July 2003 Archives

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July 29, 2003
Ghoulishness Slightly Averted

Well, this is a relief:

Edinburgh bans dead skinless child show from festival
Whether the dead skinless adults will be displayed, or not, remains to be seen.

Posted by Russ at 01:55 PM | Comments (1)
July 27, 2003
Just call me "Mr. Helper"

Here's a handy hint for all my fellow woodworkers out there:

When doing a glue-up with biscuits, make sure the biscuits you use and the slots you cut are the same size before you apply the glue.
Just doing my bit to help out, is all.

Posted by Russ at 06:35 PM | Comments (2)

Having seen this, I think it's no wonder Hercule Poirot moved to London.

Posted by Russ at 06:29 PM
July 25, 2003
Lies! All Lies!

I knew it was too good to be true.

Posted by Russ at 10:32 AM
Honor, Hubris, A/C

This article on honor (or honour, as our cousins spell it) both hits and misses a number of points.

Yes, I have a few nits to pick. Not many.

America, it seems, remains culturally divided along the Mason–Dixon line, and the crucial difference now, as at the time of the American Civil War, is honour.
I think the difference isn't the Mason Dixon line, though that plays a related role. I think the difference in modern America (and, for that matter, in other countries) is not division into North and South, but division between big city and small town and the differing values found in each.

It's now time, boys and girls, to take a little trip down the rat-hole of amateur demography...

Now, I may be talking through my hat here; I'm doing this without actual research and without a net; I'm no anthropologist, demographer, or statistician. This is off-the-cuff, nearly extemporaneous.

If the Mason-Dixon line plays any part in the aforementioned big/little city/town calculation, it is because north of the Mason-Dixon line a larger slice of the population lives in large cities; south of the line, there is a greater likelihood of living in a smaller town. The South has historically had a much smaller population than the North, and a lower population density. In 1860, there were about 20 million in the North; there were only 9 million people in what would become the Confederacy, of whom about 3 million cannot be said to have been in the South by choice (yes, I mean slaves).

Right through to today, the South is less densely populated than the North, though it is catching up to a certain extent. Why? My guess: air conditioning.


I don't think the South would have begun its "boom" were it not for the ready availability of inexpensive air conditioning. The stereotypical "slow lazy southern town" portrayed in "To Kill A Mockingbird" or "Mayberry RFD" is closer to being true than not. After all, who really wants to exert themselves when it's 93° out and 98% humidity? Not this ol' boy, that's fer darn sure.

But the big/little dichotomy is not just a North/South phenomenon. Most of the American West is sparsely populated. Even that most populous of states, California, has a lot of wide open territory scattered with small towns. With the majority of the population concentrated in Los Angeles, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay area, there's a lot of land left over.

And in general, the small-town values in most of the West echo those of the South. Heck, I was born and raised in California - my hometown had about 8,000 residents, and within an hour's drive, the largest city was under 100,000. [Don't you dare call me a yankee.]

But what, exactly, does all this have to do with honor?

It's simple, I think. There is one characteristic available to the residents of large cities that is generally unavailable in smaller towns, and this trait affects personal behavior in countless ways: Anonymity.

When you are in the position of being known in your community (not famous, just known) you are more likely to behave in ways that we might describe as honorable. You'll be more polite when you know (even unconsciously) that your Mother will hear about your rudeness.

If you back away from a challenge...

In the modern era, honour is generally considered obsolete. As Guy Crouchback notes in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Officers and Gentlemen, it is a ‘thing that changes. I mean, 150 years ago we would have had to fight if challenged. Now we’d laugh.’
Or in other words, behave cowardly. Do so in a small town and you know your Father, brother, and buddies will hear about it - and on such behavior are local reputations founded. Growing up in such an environment develops characteristics in a person that will not often change.

Take the discussion to the big city - or, for that matter, to the Internet. The anonymity afforded there allows the individual to get away with behavior that would be frowned upon or simply not tolerated in a smaller community.

If none of your acquaintances knows you are a cad, you can behave in pretty much any despicable way you want. Threatened by a bully, by a mugger? Run away - no one who knows you will ever know about your cowardice. Want to troll or deface a website? No one will ever find out the vandal was you. Probably.

In summary, your personal honor - or lack thereof - both builds on and affects your personal behavior.

