Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bond Violence

A minor beatup in the Australian media over violence in Bond movies, based on this article:

The article crappy because its lede is "the most recent film had 250 [violent incidents] compared with only 109 in the first film; more than twice as many acts of violence in total..." without mentioning that of that 133% increase over 46 years nearly half, or 61%, comes in the first year, between Dr. No and From Russia with Love, as in the graph, and 93% in the first four years, up to Thunderball.

There plainly isn't a clear trend upward - there are phases, probably involving different Bonds or different producers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Carried over from comments at Moneybox

Matt Yglesias says
A subsidiary question that Jones doesn't address, however, is whether we should be concerned about people opting into less-lucrative careers. It seems to me that having smart, ambitious, hardworking people become lawyers is a huge waste. When Apple and Google compete to produce the best smartphone operating system, consumers win as products improve. But while there's presumably some level of lawyerly incompetence that would be socially problematic, at the margin, big firms getting better and better at suing one other doesn't help anyone. By the same token, it's good to have deep and liquid financial markets, but we're clearly past the point where extra expenditure of engineering talent on devising better and faster high-frequency trading algorithms is anything other than a Red Queen's Race.
to which I comment
Looking at the productivity of lawyers and judges, it's important to consider the statistics.  It's all very well to say that quality doesn't matter, but 500 years of uninterrupted measurement have shown that while if really top talent is involved client satisfaction rates, summed across both sides, can rise as high as 50%, the same transaction could in incompetent hands result in client satisfaction plummeting as low as 50%. Are we prepared to live with that?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Skyfall stinks

Warning: Spoilers

I was irritated when the IT genius at MI5 received a laptop from a known computer hacker who has just previously taken over the MI5 computers to turn on the gas and blow up the building and as their first response plug it directly into the mainframe.  Dammit, there would be anti-virus rules stopping agents doing that with any laptop, including their own: for anything suspicious there would be a clean room with no external data access.

That became less important,  though, when I realised that villain's fiendish plot to have himself captured so that his laptop would be plugged into the mainframe so he could escape and run through the undercroft to emerge in front of the hearing room where M was being grilled so that he could run in and shoot M was merely a way to fill up an hour of screen time, given that if he'd done none of it he could have simply walked up to the front of the hearing room and run in and shot M just as efficiently, or not, given that he botched the only bit that actually had to be done right.  Why didn't he run in with a gang of five or ten, or thrown in a bomb, or put a bomb underneath the hearing room, or shoot M while she was going in or out?  Bearing in mind, of course, that he couldn't possibly have known in advance the day and the time when M was going to be had up for interrogation, or arranged for it to be timed to coincide with the inplugging of the laptop...

Which led to the real flaw in the whole thing, the underlying system, which was that everybody at every given moment had to have been been watching the film up to that point.  Perhaps the best example comes towards the eagerly-awaited end where villain sees torchlight across the moors. Aha, he says, there goes Judi Dench. I'll go and chase her while you kill Bond. How does he know it's M ? He knows that Bond and M were in the house, he doesn't know there's an escape tunnel - why wouldn't it be a neighbour, or a hiker?  Or Bond? He knows because we know.  Villain pursues Dench and ghillie (who would have known better than to use unshaded torch, one would have thought) to the abandoned chapel, and just walks in.  Villain knows fugitives were at one point armed, he doesn't know they've put their weapons down, why doesn't he take precautions?  Because we know they aren't armed (for no particularly good reason) and if we know it he knows it.

Returning to minor irritations,
In the fight at the end, twelve thugs walk down to the house (why didn't they drive down?) (and cluster exactly in the only spot where Bond can machinegun them from the Lotus) and are all shot or blown up (by booby traps that would not be sufficiently lethal),
at which point the helicopter lands and lets another nine thugs and villain out - so why didn't they time those to coincide and provide 21 thugs?
so the next nine thugs go in and seven are killed, so the helicopter shoots up the house - so why didn't they do that as step 1, before having any thugs arrive at all? Or have the helicopter drop off a large bomb?
so Bond downs the helicopter, leaving the villain and two remaining thugs, kills one thug and runs off across the ice; other thug, having been told to kill Bond, holds gun on him but does not shoot but instead walks upclose enough for bond to grab the gun (AGAIN for the third time in the movie) and save himself.....

The rooftop chase and the earthmover/train bit were ok, but we'd seen them in the trailer.

And all the reviewers raved about it.  Can't understand it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Someone on the Conversation leads with his chin.

In his attempts to prove that psychology is a science Scott works on the basis of the all to frequent syllogism

  1. Science is a good thing
  2. Psychology is a good thing
  3. Therefore psychology is a science. 

He says "Many other criticisms of psychology’s scientific status are largely misguided. ... psychology has made myriad contributions to society that most of us take for granted... Psychologists have been on the forefront of advances in advertising, education, achievement testing, political polling, psychotherapy, animal training, airplane cockpit safety, and scores of other domains".  What do any of these have to do with scientific status?

