The Occasional Joke


Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Voted most likely ...

... to be overlooked in the great scheme of historical commemoration, 2012 (coming right up, here -- a matter of a few hours) begins the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. For a good summary of this clumsy little sideshow of the Napoleonic wars, see John Elting's Amateurs to Arms!. For an even more abbreviated and less readable summary, look it up in Wikipedia. And for a completely abbreviated list of 1812's main events, see below.

DateEventApprox LocationNotes
6/18/1812Declaration of War38 52 N 77 2 WPres. Madison was honked off about the Brits stopping our trade and hijacking seamen ("Hello, Sailor!")
7/12/1812US invades Ontario, from Detroit42 19 N 82 02 WAs noted below, this didn't work out all that well for us.
7/17/1812Surrender of Ft. Mackinac45 51 N 84 37 WThe Brits in Ontario got the memo about war first and staged a preemptive strike on Mackinac Island.
8/16/1812Surrender of Detroit42 19 N 82 02 WThe US invasion force in Ontario turned around, retreated to Detroit, and then surrendered. Most of the Northwest Territory -- certainly Michigan and the western Great Lakes -- were now back in British hands.
8/19/1812USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere41 42 N 55 33 WThe first of a series of disheartening defeats suffered by the Royal Navy at the hands of US heavy frigates
10/13/1812Queenston Heights43 9 N 79 3 WAnother US attempt to invade Canada went very wrong, with a thorough defeat at Queenston Heights, near Niagara.
10/25/1812USS United States vs HMS Macedonian30 39 N 27 11 WAnother of our heavy frigates trounces a British ship of nominally (but not actually) equal force.
12/29/1812USS Constitution vs HMS Java13 21 S 31 21 WJust barely in 1812, a third British Frigate is administered a whuppin' by the fledgling US Navy. The Constitution, of course, is the famous Old Ironsides (42 22 N 71 3 W).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Banned words

Lake Superior State University has published its annual list of "banned" words. It should be noted that the words are not really "banned," in any sense at all (for example in the sense that kids saying "naked chimichanga" in schools seems to be banned -- don't ask) except the opprobrium which appearing on the list brings to the utterer. Nevertheless, although using them won't get you an appearance on COPS, here they are, with my own take on the choice.
  • Amazing: LSSU essentially caved to overwhelming pressure from around the English-speaking world to include this word, which people perceived as amazingly overused. I tend not to watch/read/listen to the media that were blamed for overusing it, so I have no comment.
  • Baby bump: meaning the visible evidence of pregnancy. Vulgar, for sure, but again, not widely used in the flow of communication that reaches me, so I don't care one way or the other. I guess I would have banned other phrases beginning with "baby" first -- "baby momma," "baby daddy," etc. Even more vulgar, in my considered opinion.
  • Shared sacrifice: huh? Who says that?
  • Occupy: I agree completely. If I never hear it again, it'll be too soon.
  • Blowback: apparently meaning, according to LSSU, push back or resistance. Technically, it means a simple form of automatic weapon action, in which the direct pressure backwards of the propellent explosion on an unlocked breach forces the gun to cycle and chamber a new round. I would not expect the folks at LSSU to know this.
  • Man cave: Evidently, this is the new "den." I don't care if you don't.
  • The new normal: Whatever the speaker thinks is inevitable, as in "Being a moron is the new normal." Well, OK, as long as I can continue to define myself as not normal, I don't really care what some imbecile thinks is the new one. I think I'd have preferred to just ban "The new *" -- essentially, any trend-spotting banality that claims something other than X is the new X. "Type II body armor is the new black," for example. If "the new" is banned, I pledge to edit this post and remove the list item above.
  • Pet parent: I hadn't even heard that one. I prefer Linda's description of herself as a dogma, personally, although I guess it makes me a dogpop.
  • Win the future: meaningless rubbish. Right up there with "How's that ... working out for you?" Ban it, by all means, for all the good it'll do. They'll just think of something worse.
  • Trickeration: oh, come on. Never heard it, don't believe anyone actually says it. The claim is that it has something to do with football, which would explain why I'm not familiar with it, I guess.
  • Ginormous: meaning "big." This I have heard, and I'm fine with banning it as long as "huge" goes with it. I use that one far too much, myself, and I'd be glad to have someone dope-slap me every time I do.
  • Thank you in advance: for not whipping out an Uzi and shooting everyone in sight. For not molesting the rattlesnakes. For not voting Republican. Back in the Eighties, we were at a national park in Ireland, and they'd created or restored a traditional cottage, complete with thatched roof. Apparently, there'd been some vandalism (or just sheep nibbling at it,) since they had a very polite sign that read, "Kindly do not interfere with the thatch." I would support a global replace of the "Thanks in advance" phrase with something more along these lines, if I thought the average Joe Bagadonuts would have any idea what it meant.
Although I applaud LSSU's ongoing attempts to sweep out the linguistic stable floors from year to year, there are a few words or phrases I'd have nominated for banage ahead of the entries above. Here are mine.
  • Making a noun, describing a process or attribute, by adding "age" to a verb, like I just did above when I said "banage." Again, if it makes the banned list, I promise to quit doing it.
  • Poop: can we just stop? What changed to make this extremely vulgar word OK? It's not cute, it's not any more acceptable than some other euphemisms for feces or the act of defecation, and I'm really tired of hearing adults say it.
  • Newt Gingrich: another highly vulgar term, but if we banned it, a large amount of useful mockage would go to waste. So I withdraw the nomination, at least for now.
  • Tea Party: not the phrase, the group, a crew of feces-heads whose moronage is so amazing that if I were to win the future, I'd be tempted to demonstrate some blowback by confining them in a man cage.
Oh, enough for one night. Time to go think about making dinner.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A dangerous man

I don't often agree with the Manchester Union Leader, but this time, I couldn't have said it better myself. Come to think of it, I did. Over and over again.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Really. The man is brilliant.

Over and over again, the same refrain: no matter what you think of Newt Gingrich, he's brilliant.

Maybe so. Maybe there's a method to the madness of a candidate who can't even staff his campaign with people smart enough to get him on the VA ballot. Of course, others didn't, either. In fact, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul did. As far as I know, none of the other losers called for write-in votes, since they appear to have known (unlike Newt) that Virginia doesn't allow write-ins in its primaries. This adds up to a flaming mistake, followed by a proposed solution that would be illegal. Maybe, somehow, there's some kind of underlying tactical thing here, a brilliant scheme to accomplish ... something. If so, it's beyond my limited experience with tactics. Maybe someone else can explain it.

But ever ready with an asinine statement, drawn from his extensive study of history and massively limited understanding of it, Gingrich says that this was his Pearl Harbor. He doesn't say who played the part of Japan in this version. Whoever it was got in the first blow and destroyed all his battleships, but will eventually go down to defeat when up against his awesome industrial might. Or that's Pearl Harbor, anyway. Whether it works out for Newt quite that way remains to be seen. And of course, the guy who helped him come up with this dumbass analogy, campaign director Michael Krull, would be himself analogous to US admiral Husband Kimmel, who was Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet at the time of the attack, and who was canned subsequently. Whether or not Kimmel deserved it, Krull certainly does -- or not, depending on whether you think it was another piece of Newt's alleged brilliance.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Here we go again

Sketchy linguistics and a vast amount of wishing-it-were-so are leading a couple of under-qualified researchers to claim that a Maya city existed in -- wait for it -- Georgia. At least they're referring to the US state of Georgia, and not the eastern European country, but the chances are about as good, either way.

Perhaps this is the 2012 apocalypse that was supposedly predicted by Mayan calendars: "In the year 2012, a future people will discover that instead of a great central American civilization, we Maya were really a bunch of rednecks from Georgia."

In a related development, two amateur archaeologists from Los Angeles reported finding an ancient Chevrolet in the Yucatan peninsula, resting on a set of ancient concrete blocks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I believe I meant to post this, at some point

The first issue of a whole new scholarly journal, focusing on things not previously discovered, described, named, or frankly, cared about.

