Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, December 23, 2013

Age bin

After the fall of the Howard government the Rudd government was pressed to set up inquiries on (a) how Australia had been dragged into an unnecessary war against Saddam Hussein that let to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and (b) who in the government had signed off on breaching Australian law and United Nations sanctions against selling wheat to Saddam Hussein.  Rudd refused, wanting to seem impartial and bipartisan. Having seen how quickly Abbot has descended into partisan witchhunts over the pink batts issue I hope that Labor politicians have learnt their lesson and after the next election will immediately move to expose the errors, misjudgements and who knows, crimes of the present cabinet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Is it possible that if the car industry goes we will be able to have a proper debate on transport strategy, in that we won’t have any reason to favour cars over trains? We can raise emissions standards to whatever we like, no job losses; congestion charges, fbt provisions – everything is now on the table.

Once we vote out Abbott, of course. Who’s plotted the probable WA senate vote under the new LNP poll figures?

Commonplace Book

I can remember looking for this online and not finding it

Peter Cook’s revue, “Beyond the Fringe,” had a famous sketch called “The Sadder and Wiser Beaver,” Coe tells us, about a “bunch of young, would-be radical journalists who won’t admit they have sold their soul to a rapacious newspaper proprietor.” It is a sketch that works as well today as it did fifty years ago, right down to the beavers, trapped inside their illusions of subversion:
COOK: Whenever the old man has a cocktail party, there’s about ten of us - young, progressive people - we all gather up the far end of the room and … quite openly, behind our hands, we snigger at him.
BENNETT: Well, I don’t know, that doesn’t seem very much to me.
COOK: A snigger here, a snigger there - it all adds up.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Age bin

[Re article by Ahron Shapiro]
There are nations that have the right to lecture others about the evils of nuclear proliferation.  Israel isn't one of them. There are nations that have the right to demand that others observe UN resolutions.  Israel isn't one of them. There are nations that have the right to preach about the virtues of settling any and every disagreement by resorting to military action rather than diplomacy.  There, at least, Israel certainly knows what it's talking about.

[Though this is surely the occasion for both the standard headlines --

Friday, November 15, 2013

Abbott objects to linking fires to climate change.

My father-in-law was involved in the rural fire service, and he devised a fire danger risk calculator that relied on the interaction of three factors; heat, dryness, and wind speed.  Global warming makes the first worse, by definition, and heat dries out the grass.  Yes, fires are started by eleven-year-old boys, army explosives, fallen power lines, and lightning strikes, not climate change, but any given spark is more likely to catch and run if it’s hotter. The risk will be greater and fires will be worse, virtually by definition. Warmer = more and worse fires. That simple.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Modern Men Swear

Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a whoreson carriage, as Shakespear might have said after an argument with Anne.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Christie and the war

Remember, these are supposed to be the sympathetic characters:

'That won't happen in my time, I hope,' said Edward, smiling. 'My tenants are a contented lot.'
'They shouldn't be,' said David. 'Nobody should be contented. '
'If apes had been content with tails -' murmured Lady Angkatell from where she was standing by the sideboard looking vaguely at a dish of kidneys. 'That's a poem I learnt in the nursery, but I simply can't remember how it goes on. I must have a talk with you, David, and learn all the new ideas. As far as I can see, one must hate everybody, but at the same time give them free medical attention and a lot of extra education (poor things, all those helpless little children herded into schoolhouses every day) - and cod-liver oil forced down babies' throats whether they like it or not - such nasty-smelling stuff.'
Lady Angkatell said: 'Midge, you'd better ring up your shop.' Midge went slowly to the telephone.
Her life had always been so entirely normal and commonplace that she felt she lacked the phraseology to explain to her employers that after four days' holiday she was unable to return to work owing to the fact that she was mixed up in a murder case.
It did not sound credible. It did not even feel credible.
And Madame Alfrege was not a very easy person to explain things to at any time.
Midge set her chin resolutely and picked up the receiver.
It was all just as unpleasant as she had imagined it would be. The raucous voice of the vitriolic little Jewess came angrily over the wires.

