We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, March 29. 2017
I'm no gourmet, and I'm not hip enough to even say I'm a 'foodie'. I dabble in cooking occasionally. I'm somewhat adept at certain types of chicken, and while grilling is supposedly the domain of the more masculine of the species (remember, gender is an attitude now), I'm only passable as a grillmeister. I can follow directions well enough, so if required I am actually capable of whipping up a decent meal from time to time.
My wife has a ton of cookbooks on our shelves, so I'm never at a loss for opportunity or options. She is also a fan of cooking shows, and I've learned to enjoy the dulcet tones of such celebrity chefs as Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis, and Ina Garten. I couldn't really tell you what they actually cook or how they do it, but I know who they are and what they do.
Enough is enough, though. We don't need 200,000,000 cookbooks, we don't need new tools, shows and gadgets to get the best meal. By now, the right way to boil water has been fleshed out, and we should be able to provide sufficiently for ourselves. Shouldn't we?
Continue reading "Celebrity Cookbook Hell"
Sunday, March 19. 2017
I will recommend, for anyone who can, visit Cuba now. On one level, it will provide a great appreciation for everything we have in the US. In addition, the food is so good (and inexpensive) you will wonder how they got so many great chefs. Finally, the culture is unparalleled, an amazing amalgamation of past and present.
Visiting Cuba provoked many thoughts about what could have been, as well as visions of the past. I will post as many as I can, but I will start with a simple travelogue. It’s the best way to introduce the country, and the city of Havana, without provoking much commentary about such a wonderful destination. Still untouched in many ways, clearly this will not be the same country in 10, and possibly even 5, years.
There is a raw beauty to Cuba. It is almost impossible to not fall in love with this country upon arrival. The people are friendly, the climate nearly perfect, while the cityscapes of Havana and surrounding country retain an air of the not-so-distant past. Bt, it is a crumbling place, the majority of exteriors falling apart, much of the infrastructure antiquated and in need of update, and modern services and conveniences (for locals who can’t afford to pay) subpar. Even tourist spots are in the process of updating. They are improving rapidly. Often, entering a building you are convinced must be a hole-in-the-wall, only to find a modern and beautiful interior with wonderful food and music.
Continue reading "Havana Dreaming"
Wednesday, March 1. 2017
“There's as much crookedness as you want to find. There was something Abraham Lincoln said - he'd rather trust and be disappointed than distrust and be miserable all the time. Maybe I trusted too much.”~John Wooden
Tuesday, January 31. 2017
My poker night is this Friday, and I look forward to it each month. 50 people, food, libations, conversation and competition. There are afew heated moments. Not many, mostly good fun and the chance to take your friends' and neighbors' money. I have more or less broken even in this game. I keep pretty good records. We play a cash game for an hour, then a tournament, followed by cash games as people are bounced.
It's a game of incomplete information. Computers are good at games that have lots of available information, not games lacking in it. But poker often has more information available than we care to admit. Betting trends are like prices. They give signals. Being able to sort through the signals and recognize where value lies is a skill. But humans also think and behave in linear ways. If you have a non-random betting approach, a computer should be able to sniff it out.
A computer beating a human at Texas Hold 'em, even a limited table such as this, is quite a feat. The fact I happen to know the inventor of the computer makes it doubly interesting for me. He presented some of his yield optimization techniques to our team several times. I have suggested to our team we bring him back in.
Thursday, January 26. 2017
Entire group of senior State Department administrators resign.
Not yet clear why. Largest single loss of institutional memory and experience on record?
My uncle spent 30 years working at HUD under many administrations. He retired in the late 90's because the politicization under Clinton was too much to bear. I'm sure in the years since, all departments have gotten worse in this regard. It may be that these losses are no big deal. I'm less certain. My uncle was always a very strong believer in institutional memory. Not that everyone had to be retained, but you always need to maintain a level of management that understands the history and the operational capacity. That is why I believe the only way this is good is if the department is reduced dramatically. Which can happen, as there are well over 20 senior positions now open.