Previously Undescribed: The Journal of Abstracted Breaking Research

Worminster's Monkey
First reported in 1879 by the Reverend Thomas St. Jude Worminster, this small creature was thought to be extinct, primarily because no one but Worminster ever subsequently claimed to see one; some reservations were expressed by others on the grounds that, as far as can be determined, Worminster himself never left England. However, recent extensive surveys of remote Sumatran forests have produced one blurry trail camera picture, backed up by numerous cell phone shots taken by students on holiday, of a small monkey that clearly matches Worminster's description: an animal with four legs, two ears, and a coat of brown fur. (This is Worminster's description of the monkey, not a description of Worminster - Ed.) Worminster's notes on the animal's call -- something like a first-year Divinity student, reading Milton aloud -- could not be confirmed. On the strength of the photos, though, Worminster's Monkey, Cercopithecus Miltoni Worminsterii, was immediately given IUCN's Critically Endangered status.

Bishop's Lacklustre, Warwickshire, UK
Bishop's Lacklustre is a small port on the Yangtze River, thirty versts below Copenhagen. In 1809, Viscount Nelson turned a blond eye to his orders from Neville Chamberlain and burnt the town, along with its copra-processing facilities. In the mid-nineteenth century, the eponymous Bishop attempted to undercut Canadian fur prices by establishing huge beaver farms along the plashy verges of the Nile tributaries, resulting in municipal, Episcopal, and moral bankruptcy. Bombed by both sides in the Second World War in an effort to destroy the Voysey Wallpaper Works, the town no longer exists. In 2003, a paper published by Lars-Erik Flendt of the Max Planck Institute seriously questioned whether it ever had.

Girl with a Chip on Her Shoulder, by Vincent van Gogh
While the light and the rustic scenes of Arles may have driven Van Gogh's high period, there is a body of documentary evidence that the local people had their effects as well, perhaps in a less positive fashion, on the output of his last years. The somewhat sardonic expression of Madame Ginoux in 1890's L'Arlésienne is explained by a newly-authenticated letter from the artist to his brother, Theo, in which he describes a cousin (or perhaps housemaid?) of Ginoux as being "... très difficile ..." and " ... toujours se plaignant au sujet des tripes ... " (always complaining about the tripe.) The girl in question is thus almost certainly the one depicted in his last portrait from Arles, showing a young woman of about 30, standing, dressed in a blue gown, and threatening the viewer with a broom. A dog, prefiguring in many ways Matisse's much later Interior with Dog, is scrambling, with a greater sense of motion and urgency than we often see in Van Gogh's work, to get under the couch.

The Battle of Old Sodbury, 1513
For many years, the battle of Old Sodbury was considered to have been a skirmish between mounted elements of the Scots and English armies, maneuvering in the week prior to the more conclusive fight at Flodden. Only one contemporary chronicler, Auld Wattie's Daub (the Bard of the Bog) provided any details. However, nothing loathe, a number of recent historians have used differential analysis and applied numeric norms to arrive at estimates of the forces engaged. By working from the typical composition of early sixteenth century armies, both Parker and his Belgian colleague, Henri-Joost Wafle, estimated that 150 to 200 Scots light cavalry or “prickers” rode south toward Old Sodbury on the morning of September 1st, 1513, where they discovered a slightly smaller force of English scouts, numbering around 130. A short engagement resulted, with both sides falling back toward their respective main forces. On the strength of these analyses, the Town Council of Old Sodbury erected in 1972 a stone cross on the high street, giving the date, a brief description, and the names (somewhat speculatively) of the commanders of each party.

Unfortunately, more recent scholarship, involving a better translation of Daub's Scots/Flemish manuscript, has revealed that in fact, the forces engaged on each side numbered exactly one each; the battle consisted of a disagreement between a Scotsman and an Englishmen who were drinking together in a public house and who fell out over the attentions of a bar maid. Neither was killed, since they set upon each other not with sword and lance but with ale flagon and bar stool, and when last seen, the combatants were walking away, arm in arm with the bar maid, in a generally easterly direction. Furthermore, the fight took place not at Old Sodbury, nor further south at Market Sodbury, nor even as has been suggested, a bit farther toward London at the hamlet of Miserable Old Sodbury, but somewhere along Jamaica Street in Glasgow, some 96 miles to the Northwest. The town council has so far taken no action to revise or remove the monument.

To be reported In next month's issue:
  • The Late Woodland Bark Biter Culture of Central Ohio
  • Stocking Sorter's Syndrome

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I have no idea ...

... why this comes to mind now, but it did and you're gonna hear it.

In government contracting, there is the concept of the Woman-Owned Small Business. To paraphrase the legalese, " ... the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program authorizes contracting officers to set aside certain federal contracts for eligible Women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) ..." A laudable provision, and nothing especially funny about it, except the last time I heard it mentioned in a business context, several years ago, the speaker referred to "small woman owned businesses." No comma or even a pause inserted.

I close my eyes and see female hobbits with Gucci briefcases hanging around DARPA headquarters. I will be writing my congresspersons shortly to propose similar set-asides for SBCOWGOBs -- short, bald, cranky old white guy owned businesses. Although now that I think about it, it's already in place, at least de facto if not de jure.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To the disappointment of the few

Herman Cain "suspended" his suspenders campaign yesterday as he contemplated the number of women he knows of who have not yet accused him of improprieties. The link is to my previous post, updated to show the current headcount.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Left to your own devices ...

Is the use of personally-owned devices in the workplace inevitable?

The author of this article is the husband of an old colleague of mine. Given my desire to see Android pads take over from laptops as the working-and-worrying-in-Starbucks tool of the future, it's of interest.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Those who cannot remember ...

... the idiocies of the past are unable to avoid the gross irresponsibility of repeating them, apparently.

The GOP-ridden led congress, at the mercy of the junk food industry, it would seem (along with all the other industries at whose mercy they seem to be,) have channeled the spirit of the Reagan administration and are attempting to define pizza as a vegetable for school lunch purposes.

Not even the military thinks this is a good idea. But I bet Herman Cain does. My attempts to retain even a semblance of non-partisanship on this blog are getting harder and harder as the Republicans provide data point after data point to support the hypothesis that they're completely venal and/or idiots.

Jesus H Christ, how much does the electorate need? Perry can't remember which agencies he'd promise to and then fail to eliminate, Romney is a teflon coated thug, and now the whole damn congress can't tell pizza from broccoli? My sweet lord, every time they do something like this, I think, they can't top this, and then they go right ahead on and do. Incroyable!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another temple gone

That icon of fine dining, the Flim Flam Restaurant, has closed its doors. Many's the time I ate lunch there (well, once or twice, when someone else proposed it,) watching one of my PhD colleagues from CPHA eat a pork chop, in public, with his fingers.

The saddest part of this whole episode is the number of people who commented on the AA.com story with phrases like, "... one of the best diners in Ann Arbor." Granted, some of them also said things like "... we really don't eat out all that much." Apparently.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Leading the 2012 skeptics

Nice summary piece about the guy who is prominent in snarking at the loonies who believe something more than usually important will happen in 2012, based on so-called Maya traditions. Short of a Republican victory in the Presidential election, don't look for any special cosmic events, since in this guy's thesis, the whole 2012 thing was a syncretic mashup of European mysticism and mis-understood conversations with Central American native religious figures.

Read it yourself; I particularly liked this bit:

"End-of-the-world and transformative beliefs are found in many ancient cultures but have been a fundamental part of modern times since 1499, Hoopes point out. They are also fundamentally American, he adds.

"The United States has always embraced religious freedom. Peculiar religious sects, including occult beliefs, have always been part of America," he says."