“What wath that, Mith Hardcathle? A death?  A funeral? Do you not know very well I am short-handed? Do you think 1 am going to stand for these excuses? Oh, yeth, you are having a good time, I dare thay!' Midge interrupted, speaking sharply and distinctly. 'The poleeth? The poleeth, you thay?' It was almost scream. 'You are mixed up with the poleeth?' Setting her teeth, Midge continued to explain. Strange how sordid that woman at the other end made the whole thing seem. A vulgar police case. What alchemy there was in human beings!
Edward opened the door and came in; then seeing that Midge was telephoning, he was about to go out. She stopped him.
'Do stay, Edward. Please. Oh, I want you to.'
The presence of Edward in the room gave her strength - counteracted the poison.
She took her hand from where she had laid it over the mouthpiece.
'What? Yes. I am sorry, Madame. But after all, it is hardly my fault -'
The ugly raucous voice was screaming angrily. 'Who are thethe friendth of yourth? What thort of people are they to have the poleeth there - and a man shot? I've a good mind not to have you back : all! I can't have the tone of my ethtablishment lowered.'
Midge made a few submissive non-committal replies. She replaced the receiver at last, with a sigh of relief. She felt sick and shaken .
'It's the place I work,' she explained. 'I had to let them know that I wouldn't be back until Thursday because of the inquest and the - the police.'
'I hope they were decent about it? What is it like, this dress shop of yours? Is the woman who runs it pleasant and sympathetic to work for?'
'I should hardly describe her as that! She's a Whitechapel Jewess with dyed hair and a voice like a corncrake.'
'But my dear Midge -'
Edward's face of consternation almost made Midge laugh. He was so concerned. -
'But my dear child - you can't put up with that sort of thing. If you must have a job, you must take one where the surroundings are harmonious and where you like the people you are working with.'
Midge looked at him for a moment without answering.
How explain, she thought, to a person like Edward?
What did Edward know of the labour market, of jobs?
And suddenly a tide of bitterness rose in her. Lucy, Henry, Edward - yes, even Henrietta - they were all divided from her by an impassable gulf - the gulf that separates the leisured from the working.
 Yes, we knew all about the casual English antisemitism that defaces so much of its fiction, but that's from The Hollow, published in 1946.  After Auschwitz. It may have been written earlier - pre-war, perhaps, with Poirot added at the last minute - but she could have reviewed it. 
Edward peered suspiciously into the show window at a little black dress with a narrow gold belt, some rakish-looking, skimpy jumper suits, and an evening gown of rather tawdry coloured lace.
Edward knew nothing about women's clothes except by instinct, but had a shrewd idea that all these exhibits were somehow of a meretricious order. No, he thought, this place was not worthy of her. Someone - Lady Angkatell, perhaps - must do something about it.
Overcoming his shyness with an effort, Edward straightened his slightly stooping shoulders and walked in.
He was instantly paralysed with embarrassment.
Two platinum blonde little minxes with shrill were examining dresses in a show-case, with a saleswoman in attendance. At the back of the shop a small woman with a thick nose, henna red and a disagreeable voice was arguing with a puzzled and bewildered customer over some alterations to an evening gown. From an adjacent cubicle a fretful voice was raised.
'Frightful - perfectly frightful - can't you bring me anything decent to try?'
In response he heard the soft murmur of Midge’s voice - a deferential, persuasive voice.
'This wine model is really very smart. And I think it would suit you. If you'd just slip it on -'
The Hollow
'I'm not going to waste my time trying on things that I can see are no good. Do take a little trouble. I've told you I don't want reds. If you'd listen to what you are told -'
The colour surged up into Edward's neck. He hoped Midge would throw the dress in the odious woman's face. Instead she murmured:
'I'll have another look. You wouldn't care for green I suppose, Madam? Or this peach?'
'Dreadful- perfectly dreadful! No, I won't see anything more. Sheer waste of time -'
But now Madame Alfrege, detaching herself from the stout customer, had come down to Edward and was looking at him inquiringly.
He pulled himself together.
'Is - could I speak - is Miss Hardcastle here?' Madame Alfrege's eyebrows went up, but she took in the Savile Row cut of Edward's clothes, and she produced a smile whose graciousness was rather more unpleasant than her bad temper would have been.
It may be some excuse that Christie is also, through Lady Angkatell, expressing a range of social prejudices, too, against
free medical attention and a lot of extra education (poor things, all those helpless little children herded into schoolhouses every day) - and cod-liver oil forced down babies' throats whether they like it or not - such nasty-smelling stuff.' 
Codliver oil was a source of vitamin D, which prevented rickets. How evil to give it to poor children....

