Archive for August, 2003

Once again we have a story about dumbass animal rights people releasing farm-raised animals into the wild.

In this case, they are domestic mink, bred for the usual use of mink (which is to become fur coats.) The Animal Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for the release of about 10,000 domestic mink from the Roesler Brothers Fur Farm in Washington State. Most of the escaped mink were recaptured or died of thirst and/or encounters with cars. About 1,000 are estimated to still be on the loose.

But the remainder have been raining catastrophe down on the region’s other livestock and native animals. Thousands of dollars worth of rare chickens, ducks, pet cats, and other creatures have been slain by the mink. In many cases this loss is a blow to the livelihood of the owner. If the surviving mink breed, they will overwhelm the local ecology and cause a crash in populations of local small mammals and birds, in addition to livestock damage.

Once again, this proves that animal rights people like the ALF don’t really give a shit about the welfare of animals, either the ones they release or anyone else’s. These domestic mink cannot survive in the wild, according to the people who raise them, a claim which is evidenced by the fact that so many of the 10,000 died or were trapped almost immediately upon being freed.

ALF naturally asserts that the mink can survive in the wild, in spite of the word of experts and obvious proof to the contrary. The farm mink were destined for death, of course, but that makes them no different from any other living thing. At least the mink were being well cared for and comfortable during life, as it is necessary for the quality of their furs.

But by freeing them into an unfamiliar environment in which they are not able to fend for themselves, ALF doomed most of these poor creatures to an agonizing death of thirst, starvation, or being run over by cars. The few survivors have killed other animals, including those owned by people who depend on them for income.

Oh, silly me. ALF doesn’t care about the livelihood or welfare of human beings. We don’t count.

Or, perhaps, that was the point of this exercise. Perhaps ALF’s goal was not the welfare and comfort of animals, the mink or otherwise, but rather the harm to the lives of humans. A punishment for the evils of keeping livestock for profit, even if it’s just for the green eggs a rare goose lays.

Whatever the purpose, these people are either malicious or stupid, neither of which can be excused.

I haven’t bothered to point out that the mink are private property owned by the Roesler Brothers Fur Farm, and that their release constitutes a variety of crimes such as trespassing, burglary, and vandalism. That’s self-evident and I won’t go into property rights here.

I hope the FBI finds their asses quickly.

Yesterday, Anne and I put in a bit on a house. This morning we learned that our bid was accepted, so assuming the various inspections and contingencies pan out we will be homeowners in about a month.

As the title says, “gack.” The most salient point of the whole experience was how easy it was to spend several hundred thousand dollars. (We’re in the SF Bay Area, so housing prices are outrageously high.) I want to roll up into a ball and rock back and forth, perhaps occasionally saying “wibble.”

Instead, I’m going to get back to work so I can afford to pay for this mortgage I have saddled myself with.

Today’s unusual snack food (again courtesy my building’s vending machines) is the “Guacachip”, which according to the bag is the “Original Guacamole Chip(TM)”. They are allegedly flavored with real avocados, and yes, the chips are green. I don’t mean dusted with a green powder. I mean they are green, through and through.

They actually taste pretty good. The flavor isn’t too strong, not too salty. No metallic aftertaste. The first ingredient listed is “ground corn with a trace of lime”. It is, indeed, a trace. Rather yummy.

This, at least, is truthful in comparison to Doritos “hint of lime” chips, which are so intensely flavored that they must be using a Bill Clinton definition of “hint”.

I hadn’t heard of this brand of chips before (El Sabroso), so I figure they must be local. The bag indicates Los Angeles. Manufactured and distributed by “Snak King(R)” whose motto is “King of Snacks”. I guess that stands to reason, what with the name of the company being Snak King. As it happens, that abbreviates on the internet to “snakking”, which if unplanned, was quite fortuitous.

But overall, a much better experience than the Coney Island Hot Dog With Mustard flavored potato chips.

Man, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Well, it would have been better if the guy ended up dead instead of just scared away. But apart from that, it just doesn’t get any better.

This story about the RIAA and the MPAA fighting back against piracy includes some quotes that piss me off so much that I have to vent my spleen to the world about it. Maybe some of you presently reading this will forward the lesson to others.

