Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ending The Year With A Rainy Day

... and showing the California drought in two charts.

It's been a good start to the 2016-2017 rain year here in California. The heavy rain areas in the north are all over 150% of normal and here in SoCal, the most recent set of storms has put us in the 120-140% range. Still, we're in a drought, make no mistake.

I discovered that the California rain data I had used in the past to make charts has easy-to-access historical data, so I rewrote my code and harvested data from 2011-present for two cities, San Diego and Santa Rosa. I picked San Diego because I live here (yay!) and Santa Rosa because it's a heavy-rain location, averaging about 36" per year. As a reference, San Diego gets about 10" per year.

The two charts below tell the story, but you'll have to click on them to see. I'm still working out how to display charts. In this case, my code created a csv file which I imported into Excel where I made these dreadful charts. I want to watch the Alabama game, so I'm not going to work on improving them, you'll just have to make do. Sorry about that.

2013 was very dry and the years 2011, 2012 and 2014 were below average. 2015 was reasonable and it looks like 2016 will be above average, assuming the rain continues to be good.




Meanwhile, here in the Catican Compound, 2016 was not a very dry year and tonight will probably be no exception. I plan to buy a very nice double IPA to celebrate the New Year.

God bless you all, thanks for stopping by and here's to a great 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Isn't 'Happy Holidays' Cultural Appropriation?

For about 1,000 years and maybe more, my ancestors have used the term, "Christmas." It is part of my culture to wish you a "Merry Christmas." If I wish you, "Happy Holidays" instead, isn't that an act of cultural appropriation?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Big Ideas Will Numb You

At Andrew Klavan's suggestion, I'm currently listening to Second Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets. It's a peek into the world of the Russians after the fall of communism. It's written as a series of topic-based interviews with ordinary Russians about life right after and 5-10 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I was in Russia in 1998 and my impression was that everything worked, but just barely. It was run-down and ragged, but deliberately so. When Russians repaired things, their workmanship was so bad that it could only have been done purposefully. For the most part, they were grumpy, shiftless and unskilled and clearly felt that whatever it was that needed to be done, it was someone else's job. As an America, the whole thing was stunning. Second Hand Time fills in some of the gaps in my understanding.

P. J. O'Rourke has a good take on this in his comments about Big Ideas.
The 20th century was a test bed for big ideas—fascism, communism, the atomic bomb. Liberty was also a powerful abstraction in the 20th century. But liberty isn’t a big idea. It’s a lot of little ideas about what individuals want to say and do.
In a nutshell, that's the cultural difference between Americans and Russians, circa the late 1990s. Socialism is a big idea. Saturated in it for 70 years, the Russian psyche had been warped into thinking about everything through the lens of their Big Idea - Socialism. Americans take charge and solve problems in their lives while the Russians talked and talked and talked, mistaking words for accomplishments.

The examples from the book are legion. There are a ton of them discussing how in Soviet households, there were plenty of kitchen discussions of abstract ideas, but with the advent of Capitalism, it turned out that abstract ideas buttered no bread. The loss of their dorm-room-bull-session-as-accomplishment metric for success caused them tremendous pain. "Everything is about money now! In the good old days, we may not have had goods to buy, but ideas mattered!"

This makes me think of my progressive / Social Justice Warrior friends. They're always going on about some big idea or another - the White Patriarchy, for example, but there are precious few posts about woodworking, rebuilding a car or cooking something exotic. Instead there's one Robert Reich video after another and lots of "Resist Trump" nonsense. It's all Big Ideas in place of personal action.

Maybe that's why they'e having a hard time processing the ruins of Venezuela's socialism. It's too practical.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Peter Kreeft's "Before I Go"

... is an excellent idea, typically well-executed by the good professor.

It's also not me.

You can buy it here.
I've thought about this a great deal - writing a book, probably serialized on this blog, of things I want to share with our kids. Professor Kreeft did just that and for the same reasons I would, a partial curative for the imperfections of fatherhood. I'm going through it now, but it's a harder slog than I would have expected for something and someone so simpatico with my way of thinking.

