Saturday, November 20, 2004

I'm not the only one

It seems that a lot of bloggers have the post-election blahs. About half of the ones I visit regularly have cut way down on their updates.

It's funny in my case, because I have several things I've wanted to write about. Drawing connections between the hostility and lack of civility surrounding the election and the Pistons/Pacers riot, for example. Or discussing some of the election-related violence. I have some facinating thoughts on that. Or describing my new perpetual motion machine.

But writing is non-trivial, and presenting a coherent argument is downright hard work. I guess I just haven't had the motivation.

war games

Mostly Cajun has a great war-gaming story.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

ascii movie

Somebody has way too much time on his hands (link from SpaceMonkey).

bribing Congress

OK, this makes me angry enough to blog again (link from the corner). Congress is trying to pass a law that makes it illegal for DVD manufacturers to help viewers bypass the promos on DVDs.

I hate those promos. It's not like TV where I'm getting the broadcast for free. In the case of a DVD, I paid for the damn thing. It's my property and I can do whatever I want with it. What kind of jerk tries to sell you something and then try to control how you use it? This is just beyond the pale.

This is typical of the entertainment industry, which is constantly trying to extend their control over their customers. From trying to block the sale of tapes to arm-twisting of DVD chip makers to persecuting innocent free-software writers that had nothing to do with piracy, they have become more and more obnoxious in the name of preventing piracy. And from the Disney copyright extension to the Digital Millennium copyright act, they have bribed congress to use the power of the federal government in helping them to extend their power.

And make no mistake; this is bribery. Nothing else can explain Congresses complete lack of concern for consumers. In other areas, Congress has passed consumer-oriented laws that are actually so pro-consumer that they punish industry. But the entertainment industry has so many members with so much money, that they have successfully bribed Congress like few other groups.

Just who's interest is served by this legislation? Certainly not the voters. Certainly not the consumers. Certainly not the DVD manufacturers. The only people who are served by this kind of legislation are the big-money contributors in the entertainment industry. It is blatant. And shameful.

And I'm ashamed that this is happening with a Republican majority in both houses and a Republican president. It's egregious abuses like this that let the Democrats bash Republicans for being pro-business and anti-consumer (Never mind that lots of Democrats are supporting this too).

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

go bother someone else

Well, I've really been trying to come up with something to say today but nothing is clicking. Not that there isn't a lot going on to comment about, but eveyone else seems to be saying pretty much the same things I would be saying. I direct you to Back of the Envelope, La Shawn Barber's Corner, the Belmont Club, Hugh Hewitt, Soxblog, Beyond Salvage, and the Volokh Conspiracy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

don't forget your carnivals

Donald is accepting submissions for the next storyblogging carnival. This is lots of fun and I'd like to see more people enter, even if you don't blog. So if you write stories but don't blog, why don't you send me one? I'll post it (with due credit, of course) and then enter it into the carnival.

And don't forget the Christian Carnival. Nick is accepting submissions for that.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Meating of the Mines, scene 3

This is a continuation of the screenplay Heroes for Hire Episode 2 -- A Meating of the Mines. The meaning of the title should become clear in the next scene (unless I decide I need more build-up).

Zantar is alone at the tavern imbibing his evening meal. There is a mug and an empty chair for Rolf who is not there. Buck Cannon approaches.

BUCK: Good evening sir, do you mind if I join you and your friend? (he pulls up a third chair to sit backward on it)

ZANTAR: It’s kind of a small table…

BUCK: (half the way to sitting on the chair) I’d like to buy you each a drink.

ZANTAR: …but there’s always room for a pal.

BUCK: (sitting the rest of the way down and shouting across the table) Bring three more of whatever my friends here are drinking. (he looks at Zantar and smiles) My name is Buck Cannon, I run one of the local mines.

ZANTAR: Zantar. Rolf is doing some kind of a constitutional thingie.

BUCK: Constitutional thingie...

ZANTAR: I think that means he’s draining the lower level.

