Quotulatiousness

October 4, 2014

QotD: Sea travel and food

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

Another fellow I knew went for a week’s voyage round the coast, and, before they started, the steward came to him to ask whether he would pay for each meal as he had it, or arrange beforehand for the whole series.

The steward recommended the latter course, as it would come so much cheaper. He said they would do him for the whole week at two pounds five. He said for breakfast there would be fish, followed by a grill. Lunch was at one, and consisted of four courses. Dinner at six — soup, fish, entree, joint, poultry, salad, sweets, cheese, and dessert. And a light meat supper at ten.

My friend thought he would close on the two-pound-five job (he is a hearty eater), and did so.

Lunch came just as they were off Sheerness. He didn’t feel so hungry as he thought he should, and so contented himself with a bit of boiled beef, and some strawberries and cream. He pondered a good deal during the afternoon, and at one time it seemed to him that he had been eating nothing but boiled beef for weeks, and at other times it seemed that he must have been living on strawberries and cream for years.

Neither the beef nor the strawberries and cream seemed happy, either — seemed discontented like.

At six, they came and told him dinner was ready. The announcement aroused no enthusiasm within him, but he felt that there was some of that two-pound-five to be worked off, and he held on to ropes and things and went down. A pleasant odour of onions and hot ham, mingled with fried fish and greens, greeted him at the bottom of the ladder; and then the steward came up with an oily smile, and said:

“What can I get you, sir?”

“Get me out of this,” was the feeble reply.

And they ran him up quick, and propped him up, over to leeward, and left him.

For the next four days he lived a simple and blameless life on thin captain’s biscuits (I mean that the biscuits were thin, not the captain) and soda-water; but, towards Saturday, he got uppish, and went in for weak tea and dry toast, and on Monday he was gorging himself on chicken broth. He left the ship on Tuesday, and as it steamed away from the landing-stage he gazed after it regretfully.

“There she goes,” he said, “there she goes, with two pounds’ worth of food on board that belongs to me, and that I haven’t had.”

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

September 28, 2014

Passport revocations for Canadians fighting with ISIS

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:00

It may be little more than a token measure, but the Canadian government is moving to revoke the passports of Canadians known to have gone overseas to join ISIS:

AS WESTERN democracies struggle with how to deal with homegrown terrorists fighting abroad, the Conservative government of Canada has begun revoking the passports of its foreign fighters as well as people still in Canada planning to join them. Chris Alexander, minister for citizenship and immigration, would not say exactly how many passports have been revoked, only that it has been done multiple times against some of the estimated 130 Canadians fighting with extremists, dozens of whom are in Iraq and Syria.

Taking passports away from suspected terrorists is controversial. It gives other countries the incentive to respond in kind, and it severs the route home for those who might be having second thoughts. Human-rights advocates in Canada say the secretive process used to determine whether a person is a threat to national security, one of the criteria for having your passport revoked, allows the government to make arbitrary decisions. These can be challenged in court but only within 30 days of the decision.

[...]

Ever since the attacks on the United States in 2001, Canada has been toughening its terrorism legislation. In 2004 a Liberal government brought in a law allowing it to revoke passports under certain circumstances. This is the power the government is now using. In 2013 the Conservative government made it a crime to leave or attempt to leave the country for the purpose of committing terrorist acts abroad. Earlier this year the government passed a law allowing it to revoke the citizenship — not just the passport — of dual citizens convicted in Canada or abroad of major crimes, including terrorism. Mr Alexander has not yet used this power but says he will do so, despite objections that this creates two-tiered citizenship.

September 20, 2014

CBC warning to Canadians travelling in the United States

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:11

I’ve seen this CBC link mentioned several times by US commentators:

American shakedown: Police won’t charge you, but they’ll grab your money
U.S. police are operating a co-ordinated scheme to seize as much of the public’s cash as they can

On its official website, the Canadian government informs its citizens that “there is no limit to the amount of money that you may legally take into or out of the United States.” Nonetheless, it adds, banking in the U.S. can be difficult for non-residents, so Canadians shouldn’t carry large amounts of cash.

That last bit is excellent advice, but for an entirely different reason than the one Ottawa cites.