First off, the good. It's beautifully written. Peter is an excellent wordsmith and this flows as well as anything he's ever done. It's charmingly random. Early in the book he mentions this and the chapters have the warmth of odd thoughts which popped into his head that he wanted to get down on paper. I love the humanity of it. Finally, the lessons are right on the mark for things I'd like to impart to my own kids.

So it's lovely, charming and right on the money. What's not to like?

Well, being a lover* is an intensely personal thing. Everyone has to do it in their own style. It can't be otherwise as the job saturates your life. You can't be someone you're not as a parent. It's not that I don't like the book, it's that it's not my style at all. Professor Kreeft's love is very earnest. Mine is more chaotic and messy. Sort of like this blog. Topics all over the place, wild mood swings, solemn vows taken and then dismissed a week later and so on.

The book is a terrific starting point, a reference for others, but it's not you. If writing isn't your thing you could do far worse than to simply read it and then gift it to your kids, but for me, it's too personal of a job to not go beyond that. Of course, Professor Kreeft actually did it and I've only pondered it, so it's got that going for it.

In any case, reading it has renewed my interest in starting a series of posts serializing my own lessons to my kids. If you stick around for them and I actually write them, I've no doubt that you'll think to yourself, "These are good in their own way, but their just not me."

* - Parenting is a love affair, just with a different purpose than being your wife or husband's lover.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mint vs. Your Bank

My wife retired a while back and when she did, we decided to track our finances a little more closely. I've used Mint before, but never very carefully. This time, I made the effort to have it access all the data I could. The end result has been less than hoped.

Ground rules: I just want to be able to tell at a glance how we're doing. We're not high rollers and our most expensive hobby is cooking at home. Outside of the steaks we buy at Costco and the occasional rack of lamb, we're pretty simple folk. Well, steaks, craft beer and good wines, but you get the idea. No fancy cars, jet skis, gambling trips or frequent wild vacations.

First off, every month, Mint tells me we're hosed. I've never had a month in the black. Every time, the thing informs me that our net income for the month is negative. When I first started using it, it frightened me. I figured it was just the timing of when I started and in a month or two, we'd be in the black. Nope. Every month, we're in the red.

Just when I figured we needed to sell our house in San Diego and move into a double wide out in Jamul, I checked the basic calculations our bank does when you ask for a summary. If you look at the last three months, a good period to pick as we're starting to get the hang of the smaller gross income, the bank says we're slightly in the black.

Personally, as the money we spend comes from the bank, I'd trust them a bit more than Mint.Mint does a good job categorizing our spending, but using it for the kind of gross monitoring that I really want to do is out of the question.

Not sure if any of you have used Mint, but if you have I'd like to hear what you think.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

The crack editorial staff at The Scratching Post would like to wish you all a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Worst Thing About Birthday Shopping For Your Wife

... is finding the right card.

My wife has a late-December birthday, so there are complications a-plenty right from the start, but we've found solutions to those over the years. No, the very worst thing, regardless of what time of year it is, is finding the right card.

I can usually find good ones for mom, dad, the boys, our daughter and friends, but for your wife it needs to be just right. This year, I spent more time and anxiety finding the card than just about everything else combined and I still don't like what I got.

I used to give blank cards where I could write my own sentiments, but for whatever reason, those are becoming harder and harder to find in stores and those you do find have clich├ęd photos - flowers, puppies, dolphins, rotifers, decaying leaves, buckets of spackle ...

OK, well, maybe a few of those aren't actually offered, but you get the idea.

A hypothetical rotifer birthday card for your wife: "To my little love-bug..."

Back in the day when I was still doing photography for this blog (I have no idea why I stopped, it just happened), I would make my own cards on our printer with a favorite photo as the cover. I never liked those either, as the card stock always seemed flimsy and unprofessional. Since the stock was 8 1/2 x 11, when folded, the cards were puny compared to store-bought cards.

I'm sure there are online artists who sell their work as cards and I ought to look them up and bookmark their sites, but to be perfectly honest, I usually forget and leave the card shopping until the last minute.

Grumble, grumble, grumble. (Leaves room, muttering to self about how things were so much better in the old days...)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Math Wins Again, Immigrant Terrorist Edition

The folks over at National Review are making predictable hay over the Islamist attack in Berlin wherein the refugee dude drove into a crowd, killing a bunch and injuring more bunches. I think this is unfair and they are missing the point.