From a sheer "Wow, that's pretty big" point-of-view, I'm stunned at the turn of events. When you drain a swamp, you'd better be sure you know what is replacing the ecosystem. I am not confident in Trump, while I know many here are. At best, he remains 50/50 with me.
The article itself was the first I'd read shortly after this occurred. Many have since followed. I didn't post it to indicate support for the author's position, just that it was breaking news and rather surprising. A friend contacted me last night asking what I thought of all this. I replied "I still don't know. I don't trust the press, I don't trust Trump, I don't trust politicians in general, so I'm left trying to read whatever erratic signals continue to emanate from liars everywhere."
Sunday, January 22. 2017
It is rather interesting to think about some comments I've seen regarding the march. One, in particular, I've seen many times. "You just don't get it, and since you don't, my explaining it won't help you understand, and so you'll never understand." This was said several times to a friend of mine, and despite his request to be enlightened, nobody was willing to do it. I filled him in on the nature of why the women were marching (although I find it a confused message). However, the reaction to him was an indicator of why the Hillary forces lost the election to begin with. In a nutshell, we're all stupid and they don't want to take the time to explain anything - we just have to trust their superior instincts. It's also clear by now the only reason to vote for Hillary was 'she's a woman'. Which wasn't enough of a reason for me, any more than voting for Obama 'because he'll transform race relations' was a reason (given the state of race relations after his transformative role, one can only imagine how awful gender relations may have been after Hillary!).
I had another person say to me, "Your privilege is showing." Privilege is a word which drives me insane. We all have crosses to bear, burdens in life which must be dealt with, and biases to fight. I've seen, and supported the cases of plaintiffs suing for, sexual discrimination. I've also experienced age discrimination. I'm aware of the discrimination which used to take place against my Irish ancestors. Suggesting I have privilege implies I am enjoying the benefits of something I didn't earn. I earn it every day I go to work and deal with the nonsensical idiocy of liberal Progressives who have lost their bearings over this election. Remaining quiet during their diatribes is difficult, but could cost me my job. There's no privilege in political discrimination, and that takes place every day. Still, I'm not marching for laws, or attention, or anything else to protect myself or my rights to believe what I want. My 'privilege' regarding gender ends the minute women start having their conversations which exclude men (see the paragraph above).
Continue reading "A Few Thoughts on Yesterday"
Thursday, January 19. 2017
I focus on the fact, in general, our lives are improving. Today, most of us hold more computing, audio and video power in our pocket, at a reasonable cost, and this device can help us control our houses, cars, and money with a few swipes. We text or call someone and are sure they got a message. Our diets are vastly improved, our choice of diets extensive, and we have more options regarding the quality and types of foods. When I was in my teens, few people had flown in a plane. Today, most have. I was the first of my friends to visit Europe in 1976. Today, most of them have kids who have vacationed or studied abroad.
Continue reading "The Most Dangerous Time to Live"
Wednesday, January 18. 2017
Complexity Theory fascinates me. I have always enjoyed math and physics as an avocation. Physics was, originally, my college major, but I soured on it in my second year. Classes were very cut-throat, and I didn't have that mentality. Today it's a fun hobby. Years ago, I attended a conference sponsored by the Santa Fe Institute, which sought to apply the principles of Complexity to a variety of industries. I managed to convince my firm to send me, and it was one of the more interesting conferences I'd ever attended.
I've wanted to apply several ideas I picked up there to business. Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity. I'd be interested to see what this recent discovery on the math of innovation can yield.
I'm sure there are some great applications of this concept. I haven't thought much about it, having just read the article. I can, however, see some bad applications. If innovation can be quantified mathematically some people may be lead to believe you can arbitrarily 'create' innovation. It's pretty clear the math doesn't work that way, since innovation seems (even in the equation) to spring more or less organically and its benefits are related more to acceptance rather than application.
