Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The shakedown

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi tells Europe to pay him €5 billion a year to stop "illegal immigration".

Translation: Pay the Danegeld or I invade.

I seem to recall Gaddafi behaving himself after a few bombs were dropped on his house and when a brother dictator was toppled from power and he thought he was next on the list.

Maybe it's time he was given another little lesson.

Wanted: Copy editor

Here's the text without the fancy font:

The Making of a
Terrorist Coddling
Wall Street Loving
*Who isn’t actually any of those things
Ed Driscoll notes that this means that Newsweek does not believe that Mr Barack Hussein Obama is president.

When Newsweek was sold for a dollar the buyer got rooked.

Rod Serling interview: Part 1

New Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

The elephant in the room

Defense Tech looks at the DARPA idea of a "flying Humvee" and asks the obvious question: Who the *&^ is going to drive the thing?

Release the Kraken!

The BBC looks at the mackerel war and the state of the fisheries.

Between two stories, they manage to bring up everything from diminishing numbers of water voles to good old human greed (how dare anyone except a BBC executive order the plaice!), but, no prizes, totally ignores the real culprit for the dwindling fish stocks around the British Isles: The Common Fisheries policy that allows the European Empire to treat British waters as theirs to plunder at will.

Maybe Providence will allow a delightful bit of irony and we'll soon be reading about European fishing fleets being gobbled up by marauding giant squid.

Straight down

Due to a government that thinks that electric cars and fat cheques to African dictators are more important than the defence of the realm, the Royal Navy abandons any hope of fielding VSTOL fighters.

At this rate, we'll be seeing Arab slave raiders off the Devon coast by Christmas.

The old story

MyNorthwest.com headline:
Seattle police officer fatally shoots man with knife
He didn't know the knife was loaded.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Review: Survivors: Genesis of a Hero

New Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Fair weekend

Fluffy: the $35 unicorn.

It's been an exhausting week here at Chez Szondy. Summer is drawing to a close, which means two things: First, decent weather where a man can put on a cardy isn't far off and second, it's time for a final fling of family fun before the school gates clang shut on the daughter for another year. I've just spent an exhausting three days that weren't helped by my having just finished a contract for a client nor that I'll need to work like a dog to make up for the last three days, but that's fatherhood for you; loads of responsibilities, tons of joy, and no time to squeeze it all into the annoyingly finite days that God sends to us. Why we can't get the occasional 28 hour day is beyond me.

Anyway, on Friday, the Szondy family went to the Evergreen State Fair. I've always loved agricultural shows, village fĂȘtes, and all the other rural gatherings that filled my childhood in Yorkshire. Give me a tombola, a quince jam competition, a bran tub, and a steam-powered carousel and I'm happy. Throw in a beer tent and a barbecue and I may never go home. Things are a bit different in the States. The fairs are far larger, more professionally organised, and much more expensive, but I can still find a tractor show set up in a field that costs a fiver, if they bother to collect it, and is a joyous day out of hay rides and grizzled old men showing off Ford tractors that were new when Kitchner was alive.

Anyway, back to the Evergreen State Fair. That thing is a money Hoover, so we played it smart and bought our admission, midway, and parking tickets in advance and planned out our day for the most fun for the least expenditure. Then we hit our first and only fairground game and within five minutes the daughter was holding a stuffed unicorn that cost $35. I plan to keep it in a vault.

Things went uphill from there. The wife thought I was insane on insisting that we go there from basically opening to closing, but she soon saw the method in my madness as we let the daughter run her all-you-ride wristband into the ground in the Midway, then alternated that with taking in the free shows, gawping at the handicraft and homemaking competitions, and (my favourite) visiting the animal barns. Naturally, this was punctuated with downing all sorts of meaty, sugary, high-fat, high-cholesterol, low-vitamin, and generally bad for you food that would make a Vegan go into systemic shock.

Avoid the deep-fried Twinkies; they are disgusting beyond the measure of man.

You'd think this sort of thing would take it's toll and you're right. That's why they invented the Shire horse competition so Mama could take an antacid pill and we could put our feet up for a couple of hours.

The daughter had a particularly good time. Not only did we get to see the pig races, her particular favourite, but she was picked as the cheerleader for her chosen pig, who won and the daughter ended up with a blue ribbon and a photo with the speedy rasher of bacon. She then fell into more luck when a roving magician picked her as an assistant and she got to be as much the centre of attention as an eight-year old could want.