It's possibly worth noting, at the fringe, that Lady Angkatell's memory has led her astray - the poem "If apes had been content with tails" is an endorsement of 'progress', not an attack on it:


THE splendid discontent of God
With chaos made the world.
Set suns in place, and filled all space
With stars that shone and whirled.
If apes had been content with tails,
No thing of higher shape
Had come to birth: the king of earth
To-day would be an ape. 
And from the discontent of man
The world's best progress springs.
Then feed the flame (from God it came),
Until you mount on wings.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friday, September 27, 2013

Laughter in the court

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary (‘the OED’) the word eleemosynary, which is largely used to frighten law students, made its debut in English in around 1640 and is derived from the medieval Latin word eleēmosynārius which means ‘alms’. The OED defines eleemosynary to mean: ‘Of or pertaining to alms or almsgiving; charitable’.
Its utilisation by trust lawyers as a replacement for the word ‘charitable’ was made necessary because the effect of the law of charities is that the word ‘charitable’ in law bears little resemblance to the concept it bears in ordinary English. It might perhaps have promoted clarity for lawyers to have used the word ‘eleemosynary’ to refer to the technical sense of the concept and to have left the word ‘charitable’ with its ordinary meaning, but it is too late now to rescue the language from this misfortune.”

Mr. Justice Perram, The Hunger Project Australia v Commissioner of Taxation [2013] 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Clanricarde rules

One of the suggested reasons for bombing Syria is to punish the regime; which seems to face the problem so perceptively pointed out by Lord Clanricarde (second marquess, fifteenth earl) around 1880.
With the rise of [Irish] land agitation after the bad harvests of 1879, [his] unyielding attitude, coupled with his unsociable personality and his position as the stereotypical absentee landlord .... made him a major target; his financial resources enabled him to resist effectively. His obduracy brought him into conflict even with some of his land agents; he is alleged to have told one: ‘If my tenants think they can intimidate me by shooting you, they are very much mistaken’.
Assad is, I'm sure, able to take the deaths of any number of his soldiers, public servants, and citizens with an appropriately philosophical stoicism. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

God in chains

So all the information in the entire electronic communications system of the world is now being bugged and searched.  We have what is by orders of magnitude the largest data bank ever conceived, giving us Laplacian knowledge about our society at every point in time.  I've occasionally speculated on the kind of data cornucopia we could have if we weren't obsessed with privacy - and now we've got it.

And what are we doing with it?  If you believe the government, they're looking for terrorists; if you listen to just-proven-correct paranoiacs, they're looking for opposition; in any case, how terribly trivial.

We have a corpus that contains the answers to almost any question about human beings.  We have the oracle in front of us.  And all we can ask it is "Who is going to plant a bomb where?"
it's been pointed out that this is expensive and inefficient - it would pay us to dismantle it unless it was stopping one 9/11 a month - but not much attention has been paid to the opportunity costs.  We're not asking how many people with prescriptions for drugs A and B and C but not Q visit emergency rooms, or what proportion of users of different mobile phones have convictions for domestic violence, or which mobile phones correspond to an unusual number of burgled houses, or..... why isn't there an industry for thinking up questions? 

Privacy's dead, and we're not getting anything worthwhile out of it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Now that we know, as they didn't in the fifties, that dinosaurs like T Rex used their tails to balance when running - tails off the ground - that should change our portrayal of Godzilla.  Horizontal above the legs.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The tumult and the shouting dies

Unfortunate monarchs day at Heritage.  I make a bid on Lot 62758 -
despite the predicted sale price being between two and three times my bid; you never know....
and look longingly at
the execution of Marie Antoinette.......

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Truth or Dare

Two medals I bid on unsuccessfully, representing the very American bombast-takedown combination. 
First, a patriotic token from 1837 or 1857, with the inscription
"Millions for defence - not one cent for tribute"

against an obverse of Liberty,

And second, a realistic reappraisal dated 1863;

"Millions for contractors -

Not one cent for the widows".

Copperhead copper, anti-Lincoln pro-slavery propaganda, but so good. And so currently applicable.

The Millions for Defence quote is linked by Wikipedia to a report on a diplomatic brouhaha between France and America caused, or at least protracted, by Talleyrand's demands for bribes.  Interesting.  But the slogan obviously lived on. In a time when a million dollars meant something.

Friday, August 09, 2013


From the Flat Earth Wiki:


Gravity is a fundamental force in Round Earth Theory and is the theoretical attraction between physical objects with mass, the force being proportional to their given mass. Many Flat Earth models omit Gravity entirely.

