Quotulatiousness

November 27, 2014

For our American friends, before the gorging begins…

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 07:46

Charles C. W. Cooke has your go-to guide to political conversations with your family this Thanksgiving:

Your crazy uncle complains in passing that the construction on Redlands Avenue is limiting the flow of traffic to his hardware store, and wonders if the job could be completed more quickly.

This must not be allowed to stand. Ask your uncle if he’s an anarchist and if he has heard of Somalia. If you missed Politics 101 at Oberlin, refer to the Fact Cards that you have printed out from Vox.com and explain patiently that the government is the one thing that we all belong to and that the worry that it is “too big” or “too centralized” or “too slow to achieve basic tasks” has a long association with neo-Confederate causes.

Remind him also that:

  • the state has a monopoly on legitimate violence.
  • Europe is doing really well.
  • The Koch Brothers.
  • “Obstruction.”

Should all that fail, insist sadly that if he doesn’t fully apologize for his opinions you will have to conclude that he hates gay people. Ask why your family has to talk about politics all the time.

Update: A related tweet that just has to be shared.

November 26, 2014

It’s funny, but it’s no joke – the Pentagon’s Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure

Filed under: Government, Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

No shit, this really exists:

Ethically, it’s been a rough couple of years for the military.

In July 2013, an Air Force major general went on an epic five-day bender while on a diplomatic mission in Russia. That November, Navy officials launched an investigation into misconduct involving top officers and a Malaysian contractor named Fat Leonard.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has released report after report detailing corruption and waste by contractors and military officials.

Individually, the cases are all bad news. The good news is that authorities often catch and punish government cheats, thieves and frauds. Penalties for ripping off the American taxpayer range from huge fines to hard time in prison.

And when the trial ends and punishment begins, many military ethics cases wind up in the Pentagon’s Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure.

That’s right, the military maintains a database of the federal government’s worst ethics violators. Unlike many government documents, the encyclopedia is clear, easy to read … and actually quite funny. Many of the stories are as amusing as they are aggravating.

It might be the most light-hearted official report anyone’s ever written about criminals.

H/T to John Turner for the link.

QotD: Political ethics

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

It is [a politician’s] business to get and hold his job at all costs. If he can hold it by lying, he will hold it by lying; if lying peters out he will try to hold it by embracing new truths.

H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy, 1926.

November 23, 2014

QotD: Seasickness

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

It is a curious fact, but nobody ever is sea-sick — on land. At sea, you come across plenty of people very bad indeed, whole boat-loads of them; but I never met a man yet, on land, who had ever known at all what it was to be sea-sick. Where the thousands upon thousands of bad sailors that swarm in every ship hide themselves when they are on land is a mystery.

If most men were like a fellow I saw on the Yarmouth boat one day, I could account for the seeming enigma easily enough. It was just off Southend Pier, I recollect, and he was leaning out through one of the port-holes in a very dangerous position. I went up to him to try and save him.

“Hi! come further in,” I said, shaking him by the shoulder. “You’ll be overboard.”

“Oh my! I wish I was,” was the only answer I could get; and there I had to leave him.

Three weeks afterwards, I met him in the coffee-room of a Bath hotel, talking about his voyages, and explaining, with enthusiasm, how he loved the sea.

“Good sailor!” he replied in answer to a mild young man’s envious query; “well, I did feel a little queer once, I confess. It was off Cape Horn. The vessel was wrecked the next morning.”

I said:

“Weren’t you a little shaky by Southend Pier one day, and wanted to be thrown overboard?”

“Southend Pier!” he replied, with a puzzled expression.

“Yes; going down to Yarmouth, last Friday three weeks.”

“Oh, ah — yes,” he answered, brightening up; “I remember now. I did have a headache that afternoon. It was the pickles, you know. They were the most disgraceful pickles I ever tasted in a respectable boat. Did you have any?”

For myself, I have discovered an excellent preventive against sea-sickness, in balancing myself. You stand in the centre of the deck, and, as the ship heaves and pitches, you move your body about, so as to keep it always straight. When the front of the ship rises, you lean forward, till the deck almost touches your nose; and when its back end gets up, you lean backwards. This is all very well for an hour or two; but you can’t balance yourself for a week.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.

November 22, 2014

A seasonal business model with growth potential

Filed under: Business, Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:49

An ad in the Nashville Craigslist:

Thanksgiving fake date

It may not be a huge market, but there’s definitely a demand for these kind of services, especially at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and family birthday parties.

H/T to Marina Stover for the link.

