Fat Chance

Fat Burning Furnace is a weight loss book being marketed all over the internet. The gist of it is "Do a 15 minute superintense workout every day, and eat sensibly" - as opposed to "Spend 3 hours a day going gently on the treadmill and follow this diet religiously for a year".

If you want more detail you can go to the website and pay USD70 for book and videos...or you can use YouTube and Google to look up high intensity exercises and your own common sense about food. Your choice.

Now, the usual way to market this kind of thing on the net is to post hundreds of "reviews" everywhere you can - including specially created blogs - all seemingly written by the same ad executive who doesn't realise real people don't write in advertising cliches, and doing little more than link to the site.

Which is written in the same irritating upbeat style, making suspiciously rash but vague promises, page after page.

"Rob, being in the medical field I was skeptical of your procedures...Since I purchased your books and followed the regime I've lost 20 kg (44 lbs.)..."

"Skyrocket your energy!"
"Boost your immune system!"
"Flatten that tummy... or better yet, get that six pack!"

"... My body fat went down from 22% to 18%, hips 33” to 31”, and waist 29.8” to 28”!"

"No restrictive diets."
"A total body transformation!"
"You're melting fat 24/7!"

"...In the last 8 weeks I have lost a total of 7.5 inches...Thighs 2 inches, bottom 2 inches, hips 1.5 inches, stomach 2 inches!"

If you're stupid enough to fall for that, you're too stupid to blink without guidance - but apparently some people are.

There are a few genuine reviews, which the promoters have found and left comments on - in that same irritating style.

"I lost 3″ from my waist, 2″ from my hips, and 3.5″ from my chest. I can get into my skinny shorts again, and I feel great!"

And then the scammers get sneakier. And you know what's stupider than a stupid person? It's a stupid person trying to be smart. Here, that means posting more reviews that claim to be exposés of the scam...that are also written in that irritating ad-exec style, and repeat the rash but vague promises, and never get around to being pretend-critical.

This, from FatBurningFurnaceScam.Com:

"Man, I could go on and on with praise for the exercises Rob taught me. I thought exercises were just to burn calories, but these exercises took my metabolism and set it on fire."

"I’m still following the program to lose even more weight, but my life has already taken a dramatic turn for the better."

"You can become a member of Fat Burning Furnace at a discounted price through the link below."

Yes, it really is called "Fat Burning Furnace Scam", and it really is that crude.

Honestly, sometimes I just despair at the human race. Predatory scum on one side, and on the other a sea of mooing cabbages who can't spot an obvious lie even after it's bitten them for the hundredth time.

There are three kinds of people.

  • Those who think everything's okay.
  • Those who know there's something deeply and fundamentally wrong with the world, but have only the haziest idea what it could be.
  • Those who have a very clear and definite idea what's wrong, and what to do about it. Half of these are mad, a few startlingly sane.

The complacent, the worried, and the troublemakers.

Most people are worried. I was going to be a troublemaker, but I never had the patience.

Left Behind

A short story about death. And afterwards.

Armageddon wasn't so bad.

Boiling skies of blood, shrieking terror from the black oceans, the dead rising from their graves - or reconstituting from their cremation urns - and a few thousand random people getting kidnapped by angels, whisked off to heaven.

Cable TV was back up in a week, Facebook got a few memes about "What were you doing when the world ended?", and all the insurance companies refused to pay out for an act of god.

That was exactly two years ago. Now I'm sitting in the Reaper Bar And Grill, under the "Happy Apocalypse Day" banner, waiting for mother. She's late.

The waitress walks slowly over and stares blankly past my left shoulder as she asks me if I want another drink. I tell her yes, speaking slowly so her brain can keep up. The pale skin on her face crinkles as she lisps something that might be "Have a nice day", then she shuffles away, muttering my order to herself over and over.

There's a giant plasma screen TV set high on one wall, with a group of goth teens flipping channels with the remote. At least, I think they're goths.

The channel changes to show a room with cameras on all sides and furniture in primary colours. This year there's two undeads in the Big Brother house. They're in the kitchen, complaining about immigrants and muslims in their low, keening voices.

The channel changes again to some daytime chat show. The caption flashes in bright letters that fill the screen: My Undead Husband Wants Me To Leave My Live Boyfriend And Come Back To Him.

It seems they'd been married for only six months when he was killed in a motorcycle accident. She'd fallen in love with the grief counsellor and they'd started a family together. Now the previous husband says they were never legally divorced.