I hadn't actually thought of it that way; not too far back, the central orthodoxy would have just persecuted these people out of town. Now, does that mean we're progressing or not?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recently read

Something about that 'ol veil of obscurity ... I continue to be fascinated with the remote and poorly-understood corners of history -- as well as those that are being debated fiercely by academics. My recent reading is following this path.
  • A Mojave War Reminiscence 1854-1880, Ed. A.L. and G.B. Kroeber, 1973, University of California Press, re-released in 1994 by Dover Books. The executive summary is that during the period cited in the title, the Mojave Indians in California and Arizona met, fought, lost to, and eventually sided with white settlers and soldiers. They were then used as go-betweens with the other, less cooperative tribes in the area, until the fighting (and Indian populations) tapered off in the 1880s. The book is a reproduction of an oral memoir by a Mojave, Chooksa homar (sic; the Editors don't provide an explanation for why the second name of most of the Mojaves in the book is not capitalized,) with extensive notes and references by the Kroebers (father and son). It was a pretty tawdry tale, all around, since both sides (especially the civilian whites) were prone to bushwhacking and murdering parties they perceived as the enemy of the moment. It's a short read, but it has a couple of good maps, including a glue-in fold-out. As far as the personalities, unless you're a student of the area and period, the only name you might recognize is that of Lewis Addison Armistead, later Confederate General, but in 1858-59, a Captain in the US Army. He was in charge at Fort Mojave when the most formal fighting (if "formal" is even appropriate) took place, and afterward, the Mojave Tribe settled down into a more or less compliant state.

    The Mojave who was interviewed, mostly in 1903, was a boy when these events took place, and both the lapse of time and the vagaries of translation (and, the Editors hint, a desire not to upset white people) have made it difficult to match up the fights and peace talks in the narrative with recorded places and dates. There are some quite well-reproduced plates, though, especially one showing a Mojave leader, Yara tav, wearing his white-provided uniform -- some kind of military frock coat and a bicorne hat, worn, like Jack Aubrey's, athwartships.

    Frankly, very few people reading this blog will be interested in the book; it's no Two Leggings. But for me, especially when it came up remaindered for $4.00 -- it was a necessary addition to the bulging library that is our basement.

  • Richard & John -- Kings at War, Frank McLynn, 2007, Da Capo Press. Now you're talking, baby! This one was right up my alley, and might be up yours, too, especially if you enjoy tales of pride, slaughter, greed, slaughter, infidelity (marital and political or both), slaughter, and um, more slaughter. Remember The Lion in Winter, from all the way back in 1968? O'Toole, Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins ...? Well, O'Toole was Henry II, Father of the grasping Richard and the miserable little weasel John. Those two are the subject of McLynn's book.

    Traditionally, Richard ("The Lionheart") has been portrayed as a good king, if sometimes a bit hasty; John, on the other hand, got a complete panning: "bad king," "John Lackland," even "John Softsword." As always in the quest for each succeeding generation's PhD thesis, it became trendy for historians to challenge these perceptions, painting Richard as bad and John as good. (I'm simplifying wildly, here, if you can't tell -- the book takes many pages and many a snarky remark to set all this out.) McLynn doesn't agree with the revisionists, and puts a very good case together that adds up to: "Yep, the traditional view is correct: Richard, good, John, bad."

    Now that might be considered a spoiler and put you off the book, knowing how it all comes out (The Pope did it.) But along the way, in his 482 pages, not counting vast numbers of references and notes, he covers the social, economic, military, and religious matrix in which these kings, good, bad, or indifferent, wallowed. (Can you wallow in a matrix?) For me, it was a great coincidence, since I'm doing other reading and researching on the period 1150 to 1250 or so, in western Europe. I loved it, not only for the slaughter, but for the vast amount of work McLynn obviously put into it, piling up the evidence against John and smiting the inferences (which is all they seem to amount to) that the revisionists bring up in his defense.

    Anyway, this one might be more to the general reader's liking than the Mojave one. It gives you lots of evidence, if you feel you want it, for arguing with revisionist historians about John and Richard and their separate merits, and although McLynn clearly believes he's closed the case on this one, you can still draw you own conclusions. My own view is that Richard was a smart homicidal maniac and John a dumb one (unlucky, too.)

  • Through So Many Dangers, Robert Kirkwood (AKA Robert Kirk), Ed. Ian McCulloch and Timothy Todish, 2004, Purple Mountain Press. I have to caveat this: I have just opened the book and read part of the first chapter, but I wanted to get it into this post so that it doesn't get forgotten (like Over-diagnosed did -- I still haven't written that up, I find.)

    Kirkwood (which he shortened to Kirk when he wrote his memoirs) was a soldier in the Royal Highland Regiment in the mid-eighteenth century. He served in America during the Seven Years War (which we persist in calling "The French and Indian War,") was a captive of the Shawnee Indians for a period, and eventually survived to write memoirs. It's a beautiful production: a large format softcover, with lots of illustrations selected by the Editors, short biographical notes of the people mentioned, and other supporting material. Again, I've barely started it, but I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A slightly (well, extremely) more reasoned view

Of the "Occupy this or that" thesis concerning global control of economies. It boils down, it turns out, to about 140 corporate entities. I've read the summary in New Scientist, but not the full article, here. I'll delve into it in the next day or so, I hope.

Note that you may not be able to see the New Scientist link unless you're a subscriber, but the full article is on PloS One, and freely available.

Snow Leopards Rebound in the 'Stan


Apparently, centuries(1) of non-stop war is good for snow leopards. Let them run the place -- couldn't do worse than the humans have.

And here's a more general piece on Afghan wildlife.

(1) The article's statement that Afghanistan has suffered "30 years" of war is absurd. Somebody's been fighting somebody there as long as anyone's been there.

Is it illegal to be a moron or isn't it?

We need a ruling on that question, I'm afraid.

Too sad to be funny, I guess. But here it is, anyway. See earlier post on conservation of idiots -- we're in no danger of running out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Michele Bachmann of Canada


Rejoice! We're not the only country with insane politicians. Not by a long shot.

Although I have no problem with her proposal about polar bears.

2011 11 08: Update: The Bears are winning! This article is even sillier than the first one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do you believe it?

Ok - hypothetically, work on the Stadium Bridge will start in November, of this year. Personally, I'll believe it when I see the work being done. But that's what they're claiming. I think I'll go out and get a few "before" pictures, just so we remember what poverty looks like (inside joke.)

Oh, here's the city's official site. Wood-Charles is not responsible for anything you might read there (or here, for that matter, now that I think of it. In fact, "Wood-Charles is not responsible ..." is probably enough said.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another archaeolgical breakthrough

What's wrong with this picture? On the next page of the catalog, they featured an authentic George Washington helmet with horns and a nasal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No comment

Nothing I can say, except perhaps it serves us right. Damn Margaret Thatcher!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Not a good week for Chinese technology

In this story, a two and half million dollar yacht sinks upon launch. Notice the high tech launching ramp, made of logs.

And here, a JH-7 craters at an air show.

Time to re-invade France

Serves 'em right.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quotations of the week

From the 10/08 edition of New Scientist:

"Brain dead in one country but not in another"

"It's the job of us (sic) theorists to bash out all the possibilities, like monkeys on a typewriter"

"What was it like, sleeping like a chimpanzee?"



Connected by DROID on Verizon Wireless

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The ghost of ic.net

One of Ann Arbor's old, original (not the original, but close) Internet Service Providers was ic.net. We were DSL customers of theirs for many years, but a bad acquisition by 2020comm.net ran them into the ground, and they eventually sold (or gave, for all I know) the broadband business to AT&T. There was the usual hell you'd expect in such a changeover, but we limped along with it for another year; finally gave up on the total unreliability and huge disparity in price/performance, and went with Comcast. After running side by side for a month, I just cancelled the DSL line. Guess what the customer service number is: 800-288-2020.

The healing can now begin.

My old stompin' grounds

I went to high school in Perry, but this is probably the most excitement they've had since I escaped graduated myself.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unexpected consequences

"Tigers, Lions create jobs, boost sales for Ann Arbor restaurants"

Although you might not suspect it, having large carnivores roaming the Detroit area can be a boost for local economies. "After you've been bitten by, say, a lion," said an Ann Arbor restaurant owner who spoke on condition of anonymity, "a nice dinner out can be restorative."

The Department of Natural Resources issued a statement denying that Michigan had any populations of Tigers or Lions or Cougars or Woodchucks or Squirrels or Ants or Fruit Bats or ... (at this point, the spokesman for the DNR began to foam at the mouth and fell over backwards.)

A fundamental law

The law of conservation of idiots appears to be operating as theoretically proposed, as demonstrated by experiments carried out at the Large Idiot Collider, located near Geneva, in Switzerland.

