Wednesday, 27 March 2013

08:10 – I see that Netflix streaming now has series 5 of Mad Men available. I’d almost forgotten we had that title in our queue. We watched series 4 on DVD in April 2011. I seem to remember that there was a delay in shooting series 5.

And I’ve just started re-reading Colleen McCullough’s First Man in Rome series, the first book of which centers on Gaius Marius and Sulla. It’s as good as I remember it. McCullough is a first-class historian, and this book, although fiction, reads like a serious history of Republican Rome. McCullough put more time and effort into just her glossary than most authors put into an entire novel.

I did the same calculations last night that I remember doing the first time I read this book, back when it was first published. McCullough is talking about the cursus honorum, the sequence of offices held by Romans on their ways to becoming consul. Sulla, who is high-born but poor, is dreaming of pursuing the cursus honorum, but has no hope of accumulating the wealth needed. To be a senator, he needs to prove to the censors that he has an income of at least one million sestertii per year, and even to become a knight he requires 400,000 sestertii per year. So I calculated that in today’s money. As it turns out, with the spot price of silver currently around $28/ounce, one sestertius is pretty close to one current US dollar. So, Republican Roman equites (knights) had incomes that would put them into today’s 1%, and Republican Roman senators would be today’s IRS millionaires.

When Barbara got home yesterday and found I’d unpacked those 11 boxes and put away their contents, she said I should have waited for her to help because she’s stronger than I am and in better shape. I scoffed, and pointed out that I could still bench-press 90 pounds. Aha!, she countered, she could bench-press 90 pounds. Aha!, I pointed out, 90 pounds is what a girl bench-presses. In reality, I could still bench-press guy weight, call it 250 pounds. Okay, I admit it. I don’t know for sure that I could still bench-press 250 pounds, but I suspect I could.

10:24 – Geez. Hard on the heels of demanding that Cyprus commit suicide in exchange for a $13 billion “bailout”, the eurocrats are now demanding a $15 billion increase in their budget for 2013. Not a budget of $15 billion, you understand. A budget increase of $15 billion.

Cameron and the Tories are livid, and Farage and the UKIP are whatever beyond livid is. This budget increase translates to UK taxpayers “contributing” about $2 billion more, or roughly $125 per UK family. Just what they need in this economy. What’s worse, Cameron has no national veto, because this budget increase can/will be passed by majority vote. It seems to me that it’s long past time for the UK to make a definitive statement by withdrawing entirely from the EU. The only benefit the UK receives from EU membership is the Common Market, and that would survive a UK withdrawal. Cameron has delayed much too long holding a referendum on UK membership in the EU because he knows a referendum would go heavily in favor of withdrawal. Despite the evidence, Cameron remains a committed europhile. If he continues on this course, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Nigel Farage and the UKIP go from a minority party to running things. Cameron and the Tories scoff at that idea, but I think they’re just whistling past the graveyard.