October 30, 2018

Capability's view

From the Long Gallery, Croome, Worcestershire


October 29, 2018

Just a few bad apples, troublemakers, malcontents, malingerers, hooligans...

COSTA: "The President said this morning the fake news media, the true enemy of the people, must stop. They have a responsibility to report the news accurately and fairly. Can you state for the record which outlets you and the President regard as the enemy of the people?"

SANDERS: "I'm not going to walk through a list but I think those individuals probably know who they are."

COSTA: "Would that include my outlet, which received pipe bombs last week?"

SANDERS: "I don't think it's necessarily specific to a broad generalization of a full outlet, at times, I think there's individuals that the President would be referencing."


A very modern crime

As I summer in Westphalia - not far from where this occurred - it is of more than passing interest to me.  Even in a sophisticated town like Münster you see BVB gear everywhere, people love that team.

The Get-Rich-Quick Scheme That Almost Killed a German Soccer Team 

According to investigators, Wenergold [the bomber] could have made as much as €570,000 ($607,933.50) in the unlikely event that BVB stock hit zero in the immediate aftermath of the attack. But his scheme didn’t pan out. By the time the German stock exchange opened the next day, April 12, the limited injuries had been widely reported and management had already announced a new date for the quarterfinal. BVB stock briefly dropped 2 percent, then more than recovered by the end of trading, leading Wenergold to sell most of his options the next day at a loss.


As I continue my global search for a soccer team to care about, BVB crops up in some of the screens.

Number one, pretty good logo:

Number two, pretty good team.  Five Thirty Eight has them #16, between Arsenal and Man U, but behind Ajax and Tottenham, both of which I like better. - (link)

Number three, pretty good league.  The Bundesliga is well-organized, crowds are well-behaved, and matches are generally safe except for when they are bombed by stock-jobbers. -

Number four, interesting history.  Wikipedia:  "The club was founded on 19 December 1909 by a group of young men unhappy with the Catholic church-sponsored Trinity Youth, where they played football under the stern and unsympathetic eye of the local parish priest. Father Dewald was blocked at the door when he tried to break up the organising meeting being held in a room of the local pub..."  Also, "[in the 1930s] Borussia's president was replaced when he refused to join the Nazi Party, and a couple of members who surreptitiously used the club's offices to produce anti-Nazi pamphlets were executed in the last days of the war." - (link)

And...the team is revitalized!  They're playing great!  And...uh-oh...  "After routing Nuremberg 7-0 on Sept. 26, Dortmund fell two goals behind Bayer Leverkusen in its next match before it turned the game around to win 4-2.  Marco Reus said he noticed his teammates weren't as focused as they should have been." - (link)

Um, no thanks, got one of those already.  Don't need another team having trouble getting its beflügeln on.  But we'll put you on the Wait List - if Tottenham falters I may be in touch.



October 27, 2018

Reminiscing with strangers

The Kinks’ ‘Village Green’ LP at 50: ‘That’s the Story of Our Lives’


On the limits of Empiricism

Stephen Hawing’s parting shot, delivered
Posthumously, and also en passant,
Reopened wounds and probably severed
Friendships over whether there’s a God or not.

Still with us, the modest Dawkins declaims
That faith in God creates all schism,
Ignoring contemporary critiques
Of overweening reductionism.

None question their science prerogative,
Their practical work is impeccable,
But I prefer advice less pejorative
Concerning matters ineffable.

Still some wave the lure, others take the bait:
Is God here or not? They’ll argue. We’ll wait.

October 26, 2018

A day at the office...

Hey look, the Warriors won.

  • Q:  Whoa, what happened in the fourth quarter?  A:  Well, it looks like they found the 'Beast Mode' button on Durant, who put up the finest quarter of his career.  The blow-by-blow, which involves everything short of lasers and atomic weapons, is here.
  • In the middle of this DeMarcus Cousins earned his first stat as a Warrior - an ejection as he sat on the bench in his suit.  Here is the word from DeMarcus on that:

  • Prior to the game entertainer Josh Duhamel criticized Draymond Green's behavior during  Fergie's infamous performance of the National Anthem last year, called him a bad name, said Draymond owed her an apology.  After the game the Warriors calmed the waters by addressing this with their trademark poise and professionalism:

Well, that settles that.  This is the greatest professional sports team that has ever existed.

