January 29, 2015
Beer is a far dodgier subject in these post-real-ale days — there are experts everywhere. Safest to adopt the generic Amis Defence Against Knowledge and treat the whole subject as an eccentric fad. If forced to drink beer say, “A glass of any old lager, please, if it’s there. I’m sure all this business about top fermentation and CO2 is quite fascinating, but life’s too short.
Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, 2008.
January 27, 2015
January 25, 2015
Vox.com‘s Amanda Taub on a memorable visit for then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to Britain (and yes, this one is far too good to check):
During their meeting, she gleefully recounted the story of Abdullah’s first visit to Balmoral, her castle in Scotland. It all started innocently enough, with an offer to tour the estate:
After lunch, the Queen had asked her royal guest whether he would like a tour of the estate. Prompted by his foreign minister the urbane Prince Saud, an initially hesitant Abdullah had agreed. The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the front Land Rover, his interpreter in the seat behind.
But then, a surprising twist! The Queen herself was Abdullah’s driver:
To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not — yet — allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen.
And she wasn’t just driving, she was DRIVING, leaving Abdullah a quivering wreck:
His nervousness only increased as the Queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.
That’s right: Queen Elizabeth basically spent an afternoon using her military-grade driving skills to haze the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
H/T to Damian Brooks for the link.
January 24, 2015
January 23, 2015
Published on 22 Jan 2015
“…and then you invented dirt lumps.” More of what COULD have been said in the NFL.
January 21, 2015
James Lileks takes a nap. It therefore (of course) provides the basis of a “Bleat” posting:
Another item of no surprise to any readers of this site is my enjoyment of, and insistence upon, and devotion to, difficult sentence structures. Also naps. I love naps. Didn’t use to; then we had a child. At first I napped on the floor, thinking it Spartan and manly, but eventually I saw the case for sleeping on a surface that did not leave flat indentations on my skill if I slept for more than 20 minutes. I don’t believe in napping on the sofa, Dagwood style; I don’t believe in napping while reclining in a chair. There’s a reason we sleep in beds. No one ever says “I don’t know how much sleep I’ll get tonight, so maybe I’d better sit in a chair and see how it works.” Bed. The humidifier for white noise. Phone on Airplane Mode. Set the alarm, and see you later.
It’s never occurred to me to study my naps, or chart them, or pick them apart for quality. There are good naps and bad ones. There are short naps that leave you refreshed, and short ones that leave you groggy. Long ones that seem to add a year to your life, and long ones that make you feel as though you emerged from a bog of tar. To be fair, long naps never leave me logy. Short naps can make me feel angry, because they weren’t longer naps.
But. I read a review for an app called Power Nap HQ, and it seemed interesting: it took nap data, based on your movements. You entered how much time you wanted to sleep, set a backup alarm, chose a sequence of sounds, and laid it next to you. It would report back on your movements, indicating the depth of the nap, and it would also record any abrupt sounds you made. Nicely designed, too. A buck. Bought it.
Calibrated the device, set all the options, and pressed the button to start the nap. Laid it next to me.
Got itchy. Dry skin. Scratched a little, and wondered if this would register on the device. This was the signal for my upper lip to report in as “slightly chapped,” requiring more minor motion, and I thought I might be confusing the app, which thinks this is light sleep. Or perhaps it doesn’t take any motion seriously until I’m inert for a long period of time. So I laid still.
Then I thought: now it’s going to think I’m asleep.
This nap wasn’t working out very well. You start to think about napping, napping doesn’t happen. You start to wait for the between-two-worlds moment when you’re aware that you’re having a dream, or are thinking of something you certainly did start but grew out of something you’d already forgotten, then the moment never comes. But the next thing I knew I was awake.
Sort of. Half awake. The alarm had not gone off, so I had not reached the desired quantity of sleep. I was up because my body was done with the noon ration of Diet Lime Coke, and wished to offload it. This I did, wondering how the app would read my absence. It would detect the motion, then the absence of motion, then motion, then – providing I got back to sleep – the absence of motion. I did what a man’s gotta do, then returned to bed to complete the nap. Fell back asleep. No dreams.