The audience is with the first husband - until it turns out he caused the accident by being drunk and they boo him. Then the host brings in his secret undead girlfriend - who'd been a pedestrian killed in the accident. More booing and sad shaking of heads.

They go to the ad break with cheering and applause. The first advert is for a range of beauty products aimed at the grey community, but then the channel changes again.

The waitress brings me my drink, a seasonal cocktail with a festive black umbrella, decorated with a yellow smiley skull. She winks saucily with one pure white eye before moving on.

Has it really only been two years? However did we manage before, without an army of zombies to pour our drinks, appear on our quiz shows and serve hamburgers? One from Poland fixed the pipes in my bathroom and they've never been better.

They've been great for the economy - they can work eighteen hours a day and you can pay them in rat carcases. Though my neighbour isn't happy his new boss is "one of them" - he says they're taking over.

You don't see many zombie movies on TV anymore. Odd, that. There's a couple of dead funny sitcoms though. In the graveyard slot.

Ah, mother's here. She moves to my table and we kiss on the cheek, dry and musky.

"So, how's life?", she asks. My dear late mother.

Facepalm Friday - Homomarxian Edition

What happens if you type "gay marxist" into google's blog search engine? You get a lot of intelligent, informed, rational discussion.

Oh alright then, you get this:

"Teaching about homosexuality translates as the promotion of homosexuality"
- British Nationalist, a nazi blog which opposes teaching about the holocaust - presumably because that would promote the building of gas ovens.

"Marx wanted to abolish marriage."
- The Agonist, forgetting that Marx was married. Engels did in fact show where the idea of the modern nuclear family came from - but astonishingly didn't get a divorce because of it.

"You're gay marriage militants who want to impose your gay agenda - whose origin is straight Marxist - on a populations that doesn't want it."
- Western Standard, on how getting married is an act of insurrection.

"The Democratic Party has become nothing more than a Marxist front group"
- Conservative Rainbow, reviving the "Wag the Dog" theory of politics.

"In my fight against the gay agenda in Brazil, I do not have the support from any group as powerful as YWAM...All these antichrist Marxists ever have is these empty cliches ...They are all going to bring in the end of the world and bow to the Antichrist himself"
- Last Day Watchman, Ned Flanders' evil twin.

"Marxists do not care about “women's liberty.” They do not care about anybody's liberty. They support anything that can destabilize the West."
- Gates of Vienna, getting its stereotypes mixed up.

"Brazil Marxist Pres To Criminalize Anti-Gay Speech"
- The One All, revealing the hitherto unknown worker's revolution in Brazil.

"Postmodernism is a theoretical Marxist approach to cultural destabilization."
- New World University, on how a theory that capitalism can't be attacked anymore is a way to attack capitalism.

"Is the Gay Agenda, a Zionist NeoCon one?"
- Wake Up From Your Slumber, tying it all together.

"Barack Obama is a tall, angular, smooth-talking third-world denizen crypto-Marxist"
- Chicago Daily Observer, appealing to a birther readership.

"If Darwin is true, especially that Nature operates via Nurture (which no one disputes today), then where are the purported “alien social structures” of Marxist class and social struggle? Well, they cannot be “alien,” because our social structures are built upon our natural facts."
- Gay Species, failing basic evolutionary biology, writing like a 12 year old Ayn Rand, and evidently thinking sociology is the study of genetics.

"Obama is a MARXIST gay, which means he wants all the gay bars and bath houses to be in the hands of the federal government"
- commenter on Ed Cone, providing my favourite comment and finishing this selection.

Oh I almost forgot...


Ad Break

You can tell a lot about someone by their personal ads. Usually you can tell they're no good at personal ads.

Rightly or wrongly, people tend to look first and judge most from the picture, giving the text only a cursory scan for hints of screwed up hangups or fetishes involving serrated objects.

So here on Blog Kapitano, a selection of M4M ad pics from the XXXBlackBook dating site - a site so successful its URL doesn't match its name, and it advertises itself by Twitter spam. Categorised for your convenience.

Category 1:

So Macho

Men who are rough, tough and manly. Men who open beer bottles with their teeth and eat tindaloo because they like it. Men whose only wish is that you know how more manly they are than you - in the hope it'll make you love them. But only in a manly way.

Category 2:

I'm Just So Like Kerr-azy, Man!

Men who secretly fear they'll cease to exist if they're not the center of attention all the damn time. Men who think being interesting is the same as being loud.

Category 3:

Find the Lady

Men who either:
(1) Do everything with their friends in tow, including romantic dates
(2) Aren't quite sure which one is them, or
(3) Don't quite get the concept of personal ads.

