February 15, 2006

Dial the 'gate

Intuitively, I knew this. Now there’s evidence:


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by campbell at 12:55 PM

December 05, 2005

Hemingway's Hurricane

Just finished Phil Scott's Hemingway's Hurricane about the 1935 storm that killed some 250 WWI veterans at work camps in the Florida Keys.

The Keys lie barely above sea level, and the scenes from the storm are particularly harrowing as hundreds of men, women and children wandered exposed to the full force of probably the most violent tropical storm in North American history.

Why were the vets left out to die this way? The story told by Scott, based on eyewitness accounts and subsequent court transcripts, lets you draw your own conclusion, but it seems that the authorities in charge were lax in their duties to protect the men and ordered the evacuation too late. A rescue train eventually arrived at the same time as the eyewall—sweeping away train, tracks and bridges. Hurricanes come and go, but bureaucratic bungling seems to be ever with us.

Much of the book is very timely in this post-Katrina era. When some vets attempted to make their own way to the mainland as the storm built, sheriff's deputies turned them back on the only road out—an eerie echo of New Orleans refugees' experience as they tried to escape from the flooding into surrounding municipalities.

Unlike today, though, much of the media attention after the storm was focused on a few dozen wealthy people trapped on a yacht aground off Key Largo. Except for Hemingway's piece in a Communist magazine and the attention of some veteran groups, the vets' story would have gone virtually unnoticed. As Scott points out so vividly, the vets were society's dispossessed and they and the poor inhabitants of the islands were pretty much an afterthought before, during and after the disaster.

I think everyone should read this before all the "instant" books on recent hurricanes arrive to give some needed historical perspective.

Phil is interviewed by U.S. News about the storm.

Full disclosure: Phil Scott and I rented desks in the same office space for several years, including about 9 months in the same large cubicle until just this past October. And we lived to tell about it.

Posted by campbell at 01:36 PM

July 08, 2005

Idle-atry

One of Roland Barthes' most amusing Mythologies was L'écrivain en vacances, "The Writer on Holiday." In it, he dissects a photo of Andre Gide in Le Figaro to illustrate how the press first de-mythologizes the celebrity ("Look! He vacations.") in order to elevate him or her immediately far above us mere drudges:

What proves the wonderful singularity of the writer, is that during the holiday in question, which he takes alongside factory workers and shop assistants, he unlike them does not stop, if not actually working, at least producing.

I was reminded of this by the New York Times review of Tom Hodgkinson's How To Be Idle. Reviewer Jeffrey Steingarten gives away the game: "With no warning, [Hodgkinson] reveals that his goal — the ultimate purpose of his idling — is to attain a visionary state."

The problem with producing a 286-page book extolling idleness (or producing a blog celebrating laziness), ultimately you feel compelled to try a little behind-the-hand wink at the reader. You see, I'm not being idle, I'm actually working mightily to attain a visionary state. Wink, wink.

To all my readers, a solemn pledge: no visionary states to be seen here, move along.

Posted by campbell at 05:36 PM

You Can't spell Laziness without LA

From LA Observed:

Bardach: "The Geniuses like to cultivate powerful friends. The Morons like to cultivate powerful enemies....No true Moron is ever available for lunch. Obviously, we're still sleeping."

At last, a club for Snoofmadrune!

Posted by campbell at 05:27 PM

August 04, 2004

Lazy Quote of the Month

Human nature is above all things—lazy.

—Harriet Beecher Stowe

Posted by campbell at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zeitgeist Check

From the MTA website home page, this image sums up the current situation, promoting simultaneously the campaign to watch for suspicious packages and beach trips on the LIRR:

Ahh, Summer in New York: beaches and amusement parks, automatic weapons and concrete barricades. Shall we go to the park or down in the bomb shelter? Stock up on beer or Cipro?

I did find that same odd juxtaposition on Sunday when we went down to Wall Street for the bike race, at the same time they announced the terror alert. I ran into three athletic guys that looked straight off the golf course: tan pants, blue polo shirts. The Glocks on their belts were a little odd, admittedly, until I saw the discreet "NYPD Anti-Terrorism" symbol on the shirts. Very different garb from the usual flak jackets and helmets, but they must want to send different messages in different situations: Kids, sleep soundly—our golf courses are safe tonight.

Posted by campbell at 05:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

EuroRules at the Tour de France

Did anyone else notice that there is something decidedly "European Communityish" about the new Team Time Trial rules for the Tour de France:

A new rule for this year means that no team can lose more than 2:30 on this stage, but any dropped rider will have to finish within 25 percent of his team's time to avoid being eliminated.

2nd place Phonak (yay!) lost 20 seconds overall despite being 1'07" back and last place Fdjeux.com riders lost 3 minutes despite their being 7'33" behind Postal. So Tyler Hamilton is given 47 seconds back from Postal. (Note to Tyler: dump the Continental tires.) And Fdjeux are given a whopping 4 and half minute bonus for their miserable effort.

Meanwhile, the ill-fated Gilberto Simoni fell on the penultimate turn and was left by his team, adding an additional minute to his time. "Oops, sorry, boss. Hope that won't affect our Christmas bonus."

Also notable this year are the new time trial helmets, which in the past were only slick shells, but now have to be fully protective. The result, apart from the chic Giro helmets of Postal, are ungainly, unaerodynamic and (frankly) goofy helmets.

I'm all for the protection, but doesn't this smack of the kind of picayune rule-making for which Brussels is famous. What next? All riders in the time trial have to ride 3 bike lengths apart? Maximum speed of 15km/hour? Mandatory hand signals?

Maybe each team will have to pull along a 65 kilo Eurocrat in a little bike trailer.

Posted by campbell at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2004

Lazy Quote of the Month

In the spirit of yesterday:

I suppose I now have the reputation of being an inscrutable dipsomaniac. One woman here originated the rumour that I am extremely lazy and will never do or finish anything.
—James Joyce

Posted by campbell at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2004

Adobe Disses the Welsh

Oddest tech item this week, from Adobe support document 330145:

Some Adobe applications can't start in Mac OS X v.10.3 if the time zone is set to Cardiff. Setting the time zone to a setting other than Cardiff resolves this conflict.

Or you could try setting the time zone to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch

Posted by campbell at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2004

Lazy Quote of the Week

Hey, when I went to get that Wittgenstein quote (from the Tractatus), I rediscovered this line from Philosophical Investigations:

My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.

That's my new corporate motto! (Except of course for that teaching part. Best you should learn on your own.)

Posted by campbell at 11:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Zen of Ebay

Here's your chance to experience Satori through the wonders of internet commerce.

Nothing is being offered on ebay. Not just the ordinary nothing of that auction service, like Hummel figures, but Absolutely Nothing.

As of this moment, there are nine bidders and the value of nothing is $7.

One quibble I have is with the seller's insistence that the winner explain why he is buying nothing. That seems very un-Zenlike. As Wittgenstein said "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen." "What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence."

Rather than bidding on Absolutely Nothing, I will be preparing my sale of Absolute Nothingness. I do need to consider whether that might lead to the disappearance of the Internet. And whether that might have any negative consequences.