Physics isn't a science because of its achievements in timekeeping, navigation, and inflating balloons, it's a science because it claims to give us access to the way the world is underneath the appearances. It is a successful method of generalisation.

Psychology isn't a science, whatever its achievements in cockpit safety, because all its statistics fundamentally rest on what people say to it; and people are unable to be standardised to the point where they can be meaningfully compared. Specifically, if in a physics experiment the researcher records that their samples fell upward one can be reasonably confident that the outcomes were impossible. If, in the example Scott gives, a researcher tests earthquake victims in Iran and records that the number of people experiencing PTSD is not 25.26% but rather 2.5% or 75.78% then one cannot be confident that the outcomes are impossible. Rather, new hypotheses would be added - Iranians are different, earthquakes are different, researchers are different.

Basically, Scott says that psychology - or at least good psychology, the kind he does - is scientific because it uses scientific methods. The underlying problem, though, is that he can appeal to no criterion to discriminate between two scientifically conducted psychology experiments that produce conflicting results.  There is no underlying structure of theory.

Over the past century psychology, after all, has had two grand theories -- Freudianism and behaviourism - sunk under it, and has replaced them with nothing. The IQ test, its main instrument over that time, has been holed beneath the waterline by the Flynn effect. Scott boasts that psychology has disproved the dictum that opposites attract; this is hardly comparable to the atomic theory or quantum chromodynamics. Where are the important truths?

Even Scott's pretty damn trivial claims tend to shrivel under closer examination. His link for the value of psychology in"teaching language to children with autism' goes not to any articles on this topic but to another general isn't-psychology-wonderful puff piece - probably a good thing, given the extreme weakness of the evidence on ABA in this area (see Michelle Dawson at He says
Carefully measured personality traits such as conscientiousness are moderately good predictors of performance in just about every occupation; and pathological traits such as psychopathy (a constellation of features that comprises charm, guiltlessness, callousness, and poor impulse control) are consistent predictors of violence and criminal recidivism.
but conscientiousness is a component of performance, not an unrelated variable, and logically has to be associated, while the relationship between psychopathy and violence is almost washed out by the cultural differences in violence rates between, say, Japan and Columbia.

I'm sure psychology has some successes.  It's virtually impossible to imagine an enterprise of that size running for a hundred years and producing absolutely nothing. This is some way, however, from saying that the enterprise was worth the resources that have been put in to it (and are now being put in to it). How many people across Australia should be trained to staff airplane cockpit institutes (etc., perhaps)? Under four thousand a year, I would have thought, which is the number graduating now. And it certainly doesn't establish that the jerry-built 'sprawling confederation' of psychology constitutes a science, or ever could.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gaza again.

We condemn Syria, and Saddam, etc etc because they're 'Killing their own citizens'.  In Gaza Israel is killing people who either are Israelis, in which case Israel shouldn't kill them, or aren't, in which case Israel shouldn't rule them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


On closer examination Romani, the battle where my grandfather lost an arm ("He lost a leg/at Waterloo/And Quatre Bras/And Ligny too") is not in Gaza.  It's the other side of the Sinai, near Port Said.

Or rather it isn't, any more.  In the wartime maps the country round there is spotted with placenames, but Google Maps seems to show nothing whatsoever.  Even the railways have vanished.

As to Gaza today, a good opportunity to trot out both the classics.

Monday, April 19, 2004


At least half the headlines in the morning's paper could be replaced with one of the following;


Wednesday, March 24, 2004


About 50% of every news media could be covered under the following two headlines;
I wonder why I posted it twice?

All is new

Over at the Conversation there's a proposal to decimalise time
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's weak sisters who stop almost as soon as they start out on the path to reform. The only remotely logical and consistent number system is binary, and we should standardise on that immediately, starting tomorrow, abolishing both decimals and base sixty measurements wherever they occur. Time, for example, would go
1 round (old 24 hrs) = 2 days (12 hr) =4 halfdays (6 hr) = 8 quarterdays (3 hr) = 16 eighthdays (1.5 hrs) = 32 owers (.75 hrs) = 64 halfowers (0.375 hrs: 22.5 minutes) = 128 quarterowers = 256 eighthowers = 512 steenthowers = 1024 minnutes (approx. 1.4 minutes)
Going up, there's no way to keep the year in synch, so we'll abandon it. Let the rest of the world find out what it's like having xmas in summer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Damn.  Now there's a three-way with real possibilities.

