I mean, after all, I founded a historical society based on the study of the railway … but Mel McInnis puts me into the shade with his dedication to the old Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway:
February 23, 2015
February 22, 2015
Scott Alexander rings the changes on the “x walks into a bar” joke … but it’s not a bar, it’s a coffee shop:
Gottfried Leibniz goes up to the counter and orders a muffin. The barista says he’s lucky since there is only one muffin left. Isaac Newton shoves his way up to the counter, saying Leibniz cut in line and he was first. Leibniz insists that he was first. The two of them come to blows.
* * *
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel goes up to the counter and gives a tremendously long custom order in German, specifying exactly how much of each sort of syrup he wants, various espresso shots, cream in exactly the right pattern, and a bunch of toppings, all added in a specific order at a specific temperature. The barista can’t follow him, so just gives up and hands him a small plain coffee. He walks away. The people behind him in line are very impressed with his apparent expertise, and they all order the same thing Hegel got. The barista gives each of them a small plain coffee, and they all remark on how delicious it tastes and what a remarkable coffee connoisseur that Hegel is. “The Hegel” becomes a new Starbucks special and is wildly popular for the next seventy years.
* * *
Adam Smith goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a muffin,” he says. “Sorry,” says the barista, “but those two are fighting over the last muffin.” She points to Leibniz and Newton, who are still beating each other up. “I’ll pay $2 more than the sticker price, and you can keep the extra,” says Smith. The barista hands him the muffin.
* * *
Ludwig Wittgenstein goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a small toffee mocha,” he says. “We don’t have small,” says the barista. “Then what sizes do you have?” “Just tall, grande, and venti.” “Then doesn’t that make ‘tall’ a ‘small’?” “We call it tall,” says the barista. Wittgenstein pounds his fist on the counter. “Tall has no meaning separate from the way it is used! You are just playing meaningless language games!” He storms out in a huff.
* * *
Ayn Rand goes up to the counter. “What do you want?” asks the barista. “Exactly the relevant question. As a rational human being, it is my desires that are paramount. Since as a reasoning animal I have the power to choose, and since I am not bound by any demand to subordinate my desires to that of an outside party who wishes to use force or guilt to make me sacrifice my values to their values or to the values of some purely hypothetical collective, it is what I want that is imperative in this transaction. However, since I am dealing with you, and you are also a rational human being, under capitalism we have an opportunity to mutually satisfy our values in a way that leaves both of us richer and more fully human. You participate in the project of affirming my values by providing me with the coffee I want, and by paying you I am not only incentivizing you for the transaction, but giving you a chance to excel as a human being in the field of producing coffee. You do not produce the coffee because I am demanding it, or because I will use force against you if you do not, but because it most thoroughly represents your own values, particularly the value of creation. You would not make this coffee for me if it did not serve you in some way, and therefore by satisfying my desires you also reaffirm yourself. Insofar as you make inferior coffee, I will reject it and you will go bankrupt, but insofar as your coffee is truly excellent, a reflection of the excellence in your own soul and your achievement as a rationalist being, it will attract more people to your store, you will gain wealth, and you will be able to use that wealth further in pursuit of excellence as you, rather than some bureaucracy or collective, understand it. That is what it truly means to be a superior human.” “Okay, but what do you want?” asks the barista. “Really I just wanted to give that speech,” Rand says, and leaves.
* * *
Voltaire goes up to the counter and orders an espresso. He takes it and goes to his seat. The barista politely reminds him he has not yet paid. Voltaire stays seated, saying “I believe in freedom of espresso.”
* * *
Thomas Malthus goes up to the counter and orders a muffin. The barista tells him somebody just took the last one. Malthus grumbles that the Starbucks is getting too crowded and there’s never enough food for everybody.
February 20, 2015
February 16, 2015
In The Federalist, Neal Dewing explains how he uses woodworking as a helpful method of getting through certain marital disputes:
There comes a time in every marriage when a man finds himself banished from his lady’s bedchamber for some perceived offense. A trifle, nonsense in most cases, but God help you if you argue with her until she realizes you’re right (which, of course, you usually are). If you successfully dispute her irrational arguments, the trap is sprung and she’ll proceed to catalogue every single one of your past lapses. At this point, my friend, you’ve entered what we in the marriage game like to refer to as
the normal state of thingsa dry spell.
