Sunday, 22 June 2014

10:22 – We spent the first day of summer doing our usual Saturday tasks. Today, more of the same.

Our neighbors down on the corner are finally ready to put their house on the market. Bill and Barbara bought another house some months ago and gradually moved in. For the last several months, they’ve been gradually moving more stuff out of their old home and getting it ready to go on the market. Bill says the sign goes up Monday. They’re asking $250,000, which may be a tad optimistic. The one across the street from them sold a month or two ago for $169,000, but it was in bad shape. Bill said they actually sold it for considerably less than they’d paid 10 years ago.

The new family across the street from Bill is finally moving in. He’s a professor of Chinese religious studies who formerly worked at Appalachian State University up in Boone, NC. He’s now employed by Wake Forest University. His wife is still up in Boone, getting their old house ready to sell. Bill says the guy is probably mid- to late-30’s, and seems nice enough. Bill did express some reservations. Apparently, the guy’s legs are completely covered with tattoos and his hair is bright purple.


47 thoughts on “Sunday, 22 June 2014”

  1. My own reservations would quickly turn to dismay; anyone who does does that sort of thing to themselves is clearly not in the right frame of mind. “Chinese religious history?” And has a professor job? Sure, why not; no reason a country’s own traditional language and history should be worth a piss-hole in the snow anymore.

    There’s a business we all should have invested in here; tattoo parlors. Seems no one is without one, and young guys are doing the full “sleeve” thing all the time now.

    Another beeyooteeful day here today on the bay; yard and house tasks continue.

  2. Attn OFD and others interested in history: Lars Brownworth, author of Lost to the West*, a history of the Byzantine empire, has two series of free podcasts.

    12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of the Byzantine Empire

    Norman Centuries (creation still in progress)

    I haven’t come anywhere near listening to all of them, just barely touched each series. However, Brownworth comes recommended by Billy Hollis, proprietor of the qando-dot-net blog**, and that’s enough of a recommendation for me.

    * No link because I didn’t want to get this comment held for moderation, but it’s easy to find on Amazon.

    ** Again, no link. However, qando’s posts tend to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, and if you can’t figure out the URL from the munged version above, it would profit you nothing to read that blog.

  3. By the way, what led me to those podcasts is a blog post by Billy Hollis: Fifty Books For a Well-Read Life. As is usual with these lists, there’s room for disagreement. As is not usual with these lists, he gives a good reason for each entry’s inclusion and, shockingly for these lists, he includes a good helping of science and technology and a bunch of other categories which are not “great works of English literature rah-rah”.

  4. “Apparently, the guy’s legs are completely covered with tattoos and his hair is bright purple.”

    Sounds like an anarcho-libertarian… 🙂

  5. Interesting. I’ve read nearly all of those on his recommended list and categories list, and quite a few of those on his not-recommended list. I generally agree with why he recommends against the latter, although I don’t consider Gibbons’ Decline and Fall to be especially difficult and I have read quite a few titles on quantum mechanics. He’s right though: if you don’t have the math he mentions (and I’d suggest considerably more), it’s pretty pointless to try to understand quantum mechanics on even a kindergarten level.

  6. Oh, QM is easy to explain to a non-math listener: “Weird things happen”.

    That’s virtually indistinguishable from an explanation of “it’s magic”, but that’s OK. I’m convinced that those who cannot reason quantitatively live in a world indistinguishable from the magical world, in which inexplicable things happen and the best one can hope for is to be able to influence them.

  7. re Jane Austin, I freely acknowledge her skill as a wordsmith. You can grab pretty much any sentence from any novel and admire the skill with which it was crafted.

    Acknowledging her skill is not the same as wanting to read it. I’ve tried repeatedly to read several of her novels. I can read a few pages, then push myself to read another page, then push myself to read another paragraph, then give up. Try again in a year or so. I’ve even tried jumping in to the middle of a book, in case it was just the beginning that was tedious and insipid. Nope.

  8. “Acknowledging her skill is not the same as wanting to read it.”