Posted by campbell at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2004

Legal Diligent Mexican Workers

From the one hand not knowing department:

The New York Times Book Review has a review of David Shipler's new The Working Poor: Invisible in America:

In the chapter ''Harvest of Shame,'' he deftly shows how government crackdown on illegal immigrants creates ''migration within the migration,'' as an army of immigrant workers races from strict-enforcement states like Ohio to more lenient ones like North Carolina, and notes that ''when a migrant stops moving . . . he starts to enter America.''

But down at the bottom of the web page, the Google AdWords box helpfully contributes ads apparently triggered by the article. How about some "legal-diligent-mexican-workers"? Or just ship the work to Mexico directly!

Hey, Times readers know how hard it is to get good help these days (that don't get arrested for visa violations, anyway). Thanks for these suggestions!

Posted by campbell at 09:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

Rockall Dependence Day

Today, Scotland celebrates the day in 1972 when the island of Rockall gave up its billions of years of independence to join the empire.

The 83 foot long, 100 foot wide, six-story chunk of rock unanimously petitioned to be politically united with Scotland — 300 miles to the west (at 57°35'48"N 13°41'19"W to be precise). Well, at least there didn't seem to be much opposition among the inhabitants to the annexation by the UK.

An amusing history of Rockall can be found on the, er, official website of the island, a labor of love by at least one very busy satirist.

Here's a hilarious photo of British marines sent to stand guard over the island as part of establishing the claim. No tent, no supplies, just the sentry box:

So let's see: rocky, windswept, barren, virtually uninhabitable, covered in guano... there has to be a metaphor in there somewhere.

p.s. It's all about oil. (And haddock.)

Posted by campbell at 12:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We Ask the Tough Questions

Here's a question you hardly ever see asked:

"Why should employers feed troublesome farmworkers to the lions?" said spokesman Snuki Zikalala.

Anyone?

Posted by campbell at 07:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

States I've Visited

Too bad they didn't include provinces, especially since some of them are way bigger. Note, driving across Nebraska isn't recommended.



create your own visited states map

Posted by campbell at 12:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Now for something completely frightening

Paul warns of exploding public loos in England, apparently as the result of an electrical failure. (Something Python-esque about this.)

Luckily, here in New York, we need only fret about being electrocuted while walking down the street. Last week, I kept running into Con Ed guys with probes slogging through the snow by the school where I work.

Seems they found something: some 280 dangerous manholes and lamp posts throughout the city, including one a block from our apartment and another two blocks from the school.

I have a feeling that if we actually had more public toilets in New York, Con Ed would ensure that they blew up every week.

Posted by campbell at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2004

The Long View

Announcement on the southbound 1 train, 8:30am Saturday, February 7, 2004:

42nd Street.
Times Square.
Crossroads of the World.
Change here for ... Everywhere.

Proof that New Yorkers have still got it.

Posted by campbell at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

Neo-Phrase Alert

Thanks to the Super Bowl half-time show and Justin Timberlake for coining that terrific new phrase: Wardrobe Malfunction.

This should be a hit phrase, widely applicable to a range of situations, everything from Janet Jackson's breakaway bustier to, well, Cher.

Posted by campbell at 10:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

A Warning to the GOP?

Drunken elephants die in accident

According to the BBC, the elephants of Northeast India have a taste for rice beer:

A herd of about 20 to 25 elephants went on the rampage in a remote area in the West Garo Hills district earlier this week after getting high on the beer.

4 died of electrocution after knocking down a power line. Which is arguably a better outcome than in December 2002 when they killed 6 people.

And New York is hosting the Republican Convention this summer?

Posted by campbell at 05:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

Space Alien Endorsements

Michael Moore weighs in. And I do mean he weighs in.

Oh, the humanity.

Posted by campbell at 12:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Meanwhile, Back on Mars

The US isn't the only one having fun with Mars. Here's a photocomposite from the Mars Express, the European space probe. Very cool.

On the other hand, the Beagle may have landed, but it failed. Mystery solved. Get a look at this photo from the European Space Agency web site. Looks like a mad troll got inside. Wonder why the agency didn't spot this picture before launch.

Posted by campbell at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Life Imitates Monty Python

A team of archaeologists in Scotland have spent several months excavating a "significant" ancient Viking site, only to have to admit that it turned out to be a 1940s-era patio.

Mr Speirs admitted that his team mistakenly ignored the finds of a World War II child's gas mask and old television remote in their hunt for Viking evidence.

Well, you would have had to, wouldn't you?

Anyway, next week on Discovery: Ancient Bar-B-Q Pits of the Hebrides.

Posted by campbell at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Tartan Tough

Here's the obit for Ben Coutts, a highlander who died in December at 87.

Severely injured at Tobruk, his hospital ship was bombed. After a year in hospital in Egypt, he was sent home on the liner Laconia. He survived the torpedoeing of that ship (in which 2000 died). After 5 days on a liferaft, he was taken onboard a Vichy French ship and interned at Casablanca.

Later, while being transferred to France, the French ship he was then on was itself torpedoed. Luckily, that ship had strayed into an Allied armada who saved him and sent him to England.

Coutts went on to have his face rebuilt, became a radio broadcaster, wrote 5 books, married twice and got an MBE.

The Scotsman further notes that Coutts managed to escape from the Laconia onto a raft with two bottles of Johnnie Walker from the ship's bar.

Now, that's a highlander.

Posted by campbell at 11:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

Canadian Lawyers Take the Piss

Urinal.net is a website devoted to, well, urinals. Photos of urinals from around the world — quite interesting and entertaining, actually. But not to the lawyers at Toronto Airport, apparently, who dispatched this pissy demand to the webmasters:

To: editor@urinal.net
Subject: Removal of Toronto Pearson International Airport

The GTAA [Greater Toronto Airports Authority] would like to request that you remove Toronto Pearson International Airport from the title of the page below, including the removal of Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport from within the page. [See edited page.]  If you choose to keep the photos, we just request that you remove the text below in red. We appreciate your cooperation. We will check back in a week to ensure that this information has been removed.  If at that time it has not, we will forward it to the Legal department for subsequent action.

But according to the Toronto Star this week, IATA, the International Air Transport Authority, "concluded the airport will see a 34 per cent drop in airport staff productivity, a 22 per cent drop in aircraft handling efficiency and a 19 per cent drop in passenger handling efficiency."

Pretty dismal stats, indeed. And the GTAA is raising rates to airlines to cover for the airport's boondoggles.

But GTAA has got lawyers and time and money to harass harmless websites. Looks like Toronto Airport prefers to spare the urinals and urinate directly on the taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mike at techdirt.com for the tip.]

Posted by campbell at 01:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

Change

How many social workers does it take to change a lightbulb?

I think we need to ask what needs the client is meeting by living with the broken lightbulb.

Posted by campbell at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Conversation Stoppers

In the category of best overheard comment by a cell phone user, I nominate this one by an attractive woman walking by on Park Avenue South:

"One, I'm not attracted to you in any way..."

I've been wracking my brains to figure out what "Two" was going to be...

Posted by campbell at 01:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

Lazy Quote for October

Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now."
— Steven Wright

Posted by campbell at 05:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 14, 2003

Thanksgiving, Northern Division

Paul Jané had a negative Thanksgiving experience. So he got an extra day off work. Guess that's why (most) Americans get the day after Thanksgiving off as well.

All of which reminds me of the time someone was surprised, disingenuously I felt, that Canada had a Thanksgiving of its own. (Like they all flew to this continent on 747s and checked into the Reine Elizabeth.)

