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December 30, 2009
Snowpocalypse Part Next
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:37 PM *

From the New Hampshire Homeland Security Emergency Management email list:

The NH HSEM Field Services has issued a Winter Storm Warning

To ALL Emergency Management Directors:

” There is a significant winter storm predicted for this weekend. According to the NWS in Gray, Me. - “this is a very unusual event … we have not seen one like this in 30 years.” This will be an event that is expected to bring significant snow and wind for the entire state. Gusts of wind may be up to 50 mph.

There will be a smaller system moving into NH very late Thursday night / early Friday a.m. bringing 3-5” of snow. The main storm will be moving in Saturday afternoon and possibly last until Tuesday, with the storm stalling off the coast. The weather models are still somewhat confusing so actual amounts of snowfall (mostly dry snow) are difficult to predict and range anywhere from 6-14” to possible 20-40” further north. Predictability will be more certain tomorrow.

There is also great concern regarding possible coastal flooding.

We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated. HSEM would advise all communities to begin referring to their emergency plans and begin preparedness activities.

Emphases in the original.

This might be a good time for the good folks of Northern New England among the readership to review their own emergency management plans.

See also Arctic Blast From the Past, and follow links.

December 29, 2009
Maybe next year
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:05 PM *

Patrick referred to “international terror klutzes” yesterday, but I think maybe Charlie Stross’s “murderous clowns” was more accurate. So far, we’ve had the recent exploding underpants, and Richard Reid’s exploding shoes, both classic bits of circus clown comedy. This implies that the TSA’s obsession with fluids and spray canisters is actually right on target for preventing a future seltzer bottle attack. Variants on the “suitcase gag” are also clearly anticipated and taken care of. A ban on pies and rubber chickens would seem to be in order.

If you examine the types of circus clowns, Reid and Abdulmutallab are clearly the auguste or “red clown” archetype — the hapless guy who’s the butt of the joke. Osama bin Laden himself would be a “whiteface”, like Moe Howard or Bud Abbott, the straight-man figure who orders the other clowns around.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Moumou, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Saif al-Adel, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the various other second- and third-bananas in al Qaeda’s hierarchy are “character clowns”. They aspire to the authority of the whiteface, but wind up like the auguste. (Note also how the face of the “hobo” clown — originally a sub-category of character clowns — resembles an abstraction of the full dark beard favored by so many of these men.)

The Dep’t of Homeland Security clearly needs to switch the focus of its efforts away from air travel, concentrating instead upon small, densely-packed automobiles.

The new new TSA regulations
Posted by Patrick at 10:34 AM * 137 comments

From the rather good KLM blog, the latest, to the best of my knowledge, on what those new TSA policies actually are. Short version: they’re ditching the stuff about not letting people get up to pee during the last hour of the flight, and also that business about not being able to have blankets, books, laptops, or other objects in your lap.

Abi posted this in comment #1 to my post yesterday. But a day later I’m still seeing people all over the internet talking about that nutty last-hour stuff as if it were still indefinitely in effect. Maybe putting the link here on the front page will help.

There’s plenty left to criticize about the TSA’s overall approach—see Bruce Schneier’s appearance on Maddow last night for some of the basic points—but we should probably be discussing the current stupidity rather than yesterday’s stupidity.

December 28, 2009
Bruce Schneier on Rachel Maddow
Posted by Teresa at 08:53 PM *

If the listing I’m looking at is correct, he’s going to be on—or rather, the show is going to start—seven minutes from now.

9:24 EST: Okay, that was cool. Bruce was on for about five minutes, and talked a great deal of sense.

The Worldchanging Power of International Terror Klutzes
Posted by Patrick at 01:45 PM *

John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey has been posting “reruns” during the holiday break, and this one, from 2006, is particularly appropriate to the Now.

I am absolutely buffaloed by the people who insist I man up and take it in the teeth for the great Clash of Civilizations—“Come ON, people, this is the EPIC LAST WAR!! You just don’t have the stones to face that fact head-on!”—who at the whiff of an actual terror plot will, with no apparent sense of irony, transform and run around shrieking, eyes rolling and Hello Kitty panties flashing like Japanese schoolgirls who have just realized that the call is coming from inside the house!

I may have shared too much there.

To be honest, it’s not like I’m a brave man. I’m not. At all. It just, well, it doesn’t take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn’t actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they’re now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES…which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let’s skip right over that. Or how about the “compound” of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with…kung fu?

Despite which, for now at least, it appears we’ll be spending the last hour of flights into the US, and randomly-selected domestic flights as well, confined to our seats and forbidden to use the bathroom. Good thing the international terror masterminds will never think to blow up their underwear fully 65 minutes before landing!

(Rogers is, among other things, co-creator and showrunner of the amusing TNT series Leverage. In further proof that there are only 15,000 people in the world, my brother Benjamin was a props-and-sets guy on that show during the production of its most recent season.)

December 27, 2009
Shameless Commercial
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:08 PM * 21 comments

“My golly,” I can hear you say. “What wonderful writers’ workshop, concentrating on commercial fantasy and science fiction up to novel length, that’s held every year on Martha’s Vineyard, should I go to?”

Fear not, gentle Pilgrim! I have an answer to your question. You should apply to Viable Paradise!

