All clear, proceed into harbour, have a nice stay.
If you ever meet a spammer, punch them for me.
All clear, proceed into harbour, have a nice stay.
If you ever meet a spammer, punch them for me.
If you're reading this through an RSS aggregator like Kinja, don't click through to the site. Autoblography.co.uk is currently under quarantine. There's some sort of viral nasty bedded down in the files forcing the download of a fake .wmv file. Keep away. I'll update you soon.
...is you lot.
So, tell me if you can...where might a young gentleman purchase a new 20GB non-photo, non-video iPod on this amazing and expanding Internet of ours?
I'm just curious as I'm not bothered about the video or photo storage, and don't want to pay for it if I don't have to - amazon's second-tier sellers are either asking more for the 20GB non-photo iPod than Apple is asking for the 30GB, or they're refurbished, which I don't want.
My ear is to your grapevine. What've you heard?
It's all very well looking out for the little things in films that you know are there - the wall-wobble in The Matrix rooftop chase, the two-dimensional exploding spitfire in the air raid in The Battle Of Britain, the pastor's erection at the end of Disney's The Little Mermaid. There is another sort of pleasure from spotting the not-so-esoteric in movies.
Krissa and the in-laws went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire earlier.
From one microphone stand swing and one flick of uncharacteristically long hair, a split-second glimpse of an unexpectedly unspectacled face (and the music as it slipped quickly into the background) was enough for me to exclaim in an annoyingly loud cinema voice, "That's Jarvis Cocker!"
I also felt particularly pleased to spot someone's new tagline as it went by.
Sadly a confession must temper this uncontested series of observational triumphs. Until tonight I believed there to be three Fiennes actors - Ralph, Joseph and Ray.
I'd seen Ralph in text and heard 'Ray Fiennes' in speech, but who knew 'Ralph' was pronounced 'Rafe'?
I'm not sure if Gordon is taking the mickey, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and unveil one of the three banners he sent me today. I'll have a swoosh through the lot of them and do a summing up so-far tomorrow.
So, children, how are we all today? I hope the sun is shining where you are! A little later on we'll be showing you how to make an ecologically friendly toy car using an old egg box, some sellotape and a used condom, but be sure to ask an adult first before you start rooting around the house! Next, Zippy will be make a lot of innuendo-laden jokes about bananas for the benefit of your babysitter, and while it all flies straight over your head your brains will slowly drip out of your right ear and get lapped up by the cat!
Won't that be fun?
Not sure what's come over me, actually.
Pretty though, isn't it?
Adrian's banner for today hit a slight technical difficulty.
So it's not up.
The one that is up is big. So you might have to wait to see it. Everything is normal. It's your expectation of it that's over the top.
The non-blogging friend who gave it to me gave me a 1.2MB tif file to begin with. This was offered as a smaller file.
I'll change it back to another one randomly selected from the Banner Idol Pool.
It's Monday, and I feel an unnatural affinity for my work, my music and the state of the world. In a not worrying-about-it sort of way.
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent in this banner. Who does that? Anonymity is so square.
Keep 'em coming. 700 pixels by 125 pixels is all the space you got, so no bigger if you want to have a go! The only word that's necessary is 'autoblography', in whichever form you see fit...acrobatic elephants, elegant script, or carved by suspiciously warm fluid in snow...it's up to you.
It's a glorious New York November morning. The sky and air have the same brightness, one of light, the other made up of the cold and a hint of urban-air taste that you don't mind because everything feels so deliciously fresh.
There is something in me that I need to deal with - the obliging part of my nature - which applies itself in wholly inappropriate circumstances. I am happy to be polite, but dislike that I feel awkward in situations like this morning on the subway, when I sat down and started reading Lolita next to a woman with an open bible on her lap.
If someone is a Christian and believes that is the correct way to live their life, I draw the line at obliging them by becoming a Christian myself, but I respect their choice and do not seek to sway them to my own atheistic viewpoint. So why do I feel awkward reading Lolita next to them? It's my choice, right? Maybe part of me feels that because I may be an affront to their sensibilities I shouldn't read it in front of them...or something. The way I was feeling had, 'I'm frightfully sorry' stamped all over it.
