Hark Hark Hooray

The tree has been topped.



Christmas Horror 2011 #1

Oh for crying out loud. The thing is actually animated, with Santa periodically standing up and opening the door to parley with the nose-holding elf.

IMG 1703

Doorbusting Chaos

The ads inform me that a whole bunch of stores and malls plan to open their doors at midnight on November 25, i.e. about ten hours after people finish cramming themselves full of turkey.

  1. As ludicrous as this sounds, the specimens you see on TV busting doors on the day after Thanksgiving are relatively disciplined people. They are able to get up at 4:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, and get themselves to the front of a Wal-Mart or wherever in the predawn cold. And people still get killed.

  2. Do door busters bust doors for bargains, or do they do it mainly for the camaraderie and the thrill of it? Either way, this midnight-opening thing is going bring a lot of new busters to the doors. Formerly, you needed to be relatively disciplined (see above). Now, all you’ve got to do is sober up a bit from Thanksgiving dinner. Most people don’t find staying up until midnight all that hard.

  3. Speaking of which: how many of these people won’t sober up? How many parties of shoppers will be made up of people who’ve been awake for eighteen hours, who’ve just eaten their largest meal of the year, and who’ve been drinking since noon?

This is going to be priceless.

A delightful Apple interface

An image from the iTunes App Store:


I ask you: is ‘iPad’ greyed out because it’s the current selection, and thus unavailable? This is the way, after all, that every other interface element works on the Mac.

In this case, though, ‘iPhone’ is bold because it’s the current selection (i.e. iTunes is showing iPhone apps); the greyed-out ‘iPad’ is the only thing you can meaningfully click on here. Lovely.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Sun smoke 1

Smoke as seen north of Flint Hill, VA, allegedly from a large fire near Hogwallow Flats in Shenandoah National Park.

An Interesting Conundrum

Whenever NPR or PBS are in fund-drive mode, they go on and on and on about how they get almost no money from the government, and how they depend on viewers/listeners like me for all of their money, and so on and so forth.

The money from the government, it’s like the government buying them a coffee once in a while. Not like that, even, actually; it’s like the government bringing them a cup of coffee from home. Bad coffee that they were just going to throw out anyway.

Pbs whinging

But when there’s a proposal to cut government funding — when there’s a suggestion that no matter how awesome Cokie Roberts and/or Elmo are, the government is broke and should stop spending so god-damned much money, and that this includes the relatively small amount spent subsidizing TV and radio for affluent whites — suddenly this is a huge crisis, and the continued existence of such heavily-merchandised characters as Big Bird, Arthur, and Bert and Ernie is in question.

They can’t have it both ways.

I Understand That Many Of Them Are

Massive online gamer

Trash Can For Drunks

This Time It’s For Real

A much-blogged story recently informs us that only 45% of people surveyed know that the U.S. has the ‘world’s largest economy’.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 45% of voters know the United States has the world’s largest economy. Another 34% say it’s not true, and 21% are not sure.

Says Rasmussen.

In case you’re one of the 55% who doesn’t know this, the United States does have the ‘world’s largest economy’, and not by a little bit. The world’s second-largest economy, that of the People’s Republic of China, is about 2/3 the size of the U.S. economy.

I expect that the size of the Chinese economy will eventually surpass the size of the U.S. economy — and O what hand-wringing we’ll be subjected to then! — if only because of the population imbalance. There are about four times as many Chinese people as there are Americans these days, so if the average Chinaman produced 25% of the value that the average American produces, the U.S. and Chinese economies would be the same size.

Remember, though, that today the Chinese economy is 2/3 the size of the U.S. economy despite having more than four times as many people contributing to it; this means that, economically speaking, each Chinese person produces as much as .15 of an American. Or, each American produces as much value as 6.3 Chinese people.

You’re probably scratching your head at this, because this certainly isn’t what you hear from the news media. The news never talks about the millions of Chinese who spend 100% of their time trying to wring a bare existence from the mud. The time and space they might use talking about them is instead used to make sure you’re up to speed on the plight of illiterate Americans who have no value to offer anyone, and so are reduced to driving a car without air conditioning, and watching only basic cable.

A recent story in Foreign Policy is a perfect example:

American Decline

They even have to say ‘this time it’s for real’, because they know that the media have been telling us that the United States has been in terminal decline since at least Sputnik. Most magazines can simply ignore the fact that this hasn’t happened, but Foreign Policy is aimed at a decidedly brainier demographic, and they might be expected to start questioning whether this is just so much B.S.

‘Plus 10 Other ‘Unconventional Wisdoms’, they say: because the idea that the U.S. is in decline is some zany, fringe idea? It seems to be the perennial campaign theme of the Democratic party, and it’s an important sub-theme of most Republican campaigning.

So if you run an article about American Decline in your magazine, you have to point out in the headline that there’s something different here, because American news magazines might as well all be called American Decline Weekly.

Foreign Policy sees this, and it even gets in a preemptive reference to The Boy Who Cried Wolf, albeit with what I’m sure they consider a neat spin in an attempt to get it to bolster their argument:

But a frequently overlooked fact about that fable is that the boy was eventually proved right. The wolf did arrive — and China is the wolf.

Oh, oh how clever. You see? The near-constant assertions along the same lines that other people have been making for the last sixty years or so (at least) aren’t a reason to doubt Foreign Policy‘s stupid point here, but quite the opposite: they all but prove that now the U.S. is in decline, because after all the wolf does eventually come.

And that wolf, this time, is apparently China. Because they have an economy that is, on a per-capita basis, 15% of the size of the United States’, and because authoritarian communist governments have long been known to issue inaccurate statistics that show that everything under their purview is just awesome.

Why do western societies, and in particular the United States, doubt themselves so?


The other day I ate lunch near a couple young girls, about 10 years old or so. Both of them were well dressed, had hair not desperately in need of cutting, and were not fat. In other words: not average kids.

They giggled the entire time. I mean, for 30 minutes, the only time that giggling noises were not coming from behind me was when they were shoving food in their mouths; and then, slightly muffled giggling noises were coming from behind me. It was terrible.

Now, this isn’t anything earth-shaking: little girls giggle. They only do it in company (you’ll never see a little girl giggling to herself while reading a book, for instance). And they do it more or less constantly.

I’d like to take about 10 little girls, stick ‘em in a room, and pay a bunch of grad students to observe them with stopwatches, quantifying the amount of giggling each one does. I’m pretty sure that I’d find a perfect correlation between the amount of giggling and the relative social status of each girl within the group. That is, the alpha girl wouldn’t giggle at all, or would only giggle briefly and perfunctorily to confer status on one of the betas.

I’m not sure you could get funding for that, because the official story is that females don’t compete for status, but rather settle everything by consensus. This is obviously nonsense, but it’s the official nonsense at the moment.

Cursory searches don’t turn up anything scientific online on the connection between giggling and social status (except in hyenas, where it’s well studied), but it seems pretty obvious to me (and to the other people who’ve arrived at the same anecdotal conclusion that I have).

The question I’m left with, though, is: why girls? Boys do giggle occasonally, but only very, very low-status boys. On the other hand, nearly all girls seem to spend all of their social time giggling.

Is social status among young females so tenuous that they need to constantly rank themselves on a second-by-second basis? Is it that they can’t effectively sort themselves in the first place and so are constantly seeking an arrangement, or is it that they can’t hold position once attained and so are constantly jockeying for status? Is it that girls aren’t allowed to openly compete for higher status, so they have to have this elaborate system of self-abasement, so the alpha can be identified as the one who just abases herself less?

All worthy of research.