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Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Why don't you teach at Hillsdale anymore?"

A lot of people have been asking me just that. Well, I'm not legally allowed to talk about it, but maybe those who are curious should, hmm, I dunno, read this article.

That Train Thing

Traveling from Cardiff to London yesterday I heard someone talking on his mobile phone say, "Yeah, that so-called train thing."

I immediately became quite nervous. I had been fairly certain I was on just a plain-old, straightforward train. Was I really on a so-called train thing? In what sense was in not really a train? What effect would the difference have on my journey?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Comedians

When Michael Oakeshott was in Cambridge at the same time Wittgenstein (and Popper) were. When asked what he thought of Wittgenstein, he answered, "There were a number of Austrian comedians in Cambridge in those days."

When Can We Criticize the War Effort?

This piece was almost a blog post, until I decided to foist it on a larger audience...

"The Rule of Law"

This morning at aout 2:30 AM I was awakened by a sound like someone running a lawnmower right outside my window. I looked out and saw a police helicopter hovering about half a mile away, right over the centre of Cardiff, its searchlight casting -- for faults in the clouds of delusion? It stayed there until about 3.

I would guess the copter may have kept, oh, say 100,000 people awake for that time. Can you imagine if you or I, and not The State, had tried this stunt? We would have been shot out of the sky -- even if we had some urgent reason for being there, say, we were searching for a missing child. Of course, if our child was missing, we could beg The State to send up its helicopter -- and it might or not. But notice how far this is from "the rule of law." You or I are never permitted this acivity, no matter the circumstances, while The State can do it whenever it declares it to be "necessary." Different rules apply to our masters than to you or me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Seen on a Menu

(I'm not making this up.)

Welsh Faggots
Two tasty Welsh faggots served on a bed of cracked pepper mash topped with carmelized onions and dark gravy.


If our friend Sal finds out about this, he's over to Wales in a flash: not only are there two of them, but they're tasty, and they're already in bed!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Thieves and Killers

In an effort to convince voters that they can kill just as well as the Republicans, Democrats hosted a we're-against-the-Bush-war-but-don't -get-us-wrong-we-aren't-going-to-pull-the-troops-out party. As usual, critics said that it's inappropriate to criticize the Pentagon in the midst of a war. (I think I'll write a whole article ranting about this...)

But here's a good line:

"Today's stunt may rile up the liberal base, but it won't kill a single terrorist or prevent a single attack," Sen. Mitch McConnell said.

I just love how the goal has been transformed--note Kerry's campaign promises--from defending America to killing terrorists. In the economic realm, it would be as silly as Teddy Kennedy saying, "These supply-side antics won't get a welfare check to a single unwed mother, or get a single household head a job."

(P.S. The more I think about it, the more analogous I think that example is.)

Overheard on the Street

One chav to another: "You remember that bloody girl from last night -- what was she, Portugese, or Dutch, or Bulgarian, or Finnish or somefin?"

Reminded me of the London newspaper headline: "Fog halts all transportation across Channel; Continent isolated."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Welsh Rare Bits

* Many phone booths in the UK have a chicken bone in them. Reason unknown.

* I learned of this from a poster hanging over a urinal trough in a Cardiff pub today, and folks, this is real, and you can see I'm not making it up here. There is a cellphone service in the UK that, for a fee, will, if you send them your postal code, text you "honey alerts." As far as I could tell from the pictures in the loo, this means that, if in your postal code, there are some really drunk women rubbing their breasts together, you will get a text telling you where you can go to gape at them.

* In a football match today (listen, you bloody Yanks, that means soccer) I swear I saw a referee push a player down. Can you call a foul on the ref?

* The person checking me in to my hotel told me I was not allowed "to smoke, eat, or drink alcoholic beverages" in my room. I responded that on 2 out of 3 she was absolutely safe: I had never smoked or eaten alcoholic beverages in any room.

* Now I've seen it all: As I understand it, the significance of the "urban fashion" trend of wearing pants with the waistline well below one's buttocks is to make the statement, "I'm so cool, I don't care how uncool I look to others." Well, today I saw that there are now pants available with fake underwear sewn into the back! For those who want to make the statement: "I'm so uncool that I want to appear as if I don't care how I look to others while making it obvious that I'm actualy obsessed with how I look to others."
Get 'em while they last!