Category 4:

Art Student

It's nice to have a bit of artifice or inventiveness, even in the mundane. But the point of artistic skill is to draw attention away from itself - not to club you over the head with its cleverness. Especially when it isn't actually very clever.

Category 5:

Slightly Pervy

I think variety in sexuality is a good thing. I think self expression is good. I think neurotic inhibitions and shameful coyness are, as a rule, bad.

But I like my sex vanilla and boring. Sorry.

Category 6:

My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

  • Str8-but-curious
  • Bi-curious but could never love a man
  • My girlfriend won't do oral
  • My wife doesn't understand me
  • Some of my best friends are gay
  • Queers have the best music
  • Need to get drunk first
  • Completely hetero and loves women to bits - just really loves to suck cock sometimes, but it doesn't make him even a tiny bit gay, oh no.

Category 7:

You Did What!?

Men whose so-called friends set up a M4M for them as a joke, because they're so braindead they think that kind of thing's funny.

Category 8:


You know how ladyboys looks more like glamorous women than glamorous women? You know how M2F transexual prostitutes do more business than actual women? You know how some men live as women so effectively no one guesses? Well...this isn't quite like that.

Category 9:

I'm Not a Serial Killer.
You Do Believe Me, Don't You Clarice?

The eyes are the windows of the soul.

Category 10:

2 Kool 4 Skool

There's absolutely nothing wrong with teens having sex with each other. There's nothing inherantly wrong with a teen having sex with someone two or three times their age, if there's no pressure. Hey, I did have sex with men three times my age - and the only psychological scars are on those who told me it'd leave me with psychological scars.

But a kid of sixteen actively seeking out men of forty. Or the other way round. I can't help feeling that's just a bit creepy.

Category 11:

Yes I Do Know How to Use a Camera, Thank You Very Much

And finally, the largest category of them all. Not so much shutter-bugs and shutter-bugger-ups.

Safe and Secure

Many years ago, I got a book called The Hacker's Handbook for my birthday. It was full of rather vague suggestions - presumably highly censored - about breaking passwords, finding backdoors, and exploiting common weaknesses in the human element of computing.

Have you ever used one of these as your password?

  • 12345 (or some variation)
  • 111111 (or some variation)
  • Stonehenge
  • Hypodermic
  • God (yes, "God" is an amazingly common password - though I've never heard of "Jesus" being used)
  • Sex (hah)
  • Fred (four letters next to each other on the QWERTY keyboard)
  • Secret (a common default password)
  • Password / Pass (another common default)
  • Blank / Empty
  • LetMeIn
  • [An actual empty password] (I did use this one once, but only by accident)
  • [Your pet's name]
  • [Your significant other's name]
  • [Your mother's maiden name] (some people think they're being really crafty with this one)
  • [Your mother-in-law's name] (very common, for some bizarre psychological reason)
  • [Your own fucking name] (I've seen seasoned professionals do this)

If the answer's yes, I hope you're not in charge of any computer security.

Anyway, one message came across loud and clear from that little book: Perfect security may be impossible, but you can get as close as humanly possible by:

(1) Avoiding obvious passwords
(2) Not having computers unnecessary networked
(3) Proper physical security - a strong lock and a single key with you at all times saves a lot of trouble, and finally...
(4) A team of highly trained, highly paid computer security experts, working in shifts so someone's there at all times.

Guess which of these get treated by banks as "unnecessary expense"...until they get hacked?

Oh, and there's one other measure you can take - something so obvious only a professional consultant could miss it. Don't write anything down unless you really have to. Use your memory.

The British government may think it's okay to leave state secrets in taxis and lose CDs of everyone's personal details with the access codes written on the disc several times a year...but you don't have to.

Now, for the single user, or even the small business, security comes down to firewalls, virus scans...and, yes, passwords. And if you're anything like this single user, you've been using the same set of passwords for years - because they're the ones you first thought of, you're used to them now, you can't think of new ones, and you reckon no one else could guess them anyway. Although they probably have.

And because it's a lot of bother to change them. I changed all my passwords last night - Ten email addresses, five forums, ebay and (the typically unhelpful) paypal. It took three solid hours, none of which were remotely enjoyable.

The now replaced passwords were, amongst others:

  • A numerical character from my favourite TV show
  • A lovely band I once did a remix for
  • A screaming painting by Francis Bacon
  • A character from a James Bond movie - played by Lotte Lenya
  • The inevitable drugs reference
  • The registration number of a car my father used to own

The new ones are alphanumeric, longish, in three languages, and...ah, erm...

