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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dumb Will Find A Way

So there hasn't been a lot of traffic here lately, mostly because the Wood-Charles staff have been writing other things, in other media. (For extra credit, what's wrong with the following:

vector vList {0,1,2,3,4};
for (int i = 0 ; i <= vList.size() ; i++) 


Show your work.)

Anyway, for those who weren't paying attention, 2013 was the year in which, to paraphrase Trevor Rabin, Dumb Will Find A Way. Viz:

  • So the evil state wants to keep you from killing yourself and those around you? The Obama-Pelosi conspiracy is gradually outlawing cigarettes? Nice try, Bloomberg-NannyState-Fascists! We can fix this! E-cigarettes! You can still fool yourself into believing that you look like Humphrey Bogart. You can still lean casually on the bar and ... what? But it's not a real cigarette! It's not even tobacco! I'm not "smoking"! All right, so how about this one? Looks nothing like a cigarette, Okay? I admit, it does look like I'm sucking on a flashlight, but still ... Dumb found a way, at least for a while.
  • All right, all right. Grump. So we can't give ourselves lung cancer any more. We're losing our freedoms every day. But I know! Skin cancer! Tanning salons! We can expose our pasty white carcasses to artificially harmful rays! Hell, even in Florida there're 1261 melanoma shoppes. Big growth industry. Hint: invest in pharma stocks now. Dumb found a way.
  • Meanwhile, Comrades, here in Soviet Uni ... I mean, Russia, is big problem. We got nasty country, nasty government, nasty terrorist persons. We host the 2014 Olympics, but many degenerate hooligans refuse to come. What to do? Ah, is brilliant! We arrest punk band, Greenpeace counter-revolutionaries, random gay persons. Then, to show how modern and enlightened is Russia, we let them go! Dumb is find way!
  • One third of Americans claim not to believe in evolution. Enough said.
  • Colonial chickens come home to roost! In perhaps the ultimate manner, France is being reminded of just how good an idea it was to have colonies in Saharan Africa, that is, French boys are being killed in an effort to fix their grandparents' mistakes. Alors, l'an dernier, I could not find ze Central African Republic on ze map. Maintenant, Je suis buried there. Dumb eventually found a way.
  • At least in the CAR, the conflict is between people of two more or less different religions. Elsewhere (South Sudan, Syria, Iraq, etc.), people of the same faith, albeit different sects thereof, are killing each other with everything from modern artillery to machetes. Of course, the actual reason isn't simple bigotry, it's a scramble for what small amounts of power, money, and food are still left on the table, but it's more convenient to say "There go the (insert sect here)! Get 'em!" Post-colonial Dumb continues to find a way.
  • If you're a small frog in a comparatively medium-sized pond and you have little in the way of ethics and brains, you're at risk. The gateway drug of local politics can lead you to all kinds of disastrous situations. If you're not careful who you hang out with, you might become Mayor! All over North America, big-city mayors are stumbling (sometimes literally) into difficulties, while the morons who voted for them cheer them on. Beds at Marion Barry House are at a premium. In Detroit, Toronto, San Diego ... dumb got found out.
  • Finally, we offer this transcript of a meeting. "Okay, Mr. Rodman, now, when Hillary ... I mean, the Democrats ... win in 2016, we think you have a good shot at a State Department post. Ambassador or something. But you need some international credentials. Something to show you can go abroad and deal with foreign governments and leaders. Have we got a concept for you!" Dumb appears to be finding a way.
One of your editor's resolutions for the new year is to post more of this mean-spirited, sarcastic rubbish that I you know and love. We'll see how it comes out.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

WRT Georgetown, the Packard Plant, et al

Yesterday, all this rubble seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though it's here to stay.
I told you so, just yesterday.

Yesterday, this was such an easy game to play.
They'll buy anything you say,
As long as they think you can pay.

Suddenly, I'm not worth half of what I used to be.
There's a shadow hanging over me.
Yes, I believe: insolvency.

Why they wouldn't loan I don't know, they wouldn't say.
My business plan was nuts, I'm a putz,
Now I can't pay.

Yesterday, I was as big as Bobby Flay.
Now I'm popular as curds and whey.
Oh, I believe I'll slip away.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One of those things you keep revisiting

When I was a software development manager, one of my annoying little ways was to draw my engineers' attention to the Therac-25 disaster, periodically. Therac-25 was an early and horrifying example of why you can't just let people hack software together without a process of some kind.

This happened back in the mid- to late-Eighties. Essentially, a Canadian company that made radiation therapy machines allowed all the control software to be developed by a single engineer. That person alone made decisions on code reuse, new development, and testing. In fact, he or she did most of the testing. The work was done in PDP-11 assembly language, running on a proprietary operating system. People died. The link above will give you the standard write-up on the problem, done by independent software engineering authorities.

It probably won't take thirty years for the launch of the Affordable Care Act infrastructure to become a standard and almost equally horrifying example of why extensive and elaborate processes aren't even remotely a guarantee of software quality, either.

I think I'm going to stop admitting that I worked in the industry at all. If anyone asks, I spent 33 years driving a garbage truck.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This is getting monotonous

So this McConnell guy is unstoppable, apparently. Not content with hacking out mystery stories, now he's got a business book out there! What does he know about business? Monkey business, maybe. Here's what he claims:

People fear Carnegie Mellon's CMMI models because they think they're just a big, prescriptive way of imposing the waterfall development method on everybody. Wrong. In this book, I argue that what CMMI is (or can be used as) is a big compendium of common sense things to do, and you do them to avoid trouble. You can be as agile as you like, and there's nothing that says you have to get appraised at some specific level. You can benefit just by treating CMMI as a checklist: Do we do this at all? Could we be doing it better? Or just differently?

This volume is about the overall starting point: three process areas that all start with "Organizational", and consequently are known as the Os. The plan is to have at least one more book, probably more than that, all looking at what CMMI calls for and asking the question, "If we don't do this, what could go wrong"?

Anyway, you can read it on a Kindle device or on almost anything else (PCs, Macs, Android devices, iPhones and iPads ... Amazon gives away free reader software). Oh, and McConnell says he might consider print versions, too. No promises there. That stuff costs money!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Have a look in your medicine cabinet

Consider this: the FDA says that "...only products intended solely for self-limiting disease conditions amenable to self-diagnosis (of symptoms) and treatment may be marketed over the counter (OTC)."

So unless a condition is a) going to go away of its own accord (is self-limiting) and is something you can diagnose and treat successfully yourself, companies can't sell their nostrums over the counter. Or to put it another way, while it's conceivable that a homeopathic treatment might make something go away or get better more quickly, whatever disease or condition it's marketed for has to be one that will just kill itself off anyway.

The FDA also says "The labeling for those products offered for OTC retail sale must bear at least one major OTC indication for use ...", meaning that "You'll feel better!" or "Increase your quality of life!" don't cut it. The labeling has to tell you why you might actually want to participate in a large collective hallucination take the product.

