Friday, May 23, 2003

A Perfect Morning in an Imperfect Time

Did you ever think that you would be looking back so fondly to the Halcyon days of 1989?

I think I graduated from high school at the most perfect of times. Our senior year, 88-89, saw "The End of History" as the cold war ended, the commies turned into nice guys, and the Wall fell. We were in college for the 90-92 recession, so the bad job market didn't really hit us, we left college with the New Economy in full swing and either got established in "old economy" jobs with enough time to burrow deeply enough to avoid layoffs when the bubble burst, or made truckloads of dough in the new economy that gave us the abliity to ride out the 99-03 recession (the economy's waking again, feel it?). We're old enough so that Osama and the end of the world scares us just enough to take it seriously, but we're not young enough to actually believe this is the End of the World (I assume that people my age in 1982-83 were just as frightened of Reagan/"evil empire" as folks are these days of Bush/"american empire").

We really are a lucky few. I look around to those younger than I, who were broomed out of their first jobs without so much as a "fare thee well", who are looking at the world situation and seeing nothing but terrorism, war, and cruelty until the end of time, and I truly feel sorry for them.

Actually, it's the computer science and business majors I feel sorry for. The history / poli sci / and even english majors understand this as just another variation on that favorite disc of time's jukebox: "Man's inhumanity to man". (ooo boy, get a load of that! I crack myself up sometimes.).

So, as for my part, things are going fairly well. Job is motoring along; hopefully they'll keep me until I don't wanna be kept anymore. Wife's good. Kids good. New cat is a laugh-riot -- if not a bit annoying at 5:15am when he's reminding me it's time to get up and chase the sun. And I actually like this weather. I think perhaps it's the Scottish in me -- but this morning, walking to work with the old Jethro Tull on the MP3: "Grey the mist cold the dawn; cruel the sea and stern the shore. Brave the man who sets his course for Albion", I could imagine my Scottish ancestors keeping watch in the towers of Castle Moil, waiting to raise the chain that ran from Skye to the mainland to collect the toll on the ships sailing southerly down the coast.

Just a perfect morning of a perfect life in the perfect time. At any rate, beats the shit out of the alternative.

Fun with chemistry

An interesting piece in the NYTimes about those mobile labs.

While we have not been able to definitively determine whether they had actually ever been used to produce chemicals (the mobile labs had been decontaminated with an "unknown caustic agent" prior to their discovery by the Americans), I think the tiniest bit of Socratic reasoning allows us conclude:

1) Hussein used chemical weapons (against the Kurds, during the Iran-Iraq war).

2) These labs have very little utility beside the production of biological agents. (One of the competing theories is that they are used to make hydrogen for weather balloons, and of course, the usual pesticide dodge. Apparently, Iraq has more "pesticide" plants per person than any other nation on the planet.)

3) The U.S. has transcripts of Iraqi military officials that seem to point toward a concerted effort to hide the existence of chemical weapons: "We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left." On the second, one Republican Guard commander told another, "Write this down: Remove the expression 'nerve agent' whenever it comes up in wireless instructions."

4) why would someone clean to the point of microbacterial decontamination equipment for producing hydrogen for weather balloons?

To sum: he had 'em, he used 'em, he had to make 'em, these labs don't look like they could've made anything else, ergo: these mobile labs are the chemical weapon smoking gun.

So why did it take so long to find anything, when apparently, according to Colin Powell, Iraq was so cluttered from chemical and biological weapons that Hussein had to bring in "Merry Maids" every Thursday to tidy up? Slate notes that General Tommy Franks admits that US Special Forces bribed a number of Iraqi military officials to sit on their hands during the conflict. He has defended this as essentially a cost-benefit decision: one Tomahawk costs $1 million, we can demobilize an entire unit with one $1 million bribe. Looks like a good deal.

A natural conspiracy theory that could run off of that news is that, perhaps, some of our bought and paid for Iraqi generals know a little more than they're saying about the location of chemical goodies, and, just maybe, the US govt., figuring that they'd be able to find good evidence elsewhere, have "excused" them from divulging everything they know. The reasoning being that there is no way the US Govt could "harbor" military folks they know had possession of / had been ordered to use chemical weapons, buuut, if we never asked, then bribing these guys and bringing them over is okay. Sort of a don't ask, don't tell, chemical weapons version.

Your theory?

Thursday, May 15, 2003


The Independent, a British newspaper, has online [pardon me while I dangle my participle] a story about a new study with the troubling news that the planet's languages are being lost at an alarming rate. Faster, indeed, than those subspecies of newts and gekkos we typically get ourselves so worked up about.

Apparently this planet has only 6,000 languages. (Actually, from experience in the Modern Historical Metropolis in which I work and play [don't tell wifey-pooh], I would say that that is about right. And 5,999 are spoken by local cabdrivers. Unfortunately, English is not one of them.) So, six point two billion people , 6,000 languages. Works out to about 104 million people per language. The US has, give or take, 290 million people, so we need about 2.9 languages. Makes sense: Spanish, Chinese, and American English, which is about .9 a real language.

