A brief stint as Oskar Schindler

A nice vignette from the troubles in France:  a black guy amusingly described as "African-American" by a CNN news anchor used quick thinking to shove about 30 Jewish customers of a kosher store into a basement freezer to protect them from the Islamist hostage-takers.  They all survived; the hostage-taker is now at room temperature.

The British Press Has A Banner Week

The British press has never seemed as out of touch as it is today. All our broadsheet papers are packed with pleas to the people of France, and other European populations, not to turn into Muslim-killing nutjobs in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The Guardian frets over “Islamophobes seizing this atrocity to advance their hatred.” The Financial Times is in a spin about “Islamophobic extremists” using the massacre to “[challenge] the tolerance on which Europe has built its peace.” One British hack says we should all “fear the coming Islamophobic backlash.” And what actually happened in France as these dead-tree pieces about a possible Islamophobic backlash made their appearance? Jews were assaulted. And killed.
It's been a great week at the Guardian particularly. Regarding the new Clint Eastwood movie about former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, they published an article titled, "The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?"

Don't get your hopes up -- she didn't actually try to understand the answer to the question of why people think of him as a hero.

Snapshots from Hubble

The newest pictures from the Hubble orbiting telescope of our nearest large galactic neighbor, Andromeda, are sharp enough to show 100 million individual stars.  This link has images that are sharp enough to admire, but not big enough to take a long time to download.  A link within the link will take you to a 200MB image.

Andromeda, a spiral galaxy, is only 12.5 times as far away as it is wide (2.5MM to 200,000 light-years), so it shows up relatively well in our sky.  It's on a collision course with the Milky way--ETA is about 3.75 billion years--which makes it one of the few elements of the universe that isn't rushing away from us.  Andromeda is just barely visible to the naked eye in good conditions.  Human beings have been recording their observations of it since the 10th century, but only in the 19th century did its spectral lines suggest that it was not a gaseous nebula but had some kind of stellar nature.  Believing it to be a relatively close object, astronomer first guessed that it was some kind of nova.  In 1925 Edwin Hubble demonstrated that it was a separate galaxy similar to our own.

Even the old-fashioned pictures are pretty spectacular.

Men are from Dune, women are from Pemberley

Grim's link took me to other articles by Examiner writer Michelle Kerns, including her "Men are from Dune, women are from Pemberley" lists of 75 Books Every Man or Every Woman Must Read.  I'm afraid I haven't read very many of them, but I've read 16 from the men's list and only 11 from the women's.

Both lists pick a single book by a famous writer and let it go at that.  I don't read that way; I'm more likely to read all of the works of an author that suits me and never quite get through even the first book of an author that doesn't.  What's more, almost none of the books I've read from either of these lists is on my "desert island" list of the few books I'd want to have on hand to read repeatedly for the rest of my life, in a pinch.  "Lolita" isn't on either list, for instance.  But "War and Peace" is on one and "Middlemarch" on the other, so there's that.  And yet no C.S. Lewis!  I don't know what I'd do with myself if I couldn't read and re-read his works.  Not to mention Robert Heinlein, John Varley, Frederick Pohl, Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle, and a handful of other science-fiction writers I depend on year after year--science fiction and fantasy being my true lifelong literary enthusiasms.

But as for Twain, Dickens, Joyce, Rushdie, Hemingway, Henry James, Maya Angelou, J. K. Rowling, and other high- and low-brow favorites, I just can't read them at all.

Is that why the buildings are ugly?

It's an enduring question:  is it just me, or are most of the buildings ugly?  In The New Urbanism, William Lind argues that some high-style architecture is deliberately ugly, on the theory that the essence of a capitalist system is alienation, and therefore all true art must alienate in order to be authentic.  He attributes this idea to Theodor Adorno.  I don't know about that, but here is a summary of what's supposed to be Adorno's thinking:
Adorno's claims about art in general stem from his reconstruction of the modern art movement. So a summary of his philosophy of art sometimes needs to signal this by putting “modern” in parentheses. The book begins and ends with reflections on the social character of (modern) art. Two themes stand out in these reflections. One is an updated Hegelian question whether art can survive in a late capitalist world. The other is an updated Marxian question whether art can contribute to the transformation of this world. When addressing both questions, Adorno retains from Kant the notion that art proper (“fine art” or “beautiful art”—schöne Kunst—in Kant's vocabulary) is characterized by formal autonomy. But Adorno combines this Kantian emphasis on form with Hegel's emphasis on intellectual import (geistiger Gehalt) and Marx's emphasis on art's embeddedness in society as a whole. The result is a complex account of the simultaneous necessity and illusoriness of the artwork's autonomy. The artwork's necessary and illusory autonomy, in turn, is the key to (modern) art's social character, namely, to be “the social antithesis of society”.
It does sound as though the idea were to make us unhappy for the sake of raising our consciousness.  When someone starts talking about simultaneous necessity and illusoriness, I suspect him of being in a serious sulk.