...I haven't memorised them yet. Which is why they're on a post-it note stuck to the laptop.

Everybody Lies (Part Two)

My second and final court case is now over. It was a rape case...and it was very easy to decide.

Rather than explain all the reasoning, I'll summarise the evidence, which I think speaks for itself.

The accused is a 26 year old Lithuanian casual building site worker. He lived across the street from his accuser with several other East Europeans - who can no longer be contacted.

The accuser is a 19 year old criminology student - the kind who doesn't bother going to lectures. She lived in a house with four other students, none of who knew her well or liked her much. One is an Asian guy (probably Philipino) with a Spanish name - she thought he was Chinese.

Now, according to her, she didn't know the defendant at all well, but accepted an invitation to come and see a little potted plant in his room. In the room, he kissed her and initially she kissed back but then said she didn't want that kind of thing at the time, because she'd just split up with her boyfriend that day.

She finished her cigarette and lit another, not moving to leave. He kissed her again and again she kissed back before saying no.

In some way her shoes came off, but she can't remember why. He asked her to suck him off, but she refused. He switched the light off and she somehow found herself lying on the bed and he was ripping off her skirt and tights.

He got up again to switch the light back on and said he was locking the door. She didn't protest, or get up, or scream for help.

Then he was back on top of her, pinning her arms to the bed with his hands, but also rubbing them over her body. Depending on which part of her testimony you give more credence to, she was either saying "No, no, no" and trying to push him off, or lying passively telling herself it would be alright when he realised she didn't want him.

At some point she stopped being passive, scratching his back and biting him, both hard, both twice - but to no effect.

He lay grinding on top of her for for five minutes, then stopped and stood up. She got out of the room and house, discovering the door was unlocked after all, found the other tenants of her own house and asked to speak with one of them. She told him what had happened and at some point soon after all four of them shared a spliff.

She left to go and stay with her mother who asked "Did he rape you?". She answered, "No". The mother pressured her to go to the police, and when they asked, she said she was unsure. At some point she became sure.

According to the housemates there was no spliff, but she was either in tears or had been crying. The one she confided in couldn't understand a lot of what she was saying - she mentioned "rape" but with such a cloud of indistinct words around it he couldn't be sure what she meant.

The forensic report showed a small scar on the right outer vaginal lip, and no discharge. A swab of the upper vaginal area found the defendant's semen, but because the swab passes through the lower area both going in and coming out, it could actually have come from the outer area - indicating external ejaculation, or very shallow penetration.

Of course, there was also the possibility of seminal leakage without ejaculation.

According to the police interviews with the East European housemates, the boy and girl were drinking and chatting in English, before leaving together, holding hands, she leading.

And so, we come to the defendant's testimony.

According to him, he'd been drinking beer and cider all day but judged that he wasn't extremely drunk - on the grounds that he could still stand.

He knew her slightly, and both got invited into a student house for drinks and chat. They sat on the sofa together, having friendly conversation in English, before he decided to return to his room across the road, and she went with him. This part is rather indistinct.

In his room, he kissed her and she kissed back. He asked her to give him a blowjob and she tried for several minutes, but he was so drunk he couldn't get an erection. On the bed, both naked from the waist down, he tried to put his penis in her vagina, but met with the same problem.

He gave up, and she left, upset, through the door which couldn't be locked because the lock was broken. He and a friend later twice knocked on the front door of the house where she lived, to ask whether she was okay, but she'd left for her mother's home.

Back in bed, he masturbated to ejaculation, slept, and in the morning the police arrested him on suspicion of sexual assault (sticking his fingers in her vagina), to which was later added rape.

In the courtroom, after four days of listening to cross examined testimony, the prosecution summed up his case - rather perfunctorily, and managing to misunderstand some of his own evidence. And then introduced a third charge of Attempted Rape.

It took us jurors under two hours to come to unanimous decisions of Not Guilty on all three charges, delivered by the foreman - yours truly.

There were a lot of considerations, but they all seemed to point in the same direction.

She's tall and strong, he's small and virtually emaciated, so why couldn't she push him off? Why were her shoes off? Why did she stay in the room at all? When she bit him hard, why didn't he even notice - and why did the result look like two love bites?

When he stood up the first time, why did she stay on the bed? Why were her tights undamaged after being ripped off? Why did she only decide she'd been raped later? And the question which came back most often: Why did she never cry out?