Woke, and thought: damn, I beat the alarm. Must be close. If I have one superpower, it is the ability to gauge the passage of time; if I knew what time it was 35 minutes ago, I can tell you what time it is now within a minute or so. This extends to naps: if I wake before the alarm, I usually know what the time will be. I laid there, waking, considering how the rest of the day would play out, then realized that the app would interpret my motionlessness as sleep. THE DATA WOULD BE IMPRECISE.
So I picked up the phone to see how long I’d actually slept.
I had overslept by 40 minutes.
The alarm had not gone off. The backup alarm had not gone off. It had not collected data. Other than that, best dollar I ever spent. Now I can remove it from my phone and sleep without worries.
January 18, 2015
From Open Culture, the original clip that got the Spinal Tap movie greenlighted:
When This is Spinal Tap came out over 30 years ago, it went over a lot of people’s heads. “Everybody thought it was a real band,” recalled director Rob Reiner. “Everyone said, ‘Why would you make a movie about a band that no one has heard of?’”
It’s hard to believe that lines like “You can’t dust for vomit” failed to come off as anything but a joke. But, to be fair, Hollywood comedies were generally straight-forward affairs in the ‘80s. Think Blues Brothers or Fletch. Fake documentaries weren’t a thing. And This is Spinal Tap looks and feels exactly like a rock documentary – the hagiographic voiceover, the shaky camera, the awkward interviews. The movie was just as unscripted as rock docs like Don’t Look Back, The Song Remains the Same and The Kids Are All Right. The film is not only a parody of the generally overblown silliness of rock and roll, it is also, as Newsweek’s David Ansen notes, “a satire of the documentary form itself, complete with perfectly faded clips from old TV shows of the band in its mod and flower-child incarnations.”
On Monday afternoon Harris came round; he had a cycling paper in his hand.
I said: “If you take my advice, you will leave it alone.”
Harris said: “Leave what alone?”
I said: “That brand-new, patent, revolution in cycling, record-breaking, Tomfoolishness, whatever it may be, the advertisement of which you have there in your hand.”
He said: “Well, I don’t know; there will be some steep hills for us to negotiate; I guess we shall want a good brake.”
I said: “We shall want a brake, I agree; what we shall not want is a mechanical surprise that we don’t understand, and that never acts when it is wanted.”
“This thing,” he said, “acts automatically.”
“You needn’t tell me,” I said. “I know exactly what it will do, by instinct. Going uphill it will jamb the wheel so effectively that we shall have to carry the machine bodily. The air at the top of the hill will do it good, and it will suddenly come right again. Going downhill it will start reflecting what a nuisance it has been. This will lead to remorse, and finally to despair. It will say to itself: ‘I’m not fit to be a brake. I don’t help these fellows; I only hinder them. I’m a curse, that’s what I am;’ and, without a word of warning, it will ‘chuck’ the whole business. That is what that brake will do. Leave it alone. You are a good fellow,” I continued, “but you have one fault.”
“What?” he asked, indignantly.
“You have too much faith,” I answered. “If you read an advertisement, you go away and believe it. Every experiment that every fool has thought of in connection with cycling you have tried. Your guardian angel appears to be a capable and conscientious spirit, and hitherto she has seen you through; take my advice and don’t try her too far. She must have had a busy time since you started cycling. Don’t go on till you make her mad.”
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.
January 16, 2015
Margaret Cho gets into hot water with the perpetually offended for dressing up as a North Korean general:
Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho did an impression of a North Korean general at the Golden Globes that many on Liberal Twitter attacked as racist because apparently not even people of Korean descent are allowed to make fun of Kim Jong Un.
In one of many jokes aimed at the recent Sony cyber-hack, Cho wore a Korean general costume and made fun of the lack of spectacle at the event:
“You no have thousand baby playing guitar at the same time. You no have people holding up many card to make one big picture,” she said in a thick accent. “You no have Dennis Rodman.”
Predictably, people went nuts.
The Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said Cho was “like, totes racist.” Time deputy tech editor Alex Fitzpatrick questioned how anyone could have seen the bit as anything but “broadly racist.” The International Business Times managing editor called the decision to allow it a “bad call.” And that’s just to name a few.
Cho defended herself, tweeting: “I’m of mixed North/South Korean descent — you imprison, starve and brainwash my people you get made fun of by me #hatersgonhate.”