Thursday, January 12. 2017
I am not delving into the psychology of empathy. I'm not trained in it, and I don't know enough to make a statement from that position. I can, however, write about its effect on my own experiences, from my own therapy, and from a recent event which sparked a challenging debate.
That event was Meryl Streep's Golden Globes acceptance speech. I watched about 5 minutes of it, then left. Because I can, and I chose to. While I agreed with a bit, there was far more there than I was interested in hearing. To begin with, I don't watch award shows, I happened to switch it on at just that moment and thought I'd like to see her receive her award. If I am going to watch an awards show, I want to be entertained, not lectured. I turned it off. I did read the text the next day when the brouhaha around it began. Mainly because New York, the center of 'if you disagreed with her, you're insane and wrong and must have something wrong with you' began to show its ugliness. In other words, "Hillary lost and WE STILL HAVE NO CLUE HOW AND WHY IT HAPPENED SO WE MUST LASH OUT!" Meryl was offered a moment to lash out, and she did. Following some kind of empathic tribal code, her supporters rushed to demonize anyone who didn't 'feel' the same way Meryl did.
Continue reading "Has Lack of Empathy Been Pathologized?"
Wednesday, January 4. 2017
I received a link this morning to an article which suggests readers should more or less 'be afraid' of a certain group of technology companies. Over the course of time, many firms have acted in an amoral or immoral fashion. These tech firms have all probably also behaved poorly at various points. But the value they provide is significant. Fearing them is not sensible. There is good reason to not fear them. History indicates they are likely to all be undone or greatly diminished at some point in time. For most of the 1980s, the 'company' I was supposed to fear was the entire nation of Japan. For most of the 2000s, it's been China. Funny how Japan has been in a 20 year funk while China is just now dropping like a stone (apparently, Bitcoin prices are soaring over there - a sure sign of instability).
I consider articles like the above link to be a form of fake news, because it's an emotional appeal based on faulty logic. Articles of this nature appear every 10 years or so about various companies. Aside from China and Japan, I've read articles like this about GM, GE, Exxon, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Bank of America, Citibank, AT&T, Coca-Cola, ITT, and a host of other large firms who, in total, represented large and innovative firms at various points in time. They were firms which happened to benefit from temporary blips in demand and consumer behavior. Point is, almost all are still fairly large firms, but their dominance has diminished, our fear subsiding as our interests and spending patterns change.
In every case, consumer behaviors shifted, innovation moved in different directions, or smaller more competitive firms caught up with these firms. But in almost every case, the dominant positions they claimed were lost. I see the same thing happening with Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft at some point. In fact, Microsoft is no longer the dominant company it once was - it, too, was part of the group mentioned above back in the 90's as a potentially dangerous 'monopoly'. I guess being downgraded from 'monopoly' status is just as frightening as being part of a group of large firms which all compete with each other?
The idea that there is something new and different happening with these tech firms is misguided. Railroads dominated the economic scene for many decades in the 1800s, then oil companies, then car manufacturers. Each one was demonized in similar fashion. Tech offers greater opportunity than any of these firms did, as well as great potential for abuse. But you take the good with the bad, and the good usually outweighs the bad in an overwhelming fashion. I'll take my chances with these firms as opposed to any government oversight and regulation, thank you. Their fear and dislike of each other will keep them on a far more even keel than any pinhead politician.
Thursday, December 22. 2016
The year is winding down and I'm still struggling with the same nonsense I've been dealing with in the office since last August. It is getting worse for a few reasons. But I'm not making a case for the year ending badly. Instead, I've got a different point of view because through these months I've kept a generally positive attitude. After all, there is plenty to be grateful for, and I am looking forward to 2017.