Paul Robinson's article makes a number of points that might tend to offend an honorable person's sense of, um, honor. It's not until we are halfway through the article that we read

The kind of honour I am referring to here is not the gentility of men such as Robert E. Lee.
Well, gee, thanks for clearing that up, Paul. I suppose I could write another screed on the differences between gentility and honor. Suffice it to say that honor usually requires a degree of gentility of behavior; gentility on its own does not guarantee honor.

Robinson, a former officer in the UK and Canada, does pack quite a few good points into the article, but that's not to say that I agree fully with everything therein. At one point he says of Jacksonians

They see the pursuit of national honour as the prime purpose of policy.
I think not. Self-preservation (by utterly defeating our mortal foes) is the prime purpose of policy.

Indeed, I think Robinson really goes off the track in his conclusion where, attempting to draw a parallel between the antebellum South and the current state of the country, he says:

As the ancient Greeks knew, the pursuit of honour often leads people to attack others, to drive them down, in order to inflate themselves. The Greeks called such behaviour hubris, and believed that hubris inevitably resulted in disaster. It certainly did for the Confederacy..
Having spent the majority of the article attempting to draw parallels - some accurate - between the Old South and the current United States, Robinson tries to suggest, not altogether subtly, that the US is "attacking others to drive them down, to inflate [our]selves." And will ultimately defeat ourselves thereby.

This is both factually and analytically incorrect. A glance at a dictionary will correct his definition of "hubris." He could begin here or here.

To suggest, however, that what the US is engaged in is "attacking others to drive them down, to inflate ourselves" is a mistake of the greatest magnitude, particularly for a former military officer.

Overwhelming manpower and force of arms applied by the Union defeated the Confederacy, not any supposed sin of national pride.

But perhaps Robinson fails to recall that bright, clear September morning less than two years ago?

On that day, we as a nation were attacked by men whose purpose was to drive us down, to inflate themselves. And so far, they have mostly been destroyed, root and branch.

Hubris, indeed.

(Article found via Betsy)

Posted by Russ at 12:19 AM | Comments (3)
July 24, 2003
Quote of the Day II
"I'm sorry, but not since Professor Peter Singer explained that we should give as good as we get from dogs who hump our legs, have I been so exasperated with the way some academics think they can use their head for a colonoscopy and then crab-walk around expecting all the world to think their new hats make them look smart."
Jonah Goldberg, "They Blinded Me with Science"
Posted by Russ at 02:07 PM
Quote of the Day
"In certain public indecencies the difference between a dog and a Frenchman is not perceptible."
Mark Twain, via Julia Gorin, via Merde in France
Posted by Russ at 10:58 AM
July 22, 2003
Fingers Crossed

Uday? Qusay?

Did our boys get them?

I hope, by the end of the day today, I can say "two down, one to go."

UPDATE: Got 'em! Two Husseins down, one to go.

Posted by Russ at 11:50 AM | Comments (1)
July 19, 2003
A Note to Fellow Loyal Citizens

I think what you're looking for is this:

μωλων λαβε

UPDATE: Maybe it's

μολων λαβε

I don't know which spelling of "molon" is right, since I don't have a Greek-English dictionary handy....

Posted by Russ at 09:15 PM | Comments (4)
July 18, 2003

One aspect of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") statutes that is not widely known is that private citizens, not just government prosecutors, may bring charges under the statutes.

This legal ability was recently misused by the National Organization of (Leftist) Women in an attempt to stifle the speech of a group called the Pro-Life Action Network and to monetarily penalize the group for their protests. (In an 8 to 1 decision, the Supreme Court took a rather dim view of NOW's attempt at suppressing speech.)

On the other hand, if the statute is designed to prevent corrupt organizations from threatening damage to another party with the express goal of extracting cash from the threatened party (which to me seems a reasonable definition of "extortion") there is one particular organization that must be reined in -- the sooner the better. They enrich themselves at the expense of businesses, inflict economic damage that we all end up paying for, and they buy politicians to protect their nefarious schemes.

Never in the history of this country (or, indeed, the world) has a non-governmental organization profited so much by use of the bludgeon. The Mafia must be wishing they'd thought this one up; these vermin make the bull-necked men of la Cosa Nostra look like a bunch of 90-year-old blue-haired ladies by comparison.

I refer, of course, to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

The ATLA (or more specifically, its minions) wreak havoc on our nation - frivolous and nuisance lawsuits, skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates, stupid disclaimers and warning labels on products... they line their own pockets at the expense of all of the rest of us.

(Links found at overlawyered.com)

Buying politicians... can anyone reasonably deny that the Democrat party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ATLA? They routinely kill tort-reform legislation, and this time around one of their own - Edwards, who made his money suing doctors - is running for President. G-d help us all if someone like him is ever President.