Here's one tidbit.
The Daily Mail reports, “He was put on a danger list shortly after arriving in Germany in June last year, which meant authorities considered him prone to extreme violence. Yet just how much surveillance he was under remains unclear.” Wait, somebody can be on a “danger list, prone to extreme violence” and not under surveillance?
Here's another.
His terrorist activities aside, Amri has also been involved in narcotics trafficking, theft, and the torching of a school. That last felony occurred in Italy, where the “refugee” was sentenced to five years in prison before being welcomed into Deutschland. All that baggage, and still the Germans allowed him to remain. Reportedly, officials felt they could not deport him because he did not have a passport and the Tunisian government would not acknowledge him (despite the fact that the Tunisian government had convicted him in absentia of a violent robbery). That might explain a brief delay in repatriating him; it does not explain a legal system that permits a suspect with a lengthy, violent criminal record to remain at liberty while he is suspected of plotting mass-murder attacks.
Emphasis in the original.

European (and American and Western in general) security forces are designed to deal with a relatively small percentage of criminals in our midst and assume a limited criminal support infrastructure. Our laws are designed to protect the citizen from unwarranted surveillance and apprehension by the police. For this reason it takes a lot of resources to follow any particular dude.

As the number of dudes needing surveillance and apprehension increases. if you want to maintain protection of the population, you need to do some combination of these two things.
  • Increase the size of your security forces and
  • Relax the rules under which they operate, giving them more freedom and your citizens less.
For example, if, under the current rules, Detective Heinrich Mueller can reasonably keep track of 5 jihadis, if you increase the number of jihadis he needs to track to 10 or 15, some of them are going to slip through his fingers. It's not that Detective Mueller is incompetent or the people managing the security forces are soft on terrorism, it's a simple matter of mathematics. Your rules set an upper limit on how many jihadis can be 'managed' per person on the force.

By importing 1,000,000 refugees to Germany alone and allowing Muslims to set up independent city-states within their countries, the Europeans have blown that math problem to bits.

Europe now has a choice: Double or triple the size of their security forces or relax the rules governing their security forces until Germany is less like cool and groovy West Germany and more like rigid police state East Germany.

Mark Steyn had a typically telling quote the other day.
“It’s amazing to me,” he added. “I think this is insane when I listen to people say ‘oh, we’re now going to have to have metal detectors in night clubs, security in nightclubs. Ok, so what happens next? They blow up a bakery, they blow up a little pastry shop, so then you’re gonna have to have metal detectors to get into the pastry shop?”
How many cops will you need to watch every store?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Holidays Are The Perfect Time For A Really Big Family Row

Christmas time can cause a great deal of stress in a household. Some might say that this is dangerous and can lead to unnecessary strife, but I say, take advantage of it! Use this time to really rip open those scabs and solve problems by yelling and fighting. The only way out is through!

Or maybe not. Maybe going through someone is a bad idea. Nah. They'll be really appreciative, once they pick themselves up off the ground. Trust me.

You know that fault your wife* has that drives you crazy? Focus on it! I mean, for the love of Saint Nick, she always uses the last bit of wrapping paper and when you need to wrap your presents, you're left with that awful pink flamingo paper you got as a gag for Aunt Betty's birthday, the one where she drank half a quart of cheap vodka and ended up in the backyard, screaming at the neighbors in the rain while her daughter went out and secretly got a tattoo of Juan Valdez and his burro on her backside while ...

Hmm. This might be getting too personal. Focus! I must focus!

So here's what I recommend. Focus is indeed the watch word. Focus like a laser on the way she uses the last bit of wrapping paper or the last bit of tape or likes to watch chick flicks or sappy Christmas movies or any of the other horrors she visits upon you. Above all, do not think about the following.

  • She's introduced you to wonderful new friends
  • She puts up with your sports fanaticisms
  • She is a good cook
  • She loves the kids
  • She gives to others with a natural grace
  • She's still beautiful to you after years of marriage, lovely as a summer day
  • She shares your passions and interests just because they're yours
  • She is willing to watch Watford vs. Sunderland with you on a Saturday morning
  • She goes to church with you
  • She encourages your good habits and makes you a better person
  • (fill in your own examples here)

Look, you could focus on the positive things and fall deeper in love with whoever it is we're talking about, or you could finally solve that one, little niggling problem that invalidates that whole list. I mean, we're talking wrapping paper here, man!