I'll start with politics. This isn't something I'm grateful for, but I'm grateful for learning new ways to deal with the nonsense it represents. In part, I mean the election, though that's minor. I was unmoved by the outcome, but this is NYC and many are still having fits. My new VP decided to start sending a daily email update in which she shares articles and commentary on industry events. Every day includes the latest anti-Trump article. I understand she supported Clinton (I didn't support either major candidate), but I don't care for her bias infecting the workspace. It's unhealthy. I know many people in the office who voted for Trump and don't share her point of view. Neither me or any of them are in a position to say something.
Continue reading "Some Year-End Mental Housecleaning"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 19:12 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, December 5. 2016
Validation is always welcome. It's great to see someone pick up on your writing and think "I am glad I was able to add to the discussion." I believe this holds when a piece is shared on a site opposing what you've written. I'm not interested in an echo chamber.
Twenty months after writing this post on data, I received notification of its inclusion on another site. Upon reading, one might be inclined to believe I'm not a fan of data. Not true, I just don't put my full faith in everything as it is presented, or simply because it's presented, to me.
Since my post, 20 months have passed and nothing has changed. In fact the 2016 election was an example of organizations simply accepting data, becoming reliant on it, while few questioned its value. The data left me, and many others, inclined to believe Hillary would win. At the same time, it left me angry about how it was presented in a "See? We have more information and you don't know what's really going on" manner. The day of the election, however, the long lines I saw (in New York City) left me with the impression the data may not be telling the whole story. If Hillary voters in a safe city were turning out in droves, I came to the conclusion turnout would be high across the board, and high turnout usually coincides with a desire for change. The data itself may not be 'wrong' but whoever was using it was doing so improperly.
Continue reading "Data and Risk"
Wednesday, November 16. 2016
Problem is...McSorley's is closed! You'd think, after all this time, of all the beer halls in NYC, McSorley's would get a pass, right? Nope. Could this be the end of McSorley's? Probably not, we're told. I certainly hope not.
Tuesday, August 30. 2016
Vienna was our base, as my sister and her family live there. The hockey tournament was in Prague. So, 5 days in Vienna, drive 3 hours and spend 5 days in Prague, then drive back and enjoy 2 final days in Vienna.
Vienna offers the ability to take boat/train/bus to Bratislava and Budapest for the day. It's proximity to Prague was obviously useful, and the road there allowed us to stop in Heldenberg to see the Spanish Riding School's summer stables, then stop in Telc for lunch (or Jihlava for lunch on the return).
These stops were very nice. Telc, in particular, was a great 3 hour stop. Highly recommend it to anyone passing through. Wonderful town square, beautifully restored. Make sure you climb to the top of the (very claustrophobic and designed for short people) bell tower. But Prague was our main goal. Not just for the hockey (which didn't work out well for our side), but take in one of the most wonderful cities in Europe.
Continue reading "What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Prague"
Monday, August 29. 2016
Lime's apartment building is almost next door to the Imperial Palace, in a fairly noteworthy section of the city. Yet you really wouldn't make the connection between reality and film if you weren't aware of its use, and I wasn't that first day. In fact, I wasn't clued in until my brother-in-law pointed it out to me on my last day in Vienna.
I didn't go to Vienna to do a tour of the film's locations, but trying to visit them will certainly give you a good understanding of the city and its history. It was filmed over some of the more interesting portions of town, and given the timing, the use of British and Soviet sectors helps keep that part of history alive and interesting. A tour of film locations is as good a way to see the city as any other.
To that end, there are some points of The Third Man worth addressing for modern viewers who aren't familiar with history. After all, Austria and its capital city, Vienna, were split by the Allies into zones of occupation and management much like Germany and Berlin. This continued for many years, ending in 1955 when secret negotiations between Austrian diplomats and the Soviets steered Austria into a neutral global position. (It may come as a surprise to some, but Vienna has tended to have a very cozy relationship with Socialism, and Communism in particular. While Austria has been a successful post-war 'Western' nation and economy, its capital city's cozy relationship with leftist politics are evident in location names (Friedrich-Engels Platz), tenement/museums (Karl-Marx-Hof, built in 1930), and even some of their monuments.) As a result, even though the war was long over, the military plays a primary role in the story.
