Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dear Dead Days

Australian Women's Weekly Cookery for Parties, not dated but apparently from the late 40's.

I particularly like this, from their Celebration Dinner for 12;
CHILLI SAUCE
Twelve medium-sized ripe tomatoes, 3 medium onions, 1 green pepper, salt to taste, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon,1 1/2 cups vinegar, 1 cup sugar.
Pel tomatoes and put on to boil. Peel and chop onions and green pepper. Add to the boiling tomatoes. Boil until quite thick, watching closely that it does not burn. Add spices, which have been tied in cheesecloth bag. When thick, add vinegar and sugar. Cook 5 minutes. Strain. Serve in hot sauce boat.

You will have noticed, if you're the cooks I take you for, that that Chilli Sauce recipe doesn't contain any actual chili. Or pepper.
I must make some up.

I may not, however, get around to the Iced Coffee; two quarts milk (a bit under 2 litres), 6 level tablespoons pure coffee, salt to taste. Very latte.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mass delusion

Obama loses 60 in the Senate.

It really is very difficult to believe that the Americans don't deserve everything they get.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The case of the red-bearded dwarfs, part 10

Another ludicrous scene occurred while Mr. Tinklebury Snapdriver, for the prosecution, was crossexamining Mrs. Tasker.
Mr. Snapdriver: Your name is Rhoda Tasker?
Mrs. Tasker; Obviously, or I wouldn't be here.
Mr. Snapdriver: I put it to you that you were once known as Rough-House Rhoda?
Mr. Hermitage: No, no, m'lud, Rough-House Rhoda is another lady, whom I propose to call-a Mrs. Rhoda Mortiboy.
Cocklecarrot: What a queer name.
A Dwarf: You are speaking of my mother.’ (Sensation.)
Cocklecarrot: Is your name Mortiboy?
The Dwarf; No. Towler's my name.
Cocklecarrot: (burying his head in his hands) I suppose she married again.
The Dwarf: What do you mean, again? Her name has always been Towler.
Cocklecarrot (groaning): Mr. Hermitage, what is all this about?
Mr. Hermitage: M'lud, there is a third Rhoda, a Mrs. Rhoda Clandon.
Cocklecarrot (to the dwarf, sarcastically): Is she your mother, too?
The Dwarf: Yes. My name's Clandon.
Cocklecarrot: I think, Mr. Snapdriver, we had better proceed without this Rhoda business. My nerves won't stand it.
Mr. Snapdriver: My next witness is the artiste known as Lucinda - a Mrs. Whiting.
(Everybody looks at the dwarf.)
Cocklecarrot (with heavy sarcasm): And, of course-
The Dwarf: Yes, she is my mother.
Cocklecarrot (roaring): Then what is your name, you oaf?
The Dwarf: Charlie Bread. (Laughter and jeers).
Cocklecarrot: Clear the court! This foolery is intolerable. It will ruin my political career.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Obesity city

From the Sunday Age :

Surge in obesity

JILL STARK

January 17, 2010
Three per cent of Australians are believed to be in the most extreme category of obesity.

Body Mass Index is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in metres. While a healthy BMI is considered to be between 20 and 25, Dr Frydenberg reported seeing patients with BMIs of 70. An index of 30 is classified obese, 40 morbidly obese and more than 50 super obese.


NO NO NO NO

Body Mass Index is defined as the individual's body weight divided by the square of their height.

If it was as the Sunday Age said, a teenager 1.7 metres high who weighed 45 kilos (rather than 75) would be overweight, and one who weighed 51 kilos (rather than 90 kilos) would be obese.

Stupid, dangerous, and the trigger for an epidemic of eating disorders. And they haven't corrected it online, either.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Case of the Twelve Red-Bearded Dwarfs, Part 9

A scene occurred after lunch, when the dwarf was asked whether he had ever served in the Navy. He burst into tears and said, between sobs, "Ever since I was a little fellow - well, I mean, ever since I was even smaller than I am now, I longed to be a sailor. I always wore a sailor suit. But my eyesight made my dream impossible of fulfilment. And now, of course, it is too late. There has always seemed to me to be something wonderful in the surge of the waves and the roar of the wind. Then there is the comradeship. I tell you, after such ambitions, it is difficult to resign myself to being pushed through doors by ladies like Mrs. Tasker, for no apparent reason."
At this point Cocklecarrot intervened impatiently, and the dwarf left the witness-box, still sobbing. A lady who shouted "I'll adopt the little dear" was asked to leave the court.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Moral cowardice

On the train this morning a bearded man in a striped top standing by the door shouting continuously to the effect WOGS WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO STAND UP IN MY OWN COUNTRY I'LL PUT THEM DOWN IN THE GROUND SIX FEET UNDER STAB THEM STAB THEM STABBING THEM TILL THEY DIE and opening the door to let people in and out. Unfortunately he wasn't a thin weedy bespectacled bloke on a crutch in a full-body cast, so I let him be.

Nick Gruen records similar incidents here, with an attempt to make up for that moral cowardice thing by proposing a footling blog police thing to discourage it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

How to take over the world

Over at Slacktivist the eponym continues his heroic deconstruction of the Left Behind series, novels about the Rapture.
Nicolae Carpathia is explaining to Buck how he plans to purchase every major newspaper, newsmagazine, radio and TV station in the world. He can do this, he explains, because he is the sole heir of Jonathan Stonagal's fortune....

This is, again, how former John Birch Society lecturer Tim LaHaye views the world. He believes the United Nations is some kind of hierarchical federation that can overrule the sovereignty of all of its member nations. And he believes that the world's financial system is secretly run by a nefarious cabal of spectacularly wealthy international bankers, represented in this story first by Jonathan Stonagal and now by his heir, Nicolae.

