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December 31, 2008
2008 on Making Light
Posted by Patrick at 12:55 PM * 75 comments

Our Founder suggested that we all list our favorites from among our posts to Making Light’s front page over the last twelve months. Those lists follow, starting with Teresa’s selection from her own posts.

Here’s to 2009, which looks like it’ll be a hell of a ride. Let’s hope it takes us all someplace better, and that none of us get thrown out of the car.

From Teresa:

January 31: Top Al Qaeda Leader Killed (again). “It’s like being the drummer for Spinal Tap.”

February 2: Digression removed from a moderator’s comment. “In my opinion, a perfect user interface would automatically register the use of words and phrases like…”

February 25: The Secret Service writes off security for candidates. “The Dallas police, who are more conscious of these issues than most municipal police forces, told reporters that the Secret Service ordered them to suspend weapons screening while people were still arriving at an Obama rally this past Thursday.”

March 3: All come singing. “We seem to have hit some kind of a moment, because political music videos are popping up all over the place.”

April 16: Newsweek invents an alarming trend. “It’s much easier to make news sound exciting if you leave the facts out, as witness a recent story by Karen Springen in Newsweek about a children’s picture book about plastic surgery.”

The first week of May: A massive multiplayer collaborative damage-containment project. A server crashed at Hosting Matters. Shortly after that, Patrick discovered he’d been misconfiguring his regular backups of Making Light. After a terrible period of thinking everything had been lost, he found an anomalous backup from 01 March 2008. Thereafter, everyone pitched in to reconstruct March-April 2008 from browser caches, open tabs, and online aggregators. To read about it (except for the parts on AIM), start at Patrick’s Restoration drama. Follow its links to Abi’s weblog, Evilrooster Crows, where she hosted both the refugees and the reconstruction project. It was epic, and no one ever got thanked enough. I figure that’s my fault. I plead non-figurative PTSD.

June 18: AP to negotiate with sham “Media Bloggers Association”. “I’ve been monitoring reactions to the AP story. I haven’t seen a single weblog indicate that it had heard of the Media Bloggers Association before this story broke.”

July 3: McCain, sockpuppets, and comment spam. “I first noticed McCain’s comment spam solicitation page on his campaign website some weeks ago….I didn’t write about it at the time because I was sure McCain’s campaign strategists would immediately see what a terrible idea it was, and take it down.”

July 5: Cold beef salad with preserved lemons and fresh basil. “I’m recording this one because it turns out there’s something alchemical about the combination of cold beef, preserved lemons, and fresh basil.”

September 3: Pay attention to the little man behind the curtain. “The far right is a whining bunch of sissies who can’t stand up to one little breath of a suggestion of a hundredth of the abuse they habitually dish out. This goes a long way toward explaining why nobody likes them and they can’t get laid for free.”

September 20: Melanoma and narcissism. “Palin hasn’t bothered to keep track of the stories she tells. It’s not that she can’t; she’s not that stupid. Rather, it hasn’t occurred to her to do so. She isn’t thinking about other people’s reactions. That isn’t bad judgement, or an absence of judgement. It’s a pathological lack of interest in the subject.”

October 13: Hot cookies. “What you need is an 18th C. cookie mold…showing Elijah being carried off in his chariot, Elisha being mocked by the disobedient children of Bethel, and, right there in the foreground, a disobedient child being eaten by a bear. That’s putting the old-time religion back into Christmas, you betcha.”

October 21: What kind of “Election Day unrest” are we talking about? “This is setting up a fraudulent racist narrative: that any unrest on Election Day will consist of inner-city blacks rioting because the black candidate didn’t win.”

October 27: The religious right, gone barking mad. “‘Spiritual warfare’ is a sort of folk thaumaturgy with ambitions to theurgy. If it worked, it would be a branch of black magic.”

November 11: The Great War, ninety years on. “Today we solemnly observe the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War, an event so huge and consequential that we’re still struggling to comprehend it.”

December 4: Plays Well With Lightning. “Today is the Feast of Saint Barbara: go blow something up.”

From Patrick:

January 20: Why, this is the whale, nor are we out of it. The sorrows of globalized capitalism, and a small redemption.

February 5: Endorsement. Of Obama. “On balance, I’m impressed. Not transported. Not uncritical. But impressed.”

March 11: Phase one: collect underpants. Announcing, some months in advance of its actual debut.

March 18: Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008. Memorializing.

March 30: The photograph that terrorized London. Spitalfields Market defends itself from the menace of tourist photography. I am impressed.

April 1: Amsterdam. Visiting Abi Sutherland’s adopted home town. With pictures.

April 6: Heads they win, tails we lose. Could have been describing the economic events of September onward.

September 6: I knew John McCain was hot for more wars, but… The New York Daily News reveals a hitherto-unknown detail of the McCain agenda.

September 15: The Most Terrifying Six Words in the English Language. “‘President Bush tried to calm investors.’”

October 23: Yeah, well, about that. Alan Greenspan admits that he may have been wrong about a thing or two.

October 25: Electoral history, pattern-making, and meaning. Seriously geeky adducing of patterns in American electoral history.

November 4: Watching the election results with Bruce Schneier, parts one, two, and three. Thanks again to Bruce for doing this, and for coping with the slowdowns that ensued when massive comment traffic brought Movable Type to its knees. I personally enjoyed getting to type “Making Light officially projects that Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.” Come to think of it, I still do.

December 1: Our Exciting Neighbor to the North. Canada’s sudden and spectacular political crisis. Noteworthy less for the post than for the brilliant and informative comments posted to it, and to its successor post.

From Jim:

January 28: Cloverfield (with Spoilers). An emergency-preparedness post, in disguise.

June 30: If I Had Another Penny. “I first ran into ‘Byker Hill’ on a Boiled in Lead album, Old Lead.”

July 3: Eat Shit and Die. “I don’t often read books twice in rapid succession. I just did that with The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.”

July 12: Trauma and You, Part Four: The Squishy Bits. “Soft-tissue injuries can be dramatic and grotesque. For this reason, even injuries that aren’t life-threating in themselves can prove deadly by distracting rescuers from the actual life-threatening injuries, particularly airway and breathing problems.”

August 13: The Ball of Kirriemuir.
Tuvok the Vulcan he was there
Standin’ at the bar,
Sayin’ “’This isn’t logical
An’ I’m not in pon farr.”

August 15: Gnomic Verses. “My father had some words of advice for me, and now I pass them on to you.”

August 19: Carl Drega, Part I. “Today is the 11th anniversary of the Colebrook Massacre. The first two murders were a mile north of my house at the store where I shop.” Part II and Part III.

September 9: Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe. “Let us talk, dearly beloved, about a reasonable pencil-and-paper crypto system, for those times when you don’t want to use your computer to encrypt stuff that you need to send to some other pal.”

October 14: The Blue Benn. A diner.

November 2: All Hail Macbeth! “ACT 1: SCENE III. A Starbucks near Brooklyn.”

November 23: Kennedy Assassination. “Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Less than half of the people now alive in America remember the day. I was standing in the bus line at St. Patrick’s Parochial School, ready to go home, when I heard.”

December 18: “Sex with robots is more common than most people think”. “CNN: An inventor who claims he has never had time to find a human girlfriend has created his own perfect woman—a robot.”

From Avram:

January 30: Making your own fun. “This kind of thing—where you invite your customers in on the fun, and they take on some of the qualities of co-authors—seems especially well-suited to the Internet age.”

February 16: Bookhunter by Jason Shiga. “Imagine an action-packed police procedural, full of technical details like CSI, but all about bookbinding and library catalogs.”

March 4: Greyhawk’s flags at half-staff. “It’s hard to estimate the effect that Dungeons & Dragons has had on nerd culture—and by extension, the general culture. Like science fiction fandom before it, D&D provided a forum for imaginative play, and fostered an international social network for bright, quirky kids where they could find praise (and even get paid work) for their wit and creative work at an age when adults were more likely to ignore them or treat them as threats.”

March 28: Divided by common errors. “The point of a survey like this isn’t to discover minority opinions held by people who’ve thought about the issues. It’s to discover which way people twitch when you shout a buzz-phrase at them.”

April 13: Could lead to goose-stepping. “All of these tactics—the use of your ideals to overturn your trust in facts, the assertion of nebulous threats that justify arbitrary authority, the portrayal of protesters as lunatics, the claim that an all-encompassing bureaucracy has legitimate authority over our every breath and step, that you’ll be fine as long as you don’t ‘make trouble’—these tactics can be seen and heard every day wherever political discussion takes place.”

