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-- Golden Gate Bridge at dawn. By Dennis Callahan.

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Saturday, December 01, 2001

(I'm experimenting with some font formating here--so far, some things show up in IE, others in Netscape. . . I'm beginning to sympathize with those surly folks who build web pages for a living)

    Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
    The milkie way,
    Church-bels beyond the starres heard,
    The soul's blood,
    The land of spices; something understood
    --George Herbert
Christmas," said Doctor Drinkwater as his red-cheeked face sped smoothly towards Smokey's, [they are ice-skating] is a kind of day, like no other in the year, that doesn't seem to succeed the day it follows, if you see what I mean." He came close to Smokey in a long, expert circle and slid away. Smokey, jerking forward and backward, hands not neatly clasped behind him like Doc's but extended, feeling the air, thought he saw . . .

"I mean," Doctor Drinkwater said, reappearing beside him, "that every Christmas seems to follow immediately after the last one; all the months that came between don't figure in. Christmases succeed each other, not the falls they follow."

"That's right," said Mother, making stately progress around. Behind her, like wooden ducks, she drew her two granddaughters.. "It seems you just get through one and there's another."

"Mmm, said Doc. "Not what I meant exactly."

Republicans expressed shock and disgust today that House Democrats planned to blame the economic downturn on President Bush.

"The bottom line is, this is George Bush's recession," Rep. Nita Lowey, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief, says in today's edition of USA Today.
Well, They're gonna be sorry when Bush unveils the monument to the victims of the Clinton Bombing of 9/11/01.

Friday, November 30, 2001

Well, I think Natalie deserves some ducats in her new collecting box. Nobody blogs with so much flavor and style. "strangely, sirrah, strangely"--I love that stuff. Makes Mr Reynolds look a bit insipid. Makes me feel as if I have but the merest groatsworth of wit.

Perhaps I'll wait 'till the next marvellous counterblaste to some caterpillar, and then, KaChinnng ! I'll send her a trifle in appreciation.

One thing is clear: hijacking is dead. Right? Anybody tries it and the passengers will yank off his arms to beat him over the head with. Right? In fact, this huge problem has been solved.

SO, what other problems might be solved just by changing the way we react?

Imagine the next time someone comes into a crowded room and starts shooting. People don't panic and scream and crawl under tables. Instead, they throw things. Anything. Chairs and tables. Computers and cell phones. Keys and coins and books and purses and shoes. The pictures on the wall.

Imagine the torrent of stuff that 20 people in a frenzy could throw. Enough to overwhelm one guy with a gun, that's for sure. Some people would get shot, but not many.

But this only works if everybody knows what to do. And is willing. Maybe now we may be willing. Airline passengers certainly are. Suppose everyone who reads this passes it on to a few friends. Soon, everyone will know what to do . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Keen, keen was the pleasure I felt reading Natalie Solent's Nov. 27th slicing and dicing of a column by Labour party veteran Roy Hattersley in The Guardian. A little snippet:

Hattersley: Neo-liberals insist that freedom must include the liberty to make mistakes. What right does anyone have to worship an idea which sends 50,000 eight to 10-year-olds to school cold and hungry?

Natalie: The same right you have to worship an idea, socialism, which has slaughtered tens of millions. You're worried about hunger? Let's take a look at how most of those millions died. Famine. Deliberate famine in the old USSR. Accidental but easily predictable famine in China, in North Korea, and all over Africa. Anyone think all that is not really relevant? But it is. The famines came in societies where, to prevent individuals from making mistakes, the state took all the power. Then the state made its own mistakes, and because it was the state talking, its mistakes had power to propagate themselves over millions of lives.
[Charlene's comment:Thank you, my dear. My sentiments exactly !]

We are lucky here in America. No doubt many of our caterpillars think like this bug, but few dare express themselves so baldly.

I just enjoyed Christopher Pellerito's prizefight at Libertyblog:

It is time for a heavyweight title bout. At stake: the undisputed claim of America's biggest windbag. In the blue trunks, from his adopted Italy, we have novelist Gore Vidal, and in the red trunks, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, we have professor Noam Chomsky. . .
It's very funny. Chomsky flattens Vidal with the utter illogic of his rants, and it ends with the suggestion of a future match withh a new challenger, Susan Sontag.

