Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 

Diablotin Moustachu?

As Russell Ackoff pointed out in "the art of problem solving", we are often blocked from finding the solution to a problem by a constraint which is neither explicit nor truly binding, but which we impose on our search nevertheless, thereby excluding solutions we should not exclude. The key is to find it (or them) and relax it (or them)" (or words to that effect). In the case of my problem with my savage cat, one such assumption was that the pet population in my household is to remain fixed. My father was quick to challenge it with a proposal to change my household pet population:
Extremely simple and obvious, to me, solution: GET A DOG! Preferably a Belgian.

Well, I know why he is partial to Belgian dogs. His proposal might change the composition of my household pet population, but not its number. That is not acceptable; my cat is to continue to live here, and that is a pretty firm constraint. (And it is not at all clear to me that the dog he suggests would control the pest population better than my cat). Nevertheless, the proposal suggests two variants: another (additional) cat to help, or a dog who is a good mouser.

I asked Hakia, What dog breeds kill mice? Interesting question! Highlighted titles below may help. Indeed they do!
  • Affenpinscher Dog Breed gave me a good introduction to this breed. Subsequent searches yielded more info and a picture. I think they're cute.
    The Affenpinscher is a balanced, little, wiry-haired terrier-like toy dog whose intelligence and demeanor make it a good house pet. Originating in Germany, where the name Affenpinscher means, "monkey-like terrier," the breed was developed to rid the kitchens, granaries and stables of rodents. In France the breed is described as the "diablotin moustachu" or the moustached little devil. Both these names help to describe the appearance and attitude of this delightful breed. When evaluating the breed, the total overall appearance of the Affenpinscher is more important than any individual characteristic.
    Temperament:
    The general demeanor of the Affenpinscher is game, alert and inquisitive with great loyalty and affection toward its master and friends. The breed is generally quiet but can become vehemently excited when threatened or attacked and is fearless toward any aggressor.
  • Dachshund Breed Characteristics...they were bred to go in holes and flush game like badgers and wolverines out of the ground.
    Wieners think they are 150 pounds and take their hunting job seriously so if you keep pet rabbits. mice, birds, etc., keep them far away from your new hunter. Any fluffy, cute animal that squeaks will be instantly killed if it is located a few feet off the ground. But wieners make great barn dogs and kill mice better than any outdoor cat alive.
  • Understanding The Types of Dog Breeds
    The terrier dog breed was developed to hunt and kill pests. They were used to control rats, mice, and predators. They are small to medium in size and feisty animals that are difficult to train. This dog breed has been known to become loyal and friendly pets. They include the Irish Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Miniature Shnauzer.
    Terrier legacy
    The Yorkie was bred as a ratter, used to kill mice and rats in small places. As a hunting group, terriers specialize in pursuing animals (usually vermin) that live in dens or burrows. Animals that are cornered and defending their young will fight ferociously. Therefore, any dog that would willingly pursue them must have an extraordinary degree of courage; terriers are bred for that quality.
  • Even Rottweilers, it seems!


Now it remains to determine which of the dog breeds, if any, would be nice to the cat. Diablotin moustachu?

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Mick Jagger Addresses Investment Bankers

Mick Jagger has a fine attitude for a graduate of the London School of Economics (if my memory serves me well).


All in a Nights Work


By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: July 23, 2007
The Rolling Stones earned $5.4 million when they gave a private concert last week for 500 guests in Barcelona, Spain, Agence France-Presse reported. Citing the British music magazine NME, the news agency said that the party at the Catalan National Art Museum had been organized by Deutsche Bank. Mick Jagger told the audience: “Thank you for having us. The best part is it’s coming out of your bonuses.” The Stones are currently touring Europe.


Funny thing is, the New York Times picked this up about third-hand, and ran it on July 23. By that time, "last week" was no longer true. Others ran the story ten days earlier; and when it was posted on YouTube (July 15th) by someone who had been there (30-seconds of "Under my thumb" recorded on a selfphone, I suspect), it was entitled :

The Rolling Stones secret concert in Barcelona july 07 2007

Oops. At least they included the tasty line.