"What do Canadians have to be thankful for?"

My answer? Ready?

"They're mostly thankful they're not Americans."

Ba-da-boom. Thanks. I'll be here all week.

Posted by campbell at 05:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 13, 2003

Transnational and Absurd Tender

Wish all spam were as entertaining as this one:

In the present day is nice period for transnational and absurd tender!

December, 11, Sunday, last year - miraculous intercontinental extend starts!
These days is a excellent period, you can get right to use to this outstanding recommend at Gratis!

The email link was just to more porn, but the selling statement is priceless.

Posted by campbell at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2003

This Weak With Snoof

Not to make excuses, but life has gotten very busy around the snoof mansion since the start of the school year. I have entire days when I am actually physically separated from any computer (gasp).

My posting, never prolific, has suffered, as has my email response time. Now I'm getting flack for it. Look, it's not like I'm getting paid for this. sheesh.

Posted by campbell at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Job Opportunity

Maybe I should rethink my career goals. Here's a job description that I found on the Stony Brook University Student Job Opportunities system:

LABORER/WEB DEV
Handles recyclables. Assist drivers on collection route,Develop and mantain website and outreach material.

Posted by campbell at 06:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

Edward Teller 1908-2003

Dr. Teller has died. Certainly one of the most controversial scientists ever, he also inspired this excellent piece of poetry by another physicist:

Perils of Modern Living
Harold P. Furth


Well up above the tropostrata
There is a region stark and stellar
Where, on a streak of anti-matter
Lived Dr. Edward Anti-Teller.

Remote from Fusion's origin,
He lived unguessed and unawares
With all his antikith and kin,
And kept macassars on his chairs.

One morning, idling by the sea,
He spied a tin of monstrous girth
That bore three letters: A. E. C.
Out stepped a visitor from Earth.

Then, shouting gladly o'er the sands,
Met two who in their alien ways
Were like as gentils. Their right hands
Clasped, and the rest was gamma rays.

Posted by campbell at 07:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

A New Twist on a Classic Theme

Here in NYC, it's not popcorn, but pretzels:

Graphic is available as T-shirts and mousepads. Buying one keeps us in pretzels.

Posted by campbell at 01:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Charlie Does Popcorn

Former McGill Daily hack colleague Charlie Clark has some popcorn insights at the Northern Virginia Journal.

The modern era was inaugurated in 1885, when Charlie Cretors invented the first gas- and steam-powered popcorn machine. Home poppers emerged in 1925.
[...]
The best you can make at home is done in the Whirley-Pop, an aluminum cooker (made in Monon, Indiana) whose handle you turn to keep hot kernels in motion.

The Cretors company still exists. Here's their photo of a 1900 popcorn cart:

Here's the Whirley-Pop:

Popcorn would be a nice street amenity in New York.

Posted by campbell at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Today's Feel-Good Headline

From Reuters: "Murdered Boston Pedophile Priest Strangled, Beaten"

Posted by campbell at 01:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

Another Major Health Controversy

Apparently, there are rumors that bagpipes are injurious to health (for the players, not the listeners).

Now the head of the College of Piping has weighed in: "Nonsense" says he.

As to the drinking: "Mr Wallace said after-piping drinking was no worse than that associated with golf or other sports." Comforting.

But the main question remains: "Are ye a piper or a drummer?"

Posted by campbell at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

It Walks By Night

Finally, a way to deal with the opus of Bill O'Reilly, Maureen Dowd, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore et al:

According to the preliminary plan, that means soaking the photos and clippings in the bleach and vinegar, shredding them, wrapping them in plastic and duct tape, and disposing of them at a location not yet chosen.

Seems the archives of the National Enquirer are too contaminated with anthrax and need to be destroyed.

They're forgetting to include the appropriate incantations, wolfsbane and the mandatory stake through the heart.

Posted by campbell at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2003

Chretien Has [Not] Left the Building

Paul Jané is counting the nanoseconds until Jean Chretien leaves..

Johnny Christian keeps everyone in suspense about when he will vacate the premises. He's like an old bore at a party. You bring his coat, you start putting away the dishes, you yawn wildly – but he just won't leave. And he thinks everyone finds this amusing.

Jean, the longer you take to leave, the less anyone will miss you when you've gone.

Posted by campbell at 08:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blather

Isn't it time the New York Times got an intelligent, amusing columnist to write in the space currently wasted on Maureen Dowd?

Blithering Dowd on Sunday about the blackout:

This has got to be giving terrorists ideas as they watch from their caves. Osama may be plotting on his laptop right now, tapping into the cascading effect of an army of new terrorists signing up every time we kill or arrest a terrorist.

Dowd is just now waking up to the fact that there "may" be someone out there plotting against us. O----h? And you have been where these past two years, Moe?

And what is this lunatic aversion to arresting or killing terrorists? Does she really believe that ignoring them will make terrorists disappear? I stopped reading her long ago and it hasn't worked yet.

Posted by campbell at 07:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

Hu? No? Blah!

I think we should take note that with the removal of Charles Taylor, the leadership of Liberia has passed to Moses Blah.

With Hu in charge in China, No in Korea, and Blah in Liberia, conversations in the hallways at the State Department must be increasingly cryptic and surreal:

"Do you know who we'll be meeting in Korea for negotiations?" "No, Who?" "That's right"

"How's the president of Liberia?" "Blah?" "That's too bad"

Kind of a Powell and Costello routine.

Posted by campbell at 07:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2003

Great Moments in Branding - 1

Looking for a name for a new vodka product? Kyndal of Scotland (I know...Scottish Vodka?) chose: Lush, adding an extraneous apostrophe for a foreign flair. Pretty hilarious.

It turns out that in Britain, according to Websters Unabridged, lush can be defined thus:

\Lush\, n. [Etymol uncertain; said to be fr. Lushington, name of a London brewer.] Liquor, esp. intoxicating liquor; drink. [Slang]

Perhaps the branders also had in mind: luxuriant, opulent, voluptuous, sensual.

Naturally, in American English, a lush is a drunkard. So I guess it does work on multiple levels. How about D'ipso or W'ino?

By the way, the thought of a vodka tasting of cream with vanilla or strawberry is pretty terrifying to me. Yuck.

Seems intended to appeal to (very) young drinkers, even younger than the twenty-somethings targetted by L'ush marketing. Looks like a new concept in liquor marketing: Vanilla Coke as a gateway drug. I guess that's what they mean when they suggest we "Live Life Lush".

August 01, 2003

Armstrong: "Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."

I've never been an adherent to the notion that sports are a metaphor for life, or even that sports can teach us lessons in life. On the other hand, some people who do sports can come back and teach us.

Lance Armstrong has written a new book and has the first chapter available online.

My favorite line: Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.

To me, just finishing the Tour de France is a demonstration of survival. The arduousness of the race, the sheer unreasonableness of the job, the circumnavigation of an entire country on a bicycle, village to village, along its shores, across its bridges, up and over the mountain peaks they call cols, requires a matchless stamina. The Tour is so taxing that Dutch rider Hennie Kuiper once said, after a long climb up an alp, "The snow had turned black in my eyes." It's not unlike the stamina of people who are ill every day. The Tour is a daily festival of human suffering, of minor tragedies and comedies, all conducted in the elements, sometimes terrible weather and sometimes fine, over flats, and into headwinds, with plenty of crashes. And it's three weeks long. Think about what you were doing three weeks ago. It feels like last year.