There’s a shakedown going on in the U.S., and the perps are in uniform.

Across America, law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public’s cash as they can; “hand over fist,” to use the words of one police trainer.

August 14, 2014

Ubersplaining

Filed under: Business, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:46

James Lileks on the mindbending phenomenon that is Uber being supported (and even loved) by evil right-wingnuts:

Many people on the right have embraced Uber, the company that lets you call a ride from your smartphone instead of standing on the corner with your hand up looking like a statue of Lenin leading the proletariat to the Future, or maybe to that tapas place downtown. This confuses people who regard conservatives as dumb apes who poke Shiny New Things with a stick and screech in alarm. How can they support Uber? It’s a Cool Thing, and they’re all middle-aged dorks in polyester plaid shorts and black socks with sandals who like to “get down” to bands that sing about pickup trucks, or they’re pale evil men who wear three-piece suits to bed and drift off to sleep fantasizing that they’re slapping the birth-control pills out of the hands of poor women. Uber is good, Uber is an app, for heaven’s sake — how can these cretins possibly be on its side? It’s like finding that all the kale in the country is fertilized by Koch products.

[...]

As for Uber itself, well, let’s take a look at the wonderful world of cars-for-hire. When I lived in D.C. in the 90s, I took a lot of cabs. Now and then you’d get a spotless ride with a courteous older driver who knew every street and alley. When I say “now and then” it was in the sense of “now and then, there’s a presidential election.”

For the most part, the cabs had seats that felt like the thin battered beds of a hot-sheet motel and a sweat-and-barf perma-funk that made you roll down the windows in January. The fare wasn’t set by distance or time, but by zones, which encouraged the drivers to drive fast. While this made for speedy trips, and the not-unpleasant sensation of feeling your cheeks ripple with G-forces as he shot down the Dupont Circle tunnel like someone testing a rocket car on the Salt Flats of Utah, the occasional moments of weightlessness when you hit a bump reminded you that you were doing 50 mph in a car whose shock absorbers didn’t, and whose brakes probably wouldn’t.

When I moved back to Minneapolis I had no occasion to take the cab, except for trips back from the airport. The cars weren’t exactly new; when you looked at the fleet idling in the bays, it made you think, “this is what Havana would look like if Castro took over in 1982.”

August 10, 2014

QotD: Travelling by sea

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

A sea trip does you good when you are going to have a couple of months of it, but, for a week, it is wicked.

You start on Monday with the idea implanted in your bosom that you are going to enjoy yourself. You wave an airy adieu to the boys on shore, light your biggest pipe, and swagger about the deck as if you were Captain Cook, Sir Francis Drake, and Christopher Columbus all rolled into one. On Tuesday, you wish you hadn’t come. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, you wish you were dead. On Saturday, you are able to swallow a little beef tea, and to sit up on deck, and answer with a wan, sweet smile when kind-hearted people ask you how you feel now. On Sunday, you begin to walk about again, and take solid food. And on Monday morning, as, with your bag and umbrella in your hand, you stand by the gunwale, waiting to step ashore, you begin to thoroughly like it.

I remember my brother-in-law going for a short sea trip once, for the benefit of his health. He took a return berth from London to Liverpool; and when he got to Liverpool, the only thing he was anxious about was to sell that return ticket.

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

July 17, 2014

Venice as an urban model

Filed under: Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:46

James Lileks just spent a few weeks in Venice and he says it’s (still) an astonishing place:

Urbanists often use European cities as a model for everything that’s right and true and good about cities. American cities are spread out, so people have to drive along, instead of standing on a public transport next to a man who is muttering about chemtrails and has the personal funk of a Dumpster outside a urinalysis lab. European cities are compact, with everyone living on top of one another in picturesque piles with the square footage of the average American auto trunk. European cities are Walkable, which is the chief virtue nowadays. Well, ancient Rome was Walkable. A collection of Neolithic huts was Walkable. Apparently American cities are strewn with tacks and rattlesnakes and feature large open pits with spikes on the bottom. No one can walk there.

There’s one city no one seems to hold up as a model, and that’s Venice. I was just there for a while, and it’s an astonishing place — for reasons we can surely adapt here.

