Tuesday, November 30

Civilization As We Know It Is Corrupt

Civilization as we know it is corrupt. It may be doomed; there are plenty of omens. Its foundations are rat-eaten, its towers go up unsteadily into lowering clouds where drone the hidden battleplanes. But it can, and does, supply its young daughters with luxuries at prices they can afford. No woman need be dowdy, or shabbily genteel. While she has a few shillings to spend on clothes, she can buy something pretty and cheerful. This may not be much, but it is something. Tomorrow we die; but at least we danced in silver shoes."

Shut Up

The truth always sounds fantastic. The Hermit, with his lack of responsibilities, his interest in everyone's affairs, and his admiration of himself, was the happiest person in the neighbourhood. If only it weren't for them bloody birds. 'Ow they did go on, waking you up at five o'clock in the morning, shrieking and hollering after dinner when you wanted a doss. Then there was that one that went on 'alf the night, as though all day wasn't enough. Skizz! He viciously whizzed a stone in the direction of a dazzling song among the water-rooted hazels, and out darted a small brown bird, singing as he flew away. "Gar," muttered the Hermit. "Shut up."

Subtle Chekhovian Currents

As for Hetty, she was wondering if she should ask Viola what it was like to live at The Eagles? but she decided not to, because it was plain that although Viola was a girl with much natural charm, she was also a girl with much natural silliness, who would think The Eagles a boring place and be quite unconscious of the subtle Chekhovian currents that moved sluggishly through its dark silent rooms. I expect she would love the kind of existence we lead at home, which is about as subtle as a pie-dish and far less useful, thought Hetty. Not that I ought to grumble.
Hetty goes on to acknowledge her good fortune, but in describing a party that fascinates Viola, thinks
All their food, eaten in circumstances unheightened by the imagination, was excellent, and all of it tasted the same to her. Food only became interesting when it was symbolic, or when it was eaten to the music of witty talk, or by brave men in danger, by true poets who were starving.

You Just Wait

like most very young people, she found it difficult, almost impossible, to admit that she was unhappy to somebody old. Old people (she dimly felt) were so beastly pleased when you said you were fed-up. Ah, their faces said, so life isn't all roses and honey, after all, you see! Just because you're twenty-one, you needn't think you'll escape. You'll learn. You just wait.

Betrayed By What Is False Within

When Viola remarks that it's difficult for the old Hermit to carve well, Hetty responds:

"Oh, he actually sells his carvings sometimes to motorists, so it is not so funny as it appears. He stands at the crossroads on Sundays with a tray from Woolworth's round his neck and the carvings on it, and the motorists, lured by his unusual appearance, pause, and are betrayed by what is false within — namely, their own taste."

"But they aren't very good, are they?" in a whisper.

"They are more bad than the eye inexperienced in bad carvings would conceive it possible for carvings to be," drawled Hetty, "but I imagine that the motorists are amazed that an object can be made by the hands alone, because all the objects which they encounter in their daily lives are made by a machine or emerge from a tin. They are so amazed that they assume that an object made by the hand alone is necessarily worth having, and so they buy it."

"They are so amazed that they assume that an object made by the hand alone is necessarily worth having, and so they buy it." Even in 1938, people were suckers for "handmade" crap.

Monday, November 29

Worn Paths

Thoughts, quietly sad as she imagined the thoughts of the old must be, rose uselessly in her mind. They were all familiar to her, like worn paths; she experienced anger and boredom even while the well-known train unfolded.

after her mind wanders down the "worn paths" of having a career or of loving one's family:
I wonder why (this path was so worn that she turned from it, in sick impatience, even as the thought came up) I've never had anyone in love with me? Other women do, not half as nice-looking as I am. Of course, I've always wanted love very much; real love, for keeps, not just an affair, and I'm sure that puts men off. They hate you to be serious.
After some misgivings, she gives in to her desire to take driving lessons from the family chauffeur Saxon:
Tina had stopped trying to be honest with herself, put Selene's Daughters [a psychology book that she's using to try to understand herself] away in a drawer, and decided to be — not honest perhaps — but certainly sensible.