    I have the same problem, only in my case I suspect it’s because I have difficulty reading most women authors, with only a handful of exceptions over the course of half a century. I just don’t dig the way they write but can only put my finger on a couple of things; usually way long-winded, tedious, and overly concerned with the ‘interior life’ of their character/s, and very few with a decent sense of humor or any hint of self deprecation.

    Speaking from my little poetry hobby horse, all we have are Sappho and Emily Dickinson, and not much from either one. And just looking around at my toppling bookshelves, zero, zip, for major women writers, with the exception of Zora Neale Hurston. I also enjoyed Pat Barker’s World War One “Regeneration Trilogy,” and the various essays of Florence King and Camille Paglia. But that’s it.

    As for fifty books to read for a “well-read life,” I’d have to give that some thought. What is a well-read life? And for whom? An early 21st-C middle-aged, middle-class Westerner? My list would suck for most people because I agree with the late Clive Staples Lewis that one should attempt to read two or three old books for every new one. I’d define new ones as those published since, say, 1900.

    Off the top of my head I can only think of maybe ten new books from this past century or so that I’d put on my list, giving me a maximum of thirty old books. So my list would be “Forty Books to Read for Well-Read Contemporary Westerners.”

    I’ll work one up for laffs and post it here but you won’t see any science fiction on it. And it will mostly likely entirely be Western literature; once someone has some decent familiarity with that, then one can go ransack whatever one can scrounge up from the non-Western areas. Again, not much. I consider readability a big factor; sure, people put Jane Austen on their list, or a Shakespeare play, but will you actually sit there and read it and get into it? Shakespeare’s sonnets should be read aloud, as with almost all poetry, but his plays should be seen as they were meant to be seen and heard. And quite frankly, not all of them are a gas for modern audiences. I still can’t finish watching the Sir Anthony Hopkins/Jessica Lange production of “Titus” all the way through, and it was one of Shakey’s earliest plays and it’s a gore-fest. For the sake of spectacle, which is what the crowds wanted in London just then, having seen Marlowe’s stuff already.

    Oh dear, I’m rambling….back out to the yahd…

  9. BTW, we lost one of the great scifi writers in the USA last week, Daniels Keyes. I was in high school when I read “Flowers for Algernon” and it impressed me greatly then. I did not realize that was written in 1959. We are trying very much for a drug that improves the lives of the ADD kids (speed does not work in my opinion) and may be a lot closer to a wake up drug now. But, will we do a 50 year test first?
    http://www.locusmag.com/News/2014/06/daniel-keyes-1927-2014/

  10. Saturday morning the weather was too bad to play golf. I was bored with nothing to do. There was a knock on the door.

    I opened it to find a young, well-dressed man standing there who said: “Hello sir, I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.

    So I said, “Come in and sit down.”

    I offered him a fresh cup of coffee and asked, “What do you want to talk about?”

    He said, “Beats the hell out of me. Nobody ever let me in before.

  11. Speaking of which, Conrad Hackett from Pew Research tweets some pretty interesting stuff:

    those who believe the Bible is the ‘word of a god’ are steadily decreasing, while those who believe the Bible is a book of fables are increasing
    https://twitter.com/conradhackett/status/480817520840957952/photo/1

    ranking of countries with the highest percentage of religiously unaffiliated
    https://twitter.com/conradhackett/status/480832615428005889/photo/1

    We’re #3 when judged against total world population.

  12. Get back to me when sitting congressmen fail of re-election in droves. 1994 was a good start, but more is needed.

    Yes, I realize the election game is severely rigged but even with that, 1% unwilling turnover every two years does not comport with Congress every year having a record low approval.

  13. I have nearly zero confidence in Congress, the Executive branch, or SCOTUS, and very nearly zero in current mil-spec leadership.