December 26, 2009
Making Light on Twitter
Posted by Patrick at 12:46 PM * 74 comments

More and more people are using Twitter as their default method of trawling the web. It’s not surprising. Once you get your bearings (and get past the obligatory stage of sneering about people “tweeting”, har har, about “what they had for breakfast”), it’s not only compelling in that familiar internet lab-rat-going-for-the-cocaine-pellet way, it’s also surprisingly useful. A well-chosen mix of Twitter friends and interesting public figures can not only deliver a kind of “social proprioception,” but can also serve as a filter for events in the larger world—if it’s important or interesting to you, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about it first on Twitter. (Of course, as a heuristic, this is only as good as the people you follow, but that’s true of social life in general.)

Teresa and I have both been intermittently on Twitter for a while, as tnielsenhayden and pnh respectively. Abi is evilrooster. Avram is, well, avram. Jim is, I think, suspicious of the whole thing.

That said, today it occurred to me that if Twitter really is going to be a lasting piece of intarweb infrastructure, maybe I should grab the “makinglight” namespace right away. Amazingly, it was still available, and if I’ve configured Twitterfeed correctly, the newly-created makinglight account will now report and link to new posts to Making Light’s front page and to new Particles and Sidelights as well. Coming soon on Making Light: sidebar linkblogs by Abi, Avram, and Jim as well, just as soon as we can devote some more time to the great slow-motion renovation of the site.

Of course, Boxing Day is all about this kind of low-key noodling around. Hope you’re all well, and that if you were celebrating yesterday, you’re well on the way to recovery now…

December 25, 2009
The Colorful Holiday Customs Of Our European Friends
Posted by Patrick at 06:43 PM *

(Via Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer on Twitter.)

UPDATE: Frontline ethnographic researcher Kip Williams contributes traditional Pope-knocking-over songs.

Texts, 2009
Posted by Teresa at 12:01 AM * 31 comments

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.

In Portuguese:

1. Naqueles tempos apareceu um decreto de César Augusto, ordenando o recenseamento de toda a terra.
2. Este recenseamento foi feito antes do governo de Quirino, na Síria.
3. Todos iam alistar-se, cada um na sua cidade.
4. Também José subiu da Galiléia, da cidade de Nazaré, à Judéia, à Cidade de Davi, chamada Belém, porque era da casa e família de Davi,
5. para se alistar com a sua esposa Maria, que estava grávida.
6. Estando eles ali, completaram-se os dias dela.
7. E deu à luz seu filho primogênito, e, envolvendo-o em faixas, reclinou-o num presépio; porque não havia lugar para eles na hospedaria.
8. Havia nos arredores uns pastores, que vigiavam e guardavam seu rebanho nos campos durante as vigílias da noite.
9. Um anjo do Senhor apareceu-lhes e a glória do Senhor refulgiu ao redor deles, e tiveram grande temor.
10. O anjo disse-lhes: Não temais, eis que vos anuncio uma boa nova que será alegria para todo o povo:
11. hoje vos nasceu na Cidade de Davi um Salvador, que é o Cristo Senhor.
12. Isto vos servirá de sinal: achareis um recém-nascido envolto em faixas e posto numa manjedoura.
13. E subitamente ao anjo se juntou uma multidão do exército celeste, que louvava a Deus e dizia:
14. Glória a Deus no mais alto dos céus e na terra paz aos homens, objetos da benevolência (divina).

(Thank you, Fragano)

In Icelandic:

Lúkasar guðspjall 2:1-20

En það bar til um þessar mundir, að boð kom frá Ágústus keisara, að skrásetja skyldi alla heimsbyggðina. Þetta var fyrsta skrásetningin og var gjörð þá er Kýreníus var landstjóri á Sýrlandi. Fóru þá allir til að láta skrásetja sig, hver til sinnar borgar. Þá fór og Jósef úr Galíleu frá borginni Nasaret upp til Júdeu, til borgar Davíðs, að láta skrásetja sig ásamt Maríu heitkonu sinni, sem var þunguð. En meðan þau voru þar, kom sá tími, er hún skyldi verða léttari. Fæddi jún þá son sinn frumgetinn, vafði hann reifum og lagði hann í jötu, af því að eigi var rúm handa þeim í gistihúsi.

En í sömu byggð voru hirðar úti í haga og gættu um nóttina hjarðar sinnar. Og engill Drottins stóð hjá þeim, og dýrð Drottins ljómaði kringum þá. Þeir urðu mjög hræddir, en engillinn sagði við þá: “Verið óhræddir, því sjá, ég boða yður mikinn fögnuð, sem veitast mun öllum lýðnum: Yður er í dag frelsari fæddur, sem er Kristur Drottinn, í borg Davíðs. Og hafði þetta til marks: Þið munuð finna ungbarn reifað og lagt í jötu.”

Og í sömu svipan var með englinum fjöldi himneskra hersveita, sem lofuðu Guð og sögðu: Dýrð sé Guði í upphæðum og friður á jörðu með mönnum, sem hann hefur velþóknun á. Þegar englarnir voru farnir frá þeim til himins, sögðu hirðarnir sín á milli: “Förum beint til Betlahem að sjá það, sem gjörst hefur og Drottinn hefur kunngjört oss” Og þeir fóru með skyndi og fundu Maríu og Jósef og ungbarnið, sem lá í jötu. Þegar þeir sáu það, skýrðu þeir frá því, er þeim hafði verið sagt um barn þetta. Og allir, sem heyrðu, undruðust það, er hirðarnir sögðu þeim. En María geymdi allt þetta í hjarta sér og hugleiddi það. Og hirðarnir sneru aftur og vegsömuðu Guð og lofuðu hann fyrir það, sem þeir höfðu heyrt og séð, en allt var það eins og þeim hafði verið sagt.