Anyhoo, the weekend beckons and fun and frivolity with it. Krissa's brother Luiz and his friend Ozzie are staying with us, and as it's Ozzie's first time in New York we'll probably be hitting some tourist spots, which I always enjoy. And there's beer in the fridge.
This news story has me in stitches. A sparrow got into an exhibition hall where for weeks volunteers had been setting up a world record domino-toppling attempt. Understandably the sparrow got annoyed at its confinement and started knocking over some of the 4 million dominoes. The Dutch hired an exterminator, who shot (and killed) it. There's an amusingly bannered tribute website for the sparrow (?) here for those of you who speak Dutch...which is how many of you again?
So while work may be humdrum, I'm feeling pretty good right now, and I'm off to grab some lunch.
Have a great weekend.
Woo woo, everybody ride the banner train. Etc.
Today's offering comes from Steph!
Keep the banners coming in! We have one from Adrian for Monday.
There's actually a queue. My hitherto quiet and unassuming ego knows no bounds.
Here we are! Free at last! Free from my face! Or at least the looming prospect of a giant sea-monster version of my face, as in Pete's Banner of the last few days.
Up next we have an interestingly textured piece from znaddanz Dan, (however he had the time while doing NaNoWriMo is beyond me) and his pitch goes like this:
That is neurons firing! The birth of an idea! The biggest lightning storm ever! Or possibly just a shrub outside my house.
So there you go. Submissions (tee hee submissions) for Banner Idol welcomed at my regular email address, the only restriction being that images should be 700x125 pixels and fabulous. Your banner stays up until someone sends me another one, and then we'll have a big vote-off at the end.
Because wasting time is what we of the Internet do best.
New York is full of big things: The Empire State Building. The Brooklyn Bridge. Junior's cheesecake.
After last night, however, one thing leaps to mind and dwarfs everything else, and that's the ambition of the people who designed the auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera.
I envisage a man with a moustache with his thumb pressed hard against his pencil, as he squints past it at the plans...
"So from the stage to the top tier, let's call it the Family Circle for now, Carmichael, what's our distance?"
"Little over two miles, sir."
"Will it be big enough?"
"Yes, yes, I know it'll be fine for run-of-the-mill operas, your Verdis, Puccinis and all the rest, but as architects we have to allow the creative spirit room to grow, Carmichael. To thrive."
"Do you know, Carmichael...little Alex was watching the darndest thing on the television the other evening."
"Yes. Sort of adventure programme. Aeroplanes. You know the thing?"
"Yes sir. It's 1983, sir."
"Yes, yes. Just checking. Well I was thinking of old Ernie Garrison. Know the name?"
"Ernest Garrison was the first to bring in a real elephant for Cleopatra. Caused riots in Paris. Went on to fill some minor Opera House in Germany with water for some Wagnerian affair...with real boats. Three chorus girls drowned. Visionary chap."
"So modern opera's all this stuff that happened a hundred years ago, am I right? And there are new books and stories being written and turned into operas all the time."
"So I was thinking, Carmichael...that aerial daggadaggadagga boom stuff young Alex was watching is just the sort of thing we ought to be allowing for. Passage of time, increasing demands of the audience and all that."
"Erm, yes, sir."
"Nip off to the library, there's a good lad, and find out how much room we'll need for a decent dogfight."
Yes the architect is English. My imagination, my rules.
Anyway. Last night Krissa and I found ourselves waiting for the curtain-up of La Boheme, trembling with trepidation and excitement, peering at the stage around a velvet-covered handrail and dressing the wounds of nearby elderly folk who had been trampled by a red-dressed teenage airhead, approximately....here:
With the perspective already under calculated assault from the set-maker's corner, things on stage looked a little other-worldly. The rooftops of Paris and the cafes of the Latin Quarter changed places with a breathtaking winter scene outside an inn on the outskirts of the city, all built and presented in the three dimensions of the Operatic universe - Height, Width, and Up And To The Side A Bit But Not Quite Depth.