EUX.TV
Friday, July 13, 2007 at 16:45
Subject: /Spain-Business/Entertain/
Deutsche Bank "hired the Rolling Stones for Barcelona bash"

Madrid (dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur) - The Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest banking institution, hired the Rolling Stones to play for 700 people at an exclusive party in Barcelona, a Spanish news report said Friday.





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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

 

Living with a Savage

A few months ago, someone told me he thought he had observed that the stupidest cats were the best hunters. Or maybe it was that the best hunters were the stupidest cats. I suppose it doesn't make much difference which way around it is formulated if it is "stupidest if and only if best hunter," but I've been hoping that my cat could be a good hunter and not stupid. He has been making it very hard for me to sustain that hope.

I'm not really qualified to rate my cat on hunting skills, but I think he is pretty good. I haven't kept cats for the past twenty years until the past three years, which limits my experience. I don't know what a "normal", a below-average hunter, or a good hunter is to be expected to catch around here. There are plenty of gardens, vegetable gardens, and the railroad tracks, with lots of overgrown weedy slopes are not far, so there should be a fair amount of game. I give him extra points for catching moles, since I understand they are quite hard to catch; he has killed at least five six, including a pretty big one (photos available on request). I deduct some points for letting a mouse live inside the stove for a few days, stealing cat kibble to eat (and requiring me to spend hours dismantling the stove to clean and get rid of the smell). Friends and acquaintances tell me about the huge rats and rabbits and things their cats kill. I've found a few (not very big) dead rats in the yard, and suppose he killed them, although other cats from the vicinity do come through our yard; I've even seen one cat crouched behind him watching him hunt.

He has another "performance" I find harder to rate: he captures prey and brings it in alive. Questions of skill aside, this can be a good thing. At least a couple of sparrows and lizards he's brought me have managed to hide under low furniture until he lost interest, and then I've gotten them out of the house alive. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the mouse in the stove was one he dropped in the hallway and then "lost". I've been awakened at least twice to find him playing with a live mouse on my bed; one he killed, one he "lost." Yesterday he brought me one, dropped it at my feet as I sat at the computer, and rubbed my legs and purred with pride and contentment as it scampered squeeking under the couch and through a crack in the floor. Then looked to me for help, saw that it was gone out of reach, and headed back outside to find a new one! I shut him in the room for a couple of hours to watch for it, but it is still missing.

I'm very nice to him when he brings me something dead; I'm not so nice when he brings me live mice. And yet he recidivates. My conditioning isn't strong enough? Maybe he is stupid enough to be a great hunter.

The problem remains, if he can't learn to always kill mice, or at least to leave live prey outdoors, if he just never "gets" that I don't want to play with the mice he is kind enough to bring me, what can I do to defend my indoors? The options seem to be pretty limited:
  • keep him indoors. This seems to me too extreme a change in his circumstances. He'd drive me crazy making a fuss to be let out, and he'd bolt whenever someone opened a door or window.
  • lock the cat door, and control his egress and ingress. In other words, personally open the door or window for him whenever he needs (or wants) to go out or come in. I suppose that this is the "traditional" protocol, the way it was before cat doors were invented. After a period (how long) of not reacting to the fuss he'd make at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., this could be viable. It would also prevent other cats from coming in to feed during the night (we don't have one of those fancy RFID-controlled doors--yet). But it would also mean he stays locked in whenever I'm away, be it for a few hours, or a day or two. To consider.
  • set the cat door to "exit only", control his entry (to see what is in his jaws). This would avoid the "let me out before dawn" fuss, and also the other cats coming in. But he would be locked out whenever I'm unavailable, even if he just wanted to go out for a few minutes, and wouldn't do when I'm away for more than a few hours.
  • put a muzzle on him (and tell him he's a pit bull?). Probably a really bad idea. It would indeed hamper his hunting (no fangs, just claws) and prevent him from bringing any prey, dead or alive, indoors. But he might get bitten by rodents if he continued to hunt with claws alone, become the victim of bully cats (around here, even the neutered ones get in fights), get caught on branches. Plus I'd spend a lot of time putting it on and taking it off so he could eat, drink, lick himself, and so on.
  • learn to kill anything he brings in live, myself. Ewww, yuck!
  • have him treated by a cat psychotherapist. This seems like the most modern and enlightened solution. But is there a cat psychotherapist available nearby? How much would it cost? Can he be "cured"? Is it worth it just to avoid an occasional mouse in the house?
Ideas, anyone?


