Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sh*t Sandwich in Iraq

Holy crud.
NYT's excellent Robert F. Worth (husband of a friend of mine) reports that-- if I may borrow from "Full Metal Jacket" and paraphrase Worth-- the situation in Iraq is a sh*t sandwich, and we've all got to take a bite.

Everyone in Baghdad seems to be either in the Green Zone, blowing up civilians, or is a civilian getting blown up in a line for a job, kerosene, or whatever.

As I said about two months ago:
Split the country up already. Let the Baathists keep Baghdad, give the oil to the Shia and Kurds, keep around 30,000 troops in the Kurdish part to prevent civil war and discourage them from pissing off Turkey.
There's going to be massive dislocation, but, I mean, a committment to creating a democracy that incorporates the Sunnis and the Shiites is looking pretty naive.
I don't think Iraqis are stupid.
And an Iraqi who voted for someone who's espousing liberal democracy &c., rather than protecting members of his sect from mosque-bombing fanatics, would have to be stupid.

Democracy among groups that don't want to murder each other seems moderately feasible, but this? Narishkeit.

Hmm. Looking back on the page, I see I've strayed into politics.
Fine, then.

I do have a less political question for this post--

Has anyone noticed that the ratio of dead:wounded in these bombings always seems to be about 1:4.5?
Any grisly theories to explain it?

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Manticore Eyes You Tenderly...

So, the New York Times reports that Dungeons & Dragons ("D&D") is going online.
Some poor reporter had to go interview some grown men who play pen-and-paper D&D...
The night's dungeon master, Rich, tax director for a New York City company, would not divulge his last name out of what he described as professional discretion. "I play because I have a very creative mind and a very noncreative job," he said (though some tax experts might disagree). "So the game helps me balance it out. There is no creativity at the computer, because you're limited by what the programmers thought you might do. Here in person, I can react dynamically to the players and craft an adventure specifically for them."
i.e., players can have sex with mythological creatures.
Sam Weiss, 41, from the Bronx, leaned over a few dice and the erasable grid on the table that players use to lay out combat scenarios with miniature figures. "Computer games are inherently limited because they only give you a set number of options," he said. "In a game like this, what we can do is limited only by our minds."
Oh, the poor nymphs!  The unfortunate, uh, dryads!  I'm just glad they didn't include any pictures.
Oh, wait. -->
Alack, mermaids.  Very sorry, valkyries.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'd've Called it the "Lesser Litvak's Beaver-Otter"

Paleontologists in that dusty part of China where all the fossils hang out have discovered a fossil of the earliest known swimming mammal. 
164 million years of swimming mammals.
Looking like a miniature (1-2 lbs.) cross between a beaver and an otter, they named it the "Otver."  Well, actually, Castorcauda lustrasimilis, which amounts to the same thing.
My question is, I guess, did it really have a fin?:

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's Dark and Purple and Full of Torture?

Abu Grape.
Honestly.  The New York Times, reporting on the recently-released pictures of torture from Abu Ghraib, fits a megillah's worth of stupid into a little paragraph:
The prisoner-abuse scandal has been acutely embarrassing for the United States military, whose members are taught to treat prisoners with respect. The incidents at Abu Ghraib were considered especially damaging to the United States' image among Iraqi civilians and in the wider Arab world, where nudity is disdained.
"[W]hose members are taught to treat prisoners with respect." 
Okay, they have clearly failed that course.
And sex-themed torture hurts our reputation because ... nudity is disdained in the Arab world?
Do I need a punchline here?  Yecch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Elements of Strategy #1: Don't Start a Pissing Match You Can't Win

Check this out:  Catfight!
The perfect illustration of a basic element of strategy:  Don't start a pissing match you can't win.
Plus, funny.
I'm linking to cats now.  I feel so... Litotical.

Monday, February 06, 2006

This Is Not a Time for You to Be Speaking

From CNN
Proclaiming "I am al Qaeda," Zacarias Moussaoui [ed:  the suspected 9/11 hijacker who couldn't make it that day] was removed from the courtroom as jury selection began Monday at a trial to determine whether he should be executed for terror conspiracy.
The disruption began with Moussaoui protesting that he did not want to be represented by his defense attorneys.
"I am al Qaeda. They do not represent me. They are Americans," Moussaoui objected.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema told Moussaoui that "this was not a time for him to be speaking."
About 120 prospective jurors who witnessed the outburst sat in silence.
After the interruption, Brinkema told potential jurors to note on their questionnaires if they thought Moussaoui's actions might influence their decision-making.
I suppose the answer would be, uh... what?  Would the defendant's declaration that he "[is] al Qaeda" influence my decision-making?
Hmm.  If I told you it wouldn't influence my decision about whether to, say, let someone watch my luggage before I get on a plane that he says he's al Qaeda, would you let me fly?
Of course not.  Someone with that level of opacity can't leave town-- we need him to serve on a jury.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Wages of Sin Is Now $145,000 a Year Before Bonus

Today's New York Law Journal reports that Sullivan & Cromwell has boosted first year associates' salaries to $145,000 a year before bonuses.
The raise, says the article, mostly shifts compensation toward salary and away from year-end bonuses.
Partner Benjamin Stapleton "said the firm was 're-balancing' its mix of base pay and bonus in recognition of the fact that most associates lived day-to-day on their salaries."
Even living in New York City, saving none of $125,000 a year while you wait for your $40,000 bonus seems kind of obscene.
Also, this means I'll probably be able to pay off my debt a little faster, when my firm follows suit.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm Rich!

Well, I've been corresponding with a guy in Liberia since last June.
He's promised me a cut of several million dollars if I help him in some unspecified way to move the money to the U.S.
I'm embarrassed to say I believed he was a scam artist, but now I know he was telling the truth when he said his poisoned father bequeathed him a bunch of money and told him to flee to the States and, get a college education.
Why do I believe? Because today he e-mailed me this:

Looks legit to me. Where do I mail my bank account number?