Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, April 30, 2010

About time too


As a serial pessimist, it's really only fair that I should from time to time own up to spots where the disaster envisaged didn't happen.
Back in 2004 I posted
Friday, October 29, 2004
The start of a long war
I'm shocked and astonished at how little the world seems to fear the blowup in southern Thailand. As someone who can remember how the Sri Lankan war began, this seems to presage a fierce war, and one that will drag in Malaysia, and increase its national touchiness, and lead to worse relations with Singapore, and send ASEAN down in flames, and start another arc of instability between the moslem world and the Chinese hegemony. Shinawath seems to be as clueless as bush, and there really is no good news.

While Thailand does seem quite likely to lurch into disaster any day now, it does seem likely to be a completely different disaster, and I haven't seem any reports from the South for a while. Mind you, the separatists may simply have found it impossible to get the government's attention, it being somewhat distracted. But still.

Schnitzel boot

Let's see if I can contribute to launching what is as far as I can see at this point in time a one-user slang term.
Hannah, from our office:
Oh – schnitzel boot is the term I use to describe the women who are alumni from my school, all dress the same, talk the same, send their kids to the same school, and do lots of pilates – oh and a BMW 4wd is mandatory for entry into the schnitzel boot club.

It's very sayable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last week my Time Machine backup device failed. I went and got a new Time Machine, not bothering to get the old one copied over because, after all, none of the computers it's backing up have gone down.
However, Rose points out that the old TM may still be under warranty, if we could just find the documentation, so I don't unpack the new TM and take the very small risk of carrying on.
Last night my iMac goes down. I now have a choice between
*Getting the old machine repaired at a cost of about 50% of its value
*Getting the data off either the TM or the IM at considerable cost and buying a new Mac at a particularly bad time in the cycle
*Getting the data off either the TM or the IM and using one of the other three house computers while waiting for the new iMac release

Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And Victoria?

Having been asked where I stand at the State level, I'd have to say that I do believe that governments need a reset button. It's almost independent of whether you approve of their ideology. Past errors accumulate and clog the filter. At some point you need an administration that has a clean slate and isn't committed to every error of the last ten years. Are we at that stage? NSW, for example, is obviously well past it - but is Victoria that bad yet? If the Liberals had any discernable policies about anything other than Laura Norder it would make the decision easier.

Bring back Keating

Bring back Keating.

Mea Maxima Culpa

The worst thing is that if we'd voted for Howard we would have got more progress earlier.
And, again, I have (as with the reversal on asylum seeker policy) have a hard time seeing this as good politics, either.The talk is of 'clearing the decks', but it does look very like "losing", and I'm not sure the electorate really likes that, either.
Removing all the ideological markers and running on being the best administrator would seem a winning strategy if and only if you hadn't experienced all those problems recently trying to organise pissups in breweries and raffle chooks in pubs.


OK, Rudd having ditched the last vestige of concern about global warming I no longer have any belief that the Labor party can qualify as the lesser of two evils. I'm off to the Greens, with the LibDem surge in the UK giving me some hope that third parties won't after all be doomed to utter futility for eternity. Pity the Australian Democrats didn't last just that little bit longer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 18

Next day Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot endeavoured once more to deliver his summing up in this remarkable case. 'What the jury has to decide,' he said, 'is whether Mrs. Tasker deliberately drove those dwarfs into Mrs. Renton's house, or rather into the hall of her house; whether the maid Celestine-
Mrs. Renton: Angelica.
Cocklecarrot: What?
Mrs. Renton: Angelica.
Cocklecarrot: What do you mean, Angelica? Why do you keep on saying Angelica?
Mrs. Renton: It is my maid's name.
Mr. Hermitage: It is her maid's name, m'lud.
Cocklecarrot (angrily, but with a show of patience): All right, then, Angelica. Now-
Mr. Snapdriver: Perhaps there is another maid, called Celestine, m'lud.
Mrs. Renton: No. The other is Minnie. (Roars of laughter.)
Cocklecarrot: There may be forty maids. I am speaking of Angelica. Now what the jury has to decide is whether this maid- er- Min –er-Angel - er- Cel- Whether this maid Celestine-
Mrs. Renton: Angelica.
Cocklecarrot (dropping his head in his hands and speaking wearily): Mrs. Renton, will you please allow me to say what I have to say? The name of the maid is immaterial.
Mr. Snapdriver: But, m'lud, Celestine was on holiday at Bournemouth at the time.
Mr. Hermitage: My learned friend means Eastbourne, m'lud.
Mr. Snapdriver: My learned friend is right. Eastbourne.
Cocklecarrot (satirically): Well, now that this very important matter has been settled, perhaps we can continue, unless someone would like to tell me that Minnie was at Blackpool.
A Dwarf: If it comes to that, I myself have been to Blackpool. (Howls of laughter.)
Cocklecarrot (regarding the dwarf with rage): That is most interesting and most relevant.
(The court rises for lunch)