Most of the film takes place in the British zone, which is where Lime's apartment is located. His address is 15 Stiftgasse, but the real location is the Palais Pallavicini, across from the Spanish Riding School in Michaelerplatz.
Since the film was shot in Vienna while it was still rebuilding after the war, in 1949, the devastation is still clear in many scenes. Most notably the road to the cemetery (south of the city toward the airport) or the lot next to the Cafe Mozart. The real Cafe Mozart wasn't used in the filming, as the location chosen was the Neuer Markt.
Continue reading "Vienna and The Third Man"
Saturday, August 27. 2016
It's one of the least healthy but most delightful snacks I've had. If you've never seen or had it, I would best describe it as an ice cream cone, but it's softer, there's a hole in the bottom, and it's served warm (even hot) - so while ice cream works in it, you'd better eat it fast.
The lines at Prague's Tredlnik stands were always long, particularly after 11pm when the drinking crowd started showing up in force. Lines often included young men on their bachelor party, forced to wear dresses, and often being held up by their buddies. When I woke up early to visit the Charles Bridge (you really do have to wake up early if you want pictures of it without crowds), I was stunned to see the same women I'd seen the night before around midnight, firing up their Tredlnik fires and making the dough. I wasn't sure if they were just finishing up from the night before and about to be replaced by the next shift, or if they were really hardcore workers.
Friday, August 26. 2016
Upon arrival, we were told to take the CAT (City Airport Train) into Wien Mitte station, and grab a cab. Not knowing the city, this was our solution, and it paid off. Cabs are expensive, but our cab driver gave us great information about using public transport, and helped us figure out what parts of the city to see. A wonderful fellow, he was a graduate of U of Cal Santa Barbara and spoke perfect English. Gave us insight on how cabs operate, what to be careful of so we didn't get ripped off, etc. It's amazing how much information can be shared in a 15 minute cab ride. I didn't think a picture of the subway was enticing, so I'm opting for a view of the city from the high swing at the Prater (I wanted to ride the ferris wheel from The Third Man, but that took too long, so we hopped on the swing):
Continue reading "Vienna and Subways"
Thursday, August 18. 2016
For me, the corporate world has become a bizarre scenario. Recent management changes in my office have led to responsibility shifts, and being a white male over 50, I'm in an unusual position. I have to continually prove my relevance. That shouldn't be unusual, it's the kind of relevance I have to prove which is unusual. We should all have to prove ourselves capable and competent in our jobs, regardless of age. This seems to be less important today. What I have to consistently prove is how well I 'fit' in the organization. In other words, it's now what you do or say, but how you do or say it. Results aren't gauged by how quickly or efficiently they are accomplished, but by how well they are 'socialized'. To a large degree, it has required a considerable bit of effort to run in place. I've found that my days are spent as much determining strategies to move forward as they are spent trying to get the job done.
Continue reading "Everything Has A Price"
Friday, July 15. 2016
But the Obama speech at the Dallas memorial was a classic in division politics. His supporters have cheered him as a 'caring' man, someone who is 'willing to do something' - even if that something is lie. Lying seems to come easily to this man, and his supporters love it.
The memorial was no place to make a political statement. Yet he did. He made outrageous claims about "our" lack of willingness to fund schools, fund health programs, and how it's easier to buy a Glock than get a computer or a book. Yet school funding is at all time highs, with many of the worst districts among the most heavily funded on a per student basis, and health support is also at all time highs. Meanwhile, I've noticed that Barnes & Noble and Amazon are still making some decent money, while schools hand out computers to their students for use during the school year. How does he have the gall to lie so brazenly? Because he can. Nobody questions him, particularly at a memorial for slain officers.