One. No cars. It is simple to ban cars from all streets with Venice-style zoning, which ensures that most streets are three feet wide. You couldn’t get Orson Welles down these passageways without greasing both sides and shooting him out of a cannon. There are streets in this town where two people who meet going the opposite way cannot pass, but local customs dictate that the person who is taller gets down on hands and knees and the other person climbs over him. No car can enter the streets of Venice unless you lower it into a plaza with a helicopter.

Two. It is quite walkable, and your journeys will give you that marvelous sense of discovery and surprise the urbanists seek. By which I mean, you will be lost. The maps are no help; you’re on a small street named Contradore Della Caravaggissimo Magiori di Luchese, and the map shows C. del Car.Ma.Lu, if you’re lucky. And it’s in the type that makes the bottom line of an eye chart look like a tabloid headline the day war is declared.

Three. It is better than walkable: it is swimmable, and thus provides an excellent form of exercise. Remarkably, the concept of swimming from your house to work never seems to have been popular, for the same reason most people don’t bike to work: You arrive at the office wet and smelly.

July 13, 2014

Security theatre still running at peak farcicality – no end in sight

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Government, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:59

In the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchins sums up all the individual losses to personal liberty, actual security, and civil discourse bound up in the never-ending security theatre performances at airports and other travel centres:

We have become a nation of suspects. The last wisps of British liberty are being stripped away and, as usual, this is happening with the keen support of millions.

[...]

Then there are the comical new ordeals travellers must face if they are foolish enough to want to go anywhere by plane.

At least they would be comical if we were allowed to laugh at them, but even to joke about ‘security’ in the hearing of some grim-jawed official is to risk detention and a flight ban.

There’s an odd thing about this. We are constantly told that our vast, sour-faced and costly ‘security’ services, and various ‘British FBIs’ and ‘British KGBs’ are fully on top of the terror threat, and ceaselessly halting plots.

How is it then that they claim not to know if harmless aunties from Cleethorpes or Worthing are planning to manufacture an airborne bomb with the ingredients of a make-up bag?

Just in case such a person is a jihadi sleeper agent, she, and thousands of other innocents, must be treated as criminal suspects.

Like newly registered convicts, they must stand in humble queues, meek before arbitrary power.

They must remove clothing, allow strangers to peer at their nakedness in scanning machines, permit inspections of their private possessions and answer stupid questions with a straight face.

They must be compelled to accept this treatment without protest or complaint.

In fact, when we enter an airport these days, we enter a prototype totalitarian state, a glimpse of how it will eventually be everywhere if we do not find a way of resisting this horrible change.

July 10, 2014

QotD: Montmorency helps to pack

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

Montmorency was in it all, of course. Montmorency’s ambition in life, is to get in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere where he particularly is not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.

To get somebody to stumble over him, and curse him steadily for an hour, is his highest aim and object; and, when he has succeeded in accomplishing this, his conceit becomes quite unbearable.

He came and sat down on things, just when they were wanted to be packed; and he laboured under the fixed belief that, whenever Harris or George reached out their hand for anything, it was his cold, damp nose that they wanted. He put his leg into the jam, and he worried the teaspoons, and he pretended that the lemons were rats, and got into the hamper and killed three of them before Harris could land him with the frying-pan.

Harris said I encouraged him. I didn’t encourage him. A dog like that don’t want any encouragement. It’s the natural, original sin that is born in him that makes him do things like that.

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

May 14, 2014

The rich boozehound’s guide to globetrotting

Filed under: Britain, Business, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:07

Got lots of money burning a hole in your bank account? Want to show off just how filthy stinking rich you are? Like spending your however-earned-or-inherited loot on fancy booze? Then there’s a million-dollar booze vacation you’ll probably like:

UK-based travel company Holidaysplease is offering a luxury world drinking tour in which you can learn and demonstrate the art of conspicuous consumption.

Starting and ending in London — although pickups are possible elsewhere — the ultimate hedonistic, money-no-object vacation takes in the world’s best hotels, swankiest restaurants and most exclusive bars in 10 upmarket destinations.

En route, drinkers take in the universe’s most ludicrously expensive niche beverages.