The Lind article has defensible ideas about the use of conservative ideas in urban architecture, including the superior market appeal of mixed-use developments and therefore the absence of a need for government regulation to improve neighborhoods; the market will do that for us if we prevent the zoners from requiring undue separation between residential and commercial functions.  I'm not sure he's really nailed the ugly-architecture problem, though.  Why is our new fire station an eyesore, for instance?  No high-concept architect set out to mirror the incurable alienation of the local population.  No architect had much input at all, except in the sense that someone with minimal training did a bit of work making sure the hallways all led to rooms and some of the exterior walls had windows in them.  Otherwise it's a metal shell with a shallow roof in random colors, and a bunch of rooms jammed inside.  It was cheap, it was fairly easy to build, and it made no concessions to aesthetic experience.

The ancient Welsh-style cottage pictured below was cheap and fairly easy to build, but it's not ugly.  What are we missing?  Why should economy of construction be ugly?

It actually looks quite a lot like my cistern, which I love, and would love even more if the cylinder were shorter and the witch's hat bigger:

Lind has other ideas about making cities livable, his main thrust being that conservatives should be able to find common ground with the largely liberal urbanist crowd.  One of his most valuable insights is that beautiful public spaces rely on money and security:
We offer the understanding that traditional middle-class values work. Without them, no city, neighborhood, or town, however well designed, is likely to function. We point out the reality that order, safety of persons and property, is the first essential. [Celebrated urbanist Andres] Duany said to me at a recent CNU [Congress for the New Urbanism] meeting, “I’m beginning to understand that we design beautiful public spaces to which no one dares come.” Indeed. Conservatives understand that for New Urbanism to succeed, it must create an arena where businessmen can make money. Urban areas that are not market-friendly will remain poor.
We could blame that problem on capitalism--guys like Adorno certainly made a career of it--but it's possible that the real problem is designers who aren't interested in making forms nearby which people want to sleep, work, shop, recreate, or reflect.  Capitalism gets a bad rap for reducing "value" to "money," but I suspect what's really irritating about it is that ordinary people get to vote on whether they find something valuable.  Their betters don't always get to prescribe it for them, or force them to feed and house artists and other intellectuals who want to be the antithesis of society.  If they don't like it, they just won't buy it.

The unavoidable conclusion is that if I didn't want the fire station to be ugly by my standards, I should have found a way to fund its construction myself.  After all, I don't find my house ugly!  Of course, I didn't expect it to express the simultaneous necessity and illusoriness of art, or to serve as the antithesis of society.  I just wanted it to function properly and delight me.

Mark Twain on Jane Austen

I've occasionally mentioned Mark Twain's brutal, and completely accurate, review of Cooper's 'Leatherstocking' tales. I also knew that Jane Austen was not universally loved by American authors -- Emerson didn't care for her ("Suicide is more respectable," he wrote of her work), but who cares what Emerson thinks? Still, I hadn't realized until this morning that Twain had written occasionally about his dislike for her work.
"Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book."

"I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

"All the great critics praise her art generously. To start with, they say she draws her characters with sharp distinction and a sure touch. I believe that this is true, as long as the characters she is drawing are odious."
There are a host of great author-on-author put downs here. If any of you are Austen fans horrified to find that Twain held her in such low regard, there's an essay here that examines his comments in greater detail from a pro-Austen perspective.


For when I see the beauty of your face,
The scarlet red you have about your eyes,
It makes my dread all wither and it dies,
As certainly as In principio,
Mulier est hominis confusio
Madam, the meaning of this Latin is
'A woman is man's joy and all his bliss.'
The FBI and Justice Department prosecutors recommend felony charges for General Petraeus.

Dog House Boogie

A little music for a Friday night.

Why Not Free? Well, "Free."