* The loo at my hotel features "easy-on" condoms. Isn't that the opposite of what you need if you're going to use a condom?

* And lastly, always remember: Atailwich lleidr rhug llugddo! Rhwystrwch trosedd!

Wales

Traveling from England to Wales by train, I immediately knew I had crossed the border when all of the towns had English and Welsh names posted, which inspired:

I've got the runs
From that dodgy pie
And I understand
Not one word passing by
They say it's English
But it taxes my brain
Where the towns have two names
Where the towns have two names

I want to feel
Sunlight on my face
But the clouds don't let in
Even a trace
I want to take shelter
From that Welshman with a cane
Where the towns have two names
Where the towns have two names

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Onion on Taxes

"With e-filing, the government's seizure of nearly half my assets was quicker and easier than ever this year."

Read more.

A Suggestion for Brevity

From now on, Bush should just discuss countries that he wouldn't invade...

Good Work, Boys!

According to Brendan O'Neill, the US is now justifying its continuing presence in Afghanistan as part of the "war on drugs"! Of course, it was the US invasion that kicked drug production into overdrive. And that invasion was justified by how bad the Taliban were, and, of course, the Taliban were there due to the previous US intervention!

It would be nice to live in the land of Cockaigne, where roasted squabs fly into the workers' mouths, and government interventions are not subject to the law of unintended consequences. But since we don't, you'd think people might eventually learn that.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Tool of the Devil

When I read news accounts of the Crusade-launching Pope, I was suspicious. It occurred to me that in context, perhaps he was clearly not endorsing the remarks he had quoted concerning Islam's founder (as opposed to just saying that after the fact). Naturally I didn't bother looking up the full transcripts myself; that would have required some effort. Instead, I waited for LRC to link to an article (by Justin Raimondo) on it. And don't worry, after defending the Pope Justin comes round to why Bush is a Krazy Eyes Killa. If you're curious, you can read the first 10 paragraphs or so and then relax about the Pope.

(BTW the subject line of this blog post was how one of my first born-again friends classified the Pope when I first went to college.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Exceedingly Significant and Beautiful

A renowned devotee of Terpsichore
Had a fourteen-inch dildo of hickory,
Which she rubbed with bay rum,
Belladonna, old cum,
Oil of myrrh, and hot coffee with chickory.

Exceedingly Beautiful and Significant

There was an old man of Popocatepetl
Who reeked both of muscone and nepetal.
When they asked, Won't you wash?
He replied, Holy gosh,
I worked hard for this odor, and keep it I'll.

Pail Challenge

Remember those old chestnuts like, "You are given a 7-quart and a 9-quart pail; return from the well with exactly one quart"?

For a>b, give the set S in terms of a and b of all possible returns from the well. Design a parametrized production system (alphabet plus rewrite rules) or, equivalently, a Turing machine to derive and return any member of S. For extra credit, generalize to any (finite) number of pails a[i].

Does an infite number of pails add anything interesting??

The Geneva What?

A few weeks ago I read an LRC column (by Chris Floyd I think) talking about how Bush people are worried they'll be prosecuted for war crimes. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, but after reading this news story I'm not so sure. Ah, isn't it nice to live in a land of freedom and justice, where a major news article has lines like this?

As part of the administration's efforts to protect intelligence officers from liability, Bush last week called for Congress to approve legislation drafted by the White House that would exempt CIA officers and other federal civilian officials from prosecution for humiliating and degrading terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. Its wording would keep prosecutors or courts from considering a wider definition of actions that constitute torture.

Polar Bear Question

Why are polar bears white? Cuddlesome white arctic animals are striving to evade the notice of predators, but polar bears? Then why?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Random Processes Create Order

Random Processes Create Order wb 060916

Random processes, equipped with suitable constraints or interspersed with appropriate refiltration shape towards order. No news there. The best example: natural selection.

Here’s a simple case: I travel a drab, industrial stretch of a local road from time to time, where no one ever tidies up. Recently something left a mess of wood trash scattered all over the westbound lane. Next visit, it was all still there, but the lie was improving; now it’s all neatly over in or near the ditch, and the lane is clear.