Recently, the FDA has had to send warning letters to at least six homeopathic marketers, reminding them of this.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do you enjoy being creeped out?

Then you might enjoy reading this New York Magazine interview with Antonin Scalia. It is terrifying that this idiot-savant is actually on the supreme court, given his stated belief that the devil is "a real person", and that "Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history."

He knows the law and parts of the Constitution (but not, until recently, the Ninth Amendment, according to him), and the rest of his knowledge comes from The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times, oh, and he listens to the radio. He says in one place that he hunts and fishes with people from Louisiana, and in another place that the people he knows don't say the F-word. And he accused the interviewer of being out of touch with mainstream America. You can't make this stuff up; I wish I was.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tonight on TRU TV: Top 10 Dumbest Populations

It is -- or was -- a major world power. Its name is synonymous with cultural development. It was a key driver of the Industrial Revolution. For a time, it was the world's policeman. Today, it's a sad shambles, its economy in disarray and its youth actually dumber than its adults. That's right, horrifyingly, the young people are less clueful WRT reading and math than their elders, bucking a long, long trend. And its two leading political parties jumped at the chance to blame each other for it.

Which country? You might say, "The US, of course." You might say that, and you'd be wrong with a capital WR. It's the motherland, the United Kingdom. Its kids are morons, comparatively speaking. At least according to this BBC story. Take it with a grain of salt; it is, after all, the BBC, a paragon of take-no-chances journalism. But they sound pretty confident of their data, and the response of Labour and the Conservatives (there ought to be an emoticon for two fingers, pointing at each other, but if there is, I can't find it) is so US-like that our House and Senate are considering a lawsuit for patent infringement.

Duh, Britannia, Britannia can't spell "waves".

Meanwhile, another country, tired of dealing with opposition in a civilized, democratic way, has simply decided to jail the wilder ones. Where is this crackdown taking place? Egypt? Syria? Texas? No, this week anyway, it's in the birthplace of democracy, Greece, where they're rounding up the neo-nazis and charging them with, um, things. Admittedly, one of them probably did murder a critic of their crypto-populist viewpoint, but still ... Aristotle did not return phone calls, asking for comment.

I keep promising myself not to start the day by reading the news, but I can't seem to break the habit. Here at home (where we're apparently striving to take the idiot honors back from the UK), a group of at least two and possibly more truck drivers are planning their own shutdown of the government by driving at the speed limit around the beltway (presumably in their trucks). One faction says they're going to "arrest" any lawmakers they can find who aren't upholding the constitution; another faction says "Nuh uh!" That's why I say there are at least two of these concerned citizens. Except in extraordinary circumstances, you have to have at least one person to make up a faction, per Federal regulations.

And because this isn't Greece (or Egypt or Syria), they probably won't just be spike-stripped, tased, dragged out of their Kenworths, and summarily shot. And because the Air Force is on shutdown (or it isn't -- not exactly clear), they can't finish their program of phasing out the A-10 ground attack planes and turning them over to local police forces for traffic control. Pity.

2013 10 11: Update on the trucker thing. Faction one now says it was all a "hoax" to get media attention, and he probably isn't going, himself.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quick, while the government's shut down

So I carry a small plastic dongle that opens and closes my garage door. So far, it's basically done just that. You push a button, it transmits a radio signal to the door opener, and there you go.

Last night, we went out and got take-out for dinner. Coming home, I was riding in the passenger's seat and holding the food on my lap. As we drove up to the house, I fumbled around for my opener (which is on a carabiner, clipped to my belt, along with all my other keys). Pushed the button, no result. Again, nothing. Linda dug out her opener and the door opened. "Dammit" I thought, "battery's dead." Nope. Once we were inside, mine worked fine.

This morning, heading out for coffee, it worked properly again.

So, while everybody in DC is otherwise engaged, I'm going to send DARPA a proposal for research into ground and formed and sliced lamb, wrapped in pita bread, as a security material and general radio signal blocker. If all goes well in phase one, phase two will involve surrounding the Pentagon with bunkers of gyros sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A third little mystery

Due to being one of the annoying people who send him mail, I'm now on Governor Snyder's email list. This week, he sent me a messzage that said, in part:

“Unlike Washington, we found a way in Michigan to get our fiscal house in order. We've balanced our budget three years in a row, eliminated a $1.5 billion deficit and have saved over $500 million in our rainy day fund. We did it by setting politics aside, planning ahead, and solving one problem after another with relentless positive action."

I am putting together a FOIA request for all documents related to what the Governor's been smoking.

Another of life's mysteries

So we got together with some people I went to college with. The weird thing was, I wasn't a decade older than any of them!

One of life's mysteries

So every time I open a news story these days, I see people being referred to as "coworkers". I didn't know we were still that much of an agricultural society. And what the hell is "orking", anyway?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Every year ...

... along about this time it all goes dry. Nothin' there for love or money that'll get you ...

Wait. Sorry. I shouldn't listen to New Riders while I'm blogging. I'll start over.

Every year along about this time the people who make news and the journalists (or what passes for them) who report on it return from vacation, During their absence, the volume of silly, irrelevant stories, focusing on silly, irrelevant people usually goes way up, and then, boom!, at the end of August, things get serious again. This morning, with my granola, I ran across all of the following, just in about ten minutes reading.

  • Snarking about Detroit: First, the Mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, said that he'd consider living in Detroit, but that he'd "...blow the place up and start all over." He attributed Detroit's problems to poor leadership. Not surprisingly, the man currently demonstrating the accuracy of that assessment, Detroit's lame-ass duck mayor, Dave Bing, says "Nuh-uh!". The best Bing could come up with as a riposte was to criticize Menino's use of the phrase "blow up", considering Boston's recent unfortunate incident. Classy, Mr. Mayor.

    Then, not willing to leave well enough alone, the ex-Mayor of Milwaukee, John O. Norquist, weighed in, saying that tearing down the city is a "stupid idea".

    This puts Bing in a difficult place, having on the one hand to resent the suggestion from one of his peers that Detroit should be blown up, while simultaneously hearing from another (ex)head of a decaying Midwestern berg-on-a-lake metropolis that his, Bing's, policy of tearing things down is "stupid." Tough place to be, especially since Mayor Bing is now mostly assigned to fetching coffee for Kevin Orr, the Emergency Manager.

  • Not everyone, of course, is talking in these critical terms about the city. Beloved musical performer and one-time Pepsi spokesman MC Hammer publicly prayed for Detroit, saying "... Detroit still can't be touched!" We concur, in the same sense that it's inadvisable to touch a rattlesnake or in the sense your mother had in mind when she said "Don't touch that! You don't know where it's been!"