(Thank you, Sica)

Martin Luther, 1545:

1. Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit, daß ein Gebot vom Kaiser Augustusausging, daß alle Welt geschätzt würde. :: 2. Und diese Schätzung war die allererste und geschah zu der Zeit, daCyrenius Landpfleger in Syrien war :: 3. Und jedermann ging, daß er sich schätzen ließe, ein. jeglicher inseine Stadt. :: 4. Da machte sich auch auf Joseph aus Galiläa, aus der Stadt Nazareth,in das jüdische Land zur Stadt Davids die da heißt Bethlehem, darum daßer von dem Hause und Geschlechte Davids war :: 5. auf daß er sich schätzen ließe mit Maria, seinem vertrauten Weibe,die war schwanger. :: 6. Und als sie daselbst waren, kam die Zeit, daß sie gebären sollte. :: 7. Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn und wickelte ihn in Windeln undlegte ihn in eine Krippe; denn sie hatten sonst keinen Raum in derHerberge. :: 8. Und es waren Hirten in derselbigen Gegend auf dem Felde bei denHürden, die hüteten des Nachts ihre Herde. :: 9. und siehe des Herrn Engel trat zu ihnen, und die Klarheit des Herrnleuchtete um sie, und sie fürchteten sich sehr. :: 10. Und der Engel sprach zu ihnen: Fürchtet euch nicht! Siehe, ichverkündige euch große Freude, die allem Volk widerfahren wird; :: 11. denn euch ist heute der Heiland geboren, welcher ist Christus, derHerr, in der Stadt Davids. :: 12. Und das habt zum Zeichen: Ihr werdet finden das Kind in Windelngewickelt und in einer Krippe liegen. :: 13. Und alsbald war da bei dem Engel die Menge der himmlischenHeerscharen, die lobten Gott und sprachen: :: 14. Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe und Friede auf Erden und den Menschenein Wohlgefallen! :: 15. Und da die Engel von ihnen gen Himmel fuhren, sprachen die Hirtenuntereinander: Laßt uns nun gehen gen Bethlehem und die Geschichtesehen, die da geschehen ist, die uns der Herr kundgetan hat. :: 16. Und sie kamen eilend und fanden beide, Maria und Joseph, dazu dasKind in der Krippe liegen. :: 17. Da sie es aber gesehen hatten breiteten sie das Wort aus, welcheszu ihnen von diesem Kind gesagt war. :: 18. Und alle, vor die es kam, wunderten sich der Rede, die ihnen dieHirten gesagt hatten. :: 19. Maria aber behielt alle diese Worte und bewegete sie in ihremHerzen. :: 20. Und die Hirten kehreten wieder um, preiseten und lobten Gott umalles, was sie gehöret und gesehen hatten, wie denn zu ihnen gesagt war.

(Thank you, Fidelio)

- o0o -

From Sisuile, Isaiah 9:6:

Parvulus enim natus est nobis filius datus est nobis et factus est principatus super umerum eius et vocabitur nomen eius Admirabilis consiliarius Deus fortis Pater futuri saeculi Princeps pacis. <

From Paul Duncanson, the LOLcat version.

From Linkmeister, Linus explains Christmas.

Jo Walton’s story about Joseph.

From Pericat, the IRC version.

Debcha is big on Wayne Coyne’s Twelve reasons why Christmas matters.

And from me, a Christmas carol for which we have got to find music before next yuletide: Ipse Mocat Me. Also An Aungell fro Hevn Gan Lyth, which as far as I know is the only Christmas carol that depicts God as a knitter. (Note: mind the typo in the third line of first stanza, which says know but should be knot.)

- o0o -

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

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:00 AM * 8 comments

Q. What did Santa say when he got stuck upside-down in a chimney?
A. “OH OH OH.”
Q. Why does Santa go down the chimney?
A. Because it soots him.
Q. How many chimneys does Santa go down?
A. Stacks.
Q. Where do snowmen go to party?
A. Snowballs.
Q. What do reindeer say when they tell you a joke?
A. “This one will sleigh you.”
Q. How many reindeer does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Eight. One to turn the bulb and the other seven to hold Rudolf down.

December 24, 2009
Goodbye to a “low dishonest decade.” Merry Christmas anyway!
Posted by Patrick at 06:55 PM *

“Veni Veni Emmanuel,” Beth Nielsen Chapman
“In the Bleak Midwinter,” The Blind Boys of Alabama, Chrissie Hynde, & Richard Thompson
“Fairytale Of New York,” The Pogues
“First Snow on Brooklyn,” Jethro Tull
“Angels From The Realms Of Glory,” John Fahey
“Coventry Carol,” Joan Baez
“Jesus Christ,” U2
“Christmas In Washington,” Steve Earle
“What Do Bad Girls Get?” Joan Osborne
“Chiron Beta Prime,” Jonathan Coulton
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings,” Barenaked Ladies
“St. Stephen’s Day Murders,” The Chieftains with Elvis Costello
“All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue,” Over The Rhine
“Gloria In Excelsis,” The Waverly Consort
“Ding Dong Merrily On High,” Maddy Prior with The Carnival Band
“Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring,” California Guitar Trio
“Linus And Lucy,” Built to Spill
“Africa,” The Waverly Consort
“White Christmas,” Patti Smith
“Gaudete,” Steeleye Span
“Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” The Beatles
“Ring Out, Solstice Bells,” Jethro Tull
“Spem in Alium,” Kronos Quartet
“7 O’Clock News / Silent Night,” Simon & Garfunkel
“Bright Morning Star,” Oysterband

“In other words, life is good. And next year is going to be even better. So quit your bitching and be happy. Be glad you’re alive. Hug someone. Hell, kiss someone. As my ex-girlfriend Joan Baez said, If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some mango eggnog and fire up the bong. Back at you soon. Peace on earth. Namaste. Much love.”
Fake Steve Jobs

December 21, 2009
How I Spent Today
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:29 PM * 74 comments

Today I was out giving H1N1 vaccinations in schools.