In Monaco, members of the bottomless budget brigade will mingle with other surreally high net individuals at the high end Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo and party at Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Sunset Lounge in the hotel Fairmont Monte Carlo, quaffing selections from the $565,000 “in-house Armand de Brignac Dynastie” champagne collection.

It all comes complete with fawning waiters and diamond-filled ice buckets.

“We spend the first three nights in London in the five-star Corinthia Hotel and hang out in the Playboy Club, Park Lane, Mayfair,” says Byron Warmington of Holidaysplease.

Hef once said: “Life needs to be lived with a sense of style.”

As a taste of things to come, surrounded by grinning Bunnies, guests will sample the glam high life and swallow what’s reported to be the second most expensive drink in the history of mixology.

The Legacy cocktail includes 1788 Clos de Griffier Vieux Cognac, which comes in at $21,000 for a 40 ml shot.

It also includes ancient Kummel liqueur, vintage orange Curacao and four dashes of circa 1900 Angostura bitters.

April 22, 2014

QotD: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:13

The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers … and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

All this had been rounded up the night before, in a frenzy of high-speed driving all over Los Angeles County – from Topanga to Watts, we picked up everything we could get our hands on. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station. We had sampled almost everything else, and now – yes, it was time for a long snort of ether. And then do the next 100 miles in a horrible, slobbering sort of spastic stupor. The only way to keep alert on ether is to do up a lot of amyls – not all at once, but steadily, just enough to maintain the focus at 90 miles an hour through Barstow.

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”, Rolling Stone, 1971-11-11

April 1, 2014

WestJet goes metric

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:38

Published on 1 Apr 2014

Effective today, WestJet is changing the way we display our flight schedules, switching from our current system of “a.m.” and “p.m.” to metric time. For more information visit http://fly.ws/Metric-time.

From the official website:

WestJet converts to metric time.
Concerned about guest confusion, airline changes schedule display system.

WestJet announced it is changing the way it displays its flight schedule, switching from its current system of “a.m.” and “p.m.” to metric time effective immediately.

“We hope that by converting our flight schedule to metric time, it will simplify things for our guests and ensure they arrive for their flights with lots of time to spare,” said Richard Bartrem.

How to calculate your flight’s departure in metric time:

  1. Take your departure time in 24-hour time. Represented as HR:MIN.
  2. Multiply the HR by 60.
  3. Add the MIN.
  4. Take the total and divide by 1.44.

(HR x 60) + MIN = X / 1.44 = New metric flight time (in milliminutes)

Sample calculation:

5:42 pm = 17:42

(17 x 60) + 42 = 1062 / 1.44 = 737 milliminutes

February 15, 2014

QotD: Cheese with range and striking power

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Railways — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:17

I remember a friend of mine, buying a couple of cheeses at Liverpool. Splendid cheeses they were, ripe and mellow, and with a two hundred horse-power scent about them that might have been warranted to carry three miles, and knock a man over at two hundred yards. I was in Liverpool at the time, and my friend said that if I didn’t mind he would get me to take them back with me to London, as he should not be coming up for a day or two himself, and he did not think the cheeses ought to be kept much longer.

“Oh, with pleasure, dear boy,” I replied, “with pleasure.”

I called for the cheeses, and took them away in a cab. It was a ramshackle affair, dragged along by a knock-kneed, broken-winded somnambulist, which his owner, in a moment of enthusiasm, during conversation, referred to as a horse. I put the cheeses on the top, and we started off at a shamble that would have done credit to the swiftest steam-roller ever built, and all went merry as a funeral bell, until we turned the corner. There, the wind carried a whiff from the cheeses full on to our steed. It woke him up, and, with a snort of terror, he dashed off at three miles an hour. The wind still blew in his direction, and before we reached the end of the street he was laying himself out at the rate of nearly four miles an hour, leaving the cripples and stout old ladies simply nowhere.

It took two porters as well as the driver to hold him in at the station; and I do not think they would have done it, even then, had not one of the men had the presence of mind to put a handkerchief over his nose, and to light a bit of brown paper.

[...]