"With several important idiots having vanished or 'decayed' from the GOP Presidential ticket, it was theoretically necessary for an equivalent mass of idiocy to enter the race in order to preserve the balance of both sides of the equation," said Dr. Itchy Verboten of the Max Planck institute. "With the announcement from Karen Bellino, it appears that the theory has been adequately demonstrated."

"We should see some stability resulting from this event, up to the point at which Newt Gingrich reaches his half-life. At that point, I would expect something easily detectable to occur, for example a third party bid by Ross Perot."

Anthony Weiner was not involved

2011 10 13: Update the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council speaks out!

And the article doesn't say if ketchup or mustard were. But someone flung a hot dog at Tiger Woods. "Just an idiot," said an official, but it was unclear who he was referring to, the sausage terrorist or Woods.

See this post, from many years back, on another public figure being assaulted with food.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Think back, now

A right-wing, socially-conservative pizza company president tries to influence national and international affairs, funds off-the-charts activism ... sound familiar to Ann Arbor people? What is it about the pizza business that attracts (or produces) people like Herman Cain and, yes, Tom Monaghan? I wonder if they've met.

By the way, Tom isn't resting on his laurels. He's decided to take another run at the bad-for-you food business, but this time with burgers. Could it be that he signed a non-compete in the pizza biz when he left Domino's?

Monaghan is 74 and says "... my doctor tells me I have the arteries of someone who is 55, ...” Who that unfortunate person was and how much his estate got paid was not reported.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Two more down

Updated 2011 12 04:

So even though his staff jumped through hoops to flesh out a campaign plan, just in case, Chris Christie isn't running. And, alas, neither is Sarah Palin. So this leaves the GOP with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, now that Thad McCotter is out.

I know, I know, they aren't the only ones running. Would you like to see a list of who still is, right off the GOP's national web site? Here they are, in order of I don't know what:
  • Still crazy enough to be in the race
    • Michele Bachmann(Not actually a Republican)
    • Herman Cain
    • Newt Gingrich
    • Jon Huntsman
    • Gary Johnson
    • Fred Karger
    • Andy Martin
    • Thad McCotter
    • Jimmy McMillan (yes, the "The rent is too damn high," guy)
    • Tom Miller
    • Ron Paul (yes, the only one crazier than Jimmy McMillan but not as crazy as Bachmann)
    • Tim Pawlenty
    • Rick Perry
    • Buddy Roemer
    • Mitt Romney
    • Matt Snyder
    • Rick Santorum
    • Vern Wuensche

  • Dumb enough to allow themselves to be described as "potential" candidates
    • Rudy Giuliani, Republican, Former Mayor of New York City
    • Lindsey Graham, Republican, U.S. Senator from South Carolina
    • Roy Moore, Republican, Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court
    • Joe Scarborough, Republican, U.S. Representative from Florida
    • Allen West, Republican, U.S. Representative from Florida
  • Dumb enough to have allowed themselves to be thought of as potential, but
    smart enough to say, "no thanks."
    • Haley Barbour, Republican, Current Governor of Mississippi
    • John Bolton, Republican, Former Ambassador to the United Nations
    • Jeb Bush, Republican, Former Governor of Florida
    • Chris Christie, Republican, Current Governor of New Jersey
    • Mitch Daniels, Republican, Current Governor of Indiana
    • Jim DeMint, Republican, U.S. Senator from South Carolina
    • Mike Huckabee, Republican, Former Governor of Arkansas
    • Bobby Jindal, Republican, Current Governor of Louisiana
    • Bob McDonnell, Republican, Current Governor of Virginia
    • Sarah Palin, Republican, Former Governor of Alaska
    • Mike Pence, Republican, U.S. Representative from Indiana
    • David Petraeus, Republican, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
    • Marco Rubio, Republican, U.S. Senator-elect from Florida
    • Paul Ryan, Republican, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin
    • John Thune, Republican, U.S. Senator from South Dakota
    • Donald Trump, Republican, Business Magnate

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Speaking of strange, unexplained events

At least one of them is over. Footnote-to-history Thad McCotter, has dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination.

I try to keep a sense of humor about this sort of thing, especially given the caliber of other, more serious, candidates (like there are any,) but McCotter I found to be a more than usual insult to the intelligence of the public (like there is any.) Anyway, he's gone, crawling back under the rock of Southeastern Michigan Republican politics.

Must-have fashion accessories for Fall

A camo beanie! From Cabela's, who else? From their mannerist collection, after Parmigianino's Moron with the long neck. Besides all else, consider that someone got paid to model for that photo, someone else got paid to take it, and a catalog editor selected it for use. The wonder of it all.

What's that? You say it's not a real model, it's a dummy? Oh, I agree. I agree. One way or the other.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stupid Comics


No, this is not a current political cartoon, representing Republican members of congress. It's one of many, many '40s era comics mocked on the web site, Stupid Comics.

I grant you, the guy in the middle does look like Dick Cheney, but no ...

Cat food, cat food, cat food ... AGAIN!

Detroit is the worst dining city? Hard to argue with. Let's just all hope that Kwame Kilpatrick doesn't opt for the food service business when he finally wriggles away from the feds (hopefully not in my lifetime.)

Seriously, this take on Detroit food brings to mind the Firesign Theater bit about Mayor Noche's Bamba Shelter: Hey, Jose', order up our special-a sandwich, a sleepy Joe. One's enough, 'cause they're made of dog food and downers! Plus, fabulous, this week only, red beans and reds! Yes, Bad food and bad people go together at Mayor Noche's (cue reverb) Bamba Shelter!

To John's comment below, the "study" that produced this conclusion was a survey of LivingSocial (a Groupon wannabe) customers, so its gold-plated, double-blind, statistical veracity could well be questioned. The Mlive blogger I stole this from who noted the story believed it applied to within the bounds of Eight Mile, not the Detroit SMSA. Why he thought that, I cannot say.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another study on snakebite

"One and a half million people per year are poisoned by snake venom in Sub-Saharan Africa." Turns out the estimates were way under-estimated. I particularly like the cycle of ignorance, poor outcomes, and under-reporting described in the article. Ain't it the way?

Another article says, "Most victims of snakebite are among the poorest, least empowered people in the world..." but at least holds out some hope for an improvement in the pharma situation.

As I've tried to ask in other forums, if this were a microbe or even a parasite causing such havoc, people would be talking about eradication. Not in the case of venomous snakes, though. Why is that? Wouldn't people rather put up with rodents (snakes -- some of them -- eat rodents, but how many? Are they really a necessary vector in controlling the population of rats n' mice?)

Oh, well. Who knows how we'd do it if we could. We don't seem to be doing very well with mosquitoes and poison ivy, over here, after all.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fresh moves


We've all heard about food deserts -- areas, typically in inner cities, where all you can buy is fast food and convenience-store crap. No specialty food stores, no farmers' markets, no Walmarts or Whole Foods -- apparently the margins on groceries, traditionally razor thin, just don't mitigate in favor of locating in the hood. Other causes exist, including racism, probably, but simple lack of incentive seems to account for most of it. Fresh food, widely available a few miles away, just isn't there for purchase.

In Chicago, which evidently has many food desert areas, some folks got the idea of bringing Muhammad to the Mountain, so to speak, and created Fresh Moves (their website). They've refitted a full-size city bus as a rolling market. Instead of gambling on a piece of real estate and a location, the infrastructure moves from place to place, on a daily schedule, in one of the more desolate (food-wise) neighborhoods. Here's a Google search for pictures of the vehicle and other related subjects. Thanks to Linda for passing this on.

What else could you sell out of a bus (leaving aside the obvious food-truck concepts?) Hardware store stuff? What if there were two or three of these things, moving together (more than that and you'd probably run into parking problems?) Why, it's a shopping center on wheels! And consider: come closing time, you aren't leaving your store and inventory sitting in a dodgy neighborhood, inviting break-ins.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I may have to do some reading in the next few weeks ...

... to see just how, in legal terms, a "terrorist group" is defined. The Tea Baggers are trying really hard to make the cut.