Voting blocs

"Texas Megachurch pastor and former Rick Perry supporter Robert Jeffress predicted on the Sunday before Election Day that President Obama’s re-election “would lead to the reign of the Antichrist” in the United States:
“I want you to hear me tonight, I am not saying that President Obama is the Antichrist, I am not saying that at all. One reason I know he’s not the Antichrist is the Antichrist is going to have much higher poll numbers when he comes,” said Jeffress.
“President Obama is not the Antichrist. But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.”
 Well, there's another factor for the Democrats to consider when choosing a candidate in 2016. Can I suggest funding an antichrist search (or development) panel? It seems a no-brainer.

Age bin

I yield to no-one in my contempt for the Catholic Church, but I have to say that the current push to remove the seal of the confessional seems fundamentally misguided.  The argument against compulsory reporting of crimes confessed to priests is that if bad people know this is going to happen ("You do not have to confess anything, but anything you do confess may be given in evidence") they will stop going to confession, and we will be no better off - worse off, indeed, if you believe, as Cardinal Pell presumably does, that more people are going to go to hell because of it.  If privilege is good enough for lawyers, I can't see why it shouldn't apply here for exactly the same reasons.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Another auction

How can, say, Gina Rinehart not bid for this?
I've bid for a handful, largely just for the lottery-like enjoyment of being ahead for a moment: I don't expect to get any of them.
I've just been outbid on this -

So well do I remember the transgressive viciousness of the strip from my early years....
but I'm ahead, at a mere $28, on this -

which I cannot imagine Gina will allow me to keep. And

similarly for this at $48 and this

currently at $28...
It's really not conceivable that they will be overlooked in the rush. But one can hope....

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Serial stupidity

American story of people being lured by job ads on Craigslist to a farmhouse where they were killed. The economics of it seem unbelievable.

Authorities say they were targeted because they were older, single, out-of-work men with backgrounds that made it unlikely their disappearances would be noticed right away.
All the victims were robbed of things including personal items, a truck and a weapon, prosecutors say.

Out-of-work farmhands, by definition, are broke.  However many of them you kill you're barely breaking even, especially as you apparently have to pay fo a breakfast for them first. Couldn't they have advertised positions as rural merchant bankers? I know, more

likely their disappearances would be noticed right away

but at least you could get an expensive suit out of it.  Could you ask their shoe size in the ad, or would that seem suspicious? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dead baby jokes

"Detective Dever said in the past couple of months police had had several pages shut down, including one that was selling guns and drugs, a page full of dead-baby jokes and a page with ''hateful and hurtful comments inciting murder'' directed at police.

Read more:"

Well, that fixed that: dead baby jokes in google now only gets About 4,550,000 results (2.35 seconds).

Just to reminisce, 

Q. How do you make a dead baby float?
A. Two scoops of dead baby and root beer.

Q. What's the difference between a truckload of dead babies and a truckload of bowling balls?
A. You can't unload the bowling balls with a pitchfork.

Or, earlier than the plain dead baby, 

"Can Johnny come out to play?"
"You know Johnny doesn't have any arms or legs."
"I know. We want to use him for third base."

"Mommy, why I am walking in circles."
"Shut up or I'll nail your other foot to the floor."

"But Mommy, I hate little brother!"
"Shut up kid, you'll eat what I cook."

"Mommy, mommy! Daddy's on fire!"
"Quick! Get the marshmallows!"

"But Mommy, I hate little brother!"
"Shut up kid, you'll eat what I cook."

"Mommy, mommy I can't stand Grandma's guts!"
"Leave them on the side of the plate, then."

Vide Sydney Smith: "I do not mean to be disrespectful but the attempt of the Lords to stop the progress of reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs Partington on that occasion.

"In the winter of 1824, there set in a great flood upon that town - the tide rose to an incredible height - the waves rushed in upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea water and vigorously punching away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused.

"Mrs Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs Partington. She was excellent with a slop or a puddle, but she should not have meddled with a tempest."

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Journals (lifted from The Conversation)

Open-access science: be careful what you wish for

The system of journal publication that now exists is a baroque excrescence that must be reconfigured for the ground up. Essentially, we're trying to make work a model that emerged from the Royal Society in 1665, and its age is showing. As Booker remarks, journal publication doesn't include the raw data, when it now can.

The problem is that G appears to work on the basis that whatever is, is right. The requirement for journal publication, the existence of an enormous number of overlapping journals of casuistically graduated status, the the existence of an large number of universities of casuistically graduated status - the whole jerrybuilt structure seems so familiar that it seems impossible now to change it.  I think it's likely to collapse under its own weight.

G, where would you have got to if you were free to work on a blank sheet and design a dissemination system that you actually wanted?

Mind you, I write from the perspective of an ex-journal editor in the human 'sciences', where the flaws of the old model are much more marked and the advantages hardly detectable.

and mind you (2), a referee's eye might have noted that Geraint said "The importance of peer-reviewed publications to the career of a scientist cannot be understated" when he clearly meant "The importance of peer-reviewed publications to the career of a scientist cannot be overstated."

