Sunday, March 04, 2012

This Is Not A Joke

A new ball game - with tasers.

Hat-tip : The Volokh Conspiracy

According to The Daily Caller, Eric Prum, one of the founders of Ultimate Tak Ball, said, “It’s not technically a police grade Taser. That being said, the first thing the (players) will tell you is that they hate getting tased. Those things really do hurt.” Apparently, players aren’t concerned about the danger associated with being shocked since the Tasers used in Ultimate Tak Ball only produce a 300,000-volt stun, which is significantly less than what would be required to kill. The shocking apparatus used in Ultimate Tak Ball do not fire probes like the Taser models popular with law enforcement and the self-defense community.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Swelling On The leg, Swelling In Public Opinion

Today was a good day for me .... I went to my GP, she told me that the rather worrying lump on my calf was probably just a sebaceous cyst, and arranged an ultrascan to check.

Last night wasn't quite so good for a while , because I found the lump and was somewhat concerned as to what it might be. After a while I tried gently squeezing it and it went away, which made me think that I had just burst something like a cyst - definitely not a good thing to do, but at least it probably wasn't anything worse. (By this morning the lump was back, bigger than before.)

But in the intervening worrying time between finding and squeezing I had googled 'lump on leg'. It led to an American forum full of questions from people worried about lumps on their leg that might be cancer. One comment struck me in particular and made me feel glad for the NHS:

Lumps in thighs and hipps
Hi, I have good news and bad news. Starting with the bad news; there are many very dangerous even life threatening. I also understand why you guys are reluctant to go to the doctor. It can be very relative but it can be inexpensive, or absolutely and totally cataclysmic for your finances. In addition dot ors these days never touch your body in any way unless they have to. That being said; you will get an inconclusive x-ray for 3-600 dollars, you will then get a ct cor cat scan to "get a better look at what's going on in there." this will cost 2500$-6000$ . After which if the still think you have some money or patience, they will give you an MRI to get the clearest view possible. Still playing time for the biopsy. Mind you all of these tests have at least a month in-between. And you or you insurance have gotten the bill up to 25000$ now an nobodies laid a hand on you.

Of course, this person's spelling wasn't that great, maybe his cost estimates weren't that great either, but it made me think - again - about the health bill.

With more and more being said against it, the Royal College of GPs coming out against it
and even ConservativeHome saying 'kill the bill' it's time to say enough is enough.

I don't recall the Lib Dems proposing these changes before the last general election. I don't recall the Conservatives doing so either. I believe the Lib Dem leadership should gently say to our coalition partners , "Sorry, this ain't going to happen..." - as soon as possible.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

"I'm A Lonely Widow"

Sometimes politics seems to be full of vitriol and anger. And sometimes politicians speak calmly and bare their soul.

This is a quietly moving speech by Maureen Walsh, one of the two Republicans who voted for marriage equality in the Washington House of Representatives this week.

Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Rise Of The Filch

Quite a few commonly used words started off in Science Fiction. "Robot" is a good example.

With all the debste over bankers salaries recently - and the extremely wealthy in general - I wonder if the word "Filch" will catch on....

It's found in a 2003 novel by the author L.E. Modessitt Jr. The novel is called "Archform:Beauty" and is set a few hundred years into the future. Earth has suffered an ecological collapse but has generally recovered. Life for most people is good - but especially so for the filch - the filthy rich.

They still have class politics on this 24th century. To quote one passage about a proposed river diversion:

"Senator Cannon, you've opposed the Southern Diversion ever since you were elected to the Continental Senate. Why?"

"The Southern Diversion is nothing more than filch-food. Filch-food for the southwest. Eastslope needs its water... Every liter that goes south raises the cost for the people of Deseret that I represent. It's that simple...!

Senator Cannon, incidentally, is that slightly unusual character in SF - a flawed politician who is nonetheless one of the good guys....

Monday, January 23, 2012

5 People Playing A Guitar ... And Other Delights

Today I found three musical bits on Youtube that I liked. They've really made my day...

The first is a brief snatch of President Obama singing a few bars of Al Green:

Then on Radio 2 this morning I heard this song by Gotye, featuring Kimbra. I must admit they are two names I hadn't heard before and although the song isn't very cheerful, I'm still cheered to hear some talent like this in the 2010s....

And then I discovered this Canadian indie outfit Walk Off the Earth. They seem to specialise in really special cover versions - such as the one of the song above. Except they have 5 people playing 1 guitar....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's A Wonderful Community Life

Chris Black writes:

Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" begins and ends on Christmas Eve - and should have a special resonance for anyone who fancies themselves as a community campaigner.

The hero of the film , George Bailey , is a superb worker for his community - but neglects his family and his home. The only thing that saves him and those he loves from tragedy , bitterness and failure is some supernatural help from an awkward angel, Clarence.

George makes two mistakes. First of all, he is so focussed on his community work he temporarily stops caring about his own family.
"You call this a happy family , why do we have to have all these kids?" In real life I've seen someone based their lives almost completely around council work, and it didn't end happily.

Secondly, George sees himself as a failure. When someone calls him a "Miserable little clerk, crawling in on your hands and knees" he has no answer. And that's also easy to do when you've been a councillor for a while. You forget about the little improvements that you've got done, and only think of the items that haven't been achieved. So it's important to get the balance right between family, paid employment and council duties, and never get yourself get too discouraged!

If you've never seen the film, you should. It does have a happy ending ! And you can watch it here on YouTube.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Prices And Values

My wife Elena heard a news report this week on Russian TV about the most expensive apartment in the USA.

I then read about it in the Wall Street Journal:

The latest trophy example came this week, when a Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, issued a statement saying his 22-year-old daughter, Ekaterina, a student, was in contract to buy one of the best-known apartments in New York: the sprawling penthouse with a wrap-around terrace at 15 Central Park West.

