Saturday, April 06, 2002

On Dvorak

John Dvorak's name has been floating around the blogosphere for a while; apparently he's railing against blogs or some damn thing, I dunno... having had to deal with him a couple times over the years, I can't read his column without flying into a towering rage and screaming things like "How the HELL would you know, pinhead?" --- so, no Dvorak for this kid. I actually started writing a blogpost about him a few weeks ago, but I decided to spike it because it was getting too mean. I know that it's hard to believe that I could ever be mean, but it's true. Here's an excerpt:

To truly appreciate this, you must have seen Dvorak walk, but in case you haven't: imagine a legged pear, dressed in a blue suit. Further, imagine that this pear has attempted to stimulate its prostate gland with a Philips screwdriver, but lost its grip on the 'driver which vanished into the Baldwin-Gere tract. Finally, imagine that the pear has some kind of side-whomping joint rot that causes it to try to step further than its legs will allow. The overall effect is something like Jabba the Hutt speedwalking.

The rest of the story is: he cut through my booth at a trade show, so I started walking behind him doing a comical impression. He probably thought "Ah, my loyal fans smile and laugh as I walk among them. Truly, I am Philosopher King."

Another excerpt:

The big event at the awards ceremony was the awarding of the John C. Dvorak Award For Best Development In the Field of Email Reading Software Developed By a Colorado Resident. Oddly enough, the show's organizer was a Colorado resident who had developed some email reading software, and he won, by golly. The John C. Dvorak Award for Best Backstage Handjob was presumably awarded later at a small private ceremony.

The John C. Dvorak Award for Best Poetic Mocking of a Know-Nothing Blowhard goes to Stacy at Blogatelle, and if John C. Dvorak had a John C. Dvorak Award For Website Design By a Haiku Writing Website Designer, she'd probably take home the hardware on that one too.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Michael Kinsley Speaks Out For Cloning

In today's Slate, ex-editor Michael Kinsley writes an excellent editorial in support of cloning.

Of course, Kinsley has a dog in this hunt - he suffers from Parkinson's disease, for which stem cell research offers some hope. No doubt some opponents of cloning will use this against him and others like him, claiming that they are biased and not good judges of policy in this regard.

But frankly, I welcome Kinsley to the fight. And Christopher Reeve, and Michael J. Fox, and anyone else who will step forward and help to put a very visible face on the promise of these technologies. The forces aligned against cloning have successfully portrayed the fight in terms of protecting unborn children from the white-coated mad scientists. As long as they can manage to maintain that stereotype, they will win. And that would be a disaster for mankind. We are on the cusp of a biological revolution that promises to improve our lives in a way not seen since the start of the industrial revolution. Yet the luddites and religious conservatives in our society threaten to destroy the promise of the biological revolution before it gets started, just as their medieval counterparts attempted to halt the industrial revolution.

We need more people like Michael Kinsley to step forward and show the public the human cost of preventing these breakthroughs. We won the moral and logical argument a long time ago - now it's time to win the public relations battle.

This is a test of the Emergency Blog System.

Recent events such as the "The Vodkapundit Who Wasn't There" and "Ohmigod, They've Killed Kenny! You BASTARDS!" have demonstrated that blogs can and will vanish without warning. Further simulations have shown that a cessation of service at Instapundit, Lileks, or any number of similarly essential sites could have serious implications as people who would otherwise be glued to the computer get up and start doing things like driving, using the bathroom, going to movies, etc. The resulting infrastructure overload, while dangerous, is not the largest problem. Rather, the civil unrest generated by unusually well-informed people abroad in the greater world could trigger unpredictable economic and social changes. Examples:

In line at Albertson's grocery store, a blogophile notices the San Francisco Chronicle in the basket of the person ahead of him in line.

BLOGOPHILE: Hey, what're you buying the Chron for?


BLOGOPHILE: Did you realize that it's the 17th most factually incorrect publication in the nation. Instapundit (throat-clearing noise as he attempts to insert a verbal hyperlink) linked a study by the Cato Institute.

SHOPPER: You don't say...

BLOGOPHILE: Yeah, you don't wanna read that. Now, the Washington Post is better, but you gotta pick and choose... let's see... (he grabs a WaPo from the rack and starts drawing on with a highlighter) So this is taken from a discredited study... this is out and out moral equivalence... let me read you Maureen Dowd's column with my comments in between paragraphs.

SHOPPER starts backing away nervously...

As a precaution against such eventualities, the Emergency Blog System will be activated by any disturbance in the Blogosphere(tm), as if a million voices cried out "I can't get through to Blogger!" and were suddenly silenced.

