09:22 – Well, this latest summit was widely considered to be the last chance to save the EU and the euro. Instead of concentrating on the immediate crisis and coming up with measures to address it, the participants focused on how to avoid future crises, doing essentially nothing to deal with the current mess. They fooled no one, nor was their attempt to make the UK the scapegoat successful.
Nor was there any sign of their so-called “big bazooka”. I was about to say “stupidly-named big bazooka”, but in fact it’s well-named when you think about it. Ordinarily in a situation like this, people talk about bringing out “the artillery”, crew-served weapons that fire large and effective charges. A bazooka was a personal weapon that fired a small and usually ineffective charge, which makes the comparison exact with what the EU had done to date. They’ve essentially lined up to piss on a 5-alarm fire, and nothing decided at this most recent summit changes that.
One of the reasons we redesigned the latest batch of chemistry kits was to allow them to fit into a USPS priority mail large regional-rate box rather than the priority mail large flat-rate box we’d been using. The large regional-rate box is just enough smaller than the large flat-rate box that the earlier version of the kit wouldn’t fit.
The upside to the change is that we expected it to reduce shipping costs. The large flat-rate box costs $14.95 to ship anywhere in the US, including Alaska and Hawaii. The large regional-rate box costs anything from $5.81 to $14.62, depending on the destination.
So, yesterday I drove out to the post office to mail the first batch of the kits in regional-rate boxes. When I got to the counter, the guy told me that the USPS didn’t offer counter service for regional-rate boxes. He could still ship them, but he’d have to charge me standard priority mail rates according to the weights and destinations of the boxes. If I wanted the regional-rate postage rates, I had to generate the label on-line with postage. Crap. I’d never been able to get the USPS Click-N-Ship web site to produce a label. When I tried to produce a test label, the site just went into an endless loop.
After he weighed the boxes and told me the postage cost for each, I told him I didn’t have any alternative, so to go ahead and ship them. The postage costs were all over the place, but all were higher than they would have been for regional-rate. For example, one box going to Pennsylvania would have been $6.88 under regional-rate postage but ended up costing $10.95 under standard priority mail rates. Another, going to New Jersey, would have been $8.06 regional rate, but cost $12.40 at standard PM rates. Another, going to New Hampshire, would have been $10.51 regional rate, but ended up costing $17.45, which is actually more than the large flat-rate box would have cost. And so on.
I drove home fuming, because I’d seen nothing anywhere on the USPS site that mentioned that local post offices don’t accept regional-rate boxes at regional-rate postage rates. So I spent a while looking around the USPS site, and finally found one place where it does mention that. Otherwise, I’d have fired off a nasty email to the Postmaster General. I may do that anyway, because the notice is extremely easy to overlook. Most people who’d used Priority Mail flat-rate boxes would probably assume, as I did, that if the USPS accepted flat-rate boxes at the counter they’d also accept regional-rate boxes.
But the story does have a happy ending. I’ve made my last trip to the post office. While I was on the USPS site, I decided to try once more printing a sample Click-N-Ship label. This time it worked. Apparently, even though I had the latest available Linux version of Adobe Reader installed, it wasn’t compatible with the USPS web site. I got rid of Adobe Reader and just used a native Linux PDF reader, which worked fine.
So, no more carrying boxes out to the post office to ship them. USPS will pick them up at my front door. Printing labels and postage on-line also provides a discount over the rates charged at the counter, even for flat-rate stuff, and they include delivery confirmation for free. It’s a no-brainer to use the on-line service, and I would have been using it all along if I’d been able to get it to work.
With the USPS pushing so hard to get people to buy postage and print labels on-line, I have to wonder if this is part of a larger plan eventually to eliminate local branch offices. When you think about it, there’s not really much need for them, and they are extremely expensive to operate both in terms of staffing and facilities costs. There are all kinds of places that rent PO boxes. You can buy stamps at Costco. A huge percentage of mail volume comes from corporate mailers, who don’t need the services provided by local branches. Closing all of those local branches and firing the staff would go a long way toward putting the USPS on a sound financial footing.
