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Saturday, January 05, 2002

Claire Berlinski writes:

...Oh, and you're right about the Euro. [see Dec 6 post] You know they were going to call it the ecu, don't you? And some bunch of eurocrats objected on precisely the grounds you proposed -- that the name was too reminiscent of the French imperial past. I can't stand the thing. I loved the old French franc. That was gorgeous money, even if it did represent a lame propped-up currency. The Euro is too slick -- it's vaguely antisceptic and it's blue. Like Andrew Sullivan's new web design.

Me, I'm truly vexed about those newfangled shekels. (Yes, yes, of course I'm concerned about the deeper issues too.) I grew up reading Simenon's stories of Inspector Maigret, and I feel like I have a stake in these things. My, those were good books. If I ever become an alcoholic, it will be the influence of Maigret, and Lucas and Janvier and the others--they seemed to step into a brasserie for a little something every half-hour or so. And if they needed to watch some suspect's house, there was always a cafe or bistro to sit in for hours while gazing out at the suspicious residence; of course drinking all the while. (I thought this was a stretcher until I saw Paris. You probably really can watch most places while sitting at a table with a drink.)

I didn't realize it back then, but Simenon had a sort of sociology encoded in drinks. Every group or social class drank differently. Maigret, as you will recall, never detected -- he absorbed, he got inside people, he got them talking, and when he did the identity of the murderer emerged. (As somebody said, it makes sense--get the French talking and they implicate themselves every time) And if say, it was a crime among the working class, he would drink red wine. For aristocrats, cognac, etc. Curiously, when left to his own devices he drank beer. Do you remember all those platters of beer and sandwiches sent up from...what was that cafe...up at the Quai des Orfèvres, when they would haul in some poor sap and interrogate him for days and days until he cracked and confessed to murdering the old lady from the canal boat...

So, what was I going to say about the Euro? I've forgotten. That France, where once all bars were covered with zinc, is long gone, or never really existed. Let the Franc go with it.

More from Claire: Sure, quote me on anything. Damned Euro -- now half the bank machines in Paris don't work, my bank card doesn't work, and I just ended up standing like an idiot at the grocery store with a bag full of stuff I couldn't pay for because of it.

Charlene wants me to mention that this is the second time a Clinton dog has run into the street and been killed. She says dogs don't run wild without neglect on the part of their owners. It's the owner's responsibility to train their dogs, and to supervise them. This second untoward death indicates the Clinton's A: Failure to train, B: Failure to supervise, and C: Lack of concern for their responsibilities in general and as pet owners in particular. (When she's annoyed she really talks like that, like she's addressing a jury. If this was a trial Bill and Hillary would be headin' up the River.)

Friday, January 04, 2002

I recently learned something: the English Muffin really is English. They are so much a part of American life that I've always assumed that the name was someone's marketing ploy, (like "Tangerines," which have nothing to do with Tangiers.) Turns out, not so. They were once considered simple fare for Victorian era servants, then migrated to the tea-times of the better sort.

I had fantasied, in fact, that some American had seen a picture of a crumpet, and set out to create one without knowing what they tasted like; the result being a serendipitous masterpiece. And then that perhaps those Australian toaster biscuits were similarly conceived. But now my fantasy has expired in the harsh light of quotidian truth.

What odd notions you have, Natalie. The name comes from "Slythy," so neither of those pronunciations is correct.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

A Proposal for Hackers*

Wouldn't you rather be a hero than a crumb? Wouldn't you like to be popular? Here's how to put your destructive instincts to a constructive use.

It's about those abominable companies that make unsolicited telephone sales calls. See, it's a computer that is actually doing the dialing, from a database of phone numbers. If you were really good, maybe you could find a way in. . .

AND, there must be other databases, with the personal phone numbers of important people in that same direct-phone industry . . .

I think you can figure out what to do next . . .

* Hackers in the newer, knavish sense; not the older sense of superb programmers.