Because of what these litigious brigands do and how they do it, I can read stories like this and feel little pity.

I say it's time to shut down the ATLA under the provisions of RICO. While lining their pockets, they make the goods and services I buy more expensive, they restrict my freedom to choose what to eat or drink, smoke, wear, shoot, or even how to entertain myself. They must be stopped, and the irony of doing so in a court of law makes the potential for justice so much sweeter.

There's just one problem...

Where am I going to find a lawyer?

Update, 19May2006: Almost three years later, Captain Ed has some good news.

Posted by Russ at 08:17 PM | Comments (2)
Quote of the day

Daniel Henninger, in "A Failure To Communicate":

The Democratic Party now resembles a vast hospital nursery, with each colicky baby lying in a separate crib screaming for attention--right now, for me. And if a Joe Lieberman or Dick Gephardt doesn't run right over and pour political formula down their throats, they'll keep right on screaming.

Posted by Russ at 09:18 AM | Comments (2)
July 17, 2003

I approached the ordeal with trepidation. I knew there would be pain (mine) involved, and I knew that the people inflicting it on me would actually be happy for the opportunity.

"It's for the children" they would say, preparing their razor-sharp steel implements.

As I waited my turn with the other victims, others finished their turns and were led off to recover from the experience.

That's right -- I donated blood today.

I've been a blood donor on a pretty regular basis since I was 18 - over 20 years. I have no idea how many times total I've been "stuck" - maybe 40, maybe more. More frequently while I was in the Army - they'd line us up, march us to a gym, and tell us to line up to donate or go back to the unit and get to working. They got lots of donors that way....

I actually do pretty well "in the chair." The needle doesn't really bother me, so long as I don't have to watch it going in. I don't flinch, and the phlebotomist calls me brave. Some people don't like giving blood at all; maybe they're afraid of the needle, but they do it anyway - those are the brave ones.

I'm just a guy with type O-negative blood. That's apparently why they tell me it's for the children, though I frankly don't know why kids need O-neg (the "universal donor" type) more than adults might.

I give blood because, well, I don't know. Maybe because my folks raised me right, gave me a sense of civic duty. Maybe because I simply feel charitable. And maybe because my blood type is enough in demand that I get a small thrill out of someone showing me gratitude for something I inherited. I don't know.

But I do know these things: blood banks are perpetually short of all types of blood; one pint of blood can help a lot of people; almost everyone is eligible to donate; and it's an easy thing to do.

So yes, I urge everyone to get out and donate. And I need to do so more frequently myself. Check back in eight weeks and see if I do it again.

Posted by Russ at 09:58 PM
July 16, 2003
Korea news is no news

The only thing new about this is that it got noticed by the press.

I served in Korea 1988, '89, '90 up on the DMZ - I've seen it. It never used to make it onto the newswire - but then, the norks were never threatening to build nukes before, either.

Posted by Russ at 11:37 PM
He just doesn't get it

Beaker disses all of North Carolina.

Doesn't he know that we all focused our lives on it? Doesn't he?!?!?

OK, perhaps not. Not all of us, maybe.

Not anyone I know, actually. Certainly not me.

Ummm... Clay who?

Posted by Russ at 08:17 PM
North State Blogger Bash '03

What a great idea... get all the North State Bloggers together for beer, barbecue, and [insert gratuitously alliterative word here.]

[Oh, I know - how about "blogging"?]

Could be a good time....

Posted by Russ at 05:17 PM
July 13, 2003

War once again rages across the South.

That's right - the Barbecue Wars are being fought at Adam's site, A Single Guy in the South (as if he were the only one. Heh.)

Regardless of the Texan or two who insist that beef can be barbecue, Adam is absolutely correct: barbecue is Pork, no ifs, ands, or buts*... as any North State Blogger could tell you.

After last weekend's success, I am so tempted to break out the cooker again, and photo-blog it. Trouble is, I need a group to which to feed the results - there's no way I can dispose of a whole batch of barbecue by myself.

Anyway, follow the link above and give those Texans what-for.

* unless, of course, you mean a Boston Butt.

Posted by Russ at 09:02 PM | Comments (7)
July 12, 2003
Here's to you, Mr. President

Just in case you've been hiding in a cave for the last week:

USS Ronald Reagan, CVN-76, was commissioned today.