The end of our day was as perfect as we could have hoped. Nearly, anyway. A good portion of it was spent with my having to go on the rides, which I don't care for. I hate being pummeled and whirled about unless there's a point to it and flying through the air suspended by a very thin looking chain isn't so much fun for me as terrifying. Still, the wife timed our evening so that the last ride we went on was the Ferris wheel and that we'd be at the zenith of the giant wheel just at the moment when the fireworks show started. The crowning touch was when some teenagers barged the queue in front of us and I whispered to my wife, "Go ahead. We're destroying the world economy; let's see who laughs last."

They were then ejected for having counterfeit wristbands.

The dogs hate us, by the way. We came home that night reeking of farm animals, grease, sugar, sweat, and sawdust and they were convinced that we'd gone to Heaven and left them behind.

The winning Shire horse team at the parade.
They really were a magnificent rig.

Next day, the town of Monroe had it's State Fair parade, which we attended with our neighbours. it was a perfect example of a small-town fair with everybody in the district taking part from the radio station to the high school to the local cafe. Hard candy was flung to cries of "Look out! Incoming!" Okay, that was me. Equestrian teams rode by followed by a man with a wheelbarrow, and local candidates schmoozed for votes. It was the sort of eclectic, untidy, uneven affair that was tremendous fun simply because everyone was having fun doing it as well as watching it.

It was a hot day and we ended up setting our chairs on the sunny side of the street, which proved a mistake, but we were close enough to the radio station's stand that the daughter and the neighbour kids could bop to their beat.. or something... and that local churches passed out water to us. The latter was fortunate, as the whole thing went on for two hours and without the water and the sweets that I nicked from the daughter's hoard I don't think I'd have made it.

Today, was more of a recuperation day, but the wife's feet and legs were in such bad shape from all the walking that we spent most of it at the local pool where taking the weight off with a bit of buoyancy followed by a soak in the spa did us all a world of good. The water slide was open, which delighted the daughter–especially when she insisted that I have several goes on it. Sometimes I think I agree because the cup of tea that I have in the lobby to restore my nerves while wife and daughter dry their hair is so much more welcome after that.

I'd like to say that I went home and slept soundly after that, but I've three columns to write and a load of jobs to chase after, what with money being insanely tight in this economy (rattles the tip jar), so here it is nearly midnight and I'm pounding away at the keyboard.

Next up: the final road trip of the summer. I have no idea where we're going or if the car will survive, but getting there is half the fun. Getting back is another matter.

Review: Survivors

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Fair day

It's the Evergreen State Fair today, so I'm off to look at a bunch of livestock, eat food that is really bad for my ulcer, and take the wife and daughter on a lot of rides that will guarantee that the food does not stay in my system.

In other words, having fun.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


The One on the one dollar note–and the designers are serious!

If these ever get printed, find a wheelbarrow because you'll need to fill one to buy a loaf of bread.

PC Alert

From the BBC:
Researchers in South Africa have revealed the earliest direct evidence of human-made arrows.
Or as we call them on planet Earth, man-made.

The Strange Case of Eric Frank Russell

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Cap in hand

The Royal Navy may have to borrow fighter planes from the Americans to arm the new carriers.

Dear God, why can't we get a government that can find its backside with both hands?

Paleo-future interview

Virginia Postrel interviews the man behind Paleo-Future. If you don't know the site, do check it out. It's worth the effort.

All fired up about Saint Anthony

It's good to see the BBC holding true to its hard-won reputation for scrupulous journalism with this article about an outbreak of ergot poisoning in France in 1951 that claims that it was really an evil experiment the the evil American evil CIA evilly subjecting a village to evil LSD for evil reasons of great evilness.

The fact that the accusation is based on the sort of evidence that wouldn't stand up five minutes in a drunken pub argument is totally irrelevant. Someone should point out that veiled references, an anonymous and ambiguous quote, and blandly stating out that a factory is on the same continent as France is hardly evidence.

Fire Tornado

When hibachis go horribly wrong.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

An interview with Jack Williamson (1991)

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Heat ray for the big house

Castaic jail in California joins the 21st century this week as it installs a new heat ray to put down riots and other outbreaks of violence.