I am sick of these motherfucking foreigners interfering in this motherfucking election

Why yes, British Petroleum, I am talking to you.
As of this writing, the No on 1631 campaign has raised $26.2 million. That is more money than has ever been marshaled for an initiative campaign, ever, in Washington history. (The previous record-holder was $22.45 million spent by opponents of a GMO food-labeling initiative in 2013.) 
And almost all of that money is coming from oil companies outside the state. According to the Public Disclosure Commission, donations and in-kind contributions have come from BP ($9.5 million), Valero, and, of course, Koch Industries.

Job creation!


October 25, 2018

A study in excellence

Well, isn't is just typical of the hype nowadays. Steph Curry, who is not even in the top 20 in three point shooting percentage this year, gets all the attention just because he scored 51 points against the Wizards last night. In three quarters. With 23 of those points coming in the first quarter...and, at one point, 14 points in two minutes. So everyone gets all excited:

Lost amid all the chatter about this show-boating is the quiet excellence of Shaun Livingston, who in the first three games of the season has played a total of 48 minutes, and attempted 15 field goals.  He has made nine of those, which, combined with four made free throws on four attempts gives 22 points on 15 shots.

As the table below proves, he and Curry are virtually the same player so far this season:

This is the sort of thing that the tv shows won't tell you about, but is well-understand by sophisticated students of the game.



October 24, 2018


October 23, 2018

Works for me

An exclusive look at Cory Booker’s plan to fight wealth inequality: give poor kids money


October 21, 2018

Well, I’m sure everyone’s just fine with that

Having been encouraged by clients to adopt a written code of conduct, the SQLite developers elected to govern their interactions with each other, with their clients, and with the larger SQLite user community in accordance with the "instruments of good works" from chapter 4 of The Rule of St. Benedict. This code of conduct has proven its mettle in thousands of diverse communities for over 1,500 years, and has served as a baseline for many civil law codes since the time of Charlemagne.
This rule is strict, and none are able to comply perfectly. Grace is readily granted for minor transgressions.


Word of the day: "wraithing"

In the end, the diminished Saruman is murdered, his throat cut, and Shippey notes that when he dies his spirit "dissolved into nothing". He identifies Saruman as the best example in the book of "wraithing", a distinctive 20th-century view of evil that he attributes to Tolkien in which individuals are "'eaten up inside' by devotion to some abstraction".  Referring to Saruman's demise, Kocher says that he is one example of the consistent theme of nothingness as the fate of evil throughout The Lord of the Rings.


October 20, 2018

Hey, who let in all these rich foreigners?

Canada discovers that when you make it really easy to launder money and buy land anonymously, lots of interesting people turn up.
The loopholes in British Columbia are as majestic as the mountain vistas. It’s perfectly legal, for example, to purchase the shares of a “bare trust,” whose sole asset is a home, rather than buying the property itself. Technically, the title never changes hands, allowing the buyer to avoid land-transfer taxes. Until September, it was also possible to buy a property using an anonymous corporation with a lawyer as its lone director, or to appoint a “nominee shareholder” who controlled this anonymous company—without disclosing the true ownership in either case. Meanwhile, lawyers in British Columbia, as in the rest of Canada, are exempt from key provisions of anti-money-laundering law, a standard that national lawyers’ associations went to the Supreme Court to protect, on grounds of attorney-client privilege.




A brief reminder

'There is no God,' says Stephen Hawking in final book (link)

Man, these guys never quit.  You win a couple of awards for your description of the physical plumbing of the universe, and now you're an expert on God.  Skipping the 'There is no Hawking, says God' jokes, this is a problem for two reasons.