The most important thing to remember about dry spells is that they happen to everyone. This is the case even if you have married an infinitely patient woman who doesn’t find fault in every piddling thing you do and certainly never expects you to tidy up the bathroom counter every day, because she knows fully well you’re just going to use all that stuff again so it just doesn’t make sense.
Any man who sticks to his guns will experience a dry spell sooner or later, but there are ways to cope. In fact, it can be a tremendous opportunity for self-improvement.
What better activity for a man with some unanticipated free time than carpentry? There are few better ways to relieve stress than taking a length of wood into your hands and manipulating it until you’ve achieved the desired result. It can really clear your head. With a few practical guidelines you’ll be up to speed and navigating dry spells with practiced ease.
The first order of business is to identify a project. For this exercise, we’ll go with something fairly easy that will take up some time. You like to sit around, as your wife never fails to tell people loudly enough for you to overhear. So how about a bench? I’ll run you through the steps of this basic woodworking project, which should be enough to carry you through until she works up the nerve to apologize.
Step 1: Materials
It’s important to have all your materials in place before beginning. You can obtain these from a lumberyard or one of the big home improvement stores.
- (1) 2×10
- (2) 8’ of 2×2
- (2) 8’ of 1×4
- (2) 2×4
- Wooden dowels
- Wood screws (1.5” & 3” length)
- Paint or oil-based stain
You’ll also need some tools. If you are missing a few of these, go borrow one from an older neighbor. He’ll have them. He’s been there. Plus, at this point you should take advantage of any excuse to get out of the house.
- Measuring tape
- Circular saw or compound miter saw
- Swanson® Speed® square
- 2 sawhorses
- Safety goggles
- Dust mask
Depending on how much time you spent
hidingplanning, visiting the lumberyard, and jawing with the neighbor, you may well have eaten up most of a day. Don’t feel like you need to finish this up in an afternoon. She probably hasn’t let it go yet, knowing her, even though this is obviously a ridiculous thing for her to be mad about.
You can pick this up tomorrow. Have a beer. Stay strong.
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
January 13, 2015
In the New York Post, Kyle Smith has a go at de-smugging one of the smuggest countries in the world … no, it’s not Canada (but we’re pretty damned smug ourselves):
Want proof that the liberal social-democratic society works?
Look to Denmark, the country that routinely leads the world in happiness surveys. It’s also notable for having the highest taxes on Earth, plus a comfy social-safety net: Child care is mostly free, as is public school and even private school, and you can stay on unemployment benefits for a long time. Everyone is on an equal footing, both income-wise and socially: Go to a party and you wouldn’t be surprised to see a TV star talking to a roofer.
The combination of massive taxes and benefits for the unsuccessful means top and bottom get shaved off: Pretty much everyone is proudly middle class. Danes belong to more civic associations and clubs than anyone else; they love performing in large groups. At Christmas they do wacky things like hold hands and run around the house together, singing festive songs. They’re a real-life Whoville.
In the American liberal compass, the needle is always pointing to places like Denmark. Everything they most fervently hope for here has already happened there.
So: Why does no one seem particularly interested in visiting Denmark? (“Honey, on our European trip, I want to see Tuscany, Paris, Berlin and … Jutland!”) Visitors say Danes are joyless to be around. Denmark suffers from high rates of alcoholism. In its use of antidepressants it ranks fourth in the world. (Its fellow Nordics the Icelanders are in front by a wide margin.) Some 5% of Danish men have had sex with an animal. Denmark’s productivity is in decline, its workers put in only 28 hours a week, and everybody you meet seems to have a government job. Oh, and as The Telegraph put it, it’s “the cancer capital of the world.”
So how happy can these drunk, depressed, lazy, tumor-ridden, pig-bonking bureaucrats really be?