It's okay, but I can't help feeling that it won't be quite up to standard until it has an pulsing blue neon tube in its mechanism and an ominous hum that rises in pitch as it locks onto its target. A deep electronic "donk donk donk donk donk" sound just before it fires with a loud "pew pew pew" would be perfect.

No doubt he answers to Minilove

From Roger Kimball:
An American friend who lives in London sent me copy of an email he received about bicycling in the city. The communication was innocuous enough, just an announcement that they had updated their website, along with some information about the upcoming “Mayor of London’s Sky Ride.” What attracted my friend’s attention, and mine, was the chap’s title: “Head of Behaviour Change.”
I took this one with a grain of salt until I googled it and came up with this want ad:
TRANSPORT FOR LONDON: Head of Behaviour Change Programmes
Posted by superuser on Wed, 17/03/2010 - 16:55

£75,000 - £85,000 + excellent benefits:

Well, at least they raised the chocoration to 20 grams.

So die all enemies of the Crown

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Time Advanced

Past and future

Today is the 1,600th anniversary of the sack of Rome by the Visigoths.

Historic event or preview of what we have in store if we don't admit that civilisation is a good thing and start defending it?

The ghastly shrug

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Been there

A 62-mile ling traffic tailback that lasted nine days. Or, as it's called in Britain, Monday on the M25.

Wishful thinking

Should the Royal Navy be cut yet again? Go ahead, but you'd better pray that none of our enemies notice.

Maybe they'll just go away

How to handle the problem of drug addiction? According to the UK Drug Policy Commission stop calling addicts "addicts".

If that doesn't work, screw your eyes shut, stick your fingers in your ears, and go "La la la la la".

Arctic Drifter

An arctic laboratory inside a set of inflatable bags designed to blow like a bit of thistledown across the polar wilderness–until it goes sailing off a cliff or a shoggoth tries to mate with it, of course.,

Budget quiz

The Seattle city budget is in crisis. Do you,

a) Postpone an unpopular plan to alter main streets that gives up two lanes in favour of giant bike lanes that no one uses and results in permanent tailbacks.
b) Close the public libraries for a week and cheese everybody off.

If you chose b, congratulations! You are now mayor of Seattle.


The flat that fits in a three-wheel van. It looks bizarre and it probably has all the stability of a box of sweaty gelignite, but there were times in my life when this would have been a brilliant solution to my travel and living problems.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Notes on Writing Weird Fiction

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

The fourth plinth follies

The plinths at Trafalgar square were meant to honour the memory of great men who built and defended the British Empire. A fourth plinth was erected and left empty for future generations to fill. Instead of honouring the heroes of the last century, modern Britain uses the plinth to honour nasty jokes like blue chickens and brick sponge cakes.

It's a wonder that Lord Nelson doesn't shinny down his column and storm off in disgust.

The flying yacht

Perfect for people who hate both sailing and flying.

Back to the Commonwealth

The Internet is drawing Britain away from the EU and back to the the Anglosphere. Predictably, the Groaniad is crying in their beer about this, but given what a totalitarian state the EU is becoming and how its corrupting the British police, all I can say is, roll on the Anglosphere!

Friday, 20 August 2010

ID8 Mobile

I will admit that I have a soft spot for any device that has a slot to insert one of its accessories into.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Into the Media Web: Selected Short Non-Fiction 1956-2006

Another Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Quote of the day

New Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Very well, alone!

Once a depiction of the Dunkirk spirit during the war, now a portryal of Britain's armed forces after the projected defence cuts.

Acquaefuoco's Tube

The "bioethanol fireplace for the eco-conscious".

I had one of these aboard a boat once, though it was less an overpriced "green" accessory than an alcohol stove in a galley that developed a leak and caught fire.

How to be a good hook-up

But will he respect me in the morning? Don't be daft.

Because even if you are the sort of girl who'd fall into bed with a guy that you don't even know, find personally repulsive, and expects you to be gone before he wakes up, you don't want him to think you're a cheap tart.

Get the secateurs, quick!

From the BBC:
A Cornwall couple said they returned from holiday to find a plant in their garden had grown 8m (26ft) high.
Yeah, I've had similar. It didn't end well.

