Quote of the week

It dates back four score and seven years, yet it has dated not a whit:

The modern mind is merely a blank about the philosophy of toleration, and the average agnostic of modern times has really had no notion of what he meant by religious liberty and equality. He took his own ethics as self-evident, and enforced them. Then he was horribly shocked if he heard of anybody else, Moslem or Christian, taking his ethics as self-evident and enforcing them.

From “The Mirror of Christ,” the eighth chapter in G. K. Chesterton’s St. Francis of Assisi, 1923.

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The great credit crunch

As explained by Tim Cavanaugh:

Credit froze because all over the country defaults on mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit cards were reaching historical highs. Letting Lehman die was Henry Paulson’s single act of courage, and he followed it up by doing what he does best: soiling his Depends and scaring the children with wild tales about the bank failures, derivative defaults and lover’s lane murderers that would be unleashed if the taxpayers didn’t give a trillion dollars to the largest banks on the planet. The entire ethical structure of the free market was destroyed so that Sheila Bair could be spared the inconvenience of euthanizing crippled, syphilitic ghouls like Citigroup and Bank of America.

Funny thing: when the mood strikes them, even crippled, syphilitic ghouls can rouse themselves enough to become actively malevolent scum.

Perhaps we could take a lead from the Canadians:

Canadian banks, it turns out, weathered the financial storm much more effectively than American banks did. The reason: Canadian mortgages, unlike American ones, legally required robust guarantees, usually a 20 percent down payment. That helped keep homeowners from running away from their mortgage payments when things turned south, as happened in the United States. Canada and the U.S., it’s worth noting, still have the same percentage of homeowners — roughly 67 percent — meaning that the American incentives that favored risky bank behavior failed to increase ownership levels.

I got into the palatial estate at Surlywood with decidedly less than 20 percent down. But while I’m hardly an example of excellent cash flow, I’ve never come close to defaulting on the mortgage. Nor is the bank — a moderately-sized regional bank, neither crippled nor syphilitic — likely to be worried, since the property, the taxman assures them, is worth half again what is owed on the note. (We never had much of a bubble, so we didn’t have much of a bust at the end of it.)

Afterthought: Rewind to that phrase “when things turned south.” Would they ever say something like that in Canada?

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It’s the Reverse Shrink Ray!

Apple informed me of a QuickTime update last night, and I went ahead and installed it, on the basis that they’re going to keep telling me about it until I get it done. No particular issues, and I did check to make sure my Pro registration was intact; then I cut it off the desktop and shipped it off to a folder called Installs. Apparently there was a previous file there named QuickTimeInstaller.exe; do I want to overwrite it? I did, but not before noticing that the old version was, literally, old: we’re talking 2002, maybe. Five hundred kilobytes or so. The installer for 7.6.7 was 33.5 megabytes.

And of course, this reminded me of the early 1990s, when 33.5 mb would have been half my disk space. My first non-Commodore box was an XT clone with an NEC processor (10 MHz!), 40- and 20-mb Seagate drives, and a whopping 1.6 mb of RAM. (This latter resided partly on Intel’s Above Board, a full-length card crammed to the max with 256k RAM chips. Lots of them.) Now it takes 30 mb on a Debian Linux server on the Left Coast for me to type this.

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Booze R Us

Perhaps not coming soon from Marko Kloos Productions, which is a shame, because I would so watch this:

Title: “Distillation Station”

Genre: Children’s Television (Pre-K)

Logline: The zany adventures of Mister Hooch and his friends, as they hang out at Distillation Station and have run-ins with the grumpy old Temperance who lives across the street.

You must read the cast list.

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A faint whiff of rodent

The city of Tulsa is suing the state of Oklahoma over this year’s House Bill 2359, which gives the Oklahoma Tax Commission the exclusive right to collect sales and use tax in the state.

We’ll jump right to the punchline:

State lawmakers passed HB 2359 on the final day of this year’s session, but before the governor signed it into law, the city of Tulsa had signed a contract with an Alabama firm to handle the collections.

To quote a NewsOK commenter on this story: “Wonder which politician is related to the owner(s) of that private firm…”

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Old school, new wheels

The message — um, “The Message” — is clear.

(Seen at Autoblog.)