Choose wisely and next year, you won't have to worry about anyone else using your wrapping paper ever again.

* - Wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, cousin-once-removed-and-about-to-be-removed-again-this-time-by-the-cops, whatever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Analgesics To Addictions

I'm currently reading C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters with a friend of mine who is a recovered alcoholic. There's a chapter that deals with pleasures of the body and how Screwtape's nephew can use them to tempt his human into sin. It's not that pleasure is bad, it's when pleasure takes the place of legitimate joy that you get into trouble.

My friend talked about using alcohol as a pain killer and how you get trapped by it. When you're going through bad times, it's easy to have a drink or three or four to get through it. His bad times were worse than most by a good margin so his analgesic needs were substantial. He said what happened was that when the pain went away, the booze was still there. Just as Screwtape said, the pain-relieving nature of pleasure had turned into a hunger for that pleasure that outlived the need.

My friend said that it's in the bad times when you need to fast more than ever. That shocked me, but it made sense. At one point in my own life, I'd been in a similar situation, but I escaped alcoholism by dumping several hundred dollars worth of top-shelf booze down the drain when I knew my bad times were pretty much over. I could see the dependency right around the corner, but was still in control enough to willingly dump the stuff. I was lucky*.

I wonder if fasting would have worked instead of intoxicants to survive the bad spell.

* - In retrospect, luck had nothing to do with it. I later experienced a miracle that I realize now tied into that moment. Someone was looking out for me. At some point on this blog, I'll have to share the story of my miracle, but that's something for another blog post.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dear Media - This Is Why You Lost

I know this is a week old or so, but it has stuck in my mind as the most tellingly surreal moment of an utterly surreal 2016. Hillary Clinton, a woman who lies when she doesn't have to, who lies about things that are easy to check, someone who can't stop lying to save the campaign that defines the purpose of her life, gave a speech on fake news and the news media lapped it up.


I can't think of anything more insane. That they bothered to run with this shows just how utterly out-of-touch they are, not just with Trump voters, but with reality itself. This is so weird that appropriate analogies enter into the realm of the cartoonish. Jeffrey Dahmer hosting a cooking show, carried without irony by one of the major networks? I don't know. It's so crazy that it doesn't work as a joke.

This isn't doubling down on failure, it's immersing yourself in it.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

If Morality Is Driven By Evolution, Why Not Government Or Economics

The Darwinian approach to morality is to claim that human notions of good and evil evolve over time using the same mechanisms as any standard physical attribute or mutation. In a previous post, I said this seemed like rubbish to me, but let's extend it a bit.


Short summary of previous post: The data doesn't look like the product of evolution. It oscillates all over the place. Further, the mechanisms don't make sense. If I get a willing coed back to my dorm room and I'm 19, I'm not thinking about making choices that are best for society, I'm thinking about making choices that are best for me right now.


Morality is loads of fun because it leads to discussions of sex and sex is what we really want to talk about*. However, if we're going to take evolution out into regions where it doesn't belong - culture and society - why not take it to politics and economics? If it's in society's best interests that you get married before having children and stay married after, isn't it also in society's best interests if you pursue policies that lead to wealth and freedom?

Isn't Venezuela a worse place to propagate the next generation of gene-carriers than Canada?

If evolution governed broader aspects of the species like these, wouldn't the data look, well, evolutionish? How do we keep getting socialist basket cases, oligarchic kleptocracies and theocratic loony bins?

It seems to me like the same rules that apply to Darwinian selection in the wild are at work both here and in the case of morality. People are doing what's right for them right now. Whether that's college kids hooking up or the Democratic National Committee engineering the candidacy of a hopelessly corrupt statist, bad decisions in a societal sense are good decisions for each person.

Evolution works when a preponderance of individual mutations go in a certain direction because they pay off. In these cases, the individual mutations pay off for the individuals, but not for society.

Finally, my understanding of science is that you start with the data and make hypotheses about it. You don't start with the hypotheses and mold the data to fit it. I can't imagine that anyone looking at human morality, government or economics data over, say, 1,000 years, would come to a conclusion that there was some kind of evolutionary activity taking place.