Sunday, November 28

Rubbishy Books By Immoral Highbrow Authors

Mrs. Spring reflects on her niece, who lives with her:
...Hetty had taken after her father's side, the unsuccessful (that is, poor) Franklins who were all teachers and parsons and librarians, and as dull as ditch-water, with their noses in books, their socks in holes and their finances in muddles. Hetty was a disappointment. All that Mrs. Spring could do with Hetty was to let Victor see that her investments did not go down, while she herself chose her clothes and tried to marry her off....Hetty was also a discontented, queer girl whom nothing pleased but rubbishy books by immoral highbrow authors...

As for Hetty, she had not the courage to say so, but she considered the life she led at Grassmere to be tedious, futile, and coarse.

Having one's nature deepened by tragedy

In Nightingale wood, Stella Gibbons writes
I must get a better job, thought Saxon, running lightly downstairs with his waisted jacket over one arm, but he did not think it dramatically or tragically; he thought it with impatient common sense. Neither he nor his mother were tragic people; tragedy overtook them, but it did not deepen their natures, because it found no answer therein. The long-drawn tragedy of his father's life had made Saxon, not bitter and humiliated, but self-respecting and ambitious.
I didn't entirely understand this any better than the Aristotelian view of tragedy that I came across before. For example, as George R. Noyes wrote of those who view Oedipus Tyrannus or Agamemnon
By the excitation of such lofty passions our own purely human emotions are purged of disturbing elements, are deepened and purified.
Personally, I could do without it, and when I see others engaged in frivolities or purely concerning themselves with superficialities, I envy them.

Thursday, November 25

How to make more people die

On November 23, Michelle Higgins wrote,

The Federal Aviation Administration agrees with the safety board that a child is safer when belted into a child restraint system, or CRS, and states on its Web site that “keeping a child in a CRS or device during the flight is the smart and right thing to do.”

But the F.A.A. continues to turn down the child seat request. The rationale? It maintains that doing so would require families — now accustomed to children under 2 years old flying free if they sit in a parent’s lap — to pay for the extra seat. That cost, the F.A.A. surmises, would cause some families to revert to car travel, which is less safe. “Consequently,” states the agency in its latest response to the safety board, “entire families would be subject to far higher fatality rates, which would produce a net increase in overall transportation fatalities.”

On November 18, Nate Silver wrote,

More stringent security procedures, in essence, function as a tax upon air travel, and produce a corresponding deadweight loss. Teleconferences are often a poor substitute for person-to-person interaction, and when people are reluctant to travel, some business deals don’t get done that otherwise would have. Recreational travelers, meanwhile, may skip out on vacations that otherwise would have brought them pleasure and stress-relief (while improving revenues for tourism-dependent economies). The tenuous profits of the airline industry are also affected, of course. Revenue losses from the new bag-checking procedures may have measured in the billions, according to the Cornell study.

Other passengers may substitute car travel for air travel. But this too has its consequences, since car travel is much more dangerous than air travel over all. According to [a study by three professors at Cornell University], roughly 130 inconvenienced travelers died every three months as a result of additional traffic fatalities brought on by substituting ground transit for air transit.

At a certain university...

An administrator suggested that courses should have no more than 20% of students who failed, withdrew, or even received Ds or incompletes. Meanwhile, according to a review of "The Five-Year Party", Craig Brandon

...describes the vast majority of colleges as "subprime," which he defines as any school that has lowered its standards to the point at which almost anyone can pass. There's a college for every student at any price point, regardless of ability or career goals. At subprime schools, Brandon estimates, only 10 percent of students are really interested in academics. The rest are there for mostly social purposes.

The slackers take dumbed down courses in which grade inflation results in 90 percent of students getting As and Bs. Learning is optional, neither required nor expected. Even mental midgets who do no work are too big to fail. Nobody fails. That would make the professor look bad, and the school would risk losing a paying customer.

What's the payoff for students?

A large number of those who do graduate have trouble finding good-paying jobs or end up doing something for which they do not need a college degree. Brandon's conclusion: Millions of people would be better off doing something else with their time and money.

So college teachers are kind of like drug dealers.