July 18: The “aye” in God’s mote. “Areas for further speculation: For Christians, could Jesus’s dual nature as wholly man and wholly God be described as a reconciliation of the use-mention distinction? For Jews, if the Torah is the blueprint used to create the universe, then the universe contains its own formal description, and must therefore also be subject to Gödel-type incompleteness.”

August 13: Paperblogging the Worldcon.
Drawing of overcast Denver skies

November 5: The content of his character. “I fully expect to get sick of hearing coded racial slurs in criticisms of Obama over the next few years.”

December 15: The other shoe. “Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.”

From Abi:

January 24: Open Thread C. Aliqui illustres loci communes, including sundry corrections, additions, and two separate translations of the Portal end titles theme into Latin.

February 21: Curating conversations (a meditation in the sunlight). “Somewhere in the war between enthusiasm and cynicism, the content of Patrick’s notes on the O’Reilly Tools for Change for Publishing conference went undiscussed. And I’m sorry about that, because some of them really got my attention. They looked neat. I wanted to hear more.” And the community obliged, with one of the more information-and-intelligence-dense threads I’ve had the privilege to be overwhelmed by here.

March 31: Deep Value. “Looking at a world where the economy is probably going to be tightening up for a while, I find myself drawn to things with deep value, things a little less dependent on the state of our technology and shipping infrastructure to build and repair. Living in a small country with a history of pollution problems, I want to own things I don’t have throw away after one use. And spending much of my time as a crafter, I am attracted to things that I can fix.” Look! So is everyone else! Neat!

April 6: Some must employ the scythe. “Once again, a major implementation goes pear-shaped. On Thursday, March 27, Heathrow Airport opened Terminal 5 with great fanfare. It promised a revolution in passenger convenience, and included a new automated baggage handling system1. But things did not go well, and the opening weeks are sure to become a case study in project failure.” Shorter me: I could have told them so.

July 29: am-phi-brach (n) + am-phi-brach (n) + i-amb (n).
A dictionary written in verse
Is not new, but quite the reverse
(I once had a tome
in the language of Rome
For Hebrew, but sadly quite terse.)

August 21: The honor of your assistance is requested in a small matter of language. “Gentle reader: In the course of her duties today, this blogger was obliged to consider the vast range of input to be expected from the ladies and gentlemen who do her company the honor of using its software. In particular, she was occupied with the task of addressing the tendency of some users to express an excess of emotion, or to seek to produce an improper effect upon the unsuspecting reader, with the strength of their language.” (Warning: the language in both the post and the subsequent thread is pretty fucking awful.)

The best of the non-political, plunder your memories and think about something other than the election threads:

September 21: Have a Dysfunctional Families Day. “If you all recall, back in May we identified a glaring gap in the holiday market. There are a plenitude of days for celebrating your parents and getting together with your family. There aren’t a lot of days when you can admit that your parents actually drove you completely bats, or that you’d rather learn autotrepanning with a Black and Decker than sit down with the people who made your first 18 years a misery.” Unsparing discussion follows.

October 16: Smulp. “Gandalf strode forward. ‘Gluttonous fool of a Took! You have eaten the stone-fruits of Gondolin, which we had preserved in the cool-room for our breakfast!’” How many ways can we apologize for the same thing?

October 20: Keymasters of the Universe, a novel. “I often think we’re living in an alternate history novel. Honesty, the events of the world are too strange to be real. In different times and different circumstances, my guess as to the author may change, but the overwhelming impression remains.” Lots of good alternate histories in the thread.

December 20: To make a community, sometimes you have to break a few loaves of bread. “One of the great pleasures of my job is that the entire office eats together. We get bread, cheese, milk, sauces, spreads, and meat delivered to the office, and every lunchtime we sit down around the table for sandwiches.” Food for thought.

December 27, 2008
Soren Gets Sprung
Posted by Patrick at 11:42 PM * 86 comments

IMG_3606.JPG, originally uploaded by pnh.

Our friend Soren de Selby gets released from post-stroke rehab for a few hours in a Brooklyn restaurant with friends.

More photos here and here.

Meanwhile in Peru…
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:03 AM * 22 comments

A woman named Virgen Maria, married to a carpenter, gives birth to a baby boy on December 25. She names him Jesus Emmanual, as indeed who wouldn’t?

Killer quote:

She told local television that her grandfather, a devotee of the Virgin Mary, had chosen her own unusual name, with which, until now, she had not felt comfortable. “In school they made fun of my name,” she said.

They laughed, oh they laughed. But who’s laughing now?*

* Well, yeah, probably everyone, but in a good way this time.

December 26, 2008
Beef Roast
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:49 PM * 31 comments

After the unmitigated success of the deep-fried turkey we tried last Thanksgiving, and since we still had the deep-frying apparatus, Christmas Dinner yesterday was centered on a deep-fried rib roast.

Cooking it was simplicity itself: After determining how much oil was needed (a bit over three gallons) by the water-displacement method, I went outdoors in my parka and got the thing heated up to 350 degrees. Dunked the beef (3.5 minutes per pound for medium-rare), standing by the entire time with a fire extinguisher, hauled it out, let it stand for half-an-hour, then sliced and served it forth.

We had a 9.97 pound rib roast (the sort of thing for which one almost needs to take out a Beef Loan), and it served five of us quite handily, with cold sliced roast beef for breakfast. Yum. Yum yum. Also, pretty darned good.

Tonight’s supper will be Deviled Beef Bones. Recipe not tried (yet) by us, but looks decent.

I’m definitely planning to deep-fry a ham come Easter.

[Recipe Index]

Social Disease
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:06 PM * 72 comments

The Locus Magazine site recently was infected with malware of some kind that may have infected folks who visited.

Right now, on their front page, we see this notice:

Note, 25 December: After several e-mails reporting malware attacks from this site, Locusmag’s hosting service has done a security sweep and found no abnormal processes or files. Please contact us if such problems recur — they may be connected to the servers of one of the ad banners.

If you suspect you may have malware on your computer, may I suggest Anti-Malware from Malwarebytes?

[UPDATE: promoted from the comment thread]

#6 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 04:05 PM:

I am one of the people who encountered a virus on the Locus site. It was probably a spyware called “XP Antivirus 2008/2009.” (This is new and particularly nasty trickware that tries to get you to download itself by popping up a message that looks like a Windows system message, telling you your computer is infected with a virus, and you need to download a fix. More here: .)


Specifically: DO NOT CLICK ON THE “CANCEL” BUTTON IN THE MESSAGE and DO NOT CLICK ON THE X-BOX IN THE UPPER RIGHT-HAND CORNER. (It’s a trick: why would they let you cancel it? The cancel button installs it.)

Here’s what to do:

1. Hit Cntrl-alt-del to bring up the Windows task manager.
2. Find your browser in the task list (such as firefox.exe or iexplore.exe).
3. Select the browser and click the “End Process” button.
4. Make sure there is not another instance of your browser running. If there is, close that too. Do this until the message disappears. DO NOT CLICK THE MESSAGE.
5. Download and run Anti-Malware from, as Jim McD. suggests.

Thanks to Jim Bailey, Jeffry Dwight, and Chuck Rothman’s excellent advice about this virus in the SFWA Forum on, I avoided downloading it, but it took me five hours of running A/V and anti-malware programs to be sure of that.

Good luck! If an advertising server is spreading this virus, you could encounter it anywhere.

December 25, 2008
I find your lack of faith disturbing
Posted by Teresa at 09:27 AM *

It’s a silly but irresistible practical joke: a solemn procession of the clergy of the Lutheran Church of Iceland, with an additional participant quietly joining the end of the queue. After that, all it took was the right soundtrack.

Texts, 2008
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 AM *

Luke 2:1-14, Anglo-Saxon (via):

Soþlice on þam dagum wæs geworden gebod fram þam casere Augusto, þæt eall ymbehwyrft wære tomearcod. Þeos tomearcodnes wæs æryst geworden fram þam deman Syrige Cirino. And ealle hig eodon, and syndrige ferdon on hyra ceastre. Ða ferde Iosep fram Galilea of þære ceastre Nazareth on Iudeisce ceastre Dauides, seo is genemned Beþleem, for þam þe he wæs of Dauides huse and hirede; þæt he ferde mid Marian þe him beweddod wæs, and wæs geeacnod. Soþlice wæs geworden þa hi þar wæron, hire dagas wæron gefyllede þæt heo cende. And heo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu, and hine mid cildclaþum bewand, and hine on binne alede, for þam þe hig næfdon rum on cumena huse. And hyrdas wæron on þam ylcan rice waciende, and nihtwæccan healdende ofer heora heorda. Þa stod Drihtnes engel wiþ hig, and Godes beorhtnes him ymbe scean; and hi him mycelum ege adredon. And se engel him to cwæð, Nelle ge eow adrædan; soþlice nu ic eow bodie mycelne gefean, se bið eallum folce; for þam to dæg eow ys Hælend acenned, se is Drihten Crist, on Dauides ceastre. And þis tacen eow byð: Ge gemetað an cild hræglum bewunden, and on binne aled. And þa wæs færinga geworden mid þam engle mycelnes heofenlices werydes, God heriendra and þus cweþendra, Gode sy wuldor on heahnesse, and on eorðan sybb mannum godes willan.

