Snail Races

...where even the winners are slow and slimy. It's all a matter of degrees, really. Reality based since 1692.

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Location: Upper Canada

Monday, May 30, 2005

updating education day

well, that went better than I had any right to hope it would... the kids and the site seemed to appreciate what I was doing... and it was all good...

talbot potter Posted by Hello

Friday, May 27, 2005


today, I'm off to demonstrate pottery on a kick wheel for over a thousand education day school kids, 50 at a time... oh, the humanity... I may have bit off a bit more than I can chew with this one...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bicentennial Fashion Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 21, 2005

prairie du chien pumps Posted by Hello

in a rut Posted by Hello

photo blogging

nil desperandum Posted by Hello

just getting this up to use in the template... taken in the igloo...

Friday, May 20, 2005

enhancing performance

Via Baseball Musings, this Reason article about performance enhancing drugs and brain spas.

I found this very interesting...

Researchers have also found that pilots taking cholinesterase inhibitors perform better on complex maneuvers.

I hadn't heard of cholinesterase inhibitors as performance enhancers. What with therapeutic cloning in the headlines, it seems there's an imminent abundance of tweaks and tune-ups available for the human machine. Better living through chemistry, eh?

Nevertheless, some people do object to using enhancement drugs. For instance, opponents often argue that they pose a kind of tragedy of the commons in which people who would otherwise not take enhancement drugs will feel forced to do so just to keep up with their competitors. But those kinds of pressures have always existed. Today, people get graduate degrees, buy new computers, and so forth to keep up. It's hard to see how using safe drugs to enhance performance is much different. I suspect that pharmacological enhancement will be more popular than, say, graduate school, since most of what will be involved is taking a pill with one's morning coffee. However, even in the era of pharmacologic enhancement, there will be some people—even as there are today—who choose to drop out of what they regard as the rat race and live less competitively and ambitiously.

Ronald Bailey quotes Anjan Chatterjee asking "Is this a dystopia?" and then asserting that it doesn't matter anyway, as

This is coming regardless of your view of whether or not this is a good world, a bad world or somewhere in between.

and people get their knickers in such a twist about steroids... what has Viagra done for Raffy Palmeiro, besides, uh, you know...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

glaze kiln

the bisque went well on Saturday, and so the mugs are now in a glaze firing, 10 1/2 hrs along up to 1050 C, hoping to get to 1210 C by 7 pm or so... don't know why I was so intimidated by firing the thing... so far it has been way less difficult than I had imagined, and I haven't felt the need to call for an experienced hand to sit with me through the first time... biting tongue now...

UPDATE: the kiln sitter kicked off around 7pm as expected last night, with the pyrometer only at approximately 1120... probably reading a bit low, maybe 40-60 C, as the bisque kiln read about the same short of cone 06.

Unloaded today at noon, and am very pleased with the results, hardly any rust fell in from the lid, glaze looks mature, pieces appropriately rustic, as befits crude local pottery...

history for dummies

Slate is kicking off a History Book Blitz, and the first installment by Jon Wiener (Diane Ravitch will join the discussion) caught my eye. As a reenactor, museum volunteer and history enthusiast (and, so defined, it must be said, dork), I have myself been wondering about the use and misuse of historical analogy in this dark, fearful age of the American Republic.

I particularly liked these paragraphs:

Debates about how much American students know about their own history, and about how our citizens should be taught what they don't know, are anything but abstract ones these days. Before we get down to the business of discussing those questions, let me set the current scene. President Bush campaigned in 2004 with the argument that we were fighting in Iraq for freedom and democracy, and that America was on a historic mission. Some opponents expressed skepticism about that, but the president's re-election suggests that a majority of voters accept what historians might call this Wilsonian vision as a justification for war. They did this despite the fact that past wars often turned out differently from what presidents promised at the beginning, despite what we might call the lessons of history.


The first thing that students need to learn about the history of the American ideals of democracy and freedom, in my view, is that democracy and freedom are not fixed, unchanging qualities given us by the founding fathers. The meanings of democracy and freedom have often been debated; our history is the history of those debates, of battles over the way freedom and democracy should be defined—and practiced. And of course some issues are no longer debated—whether slavery is good for Africans, whether women should vote. Still, the debates about those issues—the pro-slavery argument, the argument against women's suffrage—remain a significant part of our past and ought to be part of the curriculum. (Also they can be fascinating: Should women be protected from the "filth" and "degradation" of election campaigns, as a California man argued in 1879?)

I think it is time to re-read Confederates in the Attic. Sometimes commitment to a cause defies obvious rationality; even so, one would think the Red States of the Confederacy might recognize a crazed and desperate rebel insurgency dedicated to an inevitably lost cause when they saw one... sigh...

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Majikthise, Revere, and Wolcott all update the Sunday Sermonette feature... I hope they keep it up, as the secular spirit needs nourishing, too.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Second Book of Insults

I don't have the First Book of Insults, but if the "B" material was left for the second, I'll look for it... they're both by Nancy Mcphee.

IIRC, I won this slim volume as the first caller to Erika Ritter on CBC Radio some time in the last century... anyway, it rose to the top of one of the piles around here, and a quick glance fell on these lines.