The orchestra, who should, by rights, have been abiding by the same set of universal laws as the audience, also looked a little skewed. When we first sat down one woman in the pit looked like she was playing a bright yellow wooden spoon of the sort you use to stir cooking pasta. It was a harp.
Opera music is something of an acquired taste. Grand, a treat for the senses, stimulating and in some cases moving, but at the same time, an acquired taste. Our distance from the stage may also have had its part in removing some of the raw power from the singing, and gave way to a thought I never expected to have.
"Oh, I suppose that was a climax. Well done."
But over all I thought it was all absolutely fantastic. People-watching in the intermission from the balconies and bars, looking out at the fountain in the middle of the Lincoln Center...as an evening it was marvellous; a really wonderful experience, and the bit where the downed airman saluted the Red Baron as he did loop-the-loops around the chandelier brought tears to my eyes.
My headphones just exploded.
Update And the $15.00 Sony MDR-XD100 overheads that I bought to replace my (now exploded) $17.00 Maxell HP-550 overheads have a bizarre ear enclosure. There's a static chamber which sits casually over your ear rather than actually sealing over it...the sound quality is pretty great, but ruined by the noise of my office, which is echoing around amidst the music in that unsealed chamber in the same way you can hear the sea in a seashell.
Which isn't so bad listening to full-spectrum stuff like Amon Tobin, but where the vocals or backing is knocking about in there on the same frequency...say, early Beatles stuff, it's annoying.
(The bass is pretty good though.)
I think the time has come for me to look for some drugs.
What I'm after is a drug that gives, all the time, the effect of having shared a bottle and a half of wine with Krissa the night before.
Because today I feel really calm and relaxed. I'm enjoying iTunes more than usual, without my usual itchy next-track-trigger finger.
It's such a shame. We live in New York with such a vibrant and widespread scene but it's been ages since Krissa and I saw some live music. But all that changes today - we're going to see La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera tonight. I'm really looking forward to it.
I think I look like Poseidon, rising to take my revenge on the unrespectful folk of the land realm.
Which is cool.
Want to create the next Autoblography banner?
Email me with an image, 700x125 pixels in size, and I'll stick it up for all to see.
Banners can have any them... the word 'Autoblography' being in there would be a plus, but hell, let's not limit ourselves...
Fancy a go?
Who are the people setting life up as a competition? They shouldn't. I mean, how can you tell if one life is superior to another? After mutual deaths you can draw a line between Nelson and a powder monkey on the Victory but how can you compare? Who is to say who had the better life? Who is to say that Horatio, in his discreet and hastily grabbed clinches with Lady Hamilton reached higher slopes of joy than the boy who ran barefoot along low decks with the leather pouches around his neck? We cannot know, we cannot tell...who had the more pleasurable life?
We can point to Nelson's victories, his excellence, his escalation of the ladder in front of him, but what do we know of the powder monkey? The happiness of his home, his family, his youth, his life?
There's no basepoint, no foundation for us to judge...so how can we know the same about ourselves?
How's my living? Call...
I'm still inviting those of a graphical inclination to have a crack at producing the next Autoblography Banner.
700x125 (pixels) is all the limitation you have - everything else is up to you. As they come in I shall keep the latest up at top until another comes in, and then we can have a big lovely vote-a-thon and decide the winner.
And then, after democracy has had its day, I'll choose which one I like the best.
I'm reading a lot at the moment. I've run through Forever, The Tailor Of Panama, and had a go at starting Nabokov's Lolita, but laid off for the time being because of the looks I get in the park at lunchtime as the kids play frisbee and I sit, munching my sandwich, reading a novel about paedophilia. I'm currently a couple of hundred pages into John Le Carre's 'Smiley's People', and enjoying it a lot.
