Saturday, February 08, 2003

And it's not a weasel

A man sneaked a ferret into the passenger compartment on an American Airlines flight from NY to Phoenix via St. Louis. Other passengers spotted the critter and notified AA staff.

In St. Louis, the staffers told the man that they would take the ferret to the animal shelter for him, but he couldn't take it with him in the passenger compartment of the plane. Here's what happened next.

Useful Idiots... the title of a new book by Mona Charen:
Who won the Cold War? Though it seems absurd even to ask the question, many liberals are now attempting to rewrite history by claiming that they were no less opposed to Communism than conservatives -- and even more instrumental in defeating it. But in Useful Idiots, conservative commentator Mona Charen gives the lie to such nonsense -- and shows how countless liberals in politics, the media and academia who served as unwitting dupes, or willing defenders, of murderous Communist regimes.
See some of Charen's columns here.

If this book sells as I think it will, look for Charen to get the Anne Coulter treatment.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Fun with your microwave oven

Right here.

Incidentally, I haven't tried these myself and I'm not recommending anything. Done right, such experiments can be a useful demonstration of the properties of microwave energy. But be aware that if you get adventurous you can create problems for your microwave oven and yourself.

This war sponsored by...

Matthew Hoy shows us how to help pay for our defense budget.


The Federalist is holding a contest for the best answer to this: "What is it like to go to war without the French?"

Some responses already in: "Going to war without the French is like going to Thanksgiving dinner without your mother-in-law." "Going to war without the French is like...well...World War II."

To enter, go here, or send email to To subscribe to The Federalist, go here.

UPDATE: Bill Herbert offers a raspberry here.

Ordinary history

When you're from a small town you get used to low levels of stimulation. That's a good thing, even if it does make you write posts about plumbing and dust.

A lot of history isn't exactly exciting either, but interesting nonetheless. After all, most of our ancestors weren't kings, knights, or even soldiers.

Fernand Braudel has written much of ordinary life in Europe and elsewhere in his excellent books. Two examples are Structure of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible and The Wheels of Commerce: Civilization and Capitalism. They fill in a lot of gaps between the wars that my history classes never addressed - Amazon has some blurbs with more.

For a view of the uglier side of the past in the US, there's "The Good Old Days: They were Terrible!" by Otto Bettmann. And people say cars pollute - read about the problems of dealing with so many horses in a big city. Or learn what kinds of things inspired the Pure Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act - yechh!

Enough for now - I'd better get to work, or I'll be history.

Not work safe...

...and you probably don't want to holler out the name either. But Fred Lapides' site (he contributes to IsraPundit too) is full of a wide variety of graphics and link topics in addition to R rated stuff.

The Fitness Infomercial Review

You've seen the infomercials with the B movie actors and hardbodied spokesbabes. Now get the straight dope from the Fitness Infomercial Review.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Never mind

This morning I got some spam from Sounds kinda cheesy to me...

Copyright fee on PCs?

The 2/5 dead tree Wall Street Journal says the German Patent Office wants personal computer makers to pay $13 for every new PC they sell as compensation for private digital copying. And look for attempts to do the same with "printers, scanners and other devices that can be used to make digital copies".

The next reality TV show?

Medpundit tells us that people are going to Switzerland to take advantage of liberal euthanasia laws. And now there's this:
On a Monday morning in mid-January, Reginald Crew, a retired auto worker, flew in from Liverpool to kill himself....The Crew family's travel expenses were paid for by the "Tonight With Trevor McDonald" show, broadcast on Britain's private Independent Television network, which bought exclusive rights to the story for an undisclosed sum.
I have to wonder when this is going to stop.

Help fight smallpox

Yes you can, and you don't have to be a guinea pig either. Hit this site to see how.

Rethinking phlegm

Sorry, I just liked the headline, which I ripped off from Wednesday's dead tree WSJ. And oh, the Googling potential...

