Punishing France

Scott Forbes has posted an excellent article in opposition to SDB’s “punish France” ranting.

Den Beste Digest, #3

“I have uncovered a diabolical French plot to keep Saddam in power.” (3016-word version)

One of the problems with doing these as digests is that there are times – such as now – when a fuller response is called for. Here’s where I try to eat my cake and have it too.

Truly, Steven has a dizzying intellect. ;-) Today’s offering is a hedge. A tiny doubt has crept into his mind that maybe – just maybe – things won’t go the way he expected, so he’s preparing his excuse. If his earlier predictions do pan out after all, he can disavow today’s post somehow; if not, it becomes the cornerstone of a classic conspiracy theory in which the error itself proves how fiendishly clever the French are. It’s pretty neat, actually.

The post is interesting in a couple of other ways. For one thing, it’s a prime example of Den Beste verbosity; over three thousand words to explain what is really a fairly simple idea. Somebody please get this man a job. For another, the gem about the US and UK being equal diplomatic partners and Bush letting Blair lead diplomatically is priceless. To the rest of us – including the vast majority of Britons – it seems like Blair really needs some kneepads and mouthwash, but reinterpreting the US/UK relationship in this radical way is more consistent with Steven’s latest theory. I wonder what the next one will be.

Film’s Greatest Lines

I got the idea from this entry. Simple poll: what’s your favorite humorous/sardonic movie line? I claim “Truly you have a dizzying intellect” from Princess Bride. What are some others?


Outlook Express just ate my Inbox…again. Fortunately I have copies of pretty much everything on my work machine, but still, that’s just ridiculous. It’s not like I’ve never lost email in a Linux client, so don’t get all superior on me, but how $#@! hard can it be to make an email client that doesn’t periodically eat email?

Photo Retouching

On the Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD, there was a section on “color grading”. They showed some guys selecting a portion of an image and adjusting the color/contrast/etc. just for that selection, but in such a way that it blended in with the remainder of the image – i.e. the selection was separated from the remainder by a soft gradient instead of a hard line. These guys were working on moving video, of course, but I’ve been wondering if there’s anything similar for still images. I’ve found plenty of programs that can do such adjustments within a portion of an image, but always with a hard boundary – which is particularly useless when selection is limited to rectangles and such.

Does anyone know of an image editing program, preferably free – that provides such a retouching feature with anything like a reasonable interface? It would be pretty handy for making the pictures I post here look better.

SUV Risk

Here’s a story at UPI about the risks posed by SUVs. The interesting part, which I’m sure readers here have come to expect, is as follows:

even in the area of own driver safety, SUVs scored worse than midsize and large cars. Those vehicles also scored better on the risk to other drivers, meaning that the SUV is on average about 30 percent more dangerous than a midsize or large car or a minivan.

How many times and how many ways must the SUV-safety myth be exploded before people stop using that excuse?

Another interesting part of the article was the unusual disclaimer at the end:

This column examines the facts behind recent statistical studies that have made the news but been misinterpreted, failed to make the news for some reason or are just plain weird.

Database Reorganization

I just reorganized the topic and comment databases here, removing the last vestiges of support for having content in external files. A large part of the reason was as a necessary step to support a search feature, which I’ll finish and announce soon. There is one user-visible change: all URLs now contain the entry’s ID from the topic table, not sometimes the old-fashioned path (e.g. 2001/October/05a) and sometimes the ID depending on when I posted it. That might break some old links, but that’s life.

I don’t think I broke anything, but I do have everything backed up just in case. Things at least seem to work well enough for people to see this and send me email if they notice anything.

Den Beste Digest, #2

“I hope we find evidence of great suffering in Iraq, because we can use that against the Democrats.”

[268 words]

Den Beste Digest, #1

“Intellectual honesty is important. Disagreeing with me is proof of dishonesty. I’ll smack you down.”

[5610 words]

Moving Up in the World

This site has finally reached a major milestone: I’m now on the first page of Google hits for “platypus”! For a long time the two most popular parts of the site have been the platypus picture collection and the Lord of the Rings personality test. The latter I’ve always found kind of disturbing, since it’s probably one of the things on the site I’m least proud of; the code is ugly stuff I whipped together in about half an hour and the questions are almost as lame. There’s some slightly interesting stuff to do with scoring, but seeing hits on the test is nowhere near as gratifying as seeing hits on my server-design article or any of my insightful and brilliantly phrased (ahem) political diatribes. The picture collection, on the other hand, is something I’m very proud of, and I’m glad it’s finally getting its due.

On a somewhat less positive note regarding the picture collection, I found two more forum sites where people were (I consider) abusively linking to the images instead of copying them. Am I being unreasonable? I don’t mind a bit if people come here via search or link to the images via their own personal sites/weblogs, but I find it a bit annoying when people link to the images as their “avatar” on some lame-o (but high-traffic) bulletin board so that it gets hit every single time someone reads that topic. In any case, I figured out a while ago how to deny access by referer, so a couple of folks have broken avatars now. :-)