Every time a vehicle passed over, it would bat the trash hither and yon. Some pieces landed outside the thoroughfare; the crowning of the road gave a sufficient bias so that little or none crossed over into the eastbound lane. The exiled trash remained in exile; the rest awaited further instructions.

Thank you, Mr. Darwin.

Moslems Object


to the Pope calling Islam a violent religion, and they promise to slaughter Christians as well as each other until the Pope takes it back. (Moslem leaders also took umbrage at the Pope's suggestion that some of them have a full human head growing from their crotch.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Guess the Secret Solution!

I was buying food at the Hoboken train station yesterday. I asked for a swiss cheese omelette, which comes with toast and home fries.

The sullen man at the counter said, "We're out of home fries."

"Can I get it with french fries instead?"

A solemn nod was his only reply.

"Well, what if you just serve me the eggs and toast, and take a little off the price?"

Angered by my stupidity, he shouted, "That's what I was going to do even without you asking!"

Have a Drink!

My friend Ed Stringham proves that drinking is good for your income. (Having been on Bourbon Street with Ed, I'm certain he's hoping he's right.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

America's Finest

Horrible as these allegations are, the thing that really kills me about this is that the kid is getting threatened from his "buddies"--you know, the ones who are being all they can be. I also didn't much care for the dad's advice to his son. But then again, I didn't even like college fraternities, so I certainly wouldn't "get" the military culture.

Your First Day at a British University

2.00 pm Meet in Auditorium Room 2.18
• Welcome by Head of School
• Introduction to Postgraduate Department
• Free shots
• Introduction to Research by Postgraduate Research Studies Co-ordinator
• Dissertation/thesis loans
• One more to soothe the first day jitters?
• Postgraduate Representatives

2.45 - Sherry in the faculty lounge

3.00 - Inductions for research students and taught schemes

3.15 - Thirsty, mate?

3.30 - Research Unit Inductions

3.45 - Let me stand you a pint, yeah?

4.00 - Lecture on the state of modern Europe and brandy tasting

4.30 - Slip off for a quick nip

4.45 - Library Induction and introduction to the ales of Britain

5.00 pm Wine and Cheese Reception for all new Postgraduates

6.30 pm Get together at the Mackintosh pub -- at last it's time to drink!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Is PUCK About?

"What is PUCK about?
"Imagine you are asleep by a window, with a light breeze blowing the curtains in across your brow. A parade slowly approaches up the street, a parade with music and exotic animals and bizzare stunts being performed. But the parade does not wake you; you merely stir, half-aware of the passing commotion, uncertain what parts of it you are dreaming and what parts are really happening just beyond the window frame. A few minutes later, you awaken, and look out into the road to see if you can catch a glimpse of the rear of the procession. But no, they are gone almost without a trace, only a piece of confetti here and a dung dropping there to keep you from dismissing the whole episode as a dream caused by too much perpperoni pizza.
"That experience is what PUCK is about."
-- McGanahan Skjellyfetti

Sickos at School

It was disgusting. All over the sidewalks outside my kids school this morning, molesting passers-by, actually trying to grope us as we neared them, were... politicians! Isn't there a law about this somewhere?

The Muddled Medved

Get it here!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rizzo on 9/11

My friend (and Bob's PhD advisor) Mario Rizzo talks about his personal 9/11 experience in NYC that day.

How To Ruin Your Kid's Life

Today I was preparing a check so my employer could setup direct deposit into my bank account. It occurred to me that it would be really inconvenient if you were named "Void."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Brad Pitt: Let It Begin With Me

I try to resist the oh-so-easy lampooning of celebrity causes, but give me a break, Brad... Apparently Pitt said in an interview that he wouldn't marry Angelina Jolie until restrictions on gay marriage were lifted:

Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.

In a related story, actor George Wendt, best known for his portrayal of Norm on Cheers, announced that he would not join a gym until the War on Terror had ended and all Guantanamo Bay prisoners had access to Bally Total Fitness clubs.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Read Hawking and Gould So I'm a Philosopher

This is a letter to the editor in Thursday's USA Today, entitled "Fact over tradition." (Gene, you'll like this I think.)

Gene Kolnowski argues that Pluto should remain a planet because of "tradition." This misses the point entirely, regarding not only this controversy but also for science in general...