  • Moving up to the state level, Michigan is apparently on a list of states (actually so are almost half of the rest of 'em) that " not require schools or day care centers to meet minimum standards to protect children during major emergencies...". This is deplorable, especially in light of recent disasters such as the continued threat from the legislature. "We just don't have any plan for dealing with these statewide attacks on our educational system," said a spokesman for Is-our-children-lerning?, a non-profit organization concerned with cuts in educational funding. "I mean, are you aware that unlike dozens of other states, Michigan has no plan for arming third-graders and sending them to Lansing?"
There were other interesting bits of commentary by other interesting nit-wits, including good old Donald Rumsfeld, snarking at the President for not having nuked Damascus yet, but frankly, it's time to get something useful done.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Well, this is going to be boring

This blog has long maintained an editorial policy of fairness and impartiality, not to mention the use of pseudonyms, but recently we have been coerced into convinced to publish a series of political and social rants essays by a famous author and publisher who, as part of the bargain, agrees to attribution. This is the first.

Clearly, the Olympics exist to sell advertising (same-same the Superbowl). While the claim is that they provide revenue and investment for the cities that host the games, a look at the actual effects shows that to be a blatant lie. Facilities for the games have been widely treated as excuses for slum clearance and displacement of urban populations, and the structures, once the games are over, become decaying reminders of squandered public funds. The games also claim to offer talented amateurs a path to glory and recognition. The facts suggest otherwise. And the idea that the Olympics are somehow a way of achieving peaceful communication among diverse peoples -- well, as the cliche' goes, how's that working out for you? Diverse peoples are at each others' throats just as much as they ever were, whether the diversity is ethnic, religious, political, or gender-based.

So no, the Olympics are a corporation whose product is publicity. They would not exist, at least in their current form, unless corporations with their own products to sell provided sponsorship. And that brings us to a recommendation.

As you have probably heard (unless you're deaf and blind), the upcoming Winter Olympics are planned for the city of Sochi, in Russia. That's Russia, the one with the sub-human social agenda, a country almost if not quite as widely-despised by everyone as we are (albeit for different reasons). Russia's frankly insane laws concerning homosexuality have caused people to poke at the International Olympic Committee, suggesting a change of venue to someplace with a more enlightened outlook -- Texas, for example; Russia makes Houston look like Stockholm. However, the IOC, like the German General Staff in 1914, says it's too late to make a change. The fact that one of the IOC's goals is to "Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement" appears not to be operative, as the Nixon administration once said. For reference, here's their fundamental principle Number 4:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of
practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which
requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Despite this, on the strength of an assurance from Russia that they were just kidding and everything's going to be just fine, the IOC is adamant.

So what's to be done, if anything, to get them to think again? Probably nothing. The Olympics will go on, in Russia, and civil rights be damned. But here's a notion. Contact the IOC and your own national Olympic committee, plus the network that will be broadcasting the games, plus the major corporate sponsors that sign up, and promise them that if the event is held in Russia:
  • You will not attend
  • You will not watch or listen to broadcasts of the games
  • You will not purchase products of sponsors (e.g., McDonald's and Coke)
  • If you own stock in those companies, consider selling it (and tell them that)
  • If you own shares of a mutual fund that invests in sponsors, contact the fund's manager and complain
  • And, if you were thinking of it, you will no longer donate to any Olympic fund or appeal
In summary, you'll do what an individual can do to reduce the value of their product. And then, most importantly, keep those promises.
Write to: International Olympic Committee Lausanne, Switzerland.
USOC: United States Olympic Committee US Olympic Complex Colorado Spring, Colorado
Coke and McDonald's linked above
Other sponsors
by Joe McConnell

Friday, August 9, 2013

Coming up next on Lexicographical Mockery

Previously Undescribed: The Journal of Abstracted Breaking Research

In the previous post, I used the term "CONOPS", and a number of readers have asked for a further explanation of that term. In the jargon of the military and of other government organizations, the notion of a brief statement concerning the ways in which a proposed entity would be deployed and used is known as a Concept of Operations. This has been shortened to CONOPS under the requirements of the federal Acronymic or Mnemonic Notational/Operational Theme (which, itself, came into being after an engineering executive characterized his Director of Business Development as a Fuzz-Brained Fumble-Mouthed Imbecile (FBFMI), and the head of BD replied, "AMNOT!"). But I digress.

The CONOPS (which, it should be remembered, doesn't address requirements, design, or production in great detail, but rather talks about how the thing in question will be used, once it's escaped been deployed) has been in use for a long time, but only recently have we come to know exactly how long. In 2010, excavations at a Paleolithic site in Eastern Europe, dated to around 47,000 years BCE, turned up a mastodon scapula (Mammuthus meridionalis), covered with scratches (Figure 1).

Subjected to a lengthy computerized analysis, it has now been deciphered and tentatively identified as the world's oldest known CONOPS. (The authors of the article describing it, which was published last month in the open-access Journal of Hopeful Science, believe it is part of a longer document, proposing a firm-fixed-price program to the Talking Chief of the tribe of The Hirsute One (Figure 2), known from other early epigraphical finds as the center of a notorious procurement scandal, "The Sloth Stew for Sex" affair.)

The proposed (and still somewhat conjectural) translation is as follows:

Yearly Augmentation of Anti-Animal Weaponry Program (YAAAWP) for the Year-When-the-Auditors-Sleep, respectfully submitted to his unshaven muscularity, the Great Talking Chief. Greeting.

This program entails (might actually read "entrails". Ed.) selection of a number of the currently deployed Tribal Forces and re-equipping them with a new Meat Procurement Device (MPD), based on the Flame-Involved Reconfiguration Experiment (FIRE) concept, proven in earlier programs. The new equipment which is proposed here will be called the Sharply-Pointed-Element Augmentation of Reach (SPEAR). It will require three separate phases and, as noted below, one additional sub-program.

Phase one will call for identifying the individual tribe members who are to receive the SPEAR equipment, and for storing their current weaponry (the BluntInst mark 2 club and/or the BigRox throwing projectiles). Simultaneously, contractors will gather a number of linearly-consistent tree parts (straight-STIX) equal to the number of program participants. Note that successful completion of this phase will depend on the outcome of an algorithm development sub-program, Beyond The Thumb, which will provide a computational capability for handling numbers greater than three.

Phase two will involve training the participants in techniques for weaponry readiness and maintenance, relying on FIRE technology to render the distal ends of the straight-STIX pointier and more robust. Each SPEAR-equipped meat acquisition specialist will be issued a maintenance and user's guide covering topics such as "Starting a fire", "Finding a flat rock", "Rubbing things on rocks versus hammering things with rocks", and "Reading".

Phase three will provide final training in the use of the SPEAR technology. This will require construction of a simulator, including a large circular enclosure made of very big rocks, in which SPEAR-equipped trainees and one or more volunteer mammoths will be introduced. (This may be seen as "final" training in more than one sense of the logogram.)

Phase four is considered out of scope of this document, since the Beyond The Thumb sub-program has not yet been ...

At this point, the writer of the CONOPS ran out of room on the scapula he (or she) was using, and no additional pages have been identified. An almost-unmarked femur of Ursus spelaeus (Figure 3) was found in association with the scapula, but all it said was "This bone intentionally left blank."

Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer pasta

CONOPS: use up some of the vegetables obsessively purchased at the Farmer's Market.
Summer squash and/or zucchini, 1 or 2, diced
Sweet corn, 2 ears, kernels cut off, cobs reserved
Tomatoes, 1/4 cup, diced
Dried porcini mushrooms, 2 TBSP, tied up in cheesecloth
Onion, diced, 2 TBSP or scallions, 3 or 4, chopped
Fresh greens (any kind), 1/2 cup, torn
Pine nuts, 2 TBSP
Butter, 1 Oz
Parmigiano or Romano, 1/4 cup, grated
Bacon, 2 slices, finely diced
Mild pork sausage, 1 cup, diced, sliced, or crumbled
Heavy cream, 1 1/2 cups
Beef bullion concentrate, 1 TSP
Garlic clove, 1/2
Dried pasta, 1/2 lb
Olive oil

Prepare the ingredients in 7 batches:
Batch 1: bacon and sausage
Batch 2: corn cobs, cut in two so as to fit in a sauce pan, and the porcini
Batch 3: cream, beef bullion concentrate, garlic
Batch 4: squash / zucchini, corn kernels, tomatoes, onion, pine nuts
Batch 5: cheese, butter
Batch 6: greens
Batch 7: pasta

Add Batch 2 to a large sauce pan. Add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Drain, reserve 1 cup of the water, and discard solids.

Heat oil in a large saute pan. Cook Batch 1 until slightly browned - 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Do not clean the pan.

Combine Batch 3 in a large sauce pan. Heat gently, covered. Check frequently to avoid boiling over or boiling dry.

In a stock pot or pasta pot, boil water for the pasta.

Add Batch 4 to the saute pan (with more oil if necessary). Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 30 minutes.

12-15 minutes before the vegetables will be done, add the reserved corn cob/porcini water to the stock pot and cook the pasta. When pasta is done, remove cream sauce from heat, discard the garlic, and stir in the cheese. Add the meat back into the saute pan for a minute or two to re-heat. Drain pasta and place in a large bowl. Add vegetables and meat. Toss. Add sauce. Toss. Add greens. Toss. Serve immediately.

As if wage disputes weren't bad enough

While fast food workers across the country agitate for higher pay and for working conditions that are not modeled on sodium chloride mining operations in Siberia, smaller groups are also demanding recognition and, unusually, better lexical treatment. Here are three stories from recent news coverage.

Spain is a major source of wine corks, and the industry provides substantial employment for agrarian workers. However, some specialists in the work force object to the dismissive manner in which management addresses them. Specifically, the teams of skilled technicians (many of whom suffer from severe speech disorders) who gather the shaped final product and bulk-package it are asking for a more dignified term for their profession. They object strongly to being listed in personnel rosters as "that bunch of dumb cork sackers."

Closer to home, US obstetric facilities are experiencing periodic spikes in demand, days when large numbers of women simultaneously go into labor (usually during full moons or nine months after widespread power outages). When this happens, normal ambulance service can be overwhelmed, and other vehicles are pressed into service, including delivery vans and even semi trucks. In order to regularize the employment status of the temporary personnel who operate this ad hoc patient transportation, a study was done and the age, sex, income, ethnic background, and other attributes of the operators were collected and analyzed. One individual, a man in New Jersey, was identified as having all the average characteristics, and there were plans to use him as a spokesman, but he refused to participate after an NIH administrator referred to him as "a mean mother trucker."

Finally, concerns over semantics are not limited to the human species. Here in Ann Arbor, a quadrupedally-advantaged person of fur is involved in a close primary race for a city council seat. After his opponent made what would, under other taxonomic circumstances, have been a derogatory reference, Mr. Hamilton "Ham" Mudd stated for the record, "Yes! I admit it! I'm a son of a bitch. So is he. And that guy over there. We're all sons of bitches! Now, can we get on with it?"

Management at Wood-Charles regrets that it finds itself unable to find better material than the above, but it promises to try.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Will the congregaton please rise?

I take my text today from the book of Camping, chapter 21, verses 119-223.

And there were three men who came unto the Campground of Wilderness, by the shore. The first man brought his wife, who was comely and well-shapen, and golden of hair, and scanty was her raiment. The second man brought also his wife, who was similarly golden of hair, though her robes were more modest, and brought he also bicycles of many gears, bound with bonds of bungy to the posterior of his SUV. The third man came in his richly caparisoned pickup truck, and hitched to it was his fishing vessel, shiny and new, gleaming like the cohorts of the Assyrian.

And the first and second men did pitch their tents near to one another. The second man and his wife unpacked their goods, and they unstrapped their two-wheeled steeds, and prepared they to ride forth upon them. The first man and his wife also unpacked their belongings, and they did strew them in an untidy manner upon the ground.

Then the third man came by, riding in his pickup truck and dragging behind it his splendid boat.

And God prepared for the faithful a lesson. Lo, the second man nearly fell off his bicycle, so did he covet the first man's wife, while the first man saw this not, so busy was he that he nearly tripped over his baggage, coveting the third man's bass boat. And the wives took no notice, so accustomed were they to their husbands' ways.

And God did laugh. And he forbore to punish them for coveting each others' bling, but instead he summoned Moses and ordered him to tighten up the wording of the tenth commandment. And Moses did protest, saying "Verily, we are ready to ship!" And God said unto him, "Oh, come on. It is but a small matter of programming."

Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do not adjust your set

2013 07 06: Update

Well, the new book is out there. Clash by Night. Caveat emptor.

J. Francis McLuggage, Divine Spiritual Leader of the Wood-Charles cult publishing empire, would like to apologize for the shortage of new content. He has been retained to edit the upcoming masterpiece of rubbish fiction from Joseph McConnell (which the author describes as a work of rare sensitivity, dog-consciousness, and occasional fits of random violence), to be titled Clash by Night. Besides all that, it's also a sequel to his first novel, Many Believable Lies, which was inflicted on an unsuspecting world published last year.

"This guy needs a lot of editing," said McLuggage.

Monday, June 10, 2013

No, sorry, it doesn't work. It really doesn't work.

Not alternative medicine, although that doesn't work, either. What really, really doesn't work is self-regulation.

Viz, a body sets itself up to regulate practitioners of quackery Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It makes grandiose pronouncements regarding what it will require of those who want to receive a "quality mark" (things like not making false or misleading statements in advertising, training practitioners in what they can and cannot treat, etc.), and eventually petitions to become a member of a larger body, the Professional Standards Authority. But since there's money (in fact, profit) involved for those making the claims, providing treatment, and promoting patently absurd and physically impossible regimens of care, this voluntary oversight group appears to do essentially nothing. Where is this travesty taking place? Somewhere in the undeveloped world, where superstition rules and patients prefer to see local witch doctors? Well, sort of. It's in the UK. (Of course, this could never happen in the US.)