I sometimes think about my critical sensibility as a reader. I can tell after reading a book if I enjoyed the experience, but I am blissfully uncritical during the passing of the pages. If I'm interested, I'm happy, even if I'm having to read some sentences twice for clarity's sake. So I think I'd be a terrible literary critic, because my perennial cry would be, 'Yeah...it's all right!'. However. The missus is another matter entirely, and she has just jaunted into the Gothamist fold as a literary critic and all-round book related bod.
Which is pretty good, no?
Will anyone understand?
I simply do not know.
A fabulous banner from Mr. Pete de Nu tomorrow.
This is a banner you see before you, (quite possibly) making thine eyes the fools o'the other senses, and it's all courtesy of newly pregnant Relly!
I should point out the sheer, brilliant, effusive effervescence of this banner - the map of the Isle of Wight to the left, the NYC subway map towards the centre, the tulips (ah, the tulips!) and the...images of the...sepia bandsmen! All set off with this season's greatest font of Victorian Emporium excitement.
If anyone else would like to create a banner, please do! The sky's the limit!
As long as your sky is only 700 pixels long by 125 pixels high.
2003 is SO IN right now.
That and Dave's banner for me from back then is SO much better than my wee-yellow sunset edition.
I'll be playing around with or begging you, my excellent readers, for a new banner soon, methinks.
My forehead gives me nightmares.
The establishment replacing my beloved 'Tea Time' on Chambers Street between Church Street and Broadway is 'The Blue Spoon Cafe'.
I've walked past it every day at least twice and never even thought about going in.
I was prejudiced. I wanted Tea Time back in my life.
They have a sign toting free wireless and muffins. I don't have anything that could pick up the wireless, and I'm not a muffin man.
But credit where credit is due. Their coffee...their coffee is really, really fucking good. It's so good that at first sip you're not even sure it IS coffee. It's so good that if the cause of life's beginnings was traced to a cup of Blue Spoon brew falling through a wormhole into a swamp of primordial soup, I wouldn't be at all surprised. If I was a bunch of complex proteins I'd start replicating like anything if someone poured a cup of this coffee into me.
It is the brown-tinted elixir of life, ambrosia, the fountain of youth, sparks in the brain, the drink of the gods, the wind beneath your wings, the reason for life on earth.
And if you need more, it's cheaper than Starbucks.
Where I'm standing, today is Veteran's Day.
In the UK, today is Remembrance Day.
In both places, it used to be Armistice Day.
Commemorating an Armistice shows and maintains respect for an act of peace. A day which stands as a testament to those who fought in past wars is commendable, but isn't the same. Wouldn't it be easy to move from acknowledging the sacrifices made by those who fought and start commending them for the act of fighting? And if you do, how far are you from celebrating an act of peace then?
I suppose it would depend on your point of view.
After four years of terrible war, the world breathed a sigh of relief on the signing of the Armistice on November 11th, 1918, and the memory of that moment, of the cessation of brutal and protracted fighting was celebrated. After years of fear, sacrifice, death and struggle, suddenly there was peace. Who wouldn't want to celebrate that?
After six years of terrible war across the globe, the world breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the Second World War on September the 2nd, 1945. Fighting on four continents had ended. Who wouldn't want to celebrate that?
War after war after war has shown that 'Armistice Day' isn't something that some national governments can happily celebrate when they themselves have military agendas.
This not a simple issue. As a pacifist, how would I have felt in England in 1939? Hitler invaded Poland in an act of unprovoked aggression. Massed forces in a style of warfare as yet unseen in the world rolled across the Polish border and the nation was quelled and taken over with startling speed.
Europe went to war, and it is easy for me to say with hindsight that it was necessary. Vital.
I wouldn't have been happy about it, but what else was there to do?
To say I am a pacifist is not slurring those who fought when they had to; to say I am against the war in Iraq isn't saying those who fight are fools; to say that I am against death, against loss, against grief and against pain and suffering...this is saying that I am a pacifist.
Today I remember the people sitting around tables at the end of every war. I remember the beginnings of peace. I remember the efforts of those working to maintain peace. Instead of remembering the fighting and the death that grew out of differences, I am trying to think of the years people around the world have lived without war.