Health (lifted from the Conversation)

Weight-loss paradise or just another fad diet? A review of Six Weeks to OMG

Well, we're clearly in breaking-a-butterfly-upon-a-wheel territory here; fad diet books being held to academic standards?  Waste of everybody's time. The only illumination comes from the review's own mad overreach.

Take, for example, "the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, which include the advice that “Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.” Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? And the fact that it's utterly inconceivable that a majority of the population could or would do anything like that leaves them in the enviable position of saying that their panacea has never been tried and thus can't be falsified.  Is Chris seriously suggesting that the way to health is to carry out in full the recommendations of every American College of Remarkably New Professions? There aren't enough hours in the day.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Alan Jones’ Apology, with a few obvious corrections for grammar and style

As a broadcaster, I often find myself in situations where, unfortunately, I express a certain thought or idea poorly, or find my words taken out of context. Indeed, that is what happened this weekend. Upon reviewing the impromptu remarks I made Sunday afternoon, I can now see that I used the wrong words in the wrong way. I would now like to set the record straight with the Australian people and clear up some confusion about what it was I intended to convey.

You see, what I said was that Julia Gillard’s father died of shame because his daughter told lies every time she stood for parliament. But what I meant to say was, “I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever.”

There are days when you just have to concede, man up and say you got it wrong. And in this instance these are remarks which I shouldn't have made. It is clear to me now that I did not choose my words with care and did not get across the point I was trying to convey. In hindsight, I guess instead of using the words “died of shame,” I should have used the words “I am an unforgivable, unrepentant, and unconscionable subhuman dickhead.” Or better yet, “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been allowed on the public airwaves, and anyone who would listen to me me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” See how much more sense that makes? It’s amazing how a few key word changes can totally alter the meaning of a statement.

Because, of course, it’s all about context. And yes, when you take what I said out of context, I can see how it might sound like I’m claiming that Julia Gillard should be drowned in a chaff bag. This is, I assure you, not what I was trying to express at all. Such is the age we live in that one little sentence excerpted in a news report can come back to haunt a person in a pretty big hurry. But if you actually go back and look at the remarks closely, you’ll see that what I was actually trying to convey in my statement was that
(1) I am a big fucking idiot,
(2) I am a nauseating slug of a human being who doesn’t deserve to live, and
(3) I am essentially everything that’s wrong with this country and with humanity in general.

Honestly, that’s all I was trying to get across there. It was a simple misunderstanding, really.
It’s funny, because, in my head, I remember thinking very vividly, “I, Alan Jones, am a bigoted jackass who probably should not be alive, let alone on the airwaves. People need to know what a terrible person I am so they will then remember to punch me in the face anytime they get the chance.” But when I opened my mouth and tried to articulate that thought, somehow I blurted out the thing about Julia Gillard instead of just saying, in plain English, that I am awful, just purely and incontrovertibly awful.

Frankly, it’s hard not to make a mistake from time to time when you’re in the public eye as much as I am. I am constantly having to speak my mind in a public forum, and sometimes, when all I’m trying to say is something simple and inarguable, like, “Sweet Jesus, I am the worst person who has ever lived,” I wind up saying something completely different. It’s frustrating, really. Because I have a lot of very pertinent and very well-thought out things to say about how somebody should just smack me in the head with a goddamned cricket bat because of how brainless and insensitive I am, but instead my words just come out all jumbled.

I guess I just have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth! And for being the very worst that Western Civilization has to offer!

So let me take this opportunity to be very specific about what I meant when speaking to the Liberal Club, which was this: I am not a competent or respectable broadcaster; I am, essentially, a subhuman monster of a prick, a prick as profoundly insensitive as he is monumentally unintelligent in every respect; somebody should apply dozens of layers of duct tape to my mouth every morning so that words are not able to exit my large, dumb, misogynist, imbecilic mouth at any point; I make the planet worse; I don’t know jackshit about any of the topics I spoke about in that interview, or about any topics at all, really; I should apologize every day to the women of the world, but doing so would most likely be an exercise in futility given my rock-bottom intellect and my complete and utter lack of human decency; I am, in no uncertain terms, not even worth the time it took you to read this.
That’s what I meant to say. Sorry for the confusion.

Lifted and adapted from The Onion, August 20, 2012 | ISSUE 48•34

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Population density of Gotham

Saw, very belatedly, Dark Knight Rises.  Didn't like it, for what almost inconceivably little that's worth.

However, I did have real problems with the cutting-off of Gotham City.  Bane blows all the bridges and traps, he says, twelve million people on the island. That's problematic.