First, and it pains me to have to repeat it, the magisteria do not overlap.  I just think Stephen Jay Gould settled this.  I was out in the street shouting it at strangers just now.  But still these science types persist.  (link)

Given that, perhaps another tack might be advisable.  The other prominent character who has taken the trouble to investigate these issues is the philosopher Jim Holt, who is very smart.  Perhaps he is too smart, as - due to his variety of interests - he has not staked out a clear brand for himself.  He needs to get glasses and a pipe or something.  Anyway, he has a 2012 New York Times piece on this:
Mr. Weinberg has attacked philosophical doctrines like “positivism” (which says that science should concern itself only with things that can actually be observed). But positivism happens to be a mantle in which Mr. Hawking proudly wraps himself; he has declared that he is “a positivist who believes that physical theories are just mathematical models we construct, and that it is meaningless to ask if they correspond to reality.” Is Mr. Hawking’s positivism the same positivism that Mr. Weinberg decries? That, one supposes, would be an issue for philosophical discussion. 
The physicist Sir Roger Penrose is certainly not a positivist. He is a self-avowed “Platonist,” since he believes (like Plato) that mathematical ideas have an objective existence. The disagreement between Mr. Hawking the positivist and Mr. Penrose the Platonist — a philosophical one! — has hard scientific consequences: because of it, they take radically opposed views of what is going on when a quantum measurement is made. Is one of them guilty of philosophical naïveté? Are they both?

I take physicists' pronouncements about God about as seriously as the late Bobby Fischer's opinions on race relations.  Philosophy is 4,000 years old.  People have thought about these things, some of them smarter than you.

  • Holt wrote a bestselling book called Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story, which I plan to read before taking up Tina Turner's new work on the Higgs boson.  (link)
  • Here is an interesting interview with John Updike that Holt did back in 2012.  (link)

October 19, 2018

Ok, that's a good name

From the Wikipedia article on the card game Faro:

The 18th century Dutch cavalry commander Casimir Abraham von Schlippenbach (1682 - 1755) also mentions the game (as Pharaon) in his memoirs. Apparently, he was able to win considerable sums of money with the game.

Old Casimir got around, with one Dutch source saying (translation by Google) "He fought along in the great European wars, but he also stood out in love offensives. His memoirs cover both activities."

October 18, 2018

A comment on the world of sport

"Picked to win" - the curse of the NBA.
The Golden Galacticos apprehend
no glory is won in preseason games,
or shouty debates on ESPN.

Now begins the brutal march:  to win all
or fail, Sydney or The Bush, joy or gloom.
They'll meet expectations - or else pratfall -
with adjudication some time next June.

Shall their names once more rise in lights:  Curry,
Durant, Thompson and Green?  Or will they fail
and (after interviews) sullenly hurry
away to Learjet and yacht, and set sail?

  Their effort had better be better than half,
  or "picked to win" will be their epitaph.

"Warriors top ESPN and Five Thirty Eight Projections" - link

DeMarcus Cousins rehab going well

He looks ready!

October 16, 2018

Excerpts from three essays on The Essay*

Edward Hoagland, 1976

“The best essayist of my generation.” - Updike

We sometimes hear that essays are an old-fashioned form, that so-and-so is “the last essayist,” but the facts of the marketplace argue quite otherwise.  Essays of nearly any kind are so much easier than short stories for a writer to sell, so many more see print, it’s strange that though two fine anthologies remain that publish the year’s best stories, no comparable collection exists for essays.  Such changes in the reading public’s taste aren’t always to the good, needless to say.  The art of telling stories predated even cave painting, surely; and if we ever find ourselves living in caves again, it (with painting and drumming) will be the only art left, after movies, novels, photography, essays, biography, and all the rest have gone down the drain – the art to build from.

E.B. White, 1977

I think some people find the essay the last refuge of the egoist, a much too self-conscious and self-serving form for their taste; they feel that it is presumptuous of a writer to assume that his little excursions or his small observations will interest the reader.  There is some justice in their complaint.  I have always been aware that I am by nature self-absorbed and egoistical; to write of myself to the extent I have done indicates a too-great attention to my own life, not enough to the lives of others.  I have worn many shirts, and not all of them have been a good fit.  But when I am discouraged or downcast I need only fling open the door of my closet, and there, hidden behind everything else, hangs the mantle of Michel de Montaigne, smelling slightly of camphor.

