Quarterly Potpourri: 2013, Q4
Tightwad corner. If, like me, you never learned to touch-type; and if, also like me, you work your laptop to death; and if, like mine, your machine is a cheapo model; then you have watched with dismay as the letters get worn away from your laptop keys. By the end of 2013 I had utterly lost several letters, while other pairs (C-G, N-M) were so worn I couldn't tell them apart. Typing was becoming a major memory chore.
Solution: Shell out $2.79 for a white-out pen. Write letters on keys with white-out. Allow to dry. Spend another $2.48 on extra-hard clear nail varnish. Cover letters with it. Allow to dry. New keyboard, for about the price of one replacement key.
How to open a safe. In England many years ago, chatting with a locksmith while he worked, I learned the following thing: One of the country's leading manufacturers of safes shipped all its products set to a default opening combination of 102030, and a high proportion of customers never reset it.
He: "If I need to open a Chubb safe, it's the first thing I try. You'd be surprised how often it works."
This came to mind when I was reading the story about Kennedy-era launch codes for our nuclear missiles:
… The Strategic Air Command greatly resented [Defense Secretary Robert] McNamara's presence and almost as soon as he left, the code to launch the missile's [sic], all 50 of them, was set to 00000000.
I use a random-string generator for my passwords and change them often. I guess safeguarding my Netflix account is more important than preventing a nuclear holocaust.
Al Goldstein, RIP. Al Goldstein, co-founder of Screw magazine, died December 19th. Jim Goad blogged a brief tribute, calling Goldstein "pornography incarnate." Goldstein (according to John Heidenry) described himself as having been "in the right place at the right slime." The New York Times' obituarist pulled in Alan Dershowitz for a view. Said Al of Al: "[Playboy founder Hugh] Hefner did it with taste. Goldstein's contribution is to be utterly tasteless."
Goldstein would have agreed happily. Tasteless was what he did. Let it at least be said, though, that he did it with intelligence and wit. How, for example, could one improve on Goldstein's advice concerning what a gentleman should say when his lady catches him masturbating in the shower? "Hey, it's my soap and it's my dick …"
Weather: the English philosophy. During a nasty cold snap in November I went to the family doctor for my 30,000-mile check-up.
Usual drill: Pre-doctor, a nurse came in to take my blood pressure, etc. I took off my street jacket, fleece quarter-zip, wool sweater, and shirt, leaving my undershirt on.
She: "Oh, you're one of those people who layers."
Huh? It's fifteen degrees outside, lady. What should I do?
We conversed. Apparently there are people who throw a coat over their shirt, then sprint from house to car to office.
For heaven's sake! It's only weather. It won't hurt you.
Planned obsolescence. Early in December we brought out the Christmas lights to string them on our bushes and trees out front. As usual, half the damn things didn't work. We had to go to Home Depot for more.
As we were browsing the lights there, I noticed on first one, then another, then another package the same legend: "One year warranty." Ah.
Nut Kune Do. In a VDARE.com piece on the knockout game I mentioned the use of the head as a weapon in street fighting via the technique known in 1960s Liverpool as "nutting." The editor for the piece alerted me to this guide to proper nutting technique, which spells out the essentials.
Seems to me the martial arts are missing a trick here. The eastern traditions don't, as I recall, use the head at all.
I'm thinking of opening a chain of schools to teach the Liverpool technique, which I shall call Nut Kune Do.
Country of the year. The Economist, in their December 21st issue, named Uruguay their Country of the Year, apparently on libertarian grounds: same-sex marriage, legalized pot, and an "admirably self-effacing" president.
The Economist is way behind me here, anyway. I've been wise to Uruguay for years. Look at the indicators: middling prosperous, as economically egalitarian as the USA, mild climate, very low defense spending, ninety percent white-European, no Muslims, agriculturally fertile.
I don't know about Country of the Year, but for catastrophists seeking a refuge from the coming collapse, I suggest Uruguay as Bolt-Hole of the Year.
The war to end all wars. Get ready for the centenary fuss.
My Dad and I both married late, stretching out the generational memory. My son came home from school one day grumbling: "My classmates' grandfathers were in Vietnam. Mine was in World War I!"
That war hung like a pall over Britain for decades afterwards. Working construction in my college vacation around 1965 I did a spell as assistant to an old stonemason, engaged in fixing marble facing to the building we were putting up. He told me he'd done his apprenticeship in the years immediately after WWI … cutting headstones for the cemeteries. For years.
Today's Army. Like Alexander Portnoy, I grew up thinking that the US Army song was "The Caissons Go Rolling Along." Then last fall, browsing the latest Army Blue Book, I saw that they've changed it to "The Army Goes …"
Someone decided either that caissons were too artillery-centric or that "caisson" is too hard a word for present-day public-school graduates to master.
Whatever. Following the November 2nd wedding of two males at West Point Cadet Chapel, here's my suggestion for a new Army song. You're welcome!