10:47 – The Open/Libre Office standard dictionary never ceases to surprise me with what’s included and what’s not. As I write the biology book, I’ve had to add a large number of pretty common scientific terms to the dictionary, so I’ve gotten used to it. But today I typed the phrase “monocotyledonous or dicotyledonous”, fully expecting to see squiggly red underlines for both words. Nope. Both were already in the standard dictionary.
32 Comments and discussion on "Saturday, 10 December 2011"
Been using Click-N-Ship for years on Linux without incident. Well, I did have to dig out an old LaserJet to print, as I’ve been paperless for many more years. Maybe it’s because I have also been Adobe-free for still more years. I just use whatever pdf reader comes with my distro, and it has always worked. On Windows, I use Foxit Reader, which is supposed to be better than Adobe’s Reader. Don’t know any more, see above!
I remember when there was a competition for pdf design concepts, and Adobe was below middle of the pack. Why they won and became the first standard is a mystery. Of course, it is now “open” (but not free) and used widely, to my dismay.
I categorically hate the pdf concept. Having a computer screen emulate paper is stupid. I can see a place for the printing part, but that is just for those who want to generate more paper. Meanwhile, those of us who have screens with good text legibility are forced to read multicolumn documents. Sheesh!
Of all organizations, the IRS gets it, with most documents in HTML for screen reading, pdf for filling and printing forms, and indexing for searching. I spend some time on their site, and it is really good. Hate to admit it.
Agreed on the IRS Gestapo site usability, and I have more reason than most for hating to admit it. I guess the rationale might be they make it easier and more efficient for them to confiscate our money.
Agreed also on Bob’s continued take on the EU assholes. This was guaranteed to be a clusterfuck from the beginning. As for Great Britain, I’d be tempted to say that with the rapid decline of the culture, the arriving hordes of immigrants, many of them hadjis, the increasing mongrelization of native English peoples through their own decrepitude and willful ignorance and total reliance on statist handouts, that they were through.
But a lot of people thought that in 1940, too, and also in 1588.
I do not think there is any doubt that local post offices will begin closing. They have done that throughout the UK, and there, the Post Office also served as a bank and was the most common place for retirees to deposit their government retirement payments for no charges. No matter; close them and make people travel far and wide from rural places, to deal with the checks. (That was 5 to 6 years ago; they may have found ways to go electronic since then.)
When I go the rural back way from Tiny Town to Meganapolis, every little town I drive through has a post office. Those are ripe for closing.
Chuck – not deposit government money, but obtain government cash by handing over a book to be stamped!! The government finally went to the same system as commercial companies have been using for 30 years, direct bank credit. For those (few?) individuals that didn’t have a bank account (personal/domestic banking is free in the UK) the government organised “basic bank accounts” where you cannot be overdrawn, and only have an ATM card. The saving in costs was immense.
On immigration – one if the issues our media doesn’t quite get is that the immigration is from EU member states. That immigration can’t be controlled. We are free to go the other way, but the language barrier is a big one – yet something else the EU creators who seem to have wanted a “US of E” didn’t get; along with the money/economic standardisation.
I’m pleased David Cameron has got us out of having to be involved, but I wonder what the next steps will be for the UK trading with EU countries. Do we leave the EU totally, and in fact what would that mean to business. Lots of debate from now until the new year I suspect in the UK media!!
They’re supposedly closing small rural post offices here in Vermont as well, or threatening to do so, and there has been a mild outcry of sorts, but as Bob pointed out, the economics and reasons for their existence are dwindling away.
34 today and mostly sunny, with meager snow showers overnight and a bit more in the hills and mountains. Continuing the throwing-away marathon here while the Sunne, busie old fool, continues to shine here to us…etc. Apologies to Reverend Donne.
“But a lot of people thought that in 1940, too, and also in 1588.”
You would have been rooting for the Spaniards, wouldn’t you?
That is a very good question, Greg, and one I have recently thought about a bit, having read up some more on those famous English sea dogs like Ralegh, Hawkins, Drake, et. al. and their work for the Crown. (btw, they have identified the undersea site where Drake was dumped and are now looking for him accordingly, off the Panama coast.)
