blarg?

Apropos of nothing, this is too funny.

“If you talk to people who have been tortured, that gives you a pretty good idea not only as to what it does to them, but what it does to the people who do it,” he said. “One of my main objections to torture is what it does to the guys who actually inflict the torture. It does bad things. I have talked to a bunch of people who had been tortured who, when they talked to me, would tell me things they had not told their torturers, and I would ask, ‘Why didn’t you tell that to the guys who were torturing you?’ They said that their torturers got so involved that they didn’t even bother to ask questions.” Ultimately, [...] “torture becomes an end unto itself.”

- Merle L. Pribbenow, Career CIA officer, Directorate of Operations

“This is, perhaps, the most fundamental lesson of our study: ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

- Dr. Stanley Milgram, The Perils Of Obedience

“In part it is the awful barriers that now surround the U.S. Embassy in London on Grosvenor Square. “They have these cages all around the embassy now, and these huge concrete blocks, and the whole message is: ‘Go away!'” said Kate Jones, a British literary agent who often walks by there. “That is how people think of America now, and it’s a really sad thing because that is not your country. [...] In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They “make you feel so unwanted now,” said Mr. Das. America was a country “that was always reinventing itself,” he added, because it was a country that always welcomed “all kinds of oddballs” and had “this wonderful spirit of openness.” American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. “If you go dark, the world goes dark.”

- Thomas Friedman, New York Times

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good And Evil”, Aphorism 146

I accused Arlene of being a Luddite yesterday. She said “What’s a Luddite?”, so I told her to go and look it up on the internet.

She did, and then she punched me.

Often derided, bachelor cooking is, and rightly so. Does your diet put you at risk of things people used to get in old stories, things like scurvy, rabbit-starvation or the dreaded vapors? I’m here to help. I have, over the last two years, created and refined a culinary technique which I will now bring to your attention.


Read the rest of this entry

“Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

- The Principal, Billy Madison

Whenever I talk to the people at Future Shop or Best Buy, I think of that line. Don’t talk to the staff in the big-box stores; if they understood how the technology works they wouldn’t be working for Best Buy, full stop. The knuckle-draggers at The Source, though, tonight they’ve taken it to a whole new level.

The Source, by Circuit City. The artist formerly known as Radio Shack; brand new name, same blank stare.

I bought an answering machine last night from The Source, and when I got it home, I found out that the power supply that was in the box was not only the wrong one, but it was an obviously old, second-hand thing from a different manufacturer that looked like it had been gnawed by rats five years ago. On closer inspection, the box had obviously been re-shrinkwrapped, so this was not an accident; this was deliberate.

Returning it to the store tonight, the guy behind the counter fished out another answering machine of the same kind, and instead of replacing the whole thing, opened that box up and pulled out the power supply, putting it into my machine’s box. And then he sent me on my way, tucking the old rat-eaten power supply into the newer box as I left. So this is going to happen to somebody else soon.

Keep the receipt on those rare occasions that you absolutely have to deal with these bastards, is all I’m saying. Not absolutely necessary? Avoid.

Dear People Immigrating To Ottawa, Canada, From Warm Climates:

I am writing this because every year, as fall turns to winter, I see lots of people in the halls and at the bus stops huddling, hands in pockets, looking vaguely shocked, shivering and very badly underdressed for the weather. I’ve been meaning to say this for some time, so let me say it now: welcome to Ottawa, I hope that you enjoy your stay, I believe it to be a very nice city, in many respects and most of the time. However, there are a few things that you should know if you’re planning on staying here for any length of time, double-especially if you’re staying over the winter months.

You see, the winters here are cold. They are not cold in the way you might believe “cold” to work – they are far, far colder than that. There’s a good chance that your heaviest jacket is what I would call a windbreaker – that is, something that I’d only wear in the spring, or possibly in late summer.

If it does not snow in your country, and that snow does not stay on the ground and pile up, you are not currently equipped for this climate.

When you get here, you will probably need to buy two coats; one heavy fall/winter jacket, and one jacket that just seems huge and heavy and absurd, like humans can’t possibly live in climates where clothing like that is necessary.