Rand Simberg heaps more opprobrium on the pint-pot cozener:

...Dairy-Support Jim, on the other hand, overturned an election result singlehandedly (much more so than the Supreme Court can even be said to have done, particularly since the media recount showed that Bush would have won even with the rules stipulated by the marsupials on the Florida Supreme Court).

Before his decision, the Republicans were setting the agenda in both houses of Congress. After, Tom Daschle, protege of the obstreperous George Mitchell, was Senate majority leader. As a result, we got among many other things, no corporate tax cuts, and the idiotic federalization of airport security personnel. And there will be many more downstream effects, even if the Republicans can win back a majority next year. ..

So I think that he should have won the trifecta--worst politician (though perhaps Gary Condit can given him a run for the money), most significant political event, and turncoat of the year 2001.

Thank you, Rand! I value that guy, especially because he pays attention to Space. Much of our military efforts and technology depend on satellites and the use of space, and they are far too vulnerable.

Update: Don't miss the Prof's column at TechCentral: Reynolds’ Wrap: Rocket to Nowhere

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Reported by Ananova:

Sales assistants stopped a robbery in a supermarket by pelting the thieves with tins of chocolate spread.

Four masked robbers threatened staff and demanded money in the raid on an Italian store.

They gave up and fled after staff started throwing tins at them.

(sent by Mama Bear)

My keen sympathies to Dawson, who has had his weblog hacked! Absit omen.

A suggestion to everyone: your Blogger Template, like any HTML document, is pure TEXT. You can easily copy it and paste it into any word processor file. (turn off "curly-quotes," they can goof things up) This gives you a back-up copy.

My reader in Pulo Prabang reports that the Sultan has ordered anyone caught hacking into someone elses computer to be executed by Elephant Trampling. Sounds like basic common sense to me. I would mark the critical importance of the Blogsphere by having ayone who hacks a weblog suffer execution by Slow (Baby) Elephant Trampling.

Charlene was leafing through the January 1st FREEDOM, the NRA Journal, and there was an article by the Prof! Omnipresent she called him. Readers of InstaPundit have already heard his dangerous violent opinions on gun control, but I'll quote a few paragraphs just for fun:

"...the gun control movement has always rested on certain false notions, namely that violence--even against a criminal--is always bad, that ordinary people are not to be trusted, and that it is best to let the authorities look out for you.

In addition, the movement has always contained a rather strong undercurrent of hostility toward traditional American standards of masculinity, of which it sees the gun as a symbol.

It is here that things seem to have changed the most. Americans have learned that being harmless does not guarantee that they will not be harmed; in fact, it seems that terrorists (like ordinary criminals) actually prefer victims who cannot strike back.

The heroism of ordinary people after the attacks has also undercut the gun control movement's notions that ordinary Americans are dangerous violent rubes who must be controlled..."

--by Glenn Reynolds

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Ms Solentino should be grateful we use her countrymen as villains. It's a compliment. Hollywood needs vast quantities of interesting villains. The real villains are mostly horrid little dimwits; useless for films. And most countries are fairly blah and uninspiring. Nobody uses Belgians or Swedes or present-day Germans for villains. The French are interesting, but it's hard to take them seriously.

Take those villains as an indicator that there's still some spice and flavor in your body politic. Just hope the time doesn't come when you look back wistfully to the days when you were considered capable of villainy!

It's like Herb Caen said of your native burg, "You're gonna long for the days when they called her 'Frisco."

PS: welcome back to Blogmenistan

Others in the Blogosphere have mentioned this article from UPI (thanks for the tip, Mullah Dawson), but I just have to quote a bit myself. By the way, Bennett uses the term "Blog space." It's not thrilling, but it's compacter than "blogosphere." Hmm, how about "Blogsphere?"