I am of vastly mostly English ancestry and started life as a Protestant (albeit Episcopalian, you know, a Jesuit who flunked Latin, and High Church at that). But having recently done some more reading on the period, I am not so sure I would have, as previously, been so automatically on the side of my Brit cousins. England WAS Catholic, of course, and the Reformation there as enacted by Henry Tudor and his cronies was an obscene and horrendous disaster, compounded by his daughters’ reigns later. Would it have been so bad if the “Old Religion” had recovered and taken hold again, without the later burdens and repression of British imperialism around the world? A lot of places became a lot better off once the Brits took over, but now that they’ve left, those places have returned to barbarism again, and our own lords temporal have learned nothing whatsoever thereby.
And like it or not, this country is a Christian country, a British country, and a Protestant country, with vestiges of Puritanism and Calvinism writ large throughout.
(without which there would have been no science, by the way, and no end of slavery, among many other things)
Once religion disappears, everything will be groovy, of course. Like in the old Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba, North Vietnam, North Korea, etc.
Britain’s only interest in the EU should be to establish bilateral free trade agreements with them. That’s it.
As I’ve been saying for years–decades, really–Britain’s natural ally is the US. My opinion is that we should slightly rename NAFTA to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, invite the UK to join Canada and the US, and expel Mexico. Eventually (I was not joking), I expect England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (perhaps both Irelands) to become US states, just as I expect the Canadian provinces with the exception of Quebec to become US states. Perhaps eventually Australia and New Zealand as well. Maybe later the Scandanavian countries, and later still the Netherlands and Germany. The logic of empire.
Oh, here we go again. All of those bad things you mentioned flowed directly from religion, which did its best to stop science and was essential to slavery. All of the good things you mention, including science and the end of slavery, were a result of humanism.
If you really believe this country is christian, you obviously weren’t paying attention in history class. This country was founded by humanists on humanist principles, and those Founders did everything they could to keep religion from having any influence on government. Do you seriously believe that any of the Founders believed in your theistic god? They didn’t, as is obvious to anyone who reads what they had to say. They believed, if at all, in a deistic god, which of course is no god at all.
Britain and its former Commonwealth of Nations are indeed our natural allies, and so also would be the Scandinavians and the Russians, if we only made even a minimal effort to be friendly with them. As for them becoming U.S. states, nope. Not gonna happen.
I can see us linking up like that with O Kanada, with the exception of, as you say, La Belle Province Quebec, which should really be its own country. With their bad taste in apparel and their love for pommes de frites avec some kind of awful fromage curds. Disgusting. And the buggers couldn’t make a fucking hamburger if their lives depended on it. But their rural countryside old-school cooking is tres bien!
And we need to get out of the business of Empire ASAP.
Right. Secular humanism and deist Founders. Saved the world.
Forget the founders; all anyone has to do to find out this country is vastly Christian is to drive around for a while, listen to the radio, check the stats, etc. And Lordy, down in the South it is in your face constantly; no wonder y’all have a conniption over it all the time. And most of the population gets through its days on the basis of some level of Judeo-Christian ethics, how we all are innately able to tell the difference instinctively between right and wrong, good and evil. That doesn’t come from high-falutin’ legal and philosophical minds steeped in Cato the Elder and Cicero and John Locke; it comes from the King James Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress.
Having spent a fair amount of time in England (total amounting to at least a couple of years) and over 8 years in Germany, I always maintained “US and Germany: same thing.” Actually, Germany is closer to the US back in the ‘70’s, as Sunday closings are still in effect, and most government offices are not open for business every day. And people walk more and a lot faster in Germany.
But the last time I was in London, I was really struck by how the US and the UK really are exactly the same thing. Convenience stores everywhere, people on cell phones everywhere, lots of specialty restaurants and stores, many 24-hour store openings, ATM’s in use exactly like in the US (it is a little different in Germany). Except for the lack of mass transit in the US, citizens of either country should feel at home in the other.