Sorry, Francis. This didn't work out so well. It would have, had evolution governed human behavior, but it doesn't.
* - This is why we focus on mentally ill men who think they're women instead of mentally ill men who think they're Napoleon.

Friday, December 16, 2016

This Will Get About 30 Seconds Of Airtime

From today's WSJ:
Russian hackers tried to penetrate the computer networks of the Republican National Committee, using the same techniques that allowed them to infiltrate its Democratic counterpart, according to U.S. officials who have been briefed on the attempted intrusion.

But the intruders failed to get past security defenses on the RNC’s computer networks, the officials said. And people close to the investigation said it indicated a less aggressive and much less persistent effort by Russian intelligence to hack the Republican group than the Democratic National Committee. Only a single email account linked to a long-departed RNC staffer was targeted.
So we can cross Russian hacking off the list of reasons that Hillary lost. A better description would be incompetent security on the DNC network.

Oh yeah, CNN is going wall-to-wall with this one.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I Love Tillerson As Secretary Of State

What a great pick! Dude was CEO of Exxon? Perfect! He knows how to run a massive organization, manage a big budget and negotiate with foreign powers to accomplish important things.

To those who think this is a bad pick, compare him to the last two Secretaries of State - Kerry and Clinton. Neither of them had a smidgen of his experience or credentials. What had they ever done or accomplished?

As for Tillerson lining his own pockets as Secretary of State, what do you think Clinton was doing? That wasn't a concern, it really happened to the tune of 9 figures.

Great pick. In fact, all in all, I've been really happy with almost all of Trump's choices. I'm really optimistic about the next four years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Hookup Culture Is Ruining Everything

... everything in the year 1485, that is.

From Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, Book XVII, Chapter XXV:
But nowadays men can not love seven night but they must have all their desires: that love may not endure by reason; for where they be soon accorded and hasty heat, soon it cooleth. Right so fareth love nowadays, soon hot soon cold: this is no stability. But the old love was not so; men and women could love together seven years, and no licours lusts were between them, and then was love, truth, and faithfulness: and lo, in like wise was used love in King Arthur's days.
Look at that! Love is now* nothing more than slaking one's lust. I blame the Millenials.

* - Well, maybe not now, per se. More like 530 years ago. Still, I blame the Millenials.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ukraine

Reading a news article today about Ukraine, wherein it was noted that the two largest armies in Europe - Ukraine's and Russia's - where on the brink of war, I wondered just why it mattered to us. That's a long way away from San Diego and much closer to Warsaw, Berlin, London, Paris, etc. Unless NATO is European for "Let the Yanks take care of everything while we sip espresso at a cafe," it sure looks like a problem for someone else to solve.

Maybe if the Germans hadn't killed off Fritz and the boys back in the 1940s chasing some idiotic dream of making the world safe for whitey, his grandkids could stand up to Ivan on their own.
I'm sure there's some complicated reason why Ukraine is important and stopping Putin's imperial ambitions is a good thing, but it looks like a much better thing for those closer to the action. To borrow from Bismark, "The whole of Ukraine is not worth the bones of a single Kentucky infantryman."

Especially if it's not worth the bones of a single Munich tanker.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fake News

For the life of me, I can't figure out what the big deal is. No matter the source, you always have to view the news with a certain amount of skepticism. When I used to watch 60 Minutes, every time they covered something I knew about, I could tell their stories were heavily slanted and full of misinformation if not outright lies.

So what? It happens all the time for a variety of reasons. Above a certain age or a certain level of experience-based sophistication, you stop being a credulous nitwit, sitting slack-jawed and ingesting every morsel you read or see like it was God's own truth.

In any case, what difference would any of this have made in the election? How many votes did this sway?


When you get right down to it, there are two underlying messages being peddled with the fake news hysteria.
  1. The news media is honest and forthright and professional and unbiased.
  2. You're such a moron that you can't differentiate between the National Enquirer and PBS.
The solution is obvious. You need the government to protect you from your own gullible stupidity.

