*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Monday 28 February 2011

'Hello Kitty' goes feral!

Credit goes to these two sources for the video of this idiocy (you should also visit the funniest 'Hello Kitty' site).  If there's one orientalist thing you can say about Japanese culture: no sense of irony.  Back at this link, I have to say:
- the rhinocerous wins for sheer lunacy
- the polar bear actor is either a woman, or 'runs like a girl'
- the orangutan actor is going for an Oscar
- no second-guessing of why they could not capture that monkey in Shizuoka all over the news for months?

A few questions:
- the journalists are inside with the tiger to fill him with junk food?
- the guys holding the rope fence are not going to run away screaming like AKB48?
- one dude with a quarterstaff will hold off a tiger in his prime?
- does every goddamned thing have to be represented by kawaii anime, including the possibility of mauling by an alpha-predator?!

Japanese culture: there's never a 'plan B'.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Trust an American to pour oil on a fire.

Here's something interesting.  It is not in dispute that an American attached to the consulate in Lahore killed two Pakistanis in the street, had another vehicle come for back-up, which brandished weapons at local law authorities and tossed evidence into the street, and that said American, Raymond Davis, has been a member of American 'special forces' and Xe/Blackwater.  As far as I can tell from overseas, none of the paramilitary connections are getting reported in American or Canadian newspapers.

If you believe the Guardian, which you should more than other English newspapers, he is a CIA operative and Obama has pressured domestic (which seems to include Canada...) news sources to bury the links to American intelligence.  Although he may only have been a member of American 'special forces' and Xe/Blackwater, and not a CIA operative, and was just operating in self-defence from street-thugs, and not making a hit...  %$#@ it.  If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a %$#@ing duck.

Monday 21 February 2011

I think I'm skeptical; you think I'm rude.

You ever have one of those sudden moments when you don't feel alone?  If you do, you're a kindred spirit; if you never feel alone, you're not the type to be reading.  A few years ago I came across Alan Zweig's documentary, "I, Curmudgeon" on public television late one evening (it is inconceivable that something so introspective would be allowed alongside the selling of consumer goods).  The variety of cranks in the film, many of whom I was familiar with, and their inability, and refusal, to navigate human society in bad faith struck a nerve.  I came to tears as Alan Zweig pondered whether people like he and I had been absent for the class in school where the teacher levelled with everyone else that all of this morality and ethics stuff was just fairy-tale.

I've often felt marginalization among my own 'friends', much less my peers and colleagues, because I have an allergy to 'drinking the kool-aid'.  I try to shut up with my unwelcome opinions, but there is only so much of the asinine you can take in silence, so much of yourself you can sublimate, and so much of your 'friends'' lack of self-examination that you can take.  The essential truth of human society at any scale is that it is venal, and that the humans will abide anything in fear of rocking the boat.  Why not rock a rotten boat?  Well, either the boat is serving you all-right-Jack, or you are in fear of swimming on your own.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Club-Racer to Randonneur/Credit-Card-Touring Hack

The principle behind this set-up is to take the bike that I have, which is a great light steel-framed 2006 Lemond Croix de Fer Triple, and make it useful for the long distance rides that I plan to be doing in Japan.  It has been hard to get a link to the original specifications, because Trek blacklisted Greg LeMond for pointing out the obvious about Trek's advertisement-whore, Armstrong: nobody wins honestly in that field of dopers.  Here is the best link that I could find.

To make it the bike that I can best use here, I took to heart what Bicycle Quarterly wrote about the rides that completed Paris-Brest-Paris, and altered my ride accordingly: add as little weight as possible, get some fenders on, keep luggage as low and centred as possible for the sake of handling, and reduce rotating mass (rims, tires and tubes) but run puncture-resistant tires.