Anglosphere: The new Reformation? By James C. Bennett
"...This writer feels much of academia and the media throughout the Anglosphere has come to resemble, in a way, the Church in Europe immediately before the Reformation. They have grown intellectually lazy, out of touch with the people they believe they exist to enlighten, and irrelevant to the needs they exist to serve. They have come to see their position, incomes and the respect of the public as entitlements due to them for their virtue, rather than earned by achievement.

The intellectual monopoly of the medieval Church was undermined by the advanced communication technology of the printing press. Printers and pamphleteers mushroomed throughout northern Europe, and the rapid and hard-to-control exchange of ideas their network enabled created the medium for new awarenesses and attitudes. Large parts of the old structure of the Church were overthrown and replaced; that which was left was greatly transformed by the Counter-Reformation.

Are these little Weblogs the harbinger of a similar reformation of the academia and media establishments of the Anglosphere? I wouldn't count it out..."

William Quick has proposed that that we call our realm of weblogs The Blogosphere. He is obviously a person of sense who understands that it's hard to think about something rationally if it doesn't have name. (Hopefully a good name, think of all the confusion Columbus has caused us.)

At first I thought it looked too comical, like "sluggo," or "boffo." But of course we wouldn't pronounce it like that, it would come out like "atmosphere." (English pronunciation tends to turn unaccented vowels into an "uh" sound; That's what all those upside-down "e's" in the dictionary are about.) And it may be too lofty to catch on, like cybersphere.

I think Blogistan is more witty, but wit has gone out of fashion. It makes most people uncomfortable, as if someone suddenly asked them to extract a square root, or sing in public. (Or maybe it is just my wit that is repellant.)

So, I'll vote for Blogosphere. Maybe it will take wing and fly.


I'm reposting my piece on mass shootings.
Why? Because it could save lives! Maybe yours. So start the New Year right: Tack this up in the Student Lounge, or the Employee Lunch Room. Pass it around. Reprint it in your blog. Here it is:

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 . . .
(To gun people: yes, I know guns are even more effective. This is not anti-gun; if you have a weapon, of course use it. But even you might be caught unarmed someday)

Monday, December 31, 2001

Dave Shiflet has a column in NRO, with one of those year-end "What's IN and what's OUT things. Here are a few I liked: (Note: my columns don't line up in all browsers)

Sensitivity training Racial profiling
"Have a Nice Day" "Adios, Abdul"
Unitarians Catholics
Shalom Shellac
Sympathy Psy-ops
Support group Firing squad
Ben and Jerry Smith & Wesson
Mr. Rogers Dr. Strangelove

Sunday, December 30, 2001

In Samuel Pepy's day, the most important Christmas celebration was Twelfth Night, January 6th. In case you have lost your recipe for 12th Night Cake, I include one here:

Take one bushel of the best flour you can get, very finely searced, and lay it on a large pastry board, make a hole in the middle thereof, put to it three pounds of the best butter you can get; with 14 pounds of currants finely picked and rubbed, three quarts of good new thick cream, warmed, two pounds of fine sugar beaten, three pints of new ale barm or yeast, 4 ounces of cinnamon beaten fine and searsed, also an ounce of beaten ginger, two ounces of nutmegs beaten fine and searsed;
put in all these materials together, and work them up into indifferent stiff paste, keep it warm till the oven be hot, then make it up and bake it, being baked an hour and a half ice it, then take 4 pounds of double refined sugar, beat it and searce it and put it in a clean scowered skillet the quantity of a gallon, and boil it to a candy height with a little rosewater, then draw the cake, run it all over and set it in the oven till it be candied. --From Robert May's THE ACCOMPLISHT COOK, 1660

(I have cribbed this quote from PEPYS AT TABLE, by C. Driver. There's a modern version of the recipe if anyone is interested)

Someone in Blogspace (sorry, forgot who) recently mentioned that Senator Jeffords is feeling isolated and depressed. I love hearing that.