November 20, 2014

Fortunately, T-shirts aren’t as permanent as tattoos

Filed under: Humour, Japan — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:03

If you’re of a skeptical turn, you may have wondered just what your friend’s new tattoo really says in Chinese, or Russian, or whatever script their tattoo artist just inked into their skin. My suspicion is that at least a significant proportion of the new ‘tats are the equivalent of these Japanese discount store shirts with random English words:

Reddit user k-popstar recently moved to Japan to teach English. Over the last few months he has been wandering into various discount stores and taking photos of shirts with random English words on them. I have to admit, that potato one is pretty sweet!

japanese-discount-store-t-shirts-with-random-english-words-12

japanese-discount-store-shirts-with-random-english-words-6

japanese-discount-store-shirts-with-random-english-words-17

That second one is almost poetic. If I knew what “thirstry” was.

H/T to Coyote Blog for the link.

November 17, 2014

A proposal to permanently fix the gender wage gap

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Ashe Schow thinks we need to get serious about addressing this issue, and here is her proposal on how to accomplish this worthy end:

For example, if men want to go into gender studies, let them — that way, they’ll make less money and it will help close the gender gap. But women need to be kept away from such majors. Colleges and universities should in fact create separate lists of majors to give to men and women. If possible, women should not be told about any course of study that will yield lower-paying career choices in the future.

Among others, social science majors feed the gender gap. When women ask about those subjects or departments, colleges should tell them they don’t exist, or that all classes are full, except maybe the ones in economics. Even better, colleges should tell women that engineering, mathematics and finance are actually social sciences. Class rosters must then be watched carefully. If a woman somehow manages to sign up for a sociology class, she should instead be given the classroom number for a course in mechanical engineering.

When women express a desire to pursue teaching or social work jobs, they should be discouraged. In fact, college counselors should be instructed to tell them there are no such jobs available, along with some sort of plausible explanation, like: “There are no teaching jobs available anymore, because Republicans cut the budget and the government is closing all of the schools. How about a nice career in accounting?”

Women who ask too many questions should be promptly steered into a nearby organic chemistry class, because no one can remain mentally alert for too long.

Feminists who might disapprove of this proposal should first ask themselves if they would be making more money had someone forced them to become an engineer rather than an activist. Would they have avoided the misfortunes and oppression they now suffer and condemn had they pursued a more useful course of studies and ended up with a higher-paying job?

November 15, 2014

Pat Condell makes a public apology

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:08

November 13, 2014

Where’s the rimshot?

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:37

Marc Wilson posted this to the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list (off-topic, obviously):

Apparently the inventor of predictive text has died.

His funfair will be on Sundial.

November 12, 2014

An honest, unbiased review of the iPhone 6+ by a guy who owns Apple stock

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Scott Adams relates his quasi-religious experience with the latest iPhone:

The experience of getting the iPhone 6 Plus was like getting a puppy. From my first touch of the sleek, sexy miracle of technology I was hooked. I loved it before I even charged it up.

It was large in my hand, and slippery to hold, but I didn’t mind. That would be like complaining that my newborn baby was too heavy. This phone is pure art and emotion frozen in a design genius so subtle that competitors probably can’t even duplicate it. It was pure beauty. Sometimes I found myself just staring at it on the desk because I loved it so. Oh, and it works well too.

But I needed a case. I tried to imagine my anguish if I accidentally dropped this new member of my family and cracked it. I needed protection.

So I went to the Verizon store and bought the only cover they had left that doesn’t look like a six-year old girl’s bedroom wall. The color of my new case could best be described as Colonoscopy Brown. It is deeply disturbing. But because I love my iPhone 6 Plus, and want to keep it safe, I put it on.

Now my phone is not so much a marvel of modern design. Nor would I say it is nourishing my soul with beauty and truth the way it did when naked.

Now it just looks like a Picasso that three hundred homeless people pooped on. You know there’s something good under there but it is hard to care. Now when I see my hideous phone on my desk I sometimes think I can hear Siri beg me “Look away! Look away!”

[…]

Beauty needs to be temporary to be appreciated. I think those magnificent bastards at Apple know that. I think they made the case slippery by design. They want you to know that if you keep your phone selfishly naked, and try to hoard the beauty that is designed to be temporary, that phone will respond by slipping out of your hand and flying to its crackly death on a sidewalk.

November 9, 2014

A Viking view of Europe, circa 1000AD

Filed under: Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:00

Europe According to the Vikings (1000) from Atlas of Prejudice 2 by Yanko Tsvetkov.

Europe According to the Vikings (1000) from Atlas of Prejudice 2 by Yanko Tsvetkov.

H/T to Never Yet Melted for the link.