The race is very much like living—except that its consequences are less dire and there's a prize at the end. Life is not so neat.

Posted by campbell at 03:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2003

Beat Bobblehead

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night? — Jack Kerouac

Tell me you don't want a Jack Kerouac Bobblehead.

The Lowell Spinners ball club is giving them away to the first 1000 fans through the gates on August 21 (Kerouac was from Lowell). I might be tempted to get up there if they were playing the Batavia Muckdogs that night. But I guess I'll wait till they show up on ebay.

To compare the original with the bobblehead:

Posted by campbell at 03:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Welcome to the 21st Century, Kids!

Signs of the zeitgeist: the Playmobil HazMat Team.

Priceless description on the website:

Oh, no! Hazardous waste has seeped out of a barrel and onto the village sidewalk! No need to worry, the Hazmat Crew has arrived. The street is secured with a road warning sign and the Crew begins clean up with their powerful vacuums. Dressed in protective uniforms and armed with hazardous material equipment this sidewalk will be free of this hazardous substance in no time.

Notice: This set doesn't come with actual hazardous waste! Kids will have to supply their own.

Saw this on Brian Floca's desk. Thanks, Brian.

P.S. Check out the arms trader. Another warm and fuzzy feature of modern life.

Posted by campbell at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2003

The New Yorker on Business-Method Patents

The New Yorker has a clear, concise, nontechnical essay by its finance columnist James Surowiecki criticizing business-method patents: Patent Bending.

Although we have always had a vibrant patent system, we’ve managed to strike a balance between the need to encourage innovation and the need to foster competition. As Benjamin Day, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton might attest, American corporations have thrived on innovative ideas and new business methods, without owning them, for two centuries. In the past decade, the balance has been upset.

Makes the argument persuasively.

Posted by campbell at 01:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2003

Flag of the Week

Odd Job Lot, New York, May 26, 2003

Posted by campbell at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

My Sordid Past

I have to come clean. My history is not clear of suspicious team associations.

When I went to Ossining High School, we were the Indians. Actually, strictly speaking, the jocks were the Indians — I was on the Debate Team and the newspaper. Last fall, the High School dumped the Indians mascot, despite the historic association of the town with the Sintsink Indian tribe. (Originally the town was called Sing Sing, but the infamy of the prison led to a name change in the mid 20th century.)

Our arch-rivals were the Headless Horsemen of Sleepy Hollow. No one objected to that name, I guess because the headless don't have a constituency in America (or as my wife said, they don't have a voice). This despite the number of them in Congress.

McGill University's teams are The Redmen. (The women are The Martlets, and the baseball team The Redbirds.). I'm not certain if Redmen ever referred to an Indian mascot (I suspect it did, maybe someone can enlighten me). The school colors are Red and White so that is apparently the imagery they encourage now. Given the origin of the James McGill fortune, we're just lucky they weren't The Beavers, I suppose.

{By the way, McGill was critical in the history of football, inventing many of the basics back in 1872-1874. For more.}

Apropos of nothing perhaps, I wanted to point out that my son's High School has an elaborately complex set of team names, since apparently they could never agree on a single image. Makes reading the school paper confusing at times.

Stuvesant High School:
Boys —
baseball, tennis, soccer: The Hit Men
basketball: Runnin' Rebels
Football: Peglegs
Swimming: Pirates
Handball: Dragons
Girls —
basketball: Phoenix
swimming: Penguins

Peglegs because Peter Stuyvesant had a wooden leg, of course. I hate to think of the origin of Hit Men (must have been when the school was on the lower east side).

My son is on the cross-country team. Needless to say, they don't run as the Peglegs, just Stuyvesant Track.

Posted by campbell at 11:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Team Names Redux

In my new-found role as an oppressed minority member (Celt)*, I find this an interesting development: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune may revise its ban on "insensitive" team names.

Notice how the editor posits it as a return to accuracy in reporting (as opposed to "sensitivity" or political correctness, I presume).

Gyllenhaal said the paper intended to replace the ban with a series of guidelines aimed at being sensitive to readers while leaving language decisions in the hands of writers and editors.

Those guidelines include using alternative logos for potentially offensive ones — a script "I'' instead of the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logo, for example — and avoiding slang terms or abbreviations such as "Skins'' for "Redskins.''

"This isn't nearly as much about Indian names as it is about the paper's responsibility toward accuracy and realism,'' Gyllenhaal wrote. "Over the past decade, sensitivity over language has increased dramatically with the rise in conflicts among global religions, bitter divisions in the Mideast, cultural wars at home. When there's an outright ban of any words on one topic, it becomes difficult to justify why we rely on mere guidance on other topics.''

I'm unclear how "Redskins" is less denigrating than "Skins". Of course, references to "warpath", "scalps" and "scalping" (except about tickets) shouldn't be tolerated.

On the other hand, has anyone thought about how Minnesota's use of "Vikings", "Twins", "Wolves" could be deemed objectionable to Norwegian-Americans (or People of Color: Blond), multiple-birthed Americans, and endangered species?

Me, I still haven't ordered my "Fightin' Whities" T-shirt.

*I don't know how many Americans have encountered Canadian Tire Money, but for a striking example of insensitivity to Celtic sensibilities:

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May 30, 2003

Oh, the Humanity!

First SARS, then BSE, now this...

Will Canada never be free from disasters?

Miss Canada showed up at the Miss Universe pageant in this over-the-top costume that is said to represent the Canadian penny ($0.0073 US, 0.0062 EUR), although the last I looked the penny wasn't covered in peacock feathers. Not to mention that peacocks are not indigenous to Canada.

Some commented that the costume could have been a touch more "revealing" [insert usual smutty reference to actual national animal here]:

"Jeanne Beker, the host of Fashion Television, said Canada's costume was 'absolutely frightening.' ... The maple leaf mask should be sent to Jean Chrétien so he can wear it next time he visits the United States, she added." Now, that's a frightening idea.

Thanks to Paul Jané for this item.

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Uh-oh

We needed a study to tell us this?

Study: Laziness Makes for Dangerous Fat

The team of experts looked at visceral fat — that hidden flab tucked in among the organs. It is often invisible, but unlike an obvious paunch or heavy thighs, it is linked with insulin resistance — pre-diabetes — and heart disease.

And Snoof used to worry only about his visible fat. Oh well, back to Weight Watchers.

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May 29, 2003

May all your work be fat!

Despite my past career as a typographer, I had never heard this one. But now I have and I'm laughing:

fat \Fat\, a.

6. (Typog.) Of a character which enables the compositor to make large wages; — said of matter containing blank, cuts, or many leads, etc.; as, a fat take; a fat page.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Type used to be charged by the galley, i.e. by the inch. So, lots of leading, lots of white space meant more money.

The new motto: May all your work be fat!

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Don't Even Think of Doing That Here

When I was a teenager, New York tried to style itself "Fun City." Well, in the words of The Daily News: Welcome to Nit Pick City.

There is a ticket blitz going on. Among the miscreants: an 86-year old pigeon feeder, a very pregnant woman resting on subway stairs, someone riding a bike with feet off the pedals, a tourist falling asleep in the Subway.

Few people know that my only hobby is parking my car on West 92nd Street. If Calvin Trillin hadn't beat me to it, I was angling to produce the great New York parking ode.