The apartment was owned by Sanford I. Weill, the former chairman and chief executive of Citigroup Inc., who said he would donate the proceeds to charity.

Mr. Weill decided to list the 6,744-square-foot penthouse on the 20th floor at $88 million last month, a breathtaking price for the New York market, where the previous high sale had been a $53 million townhouse sale back in 2006.

But within a few weeks, brokers at Brown Harris Stevens abruptly called off showings of the apartment, signaling that a buyer had made a high offer.

The contract price, according to a person familiar with the transaction, was the full asking price of $88 million...

What I really liked was the final comment of the Russian newsreader , a lady in her forties. She said that she didn't know what to envy the daughter for, the 88 million dollars , or for being 22.....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The One On The Right...

I happened to hear this song by Johnny Cash on Radio 2's "Sounds of The Sixties" yesterday, and I'm afraid I couldn't help thinking what a gift it could be for some satirists...

There once was a musical troupe
A pickin' singin' folk group
They sang the mountain ballads
And the folk songs of our land

They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear was a Methodist

This musical aggregation toured the entire nation
Singing the traditional ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They performed with great virtuosity
And soon they were the rage
But political animosity prevailed upon the stage...

Anyway, here's a shortened live version:

and the complete song, in Lego:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Europe, Cancer And The Coalition

Unlike some other Lib Dem Bloggers, I have only a few qualms about what's happened with Europe this week.

But what does disturb me is the recent proposal regarding making all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to have to undergo medical assessments in order to receive benefits.

I think George Potter has explained the situation very well here:.

Macmillan aren't happy about this and, aside from all the ethical and moral reasons for us Lib Dems to want this group of cancer patients to receive unconditional support (which is my primary concern), it could potentially turn into a damaging PR disaster for the government and us as a party by association.

Given a choice betwen trusting MacMillan Cancer Care and trusting the government, I think most people will go for the former.... I certainly will....

I really hope that Lib Dems in government get this idea dropped. Quickly.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bertrand Russell's Liberal Decalogue

I recently found this, from Bertrand Russell in 1951:

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it.
The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Russell seems to be setting out 10 commandments for thinking , not for day-to-day life. So I would assume that no. 5 refers to the authority of other scholars - not policemen.

Hat-Tip - Ann Althouse - who doesn't seem fond of liberals.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A 19-Year-Old Speaks Up For His 2 Moms

Zach Walls testifies before the Iowa House of Representatives.

Hat-Tip: Andrew Sullivan

Monday, December 05, 2011

When Things Fall Apart

The recent comments of Lib Dem Euro MEP Sharon Bowles are pretty startling:

Bowles had travelled to the event directly from Brussels to inform the industry about the current state of the European Mortgage Directive.

But after her main speech was concluded she was asked a number of questions from the audience about the future of Europe.

The event’s host, Kevin Duffy, managing director of UK brokerage Mortgage Force, asked her whether, with the continued instability in Europe, in six months time we would see a two speed Europe.

Bowles responded: “I don’t know whether we will have an EU.” When Duffy attempted to clarify whether she meant the EU or euro, she responded “I don’t think we’ll have either”.

She went on to say while the parliament and commission were currently holding the line well when it came to protecting the single market, she said she was pessimistic about the future of the euro, and in her opinion it was “game over”.

We really are moving into uncertain times. The only comparison I can think of is with the break-up of the USSR. A time I remember well - I was in northern Russia when the Commonwealth of Independent States was proclaimed. (and inadvertantly happened to witness the first ever public striptease in Murmansk, though that's another story.)

For those salivating at the thought of the break-up of the EU , be careful what you wish for. The demise of the USSR brought about a great deal more personal freedom, but led to years of poverty, a massive gap between rich and poor and at least two wars.

I don't think the break-up of the EU would do much for personal freedom, but on the other hand I don't think we would get any wars. As for years of poverty, I'm worried...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Face Of Putin

I'm watching the Russian elections live ... on Russian TV. From what I can see on the screen, Putin's party is down to 49%.

Medvedev and Putin are talking to the media. Putin has the tired, unhappy expression that people normally have when they have lost an election.

Another thought. Why on earth does Russia, of all places, have elections in December?

Damn Interesting

I'm delighted to see that the Damn Interesting website has come back to life , after a two year gap. I'm delighted because it has some stuff that is, well, damn interesting.

Do either of these snippets intrigue you?

A tale of intelligence, cunning and love of money:

The scoreboard on Larson’s podium read “$90,351,” an amount unheard of in the history of Press Your Luck. In fact, this total was far greater than any person had ever earned in one sitting on any television game show. With each spin on the randomized “Big Board” Larson took a one-in-six chance of hitting a “Whammy” space that would strip him of all his spoils, yet for 36 consecutive spins he had somehow missed the whammies, stretched the show beyond it’s 30-minute format, and accumulated extraordinary winnings. Such a streak was astronomically unlikely, but Larson was not yet ready to stop. He was convinced that he knew exactly what he was doing.

and the experiences of a pilot in the wrong place at the wrong time:

At times the air was so saturated with suspended water that an intake of breath caused him to sputter and choke. He began to worry about the very strange—but very real–possibility of drowning in the sky.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

"Crimes" By Caryl Churchill

Well gosh , it's months since I posted something. Not exactly writers block, but ... life has been kinda busy.

So to get back into posting , here's a video clip of something I just about remember watching back in the 80s.

The BBC had a short season of plays then entitled "Play for Tomorrow", all set in the near future. This is how one of them opens. The actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel, was given some great dialogue, and she certainly makes chilling use of it......

Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

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