You can see how that would simplify things in one way, but it does surely make it more complicated in others.  Particularly when read together with


The sun, moon, and stars are all rotating around a central point over the North Pole. The underlying cause for this rotation is a vast cornucopia of stellar systems orbiting around its center of attraction - an imaginary point of shared attraction. This is an extrapolated and more complex binary star movement. Think of a binary (two) star system which moves around an invisible common barycenter. Now add a third body which shares that common center of attraction. Now a fourth. When we add enough bodies the system looks like a swirling multiple system.
Each star in a cluster is attracted to one another through gravitational vectors.....

And then there's


The Antimoon is a moon of nearly identical size to the normal moon. It is theorized that the Antimoon passes between the Earth and the Moon to account for the waxing and waning effects of the moon. The Antimoon is very dark and undetectable by any means except when it passes in front of the moon.
At which point, I have to say, I'm getting a suspicion that this fellow is having a lend of me....

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


It's a weirdly fascinating business watching sober and fair-minded human beings trying to work out a formula for the circumstances in which abortion should be permitted. All possible reasons and permutations of reasons are canvassed and debated; excepting only the reason that the woman concerned wants an abortion, which no one mentions as having any relevance to the question at all.
Of course, this way of thinking is very congenial to a bureaucracy-loving socialist 1ike me, who believes that people shouldn't be allowed any freedom to choose for themselves, but should have all their decisions made for them by faceless officials and so-called experts who think they know what's best for everyone. But I'm rather surprised that the tireless defenders of personal liberty whom we usually find ourselves up against in our insidious erosion of citizen rights haven't been exposing controls and snoopers in this sector with quite their usual vigour.  
No, I was being gently ironical. I'm aware that those who deny that a pregnant woman has any personal right to choose whether she wants to give birth do so because they are trying to protect the right of the unborn to be born. And there are two arguments often advanced in this direction which I must admit I find rather compelling.
The first is that few people (if any), once having got themselves born and in a position to say, would prefer not to have been born, however reluctant or unsuitable their mother, or however exhausted and inadequate she subsequently became. The second (and logically similar) argument is that if abortion had been freely available in the past, the world might have been deprived of individuals like Leonardo da Vinci and William the Conqueror (who were illegitimate), and Bach (the eighth of eight children).
These arguments are good ones. The only trouble with them is that they're too good. Take the case of that astonishing sixteenth-century figure' Ivan Kudovbin. He invented a primitive form of gas-mantle; he wrote 123 flute sonatas, before the sonata form had been invented; he experimented with cheap money and deficit budgeting; he raised a citizen army which drove the Galicians right out of Galicia into Silesia, and the Silesians right out of Silesia' into Galicia. He was undoubtedly a genius. But, as we know from studying the history of the period, he was one of the unlucky ones who didn't get born. He Kudovbin, but he wasn't. If he had been born he would have preferred to have been born, I'm pretty sure, His loss is a tragedy both to himself and to mankind.
Perhaps Kudovbin was aborted or miscarried, I’m not sure. But I think the trouble was quite probably that he never got conceived. I don't know what went wrong exactly. Perhaps he was the twelfth child in the family, and his parents stopped at eleven. Perhaps his mother was a nun, under vows of chastity. Perhaps his father was away on a business trip the night he should have been commenced. But what seems fairly certain mathematically is that the tragedy of his non-birth could have been averted if everyone had really taken the matter seriously.
Think of it. If the available reproductive plant had been fully utilised from the beginning of time, and every woman had been kept bearing a child a year from puberty to menopause, billions upon billions more people would have been born. Nearly all of them, once born, would have preferred to have been born. And among them, presumably. would have been the usual proportion of geniuses. Kudovbin after Kudovbin -- composers who wrote greater polyphonic music than Bach; Elizabethan dramatists more universal than Shakespeare; Elizabethan monarchs more Elizabethan than Elizabeth. .
The steamboat would have been invented in time to take people to the Crusades; the United Nations in time to reach a negotiated settlement instead. Frozen fish-fingers would have come in about the beginning of the Renaissance.
Just think, for a start how many innocent babes -- potential great men among them -- have been kept out of this world because of legal or moral sanctions against fornication, adultery, rape, and intercourse below the age of consent! Sentimentalists have opposed these creative and life-enhancing activities on various short-sighted grounds, such as the well-being of the woman concerned, and the desirability of stable family and social life. Have they ever stopped to consider the wellbeing of poor little Vsevolod and Tatiana Kudovbin, who as a result of their interference never even started being, well or ill?
But then, people never stop to think about the rights of the unborn. So-called reformers struggled for years to get slavery abolished, using a variety of spurious moral arguments, but really on the shallow hedonistic grounds that the slaves themselves didn't much care for it. Didn't they, indeed! Nobody stopped to consider that without slavery there would in years to come be no Buddy Bolden, no Jelly Roll Morton, no Blind Lemon Jefferson; hence no syncopated popular music of any sort; hence no Beatles and no Cilla Black. So much for Cilla Black, for all Wilberforce cared.