However, this is just a test. In the event of a real blog emergency, the EBS will start transmitting simulated blog posts:

"Some guy said something that really pissed me off in his column in large newspaper. He relies on discredited study and a lot of discredited ethical notion, not to mention poor economic thinking to make his point. Here's a short excerpt:

Blah root causes blah blah poverty blah blah imperialism blah blah. Blah blah lockbox blah George W. Bush is a poophead blah cloning blah stolen election blah blah quagmire. Natter natter Clinton's legacy grommish.

sarcastic exclamation! I would never have figured this out if some guy hadn't exercised argumentum ad hominem on behalf of the huddled masses. This kind of shoddy ethical consideration makes me feel bad in some way. I think the some guys of this world should roll up their large newspaper and take physical action it up their orifice.

Jiminy crickets! Blah blah my fiancee blah blah praise for blogger higher up food chain has a cogent analysis; read the whole thing.

This concludes testing of the Emergency Blog System.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

It's Whacking Day in Canada!

This week marks the start of the Annual Gopher Killing Derby in Saskatchewan.

Ah, the spectacle, the grandeur! Who can forget the sight of thousands of gophers running for their little rodent lives? Actually, as a kid I sometimes made extra pocket change by shooting gophers and turning in the tails for a nickel a piece. They are cute and all, but they play havoc with crops and machinery, and they are a menace to horses and cows, which can break their legs in gopher holes. They are like tiny rodent terrorists. And as I've always said, you're either with the gophers, or you're with us.

My preferred whacking stick was an old Winchester Model 1897 pump shotgun. The gophers, luckily, were unarmed, although I did chip a tooth once when I hit a gopher hole in the pickup truck and banged my head into the roof of the cab. As I landed back on my seat, I could swear I heard a chittering that sounded like, "Allah Akhbar" in gopherese.

The animal rights people, by the way, don't like this. "This could set a precedent for more redneck killing activities on the Canadian Prairies," said activist Sinikka Crosland. One can only hope, Sinikka. One can only hope.
Finally, a Good Episode of Politically Incorrect

Tuesday's Politically Incorrect was well worth watching. The main subject: Islamic Terrorism. Rep. Bill Tauzin was on the show, along with Sarah Eltantawi, from the Muslim Affairs Council, and Wayne Knight, forever beloved as 'Flounder' from Animal House. Oh, and he was on Seinfeld, too.

There were some very interesting exchanges on this show. For one, the entire panel basically ripped Sarah Eltantawi apart for her duplicity and that of Arafat. Even Wayne seemed to be well informed on the topic.

A highlight - when Billy Tauzin mentioned "Our Saudi Allies", the audience broke into spontaneous laughter.

When the discussion turned to the traditional hollywood leftie nonsense about corporations and big oil, Billy Tauzin did a pretty good job of countering some of these arguments, including the silliness over Bill Maher's tired hybrid-vehicle-as-replacement-for-big-energy shtick.

Bill Maher was even funny, as evidenced by this joke:
Israel has made a new offer to Yasser Arafat.
It is exile.
Yeah, he would be flown out of the country and never able to return.
Of course, it's a long shot Arafat would ever agree, but even if he did, there are other hurdles like, how you gonna get an Arab on a plane these days with a one-way ticket?

Here's the transcript: Politically Incorrect April 2 Transcript

UPDATE: Alert Reader Benjamin writes to remind me that Wayne Knight was not, in fact, Flounder. It was Stephen Furst who taught us the glory of going through life fat, drunk, and stupid. Not to mention being able to projectile vomit onto Dean Wormer. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences snubbed him that year! There is no justice.

Please, no one mention this to the Comedy Police, or they'll take away my honorary rubber chicken.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

A Visit From St. Don

From a New York Post article on the capture of a man who appears to be one of Osama Bin Laden's chief lieutenants, Abu Zubaydah:

"There is no question but that having an opportunity to visit with him is helpful," Rumsfeld said.

Twas the third day of April, and all through the East
Not a creature was stirring, except a rough beast
The sensors and landmines concealed in the sod
Were set to help terrorists meet with their God.

Al Qaeda was nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of martyrdom danced in their heads.
And I, having lived through their unfriendly fire,
Settled down for a nap in this brutal quagmire.

When out from the sentry line came a great bark,
And I thought, "Don't they know we can see in the dark?"
I sighed and forgot about sleeping that night,
And picked up my rifle and looked through the sight.

With nightvision sensors and infrared gear
It could've been noon, I could see things so clear,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a small APC full of captives and beer!

With a squinty old driver in a grey single-breast,
I knew in a moment it must be SecDef!
More frightened than rabbits, his prisoners they came,
And he grimaced and squinted and called them by name:

"Usama Bin Laden! Abu Zubaydah!
Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser!
I bet that you wish you'd stayed hidden in Lahore,
'cause now you're guests of the US Marine Corp."