Just to warn you, this is not going to be an exhaustive indictment of the RIAA, the MPAA, or any of the various guilty parties involved. Both of those organizations are behaving stupidly about this whole issue, but that isn’t the subject of this post. I’m saving that for another time.

On to the retarded quotes:

And some teen pirates say adults just don’t understand.

“Maybe they don’t understand that teenagers work minimum-wage jobs, so why should we buy a CD with two songs we like on it when we can burn it for free?” said 15-year-old Melissa of Boca Raton, Fla., who downloads songs, music videos and movies a few times a month.

Or this lovely gem:

“The generation before us had to pay for music,” said recent college grad Joshua, 24, of New York City. “Now you have no reason to purchase the music or movie in physical form. Everything is digital.”

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

Now pay attention, class.

Let’s start with young Melissa, who seems to be under the impression that the fact that she doesn’t have very much money somehow entitles her to steal something she doesn’t want to pay for.

Irrelevant, girl. Irrelevant.

First of all, I’m sure Melissa can afford to buy the CDs if she wants to. After all, she’s 15, so if she has a job, the money is 100% disposable on luxury goods.

But more important is the principle here. That music is owned by someone. She does not have the rights to its disposal. In downloaded unauthorized copies of this music, she is taking something that doesn’t belong to her without paying for it. In other words, she is stealing. This is theft, period.

The wealth of the record company is not relevant. Her paucity is not relevant. How badly she wants the music is not relevant. The ease of stealing it is not relevant. Her personal dislike of the recording industry and/or any of its employees is not relevant.

Now let’s talk about Joshua, who is old enough to know better. Let’s take his statements one by one.

“The generation before us had to pay for music.”

A stupid remark since it’s not true. Ever heard of radio, boy?

“Now you have no reason to purchase the music or movie in physical form. Everything is digital.”

This is even more idiotic. But the fact that anyone would utter it seriously forces me to examine the obvious mental deficiency that causes it.

We exist in a physical world. Therefore everything in it is physical in nature, in some way or another. What is a compact disc, or a cassette tape, or a record? It is a physical storage medium for a physical stream of data. This is essentially no different from a digital computer file. An MP3 can be copied directly onto a CD, for Pete’s sake.

The information stored on a vinyl record is digital in nature, when one gets right down to it. The word “digital” has come to assume a meaning that is not entirely accurate. That is, digital vs. analog, when talking about the audio/video industry.

But a record is merely a single spiral groove that has the music encoded on it through the complex combination of bumps and ridges inside that groove. The needle reads these changes and the device reproduces the music encoded therein. Actually, this is remarkably like a CD in principle.

A cassette is a spooled magnetic tape that, again, records data in an elemental form. In this case, as variances in the magnetic medium that can be decoded by an appropriate device.

But the body of data itself, the stream of information, is a commercial property. Now, this gets complicated when you get down at this level, and try to talk about “how much has to be there for it to be copyrightable, and how much has to be stolen to qualify as theft of the copyrighted material”. That’s a question I won’t try to answer here.

But in the case of, say, an MP3, a digital music file, the storage medium merely changes from a tape or CD to the disk drive in your computer, or the memory card in your iPod or other MP3 playback device. Therefore the music is in a physical form in the same sense that a CD or a cassette is a physical form.

Don’t believe me? Try deleting the music file and see if you can still play it.

Joshua has, in his brief comments, demonstrated a lack of comprehension of so many basic notions of material physics and property rights that he needs to be robbed regularly to see if he likes how it feels to have stuff taken from him without compensation and without his permission.

This really is a simple concept. Why is music and movie piracy so wrong? It’s theft. But in case that argument is too difficult to grasp, let’s try this:

Let’s suppose you’re a talented musician, and you like writing and recording your own music. You intend to do this as your sole activity in life, i.e., your profession. You need to get paid, right? Good will doesn’t put food on the table.

Let’s say you cut a CD and put it up for sale on the internet. People like it and start buying copies. Life is good.