Digging from the Air

I was pottering about the BBC archives web site when I came across a 1979 gem of a documentary on aerial archaeology. Digging from the Air is such a solid piece of scholarship and so lacking in any sort of pandering or condescension that I would have happily presented it to one of my university classes. It isn't afraid to assume a certain level of education and intelligence in an audience with an attention span greater than that of a hyperactive meerkat. It really feels like a film made by makers and scientists who genuinely want to teach something. I even learned some new things and I'm supposed to be an expert.

It was a delightful nostalgia trip that took me back to the days that saw the start of my own archaeological career. It also showed how great the BBC once was and how far it has fallen from grace.

Today, if they made this programme at all, it would be full of fast cuts, shots of swooping aircraft, flashy CGI graphics, background music that irritates with its relentless pounding, a succession of talking heads who don't actually say anything, and an information content so minimal that one would suspect that the producers were ashamed of being caught teaching anything. If there were a presenter, he would be a very young man in very casual clothes, far too enthusiastic, have the gravitas of a fourteen-year old, have no idea what to do with his hands, and speak with a pronounced regional accent that is 80 percent affectation. Or it would be a very young woman with the put upon air of someone who'd far rather be doing better things, like documentaries on the plight of immigrant Muslim transsexual Hobbits in Notting Hill, and have a pronounced regional accent that is 100 percent affectation and impossible to understand.

Thank God for the BBC archive; a lifeline from a more civilised age.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Novel writing

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

What's the punch line?

From the BBC:
Wales' in-roads into space exploration could be jeopardised if cuts are made to science budgets, a researcher warns.
The Welsh space programme; it sounds like the start of a joke.

We are zee kiler bees!

A sheriff's deputy was trapped in his car for three hours by a swarm of enraged bees.

Sir Michael Caine was unavailable for comment.

Playboy Land Yacht

Hedonism...of the FUTURE!

Crunchy frog

Why I avoid sweets–especially the boxed assortment kind.

Tolerance vs suicide

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A reference list

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

The first digital camera

1975. It had to start somewhere.

Carts and horses

With Mr David Cameron out of town, Mr Nicholas Cregg forgets that as deputy prime minister he is actually part of the government and says something typically daft:
Trident replacement makes welfare cuts harder to justify
No, Mr Clegg; it's the other way around: Trident replacement justifies welfare cuts. Now go away and write out "Defence of the realm is government's primary duty" one hundred times.

Missing the point

This makes it hallowed.

Mr Daryl Lang at History Eraser Button weighs in on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He takes issue with the notion that the proximity of the former site of the World Trade Center is "hallowed ground". Just because Jihadists hijacked airliners packed with innocent human beings and slammed them into skyscrapers packed with more innocent human beings with the express purpose of murdering as many people as possible for the express purpose of glorifying Islam and declaring war on civilisation, why should this be any reason to object to the raising of a 13 storey mosque named after the capital of the Andalusian Caliphate?

To prove his point, Mr Lang posts a number of photos of the area showing things like strip clubs, tee-shirt vendors, and an Irish pub and claims that this refutes any possible claim of Ground Zero being "hallowed".

Aside from an obvious indulgence in the fallacy of equivocation, Mr Lang magnificently misses the point. If a load of tee-shirt wearing strippers from Limerick had slaughtered 2700 people in the neighbourhood as the opening salvo in a campaign of conquest and then proposed to open a pub called "The Boot on the Neck" on the site of their atrocity, I might see the relevance of his argument.

But they didn't, so I don't.

Update: Putting aside the question of should it be built, all things being equal, the proponents can build the Ground Zero mosque as soon as they like, but all things are not equal. There are still questions to be answered about who owns the site, the intended use of the mosque, the people behind it, how it is funded, and (wait for it) whether the federal government is using taxpayer money to support it in violation of the first amendment. These are all legitimate impediments that need to be addressed.

It doesn't end there. The notion that New York City's hands are tied and that they can only sit by and watch the Ground Zero mosque be built is a dubious one. Having dealt with many local authorities in the past, the official line never impressed me. If New York really opposed the mosque, they could quite legally hinder its progress for decades, if not stop it in its tracks, by reviewing permit after permit, requiring inspection after inspection, and demanding endless impact studies and proof of compliance with the smallest regulation, initiative, and revision. Then, of course, there's listening to every appeal from every pressure group no matter how thin the grievance or concern. The entire Californian electricity generating industry was destroyed by that one.