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Monday, July 23, 2007

 

Superfrenchie's pal Véronique reads the Independent

I can't believe I missed this subject entirely. I read the Independent, but not as thoroughly as I should, evidently (and maybe not every day). The Independent is exceptional on the environment, and I try not to miss Lichfield on France (especially) and Europe, he's better on French politics than most any French journalist. This piece is a little different. You might want to read the Guardian's piece on "Richistan" first, though, as I did.

Fortunately, I also have SuperFrenchie's RSS feed on Netvibes and the "Cruising with the neocons" title caught my attention. "Love Boat" meets "The Shining"? I don't know, Johann Hari on this cruise is better behaved than Hunter Thompson at the police convention in ("Fear and Loathing in") Las Vegas but the net result is quite spooky.







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Monday, July 16, 2007

 

Hunger, Thirst, Nausea and the others

I want to drink <=> I am thirsty <=> thirst
I want to eat <=> I am hungry <=> hunger
I want to vomit <=> I am nauseous <=> nausea
I want to urinate <=> I am ________ <=> ______
I want to defecate <=> I am ________ <=> ______

I think we're missing a couple of words or word-pairs. And I really don't see how they should be generated. [Please don't ask how or why I noticed, I don't really know].

It is not surprising that they are missing because they are about "dirty" things and are taboo (but vomit is pretty gross so why isn't nausea missing?); most often we don't even dare use the 'proper' terms; we either use a euphemism or a coarser term, which I've now learned is a "dysphemism: making something sound worse". In Euphemism and dysphemism (part of a course in "Language and Power"), Dr. Susanna Cumming of UCSB notes:
Conventional X-phemisms: words whose sole purpose is to make reference to a taboo topic in a polite or impolite way: "shit" vs. "defecate", "prick" vs. "penis" etc. This category has more to do with politeness and social norms than the speaker's actual feelings. Conventional dysphemisms may have a positive social value in expressing casualness, informality, solidarity etc.

One rarely hears "I want to urinate", but rather "I need to wash my hands," or "I need to use the bathroom," or (my favorite) "I need to powder my nose." I've even heard a Frenchman say it was "time to change the water in the fishbowl." "I need to use the toilet" (or "the lavatory") is a little more explicit, but hardly more so than "use the bathroom", and necessarily so in places where the toilet is often not in the bathroom (i.e., European homes). In some company, one might go so far as to say "I need to pee," ("leak", "whiz") but that is already demonstrating a capacity for vulgarity and a degree of intimacy with one's company; as Cumming noted above, "conventional dysphemisms may have a positive social value in expressing casualness, informality, solidarity etc."

I can't remember ever hearing anyone declare that they wanted (or needed) to defecate. "Go number two" or "poop" (or "poo poo", or "ca-ca" as in French) for the young, and even the not-so-young. "Take a dump" or possibly "a crap" serve for the "casualness, informality, solidarity etc." case. Fortunately, most often it is possible to defecate in the same place or near to where one urinates, so the euphemisms in the previous paragraph should enable the one in need to ask his way to the appropriate please without specifying "why."

Generating new or missing words can be a little tricky, but often one can use the basic combination of prefixes, roots, and suffixes approach. Purists will try to avoid mixing pieces from Greek, Latin, and other languages to create Frankenwords, but even that can sometimes be admitted. However, as we see in the list at the start of this post, we really have very little to go on: thirst and drink, hunger and eat, nausea and vomit are all pairs that have no apparently common roots. They don't even have prefixes of suffixes. An alternate approach might be to "enroll" some meaningless words (such as several from Carroll's "Jabberwocky") and simply decree that they take on these new meanings; should this succeed, who knows what literary reinterpretation it could provoke centuries hence! I won't take that responsibility: "slithy" should not mean "wants to urinate", nor anything else.