Then someone copies one of your CDs, and puts the music up on kazaa for free download to anyone who cares to take it. How does that make you feel? Is it fair? You aren’t getting paid. Someone is stealing the product of your labors. After a while, sales of your CD start to go down, because people discover they can take it without paying on kazaa. You start to go hungry, can’t pay your electric bill, and get evicted from your apartment because you can’t make money anymore.

Do you have any incentive to write more music and make another CD, when you know what will happen? Of course not. Why the hell should you bother, when everyone will just steal it and you’ll get nothing?

Thus the world loses a talented artist, and you go back to flipping burgers or sitting in an office to pay the bills.

Communism has a similar effect, if I may be allowed to digress slightly. People are forced to produce, but the fruits of their labor don’t belong to them. Anyone can take whatever they want. So why bother producing if some schmuck is just going to come along and take it from you? If the government forces you to keep producing, you have no desire or incentive to make things of good quality, so craftsmanship suffers, and creativity disappears.

Get it?

This article on synthetic diamond manufacturing is quite interesting. Cost-effective manmade diamonds are a sort of holy grail in the gem and the industrial markets. Diamond has a wide variety of industrial uses that can’t be ignored, not the least of which that they would make better microchip wafers than silicon due to much higher temperature tolerances. But up to this point it’s just too expensive to make chips that way.

That may change, however, due to innovations by Gemesis and Apollo Diamond. They plan to use the gem trade to bootstrap their semiconductor enterprises, and the high quality of their diamonds is making De Beers panic.

As one of Apollo’s employees was apparently warned, this is the kind of research that can get you a bullet in the head. Don’t think for a second that the diamond cartels don’t take this kind of threat extremely seriously, to the point that they would be willing to kill someone to stop it.

If this technology is successful, as I believe it will be, it will destroy the De Beers diamond monopoly and revolutionize the semiconductor industry.

This story about a journalist killed by American troops in Iraq prompts me to rise to defend the Americans, largely because of the spin I can already see developing on this incident in the press:

“Mazen Dana, 41, was shot and killed by U.S. soldiers Sunday while videotaping near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. The U.S. Army said its soldiers mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The film Dana shot showed a tank driving toward him. Six shots were heard, and the camera appeared to tilt forward and drop to the ground after the first shot.”

Naturally there are accusations flying back and forth that the Americans knew the journalists were in the area, and knew the guy was a cameraman and shot him anyway. Why? Have no idea. Because they’re evil Americans I guess.

But I ask you to consider their point of view. If you’re in a war zone, and you see a guy with what looks like an RPG get out of a car suddenly and point it at you, what are you going to think? That you’re being filmed? Of course not. You’re going to think you’re about to be blown up by some lunatic Iraqi militant.

Consider how news cameras are held, and compare that to how an RPG is held. The article says that the camera was filming the shooters at the time, so the lens was pointed right at them. These pictures below give you an idea how remarkably similar these two acts look at a glance:


Camera Journalist, side view


RPG, side view


Mazen Dana With His Camera (photo credit: Reuters)


RPG, front View

Frankly, the accusation that American troops would deliberately kill journalists is just ludicrous and doesn’t deserve any discussion.

War is dangerous. Journalists have always known that going into war zones to do their jobs might result in them getting killed, perhaps accidentally such as in this case. This is a known risk, and it is not immediately obvious to me that the Americans acted negligently or with malice.

This heat wave that’s going on in Europe is mildly interesting. I say that as an American who is accustomed to hot weather and the perils of same. I hesitate to be uncharitable concerning the intelligence of people who are not used to such weather, but in France’s case I’ll make an exception.

Today I’m greeted with the headline: “About 3,000 Die of Heat-Related Causes in France”.

Three thousand.

Three thousand?!

Are these people complete morons?

Well yes. But that the problem could be this widespread even in a region where air conditioning is uncommon, this borders on a California-Condor-like determination to commit suicide. I mean, why France? They’re not the only country in Europe having a heat wave and you don’t read about 3,000 people dead in, say, Germany.

One is tempted to make a joke about how this is God’s punishment for France being such a bunch of dickheads lately. But then I read this part:

“In its duration and in temperatures reached, the heat wave was France’s worst ever, surpassing the previous hottest summer — 1947, said Patrick Galois, a forecaster for weather service Meteo France.”

