A live toad every morning

Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


One further glitch has been added in to my appreciation of historical movies.  Apart from thinking "How unrealistic - they all have good teeth" I have now found myself thinking, every time someone is in a coach, "How unrealistic - the road is so smooth."  In the American colonies, for example, the contract for roadclearing required the contractor to cut all trees on the roadway down to a height of eighteen inches; that was considered fit for purpose. Generally, as one would expect, filmmakers sprinkle snow or dirt over the top of blacktop.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Age whistling in the wind

We are now talking of simplifying the tax system by reducing the number of tax brackets.  While eliminating the inefficiencies of multiple disruptive transitions may have been a progressive reform back in 1916, we are now living in the twenty-first century, and there’s no need to have any brackets at all.  No, not a flat tax – just a continuous curve fitting a simple equation (a logarithmic trendline on the current levels seems a reasonable fit).  We couldn’t do that in 1916, or 1956, because we didn’t all have access to computers or smartphones or pocket calculators.  Now we do. Why are we deliberately hobbling our tax system by pretending we have to add all this up on our fingers? 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Age, written in water

John Hattie suggests that a teacher with an ATAR of 57 will have 40-50% of their students brighter than them.  This is beyond ridiculous.  Leaving aside the obvious bias of a government that wants to defy the market by getting better teachers without paying more for them and an educational system that wants to blame its failures on bad students rather than rotten teaching, ATARs are not a simple measure of intelligence, whatever that is.  Your ATAR depends, among other things, on your class, your motivation, your school, your family, and your luck on the day, and any suggestion that it’s an unchangeable lifetime sentence is both stupid and cruel. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Then as now

The GOP was not only a pachyderm but a power. Everywhere west of Manhattan’s PM and the New York Post, more and more of the US was becoming Republicanland. In the Solid South, hatred of the New Deal was bitterer than anywhere else.  In 26 states Republican governors administered the affairs of 66% of the American people. Since 1938 more & more citizens in 38 states had consistently voted Republican. 
The Republican party…. had less than five months to pull itself together.
What made the Party crisis important not only to politicians but to plain people was the deepening need for leadership in the land. The President’s leadership had been repudiated again & again by Congress, and the people’s only answer to complaints from the White House about Congress was to send more & more Republicans to Congress, to repudiate that leadership further. 
This search for leadership was just as deep in Congress itself. … These, the very men supposed to generate leadership, were leaderless.  The spectacle of Congress thrashing about was a significant index to the national need.
One plain evidence of the need was the abnormal national interest, nine months before Election day, in the doings and movements of politicians.

Time, Feb 14, 1944, p. 18

Monday, December 21, 2015

Age; Hope springs e.

I yield to nobody in my contempt for scientology, but it’s unfair to call it “a pseudo-religious cult”.  It’s a bona fide religion, unanimously certified as such by the High Court  (Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner Of Pay-roll Tax). As the court said, “Charlatanism is a necessary price of religious freedom, and if a self-proclaimed teacher persuades others to believe in a religion which he propounds, lack of sincerity or integrity on his part is not incompatible with the religious character of the beliefs, practices and observances accepted by his followers.“  One inquiry found “its theories to be fantastic and impossible, its principles perverted and ill-founded, and its techniques debased and harmful [and]…… it employs techniques which further its real purpose of securing domination over and mental enslavement of its adherents”. If that’s not a religion, what is?

Friday, December 11, 2015


AUSTRALIAN surfer Owen Wright has been taken to hospital after a heavy wipe-out while practising for the Pipeline Masters.The world No. 5 returned to his hotel room after taking multiple waves to the head, but woke up later struggling to breathe and was visibly disoriented.
“He got a nug, then a big wide set came and he got three or four on the head,” fellow Australian Matt Wilkinson, who watched it unfold, told stabmag.com.
Nug?  Never heard of it.


In the game DragonAge Nugs are animals that populate the underground locations of Thedas. They are small, hairless, nearly blind creatures with pointed snouts for digging.[1]They resemble a cross between a rabbit and a pig, or a naked mole rat or anaardvark.

or in Urban Dictionary,

1. A high quality bud of marijuana.
2. The Dank.
3. See ganja.
Gayle packed her last nug into the bowl and smoked it on the way to work.

Ah, here we are - in Wictionary's Glossary of Surfing:


Slang for a good wave (Golden Nugget)
They don't give any OED-style dated quotes, but I'd conclude that it's a fairly recent term, and one that hasn't yet fought its way out of a patois.  Which is odd - NUG is a short simple sayable word, and you'd think the Anglo-Saxons would have seized on it for some basic concept or object; a large turnip, or a horse's scrotum, or your relationship to your mother-in-law's goddaughter.

By comparison, 'nuffy' was practically 'antidisestablishmentarianism'.

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