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You’d think “warm” would be sufficient

But no, these days you’re expected to be hot. Hawt, even. Sometimes, though, the timing seems to be off:

I have an interesting history with hotness. It began by not being hot for a very, very long time. I was not a sexy teenager and I was not a sexy co-ed. As such, I never learned to depend on looks to get me ahead. Although I wasn’t an ugly duckling, I blossomed late. So, in the early 1990s when a coworker suggested to me that part of the reason I received a promotion and someone else didn’t was because I was better looking, I didn’t know whether laugh or be offended. And, to think I thought I’d been promoted because I knew the AP style guide frontwards and backwards and my competition couldn’t conjugate verbs. [Sigh]

Ultimately, ascending the ladder of relative hotness as others were descending it was a strange and uncomfortable experience. I embraced it for a time and had some fun with it, although I also learned that being sexy (it’s relative) has a colossal downside.

Which explains why I’m going nowhere on whatever ladder happens to be around, since I’ve never been so much as tepid, let alone hot, and besides, I get all my writing tips from the Fake AP Stylebook.

It does seem to be true, though, that people reach their peaks — and not just in terms of appearance — on wildly different schedules. As for my own, I’m currently wavering between “yet to come” and “it’s been downhill since I was twelve.”

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Do not look directly at the sign

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Paolo Lucchesi posed a question to the readership: “What’s the most unfortunate restaurant name in town?” Accompanying the article on SFGate was a shot of a drive-in called “Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet,” which sounds pretty dire, though perhaps preferable to Squat & Gobble. And Gott’s gets points from me for their call-in telephone number: 866-EAT-FOOD. (Hey, that’s an idea!)

Of course, once this went up on SFGate, the scope widened to worldwide. One perhaps expects strange eatery names where Engrish is spoken, but that’s not much of an excuse in north Texas, where you’ll find this august establishment:

Pho King Way logo

The Sofa King was not available for comment.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Inclement by increments

When someone threatens to leave town (okay, it’s not my town, but still) because of the weather, you know things have gotten at least somewhat out of hand.

And the spirit of McMahon alighted upon me, and I spoke: “How hot is it?” I duly looked up the local climatology records, and noted that we were on pace for the third-warmest August on record, a Fahrenheit degree and a fraction below the worst of the Dust Bowl years. In fact, of the ten hottest Augusts — actually 11, due to ties — I’ve personally sweated through three.

This set off my “Oh, Christ, now we’re going to hear from the global-warming people” alarm. Then it hit me: records here go back 119 years. I’ve been around here 37 years. Which means that during the most recent 31 percent of climatological history, we’ve had 27 percent of the hottest Augusts, which in turn means — well, not a damned thing, actually.

I just wish I’d gotten to experience more than two of the coldest Augusts.

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Just so clothes-minded

Were I trying to persuade someone to accompany me to one of those clothing-optional vacation spots, I doubt that “Think what you’ll save on baggage charges!” would be much of a selling point:

“If more air travelers take a stand and a nakation in 2010, it could send a message to the airlines using checked and unchecked baggage fees as a way to charge the vacationing masses more money in this tight economy,” Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the American Association of Nude Recreation, told USA Today. “All you’ll need for the week (sunscreen, cap, sunglasses, shoes and toiletries) can fit in a small carry-on that will fit under the seat, avoiding even carry-on bag fees.”

But then you’d have to explain to them why you have a 10-day round-trip ticket and only one bag. And explaining things to airlines — or worse, explaining things to the Transportation Security Administration — will put you in a bad mood before you even take off, so to speak.

Oh, well. Carry on, my wayward sunworshippers.

(Via Fark.)

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I did see her, sort of

One of the problems with this whole Rule 5 scheme is that it’s so easy to fall back on the same names week after week. [Says the guy with the seemingly-inexhaustible supply of Zooey Deschanel pictures—ed.] I’ve had instances where not only the same person, but the same picture, had been through this particular mill.

Which is one reason for the following still of Hindi actress Vipasha Agarwal, who has, per the IMDb, exactly one screen credit: the 2006 Bollywood feature I See You. As it happens, I’ve seen I See YouI reviewed it here — and I remember her quite well.

Vipasha Agarwal

But then, I would.

(Photo courtesy of sulekha.com.)

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How to identify the Truly Wicked

Easy: they’re the ones who wish to force something on you, at your expense, whether you like it or not. See, for instance, “Obamacare.”