I think we're dealing with a sexual experiment which went wrong. I think we're also dealing with a vacillating, easily manipulated young woman, jumping between sexual encounters and relationships (including one engagement), and finding it difficult to form friendships.

She was impatient with questioning, vague on key issues and sometimes downright inconsistent. It seems she's eager to please initially, but at any criticism clams up into resentfulness, dismissing even attempts to help her.

So on the one hand it became easy for the jury to dislike this lady, even if the evidence hadn't undercut her story. On the other...they surprised me by showing no racial prejudice at all towards a foreign national faced with an accusation for which the usual reaction is a kneejerk assumption of guilt.

It was an interesting experience. I just never want to do it again.

Cam Scam

British TV runs at 25 frames per second. American TV, for some bizarre historical reason, is at 29.97fps. Films at the cinema are at 24fps - which means frames need to be dropped or "interpolated" to be shown on TV.

The highest quality video produced for the internet is at 30fps, though 15 is more common. Youtube and similar services generally run at 12. Occasionally you'll find 10 or 5.

If you want to put video on the net, I'd say it needs to be at a minimum of 12fps, which means if you're filming on a webcam, it needs at least that frame speed.

No problem, most webcams can run up to 30fps. Yeah, right. The advertisements say they do, the technical specifications on the websites say they do - and perhaps on super-duper-computer connected by firewire, they would. But on a merely good computer connected by USB, they don't.

No problem, just spend as much money as you can on your webcam, and as well as the better lenses, you'll get something closer to the top speed, right? Well, no.

I've got four cheap webcams in this room. They are:

* A Logitech E3500, which cost me GBP26 last month, but which is now rather infuriatingly sold for GBP12.

* A Canyon CNR-WCAM413, which cost my dear mother GBP13 two years ago.

* A PCLine cam, which cost GBP15

* A BisonCam, built into this laptop. It obviously doesn't have a seperate price tag, but the miniaturisation must push up the price of the laptop.

The BisonCam manages 7fps - no good for filming anything except timelapse nature photography, and barely adequate for videoconferencing. Though it's actually the best in low light conditions.

The PCLine cam gives a horribly muddy image, is manufactured by a company who don't even mention it on their own website, has drivers that are almost impossible to find...and manages 8fps. It's advertised as 30 and I hate everything about it.

The Logitech gives lovely clear images thanks to its superior lenses, and clocks in at 5fps, despite the claim on the box to run at 30. Occasionally I've managed to get it up to 6.

The Canyon gives good images and, wait for it, 25 frames per second. Though all the websites say 30.

So, the oldest and cheapest of my webcams is also the best. Or rather, its official specifications are the least untruthful. And it isn't actually mine.

The most expensive sold locally is GBP85 and supposedly clocks in at...30fps. I wonder if it actually does.

Everybody Lies

My first court case is over, with another one starting next week, so I'm free to talk about it.

I was going to write up all the conflicting evidence, dishonest lawyer tactics and legal quirks but...I honestly don't have the strength. The whole case was depressing, and swimming in unknowable minutiae.

So here's the short version.

Nearly a year ago there was a wedding reception at a hotel, which ended in at least five simultaneous fights in the car park, one of which is the subject of this case. Yes, it's a wedding punchup.

The defendant was accused of punching the female victim once, hard in the eye. She and her family had been picking arguments with his pregnant wife and a friend for most of the night, and eventually he lashed out.

Throughout the three days of evidence, one thing became abundantly clear to all. Everyone was lying about something.

The victim claimed she'd been drinking moderately and was trying to break up a fight when she got hit. But she changed her story at least twice, and CCTV showed her threatening the defendant's wife. The injury was real and undeniable, but it was obvious she had no memory of how she got it, or of much else that night.

Her daughter claimed the defendant had ripped her dress and bitten her face some time before - this was the other charge. But details of when and where the dress got ripped kept changing, and CCTV showed it almost certainly wasn't ripped long after she said it was.

As for the ergonomically improbable face bite, the photo of her in the ripped dress showed no bite, the police took no photo of the alleged bite mark, nor a DNA swab. Typical police thoroughness there.

The defendant and his family spun an elaborate story about how the victim's daughter had threatened to slash his wife's throat with a smashed beer bottle. No one else saw any of this.

There were a total of six witnesses (hotel staff) who say they saw the punch. They were all standing in the car park, watching this particular incident instead of the five or so others, all with a constant uninterrupted line of sight, in spite of all the people milling around. They all clearly saw a man in a pink shirt swing a punch with his right fist, connecting with the victim's left eye - which they couldn't see because she was facing away from them. X-ray vision and eidetic memory, but only for one thing - convenient.