Before I could be allowed to do this, the State of New Hampshire required that I be tested on my knowlege of public health, the H1N1 flu, and how to give shots. I got 100% on the test. Unfortunately, it turned out I couldn’t print out my certificate without watching the training lectures I was supposed to watch before taking the test.

You know what’s worse than having to watch a bad Powerpoint presentation on data you’d rather just read, or may already know? Having to watch a poorly-made video of that presentation that washes out all the Powerpoint slides.

Now, through the miracle of the Internet, you can share this poignant experience. Despite the fact that the links to the videos appeared on a secure, password-protected site, they were just links to videos on Youtube—which anyone who knew about them could watch.

Rejoicing in the name NHOODLE, here’s the lecture series:

Note: Based on experience with grades K-12 plus teachers and such, if you have the chance to get the intranasal vaccine (essentially, above the age of 2 and below the age of 50, no history of asthma, and not in contact with an immunocompromised person), take it. Faster, easier, less painful, and all around more fun.

(At one school most of the kids had opted for injections, because of a rumor that the intranasal involved sticking a needle up your nose, and they’d rather have it in their arms. Actually, intranasal is just a puff of mist. It doesn’t even taste bad.)

December 20, 2009
No country for alter cockers
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:58 PM * 25 comments

It’s nearly two-year-old news, but new to me: I’ve just learned, while doing some background reading on Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, that Joel and Ethan Coen are working on a film adaptation of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union!

And speaking of the Coen brothers, has anyone else seen A Serious Man?

December 19, 2009
In which it is all the fault of writers
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:10 PM * 83 comments

So I was reading Elizabeth Bear’s recent story on, The Horrid Glory of Its Wings. The plot involves a girl who finds a harpy stuck in an urban alleyway and falls to talking to her and listening to her stories. It opens, appropriately, with a quote from The Last Unicorn.

I wondered as I read whether the harpy ever told the tale of the hedge-witch who caught her sleeping, and caged her to display in a traveling carnival. I’d bet she had plenty to say about it. She’d narrate it on a bitterly chilly day, moving from the anger at being caged to the bitter satisfaction of eating Mommy Fortuna’s liver. Because Beagle had inserted the event into her history, and now she remembered Rukh’s cut-off scream and the white back of the unicorn retreating into the darkness as clearly as the taste of Phineas’ food.

You see, if these minor gods and mythical beasts live on our belief in them (even within the confines of fiction), then the stories we tell about them add to their histories—or even recreate them in a new image. Perhaps Bear’s harpy was only stuck because Beagle wrote his book, transforming her from a creature outside of human agency into something that could be caught in what we build.

Now, the modern publishing industry is a substantial force multiplier for belief; a popular writer’s take on a mythical character can live in millions of brains at once. Even a popular fanfic writer can manage hundreds or thousands of brainpowers’ leverage on the history of a given figure.

So do these creations of ours know what we do to them? Did the harpy suspect that Beagle’s book laid the foundation for her imprisonment? Do they sit around, these gods and demigods, demons and creatures, and bitch and moan about how their backstories (and indeed, their very natures) change in response to what we read and write?

INTERIOR - a bar
A morose LOKI drinks a beer he’s bummed off of ABEL. CAIN sits nearby.
The noise of conversation rises and falls in the background, drowning out any conversation at the table. But whatever they’re talking about, they’re all in agreement.
Then, into one of those sudden silences that occur in such scenes, Loki can be heard saying, “fucking Neil fucking Gaiman…”

The darkness drops. Because I say it does.

Why They Dim the Lights in Mousehole
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:00 PM *

The Christmas Lights of Mousehole, Cornwall, are world-famous. Since 1963, beginning with a single strand of lanterns along the quay, they have become a phantamagorical display. The story goes that the lights are in honor of a fisherman, Tom Bawcock, who (with his cat Mowzer) went out in a storm when no one else could and saved the town from starvation with his catch.

At 8:00 pm on the 19th of December each year, the people of Mousehole turn off the lights (except only a cross and angels) and leave them off for an hour.

And at the parish church of Paul, about a mile up the road from Mousehole, there’s a granite stone topped by an old-fashioned lantern holding a crystal chalice.

Like today, 19 December 1981 was a Saturday. On 19 December 1981, the coastal freighter Union Star, Michael “Henry” Moreton commanding, was on her maiden voyage from the Netherlands to Ireland with a cargo of fertilizer. On board were the captain, his wife, her two daughters, and four sailors. Their proposed track would take them around Land’s End. The weather was poor and getting worse.

In fifty foot seas, backed by hurricane force onshore winds, off Wolf Rock, Union Star’s engines died.

A vessel adrift on a lee shore is in deep trouble.

The fuel supply on Union Star had apparently been fouled by seawater. Some say that the mountainous seas forced water past the breather vent into the fuel tanks. Some say that the main filler cap was missing, or incorrectly fitted. No one living knows. Be that as it may, attempts by the crew of Union Star to restart the engines were unsuccessful.

The open ocean tug Noord Holland was in the area, and offered salvage under the standard terms of a Lloyds Open Salvage contract. That is, the fee for the salvage would be later determined by an Admiralty arbitrator, based on the value of the ship and cargo and the difficulty of the salvage. Rather than give the owners an indeterminably large salvage bill, Captain Morton refused the tow. (Note: The law has since been changed. As a result of this incident, the local coast guard commander can now declare a mayday and authorize salvage if the vessel’s master does not.)