The simple truth is, that it's an ill wind that blows nobody any silver linings. So carry on persecuting people; they may be Dostoyevsky. And don't hesitate to martyr any likely-looking candidate; remember, he may not get canonised otherwise. 

Michael Frayn, 
From At Bay in Gear Street, published 1967

I had occasion to quote from it recently from memory in a discussion on abortion, which is a good reason to pop it up online. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zombie pyramid

In WWZ the zombies overwhelm Jerusalem by making a human pyramid up the wall.
I was starting to try and work out whether this would be possible given the compressive strength of bone - if a zombie was supporting the at least 16 layers that it would take to top the wall that would be 1,600 k on 2 sq in of femur - but on reflection the real difficulty is that the top layers aren't co-operating, they're behaving rivalrously, and if you just try and climb up each other neither of you can get high. The film's idea is that both of you as you struggle are topped by another, which might be possible if you had a genuine pyramid with a wide base but not, surely, in the upper and thinner levels.
While I'm on the film, the very extreme speed of conversion to zombie would make it almost impossible for them to get on to a plane; the film has one hiding in the toilet, but it's hard to imagine how they would have made it on the plane and into the toilet without zombifying already.  Which would have slowed down the spread.  Boats, too, largely.  Cruise ships would be almost immune if at sea, and if in dock would be taken over and disabled.
I can't see how zombification can spread at much more than running speed. 
And that Jerusalem wall - could it have been built in a few weeks?  and if it was, wouldn't it be news, so that Pitt wouldn't have had to hear about it from a CIA man in Korea?

The mcguffin is that zs won't bite (or notice) people with terminal diseases because they want a fit host.  In evolutionary terms, though, biting is a low-cost strategy - wouldn't you bite everything and let god sort it out?  The scientist feed says yes, carrion feeders won't eat sick animals; but eating is a much higher-risk activity than biting.
The fundamental constraint is that there has to be some form of energy conversion to power their movement, and being dead it's hard to see what that is - but if you're going to have zombies, I suppose that's the one question you absolutely have to let go through to the keeper.

Monday, June 24, 2013

and again

Straightening that out by simple extrapolation, that's this:

And if you cut back to the postwar period, all the variation (apart from that little dip in the 60s) can be covered by a thick line;

Since the war, 2.6 months a year.  A year in every four and a half.

Australian Life Expectancy

Just for the record, here's the Australian life expectancy graph since 1890, from the ABS -

Steady as a ruler, basically, when you stretch out the earlier intervals to their correct size.  Except for a wobble in the sixties, for some reason.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monday, June 03, 2013

Just been outbid on

I have too many other bids out to go long on this one, which explains why I'm a lousy auction bidder: I spread my money too thin.  I'm essentially a bottom-feeder, trying to catch lucky hits when nobody else bids, which means I really shouldn't expect to get any of the name artists like Capp or Kelly.


Thought I had a chance at his one.
"Clifford Berryman Uncle Sam Political Cartoon Original Art (undated). Terrific political illustration by the legendary Clifford Berryman, image area 14" x 13" and in Very Good condition. Also included is another illustration featuring Kaiser William, by an unidentified artist. This piece has an image area of 13.5" x 18.5" and the art is in Fair condition; the paper is very brittle with many tears and some chips out including a large section in the tree."
The thing being that the other illustration was a signed Thomas Nast.  If I'd been the only person to notice that, I would have got a $1,500 value for about $150. But I wasn't, and some tattletale even peached to Heritage Auctions, raising the bar for everyone:
"Clifford Berryman Uncle Sam Political Cartoon Original Art (undated). Terrific political illustration by the legendary Clifford Berryman, image area 14" x 13" and in Very Good condition. Also included is another illustration featuring Kaiser William, by Thomas Nast. This piece has an image area of 13.5" x 18.5" and the art is in Fair condition; the paper is very brittle with many tears and some chips out including a large section in the tree."