    Mrs. OFD has turned away Witnesses and Mormons calling at our door; if I’d been here alone I would have also invited them in and offered refreshments. They do, however, tend to quail when they realize they’re visiting Roman Catholic believers. And they have no idea what they’d be up against here. With the wife they get the standard-issue Irish-American cradle Catholic, bad enough. With me they get a convert from the Anglican Communion who has studied medieval theology and philosophy, not only Christian, but also Jewish and Moslem of that time. Who has also studied the books on Catholicism and fundamentalism written and published over the past forty years.

    It would be fun, they said; convert a papist, they said; piece of cake, they said….

    The only more amusing event would be one of the newly minted English lit PhD’s coming to the door to discuss Theory.

    Lawnmower (a Troy-Bilt 230B w/Briggs & Stratton engine, walking/push from behind) would start and then die after a minute. Put a bit of oil in it and then it would start and spew white smoke. Let it sit overnight; it would not start at all. Let it sit again; it starts and runs but continuously blows clouds of white smoke, which we can’t have it doing in a bay-side village during summuh tourist season. Next step is to pull the spark plug and check it out; swap out the air cleaner; try draining and refilling oil again, but running outta options before taking it in to a small engine guy.

    And tomorrow is Monday and the days grow shorter…soon the leaves start turning again…

  14. Sounds like piston rings to me.

    I have a small yard at Tiny House, and got an electric. Happy not to have another infernal combustion engine to feed. The housing did crack in the second year, but was out of warranty. Does not seem to have affected operation, though.

  15. …1% unwilling turnover every two years does not comport with Congress every year having a record low approval.

    But it is everybody ELSE’s Congressman that’s at fault — not mine. Although we did get rid of Dick Lugar, Republican Senator here in Indiana by a whopping 61-39% in the primary. However, the victor went on to defeat at the hands of Dems in the general election.

  16. But Mourdock was a complete nutcase, even by Republican right standards. How can the pick such cranks?

  17. What was the name of the download manager that works with Youtube? Download Helper stopped working consistently a year or so back. It was mentioned here a few months ago but I forgot.

    Secondly, what version of Windows do people recommend for a new PC? Win 7 Pro, Win 8 or Win 8.1?

  18. Miles_Teg, I have “Flash and Video Download 1.57”, which works on most Youtube videos. (Works with Firefox 30.0 and Flash 11.2.202.something on Linux.)

  19. Everytime you switch PCs, you should seriously consider switching to a Linux distribution.
    If it weren’t for some serious showstoppers coming from my musical hobby, I’d be completely MS-free outside of the workplace.
    For those who really do not want to switch, I would recommend Win7. 8 ist still too immature for a MS product.

  20. Thanks Steve…

    Kurt, too many people here have tried Linux and run away, or are sticking with it but not liking it, or have endless time to play around. I’d like to but just don’t have the time. I have nearly 20 years experience with Windows, so at most Linux would be a hobby OS until I really get up to speed.

  21. Secondly, what version of Windows do people recommend for a new PC? Win 7 Pro, Win 8 or Win 8.1?

    I would personally go with Windows 8.1 along with the latest update. MS made a lot of changes and the desktop can now be used with a keyboard and mouse quite nicely. I still prefer W7 but like all MS OSes will eventually have support dropped. Win 8.1 will have support for much longer. You could argue that support for W7 will long exceed the lifespan of a current system so that last statement might be worthless.

    You can also install start menu replacements that bring the desktop almost back to what W7 presented.

    Definitely go with 64 bit for the OS regardless of W7 or W8.1 . Skip 64 bit Office and stay with 32 bit. Skip Office 2013 and stay with Office 2010 as the Office 2013 interface is butt ugly and sucks. Or go with Google docs or Libre Office. Compatibility with the world is not as good as Office but may enough to suit your needs.

  22. before taking it in to a small engine guy.

    Generally not worth the cost to repair. You may have a broken valve guide letting oil into the combustion chamber.

    You may want to consider one of the cordless electric mowers that Home Depot sells. Get an extra battery and you can do a fairly good size yard on a charge. No more gasoline or difficult starts. Also very quiet. My yard is way to large for an electric although my electric weed eater (40V Ryobi) does a very nice job on a single charge.