That put me in mind of a few years ago when Sontag was being chased 'round the literary ring by Camille Paglia. This is quoted from Camille's book Vamps and Tramps
Speaking to...Page Six, the famed gossip coulmn of the New York Post, I expressed my outrage about Sontag's kid-glove treatment by The New York Times. Page Sixturned the affair into its lead story:

Camille Paglia has come not to praise Susan Sontag, but to bury her. The fast-talking feminist has mounted an all-out attack on the modernist, claiming she's passe' and "the ultimate symbol of bourgeois taste." . . ."Sontag's been playing the intellectual bully, the intellectual duchess. I feel I am the avenger," Camille told us by phone. "I was an early admirer, and now I'm her worst nightmare." . . . "Sontag has been defunct as an intellectual presence for 20 years, " Paglia says. "She's been utterly reactionary in the fields of pop culture, feminism, gay activism, and French theory. I am the contender challenging the heavyweight, and I believe that with my new book I have emerged victorious."

New York City, the year 2032....

A man and his son are walking through highly built-up Manhattan when they come across an empty space and the father stops to reflect for a while.

"Imagine son," the father says "exactly 31 years ago the great twin towers stood proudly in this area." Intrigued by the comment the son then asks "what were the twin towers dad?"

To which the father replies "they were two of the largest buildings in the world and they housed many thousands of offices....but in 2001 they were destroyed by Arabs"

The son pauses for a while and then asks "what were Arabs dad?"

When your life seems teejus and bogged-down in details, remember this:

The quartz crystal in your digital watch vibrates 3,579,546 times a second. "... a logic gate called a "JK flip-flop" counts the vibrations. Every time the count hits 3,579,546, the gate sends a pulse to the display unit, and the watch records the passage of another second." From The Chipby T.R.Reid

I intended to say deep things about politics and war, but the other bloggers are doing that so well that instead I'll recommend a book we liked: A Trip to the Stars by Nicholas Christopher.

Rather than write anew, I'll paste in this letter I wrote to a friend last Christmas:

Just a note to let you know you’ll be getting a book for Christmas . But the point of this note is, well, you have to be somewhat tolerant when you read this book.
It is stuffed full of improbabilities and impossibilities and mystical conjunctions; and more coincidences than any reasonable person could possibly stomach. I almost threw it down in disgust several times.

BUT, a good author creates her or his own universe, with its own rules, and can do it so well that, well, there you are, inside the story, and it all works. And really, I can’t complain if an author chooses to abolish certain aspects of what we call entropy--why, if I ran the circus, entropy would be high on my list of what gets the chop. (Followed by the Florida Supreme Ct.) And it is a very good book. If you read as far as the spider bite, you’ll not be able to put it down. Anyway, Merry Christmas!
Of note in this book: a view of the difficult lives of nurses in the Vietnam War, a story that hasn't really been told.

I just had to steal this snippet from much longer pieces at England's Sword

For a start, I'd much rather have the Turks on our side than the Germans (Clem Attlee said something on these lines when approving Turkish membership of NATO). We also already know what the "European position" is: supine.

Posted 10:27 AM by Iain Murray

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

They ought to have reflected . . . that as there is nothing more desirable, or advantageous than peace, when founded in justice and honour, so there is nothing more shameful and at the same time more pernicious when attained by bad measures, and purchased at the price of liberty.
Abigail Adams, in a letter to John Adams, August 19, 1774

Does this sum up the Neville Clinton administration, or what?

I just enjoyed The Captain dropping a daisy-cutter on the Guardian

. . .The whole article oozes with European chauvinism. But at least it does recognize the one fundamental truth: the American people are not interested in cooperating with the Europeans any more if the price of that cooperation is failure. This war will be fought and will be won. The Europeans are welcome to help as long as their help doesn't lead to failure, or they are welcome to sit back and wring their hands and complain (which we'll ignore and which also won't lead to failure). But there is absolutely nothing the Europeans can do to stop this. We didn't start this war but we're damned well going to finish it, European sensibilities notwithstanding.