In a critique of a paper by McDonald and Paul(2010) examining autism incidence
( over at The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists ( Michelle Dawson queries the article's assumption that "criteria for the specific diagnosis of autism have stayed about the same since 1978".
I fully appreciate that that claim's a bit dodgy, but I don't think that differences in diagnosis are an additional problem over and above the problem that the DSM-whatever criteria are so vague and ambiguous that if taken literally they vastly overselect. I mean, you might even accept that in Venn diagram terms the circle of "People who have autism" is entirely within the circle "People who fit DSM criteria for autism", but the difficulty is finding a way to check whether the expansion or contraction of either is particularly related to expansions or contractions in the other. Unless, of course, you take the view that autism actually is "whatever fits the criteria", without any further interpretive strategies.
Which then brings one up against the problems in assessing (say) "preoccupation with .. restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal..." when there are no measures attached, and if there were measures there would still be no documentation of how much 'preoccupation' falls within the normal range for three-year-olds.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ant Bully

Saw the second half of US animation The Ant Bully (rotten title) last night while waiting for something else to come on (Touch of Frost, for Rose and Anne) and was very mildly struck by the extent to which the plot parallels that of Avatar - white boy projected into natural paradise where all work together, white boy has to fight back the human's technology with the help of the fierce animal predators he'd mastered. Pretty rotten movie, but then so was Avatar. Anyway, if I was the author I'd consider suing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spam update

Comments are now moderated, which means that I can intercept the spam, so you'll have to take my word for it that it's getting more concentrated on the nudity of prominent actresses. Though what I have to say strikes me is how few of these names I recognise.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Metablogging":


I recognise at best two out of five, and I would have thought that I keep at least vaguely up with the paperazzi favourites.

Humiliating, really.

Anyway, if anybody among the readership (or possibly 'readership') actually is keen on nude Heigls I'll try and meet their requests; otherwise not.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spaghetti with Apple Sauce

50g/2 oz butter
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 apple (russet, cox) peeled, cored and chopped
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
2 tablespoons Calvados or brandy
250 ml/8 fl oz single cream
50 g/2oz Parmesan cheese, grated
400 g/14 oz Spaghetti
Melt the butter, add the onion and simmer very gently, covered, until the onion and the apple are soft and squashy. Add the flour and mix together. Cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the Calvados or brandy. Evaporate the alcohol, then add the cream and cheese. Thicken over a low frame, then remove from the heat and keep in a warm place.
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water, drain, and transfer to a warm bowl. Pour over the sauce, mix together and serve at once.

Valentina Harris, Pasta, 1984

Must have been just about her first book and, as this shows, she started out with her trademark - recipes that sound suspect or unlikely that are in fact just fine. Served it last night to plaudits.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 17

When Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot continued his attempts to address the jury, interruption came even sooner than before.
Cocklecarrot: Now these red-bearded dwarfs-
Chorus of dwarfs: M'lud! M']ud! M'lud!
Cocklecarrot (testily): Well? What is it now?
A dwarf: We object to being called red-bearded. Our beards are not red. (Sensation in court. The dwarfs, standing up in line, are seen to have dyed their beards bright yellow. Laughter breaks out.)
Cocklecarrot: This is a very foolish trick. There is no law to prevent a man dyeing his beard any colour he pleases, but the question arises whether a beard of bright yellow is not perilously near contempt of court.
Mr. Hermitage: But, m'lud, surely the colour of the beards of these gentlemen is not material to the case.
Cocklecarrot: I will not be led off into another idiotic argument. If they come in on stilts it is not material to the case, but it is contempt of court.
'Now then,' continued the learned judge, 'let us hope that there will be no more of these interruptions. For though the law must be impartially administered, and everybody given an equal chance, yet there are certain restrictions which must be imposed upon merely irresponsible behaviour. These dwarfs-
A dwarf: Small gentlemen is a more polite description of us. It is not our fault that nature has been niggardly in the matter of inches. Why should a dwarf be funnier than a giant?
Another dwarf: Yes, why?
Cocklecarrot: If you two small gentlemen have finished your conversation perhaps I might be permitted to proceed. (Sarcastically) Have you any objection?
A third dwarf: Some of us haven't said a word all through this case.
A fourth dwarf: There is a tendency everywhere to bully the undersized. Yet in the eyes of the law we are citizens like everybody else.
A fifth dwarf: And proud of it. (The other dwarfs cry, 'Hear, hear!' Uproar breaks out. Cocklecarrot sighs heavily and shrugs his shoulders.)
Cocklecarrot (to the jury): Perhaps I may be able to continue my address to-morrow.

Counterintuitive filing system
Which for some reason doesn't seem to load properly on Blogger.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

OMG Someone on the Internet has Said Something Incorrect!