Around the last three or four days of the month, the ticket blitz begins. Quota time. Anonymous cops on radio talk shows have, er, copped to what everyone knew who'd lived here for 15 minutes — law officers need to produce a couple of dozen tickets a month.

Come the waning days of the moon, the cops put down their coffees and start creative writing courses. The traffic wardens, usually content to sashay the boulevards lazily, swarm down the byways, scattering little orange blossoms as they go.

There are dozens of nuances in the parking code that get hauled out this time of month. Distances allowed to hydrants shrink like a Wal-Mart shirt. Bumper hanging a molecule too far over crosswalk lines? Too bad.

Last month, I watched a ticket go on a windshield 1 minute after the alternate side time went off. That's cold.

The advantage to the authorities of the tickets is that they are given out one at a time — which doesn't build much group dynamic, like higher subway fares tend to.

I am unlikely to get a ticket for parking (because of my spider instincts), although maybe if I'm tired and use a space just two inches too close to the hydrant... But I jaywalk at will, I take stairs two at a time, I lean against subway bench backs instead of sitting in the seats. Who knows in the course of a day how many antique laws I break?

If you go to Toronto, you'll see the people standing politely (some might say docilely) at crosswalks. Why? Because they really do get tickets for stepping off the curb against the light. Makes for a more civil society — but it has been happening for generations, so its bred in the bone. New Yorkers aren't so "whipped" and, I suspect, are essentially untameable.

Tickets as revenue sources? Okay, but then I think I should get a tax rebate for not actually hitting anyone with my car as I drive through the streets of "Fun City."

Strange times, indeed.

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May 27, 2003

Lazy Quote of the Month

I think it was Shakespeare who once said: 
"Blipverts may come 
And blipverts may go 
But the laziness upon which they breed is with us always." 
Actually, that's quite good; perhaps it was me who said it.

—Max Headroom


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Logo Update

When someone gives you lemons, they say, make lemonade.

The Times should take these scandals as a branding opportunity, launching a new campaign to improve its image. Look at the positive characteristics it can project in its new slogan:


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The Celts Had a Word for it

Stumbled across a delightful site where the author has helpfully assembled a massive list of English words borrowed from other languages.
Many languages, from the obvious (French) to the obscure (Kimbundu of Northern Angola: banjo).

Favorite of this batch: Tory meaning outlaw.

Gaelic
banshee (woman of the fairy mound), bard, blarney, bog (soft), bother, brat, brisk, brogue, caddy, cairn, clan, claymore, crag, dour, dune (heap), gab, galore, gob, glamour, glen, golf, hooligan, keen, Kent (English county -white), lashings (abundance), leprechaun, loch, moniker, pet, phoney, pillion (cushion), pony, puck, shamrock, shanty, slob, slogan, smashing, smidgen, smithereens, sporran, spunk, Strontium, swap, Tory (outlaw), trousers, twig (understand), whiskey

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The Poetry of Robert Byrd

Earlier I posted a discourse on a passage of poetry chosen by that great orator, Robert C. Byrd, Senator of West Virginia.

But we shouldn't ignore the Great Senator's own contributions to the literature of this country.

I have taken the liberty of setting some of his choicer pieces as verse. It helps their impact in ways the mere prose renditions do not.

Submitted in the interests of literature, a piece from 2001 and two earlier works from 1946:

********************
I'm going to use that word

There are white n----rs.
I've seen a lot of white n----rs
        in my time.

    I'm going to use that word.

But we all —
        we all —
    we just need to work
together
    to make
our country a better country,
    and I —

    I'd just as soon quit
    talking about it
        so much.


********************
Rebirth

The Klan is needed
    today
    as never before

and I am anxious to see
    its rebirth here
    in West Virginia.

It is necessary that
    the order be
    promoted
immediately and

    in
    every state
    of the Union.


********************
Rather would I die

[I will] never submit
    to fight
        beneath
        that banner
    with a Negro by my side.

Rather would I die
    a thousand times,

and see Old Glory
    trampled
        in
        the dirt

    never to rise
        again,
than to see this beloved land of ours
    become degraded
        by race
        mongrels,

a throwback to
    the blackest
    specimen from

the wilds.

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May 24, 2003

Celts an Oppressed People

I thought this was a joke when it was first pointed out to me:

Celts claim to be oppressed by Ireland and its alcohol

Seems a UN conference on native rights is seating a delegation of Irish as an "indigenous people" like the Native Americans or Australia's Aborigines:

Speaking for Retrieve Foundation, Margaret Connolly said the Irish government had "neglected" Celts, who, for "2,000 years, had been forced to adapt to a culture that was foreign to them."
[...]
Irish government officials were equally perplexed. "Ireland's position is to respect the rights of minorities," said one.
"But in Ireland, I don't know whether you can class Celts as a minority."

I always wanted to be a part of a struggling, oppressed minority. Now I am one!

cf: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It by Arthur Herman
(Certainly "The Greatest Book Ever Written"™)

We Celts are a humble race, you see, we only created everything.

For a bit of background, Celt (pronounced Kelt, no matter what that Boston Basketball team says) likely comes from the Greek word Keltoi, referring to people who lived up in Central Europe around the Danube. They are also called Galatians, Gaels, Gauls and more generally "Barbarians". Virgil and Martial were Celts, as was Asterix.

One standard story of the migration comes out of Central Europe through France to the British Isles. Others suggest that the Irish came from the offshoot in Spain. By 400 BC, we Celts pretty much controlled everything in Western Europe North of Italy. Then came the Romans. I guess this is the "culture" we've been adapting to for so long. Damn.

My professor, the writer Hugh MacLennan (of course) liked to point out that Gaelic is the only remaining original European language, older than Latin.

The British Isles are the main holdouts for Celts in Europe (as defined linguistically, since there is little other way to define these people): Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Manx died off as a language last century, but the people are still ethnically the same.

My grandfather was an Irish immigrant who became a cowboy in Canada. The family legend is that we descended from those Campbells expelled from the Highlands in 1693 for slaughtering the MacDonalds at Glencoe. I'm sticking with that story, although there has always been Irish-Scottish cross emigration -- for the usual reasons (economic, religious and criminal).

My paternal grandmother was also a Celt: a Breton from the northwest of France. They are a people who could conceivably claim oppression more readily than the Irish, as they constitute a distinct ethnic minority in France. (The rest of my ancestry is all from Scotland: 100% Celtic.)

Finally (for completeness) whiskey is from the Gaelic:

Whiskey is a shortened form of usquebaugh, which English borrowed from Irish Gaelic uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha. This compound descends from Old Irish uisce, "water," and bethad, "of life," and meaning literally "water of life."
—American Heritage Dictionary

Water of Life. We have so much to thank the Celts for. Let my people go.

For more on Celts, there are some interesting excerpts at this pagan-oriented site.

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You are here

Us. From Mars.

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May 23, 2003

Driven to Poetry

Dominique de Villepin has finished an 800 page book on poetry, essays and poets: In Praise of Those Who Stole the Fire.

This eulogy owes nothing to artifice or chance. It has ripened inside me since childhood. From the bottom of my pockets, stuck to the back of my smock, hidden in the corner of abacuses, poetry gushed out, scribbled on scraps of paper, anxiety drove my mother to stick poems everywhere, in verse or prose, quatrains or alexandrines.