The winds picked up, sustained 80 knots out of the southeast with gusts to 95. The situation aboard Union Star deteriorated rapidly. A distress call to RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Culdrose brought out a helicopter, but the flight crew was unable to take anyone off Union Star due to high winds and heavy seas. At times the masts of the freighter were being lifted higher than the helicopter’s rotor blades by the swell. Noord Holland was unable to pass a line. At the same time, the lifeboat at Penlee Point launched. The crew was eight volunteers, experienced sailors from Mousehole.

The Penlee Point lifeboat was Solomon Browne, a 47-foot wooden construction diesel-powered Watson-class boat. Due to the hazardous conditions, Coxswain William Trevelyan Richards did not take more than one person from any one family. They launched in bitter cold at 8:12 p.m. local time, well past full dark at that latitude and time of year.

Solomon Browne did what no one else could do. She got alongside Union Star. By now Union Star was close in shore, amid sixty-foot breakers. Solomon Browne radioed that they had four people off. Then radio contact was broken, and observers on shore lost sight of Solomon Browne’s lights.

The next day, the BBC reported:

Local men and those from neighbouring stations have joined a major sea and air search alongside a naval helicopter, life boats and fishing vessels.

They have been searching since the early hours of this morning and pledged to continue indefinitely despite waning hopes the men will be found alive.

The community is described as being ‘numb with shock’ as the Penlee lifeboat has been on station for 21 years and the crew were all experienced.

But the conditions last night were so poor that in spite many attempts a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was unable to lift off any of the coaster’s crew.

This morning the Union Star is upturned and washed ashore at the bottom of cliffs.

Of the sixteen dead, only eight bodies were ever found.

There are little memorials scattered about town (I recommend this site; please read the comment thread, including a note made just two weeks ago by the father of one of the lost lifeboat crew members; another is from the wife of one of the sailors on Union Star). For example, on the side of The Ship Inn:

Charles Greenhaugh
Landlord of this house
and crewman of the Solomon Browne
lost with all hands 19th December 1981
Remembered with great affection
by the tenants managers
employees and directors
of the St. Austell Brewery Co. LTD.

Greater Love Hath No Man

The Penlee Lifeboat Disaster was the last time, to date, that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution lost an entire crew.

And that is why they dim the lights in Mousehole.

December 18, 2009
Open thread 133
Posted by Teresa at 12:12 PM *

Author William Rosen on Justinian:

…It wasn’t merely that pre-Enlightenment Christians drank from a pool of unquestioning faith; during Justinian’s time, they grew drunk on it.

Justinian’s favorite hobby, in fact, was arguing the most obscure points of Christian doctrine (you can easily see where we get the dictionary definition of “Byzantine”). This was brought home to me by way of one really illuminating scene…; an incident that took place at the Hippodrome, Constantinople’s great arena for chariot racing. Justinian was seated in the imperial box, surrounded by 50,000 racing fans, when one of them (no doubt equipped with a megaphone) engaged him directly in a debate about the nature of the incorruptibility of Christ’s body. The emperor and the fan went toe-to-toe on the issue in stanza after stanza of extemporaneous verse on the murkiest kind of Christian dogma, with occasional cheers from the crowd when one debater got in a good one. It was as if New York’s Mayor Bloomberg spent halftime at a Knicks game debating the finer points of string theory with a physicist seated twenty rows away, and not only did no one think anything extraordinary about it, but the drunks in the cheap seats applauded.

December 17, 2009
Chkdsk red in tooth and claw
Posted by Teresa at 10:16 AM *

Noted literary figure Charlie Stross has contributed an essay to that well-established genre, the tale of godawful Windows-installation woes.

For even more fun, see the second comment in the thread, which may be the best explanation of Sony engineering ever written.


Ajay comments:

that well-established genre, the tale of godawful Windows-installation woes.
Another few years and the genre will have its own accepted tropes and rhetorical divisions.

I. Exordium. The narrator introduces himself, establishes his experience in computing (ethos) and exhorts the listeners to gather round.
II. Prolegomenon. Customarily, the hardware spec of the machine is outlined here.
III. Praeinstallatio. The narrator describes his initial attempt to install Windows.
IV. Contrainstallatio. The installation goes wrong.
V. Descendo. The narrator describes his increasingly desperate attempts to get things to go right.
VI. Depilatio. The narrator is reduced to despair and frustration.
VII. Inertio. The narrator sinks into a horrified stupor as his machine gurgles and clunks to itself for anything up to three days.
VIII. Peroratio. The narrator rises into fury as he describes how long and painful an experience the install was;
which may be followed by
IX. Aptenodytes forsteri, the narrator switches to Linux.

To which Patrick replies:
ajay, #6: Somewhere between your VI and your VIII is the last panel of this.

Paarfi of Roundwood, author of the Quixote
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:39 AM * 86 comments

Ever since high school, when I read Steven Boyett’s Ariel, I’ve been meaning to read Don Quixote, but I still haven’t gotten around to it, partly because I can’t decide which translation to read. (What I really oughta do is learn Spanish so I can read it, and Borges, in the originals, and to get back at Chris for knowing more Yiddish than I do.)

Today, I looked up a bunch of translations on Google Books, and compared their opening paragraphs. These all introduce Quixote, mentioning that he keeps old knightly gear (lance, shield, horse, greyhound), and describe the food and clothing that consume his money. The different approaches to describing Quixote’s food are striking, and seems to have been the subject of considerable scholarly effort.