To be unnecessarily fair to the authors, the scheme Carparthia sets out here is approximately the same one that underlies the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Carpathia is able to take over the world because it is already run by a cabal of international financiers; all he has to do is challenge the alpha male, Stonegal, to a fight and win, and he's in command of the world.
In Holmes, the villain (Lord Blackwater?) wants to conquer the world; to cover the necessary handwaving as to how this is to be done without a lot of action-sapping exposition it is pointed out that the world in 1892 or whatever is surreptitiously run by some group of masons and all that Blackwater has to do is drown the previous incumbent in his bath and be elected Grand Poohbah and the job is done. It would seem to me to raise more questions than it answers, but Guy Ritchie obviously begs to differ.
Still, as Slacky says,
I have no problem enjoying a work of fiction that has a character like Stonagal in it. It's like the movie trailers all say, "Imagine a world ..."

I can imagine such a world. But it's not this world. It doesn't look anything like this world.
Now, or in the nineteenth century.

Mmm. The state of construction of Tower Bridge in the film suggests 1892, too late for Watson's marriage in 1887. Strain at a gnat, swallow a camel.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Arrow in the Blue

Over at Core Economics Sam Wylie is defending voter-initiated ballots against the Economist, both using the example of California.
The Economist’s other example is proposition 13 from 1978 which restricted property taxes in California. The article suggests that this proposition has lead California to near ruin. Again, I am not so sure. One the one hand California definitely needs to get its finances in order. It probably makes sense to exclude public finances from citizen initiatives. On the other hand, how else can the citizenry restrict the size of the state? What would California be like without proposition 13?

And why exactly, other things being equal, would the citizenry wish to restrict the size of the state? That is, given a proposition that is ex hypothesi valuable, efficient, and productive in itself (if it were not, it could be voted down on its merits without the need to introduce the overriding principle) but that increases the size of the state, why should the populace reject it?

Political differences like this aside, Sam's proposition that
There are some questions on which the Australian public is just as qualified as parliamentarians in Canberra to make a decision

is either trivial or unworkable, depending on what agency gets to decide which these questions are. Sam presumably, from the framing, agrees that there are some questions on which the Australian public is not as qualified as parliamentarians in Canberra to make a decision; the issue, then, is how these are to be excluded. As Sam makes no gesture towards a solution of this issue, he is clearly adopting the radical simplification beloved of constitutional reformers, the pocket benevolent despot.

Again, as some comments point out, the citizen-initiated referendum idea rests on the assumption that decisions come in discrete packages, which they don't. I once attempted to find consensus in a deliberative assembly on a large and complicated initiative by putting it as a series of votes - do you want A or B; given A, do you want A1 or A2: given A2, do you want A2i or A2ii, and so on, the whole thing falling back into chaos when it became clear that people voted for A2 on the assumption (say) that the eventual vote would be A2iibIV6, not A2iibIV5, and if the vile miscreants of the other side rammed through A2iibIV5 would then roll back their votes to A1 or even B to avoid this outcome. It's Arrow's theorem, basically.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lord Blackwater

One thing about Sherlock Holmes, the movie - and since you ask, I thought it was just marginally bearable if you imagined it being about two other men of the same names - was that I found it odd that Lord Blackwater, the villain, seemed to be quite well respected for his social status, which I thought unlikely for someone who seemed from his title to be either a baronet or the younger son of a peer. Americans, I know, always seem to think that being a lord is the same thing as being 'Lord X' - we all laughed heartily at that 'Lord Marbury' episode of West Wing - but Guy Ritchie is theoretically a Pom and should know better.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Case of the Twelve Red-Bearded Dwarfs, part 8

When the hearing of this case was resumed and the court had assembled, Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot expressed his dissatisfaction with the progress made with the case. He said that the business of the court, which was the administration of justice, was being continually held up by irrelevancies, and he recommended to both counsel rather more expedition. "We must keep to the point," he said.

And at those words a piercing scream rang through the court. A woman was seen to be standing on a bench and pointing at one of the dwarfs.

"It's my Ludwig, my own little son Ludwig," she cried. "Ludwig, Ludwig, don't you know your mother?" There was no answer.

"Well, do you or don't you?" asked Cocklecarrot impatiently.

"My name is Bob," said the dwarf with slow dignity, "and I am an orphan. I was left on the doorstep of a house in Eaton Square. In a basket. A month later both my parents died."

"How do you know?" asked Cocklecarrot.

"I read it in the paper."

"You read it?" shouted the judge. "Why, how old were you ?"

"Thirty-one," said the dwarf. "It happened last year."

"Do you ask the court to believe," interrupted Mr. Hermitage, "that at the age of thirty-one you were put into a basket and left on the doorstep of a house in Eaton Square? Who carried the basket?"

"Two friends of my mother," said the dwarf.

"Were you covered up in any way?"

"Oh, yes,' said the dwarf, 'with an old travelling-rug."

"And what happened when you were found?"

"The lady of the house fell over the basket when she came out to go to a dance. She thought it was the washing, and had me carried in by the back entrance. The maids had hysterics when I got out of the basket, and, of course, I had to clear out. So I went to Nuneaton to seek employment; and it was while working there for a haulage contractor that I met the lady who afterwards became my wife, and a dearer, sweeter creature-"

"All this," interrupted Cocklecarrot, "has nothing whatever to do with the case. Mr. Hermitage, please try to confine yourself to the matter in hand. The whole thing is becoming impossible."

Wilding

Went to Where the Wild Things Are at the weekend. Rose hated it, I thought it was a reasonable look at childhood and a great approach to showing rural Victoria, but the interesting thing was how closely it mapped on to the basic myth of Avatar - an american adolescent coming into a fantasyland and being declared king.

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