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ryobi-16-in-40-Volt-Lithium-ion-Cordless-Walk-Behind-Lawn-Mower-with-2-Battery-RY40112A/203362211

  23. Yeah, Mourdock was a nut. But so was Lugar in a different way. He could have singlehandedly prevented the Iraq war, but he’s a warmonger, like all the rest of that 75% of America that thinks the US has a military that is hot stuff.

    I use NetVideoHunter for downloads. No failures so far on anything.

    It has been a blowout 3 weeks and I was hardly at home, but I am basically switched to Linux Mint 17. Going to decommission the 8 year-old Asus laptop by the end of the week. Only have one lack at present: I need a Winamp audio compression plug-in for my voice-work at the radio project, and nothing in Linux supports Winamp plug-ins. With Windows, I can take just a microphone with me and do the work from anywhere, but without that, I have to use a bulky piece of rack hardware made by dbx. May install Win7 in a VM.

    Screen resolution seems slightly better in Win, for a better task bar experience there, but I can make do with Mint’s Cinnamon desktop. I wanted to make this switch years ago, but things are just now coming together in Mint in a way to make it painless. Moved email and all Firefox settings and history to Mint over the weekend, while recovering from 14 hour days (catching up on sleep). I don’t need no frickin’ Windows as my main OS anymore. Had only the Linux netbook with me during the last 3 weeks work ordeal, and it worked without a single hitch. Well, except for Hilton’s damned hoops to get connected to their ‘free’ wireless, which was a nightmare everywhere I stayed.

    My only other issue is that the older laptop was set to Germany as the locale. I learned early on that you cannot switch that without devastating results (like losing contacts and addresses in Outlook), so I just left it always on Germany. Now things like my spreadsheets do not work right, because items such as “yyyy” are “jjjj” in Germany.

  24. Being semi laid up for the last couple of weeks (planned) I had purchased a Chromebook to help out. It does an awful lot well on just it’s own. To cover the windows gap I installed the Chrome RDP app on the Win 7 desxktop at home. Works great. I also support many servers (mostly win 2008) and it accesses them too. Of course you do need wifi for most things. Can wifi tether to cell service if need be but the rdp becomes somewhat shaky I think due to cell signal droupout. At 2lbs, thin and light.

    BTW, say what you want about US healthcare, it’s expensive but really A1.

  25. Of course it is. That’s why the extremely rich come to the US whenever possible for health care, including those from Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and other first-world countries. A lot of them come to hospitals in the North Carolina Triad, Triangle, and Charlotte areas, and I’m sure it’s the same at top hospitals in other states.

  26. Teaching hospitals are tops no matter where they are located. Techniques are so refined these days, that problems are usually due to the patient, in one way or another, not the doctors or procedures.

    One of the big accounts we recently lost, was due to the law firm’s failure to win cases against doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. I could see how, in many cases, a jury would find the fault in the patient, who for one reason or another, did not mind the doc’s instructions, and suffered as a result. Insurance should have to pay for that?

  27. like all the rest of that 75% of America that thinks the US has a military that is hot stuff.

    Not sure what you mean, but we have the finest military in the world.

  28. We ought to, considering that we spend more on it than, what?, the next ten or twelve countries combined?

  29. We do indeed have the finest military in the world, but like any huge organization, it has serious flaws and problems, not least among its own leadership, and the issues it’s always had dealing with its supervision by civilian politicals, some of whom have themselves been veterans. The politicals tend to use our military for their excellent adventures overseas which are often very unsuccessful and cause us malign blowback that we don’t need.

    A lot of Murkans sit in front of the tee-vee and watch our guys blowing stuff up and think it’s a fucking video game but they’ve never had to see the results on the ground. They also rarely question the uses to which our military is put and they may soon change their thinking on that, or not; we’ll see. In the face of mass disorder, most folks will be happy as clams to have tanks rolling down the boulevard, I reckon.

