I was never a Buffy guy.

The movie amused me, especially Paul Reuben’s death scene, but there’s something about the TV show that never grabbed me. And although I liked Serenity I haven’t yet actually gotten around to watching Firefly.

I am a very, very bad consumer.

Furthermore, I was not entirely pleased with the end of Joss’ run on The Astonishing X-Men. I want my superhero comics to be brainless, loud and immature, not glorious, beautiful and heart-rending. Besides, what is it with killing off the female characters? Someone should look into this.

Nonetheless, I find myself awaiting July 15th, and the arrival of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Law and sausages

Supposedly–though you can find cites on the ‘net, well, it’s the ‘net–Otto Von Bismark said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

I got to see a little bit of the lawmaking process firsthand, and I will agree with him that laws are like sausages, but I would suggest that, as a smart, ethical consumer, you should be very aware of how both of them are being made.

So, some background. For hundreds, probably thousands of years, people drank milk out of cows. There was no refrigeration, and it’s very perishable, so the milk never travelled far. It was nourishing. Occasionally people got sick from it, perhaps even dying, but probably not many, because it was easy to see when the animal was sick, and you wouldn’t drink milk from a sick cow.

About a centry ago, as our society began its move away from a largely agrarian populace, milk producers started to find it necessary to transport large quantities of milk relatively long distances to get it to consumers in larger, more metropolitan areas. People started to get sick because standards for hygiene and such were not up to the task of handling such large quantities of such a perishable product. Someone had noted that pastuerizing milk tended to kill most–though not all–of the dangerous critters, so many places enacted laws that required that all milk for commercial sale be pasteurized. Some places left loopholes or varying sizes that generally took the form of a very direct producer-to-consumer relationship–either so-called “cow-shares” programs, or allowing the sale only at the farm where it was produced.

North Carolina used to have a “cow-shares” program, but someone slipped language that stripped that protection away in an unrelated spending bill several years ago.

There remained one loophole–milk sold for pet consumption. Many animals find cow milk nourishing, and it can be used for weaning animals–say if you run a goat dairy–or in some cases it is simply for pets–say, for people who don’t want to accidentally feed their cat melamine.

Well someone–presumably related whoever decided that the “cow-shares” program had to go–decided that this represented a loophole: people could buy the milk pretending it’s for their pets and drink it themselves! The nerve!

So a regulation was passed at the Department of Agriculture decreeing that all such “pet milk” must be dyed a charcoal color, because presumably the animals wouldn’t care but humans would be so put off that the state would finally have succeeded in truly forbidding people from consuming raw milk.

I think you can probably guess what side of the argument I’m on.

A bill was introduced in the legislature to disapprove that regulation. I went to a hearing of the legislature’s Agriculture Committee this morning to show my support. Though the bill was recommended by the committee, it still needs to go to the Health Committee and then, hopefully, be voted on on the floor before the legislature goes into recess–or the regulation goes into effect.

The disenheartening thing was what I have a hard time not characterizing as duplicity on the part of those supporting the regulation.

The CDC reports that between 1993 and 2006–a period of 13 years–there were roughly 2000 people in, if I remember correctly, 89 incidents, made ill by outbreaks of food-borne pathogens transmitted by unpasteurized milk or milk products. In a population of between 250 and 300 million in this country, this is .008% of the population. 100 of those people were hospitalized. There were no deaths. The number of outbreaks from 1972 to 1992 were 46.

Now one of the pathogens that can be present in unpastuerized milk is Listeria monocytogenes, which cause in miscarriage or stillbirths. One case was presented where a cheese made of unpasteurized milk caused the miscarriage or stillbirth of 9 women.

In 2002, an outbreak of Listeriosis caused seven deaths and three stillbirths. The culprit? Chicken.

It is for reasons like this that it seems absured that the response to all this is to forbid any sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption, and to place stringent demands on producers in an effort to make it so unpalatable that people won’t consider doing anything to get it through the back door. It was characterized by one presenter–an MD–as a medical, scientific necessity.

On the other hand, salmonella infected spinach, or tomatoes–more than 160 people sickened since April of this year, 43 hospitalizations, with at least one death that may have been hastened by the disease–aren’t subject to such stringent measures. In those much more far-reaching incidents, the producers at fault are found and dealt with while everyone else is free to sell.