Add to previous: We have 5 cats and one dog (Great Dane).
Charlene's motto: Nothing in Moderation.
My motto: Que no haya novedad. (not really)

Natalie Solent asked me if my references to us meant that I am or we were or we are a married couple. SO, perhaps I ought to explain myself, or our self, a little.

My wife is Charlene, a lawyer, fighting the good fight to keep the Pihrana-like Plaintiffs Bar from sucking all the life's-blood from our puissant republic. My son Robert is in High School, and is passionately interested in flying, and is taking lessons. (will probably solo before he drives a car) Might like a military career. Son William is in 7th grade, and there must have been a mix-up at the hospital, because he can sing! No one else in our families back to the umpteenth generation can hold a tune. He's taking voice lessons at the SF Conservatory. Daughter Elizabeth, 6th grade, is known for being surprisingly sweet and reasonable, and also is a horsewoman.

And I am a cabinetmaker; and previously the owner of a bookstore (Civic Center Books, in San Francisco) which has led to something of a specialty in building bookshelves (plus lots of other things.)

Charlene and I are passionate bookworms, and gardeners (esp. shade gardening with rhodies, ferns, Jap. Maples) and love Turn-of-the-Century (ie. 1900) style and design.

We are both filled with savage indignation at the way socialist slime rabble are gnawing away at Western Civilization. Once my blog has attracted thousands of readers, I will explain these matters in words clear to the meanest understanding, and then the whole left-liberal worldview will simply collapse.

Actually, as right-wingers we are misfits; most of our friends are on the left. I deeply admire George W Bush, but if I ever met him we probably would have nothing to talk about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

according to Rich Karlgaard, in the 12/10 Forbes, Internet traffic in 2001 will quadruple over 2000's.

All other factors considered--recessionary year, no Napster, grinding paralysis on last-mile--a quadrupling of Net traffic can be seen as a huge upset win. Just imagine what will happen when the wind is at our backs.
We may be in a recession, but I would guess that we are building a head of steam for the next boom.

The winds begin to rustle, the clouds gather, it grows dark; will these airy forces rear up the ocean to a foaming fury? A spirit seems to be rising; a spirit of contrition and shame at our long apathy and lethargy; a spirit of resentment of injuries, a spirit of indignation at insolence; and what to me is very remarkable, a spirit of greater unanimity than I have ever witnessed in this country for fifty years.
John Adams, on the coming of the War of 1812

A bogged-down frustrating day. An hour wasted wrestling with some Salice hinges (I'm a cabinetmaker, by the way) that won't snap in . . . I'm gonna switch back to Blum. Then a series of cabinet doors that I had drilled for knobs . . . I carefullly made a jigg to guide the drill so all the holes would be in the same spot . . . and one of them is 3mm lower than all the others. If only I were eloquent . . . I would . . . well, I don't know what, but the words would just FLOW.

Natalie Solent recently linked to a fascinating article, called Law and Disorder, by Jonathan Rauch. A must-read.

Its about what he calls Hidden Law, which are tacit codes which communities use to deal with, (or often fudge or slide past) social problems. Hidden Law is under seige by Bureaucratic Legalism. I think this is IMPORTANT. It is a struggle similar to that btween free marketss and government planning.

The article filled my head with ideas, none of which I've had the time or wit to express yet.

BUT, One thing that's crucial is that you can't think about a concept clearly unless it has a NAME. By naming "Hidden Law," it becomes possible to defend it, (or criticise it)

Monday, November 26, 2001

The Captain has written a great bit debunking the persistent myth that the American colonists fought the British by shooting from behind trees and rocks, while the redcoats foolishly paraded in lines.

This is a tall tale that never dies, but in fact the linear tactics were used by both sides for good reasons.

The smoothbore muskets used then were very inaccurate. An individual sniper would be unlikely to do much damage. (even at Lexington and Concord, the majority of the British survived that long cruel day) Only with masses of men firing in volleys was firepower effective. AND, muskets were slow to reload. While you were reloading, your only defense was the bayonet. Again, the individual was vulnerable, but a line of men could present a bristling front of bayonets.

Some colonists had rifles, which were very accurate. BUT, rifles then were VERY slow to load, and didn't have bayonets. They were a grief to the British, but never decisive in battle.