Now, some good news (from The Free Online Dictionary) :
mic·tu·rate : To urinate. [From Latin micturre, to want to urinate, desiderative of meiere, to urinate; see meigh- in Indo-European roots.]

Why is this "good news"? Because it says there was already a Latin word for "to want to urinate"! All I need to do is to modernize it a little: "I am micturitious". Voilà! Unfortunately, whereas "micturition" should mean "the desire to urinate", it has come to mean "is urinating," so I still don't have an equivalent to hunger, thirst, and nausea unless I shorten it to "micturity". That should be possible, because it doesn't seem to be in use yet; the only Google (and Yahoo!) url was for a page including the text "Note: Despite the above micturity-withdrawal I probably am a goth. I dress like it, act like it, listen to the music....etc. " and it seems to be pretty meaningless in its context. And Wow! What a day! Google only found one instance of "micturity" and Yahoo! too, same for "micturitious" (not the same url as for "micturity", BTW). I recently read that Google, Yahoo! and Ask almost never have the same links in the same order; I've just found two searches where they return identical (albeit very short) result lists.

However I have not been so lucky as to find "Latin xxxx, to want to defecate." I'll nominate "fecetious", perhaps (with "fecety"?); that's one more thing to think about when I'm weeding the lawn. Readers suggestions are welcome in "comments" (moderated, but that doesn't mean "turned off").


"Spit", "cough" and "sneeze" probably aren't worth the effort, but if inspiration strikes...


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Sunday, July 08, 2007

 

WSJ Endorses Cigarettes!

I thought that smoking was entirely banned from American media (as well as most interior spaces). No more smoking in cinema (the films even, I mean, not just the theaters), and none on TV for a while. Yet herewith the first sentence of a Wall Street Journal article on John Smeaton, a Glasgow airport baggage handler who attacked a suspected terrorist who was resisting arrest:
GLASGOW -- Last Saturday afternoon, baggage handler John Smeaton was standing in front of Glasgow Airport smoking a cigarette when a Jeep Cherokee burst into flames nearby.

The article doesn't say what the outcome was (we're presumed to know) nor suggest that the cigarette gave him strength and energy like spinach gave Popeye-the-Sailor. But if John didn't smoke (or smoking were still allowed in the terminal), he wouldn't be such news, would he? Maybe someone else would be, but who knows?. Okay, the Wall Street Journal doesn't actually credit the cigarette with an assist, but it doesn't hide the fact that a smoker was smoking when he had the provocation to intervene and instinctively seized it (not because he was a smoker, but because he is who he is; nor to become a hero, but he did).

I wonder how the editorial/commentary pages would have spun it.


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Military-Industrial-Media Complex

When a couple of articles in the English-language press recently talked about the control of the media in France, I started to collate them and build from there.&nbsp; The English-language articles mostly noted concern that there may be unhealthy (for a democracy) self-censorship by media controlled almost entirely by friends of President Sarkozy. While this is true, and the articles did include some information about the president's friends and their fortunes, they didn't really make it clear that the media in France are controlled by companies that do a lot of business with the government, particularly in defense. After a while, I gave up: too much research, and no clear and unassailable case of a true Big Brother risk or military-industrial-media complex (I also discovered after a while that the Nouvel Observateur had published the complete research compilation I was trying to approximate on June 27th).

Since then, there has been a "scandal", which I haven't seen reported outside France (but maybe I didn't look good, as my 8th grade English teacher said). It involved a close collaborator of Mr. Sarkozy, Patrick Devedjian, whose name is last found in New York Times and Independent UK searches in 2004 (the two which ran the first articles), so I think my hunch that this story didn't make much foreign news is probably right.