ThinkProgress proposes that the President's free lunch 'free two years of community college' plan is taking the wrong way 'round. We could just as readily make college free for the whole four years, at all public colleges, without spending more than we're already spending:
If President Obama truly wants to transform the cost of higher education, however, he could make college free for all students without having to lay out more money to pay for it. That’s because the federal government could take the $69 billion it currently spends to subsidize the cost of college through grants, tax breaks, and work-study funds and instead cover tuition at all public colleges, which came to $62.6 billion in 2012, the most recent data. (The government spends another $197.4 billion on student loans.) That would give all students who want to get a college degree a free option to do so. It could also put pressure on private universities to compete with the free option by reducing their costs, which have risen 13 percent over the last five years.
I have a sense that we're going to have to extend the "free" (meaning publicly subsidized) education we pay for in this country. We already provide publicly-funded education through high school. The expansion will need to come because the continual transformation of the economy by technology means that (a) whole industries are dying -- see travel agencies, secretarial pools -- and (b) the only thing like an answer to that problem is to retrain people for whatever new sectors of work are emerging from the constant technological change. But the people being forced out of dying industries are low on the list of those likely to be able to afford the cost of advanced education.

Thus, our options as a country are:

1) Allow our fellow citizens to fall out of the productive/employable classes, which means that they will not be providing tax revenues (and, most probably, will be consuming expensive public welfare programs -- but even if we were to manage to restrain those, they still will not be adding to the common fund),

2) Spend some of our public stores to help make sure people can retrain in productive ways.

The best way to do this would be to establish some right/left limits on what kinds of programs we consider productive enough to merit public funding, probably based on some rolling estimate of which industries are coming-to-be or passing-away due to current changes in technology. We would need to make sure money didn't go to waste, but was directed at programs designed to help people retrain for current careers. This is something that we're just going to have to expect people to do more and more as time goes along, and the poorest most often, so we probably need to think about a solution that doesn't require them to have either money or credit if we want them to succeed. We should want them to succeed, if only for selfish reasons of keeping them off welfare rolls and helping with the taxpaying duties for a larger percentage of their lives.

Public colleges are a good start, but we should really expand especially to vocational schools. A travel agent put out of work by Expedia may not have the chops for a degree in engineering, but might benefit from getting a CDL so she could move to Texas and drive trucks to and from the oil fields. That's something we could do pretty cheaply and relatively quickly, compared to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, and it would get her back on her feet and into the taxpaying class as quickly as possible. We'd save money, even if it is not in any sense "free," and it would be good for the moral health of our citizenry as a whole if more of them were able to work and fewer were on welfare of any kind.

Risk and blame

Examples in another context of the confusion between ignoring risk and excusing wrongdoing:  there's a new book out, drawing attention once again to the government policies that contributed to the 2008 housing crisis.  The book is drawing the predictable criticism that it's a mistake to attribute the housing crisis to government regulatory initiatives, when it's so obvious that many bankers were greedy and incompetent.  That's a confusing criticism, considering that we're not likely to start inhabiting a world in which bankers are drawn exclusively from the ranks of the saintly and skilled.  We have systems for restraining the more unpleasant results of bankers who go wild.  They start with making it highly likely that the bankers will lose money if they keep it up, and go on to criminal penalties if, in addition to responding to a natural impulse to make money, they drift into outright fraud.  But none of that explains very well what went so dramatically wrong with our housing market in 2008.

What does explain it quite handily is a look at the impact of a government-sponsored entity that sends out a strong signal, "We'll buy the craziest mortgages you can sign up.  Lend money to people with bad credit.  Not only will you get credit of various sorts from people (on both sides of the political aisle) who want to see homeownership expand in our society, but you won't even pay a financial price for writing loans you ought to know perfectly well are going to default in above-average numbers.  We'll subsidize your losses."  What exactly did we expect to happen, especially considering that banks make money on processing fees and therefore are highly motivated, all other factors being equal, to maximize loan volume?  The force that normally puts a brake on this motivation is fear of failure.  We took fear of failure almost completely away.

Does that mean no banks behaved badly?  Obviously not.  But, as voters, we're not in control of bankers' consciences.  We are in control of the laws we pass.  We don't have to pass laws that fuel the very behavior we claim to be outraged by.  I don't know why we can't learn the lesson that you get more of whatever you subsidize.