New York has a population of 8.2 million.  OK, Gotham is bigger. But that's greater New York, the five boroughs; Manhattan - the bit that could be isolated - has a resident population of 1.6 million. It depends, I suppose on the day it happens; midweek, there are four million. For it to be 12 million it has to be three times as large as Manhattan or three times as dense. That's not impossible, I suppose -  that's the density of the lower East Side in 1910 - but in a non-1910 environment it's difficult.

By comparison, there were three million people in Leningrad during the siege  there in WW2 and half a million and up died. That was much longer, of course, but it does give some idea of the number of people you need to enforce something like that; a large part of an army group, something like a couple of hundred thousand trained people with tanks.

The problem is the gigantism of the scriptwriter. Four million would have been more than enough - enough, as it is, to starve within a week unless there was continuous boat and helicopter traffic, enough to be uncheckable by the pitifully few gunmen Bane commands.

The problem lies at the core of the superhero mythos (and the Star Wars mythos, with the Jedi) - There just aren't enough of them to make a difference, whatever their powers. But there's no need to make it worse by inflating the numbers.

I did recognise some bits of Pittsburgh.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Saw Despicable Me Tuesday.  Extraordinarily low joke content.  The only interesting thing about it was what I thought would have been a sueable resemblance between the villain/hero Gru and English comic villain Grimly Feendish, which I now see has been observed by Wikipedia;
The character "Gru" in the new movie Despicable Me is remarkably similar to old Grimly in both looks and pose with both tending to wear black with a scarf wrapped around their necks, and both have comic little monstrous minions with Feendish referring to his as "Squelchies".
To wit,  and

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Some while ago I mentioned an incident in the Left Behind Series, from book four:
"Newscasters told the story of what astronomers had discovered just two hours
before—a brand-new comet on a collision course with Earth. Global Community
scientists analyzed data transmitted from hastily launched probes that circled the
object. They said meteor was the wrong term for the hurtling rock formation, which
was the consistency of chalk or perhaps sandstone.
Pictures from the probes showed an irregularly shaped projectile, light in color. The
anchorman reported, “Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to put this in perspective.
This object is about to enter Earth's atmosphere. Scientists have not determined its makeup, but if—as it appears—it is less dense than granite, the friction resulting from entry will make it burst into flames.
“Once subject to Earth's gravitational pull, it will accelerate at thirty-two feet per
second squared. As you can see from these pictures, it is immense. But until you
realize its size, you cannot fathom the potential destruction on the way. GC
astronomers estimate it at no less than the mass of the entire Appalachian Mountain
range. It has the potential to split the earth or to knock it from its orbit.
“The Global Community Aeronautics and Space Administration projects the
collision at approximately 9:00 A.M. Central Standard Time. They anticipate the
best possible scenario, that it will take place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Tidal waves are expected to engulf coasts on both sides of the Atlantic for up to
fifty miles inland. Coastal areas are being evacuated as we speak. Crews of
oceangoing vessels are being plucked from their ships by helicopters, though it is
unknown how many can be moved to safety in time. Experts agree the impact on
marine life will be inestimable."
That's from Revelations 8.8, The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
I was reading a Phil Plait ("Bad Astronomy") post that was referring to a paper attempting to quantify the physics in the Bruce Willis film Armageddon, where an asteroid the size of Texas is going to hit the Earth, and was for no very good reason moved to try and get quantificationist with LB. My first attempt, based on this passage, was a very rough attempt to quantify the mass of the Appalachians, based on 
- an area of 2,400 * 160 k – counting out foothills, to be conservative, 2000* 150 -
- one perfectly conical peak of 500m to every square K, giving 300,000 peaks – that is, counting down to sea level rather than through to the centre of the earth -
the two together giving volume, and 
- a figure nicked from a site on "what's the weight of a mountain" for density, 2700 k per cubic metre – assuming granite (seems a bit high) coming up with a figure of 106,018,149,183,450 or 106 trillion tonnes.
The Chichulub event was 10 k across, or and if you assume it was half the density of granite that makes it about 706,858,347,058 tonnes, so the LB Appalachians are about 150 times that, or some 15,000 teratons of TNT.
 The authors are even overreaching themselves - they could have got away with one mountain, not an entire range.
A few pages on, however, they up the ante further; the book says that
“The more than thousand-mile-square mountain, finally determined to consist largely of sulphur…. Created hurricane-force winds for the last hour it dropped from the heavens.”
Leaving aside that last hour bit (in which the impactor would have travelled some 360,000 k; it would have been in the wind belt for less than a second)  that thousand-mile-square thing is a problem, in that meteors aren’t round and are cubic.  Does that mean a diameter of 1000 miles, a face of 1000 square miles, or a typo for 1000 cu/m? let’s take the last; that would make the mass 8,628,136,388,100 Tonnes, or another twelve times larger. That’s a species-ending whack.
And all that happens in the books is waterspouts a mile high and that “Damage inland was so extensive that nearly all modes of travel were interrupted.” Yes, even fifty-mile-inland tidal waves would do that, let alone something 1,800 times the impact that took out the dinosaurs.
And then La Haye and Jenkins move on to more important stuff.  They really don’t do special effects terribly well.
Why do I waste my time on these things?  Displacement activity.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Interesting that this presidential photo throws us into medieval perspective.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keep in type

Sometimes I despair of the media.