William Gass, 1982

"Though he has been taken to task in some critical quarters for linguistic overexuberance...three of the essay collections...have won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle award."  - Sven Birkerts

The essay is obviously the opposite of that awful object, “the article,” which, like items picked up in shops during one’s lunch hour, represents itself as the latest cleverness, a novel consequence of thought, skills, labor and free enterprise; but never as an activity – the process, the working, the wondering… [T]he article pretends that everything is clear, that its argument is unassailable, that there are no soggy patches, no illicit inferences, no illegitimate connections, it furnishes seals of approval and underwriters’ guarantees; its manners are starched, stuffy, it would wear a dress shirt to a barbecue, silk pajamas to the shower; it knows, with respect to every subject and point of view it is ever likely to entertain, what words to use, what forms to follow, what authorities to respect; it is the careful product of a professional, and therefore it is written as only writing can be written, even if, at various times, versions have been given a dry dull voice at a conference, because, spoken aloud, it still sounds like writing written down, writing written for its immediate burial, in a Journal.

. . . 

Articles are to be worn; they make up one’s dossier the way uniforms make up a wardrobe, and it is not known – not is it clear about uniforms either – whether the article has every contained anything of lasting value.

* All from the very fine Essayists on the Essay (link)

October 15, 2018

Well that's kind of harsh

In an unusually harsh critique from a public company CEO, Conforti mocked Sears for being a company hopelessly lost in another era.

Nobody should be surprised by the Sears bankruptcy "unless they own a few Zayre or E.J Korvette locations trapped in a space-time continuum where the Sansabelt clad relax on shag carpeting, illuminated by the warm glow of a lava lamp while they drink Tang and vodka and listen to The Moody Blues," Conforti said.


Meet my new screensaver:

It needed to be said


October 14, 2018

Linklater gets it

Now, let's get one of these for each of the other 49 states.

October 13, 2018

I still got it

My left toe is exceptionally austere.
A silent soldier, it holds its station
Among the forces of my toe nation,
Its bearing betrays neither pride nor fear.
Strong toe! Fair toe! Toe of might and justice!
Its attention to the required mission
Won’t flag, never suffers indecision,
Its grip has exceptional robustness.
My left toe wastes no time on conceptions:
Bluff and pragmatic in its approach,
It performs its mission beyond reproach,
And fulfils its tasks without exception.
But time, that thief, has quietly begun
To nag my bones and lead my ligaments
Into gradual deterioration.
Still my left toe holds its ground, with no sense
Of the ultimate capitulation,
My stout, gauche, podiatric last defense.

October 10, 2018

"This country is fundamentally sound."

From CNN today: "Some experts said this isn't a time to panic. "

(Others ran from the room screaming and putting on women's clothing so that they would be among the few allowed aboard the lifeboats.)


October 09, 2018

All brilliant, but particularly 1:21

October 07, 2018

There are some things Moneyball can't buy

October 06, 2018

A small serving of justice


The Iliad - In Our Time

This just in - (link)


  • The Trojan War, 2012 - (link)
  • The Bronze Age Collapse, 2016 (link)

October 04, 2018

From the one about the hat-box

Sleeping-cars are for the strange beings who love not the act of travelling. Them I should spurn even if I could not sleep a wink in an ordinary compartment. I would liefer forfeit sleep than the consciousness of travelling. But it happens that I, in an ordinary compartment, am blest both with the sleep and with the consciousness, all through the long night. To be asleep and to know that you are sleeping, and to know, too, that even as you sleep you are being borne away through darkness into distance—this, surely, is to go two better than Endymion.


Max on Whistler

I had been great enjoying Lopate's fine selection of Beerbohm's essays, The Prince of Minor Writers, but set it down half-finished a year or two ago.  Life delivered several bruising checks to my delicate ecosystem.  So, as Beerbohm's attention turned toward the situation of obscure corners of The Continent around World War I, mine turned to questions of condominium depreciation, advanced studies in adolescent emotional development, and the appraisal of unusually-shaped lots in Seldovia.