There were details which hint at other cases. The defendant's wife lost her child in hospital a few days later - she says as a result of being knocked to the ground and kicked by a group of women including the victim's daughter. The grainy 1-frame/5-second CCTV ambiguously suggests this may be true.

There's also the other punchups, seen by different cameras. Presumably other juries will see these, and I wonder whether the hotel staff also saw these clearly. But all this was outside our remit.

So we've got three kinds of lies.

(1) The victim and her family piecing together tiny fragments of memory from an alcoholic haze, into a vague and shifting story. Call it amnesiac lying.

(2) The defendant and his family not trusting the court to give them a fair trial, inventing a melodramatic narrative casting themselves as victims. If they'd told more plausible lies, it'd probably have worked. Defensive lying.

(3) The witnesses telling the police what they want to hear. Guided lying.

It took us in the jury about five hours over two days to come to a decision. The dress-ripping charge we threw out in ten minutes.

One juror had to drop out because he discovered he knew some more distant relatives of the defendant. Of the remaining 11, 9 quickly settled on a guilty verdict. One had previously admitted they thought he might be innocent, but he looked like a criminal, so maybe the police had protected decent citizens by fitting him up.

The remaining 3 jurors, including myself, held out. As expected, the other two eventually folded because they realised they couldn't win the others over - there was no point in fighting. As for myself...

I have to admit, I thought the defendant had done it. He'd been goaded by the constant bickering through the night, and finally by his pregnant wife being threatened and bullied by a drunken madwoman. He could have pushed her away a second time but she'd just carry on, he could have walked away again but she'd just follow him again.

He could have called hotel security but from his testimony and that of his family, it was evident they didn't trust goons in uniform. So he shut her up. Somewhat too hard.

Would a jail sentence achieve anything - beyond further messing up the lives of a man, his wife and three children? No. But the punishment is not my call.

When we read the verdict, the defendant seemed entirely unsurprised. His wife was devastated. When I left the courthouse, he was standing outside, waiting for something, but he didn't see me.

You're Doing It Wrong

I've been following politics across the pond, and I have a question about Barak Omaba's healthcare reforms: Is he trying to fail?

He watered down the original proposals to get republicans on board - when he didn't need to do that to get the bill passed. He must also have known that whatever he gave away to the republican party, its major figures would always want more.

He watered the proposal down even more to get the right wing of the democrat party on board - when he didn't need to.

He's now given in to the wingnuts who don't know the difference between "being reimbursed for euthanasia consultation" and "being forced to kill your family".

Seriously, there was a section which detailed how you'd be reimbursed for the fee your doctor charged you to consult on the possibility of euthanasia for yourself or a loved one when terminally ill. Sarah Palin, Michael Steel, Michelle Malkin and the usual band of drivelling panicmongers managed to portray it as mandatory euthanasia and "death panels".

Or rather, that was their paper-thin excuse. They really opposed the bill because (a) they're partially funded by insurance companies who'd lose out if the bill passed and (b) it came from Barak Obama.

So, what in hades does Barak Obama think he's doing?

Do you remember Bill Clinton's first act as president? He tried to have the Don't ask, don't tell policy repealed.

It was never going to happen. The army opposed it, the republicans (obviously) opposed it, and the senate was against it. If Clinton thought he had a hope of getting rid of DADT, he was a damn fool living in a dream world.

But of course, Bill Clinton was no fool. Whatever else he was, he very aware of political realities. The only thing he had to gain by a move like that was...to appeal to liberals by trying to do the right thing, and being heroically defeated.

It made him look like a left wing - but not too left wing - figure unfairly blocked by bigoted conservatives, instead of what he was, an old-fashioned conservative adept at making modern liberal noises.

That tactic, and others, worked. His veneer of center-left progressivism never really came off, even when signing away civil rights and authorising wiretapping against citizens.

Now, I have to seriously wonder whether Obama is doing something a little similar with health care reform. Is this about trying to look progressive, seem to be doing all he can for ordinary people, so that he can actually conduct business as usual?

Rather than actually doing what needs to be done because...he's been advised the country can't afford it?

Yes, I know it sounds a little crazy, and perhaps it is. You tell me. I don't think he needed to make any compromises at all, certainly not to the lunatic fringe who hate him for being black. So why did he allow the health care reform to be progressively destroyed by enemies who ought to be ineffectual?

100 Things About Kapitano, Part 6: Things I Just Don't Get

26) Weddings.