I am not telling you this to scare you away; this is the reality of the situation. Canadian winters, especially in the Ottawa valley, are long and cold. You will need good gloves, and you will need good boots, and you will need a toque.

That second jacket I describe, you’ll need that because every year we get two to four weeks, typically between mid-January and the beginning of March, that are colder than anything you have ever experienced in your life, ever. Forty-five degrees below zero, with the wind chill, is not unheard-of. Thirty-five below is not even unusual. The weather reports, during those periods, will describe the cold the way overexposure to sun is described in the summertime; not in degrees, but in the number of minutes that exposed skin can remain exposed to the elements and not be permanently damaged.

This is not a joke, and it is not an exaggeration: it is the truth. When you arrive in my country, I urge you to befriend a local and ask them what kind of winter clothing you will need, and to pick that stuff up before the winter starts in earnest. Which is usually around now, November.

Other than that, make yourself at home. Try learning to skate on the Rideau Canal, it’s a lot of fun.

Dear People Who Pimp Their Software Out To “The Enterprise”: Your target audience is virtually guaranteed not to be running as administrator on their local machine. If your software does not work properly for regular, unprivileged users, it is full-stop broken. This problem crosses my desk three times a month, every month.

I cannot say this enough, it is 2005, this is a Rookie Mistake and I would like you please to stop.

Thanks.

A transcript of a recent conversation, provided without comment:

“Ick, there’s fingerprints all over our television.”

“CAAATHERIIIINE!”

“No, they’re too high off the ground to be Catherine’s.”

“KHAAAAAAN!”

“What?”

I made a mistake today, and I would like to learn from my mistakes. And because I have a weblog, you can learn from them too!

What was it, you ask? I bought a vegan muffin. “Harmless”, you might think but no, I claim that it is not so.

Vegan cooking, I am convinced, is a deeply deceptive practice. It is not, as they say, “cruelty-free”; that cruelty is only delayed. There seems to be some law of conservation of cruelty at play here; vegan cooking stores that cruelty, gathers it up and focuses it until at last it is sprung on you, the consumer, in that penultimate moment when you put whatever it is in your mouth, your taste buds recoil in horror and your regularity is seemingly promoted at gunpoint.

Presumably vegans tolerate this gladly, smiling piously with the same abstentious glee that led their monastic antecedents to flagellate themselves or set themselves on fire towards a gloriously divine end. And, if you assume that those old monks were whipping themselves with hemp rope, the circle is complete! But that doesn’t change much of anything, least of all the fact that vegan food tastes like damp sand, and the earnest hippies who’ve told me differently seem to be trying to convince themselves as much as me. Handy tip: you can tell the ones that aren’t all-the-way gone by the sad look and the thousand-yard-stare they get when they catch a whiff of a bacon-cheeseburger.

I swear to you, I almost swallowed my own tongue. “Mother of God, I have to get away”, my tongue was thinking, “and the front of his mouth is blocked! There is only one way to escape! Dive! Dive!”

Arlene beat Rez this evening, a game that has been infuriating her for some time. Today, frabjous day, callooh, callay, she is likely to not come to bed wound up into a little ball of hate having been devolved to nothing in the last phase of area 5. My goal is to come back from Ultimate in the same condition for once, neither wound into a little ball of hate nor devolved in the second half.

She is selective in her choices, you understand, and the fact that she likes what’s essentially a first-person shooter came as something of a surprise. The last two games she really took to were Katamary Damacy, which she plays with a distressing intensity, and before that Bejeweled, which I think we can all agree was crack cocaine. She doesn’t like to lose, though, which can result in Tensions Around The Home, because the slope of the gamer learning curve is pretty much one over the time between pushing the start button and seeing the words “Game Over”. She then comes to me and says, as Marvin the Martian might say, “I’m becoming very angry”.

Then, in a manner similar to the one in which she is jabbing me in the ribs right now, she jabs me in the ribs and tells me that we need to get rid of the game. I do not, because she’ll be back.

Also, she has informed me, Snood. She was hard-core with the Snood, for a while there.

Which is all to say, my woman just beat a video game and wanted me to tell the world about it. Hello, world, I have here a woman who beats video games. This is pretty awesome.

Update: Victory makes angry go away.