Tuesday, November 23

A diet of worms

Thinking about the taste of a dirty worm squishing around in your mouth when you bite into an apple, do you think pesticide use should be increased or decreased?


    Maintained at current levels.


Inspired by Jim Harper

Monday, November 22

Brandenburg Concertos free downloads

Check it out.

Free downloads of Bach's complete organ works

Free downloads of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach, recorded by Dr. James Kibbie on original baroque organs in Germany

Security theatre comedy

We took our shoes off and placed our laptops in bins. Schnei­er took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled “saline solution.”

“It’s allowed,” he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don’t fall under the TSA’s three-ounce rule.

“What’s allowed?” I asked. “Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?”

“Bottles labeled saline solution. They won’t check what’s in it, trust me.”

They did not check. As we gathered our belongings, Schnei­er held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, “This is okay, right?” “Yep,” the officer said. “Just have to put it in the tray.”

“Maybe if you lit it on fire, he’d pay attention,” I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schnei­er would carry two bottles labeled saline solution—24 ounces in total—through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. “Two eyes,” he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

So the TSA is basically there for the laughs.

Heah me talkin' to ya

Heah me talkin' to ya 03:24
Okeh # 8649 Louis Armstrong and his savoy ballroom five -fox trot - issue date: 12-12-1928.

From The Internet Archive

Thanks for nothing, Al

Former vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy", weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.


He explained his own support for the original program on his presidential ambitions.

"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."


"The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices.

"The competition with food prices is real."

Saturday, November 20

Illinois Will Get Murdered If China Slows Its Imports

$2.5 billion of exports to China last year

363% growth over decade

--machinery (except electrical) worth $508 million
--crop production worth $406 million
--waste and scrap worth $365 million
--computers and electronics worth $330 million
--chemicals worth $239 million

Major state employer Dyncorp might get screwed.

TSA Scans "Won't Catch Anybody"

With regard to our ongoing security theatre, Bruce Schneier says:
You have to be seen as doing something, even if nothing is the smart thing to do. You can't be seen as doing nothing.

Friday, November 19

HAL was a 'straight' computer

  1. How can we be so sure?
  2. If "he" was straight, what would his ideal match be? Could "he" have been set up with a "female" counterpart? What would a "female" computer be like?

Tuesday, November 16

Pain can make you feel better

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) (most commonly in the form of cutting or burning the skin) can lead to feeling better. Research suggests that it's because of the relief that occurs when something that causes acute, intense pain is removed.
Not unlike acupuncture and Beckett's Lemuel.

As long as we know where political contributions come from, it's OK

Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2010

from OpenSecrets.org.

Monday, November 15

I solved the deficit!

74% savings from spending cuts; 26% savings from tax increases. And here I thought I was against raising taxes.

Sunday, November 7

85% of Chinese believe in religion or the supernatural

Now, with three decades of prosperity under their belt — the first significant period of relative stability in more than a century — the Chinese are in the midst of a great awakening of religious belief. In cities, yuppies are turning to Christianity. Buddhism attracts the middle class, while Taoism has rebounded in small towns and the countryside. Islam is also on the rise, not only in troubled minority areas but also among tens of millions elsewhere in China.

It is impossible to miss the religious building boom, with churches, temples and mosques dotting areas where none existed a few years ago. How many Chinese reject the state’s official atheism is hard to quantify, but numbers suggest a return to widespread religious belief. In contrast to earlier surveys that showed just 100 million believers, or less than 10 percent of the population, a new survey shows that an estimated 300 million people claim a faith. A broader question in another poll showed that 85 percent of the population believes in religion or the supernatural.
Nothing on Guan Gong or other "Taoist" gods, though.

Thursday, November 4

I laughed out loud

In a discussion of Lisa Murkowski's write-in candidacy, James Taranto writes,
...she has a somewhat difficult name to spell. It's M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I, just so you know, and it's very important to get it right. According to the New York Times, even her husband, while voting, asked her, "Hon, how do you spell your last name?" (Her lesser half is named Martell; she uses her father's surname so as to make a statement against patriarchy.)
(emphasis mine)