Everybody's friend, whether they know it or not, Stephen Barrett, M.D. , reports on the inactivities of the UK's Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and the various beefs it is receiving (and apparently ignoring) about its members, people who practice a whole range of black arts, from aromatherapy to yoga.

One group beefing about CNHC and its gang of forty thieves members is The Nightingale Collaboration. The front page of their website lists some of the more interesting examples of outright lying, for example an acupuncturist who lists 80 conditions that her art can treat (yet again, acupuncture has been shown to be ineffective and its resurgence in popularity traced to a hoax perpetrated on the journalist James Reston, in 1971, when he was traveling in China with then-President Nixon. Reston observed the technique being used on another patient (which physicians later admitted had been given large doses of sedatives beforehand), and Reston then had acupuncture himself during a procedure. Can you say "placebo"? I knew you could.) His article, "Now about my operation in Peking," published in the New York Times, set off a wave of interest and miraculously, an industry grew up. The fact that for many years, no license, no education, and no sense of responsibility were required to practice the technique could, of course, have had no influence on its growth.)

Another practitioner advertised "It is vitally important never to lose sight of the fact that any kind of cancer can be healed in a split second, regardless of how far advanced it is or how many areas of the body are affected... For energetic healing it is unimportant where the cancer has manifested or how many parts of the body have been affected. Once the client is embracing the healing process fully, all cancer vanishes, for it no longer has any reason to exist within the person's physique..."

To see why this sort of thing is important, you have to remember that this isn't someone's personal opinion, mentioned in conversation. It isn't from an anonymous posting to a blog. It's from an advertisement, intended to draw customers and convince them to make payments. It's fraud.

Nor does the community of quackery just focus on those dying of a serious disease. Here's a quote from another CNHC member: "Breast Enlargement... (No, don't laugh - this really works!)... The earliest report I could find on the successful use of hypnosis to increase breast size ..."

Go ahead, laugh.

Anyway, I realize this is preaching to the choir. (At least I hope I am.) My real point is to flack for Dr. Barrett, whose newsletter and plethora of websites are full of such lighthearted fun as this. Give him a try.

You learn something every day

Did you know that Michigan has a state senator named Hoon-Yung Hopgood? I didn't. Even though I conduct regular electronic and drone-based surveillance of most of southeastern Michigan, I'd never heard of him or her. This serious lapse in intelligence gathering will be the subject of an official inquiry, I assure you.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A pity, really

Update 2013 06 11: The artillery bombardment has demolished the whole south set of buildings now, leaving the northern block still standing. The sappers are pushing forward their approach trenches steadily, with an eye to running a mine under the remaining curtain wall. Trebuchets had been flinging dead woodchucks into the citadel for several days, but this tactic was suspended when deserters from the garrison revealed that they'd been making a tasty stew of 'em. The Duke of Alba was unavailable for comment, but reported rumors that Don John of Austria (that bastard!) was coming up the Huron with a fleet of war galleys and canoes.

Now that the demolition of the Georgetown Mall is finally underway, I'll have nothing to whine about (unless, of course, they run out of money and have to quit partway through, leaving a vast mound of rubble; but that won't happen, will it?).

Instead, I'll have to wait until it's down and has been sitting there for months without any apparent progress on building the pipe dream mixed use development that has been pitched to Council. How do I know this will be the case? Well, the word on the street is that the developer had so much trouble even getting funding in place to tear the old stuff down, his chances of getting money to build new stuff are ... let's just say, poor. Yeah, that's a good word for it. Poor.

Anyway, here are some photos I took this morning. Demolition is at least colorful if not especially aesthetic.

Update: Ed from Vacuum sent me this link about the Georgetown Developer's other fiasco.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A strange way of speaking

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who narrowly defeated Sarah Palin on the short-lived reality show, "Babbling with the Stars", is not going to run for re-election when her term expires in 2016. She offers as a reason this strange statement:

"The law limits anyone from serving as president of the United States for more than eight years. And in my opinion, well eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district."

This veiled threat hint that she might be considering a run for the Presidency again was discounted by many pundits, since the law also limits presidential candidates to those with an IQ greater than 37. However, the P word kept cropping up in her statements:

"(Her decision) was not in any way influenced by" concerns about her re-election prospects, nor by the "recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff."

Of course, she doesn't have any "former presidential staff", since she never had a snowball's chance in hell of winning in the primaries, let alone in a national election. And she only won in her district by a very small margin, defeating a Democratic candidate who says he's going to run again. Her reference to staff is apparently about investigations into campaign finance abuses.

Anyway, until she changes her mind (which is a pretty safe bet), we'll have to look elsewhere for the architype of a far-right loonie. Fortunately, Donald Trump has just spent a million bucks to determine what states he'd carry if he ran in 2016. The results of that research were not released, surprisingly enough. Wonder why?

Oh, and here's a better-written, less blatantly biased article on the subject.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How many people do you know ...

... who meet this description?

"... persistent and pervasive elevated (euphoric) or irritable mood, as well as thoughts and behaviors that are consistent with such a mood state. ... extremely energetic, talkative, confident, and assertive. They may have a flight of ideas and feel creative."

Like every single sales rep I've ever had to deal with. Certain kinds of consultants. People who have high-touch jobs, customer-facing positions, celebrity chefs ... and people who creep into positions of authority and then find themselves in trouble generated by their way of approaching the universe. People, perhaps, like Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree.

Physicians and those who play them on TV call this set of behaviors hypomania, and a doc who treated Judge McCree ("Ain't no shame in my game!") says he thinks this condition may be present. The Judge is one of many Michigan officials who seem to have difficulties keeping their pants zipped, their pictures off Twitter, and their financial situations straight. But he's the first one I've heard of to claim that a mental condition that makes him act like an Oracle salesman is to blame.

Here's an article; judge (haw, haw) for yourself if McCree is a victim of a mental condition with a name or without one.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ironically enough ...

Our old pal, Ed Vielmetti, ongoing champion of all things Internet, appears in print this month, in the AA Observer. Patrick Dunn leads off an article on blogs and blogging with a Profile of Ed and the
Vacuum blog he writes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Six bloody years

On the off chance that anyone cares, this month is the sixth anniversary of this blog. In that time, it's been viewed (gasp) 10,479 times. That's 1750 hits, more or less, a year. Man, we're burnin' up the net.

Oh, and the guy in the next office reminds me that the sequel to Many Believable Lies is in the pipeline. This one's gonna be called Clash by Night, and he really, really hopes to have it out on Amazon by the end of June. He says it's gonna have steampunk mayhem, more civic corruption, a climactic event in the middle of the Ann Arbor Art Fair, a budding romance, and -- more doggie bits! Who reads this stuff, anyway?

Is there a "red line" for political cartoonists?

Let me say that although Barack Obama is not, in my personal opinion, the greatest President we've ever had (for the record, that would be FDR), he's so much better than the two mindless idiots who ran against him and the mindless idiot who preceded him that there was never any question about who I'd support. I don't object to people criticizing him, though, when deserved and when conducted with either factual analysis or wit.