January 10, 2015
BBC Newsbeat on the plight of a poor American boy who lives a secret life due to his rare diphallia condition:
A man with two penises has been speaking to Newsbeat about living with the condition.
Known only as Triple D, the 25-year-old from the east coast of America claims to have had 1,000 sexual partners.
He suffers from diphallia which is a rare condition where a male is born with two penises.
According to a report by the BMJ — the global healthcare knowledge provider — one-in-five million males in the world are born this way.
Triple D describes himself as “very much bisexual” and has been in polyamorous relationships — sexual or romantic relationships that are not exclusive to one person.
He says his longest relationship was with a couple.
Everyday things like buying underwear are an issue — so he tells Newsbeat he doesn’t wear any.
Both penises are fully functioning. “I can urinate and ejaculate through both at the same time,” he explains.
“Entering into the porn industry has crossed my mind. I knew people who worked in the sex industry and some of them knew what I had, some had heard what I had.
“Nobody had seen it. I remember thinking about it but I don’t want to become a novelty. My dignity is priceless.”
Newsbeat has seen photographs which support Triple D’s claims but cannot independently verify his identity.
January 9, 2015
No, he really can:
I can accurately predict whether you will meet your weight loss goals by the way you talk about it.
I mean that literally. I think I could devise a controlled experiment in which I pick weight-loss winners and losers in advance based on nothing but a transcript of folks talking about their fitness goals.
I’ll give you some examples. What follows is a list of things you will hear from people that have no legitimate chance of losing weight and keeping it off. Yes, your thing is probably on this list and it pisses you off to see it. But stay with me and I’ll change your life by the end of this post.
Here’s what people say when they are preparing to fail at a weight-loss strategy.
“I need to exercise more.”
“I’m counting calories.”
“I have a cheat day coming.”
“I’m watching my portions.”
“I’m doing a cleanse.”
“I’m trying the (whatever) diet plan.”
Ten years ago I would have said everything on the list is a common-sense way to lose weight. But science has since shown otherwise. I’ll go through them one at a time.
January 3, 2015
Christine Hurlbut sent me a link to The Beginner’s Guide to Craft Beer which included a neat little “family tree of beer styles” image. Unfortunately, the version they embedded was too small to be useful, so I looked for a larger version. I found a few other beer-centric images, including this one:
Another find from the quick Google image search was this one at The Urban Diplomat:
December 31, 2014
At another level, futurology implies that we are unhappy in the present. Perhaps this is because the constant, enervating downpour of gadgets and the devices of the marketeers tell us that something better lies just around the next corner and, in our weakness, we believe. Or perhaps it was ever thus. In 1752, Dr Johnson mused that our obsession with the future may be an inevitable adjunct of the human mind. Like our attachment to the past, it is an expression of our inborn inability to live in – and be grateful for – the present.
“It seems,” he wrote, “to be the fate of man to seek all his consolations in futurity. The time present is seldom able to fill desire or imagination with immediate enjoyment, and we are forced to supply its deficiencies by recollection or anticipation.”
Bryan Appleyard, “Why futurologists are always wrong – and why we should be sceptical of techno-utopians: From predicting AI within 20 years to mass-starvation in the 1970s, those who foretell the future often come close to doomsday preachers”, New Statesman, 2014-04-10.
December 29, 2014
After a protracted legal battle, the hull of HMCS Annapolis will finally be sunk as an artificial reef in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, in Howe Sound. Jennifer Thuncher reports for the Squamish Chief:
In her prime, the 1960s-era HMCS Annapolis warship sailed the open seas off the eastern and western Canadian coasts for the Royal Canadian Navy.
During the late 1980s, the helicopter-carrying destroyer was the first Canadian navy ship fitted with a towed array sonar system. She was decommissioned in 1996.
Come January, after years of anticipation, a court case and plenty of controversy, the Annapolis will be sunk in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, in Howe Sound, to serve her afterlife as an artificial reef.
“The good news is… all the permits are now in place, Environment Canada has done its final inspection… and they passed the inspection,” said Richard Wall of the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, which bought the Annapolis from the federal government in 2008.