Think of the years of peace, the years nobody died, the years no couples said what could turn out to be their last goodbye, the years there were no threats, the years people lived, the years children grew, the years with peace.
And then and only then will I remember there is an alternative I do not want.
Wanted: Beautiful People of simple tastes who relish the minor conveniences and nifty gadgets in everyday life so much that it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between enjoying one of life's simple pleasures and having an orgasm through an unexpected body part.
Here is a brief questionnaire for you to fill in:
1. Have you ever had charges brought against you in a civil or federal court for assaulting another person with your hair?
2. Do you have a highly sensitive scalp or fingers? Does it/ Do they lead you to moan sensually whilst applying shampoo? Can you produce a large enough amount of lather to cover enough of yourself that you can be shown on daytime television? Not that we're promising anything here.
3. Do shiny new cars make you come?
4. No really, we're serious about No. 3.
5. Have you ever broken down in fits of contagious hysterical laughter while trying the seat recline in a new car?
6. Do you and your friends compulsively go to otherwise crappy and unglamorous chain restaurants and hold hands like you're having a seance while the hot young waiter takes your order and you wait in a group state of foreplay-like anticipation?
7. Are you, your clothes, your eyes, your fingernails, palms, soles of your feet and your teeth completely black? Can you dance? Do you have a brightly coloured room in your house? Know any good songs?
If you have answered 'Yes' to any of the above questions, then we want to hear from you.
Please speak loudly from wherever you are.
It wasn't easy moving from a country where if you're sick they treat you (eventually) to a country whose health system runs on insurance. The most complex form of insurance I'd dealt with before moving to the US involved paying fifteen quid to a company at university who promised to reimburse me if my posters were stolen.
I flailed pathetically amidst the standard procedures for, say, registering with a doctor. I veered away from prospective dentists as though their office administrators had halitosis.
I was afraid.
I feared copays, prescription paying, paying for the wrong thing...I feared Ignorance Tax.
With the marvellous and dare I say it disbelievingly encouraging help of my good lady wife I bested all of these hurdles.
Krissa, as the petitioner for my visa (as the lingo goes) had to deal with the bulk of the bureaucratic paperwork from the US end. This meant that by the time I arrived, she was a veteran at navigating websites, deciphering jargon, interpreting instructions and carrying out regular seances in order to divine the next step in the visa process.
Krissa is a formidably capable woman, and while I read Visa Journey.com, the USCIS site, and sifted through our paperwork at home, I felt things were pretty straightforward as a result of her organisation, and I really needn't be that worried about it all.
Which is a tragic attitude to have, I apologise.
But today I think I pulled of a nifty bureaucratic coup de grace, which has me feeling rather good about coming up short in my role as 'benificiary'.
Last night I started calling around Civil Surgeons near my office. Considering that the Federal Building is around here, and there are hundreds of dusty second floor-window neon signs for 'Immigration Help' 'Visa Legal Services' in the area, it's not surprising that the sort of Doctor who specialises in the medicals and vaccinations for Green Card Applications congregate around here as well. I think my situation is pretty rare - one particular type of visa, one quirk of the system, one missing form, one box to tick. But when I started taking quotes for how much it would cost to get my UK vaccination history transferred into the US format, costs varied.
So I made three appointments, setting up the cheapest quote for the earliest appointment...I wasn't too sure that the quote on the phone would match up to the quote in person...and what they would actually charge when I'd managed to get across all the details was anyone's guess.
At lunchtime I set off, armed with my binder with all the relevant FAQ pages from the USCIS website printed out and highlighted, the relevant official documents (also highlighted), my passport, my Employment Authorization Card, everything...all cross-referenced with side tabs and notes in the form of post-its, a bowing homage to Krissa's fabulous and much larger-scale organization.
Which was great, because at the first place, I handed it all over and charmed the pants off the receptionist, and fifteen minutes later I walked out of the place, desired US document in my pocket, without having had to be inocculated against The Pox, all for the rather excellent price of $25.