BUCK: Er, ah…

ZANTAR: You know. Taking a whiz.

BUCK: Ah. No doubt. I hear you had a bit of trouble earlier today.

ZANTAR: Yeah, that sheriff don’t have no sense of humor.
A waitress lays down some drinks and Buck tosses her a coin during the following exchange.

BUCK: I meant earlier.

ZANTAR: Earlier?

BUCK: With the Barkleys.

ZANTAR: Don’t ring a bell.

BUCK: Five or six ruffians?

ZANTAR: Oh, them. They had some trouble today. All I had was a little exercise.

BUCK: (grinning) Excellent point. I salute you. (he raises his drink and takes a swig).

Zantar joins him.

BUCK: So, do you know why they attacked you?


BUCK: Do you want to know?


BUCK: (surprised) Oh… Well, it’s … Well. Ah… It’s because we employ only dwarven miners at the Cannon mine and the Barkleys would like to drive us out of business by chasing away our miners.

ZANTAR: That’s smart all right.

BUCK: Employing only dwarven miners?

ZANTER: No, chasing away the dwarven miners.

BUCK: Ah, yes.

ZANTAR: A dwarf must pull in four or five times the ore of a human. They chase away the dwarves, they take away your edge.

BUCK: Ah, yes. That’s the reasoning… So are you interested in helping out your brethren by doing some work for us?


ROLF: (just returning to the table and sitting down) What sort of remuneration are you offering?

BUCK: A silver per week. Each.

ROLF: We shall discuss your offer, sir.

BUCK: Of course. Allow me to buy you another round while you talk. Waitress! Another round for my friends!
Buck tosses a coin on the table then gets up, nods to the heroes and leaves the bar.

ZANTAR: A sliver per week. Not bad pay.

ROLF: My thoughts exactly. Yet it is hardly the big money that our ranger friend so cryptically alluded to.
A voice speaks from the background:

JEROD: No. I wouldn’t call it big money. You gentleman are worth twice that.

ZANTAR: At least. (Neither hero turns around)

JEROD: (moving around in front of the heroes) Allow me to introduce myself …

ZANTAR: Are you going to buy us a drink?

JEROD: Oh. Well, I suppose I could…

ROLF: Well then, by all means sir! Have a seat. Introduce yourself. My name is Rolf and my surly compatriot here is Zantar.

JEROD: Well. Pleased to meet you. My name is Jerrod Barkley. I run the Berkeley mines around here.

ROLF: And you pay very well, I presume?

JEROD: Yes, of course. But first I’d like to clear the air about that little misunderstanding this afternoon.

ROLF: What? The thing with the sheriff?

JEROD: Ah, no…

ZANTAR: He means those guys we trashed when we got here.

ROLF: Them? I felt that by the end of the encounter everyone understood one another quite well.

JEROD: Yes. No doubt. Anyway, I hope you harbor no ill will toward the Barkleys just because a few of our boys got out of line.

ZANTAR: Haven’t thought much about it.

ROLF: Nor have I. But now that you bring it up, I suppose a certain dose of resentment might be in order.

ZANTAR: Yeah! They were pretty rude and all.

JEROD: (clearly bewildered) You mean you were fine about until I came over to apologize? Now you’re getting upset?

ROLF: Well, if the incident merits an apology then it takes on greater weight, don’t you think so Zantar?

ZANTAR: Yeah! I mean I thought it was no big deal, but that shopkeeper at the dry goods store thought it was a big deal, that Cannon guy thought it was a big deal, …

ROLF: The ranger mentioned it as well.

ZANTAR: Yeah. And now here you are apologizing over it. I’m starting to feel insulted.

JEROD: Then I withdraw my apology. If you two pussies can’t handle a little bit of rough fun, who needs you?

ROLF: Excellent riposte, sir! Are we men or mice, Zantar?

ZANTAR: Well, I’m a dwarf and you’re an elf. Elves are kind of squirrelly, but I wouldn’t say they’re micey.