Wall said Fisheries and Oceans Canada “is happy because we are creating habitat, not destroying habitat.”
The original plan had called for the Annapolis to be sunk in 2009.
One of the main hold-ups has been getting the ship cleaned up enough to be sunk.
The federal government “has very stringent disposal at sea regulations which we have been following, and Environment Canada would not allow us to sink until they were satisfied, which is one of the reasons the big delays happen,” Wall said.
The crash of commodity prices around the time the Annapolis project started also contributed to the long delay in preparing the ship for sinking.
December 26, 2014
If you’ve had kids of your own, you may have been briefly concerned about imposing gendered expectations on your children by giving them stereotypical “boy”- or “girl”-coded playthings — or more likely, been accosted on that issue by someone who doesn’t have kids. Get ready for more of it, as it’s apparently the next imaginary crisis western society is facing:
“Tis the season for anxious parenting,” writer Elissa Strauss announced last Friday in The Week. The cause of this parental stress may not be obvious at first glance. Rather, it is quiet, insidious, and, apparently, it lurks worldwide.
It is — get ready, innocent holiday shoppers — an army of sexist, “gendered” toys, ready to oppress children around the globe. Sadly, these toys, much like, say, Victoria’s Secret models, face a rather odd conundrum: They are both victimizers and victims at the same time. These inherently sexist toys, you see, are also forced to live in a virtual apartheid of equally sexist, restricting, and gender-segregated toy store shelf arrangements. It is, as modern feminists like to say, a bit of a double bind.
Remember the children’s book Corduroy, where the underprivileged bear with the broken overalls lives on the same shelf as the fancy doll and the gigantic lion and the unintentionally spooky clown that looks like it’s about to murder them all? Well, friends, in our age of inequality, this diversity is apparently no more. Strauss explains further:
Thanks to the feminist revival of the past half-decade more and more parents now hesitate to buy their daughters a doll or sons an action figure. In Australia, activists are calling for a ‘No Gender December;’ in the UK a campaign called ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ is pushing for gender-neutral toys; in Sweden some toy stores are now gender neutral; and here in the States resistance to the pink aisle is growing louder and louder.
Interesting! Since I do almost all of my shopping online, thereby avoiding — and this is quite purposeful, friends — any type of toy aisle altogether, I did what any good writer investigating a potential international scourge would: I took my three boys to the local Target toy section. This, in case you don’t have kids, is a very brave thing to do.
My goal was to investigate “the gendered tyranny” of the toy aisles, as Australian academic Michelle Smith recently called it. I’ll start by saying this: There was a certain tyranny in the Target toy section, but I’m not sure if it was gendered. Here are the toys my kids descended upon within approximately 15 seconds:
- A giant plastic castle, concocted by the Fisher Price “Imaginext” brand, which has a lion’s mouth as a gate. Every time you open the gate (“Click!”) the lion lets out a roar (“RARGHGH!”).
- A “Let’s Rock” Elmo, which says the following, over and over: “ELMO’S GONNA ROCK! YEAH!” (Maybe this one was broken, but seriously, that’s all it said.)
- A four-foot long Star Wars light saber, which makes a rather realistic light-saber “Woooooosh!” sound. This toy is also useful for knocking all the other toys off the shelves.
- “Click! RARGHGH! Click! Wooooooosh! Click! ELMO’S GONNA ROCK! YEAH! RARGHGH!”
I’m sorry, what was I saying again? My ears are bleeding. Oh, yes. Among the colorful rows of the Target toy section — I’m sorry, I mean “the highly gendered amusement prison bounded by proverbial pink and blue bars” — two aisles stood out. Both, unsurprisingly, were an explosion of purple, sparkles, and several alarming and unearthly shades of pink.
December 21, 2014
Published on 20 Dec 2013
In this holiday themed video Paul Sellers give some advice on buying a new woodworker some basic tools. He shows how to make a small tree decoration. He also shows how to make a wooden propeller toy, a mixing spatula and a cutting board.
December 20, 2014
Published on 14 Dec 2014
Plans and project resources: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/salt-cellar/
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