So it didn't all go as smoothly as we had hoped.
As we stood on the chairs and poured documents onto our case officer, and she pranced around her cubicle squealing 'Paper! Paper! OoooOOOOoooooo Paper!', suddenly she turned a little unhappy. Apparently they're trained to spot missing documents as they cascade down.
And one of mine was an official document of the wrong country.
My UK vaccination record needs to be a certified US vaccination record. The fact that I had a medical in order to get into the US was fine by them; I don't need to have another medical.
The fact that I had my vaccinations checked and a missing one slapped into my arm on the same day as the medical isn't, apparently, fine by them. I need to take my vaccination history to a Civil Surgeon, who will, I hope, simply copy the sheet from English Medicalese into American Medicalese and onto the appropriate form, and charge me for the privilege. I may also have to have a chicken pox shot, or something like that. Buying your own chicken, giving it the pox and shooting it isn't sufficient.
But seriously, the imposing bureaucracy was made very personal and human by our case officer, who sped through our details with efficiency and enquiring interest (she doesn't really like paper that much) although I hesitated slightly over the oath. There were no bibles present, but before the interview proper Krissa and I had to stand with our right hands aloft and say, "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."
The atheist in me is nevertheless a British atheist; he hesitated awkwardly for a moment and then thought it best not to make a fuss.
The good news is that this doesn't hold my case back too much; I already have appointments made for tomorrow (two less than inspiringly competent English-speaking secretaries made wildly different quotes for their boss's services, so I thought it best to cover my bets and book with both) and we can then FedEx that bloody form over to our wonderful case officer and things can progress as planned.
Then, two months or so down the line, yours truly will be a bona fide permanent resident of the US.
Which is lovely.
Krissa and I are off into deepest Queens today for an interview with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service). It has been a year, so for me to continue my progression to legal residency, the US government would like to ascertain if our marriage is genuine.
This entails paper...lots and lots of paper...and the interview, where in past times couples have been separated, quizzed, and their answers compared. It's rare now.
Which is a shame, because judging from our conversation last night Krissa and I would have had a fantastic remote comedy double-act going.
Anyroad, a spot of idle goodwill from yourself would not go amiss (thank you kindly) and I'll let you know how it went a little later.
Citizens should be aware that New York City is currently under unusual weather conditions.
At approximately 6pm, EST on Friday, November 4th, an area of High Time Pressure moved in over the area, pushing ahead of it a front of mixing High and Low Pressure Time. This caused the unusual conditions that were universally witnessed over the weekend.
The Temporal Meteorological Office (TMO) have reported that according to their instruments Time was flowing past the city unusually fast.
Using the "LUCKY T" apparatus, which stands for Large Underground ClocKY Thing, (and which is so far the only scientific equipment capable of measuring the speed of Time) Time passing across the city did not drop below a rate of three hours per hour for the entire weekend, with gusts of up to four and a half hours per hour.
City residents reported a range of tragic stories:
"I left my building a little after one in the afternoon, and it's only two blocks to the laundromat," said one LES resident, "but when I got back it was six o'clock. I missed my siesta."
"I dropped off little Sally for her morning playdate on the dot of ten and took the 2/3 to my brunch date, but he'd left by the time I arrived, and all of a sudden it was four in the afternoon! Where did the time go?"
"I put a couple of slices of leftover pizza in the oven, man, and watched a commercial break. By the time I got back into the kitchen the oven had melted through the floor and was plunging through my downstairs neighbour's dining room table."
The front of turbulently mixing High and Low Pressure Time has now passed the area, and a system of Extremely Low Pressure Time has now taken up station over the city, meaning that the first day of the working week is anticipated to last at least 78 hours.
All the Time you lost over the weekend, you're getting back today.
So that's okay then.
Stuck at home when you could be out there in the job market, letting loose and ruffling feathers, cutting some rug, making deals, steals, steels...selling those steels on the international market and making a killing because all the really good steel has been snapped up for months in advance by the Chinese because they've got a dam to build, don'cher'know, and goddamn it they don't half need that metal?