So Chuck, if I like the current zeitgeist here in the land of the knaves and home of the twee, I can get by just dandy in London/UK. But if I liked it better back in the 70s and earlier here, I would be better off in Germany. Interesting. All of Germany or specific regions or cities?
Also interesting that at least one of us here lived and worked in Germany, and at least two or is it three or more of us who have had German high school exchange students living with them. Is this some kind of late-blooming stealth plan by Martin Bormann and the SS? Plus English is a Germanic language, and the buggers are also taking over the EU. I think I see what’s going on here…
Germany is a trip back to the ’70’s, including TV. Much less high-pressure. Whodunnits prevail in novels and TV. However, smoking in Germany is a trip back to the US ’50’s. Impossible to get away from smoke, and strangely, even doctors smoke there. US doctors were the first to drop smoking.
The people of Germany are not interested in empires — only their demented rulers have been. More likely that they will be speaking English than we will be speaking German.
Yes, but WHAT are they smoking? American ciggies or Turkish tobacco? Is it as expensive there as here? I don’t smoke and quit back in ’78, just curious, and I remember getting packs for a quarter when I was working for Uncle.
People here are not interested in empires, either, rather indifferent, unless there is amusement or entertainment involved in seeing people and property blown to smithereens. Again, it is our own demented fucking rulers, and may they rot in Hell. Listening to the screams of the burned and mangled and despairing forever.
As for English, I guess we are probably mostly agreed on this board; it is the Master Language of the Universe.
OFD offers several countries as counterexamples to the idea that a country is better without religion. But all the countries he mentioned were religious: their religion was state communism.
They certainly did approach it in much the same way.
Blind faith is a dangerous thing.
As a non-smoker, I have no idea what they smoke — but whatever it is, a great number of them roll their own. Just as with drinking (nobody would stop a teenager of either sex from drinking, regardless of age) it was amazing how many 13 and 14 year-olds smoke.
No, it is not nearly as expensive to smoke in Germany, although when I left, they were instituting taxes, as in the US, to try and spike the price to an unaffordable level — but that was progressing very slowly.
I was amazed at the number of smokers. Even people I thought were non-smokers, turned out to be closet smokers at home. By the time I left, most buildings were prohibiting smoking at work, but — by law — there had to be a designated place for smokers to take a break. I was hearing from managers, that the number of smoke breaks some people were taking were becoming unacceptable. Some took one break every hour. Berlin was fighting the smoking in restaurants issue when I left. It was not clear then, how that battle was going to come out, because the smoker’s lobby was much stronger than in the US.
The Open/Libre Office standard dictionary never ceases to surprise me with what’s included and what’s not. As I write the biology book, I’ve had to add a large number of pretty common scientific terms to the dictionary, so I’ve gotten used to it. But today I typed the phrase “monocotyledonous or dicotyledonous”, fully expecting to see squiggly red underlines for both words. Nope. Both were already in the standard dictionary.
There are a few things whose lack of development mystifies me. The best language technology that I ever saw was from a little company in upstate New York, called Microlytics. Their dictionary was part of the old DOS word processor XyWrite. I have never seen anything even close to their expertise. I believe Microlytics is no more.
Also, I have never seen anything even remotely close to J.I. Rodale’s “Synonym Finder”. It baffles me that Rodale has never made it available as an attachment to word processors. I still have to go to the book. Nothing is as complete as that compendium.
Finally, there is a total lack of thorough plot summaries out on the Internet. One would think that with so many people contributing to various projects, that complete plot summaries of books and movies would be plentiful. But most things calling themselves ‘plot summaries’ are nothing more than PR or advertising plugs to promote the movie or book. When I was younger, there was a FAR better selection of very good plot summaries of both books and movies (Cliff Notes and such) at my neighborhood drug store, available for cheap (not much more than a dime).
Equating totalitarian state communism or Nazism with religion is a huge stretch but nevertheless, it’s been trotted out now for a century. Like our vaunted moral equivalency with the old Soviet Union.
Cliff Notes has kept up with the times.