Here’s Cervantes himself:

Una olla de algo más vaca que carnero, salpicón las más noches, duelos y quebrantos los sábados, lentejas los viernes, algún palomino de añadidura los domingos, consumían las tres partes de su hacienda.

Duelos y quebrantos, according to the Spanish-language branch of Wikipedia (helpfully translated into English), seems to be a dish of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage, cooked together in a skillet. It’s often served in a clay pot. Taken word-by-word (according to Google Translate and Chris’s Spanish-English dictionaries), duelos means “duels” or “grief”, while quebrantos means “bankruptcy”, “breaking”, “discouragement”, or “heavy loss”. As an idiomatic phrase, it seems to mean “scraps”.

I have no idea whether that Wikipedia article is accurate. While the dish itself is not at all implausible, the page says that there’s no record of the dish being called duelos y quebrantos prior to Cervantes’s use of the phrase. Given its popularity in the region where Quixote was described as living, it’s not impossible that some (not much) later person assigned the egg dish to Cervantes’s phrase, and it caught on as a semi-tlonian item. I imagine this has been hashed out at length in Spanish-language historical and literary journals, but I’ve got no way of knowing.

December 16, 2009
Another ABM on Amazon
Posted by Teresa at 12:03 PM *

Dear students:

Remember back at Viable Paradise, when we taught you not to make the Author’s Big Mistake (ABM), which is to respond to a bad review? And how we said to never, ever respond defensively to a bad review in a public forum?

Move over, Anne Rice.

Candace Sams, author of Electra Galaxy’s Mr. Interstellar Feller (mass-market paperback, Dorchester/Love Spell), has exploded all over a comment thread on Amazon. She’s posting as Niteflyr One, but the comment thread has her ID’d as the author as of comment #8.

At this exact moment, there are 229 comments in the thread, and the author has Flounced. If you don’t have the time or patience to read the whole thing (instructive though it is), and just want to get to the serious bloodletting, I recommend reading the first page of comments, then skipping forward to page 15, which is where Niteflyr starts getting seriously weird.

Page 16 starts with reader J. Myrna (who has evidently been enjoying the whole mad trainwreck) cheerfully throwing gasoline on the flames. Other readers help too. By page 17, Niteflyr is invoking the FBI in her threats.

It doesn’t stop there, of course. Remember to click on all the links that say “Customers don’t think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway.” For maximum effect, make a nice Schadenfreude Pie to go with it.

(Thanks be to Abi for the link.)

December 15, 2009
Scams from the Mailbag
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:47 PM * 65 comments

Tis the season (and the economy) for folks to be desperate for money. To their rescue the scammers and spammers who offer too-good-to-be-true jobs: high pay, easy-to-do, no experience necessary, set your own hours, minimal skills required!

Let’s look at the Cash Back fraud, recently cropping up as the Secret Shopper scam. This is on beyond the “Send twenty dollars for an instruction manual and a list of companies that use Secret Shoppers” that we used to see in newspaper classifieds, on fliers stapled to telephone poles, and on cards left lying around Laundromats.

You are hired to be a Secret Shopper! The company you’re working for sends you a check for, say, $3,000. You’re to deposit this, take $200 to use for making your Secret Purchases (you get to keep them!) and another $100 for your pay, and send the rest back to the company by wire transfer (e.g. Western Union). You’re warned that you have to make the purchases and send the money back within two days of receiving the check or you’ll have to give it all back, and you’ll never be hired again!

So you do that.

Some days later, you discover that the cashier’s check you were sent was forged, and you’re liable to your bank for the whole amount. Sucks to be you.

Remember: If someone you don’t know approaches you with a job offer that you didn’t apply for, there’s a very good chance that it’s a scam. Particularly if it involves your sending money anywhere.

Yes, there really are “Secret Shopper” positions. But the way you usually get them is by first getting hired by a legitimate business, the kind that you go to every day, that has a consumer advocacy role.

So: A couple of recent examples dredged from my spam filter.

December 12, 2009
Posted by Patrick at 07:24 PM * 35 comments

A Kickstarter project to translate Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother…into Burmese. Run by New York-based outfit Digital Democracy, in partnership with the All-Burma I.T. Student Union.

I’m not someone who believes that information technology will inevitably usher us into a utopian era of freedom. Anything humans can dream up, they can use to shaft other humans. But for reasons particular to the Burma’s situation, this seems like a thoroughly good idea.

With your support, we will translate the book into four Burmese languages: Burmese, Karen, Chin and Rohingya. The money will go to support Burmese activists living in Thailand, Bangladesh and India who will be translating it into the local languages. Each page of translation will cost approximately $3.60. By supporting this project, you’re not only helping get Little Brother into Burma, you’re supporting the livelihood of Burmese activists. The book will help teach people to protect themselves by doing such things as running applications from a USB drive, using block encryption to safeguard data on a USB stick, and hiding your encrypted data in a deniable format in the event of capture and torture.
Elsewhere, Emily Jacobi of Digital Democracy makes a good case for the idea that Burma really is a place where mobile communication tech has made a difference, and can continue to do so.

The idea behind Kickstarter is that you don’t actually donate any money until the project in question has met their goal in pledges. For this one, they’re trying to get pledges totalling $2200 by December 15, three days from now. They’ve got $911. Go for it.

December 11, 2009
The Swindle
Posted by Patrick at 11:00 PM *

Down underneath the snark and the in-jokes and the whole idea of a well-established journalist writing a blog in the persona of Steve Jobs, there’s a terrifying amount of truth in this particular post about American business, American empire, and America’s future.