What really bothered me were the pundits who said (with straight faces) that he was acting on the promptings of conscience. Good grief. The Rip van Winkle Conscience. It sleeps for 30 years, then, at the one brief instant when he can be world famous, can be the next Anita Hill, by pure coincidence, the Conscience Awakes! "Oh my God! I'm a Republican!" he cries in horror, "My shining conscience drives me to instantly depart from the despicable party of the infamous Reagan (who I supported) and the even-more villainous George W Bush (who I also supported)"

Jeffords is a water-fly, too tiny to be worth swatting, but those who held him up as an example of conscience, well, I'll just call them unconscionable.

We had crab last night. Yum! But not enough. Bring me Sheelob!

Trouble is, our crew of kids are becoming crabaholics like their parents. Two crabs and a whole loaf of Semifreddi's Sourdough just melted away like cotton candy.

Eat yer hearts out, oh humble masses of the hinterlands! Actually, come to think of it, these days they are probably eating crab in Kansas, or in those "States that begin with an I." Hoosiers are probably happily munching tacos, tapas, Dim Sum, and Hunan Multiple-Spiced Chicken. That's a shocking notion! GLOBALIZATION HAS GOT TO BE STOPPED! We must keep those natives in their quaint villages!

There is no need for me to go creeping across the Internet like a worm, I just let my pal Dawson do all the work. Yet another good ref from him, to QUARE. Quare is Eve Kayden, and back in her archives (11/29) I found this:
"Granted, I know nothing about foreign politics. But all this seems like very good news to me. Impressive-sounding plans are the province of socialists, and they rarely provide any good. It's these small changes that can transform a nation." She is linking to an article on Mexico in

...There is also a slow, nearly invisible metamorphosis in the lower levels of government, some of which began before Mr Fox took office. Officials charged with cutting bureaucracy are working on reducing the paperwork needed to start a business. Rather than wait for a promised freedom-of-information law, they are putting more documents on the Internet. They are chipping away at the rules and procedures for civil servants, which fill a book over 1,200 pages long. “It's like plumbing,” says Carlos Arce, who heads the economy ministry's regulatory-improvement commission. “It's dirty, it's nasty. You put your hand in and you don't know what will come out. Not everyone likes to do it...”

Dawson pointed me to a new gazette, The BLOGICAL Suspect. by William Quick. It's crammed with interesting things. (That's why I don't even try to be a regular warblogger, the competition is too stiff--so I breath a sigh of relief and just follow my nose. And if no one cares, well, it won't be the first time.)

What caught my eye was something I vaguely knew, but which isn't much discussed, because it isn't "news:" Russia is doing rather well. Quick links to an article: The prophets of doom were wrong about Russia, by Mary Dejevsky

...Ten years on, it should be recorded that none of these prophecies was fulfilled – not in those insecure months immediately before and after the Soviet Union's collapse, nor in the years that followed. Not one. There was no famine, no civil war, no return to dictatorship (of any political complexion), no mass exodus, no nuclear misadventure. What is more, the passage of time has made each of these catastrophes seem less likely.

There was, to be sure, hardship and injustice, and there still is...

...a vast and highly centralised empire was dismantled almost overnight with remarkably little disruption. Where there was one state, there are now 15; some – such as the Baltic states – are prospering; others – such as the Central Asian republics, rub along, and one, Belarus, lurches from crisis to crisis. But none is lawless; none is starving; none is branded a rogue state...

...As the world moved into recession, Russia's lumbering economy quietly registered an upturn. Growth in the year 2000 was the highest in Europe, at 8 per cent; at more than 5 per cent this year, it is still bucking the global trend. This year's grain harvest is up almost 30 per cent on last year's. Employers are paying wages; individuals are paying their taxes. The country is settling into a routine.
"In a side note, Jude Wanniski (remember him?), reminds that Russia has done away with the progressive income tax (which nobody paid) and now sports a 13% flat tax rate. We here in capitalist heaven should be so lucky."

This man Quick has his eye on the essentials.