{Paging Dr. Freud.}

I'm driven to poetry:

Monsieur de Villepin
reads all the poetry he can
And though he got stomped on by Powell
He didn't write Howl

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A Pardon for Lenny Bruce?

There is a movement afoot to get Lenny Bruce's a pardon for his New York conviction.

Fueling the campaign is research done by Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover, who wrote a book last year called "The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon" (Sourcebooks). The authors discovered, to their surprise, that the obscenity conviction still stood.
[...]
[Bruce's] supporters insist they are not retroactively applying today's more relaxed standards on language. "The Solomon decision indicates that even under the prevailing standards of the time, the Bruce conviction should never have taken place," Mr. Corn-Revere said. "The fact that the conviction remains on the books is an anomaly and a disgrace to the First Amendment."

In August of 1966, when Lenny Bruce died, I was working for the summer with my father at DuArt Film Labs on 55th Street.

There was a skilled maintenance worker there (one of the last of the classic "dese, dem, doze" Brooklynites) who could communicate a reasonably coherent sentence using little but variations on the word "F--k" — as a verb, adverb, adjective, noun in all its regular and irregular forms.

On the other hand, the Judge in Bruce's New York case claimed to have been in the Army for 4 years and never heard the word. That got as big a laugh in the court as anything Bruce said.

I got Lenny Bruce's album in 1968. It was definitely the funniest thing I'd ever heard. Pardon? He should get a formal apology.

(By the way, I'm not squeamish about the F word, just trying to keep from choking on the spam filters.)

For some more on Lenny, here's part of his FBI file:

http://www.fadetoblack.com/foi/lennybruce/index.html

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May 10, 2003

Warning: Blogging Ahead

I made this sign at the St. Claire Sign Builder, a terrific piece of programming that builds an industry standard warning sign based on your text. Highly recommended. [Thanks for the tip, Veer, graphics powerhouse.

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May 08, 2003

The Oxford Comma and Other Trivia

Who would know better than Oxford? What is the 'Oxford comma'?

The 'Oxford comma' is an optional comma before the word 'and' at the end of a list: We sell books, videos, and magazines.

It is so called because it was traditionally used by printer's readers and editors at Oxford University Press. Sometimes it can be necessary for clarity when the items in the list are not single words: These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.

Some people do not realize that the Oxford comma is acceptable, possibly because they were brought up with the supposed rule (which Fowler would call a 'superstition') about putting punctuation marks before and.

I like that "which Fowler would call a 'superstition'." Just the right note of haughtiness from the Oxford Dictionaries.

There is some interesting reading over at the Ask Oxford web site. The word origins pages cover "codswallop, lukewarm" and other gems, although it disappoints by mostly saying that the common beliefs on the origins of most interesting terms are not very credible. Ah well, there go all those bar bets.

One word I had never heard before is nous, pronounced "nouse":

It appears in our dictionaries of current English, such as the New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998), where it is labelled 'British informal' and defined 'common sense; practical intelligence'. In philosophy, it means 'the mind of intellect'.

Guess I'm not running in circles where common sense or the mind of intellect abounds.

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May 05, 2003

Damn, Now You Tell Me

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May 03, 2003

More on Canada and Weapons of Intense Bureaucracy

Now US Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci has weighed in with more warnings on marijuana legalization.

"If the perception is it might be more easy to get marijuana here, then that could lead to some pressure on the border because U.S. Customs immigration officers . . . would have their antennae up."

May I make some suggestions?

1) US Customs should open special express lanes for marijuana smokers. That would allow the rest of us to get down to the business of answering the dumb questions about "visiting a farm" or "shaking hands with anyone in Toronto."
2) If you're holding when you get to the border, ask the Customs Official to hold your stash until you leave the country. They are usually more than willing to oblige for our Canadian friends.

While he understands the concerns of the American administration, Mr. [Justice Minister Martin "the Pothead"] Cauchon said Canada is a sovereign country that enacts its own laws.

Why do US officials constantly need to be told this? Do you think their pot-smoking has affected their memory?

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April 30, 2003

But We Knew This All Along

"Men are more than twice as likely as women to die during thunderstorms, mainly because they do not come in from the rain, new research suggests," the National Post reports.

Mainly because we don't know enough to come in from the rain.

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April 29, 2003

MT Follies

If anyone wonders what is going on: Moveable Type seems to occasionally "lose" entries. I was able to access them live, but not in the database. Curious, but annoying. So I had to reconstruct entries. Now I have to figure out how to stop that from happening again.

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The Slo-o-o-o-w Creep of Fascism

Henry Norr, tech writer, was suspended and then fired by the San Francisco Chronicle after being arrested in an antiwar protest. Fascist suppression of dissent or innocent labor dispute? I'll let you conspiracy nuts sort that one out.

Norr himself apparently feels that the real reason was... Well, it was the usual reason. You know, the Jewish conspiracy. According to an interview on the loonatarian web site, Indymedia, Norr published an article last July that was too pro-Palestinian. Gee, 10 months before they figured out a way to get rid of him. I guess when fascism comes to America, it will creep in on little cat feet, with the slow oozing of a Canadian royal commission.

Lizard of AskMrLizard was pondering how a technology writer could get too political:

Capitalist pig William Gates today released a new version of the Windows Operating System, continuing to enrich his bloated, parasitic empire while billions starve in the street.

The new interface is workable, but fails to express the isolation and disempowerment of the oppressed office workers who will use it.

The new 'helper' characters for Word include the usual assortment of anthropomorphized animals, contributing to the humanocentric worldview which pervades decadent Western culture. Also, it didn't work with my graphics card.

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A Croissant Too Far

Boy, here's news that will have Rummy shaking in his shoes:
noted military powerhouses Belgium and Luxembourg are joining with "weasels" Germany and France to form a defense union.

If they make a war movie, let's see who'll play the military command:

Belgium: Barney Fife (Don Knotts)
Luxembourg: Mini-Me (Verne Troyer)
Germany: Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer)
France: Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers)

We could call it A Croissant Too Far.

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April 28, 2003

Italians require Pantone intervention

Seems that some Italians are seeing red (and green) about a subtle shift in the colors of their flag. They are accusing Silvio Berlusconi of tampering with the shades, darkening the green and red and making the white ivory.

"It's a veritable chromatic coup d'etat," said Green Party president Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio. The party is so angry it wants a national referendum to allow the public to choose the right shades.

Given that Berlusconi was a publisher in his earlier life, I would be surprised if he didn't muck with the colors, it's bred in the bone. As a designer, though, I shudder at the opening of design decisions to a committee as large as a country. Looks like an opportunity for civil war.

Meanwhile, Serbia and Montenegro (the last remaining components of the rump Yugoslavia) are at knife point over their respective flags.

Looks like the UN could do more for world peace if it parachuted elite art director troops into these countries packing some serious Pantone chips and the will to use them.

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April 27, 2003

Talk about "Heavenly Coffee"

Generally I steer clear of religion, but this item was too good to pass up: The pope has beatified the "father of cappucino."

Marco d'Aviano, a wandering preacher for the Capuchin monastic order, is credited with rallying Catholics and Protestants on the eve of the Battle of Vienna in 1683, which was crucial to halting the advance of Turkish soldiers into Europe.

He is also remembered by some as the man who, by legend, inspired the fashionable cappuccino coffee now drunk by millions across the globe.