“Eventually (I was not joking), I expect England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (perhaps both Irelands) to become US states”
I think perhaps our host overestimates the attractiveness of becoming a US state. On top of which, Scotland has a very socialist mentality, and soaks up quite the subsidy from the rest of the UK (not to mention the EU) – so I’m not sure the US wants Scotland as a state, unless it’s for the whisky distilleries…
I wasn’t saying that these countries *want* to become US states, but that I think the geopolitical situation is likely eventually to make that their best alternative. Britain is not and never has been a natural part of Europe. For centuries, Britain stood apart from Europe, and I think it will do so again.
I expect the EU, for as long as it lasts, will be taking punitive measures against Britain. Already, a majority of the British people would prefer to withdraw from the EU, and that percentage can only increase as the Euro crisis continues and intensifies. Eventually, I think Britain will withdraw from the EU, if the EU doesn’t collapse first. At that point, Britain will be isolated, and I expect it and the US to form even closer ties, which I think will eventually result in Britain joining the US formally. This isn’t necessarily a short-term thing, but I’d be surprised if it takes more than 30 years or so.
OFD, before you bring up that old, tired, and baseless argument about “atheistic” totalitarians, please read this. I’d be interested in your opinion of it, because Pinker explicitly destroys that argument.
“Britain is not and never has been a natural part of Europe.”
It was until the Channel and the North Sea intervened. Long time ago. But homo sapiens sapiens was around when it happened.
“…so I’m not sure the US wants Scotland as a state, unless it’s for the whisky distilleries…”
I used to read Hitchens once in a while but he got tedious, and I will take a look at Pinker at some point but I fear more of the same virulence, anger and hatred, from wherever it derives, tends to detract from their arguments. Totalitarian statist regimes of communism and fascism have been PARODIES of true religion, not religion themselves, or genuine religious belief systems. Jim Jones and David Koresh would be more recent and very minor examples of that sort of thing.
And for the bagpipe music; let’s not forget that!
They can keep the haggis.
The bit about the bagpipes and haggis was supposed to come right after the bit about Scotland, but inexplicably ended up at the end of my post. Also the site has had recent connection and display hiccups on my end here in admittedly backwards northern Vermont; anyone else?
“I think perhaps our host overestimates the attractiveness of becoming a US state. On top of which, Scotland has a very socialist mentality, and soaks up quite the subsidy from the rest of the UK (not to mention the EU) – so I’m not sure the US wants Scotland as a state, unless it’s for the whisky distilleries…”
I thought the Scots were always whining about all their money (from the offshore oil fields) going *south*. I never realized that they were on the public tit, so to speak.
I really love Scotland, especially the SW and Edinburgh. Been on the Whisky Trail, very nice scenery, although I’m not overly fond of whisky.
“I used to read Hitchens once in a while but he got tedious…”
Yeah, I liked a lot of the stuff he wrote in the Nineties, but he’s just a bitter old man now. I’m surprised he’s still alive.
“Eventually, I think Britain will withdraw from the EU, if the EU doesn’t collapse first. At that point, Britain will be isolated, and I expect it and the US to form even closer ties, which I think will eventually result in Britain joining the US formally.”
I think it’ll be the other way around. Americans will come to their senses, renounce the rebels and their illegal declaration of independence and beg Her Majesty to be allowed to return to the fold. About 50-100 bureaucrats in Whitehall could run the US better than it’s being run now.
“And for the bagpipe music; let’s not forget that!
They can keep the haggis.”
I knew that if only I lived long enough you’d write something I could completely agree with!
Add 300,000,000 anti-monarchist to the UK population? The House of Windsor would be out on their ass in a month. 🙂
I think it’s the other way around. During a royal tour of Canada back in the Fifties or Sixties the locals were quite indifferent, but when Her Majesty and her party crossed into the US she was met with great enthusiasm. Even back then the Yanks realised that they’d made a mistake. The Canuks, after so many years of a good thing, didn’t realise how good they had it. Same with the Poms and the Aussies.
Anyway, it’d be some time, at least 50 years, before the former rebels would be allowed a vote.
Don’t confuse American celebrity worship with fealty. 🙂
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