They've still got it as a picture of Kaiser Wilhelm rather than Bismark - Wilhelm would have been impossible for Nast - but that's not enough to keep the price within my reach.

It's still probably cheaper than I'll ever see a Nast again, but it's no longer a gift.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Again yet

But how can one resist when every Birther case is a novel, or a comic, in itself?

110) Due to 109 above, plaintiff has no choice but to conclude that the entire
Nation must consist either of stupidly or willfully ignorant fools, or of those who
are under the influence of some form of mass delusion, hypnotic trance, or threat
of violence.
6811) As a result of 99 through 110, plaintiff has no choice but to conclude that it is
the Patriotic duty of the first person who discovers the true meaning and definition
of Article II natural born Citizen to file a petition with the Court, so as to break the
spell and illusion, that all may take cognizance of the situation, in order to apply
the Constitution to protect the U.S. citizen from being defined by the government's
actions to be a George Washington!
112) Plaintiff Mr. Paul Guthrie did not ask to be a George Washington and does
not want to be a George Washington.
113) By filing this petition, plaintiff Paul Guthrie is establishing a public record
that he is the first natural born Citizen person in the country to rightfully file a
claim in Court that establishes objectively in Nature, as a self-evident truth of
Nature, what the objective definition and meaning of Article II natural born Citizen
is, which is a matter of objective truth, and not plaintiff's opinion, nor anyone's
opinion, opinion being only subjective truth and hearsay evidence.
114) Mr. Guthrie proves by his filing of this petition that he is the only person in
the country who understands how the government and law is supposed to function,
making Mr. Guthrie the last surviving natural U.S. sovereign political authority of
the country.... It is obviously that no one in the country besides plaintiff Guthrie
knows, given that so many have been trying to determine it for years now and we
still have a King and Monarchy for a government, and not a President and
Constitutional Republic of the People.
115) Due to 99 through 114 above, Mr. Guthrie fears that those who are seeking to
leave King Obama's army and repatriate themselves with the proper Constitutional
government of We the People will turn to Mr. Guthrie to lead them like a George
Washington, since by his public filing he is showing the world that he is the only
person in the country with sufficient legal, scientific, historic knowledge who is
not under the spell of mass hypnosis of the King and his government, who knows
what a natural born Citizen is, and what the Constitution means, and how the
government is supposed to function.

The only survivor, surrounded by hypnotised pod people, forced to grab a gun and defeat the aliens; cue Bruce Willis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From the files

East is east and west is west
and, upending Kipling’s moral,
Alex and Murad are bound by love 
and never the twain will quarrel.
Happy belated wedding wishes
from Annie, Rose and Chris

Several weddings ago, so a very poor prediction.  Also refers to Alexandra as 'Alex', which she hates......   
Still, it was a lovely wedding, and I've always been sorry we didn't go over to India for it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A tip of the Borthwick hat to

a Birther case site that is so bottomlessly deranged that the Birther arguments are the least crazy thing about it.
It may be referred to as
Susan Herbert, Susan Clemons, Ray M., Richard Pait, Pryce P., Al Franken,Kurt Kallenbach, Tim Thomas, Linda Thomas, Charles Rangel, Rick Webbe, Henry Adams, Tommy Pritchard, A. Snitker, Ron and Cameron Gardiner,Hugh Everett, Ethan and Christopher Quinones, Wen Ho Lee, The Iroquois, Sioux, Hopi, Thomas Jefferson & the other American Founders etc. etc. et al 
Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, William Suter, Danny Bickle, Timothy Gaithner, Donald B Verrilli, Jr., Eric Holder, Bill Ayers and the US, Canada, China, North Korea, Mexico, Norway, France, Great Britain and the rest  of  Earth etc. etc. et al.

 A chunk taken more or less at random:

MN is next door to Canada who we truly believe holds the vault copies of Obama’s records as he entered North America via Canada and then the US as an infant or so we allege, MN is next door to IL that is the state Obama claimed to represent as a Senator and is the last known address we have for Bill Ayers, and MN lies above the 49th parallel making it the northernmost  state  in  the  48  contiguous  states  which  is  relevant  to the  science  in  this  case.
  No other state besides Alaska lies above the 49th parallel. This has to do with Jefferson having correctly weighed the Earth and discerned a universal mean not Lord Calvert as Jefferson was closest to magnetic north; it also has to do with cartographers and why they “rotated” their maps so that North appears on the bottom as the map or compass matching the 1362 MN land claim is rotated as polar north is not the same thing as magnetic north.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fe Man

Spoilers Spoilers

The problem, surely, with a fake Mandarin is that people would recognize him as a cheesy English character actor - at least his friends, "Isn't that Bert in a beard" if not actually "Hey, he played the gardener in Midsomer Murders five years ago" from absolutely everybody.  He didn't look as if he'd had plastic surgery.