As usual, I think the basic underlying mistake here is to imagine we can escape the price tag of a charitable impulse.  Both Democrats and Republicans had a natural, even laudable, goal to improve the lives of Americans by extending the benefits of home ownership to greater numbers of people.  We went wrong by fantasizing about a world in which such a thing would not have a cost, a real cost that real people would have to pay.  We're like people who want to feed the homeless, and place an order for restaurants to deliver hot meals to 10,000 people, then settle back in our armchairs feeling compassionate.  But when the bill comes in the mail, we throw up our hands and refuse to pay it.  "I thought it wouldn't cost anything!  I thought someone else was going to pay it!  If you don't keep delivering the hot meals without waiting for my check, you're just mean!  You must be in favor of hunger!  Restaurant owners are greedy!"

I Think It's The Other Way Around

LIVE BLOG — PARIS UNDER SIEGE: Charlie Hebdo Attackers Cornered, Hostage Situation in Kosher Store in East Paris.

The right way to apologize

The humiliated Maryland city council member noted by Grim earlier this week has thought it over and decided he was completely wrong in his eccentric view that newspapers needed his permission to use his name.  Not that some people might have thought he was wrong and been inexplicably offended, but just that he thoughtlessly blew it, plain and simple.  His apology is completely appropriate, a refreshing example of the genre:
"Of course, as I am an elected official, the Frederick News-Post has the right to use my name in any article related to the running of the county — that comes with the job," he said. "So yes, my statement to the Frederick News-Post regarding the use of my name was wrong and inappropriate. I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong."
I liked Volokh's take:
Uh, Council Member: In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission. It’s an avantgarde experiment, to be sure, but we’ve had some success with it.

Speaking of Questionable Judgment in Public Office...

A gift from Lindsey Graham to incoming Senator Joni Ernst.

A Fair Point

Also in September 2012, as the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway recalls, the president of the United States addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He declared (in a speech that, as she puts it, “includes some good commentary and more indefensible commentary”): “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

"People Know The Consequences"

And if they don't, they should by now.
Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people's desires.

Although Muslims may not agree about the idea of freedom of expression, even non-Muslims who espouse it say it comes with responsibilities. In an increasingly unstable and insecure world, the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad are known to Muslims and non-Muslims alike....

Within liberal democracies, freedom of expression has curtailments, such as laws against incitement and hatred.

The truth is that Western governments are content to sacrifice liberties and freedoms when being complicit to torture and rendition — or when restricting the freedom of movement of Muslims, under the guise of protecting national security.

So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?

It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world's population was protected.
Normally I would argue that we don't need a law, since the mores are so strong: although the quantity of mockery is not none, in America it's really very close to none without the bother and expense of legal actions.

This in a culture that produces regular, ongoing mockery and testing of its own core belief system. We invented Heavy Metal music, which was little more than an exercise in blasphemy. We make movies and television shows that mock the religion shared by the vast majority of Americans both living today and historically. So this sensitivity isn't part of a general commitment to anti-blasphemy, it's part of a general commitment to be sensitive to the feelings of Muslims.

Apparently this is not enough, however. And you know the consequences for not submitting.

Don't rush us!

We've only had six years to think about Keystone.

Inside the Minds of the Shooters' Supporters

The Counter Extremism Project collects supporters' statements from today's Paris attack.

One Came Calling

I don't really find the form of humor especially enlightening, but that's the point of free expression. We protect the bad ideas, too.

Of course, "protect" in this case would have better been done by having a couple of rifles in the office and some guys who knew how to use them. If I were running a satirical magazine -- or a think tank -- I'd look into making sure that there was a weapons locker and some training days on the corporate calendar.

Climb To Glory, Commando

WTF Army Moments reported this, but I checked it myself and it's for real.  

Well, we rode on Black roads in Iraq.  There it meant probable IEDs.  What's a little snow?

Paul Revere Time Capsule Opened

Here's the story. And here's the video:

'A Sufficient Number of Psychologists'

I don't have a problem with this idea, as long as we can agree that the sufficient number of psychologists in a riot is always zero.
The Missouri Democrat who told MSNBC the riots of Ferguson and the tremors of racial outrage that spread nationwide from the Missouri community were “our race war” unleashed a Twitter tirade Jan. 3 that foreshadowed a stormy legislative session ahead for her white colleagues in the Missouri Legislature....

Her legislation also includes what Chappelle-Nadal described as citizen protections and officer professional standards:

• The bill scales back the current “use of deadly force” laws in Missouri, allowing officers to use deadly force only in instances where a suspect poses a clear danger to the officer or the public.

• If a police officer shoots an unarmed citizen, or a police officer kills an unarmed citizen by any other means, a special prosecutor will automatically be appointed.

