God of the Machine – Page 52 – Culling my readers to a manageable elite since 2002.
Aug 292002

Someone said a very bright man invented poker, but a genius invented chips. In the same way, a very bright man invented the income tax, but a genius invented withholding. How else could the government take an enormous chunk of your money and pose as Santa Claus at the same time? Radley Balko says enough.

Aug 282002

Today Lileks has at some killjoy named George Monbiot, who’s arguing in The Guardian, where else, that money can’t buy you happiness. Actually he argues further, and rather less intuitively, that money buys you misery:

I hardly dare to mention this for fear of being accused of romanticising poverty or somehow conspiring to keep people in the picturesque state to which I would never submit myself. But it is impossible not to notice that, in some of the poorest parts of the world, most people, most of the time, appear to be happier than we are. In southern Ethiopia, for example, the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls.

Well, Lileks can do, and does, more justice to this steaming pile of crap than I. But for my money it’s a sign of progress whenever this argument is offered seriously. Let’s face it, preaching poverty is not a winning strategy. (True, there was Jesus, but that rend-your-cloak riff was never too popular, even among the faithful.) If this is what the lefties have been reduced to then it’s sorry, game over, thank you for playing. Which is OK by me.

Aug 282002

Tim Noah is upset with The New Republic for claiming that Saddam has used “weapons of mass destruction.” Those pesky chemical and biological weapons with which he periodically massacres his own people aren’t nuclear weapons, so they don’t count. And after all:

If Saddam has already used “weapons of mass destruction” (and, moreover, suffered little for it), what deters him from using nukes in the future? They’re all “weapons of mass destruction,” aren’t they?

Good point. With America’s journalists standing sentinel, manfully withholding condemnation of Saddam for using “weapons of mass destruction” until the moment he actually drops a nuclear bomb, I feel safer already.

Aug 272002

Guess I won’t have to break the bank to pay British Telecom for that hyperlink license after all. “Everyone sues all the time in the States anyway,” said BT Chairman Sir Christopher Bland, blandly, when asked why BT was pursuing this absurd lawsuit. Yeah, but at least everyone doesn’t always win.

Aug 262002

Springsteen is bad. The Cult of Springsteen is worse. You can always pick out those home-grown grassroots up-from-the-bottom types: they’re the ones who show up on the covers of Time and Newsweek before they ever have a hit. Bonus authenticity points for continuing to write from the point of view of the put-upon 25 years after becoming rich and famous.

Aug 252002

Since the word “blog” is scheduled to enter the Oxford English Dictionary its origins are now, officially, a serious matter. As everyone knows, it is a shortened form of “web log.” William Safire tracks it down to Jorn Barger, who created a “Robot Wisdom Weblog” in 1999. Not so fast. Barger always referred to his site as a “weblog” and never used the one-syllable version. In his September 1999 remarks about blogging Barger writes:

A weblog (sometimes called a blog or a newspage or a filter) is a webpage where a weblogger (sometimes called a blogger, or a pre-surfer) ‘logs’ all the other webpages she finds interesting.

Barger certainly doesn’t credit himself with the term blog here, although this may just be out of modesty. (Safire, if you read him carefully, never actually credits him either.)

For the word “blog” as we know it today Peter Merholz, who in April or May of 1999 announced on his home page that he was going to pronounce “weblog” “wee-blog, or blog for short,” seems to have a stronger claim. Merholz has discussed this with the powers that be at the OED, but they require a print source.

Yuk yuk yuk. Still, I see their point. The same flexibility that makes Web so easy to write for makes it the worst possible source for historical citation. I would demand a dead tree source myself.

Aug 232002

James Lileks says there are worse things to go to war over. In case you’re one of the last three people on the web who hasn’t read this do so immediately.

Aug 232002

What’s all this fuss about Dr. Atkins and the government recommendations and whether Gary Taubes does or does not understand nutrition science? We have known for decades about easy-to-follow diets of proven effectiveness. Here are three that are guaranteed to work. It is important to note that, while silly fad diets demand exclusive allegiance, these highly scientific recommendations can be combined, for a powerful synergistic effect leading to even more rapid weight loss.

1. The Smack Diet. The hardest part of the Smack Diet is getting started, overcoming those irrational fears of needles and social stigma. But once you get rolling you’ll find all kinds of unexpected benefits. Your burgeoning new habit will induce you to spend a lot of time alone, mostly in the bathroom, instead of waddling around the mall displaying your unsightly bulges and stretch pants in public. The Smack Diet is also cheaper than the Zone, for a while. And unlike the Zone, it’s 100% effective.

2. The Crack Diet. A couple rocks for breakfast, a couple more for lunch, and a sensible dinner. You’ll keep off the weight. And don’t worry if you have a sudden craving for a few more rocks as a late-night snack. Go ahead and indulge!

3. The Marlboro Diet. Start small, with just 1 or 2 a day. Don’t worry if at first you cough and feel sick: no pain, no gain. Keep at it, and soon you’ll be up to a couple packs a day and well on your way to a svelte new you. And for New York City residents there’s a surprising bonus: at seven bucks and change a pack, you won’t even be able to afford food!