He opened a beer that was gone in a breath,
And said, "This is more fun than meeting the press."
He nodded at Laden and his little group
Said, "They sing like canaries if you feed 'em Froot Loops."

Then he glanced at his watch and said "Gracious me!",
"It's time I was catching my flight to DC."
"Can I ask you to take care of this little mess?"
"I think that the tall one has things to confess."

Then he brushed off his suit and polished his specs,
And passed around beers to the gunnys and techs.
And I heard him exclaim as he dashed out of sight,
"And never forget that we fight the good fight!"

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

I have no blog and I must scream

My corporate masters have jiggered the corporate firewall such that I can't post to Blogger from work. Normally, this is not a problem, but today I had to watch in mute horror as the rest of blogdom diced Alex Beam into 3/4 inch chunks, lightly sauteed the chunks in clarified butter or olive oil, tossed them with a secret mix of eleven herbs and spices, threw the whole mess out on the patio, danced the Mamushka on it, then let a pack of feral chihuahuas consume the heavily-trodden slurry. By the time I got home, every snippy word had been said, every snide dismissal dismissed, and no mockery was left unturned.

No fair!

Just for that, I'm going to send Fritz Hollings twenty bucks and a "suggestion" for a bill that would fairly apportion scorn among the time zones of North America, so that we here on the Left Coast don't have any material to work with by the time the sun rises over Berkeley, and also forbid certain bloggers who apparently don't have demanding managers (Pope Potato-Juice, I'm lookin' at you) or who have an inexpensive source of that fine fine Knoxville crystal meth from shredding every major media moron before everybody has had a chance. Look for the "Anti-Blog-Eat-Blog" Bill, coming soon to a Senate near you.

Bill Dauterive, call your office.

This from an article discussing allegations that American Talibutthead John Walker was tortured:

After he was flown from the U.S. military's Camp Rhino base in Afghanistan to the USS Peleliu -- where Lindh's attorneys claim he was tortured -- the ship's senior surgeon operated on Lindh to remove a bullet lodged in his leg and treated mild frostbite on his toes, the prosecutors said. He received two haircuts, the second one because he was unhappy with the first, they said. [emphasis added]

It was looking pretty good for GI Joe right up to the "two haircuts" part, which clearly documents cruel and unusual punishment, at least for someone from Marin county.

An army barber rolls a cart of shiny scissors and clippers up to Walker's bed.

WALKER: Wha - what do you want?
BARBER: (brandishing a pair of scissors) And now, Walker, we will discuss the location of your hidden Al Qaeda base.

WALKER's screams are muffled by the sound of the scissors clipping madly.

Rumour also has it that military barbers failed to hold up the little round mirror to show Walker what the back of his head looked like so that he could nod approvingly, despite not having a clue what a well-groomed headback looks like.

"Shave and a Haircut, two virgins!"
Beam Me Up, Alex!

No, this is not a story about a weird sex-triangle between James Traficant, Alex Trebek, and William Shatner. It's another article about Alex Beam's ridiculous anti-blog piece in the Boston Globe.

I will leave the majority of his target-rich column to other bloggers like James Lileks who are already feasting on the rotting carcass. I just want to tear apart one lonely paragraph, which summarizes the complete cluelessness of 'big media' when it comes to blogging. Sayeth Beam:

In a recent blogophilic outing in Fast Company magazine (old media = bad!), former Globe columnist John Ellis asked, ''Is there anything more tedious than the editorial page of The New York Times?'' Well, yes. How about a frequently updated Web log that randomly posts leader-board rankings from ongoing golf tournaments? That would be John's site, ''The golf stuff connects directly with about 35 people,'' Ellis says. ''But those 35 people really are into it.''

Beam is suggesting that a small, highly involved audience is something bad and to be avoided. This is the perspective of big media, which has as its ultimate goal the capture of the largest audience possible. But that's not what blogging is all about. The beauty of internet media is that it CAN be structured to appeal to audiences as small as thirty-five people. John Ellis is providing a service to 35 human beings that highly value it. And because his audience is small and focused, he can avoid all the general-interest claptrap that is needed to haul in others, and therefore focus his effort where it's most valuable.

This is the essence of grassroots publishing. A weblog providing local golf tournament coverage isn't trying to emulate the sports page of the New York Times, and shouldn't be evaluated that way. It's more like the electronic replacement for a bulletin board in the local clubhouse. Big media can't target audiences that small, because the economic model of large-scale publishing won't allow for it. So big media has to paint in broad strokes, cover the 80th percentile, and leave the details out. Comparing a web log to the Boston Globe is like comparing a Peewee hockey team to the Boston Bruins and then laughing at the Peewees because they can't pack 17,000 people into the community league ice rink.