The rethinking? The article said "Most of us in medical school were taught that if a patient coughs up yellow or green phlegm, it's a bacterial infection and should be treated by antibiotics". But recent studies indicate that this isn't proof that an infection is bacterial. So now you know.

Actually the main thrust of the article was a supposed trend away from prescribing drugs for many common conditions. And it said that a recent review in the British Medical Journal concluded that many of the best known cough medicines on the market were no better than a placebo.

Photo shows odd images near shuttle

From SF Chronicle, via Stuart Buck.

You first

Japanese art has always delighted in depicting women pearl divers being embraced by octopuses.
The author is talking about the Ama, which is Japanese for "nice rack!"

Actually I made up the rack part. But these women were famous for diving, and up until about 40 years ago generally did so topless.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Japan's aborigines

The Ainu are a small ethnic group found in the northernmost Japanese islands. They were subjugated by the Japanese several hundred years ago and number around 20,000 today. Here is a museum.

Maybe Toren Smith has some comments.

Essential knowledge

Via BoingBoing we have, among other wonderful things, this museum of eating utensils.

But they left out the spork - imagine that.

DWI cover girl

This picture is gruesome - it ranks right up there with the acid attacks widely blogged last year. She's 23, and all she did was ride in a car that was hit by a drunk driver. Here's the story.

Stolen from Wasted Electrons.

Take that, Harry Potter

Now we Muggles have our own invisibility cloaks.

And you can get your Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Hoax grab bag

Heavens, I wrote all that stuff about plumbers and neglected the history of the bathtub. That's too much for now, but the least I can do is to offer this history of plumbing in the White House.

You can't mention that without noting a famous hoax by H. L. Mencken. Wendy McElroy tells about it here.

The best modern-day hoaxer is probably Alan Abel:
In 1959, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA) was formed from a $400,000 'bequest.' A movement was born which held demonstrations at the White House, threatened Greyhound Bus Lines with a boycott (after an employee was fired for painting pants on the 'naked' dog) and which claimed 51,000 members.

"Naked animals everywhere...they hang their heads in shame," declared the President of the society. Four years later, the 'President' was exposed as Buck Henry, a comedy writer. The entire SINA movement turned out to be an elaborate hoax by Alan Abel. Abel later claimed the Martians landed on Long Island and placed his own obituary in the newspaper.
What with some of the absurdities done in the name of animal rights, this one might work even better today.

Want a book on hoaxes? Here's one. Honest. He has a museum too - see for yourself.

Campus Outrage awards nominations due soon

"We created the Campus Outrage Awards to widely disseminate instances of outrageous totalitarianism, the politicization of the college curriculum, and the insensitivity and bigotry of campus radicals. Many university deans and presidents deny the idea that political correctness exists and claim that critics of PC use exaggerated or outdated anecdotes. Year after year, the Pollys offer proof to the contrary."

Link via Campus Nonsense.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Racism again?

Some years ago I heard a joke that went like this: "Why don't blacks intermarry with Puerto Ricans?" "They're afraid their kids will be too lazy to steal".

Yes, that's racist, because both groups are being hung with negative stereotypes.

Contrast that to this: "if a married couple in Arkansas gets divorced, are they still brother and sister?" That's not racist, because you can say anything you want about poor rural whites. Liberals, the self-appointed arbiters of all things racist, think this is ok.

Now contrast it with this: in Crystal City, MO, a teacher was asked what she thought of intermarriage between races. She said she was against it, because it produced children who might be persecuted.

Although that might be a lousy reason, that is not racist on its face. IMO she's simply acknowledging that racism exists, and that interracial kids aren't always accepted for that reason. Whether they should be is beside the point - we have to deal with the world as it is.

Interracial kids do sometimes have trouble being accepted - they're not all like Halle Berry or Mariah Carey. Whether that's reason enough not to have them is up to individual parents.