It doesn’t sound so much like a joke anymore. The wrath of the Almighty upon the French for their cowardly, traitorous behavior as a nation, both with the Nazis and the American liberation of Iraq? A sort of symbolic burning in Hell?

One also can’t help but make the comparison that the death toll so far in France is approximately 3,000, while the number of people killed in the World Trade Center attacks was…approximately 3,000 (2,792 is the latest tally).

Creepy.

Maybe there is some kind of karmic justice going on here. I don’t know. But the French people need to wake up and smell the latte.

Is it just me, or is Gray Davis starting to sound like a petulant, whining child?

I read today in the news that Davis considers the recall election an “insult”. On further reading, he apparently means that it’s an insult to those who voted for him. But I think my instinctive reading of his remark — that he considers the recall a personal insult — is more on the mark.

When the recall mumblings started, he tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away.

Then he declared he would “fight like a Bengal tiger” and that the entire recall effort was a “hostile takeover by the right.” The latter statement makes him look silly. The former is sort of pointless, since it’s long past time for “fighting”. Whether he likes it or not, the recall effort got enough signatures and filed the right paperwork, and the election will be held, period.

The legal bid to have his own name added to the list of successor candidates is just wacky. Um, yeah. I’m gonna vote to recall him, then select him as the replacement. Whatever.

He’s also suing to delay the vote until the March primary, which isn’t surprising.

Kyle remarked this morning that the whole thing makes more sense if you assume that Gray Davis (and people like him in politics) view themselves as a sort of feudal lord, and his constituents as peasants. The peasants aren’t supposed to rise up and surround the castle with pitchforks and torches, calling for his head. They’re supposed to let themselves be herded to the polls every once in a while to put their stamp of approval on the chosen feudal lord, and then shut up. They’re supposed to stay in their place.

But the idea of holding politicians accountable after they get elected is apparently foreign to people like Davis.

There are even people who are calling the recall undemocratic. The Greens, for example, and yet they support “grass roots democracy”. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, and a loathsome individual) actually said: “This is part of a national Republican agenda to achieve what they cannot win at the polls.”

Excuse me?

The recall election is at the polls. A certain number of signatures are required to put the recall on the ballot (just shy of 900,000), but once there, the voters must go to the polls and vote on it. The outcome is not a certainty, by any means. If the Democrats are so sure that the voters “at the polls” will support them again, why are they so worried?

The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m of a divided mind on the recall. I do despise Gray Davis and consider him to be a terrible governor who has gotten this state into a mess that’s so big it will be years before we fully realize its scope. But the cost of this recall election to the taxpayers is enormous, upwards of $66 million. And there is an argument to be made that the son of a bitch shouldn’t have been reelected in the first place, and that the voters deserve to reap the full harvest they have sown.

But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m just hoping that this carnivale lets everyone see, in the bright light of day, just how venal, arrogant, and out of touch Gray Davis and his ilk really are. That might be worth it.

One of the things that makes human civilization great is the capacity for invention. Where food is concerned, this results in an absurd number of variations on basic concepts, in an ongoing quest to find something new to sell to the consumer.

Thus, hot dog flavored potato chips.

Actually, to be precise, “Coney Island Hot Dog with Mustard” flavored potato chips.

This odd product is put out by a company called “Snyder’s of Hanover”, and appeared in one of the vending machines at my workplace.

Considering that one of the roles of vending machines is to use the buyer as a guinea pig for food marketing experiments, I am always wary of this kind of thing. It might be a trap.

But I had to know.

At the moment I type this, I have not yet tasted the product, but I will do so now. Upon opening the bag, the smell is a mixture of potato chips, mustard, and hot dog meat, which is not entirely surprising.

*chew chew chew*

Well…the strongest flavor at first is onion, and I note that onion powder is one of the listed ingredients. But there is, indeed, the flavor of hot dog and mustard. It’s as if you had been eating a hot dog with mustard on it, and then ate some potato chips; the hot dog flavors linger in your mouth even though it’s no longer present.

But overall, I think I’ll let my coworker Josh speak for me:

“Dude, I think I’m gonna vomit.”

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