Luke 2:1-20, tr. John Wycliffe, 1382 (via)

And it was don in tho daies, a maundement wente out fro the emperour August, that al the world schulde be discryued. :: This firste discryuyng was maad of Cyryn, iustice of Sirie. :: And alle men wenten to make professioun, ech in to his owne citee. :: And Joseph wente vp fro Galilee, fro the citee Nazareth, in to Judee, in to a citee of Dauid, that is clepid Bethleem, for that he was of the hous and of the meyne of Dauid, :: that he schulde knouleche with Marie, his wijf, that was weddid to hym, and was greet with child. :: And it was don, while thei weren there, the daies weren fulfillid, that sche schulde bere child. :: And sche bare hir first borun sone, and wlappide hym in clothis, and leide hym in a cratche, for ther was no place to hym in no chaumbir. :: And scheepherdis weren in the same cuntre, wakynge and kepynge the watchis of the nyyt on her flok. :: And lo! the aungel of the Lord stood bisidis hem, and the cleernesse of God schinede aboute hem; and thei dredden with greet drede. :: And the aungel seide to hem, Nyle ye drede; for lo! Y preche to you a greet ioye, that schal be to al puple. :: For a sauyoure is borun to dai to you, that is Crist the Lord, in the citee of Dauid. :: And this is a tokene to you; ye schulen fynde a yong child wlappid in clothis, and leid in a cratche. :: And sudenli ther was maad with the aungel a multitude of heuenli knyythod, heriynge God, :: and seiynge, Glorie be in the hiyeste thingis to God, and in erthe pees be to men of good wille. :: And it was don, as the aungelis passiden awei fro hem in to heuene, the scheephirdis spaken togider, and seiden, Go we ouer to Bethleem, and se we this word that is maad, which the Lord hath maad, and schewide to vs. :: And thei hiyynge camen, and founden Marie and Joseph, and the yong child leid in a cratche. :: And thei seynge, knewen of the word that was seid to hem of this child. :: And alle men that herden wondriden, and of these thingis that weren seid to hem of the scheephirdis. :: But Marie kepte alle these wordis, berynge togider in hir herte. :: And the scheepherdis turneden ayen, glorifyinge and heriynge God in alle thingis that thei hadden herd and seyn, as it was seid to hem.

Luke 2:1-20, tr. William Tyndale, 1530

And it chaunced in thoose dayes: yt ther went oute a comaundment from Auguste the Emperour that all the woorlde shuld be taxed. :: And this taxynge was ye fyrst and executed when Syrenius was leftenaut in Syria. :: And every man went vnto his awne citie to be taxed. :: And Ioseph also ascended from Galile oute of a cite called Nazareth into Iurie: vnto ye cite of David which is called Bethleem because he was of the housse and linage of David :: to be taxed with Mary his spoused wyfe which was with chylde. :: And it fortuned whyll they were there her tyme was come that she shuld be delyvered. :: And she brought forth her fyrst begotten sonne and wrapped him in swadlynge cloothes and layed him in a manger because ther was no roume for them within in the ynne. :: And ther were in the same region shepherdes abydinge in the felde and watching their flocke by nyght. :: And loo: the angell of ye lorde stode harde by them and the brightnes of ye lorde shone rounde aboute them and they were soare afrayed. :: But the angell sayd vnto them: Be not afrayed. For beholde I bringe you tydinges of greate ioye yt shal come to all ye people: :: for vnto you is borne this daye in the cite of David a saveoure which is Christ ye lorde. :: And take this for a signe: ye hall fynde ye chylde swadled and layed in a mager. :: And streight waye ther was with the angell a multitude of hevenly sowdiers laudynge God and sayinge: :: Glory to God an hye and peace on the erth: and vnto men reioysynge. :: And it fortuned assone as the angels were gone awaye fro them in to heven the shepherdes sayd one to another: let vs goo eve vnto Bethleem and se this thynge that is hapened which the Lorde hath shewed vnto vs. :: And they cam with haste and founde Mary and Ioseph and the babe layde in a mager. :: And when they had sene it they publisshed a brode the sayinge which was tolde them of that chylde. :: And all that hearde it wondred at those thinges which were tolde the of the shepherdes. :: But Mary kept all thoose sayinges and pondered them in hyr hert. :: And the shepherdes retourned praysinge and laudinge God for all that they had herde and sene evyn as it was told vnto them.

Luke 2:1-20, tr. Miles Coverdale, 1535

It fortuned at the same tyme, that there wete out a comaundement fro Augustus the Emperoure, that the whole worlde shulde be taxed. And this taxynge was the first that was executed, whan Syrenius was leftenaunt in Siria. And they wente all, euery one to his owne cite to be taxed. Then Ioseph gat him vp also fro Galile, out of the cite of Nazareth, in to Iewry, to ye cite of Dauid, which is called Bethleem, (because he was of ye house and lynage of Dauid) that he might be taxed wt Mary his spoused wife, which was wt childe. And it fortuned whyle they were there, ye tyme was come, that she shulde be delyuered. And she brought forth hir first begotte sonne, & wrapped him in swadlinge clothes, and layed him in a maunger: for they had els no rowme in the ynne.

And there were in ye same region shepherdes in the felde by the foldes, and watchinge their flocke by night. And beholde, ye angell of the Lorde stode by the, and ye brightnes of the Lorde shone rounde aboute them, and they were sore afrayed. And the angell sayde vnto them: Be not afrayed. Beholde, I brynge you tydiges of greate ioye, which shall happen vnto all people: for vnto you this daye is borne ye Sauioure, eue Christ ye Lorde, in the cite of Dauid. And take this for a token: Ye shal fynde the babe swadled, and layed in a maunger. And straight waye there was by the angell a multitude of heauenly hoostes, which praysed God, and sayde: Glory be vnto God an hye, & peace vpon earth, and vnto men a good wyll.

And it fortuned wha the angels were gone from the in to heaue, the shepherdes sayde one to another: let vs go now euen vnto Bethleem, and se this thinge that is happened, which ye Lorde hath shewed vnto vs. And they came wt haist, & founde both Mary and Ioseph, & the babe layed in ye maunger. And whan they had sene it, they published abrode the sayenge, yt was tolde the of this childe. And all they that herde it, wondred at the wordes, which the shepherdes had tolde them. But Mary kepte all these sayenges, and pondred them in hir hert. And the shepherdes returned, praysinge and laudinge God, for all that they had herde and sene, euen as it was tolde them.

Luke 2:1-14, King James Version, 1611

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David), to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, she being great with child.

And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes; and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: That ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And also:

Luke 2:1-14 - Δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω, και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας
εγενετο δε εν ταις ημεραις εκειναις εξηλθεν δογμα παρα καισαρος αυγουστου απογραφεσθαι πασαν την οικουμενην
    αυτη απογραφη πρωτη εγενετο ηγεμονευοντος της συριας κυρηνιου
    και επορευοντο παντες απογραφεσθαι εκαστος εις την εαυτου πολιν
    ανεβη δε και ιωσηφ απο της γαλιλαιας εκ πολεως ναζαρεθ εις την ιουδαιαν εις πολιν δαυιδ ητις καλειται βηθλεεμ δια το ειναι αυτον εξ οικου και πατριας δαυιδ
    απογραψασθαι συν μαριαμ τη εμνηστευμενη αυτω ουση εγκυω
    εγενετο δε εν τω ειναι αυτους εκει επλησθησαν αι ημεραι του τεκειν αυτην
    και ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εσπαργανωσεν αυτον και ανεκλινεν αυτον εν φατνη διοτι ουκ ην αυτοις τοπος εν τω καταλυματι
    και ποιμενες ησαν εν τη χωρα τη αυτη αγραυλουντες και φυλασσοντες φυλακας της νυκτος επι την ποιμνην αυτων
    και αγγελος κυριου επεστη αυτοις και δοξα κυριου περιελαμψεν αυτους και εφοβηθησαν φοβον μεγαν
    και ειπεν αυτοις ο αγγελος μη φοβεισθε ιδου γαρ ευαγγελιζομαι υμιν χαραν μεγαλην ητις εσται παντι τω λαω
    οτι ετεχθη υμιν σημερον σωτηρ ος εστιν χριστος κυριος εν πολει δαυιδ
    και τουτο υμιν το σημειον ευρησετε βρεφος εσπαργανωμενον και κειμενον εν φατνη
    και εξαιφνης εγενετο συν τω αγγελω πληθος στρατιας ουρανιου αινουντων τον θεον και λεγοντων
    δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας

(Thank you, Nick Whyte.)

