Monday, August 29, 2005

Wrath of the Wettergötter

Rev. Jerry Falwell once prophesized that Disneyworld’s tasteless promotion of a certain ‘lifestyle choice’ would elicit a hurricane sent forth from on High in retribution for the sin of Sodom. If such is the case, Rev. Falwell, does the coming assault by the Wettergötter on Louisiana and Mississippi then verify that, indeed, God disapproves of the French and the Klan?

***Nope, I stand corrected. It was Bush, Haley Barbour, and climate change according to Robert Kennedy. And here I was thinking that we had hurricanes before anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Note again the strong parallels between religious and environmentalist thought.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Milk Madness

British farmers are lamenting that they just don’t make enough money from producing milk. They receive, on average, less than one third of the price of a litre of milk: a price, they say, that has changed very little over the last few decades. Such a low profit margin threatens to drive them out of business. Their solution is now to threaten to halt milk production altogether in order to force supermarkets to pay more for their product, much to the displeasure of the cows needing to be milked I assure you!
The problem with this is that they seem to lack a basic understanding of the free market. Alas, in the very home of Adam Smith! The problem is not that the supermarkets pay them to little. What the supermarkets pay them is the fair market value of the commodity which they produce. The ‘fair’ price for that commodity is determined by supply and demand: not by a committee somewhere or some fanciful notion of the ‘fair’ price of their product, but individuals deciding just how much they will pay to drink milk. Supermarkets don’t determine the price of milk; consumers and producers do. Consumers such as myself demand milk, but naturally desire the lowest price.
If milk farmers want to increase the price at which they are able to sell milk, they have one real option – decrease milk production. This will create milk scarcity, forcing consumers to pay more if they want to get milk. Farmers can achieve this by either producing less milk per farm or by switching some milk farms to produce something else, which is exactly what the free market is forcing them to do. The problem with their present solution of forcing supermarkets to pay more is that it is an artificial increase that will only last until inflation brings them back into the present situation. Unless they address their overproduction problems, consumers and middlemen will continue to milk them for all they are worth.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"With it, or on it."

Reports have reached us concerning the Californian mother camped outside of President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch calling for his impeachment and “America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine”. There was a time when, upon seeing her son depart on a military campaign, a Spartan mother would point at his shield and warn “with it, or on it.” This meant that the soldier was expected to stay and fight to the death, and never to dishonour himself and his family by discarding his shield and fleeing. Ah the good ol’ days. You have to wonder whether this woman realizes that she has made herself one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of her son’s killers or, for that matter, that Israel and Palestine are in fact the same place.

One of our best friends will return to Iraq shortly. Although the highest honOr and the sacrifice belongs to him and the thousands of Allied troops like him, it is vital for the rest of us to understand that this war is not going to be won on the battlefield. Like many wars in the past and future, the outcome of this war will be determined by an act of the will. Apart from mutually assured destruction, there is no military means of defeating the US Armed Forces. The enemy is painfully aware of this. The goal of the Islamists is therefore not to defeat us militarily, but to wear us down. Exploit our democracy by using incremental violence to turn public opinion against the war. Exploit our obsession with tolerance in irrational degrees to recruit, incite, and carry out attacks in our own countries. Our casualties in this war by a volunteer service have been minuscule compared to that which our forefathers, or even our fathers, bore. Do you have the will to win?

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Munrobagging with Steve

August 8th and 9th, 2005

Munros bagged: Loch Nagar, Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn An Sagairt Mor, and Carn a Choire Bhoidheach

Steve rang me up last Thursday desiring to meet up to go backpacking in the highlands. I looked at the roadmap of Britain, and reckoned it would be best to meet him at Montrose railway station and then head up the B955 up Glen Cova to Glen Doll. I could not have picked a much better location. We hiking both days, covering about 37 km or 23 miles. Our exact route is laid out on the map. The highlights of the trip were the five Munros we bagged, part of a RAF wing from a crash on the side of Carn An Sagairt Mor, and a herd of between 150 and 200 deer. The deer were magnificent, as many had large racks of antlers. I tried to approach them coming down the side of the mountain, but only managed to stir up the outer edges of the herd. We camped for the night above Dubh Loch. My stove didn't burn the Meths properly, but luckily we had more than enough food to survive, including leftover haggis. The herd of deer approached our camp along the side of the mountain in the late evening sun, making for a majestic view as we prepared for sleep. Monday was a gloriously sunny day, but the sky soon corrected its error and returned to standard Scottish weather. I think my boots have just about dried.