Sheriff Arpaio produces another birther screed, and every news outlet reports it as fact - here, here, and here, for example - without even googling to see that it's already been disproved.
Which is still giving them too much credit; the birther hypothesis is so utterly fatuous that it should be self-refuting, and the newspaper should add "This is, of course, completely bananas" to every mention, without waiting for precise disproof.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Larkin about

From the new collected poems:

Morning, noon and bloody night
Seven sodding days a week,
I slave at filthy work, that might
Be done by any book-drunk freak.
This goes on till I kick the bucket:

From somewhere selse,
"As Camus put it, “It is necessary to fall in love … if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.”"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Whale not at all ho

The trading losses at J.P. Morgan have now swelled out to 5.8 billion. The trader apparently responsible is named Bruno Iksil, known as the London Whale.  And what I find absolutely fascinating is that I can't find a picture of him on Google.

Anonymity like that doesn't come cheap.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The inquiry into abuse in the defence forces has found that back in the 50s there were things happening like

"Young men were given ‘Regimental‘ showers which comprised being scrubbed with a wire brush and often thereafter “nuggeted” which involved having boot polish rubbed on their genitals and anus."
The latter of which I remember being a reasonably common occurrence at Geelong Grammar's Timbertop in what, 1961? When I was, let me see, fifteen. That and/or being thrown into a wicker laundry basket and shoved under the cold shower. 

And while I'm not recommending it, it wasn't at the time seen as that big a deal. Boys being boys, would have been the view.  In itself, it wouldn't even have been regarded as bullying, because it wasn't all that individual - happened to me today, you tomorrow, just about everybody over the course of the year, if you'd missed out the dorm would probably give you one on that ground alone.
We were all in a single year, so there wasn't any Top Shit/New grub or bastardisation/breaking in element; you'd get nuggeted as, at that moment, last among equals.

Again, someone's quoted as saying
It wasn't considered to be abuse by those involved, it was just 'part and parcel' of the ordinary routine to toughen you up, and to sort out whether a cadet was of the 'right stuff' for arduous Army service.
The best judge of suitability of character here was not the Military Establishment through its selection process, but rather the cadets themselves. They were left to do what they thought was necessary to produce the right outcome, and the Military Establishment distanced itself from these events for obvious reasons …
which may be true, but is shown by Timbertop not be necessary.  We weren't sorting out the wheat from the chaff.  We did it because it was fun, and because it lent an air of excitement to life, and because it seemed a good idea at the time.

Failures of memory..... I'm totally unable to remember the ostensible reasons why anybody got nuggeted.  I'm even unable to remember whether I myself ever was - I think so, on the grounds of general probability, but I may have managed to weasel out of it.  Which shows, I suppose, that I really didn't regard it as all that significant.  I can remember being told that as everybody else in the dorm had been caned that year I was going to get nuggeted if I wasn't caned by the end of third term, and I certainly managed to weasel out of that one - both of those ones - by keeping out of sight on the last day.

All boys, I must stress, nothing to do with masters.

Yes, some would have taken it much harder - for all I know it may have destroyed their lives, as so often comes up in inquiries.  Can't remember any suicides at the time, but apparently these things recur in later life.  All I say is that such possibilities meant less than nothing to us at the time, not so much because we were evil as because none of us ever gave a second's thought to anybody else's feelings.  It just wasn't a consideration. We were utterly engrossed with ourselves.

I'm sometimes concerned that we seem to be drifting back into a belief in childhood innocence. Children are utter bastards, and the Lord of the Flies is something of a documentary. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Donald poster went for

$4,216.25 (includes 15% Buyer's Premium) with a prior estimate of 400-700.  If it didn't go to the War Memorial I'll be terribly disappointed.

By which I mean

I'll be damned

Bearing in mind that here 'Pro' means 'prophylactic'; condom.  Donald is anticipating Howard the Duck and Beverly.

And it's Australian!

This rare poster is the only one we know of and we believe of Australian issue. Text at top reads "And Me With Out A Pro[phylactic]! Be Sly VD Is High." Great art depicts Donald Duck in an Australian soldier's uniform while behind him is an attractive woman in a tight slinky dress lying in wait behind a large plant. Donald has an exasperated look on his face as he is without a prophylactic. At the lower right is insignia "4MCD," we believe to be for the Fourth Medical Corps Division. Art is signed "Cyril Jones."