Likewise, although I don't always agree with him, I usually think Pat Oliphant is one of our better political cartoonists.

But his recent bit, showing Obama with none other than Richard Nixon, is over the top. Equating somebody with Nixon is not much more a) inflammatory and b) irresponsible than connecting him or her with Hitler. It's Internet-blog-commenter stuff. Oliphant was around for the Nixon years, and he should know better.

Frankly, if the White House did sic the IRS on the TeaBaggers, well, my left brain says "Oh, dear. That's not very good." But my right brain whispers to me that I'd have done much the same thing, except that it might have been Seal Team Six, not the IRS, that I'd have unleashed. This is why, as I've said over and over again, I will never run for office. The conflict between doing the right thing and the thing that feels right would kill me.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I know you'll be as shocked as I was

The Detroit Emergency Financial Manager says that things are lot worse than anyone thought. Especially those people who claimed that Detroit was turning itself around and didn't need no stinkin' Financial Manager. Astonishing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Not the fake ad

If you read The Ann Arbor Observer and like to search for the fake ads they run every month, here's a tip. It isn't the one advertising a book called Many Believable Lies, written by some hack named McConnell. That one's real.

Don't mention the war!

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

Visualize John Cleese in his role as Basil Fawlty, Director of Customer Satisfaction at Fawlty Towers, doing his Hitler imitation for a bunch of visiting Germans. Then read this piece about L. Brooks Patterson, doing his version.

The man is -- unique. That's all I can say. I especially like the picture of him using a comb to simulate a Hitler mustache.

Ha! You thought I was making that up! Made you look!

Inevitable, I suppose

The Internet has come of age, now in its twentieth year. A woman over in West Michigan is accused of setting up a FaceBook account for the purposes of ... wait for it ... harassing herself. Read about it here, if you want. Personally, I'd rather skip the details and know nothing more than the bare fact.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Too lazy to bother trying to expand on or embellish this hatchet job done on Ron Paul by James Kirchick. There is apparently no limit to the insanity Dr. Paul is capable of -- and if there is, he has people who will exceed it for him.

Friday, April 12, 2013

OK, you figure this out

Thad McCotter, the former Republican Presidential Candidate, former Republican Congressman from Livonia, and former, um, I guess that's it, who flamed out of the 2012 GOP primary like a gift camel from Mali, is suing his former (there's that word again) aides for -- not making this up -- deliberately committing fraudulent acts in order to keep him from running for Congress again. (At least that's what the sketchy story on MLIVE says -- I thought he wasn't running for Congress again, due to his involvement with the Presidential race, but maybe he was just hedging his bets.)

Now, let me go back over that, in case you're as baffled as I was: McCotter is suing two of his ex-staffers for deliberately (he says) falsifying signatures on his nominating petition, specifically to keep him out of the race. That is, knowingly doing things that were illegal and that could (and did) get them (them, not McCotter) prosecuted. Motives are not mentioned.

Let's see, here. Who could have put them up to such a dastardly deed? Of course, if you're a Republican, you might assume that the Democrats did, striving to keep a brilliant, effective flag-bearer of the party from opposing them in the crucial race for a seat representing that powerhouse of commerce and culture, Livonia. Or, if you're a Democrat, you might be inclined to believe that the GOP told McCotter to keep his cotton-pickin' hands off the Presidential race (he did say some uncomplimentary things about the GOP, during the twenty minutes or so that he was a candidate), and suspect that they acted to spank him for interfering with their carefully-orchestrated Romnapocalypse. Either way, the whole thing is so spectacularly stupid that it only makes sense in a state whose GOP Party Chair thinks homosexuality and alcoholism are parallel constructs and whose Democratic Party couldn't find anyone to run against Rick Snyder except a guy named "Virg."

But at press time, odds were running twenty-eight to one that it was North Korea, attempting to get Dennis Rodman a foreign service appointment. Go ahead, look me in the eye and tell me it makes any less sense that way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Idle hands are the devil's iPad

Having several ELP (extremely low productivity) days this week, due to a cold or something along those lines, I'm seeing more amusing video than usual. Here are two examples, which should be watched in sequence:

One has to do with goats screaming like humans.

The other has to do with humans screaming like goats.

Don't bother to thank me. It's all in a day's work.

Apple chops don't translate to cheap clothes, apparently

In an effort to stem a tide of falling revenue (can you stem something that's falling? I'll think about that later), JC Penny, the middle-market, middle-class purveyor of shirts n' shorts, hired away Ron Johnson from Apple. Mr. Johnson was credited, at least, with the Apple Store idea and probably other things I don't know about, since I pay as little attention to video game manufacturers as I do to major league -- well, anything. Didn't work out for 'em, dollar wise.

Since a) I know nothing about big retail marketing and b) I haven't been in a Penny's for decades, I have to take some of this on faith, but apparently, Johnson's big idea was to do away with sales and coupons. To his astonishment, the customers weren't amused. Apparently, his response was "Our customer just doesn't understand our pricing."

This reminds me of a meeting I was in, years back, in which a QA Engineer characterized some aspect of a user interface as "unintuitive." The lead developer said, "Well, it'll be intuitive once we explain it."

In fairness, I did like the Penny's "screaming" commercial, although many didn't, for some reason.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Recent Reading

This is going to be a bit abbreviated, since I haven't read much that anyone else in his or her right mind would want to, and since some of it was re-reading. I do that, often, when things in the current world just remind me too much of things that went on way back when. I go look up my old books on 'em and refresh my memory.
  • The Guerrilla Reader, Walter Laqueur. 1977, Temple University Press. This is an old anthology of writings by, for, and about insergents, and I went back to it specifically to check up on Auguste Blanqui, a mid-nineteenth century theorist, writing about the abortive uprisings in Paris, c. 1848. Blanqui was deprecated by later socialists, mostly because he was highly critical of the pen as opposed to sword.
  • Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century, Eric R. Wolf, 1973, Harper. Dry and pedantic, still a useful source for the underlying economics of revolts. Things about numbers and money that you won't find in the military books or in the wilder-eyed revolutionaries like Franz Fanon.
  • The Secret History of the Rye-House Plot and of Monmouths (sic) Rebellion, Forde Grey Tankerville, 1685, published in facsimile by Forgotten Books. The lengthy written confession and request not to be executed for treason by one of the people who plotted against James II, prior to the Glorious Rebellion of 1688.
  • The Duke of Monmouth's West Country Rebellion of 1685, Nigel Clarke, Clarke Publications, No Date. Competent if not especially gripping self-published history of the least-competent coup d'etat in English history.
  • The Entire Berke Breathed Collection, Berke Breathed, Idea & Design Works Llc, 2009-2011, 6 volumes, all told. The obsessive Bloom County, Opus, and Outland dailies and Sundays, all of it, every last one. Had to do it.
  • The New Zealand Wars 1820-72, Ian Knight, Osprey, 2013. A brief and useful summary of the Brits vs. Maori conflicts that went on in Kiwi-land for a large part of the mid-nineteenth century.
  • The War of the Running Dogs, Noel Barber, originally written in the Sixties, now republished by Cassell (April 1, 2007). A highly uncritical and British-biased look at the Malayan Emergency. I re-read this periodically, just to remind me how thoroughly the Brits could behave like Nazis when they were challenged by upstart locals.
  • The Jungle Beat, Roy Follows, another old one, republished by Eye Books (June 1, 1999). Follows was a member of the Malayan police, charged with finding and eliminating Communists in the hinterland. Much more realistic and down to earth than the Barber book above, but with no big picture. He just tells you what he saw.
  • The War in Algeria, Pierre Leulliette, 1964, Heinemann. Another highly disillusioned and critical account of the North African revolution against the French, by a French Para. Originally, Saint Michael and the Dragon. Highly recommended. Banned by the French Government when it originally came out.
  • Probably six other things I've forgotten.