See also the National Association of Broadcasters and the Recording Industry Association of America:

Music labels and radio broadcasters can’t agree on much, including whether radio should be forced to turn over hundreds of millions of dollars a year to pay for the music it plays. But the two sides can agree on this: Congress should mandate that FM radio receivers be built into cell phones, PDAs, and other portable electronics.

Disturbingly enough, that’s considered a compromise:

A bill percolating in Congress, the Performance Rights Act, would rationalize performance rights in the US; satellite radio and webcasters currently pay full performance fees to labels or artists, but radio does not, thanks to a longstanding exemption in copyright law.

The bill has already passed out of committee in both the House and Senate, but it is vigorously opposed by the broadcasters; they argue that radio provides valuable promotion to artists and shouldn’t have to pay. Congress tried to force two of the main lobbying groups, the National Association of Broadcasters and musicFIRST (RIAA is a member), to hash out a solution last November. None was forthcoming, but talks have continued since then and are now close to completion.

The two sides hope to strike a grand bargain: radio would agree to pay around $100 million a year (less than it feared), but in return it would get access to a larger market through the mandated FM radio chips in portable devices.

So we’re caught in the middle of their pissing contest. Is it too much to ask that they keep their filthy liquids out of my personal business?

Probably. It’s definitely too much to ask that they keep them away from Congress, which routinely basks in golden showers of attention, and which never met a mandate it didn’t like.

Oh, and why only FM? It couldn’t be because people who listen to those horrid talk shows on AM would immediately recognize this as a classic piece of rent-seeking, could it?

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Drink more Scotch

Scottish drivers are counting on you:

A new whisky biofuel that can be used to power cars has been developed by scientists in Edinburgh.

They combined so-called pot ale — the liquid from the copper stills distillery equipment — and the spent grains used to make whisky, also known as draff, to produce butanol.

This form of alcohol can then be used as fuel to drive a vehicle, much like ethanol. However, the Scottish scientists said butanol was superior to ethanol — with 25% more energy per unit volume.

I’m sure we can get used to looking for 101 proof instead of 91 octane.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Lions and tigers and fines

Oh, my:

A private zoo in Taiwan has become the first on the island to see the birth of “ligers,” hybrids of lions and tigresses, with the owner facing a fine for violating wildlife rules, officials said Monday.

The operator of the zoo, Huang Kuo-Nan, said he was not expecting the Spanish inquisition this sort of behavior:

“The pregnancy of the tigress caught me totally unprepared,” Huang said. “The lion and the tigress have been kept in the same cage since they were cubs more than six years ago, and nothing happened.”

Um, something happened.

(Via Fark.)

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Trick or trout

I can think of a carp or two I wanted to strangle — at this very location, in fact — but apparently it’s the trout who are having trouble breathing:

Cold water pouring through power-generating turbines at Table Rock Dam frequently lacks enough oxygen in late summer and fall to keep the trout healthy in downstream Lake Taneycomo.

Because of the low oxygen levels, Lake Taneycomo has been declared an “impaired waterway” since 2008. The problem threatens Taneycomo’s multimillion dollar trout fishery, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency now wants Missouri to do something about it.

Last week, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources began seeking public comment on ways to get more oxygen into the trout habitat.

To me, this seems pretty obvious: redesign the turbines to mix more air, hence more oxygen, into the water. It will cost a ton of money up front, but it’s a more-or-less permanent solution, until the fish evolve to such an extent that they start phoning the surface and asking for snorkels.

What they’ll propose, however, is probably something suboptimal, tinged with enough government-inflicted green to incur the wrath of Brian J. Noggle:

Please, someone tell me how the needs of the trout outweigh the needs of the people who use power. For example, how many trout balance against the need of a single ventilator for a human? That’s determining balance, brothers and sisters. On one side of the scale, some number of fish and on the other side of the scale, people.

Don’t be silly. Fish have scales of their own.

I suspect that this can be solved without jeopardizing either the power plant or the hatchery, but first we can expect to hear some Really Bad Proposals. It’s simply the way these things work.

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It’s a Mr Satan, calling about the heat

Here’s one ticket to Eat Pray Love that will go unsold:

Not unless I was dead, buried, had a stake driven through my vampiric, blood-lusting heart and was buried again in earth sewn with garlic could you get me in a theater to see this movie. And even then I’d figure out a way to haunt you and drive you stark raving mad as my revenge.

This sounds about 1.6 times as severe as “when hell freezes over.”

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