Vulgate: Luke 2:1-14

Factum est autem in diebus illis, exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto ut describeretur universus orbis. Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino: et ibant omnes ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem. Ascendit autem et Joseph a Galilæa de civitate Nazareth in Judæam, in civitatem David, quæ vocatur Bethlehem: eo quod esset de domo et familia David, ut profiteretur cum Maria desponsata sibi uxore prægnante. Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret. Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in præsepio: quia non erat eis locus in diversorio. Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes, et custodientes vigilias noctis super gregem suum. Et ecce angelus Domini stetit juxta illos, et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos, et timuerunt timore magno. Et dixit illis angelus: Nolite timere: ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum, quod erit omni populo: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus, in civitate David. Et hoc vobis signum: invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio. Et subito facta est cum angelo multitudo militiæ cælestis laudantium Deum, et dicentium: [Gloria in altissimis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.]

(Thank you, Sisuile.)

Luke 2:14 in Gothic

Warth than in dagans jainans. urrann gagrefts fram kaisara Agustau gameljan allana midjungard. soh than gilstrameleins frumista warth at wisandin kindina Swriais raginondin Saurim Kwreinaiau. jah iddjedun allai ei melidai weseina. hwarjizuh in seinai baurg. urrann than jah Iosef us Galeilaia. us baurg Nazaraith in Iudaian. in baurg Daweidis sei haitada Bethlaihaim duthe ei was us garda fadreinais Daweidis. anameljan mith Mariin. sei in fragiftim was imma qeins. wisandein inkilthon. warth than miththanei. tho wesun jainar. usfullnodedun dagos du bairan izai jah gabar sunu seinana thana frumabaur. jah biwand ina jah galagida ina in uzetin. unte ni was im rumis in stada thamma.

jah hairdjos wesun in thamma samin landa, thairhwakandans jah witandans wahtwom nahts ufaro hairdai seinai. ith aggilus fraujins anaqam ins jah wulthus fraujins biskain ins, jah ohtedun agisa mikilamma. jah qath du im sa aggilus: ni ogeith, unte sai, spillo izwis faheid mikila, sei wairthith allai managein, thatei gabaurans ist izwis himma daga nasjands, saei ist Xristus frauja, in baurg Daweidis. jah thata izwis taikns: bigitid barn biwundan jah galagid in uzetin. jah anaks warth mith thamma aggilau managei harjis himinakundis hazjandane guth jah qithandane:

wulthus in hauhistjam guda
jah ana airthai gawairthi in mannam godis wiljins.

(Thank you, Lisa Spangenberg, a.k.a. the Digital Medievalist; who in turn gives credit to “Jim Marchand, medievalist extraordinaire.”) (see also)

Lowlands Scots

About this time the Emperor Augustus pat furth an edick ordeinin at aa the fowk i the haill warld suid be registrate. This wis whan Quirinius wis Governor o Syria, an it wis the first time at siccan a thing hed been dune. Sae aabodie gaed tae be registrate, ilkane til his ain toun, Joseph amang the lave.

He belanged til the stock an faimlie o Dauvit, an sae it was wis tae Dauvit’s Toun, Bethlehem in Judaea, at he gaed doun frae Nazareth in Galilee for tae gie in his name, takkin Mary, at wis haundfastit til him, wi him. She wis boukin gin this; an whan they war in Bethlehem, she cam til her time an brocht hame her first-born son. She swealed the bairn in a barrie an beddit him in a heck, sin there wis nae room for them intil the inn.

Nou, i that same pairt the war a wheen herds bidin thereout on the hill an keepin gaird owre their hrisel at nicht. Suddent an angel o the Lord cam an stuid afore them, an the glorie o the Lord shined about them, an they war uncolie frichtit. But the angel said tae them: Binna nane afeard, I bring ye guid news o gryte blytheness for the haill fowk—this day in Dauvit’s Town a saviour hes born til ye, Christ the Lord! This gate ye s’ken it is een as I say: ye will finnd a new-born bairn swealed in a barrie an liggin intil a heck.

Syne in a gliff an unco thrang o the airmies o hieven kythed aside the angel, glein laud tae God an liltin:

Glore tae God i the heicht o heiven, an peace on the yird tae men he delytes in!

(Thank you, Lee Sandlin.)


(Translation anno 2000)

Vid den tiden utfärdade kejsar Augustus en förordning om att hela världen skulle skattskrivas. Det var den första skattskrivningen, och den hölls när Quirinius var ståthållare i Syrien. Alla gick då för att skattskriva sig, var och en till sin stad. Och Josef, som genom sin härkomst hörde till Davids hus, begav sig från Nasaret i Galileen upp till Judeen, till Davids stad Betlehem, för att skattskriva sig tillsammans med Maria, sin trolovade, som väntade sitt barn. Medan de befann sig där var tiden inne för henne att föda, och hon födde sin son, den förstfödde. Hon lindade honom och lade honom i en krubba, eftersom det inte fanns plats för dem inne i härbärget. I samma trakt låg några herdar ute och vaktade sin hjord om natten. Då stod Herrens ängel framför dem och Herrens härlighet lyste omkring dem, och de greps av stor förfäran. Men ängeln sade till dem: “Var inte rädda. Jag bär bud till er om en stor glädje, en glädje för hela folket. I dag har en frälsare fötts åt er i Davids stad, han är Messias, Herren. Och detta är tecknet för er: ni skall finna ett nyfött barn som är lindat och ligger i en krubba.” Och plötsligt var där tillsammans med ängeln en stor himmelsk här som prisade Gud:

“Ära i höjden åt Gud
och på jorden fred åt dem han har utvalt.”

(Translation anno 1917)

Och det hände sig vid den tiden att från kejsar Augustus utgick ett påbud att hela världen skulle skattskrivas. Detta var den första skattskrivningen, och den hölls, när Kvirinius var landshövding över Syrien. Då färdades alla var och en till sin stad, för att låta skattskriva sig. Så gjorde ock Josef; och eftersom han var av Davids hus och släkt, for han från staden Nasaret i Galileen upp till Davids stad, som heter Betlehem, i Judeen, för att låta skattskriva sig jämte Maria, sin trolovade, som var havande. Medan de voro där, hände sig att tiden var inne, då hon skulle föda. Och hon födde sin förstfödde son och lindade honom och lade honom i en krubba, ty det fanns icke rum för dem i härbärget. I samma nejd voro då några herdar ute på marken och höllo vakt om natten över sin hjord. Då stod en Herrens ängel framför dem, och Herrens härlighet kringstrålade dem; och de blevo mycket förskräckta. Men ängeln sade till dem: »Varen icke förskräckta. Se, jag bådar eder en stor glädje, som skall vederfaras allt folket. Ty i dag har en Frälsare blivit född åt eder i Davids stad, och han är Messias, Herren. Och detta skall för eder vara tecknet: I skolen finna ett nyfött barn, som ligger lindat i en krubba.» I detsamma sågs där jämte ängeln en stor hop av den himmelska härskaran, och de lovade Gud och sade:

»Ära vare Gud i höjden, och frid på jorden,
bland människor till vilka han har behag!»

(Translation anno 1541 - Gustavus Vasa’s bible, translated from Martin Luther’s bible)

Thet begaff sigh j then tijdhen, at aff Keysar Augusto vthgick itt bodh, at all werlden skulle beskattas. Och thenna beskatning war then första, och skeedde vnder then Höffdingen offuer Syrien, Kyrenio. Och the gingo alle hwar vthi sin stadh, til at läta beskatta sigh. Så foor ock Joseph vp aff Galilea, aff then stadhen Nazareth in vthi Judeska landet, til Dauidz stadh, som heter Bethlehem, Ty han war aff Dauidz hws och slecht, på thet han skulle låta beskatta sigh medh Maria sijn troloffuadha hustru, hwilken haffuandes war. Så begaff sigh medhan the woro ther, wordo daghanar fulbordadhe, at hon skulle födha. Och hon födde sin förstfödda Son, och swepte honom j lindaklädher, och ladhe honom nedher j een krubbo, Ty them war icke rwm j herberghena. Och j then samma egnden woro någhre Heerdar, the ther wakadhe och höllo wård om nattena offuer sin hiord. Och sij, Herrans Ängel stoodh när them, och Herrans klarheet kringskeen them, och the wordo stoorligha förfäradhe. Och sadhe Ängelen til them, Warer icke förfäradhe, Sij, iagh bodhar idher stoor glädhi, hwilken allo folckena widerfaras skal, Ty jdagh är idher födder Frelsaren, som är Christus Herren, j Dauidz stadh. Och thetta skal wara idher för tekn. J skole finna Barnet swept j lindaklädher, nedherlagdt j een krubbo. Och strax wardt medh Ängelen itt stoort taal aff then himmelska häärskaran, the ther loffuadhe Gudh, och sadhe, Ära ware Gudh j högden, Och på jordenne fridh, Och menniskiomen en godh wilie.