QotD: Railway travel

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

We got to Waterloo at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five started from. Of course nobody knew; nobody at Waterloo ever does know where a train is going to start from, or where a train when it does start is going to, or anything about it. The porter who took our things thought it would go from number two platform, while another porter, with whom he discussed the question, had heard a rumour that it would go from number one. The station-master, on the other hand, was convinced it would start from the local.

To put an end to the matter, we went upstairs, and asked the traffic superintendent, and he told us that he had just met a man, who said he had seen it at number three platform. We went to number three platform, but the authorities there said that they rather thought that train was the Southampton express, or else the Windsor loop. But they were sure it wasn’t the Kingston train, though why they were sure it wasn’t they couldn’t say.

Then our porter said he thought that must be it on the high-level platform; said he thought he knew the train. So we went to the high-level platform, and saw the engine-driver, and asked him if he was going to Kingston. He said he couldn’t say for certain of course, but that he rather thought he was. Anyhow, if he wasn’t the 11.5 for Kingston, he said he was pretty confident he was the 9.32 for Virginia Water, or the 10 a.m. express for the Isle of Wight, or somewhere in that direction, and we should all know when we got there. We slipped half-a-crown into his hand, and begged him to be the 11.5 for Kingston.

“Nobody will ever know, on this line,” we said, “what you are, or where you’re going. You know the way, you slip off quietly and go to Kingston.”

“Well, I don’t know, gents,” replied the noble fellow, “but I suppose some train’s got to go to Kingston; and I’ll do it. Gimme the half-crown.”

Thus we got to Kingston by the London and South-Western Railway.

We learnt, afterwards, that the train we had come by was really the Exeter mail, and that they had spent hours at Waterloo, looking for it, and nobody knew what had become of it.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.

November 8, 2014

The “Johnny Bravo” of American politics

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:48

From this week’s Goldberg File email newsletter [Update: it’s now online]:

In Men in Dark Times Hannah Arendt says, “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it … it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are.”

This, naturally, brings to mind that great episode of the Brady BunchAdios, Johnny Bravo.” This YouTube video summarizes the tale expertly, but since you might be at work and are reluctant to get caught watching Brady Bunch videos (again) at the office, I will summarize. Greg Brady, scion of House Brady, is offered a contract from a record label. At first he is reluctant to sign on because he’s a loyal member of his family band. But the record producers convince him that he owes it to himself to be all he can be. They want him to become the new smash-hit sensation “Johnny Bravo.”

The role of Johnny Bravo comes complete with a sensational matador-themed costume and a rented gaggle of winsome young ladies ready to tear it off on command (very much like the job of senior editor here at National Review). The producers promise that he won’t simply be in the Top 20, he’ll be the Top 20. “Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride,” they tell him. It would be a tempting offer for any young man.

After much soul-searching, Greg agrees to become Johnny Bravo. That is, until he finds out that the producers don’t much care about his musical talent. Through the wizardry of music production — long before the advent of AutoTune — they twist his vocal stylings to what the market wants, not what Greg’s muse has on offer. “That’s not the way I sound!” Greg protests.

The producer retorts, “You? Now c’mon baby, don’t get caught up on an ego trip. I mean who cares how you sound? We’re after the sound.”

If you don’t care about my sound, what do you need me for? Greg asks.

“Because you fit the suit,” another producer responds.

Putting the O in BravO

Forgive me for committing the error of defining my meaning. But Barack Obama fits the suit.

In my USA Today column this week, I argued that Barack Obama is indisputably good at one thing: Getting elected president of the United States.

That’s it. He’s not good at being president of the United States. He’s not good at being the head of his party. He’s not good at diplomacy or public policy or managing large bureaucracies. He has no new ideas. But man did he fit the suit, metaphorically speaking.

[…]

I realize this runs against the grain of a lot of right-wing thinking — that Obama is really a secret Muslim-Marxist radical biding his time to seize the means of production and impose sharia. Well, the clock is running out on that theory.

I have no doubt that Obama’s more left-wing in his heart than he is in his speeches and public priorities. But my basic point is that Obama doesn’t realize that his electoral success was a function of the media age we are in. He fit the part. He said the right words. He was an anti-George W. Bush when lots of people desperately wanted an anti-George W. Bush. He was black, cool, and eggheady in just the right way. Voting for Obama made lots of people feel good about themselves — which is a terrible reason to vote for anybody. Media elites and average Americans alike were seduced because they wanted to be seduced.

They — starting with Obama himself — believed the hype. And he still does.