They were also lining up to call each other "treasonous," too. And making Rick Perry eat every bite of his words about social security. Hey, here's an idea: what if the Innocence Project looked into every one of those 233 executions that Perry says were all guilty (the number he threw around was 234, but one of them has already been strongly questioned by the Project.) I bet that would keep 'em busy -- both Perry and the Project folks -- for a while.

Jon Stewart beat me to the punch on mocking the Tea Bag debate, but I'm allowed to miss a deadline once in a while, especially if I'm making quiche -- bacon and chicken quiche, with blue oyster and lion's mane mushrooms.

On more positive notes, I've got a grocery-desert story to pass along, but first, it's time for coffee.

2011 09 16: update:
That hotbed of corruption populist, small-government, responsible spending, New Jersey, led by its overblown pol widely-admired governor, Chris Christie, funded production of the 2009 "Jersey Shore" season to the tune of $420,000 hard-earned tax dollars.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm sorry ...

... but that's not the right answer. Thank you for playing.

"But we have to recognize that not all medicine is evidence-based,” he said. “Some of it is anecdotal, and some doctors use their own evidence. That doesn't necessary mean that it's wrong."

Yes, actually it does. Especially when you're talking about this load of criminally negligent nonsense.

And then there's this gentleman.

He "... runs his own company called Real Cool Futures."

"One of his products is making gift paper and stationery from sheep droppings which has been presented to Prince Charles." (Due to the inept writing in the article, I'm unable to say if the paper has been presented to Prince Chas, or if the sheep droppings have to have been previously, in order for the paper making process to work, subsequently.)

"In 2006 he won a £20,000 Millennium Award for 'social entrepreneurship'."

But this week, he blew up his house trying to make home made vodka. Strangely enough, the entrepreneur in question lives in Wales, and is not part of Governor's Snyder's plans to reinvent Michigan.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Piscatorial culinaria as the summer winds down

A couple of meals, recently, with a distinctly fishy theme. Absolutely beautiful Florida Keys Yellow Snapper, before and after. The after demonstrates a recipe from the huge Dorling-Kindersley Seafood book Linda got me, essentially baked fish in a rustic tomato sauce.


Below, vitello tonnato, lifted from Sam Sifton in the Times -- veal eye round covered in a tuna-mayonnaise sauce and served cold. You can't see the veal, but it's there, under the sauce, sliced very thinly. We ate this one with a salad of my own devising: chopped brandywine tomatoes, shredded basil, and cubes of nectarine.


Periodically, Linda will see an article like this and say, "Can you make that?" It usually turns out to be a good thing -- a new trick in my bag of 'em.



Monday, August 29, 2011

The next big thing for politicians to be against

Genetic research is rapidly overturning a lot of preconceived notions about the human background. Three recent changes in what we think about our fellow members of genus Homo include:
  • There were two hominin contemporaries of Homo sapiens (1), not just one. H. neanderthalensis we all know about, but now there appears to be another -- species, subspecies, strain, breed, race? -- that hung out in central Asia. They're being called Denisovans, and they were contemporaries of both H. sapiens and neanderthalensis), it turns out (41,000 years ago, approximately.) They appear, from MDNA work, to be offspring of Neanderthals, not us. What's important is that their DNA shows up all over the map in our own genome; more than half of us Euro-trash have it, and 95% of south Pacific folks do. This is cool because it overturns a lot of ideas about the interaction and isolation (or not) between us and our early neighbors. Before we could do what we now can with genetics, all of what we "knew" was based on guesses from physical remains, artifacts, and proximity -- working with incredibly small samples.
  • The question on everybody's subconscious if not conscious mind (come on now, admit it, you'd wondered, haven't you?) has been, if we (H. sapiens) coexisted with other hominins, did anybody ever get it on? Apparently, the answer is a resounding "yes," given all the Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA hanging around in our mitochondria. I expect any number of 2012 candidates to come out against this sort of extra-specific horsing around, especially given the relative unlikelihood of any of them being personally outed for having sent salacious text messages to Neanderthals.
  • And finally, some work in the Mediterranean is pushing back the dates for plain old seafaring to almost mind-boggling antiquity -- that is, pre-sapiens. At 130,000 years back, somebody left stone tools on Crete (that would be an island, surrounded by the sea -- no way to get there by land.) That pre-dates Homo sapiens, neanderthalensis, and any other of our near relatives we know of, meaning that it had to have been our precursor, H. erectus. That's kind of stunning, given what we thought about their capabilities. The somewhat uncomplimentary and ungrammatical comment by one of the researchers, quoted in the article above, says: " ... these other sister species maybe weren't entirely stupid like we portray them ..." Personally, I've never portrayed members of H. erectus as entirely stupid -- I reserve that for Ron Paul and Ralph Nader voters -- but in future I'll be watching myself carefully for any form of bias of this nature.
So anyway -- three interesting developments that highlight how at least one domain is actually undergoing a revolution through technology, kind of making up for the disappointing lack of similar earth-shaking progress in, say, healthcare or political science.
<1>Leaving aside H. floresiensis, the so-called Hobbit, whose status as a separate species is still being (hotly) debated.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Told you so

Cooking is a big deal. Makes your brain big (if you're a pre-Sapiens Hominin, that is (or was)).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two really bad ideas and a good summation

The bad ideas:

Cloud computing for your government.

Newt Gingrich boosts Six Sigma for your government.

Maybe there really is a conspiracy to destroy America from within.

And a good analysis of the GOP 2012 field. Couldn't have said it better myself.

"When will they ever learn? When will they ... ever learn?" -- P. Seeger

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Whack-a-mole begins

The law of conservation of idiots is showing itself as Pawlenty gives up and Perry (apparently) steps in. One candidate with no ideas replaces another.

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2011 08 16: And our local political nonentity newcomer, Thad McCotter, did either better or worse than expected in Iowa, depending on your point of view. Since he wasn't invited to take part in the GOP festivities, and is essentially being ignored by all and sundry, the fact that he got 35 votes could be seen as exceeding expectations. On the other hand, the top finisher, Michelle "Space Cadet" Bachmann got more than 4000, so perhaps McCotter didn't do all that well. In any case, his candidacy is essentially no different in its strategy than that of someone who sets out for a weekend at one of Michigan's fine Native American casinos: spend a bunch of money, hopefully most of it your own, and get nothing for it except a hangover.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Job creation

9:00 AM on a bright Friday morning, we drove past the entramce to a development or a very large house or something. It had just been paved with with shiny black asphalt Most organizations would fling a few orange cones around and call it good enough. But in this case, the cones were replaced by a proud American worker, in a tank top, with a beer, and sitting on a cooler. UsA, USA, USA!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Delivery in Ann Arbor

For a long time, I've been cranky about the limited delivery food in town -- some nights, even your humble food snob Editor is too tired, grumpy, or medicated to cook or drive someplace. Like a good progressive, the answer is to throw money at the problem, but I was living under the impression that essentially all you could get was Pizza or maybe a sub. But I see by the simple means of browsing around in allmenus.com that we do, in fact, have more options than I thought. Here's a selection, based on nothing at all except my prejudices and some limited experience. I've just listed a few, and left off all but one of our other favorite spots from which you can get carry-out but not delivery. Suggestions and comments welcome.

