
Related: The Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy
She and I are absolutely prepared to make reckless, ill-considered loans using other peoples' money to any applicant with a pulse, so we've got all the intellectual and moral firepower needed to operate as a modern banking institution, clearly.
Chow Bella is already very good at begging for treats, so we've got our government liaison right there.
But how to get our application for aid in front of the right people? Anyone have Neal Kashkari's cell phone number?
Oh, wait -- we can just download this form and fill it out (PDF link to ustreas.gov website).
Be right with you.
12 November 2008
Aux armes, citoyens!
I must have watched Casablanca forty times by now, and this scene always sends a cold chill up my spine.
Only a couple of people in the world that I'm still in touch with know that I'm actually thinking of chapel services in elementary school when I watch it.
It was an educationally progressive parochial school (for its time and place) and French was being taught as a second language starting in kindergarten. In North Carolina, in the early 1970s, this was apparently a very big deal.
Every day in chapel service for quite some time, it seemed, we were singing La Marseillaise.
And pumping our tiny fists in the air as we screeched "Aux armes, citoyens!" as firmly instructed to do by our teachers (and the headmaster.)
Surreal scene. And a funny old world, that I can see Paul Henreid belting out the French national anthem with Ingrid Bergman looking on worriedly but adoringly, and it evokes memories from circa age 7 or 8.
11 November 2008
Another "how he did it" article
Ten Reasons Why Obama Won -- Carl Cannon @ ReadersDigest.comThe best, most thorough, and most straightforward account of how Obama did it appears, aptly enough, on the website of Reader’s Digest, written by my friend and former colleague Carl Cannon.
This is so meta, and I've always wanted to do this...
The Reader's Digest version of a story on Reader's Digest:
I. John McCain’s age: It turned out that this factor trumped race.
II. The shrinking Republican brand
III: Candidate Obama really was ‘The One’: Charisma comparable to JFK or a young Reagan.
IV: Young voters fell for Obama early—and stayed with him
V: Democrats closed the “technology gap”—and then some: Politics 2.0, and it was owned by young people, Democrats, and the Obama campaign.
VI: Money talks: This is a campaign that raised in excess of $600 million—more than it needed, more than it could spend...
VII: Intangible reason Number 1 (international opinion):In the Netherlands, 92 percent for Obama, 8 percent McCain. In Germany, 85 percent to 7 percent. This phenomenon wasn’t only present in western Europe. It existed in Asia (Taiwan’s preference was 81 percent for Obama to 6 percent for McCain.) It was true in South America, as Brazil's numbers were 78 percent to 11. It was found in Australia, a predominately white nation and member of President Bush’s “coalition of the willing”—where Obama was favored over McCain 76 percent to 10 percent.
VIII: Intangible reason Number 2; the "Bradley Backlash"
IX: The sour mood of the electorate.
X: The global economic crisis.
Yeah, sounds like something a bunch of engineers would come up with
WRALSportsFan.com: New N.C. State student ticket policy rewards passionate basketball fansLast season, the drawings for the 3,500 student tickets [for N.C. State Wolfpack men's basketball games] in the RBC Center were random. Student surveys showed, however, that the students wanted a way to reward passionate fans and give upperclassmen a better shot at the tickets.Now, a point system is in place. Seniors and graduate students start with five points, juniors four, sophomores three and freshmen two. Students get an additional point each time they attend a game.So a senior who attends every game is at the top of the priority list – and first in line for midcourt seats – against rivals like North Carolina and Duke."If you are a senior or junior and you attend all the [non-conference] games, there is a great chance you will be sitting mid-court for ACC games, instead of having to watch at home because you missed out on the lottery," Student Body President Jay Dawkins said in a statement.
I wonder how they'll measure game attendance? Still, this sounds like an idea worth trying. One of the big perks of going to college at UNC were the student tickets to basketball games, and I attended quite a few.
Now that I've graduated (cough, cough) the price to get in line to buy season tickets for UNC basketball games is $5,000 per year (ticket prices not included)... and the price to be sure is closer to $15,000 per year.
Virtually all of the games are on TV. :-)
Street with a (point of) view
Google’s Street View feature has captured private moments before, but “Street with a View” is the first example of public art we’ve seen that was designed specifically to be documented by Google’s roving cameras, and viewed online through Street View.
For “Street with a View,” artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley enlisted the help of a full cast of artists and performers to set up a series of tableaux—including a parade, a sword fight, a rooftop escape, and a perplexing giant chicken—along Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They then invited Google to drive through the scene and immortalize it in its Street View feature.