It's never good being ill, right Mel?
Get well soon, and you know, get back to making steel...or...what was it you did again?
It's not steel, is it.
Get well soon.
This ID-related post generated a few questions...and in answering them I have to say, certain things were said in the spirit of lying creatively. I have to say no; an ex-girlfriend did not swear to kill me with a sword. Though if it had happened, I know which ex-girlfriend it would probably be, as well as which sword she would most likely try to use.
There is an old sword in the tiny book-crammed attic of my parents' house in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. The dark brown leather scabbard is dry and flaking with age, and the blade is dull both in colour and along its edge. You can just make out the inscription at the base of the blade, noting the officer's commission and appointment as a captain of a company of artillery, and the date; 1812. I managed to successfully navigate childhood without skewering myself on it.
I'm reading Freakonomics at the moment which deals with all sorts of things; from the methods of discovering test-cheating teachers to exposing the economic structure of crack-dealing gangs (and how similar they are to McDonald's) and on to the statistics of danger from weapons in the home.
It is interesting in a 'what if we looked at it this way?' manner, and above all, it's provocative. It is also the most self-congratulatory book I think I've ever read...apart from, maybe, Mr. Nice.
There are a lot of statements in the book which are presented as common sense observations which can not be proven by conventional academic processes. One which recurs frequently, and although I'm only three-quarters of the way through, seems to have accounted for a good quarter of the book so far, is the assertion that the unexpected and wholly unpredicted drop in crime in the US in the 90s was a delayed result of Roe v. Wade.
For those who haven't had a gentle soaking in US legal history, Roe v. Wade was the case which, in 1973, legalised abortion in America. Case summary here.
Unwanted children are more likely to grow up to become criminals, runs the argument.
In America there are more child deaths because of swimming pool accidents than because of accidents with personal firearms. Therefore, say the authors, swimming pools are more dangerous than handguns.
Of course it is a little more difficult to stick your swimming pool in your coat pocket, take it to the local betting shop and demand all the money in the safe.
Guns! Now there's an issue.
If a defenceless girl is threatened on a dark night by a burly man in a bomber jacket equipped only with a fist at the end of each arm, are we happy about this?
If a girl held up at gunpoint by a mugger is, in fact, armed herself, isn't this better for all concerned?
If a man, strapped for cash and strapping on a handgun before venturing out for the evening, thinks that anyone he might try and mug could be armed, isn't this better for all concerned? Isn't he now less likely to go out and mug that girl?
Possibly. But the hypothetical world where that is the norm makes for a hellish prospect.
So what do we do about it? Make sure the mugger never leaves the womb?
One thing I give the authors of Freakonomics a lot of credit for biting the bullet and showing is the logical path made by doing dirty mathematics.
I've had to do something similar, and it stinks.
When the possibility arose that I would have to present a 'dirty maths' argument in a professional capacity I worked harder at my job than ever before to try and find an alternative solution, producing long logic strings and comparative judgments to arrive at the same point without having to do it.
We were designing a very real tunnel, and I was sitting at the bottom of a virtual well of probability and statistics so complex that everyone else in my office was more than happy to leave me down there and not venture there themselves; they were more than happy to take my word for what it all meant. But at the bottom of that well were the questions in Dirty Maths.
Dirty Maths involves money and human life in the same equation. To me, it is morally repugnant.
If we don't spend X million on safety...how many lives does that cost?
Is it worth spending the money to save those lives, if we say each life is worth Y amount?
I hate it hate it hate it.
Levitt does something similar in Freakonomics, just to prove a point - it's illustrative, arbitrary, and completely unbased on anything but random figures to show a relationship. If Roe v. Wade resulted in the drop in crime, was the drop in homicide rate justified by the number of abortions carried out?
He selects, protesting its complete arbitrariness all along, a comparative 'cost' of one adult life to one hundred aborted fetuses. From that value judgement, crime control through abortion is not worth it. The drop in the homicide rate was not worth 'buying' with the number of abortions carried out since 1973. IF the drop in crime and hence homicides was an effect of Roe v. Wade, it was not worth allowing legal abortions to that end...which is fine, because the case was passed on separate issues entirely.
