30 November 2007

Guinness - target of bandits!

I always knew Guinness was a valuable commodity, but I wasn't expecting anyone to stage a daring daylight heist of the stuff! Here's the story, courtesy of National Review Online. Let's all hope this is a Robin Hood bandit.

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — Irish police were hunting for a beer bandit who stole 450 full kegs from the Guinness brewery — the largest heist ever at Ireland's largest brewer.

National police said a lone man drove into the brewery — a Dublin landmark and top tourist attraction — on Wednesday and hitched his truck to a fully loaded trailer awaiting delivery to city pubs.

Diageo PLC, the beverage company that owns Guinness, said the brewery had never suffered such a large-scale theft before in its 248-year history.

Police said the raider took 180 kegs of Guinness stout...Police declined to say whether the theft had been captured by closed-circuit surveillance cameras. No description of the suspect was issued, suggesting that nobody got a good look at him.


29 November 2007

Reading and e-books

I haven't made up my mind to actually spend money on one, but I am fascinated by e-book readers like the one from Sony. Just throw it in my backpack and - 160 books on tap. Of course, I don't go backpacking, but you get the idea.

Today the Wall Street Journal has a rather snide, though interesting, article by Daniel Henninger about the new Amazon Kindle. He seems to find this ironic:

It was hard not to notice that Kindle was born unto us about the same moment the National Endowment for the Arts released a report on reading's sad lot in our time. Amid much other horrifying data, it revealed that the average 15- to 24-year-old spends seven minutes daily on "voluntary" reading. Cheerfully, this number rises to 10 minutes on weekends.

He professes to be alarmed:

The NEA authors posit "greater academic, professional and civic benefits" with high levels of leisure reading. In other words, readers profit, at least in their souls, from time spent with works of the imagination or with books that explain the past. I agree.

Though he seems to be a bit ironic about this. After a tough day trying to discuss a book I assigned to class on Genghis Khan, I take the report at face value. We are in effect watching the demise of a literate culture based on a common data base encoded in literature and history. His following observation I do not find encouraging.

One criticism of the NEA studies is that they don't capture the "new" ways people read away from work. This means the Endowment doesn't validate new pastimes, such as reading text messages on cell-phone screens. Add the input-output of text messaging to the data base of readers and the daily voluntary reading time likely rises from seven minutes to six or seven hours.

Anybody want to read 900 pages of, say, War and Peace, as written in text message English?

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20 November 2007

Innocent! Innocent I tell you... uh....never mind

Remember White House Secretary Scott McClellan assured us that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame? Well, now he is coming out with his memoirs ... and like a lot of memoirs about years in this White House, it makes for interesting reading.

From an excerpt posted on McClellan's publisher's Web site and discovered by Editor and Publisher:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself."

Thank God these people restored trust in the White House after the Clinton years. But of course, it could be that McClellan doesn't know what he's talking about, just like Paul O'Neil' in his memoirs, The Price of Loyalty.

UPDATE: Well, after putting out that little tidbit for the world to see, the publisher now says that the obvious implication just ain't so. Read about it here.

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Cheaping out on Iraq ... and our Vets

... one more time. Salon.com has the following news bit:

From the "This Can't Possibly Be True but It Is" Department, Steve Benen passes along news that the Department of Defense is demanding that Iraq war veterans pay back signing bonuses they received on the ground that they didn't stay in the service for as long their signing contracts required. Fair enough, you say? Of course -- except that some of these veterans can't serve out their contracts because of injuries they suffered in Iraq.

Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, a Democrat, is pushing legislation to rectify the problem, which was apparently uncovered by the Dole-Shalala Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors. That's all well and good, but just one question: Did it really take a presidential commission -- rather than, say, a single conscientious employee at the Pentagon -- to say that this is a stupid practice that needs to be stopped?

But perhaps this really isn't true. Couldn't be.

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17 November 2007

Conservative Fox News Porn!

This is hilarious. The news station that shapes conservative American opinion, the custodian of our traditional values, guarding against the secular humanist valueless liberals, has an interesting take on modern life.

BTW, why is it the Democratic candidates seem to have stable, traditional marriages, while the Repubs, aside from Romney, seem to ... well.... you know?

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16 November 2007

Now THIS is a 'bad' review!!

Just read this review of a London restaurant. Hope it doesn't offend any Ukrainian-Americans out there. But the Brits do have a way with words. After an entire page of invective against the restaurant, the writer concludes:

Apparently Divo [the name of the restaurant] is Ukrainian for 'amazing', a name I cannot argue with. It is amazing that anybody thought a restaurant like this would be a good idea, amazing that they invested a reputed £2 million in the conversion, amazing that the result is so staggeringly, comically, bowel-twistingly poor. As we left, I was overcome by a strong feeling of gratitude, and not merely because the meal was over, but to my great-grandfather, Josef Boruchowicz. He was the one who had the gumption to escape the region of Eastern Europe which has supplied Divo's inspiration.

He saved me from having to eat this stuff every day. Thank you Josef. I owe you.

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Those Clever Canadian Scientists

From "Science Now" (via Andrew Sullivan) comes this startling experiment performed by our death defying neighbors to the north:

Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and his colleagues noticed that male mice spent less time licking the site of a painful injection--indicating that they had less pain--when a scientist was present. To investigate whether it was the sight or smell of a human that caused the effect, the researchers acquired a promotional cardboard cutout of [Paris] Hilton from her television show The Simple Life ("A special order," says Mogil's collaborator Leigh MacIntyre).

As in humans, Paris's effect appears to be gender-specific. Male mice spent less time licking their wounds when fake Paris was in sight, but females showed no such effect, the researchers reported ... When the team put up a screen to block the rodents' view, the effect went away. Following a Paris Hilton encounter, male mice--but not females--also had lower-than-usual expression of a gene called c-fos in a part of the spinal cord that transmits pain signals to the brain, suggesting reduced neural activity in this pain pathway.

Mogil suspects the analgesic effect has something to do with stress.

I wish that I had made this up, but I am not that clever.

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05 November 2007

Clemens' Music videos

For no other reason than that I like them. Really serious stuff here folks, so pay attention.

First, the Lion Sleeps Tonight.

The infamous Numa Numa song. The real one.

"We ... will ... we ... will .... ROCKYOU! And ... of course ... because I am a medievalist ... THIS.

"Marche de la garde consulaire," one of Napoleon's favorites.

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Poetry Monday

Not because it is Monday or because I simply love poetry but because I stumbled across it on Andrew Sullivan's page and it struck a chord. A poem by Emily Dickinson (one of the chief virtues of Sexual Personae was that it made me want to read Dickinson).

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

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04 November 2007

Personal update

I have been busy this semester. It was a real shock to go back to work after being off to work on my own research for six months. And since I am no longer ass't chair I had to go back to teaching three classes. I am also on the Departmental Personnel Committee which is time consuming under the best of circumstances and this year will not present the best of circumstances. Not even remotely. I have already told the school lawyer (who is not really a lawyer) that I thought their opinion on personnel matters was nonsense that did not even pass the test of common sense - or something like that - and expect it to get a lot worse as time goes by.

Oh, and I went to Georgetown in the District of Columbia for a conference this weekend.

All of which is just to say that I have not been blogging much in the last few months, but expect to pick up the pace again. For my own mental health if nothing else.

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