Well, here's the deal: Mr. Devedjian was in Lyon, being filmed by a local TV station as he was introduced to the member of his party (the President's majority party, UMP) who defeated Anne-Marie Comparini, a centrist (MoDem). Devedjian congratulated him for beating this "salope" (I'd say "slut" is a decent translation to English). It was broadcast locally, and then appeared on Dailymotion, a French YouTube competitor. The sound is not great, and it seems that "salope" was "enhanced" to be better heard than the rest of what he said, but he hasn't denied he said it. Devedjian apologized, and made a lot of fuss about the "totalitarian" aspect of Internet and invasion of privacy. But (putting on my paranoid thinking cap), what if he got embarrassed deliberately to demonstrate that Sarko et cie. don't really control have a full choke-hold on the media in France?

Daniel Schneidermann wrote about the incident in Liberation, and seems to take the bait. Internet may not reveal everything of importance, and this "event" is not really important, but it is better than nothing.

I'm not yet ready to scrap the paranoid hypothesis.


Meanwhile, what I'd started to collate, and the two articles that inspired me:

  • Arnaud Lagardère, owner of the Hachette publishing group, with a portfolio of important titles such as Paris-Match, Elle and Le Journal du Dimanche; and also stakes in international publishing houses, like Orion in Britain. Mr. Lagardère’s company is a military contractor and media company. Lagardère's "military contractor" business is EADS, of which he owns 14.98 %. His father created Matra (Mécanique Aviation Traction) in 1937. It was a Matra (Mach 1,4) that made the first supersonic flight in Europe in 1951. In 1961, Matra became the first European producer of satellites. Following growth and acquisitions, it became Aérospatiale Matra, which merged with Aeronauticas SA and DaimlerChryser Aerospace AG to form EADS in July, 2000.&nbsp; Since 2006, they own 20% of Canal+, the leading pay-TV operator in France.
  • There is also Serge Dassault, heir to an aeronautic empire [the exclusive supplier of the French air force] and owner of Le Figaro.
  • Martin Bouygues, head of TF1, the first French TV channel, and LCI, the first 24-hour news channel. Bouygues, a leading global construction company, which builds and maintains roads and other public infrastructure, controls TF1, the leading French network.



From "Cécilia Sarkozy: The First Lady vanishes" (Independent.co.uk)
Indeed, Nicolas' close friends include Martin Bouygues, head of TF1, the first French TV channel, and LCI, the first 24-hour news channel. Martin is the godfather of Nicolas and Cécilia's son, Louis. Then there is Arnaud Lagardère, owner the Hachette publishing group, with a portfolio of important titles such as Paris-Match, Elle and Le Journal du Dimanche; and also stakes in international publishing houses, like Orion in Britain. There is also Serge Dassault, heir to an aeronautic empire and owner of Le Figaro. And Bernard Arnault, the aforementioned head of the luxury group LVMH, who has just announced his intention to buy Les Echos, the French equivalent of the Financial Times, from the Pearson group. The list of the President's powerful friends is long, so long that most French journalists, authors and commentators have worked at some point in their career for those men.

"It's even worse than that," says one political commentator who wants to remain anonymous, "if you thought the publicly owned media, such as France Television and Radio France, were safe havens from political meddling, think again. There are well-known Sarkozysts in place there too, like Arlette Chabot, the news editor of France 2. At least the trade unions are more powerful there."


From the NY Times: Free Press in France: The Right to Say What Politicians Want
... the issue of self-censorship has come into sharp relief of late because of declining circulation in the print media and the concentration of media ownership among the new president’s close allies.

Among them are Arnaud Lagardère, who calls Mr. Sarkozy a “brother”; Martin Bouygues, a godfather to Mr. Sarkozy’s 10-year-old son; and Vincent Bolloré, who lent the president his jet and yacht for a postelection holiday.

Mr. Lagardère’s company is a military contractor and media company that owns Le Journal du Dimanche, the only national Sunday paper in France, as well as the glossy magazine Paris Match and Europe 1 radio. Bouygues, a leading global construction company, controls TF1, the leading French network.



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