ROLF: No one ever has. And squirrels are certainly not mice.

ZANTAR: Nope. They’re sort of rats with bushy tails.

ROLF: Very agile and intrepid rats with bushy tails… Hey! Elves aren’t squirrelly! We’re just a bit arboreally inclined!

JEROD: Excellent, excellent. And of course I can assure you that the Barkleys have no hard feelings over the matter either.

Closeup on Zantar staring bemusedly at Jerrod. Pan to a closeup on Rolf staring bemusedly at Jerrod. Pan around to Jerrod shifting his eyes bemusedly between Rolf and Zantar.

JEROD: I mean… There is no need for you to apologize or anything.

Closeup on Zantar staring bemusedly at Jerrod. Pan to a closeup on Rolf staring bemusedly at Jerrod. After a moment:

ROLF: OK. Whatever. So, you’re offering us two silver per week each?

JEROD: (sighs) That’s right.

ROLF: And what opportunities will there be for auxiliary compensation?

JEROD: Auxiliary compensation?

ROLF: Yes. You know: bonuses, benefits, bounties, commissions, cuts, gratuities, honorariums, percentages, perks, premiums, prizes, rake-offs, rewards, royalties, supplements and subsidies.

ZANTAR: He means, like extra money we can make for doing stuff.

JEROD: I believe your weekly salary should be adequate compensation.

ROLF: You, sir, are obviously confused.

ZANTAR: The two of us cleaned clocks on six guys and didn’t take a scratch doing it.

ROLF: Quite. So each of us is worth at least three as you know. And besides that, I am a famous wizard.

JEROD: I’ve never heard of any wizard named Rolf.

ROLF: The opinions of small-time bumpkins such as yourself are hardly relevant.

JEROD: Well, famous wizard and all, I’m afraid lead mining is a bit mundane for that kind of extravagance.

ZANTAR: Lead mining?


ROLF: I’m afraid your compensation terms are…

ZANTAR: We'll take it.

ROLF: … inadequate to … What, Zan?

ZANTAR: We'll take it.

Fade out on Rolf, staring at Zantar in consternation.

UPDATE: continued.

protest and violence

Andrew Stuttaford points to this Guardian article about violent anti-Muslim protests in the Netherlands. I blame the Dutch government. They stifled open, peaceful protest so what did they expect? It found an outlet in anonymous, violent protest.

In the article, a Muslim man is calling for more limits on speech. That is likely to lead to even more violence. The Netherlands is a Western Democracy. The people are used to the idea of using peaceful protests and voting as a way to express themselves. If the government would just get out of the way, that is how most of them would do it.

But leftists (the so-called centre-right government of the Netherlands is still leftist) don't get that. Their view of humanity is that the rabble is an unstable, dangerous beast that must be carefully controlled for its own good. They have this model that passions work higher and higher until they explode into violence like the baiting of a dog before a fight. You keep poking and prodding at it to make it angry enough to fight.

But have you ever seen how a chained-up dog reacts to a stranger? It'll bark and jerk at its chain, trying to get at the newcomer. The dog quickly becomes frustrated and angry. It's hackles come up. The barks get lower pitch and you start hearing growls and snarls. If the stranger stays around for any length of time or does anything the dog considers provocative (and that can be almost anything) the dog goes wild, jerking at its chain and giving every appearance of wanting to tear the stranger to pieces.

But let the dog go. It will run over to the stranger, sniff a little and maybe snuffle and harrumph a bit to let the stranger know not to get out of line. It was the frustration that made the dog angry. Remove the frustration and you remove the anger.

If the government really wants to head off mass violence, they need to avoid frustrating the population. First of all, that means they don't stifle protests. Second, it means that they see the same problem the people do. The Dutch government has given every indication that they think the problem is not Islamic terrorism in the heart of their cities, but the reaction to the terrorism by the victims. That is going to frustrate the hell out of people.