GOOD magazine: The Most Exciting Street In The World (10 November 2008)
Related: "Street With a View" project
Yes, some tube socks and fried dough would be just the thing at 9 o'clock in the morning
Have you lost your freaking minds? People work for a living down here. Nobody wants to buy your shoddily-made cheap-ass clothing and eat the deep-fried dogshit that the food stands are dishing out at the "festival."
Kindly adjust your perspective.
That is all.
09 November 2008
Thought for the day
One of my kids used to attend a school where their all-purpose mantra for proper behavior was "Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Legal." In our household, we have bastardized that as our all-purpose sendoff when someone goes out the door: "Be safe, be kinda legal." - posted by DawnSimulator at 2:15 PM on November 7 [10 favorites]What Are Your Examples of Family Jargon? (Ask Metafilter)
Vanishing skills department
You know what? They're right.
Dad tied either a half or full Windsor knot, and that's what I tied for years and years.
the Bros' computer-based training program has inspired me to improve my own sartorial chops.
I may be ready to try the (real, non-clip-on) bow tie again.
Thank you, I'll be here all week, be sure to tip your waitress
Tom Friedman: "Show Me the Money," New York Times, 9 November 2008So, I was speaking to an Iranian friend about what a mind-bending thing it must be for people in the Middle East to see Americans, seven years after 9/11, electing someone named Barack Hussein Obama as president. America is surely the only nation that could — in the same decade — go to war against a president named Hussein (Saddam of Iraq), threaten to use force against a country whose most revered religious martyr is named Hussein (Iran) and then elect its own president who’s middle-named Hussein.
Is this a great country or what?
Up in Indiana where the tall corn grows
Quinn Buckner laughed as soon as he heard the premise of the question.
"It's way too early to be talking about this," said Buckner, one of the stars of college basketball's last unbeaten national champion, Indiana's 1975-76 team that went 32-0.
The topic was North Carolina and whether the Tar Heels can replace the Hoosiers as the most recent unblemished champion.
North Carolina was the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll, fueling the chatter that has existed since several key Heels spurned the NBA draft and returned to Chapel Hill.
They return all five starters, including national Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough, and key reserves from a team that went 36-3 and reached the Final Four. Additionally, they add one of the nation's highest-rated recruiting classes, including 7-foot McDonald's All-American Tyler Zeller from Washington, Ind.
All pieces in place for No. 1 North Carolina to chase perfection (Indianapolis Star, 9 November 2008)
If it hasn't made the news in Indianapolis yet, it will soon: Tyler Hansbrough is out for an undetermined time with a "stress reaction condition" (the precursor to a stress fracture, one imagines?) in his shin.
Hansbrough's absence didn't deter the Tar Heels in their first outing against... uh... UNC-Pembroke.
...designed for collaborative, practical, self-empowered survival
Mission Statement: To increase the Darwinian fitness of the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-energy, internet-enabled velociraptor with content designed for collaborative, practical, self-empowered survival....from the One Velociraptor Per Child (OVPC) Initiative's web site
Oh, man, big chunks of this are just irresistible to quote. I'll stop after this one, or we'll be here all day:
The XD is trained using free and open-source techniques. Our commitment to freedom gives children the opportunity to interact [with] their velociraptors on their own terms. While we do not expect every child to become a trainer, we do not want any ceiling imposed on those children who choose to retrain their dinosaurs. We are using openly documented psychological techniques for much the same reason: transparency is empowering. The children - and their elders - will have the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their behavioral conditioning skills.A tip of the enrevanche chapeau to Chap.
08 November 2008
The lover speaks
Oh, we had so many beautiful years together. Sometimes I made you mad. Often, I moved you. But we always made up.Paul Farhi of the Washington Post, writing a memo from a newspaper to its readers, at Poynter Online
And then a few years ago you rewarded my loyalty by straying. You went elsewhere. You sought the company of others who, you thought, gave you something that I could not. Fickle and faithless, you went looking for something faster, newer and younger.
I wondered, incessantly, had I failed you? Was it me?
And then one day this week, You wanted me again. Hungrily. Desperately. You searched everywhere for me. You lined up outside my door, stood in the rain and cold, on the chance that I would be available to You again.
And I wasn't there. How ironic!
Finally, You recognized something in me again. Something that had been dormant all these years. That You needed me.
That You needed to hold me again. If only for one special day.