To see pictures from our hike, click here.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Portuguese Irregular Verbs

Guillelmus Campobellens recently gave me a little gem of a book, Portuguese Irregular Verbs. I have been reading it to Morag before bed and we have both really enjoyed it. No, it’s not actually about Portuguese irregular verbs, but the adventures of a German philologist, Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld. The book is not for everyone, but anyone who has been involved in academia will be highly amused by its portrayal of Dr. Ingelfeld and his colleagues from the department of Romance Philology, Professor Dr Dr (honoris causa) Florianus Prinzel and Professor Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer. Author Alexander McCall Smith, a Professor at the University of Edinburgh, portrays the relationships and mentality of academics with comic insight. Von Igelfeld’s concern that he ‘ur-rachied’ a woman following a lecture by Indian Professor J.G.K.L. Singh on Terms of Ritual Abuse in the Creator/Debtor Relationship in Village India brought up lost memories of sitting in Byzantium and the West and wondering who really cares whether or not Robert Guiscard intended to conquer the Byzantine Empire.

My favourite episode in the book is when the three professors decide to play Tennis after the Annual Congress of Romance Philology in Zürich. Although not one of the three had played before, “’that’s no reason not to play,’ von Igelfeld added quickly. ‘Tennis, like any activity, can be mastered if one knows the principles behind it. In that respect it must be like language.”

So they obtain tennis equipment and “The Rules of Lawn Tennis by Captain Geoffrey Pembleton BA (Cantab.), tennis Blue, sometime country champion of Cambridgeshire; and published in 1923, before the tie-breaker was invented. The three men study “this great work of Cambridge scholarship”, learning the rules and techniques, the major strokes and the disposition of the body. Prinzel and Igelfeld begin to play, but neither can make it over the net except for the odd occasion! As the match extends, no one can win other than by default of the server. They consult the book, but it merely says that a player wins by winning six games, provided they are two games ahead. But neither player can get two games ahead!

“’This is quite ridiculous,’ snorted von Igelfeld. “A game must have a winner – everybody knows that – an yet this…this stupid book makes no provision for moderate players like ourselves!’”

“So much for Cambridge!”

The three then decide on a swim. “’Do you swim?’ asked Unterholzer.”

“’Not in practice,’ said von Igelfeld. ‘But it has never looked difficult to me. One merely extends the arms in the appropriate motion and then retracts them, thereby propelling the body through the water.’”

As for Morag, I suspect the reason that she enjoyed this books so much was that it reminded her of… close acquaintances.

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-our vs. –or.

The staff here at Gesta would like to thank Lt. Swaney POTUS ’36 for his recent comments. We wish him the best of luck in the nomination process, and agree to make him our running mate should he agree to do likewise. Let us clarify our spelling standards: Our software has been switched to standard UK spelling for the purpose of job applications and formal correspondence and thus the only way to eliminate the annoying red squiggly lines is, alas, to conform to Her Majesty’s English. In some cases this actually assists our poor spelling skills, as ‘judgement’ seems more natural than ‘judgment‘. Additionally, as you can tell from the Latinate Blog title (which translates “The Deeds of Ryan of Renfrew”), we are a bit old fashioned and something just appeals about the auld spellings, e.g. the theatre centre.

The same applies to –our vs. –or. Americans are a very practical bunch, and we understand and respect why we would settle on a more efficient way of writing. However, we feel that it is precisely the superfluous nature of the added ‘u’ that makes for its appeal. That ‘u’ elevates language beyond mere practical necessity to the highest aspirations of human art and expression. I feel I am well justified in so doing, given it was only in the nineteenth century that spelling was standardized. Turn your eyes, my dear friend, to the Founding Fathers; may their free use of both spellings guide our pens!

The United States Constitution

“…punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour…” - Article. I.
“No Person held to Service or Labour in one State…” - Article. IV, Section. 2, Clause 3.
“Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor…” - Article. I, Section. 3, Clause 7.

Declaration of Independence

“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States…For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province…and our sacred Honor.”

Founding Fathers

"…As I have the Honour of enclosing the Resolves on this Subject, I beg Leave to refer your Attention to them.(1)” - John Hancock to George Washington, April 9th. 1777

"I had the Honour to serve with him upon the naval Committee… An Honour, that I make it a Rule to boast of…a Man of Honour and Integrity
…” - John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 11. 1777

“The plan of converting the blacks into Serfs would certainly be better than keeping them in their present condition, but I consider that of expatriation to the governments of the W.I. of their own colour as entirely practicable, and greatly preferable to the mixture of colour here, to this I have great aversion; but I repeat my abandonment of the subject. My health is at present as good as I ever expect it to be, and I am ever and affectionately yours, ... TH. Jefferson.” Thomas Jefferson to William Short, January 18, 1826

“I have ventured to trouble you with the Commission of purchasing enough to make me a Suit of cloaths. As to the colour, I shall leave it altogether to your taste; only observing, that, if the dye should not appear to be well fixed, and clear, or if the cloth should not really be very fine, then (in my judgment) some colour mixed in grain might be preferable to an indifferent (stained) dye.” - George Washington, January 29, 1789.

post scriptum: Let not your heart be troubled. We will never end our alphabet with “zed”.

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