every Fortress must have a Journal . . .

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Old Hare

I live in a place that encourages reflection, because things change so slowly here. They change slowly and repeat themselves endlessly. Not to bore anybody, but to give a lesson. If you need a quick fix, you can watch television or screw around with your Facebook page. If you need to reflect, you can come here and look around for a while.

I went out this morning to the backyard to chuck the kitchen scraps on the compost pile. I turn that pile over every Fall. That is a meditation in itself. We aren't here for long, and that's not a bad thing. If we were all made out of stainless steel or high impact plastic, the world would be one hell of a cluttered mess.

Fortunately, we degrade. I say fortunately because I think decay has generally gotten a bad rap. Disintegration can be beautiful, sometimes, but it is always necessary.

That's why I get such a huge laugh out of the incessant "news" about immortality through technology. We've got Methuselah on the brain and the old geezer is making fools out of us once again. The Fountain of Youth is gushing more liquefied baloney today than ever before: cybernetic, genetic, nanotechnic, cytological bullcrap. I won't bother with the links, you've undoubtedly seen the breathless headlines: "Don't Die Now, Soon Average Lifespan Will Be 985 years". The hype is perpetual and the gullibility is catholic. It's rather like millenarian delusion standing on its head: "Don't worry, you'll be around for ever as soon as you subscribe to our monthly immortality newsletter. Only $49.95." Yes, we are going to be uploaded, paid up and marked "read-only". Then we can sit back and watch the centuries roll on by.

Immortality is not only dumb, it's undignified. That's what the Old Hare told me this morning. He was an old male, sitting in the dug out half of the compost crib where he had slept the night. He had chewed up a few of the apples, but he wasn't looking too refreshed. I walked right up to him and he half froze, as hares do, and sized up his chances of making a quick dash out of the crib. Not too good. He was battered, his fur was shot through with grey patches and worn down spots. He even had glaucoma covering his left eye. He kept his right eye on me, pawed the slats a bit and then just turned around and faced me. Nope, no run. He wasn't up to it.

This is the Old Hare's last winter and he seemed at ease. The nights are real cold now, below freezing just about every sundown. So, soon he will be leaving. And that was his lesson. There is no tragedy in decay. The only distress is our misunderstanding and the lies we have been feed by people who make a living by selling fear.

I went down into the root cellar and found a carrot from the vegetable garden. I took it back to the compost and left for the Old Hare, who wasn't around. Perhaps he'll come back and eat it tomorrow morning.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sorting GMail IMAP All Mail in Thunderbird by Attachment Size

Above: GMail IMAP connection in Thunderbird The folder "All Mail" is selected. Be prepared to wait for the complete IMAP transfer if you have many mails on GMail. Watch the transaction progress in the status bar, it can take a few minutes the first time you do this - it will be much faster in subsequent connections.

Below: Thunderbird's Folder Detail panel. I have sorted in ascending "Size" order and simply paged to the bottom of the list. Click on the image below for a clearer look at what is happening.

If you want to clean up by deleting unwanted mails with huge attachments: I suggest using the GMail web interface and searching on the Subject of the mail(s) you want to drop. Then just delete them and empty the online Trash folder. You will see an immediate and dramatic improvement in your storage numbers.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Georgians in Iraq

Photo: Scott Nelson/World Picture Network, for The New York Times

Faith in the service of foreign policy.


Halcyon morning light reflecting off the inside of the balcony. The peace of the unnoticed comforts us.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Million, billion . . who cares. It's a lot.

Our Swedish journalists are innumerate. They consistently use "million" and "billion" interchangeably. This is remarkable in a country that - according to myth - makes enormous demands on journalists and their educations.

The article above reports on a boondoggle that will cost 250,000 SEK. The headline below screams 250,000,000 SEK for the same crock of baloney.

I should probably mail the evidence of this "mistake" to SLA as a printout (this would greatly increase the chances of it actually getting to SLA compared with emailing) but the stamp might cost 5,500 SEK.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Atheism and suicide

Concerning suicide rates, this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization’s report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia( viii ). Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism.


Very good read, by the way.

My comment:

I think this is a simple problem. Suicide rates are correlated to autopsy rates. If you autopsy people who have died under unclear circumstances you are going to discover a lot of suicide that will otherwise be missed. The "top ten nations" above autopsy a lot of people and find a lot of suicides. They also don't lie about it frequently enough to depress the numbers. Also, clinical practices have a big impact - if you classify acute or chronic alcohol poisoning as suicide (which is not too far-fetched if you ask me) it's going to have a huge impact on suicide rates in "former Soviet/Communist nations". I believe this is often the case.

On the other hand, not much of a fuss is made about people killing themselves in places where everyone is living on less than $1 a day AND open suicide is a religious big deal. The best example of this is India where suicide is commonplace in rural areas and most of it gets quickly swept under the rug. The Sri Lankans are anomalously honest about it, I don't know why.


Everyone should reflect about displacement. In other words, we should think frequently and honestly about what it would feel like to be forced out of a familiar home environment and forced into a survival situation which is alien, chaotic, defective and frightening.

Photo: Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

How many Iraqis have been driven out of their neighborhoods and homes since the United States invaded Iraq and completely destabilized the country through stupid incompetence? Many hundreds of thousands. Since the latest US military "surge" began in February 2007 the number of "internally displaced" Iraqis has approximately doubled. It is far too easy, when thinking about this awful fact, to relapse into some kind of strategic bird's-eye view: "Well, that will probably make partition of Iraq more likely" or some similar Olympian hogwash.

Let's keep it simple: how would you react if you and your family were told to leave your home quickly and also told in no uncertain terms that if you stayed or came back you would be shot on sight? Enough to get you mad? Enough to go looking for somebody to blame? What kind of sleep would you be getting at night? What do you tell your kids?

Photo: Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

I imagine that this is an anguish that could make ordinary, normal people insane. And cause them to strike out at their opponents - real and imagined - with murderous rage. This is what we are accomplishing in Iraq.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

US Responsibility

Hubert Van Es/United Press International/Corbis Bettmann

The United States Congress should immediately begin formulating legislation to eliminate quotas for Iraqi refugees. It's the least the US can do for the people who have been victimized by the stupidest foreign policy in US history. The invasion of Iraq is the brainchild of people who understand as much about modern US history as George W. Bush:

"The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.

If this story sounds familiar, it is -- except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I've described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia."

This idiotic comparison is so defective that it lands off the chart. The Administration will stop at nothing to try to salvage something, anything, out of the wreck they have made of Iraq. No deceit is too outrageous. So now the chaos and total corruption that have intensified every month since the Spring of 2003 are to be equated with Imperial Japan and Pearl Harbor. Amnesia is a wonderful resource for demagogues.

The goal of current US policy in the Middle East is very simple: delay the bloodiest consequences of the invasion of Iraq until after January 2009. At that point the Young Republicans and the Evangelists can leave the Green Zone (see illustration above) and the people who thought up this debacle can blame the whole catastrophe on their successors.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Bowery in 1900

another dreamscape . . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007