[brother goodson interrupts: Hey, moron. Do the math. 6 billion (6 x 10^9) divided by 6 thousand (6 x 10^3), when dividing you subtract the exponents and get 1 x 10^6, or 1 million. (I took this right from his email, well, the math, not the "hey, moron", that was implied.) And yes, he's right. I did the math on my little calculator and figured out that I miscounted the zeroes. Fine, fine. The question is: who the hell actually does math with exponents? Sure, I may be a math imbecile, but at least I'm not a Freak. Here, here's a buck, go buy another pocket protector. Freak. We return you to the story, already in progress]

[brother goodson retort: Yeah, I'm a freak. With a Z4. And no wife. Suckaaaaaah]

Unfortunately, it doesn't work out like that, and 200 to 250 languages are the big bullies, all above one million speakers each, and 357 languages have under 50 speakers. Forty-six are known to have just one native speaker. One of these, no doubt, is wifeypoohish.

(I crack up just looking at that word. Wifeypoohish. Wifeypoohish. I'm dyin'!).

While wifeypoohish is related to English, it, much like the bushman language from "The Gods Must Be Crazy", contains several seemingly nonsensical sounds which actually carry significant linguistic importance.

Drawing another analogy from more commonly studied languages, like the Eskimo dialects which contain thirty-three words for snow, wifeypooish uses at least four hundred homonymic grunts and groans which, depending upon context, phrasing, tone, time of day, phase of the moon or butterfly migration patterns in China, can infer happiness, unhappiness, hunger, or deep homicidal intent.

And in closing: that Eskimo thing is bunkum. English has a ton of words for snow too, and, as a language that uses adjectives as appurtenant to nouns, and doesn't rely only on creating new words out of combining roots, we gots snow words up the ying-yang. Being frugal in most things, I only need one word for snow: shit.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Thoughts for a Monday Morning

Ah, it's been almost a half month. In truth, I was just trying to up the anticipation. Or, I had nothing to say. You pick.

So, some random thoughts:

The ongoing Bob Ryan controversy:
Jason Kidd, who actually smacked his wife, got a $200 fine and agreed to undergo counselling. Bob Ryan, who said he would like to smack Kidd's wife, got a one month unpaid suspension.

Sooo, Jason Kidd, who actually beat his wife, loses 200 bucks. Bob Ryan, who only says he would like to beat Jason Kidd's wife, is out, at least, 10 grand.

The lesson: in America it is cheaper to actually beat your own wife than to say you want to beat someone else's wife.

Does this send the right signal? What the heck is wrong with this country?

And please, the nattering nabobs: I am not condoning wife beating. My mother taught me never to hit a lady. She taught me to duck and run when the lady is throwing vegetables, plates, cutting boards, etc, at you.

Actually, the disparity between Ryan's punishment and Kidd's (and put aside that Ryan's punishment is by a private party with which Ryan has a consensual relationship -- that is, if he were ticked enough about this he could tell his employer to go pee up a rope and he could take his golden prose elsewhere, while Kidd's penalty is imposed by THE MAN), anyway, Ryan's rather stiff penalty vs. Kidd's slap on the wrist, just perpetuates the double standard that domestic violence prevention labors under. Threaten a person outside your personal sphere -- big time trouble. Threaten (and hit) your wife -- well, that's a different (somehow less serious) matter. This is lunacy.

What Ryan did was essentially to get up on a park bench and say he would like to smack somebody. This is somehow worse than me going out and actually smacking the next passer-by? Oh, no, I see, if the next passerby was my wife, then that's a matter for counseling. But if it was a private citizen then it's off to the hoosegow with me. See this for a discussion of the term hoosegow. I just like that word.... This double standard makes absolutely no sense at all.

Okay, back to the trivial...

And you were expecting?:
The new JD Powers survey says the Hummer owners are slightly upset at the vehicle's gas mileage.


Boy, getting 10 mpg rather than that 12 you had expected is certainly a bummer. Are these folks really that dense? This frickin' car weighs like 9,000 pounds! It has more interior room than my first apartment! A hummer with a gun rack is enough firepower to coup d'etat at least four or five central american nations!

And you pay $50,000 and are worried about gas mileage? It's like griping about the lack low number of cupholders in brother Goodson's BMW Z4.

Morons. A nation of morons. Of rich morons.

Evil triumphs, because good is stupid.

Well, Jenna picking up the $1million was fairly pukey. Talk about a hobson's choice though: vapid jenna or crazy matt. I guess I just don't understand Christy. I mean, somebody did tell her that you wrote down the person you wanted to win, right? Motherdear will be devestated, although not as much as if manboobs bob had won. She thought rob was the nexus of all evil in the universe, but isn't that the lesson we take from the six seasons of survivor? Evil is rewarded with the million bucks, good wins a car.


Drove brother Goodson's Z4 this weekend.


Mucho boosto, as our south american friends would say. Shift that baby into second and step on the gas. Woooooosh. One problem. The nose is entirely too long. How do I know this? Because I managed to hit the curb while parking in the local donut establishment. Sickening "crunch" sound. Abrupt stop. Nausea. Visions of fratricide.

Relatively unknown BWM safety feature: it is impossible to put one's head behind a tire and commit suicide by releasing the parking brake. Car is too low to the ground to accomodate normal human-sized noggin.

brother Goodson was very understanding. Am only banned from driving said Z4. Can still oogle it and wax once per month.

Okay, that's all for now.

Did the hip among us get the movie reference? As always, emails to guarateed to be completely ignored.