Cafe-philo is back in Nashville

Courtesy of Chad Wilcox, cafe-philo is getting started once again in Nashville. The time and place will still be Wednesday nights from 9-11 at the venerable J-J’s Market and Cafe. However, with so many of the old group having graduated and moved on to bigger and better things (or not), gatherings will now be held the first Wednesday of every month instead of the first Wednesday of every week.

The first philo of the year will take place September 1. Email Chad if you want to be added to the listserve. Needless to say, I wish I could be there.

[Chad also referred to this revival in his email as the “New-And-Improved Philo,” but I won’t take it personally!]


Slant: The Next Generation

New EiC Colin Dinsmore continues the tradition of finding fun and novel ways to offend the Vanderbilt community with his first print edition of The Slant. This issue’s lead story is his “Nashville Prepares for Natty Light Shortage.” It was originally entitled “Nashville Prepares for Natural Light Shortage,” but I misunderstood that to mean that Nashville was preparing for the shorter days that come with the onset of fall and winter. Let that be one more testament to my all too puritan college existence.

Also in this issue: the Dollar falls, stares angrily at crack; no one believes freshman with black sock on his door is actually having sex; the West offers all forms of assistance to Sudan, short of actual help; Chancellor Gee himself confesses bastardly; and Wichita, KS provides one of the best fucked images ever.

Updates from The Slant are also available in a syndication feed.


Return to the Deep

Remember Mr. Blobby, the lovable genus psychrolutes who graced this page back in March? While that entry has been pushed back deeper and deeper into the archives, people have continued to stumble upon it. Here’s a comment left by a recent visitor:

Dear Mark McGrouther,

I’m a huge fan of Mr.Blobby. Working for a Japanese documentary film making firm I am always on the look out for the wonderful, and thus very interested to see what else you turn up. Please do keep me updated with all your discoveries.

Fiona Dickson
Programme Development
NHK Enterprises
London, UK

Mark McGrouther manages the Fish Collection at the Australian Museum and was on the NORFANZ expedition that discovered Mr. Blobby in the Tasman Sea. Knowing he’d probably never come across that comment, I emailed him to let him know it was there. Since then he’s alerted me to a couple of additions to the collection.

The first is a new look at the fangtooth, a particularly nasty looking creature that thankfully only grows up to 17 cm. As mentioned in the original entry, this fish’s fangs are so long that it has evolved sheaths for them in its head to prevent it from impaling itself. Mark’s new photo shows these pockets in action and very close up.

The second is the Longray Spiderfish, a bottom dweller that lives down to 5000 m below the surface. Mark says to “check out the length of the pectoral fins.”

At this point you may be wondering why I’m suddenly posting about unusual fishes. Mainly I do it because I think they’re cool and it’s worth being reminded of the countless weird and wonderful creatures that surround us, so many yet to be discovered.

I also do it because this is what I love about the Internet. Just three days ago I posted about the supposed Balkanization of the World Wide Web, noting that there are very few sites outside the U. S. that I visit. Though that is true (and not necessarily a bad thing and certainly better than I do with non-Internet media), it’s amazing how communications technology has made such an unlikely thing as my recent email exchanges possible, even commonplace. What are the odds in any other generation that some guy in Virginia would find himself facilitating the introduction of an ichthyologist in Australia and a woman from a Japanese documentary firm working in London? Just about zero, I’d say.

So here’s your deep thought of the day: the Internet and the ocean are both full of some really neat stuff.

Thanks to Mark McGrouther for the updates.


“But officer, a ball cock really is just a plumbing device!”

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg is threatening to clamp down on sex shops (if you’ll forgive the choice of words) via the 60/40 rule. The law requires that shops operating in residential areas must carry merchandise that is sixty-percent non-pornographic. With that in mind, Court has come to the aid of the shop owners with a list of alternative uses for the items they already have in stock.


Subsidized comedy

Man, street performers in England have it easy! Nigel Roder, a.k.a. Kester the Jester, has become England’s first official court jester in 350 years. That gives him a state-funded paycheck from March to October 2005.

Upon joining England’s state bureaucracy, Kester promises to juggle seven clubs, swing diaboloes, eat fire, and make satirical comments for all qualified audience members who have filled out the proper paperwork and allowed three to five weeks for processing.


In the True Spirit of the Games

Lots of bloggers are making fun of this: the 2004 Olympics’ ridiculous “Hyperlink Policy.” The Olympic Internet Department (I can’t type that without giggling) apparently thinks it can control precisely who links to their webpage and how exactly they do it. “For your protection and ours” they require potential linkers to follow three simple rules.

a) Use the term ATHENS 2004 only, and no other term as the text referent

So, for example, linking with the word “wombat” would be strictly off-limits.

b) Not associate the link with any image, esp. the ATHENS 2004 Emblem

This one’s a little trickier since they later on say that you can use the officially sanctioned banner images. Linking with a picture of George Wendt, on the other hand, would be very bad form.


c) Send a request letter to the Internet Department stating:
Short description of site
Reason for linking
Unique URL containing the link (if no unique URL than just the main URL)
Publishing period
Contact point (e-mail address)

Once the request has been mailed, interested parties can proceed to include the link and will only receive a response if ATHENS 2004 does not accept the link.

This last rule is very important and absolutely must be followed. The Olympic Internet Department does not take kindly to excuses like, “My request to link with the word “wombat” and a picture of George Wendt must have gotten lost in the Greek mail system.” Nope, not kindly at all.

Please keep these simple rules in mind as you blog about this year’s exciting Olympic games.