The monk, who was born in the city of his name in northern Italy in 1631, was sent by the pope of the day to unite Christians in the face of a huge Ottoman army.

Legend has it that, following the victory, the Viennese reportedly found sacks of coffee abandoned by the enemy and, finding it too strong for their taste, diluted it with cream and honey.

The drink being of a brown colour like that of the Capuchins' robes, the Viennese named it cappuccino in honour of Marco D'Aviano's order.

The BBC also notes out that the Catholic Church once considered coffee an "infidel drink."

More big "saint" news: the pope also beatified Giacomo Alberione, who will certainly someday become the Patron Saint of Mass Media. Sorry, Marshall McLuhan.

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April 26, 2003

Cheating Death Yet Again

Yes, it's true. My family and I have once again cheated death, this time by visiting Toronto in the hysterical epidemic of SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Every day that we visited my mother-in-law at her residence, the concierge stuck an electronic thermometer in our ears and made us fill in a questionnaire (admittedly it is a facility for older adults). We competed for the high/low, but I always lost (way too moderate, me).

The city was remarkably subdued, even for Toronto; except for the papers and TV news, which were foaming at the mouth. On the day I left, the WHO issued its travel advisory. Some in TO feel this was a sneaky attempt to strike a racial/ethnic/geographic balance since it wasn't yet another Asian city being smacked, but a solidly Western city this time. Ah well, Canada likes to tout itself as a solid member of the world community. So I guess that means it gives itself over freely to other's whims and agendas. There's a political message there I'm sure.

Basia was worried Friday when she flew back by reports that people were being turned away from travelling to the US. These turned out to be only rumors but it indicates the level of panic many are feeling.

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April 17, 2003

Love-Neighbor

Paul Jané is my source for all things Kim Jong Il-ian. Today he posts a number of amusing DPRK news items . One in particular caught my eye (besides that Phil met Ha):

Pyongyang, March 21 (KCNA) -- A visiting group of the "Love-Neighbor Society" of South Korea led by its chairman Ri Il Ha arrived here today. They were greeted at the airport by Ho Hyok Phil, vice-chairman of the National Reconciliation Council, and officials concerned with compatriotic feelings.

I tried to start one of those societies, but my wife found out. Badaboom.

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April 16, 2003

Umlaut

Recently, Über-retailer IKEA launched its unböring marketing campaign. In doing so, it joined myriad ice cream manufacturers and hard rock bands in obeying the urge to umlaut.

Just published in a design/marketing publication The Ethical Huckster, a thorough history of the umlaut. You'll laugh, you'll cry ... Well, maybe not. But you'll find 2700 of my words on an orthographical mark.

Here's the original in pdf format.

By the way, The Ethical Huckster is an excellent journal of marketing published by CHMajor Design. If you ask nicely (or flash enough cash), you might get on the mailing list. Tell him I sent you.

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April 15, 2003

Franchises Available

I had delayed my new empire of chip shacks because I needed a celebrity spokesman.

But now it's a go, because:

No one says "food, folks, and fun" like Vladimir Putin. Et Voila!

For the full size logo: cliquez ici

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April 14, 2003

Kucinich wants a DOPe in the White House

Got this in an e-mail from Dennis Kucinich. Seems he wants a DOPe in the White House, and I don't just mean him.

They're running a DOPe campaign:

Today, we redoubled our efforts to promote peace at the national level. Forty-seven of my fellow Members of Congress and I introduced H.R. 2459, a bill to establish the Department of Peace at the Cabinet level. The Members of Congress who joined with me were: [trimmed out list of usual suspects -ed].

Please read more about our bill here: www.dopcampaign.org/read_bill.htm.

The co-sponsors and I encourage you to get involved in this campaign. The Department of Peace website offers you ways to do this. We have found that just talking about the Department of Peace with your friends and family is an excellent and effective way to introduce a discussion on the issue of peace.

I can see it now, uniformed volunteers fanning out across the world, singing Kumbiya... I'm getting all misty.

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Today's Philosophy Lesson

"The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk."
— Hegel

I will have to spend the day pondering the significance to philosophy of the reported jailbreak in London of a pet owl.

Police appealed to residents to report sightings of Jazz, described as dark brown and 20 inches tall, with a 6-foot wingspan. The European eagle owl is the world's largest species of owl, and has been known to hunt foxes and small deer.

Police said hunger might drive Jazz to hunt rabbits, cats "or even small dogs."

"It is unlikely that he would attempt to catch small children as he lives with children at home," police said.

That last is comforting, I think.

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April 13, 2003

Ignore Previous Posting, If You Know What's Good for You

Sorry, I don't know how that memo got misdirected to the Snoofmadrune weblog. Maybe you should just forget that you saw it.

Or else.

While we're on the topic of Canadian Invasions, though, it reminds of a little story I tell to explain how the "Anglo-Saxon" became dominant for the past 300 years on the northern 2/3rds of the continent.

Seems a new commander came over to take control of the French forces in Quebec. Deciding that February was just the right time to launch a scouting patrol that could handle some Indian raiding problems, he marched the forces out of the encampment and into the woods.

L'hiver, he reasoned, was no big deal in France for an army. So a couple of days later, he and his poorly outfitted troops were trying to plow through 6 foot snow banks without snowshoes or food (since they couldn't live off the land when nothing was moving). He managed finally to return to town with a much reduced force and learned that the arrogance of being French was no substitute for good equipment and strategy.

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Canadian Invasion Plans

Unilateral Hegemon Industries

Memo
To: Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney
From: BC

Suggest that you delay Syrian invasion plans until fall as summer is a
lousy time for a desert war.

Maybe you should consider dealing with that Canada thing this summer.

It could probably be done in a couple of days with a brigade from Fort
Drum. If the 10th Mountain isn't back from the 'stans, you could just
send in the New York Reserves. Hell, you could probably send in the
Monroe County Girl Scouts.

Suggest seizing Ottawa on a weekend in July. Black flies aren't as bad
then, and every damn person in the government will be at their
cottages. Chances are they won't even notice they don't have jobs until
sometime in September, if then.

In addition, if you seize and occupy every Tim Hortons donut shop along
the way, you will both neutralize all the provincial police permanently
stationed there and cut off the native food supply.

That is all.

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April 12, 2003

Gagarin Day

Today is Gagarin Day, the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's trip into space in 1961. Salyut.

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al-Sahhaf Jokes Losing Steam

I guess the absence of true creativity in the Press shows in how quickly they have worn out the joke of Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf. Almost all of them have him being hired for some one or another political or entertainment figure: George Steinbrenner, George Pataki, Harvey Weinstein, etc.

Stop. Please stop. In the name of all that is funny...

But before it stops, I wanted to pass along this Canadian version, from Mark Steyn in the National Post:

It's surely only a matter of time before he's hired as Chrétien's press officer. "These are all lies that the Americans are annoyed with Canada! The whole world knows Washington is terrified of our great leader and quakes before his heroic display of principles and sovereignty! America is our best friend and neighbour and if they dare say otherwise we will crush them like the Zionist tools they are! The 49th parallel is littered with the burnt-out shells of their tanks, those bastards!"

Sorry. couldn't resist.

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Weasel Poutine

While cruising a batch of articles at Le Monde, I happened to notice for the first time (since I don't look for Russian news in French papers) that President Putin of Russia is actually referred to in France as le président Poutine.