(Thank you, Mikael Johansson.)

Nederlandse Statenvertaling (1637), Lukas 2:1 - 20

1 En het geschiedde in diezelfde dagen, dat er een gebod uitging van den Keizer Augustus, dat de gehele wereld beschreven zou worden.
2 Deze eerste beschrijving geschiedde, als Cyrenius over Syrie stadhouder was.
3 En zij gingen allen om beschreven te worden, een iegelijk naar zijn eigen stad.
4 En Jozef ging ook op van Galilea, uit de stad Nazareth, naar Judea, tot de stad Davids, die Bethlehem genaamd wordt, (omdat hij uit het huis en geslacht van David was);
5 Om beschreven te worden met Maria, zijn ondertrouwde vrouw, welke bevrucht was.
6 En het geschiedde, als zij daar waren, dat de dagen vervuld werden, dat zij baren zoude.
7 En zij baarde haar eerstgeboren Zoon, en wond Hem in doeken, en legde Hem neder in de kribbe, omdat voor henlieden geen plaats was in de herberg.
8 En er waren herders in diezelfde landstreek, zich houdende in het veld, en hielden de nachtwacht over hun kudde.
9 En ziet, een engel des Heeren stond bij hen, en de heerlijkheid des Heeren omscheen hen, en zij vreesden met grote vreze.
10 En de engel zeide tot hen: Vreest niet, want, ziet, ik verkondig u grote blijdschap, die al den volke wezen zal;
11 Namelijk dat u heden geboren is de Zaligmaker, welke is Christus, de Heere, in de stad Davids.
12 En dit zal u het teken zijn: gij zult het Kindeken vinden in doeken gewonden, en liggende in de kribbe.
13 En van stonde aan was er met den engel een menigte des hemelsen heirlegers, prijzende God en zeggende:
14 Ere zij God in de hoogste hemelen, en vrede op aarde, in de mensen een welbehagen.
15 En het geschiedde, als de engelen van hen weggevaren waren naar de hemel, dat de herders tot elkander zeiden: Laat ons dan heengaan naar Bethlehem, en laat ons zien het woord, dat er geschied is, hetwelk de Heere ons heeft verkondigd.
16 En zij kwamen met haast, en vonden Maria en Jozef, en het Kindeken liggende in de kribbe.
17 En als zij Het gezien hadden, maakten zij alom bekend het woord, dat hun van dit Kindeken gezegd was.
18 En allen, die het hoorden, verwonderden zich over hetgeen hun gezegd werd van de herders.
19 Doch Maria bewaarde deze woorden alle te zamen, overleggende die in haar hart.
20 En de herders keerde wederom, verheerlijkende en prijzende God over alles, wat zij gehoord en gezien hadden, gelijk tot hen gesproken was.

- o0o -

Merry Christmas! Joy to the world! And thank you for being here.

December 24, 2008
Merry Christmas
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:04 AM * 61 comments

Many years ago I was down in northern Texas on a Christmas Eve. For some reason that escapes me, the radio station I could get on my car radio was playing All Little Drummer Boy, All The Time. Something like eighteen different versions, back-to-back.

This inspired me:

Mary snarled at me
I had the Kid asleep
You woke Him up, you creep
You and your drum.

Which reminds me: Q. What’s a parent’s favorite Christmas carol?

A. Silent Night

Bad for Christmas
Posted by Teresa at 09:09 AM * 13 comments

Corgi heads. Three of ‘em. Doing old-timey country dancing. In elf suits. It’s a bad, bad thing.

From, which has all the best music jokes, a gutwrenching O Holy Night, and a disastrous end to Handel’s Messiah.

Never get drunk at a company party. And if you aren’t normally much of a dancer, don’t get drunk and hit the dance floor at your office Christmas party, because there’s always someone who collects trophies: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. You hear me? Always.

Try not to live next to people who think Luke 2:12 reads, “ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, in the middle of a disco with a synchronized light show.” Not this guy. Definitely not these guys. And this house is almost scary. Why is there a city skyline? Did they get a deal on the animated brass band? And what is that reindeer supposed to be chewing on?

This Christmas illuminations video gets a special award for most clueless voiceover.

Dog: guilty, guilty, guilty.

December 23, 2008
Christmas, not doing
Posted by Teresa at 06:07 PM *

Dear All—

A thousand apologies—this is neither the place to issue nor rescind invitations—but Patrick and I will not be holding our open house on Christmas Day. I’ve come down with some kind of vile bug, and I can only stay upright for brief spells. Besides, “contagion” is not what we mean by “the spirit of Christmas giving.”

Wishing you and yours a much nicer holiday than this—

Teresa Nielsen Hayden

December 22, 2008
Deep Thought
Posted by Patrick at 11:58 AM *

Choosing Frank Miller to adapt The Spirit into a big-budget movie makes about as much sense as having Jerry Bruckheimer produce The Man Who Was Thursday.

December 21, 2008
Fimbul Winter
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:09 PM *

The first thing to say is that “global warming” doesn’t mean that everything is hotter. The term means “more energy in the atmosphere,” hence “more extreme weather in general.”

Right now I’m sitting here in northern New Hampshire looking at a prediction of twelve to eighteen inches of snow, backed by a strong wind, followed by extreme low temperatures. This morning, at 2 a.m., , when it was two degrees out (but -9° F (-22.8°C for our international friends) counting wind chill), we had a lost hiker search out past Norton Pond which got Pretty Darned Cold for us rescuers, let me tell you).

Here’s the prediction for tonight:









It isn’t too bad right now. While the road is solid white, I can see the streetlight across the street from my office window.

Right, then.

Approximately 30,000 people in my state have been without power since a week ago Friday (this being Sunday as I type). Th Union Leader is reporting that the power company is requesting police protection for its power crews. (When we went to pick up Pip from college (after her finals were delayed from Friday, to Saturday, to the following Monday) we stayed at our favorite cheap hotel (in a renovated Civil-war era shoe factory by the river in Manchester, run by guys from India). The parking lot was full of cherry-pickers from a power company in Maine.

Regular ML reader Arachne Jericho lists her preparations in Things to Do Before Snowpocalypse Hits. (Yeah, I admit it, I was egoscanning, and the Snowpocalypse post provided the inspiration for this post.)

The important Red Mike posts are:

The book that I recommend is Medicine for the Backcountry by Buck Tilton and Frank Hubbel (two guys I actually know).

That’s if, on the minus side, bad things happen to you and yours.

On the plus side, today’s the solstice. Which means (for us northern latitude types, in a tradition that probably goes back to the Cro-magnons) PAR-TAY!

(At this moment I am drinking Russell’s Reserve Rye. It is very good. (But I’m having no difficulty whatever in saying “transubstantiate.”))

KCCI-TV’s gratuitous features
Posted by Teresa at 03:50 PM * 14 comments

KCCI-TV is a local television station operating out of Des Moines, Iowa. I don’t know what they’re like if you live in the area, but I love the feature stories they archive on YouTube. They have good writing and camera work, tight editing, and a dry sense of humor when they know they’re covering a journalistic cliche. The segment titles and descriptions started out as theirs, and still mostly are.

Pigs on the Interstate: Dozens of pigs are scattered over I-35, outside of Des Moines after a semi carrying them is involved in a accident. Watch the editing on this one.

Snake Slithers Into Reporter’s Pants On Live TV: KCCI-TV Meteorologist Kurtis Gertz got quite a surprise during a live broadcast from the Iowa State Fair on Thursday when a snake slithered up his pants. This is KCCI’s most-viewed YouTube video, and a minor internet classic.

Cat Stuck On A Power Pole: Cat stuck on power pole for two days. Power company rescues it. Funny. This and the next segment are bog-standard local feature stories. They just cover them really well.

Hawkeye Fan Loses Bet, Wears Skirt: A Hawkeye fan must make good on his bet with a Cyclone fan.

$26,000 mattress: A local mattress outlet received a very expensive mattress set in with its usual shipment. I think what really makes this segment is the understated angelic choir singing in the background while they describe the mattress.

Mouse Stops Jet Airliner!: A small but mighty mouse kept a Delta flight from taking off from a Des Moines airport for hours.