Bicycle Tool Kit Contents

It's a cliché posting, I know.  Sorry for the picture quality.
It all fits in the container on the top right.  I have had to use all of the following, with the exception of the spoke ('knock-knock'):
- a spare tube
- several speed patches
- tire levers
- a schraeder-to-presta adapter for gas-station pumps
- a small multi-tool
- Park Tool's brilliant allen key and wrench tool
- a chain tool
- a FiberFix Spoke
- a rag to keep loose parts on
- surgical gloves
- CitraWipes
- front and rear 'be-seen' lights for unforeseen delays
- a reflective sash
- zip-ties

Anything I cannot fix with this, I fix with my cell phone or my wallet!

Friday 18 February 2011

"Why I [don't yet] write."

It's too intimidating to write.  I have ideas for books, but they are hard for my pessimism to bring to fruition.  I'm going to write uniquely and better than everyone who has come before?  A foolish standard, but how far should I relax the standard, yet write meaningfully?

There are few good reasons to write: money, fame or therapy.  None of them are certain, and most of them are unlikely.  You have some odds with therapy, but it's not the kind of therapy that is going to make you happy, but merely the kind that stops you muttering in public, self-medicating, running amok and doing injury to yourself.  The three reasons I have listed differ from Orwell's essay, though they match up in certain ways.  Jonathan Franzen's conclusion in "Why Bother" (originally "Perchance to Dream" - behind Harper's paywall) is the one I have the most sympathy with, and it applies as much to the writer as to the reader: it is the only way not to feel alone in a world that does not care for, or reward, any of the finer human virtues.  The best reason I have to write, with the uncertain reward of money or vacuous fame, is therapy.  It's the same reason I write this blog: not to go mad with anger at an unjust humanity.  I don't believe I will fix humanity.  I do not believe I will preach to anyone but 'the choir'.  I hope that a few people read this blog, or what book I ever write, and they and I feel a little less despair.  The Internet makes that limited goal more possible than ever before, though the rest of it be dross.  The only way I can give a %$#@ is to write for solidarity, as I am not vain enough to believe I am entirely original, naive enough to be certain of fame, nor cynical enough to tailor to commercial success.

Thursday 17 February 2011

"That'll be $5.50 for the enema."

File this under 'WTF?!': our idiot cousins now charge inbound travellers a 'security fee' to be 'scanned' and sexually assaulted.  It wasn't stupid enough to make me go through your immigration when I was transferring to a third country, since the 90s?  Guess why American airports and airlines get no more of my business?  Even my politically-disengaged wife now agrees with my six year, and counting, ban on travel to the Great Vulgarity.

And isn't it interesting that domestic white right wing terrorism, that doesn't fit the 'us against them' narrative, gets so little press?  Yet a CIA/FBI plot to snare Somali Muslims does?  The Spokane bomb was supposed to be 'sophisticated': read that as 'special forces' training coming home to roost.

Of course, my own country, client state and fuel tank to the Great Vulgarity, had its spy agency surveil 'The Greatest Canadian' Tommy Douglas though most of his career.  This back when we were not entirely a creature of the US (we miss you, Pierre and Lester).

Saturday 12 February 2011

I don't know which is more disturbing.

Is it that there is no more 'rule of law' and a class-war from above, or that almost nobody sees it?

However, if it were possible for we wealth and status obsessed chimpanzees not to screw up every revolution in history, the result would look like:
- equal rule of law for all, requiring a public-only legal profession
- equal access to education, requiring a public-only educational system
- equal access to health care, requiring a public-only medical profession
- full internalization of 'externalities' to individuals and corporations
- punitive taxation on anyone earning twice the average; and ameliorative grants to those earning less than half
- estate tax, beyond the average value of a house to each beneficiary who does not yet own one
- start taxing religious institutions and wealthy political parties
- transparency in governments and organizations
- robust free speech laws which do not protect bigoted incitement, such as Fox 'News'
- better identification, and quarantine of, psychopathic 'A-type' personalities who lead societies into perversion

Achieve that and begin to wonder how to make democracy work.  You can call it 'socialism' if you'd prefer not to think at all, but anything less entrenches our simian elitism, which history has shown never has anything to do with worth, and everything to do with parasitism.  You give everyone, especially children, fully equal opportunity and you don't squander the talents of your majority, much less squander their lives.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

The Wife's Sudentenlands.

