Monday, November 27, 2017

Always a Sucker for Analogies


One of these days I will outgrow my susceptibility to analogies. Until then I will be charmed by quotes like this, coming from Chris Whalen:

The idea of the Greenspan Put was that lower interest rates would cure the market’s woes. Unfortunately, the FOMC has since fallen into a pattern whereby longer periods of low or even zero interest rates are used to address yesterday’s errors, but this action also leads us into tomorrow’s financial excess. As one observer on Twitter noted in an exchange with Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari:
“Central Bankers are much like the US Forest Service of old. Always trying to manage ‘nature’ and put out the little brush fires of the capitalist system, while they seem incapable of recognizing they are the root cause of major conflagrations as a result.”




A traveler in the western states gets to experience a real forest fire every now and then.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Moral Quandary at the McDonald's Kiosk

This wasn't the first kiosk at McDonald's that I had ever seen. But the first time, it had been optional to use it. Rest assured that I ordered and paid the old-fashioned way.

But today I wasn't even given the choice. The young punk was loud and aggressive about it. I dutifully walked over to the kiosk. But then something deep-within began to express itself.  I starting digging in my heels. Of course he thought that a stupid old man just couldn't figure the thing out, so, before my moral protest had time to get properly organized, he came over, asked the usual questions, and pushed the appropriate buttons.

So why couldn't he have done all that at the cash register -- the old-fashioned way? His final question was, "Pay with your card here, or with cash?" I actually paused and started to get curt. But he assured me that paying cash was still an option, although we had to walk to a special cash register to do it. Why couldn't we have done that right from the beginning!?

Before the young punk came over to push the buttons for me, I was deciding whether I would submit to this nonsense, or throw up my hands, cuss out loud, and storm out of the McDonald's. Alas, now we will never know.

He hasn't live long enough in this old world of ours to realize that 95% of change is aimed at extracting more dollars from his wallet, in exchange for fewer goodies. Then it puffs up as progress, leaving you to dutifully submit, with no questions asked.

We can guess McDonald's motivations. Much of it is outside their control. They will certainly lose a lot of business with geezers, who were probably their least profitable customers, anyway. 
_______________________________________________________________

It all happened so fast that there was bound to be missed opportunities. At least I had time to appreciate that I was staring into the abyss of moral and cultural decay...


...and that once this threshold was crossed, there would be no going back.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Family Values in Utah

Towards the end of a mountain bike ride, when I am feeling my best, I saw this family enjoying a ride together in Utah. I don't think a vision of a family ever seemed more appealing.


The boy was even wilder and more spirited than the border collie. His parents were wise to let him go first so he wouldn't always be struggling to keep up with them, and becoming discouraged. The bike was too large for him, but no doubt he was looking forward to growing into it -- and as soon as possible!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Appreciating Stylishness

There are even mountain bikers who ride with a certain stylishness, although they are not as stylish as horsemen. There is no need to watch a video of myself on a bike -- it can simply be assumed that I ride with no stylishness whatsoever.

This topic interests me perhaps because an appreciation of stylishness has developed so late in life. It snuck up on me.  Blame the horse opera DVDs I watch at night as a sleeping pill. They make everybody and every horse look so glamorous.

A female rider always has long hair streaming behind her, blowing in the wind.  Male riders are prone to high jumping onto the horse, without bothering with the stirrups. Or they ride with their upper body canted at a slight angle, to make them look more jaunty and confident.

The limiting case of this is Gary Clarke ("Steve"), one of the stars of the first couple years of "The Virginian." He would jump up vertically from the ground, and somehow insert his boot into the stirrup on the way up. I would like to see a blooper reel of the times he missed. 

The saddles and horse blankets of the horses are always gorgeous. And sometimes it seems as though the mane and tail of the horse were actually wigs.

But there are other examples of unbearably delightful stylishness. The actresses wore spectacular "Victorian" costumes on "The Virginian." One guest star on the same show had the sort of figure that most male sexist pigs couldn't take their eyes off of. But an above-average pig might have noticed her unusual voice, or rather, vocal delivery.

Perhaps the explanation for this appreciation is that repeated watching of a show or movie causes the viewer to ignore the story, dialogue, or suspense. This results in a type of vacuum, which the viewer then fills with their imagination. And it moves onto other things.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Death of Europe

Long-suffering readers of this blog are used to me praising moldy old books, while ignoring or even denigrating modern books. I am happy to be proven wrong. I have finished reading 2/3 of "The Strange Death of Europe," by Douglas Murray.

It's an "anti-mass-immigration" book by an Englishman, or rather, a Euro-person located on the island of Great Britain. It is uniformily calm and rational throughout.

To give you a flavor of the book, 2/3 of the way through the book he might have hit the essence of the problem:
The problem is one that is easier to feel than it is to prove, but it runs something like this: that life in modern liberal democracies is to some extent thin or shallow and that life in modern Western Europe in particular has lost its sense of purpose.
That statement made quite an impact on me, in part because I was simultaneously reading a book by the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, "The Great Heresies." In his chapter on Islam, he reminded the reader how recent the European dominance of Islam was.

He wondered if the pendulum would swing back the other way, that is, towards the domination of Europe by Islam. It was fascinating to watch him think out-loud (in 1920's) about how this Islamic resurgence might happen. He never guessed that Europe would someday willingly surrender to Islam, as it now is.

I eagerly look forward to seeing how Murray's book ends. For my part, I see Europe's problem as basically that of Icarus, in the Greek myth. They flew so high in the age of Enlightenment. And yet the program was essentially negative: they destroyed Christianity, which is what had given Europe its identity. 

They never found anything to replace it with, other than the soul-less secular religions of Democracy (number-worship), Jacobin Equality (envy worship), Utilitarianism (comfort worship), Nationalism (state worship), and Socialism (bureaucracy worship). Daily life is protected against this existential angst by trivial busy-ness.

Quoting Murray again:
After all, how long can a society survive once it has unmoored itself from its founding source and drive?