Right.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kipling On Laziness

Is it really laziness? You be the judge.
We went back to his study, a large square room lined with bookcases on two sides. There were his desk, his chair, an enormous wastebasket and his pens - the kind you dip in ink. At right angles to the fireplace was a small sofa. "I lie there," he said with a smile, "and wait for my daemon to tell me what to do."

"Daemon?"

He shrugged. "Intuition. Subconscious. Whatever you want to call it."

"Can you always hear him?"

"No," he said slowly. "Not always. But I learned long ago that it's best to wait until you do. When our daemon says nothing, he usually means no."
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go lay on my couch.

H/T: Arthur Gordon. I highly recommend the book you'll find at that link.

Evolution Produces Moral Notions Of Good And Evil

... seems to be utter nonsense to me. There are so many reasons for this that I'm not sure where to start.

First off, evolution is a monotonic process. That is, the tiger is a superior predator compared to its ancestor. If it weren't, the tiger would have gone extinct and its predecessor would still be around. Human morality, that set of culturally agreed upon norms of good and evil, comes in ebbs and flows. In the time of Caligula, everything was up for grabs. In the Victorian era, they weren't. In Weimar Germany they were. In 1950s America they weren't. Now they are. That doesn't sound like evolution to me.

Second, how would evolutionary morality actually work? Males of all species are designed to try to mate with as many females as possible in order to propagate their genes. Millenia of the ebbs and flows described above have shown that if you define good and evil from the point of view of the children, then traditional marriage is superior to hooking up. Is that where we are now? If morality was evolutionary, wouldn't you expect to see a gradual increase in marriage rates instead of this?

Illegitimacy rates in the US. Why would an inferior trait become more common? 
Dittos for murder rates and other crimes. They're antisocial behaviors and they go up and down over time.

The illegitimacy rate shows more than just an inferior trait taking hold, it shows how the conflict between individual evolutionary behaviors and collective evolutionary behaviors is resolved in favor of the individual. The rise in illegitimacy is exactly what you'd expect to see in a culture where, for a variety of reasons, males were no longer forced to marry the mothers of their children. The species and community have no real sway at all, it's the primal instincts of the male that win out.

In short, morality doesn't behave at all like an evolutionary trait. Height, on the other hand, does.

This is how you'd expect an evolutionary trait to behave.
Conclusion: Can materialism and Darwinism produce standard notions of good and evil through evolution? I don't see it.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Argentine Ants And Native Americans

Argentine ants are a serious invasive pest in San Diego. They're aggressive, but only to other species. Within their own species, they'll cooperate, even between nests. This means that, when brought to war, the local ants aren't one nest vs. one nest, it's one nest vs. every Argentine ant in the world.

It hasn't worked out so well for the locals.
This is evolution. The Argentines are superior competitors and they are doing away with the local ant population. While sad, it's all part of the circle of life. Or is it the dead end of life? Whatever.

If we're simply physical beings, if we're just another species of animals, then what about this: The Spanish were superior competitors to the American Indians. It's sad that the Indians got stomped, but isn't that the way of evolution? Shouldn't we just shake our heads in momentary sadness and then get on with our lives?

Isn't the concern and guilt for the Indians an indication of an underlying moral foundation that has nothing to do with physics and chemistry and biology and evolution?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Going Topless, Day 1

... laptopless, that is.

I ditched the morning laptop session in favor of an (almost) pre-computer lifestyle. That meant coffee, feeding the animals and no laptop-web-surfing. It was great.

I spent a few minutes with the smartphone and hit the important sites to see what was what. The phone is a pretty terrible consumption device, so the temptation to make one more click is orders of magnitude less than with the laptop. Instead, I did something a friend of mine has been suggesting for about 2 years. I started a Novena.

This one, as a matter of fact.
Without the laptop beckoning me to more surfing, I was able to pray and meditate in a calm, peaceful fashion. In addition to prayer, I was able to think more deeply about things I had read and experienced lately without the feeling that I was missing out on something awesome on the Interweb Tubes.

On my flight back home from Virginia yesterday, I was listening to the Arthurian Legends, Le Morte D'Arthur. I'm a total fan and have a huge collection of different editions of the legends, probably in excess of 100 books. I've never experienced them the same way as I am now, listening to the story. In my time of peace this morning, a few things bubbled up out of my subconscious, things I might blog at a later date. In any case, I would never have thought them with the laptop open and me clicking around like a madman.