Monday, May 06, 2013


If I did ever pay the over $200 necessary to get a copy of the Oxford complete Housman I would get many unread light verses, of which this one shows up in the Amazon teaser.

The silent screen vamp Theda Bara

Dear Mr. Rosenbaum,

Few things are quite as irritating as coming across on page 487 a passage that would have, if encountered earlier, led one to heave the book into the wastepaper basket and get on with one's life.

You write
He draws on his decidedly arcane knowledge of popular culture history to give me an example.
"There was a rumor that the the silent-film actress Theda Bara chose her name because it was a close anagram of 'death arrow'.  That had nothing to do with it, it was simply that she was Theodosia Goodman and needed a new name and chose Theda Bara.  But even if she didn't have the slightest intention for it, the 'death arrow' rumor affected the way audiences saw her. (I couldn't help wondering if there was an intentional or inadvertent linkage between 'death arrow' and "Shake-speare")
Three second's thought suffices to indicate that Booth did not say that Theda Bara was a close anagram of 'death arrow' but rather that it was a precise anagram of 'arab death'. Because
(a) it is,
(b) there is no such thing as a 'close anagram' and never has been,
(c) the rumor was, in fact, historically, that Theda Bara was an anagram of 'arab death';
"In promoting the 1917 film Cleopatra, Fox Studio publicists noted that the name was an anagram of Arab death"

 What, then, can one deduce from this episode of crystalline vacuity?

1) you don't think about what you write;
2) you don't keep adequate notes of your interviews:
3) absolutely everything touches off an occasion for the exercise of your conviction that your lightest thought is worthy of print.

 I acknowledge that the fault is partly mine. I had, after all, read as far as page 487.

I trust that you will be prepared to take on the remainder of the responsibility for my wasted time.


Chris Borthwick

The silent screen vamp Theda Bara
Was born in the desert Sahara
It was, was it not,
The Oasis of Tuat,
And what, one might ask, could be fairer?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Force, meh

What I always found odd about Star Wars 1 was that Vader was really only a third-rank public servant - subject to the orders of Grand Moff Tarkin, for god's sake, placing him at about the level of Moff, or even Lieutenant-Moff.  The use of the Force to subdue opposition in a staff meeting is all very well, but if he'd actually had a senior post in the Death Star Hierarchy Vader could just have drawn everybody's attention to the coming round of promotion evaluations and got unanimous nods. What's the point of being right-hand man to the Emperor, with back-channel access, if you can't even ram through your policies without argument?  Dick Cheney didn't make the mistake of relying on his lightsaber skills to get into a position to destroy planets.  Well, nations, but it's on the spectrum.

On 18/04/2013, at 10:36 AM, Alan Matic wrote:

Friday, March 08, 2013


On the way to the bus stop this morning I walked through a swarm of wasps, on the narrow corner of Garnet and Shamrock streets, and was savagely stung around the head.
If this is going to happen every day it will be most annoying.
It could be worse, mind; father was allergic, and it would just about have killed him.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Rosemary can't discuss Myki without collapsing in a frothing heap, and I try to calm her down: but it's not easy when they do things like this.....

I want to use the much-touted auto topup, whereby money is transferred automatically to the card when it gets low.

I go to the myki site:
I go to Topup and sign in there:
In my account, I click Top up myki;
You can top up as you go or set up myki auto top up for 'set and forget' convenience.
Choose the myki below you wish to top up or set up auto top up for. 
I choose a card;

Auto top up is even better
Auto top up is a smart and convenient way to make sure your myki is always ready to use. All you do is set up an automatic direct debit from your bank account or credit card to your myki. Just set and forget!
Here's how to do it. Once you receive your myki, the account holder can set myki auto top up. You only need to fill in a form if you choose automatic direct debit from your bank account (no form is required for credit card). You can fill it out online by going to myki auto top up request form or call 13 6954 (13 myki) and we'll send you one.
I go to myki auto top up request form, as requested, and find that it sends me to the form that the above passage says is not required - a form that for credit card payment involves a signature, printing out the form, and posting it. Unless I'm missing something completely, there is no way on that page to submit anything electronically. 