Don't know what those leaves are meant to signify.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Our Man in Havana was a documentary

Reading Neil Sheehan's A Fiery Peace in a Cold War - a history of the US nuclear missile program.

One interesting snippet. One officer in the program -
"After the budget for his rocket engine program was originally decimated in mid-1950 by the more immediate needs of the Korean War, Hall decided to fake an intelligence report of a monstrous Soviet rocket engine to frighten the Air Force into leaving his money alone. He would provide a design drawn in what was known of Russian style of an engine rated at one hundred metric tons of thrust. His friend was then to slip it in to intelligence channels as a genuine report picked up in the Soviet Union.  A drawing of Hall's bogus Soviet whopper engine was duly submitted.
Later, a senior colonel entered his office and castigated him for failing to press hard enough to retain my program for large rocket development. The program was saved!"

The thing being that Sheehan sees nothing wrong with that - indeed, he sees it as a feather in Hall's cap, a clever ruse.  At a time, mind you, when there were live suggestions around the American military to bomb Russia before they could develop a missile program, suggestions that this fake would strengthen.

When Wormold submitted the plans of a Soviet missile base in Cuba - was it really that foreseeing? anyway, it looked, as I recollect, very much like a vacuum cleaner - the ready acceptance by London was probably because it supported the views of one faction in the British Blue Streak program.

"At one point, he decides to make his reports "exciting" and sends to London sketches of vacuum cleaner parts, telling them that those are sketches of a secret military installation in the mountains. In London nobody except Hawthorne, who alone knows Wormold sells vacuum cleaners, doubts this report. But Hawthorne does not report his doubts for fear of losing his job. In the light of the new developments, London sends Wormold a secretary, Beatrice Severn, and a radio assistant codenamed "C" with much spy paraphernalia."

The Guinness movie is difficult to find on DVD - oh, no, there it is.  Add to cart.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vale Nora Ephron

As a tribute, here's her recipe for bread pudding, from her novel Heartburn, which we have in the cookbooks section;

 Recipe: Caramelized Mush Bread Pudding

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 loaf good bread, torn in chunks
1 cup raisins
6 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vanilla

 Method: With an electric mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well mixed and add the eggs one at a time. Add the milk with the mixer on low then add all the remaining ingredients except the bread. Remove from the mixer and and then dump in the torn bread. Mix briefly and carefully. Pour into a large buttered casserole. Bake in a 350° oven for 2 hours. Stir thoroughly from bottom to top, including the sides, after the first hour. Serve with cream, although it is rich enough to eat all by itself- the cream actually breaks up the sweetness. This is really rich so serves perhaps 8-10.

Heartburn, the book :

It was the first time I'd run into the term 'sticks [of] butter' , which I didn't see in the flesh till much later; I ended up overbuttering, making even more rich. Quarter pound, about 1/8 kilo. So two sticks, quarter kilo.

It is wonderful, and now I have gluten intolerance I can't make it any more.

Actually, hold it, I've got the recipe from an untrustworthy source.  I distinctly remember that  Ephron didn't say 'good bread' - she specifically said crap bread, worse the better.  Back online.

Evolutionary Backwaters

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rain in art

OK, is this the first representation of rain in Western art? Fourteenth century.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

So how much

would my millions of readers advise me to go up to for this gem?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Irony squared

"Did you read that the check that Siegel and Shuster got for Superman — I think it was four hundred dollars, or two hundred dollars — just sold at auction for $140,000?""
Stan Lee

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rush, rush, rush

Once again it seems that I've left everything to the last moment.

"2008 - God's Final Witness
The year 2008 marked the last of God’s warnings to mankind and the beginning in a countdown of the final three and one-half years of man’s self-rule that will end by May 27, 2012.

On December 14, 2008, the First Trumpet of the Seventh Seal of the Book of Revelation sounded, which announced the beginning collapse of the economy of the United States and great destruction that will follow. The next three trumpets will result in the total collapse of the United States, and once the Fifth Trumpet sounds the world will be thrust into WW III."

That's on   They advertise at WorldNetDaily, much as one might expect.

As a layman, mind you, I can't see how the FT of the SS  - 

8:6 "And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." 
8:7 "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."

- translates into Goldman Sachs miscalculating derivatives, but that's presumably why I need to buy the book.  

Anyway, world war three by Sunday fortnight, which does place out troubles with the Herald Sun in some perspective.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A bid in

Probably won't get it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

From today, philosophy is dead

The issue of whether we are in fact simply entries in a computer simulation may be becoming moot:
"The goal of the DEUS project (Dark Energy Universe Simulation) is to investigate the imprints of dark energy on cosmic structure formation through high-performance numerical simulations. In order to do so, the project has conducted a simulation of the structuring of the entire observable universe, from the Big Bang to the present day. Thanks to the Curie super-computer, the simulation has made it possible to follow the evolution of 550 billion particles. Two other complementary runs are scheduled by the end of May. More details in the press release."