A Nimitz-class supercarrier is a fitting tribute to the best president of the 20th century, one of many that have been paid since he left office in 1988. But it's not enough of an honor for the man that led this country towards ultimate victory over the greatest threat to freedom the world has ever known.

Thanks, Mr. Reagan.

Remaining to do: a place on Mount Rushmore, and replacing FDR on the dime.

UPDATE: Susanna has more - lots more.

Posted by Russ at 02:22 PM
July 11, 2003

No, they aren't talking about how-to lessons, but...

Sex lessons for five-year-olds 'should be compulsory'
Compulsory? Compulsory?

Sorry, this is just plain wrong. Yes, there are things kids need to know, but... shouldn't parents have a say in such matters? Not just a say, but the final word?

I swear, if I ever have kids [which would mainly entail finding the perfect woman, e.g., one who will go out with me], I'm putting them in private schools.

Posted by Russ at 11:29 PM | Comments (1)
July 09, 2003
Slight chance

"Slight chance of thunderstorms during the late afternoon and early evening." That's what they said on the 24-hour local weather channel. I never had a 24-hour local weather channel before I moved here... pretty neat.

I'd been running a sprinkler on the front lawn today, so I knew we were in trouble (because finally breaking down and watering the lawn is sure to make it rain). I went out, turned off the water, coiled up the hose and went back inside to my air-conditioned splendor.

Not five minutes later, 100% of the SEVERE thunderstorm whipped through my neighborhood out on the western edge of Wake County.

Thunder. Lightning. Wind so heavy it would require Stephen Hawking to do the meteorological calculations. Then the rain.

In the middle of it all came a loud *-pop-* followed by a crash.

Oh great, I thought, now I have a hole in my roof. Well, fortunately the big branch from a maple tree 20 feet from the house bounced or was blown off the roof before it could do damage. Most of it ended up on my deck (the smoker is safe, you'll be glad to know); almost none of it is still on the roof (the usual twigs); some of it made it all the way over to the other side of the house - that's how windy it was.

Now the 24-hour local news (not weather) channel says it's been upgraded to a severe thunderstorm watch until 10pm. Gee, thanks guys.

Posted by Russ at 07:20 PM
IMAO is One

It's a one-year blogiversary at IMAO.

A very auspicious first year, Frank - keep up the good work!

Posted by Russ at 12:46 PM
July 07, 2003
Is this bad?

As I left the office today (rare - I usually telecommute Mondays) I slung my laptop carrier case over my shoulder -- and felt a sharp pain in my neck.

5 hours later, moving my head around is somewhat uncomfortable, my shoulders are sore (and seem kind of weak), and my neck still hurts like heck; well, not the neck per se, but rather the very upper back -- dead center, just above the top of my shoulder blades. The nape of the neck, I guess. I'm no anatomist.

Having a long history of lower back injuries (which is why I am not a senior NCO approaching retirement from the Army), I'm rather sensitive to lower back problems, but the upper back/lower neck... this is new.

I hope it's just a pinched nerve.

UPDATE: Yep, just a pinch. Muscle relaxants have done their voodoo, and I'm at almost 100% again. Lucky me - dodged a bullet there.

Posted by Russ at 09:19 PM | Comments (1)
Who'd'a thunk it?

Reuters displays stupidity - someone else's, and not their own, for a change:

Man Tries to Rob Gun Shop with Toy Pistol

Most amazingly, this happened in France. In France!

Those EUropean cowboys... who knew they had gun shops?

Posted by Russ at 08:17 PM
Dagh's back!

The Daghtator, after a prolonged absence, is back -- and he comes back with style.

Taking the WaPo editorial verminstaff to task:

I do not like militant journalists to force a false moral equivalence into my head - there are extremists enough in this world.

Posted by Russ at 07:52 PM
July 06, 2003
Smokin': Epilogue

I began the day yesterday with a bit over 10 pounds of brined, uncooked pork.

After cooking, there were about 8 pounds of barbecue for the party last night. I didn't think we'd need it all, and I was right.

15 people ate about 6 pounds of barbecue - almost half a pound each. I'd call that a success.

Posted by Russ at 12:01 PM | Comments (7)
July 05, 2003
Smokin', Part V

Oh, my. Oh, my. Oooh, my....

That's some good barbecue.

Posted by Russ at 06:59 PM
Smokin', Part IV

Oh boy, the barbecue smells good.

Temperature is right on the money... 235°... perfect.

I can barely stand the wait. Only an hour to go....

Posted by Russ at 05:38 PM
Smokin', Part III

So far, so good. 240°. I'd like that to come down a little.

