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.

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.