Our spring line-up

From one of the more enthusiastic military junk dealers whose catalogs I get.

Here's a deal you can't pass up! Not one, not two, but four ludicrous Italian Crusher hats. You'll be crushed, no doubt, when you wear these beauties into combat and your enemies die laughing. Luigi, que pazza?! How many times I'm-a-tella you? The pockets, they go on the pants, on the pants, not the hats.

Clearly, somebody took Mussolini's hearkening back to the glory days of Rome a bit too seriously. "Never issued:" I bet they weren't.

And finally, evidence that the French military is following our lead in doing away with don't-ask-don't-tell, they're dumping their field closets. Just the thing for camping it up at the old campground.
That's all for now!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jalopnik's Worst Car / Driver mapping

The Jalopnik blog (motto: Drive Free or Die) listed its readers' selection of which cars map to poor driving skills. The article is here. Here's the summary:
  • 10: Prius
  • 09: Minivans
  • 08: Ram Pickups
  • 07: Nissan Murano
  • 06: Volvo
  • 05: BMW
  • 04: Subaru WRX/STI
  • 03: Ferrari
  • 02: Mercedes G-Wagen
  • 01: Lexus RX
Some of this, I believe, reflects an international view (Volvos are not generally deprecated in the US, in particular, but as far back as the Eighties, they were the motorcyclist's special bĂȘte noire in the UK, Volvo drivers being seen as even more distracted and dangerous than the run of the mill Conservative Party Member with six drinks under his belt.

It also seems to take into consideration parking habits as well as behavior exhibited under way. And with the Prius, the accusations seem pretty vague, but perhaps further study will show that a silent car is one you can forget you're driving. Who knows? Anyway, I was glad to see that neither the G35 nor the 350Z showed up on the list, as did not the 2003 Chevy Express 3500 Kamper Konversion. Dodged (pun fully intended) the bullet again.

See the Jalopnik post for mildly amusing pictures of the vehicles in question, in embarassing situations.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Georgetown prognostication

See if you get the same feeling from this article as I do. Namely, the Georgetown developer got a break on the demolition grant, but isn't saying whether he has money to build the new thing.

That is, there'll be a demolition site sitting there for years while the current guy goes broke and the city scrambles to find somebody else. See Maiden Lane as an example, or remember what South Main and William used to look like.

Is this just the way it goes, or is Ann Arbor especially trusting?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Who am I (to stand and wonder, to wait ...)

I have been characterized, when anyone pays enough attention to bother characterizing me, as a "liberal" and even a "Democrat," primarily because I often mock, abuse, cast stones at, and generally disrespect Republicans and conservatives. I respond, when I pay enough attention, by asserting I am Rubber, You are Glue ... --- Oh, yeah! Well, yo' momma so left of center, she ... by asserting that I approach issues without reference to ideology or partisanship, and that I am just mindlessly cynical a true independent.

The current social and economic situation in Detroit gives me a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the extent to which I cannot be easily lumped into one political grouping, just because I usually make the sign of averting when I hear of take a position in opposition to that of the Republican party. Some people see the appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager for the city as a disenfranchisement of the voters, since it effectively yanks the rug out from under the Mayor and City Council, for whom, hard as it may be to imagine, someone actually voted. My view is, to quote a associate of mine, so what's your point?

The City of Detroit, under the leadership of people elected by the city's voters, has become an embarrassment, an international joke, and a flaming disaster, not only for itself but for the whole state. No matter how much both of us may regret it, Detroit and the State of Michigan are inseparable, part of the same family, as it were, and the patience of the family is exhausted. Detroit -- its leaders, its voters, and all -- just got a bad performance review, and the state is putting them on an improvement plan.

Whether or not the EFM can "succeed" (and the definition of success in this case is wildly unclear, ranging from, on the one hand, a return to at least marginally balanced books to, at the other extreme, selling the whole place to North Korea,) something has to be attempted. Under the current crew of idiots Mayor and Council, nothing would have been tried, nothing would have changed, no effort beyond quibbling and posturing would have been imaginable.

So, while the state Democrats consider whether they can make an issue of it in opposition to the Governor's reelection campaign, and the Republicans undoubtedly hope to smear the Dems as being "soft on Detroit," I'm in the unusual position, for me, of backing Snyder.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Missed it by that much!

Son of a ... I had the interview nailed! My resume absolutely killed them. They loved my background in management and my process improvement chops. We were within a few thousand on the salary and perks -- down to quibbling about clothing allowance and so on. And then this little Italian guy in the back of the room has to stick his head up.

"Sorry to even bring this up -- dumb question, really. You are, um, a Catholic, right?"

Dammit, dammit, dammit!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Off to a good start

One of the state's largest embarrassments has been removed, and I'm not talking about that old railroad station in Detroit. Kwame Kilpatrick and his stalking horse, Bobby Ferguson, are in the federal pen, down in Milan. The folks down there have been leaving a light on for them for a long time. Once again, the most cleverly-crafted piece of legislation in decades, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act - lovingly known as RICO - has been used to prosecute people who richly deserved prosecutin'. RICO is as close as we can get to a law against being a bottom-feeding, knuckle-dragging dickhead.

As one of the many millions of people who have Googled RICO in the last few days, I found some interesting cases to support my assertion that it's a well-written law, aimed straight at the practice of scumbaggery. Did you know that RICO has been tried (not always successfully) against all of these?
  • Catholic dioceses in abuse cases
  • The Hells Angels
  • An anti-abortion group
  • Major League Baseball
  • The Key West, Florida Police Department
  • The Gambino crime family
Now Kilpatrick and Ferguson join this club. Did I really say an embarrassment was removed? What was I thinking?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Conflicted again ... but not very much

So Hugo Chavez is dead. The bastard was two years younger than I am, and managed to do a lot more damage in his time than I ever could, so I'm somewhat jealous. A bit more seriously, a public death of an incurable disease is nothing I'd wish on anyone (with a few exceptions, I suppose.) And for the people who had been conned into seeing him as a great savior, standing between them and Yankee neocolonialism, my sympathies. Being deeply confused doesn't exempt one from grief and dispair (consider the Tea Baggers in our own nation, for example.)