• When law enforcement is deployed to a protest situation or a scene of civil unrest, all officers will be required to wear accurate and visible identification with their full names clearly displayed.

• Law enforcement officers shall not be allowed to “hog-tie” citizens or verbally degrade or make derogatory comments toward any peaceful protestors.

• If the governor declares a state of emergency due to civil unrest, the governor shall immediately reassign and mobilize a sufficient number of state social workers, counselors, and psychologists to the area.

• The deployment of tear gas shall not be allowed unless the governor has declared a state of emergency and a neutral third-party agency (such as Amnesty International) is on the scene to certify that the tear gas will be deployed in a humanitarian manner.

• If the governor declares a state of emergency due to civil unrest, the governor shall concurrently contract with a neutral third-party agency (such as Amnesty International) to immediately report any abuses of human, civil, and constitutional rights to the Missouri and United States attorney generals.

• All law enforcement agencies in Missouri must be accredited by July 1, 2016.
Most of these sound like sensible ideas. "Use of deadly force" laws in Georgia hold the police to the same standard as anyone else -- only to stop an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm -- which is a pretty reasonable standard. A special prosecutor standard may well be warranted in cases of unarmed persons being killed by police, at least for a while given the serious degradation in public trust in the system's ability to hold the police to account. The use of third party validators is not a bad idea in such an environment either: the US military used embedded media to great effect in tamping down the worst of the irresponsible accusations of excessive force. (In fairness, the embeds sometimes caught some actual excessive force on camera -- but that can be valuable too, especially in a policing environment where the goal really is to train so that excessive force will not be used.) Visible identification aids public accountability too, especially in an age of easy access to cameras and video recording equipment.

Not being allowed to "verbally degrade or make derogatory comments" sounds silly to me, though. I assume most departments have standards governing that anyway, so perhaps there's no harm in it, but still.

But 'social workers, counselors, and psychologists'? We'd be well off without them.


Another snowflake, next to the last one.  Funny, I was trying to do something similar.

Update:  on top, a third variation on a theme, more what I was aiming at.  I'm on the last round of this iteration; the completed part is on the bottom left.  You can see how big it is by the fact that it's sitting within the earpieces of the glasses I have to use when I'm working with thread this fine.

The Black Church Loses... in Atlanta

It's one thing when this happens in California, but to lose one in Atlanta has to hurt.
Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran — the subject of recent controversy over remarks made in a self-published religious book — has been terminated from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, Mayor Kasim Reed announced today.

Cochran returned to work today following a month-long suspension for comments in his 2013 book “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” Many criticized the book as promoting discriminatory and anti-gay views, while Cochran’s suspension — and now termination — has since become the focus of a fight over “religious liberty.”...

Among what city leaders said were troubling remarks in the fire chief’s book was a description of homosexuality as a “perversion” akin to bestiality and pederasty. Reed said in November that such writings were inconsistent with the city’s employment policies and opened an investigation into potential discrimination within the fire department. The findings of that investigation have not yet been released.
Of course you can have private religious views. In private. They're certainly not to be published in a book, even a religious book for religious audiences -- not if you want to hold a job.

The mayor says the real reason he's firing the Fire Chief is that he questions his judgment, and had told him not to speak to the matter in public while a national controversy raged about his good name. The Chief says that isn't what happened, and that part is one of those 'he/she said' controversies.

But the mayor gives the game away when he says that "he believes Cochran opened up the city to the potential for litigation over future discrimination claims," and that "such writings were inconsistent with the city's employment policies[.]" What that means is that he believes that it is against the law for a government official in Atlanta to publish a book making these kinds of claims, both in the sense that it would constitute a tort and that it is a violation of the laws governing employment policy.

If true, that would mean that the religious views of the Chief's church are illegal for a public official in Atlanta to profess. That sounds suspiciously like a religious test for public office -- a kind of negative test, so to speak.

News from the Land of Cassandra

I thought you had these Marylanders under control, Cass.

Red Phone

You can secure calls from your cell phone by encrypting them, which you might consider since the FBI apparently thinks they have free reign to listen to you talk without a warrant.
Writing in Ars Technica, David Kravets is unimpressed with the FBI’s regard for Americans’ expectation of privacy.

The bureau’s position on Americans’ privacy isn’t surprising. The Obama Administration has repeatedly maintained that the public has no privacy in public places. It began making that argument as early as 2010...
Of course, there's always a chance that the tech firms offering the encryption have partnerships with the government. That's certainly been the pattern in the past.