Raw Tape: Incredible Chemical Fire: A chemical plant explodes and burns in Des Moines.

Tiny Guns Made From Corn Husks: A Central Iowa man makes toy guns from corn husks.

Massive Pumpkin Will Compete In Weigh-Off: A Des Moines man hopes to break an Iowa record, or even a world record, with his huge pumpkin.

Raw Storm Chaser Tornado Video: Iowa storm chaser captures this video of a funnel that hit Parkersburg Iowa.

More Raw Tornado Video - Parkersburg: Here is more video from Iowa storm chasers as they tracked the tornado that hit Parkersburg.

Echo Company’s Sendoff: Fort Des Moines-based Marines leave for a second tour in Iraq.

Buzzard Won’t Buzz Off: A turkey vulture who was nursed back to health won’t leave its caregiver’s home. Another great piece of editing.

KCCI Snowbusters: A promo featuring KCCI’s Snowbusters winter weather program.

Family Sends Headlights To Iraq: An Iowa family sends high-powered headlights to their son in Iraq.

Tancredo Gets Into Shouting Match With Gay Activst: A same-sex marriage supporter challenges Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo during his news conference denouncing a judge’s ruling saying gay marriage is OK in Iowa. They play fair with their reporting, but I don’t think they like Tom Tancredo.

Bride in Wedding Dress Rolls In Mud: A bride wore her wedding dress to the Iowa State Fair to eat corn dogs and roll in the mud with pigs. KCCI was there.

National Murrow Award Winner: Lake Robbins Ballroom: KCCI’s Steve Karlin and photographer Dan Bolsem won a national Murrow award for feature reporting for this story about a weekly dance night at the Lake Robbins Ballroom.

Award-Winning Video Montage: An award-winning video montage from the National Press Photographers’ Association (NPPA) station of the year: KCCI.

Run Over By A Tornado (Cow Shaken Up but OK): Roger Hill and crew put a camera in the path of a tornado and a cow.

They’ve put up a couple of hundred more, some of them going back years, since I collected this lot, so have a look.

My first impulse was to wrap this up by saying it’s all very American, but I’m still ticked off at the Republicans for their “people from non-urban areas are the real Americans” riff, and besides, Iowa was the first state to go for Obama. I think the truth is that it’s all very human.

December 20, 2008
To make a community, sometimes you have to break a few loaves of bread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:58 AM * 137 comments

One of the great pleasures of my job is that the entire office eats together. We get bread, cheese, milk, sauces, spreads, and meat delivered to the office, and every lunchtime we sit down around the table for sandwiches.

Eteoneus carved the meat and gave them each their portions, while Megapenthes poured out the wine. Then they laid their hands upon the good things that were before them
— The Odyssey, Book XV, translated by Samuel Butler

I love watching each of my colleagues sit down and start lunch. First comes benediction: Eet smakelijk*. Then, after pouring milk (or buttermilk; we have two or three karnemelk drinkers in the office), diners always seem to pause, looking over the table, hands held expressively†. Then they reach for the bread and the fillings, and make the most astonishing variety of sandwiches.

Dutch sandwich eaters seem to be divided into two groups: the open face knife and fork clade and the closed and picked up set. Loyalty is absolute and immutable; there are no switchers. The knife and fork people each have their own habits of cutting, executed with the precision of thoughtless habit.

I’ve always enjoyed this time, all the way back to the first meal I shared with them, on the day of my final interview with the company. I may have convinced management to hire me in the conference room, but they persuaded me to take the job at the lunch table.

They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal.
— Pliny the Younger, letter XCVII, translated by William Melmoth

The fact that my fondness for my colleagues finds expression at the lunch table is no coincidence. Very few activities build a community more effectively than eating together. I remember when one guy started going out to the local sandwich shop for lunch (there is only one nearby). It wasn’t a surprise when he quit; he had already moved out, in some deep emotional fashion.

Heaven and Hell are both banquets where each diner’s spoon is longer than his arm. In Hell they try to feed themselves, and starve. In Heaven they feed each other.
— Old story, much retold

Even more powerful than eating together, though, is feeding one another. Again, my work is a good example: we take turns laying the table according to a weekly rota. I have had many a bad day saved by taking the time to set out the food.

Think on these things in this season of communal meals. With whom will you be breaking bread this winter? How will it go? Which relationships will you strengthen, and which can you simply relax and enjoy? (And which, of course, will you glide through as lightly as possible? Because, you know, sometimes the best you can do is to minimize the damage.)

* Best translated into French Anglophone idiom as bon appetit

† I find hands, and the ways that people use them, as varied and delightful as faces. One person will wiggle his fingers as he plans his first sandwich, while another may stroke her fingernails with her thumb as she considers which cheese to choose. The guy who rubs his hands together as he thinks makes me smile; the one with the vulpine nails bemuses me.

December 18, 2008
“Sex with robots is more common than most people think”.
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:19 PM * 153 comments

[Video Link]

CNN: An inventor who claims he has never had time to find a human girlfriend has created his own perfect woman — a robot.

Le Trung, 33, from Toronto in Canada, says Aiko can do the cleaning, mix his favorite drink and read him newspaper headlines.

“Like a real female she will react to being touched in certain ways,” he told Britain’s Sun newspaper Thursday. “If you grab or squeeze too hard she will try to slap you. She has all senses except for smell.”

¡Que avanzada es la ciencia!

The inventor says that his robot isn’t a sex toy, and who am I to doubt it? The fact that he has to keep saying, “No, no, honest, it isn’t a sex toy!” though, should be a clue to what the next guy to get one is going to do with it.

There was a young man from Racine
Who invented a fncking machine.
Concave or convex,
It would fit either sex
And jerk itself off in between.

There’s a whole branch of porn devoted to sex with robots, enough so that there are archives of stories helpfully tagged “fembot” so that those seeking them can find them. Fembots have made it into mainstream entertainment with The Stepford Wives, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and with Austin Powers (among many other places).

As you know, Bob, guys will boink anything that gets close enough.

The sex of the asteroid vermin
Is exceedingly hard to determine
The Galactic Patrol
Will use any hole
Sufficient to put all the sperm in.

From The Houston Chronicle last January:

If you’re younger than 35, you’ll probably live long enough to put David Levy’s prediction to the test. Levy says that by 2050 we’ll be creating robots so lifelike, so imbued with human-seeming intelligence and emotions, as to be nearly indistinguishable from real people. And we’ll have sex with these robots. Some of us will even marry them. And it will all be good.

Levy lays out his vision of a Brave New Carnal World in Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, which, despite its extended riffs on sex toys through the ages, is a snigger-free book. Levy’s no Al Goldstein. Rather he’s a 62-year-old British chess master turned artificial-intelligence expert persuaded that robot sex can brighten the lives of many, many unhappy people. “Great sex on tap for everyone, 24/7,” he writes on the final page of the book. What’s not to like?

The book referenced is Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. For all that Levy is predicting sex with robots by 2050, people are having sex with robots right now. For example you have your Sybian for the ladies and the Venus for the gents, non-anthropomorphic (but still probably blocked by your company’s IT department).

For that matter, in the do-it-yourself category of sex with machines, there’re cell phones and vacuum cleaners. Perhaps the professionally-made models have a lower chance of involving a trip to the ER.

Then you have your anthropomorphics. For example, the Realdoll (hoo-boy is this NSFW!).

(Doing a Google image search for RealDoll can find some amazing photos.)

The site tells us that the RealDoll experience is heightened if you soak it in warm water first to get up to skin temperature. (Or, I suppose, you could soak it in ice water if you’re into necrophilia.)

Per the site, here are the Realdoll Features:

  • Elastic - flesh can withstand over 300% elongation
  • Heat Resistant - can withstand over 300 degrees heat
  • Water Resistant - solid construction
  • Stain Resistant - nothing sticks to silicone flesh
  • Durable - long life silicone rubber
  • Lifelike - anatomically correct, parts molded from life-casts
  • Realistic Feel - pliant and soft in all the right places
  • Odorless and Flavorless
  • Flexible - wide range of joint movement
  • Sexy and Pleasurable - provides effective aid to sexual fulfillment
  • Safe - no risk of disease, nontoxic
  • Convenient - always ready & available
  • Relaxing and Comforting - provides stress-free companionship
  • Affordable - cheaper than most alternatives

I don’t know about that “cheaper than most alternatives.” Maybe a movie and a box of chocolates is way-expensive out in California.

Blow-up-rubber-dolls have been around for a long time (see joke where the punchline is “She farted and flew out the window.”) One of the classic rip-offs among the many rip-offs among the ads in the back of “men’s magazines” used to be for a “blow up girl” with “a hole in the right place” for an amazingly low price, where what you’d get if you sent in your five bucks was a party balloon with a picture of a young lady printed on it.