But in the course of all the breast-beating and US-blaming in which his party is now wallowing, let's recall what he was: a South American dictator. History records almost none of that breed, on the left or the right, who were anything more than the scum that rose to the surface of the soup pot.

It was sad to watch the resurgence of so-called Socialism in the South, driven by Chavez' Venezuela and his antics. Socialism was not at all what they were offering, and none of them, Chavez included, actually wanted any such thing. When you're rebelling, you claim to be a socialist because it sounds like the antithesis of whatever you're rebelling against; when you get into power, you claim that you've carried out a socialist revolution, and you tell the nation that everyone has to get in line and oppose the forces that are trying to undermine ... etc., etc. This is all straight out of "Being a Despot for Dummies." Standard stuff, but the truly poor, the truly downtrodden keep buying it, decade after decade, despot after despot.

Problem is, when your newly-empowered despot starts running around the globe, fraternizing with Iran, talking smack at the UN, and nationalizng oil refineries, then foreign investment declines. The economy becomes a zero-sum game, and instead of building a better life for all, the country is faced with a choice of whose lives will be improved. And that, friends, is where Socialism in the underdeveloped world falls flat on its ass. Suddenly, there's an opposition party (or several), repression becomes necessary, the army and police become concerned with "maintaining order," and civil liberties begin to vanish. You turn up the rhetoric against whoever it is, externally, that you can blame (and they may, in fact, be to blame for some of your woes.) As the result of a process, not necessarily a plan, you slip into totalitarianism. Many of the Arab Spring revolutions will go or have already gone this path; bet on it in Syria. Chavez, the Castros, Mohamed Morsi -- they're nothing new, just a batch of jumped-up faction fighters "from the back of Nephin Mountain," as Patrick O'Brian put it.

Another piece of good advice

Some time back, I said about one of my various ailments, "You really don't want to get this," or words to that effect. Well, WRT slipping on the ice and breaking your dominant wrist, ditto.

I am getting back most of the use of it, including some typing, but I still have substantial numbness in the fingers, making precision questionable. I drop a lot of stuff. However, I can now wield my chef's knife with the right hand, a distinct sign of progress.

Anyway, Linda and I strongly recommend Stabilicers as a way of not slipping. Yaktrax not so much; they wear out and break, leaving you with a broken coil spring dangling from your boot.

Needless, I hope, to say, I wasn't wearing anything like this when I went off the side of the porch.

This has been your good advice of the day.

Interesting choice of words

Michigan is considering a bill that would make it harder (although not very hard) on people who own abandoned property and do nothing about it. Well and good and not especially fascinating except for this quote from Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, who introduced the bill:

"The banks have been proactive working with us. They don't want to sit on property. It hurts their bottom line."

I bet it does.

Many years ago, we took on a small data processing contract from the Girl Scouts. Basically a matter of doing the data entry and some cross-tabs for a member-satisfaction survey. Besides scalar responses, there was a lot of free text, and we read all of it in an effort to reduce it to something the Council could act on. One pair of questions was something like this: "Which activity do you like least?" and "Why?"

One of the younger respondents answered, "Sitting on the floor" and "Hurts my butt." Somehow, the quote above about the banks brought that to mind.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dog fighting station wagons?

Video here of some idiots shooting paintballs at each other while flailing around in a couple of overweight Audis. The still above is circa 1972, with me driving and a gentleman who shall remain nameless on the roof rack.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Catching up

So I got the pins out of my wrist, and I feel better. Better enough that I'm actually typing this with my left hand and at least three fingers of the right. That's a distinct improvement. Meanwhile:
  • Kwame Kilpatric's trial goes to jury
  • He pays his last two months' worth of restitution with money from his mother
  • The state gov't discovers what I've known for years: L. Brooks Patterson is a looney
  • Ann Arbor acknowledges that its public art program might need a bit of tweaking
  • Press got its knickers twisted over "access" to the President playing ... golf? As in, they actually wanted to watch golf?
  • The pope finally took my advice and resigned

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Back in the snow

Alert readers of this blog (all two of you) may perhaps have noted a distinct lack of content for the last, oh, two weeks. That would be because the last, oh, two weeks, we've been away. We're back now, and once we shake the sand out of our socks, we'll catch up on the crucial news of Southeastern Michigan, things like the Kwame Kilpatrick trial, the apparently appalling weather you've been having while we were gone, and the ever present question, "is Rick Snyder a Republican or what?"

Meanwhile, here's a picture of a new friend we met.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Local news

As is their wont, various media continue to compile their best and worst lists of things. (I wonder, actually, if anyone's thought of compiling a list of the best and worst lists of the best and worst things?)

Anyway, Detroit has recently been named the fourth worst managed city in the country, behind Stockton, California; Miami; and San Bernardino, California. The article, which I did not bother to read in detail because it's too damned depressing, was a touch vague about the criteria they used, and I think they did Detroit a great injustice, knocking them back down to fourth place. All the hard work that's been done in the last 15 years to turn it into the worst managed city, bar none, deserves greater recognition than this.

Needless to say, Ann Arbor doesn't even make the list. But it's not to say we don't try. Paula Gardner, of Ann, even dared to use the "CC" words in this article. No, ye of short memory, I don't mean cubic centimeters, I mean convention center! Here we go again.

Update: Snyder is about to name an Emergency Manager for Detroit.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wrist pins

No, not like this:

More like this:

I've been skeptical of alternative medicine for a long time, but this tears it. I'm not falling for those door-to-door acupuncture guys again.

Probably a hoax

Amazing. Lends a whole new meaning the term "gated community."

I found this just weird enough that I sent it to for their attention.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Leave the wolves alone

Please consider supporting, donating to or otherwise cheerleading for the following group keep Michigan wolves protected. I've been a hunter in the past, and if I Weren't so consistently unhealthy, crippled up, and generally confined to quarters, I would probably still go out and shoot a bird or even a deer, given the chance. But especially in a state like Michigan, where almost none of our employment, agriculture, or state revenue is threatened in any way by large mammalian carnivores (Except us), instituting a wolf hunt is bloodthirsty and just plain dumb. Plus it would be nice to have a proposition on the ballot that you could actually vote for with a clear conscience.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stay classy

I'm not completely sure I have this right, but here's what I think the newspaper story was trying to tell me:

One of the strictures under which Kwame Kilpatrick is attempting to exist at the moment is that he has to report all income to the court, since he has a restitution order to pay off. He stated on that report for December that he had no income.

Somebody somehow managed to get him a bunch of money, something on the order of $2000, and they wired it to it him. And he went to pick it up at Walmart or something like that. And a Fox news reporter spotted him doing so on the Walmart's security camera. So now he's in a bunch more trouble.

I'm just not going to say a word about the emergency manager laws. Not a word.