I love my wife, but... she considers a work space, or living space, like the one in the picture to be organized.  This is an erroneous opinion; however, I can humour the woman I love, so long as she does not invade my space.

If I had my way, all flat surfaces would be clear of clutter so they can be dusted in one wipe, and all books, papers, tools, etc would be in drawers or inside glass-doored cabinets.  You give up a lot when you get married, and if you are one of the few as fortunate as me, you gain more than you lose.  And yet... though I understand shared spaces are not going to be as barren of clutter as should be, why does she have to invade my spaces, treating them as her Sudetenlands?

It is too frequent to be accidental.  Each day, I have to remove her items from my smaller shelves in the living room, or her make-up articles from my fewer shelves in the bathroom, or her contact solution from my one-third of the counter above the sink.  I know she has a plan, but I'm going down fighting!

Thursday 3 February 2011

Dan Savage's Priest

I too had good priests, and a few of them were likely gay, though I did not need the support that Dan Savage got.  A corrupt and meaningless institution, with some true 'followers of Christ' within it.  Life is full of small ironies.

Japanese Traditional Culture

Let's see...
Hidebound?  Check.
Moribund?  Check.
Irrelevant? Check.
Usurious?  Check.
Credulous?  Check.
Sexist?  Check.
Feudal?  Check.
Bureaucratic?  Check.
Corrupt?  Check

Here's the link to the brutal statistics in the Freakonomics article that shows the results have long been improbable.  I knew enough about Japanese society a decade ago to eschew my love of the sport.

As someone who's done a bit of three different Japanese martial arts, and known plenty of Japanese and 'Westerners' who have practiced martial arts, or other Japanese arts, the list above applies to them all.  Whatever Japanese culture once was, its arts are dead, except perhaps in design and cuisine.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Choosing a road, randonneur or touring bike.

This article on equipment for the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris event is a great place to start research on how to set up a reliable bike. Can you think of a harder on-road test?
These results are of interest not only to randonneurs, but to all riders who participate in long events. We found no consistent evidence that bikes with racing-oriented equipment provided a speed advantage over more completely equipped bicycles, among riders with similar goals. Considering this, it makes sense to use the bike that is most comfortable, most reliable, and that best protects the rider from rain and road spray. Unsatisfactory equipment can be a distraction, whereas a perfectly working bike can contribute greatly to the enjoyment of the ride.
The good news for me is the bike I have is good enough, when I run clip-on fenders, despite the low spoke count, small tire clearance and other niggling issues... That's going to save me some money.

"As you reap...

...so shall you sow."  N. Africa is the 'domino' for this decade.  If you leave people no opposition to dictatorship than the Moslem Brotherhood, what the hell do you expect them to choose?
If only the American public would understand.  'They' are not primarily Islamist, nor were 'they' primarily Communist; 'they' are people fighting against their enemy with the organization that has the tools to win.  "They [don't] hate [your] freedoms."  'They' just really %$#@ing hate you.

Your validation? %$#@ that.

There's a reason I have a picture of the most absurd 'dentist bike' I could find: I'll never ride one.  I don't race, so I buy comfortable bikes.  There is no carbon, nor aluminum, in my shed.

I rode with a couple of 'racers' last weekend, who were on bikes not quite as silly as this, none of which looked comfortable at all, and I had to wonder why.  I am not a true 'retrogrouch'.  I don't have a beard, buy from Rivendell, or search ebay for fifty-year old constructeur bikes.  I do not prefer 'Campy' over Shimano without scientific evidence, and quite like modern components.  I'll even admit that asinine bikes are faster for elite cyclists in specific circumstances.  Yet I do read the 'Rivendell Reader', and would buy a subscription to 'Bicycle Quarterly' if it were cheaper.