AAAH.  That's it. When that says "You can fill it out online by going to..." it means the form, not the automatic direct debit: for that you click 'Next", below. 

Appallingly written for its meaning.  What is needed is a statement that 
Here's how to do it. Once you receive your myki, the account holder can set myki auto top up.

  •           Online, by credit card only  - click NEXT
  •           By filling out a form and sending it in, by direct debit from your bank or by credit card - here

         You only need to fill in a form if you choose automatic direct debit from your bank account (no form is required for credit card). You can fill it out online by going to myki auto top up request form or call 13 6954 (13 myki) and we'll send you one.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

So true

German aphorist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799):
  • “There are very many people who read simply to prevent themselves from thinking.”

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I'll be damned

Reading an article in the New Yorker I realise that in some fifty years of reading W. H. Auden’s “Epitaph on a Tyrant”:
Perfection of a kind was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
I have simply transposed the verbs in the last line -
           And when he died the little children cried in the streets.
to make it utterly meaningless, or at least completely different.

I read too fast, with too little attention, driven by an urge to have read rather than a desire to read; but even for me, this is spectacular. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

“absolutism” is “the basis of all civilization.”

 "The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre ... claims “absolutism” is “the basis of all civilization.”
“Without it,” he said, “Without those absolutes, without those protections, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on, well, who to eat for lunch.”
 Surely as a generation that has seen these kinds of negotiations demonstrated on reality TV programs such as Survivor we should be able to see that in the situation where "two wolves and one lamb [are] voting on, well, who to eat for lunch" the lamb would last at least into the second round, on the basis that the lamb would say to the weaker wolf "Look, eat me now and you'll be up against your superior in the second (and inevitably tied) round - vote for him, and you'll clear out your toughest challenge for the top spot."

and of course see

And, carrying that a little further, if you started with 53 lambs and 47 wolves you could use the same arguments to carry it through to the point where you had 53 lambs and one wolf and they could rush him or just hire him as an enforcer against minority lambs.

Which would, I suppose, be an illustration of how the rich lambs do in practice manage to retain their position of power.

And however it all ends,  it's not easy to see how voting actually makes the lamb's chances worse.

Interestingly, exactly the same wolf/lamb reference comes in to a libertarian/anarchist rant here that wants to discard the constitution entirely, guns amendment included -

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I see that someone has:
"The New Agrarianism and the Economics of the Shire," University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., April 9, 2011.

Shire Reeve

One weak spot in the Lord of the Rings is the hangover from The Hobbit, which is the whole situation of the Shire. The Shire is, of course, rural England, but Tolkien's determination to see it unstained by commerce or craft means that it has nothing other than gentry and yeomen farmers and peasantry -  no soldiers, no lawyers, no MPs; no governance structure of any sort, and no defence.  We're told that they're protected by the Rangers, but we're not told why.  Why doesn't Rohan look for lebensraum? What are their major exports?  Nobody else seems to value pipeweed. It's very hard indeed to splice a 1910 rural village on to warrior societies like Rohan and Gondor, and the economics and politics have to be written in as exceptions virtually hobbit by hobbit. Has anybody attempted to do the politics of the Shire?  Are police mentioned at any point:  what preserves the social hierarchy?  Where is the hangman?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Xmas 1996

Kittens flood our yard in plague proportions;
The vapours weep their burden to the ground;
John Howard twists through more extreme contortions
On race and Hansen. Challenges abound.

Balding, clumsy, bickering and forgetful
My manners grow less polished every year.
My range runs from facetious down to fretful:
I am not as awake as I appear.

I do not need the things I buy and own.
I am encased, encrusted with possessions.
We come with only bone and flesh, we leave with bone,
And in between exchange our Christmas presents. 

My fiftieth Christmas looms. 
The cat shits on my pillow, and it's runny.
I can't run from it.
I have to laugh (or else I have to vomit);
The world may be appalling, but it's funny.

Xmas 2012

Call me an old grump, but I’d have to be on my second flagon of sweet sherry
Before I coupled the words ‘Christmas’ and ‘Merry’,
Dragging along as it does the whole Dickensian baggage of snow and robins and holly
While we at this end of the world revel in sun and iced coffee and cricket and (by the way, the same goes for ‘Jolly’)
Going down to the coast drinking white wine in the sun with the rellies
And overstuffing our bellies,
So let’s just settle for the maximum this world allows us to truthfully say
As we sincerely voice the benison “Have a nice day”. 

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