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Showing posts from December, 2018

Do Novelists Write Better History than Historians?

More than once on this blog I have laughed at all the history books I read, and wondered what excuse there could be for it. There are so many dry facts to wade through -- so many meaningless details! That is even true of the excellent history book I am reading right now on the battle of Stalingrad, by Anthony Beevor. Just before reading Beevor I had read Vasily Grossman's novel of the battle of Stalingrad, "Life and Fate." Actually it was an overly thick novel, difficult to read with all those Russian names. But at one point, towards the end, the novelist described the German retreat, during their denouement. Corpses of men, dead horses, burned out farmhouses, mud... Suddenly the road and the ruined house were caught in the rays of the setting sun. The empty eye-sockets of the burnt-out building seemed to fill with frozen blood. This image literally took my breath away -- and leave it to a Russian writer to come up with something like this! What point is there i

America's Snowflake-in-Chief

It has been awhile since the alternative-media made a meme of politically-correct crybabies on college campuses. "Snowflakes" they were called. But things become passé very quickly these days. I enjoyed the criticism of college crybabies, and would like to see the 'snowflake' meme revived, in a different context. How about Wall Street? Wall Street and president Trump are acting like snowflakes about the mild steps taken by the Federal Reserve to normalize interest rates. An entire generation of investment professionals has grown up thinking that free interest is normal. Trump apparently thinks that the stock market is a proxy for the state of the "great" economy that America is supposed to have. And how do fake stock prices matter to the average American?

The Stock Market Still Believes in Santa Claus

I was quite amazed to read this in an "alternative" news-site, Zero Hedge. It was an article about rumors of Trump firing the head of the Federal Reserve: ...but terminating the Fed chair would likely send a shockwave across global financial markets, resulting in a collapse of risk asset prices and undermining investor confidence in the central bank’s ability to guide the economy without political interference.  You mean that there are still people on this planet who think that the Federal Reserve is free or was ever free from political pressure? If they believe that, they would believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Bogeyman, or the Second Coming. And yet people who believe in these things can be intelligent, well-educated, professionally competent, responsible, sane adults -- in most other things!  Remember when General Colin Powell was talked about as a potential presidential candidate, and some people would say, "Yea, thatz wut dis cuntree needs

The Local Librarian as a Travel Wonder

From time to time I write about the special magic that sparkles the reading of the right book at the right place. At the moment I am in Quartzsite, AZ, reading William Rosen's "The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention." It came from ransacking the history section of the local public library. The world changed so much after the Industrial Revolution. We seldom think about it, except in the negative sense that Romanticists and modern Environmentalists like.  For instance I knew next to nothing about the steam engine or James Watt. The whole topic never seemed interesting before. But Rosen's book does not wallow in microscopic details about the steam engine itself. Instead, he uses it as the focal point for big picture trends that preceded it. For instance, he talks about coal mining, another topic that a spoiled and jaded modern never gives a thought to. But there is something about camping on the rocky desert ground of

Non-Binary Approach to Politics on Blogs

There seems to be an unwritten rule in the blogosphere that you shouldn't discuss politics. Sometimes the rule is made more explicit by someone who acts like they are being idealistic. Actually though, they are probably more worried about scaring off eyeballs -- monetization of their Yoob Toob channel or their blog is really their main concern. But in a way I agree with them. There is no point in offending people-who-disagree-with-you while boring people-who-agree.  So we keep our mouths shut, and the System grinds along, unimpeded. This isn't 'idealism.' It is subservience and defeatism. What we need is a third choice. Consider the current trend of the moment: non-binary attitudes toward sex. What if we were to take a non-binary approach to politics? One such approach in a travel blog is to see juxtapositions along the road that surprise you -- they might even be bizarre. But if the juxtaposition is thought-provoking, it is good for something, especially if the

A Puny Consumer Rebels

What a quixotic mission it can be to not submit to consumer trends! I have written about the insanity in the automobile/pickup truck industry, and how ridiculous their products are. I "solved" that problem by accepting defeat, that is, by losing interest.  Another example is the "combo" meal at a fast food restaurant. Again, they are oversized, and their price belies the 1.8% inflation that the government tells us we have. I solved that problem by deciding that french fries are not sacred, and therefore it is advantageous to buy from the Dollar Menu. The final example is the BIG flat television. This is hardly the electrical appliance needed for a small camper -- of course I've seen people put ridiculously large TVs in RVs as small as vans! In addition to physical compactness, a small television uses less electricity. Of course you don't need a television at all if you don't watch broadcast signals. (I watch old television westerns in DVD disc