He’s like modern-day Johnny Bravo lip-synching an auto-tuned song about “keeping it real” and he thinks he’s actually keeping it real. He goes around talking about how much he hates talking points and sound-bites, how much he loathes cynicism and ideology. And yet, he does all this in talking points and sound-bites packed like verbal clown cars with ideology and cynicism.

November 6, 2014

Souhan – Peterson should be suspended for the remainder of the NFL season

Filed under: Football, Humour, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:01

The Star-Tribune‘s Jim Souhan takes a strong stance against leniency for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour in Texas:

Roger Goodell has treated player discipline with the consistency of that annoying person you get stuck behind in line at Starbucks every morning.

One day, they want a Venti triple-foam frappé low-fat caramel macchiato topped with handmade artisanal whipped cream drained by pacifists from the udders of a cow that has attended global warming symposiums.

The next day, they order a black coffee. Small.

When he became NFL commissioner, Goodell wanted to impose discipline on every minor player infraction. He was going to make his name by cleaning up a league filled with violent young men.

Goodell proudly wore the badge he fished out of a box of Cracker Jack until Ray Rice punched his fiancée in an elevator, and Goodell’s friends with the Baltimore Ravens told him to proceed cautiously, and Goodell blinkered himself like a skittish horse.

Goodell went overboard with player discipline, then effectively disappeared when he could have taken a dramatic stance against players performing violent acts, and particularly violent acts toward women. He went from Mr. Venti-Everything to, suddenly, Mr. Small Black Coffee.

This week, Adrian Peterson, who has admitted to the severe and cowardly beating of his son, got the Texas treatment in court. He was allowed to agree to a generous plea deal that allows him to resume his life and career. It’s a wonder he wasn’t presented with a gold star for upholding the tenets of traditional parenting.

This time around, Goodell can get it right. He can establish that he has higher standards than the anachronistic Texas courts, that he holds players, and especially players who have gotten rich because of the NFL’s remarkable wealth, to a higher standard than the average citizen.

Goodell can and should suspend Peterson for the rest of the season. Doing so would improve Goodell’s reputation, and save the Vikings and the league a lot of grief.v

November 4, 2014

Vizzini and the Man in Black – different kinds of planners

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Sarah Skwire on the two different types of planners featured in William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride:

… in the response that has spawned an M.O.U.T. (meme of unusual tenacity), Inigo replies, “You keep using that word! … I don’t think it means what you think it does.”

When my friend Sam Wilson, a frequent blogger at both Euvoluntary Exchange and Sweet Talk, posted a brief Facebook comment on that famous line, a glorious debate erupted. Sam recorded a bit of that over at Sweet Talk, but since that same discussion got me thinking about The Princess Bride in light of questions of political economy, I thought it was worth bringing over here.

Throughout the novel, Vizzini stands as an example of the expert, the intellectual, and the man of system. Thoroughly persuaded that he is capable of controlling the innumerable variables that are involved in every step of his extraordinarily complicated plans, he is constantly failing. While his initial snatch-and-grab of Buttercup goes well enough, everything after that begins to collapse — and always because he has failed to anticipate some kind of human action.

[…]

After a few rounds of intellectual pyrotechnics designed to determine the location of the poison, Vizzini fails. And he dies. And the reason Vizzini fails is that, once more, he has not anticipated a human action. The Man in Black has poisoned both cups. The Man in Black has conditioned himself to be immune to this poison, on the off chance that an occasion like this should arise. Once again, Vizzini’s ideal plan has been beaten by unpredictable humans.

I can hear Sam objecting that our hero, the Man in Black, is also something of a planner. I point out, in response, that his plans — particularly the plan to storm the wedding and rescue Buttercup — are always flexible, updated on the fly, and tagged with a warning label reading, “Hear me now; there may be problems once we’re inside.” He is a planner, yes, but certainly not one who believes his plans are ideal and immune to failure. It seems likely that the Man in Black has read Hayek’s “Use of Knowledge in Society,” which emphasizes the importance and viability of this kind of “knowledge of people, of local conditions, and of special circumstances” that allow an individual to plan his own actions and respond speedily when circumstances change.

By contrast, Vizzini might have done well to read Hayek’s “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” which could have cautioned him about the dangers of viewing the world only through one theoretical lens and ignoring the advice of practical types like Inigo. He certainly would have profited from Adam Smith’s famous warnings about the man of system, who treats other human beings as if they are merely chess pieces, with no motivations of their own. It is those motivations that thwart Vizzini at every turn. His human design is beaten, every time, by the unpredicted and unpredictable human actions of others.

As Hayek and Smith and a host of other thinkers remind us, any other outcome is simply inconceivable.

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