I don't know what else the dismissed teacher might have done to warrant such a charge. The point is that the article Erin O'Connor identified doesn't give enough information to reach such a hostile conclusion. Nor was Erin O'Connor racist in taking the teacher's side. O'Connor writes more here

If charges of racism ever lose all meaning and impact, it will be because of manufactured grievances like this. Brandishing it this way is simply dirty politics.

In praise of plumbers

Plumbers don't get the best PR. Think of them - what comes to mind? Their intelligence? Their "cleavage"? Their bills? Watergate?

It's no better among their peers. In my greener days as an engineer I asked a steamfitter why it was that they and the plumbers were considered different crafts. He told me "a plumber puts his nose where a fitter puts his ass".

Another craftsman assured me that all plumbers needed to know was "Friday's payday and shit don't run uphill".

Some plumbers know their place. One plumber's wife assured me that "your shit is my bread and butter".

Actually they deserve a lot more respect. Plumbing isn't just a convenience, it's an essential part of our public health programs in ways that go beyond the obvious. And it has a long honorable history.

Your plumber might not have a degree, but if he's a union journeyman he probably had a 4 year apprenticeship. And he may be licensed - here is an example of some of the stuff they need to know. It's not trivia, and it's not just about making sure your drains drain, your toilets flush, your pipes don't leak and your faucets don't drip.

For instance, if you tie your system to a public water distribution system, there is potential that nonpotable water from your system can backflow into the public system. This accounts for a lot of the concern with proper venting in piping systems, which in part minimizes the risk of siphoning.

Siphoning? How can that happen? Well, it happens every day in your toilets (I hope, anyway. Hmm, I don't think I've blogged about constipation yet...).

As for elsewhere, suppose you have a hose submerged in a bucket, then you lose water pressure at the source (if your well pump failed, for instance). If that hose was full of water, now the water will be sucked backwards through the hose into your piping system. And I'm betting that neither you nor your neighbors want to drink the water that was in that bucket.

Manufacturers play a role here. Just as pipe and fastener sizes are standardized, plumbing fixtures are often designed such that the plumbing code will be satisfied if the products are installed as directed. For instance, a faucet is to have a minimum clearance from the top of the water in a sink to prevent submerging and siphoning, so this feature will be designed in to the faucet.

If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you do well to know that the plumbing codes are there for a reason. Inspection requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In any case, you do well to honor the plumbing codes whether you are required to or not.

So let's give a hand to these craftsmen. Maybe they'll use it to hold their pants up.

Very special animals

Some time back I saw a book called "Very Special People". It had sections on such things as Chang and Eng (the original Siamese twins), the Elephant Man, and all sorts of other exceptions. Now tonight on Animal Planet I saw Amazing Animal Videos, which offered a succession of similar things from the animal kingdom.

First I saw videos of a two-legged dog and a two-legged cat. They had lost both legs on the same side, and they were amazingly spry. I'm not sure what would happen if they had lost both legs on the same end, or lost them on alternate sides.

Losing two legs is bad for dogs and cats alright, but birds? Yep, they had a bird that had had its feet mangled badly by another bird. A vet had to amputate its legs, and made some wire prosthetics for it.

Then there was a goose with an arrow through its head. A vet managed to remove the arrow successfully, let the goose recuperate, and released it.

There was more weirdness before it was over, mostly of the behavioral and genetic variety. A dog that couldn't tell cordless phones from puppies. A cat nursing some puppies. A bird attempting to nurse from a pit bull. A pig with two snouts and 3 eyes. A giraffe with a big offset in its neck. A five-legged lamb (three in front). A collection of six two-headed turtles and a two-headed rattlesnake named Double Trouble. A calf with two mouths, four eyes and 3 ears (it was delivered by C-section). Crocodiles conjoined at the hips. Falstaff the fish and his friend Chino the dog (sp?). A goat that rides a horse. And the show isn't over yet.

In a perverse way the "differently-abled" animals are all inspiring. So you think you have problems?