Weblogs are a natural complement to big media. They can fill in the gaps, address niche markets and populations, and update content faster which makes them a natural for analysis of breaking news. They can also act as a filter and conduit for stories that are missed by the larger media sources (the Drudge Report is the prototypical example of this), and therefore help make the news. They also apparently act as a good source of material for hack columnists to bleat over.

Web logs need big media as well, because they can't do the the legwork. can not afford a Washington and Moscow Bureau with roving reporters. That level of commitment does require a huge audience. And big media can't cover the fringes. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Which leaves the big-media columnists. They are the ones who are really at risk, because what they do is essentially what bloggers do - sift the news and write their opinions of it. Bloggers ARE a direct threat to the editorial page of the New York Times, both in terms of stealing readers and in launching grassroots criticism of particularly wrong-headed ideas and commentary - something many of these columnists aren't used to. So now they are fighting back.

Just not very well.
Tourist Bitten By Shark

An Ohio swim coach was bitten on the arm by a shark off the coast of Florida yesterday.

Proving once again that Americans have grown much tougher since Sept. 11, the swimmer did not immediately realize that he had been bitten by a shark, even though it struck him twice. "I thought it was a jellyfish or something," said the man. When asked if he was scared, the man said, " Scared? Yeah, right. It's just a damned fish. Who's scared of a fish? Ooh, look at me! I'm a big bad fish! I don't even have explosives!" The wound received 11 stitches.

In a related story, a dead shark was found floating in the ocean with a note stapled to it reading, "Don't piss off Ohio."

Sunday, March 31, 2002

(The following is neither happy nor fun. Please check back later if that's all you're after)

Dark Times

History seems to be ending eras this week. Milton Berle, from the dawn of the Television Age, is dead. The age of Yasser Arafat appears to have come to a close. And Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother went gently into that good night, after a hundred-and-one years.

I offer no judgement herein on the value or relevance of the monarchy. Like most Canadians, I regard the Royals with a mix of affection and amused contempt. My earliest associations with Queen Elizabeth II are of frustration at having to stop opening Christmas presents so the grownups could listen to the Queen's Christmas message... what could the boring old lady have to say that was more interesting than Christmas presents? If the Queen Mother was making the speech, she'd probably preface her remarks with "But I want the children to go right on opening presents while I talk"; that's how grandmas do things. As I got older, my impressions really didn't change much. The Queen herself always seemed a bit of a sourpuss, but the Queen Mom always seemed to be having great time. And why not? Compared to what she'd been through, the antics of her children and grandchildren must've seemed rather trivial:

Sept 10, 1940. German bombers have been pounding London for three days running. The city is in flames. King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth stand in the rubble of the eastern annex of Buckingham Palace surveying the damage. The Queen remarks, "I'm glad we've been bombed, it makes me feel I can look the East End in the face."

England and the Commonwealth have been at war for a year, and things are not going well. It's been almost three months since the surrender of France, following in the footsteps of Holland and Belgium and Norway and too many others. Almost four million tons of shipping have been lost since the beginning of the year; thousand of boys lay in cold embrace of the Atlantic. The Channel Islands have been occupied by the Germans since July, putting British citizens under foreign rule. America continues to dither, while that old dirtbag Joseph Kennedy has been putting around the word that the Brits just don't have the moxie to stand up to Hitler, so any American help would be wasted.

Pressed to evacuate her daughters to Canada, Elizabeth refuses. "The children could not go without me, I could not possibly leave the King, and the King would never go." And that was that. The Queen Consort stays by her King, practices shooting, and takes every opportunity to visit with the frightened people of her battered homeland. Even sixty years later, she is still remembered and loved for the comfort she gave during those dark times.

These are dark times, too. The people of America and Israel mourn their dead, but they have no Queen Mother to comfort them; for better or for worse, the era where one person could mean so much to a whole nation has long since ended. With Elizabeth's passing, we have lost one more reminder of those days.

Today, Saturday, commemorates another very dark time. Whether or not you're a believer, the image is a powerful one: a motley bunch of Jewish fishermen and their friends, hiding in a dark room, jumping at every noise, waiting for the soldiers to come for them. Weeping for their lost friend. Sick with anger at Judas, who they had treated like a brother. Poor Peter sits apart from the others, cursing the day he was born, cursing his cowardice, cursing God for making him the one to seal the rabbi's fate. John and James, who could hardly keep their eyes open last night, feeling like they'll never sleep again. Their friend, their teacher, convicted in a Pharisee kangaroo court and put to death by the hated Romans. Last week, everything had seemed so sure --- he was the Messiah! --- how could this have happened? Among them, they have only one certainty: that things will never be right again.

Whether or not you're a believer, it's worth remembering that the dark times do end.

Happy Easter.