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, our knowledge of the composition of solar bodies was far less complete. As new information comes to light, it is necessary to modify our theories. If we were to continue to accept other disproven beliefs due to tradition, then other scientific discoveries--such as the heliocentric nature of star systems--would have to be discarded. For centuries, people believed the Earth was the center not only of the solar system, but also of the entire universe.

Science is that which is true. The scientific method is the means of discovering the truth. No matter how cherished or longstanding an incorrect belief, it must eventually give way to fact.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nothing New Here

From the AP:

"WASHINGTON - There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush's justification for invading Iraq...

"Republicans countered that there was little new in the report and Democrats were trying to score election-year points with it."

Well, they have a point there -- anyone with any brains knew five years ago that you can tell Bush is lying when you see his mouth move, so there really isn't much new in another verification of that fact.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Buckwheats for Bucky?

I am of course very suspicious of the government. So when I read a story like this, about the manhunt for Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, I get upset. First, although it makes perfect sense from their POV, it irks me that police hunt for murderers far more thoroughly when it's another cop that's been shot, as opposed to a true civilian. Second, am I being too cynical to infer that the cops took Bucky's grandchildren because they couldn't catch him? (I'm not being sarcastic, I'm really asking if someone wants to argue that this is standard procedure and there was no malice involved.)

For those with a real job (i.e. not you Gene), here's the relevant paragraph:

Most [acquaintances] believe that when the police, four months into the hunt, arrested his daughter, her boyfriend and Mr. Phillips’s former girlfriend, and the authorities temporarily took custody of his daughter’s three young children, Mr. Phillips went from a man bent on escape, and who they say had already shot one trooper, to a man filled with rage.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Subtle Danger in Legislation vs. Laws

One of the hidden dangers in the legislative State--where the rules are set by politicians rather than evolving in a market process--is that phony rules can be enforced. (Related to this, people can pose as police officers and get away with all sorts of scary stuff.) My wife brought my attention to this article, and pointed out that the cops didn't even know what the rules were, but just blindly obeyed these signs.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wasn't THAT Mission Accomplished a Long Time Ago??

Two things struck me about this USA Today article. First, the "biased liberal anti-American" media led me to believe that everything was fine in Afghanistan; this insurgency sort of came out of nowhere, as far as major media coverage. Second, notice that the general isn't saying, "We're going to pull out in six months." No, he's just saying that if they don't defeat the Taliban in 6 months, the locals won't support them. But our troops will still stick around, shooting and liberating.

Monday, September 04, 2006

After Further Review...The Article Stands.

I've finally had time to read Carlton Hobbs' counterattack on me. We are in the midst of a move so I can't offer a full reply. Suffice it to say, I think Hobbs is crazy if he considers Amanda Taylor to be "pro-market." She wasn't complaining about State intervention making international trade appear profitable, she was rather complaining about things being decided on the basis of profit (rather than energy consumed or some other criterion).

Yes, Taylor didn't openly call for government action. (I daresay that she favors anti-pollution laws, though. I would be quite surprised if her solution for the environment was to persuade consumers to boycott smokestacks, though perhaps she's a consistent pacifist or something and this really is her position.) But I never said her article was evil, I said it was dumb.

If someone wrote a piece saying, "Consumers should boycott Burger King because monarchy is exploitative," I would consider that a dumb article too. I wouldn't think, "Ah sweet! This person hates oppressive government just like me! Our ranks swell!"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Queen Was Not Alone!

"Queen Elizabeth was unable to comprehend British public grief at Princess Diana's death in 1997, but was finally convinced to cast aside stiff royal protocol by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a new film suggests." -- More.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How's That for Not Targeting Civilians?

'The viciousness of the Israeli assault on Lebanon is underscored by the IDF's use of cluster bombs against civilian targets. As Jan Egeland, who heads up humanitarian operations for the United Nations, put it:

'"What's shocking – and I would say to me completely immoral – is that 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution. Every day people are maimed, wounded, and are killed by these ordnance."

'As close to a million refugees return to their homes, 100,000 unexploded cluster bombs – most of them dropped by the Israelis in the closing hours of the war – lie in wait for them and their children. Kids often pick up such ordnance because of its resemblance to toys. Such is the sickening legacy of the Israeli aggression, which will continue to deal death long after "peace" is declared.'

Read the rest here.