In a column explaining why he’s terrified that the “Modern Monetary Theory” folks might get anywhere near the levers of power, Tim Worstall fits in the best reason to cut taxes:
Given that we are discussing monetary policy it seems appropriate to bring Milton Friedman in here. And he pointed out that if you ever have a chance to cut taxes just do so. On the basis that politicians, any group of politicians, will spend the bottom out of the Treasury and more however much there is. So, the only way to stop ever increasing amounts of the the entire economy flowing through government is simply to constrain the resources they can get their sticky little mits on. We could, for example, possibly imagine a Republican from the Neanderthal wing of the party arguing that what the US really needs is another 7 carrier battle groups. And one from the even more confused than usual Progressive end of the Democratic Party arguing that each college student needs her own personal carrier battle group to protect her from the microaggressions of being asked out for a coffee. You know. Sometime. Maybe. If you want to?
January 15, 2015
Here are some further notes on boozemanship, the art of coming out ahead when any question of drinking expertise or experience arises. This time they come not under the heading of wine, the usual field for this kind of contest, but under spirits and beer, where less is generally known. It’s strange that we in this country tend to be better informed about a foreign import, confined until recently to a tiny elite, than what have been our national drinks for nearly three hundred years.
First, a simple ploy with gin, equally effective in private house and pub. Asked what you’d like to drink, say simply, “Gin, please.” Wave away tonic, lemon, even ice and accept only a little water — bottled, naturally. Someone’s sure to ask you if that’s all you really want, etc. Answer, “Yes, I must say I like to be able to taste the botanicals, which just means I like the taste of gin, I suppose. Of course, a lot of people only like the effect.” Any gin-and-tonic drinkers in earshot will long to hit you with a meat axe, which after all is the whole object.
Later, switch to Scotch, saying in tones of casual explanation, “I get sick of these fully rectified spirits after a bit, don’t you?” That should draw a fairly blank stare. Then, “I mean I like a bit of the old pot still. Well, I just enjoy the touch of malt.” If that doesn’t clear things up much, say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize,” making it clear that you’re adding under your breath, “that I was talking to a bunch of peasants.”
Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, 2008.
January 14, 2015
Opera makes things double tricky. A big swath of humanity regards fondness for opera as highbrow in itself. The merest acquaintance with truly dedicated opera buffs will set you right on that. To them, brow-height-wise, the bel canto style that owns my affections — which is to say, early 19th-century Italian opera — ranks somewhere down there with roller derby and monster truck shows.
John Derbyshire, “Confessions of a Middlebrow”, Taki’s Magazine, 2014-05-22
January 12, 2015
Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick isn’t asking for a lot, he just wants to ensure that his intellectual property is respected … in a way that ensures that his kids won’t starve in the street:
I have to admit that I had no idea that it had been 10 years since I coined the term “The Streisand Effect” until the SkepticHistory Twitter feed called my attention to it earlier this week. I had thought about saving this for the weekend “this week in history” post, but it seems worth delving into today — especially with folks like the thieves at Gawker Media putting up a whole story about it and stealing all the attention and whatnot.
So, yeah, ten years ago this week, I coined “the Streisand Effect,” which was actually on a story about how the Marco Beach Ocean Resort was all offended by the fact that Urinal.net (a site that, yes, still exists and is still being updated) had posted a photo of a urinal from the resort, and the resort insisted that it was illegal to use its name. As we pointed out, this stupid takedown request would only draw more attention, and then we wrote:
How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.
That last link then went back to a 2003 story about how Barbra Streisand had sued photographer Kenneth Adelman for photographing her house from a helicopter. Adelman had been photographing the entire California coastline, hoping to use it to document coastal erosion, and posted all the photographs online. Streisand got upset that her coastal home was shown, and sued. But, of course, before this, no one knew (or cared) that it was Streisand’s home. The image had been viewed six times (including twice by Streisand’s lawyers), but following the news of the lawsuit, hundreds of thousands of people went to see the photo. It was a story that stuck with me, and seemed to be repeated every few months in some form or another. So when I saw that Urinal.net threat, I just jokingly said we should call such things “The Streisand Effect.”