  30. ‘Hot stuff’ meaning should be used to invade, repress, and attempt to control peoples all over the globe. Poor choice of words on my part. I recognize that there is no military in the world that exceeds ours, and I do hope it stays that way. But that military should be used only to defend our own soil, from our own soil. Any other use is, at the least, undemocratic in a country that ironically, wants to force democracy on everyone everywhere.

  31. ‘Hot stuff’ meaning should be used to invade, repress, and attempt to control peoples all over the globe.

    I agree. All we have to do is look at Iraq. A lot of good we did there and everywhere else trying to turn them to US democracy. Time to bring all troops home. Well said Mr. Chuck.

  32. But that military should be used only to defend our own soil, from our own soil.

    Or, rescue our citizens from the high seas or foreign lands from unjust actions. See Marines Corps hymn for more info.

  33. I agree. All we have to do is look at Iraq. A lot of good we did there and everywhere else trying to turn them to US democracy.

    Blasphemy! Just look at what the US military has accomplished – it has destabilized an entire region, and inspired a whole new generation of terrorists!

    Oh…you mean, that wasn’t the idea? Oops…

  34. Iran is telling the US to stay out of Iraq, that they should be allowed to sort things out for themselves.

    Good advice from the mullahs, for once.

    (But I’ll bet London to a brick that Iran will get involved up to its eyeballs helping their sectarian mates.)

  35. Our gargantuan military’s bureaucracy and inter-branch rivalry is why we could never have a military coup in the USA. 🙂

  36. Our gargantuan military’s bureaucracy and inter-branch rivalry is why we could never have a military coup in the USA.

    When you get above Division level in the Army, the clusterfark gets strong. I bounced around various light and heavy Divisions for most of my 20. Streamlined and basically worked the same where ever I went. My tour at the Pentagon was *interesting*. Perfumed Princes everywhere or wannabe’s.

  37. Do we still have real generals, like Norman Schwarzkopf, or are they all political generals now? Nowadays, I suspect Schwarzkopf would have been retired as a light colonel.

  38. When you hit O6/COL the politics becomes strong. I wish more of our flag officers would call bullshit when they go before congress. Tell it the way it is. No pulling punches and ass kissing. If someone like Bergdahl is a deserter, say so, don’t white wash it because of politics. There is no way the military doesn’t know this already.

  39. Plus they’re retiring or forcing out any decent O-6 and above anyway and getting legions of PC yes-men and yes-wimmenz. Just like all the “law enforcement” organizations.

    I like that phrase “betting London to a brick,” though. I’ll be stealing it; thanks MrGreg down in Oz. Just reading through a shorter history of London by A.N. Wilson having read the gargantuan city biography by Peter Ackroyd a couple of years ago, much more info in the latter than I wanted or needed to know.

  40. Do we still have real generals, like Norman Schwarzkopf, or are they all political generals now? Nowadays, I suspect Schwarzkopf would have been retired as a light colonel.

    General Honoré did a pretty decent job in New Orleans. Kicked some asses into gear and got the press to fall in love with him too.

    Unfortunately, Obama has fired dozens of commanding officers since taking office. General McChrystal probably got the most press when he was fired.

    It’s tough to find a general that can satisfactorily fight the same war on three fronts: On the ground, in the press, and in the Oval Office.

  41. One of my good friends from college hit the wall at O-5. BS in AE, MS in CS from the AF Institute of Technology (#1 in his class), PhD from the Naval Postgraduate School (#1 in his class) but he never flew anything outside of a Piper Cub in Flight Simulator, and that’s fatal in today’s USAF. So we good and loyal taxpayers, having invested quite a bit of money in his education, gave his career the heave ho at 20 years and forced him to go to the private sector, where he makes a lot more cash and gets a 50% pension from Uncle Sam. Sigh.

  42. “It’s tough to find a general that can satisfactorily fight the same war on three fronts: On the ground, in the press, and in the Oval Office.”

    Not even Dugout Doug could manage that trifecta.

  43. Not even Dugout Doug could manage that trifecta.

    MacArthur lost both the press and the white house, did he not? He should have stayed in Japan.

    Hey OFD, how is digging that outhouse in the backyard going?

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