This isn't even in the abstract. A Greek Orthodox church that stood at the site of the World Trade Center since 1922 and was destroyed in the attack on 9/11 still remains waiting to be rebuilt nine years later. The reason? The Port Authority doesn't want it rebuilt and is dragging its feet in exactly the way outlined above. Surely if New York can be utter jerks with one religion, they can be so with another.

Update: The beginning of the end?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Research and the library card

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

Sci-fi bios

A new Quill & The Keyboard post is up.


Everyone hates bendy buses; they say they're ugly, no fun to ride in and dangerous. What should we do?

Make the ends slopier and call them "trams". They'll never know the difference.

Glass-bottomed balloon gondola

Another example of what not to try to get me on unless you want two foot-deep furrows dug into the airfield by my fingers.

We'll have to go on halfs

A report from The Telegraph:
The four men have just visited their 14,000th pub across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Farnborough Air Show 1950

Report followed by raw footage.

Newsreel report on aviation in the days when we still gave a damn about what Britain produced and our standing in the world. Granted, not every ship was a coconut and a couple were bloody awful, but at least we tried.

Alpha strike

What? Sarah Connor hasn't even been born yet?

Alpha: A saga of robots, rebellion, and poor fact-checking.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Undersea Kingdom: Chapter 4 - Revenge of the Volkites

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I once knew a girl who lived in the house where the Hound of the Baskervilles from this film was buried. Apparently, it was the sweetest dog in Creation.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The case against

Miss Bryony Gordon in The Telegraph claims that there is nothing wrong with topless sunbathing and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a stuck-up prude. This, of course, is in an opinion piece illustrated with the above image of Bridget Bardot.

This is a bit unfair. I might agree with Miss Gordon if topless beaches were frequented exclusively by women of the standard of young Miss Bardot in her prime. I well recall in my youth going to a park in Scandinavia where nubile young women ran about in the all together. Being a visitor in the city and not wanting to appear like the prude of Miss Gordon's imagination, I girded my loins and carried on eating my sandwiches so as not to cause offence. After several hours, it grew dark, so I had to leave anyway.

That being said, I must point out that also in my youth I had the unfortunate experience at Oxford of punting past the Cherwell-side retreat known as Parson's Pleasure where dons of a naturist persuasion used to literally hang out. That was when that I learned that there are some things that man is not meant to know. That experience set in stone my opposition to topless beaches on the grounds of aesthetics and a desire not to have to boil my eyeballs.

Fake Future Past

James Lileks tears apart a fake retro advert from Brazil that's been annoying me for a week.

Future Past: Accept no substitutes!

Serious meat

Speaking of Lileks, this week his update at the Gallery of Regrettable Foods looks at a topic near and dear to your heart and mine: meat curing.

This brings back memories. On the farm, making a bacon sandwich was a bit involved.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

David Vincent, call your service

The Invaders' car was a clever copy, but it had one flaw.


The hallmark of good writing is to avoid cant, slang, jargon, cliché, buzzwords, and any other linguist abominations that come between the reader and clarity. Unsuckit is a handy little tool in the war against nonsense. Type in whatever bit of businessspeak you're stuck on and it delivers a translation in plain English.

A man walks into Room 101...

When a country loses its sense of humour, its liberty follows close behind.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Tasty, but deadly

A collection of foods that turn supper into Russian roulette.

When life intrudes

New Quill & The Keyboard post is up.

The death knell?

The Telegraph claims to have seen leaked budget proposals that would entail defence cuts that would end Britain as a major military power.

This is intolerable. Defence is the primary role of government, not a luxury. I accept that this is the current government having to deal with a crisis not of their own making, but if these cuts are true and they go through without being preceded by the wholesale abolition of entire departments, the halting of all foreign aid, and a firm commitment to dismantle the welfare state, then I will still regard the coalition as being criminally negligent and of questionable legitimacy.

Update: £43 million thrown away on useless electric cars while the Army faces a cut of 40,000 men? Just how much crack is the government smoking? I know they must be on crack. I just want to know how much.

Update: Ah, well. If we can't defend Britain, there's always the alternative.

Yet another dentist day

This time it's the daughter. It never ends.