Marriage is a contract to produce offspring. Any sensible interpretation of this includes adoption and divorce.

The catholic church allows lots of divorces, but in its efforts to evade this obvious fact, pretends to have a time machine instead.

Domestic partnership is a matter of doing all the things married people do, but without the legal contracts or parenthood, the legal paperwork of divorce, or the legal rights.

Civil partnership is a domestic partnership with the rights of marriage tacked on, but not the marriage contract.

None of which has anything to do with the wedding ceremony, which is a religion-coated affirmation of the already existing contract.

Deciding to live together because you love each other has nothing to do with anyone else, so there's absolutely no reason to subject your respective families to each other.

Deciding to raise a child together because you were careless enough to let it be born...is something that families can certainly help out with. But spending vast amounts of money to bring them together in a dull church service before feeding them badly catered food while they try vainly to get along...

I mean, why? What exactly is the point? Seriously, what is a wedding supposed to achieve? Don't tell me it cements the bonds within and between families, because we've both seen plenty of families and we know it does no such thing.

So far as I can tell, it's an expensive party with a disco and a couple of fights at the end.

27) Funerals.

If you feel the need to celebrate someone's life, do it while they're alive. If you do it after they're dead, it'll sound insincere - not least because it usually is.

If there was something you wanted to tell someone all their life but you didn't, what the fuck were you waiting for?

And if you're going to dispose of a health hazard that used to be a person, don't pretend you're doing it for their benefit.

28) Immigration controls.

You think it makes sense to have quotas for jews, Spaniards, Mexicans, East Europeans etc? Why? You don't know do you. No, you don't, because you've never thought about it. If you had, you'd realise it doesn't make sense and never did.

You think there's no room in your country for more people? You fail basic geography.

You think there's not enough jobs or wealth for newcomers? You fail basic economics.

You think they'll steal away your women? You're just a basic failure.

You think foreigners smell bad and eat funny food? You're a worthless racist fuckwit and you should be forcibly deported, if only for the irony.

29) Royalty.

What exactly does a royal family do? What is it there for? What functions does it fulfil that no one else could?

Bring the nation together under a common figurehead? I'm not sure why that should be a good thing, but in any case, footballers do a better job of that, and footballers also provide more entertainment.

Conduct diplomacy? We've already got people who do that, and do it much better. They're called "diplomats" - and sometimes "political leaders".

Provide tourist attractions? There are indeed tourists who come to see the big houses and pageants of recently invented tradition. None of which actually requires an immensely rich semi-dysfunctional family of unemployable inbreds.

30) Homophobia.

So, you're a man and so am I, and you hate me because I have a kind of sex you don't want to have. But you don't hate people who have other kinds of sex you don't want to have.

Oh I see. You're afraid of me because you think I might find you attractive. Which is frightening in some way, somehow. But you're not afraid of women you don't find attractive...finding you attractive.

What's that? You're threatened by my having emotions and drives you can't understand. But you're not threatened by other people having emotions and drives that are beyond your comprehension.

If you were, you'd feel threatened by women. Oh, I see, you do.

Yes I'm doing jury service. No I can't talk about it. Yes I'm writing a series of essays to post when I can talk about it.

But I'm not sure I want to talk about it, because after three days I hate it.

My Claim to Fame

I start writing a lot of blog posts that never get finished, or therefore posted. Here's one from months ago that more-or-less stands on its own.

Do you remember an atrocious sci-fi serial called Dark Skies? It was a rip-off of The X-Files, complete with all-encompassing paranoid conspiracy theory, corrupt government, red-haired female sidekick, and badly worked-out story arc concerning alien colonisation.

It was mercifully cancelled after one season, so never had the chance to develop the ever-expanding never-explained mythos that made The X-Files such a pain - or constitutes the entire raison d'être of Lost.

The aliens had a language, known as Hivespeak - "Thht-Maa" in the language itself. It was designed by an amateur constructive linguist - that is, a designer of languages - who was part of an email discussion group devoted to such things. As was I.

The brief for the language was that it should (a) sound scary and (b) not be like Klingon. Tlhingan-Hol? Ghwe-cha', maj-a'! Result: it was very breathy, had no front vowels, and the kind of grammar where you can make a whole sentence just by piling twelve suffixes onto a verb.

He asked for suggestions...and one of mine was adopted! A suffix indicating that the speaker doesn't believe what they're describing is in fact true. Though I don't think it ever appeared on the show.

So that's my contribution to network television.

Puzzlin' Evidence

On April 16th 2008 I walked out of my teaching job in Bulgaria, on the grounds that everything about the school was nuts.