Over at Catellexy
I see we’re going to have to pay more attention to The Road to Serfdom*. If the left are attacking it, there is obviously some truth that annoys them. It might be this

It is one of the saddest spectacles of our time to see a great democratic movement support a policy which must lead to the destruction of democracy and which meanwhile can benefit only a minority of the masses who support it. Yet it is this support from the Left of the tendencies towards monopoly which make them so irresistible and the prospects of the future so dark. So long as Labour continues to assist in the destruction of the only order under which at least some degree of independence and freedom has been secured to every worker, there is indeed little hope for the future. The Labour leaders who now proclaim so loudly that they have ” done once and for all with the mad competitive system ” are proclaiming the doom of the freedom of the individual. There is no other possibility than either the order governed by the impersonal discipline of the market or that directed by the will of a few individuals; and those who are out to destroy the first are wittingly or unwittingly helping to create the second. Even though some workmen will perhaps be better fed, and all will no doubt be more uniformly dressed in that new order, it is permissible to doubt whether the majority of English workmen will in the end thank the intellectuals among their leaders who have presented them with a socialist doctrine which endangers their personal freedom.

Always a sucker, I bite.

I seem to have missed something. In what sense is
"there is indeed little hope for the future..... the doom of the freedom of the individual.... There is no other possibility than either the order governed by the impersonal discipline of the market or that directed by the will of a few individuals..."

a truth?
The Atlee government did introduce the legislation that Hayek objected to: and the future (whether or not it was optimum) was not hopeless, the freedom of the individual was not doomed (despite the continuation to this day of the bulk of the measures that Hayek denounced), and British government now represents neither the impersonal discipline of the market nor the will of a few individuals.
Understandable miscalculation, yes, conceivably; dramatic hyperbole, that would be a defense; but I do find it hard to regard a description that touches reality at no points a "truth".

Monday, April 12, 2010

Being like

Autism is not in any meaningful sense a spectrum: it's a cloud, and one in greater than four dimensions, overlapping a large number of other conditions and involving handwaving both in the definitions and the symptoms.
Mathematically, if you analyse the DSM-IV definition (two from column one, one from column two, etc) and do the perms and combs, there are about sixty-five thousand different ways to be officially autistic before you begin to address spectrum-related measurements such as severity.
Autism is a lot less like "having tuberculosis" and a lot more like "being like Hamlet" (or Heathcliff, or Mr. Pickwick, or Rasolnikov, or any literary figure) than the general public believes. Which makes clocking its incidence problematic, and deciding whether ABA is effective particularly problematic.

Commentary on discussion of Autism at Crooked Timber.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Meme Old Thing

Trying to pull together ten books that have influenced me, with little success. I can think of authors, or thoughts, or positions, but when I think about it I have to admit
(1) it wasn't a whole book by that author, just an essay (Isaiah Berlin) or story (Borges) or a line (Wittgenstein).
(2) generally, in fact, not even a whole essay much more commonly, I picked up the author's thought or position from a secondary source (Whatsisname's biography of Berlin, say) or review.

The magpie approach. The one book I can absolutely list is exactly of a piece, Russell's History of Western Philosophy, providing secondary sources enabling me to dismiss every Western philosopher except Hume and as a bonus enabling me to feel it unnecessary to read even him.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

You, sir, are no Vladimir Tatlin

London mayor Boris Johnson, Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, ArcelorMittal CEO Lakshmi Mittal and artist Anish Kapoor with a model of the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

Why would he wish to compare himself so directly to a greater talent?

Does look better seen from the side, mind.


How do you say that someone has a pitch perfect tin ear? Other than that way?
Because the Vatican do seem to have it down cold. Trying to draw attention away from the Vatican's mistakes over sex by bringing up race, the other area where the church is widely thought to have covered itself with shit during the twentieth century.

Mind you, more generally I'd day that the church's problem wasn't that it was doing more bad stuff recently, or even that people minded more about bad stuff (though that's actually true), but that they weren't allowing any weighting for good stuff - that the semi-divine powers that priests used to claim aren't credible anymore, and without them they don't have a good defence against their enemies.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


The absolute maximum of the American obsession with good parenting as being the only possible conclusion to a movie came in Lost In Space, the movie that thankfully didn't spawn a franchise.
The Robinsons are headed off into space: success is important - we're told that without it
The recycling technologies have failed. In less than two decades Earth will be unable to support human life.

However, within the family structure
JOHN (Robinson)
I'm sorry about dinner. I had to work
late. The new pilot-.

What you had to do was prioritize
your family over the mission.

Yes, nothing like having a happy family giving each other high fives in a postapocalyptic wasteland that's all your fault. Sometimes they exchange parts -
What was I thinking, bringing us all
out here into space?

The world needed saving. You were the
right man for the job.

But solving the world's problems
doesn't leave much time for the
people you love, does it?

And it applies to his son, too:
I will return home, to the very day
you took us on this cursed mission.
I'll stop us from taking off. I'll
do what you never could. I'll save
the family. I'll save us all.

Why are Americans such whiners?

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