Lesson: Computers make everything else frantic even when you're not using them. Hurry! As soon as you get that done, you can open me up again and we'll hit the websites!

Laptops are jealous lovers.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Poopy Head University

Scenario: Your child is 3 years old. He comes to you, crying, and says, "Johnny just called me a poopy head!" He then proceeds to throw a fit of Olympic proportions.

As a good parent, the proper response would be to give him a safe space with toys and cushions while thoroughly researching the phrase 'poopy head' and hiring an expensive diversity therapist to intervene with the whole family. Family policies would change so that 'poopy head' would no longer be spoken or written by anyone. Any books on your bookshelf with either the word 'poopy' or the word 'head' would be immediately thrown away. The local police would be called in and advised that you will be calling them to the scene if anyone heard or read the phrase 'poopy head' ever again.

Yeah, that's sane.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Spitting Out The Pacifier

For about ten years now and maybe more, I've had the same morning routine. Get up, make coffee, feed the critters, turn on the laptop, surf the web and blog.

And then keep surfing the web. And surfing. And surfing.

Long after I've found the last interesting tidbit, I'm clicking around, reading and watching. I know exactly what I'm doing, too. It's obvious when the web has nothing more to offer you in the areas you pursue. I'm just sitting there, wasting time, putting off getting up and doing something more productive.

My MGB is still unwired, by the way.

I've got a book in my Audible library whose name I can't recall right now which posits convincingly that the Internet and Twitter and the rest rewires your brain so that you begin to struggle on tasks that require more than a moment's thought. As I listened to the book, I found it frighteningly true in my own life. I've intended to try this experiment for a while, but there was always one more blog to read or one more YouTube video to watch.

So here's the deal. The laptop doesn't get turned on in the morning. For the rest of December, I'm getting up, making coffee, feeding the critters and then ... who knows? Being the unreformed blogger, I'll still take notes and probably sit down to write up the day's thoughts at some point, but it may result in a day or two missed*.

Prediction: Things will get done, skills will be learned and books will get read.

And the sun will shine and birds will sing!
At least that's the plan.

* - Yeah, right. I'm absolutely OCD about this daily blogging thing by now.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Keep Trying

I love Adoration. I really love it. I don't go very often any more for a variety of reasons, but when I do, I'm usually able to open my mind and heart and as I pray the Rosary a mantra-like fashion, I am able to receive what I need.

We all fight the same sins throughout our lives. Whether it's greed or anger or drink or whatever, I'd strongly argue that you're born with certain weaknesses and that's that. I know I always go to Confession for the same things.

The last time I went to Adoration, engrossed in the latest chapter of my Sisyphean battle with xxx, God said to me, "It's OK. Just keep fighting." And so I did, with more success some days and less on others.

Because I've continued to fight, I've been open to finding any advantage I can in my battle. I recently experienced a series of unrelated epiphanies that might just make my fight a little easier.

In public talks, I like to say that having goals changes your life. Having goals makes you see the world in a different way. You're always on the alert for opportunities to further your goals. Fighting sin seems to be like that. Beating Sparky, even temporarily, is a goal. Because I kept fighting, I was able to assemble my epiphanies into something more powerful than any of them alone.

There, was that vague enough? Yeah. Pretty much. Keep fighting. That's the only thing I wanted to say today.

Well, that and God bless.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Trump And Taiwan

You know, if you wanted to negotiate some trade deals with the goons that run China, having Taiwan as a bargaining chip isn't such a bad thing. It's a very Trumpian move. You reset the relationship by taking a position wildly in your favor and then you negotiate down from there.

My man @BDaddyLiberator has been trying to tell me this for a long time, but I was too locked into conventional wisdom to see it.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Old Testament Grind

... would be a good name for a coffee.

I'm back to struggling my way through the Old Testament. I'm up to Chronicles wherein we learn thing like this.
The sons of Judah were: Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal. Reaiah, the son of Shobal, became the father of Jahath, and Jahath became the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the clans of the Zorathites. These were the sons of Hareph, the father of Etam: Jezreel, Ishma, and Idbash; their sister was named Hazzelelponi. Penuel was the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah. These were the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem. Ashhur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives, Helah and Naarah. Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, Hepher, the Temenites, and the Ahashtarites. These were the sons of Naarah.
I'm sure they were awesome people who could tell jokes just right where the timing of the punchline was impeccable to the point where you'd laugh so hard that coffee would come out of your nose and you weren't even drinking coffee at the time.

