Sunday, December 30, 2007

Busy doing nothing

At least, nothing that I can or will write about presently, for a complex nexus of reasons arising from bad planning and worse decision-making on my part. So be it.

The topinambour recipe will appear in 2007 2008, I promise—but I have to find it first. The "Zeit" article that I linked to doesn't list the ingredients of the soup (though it does list the other four dishes' ingredients) so I will have to track down the pages that we worked from.

Walking, reading, eating relatively little but more healthily, drinking no alcohol at all.

Except that I ate and drank far too much on Friday at a birthday party, as one does; home at 3:30 and was awake until 5, then slept only five hours. Saturday was correspondingly rocky.

This week's much-delayed Friday Favourite will also be the last, at least for the foreseeable future: a newly-passed law requires German ISP's (and telephone and cellphone companies) to track and record every connection made through their services, and to make this available for six months in searchable form to any government agency that happens to ask. The matter will fail miserably, of course: the data to be collected amounts to several terabytes per day*, there is no provision in the law for payment for the hardware necessary to store all this nor for the electricity to run the hardware nor for a charge for accessing it; there is no definition of what "searchable" actually means; and not even Google has any idea how to dice and slice that amount of disparate data arriving that quickly.

That being said, the law is the law and therefore the system must be implemented at great cost (economic and political) so that it can be seen to fail miserably before the law can be revoked. Now, tracking down persons who infringe on commercial rights is not the purpose of the law, which like many other bad laws around the world has been enacted under the guise of "fighting terrorism;" but the observable fact is that government exists to better enable corporations to pick the pockets of its citizens, so it will not be long at all until this data is being used to sue children who exchange ringtones on the playground or download songs from the Internet. Until the bill is revoked, posting these Favourites is just too dangerous: in Germany, the penalty is not restricted to fines (absurdly high though those can be) but may encompass actual time in jail.

Yes, you're right: it is an egregious pile of crap offensive to any thinking person. But it is also the law, for now, and for the time being we must live with it.

Oh yes, with all the ranting I nearly forgot: here's the song, from this album. Enjoy loudly; singing along is encouraged.

Moving rapidly along as I do think we should, here's a thought to prime the pumps of your New Year's listmakings. To set the scene: George, Harris and the narrator J are preparing to spend a week in a small boat on the River Thames, rowing up to Oxford, and are deciding what to pack.
The first list we made out had to be discarded. It was clear that the upper reaches of the Thames would not allow of the navigation of a boat sufficiently large to take the things we had set down as indispensable; so we tore the list up, and looked at one another.

George said:

"You know we are on a wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can't do without."

George comes out really quite sensible at times. You'd be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life, generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.

How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha'pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with — oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! — the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal's iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!

It is lumber, man — all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment's freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment's rest for dreamy laziness — no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o'er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lilies white and yellow, or the sombre-waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchis, or the blue forget-me-nots.

Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need — a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.

Jerome K. Jerome, "Three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog)"
I can think of nothing finer than that last paragraph to wish you for the coming year, dear readers.

* Assume for the sake of argument that "several" actually means "1.0003" A terabyte per day is 12 megabytes every second. That brand-new and expensive 320 gigabyte hard-disk you just bought? You'd need twenty-three of those per week.

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Blogger Savtadotty said...

With all that data, please ask them to trace the two cellphones that were stolen this afternoon from two of my roommates bedtables while they were napping this afternoon IN THE HOSPITAL! They must know, no?

December 30, 2007 at 7:06:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger moira said...

What an egregious pile of crap offensive to any thinking person.

Lovely excerpt. I'll give it long thought.

December 30, 2007 at 7:29:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Bah, humbug, he who dies with the most toys wins.
What about the Black Forest? It seems so magical from so far away.

December 31, 2007 at 3:14:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Lioness said...

Good God, I've just realised I used ballast in my blog header thingy when in fact I meant lumber! No wonder life's been lopsided! Thank you, will correct it stat!

That law is somehow so german I cannot even begin to talk abt it. Tried ringing you but you were not home. For shame!

Joe, the Black Forest is cold. At least with snow. But the animals are very pretty. Cold too, I'm sure. Lalala!

December 31, 2007 at 3:25:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

I loved the passage and do find the words to be a great blessing for friends in a new year. I'm sorry I've been so avoidant of late, that should hopefully change with the calendar. Wishing you much happiness and the company of good friends in 2008.

January 1, 2008 at 10:47:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Savtadotty, I'm sorry to say that the data will certainly not be used to help your fellow patients. They are only people, just plain citizens; if they were corporations, then heaven and earth would be moved for them.

Joe, the BF is indeed quite fine.

Lioness, it was grand speaking to you again.

Beth, welcome back. I hope that 2008 settles down and provides solutions to your dilemmas.

January 2, 2008 at 12:56:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Moira, sorry to leave you out :-) It seems to me that you are pretty well along that list.

January 2, 2008 at 12:57:00 p.m. GMT+1  

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