And now here we are. Right here in your own backyard, an American company creates a brilliant phone, and that company hands it to you, and gives you an exclusive deal to carry it—and all you guys can do is complain about how much people want to use it. You, Randall Stephenson, and your lazy stupid company—you are the problem. You are what’s wrong with this country.

I stopped, then. There was nothing on the line. Silence. I said, Randall? He goes, Yeah, I’m here. I said, Does any of that make sense? He says, Yeah, but we’re still not going to do it. See, when you run the numbers what you find is that we’re actually better off running a shitty network than making the investment to build a good one. It’s just numbers, Steve. You can’t charge enough to get a return on the investment.

Now there was silence again. This time I was the one not talking.

Honest to God, blog cliché or not, read the whole thing.

Peter Watts, distinguished Canadian SF writer, arrested by US border police while trying to re-enter Canada
Posted by Patrick at 12:51 PM *

From Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing: Dr. Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border.

I already linked to this from the sidebar, but on reflection, I have a little more to say.

First, it’s worth noting that comment #2 to the Boing Boing post observes “And now the inevitable ‘we don’t know the whole story so we shouldn’t pass judgments but he probably did something to provoke them’ comments can commence.” Indeed, there seems to be a kind of person who makes it their business to hover around at sites like Boing Boing or Consumerist to explain that probably the police had no choice but to beat up that guy, or that we don’t know that Wal-Mart abused that customer, since after all it’s her word against theirs. And indeed, comment #5 shows up right on schedule: “It’s my observation that most of these cases begin with a person who becomes belligerent when asked to do something he doesn’t want to do (get out of the car, step away from the car, etc.) These officers may very well have overstepped their bounds, but I doubt very seriously that Watts is completely innocent.”

For what it’s worth, I don’t know exactly what happened, but a couple of things seem pretty evident to me. One is that this wasn’t a routine border search. Rather, American border guards in Port Huron, Michigan demanded to search Watts’s car as he was leaving the US for his native Canada. This is very squirrelly. We’re conducting exit searches now?

Another is that Peter Watts is, as Charlie Stross observes, the kind of person who’s extraordinarily unlikely to throw the first punch, as Watts is being accused of having done.

The final thing I want to note is a comment to John Scalzi’s post on the matter, from one-time Watts co-author Derryl Murphy, who says:

Part of me rolls my eyes at Peter for being the person he is, climbing out of the car to question these yahoos. But the smarter part of me realizes that because of people like Peter, we have someone who can push back at the bullshit the first time so that the rest of us don’t get the shit kicked out of us when we finally get tired of it all and push back as well.
And that’s why I’m donating to Watts’s defense fund.

UPDATE: Watts on what happened:

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

It’s possible that Watts’s failure to immediate comply with the order to get back into his car constitutes “assaulting a federal officer” according to some point of law. If so, the law is a travesty.

Of course, these things happen all the time, more frequently to young persons of color who don’t have readers on several continents. But the macro and the micro both matter. We should fight for justice in general—and we should have our friends’ backs.

UPDATE 2: Watts posts again, to clear up a few points, not least the demonstrable mendaciousness of the Port Huron Times-Herald story.

December 09, 2009
Arctic Blast from the Past
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM * 144 comments

With the first major snowstorm of the winter bearing down on us, it’s time to list some of the cold-weather stuff I’ve posted over the years, in one convenient place:

First comes Cold Blows the WInd Today. It’s a brief note on hypothermia. Very brief. Just a single screen. None of the really horrifying detail about blebs and such that I could have used. The take-away lesson is that cold kills. Don’t let it kill you. The comment thread is over 400 entries long, and filled with good stuff.

Snowed In. A review of a book about the Donner Party.

Stop, Drop, and Roll. Winter time brings new hazards, including heaters that produce carbon monoxide. Some notes on same. Over a hundred comments.

Happy stuff: Cold Weather Drinks, including my favorite, Hot Lemonade.

Weather outside: Frightful. My local weather. Lucky me! (Hey, I volunteered to live here.)

Dashing Through the Snow. How to drive in a snowstorm. Short version: Don’t. Longer version: If you must, then slowly, and only if you have good snow tires.

Snowday. Ah, storms past! We gots photos!

Fimbul Winter. From last year’s Snowpocalypse. Over two hundred comments, and all of them worth reading.

December 08, 2009
Whisperado in Brooklyn
Posted by Patrick at 10:53 AM * 7 comments

I’m trying to remember to mention Whisperado gigs a little earlier than the morning of the event itself. Hey! Whisperado will play the venerable Brooklyn dive Hank’s Saloon, at Atlantic and Third Avenues, on Wednesday, December 30, at 8:30 PM. Get started on your New Year’s Eve drinking 24 hours early while listening to new songs, new arrangements, new harmonies, and new lame stage patter. Forthcoming soon: news of our full-length CD, the recording of which is proceeding with the sprightly alacrity characteristic of all the best geological processes.

December 07, 2009
I Got Yer Contemporary Urban Catholic Fantasy *Right Here*
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:22 PM *

The Apocalypse Door: A novel of the knights templar Tomorrow, the 8th of December, 2009, will see the re-publication in trade paperback of my novel, The Apocalypse Door. It is a thriller, a spy story, a mystery, a bit autobiographical, a devotion, an explication, and doctrinally correct. It was edited by the perspicacious Claire Eddy.

Here is a review, by Norman Spinrad.

Here is the first chapter.

I humbly beg all who wish to buy a copy to do so, not at Amazon, but by going down to their friendly local big-box bookstore and getting one off the shelf. And I further beg that all who will do so, may do so, sooner rather than later. This will be a positive good.