Cuisine Restaurant Delivery or Pickup Menu Comments Food Speediness
Chinese San Fu Delivery Basic Mandarin; the twice cooked pork is great about half the time, good the rest of the time. Good Excellent!
Pizza Anthony's Pizza Delivery
(not on allmenus.com)
Ann Arbor's finest, in my opinion, deep-dish. Excellent! Good
Pizza Cottage Inn Delivery Our current preferred provider for straight-up, college-town style pizza. Good Good
Pizza,
Pasta,
Sandwiches,
Desserts
Silvio's Delivery Very nice eat-in Italian place on North University, and they apparently deliver as well. Very good Unsampled
Pizza,
Subs,
Deli,
Burger
NY Pizza Depot Delivery We haven't tried these guys, but their menu is extensive. Will give them a shot soon, just for variety. Unsampled Unsampled
Pizza,
Subs,
Deli,
Burger
Pizza House Delivery Big menu, not all that great. Ok Good
Gyros,
Subs,
Burgers,
Breakfast
Ahmo's Gyros and Deli Delivery Many flavors of gyros, subs (they distinguish among subs, hoagies, and grinders, oddly, since they're essentially synonymous or should be,) and even diner-style breakfasts. Have not yet tried them. Unsampled Unsampled
Pizza,
Burgers
Fraser's Pub Delivery,
Pickup
Not on allmenus.com
Fraser's will deliver you a pizza; not clear if they'll deliver their bar menu or not, but due to the deafening noise levels in the place, we sometimes order burgers to go and pick 'em up. Pizza: good / Burgers: Very good Good
Mainstream Indian Raja Rani Delivery allmenus.com claims that the old standby Indian place on William will deliver. Who knew? Haven't tried delivery (nor in fact been there for dinner in a while,) but it's on the list. Ok to good Unsampled
Thai Siam Square Delivery Not a place I know, but its menu lists many of the same dishes, especially in the curry department, as our current favorite, Lotus Thai / Marnee Thai. Might give this one a shot on a night when I'm adamant about not leaving the house. Unsampled Unsampled
Jamaican Jamacian Jerk Pit Delivery Tiny, long-established place that I walk right by everytime we go to Mercy's or Hill or somewhere in that vicinity. They say they deliver; will give then a try when the mood strikes. Unsampled Unsampled
Sushi,
Japanese in general
Miki Delivery Miki is under new management, and we have not been there in years (being devoted to our regular place, Yotsuba,) but allmenus.com says they deliver. Unsampled lately Unsampled

As is always the case with the Internet, some of this may be out of date. But nevertheless, I was gratified to see even this much availability. The only thing missing is the long-lost DeLong's BBQ, who were for a time willing to bring you the best goddam barbequed half a chicken I've had. Granted, a friend of mine used to describe their ribs as "goat," but the sauced bird was my favorite. Alas for the sticky old days.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Savage ducks

Sitting at our picnic table on the shores of Black Lake, watching the local gang of mallards getting fed cheesey poofs or something by one of the neighboring campsites - a seagull swooped in to take part, and the ducks mobbed him. He couldn't even take off again.  I've never seen aggressive ducks before.

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Makes you think (I hope)

Of course, we know virtually nothing about the Oslo incident yet - It'll be interesting, in fact, to see how long it takes for even an official, let alone an accurate account of motives and scope emerges.

But whatever was going on, you gotta remember: this apparent blend of extreme religion and extreme politics isn't an isolated position. It's the far end of a range along which lie gradations of the same points of view, less festered, less obscene, but still on the same road.  Think about it when you vote -- or even when you pick a news show or buy a paper.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heirogliphics of a sort


We did our obligatory quick run through the State Street Art Fair last night, and over by Rackham, there was a large, sparsely staffed set of tables from Applegate Farms. They were doing nothing at all that I could see except giving away free samples of their hot dogs, along with brochures and the pin shown here.

The translation they were trying for, I assume, is "I love meat," a marketing cliche in which "love" is represented by a heart shape. But by replacing it with an apple, I suppose they were trying to link it to their name, Applegate. But then, in the inevitable back and forth with the CEO, I imagine the following dialog went on.

CEO: I apple meat? What does that mean?
Marketing Creep: Well, it still means I heart meat, but the Apple is for Applegate, you know, tying it to us.
CEO: I don't get it. How much do these pins cost?
Marketing Creep: Well, maybe we need to strengthen the imagery -- what do you think, artist?
Artist: Uh, how about if there's an arrow through the apple? Like what's his name shooting an apple off somebody's head? That would strengthen the apple-ness of it.
CEO: What? Paul Revere or somebody like that?
Marketing Creep: Yeah, or Ted Nugent -- he's hot right now.
CEO: Couldn't we get Ted Nugent to do an ad for us?
Marketing Creep: You think the pins are expensive?
Artist: And there's all this feral pig thing, tied to Ted right now. We might want to hold off on that until we see who comes out on top.
CEO: On top of what? Ted Nugent is in favor of feral pigs?
CFO: (Popping in) Are you winding up? I need the conference room.
CEO: Oh, hell, I don't care. Put an arrow in and run with it.
Artist: Actually, you know, it would make a pretty good logo. We should put it on everything.
CEO: Fine, fine. Just don't go nuts with the budget.

I have long wanted to create and copyright a heiro-phrase like this myself, in which the characters would be:

I X-a-(drawing of a shipping container) (topic)

Which would be read as I execrate New York or Michelle Bachmann or something. But it would just cause traffic accidents, I suppose.

And by the way, they were terrible hot dogs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One down

Ron Paul, the Libertarian wacko from Texas, has announced that he will leave Congress in order to focus on a run for the Presidency, Since he has less chance of being nominated, let alone elected, than I do, that means effectively one fewer incumbent jackass in Washington, giving TX an opportunity to elect a new one.

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For your entertainment, here's a classic piece of Ron Paul nonsense. The man should be institutionalized. Perhaps in the same room as Rick Perry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Spank Newscorp while the spanking is good

2011 07 14: Yay! The FBI took my advice! Or they're operating independently. Whichever.

As a long time believer in the efficacy of kicking a man while he's down, this strikes me as a really great time to open investigations into any potential coziness between Rupert Murdoch's US enterprises (can you say Fox News?) and our own gummint. Whether there's anything to be found is hardly the issue -- if just a few congress critters call for hearings, the fun on Wall Street will be immense.

If he was willing to just shut down The News of the World as a sacrifice to criticism, what would he do if Roger Ailes were found to have approved something moderately despicable? Something that touched on the lives of, say, the families of US soldiers killed overseas? Ah, the schadenfreude. I can taste it now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quote of the day

"It is sufficient that we understand clearly the strategic lack of logic of the fundamental idea of the crusades and that we understand their genesis. The mystical-transcendental trait of mankind is capable of developing a gigantic force, but the ability to direct this force to practical, down-to-earth goals is lacking, and the force is consumed fruitlessly,"

Hans Delbruck, writing in 1923, in Germany, Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte. Dr. Delbruck died in 1929, sparing himself the irony of a first-hand view of the subject.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

He's not a jackass, he's just Type B

The Japanese official who resigned after a week for, essentially, being a jerk, claims it's his blood type that made him do it. His wife reminded him of it, he says. Incidentally, I'm a type O. See what the article says the Japanese think about that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The revolving door keeps on rollin'

Back and forth, back and forth.

The content-industrial complex against which President Eisenhower warned us continues to trade execs in a pathetic effort to avoid obsolescence.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

With the troubles at Borders ...

... one small casualty has been the video link on Bob Sparrow's web site to some Ann Arbor interviews with Anthony Bourdain. I took a few minutes this AM to poke around the net and came up with one video and a blog entry. In the first one, you'll see fleeting glimpses of Bob and also Mike Monaghan, the Fish Market king.

Bourdain eats smelt, disses Food Network

Ok ... that appears to be all Utube has. Here's a Bourdain blog entry about Grange.

Anybody have anything other than the video on Utube? The reason I ask is that it was described to me as "Bourdain interviews Bob Sparrow," and that's certainly not in the link here. Just a quick cameo of Bob, plus Mike delivering a plate of smelt.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Michigan Anti-affirmative action amendment overturned

You go, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. In yo' face!

Some alert readers may recall that I posed this question, some time back: what's the difference between the Taliban and people who voted for Proposition 2? One group is hiding in caves in Afghanistan and the other one should be.

Among people who were pleased: the Mayor of Grand Rapids, for some reason. He said, "Wow, wow, wow!" in fact. Not what I'd expect from a West Michigan Pol, but good for him.

The only good argument

,,, for being a vegetarian,

"I'm not a vegatarian because I love animals, I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants,"  A. Whitney Brown

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Well, maybe.

I think this guy did most of his Sci-fi reading in the sixties, too. But nice to see someone optimistic about contact, in the good old fashioned Heinlein and Clarke style, instead of the Hawking, "We should hide from aliens" point of view.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An inconvenient connection

Doing some medieval reading these days, and ran across this view of cultural dispersion.

