Saturday, December 31, 2005

Did you get one of these for festivus?

Dave Barry reports on Christmas gifts. Among his list of possible festive treats he mentions KISS Celebriducks.
Every once in a while, two entirely different things come together to form something new and wonderful. Peanut butter and jelly. Abbott and Costello. Ham and eggs. Peanut butter and Costello. The list goes on and on.
This gift concept is another example of this phenomenon. What probably happened was this:
Some marketing people were sitting around a conference table, trying to ''brainstorm'' an idea for a product, and they got into an argument. On one side was a guy saying, ''We need to put out a product that would appeal to fans of the legendary rock band Kiss.'' On the other side was a guy saying, ''No! We need to put out a product that can be used as a bath toy!'' And then, just when it looked as though they had reached a stalemate, a light bulb went on over their heads, and they decided to ingest powerful narcotics.
The result is the Kiss Celebriducks, a set of four rubber ducks shaped vaguely like the members of Kiss. They go with pretty much any bathroom decor, and make a fun and educational toy for anybody except children under the age of 21.
As the second KISS link shows this is not a spoof (insofar as anything to do with KISS is not made up).

Friday, December 30, 2005

Only 36 days leave

There is an obituary, in today's Grauniad, of the biographer George Painter. Apparently he was an expert on Proust. A sentence in the obit got me:
he was appointed in 1954 as assistant keeper in charge of 10,000 15th-century books. He had to work on Saturday mornings and had only 36 days' leave a year, but he stayed in the job for 20 years.
Pity the man. Only 36 days leave. That's terrible. Where would the arts be if people could not take off all of August to go to Tuscany? The hardship.

By the way, 36 is the eighth triangular number. It is also square and the first number after 1 to be both square and triangular. Wow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

God is Patronizing

Norm points out this interview with Daniel Dennett, in which Dennett answers the question why are many natural scientists religious.
It goes together by not looking too closely at how it goes together. It's a trick we can all do. We all have our ways of compartmentalizing our lives so that we confront contradictions as seldom as possible.
[A]re we only morally good so that we get rewarded in heaven; so that God will punish us for our sins and reward us for good behavior? I find this idea extremely patronizing. It is offensive in that it suggests that that's the only reason people are moral.
People are moral because they want to be, and immoral because they want to be. They may construct all sorts of rationalisations for their behaviour but it all amounts to people doing things because they want to do them.

For an answer to the question, does morality depend on circumstances (otherwise known as the starving person stealing a loaf of bread), go get a good introduction to ethics.

Seasons Greetings

May your days be jolly ...

May your festivus be whatever you want it to be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dover School Board and Intelligent Design

In the case of Kitzmiller v Dover Area School, U.S. District Judge John E Jones found that Intelligent Design is not science but a form of religious-inspired creationism. That that is what Intelligent Design is should not come as a surprise to anyone reading this.

There is excellent commentary at the splendid Butterflies and Wheels and at the equally splendid Panda's Thumb.

As expected the Discovery Institute has put out a statement. You can read it here. Earlier, when the good citizens of Dover, PA, voted out the Intelligent Design espousing members of the School Board Pat Robertson said "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city. ... If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."

He probably can.

Why does Pat Robertson remind me of the televangelist, Reverend Larry, in Repo Man?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Life Reeked with Joy

This is a tale of European history, gathered from credible sources (ok, ok, undergraduate essays).
In the 1400 hundreds most Englishmen were perpendicular. A class of yeowls arose. Finally, Europe caught the Black Death. The bubonic plague is a social disease in the sense that it can be transmitted by intercourse and other etceteras. It was spread from port to port by inflected rats. Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. The plague also helped the emergance of the English language as the national language of England, France, and Italy.

The Middle Ages slimpared to a halt. The renasence bolted in from the blue. Life reeked with joy. Italy became robust, and more individuals felt the value of their human beings. Italy, of course, was much closer to the rest of the world, thanks to nothern Europe.
Can't wait for 1066 and all that.

Go read the whole piece.

Thanks to Norm.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Delicatessen and the Politics of Salami

Here's a classic description of the delicatessen under socialism. It's so classic I've decided to get the dvd. That means it must be classic as by definition, my dvd collection only contains classics. This episode also contains the lines that made the WRP what it is today:
GEORGE: Yeah. What are you doing with the Daily Worker?

ELAINE: Ned must have left it here.

GEORGE: Your boyfriend reads the Daily Worker? What is he? A communist?

ELAINE: HE reads everything, you know, Ned's very well read.

GEORGE: Maybe he's just "very well RED"?

ELAINE: Communist? Don't you think he probably would have told me?

GEORGE: Well, does he wear bland, drab, olive colored clothing?

ELAINE: Yes, . . . yes he does dress a little drab.

GEORGE: Huh, he's a communist. . . . Look at this. "Exciting
uninhibited woman seeks forward thinking comrade and appearance not important." . . . Appearance Not Important! This is unbelievable. Finally this is an ideology I can embrace.

This comes from Seinfeld epsiode "The Race" (episode 10 from season 6 (the 96th ever episode)).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Money Money Money

Got the Amicus newsletter with last year's accounts (year ending 31st Decemebr 2004).

General Secretary: Derek Simpson
Salary £83,906
Pension Contribution £26,011
Other Benefits £52,246

Also got the Oxfam Christmas Catalogue:

Safe Water for 1,000 people £720.

So that's Derek Simpson or clean water for over a hundred thousand people. What do you think?


That's a correction from the first draft. Some of us can't handle big numbers, we stick at: i, 0, 1, 2, e, pi ... or nada, one, two lots ...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Am I not a man?

Euan Ferguson feels, like I do, that judging by countless supplements about the gifts to buy the man in your life, we don't count. Gadgets to do things you never wanted to do. His wishlist is amazingly similar to mine.
Here's an idea - rather a good one, it suddenly strikes me, that could keep a billion relationships going much further: don't think of him as a 'man' any more. Think of him as, say, a 'person'.
Give him person things which just suit him because he happens to be a man. Forget the electronic golf gew-gaws.
Give him, say:
  • A small bottle of the world's finest after-shave. It's called No. 88, comes in a little black bottle, and is made by Czech & Speake of Jermyn Street.
  • A really, really nice well-cut shirt which goes with his eyes.
  • A single bottle of the finest malt whisky in the land, which is called Caol Ila.
  • Unconditional love.
Any, trust me, any of the above will do. The whisky, by the way, is the cheapest.
Any of those would do. Even nothing at all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Radio, Radio, [recorded] transmission

For those lucky people with broadband and some time there's Little Atoms. You can listen to interviews with Harry, Norm, and coming up Martin Rowson.

It's also got loads of good links. Have a damn fine cup of coffee, settle down and listen.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Not Quite Oulipo

It's not quite Oulipo but this Pakistani textbook poem has potential.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Holocaust Deniers and Rhinoplasty

Maureen Lipman describes an encounter with a Holocaust denier.

Go read it.