The main character, Peter Crossman, Knight of the Temple, has appeared in three short stories as well as this novel. (I am, as we speak, at work on another novel, and another short story.) Mr. Patrick reprinted one of those earlier short stories in his New Magics anthology.

  • The Apocalypse Door
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765306085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765306081

December 02, 2009
Urban infrastructure blues
Posted by Teresa at 11:10 PM * 128 comments

About fifteen minutes ago, we heard a loud blunt noise. All the lights in the building started flickering in synch. I went out in the hall and called to the upstairs neighbors, who said the same thing was happening to them.

I went out to the front porch and watched my neighbors popping up in their doors and windows like so many prairie dogs. Half the block’s streetlights were out. The lights in everyone’s windows were flickering in time with my own. Our neighbor two doors down said everyone’s TV was on the fritz. As I watched, the stoplight up at the corner suddenly flashed in a series of odd patterns, then went out.

Down at the other corner, the intersection was filling with smoke. “What’s with the smoke down at the intersection?” I called out into the darkness. Another neighbor called back that there was a fire in the manhole down there—and so there was; by now the flames were leaping up out of it.

All the lights went out on the eastern end of our block. “We’re screwed,” I remarked to my upstairs neighbor, who by now was also standing on the front steps.

A guy walking up the block told us as he went past that there’d been some kind of explosion below, and that he’d seen the cover blow off the manhole.

I went back inside. No connectivity. Then it came back, but it’s running very slowly, and I don’t know whether it’ll last.

If anyone knows more than we do, please let us know what’s going on.

Trauma and Insurance
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:52 PM * 28 comments

Thanks to Liberal Oasis for this story.

In a 2008 study published in the Archives of Surgery, Race and Insurance Status as Risk Factors for Trauma Mortality (pdf), looking at around 400,000 trauma (excluding burns) patients between the ages of 17 and 64 who were alive when they reached the hospital, and sorting on race and insurance status, the study’s authors found a couple of things.

First, non-hispanic Caucasians had a better chance of survival than Hispanics and African-Americans. Second, insured patients had a better chance of survival than uninsured patients. But, surprisingly, insurance status was a better predictor of outcome than race. Insured African-Americans and insured Hispanics had lower mortality rates than uninsured non-hispanic Caucasians. Overall, the mortality rate in the uninsured was twice the mortality rate among the insured.

The authors of the study comment:

Lack of medical insurance is most often associated with worse baseline health status, with increased and poorly recognized comorbidities. It is known that preexisting medical conditions are associated with poor outcomes after trauma, suggesting that an uninsured patient would do worse after traumatic injury. This may partially explain our finding that the adjusted odds of death substantially increased for all uninsured patients, even when we controlled for injury severity and other factors known to affect trauma outcomes.
They also say:
This work suggests that quality of care issues for trauma patients are worthy of investigation. In a statewide study of trauma patients in Massachusetts, uninsured patients were less likely to receive an operation, less likely to receive rehabilitative therapies (in-house physical therapy), and more likely to die in the hospital.
The authors caution:
Our study likely provokes more questions than it provides answers for. It may be that insurance status is a surrogate for other factors that affect mortality in a critically injured patient (eg, health education, awareness and management of comorbidities, substance abuse, and risk-taking behaviors). In brief, insurance represents more than just the ability to pay a bill.
Yet still they conclude:
These data suggest that addressing disparities in health insurance status would have a significant effect on outcomes of traumatic injuries for African American, Hispanic, and white patients.

A couple of concepts that you should understand before reading the original article:

What you do, versus who you are
Posted by Patrick at 09:15 PM * 40 comments

Via Kos: Under pressure from big media operations interested in protecting their reporters, the Senate is considering a federal shield law. The poison in the deal is that certain Democrats, including (predictably) Dianne Feinstein and (disappointingly) Dick Durbin, are trying to ensure that the legislation covers only the salaried employees or contractors of big media. If you work for the New York Times or Rupert Murdoch, there will be limits to what can be required of you under oath, but if you commit journalism for Hullabaloo, or Unqualified Offerings, or Making Light, well, sucks to be you.

Interestingly, so far, the pushback to this has come from Senators Chuck Schumer…and Arlen Specter, both of whom are backing legislative language that would clearly cover “citizen journalists” of all sorts. As some of us can testify, for instance those of us who demonstrated outside his Park Slope apartment building on the eve of his vote in favor of the Iraq war, Schumer is hardly a solid ally of all things virtuous—but he was a very effective chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee for a couple of cycles, and in that capacity he apparently developed a genuine appreciation for the potential power of pissed-off liberal blogs. Arlen Specter is, of course, a far more fascinatingly tortured figure. My belief at this point is that, for the good of the Republic, Specter should be—like a political version of Schrödinger’s cat—permanently suspended in a condition of being on the verge of being primaried from the Left. If we can just keep it up a little longer, I expect Specter to come out in favor of not only single-payer and card-check, but also a $10/gallon gasoline tax, mandatory gay marriage, and the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy by a syndic of workers’ soviets.

Anyway, the writhings of Senator Specter aside, Kos has a point. The distinction between the Feinstein/Durbin approach and the Schumer/Specter approach is that one seeks to further institutionalize a self-defined professional elite, whereas the other seeks to protect a practice in which any citizen may engage. So much in politics rides on distinctions like that.

December 01, 2009
Story of the Decade
Posted by Patrick at 02:09 PM * 90 comments

Really, it’s the perfect miniature of our corrupt time: the ultra-rich, aided by the cops, unilaterally privatizing what was once public. And calling it “counterterrorism.”

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