Think Texas, Montana, cow country, the cowboy ethos. Ever wonder where all those Anglo-Saxon whities got the cowboy life style from? Well, pardner, they got it from the Spanish, who brung it with 'em when they conquered Mexico and the Southwest. And where did they bring it from? Spain. And where did they get it while they were still in Spain? From the moors, natch. The Muslims who conquered most of the Southern Iberian Peninsula in the middle ages. Until then, the local Christians were mostly sheep-shaggers, not cattle abusers.

So the next time you run into George W., ask him which direction he faces when he prays.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Technological coincidences

Having done some time in the world of software test, I have trained my mind to reject coincidence as an explanation for anything. If something breaks, look first for what changed last. Simple and almost always right. Almost. I guess.

Two weeks back, I cancelled a long-standing ATT cell phone account, moving to Verizon. All was well (very well, in fact -- best move I've made in years, phone-wise,) except -- that I couldn't get my POP3 email to work. I could receive mail just fine on the Droid, but outgoing wouldn't work. smtp.att.yahoo.com wasn't having any. And it still worked from accounts set up on PCs and so on.

And then it didn't. Outgoing mail failed everywhere. We have DSL from ATT thanks to the demise of 2020.com's DSL business, which they fobbed off on ATT. I wonder, I said to myself, if somehow cancelling my cell phone account triggered something within the bowels of the great satan of telcom, screwing up their knowledge of me and my account with them. On the PC side, anyway, the symptom was a rejection of the password I'd been given when ATT took over from 2020.

So, with great reluctance, I called support, hammered the 0 key to get out of the robot "reboot your DSL modem" instructions, went through two different tech reps, to discover that -- completely without connection to anything else, the ATT systems had changed to using a password associated with your "Yahoo account," I thing I did not have and certainly did not need to have -- except that now I did need it, and nobody had bothered to let me, a paying-through-the-nose DSL customer, know.

So I guess I can no longer rule out coincidence. Funny thing is, the failures weren't consistent. For a while, mail would still sometimes go through, using the old password. So somewhere, ATT's code is caching something. Hackers, take note.

And what is the lesson learned? I'm looking into other sources of broadband. That's a lesson for ATT, not for me, by the way.
2011 06 22: Ok, and here's another one. I visited an IRS site to download a form. Within minutes, one of my lesser-used email accounts received a copy of the well-known "The IRS has rejected your bank payment" scam messages.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Return of the oddly inflamatory shop-local list

The opening of a WalMart in Saline has been reported as impacting the local stores (huge surprise,) which prompts me to repost my shop-locally list, with some additions suggested by others.

Wine, Deli, Chocolates Morgan and York 1928 Packard, Ann Arbor 48104 734 769 9770 http://morganandyork.com/
As we say in Ann Arbor, "you know, the old Big Ten Party Store." Repeatedly voted Best Wine Shop. Especially in the realm of small French labels and Kermit Lynch - imported values, this is the place. Update 2011 06 14: still going strong, as far as I can tell.
Wine Everyday Wines 407 N. Fifth Ave - 1st Floor Ann Arbor, MI 48104 734.827.WINE http://www.everyday-wines.blogspot.com/
Just as the name implies, Mary Campbell's shop is dedicated to affordable wines. Update 2011 06 14 As with Morgan and York, Mary seems to be weathering the storm.
Produce, high-end groceries, wine Produce Station 1629 S. State St. Ann Arbor MI 48104 734.663.7848 http://www.producestation.com/visit.php
With the exception of the Farmer's Market in season, there is no better place for produce in Ann Arbor, period. Small, inconvenient to get to and get around in, it's worth the effort. Unofficial Rules: do not use a full size grocery cart (even though they have them), do not bring children. Update 2011 06 14 - If you were a fan of his, Jorge' from the moribund Village Corner is working with them on their wine selections.
Deli, luxury foods, coffee beans, bread Zingerman's 422 Detroit Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104 888.636.8162 http://www.zingermans.com/default.aspx
Although Zingerman's is the Superpower of local vendors, with aspirations to a global reach via their mail order side, they're still local, and they still roast a fine coffee bean.
Produce, meats, plants Ann Arbor Farmers Market 315 Detroit St, Ann Arbor 48103 734 994-3276 http://kerrytown.org/detail.asp?id=336
In season, the best produce available. In the winter, a desolate tundra of crafts and wreaths. I mark the return of reasonable weather in the area by the reappearance of edible things at the market. Unofficial rules: no strollers! Update 2011 06 14 there are edibles, for sure, but the real kickoff will be when people bring in their picked basil and the whole place smells like caprese! In addition to the Saturday and Wednesday daytime schedules, the Market is experimenting with a Wednesday evening opening, which at first blush seems like it might be more dining-and-strolling focused than retail. Just started, so the outcome remains to be seen. NB: Zingerman's hosts the Westside Farmers' Market (Thursday PM) out on the far West Side, at their Roadhouse Restaurant; Ypsilanti also has a market - Tuesdays, PM -- apparently; the website is broken at the moment.
Bulk food, spices By the Pound 617 S Main Street, Ann Arbor (734) 665-8884 http://arborwiki.org/city/By_The_Pound
Best place for getting just exactly the amount of something you want, not what Proctor and Gamble thinks you need. I do not assert that you will save any money, necessarily, but you'll pay for the food you're buying, not its packaging. The routine is, grab one of the plastic bags that are set out, dump your preferred quantity of whatever into it, close it with one of the tagged twist-ties, and write the price per pound on said tag (not a stock number as with some other bulk places.) The store owner has all the prices of the hundreds of items memorized, but the staff don't necessarily, so write legibly.
Groceries Ann Arbor People's Food Coop 216 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor (734)994-9174 http://www.peoplesfood.coop/
Everything you'd expect in a coop. We are members, but we don't shop there all that often, primarily because we can get virtually everything they have from one of the other vendors listed here. Nothing against the coop, just seldom happens that I think of them first. It's a character flaw.
Groceries Ypsilanti Food Coop 312 North River Street, Ypsilanti (734) 483-1520 http://www.ypsifoodcoop.org/
And of course, there's a food coop in Ypsilanti, too.
Produce, groceries, wine Fresh Seasons Market 2281 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor MI 48103 Closed Closed
They did not survive the chaos.
Meats, produce, groceries Sparrow Market 415 N. Fifth Ave - 1st Floor Ann Arbor MI 48104 734.761.8175 http://www.kerrytown.com/sparrowmeats/index.html
There is no better, more consistent source of meat in Ann Arbor, with the possible exception of the actual raisers who come to the Farmer's Market. The rest of Sparrow's empire in Kerrytown is pretty darn good, too. Update 2011 06 14 Going strong, with a small lunch capability added. Anthony Bourdain apparently interviewed Bob, but in the demise of all things Border's, the video appears to be missing.
Meat Hannewald Lamb Stockbridge MI 49285 (in the Farmer's Market, too) 517-851-4718 http://arbormarket.googlepages.com/hannewaldlamb
A local raiser, with a Farmer's Market presence. The absolute best lamb I've ever cooked, and nice dog treats, too.
Meat Knight's Market 420 Miller Avenue, Ann Arbor (734) 665-6494 http://www.knightsmeatmarket.com/
Easily forgotten (by me, in the last list,) due to their low profile and edge-of-downtown location, Knight's is a major supplier of meat to local restaurants, and their little shop will sell you some, too. Many of the best-rated burgers in Ann Arbor list "Knight's meat" on the menu. They are reportedly planning to join the 21st century in terms of image and offerings, sometime this year.
Seafood Monahan's 407 North 5th Avenue, Ann Arbor MI (734) 662-5118 http://www.kerrytown.com/monahans/
To the extent that you can get fresh seafood in Ann Arbor, Monahan's is the place to get it. As always with fish far from the sea, you're better off going in without preconceived notions about what you want, and simply asking, "What's good today?"
Smoked fish etc. Durham's Tracklements 212 East Kingsley Street Ann Arbor MI 48104 734-930-6642 http://www.tracklements.com/contact.php
Nationally-known source for great smoked fish and other smoked animals. In fact, a tiny hole in the wall on the north side of Kerrytown. Wonderful stuff.
Groceries Busch's various various http://buschs.com/http://buschs.com/">http://buschs.com/
Although Busch's exhibits most of the faults of supermarkets, it is, at least, a local enterprise. If you absolutely, positively have to shop at a supermarket, these are slightly better than the other places. Not recommended for anything that perishes or comes in grades of quality, such as fish, meat, deli, or produce.
Dog-related Stuff Dog-o-Mat 2 2740 Jackson Blvd (734) 769-1492 http://www.dog-o-mat.com/dogomat_2.htm
After an unfortunate relocation, Dog-o-Mat is regrouping and planning a new presence. In the meantime, the PawRun dog park is still a going concern, and there is the above-listed franchise Dog-o-Mat 2 for washes and grooming.
Dog-related Stuff Dogma Catmantoo 208 North 4th Avenue, Ann Arbor (734) 929-0022 http://www.dogmacatmantoo.com/
I know, I know. Terrible name. But a nice little place near Kerrytown for dog supplies.
Dog-related Stuff Fun Time Dog Shop.com On line only
http://funtimedogshop.com/
A local business, although with no bricks and mortar presence. Profits are shared among various dog rescue organizations. Disclosure: the proprietress is a good friend of ours.
Groceries Hiller's 3615 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor (734) 677-2370 http://www.hillers.com/current-ad/ann-arbor.html
Those on the East Side speak well of Hiller's, although I seldom find any need to shop there, any more than any other supermarket. May be worth your while.
Groceries Plum Market 375 North Maple Road , Ann Arbor 734.827.5000 http://www.plummarket.com/
And those on the West Side seem to like Plum, although it's completely off my beat. It is, in fact, a small supermarket chain, with stores in Bloomfield and West Bloomfield. Caveat emptor.
Groceries, New Age Hooey Arbor Farms 2103 W. Stadium, Ann Arbor 734-996-8111 http://www.arborfarms.com/
The website says "... we offer local and organic produce; fresh Michigan grass-fed beef, pork, lamb and poultry; fresh seafood ..." I will not flatly deny any of that, but I see little evidence of it, personally. Primary focus seems to be on packaged food such as cereals, a bulk food aisle that is no match for By the Pound (above), and vast amounts of holistic and groovy and unregulated substances and equipment. Used to be a smaller, funkier place, at Liberty and Maple, but they are now in an antiseptic new place, next to the Stadium Ace Hardware.
Hardware Stadium Hardware 2177 W Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor (734) 663-8704 http://www.arborwiki.org/city/Stadium_Hardware
Not clear that they have a website of their own, but who cares? What they do have is an entire room of nuts and bolts, screws, and obscure gear that you may only need once in a lifetime, but by God, when you need it, you need it. And other stuff that you may not need, but you know you want. And staff you can ask "How the $#*!! do I fix a clogged hoozitz?" and they'll know. With the demise of Schlenker's, this is the go-to place for HW and HW expertise.
Hardware Ace Barnes Hardware 3352 Washtenaw Ave and 2105 W Stadium Blvd 734.971.4555 and 734.665.7555 http://www.acehardware.com/home/index.jsp
Not strictly local, since the Ace name is more or less national, but Ann Arbor's two Ace Barnes stores are good places, slightly less hardcore than Stadium, but with a wider and shallower range of goods, and almost as good a crew of staff.
Hardware Jack's Hardware 740 Packard Street, Ann Arbor (734) 995-0078 http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jacks-Hardware
Small, quirky, extremely local outfit on Packard, with one of those "My boss told me to change the sign so I did" marquees and reputedly a bit of an attitude, politically. But infallibly polite to paying customers, in my experience, and a good local source in the Packard student ghetto. Careful with the parking lot; the drill is, enter the right-most drive, park, and then exit by circling around the extremely narrow alley and coming out again on the left. Otherwise, you have to back out onto Packard.
Gardening and Kitchen Supplies Downtown Home and Garden 210 S. Ashley Street, Ann Arbor (734) 662-8122 http://www.downtownhomeandgarden.com/
Years ago, downtown supported two nearby, friendly hardware stores, the above- mentioned Schlenker's and what this place used to be, Hertler's. Schlenker's is gone, but Hertler's became Downtown Home and Garden under the care of Mark Hodesh, a downtown Ann Arborite if there ever was one. He tells the tale of the store on the website -- for here, it's enough to say that if you have a need for seed or a pan to cook the tomato sauce in, DTH&G is probably the place to start looking.