Well, now that is amusing, at least to a sometime Montrealer. Poutine is a popular snack food in Quebec. It consists of french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy (chicken or undefinable).

So, this weekend the three pillars of the Security Council weasels are meeting to decide the future of Iraq (in their dreams). Like the three pillars of the poutine. I can't sort out if Chirac is the cheese, Putin the fries and Schroeder the gravy, or some other metaphor. Whatever, they're still just a snack aspiring to be a meal.

There's more on the history and transcendant nature of poutine at Kuro5hin. And there's a quite promising, haute cuisine recipe available at the FoodTV Canada web site. Most poutine is way more plebeian than this.

Political commentary and cooking tips in one posting.

Posted by campbell at 02:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2003

Montreal Gazette: Compassing the Zeitgeist

Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette captures a bit of the zeitgeist in "I haven't left the Left (have I?), which also mentions Snoofmadrune (and deftly captures a bit of the snoof philosophy). He seized on the chance I offered to take his own political pulse and see if he had gone over to the Dark Side.

I was particularly keen because I'm going through an unsettling political metamorphosis. My support for the invasion of Iraq makes me a pariah among my left-wing friends, some of whom do not own country houses.

It's difficult, over lattés, to make the case for pre-emptive war. But armed intervention might have saved European Jewry. And Rwandan Tutsis. And Bosnian Muslims. Not to mention Iraqi Kurds and Shiites.

Untroubled by being out of step with French foreign policy, I still feel I'm somehow dishonouring the memory of my grandparents, who repose not far from Fred Rose, the only communist ever elected to the House of Commons.

As I find myself uncomfortably "embedded" with the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, those unrepentant Marxists are spinning in their graves. It's like a political werewolf movie: I'm agreeing with neo-con Charles Krauthammer (another former Dailyite) and waiting for tufts of hair to spring out of my ears.
[...]

Are you a commie rat? A fascist pig? A fence-sitting capon? Take The Political Compass test at www.politicalcompass.org

Because of the survey I am running with my Kameraden, I must defer publishing my results.

Posted by campbell at 12:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2003

Lazy Quote II

The lazy manage to keep up with the earth's rotation just as well as the industrious.

—Mason Cooley

Posted by campbell at 05:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 03, 2003

Draft Jessica Lynch 2020

Just wanted to start the ball rolling a little early. She'll be 20 soon, which makes her eligible to run in 2020.

Larger image available.

Posted by campbell at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2003

Lazy Quote of the Day

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

Attributed to Milan Kundera

Posted by campbell at 05:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 01, 2003

Trapezoid

Okay. Okay. This whole war thing is getting way way too hot for me.

Deep Breath.

I really should be getting back to work, but I wanted to take 15 minutes to tell about my day. There is a point, so bear with me for a bit.

As I waited for the elevator this morning, a little head popped out down the hall. It was my newly-moved-in little 3 year old neighbor.

"I can't get back in my house." Standing by him was his 2 year-old sister, sucking her thumb. Apparently they had come out in the hall to play and the apartment door had closed and locked behind them. They were so adorable and worried and since they come up to the knees of my hulking babies, my heart started melting right away.

"Where's your mommy?" "She's asleep." "OK. Well I'll fix that!" And I did. A moment later a completely disoriented mom in her pyjamas was rescuing her ducklings.

Then I got on the subway. Sitting across from where I stood was a man, probably Haitian, sitting with his 3 year old son on his lap. As we rode down to Times Square, I caught snatches of their conversation. When we got to 50th street, the man was intoning "Cinquante", teaching his son something about numbers. Then as we approached the next station, he said "Circle" and just as the doors opened for me to leave: "Trapezoid".

That did it. God I love this city. I know that Dennis Hammill and Jimmy Breslin are lurking in the subway somewhere testing our mood and telling us how we live and travel in fear and anxiety.

But I see life and kids and teaching kids and our aspirations for them. And hope. In our subways ... and in Baghdad.

If you're going to fill your heart with something, it's way better to fill with it hope than dread.

Just thought you should know what I'm thinking on the first day of April in the greatest city on Earth.

"Trapezoid"

Posted by campbell at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Journalism's Dream Team: Sahhaferaldo

Iraqi's irrepresible information minister has been unemployed for almost a month now. But don't fear. Looks like a job is coming his way, according to this Arab News article.

DAMMAM, 30 April 2003 - The Al-Arabiya satellite channel has confirmed that it has offered employment to the former Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf ... he could choose between presenting special programs or being a political analyst or both ... [...] In explaining the offer, the director said that Al-Sahaf had been part of the former Iraqi government and that because of that, he knew many things of interest to viewers. He also has wide knowledge and experience that could help in explaining Iraq's history and discussing the country's future. [...] Al-Sahaf is internationally known and many people, especially in the Arab world, would welcome him as a TV personality. Even President Bush admitted last week that he sometimes broke off his official meetings so that he could watch the Iraqi information minister on TV. His press conferences were eagerly awaited during the war when he was called the minister of misinformation.

Why stop there? I propose MSNBC's new dream team to replace Press and Buchanan: presenting Sahhaferaldo:

Posted by campbell at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2003

Alma Mater Note

On Monday, March 10, 2003, Dr Heather Munroe-Blum was installed as McGill University's 16th Principal and 12th Vice-Chancellor. Dr Munroe-Blum is the first woman to hold this position at the University.

The ceremony took place in historic Redpath Hall, situated on McGill's downtown campus.


For more information, see: Historic event celebrates McGill's past and future.

I am particularly pleased that The Right Honourable Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, Former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh was attending and speaking. "Houndwood" — sounds like a noisy place.

Posted by campbell at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2003

Department of Homeland Insecurity

The game is: Go to The Department of Homeland Security and download one of their many, many pictographs (like the ones in the seat pocket instructions for airliners).

Then add your own caption. The results are hilarious. {Link died. Ah well. Funny while it lasted.}

My own contribution:

Posted by campbell at 02:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Coulthard Wins

Scot David Coulthard has won the Melbourne Grand Prix in his McLaren. Here's tae us.

Posted by campbell at 01:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2003

Some History

I have been blogging sporadically since 1998, when I first toyed with the technology for a web site called noresignation.com, which was used to tweak Republicans during the Clinton Impeachment boondoggle. Later, I used a similar technique in the 2002 post-election fracas on bananarepublican.net -- again to tweak Republicans (notice a pattern?).

The Republican-tweaking will be yielding for a time while I spank the Antiwar crowd, the vast array of my friends and enemies on the left who have signed on to the Pro-Saddam Campaign.

I'm sure that the GOP will eventually get around to annoying me again (like later today). I guess my ideal day would be to anger people on both Left and Right, kind of a triple-cushion shot.

I have imported some previous blog entries related to graphic design. This will be one common thread for Snoofmadrune. There are one or two other themes that will emerge in the fullness of time from the musty closet that is my brain.

Posted by campbell at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

Snoofmadrune goes live

This is the first post for the Snoofmadrune Weblog. A bit of explanation is in order. Snoofmadrune is the Scots word for a "lazy, inactive person", hence it is the ideal name for a weblog.

(Laziness per se is not a prized Scottish quality. For further elucidation, please refer to Larry Wall, the creator of Perl: "I possess a fortuitous surplus of the three chief virtues of a programmer: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.")

Posted by campbell at 02:53 AM | Comments (1)