Hat tip: Carrie
Gene-therapy treatments for AIDS sighted on the horizon
A Doctor, a Mutation, and a Potential Cure for AIDS (Wall Street Journal, 7 November 2008)
The startling case of an AIDS patient who underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia is stirring new hope that gene-therapy strategies on the far edges of AIDS research might someday cure the disease.
The patient, a 42-year-old American living in Berlin, is still recovering from his leukemia therapy, but he appears to have won his battle with AIDS. Doctors have not been able to detect the virus in his blood for more than 600 days, despite his having ceased all conventional AIDS medication. Normally when a patient stops taking AIDS drugs, the virus stampedes through the body within weeks, or days.
"I was very surprised," said the doctor, Gero Hütter.
The breakthrough appears to be that Dr. Hütter, a soft-spoken hematologist who isn't an AIDS specialist, deliberately replaced the patient's bone marrow cells with those from a donor who has a naturally occurring genetic mutation that renders his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Photoshop interface physicalized
as real as it gets posted by wandaaaa on Flickr
taa-daa ... print and poster work for software-asli.com
agency : Bates141 Jakarta
creative director : Hendra Lesmono
art director : Andreas Junus & Irawandhani Kamarga
copywriter : Darrick Subrata
photgrapher : Anton Ismael
I'm so relieved
Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!
Could You Pass 8th Grade Science?
Unreasonably great expectations
Great Expectations of Barack Obama (lead story to The Economist cover package, 6 November 2008)With such a great victory come unreasonably great expectations. Many of Mr Obama’s more ardent supporters will be let down—and in some cases they deserve to be. For those who voted for him with their eyes wide open to his limitations, everything now depends on how he governs. Abroad, this 21st-century president will have to grapple with the sort of great-power rivalries last seen in the 19th century (see article). At home, he must try to unite his country, tackling its economic ills while avoiding the pitfalls of one-party rule. Rhetoric and symbolism will still be useful in this; but now is the turn of detail and dedication.Mr Obama begins with several advantages. At 47, he is too young to have been involved in the bitter cultural wars about Vietnam. And by winning support from a big majority of independents, and even from a fair few Republicans, he makes it possible to imagine a return to a more reflective time when political opponents were not regarded as traitors and collaboration was something to be admired.Oddly, he may be helped by the fact that, in the end, his victory was slightly disappointing. He won around 52% of the popular vote, more than Mr Bush in 2000 and 2004, but not a remarkable number; this was no Roosevelt or Reagan landslide. And though Mr Obama helped his party cement its grip on Congress, gaining around 20 seats in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate, the haul in the latter chamber falls four short of the 60 needed to break filibusters and pass controversial legislation without Republican support (though recounts may add another seat, or even two). Given how much more money Mr Obama raised, the destruction of the Republican brand under Mr Bush and the effects of the worst financial crisis for 70 years, the fact that 46% of people voted against the Democrat is a reminder of just what a conservative place America still is. Mr Obama is the first northern liberal to be elected president since John Kennedy; he must not forget how far from the political centre of the country that puts him.
07 November 2008
A rich vein the Republican party is ignoring
Cato@Liberty.org: A sweeping rejection of President BushCommentators who talk about whether the Republican party moved too far to the right, or too far to the center, miss the point. There are different kinds of “right.” See this New York Times graphic on independent voters, which picks up on some of the themes we’ve talked about in our work on libertarian voters. Lots of independents — as well as voters who identify with one of the major parties — hold broadly libertarian, or “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” views. A lot of those voters moved from voting Republican to voting Democratic between 2000 and 2006, and it looks like they did so again this year.As we had predicted, Republicans racked up further losses in the most libertarian parts of the country, such as New Hampshire and the Mountain West. Obama won affluent, educated voters and professionals. And if conservative Republicans continue to respond to the loss of educated voters by declaring themselves proud to be “real Americans” who don’t care much for book learning and Darwinism and elite stuff, they will only accelerate the process.Big-government conservatism, a toxic combination of the religious right and the neoconservatives, lost badly on Tuesday. But the voters didn’t give a ringing endorsement to big-government liberalism. Fifty-nine percent of voters call themselves “fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” and that’s a rich vein the Republican party is ignoring. If Obama governs as a centrist, he may make it very difficult for the Republicans to recover. But a candidate in either party who presented himself as a product of the social freedom of the Sixties and the economic freedom of the Eighties would be tapping into a market that both parties have yet to nail down.