Thinking globally, acting locally

The Center for Civil Society, a free market think tank in India, has created an official weblog. Their flagship program is a series of student outreach seminars similar to those of IHS that recently won the Templeton Freedom Prize for Student Outreach. The weblog only has a few entries at the moment, but if they keep it going it should provide a good libertarian perspective on life in India. Parth Shah’s description of a strike in Kerala and Aftab’s post on the “Amartya Sen Fallacy” both provide examples of how poor governance leads to extremely frustating ineffeciencies there.

And while were on the subject of international weblogs, Tim Wu has a post on Lessig Blog about the “Balkanization of the Internet”:

So how often do you actually visit sites in other countries? How about in other languages?

If youíre like many users, the answer may [be] ďnot that oftenĒ (apologies to the foreign readers of Lessig Blog). Its a small sign of the Balkanization of the Internet, a process that is happening faster than anyone is noticing. What we once called a global internet is becoming, for many practical purposes, a collection of nation-state networks, still linked by the internet protocol, but for many purposes, separate. Some of the evidence:

See his post for the evidence. Looking at just the weblogs I read, they’re almost all U.S. based. A large percentage are based in the D. C. metro area. I don’t think that’s a problem so much as it is a natural response to the Internet’s lowering the cost of disseminating information. As costs drop and more people connect, it makes sense to publish information that’s only useful to local or idiosyncratic communities. Websites with broad appeal like major newspapers and stores pop up before Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide to Washington, D. C. (and how many cities have a Tyler Cowen?). There are vast reserves of local knowledge yet to be tapped, so I suspect that this partiular sign of “Balkanization” will continue to develop (to our benefit).

On the other hand, some of Wu’s other examples (Australia’s government run content filter, IP laws in the U. S. and libel laws in Europe, and China’s non-IP intranet) strike me as more serious contenders for threatening the Internet’s open borders.


Six months in the making

He registered way back in February, but the wait is finally over: Chad Wilcox has started a weblog. Of all my friends from Vanderbilt, he more than anyone could use one. He’s a very thoughtful guy with a keen mind for dissecting strategy, whether in politics, Ladder Theory, or how a group arranges itself in a coffee shop. He asks good questions and carried many a good J-J’s/cafe-philo conversation back in the day. The php code he added to the MT template is pretty nice, too. Check out Quiet Declarations.


ďSo when are you going to make real blog entries again?Ē

Thatís the question a blogging friend asked me a few weeks ago. This site has never exactly been the place for hard-hitting political commentary, but thereís no denying itís been slow lately. No op-ed columns, no Hemingway Star stories, not even any particularly insightful weblog entries. The Queso Crusader gave away a GMail account and thatís about the most exciting thing thatís come up. Yet surprisingly, traffic to the front page of the weblog has continued to increase.

The dearth of posts is due in large part to how busy Iíve been. It was barely two months ago that I moved into the new place and Iíve spent a month of that time on the road. Itís also due to indecision about what I wanted to do post-graduation. Friends from Vanderbilt noticed that my ambitions rarely extended beyond finding new ways to throw and catch an Aerobie across Alumni Lawn. A worthy goal, but not one that could last forever!

Now, my friends, that period of indecision is over. I have officially decided not to pursue any kind of full-time employment, within the libertarian movement or otherwise. For the foreseeable future, I am pursuing life as a freelance writer and close-up magician. Itís the only choice that feels right at this point and Iím feeling on path again for the first time in nearly a year.

The obvious response to that is, ďHow are you going to make that pay?Ē If I had a dollar for every time I heard that question, well, I wouldnít have a problem answering that question. Itís true, the disadvantage of this course of action is that there is no guaranteed income, especially in the beginning. While Iím confident that this wonít be a long-term problem, in the short-term I will likely be doing a few other things like refereeing soccer games or working in a coffee shop.

So in the months to come, you can expect several things from this website:

1) More content, especially in the humor department. That seems to be where my comparative advantage lies in terms of what brings links and traffic here and I like writing it. There will be some serious material, too.

2) Announcements of magic gigs. Iíve come back into this performing art with a vengeance, working on some great new material, reworking and relearning some old effects Iíd long forgotten, and putting much more emphasis on scripting than I did in the past. Iíll probably start out with strolling magic at restaurants and cocktail parties (the area where I have the most experience) and then add on a parlor/coffee shop size act and perhaps street performance.

3) Several other projects that are currently in their very early stages. I donít want to say anything about them yet, but when and if they come through Iíll reveal them here.

In the meantime, I still have another week on the job at IHS, which Iíve enjoyed. After that Iíll be back in Houston for a while for the annual Texas Association of Magicians convention and to devote time to working on various magic-related things. The trip will include at least one stop in Nashville, so I look forward to seeing friends in both cities.

If youíve read this far, thanks for sticking with the long personal update.


Houston’s driver training program

I never understood the logic of Houston’s decision to create a light rail line running from downtown to the Astrodome after it decided to build a new baseball stadium downtown. But not only is the train’s route questionable, it’s also taking out an astonishing number of the cars (and pedestrians) that cross it: KGBT News reports that it’s had fifty collisions in less than a year of operation, twenty times worse than the national average. This record has earned the train a few nicknames, including the clever “A Streetcar Named Disaster.”

In fairness, most of the crashes seem to be due to driver error. Still, it makes one wonder what design flaws are causing such a mess. I think I’ll stear clear of the tracks when I visit my hometown next month, but I am curious to have a look at the monstrosity. [Link via Newmark’s Door.]



Crackers is a new website that’s going to showcase libertarian online humor in a weekly magazine. Sounds like a great idea to me. Plus, the Hemingway Star made it into the first issue, so that gets my approval right there.