This makes absolutely no sense to me. No fucking sense at all.

I hate conspiracy theories, but good lord, when there’s this sort of willful blindness, when the decision is made to take such extreme hard-line measures in the face of risks that are not only objectively small, but smaller than that borne by eating many foods that are merely regulated, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell is up?


No, not Friday, the song by Big Star. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, and it just showed up on the big shuffle.

Oh, and while watching some footage of the Sex Pistols, I realized that my Father-in-law has an eerie resemblance to Johnny Rotten. And no, I’m not making this up–Anne agreed.

So riddle me this…

if, as an expert being consulted on Talk of the Nation just suggested, it is impossible to abridge Habeas Corpus through any act committed overseas–since the Constitution only applies in US territory–is it then also impossible to commit treason when outside the US?

Obviously I think it’s ridiculous to say we, as citizens and/or part of our contituted government, can pretend Habeas Corpus doesn’t exist when it’s convenient. But it seems to me that the two issues are directly analagous, and if you admit to one, you must admit to the other.

I don’t think I mentioned before

While we were in New York in January, we went to see a production of The 39 Steps on Broadway.

It was a tour-de-force of clever stage technique, and quite funny in a sly, clever way–all the more so because it is exactly the same story as the Hitchcock film of the same name, but with everything slanted just enough to make you laugh.

I just thought of that because on the link in the Sandman story just now, there was a pointer to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier which incorporates elements of the same story.

I liked Black Dossier much less than I did the other League material. Just, you know, for what it’s worth.

I look forward to November

The fourth, and final, volume of the Absolute Sandman is released. I will take a few days and move slowly through the whole series, front to back.

I really don’t expect it to be easy–not because I expect it won’t hold up, but rather the opposite; every time I go back and re-read, it pulls me in deeper.

Eventually I will write a blog post

Wherein I will describe how to set up a cyrus-imapd cluster in fairly straightforward, and mostly reliable terms. It will probably include lots of invective concerning cyrus-sasl (the scourge of my existence) and openldap (which is like a little kid that tends to get the pointy scissors and stab you over and over with a gleeful smile on its face).

For the moment, I will just note that I have moved email for a couple of my secondary addresses to our little cluster. That represents a certain optimism on my part.

I bought a 1GB iPod shuffle a few weeks ago

I wanted it for walking around, where the 80GB Classic I’ve got is just too clunky and insufficiently solid-state.

There was the requisite monkeying with LInux and its somewhat fractious relationship with iPods, and then I started putting stuff on it.

I’ve been so used to dealing with my music collection in its entirety, or at least in very, very large chunks–I started ripping things en mass in mid-’99–that it was sort of interesting to realize that I could get maybe 150 songs on the thing. I had to really think about what I wanted on there.

Some of it is obvious, at least to me: some Stevie Wonder, some Steely Dan, some Queens of the Stone Age, some post-Rattle-and-Hum U2 and all sorts of other eclecticism that has fascinated me for a long time.

Some of it was less obvious–for insance, I’ve been listening to Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” a lot of late. I got there in a way both obvious and circuitous.

I watch House (I want to add, “of course”, but, of course, there is no “of course” about it), and at one point in the season finale I heard a cover of a song that I recognized but simply could not place.

The internets know everything, though, so in short order I was able to find out that it was a cover of the aforementioned Massive Attack song. I was then somewhat embarassed to read that the original version–which I own, and, obviously, find fairly recognizable, is the theme for the show.

Oh, well.

And then there are the desert island tracks. King Crimson’s “Discipline”, Led Zeppelin’s “Bron Yr Aur”, a few other things that I think I could listen to every day for the rest of my life in tight rotation and never get tired of.

And then there’s Jeff Buckley’s “Vancouver”. Everyone goes gaga over “Hallelujah”, but there is an echo of pain in “Vancouver” that punches me in the gut each and every time.

I’m bad about noting the anniversaries of deaths–I had to look up his on Wikipedia–so I’m a few days late in noting that it’s been 11 years since Jeff Buckley died, and not a week goes by that I don’t wonder what he would have accomplished.

And just to illustrate the self-referential nature of my musical tastes, the vocals for “Teardrop” were recorded shortly after Elizabeth Fraser (the vocalist on the track, and a friend of Buckley’s), got word of his death.