The addition of servo-motors and artificial intelligence seems like an obvious next step.

I don’t actually have a conclusion to this post. That people will boink anything and will be remarkably inventive about it along the way seems like a “Duh!” kind of statement.

December 16, 2008
Free Muntadar Zaidi now!
Posted by Teresa at 11:40 PM * 189 comments

Muntadar Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush, needs to be rescued.

According to his brother Durgham Zaidi, Muntadar Zaidi is in the heavily fortified Green Zone compound in central Baghdad where the US embassy and most Government offices are housed. He’s being held there by Iraqi forces under the command of Muaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser.

“He has got a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm,” Durgham said.

Three things the entire world knows:

1. Bush dodged both shoes with impressive speed, and didn’t seem upset.
2. It was a symbolic act of contempt, not an attack.
3. If Muntadar Zaidi had intended harm, he wouldn’t have been throwing shoes.
One more extremely important thing the whole world knows: It may have been a serious expression of contempt, but it was also funny.

Now, funny is normally a minor form of magic, but this instance has supernatural events associated with it.* Clearly, Muntadar Zaidi is manifesting some aspect of Holy Fool. Granting him mercy and tolerance is guaranteed to make you look good, and is generally the Right Thing to Do. Oppressing him will at absolute minimum make you look bad, and it’ll be the kind of bad that sticks. Furthermore, if I believed in magic, which I don’t, I’d say that with both the turn of the year and a change in leadership coming up, this is no time to go oppressing Holy Fools. Do you have any idea what that can do to your luck?

The other reason Bush should go out of his way to rescue Muntadar Zaidi is that it’s not against our laws to express contempt for an American head of state. Bush brought this episode on himself by trying to pretend it is; also, by pretending that occupying the office automatically entitled him to our respect. The main reason that didn’t work was that he himself didn’t respect the office. That massively cynical fib he told about giving up golf as a sacrifice in solidarity with our troops for the duration of the war is exactly the kind of behavior that invites supernatural retribution.

So, will someone please tell George that he has two choices? He can either grab a moment’s grace in the midst of the sorry spectacle that is the end of his administration, or he can have people sending shoes in his direction for the rest of his life.

December 15, 2008
The other shoe
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:46 PM * 54 comments

While we’ve all been distracted by other news, I see (via Solarbird) that the Senate Armed Services Committee has released the results of its inquiry into the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and elsewhere. A few choice quotes from the executive summary (emphasis added by me):

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

One thing that jumped out at me:

Following the Secretary’s December 2, 2002 authorization, senior staff at GTMO began drafting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) specifically for the use of SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape] techniques in interrogations. The draft SOP itself stated that “The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations. These tactics and techniques are used at SERE school to ‘break’ SERE detainees. The same tactics and techniques can be used to break real detainees during interrogation.” The draft “GTMO SERE SOP” described how to slap, strip, and place detainees in stress positions. It also described other SERE techniques, such as “hooding,” “manhandling,” and “walling” detainees.

What stands out to me here is something I see over and over in stories about abuse of various kinds: People who’ve been subjected to abuse seem to be imprinted with it, and (under certain conditions) may then reenact that abuse against others. Which implies that perhaps interrogators should be drawn from the ranks of people who haven’t been subjected to these harsh techniques themselves.

Interrogation policies endorsed by senior military and civilian officials authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques were a major cause of the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. […] It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel.


Conclusion 6: The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) interrogation program included at least one SERE training technique, waterboarding. Senior Administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, were consulted on the development of legal analysis of CIA interrogation techniques. Legal opinions subsequently issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) interpreted legal obligations under U.S. anti-torture laws and determined the legality of CIA interrogation techniques. Those OLC opinions distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by U.S. military personnel.


Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. […]

If any of your right-wing torture-apologist friends try to paint this as a partisan witch-hunt, point out that while the Armed Services Committee is chaired by Carl Levin (D-MI), the ranking member is John McCain (R-AZ), who knows a little something about torture. The 25-person committee consists of 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and Joseph Lieberman (Likud-CT), and not one committee member dissented from the report.

Harper’s has more on the report, and here’s Glenn Greenwald on the (lack of) media response.

Reality-based community
Posted by Patrick at 08:11 PM * 90 comments

Barack Obama, 15 December 2008, while naming Stephen Chu as energy secretary, Lisa Jackson as EPA head, and Carol Browner to head a policy council coordinating climate, environment, and energy issues:

“My administration will value science. We will make decisions based on facts.”

Blah blah he’s imperfect blah blah political realism blah blah, but it’s an incredible relief to hear a President say that science and facts matter.

Open thread 117
Posted by Teresa at 06:00 PM *

Middle English rock and roll—

Dronken, dronken, dronken,
Dronken, dronken, ydronken;
Dronken is Tabart,
Dronken is Tabart atte wyne,
Hay! …
Ye haveth al ydronken,
Suster, Walter, Peter,
Ye dronke al depe
Ant ichulle eke.
Stondet alle stille,
Stille, stille, stille,
Stondet alle stille,
Stille as any ston.
Trippe a lutel wit thi fot
Ant let thi body go.

A conclusion reached in consideration of the various translations of the Dutch verb uitmaken
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:47 PM *

Language is a mystery, in the sense that you can think and talk about it endlessly without coming to its essence, only to understand in an instant what all that verbiage was driving at. Fluency is like enlightenment, when the painstaking study of vocabulary and grammar translates into having the right form of the right word at the right moment. And that enlightenment cannot be transmitted except by leading the student through the process of contemplation and realization until the indescribable skill manifests itself.

Under what more rational model can a single word mean to extinguish (as in a cigarette), to matter, to constitute and to conclude? There is an essential concept in there which cannot be described in another language, but must simply be grasped in its primal, inchoate form.

(You may say that I am at an interesting point in my language studies.)

December 14, 2008
Those Mysterious Easterners, So Different From You and Me
Posted by Patrick at 06:49 PM *

“In Arab cultures, throwing shoes is a grave show of disrespect.” —

“The act is an Arab symbol of contempt.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Throwing shoes at somebody is a supreme insult in the Middle East.” —Reuters

“In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt.” —Associated Press

It’s a good thing we have a well-informed press corps to explain these difficult nuances of a faraway alien culture, since otherwise we would surely have assumed that the Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George W. Bush in a spontaneous outburst of fellowship and joy. It’s important to be reminded how fundamentally strange these foreigners are.

December 12, 2008
Unfortunate Headline
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:02 PM * 165 comments

Gift idea: How to make a ‘Love Box’

Some people are resolutely clean-minded.

December 11, 2008
Cold or Flu?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:06 PM *

‘Tis the Season.

Signs/Symptoms Cold Flu
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Fatigue; Weakness Sometimes Usual; lasts up to two or three weeks
Chest discomfort; cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can be severe
General aches and pains Slight Usual. Often severe.
Headache Rare Common
Fever Rare Usual; high (100° to 102° F; occasionally higher; especially in young children). Lasts three to four days.
Extreme exhaustion Never Usual; at onset of the disease



  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)


  • Antiviral medications under medical supervision



  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold


  • Annual vaccination
  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has the flu



  • Sinus congestion
  • Middle ear infection
  • Asthma


  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia (can be life-threatening)

If you have a cold or the flu, strongly consider staying home until you are well.

See also:

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. These posts are presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Cold or Flu? by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Index to Medical Posts

Whisperado, Inside Your Computer
Posted by Patrick at 08:27 AM * 8 comments

From last night’s Kenny’s gig. Now with added Jeff Lambert pedal-steel awesomeness!

Work on the new album proceeds in fits and starts. All the basic drum tracks are finished, but there’s a lot of guitar and vocal work yet to do. Meanwhile, I’m going to try, once again, to more regularly use Making Light to note upcoming gigs—I realized just now, updating the “Next Whisperado Gig” box on the masthead, that we’d been onstage three times since the last time I did so. Uh, oops.

December 10, 2008
December 09, 2008
DE-troit. (Where the PO-lice smoke SEE-gars.)
Posted by Patrick at 11:44 PM * 99 comments

I am, on balance, in favor of a narrowly-targeted deal that will keep the Big 2.5 barely alive until Obama gets into power, at which time his people can have the unenviable task of figuring out what to do with the internal organs, tail, and ears. That said, this is still funny.

Disclaimer: I was born in Lansing, of parents both born and raised in Michigan. My father’s father toiled his whole working life for Fisher Body. River Rouge! Grosse Pointe! Blah blah blah. Feel free to ignore me on this subject.