Al Sisi's Speech

The man seems to be showing some spine.
Now President Sisi is in a position similar to ours in Iraq after the defeat of Al Qaeda and Iran. He has defeated the Muslim Brotherhood, and he is pressing his advantage, liquidating the leaders the Brothers had elevated over the course of eighty-odd years, and in the last week he delivered the blockbuster speech and became the first president in Egyptian history to attend Coptic Christmas celebrations in Cairo.

It’s a very big deal.

Kings of England

If you're interested in this playful quiz matching you with one of the kings of England, have a go. I got "Henry V."

Artistic License

Trolls are variously depicted in the literature. Some of them are very small, and some of them are very tall...

They are generally all ugly, however.


Apparently a revival of the old tradition is happening in parts of Britain.
The fire is lit, then they sing and dance in the frosty night, offering good wishes to a fruit tree and slurping from a bowl of carefully brewed spiced alcohol. This is wassailing, a pagan ceremony to bring on the spring. Once an ancient Twelfth Night ritual on the wane, wassailing is increasingly being appropriated by modern food-and-drink folk.
Why not? It's fun, and it's Twelfth Night -- approximately, since traditions differ slightly on just which night is the twelfth.

Although the etymology caught my eye:
Sounds like a quaint Nordic custom, doesn't it?

Well, actually, you might be on to something. The term "wassail" comes from the Old Norse "ves heill", meaning "be healthy", and was probably introduced by Danish-speaking inhabitants of England, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
I would have told you it was Old English rather than Danish, although it's hard to argue with the OED. My reasons for doing so are that it is a term that was put into the mouth of the Anglo-Saxons by none other than Geoffrey of Monmouth.
In the meantime, the messengers returned from Germany, with eighteen ships full of the best soldiers they could get. They also brought along with them Rowen, the daughter of Hengist, one of the most accomplished beauties of that age. After their arrival, Hengist invited the king to his house, to view his new buildings, and the new soldiers that were come over. The king readily accepted of his invitation, but privately, and having highly commended the magnificence of the structure, enlisted the men into his service. Here he was entertained at a royal banquet; and when that was over, the young lady came out of her chamber bearing a golden cup full of wine, with which she approached the king, and making a low courtesy, said to him, "Lauerd king wacht heil!" The king, at the sight of the lady's face, was on a sudden both surprised and inflamed with her beauty; and calling to his interpreter, asked him what she said, and what answer he should make her. "She called you, 'Lord king,'" said the interpreter, "and offered to drink your health. Your answer to her must be, 'Drinc heil!'" Vortigern accordingly answered, "Drinc heil!" and bade her drink; after which he took the cup from her hand, kissed her, and drank himself. From that time to this, it has been the custom in Britain, that he who drinks to any one says, "Wacht heil!" and he that pledges him, answers "Drinc heil!"
Sir Walter Scott follows this usage in Ivanhoe, where he uses knowledge of the proper response to the call to establish Richard the Lionheart's familiarity with the Saxon traditions of the country over which he, as a Norman, rules. Scott's suggestion that Richard might have known the story is well-founded. Geoffrey was Welsh, but his history was written in large part to benefit Norman claims to the English throne. He wrote it around 1136; it was translated into Norman verse in 1155, two years before Richard was born. It's highly likely that Richard would have known the story.

Yet of course the story might be wrong -- much else is in Geoffrey's history. On the other hand, Geoffrey got the phrase from somewhere. He wasn't living in the Old Danelaw, but in Wales. He claimed his sources were originally from the Welsh language, and probably some of them were. So perhaps this part of his history is right, and the OED is wrong: perhaps the phrase is original Old English, and not a Danish addition to the language.

I'm Not Sure I Got My Point Across About Mazzy Star

If you don't know them, you should listen to a bit of their work.

They once wrote a piece that got my attention, given my love for highways and speed and the death that attends them.

This one was their famous piece:

But really in the end, I liked everything they did.

Free Expression

My guess is that banning hoodies won't work in the United States, though I gather something similar was passed in the UK. Oddly enough, UK opponents referred to this law (which also banned owning bicycles for gang members) as an "American-style" system. But of course that's nonsense: no American jurisdiction could make sense of a law banning bicycles for some citizens and not others, and probably couldn't digest any ban on bicycles at all.

If you get to the point that you're banning bicycles, any American would say, you've lost the ball.