But I always come back to Beerbohm.  Every Christmas, of course, but also when traveling.  There is always a moment on a flight - from just before takeoff until we reach 10,000 feet - when we must sit very still and not enjoy ourselves.  Seats and tray tables must be in the upright position.  Computers must be turned off and stowed.  Even the mild entertainment of the demonstration of life preservers - coming yesterday immediately prior to overflying the Chihuahuan Desert - must come to an end; and  we all share this little moment of austerity.

But there is one small loophole - we are allowed to read a book, or alternatively, a small device such as a Kindle or iPad.  And on that device I have The Prince of Minor Writers.   It was open to a chapter entitled "Whistler's Writing", and who cares, I thought - Whistler was a painter and a talker, who gives a crap about his writing?

Max set me straight, explaining that Whistler is an "immortal" writer:
When I dub Whistler an immortal writer, I do but mean that so long as there are a few people interested in the subtler ramifications of English prose as an art-form, so long will there be a few constantly-recurring readers of The Gentle Art [of Making Enemies]. There are in England, at this moment, a few people to whom prose appeals as an art; but none of them, I think, has yet done justice to Whistler’s prose. None has taken it with the seriousness it deserves. I am not surprised. When a man can express himself through two media, people tend to take him lightly in his use of the medium to which he devotes the lesser time and energy, even though he use that medium not less admirably than the other, and even though they themselves care about it more than they care about the other. Perhaps this very preference in them creates a prejudice against the man who does not share it, and so makes them sceptical of his power...
[H]owever loudly I shall blow my trumpet, not many people will believe my message. For many years to come, it will be the fashion among literary critics to pooh-pooh Whistler, the writer, as an amateur. For Whistler was primarily a painter—not less than was Rossetti primarily a poet, and Disraeli a statesman. And he will not live down quicklier than they the taunt of amateurishness in his secondary art. Nevertheless, I will, for my own pleasure, blow the trumpet.
I grant you, Whistler was an amateur. But you do not dispose of a man by proving him to be an amateur. On the contrary, an amateur with real innate talent may do, must do, more exquisite work than he could if he were a professional. His very ignorance and tentativeness may be, must be, a means of especial grace. Not knowing “how to do things,” having no ready-made and ready-working apparatus, and being in constant fear of failure, he has to grope always in the recesses of his own soul for the best way to express his soul’s meaning. He has to shift for himself, and to do his very best. Consequently, his work has a more personal and fresher quality, and a more exquisite “finish,” than that of a professional, howsoever finely endowed. All of the much that we admire in Walter Pater’s prose comes of the lucky chance that he was an amateur, and never knew his business. Had Fate thrown him out of Oxford upon the world, the world would have been the richer for the prose of another John Addington Symonds, and would have forfeited Walter Pater’s prose. In other words, we should have lost a half-crown and found a shilling. Had Fate withdrawn from Whistler his vision for form and colour, leaving him only his taste for words and phrases and cadences, Whistler would have settled solidly down to the art of writing, and would have mastered it and, mastering it, have lost that especial quality which the Muse grants only to them who approach her timidly, bashfully, as suitors.

Well then. Point conceded.  But Max has barely begun.  Now he turns to Whistler the painter:
Compare him with other great modern painters. He was a child beside them. They, with sure science, solved roughly and readily problems of modelling and drawing and what not that he never dared to meddle with. It has often been said that his art was an art of evasion. But the reason of the evasion was reverence. He kept himself reverently at a distance. He knew how much he could not do, nor was he ever confident even of the things that he could do; and these things, therefore, he did superlatively well, having to grope for the means in the recesses of his soul. The particular quality of exquisiteness and freshness that gives to all his work, whether on canvas or on stone or on copper, a distinction from and above any contemporary work, and makes it dearer to our eyes and hearts, is a quality that came to him because he was an amateur, and stayed with him because he never ceased to be an amateur.
Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (ca. 1872-5)

There is an almost exact parallel between the two sides of his genius. Nothing could be more absurd than the general view of him as a masterly professional on the one side and a trifling amateur on the other. He was, certainly, a painter who wrote; but, by the slightest movement of Fate’s little finger, he might have been a writer who painted, and this essay have been written not by me from my standpoint, but by some painter, eager to suggest that Whistler’s painting was a quite serious thing.