Just as important, no one back then had figured out how to control a battle when men were crawling about taking cover. It was a then-insuperable problem. (It was really only solved in 1918, when the Ludendorf Offensives almost defeated the Allies)

I have read that Baron von Steuben, who taught infantry tactics to Washington's army, was flagrantly homosexual. I don't know the details, but gays might want to keep him in mind.

Also good to remember is that the British at Lexington were peace-time soldiers who had never practiced their craft seriously; and didn't expect to find themselves at war (their position was similar to modern "peacekeeping missions".) If the same battle were fought a year later, they would have burned Lexington and Concord to the ground, and massacred any Minutemen who couldn't run very very fast..

I was just slogging through the Blogger website, trying to learn more about this excellent, but to me obscure and frustrating, program. There was a note that the discussion forum was no longer monitored by the personnel of Pyra, because the company had been reduced to one person!

Thought one: If you believe that some companies should get handouts, I'd say airlines should be low on the list. Pyra has done a lot to advance human communications, and could do more if they weren't probably going broke doing so. I sent them the $12 to remove the Blogspot ad, just to be doing something. Maybe all Blogspotters ought to do the same . . .

Thought two: It’s amazing how the web allows little guys to look like big guys. I recently bought something from what seemed to be a full-scale e-commerce website. My purchase arrived packed in a shoebox, with a hand-lettered address label ! (by the way, my counter just hit 50,000, so give me some Respect ! . . . actually, I haven't a clue how to put in a counter. Any suggestions?)

I recently read The Soul of Battle, By Victor Hansen. He parallels the careers of three generals, Epaminondas, Sherman, and Patton, who led democratic armies on slashing campaigns to liberate oppressed peoples. The parallels are eerie. The most essential point: an aroused democracy is far more capable and dangerous than any tyranny.

I was deeply moved by the winter march of the Thebans against Superpower Sparta, which I hadn't known much about. They were despised as bumpkins by the corrupt and sophisticated Athenians, but they showed the world what democracy really could be.

Mr Dawson (the other side of the Problem of Etiquette) has a very interesting weblog himself. Well worth reading. I just followed his link to the Politopia quiz, and ended up in the same quadrant as he did. But I'm not sure that going from Lineland to Flatland adds enough dimensions for me to feel comfortable.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

I hesitated, I really really did. This sort of thing sullies the lofty tone of discourse usually found in modern weblogs. Condemn me if you like, I have no excuse.


It was the first day of school and a new student named Suzuki, the son of a Japanese businessman, entered the fourth grade.
The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American history. Who said "Give me Liberty, or give me Death?"
She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Suzuki, who had his hand up. "Patrick Henry, 1775."
"Very good! Who said 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth'"?
Again, no response except from Suzuki: "Abraham Lincoln, 1863." The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed. Suzuki, who is new to our country, knows more about its history than you do."
She heard a loud whisper: "F@*^ng Japanese."
"Who said that?" she demanded.
Suzuki put his hand up. "Lee Iacocca, 1982."
At that point, a student in the back sighed, "I'm gonna puke."
The teacher glares and asks "All right! Now, who said that?"
Again, Suzuki says, "George Bush to Japanese Prime Minister, 1991." Now furious, another student yells, "Oh yeah? Suck this!" Suzuki jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher, "Bill Clinton, to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!"
Now with almost a mob hysteria someone said, " You little turd if you ever say anything else I will have you killed." Suzuki is frantic and yells at the top of his voice, "Gary Condit to Chandra Levy 2001."
The teacher fainted.

Natalie Solent's Problem of etiquette is very funny. Miss Manners herself couldn't have conveyed the tactfull hint more delicately.(I myself would be more afraid of her unbending moral scrutiny than of that pistol packin' papa.) But the idea of falling in love with someone just through their prose style is most interesting. I could imagine it happening.

If you have read the The Tale of Genji you will recall that young men of Heian Japan rarely saw their young women, who would normally conceal themselves behind screens. Poems would be sent back and forth, and a bit of stylish calligraphy or a clever poetic conceit could cause the most exquisite excitement in the opposite sex. The Internet is pregnant with potential.