Meanwhile, his speech was another call for gun control. Which, in the aftermath of the Bastille Day massacre, should raise some eyebrows. After all, are we likely to start asking for 'truck control' now? France did a good job of controlling guns, so I suppose that is the logical next step, is it not?
I tired of emotional appeals in politics long ago, but it seems this is all we get any more. From the bombastic and aggressive emotional outbursts of Trump to the lies and deceit of the 'caring' Left wing triumvirate of Bernie, Hillary, and Barry. We're a nation divided more over feelings and lacking the capacity or willingness to look at what we can, and have, accomplished.
Like how much less violent we really are.
Tuesday, July 5. 2016
We all knew it wasn't going to happen. It's the how it didn't happen that is most unsurprising. "Lack of malicious intent."
Our nation has been unique in that it rarely prosecutes politicians for crimes related to the execution of official duties. There is a good reason for this, since that kind of prosecution can often be driven by political goals and outcomes (a hallmark of banana republics and third world nations). However, in this case, there is a clear dereliction of duty and, in my mind, benign neglect (the best you can say about her behavior) is the same as malicious intent. In fact, benign neglect in any corporate situation can and will get you fired.
But government is not a corporate environment. Which is why I hold politicians and government in such low regard.
The real problem I have to face here in NYC is the stupidity of her supporters who say "The FBI says she's not guilty." No, they didn't. They just didn't feel the case would derive an outcome worthy of taking it to court, but clearly pointed out that she engaged in plenty of illegal activity. Just not maliciously. I'll remember that next time I decide to not pay my taxes.
Monday, June 13. 2016
After all, when housing prices collapsed in 2008, he didn't call for a ban on hammers, nails, bulldozers and scaffolding. Bans which, since they are tool specific just like gun restrictions, would have made house building much more difficult and helped prices rise. A gun is a tool, too. It didn't walk into the club on its own, it didn't pull its own trigger. It required a sick and deluded person to perpetrate the crime.
Tuesday, May 3. 2016
The central tenet of Libertarianism is freedom. It is the right to choose. Not just choose 'stuff' while shopping, but everything. Where to live, who you associate with, who you do business with, who you work for or who works for you, and what you want to do with your life. While it is often contrasted with Socialism and Communism, this commentator points out there is a third thread which is often overlooked, but cuts across the philosophical spectrum - bureaucratic centralism. It's my belief that Conservatives are essentially libertarians (small "l") who like having, or believing in, the direction that centralized government can provide. Which is why Libertarians, more often than not, are lumped in with Republicans. In my recent past, I've learned to distrust and, whenever possible, avoid anything government claims to provide, or that people believe it should provide. If I could avoid, or it was practical to avoid, all things the government provides, I would. Unfortunately I don't have that freedom, since it's been taken either by vote or by bureaucratic diktat.
Monday, May 2. 2016
But Mike Rowe points out another key part of the jobs equation. Jobs don't come to us. We have to go to them. If my best job option is going to be in San Francisco or Chicago, rather than here in NYC, then I should be prepared to go to it. If I don't, I really have no complaints about whatever job I wind up with, because I took what's available within the limitations I set for myself. The US has always been a mobile nation. Mobile as in able to move both physically and economically. People move up and down the wealth and income ladder, but they have also transport themselves to where the jobs are. It's been that way for years. After all, that's part of what Manifest Destiny was all about - following opportunity. It's why Horace Greeley supposedly said "Go West, young man." Today it may be better stated as "Go Weld, young man."
Wednesday, April 27. 2016
We were just there...so I was surprised to see this in my NY Historical Society feed today. Grant's Tomb dedicated on April 27, 1897. Our Urban Hike had some relatively good timing.
Sunday, April 24. 2016
No other announcer can boast Scully's experience, beginning in Brooklyn in 1950, following the Dodgers to Los Angeles, there are few team voices as unique and recognizable as Scully's.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 09:58 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)