I've fed the smoker about 10 pounds of charcoal so far - that seems like a lot, but then I realize, it's been going for 7 or 8 hours. Not bad.

I could use a nap. This "getting up before 7am" stuff is for the birds - and tonight's party will undoubtedly go until 1 or 2 in the morning (not that that's a bad thing :-)

Posted by Russ at 03:05 PM
Smokin', Part II

231°, and all's well.

The sad thing about having to tend the smoker....

What am I saying? Spending a day tending a smoker is as good as it gets!

Posted by Russ at 12:38 PM
Smokin', Part I

Tonight is the party a bunch of us are having for the Independence Day weekend. Ya, ya, yesterday was the Fourth, but the party is tonight.

As previously discussed, I'm providing the barbecue.

Yesterday, I brined the newly-acquired pork.

Note: barbecue is pork. Not beef, not chicken - pork. Furthermore, "barbecue" is not a verb, it is a noun. You "cook barbecue" and "eat barbecue," you do not "barbecue some hamburgers" or steaks or hotdogs. You grill those particular foods. (They're good, oh yes, but they are not barbecue.) A backyard event where cooking is done is a "cookout" or a "pig-pickin'", not a barbecue.

Furthermore, barbecue implies low and slow - low temperatures - I try for between 225° and 250° - for a long time - all day, in this case. Yes, you can grill pork - a grilled pork loin chop is excellent - but it's not barbecue.

Sorry, got off track there.... So anyway, I brined the pork in salt- and molasses-laden icy water. A 12-hour bath, guaranteed to pump up the flavor of the pork. Went to bed.

Got up at 6:45 this morning. Egads, what a surprise - I can't think of the last time I was up this early on a Saturday. I even managed to wake up before the alarm clock annoyed me out of my sleep. Made a pot of coffee.

Lit the real-wood-chunk charcoal at about 7:30. There's something almost transcendental about building a fire in the cool of the morning with a good hot cup of coffee in hand.

While the coals were settling into their home in the bottom of the smoker, I applied a rub to the pork. No, I won't tell you what's in the rub. Well, there's chili powder, but that's all I'm saying.

By 8:30 the coals had settled down to a comparatively gentle and steady glow, I added mesquite chunks for the smoke to start the day with - I'll be finishing later with hickory - and inserted the pork.

As of right now, the temperature in the smoker is holding steady at 237°. Perfect.

I have to check it periodically - can't let the coals die. It's going to be a long day, but so well worth it.

Posted by Russ at 11:20 AM
July 04, 2003
Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor

An indispensable educational resource: A User's Guide to the Declaration of Independence.

It is a shame that the average American doesn't read the Declaration even once a year, much less take the trouble to understand it. I know an immigrant or two who treasure it more dearly than do many or most of my fellow native-born citizens. Sometimes it's enough to make me wonder if a mere accident of geography is an adequate standard for conferring citizenship.

Of course, the average American, even ignorant of the specifics, still knows in his heart that he has rights that cannot be trampled on. Though he may not understand why -- on what basis he enjoys his rights -- he still knows in his gut that they are his.

There are those who, having been born & brought up here in the same great nation as you and I, the only nation specifically created on the basis that The People are the masters of government and not its servants, are intent on turning that equation on its head. These people -- we could call them elitists, I suppose -- believe that average people don't know what's best for them, and seek to impose a de facto system that ensures that government is indeed the master of us all, controlling our lives from afar in innumerable ways.

These "elitists" can often be found in adademia, in the media, in various lobbying groups. Lots of places. People who would not only say that they know how you ought to live your life, but are also willing to force you to do it their way. Naturally, these elitists propose to be the masters, based on their self-defined superiority. They do not, in other words, trust people to take care of themselves.

In many ways, they have succeeded. Don't believe me? Try buying a gun in Washington, DC. Try smoking in a bar in New York. Try not having a Social Security Number.

That bunch of "dead white guys," the Founding Fathers, understood these dangers. Not merely understood -- they lived through them, ruled without representation by an unaccountable government. They, to our good fortune, decided to do something about it.

But they did not act unthinkingly, without principle. In most countries most of the time, revolutions serve only to replace one set of masters with another -- but there are always masters.

We got lucky; the Founders didn't seek to put a local King on an American throne. They had a guiding set of principles, clearly expressed, on which they built a nation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness - That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
As they say, read the whole thing.

Happy Fourth.

Posted by Russ at 01:09 PM