From Crewe I had the compartment to myself, though the train was crowded. As we drew up at the different stations, the people, seeing my empty carriage, would rush for it. “Here y’ are, Maria; come along, plenty of room.” “All right, Tom; we’ll get in here,” they would shout. And they would run along, carrying heavy bags, and fight round the door to get in first. And one would open the door and mount the steps, and stagger back into the arms of the man behind him; and they would all come and have a sniff, and then drop off and squeeze into other carriages, or pay the difference and go first.

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

January 31, 2014

The maple-flavoured NSA used airport Wi-Fi to track travellers

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:17

With so much talk about the NSA and GCHQ using every electronic means at their disposal, it was inevitable that some of the documents being released by Edward Snowden would implicate Canadian intelligence in similar activities:

A top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News shows that Canada’s electronic spy agency used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.

After reviewing the document, one of Canada’s foremost authorities on cyber-security says the clandestine operation by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) was almost certainly illegal.

Ronald Deibert told CBC News: “I can’t see any circumstance in which this would not be unlawful, under current Canadian law, under our Charter, under CSEC’s mandates.”

The spy agency is supposed to be collecting primarily foreign intelligence by intercepting overseas phone and internet traffic, and is prohibited by law from targeting Canadians or anyone in Canada without a judicial warrant.

As CSEC chief John Forster recently stated: “I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada.

“In fact, it’s prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle.”

But security experts who have been apprised of the document point out the airline passengers in a Canadian airport were clearly in Canada.

CSEC said in a written statement to CBC News that it is “mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians. And in order to fulfill that key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata.”

Metadata reveals a trove of information including, for example, the location and telephone numbers of all calls a person makes and receives — but not the content of the call, which would legally be considered a private communication and cannot be intercepted without a warrant.

“No Canadian communications were (or are) targeted, collected or used,” the agency says.

In the case of the airport tracking operation, the metadata apparently identified travelers’ wireless devices, but not the content of calls made or emails sent from them.

January 27, 2014

FATCA and the “toxic citizen” problem for Americans working abroad

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:04

Emma Elliott Freire explains why she and other Americans living and working in other countries feel like they’re being treated as “toxic citizens”:

The [travel] books tend to emphasize romance and adventure. As an American who is actually living abroad, though, I’ve found that the reality is quite different. My fellow Americans back home sometimes regard me with suspicion, and I feel like my government considers me a “toxic citizen.”

The US is one of two countries in the world that taxes its citizens on the income they earn while living abroad. The other is Eritrea. Every single other country bases its taxation on residency, i.e., you only pay taxes where you live and work.

Americans are required to file an annual tax return with the IRS when they’re abroad — even if they don’t owe any money. They’re also required to file a form called an FBAR to declare their foreign bank accounts. An undeclared account incurs a $10,000 fine.

As you might expect, international tax accountants get a lot of business from Americans. One tax accountant based in Amsterdam told me his American clients take their filings very seriously. “If they get the IRS going after them, they have a real problem,” he says.

His clients are the savvy ones, though. In my experience, many Americans who move abroad are not aware that they need to file. The US government does precious little to inform its citizens of their obligations in this area. Over several years, I’ve been informally asking Americans I meet abroad if they file their US taxes. Most of them told me they don’t. They only file and pay taxes in their country of residency. They assume that’s enough. But, in fact, they have unwittingly become lawbreakers. If they move back to America, they could find themselves in quite a bit of trouble.

The IRS is enforcing new rules passed in 2010, which extend US taxation laws to non-US banks that deal with American citizens. To no great surprise (except perhaps to the legislators themselves), a side-effect of this is that many banks are closing existing accounts and refusing to accept new business from American would-be customers:

The IRS is currently implementing a new law called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Basically, FATCA requires every bank in the entire world to report the account information of its American clients. So every bank in the world is becoming an agent of the US government. It’s still unclear how FATCA can be implemented because in some countries it violates national privacy laws. However, FATCA stipulates that any foreign bank that fails to comply will be subject to a 30 percent withholding tax on its US income.

December 24, 2013

Reason.tv – The TSA’s 12 Banned Items of Christmas

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

Published on 23 Dec 2013

As travelers board planes this holiday, please be aware of 12 actual banned items from the Transportation Security Administration.

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