Tom Sheridan: I think, father, that many men who are called great patriots in the House of Commons are really great humbugs. For my part, when I get into Parliament, I will pledge myself to no party, but write upon my forehead in legible characters, "To Be Let".
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816): and under it, Tom, write "Unfurnished".

bisque firing today

firing the used kiln after only 10 months of it sitting downstairs rusting... so far, it seems the bottom element does not work on low, but comes alive on medium - no indicator light, either... middle and top working ok, I think.

UPDATE: 1:27 pm, up to 650 degrees C, on the way up quickly to 950 C and then slowly to Cone 06... nice glow inside which seems to corroborate the pyrometer with the cracked glass...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Rocroi - Pourquoi?

via Wolcott, William Lind today in Counterpunch -

Let me put it plainly: the U.S. military can be beaten. Any military in history could be beaten, including the Spanish army of Olivares's day, which had not lost a battle in a century until it met the French at Rocroi. Sooner or later, we will march to our Rocroi, and probably sooner the way things are going.


Why do our senior military leaders put out this "we can't be beaten" bilge? Because they are chosen for their willingness to tell the politicians whatever they want to hear. A larger question is, why do the American press and public buy it? The answer, I fear, is "American exceptionalism" ­ the belief that history's laws do not apply to America. Unfortunately, American exceptionalism follows Spanish exceptionalism, French exceptionalism, Austrian exceptionalism, German exceptionalism and Soviet exceptionalism.

Reality tells us that the same rules apply to all. When a country adopts a wildly adventuristic military policy, as we have done since the Cold War ended, it gets beaten. The U.S. military will eventually get beaten, too. If, as seems more and more likely, we expand the war in Iraq by attacking Iran, our Rocroi may be found somewhere between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers.

The increasingly enthusiastic embrace of exceptionalism is part and parcel of the ascendance of the "Christian Right" and is a fundamental tenet of faith-based foreign policy... why fear Armageddon when you are utterly certain of not being Left Behind?


I'll probably have more to say about the witch trials in a subsequent post, but when I saw this link in the sidebar at the Washington Monthly, I couldn't let it pass without comment. Spectral evidence may yet make a comeback in America, but not in Essex Co., Mass. - more likely to be embraced by Red Staters, I would think...

give an inch?

Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias are pretty accomodating...

... we can be in favor of the principle of separation of church and state without feeling like we have to fight every single battle to the death. Just like we can be in favor of progressive taxation without favoring 90% marginal rates and we can be in favor of the minimum wage without favoring a ten dollar increase. There's no law that says every principle has to be carried to its absolute logical limit.

We've won 90% of this battle, and that's good enough for me. Beyond that, I'm happy to allow local communities some leeway. It makes them happy and it doesn't do much harm unless you're just aching for a fight. On this issue, it might be time to declare victory and go home.

Doesn't feel that much like 90% of a win from where I stand. The palpable sense among the aspiring theocracy is akin to a "Manifest Destiny," in which they have every expectation of dominion over the nation. It would be nice if we could all just get along, but culture wars are the new black, I fear.

Friday Catblogging

Grant, Ralph and Alice circa 1992 Posted by Hello

clothes make the man

By Neddie Jingo seems to concur with Wolcott, Revere, and Majikthise, and is keen to see the Enlightenment continue unabated, taking as his role model, philosophically and sartorially, David Hume:

If I have to start parading around in knee-breeches, frock coats and an enormous powdered wig to keep the Enlightenment alive, then I shall do it, sir, and be damned to you. Be damned to you, I say, sir! A fig for your treachery!

Neddie, if you're going to be that way, stop by G.Gedney Godwin, the Sutler of Mt. Misery, where you can wig out. Something tells me you would like the Hessian, but be sure to specify the number of curls needed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

more secularity

Revere at Effect Measure started with the 19th-century humanism, this time from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1890...

“There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter into our civil affairs, our government soon would be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed. Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe.”

(Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Weiss v. District Board, March 18, 1890.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

ingersoll on being a liberal

Majikthise, via Wolcott, has a post highlighting an essay entitled "How to edit a liberal paper" from 1887. The essay includes, among much that is both timely and timeless, this...

Above all, it should be perfectly kind and candid. In discussion there is no place for hatred, no opportunity for slander. A personality is always out of place. An angry man can neither reason himself, nor perceive the reason of what another says. The orthodox world has always dealt in personalities. Every minister can answer the argument of an opponent by attacking the character of the opponent. This example should never be followed by a Liberal man. Nobody can be bad enough to prove that the Bible is uninspired, and nobody can be good enough to prove that it is the word of God. These facts have no relation. They neither stand nor fall together.

...kindness and candor are two of the things, besides love, that there's just too little of.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

language blogging

I stumbled on the Christian Science Monitor's blogs, and found this one, Verbal Energy, interesting at first glance... I have always had a soft spot for the Monitor, a paper of worthy ambition, ever since getting a semester's free subscription as part of an international relations course in 1975. I intend to monitor the Monitor more often from now on...

apropos of nothing, really Posted by Hello