Having said that, reading about them is a real drag. Still, it must be done*.

What's hitting me as I let this cataract of unpronounceable names wash over me is how the only people that mattered in the Old Testament were the royalty and the priests / prophets. If you're some schlub tending his sheep, your fate is tied to whether or not the king does right in the sight of the Lord. If he does, your chances of being killed in battle go down. If he doesn't, get ready to drop your sword and get cut down by the Gorgomites as you flee.

In contrast, Jesus tells the shepherd that not only is he not a schlub, he's an equal to the king in the eyes of God. Your life, even if you listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd, fly a Confederate flag and hold improper views on gay marriage, matters.

Meanwhile, in the Koran, it's probably time to whack a few infidels. If you're an atheist, it's time to act superior and come up with more reasons why atheism didn't open the floodgates to Mao's industrial slaughter of the Chinese. If you're of the Eastern religions, I have no idea what you do because I'm not there yet in my reading. You probably drink some chai and do yoga. Whatever.

In any case, it looks to me like faith and belief systems matter. If you're even half-listening to what you say you believe in, the faith you chose is going to have an impact on you.

If you belong to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you get to tell your one joke over and over and over and over and over and over and over...
* - As a friend of mine said to me, "Why?" I think that encapsulates my motivations quite well.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Italy Is Not Saved

... no matter which way the vote goes on December 4.

On that day, Italians will decide if their government will raggle-fraggitz nomshapop or if it will fendergarb wilsenstache. Honestly, I have no clear idea what the referendum says and most Italians probably don't, either because the written version is huge. If you're unable to sleep, you can find a summary of it here.

If it passes, the current prime minister will stay in office. If it fails he will resign. Or maybe it's the other way around. It hardly matters as Italy changes its government once a year on average.

The problem isn't the prime minister, it's the people. For decades, they've voted for more government spending and more government regulations and now they've got an unsustainable debt, banks on the verge of collapse and a moribund economy. Until they come to grips with the realities of life - that someone has to pay for their handouts and all those regulations make business owners want to leave - nothing will change.

Over on ZeroHedge where every day is Black Friday (or Monday or Tuesday or whatever) and Total Economic Collapse is just a few hours away, they're predicting massive stock market crashes.

I guess. I'm not sure why our markets would have more than a brief downturn and then go back to normal. No one has been counting on anyone in Europe to be an engine of recovery so it hardly matters if the imported olive oil market falls to bits.

Here's my prediction. Whatever happens to the referendum, at some point in the future, the debts will seemingly kill off the banks and cause national crises in a variety of countries. Some might leave the EU and the EU might even fall apart. There will be a short spasm of panic and then the central banks will step in and print money, doling it out to the stricken financial institutions with the flimsiest of fig leaves in the form of demands for "change" which will take the form of yet more government regulations. Some places might even nationalize their banks.

The populace will see a reduced standard of living, but the overall governing philosophy of the culture - more government intervention is a good and necessary thing - won't change. The slow decay into socialism's entropic state of stagnation and failure will continue.

Paul Krugman and Robert Reich will write columns extolling Europe and talking about how we need to follow their example. The Mainstream Media will interview them extensively and Sage Academics with Impeccable Credentials will nod their heads in agreement.

Meanwhile, somewhere out in the wilds, the Gods of the Copybook Headings will be gearing up to return.

Yeah, a vote will fix that right up.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Why Nancy Pelosi Won

San Fran Nan is back as the Democrats leader in the House. After getting beat all over the board, from state houses to the presidency, the Democrats doubled down on calling the rest of racists, sexists, homophobes, islamophobes and all the rest. So why did they do it after it failed so badly in the election? Here's why.

The 2016 election by county.

The people doing the voting are the remaining Democrats, almost all of whom come from the progressive bubbles, as you can see on the map. As the party dwindles, the arch-progressives will dominate things more and more as they will be the only ones left.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

At least until the donors get fed up with it.