This is all pretty disgusting, isn't it?
Going back to our conflict - the mugger and muggee.
Which is the best situation?
Of course the very best situation is one where the mugging doesn't take place, which leads us away from guns towards social inequality, education, the penal system, and the causes of crime.
We have, in essence, popped the lid on the can of worms, and I think it's best if we let them run free without comment.
But back to the guns.
Here is a question I don't know the answer to:
A society where everyone carries a gun; the victim/attacker 'stalemate' condition...how can anyone conscionably advocate this? How can they ignore the escalation of arms?
Fist v. Gun = Gun wins.
Gun v. Gun = Gun wins.
Gun v. Big Gun = Gun Wins.
Big Gun v. Array Of Automatic Weapons & Landmines Around The Perimeter = Gun Wins.
The only situation, looking at that scorecard, you definitely wouldn't want to be is: Fist.
Which of course makes absolute perfect sense if you have no choice but to be involved in a scorecard situation.
You can see me, but I can't see me. With hosting based in the UK, it takes a while for my new Name Server information to propagate.
Another change is the old RDF and RSS feeds have bitten the cold, dry dust of the Internet, and autoblography.co.uk is now atomic. Check the autolinks sidebar there at the left for the atom feed.
I've been off work the past couple of days. I came home yesterday lunchtime with shakes and nausea and a one-sided headache. I had spreading blind spots on the subway but they had disappeared by the time I reached the office...then the headache rolled out, and I gave in, came home, and slept for six hours. I'm feeling okay today, but still a little wobbly & fragile.
I'm re-reading Mr. Nice. It's meant to be an autobiography, but it's probably ghostwritten. The tales inside are tall and the 'author' is a confessed stretcher of the facts, but it's a compelling tale of how a boy from the Welsh Valleys went on to become a major global marijuana smuggler. You may know the name: Howard Marks. There's a point in the book just after Marks has finished his first jail sentence when all of his old contacts light up again, only with greater ambitions and more complicated schemes, and the descriptions of Marks' flying schedule, front companies, contacts around the world, different people being busted...all of it crosses my into information overload territory and all I'm being left with is a sagging jaw at the sheer epic amounts being shipped all over the world.
A dope-only smuggler, Marks' biggest consignment was thirty tons, from Pakistan's borderlands into the US through an air-freighting scam which made the cargo look like it had come from Hong Kong and Singapore.
Today, a google news search brings up a story, here, about HMS Cumberland intercepting a speedboat-bourne shipment of twenty tons of cocaine in the Caribbean. This has a street value of £200 million. Assuming that this was bound for the UK - the article doesn't say - that's £3.33 per person in the British Isles, or enough for 1 in every 100 people in Britain to pocket an ounce, which (as far as I can gather) is a fuckload of cocaine, because it's normally sold in fractions of an ounce.
A little closer to (my) home, we have this gem, which details some of the methods used in Staten Island docks - insiders parked containers from South America near fences, where they could be easily broken into at night and their contents distributed. These guys were importing crates marked as Teletubbies toys.
There are other stories in the news about importing cocaine and marijuana into Jamaica in fruit juice cartons and wooden sculptures, flying cocaine over the Mexico-Texas border, and the general indifference of international crime to global governmental crackdowns which are taking place as the world sits up straight so that America can get on with its War On Terror.
Two problems Marks faced in the 80s were setting up secure communications and the movement of money. Static phone lines were tapped left and right, and attempts at roving contact points were so complex they were never bothered with. Money was frequently carted around in suitcases, or packed into the panels of cars. Consdiering the ease with which communications and financial transactions take place today, I wondered what it was like now.
This quote from an MSNBC article caught my eye:
Asked recently how much harder it was to move $50 million secretly now than 10 years ago, a Swiss banker smiled and replied: "The main difference is that now I charge more."
And I thought, bloody hell.