Dumpster diving

into the dustbin of history; I see Gadaffi's Green Book still has its adherents..... or at least its paymasters.  Though the two must be reasonably close; you'd normally think that if a huckster had his funding source killed off he'd keep the remaining money to pay the gas bill rather than putting it to the use that the big G would have wanted.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I'll be sorry

This one is just within reach. $1,300.... and it'll only go up....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Irritating character

When I scan and OCR material I find that the RTF version incorporates a character wherever there's a cross-line wordbreak.   It's a variety of the dash, but with an added flickdown at the right-hand end so that it looks like a short-footed capital L flipped and left rotated. And it is intensely irritating, because it can't be cut and pasted into Find and Replace - that is to say, there's no way to tell Word to remove them all.

Does any of my two followers know what it's called, to enable me to search for a way to fix it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Age bin(s)

 [Rescued from Drafts]

While I'm at it, here are some other unpublished letters pulled from the sent items file. Why do I bother? It's not as if letters changed anything. Who am I kidding? Vanity. Arrogance. irritability. And those are my good features.

One -
My grandfather fought in the Light Horse at Gallipoli and his brother died there, which I hope gives me standing to say that the proposal to spend not far south of a million dollars on a Gallipoli VC is a criminal waste of money, an insane fetishisation of holy relics, and a clear breach of the second commandment.

Grandfather went on to lose an arm conquering Palestine for the British; if anyone has a loose million lying around it would be more sensible to use it to help the descendants of the Palestinians who were gazumped by that imperialist intervention.

Two -
As one of the people who’ve written to the Age recently questioning Israel’s right to exist, can I say that I resent being put forward as evidence of Australian anti-semitism? I said then that states don’t have an automatic right to exist, and cited the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia as examples of states that weren’t around any more. I can’t see that comparing Israelis to Russians, Yugoslavs or Czechs is evidence of a belief in racial exceptionalism. On the other hand, giving Israel a pass in Lebanon on the grounds that “the vast bulk of its citizens see [this] as a justifiable war” without applying the same principle to the Indonesians in Timor, say, or the Serbs in Kosovo, does seem to be rather tending in just that direction.

Three -
If Israel really wants a five-kilometre buffer zone with Hezbollah, it can have it tomorrow without fighting, diplomatic hassles, or bombing from the air, and in a way that contributes to peace rather than seeding new wars. It can pull its own settlers and its own forces five kilometres south. It’s not the Israeli penchant for spite fences that the world objects to – it’s their insistence on setting them up on their neighbour’s land.

Four -
OK, at 5am Lebanon time yesterday we set the speedos back to zero. By Age press time the Israelis in Lebanon had already shot two Hezbollah and threatened to blow up any moving vehicle. I mention this now in the hope of avoiding a long argument in the letters column next year over just who cast the first stone this time.

Five -
If Howard manages to push his History reforms through we will at least be confident that Australia’s youth will leave school knowing their significant dates – Coronation, 1953; Bradman, 1908-2001; Gallipoli, 1915: creation of the earth, 4004 BC.

Six -
The Palestinians should accept the right for Israel to exist in the same way that the Israelis accept Palestine’s right to exist. How hard could that be? That would give the Palestinians control over Israel’s borders, its roads, its water, all of Jerusalem, and any hilltop that looked inviting, constituting 40% of the best land. The Palestinians could occupy any Israeli city any time they felt like it, could invite anyone of Palestinian descent from anywhere in the world to return and settle, could round up and imprison the Israeli cabinet as convenient, could declare the Israeli army illegitimate, and could build high walls around Israeli settlements with closely policed crossing points. Offer them that and I think they’d listen.

Seven -
And that's the Roskam one.

Brown Stains, II

 [Rescued from Drafts]

The Dan Brown villain plots...
A single bell chimed on Mal’akh’s grandfather clock, and he looked up. Six thirty P.M. Leaving his tools, he wrapped the Kiryu silk robe around his naked, six-foot-three body and strode down the hall. The air inside this sprawling mansion was heavy with the pungent fragrance of his skin dyes and smoke from the beeswax candles he used to sterilize his needles. The towering young man moved down the corridor past priceless Italian antiques—a Piranesi etching, a Savonarola chair, a silver Bugarini oil lamp.

Wow. antiques. But hold it, etchings, even Piranesi etchings - and I yield to nobody in my admiration of the Carcieri -

aren't priceless: they're multiples, and they go for comparatively small sums.

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