It was in a small town whose minimal demand for English lessons was already satisfied by a much better, established school.

I had exactly one student, who I was teaching illegally because the school wasn't due to open officially for another five months. And even if other students magically appeared they wouldn't be able to pay the going rate.

There had been a teaching married couple employed a month before I arrived, who'd walked out and/or been dismissed rather suddenly, for vague reasons.

The owner back in the UK was under the fond delusions that (a) I, the only teacher and a novice at that, would design the whole syllabus and write the textbooks, and (b) all problems would be solved by him personally arriving to take charge.

When he said he was coming I knew instantly I had to leave. And so did the only other employee, without whose help my cowardly escape would have been much more difficult.

Now, 16 months later, I do a quick impulsive google search and find...

Seven days after I left, on the 23rd, the boss was posting to a bulletin board that his school had lots of students - and implying there were multiple classrooms, which there hadn't been.

On May 13th 2008 he posted an advert "Calling the Creme de la-Creme, English Language Teachers". On the 25th, there was another one for a teacher to "Start Immediatly" [sic], and a third exactly a year later trying to tempt Bulgarian teachers out of the state school system.

There's a .com website which is "having technical problems at this time", and a .tv site which seems never to have been visited.

All suggestive but inconclusive. But it looks like the fantasy I was for a while part of is still there. And still a fantasy.

Commie Doubletalk

I've got 74 Perry Masons.

Plus 83 Dragnets, 128 Johnny Dollars, 22 Green Hornets, 30 Box Thirteens, 20 Sam Spades and 24 Fu Manchus. Yes, a few hundred recordings of radio drama serials from the 50s, a combination of the amazingly good, the astonishingly bad, and the stinkingly cheesy. All waiting for my ears.

Currently I'm listening through...I was a Communist for the FBI - downloadable here. The premise is quite simple.

One paranoid semi-secret organisation (the FBI) is infiltrating another paranoid semi-secret organisation (the communist "7th International"), and vice versa. The communists are trying to bring down imperialism to free the people of America, and the FBI are trying to stop them to keep the people of America free.

Our hero, Matt Svetic (played by Dana Andrews), has to lie to everyone that he's a communist to protect his cover, while lying to his comrades as they lie to him trying to trip him into blowing his cover. Because all the communists constantly suspect all the other communists are FBI spies. Though some of them are Kremlin spies sent to test for weakness in the fight against infiltration.

The FBI are grimly professional, impersonal and blindly loyal to Washington, quite happy to let our hero get shot in the back in service to the cause. The communists by contrast are grimly professional, impersonal and blindly loyal to Moscow, quite happy to shoot each other in the back in service to the cause.

Of course, the writers at the time missed the parallels, but the McCarthyite hysteria they were employed to whip up has ironies they couldn't see.

It's one of the oddities of drama that the bad guys are usually much more interesting than the good guys. The bad guys have an agenda, psychological motivations, internecine conflict and intrigue, and mostly the best dialogue. While the good guys have...a mission to fulfil, and not much else.

Heroes are dull, and while you may not root for the villains, the bad guys are the reason you listen. Probably the reason why the deranged rightwing fantasy of Jack Bauer is rapidly fading from memory, while this deranged rightwing fantasy from 1952 is still pretty cool.

Does that make me a bad socialist?

I could make a blog out of the things I find in the street. This chair, an old laptop, a CD player, a soccer shirt, several scarves, and a two foot long Daffy Duck - now a favourite toy of the dogs - amongst other things.

There was once a complete toolkit - spanners, screwdrivers, a spirit level and various tools that I'm not quite sure what they do, all in a neat compartmentalised shoulderbag. Of course, usually it's just a hat or the inevitable single glove.

Today though, a pillow. I'm not sure why someone would leave a pillow on the pavement, but seeing as I could do with a little extra height on the revovered chair to reach the found laptop, it's come in useful.
What's the difference between an eyeroll, a facepalm and a headdesk?

An eyeroll is watching a TV show you dislike, just so you can rant about it on the internet.

A facepalm is having a place on the internet specifically for people who watch a certain TV show they dislike just so they can rant about it.

A headdesk is a post on such a site like this one:

"The only thing weirder than the Birthers are the anti-Birthers, who blame the Birthers for being conspiracy theorists yet actively feed the conspiracy by refusing to call for President Obama to release his birth certificate."
- "puck30"

I've just watched David Lynch's Rabbits - available here or in episodes here.

I may never be able to watch sitcoms again. Genius.