Then Max says that thing I was saying about Shakespeare and Bronstein, but well:

Read any page of The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, and you will hear a voice in it, and see a face in it, and see gestures in it. And none of these is quite like any other known to you. It matters not that you never knew Whistler, never even set eyes on him. You see him and know him here. The voice drawls slowly, quickening to a kind of snap at the end of every sentence, and sometimes sometimes rising to a sudden screech of laughter; and, all the while, the fine fierce eyes of the talker are flashing out at you and his long nervous fingers are tracing extravagant arabesques in the air. No! you need never have seen Whistler to know what he was like. He projected through printed words the clean-cut image and clear-ringing echo of himself. He was a born writer, achieving perfection through pains which must have been infinite for that we see at first sight no trace of them at all.

Adam Gopnick appreciates, mis-appraises, and insults Max in various ways here. His piece is informative and irresponsible, presumptiously ascertaining without evidence that Max is Jewish (despite his denials), and gay-but-celibate, a fascinatingly modern, and utterly incoherent diagnosis.

So I don't sleep with all my friends?!  

Gopnick stumbles into barfight territory when he repeats the calumny that Beerbohm did nothing major.  As if Fabergé could only have fulfilled his potential if he had done a really big egg.  The hell with you Gopnick - it is all major, every last word of it.  And, had you read a bit further in "Whistler's Writing" Beerbohm would have cut you with his own pen:
An exquisite talent like Whistler’s, whether in painting or in writing, is always at its best on a small scale. On a large scale it strays and is distressed...[and] no man who can finely grasp a big theme can play exquisitely round a little one.

 The next essay is about a hat-box.

October 03, 2018

Sure, I played there...

(The Warriors are Livingston's 10th NBA team...)


What? There's a law requiring a *rational* explanation?

[The judge] said advocates for the immigrants were likely to prove that the administration had violated a federal law requiring the government to present a rational explanation for policy changes that cause hardship to individuals.


Should I not tell them I have a bombe?!

While boarding an aircraft today I was instructed, per usual, to remove my shoes, and all electronics (I'm a two bin man), and any toiletries, as well as - and this is new - any snacks.



The mind reels. There are so many questions, all of which I did not ask:
  • "I have a turkey dinner here - would that be considered a snack?"
  • "Would you say these crispy prosciutto baked brie bites with honey pears are a snack, or more of an appetizer?"
  • "Would this vial of the tears of my enemies considered a snack or a beverage?"

But even if we could clearly ascertain which comestibles are snacks, and which are Hors d'Oeuvres or Elevenses, or Removes...why exactly do they want to inspect it?

Clearly, some snacks are potentially dangerous, while others are hamless...I mean harmless.  Obviously, CHEETOS® Crunchy FLAMIN' HOT® Cheese Flavored Snacks would be considered a threat under any circumstances - probably shouldn't even take those on buses - and Doritos® Spicy Nacho Flavored Tortilla Chips ought to be classified as a munition, and probably are in Europe.

Innocent confection?  Or DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE-Y MURDER?

I did have snacks in my bag, put there by my wife.  I removed them as innocuously as possible, dreading the next question:  "Sir, did you pack these snacks yourself?"

To which I would have had to respond, "no, they were packed by my wife, who is a citizen of a foreign power with an Islamic-aligned government."

Ahmed, with these snacks we could RULE THE WORLD!

Fortunately the staff were inattentive, so I avoided detention and ruthless questioning...this time.  But the TSA's onto me.  Gotta be doubly careful from now on.  In Trump's America, your next TSA snack mistake...could be your last.

Snacks More Dangerous Than Flamin' Hot Cheetos - link

October 01, 2018

Droll or subtle? Hard to say exactly...