Some article in The Atlantic about how President Obama has decided to stop being the reasonable guy who makes every last concession imaginable and then some and as of last night is now playing Chicken with the Republicans, daring them to screw the country over, since they’re likely to take the greater share of the blame. Yeah, anyway, this part got me laughing:
There’s an old Soviet joke that a friend once told me. An old man has been standing in line for bread for eight hours. His feet hurt, his back hurts, and he is faint from hunger. Finally, finally the door opens and the baker comes out. He starts to salivate. He fingers the rubles in his pocket.
“Comrades, go home,” says the baker. “There is no flour to make bread today.”
Something in the old man snaps. He has been waiting in these lines for decades, and he has had enough. “This is ridiculous!” he shouts. “I fought in the Great Patriotic War! I worked for forty years in the factory! Now you make me wait in line for eight hours when there’s no flour? You didn’t know this eight hours ago? I spit on you, and I spit on the regime!” And he spits in front of the baker.
A man steps out of line behind him. “Careful, comrade. You know how it would have been in the old days if you had said these things.” With his thumb and forefinger, he mimes a gun being fired at the temple.
Defeated, the man steps out of line and trudges home with everyone else. He goes into his apartment and sits down at the table. His wife walks in just as he pours the last of his vodka into a glass, and drinks it down in one gulp.
“Sergei, what’s wrong?!” she cries, seeing the look on his face. “Don’t tell me they’re out of bread!”
“It’s worse than that. Much worse.” he says heavily.
“What could be worse?”
“They’re out of bullets.”
Americans should maybe be stocking up on their dark humor.
It has been a pretty busy day at work. In between bouts of business I entertain myself with various baubles like mailing lists. Someone made a statement I found utterly hilarious, that in the context of current events:
“I think it would be politically possible to return to a gold standard.”
I responded that:
“I think a carbon tax would be more relevant to the concerns of the 21st Century.”
To which some else responded:
“Our currency and economy are broken, and the solution is to tax use of fossil fuels, biggest source of productivity the world has ever seen!”
And I though yeah . . . it is hard to advocate an idea like a new “tax” during a recession. Personally, I think calling it a “carbon ration” might be smarter: you get your allotment and if you make good lifestyle choices you can sell your excess at a profit. Anyway, I responded from the basis of an idea I heard at TED last week:
Over a century ago we swore up and down that without the cheap energy afforded by black slaves the national economy would collapse. So, instead of abolishing slavery we made compromise after compromise. Ultimately our nation was plunged into the catastrophe of civil war, and we abolished slavery for International PR reasons and in order to literally free up fresh soldiers for the war effort from among the newly-emancipated populations.
These days we swear up and down that without access to unlimited cheap energy, our economy would collapse and we would be unable to enjoy the “quality” of life we do now. And as each decade passes we find greater and greater evidence that we are living on borrowed time, and that we are multiplying the problem of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, and that we are approaching various global tipping points which bring us closer to catastrophe.
In both cases, abolitionists and environmentalists are ridiculed and despised an know-it-all killjoys out to ruin everyone’s fun. Where the abolitionists had printing presses that would literally be burned down by their detractors, modern radicals warm themselves with flame wars on the Internet.
To go back to your glib response to a carbon tax, it is easier to make radical changes when it is clear that the status quo is broken. A big reason for the present crisis is that we were fueling growth on unsustainable credit models. Debt Debt Debt. Injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a form of debt against the future, and if we go bankrupt with climate that’s really really not pretty. So, we have a good opportunity to look at how we structure the free market to take natural resources like the atmosphere into account, and price them appropriately so that we can realize economic benefit with the greatest efficiency.
Maybe one way to think of the idea of carbon rationing is that it is like Social Security for the environment: we each make a sacrifice now so as to secure against a future characterized by poverty. In this case the poverty would be a world wrecked by sudden catastrophic climate changes.
Bush escalates the war while Democrats hem and haw. I don’t get it: with a majority in both houses, is a “nonbinding resolution” really the best they can do? It sounds like something a timid married couple dreamt up to invigorate their humdrum sex life.
I resent paying for Head and Shoulders shampoo so much that I have been buying generic shampoo and putting it into the same Head and Shoulders bottle for over two years. Honey, you’re bald and you don’t need shampoo anymore. You especially don’t need one that controls dandruff. You have more hair on your ass than you do on your head and you use soap on your ass.
I read this out loud to a coworker, and she said that yes, it took her boyfriend some getting used to the fact that she freely expresses her opinions, like “that is the ugliest shirt I have ever seen.”
One of the key desires I have for the woman I hope to pair with is that she be sassy. (more…)
A while back, I signed a petition for the American Family Association to oppose Ford’s support of gay people. I didn’t do this because I agree with them, but as a subversive act to put obviously bogus names on their petition. The idea being that if anyone ever reviewed their anti-gay petition, they would see that “Jesus McChrist” was definitely opposed to Ford’s gay ways.
Every time I see this e-mail, I get a little chuckle: (more…)
There was this poet, who decided to retire from poetry.
He went and enrolled in blacksmithing school.
He learned all about smithing, and pounding, and metals and all that, and became a master blacksmith.
He was later interviewed by The New Yorker magazine, and was asked,
“Why did you leave poetry to become a blacksmith?”
MSN’s competitors get it right, but MSN search ends up with . . . janitorial supplies!
The repeated search attempt made by seattlepi.com kind of remind me of some of the early early experiences with Tellme. I wrote a Caltrain schedule app way back in the day before the advent of VXML. “Mountain View,” I’d say, with my midwestern accent. “Millbrae?” “Moun-TEN View …” I would shout back. “San Francisco Fourth and King.” “No, you f_cker, I said Mountain View!!”
But, at least Tellme didn’t go advertizing their speech recognition features without first making sure they worked.
Last week I was working in Washington, DC. Before I left, I had to write up instructions for other staff to exchange a tape robot, called a “Powerloader.” The instructions were pretty straightforward and I was fully confident that the staff could do the work without any trouble. So, in case they wanted a challenge, I produced another set of instructions by running the document through Babelfish to translate from English to Chinese, and then back to English. Every time I read these instructions I giggle, so I share with others who may have a similarly perverse sense of humor: (more…)