What do they have in common?
Posted by Patrick at 09:52 PM * 87 comments

Richard & Linda Thompson. Linda Rondstadt. The Flying Burrito Brothers. Aretha Franklin. Ry Cooder. Cat Power. The Afghan Whigs. Percy Sledge. Gregg Allman. Elvis Costello. Frank Black.

I mean, aside from the obvious, like “they’re musicians” or “they speak English” or “they breathe oxygen.” A little more specific than that. Discuss.

(This is a test of the Making Light Expertise System.)

December 07, 2008
How To Read an American Newspaper
Posted by Patrick at 10:37 PM * 70 comments

America GOOD!

Detroit Bailout May Bring On U.S. Oversight

Congressional Democrats were weighing options for government control of the auto industry, including the possible creation of an oversight board.

Foreigners SINISTER!
In Hard Times, Russia Moves In to Reclaim Private Industries

The Kremlin seems to be exploiting the economic crisis to establish more control over weakened industries.

Yes, when we do it, we’re “weighing options” and possibly creating an “oversight board.” But when Russia—excuse me, I mean “THE KREMLIN”—does it, they’re “exploiting the economic crisis” in order to “establish more control.” You can hear their commissars cackling as far away as Sarah Palin’s house!

I don’t doubt for a moment that there’s plenty to criticize about the cozy oligarchy that post-Soviet Russia has become. And I actually think we probably do need to keep the Detroit auto companies, awful though they are, from completely cratering over the next few weeks. But the difference of journalistic slant is striking when the two stories are a mere one column apart.

In fact, I’m sure the Russian elites, contemplating their problems, are telling themselves high-minded stories that are more similar to the internal narratives of our own aristocracy than they are different. And it’s hard to look at the recent raids on the commonweal by our own merchant princes and not think, hm, this looks a lot like the behavior of a mafiya. But it’s remarkable to see such a high-level organ of received wisdom as the New York Times making our habitual hypocrisy quite so plain.

December 05, 2008
Need a Job?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:27 PM *

The CIA is hiring!

I expect there are going to be a lot of openings soon.

December 04, 2008
Plays Well With Lightning
Posted by Teresa at 10:59 AM * 168 comments

Today is the Feast of Saint Barbara: go blow something up. Alternately, you can avoid getting blown up, which is just as appropriate.

Barbara is the most volatile of the Three Explosive Virgin Martyrs,* who form the core lineup of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.* She’s most often shown as a beautiful young woman holding a tower that has three windows. The other two EVMs are Saint Catherine of Alexandria, as in Catherine-wheel fireworks, and Saint Margaret of Antioch, who defeated a dragon that had swallowed her by blowing it up from the inside,* which is why Margaret is the patron saint of women in labor. They hang out being ahistorical and irrepressible together.

Saint Barbara’s popularity got a boost when gunpowder technology reached Europe. Here we see her smiling serenely while standing atop the thrashed remains of the previous climax weapons system, the knight in armor. To this day, the name for the powder magazine in Spanish or Italian ships is santabarbara.

She continues to be popular. Here’s her MySpace page. Here’s the episode from her Life where lightning hits the tower, which became trump #16 in the standard Tarot deck. Here she is in one of her more prominent current gigs (see also).

She’s the patron saint of sailors,* gunners, artillery, sappers, explosive ordnance disposal, military engineers,* mathematicians, fortification builders, ammunition workers, saltpetre workers, smelters, brass workers, foundrymen, armorers,* bomb technicians, explosives manufacturers, fireworks makers, miners, mining engineers, geologists, railway workers, architects, construction workers, masons, stonemasons, stonecutters, tilers, hatters, milliners, brewers, prisoners,* martyrs, gravediggers, fire prevention, warehouses, ammunition magazines, storms, lightning, landmines, incoming shells, explosions, and sudden death, and of anyone who works at risk of a sudden and violent end. Also, if things do go kablooey and you’re mortally burnt and/or blown up, invoking Saint Barbara is your best bet for staying alive long enough for last rites.

She would undoubtedly be the patron saint of rocket scientists, vulcanologists, chemistry students, explosive building demolition, and people who deep-fry turkeys, if the Vatican didn’t keep trying to scrub her out of the calendar for being so embarrassingly ahistorical.

(Digression: I like my godfather’s take on dubious saints. He says that a saint whose legend is ahistorical, contradictory, and folkloric is merely a saint for whom we do not have a reliable saint’s life; and there are lots of those. It’s also well known that there are many saints who die unknown to us.

He says that if you’re ever involved in doings that are of interest to agencies whose names are three-letter acronyms, and they recruit you as a contact, what they’ll do is give you a number to call and a name to ask for. If later something happens, and you call that number and ask for that name so you can tell them about it, they’ll put you on hold for a bit, then put you through. The person you’ll wind up talking to doesn’t actually bear the name you were given. What that name did was tell them which file to pull and look through before talking to you.

By analogy, he says, who knows who’s taking the Barbara duty when you pray? It might even be someone named Barbara.) (End digression.)

The other military saints don’t get nearly the attention she does. It’s remarkable how often she turns up on websites about artillery units [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), armourers, miners and mining engineers [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], railway workers, military engineers [1, 2, 3], and architects. It’s one of the things I love about the cult of Saint Barbara: no group, organization, or profession that works with things that explode and/or collapse ever parts ways with her. She may be out of the calendar, and they may be officially secular, nondenominational, or even atheist, but she’s still their patron saint, and they would not be so imprudent as to let her go.

December 02, 2008
A different kind of “political science”
Posted by Patrick at 02:28 PM * 177 comments

Commenting on the previous post, Yorkshire Ranter Alex contributes to our understanding of Canadian parliamentary procedure—specifically, “the critical paths involved in an unplanned change of government in a Westminster-type constitution.”

…In normal working prorogation is just the precondition to dissolution, which ends one parliament. Dissolution causes the writ of election to be served, which requires a general election to be held within two months. The general election creates the new parliament, which then convenes to hear the Queen’s speech, which contains the legislative programme for the next year, and take a vote. Formally, this vote is what prevents a PM with no majority governing, but in practice it never gets that far.

(Told you it had a flavour of telecoms engineering, if not a biological signalling cascade :-) )

If the prime minister wants to call an election, he or she has to ask their local distributed queenship node for prorogation and therefore dissolution. Once (year - year_lastelection)== 5, the prorogation subroutine executes automatically.

Things get interesting, though, in the case of event-driven prorogation. The PM, and the Government, serve at the pleasure of their local queenship node and during the confidence of a majority in the lower house of Parliament. In the event they lose one of certain types of parliamentary votes (either an explicit vote of confidence, or one on the budget or on the use of already-committed public funds), this condition is no longer satisfied and signal NOCONFIDENCE is raised.

At this point it gets complicated! Not much after that is set down in the documentation for the Westminster API, and it is left up to the implementation. In practice, the canonical version (Westminster 1.0) works like this:

The PM stays PM until he resigns or is ordered out by the local queenship node, thus guaranteeing continuous government.

This means that a PM who trips a NOCONF signal can have a second attempt to form a coalition government (Ted Heath tried this in 1974) or talk the rebel MPs round (John Major did this in 1993). It is necessary to successfully call a confidence vote in this case.

If this fails, however, the Leader of the Opposition is called by the local queenship node to try to form a government FIRST, if it thinks it is possible. If not, or if the Opposition tries and fails, we go to the prorogation subroutine. It is also possible for the PM to ask for a new election, but this is only granted if the PM has attempted to govern with the existing parliament.

As a general rule in all other cases, the largest party is called first.

The Australian implementation differed substantially until its LDQN experienced a partisanship segmentation fault in 1975 and refused PM Gough Whitlam a dissolution after the upper house blocked a supply bill, choosing instead to call Malcolm Fraser, whom it promptly granted the dissolution to. The Australians later legislated to disconnect the malfunctioning LDQN and fix the bug.

I would think that if Harper thinks he can just prorogue and then dis-prorogue without initiating the election process, he’s deluded, and is suggesting a grossly unconstitutional act. I would hope the LDQN functions correctly :-)

December 01, 2008
Our Exciting Neighbor to the North
Posted by Patrick at 06:18 PM *

Yes, while you were stuffing yourself with tryptophan and stumbling around in the traditional subsequent haze, Canadians (who did all that a month earlier) suddenly decided to have the most astounding, death-defying, exhilarating national power struggle imaginable. Incompetence! Payback! Mortal enemies making coalition deals! Illicit taping of phone calls! Cats and dogs living together! Stéphane Dion returning from the dead!

People laugh at me when I say I’m interested in Canadian politics. No, really, actual laughter, the out-loud in-person kind. But every so often, after long stretches of preternatural boringness, Canadian politics becomes, for brief periods, the greatest show on earth.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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