And of course, here are the places I beg of you not to spend your money. Whole Foods: all marketing, all the time, with marginally better quality perishables than low-end supermarkets and a predatory approach to local competition. You spend more for what you buy and get far less value. Not a place to buy wine, either; if you can spell "Bordeaux," let alone pronounce it, you will know more than the wine staff. Trader Joe's: just say no. There is nothing here that you want, and most of it is of very dubious provenance. Again, the staff know nothing that you don't already know. Kroger's, Meier's, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, etc. There is absolutely no viable cost/quality equation you can come up with that justifies shopping with these people.
Update 2011 06 14 Ok, I admit that you can come up with a rationale that satisfies you for shopping with these Somali Pirates. But you will not come up with one that convinces me. Because, as the Wood-Charles motto says, Libenter homines ...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rites of Spring

Spring food. Clockwise from top right: corn, soaked to steam itself on the grill; Caprese in its easiest form; frogged chicken, barded with bacon, again for the grill; shells with (local Michigan farmed) shrimp and duck sausage, nostrani, asparagus, and oyster mushrooms; Campari and soda with blood orange.

This is what I wait for, patiently (more or less) throughout nine or so months of the year.

Congratulations, everybody!

Another triumph for the free market.

I think I'll dig out and re-post the shop-local list, even though the Saline stores weren't on it. Maybe somebody will rant about diapers again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A growth industry, for sure

Mercs in the hood. Palmer Woods is hiring private security to patrol and interact with the cops.

Of course, at some point the hired soldery will realize their advantage, depose the current leadership, and appoint an emperor of Palmer Woods of their own. Or am I thinking of Rome? Why does the word, "Janissary" come to mind?

Oh, here's the next municipality who'll doubtlessly be looking into hiring Gauls or Scythians or something like that: Royal Oak.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Recon of the Wed Evening Farmer's Market

As a response to the growth of other markets around the area (e.g., Zingerman's Thursdays at the Roadhouse, the Ypsi market, etc.,) the Kerrytown Market is experimenting with a Wednesday afternoon opening, in addition to its Wednesday and Saturday hours. We took a run by, just to see who was there on day one, and the answer was not all that many people, vending or buying. I have the sense that it may turn into more of a dining event than a retail one, although the market management wants a mix. Anyway, a couple of shots of people I did and didn't expect to be there.



The omnipresent Pilar's Tamales



The unexpected Silvio's Pizza

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

L Brooks Patterson writhes again

Can you believe this guy?

Too much time on my hands?

A traction trebuchet is not the giant, dead-horse-flinging, counterbalance-powered siege engine you frequently see pictured. It's smaller and powered by humans hauling on ropes to whip a stone up and out of a sling. I saw a reproduction in action at a Medieval Congress years ago, and recently said, "I bet I could build a scale model of one of them." Judge for yourselves.


This is from the Maciejowski Bible, a 13th century source with lots of first-time-seen illustrations, including this somewhat obscure image of a traction trebuchet in action.



This is my 10-second sketch of what I thought I could quickly build with bass wood and left-over 25mm wargaming figures.




And this is the outcome. As built, it wouldn't work, or at least very well. The sling is too short and the boom is probably too short, as well. It would probably fall over forward, since it's insufficiently braced fore and aft. Plus three guys is a slim crew. But it was amusing to build. For extra credit, how was I able to work wine bottle foil into this piece?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lamest insult of the week

I was a bit cranky with the young man in his pickup truck. He'd come into the small, L-shaped parking lot at the west side of Kerrytown the wrong way, the clearly-marked wrong way, and was sitting waiting for a space to open up. This is one thing on a non-market day, but there were four other cars who'd been driven in the right way, also waiting.

So I walked over to him, pointed out the error of his ways, and asked him to "Back it out." He grudgingly complied, but stopped behind my car, rolled down his window, and shouted, "You must be a jerk!" No doubt, son, no doubt. Been studying it for years.