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
Tuesday, March 10. 2020
Sunday, March 1. 2020
Wednesday, February 26. 2020
Friday, February 21. 2020
I make an effort, in my role as an older member of my department, to reinforce knowing history. Not only of the industry, which critical to avoiding errors already made, but also general history because it helps create a more advanced social order. The critical part of any social order is trust. Without it, markets fail, relationships fray, and good behavior is set aside in favor of self-interest. History, at its core, teaches the value of trust.
All good teams, departments, interactions, communities, and even nations are built upon a basic level of trust. It is rarely discussed, but absolutely essential.
In the U.S., trust has begun a slow dissipation. Think of an example of someone who did things the 'right way' and was moderately, or supremely, successful (let's say the Boston Red Sox of 2018) versus those who do things the 'wrong way' and are supremely successful yet go unpunished or are barely touched (the Houston Astros of 2017). When we fail to punish those who gain rewards improperly, we reduce the ability to trust our institutions. How often have you talked about someone you admire, only to have someone else say "if he/she is so smart or good, why did person X (who wasn't as 'clean') make all the money?" That kind of response typifies the slow fraying of fundamental trust.
Another example could be our recent trials and investigations regarding Trump. In this, we see an example of retributive anger (Trump won and I hate him so he has to go), which is very damaging and occurs with the complete loss of trust (can anyone argue that the Democrats trust Trump even a little?). Transitional anger, the anger we feel as we shift from one order to the next, that sense of loss yielding anger but without feeling the need to lash out, is manageable and useful. It can help people progress. Retributive anger is dangerous and undermines the fabric of trust that is necessary to move forward.
The Democrats are suffering now because of the fact they have engaged retributive anger. They're mad they lost an election they assumed was theirs, and rather than be angry at their own shortcomings and using that anger in a transitional manner to improve themselves, they've lashed out and are destroying themselves and potentially the nation (if their behavior is followed to its logical conclusion).
We are successful as a nation because we have an innate trust in our political institutions. That trust exists regardless of those in power because the Constitution protects us, as individuals. Even if bad people are elected, one person and even a few cannot destroy the system. Checks and balances assure that. We can survive a bad president (and have many times). There are reasonable methods to oust the truly awful. Engaging those levers in wrong-headed attempts simply because someone is 'offensive' undermines that innate trust of our institutions. It causes some, and possibly many, to question the validity of our original belief in our Constitution and our laws.
This doesn't happen because of one person. It doesn't happen because "Trump did it," it happens because a group of people are hoping and trying to undermine that trust, and it isn't the Russians. Or the Chinese. It has to happen internally.
I don't love Trump, I barely tolerate him. But I've not liked plenty of presidents. I've had trust in our system, though. Thankfully, after two clear attempts to undermine that system, it has stood up to the attacks on it, and I still trust it. It's a shame there's an entire party out there so far off base that its members no longer trust the system and are proposing potential candidates to destroy it.
Thursday, December 26. 2019
Friday, November 15. 2019
Wow. A biography to make almost all of us feel like lazy slackers: Soldier of Fortune: John Smith before Jamestown Smith's experiences as a pirate, mercenary, and Turkish slave prepare him to survive in the New World.
From the article:
The Turk showed up in the no man's land between the armies dressed in his finest- "his shoulders were fixed with a paire of great wings, compacted of eagle feathers within ridge of silver, richly garnished with gold and precious stones." Smith dispatched him on the first pass. Upset by the loss of his captain, another Turk challenged Smith. The bout began with an exchange of blows and ended with pistol shots. Smith took a round in the breastplate, but his Turkish opponent suffered a debilitating blow to his arm, eventually collapsing. The final duel occurred when Smith gave the Turks a chance to redeem their honor. The contest was settled by the use of battle axes, with Smith triumphing once more. When Smith brought the three heads before the commanding Turkish general-each head mounted on a lance-he was embraced by the general and given a horse and a jewel-encrusted scimitar. The sweetest honor came from Prince Zsigmond Báthory of Transylvania, who granted Smith the right to wear "three Turkish heads" on his shield and bestowed on him the title of "English gentleman." John Smith had succeeded in exchanging "farmer" for "gentleman" by the swing of his sword.
Sunday, October 20. 2019
One of the books I am reading now: Leon Uris' Trinity (1976). It's a novelized visit to a sorrowful piece Irish history, and so well-done that it's difficult to imagine that Uris was not Irish.
That potato fungus, and its consequences, killed or drove away over 1 million Irish. The book puts you there. Mrs. BD is half-Irish, and tells me "Stop" when I read sections to her. Mostly the Catholic peasants had the worst time. They were sharecroppers, peasants. The Scots Presbyterians and the Brit Anglican overlords did somewhat better, at the expense of the sharecroppers. It is heartbreaking.
Lucky thousands made it to Canada and the US. Luckily for the US and Canada. The Brits were no heroes of the history, but they were stuck with the tragedy too. It was complicated, like all such things.
Sunday, September 8. 2019
Sunday, September 1. 2019
Was Nixon even a Conservative? Not really. A moderate without a winning personality. JFK was the sleaze along with the rest of his disgusting family.
Monday, August 26. 2019
While I thought the Urban Hike of 2019 was one of our best, despite the rain, the Brooklyn trip of 2018 remains my favorite so far. To that end, this article about Battle of Brooklyn sites is worth a look-see. We stopped at a number of these sites, such as the Old Stone House, the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn Heights, and the monument to the prison ship martyrs.
The article did miss one site, on the side of a bank, which commemorated the battle (perhaps the author is unaware of this plaque, but we stumbled upon it and I wish I had a picture or a location to share).
Looking forward to planning 2020's Urban Hike. Need some thought starters. Right now, Wave Hill to City Island is what I'm considering, but that's more walking and less sightseeing.
Friday, August 9. 2019
I'd like to pitch for a podcast I am now addicted to. For what it's worth, I am not a podcast person. The Revolutions podcast, link attached, is excellent and worth your time if you like history. It was recommended by a good friend who thought I'd enjoy the current episodes on Communism. Instead, I went to the beginning (which I highly recommend doing) and started from scratch. It's worth it.
I'm now in season 3, the French Revolution, and enjoying every minute of it. To say the least, if you don't see parallels between today and the French Revolution, you probably may not know as much about the French Revolution as you think. I know I didn't see them, and I thought I understood it. I did not. For what it's worth, the narrator is not pointing them out, I just think they are very, very noticeable.
At any rate, I recommended to my brother, who then sent me a note telling me that he hated me with the heat of a thousand suns because he has found himself hopelessly addicted to listening. The stories are both entertaining and informative, and very funny in some of the most appropriate places.
The narrator also did a history of Rome, which I'll turn to once I'm finished. And he does tours, which I hope to take part in (maybe we should invite him to our Urban Hike, though right now he's living in Paris).
Wednesday, June 12. 2019
Tuesday, June 11. 2019
Part of the process of cleaning out my inbox is finding neat stuff that I'd forgotten I wanted to watch/read.
Since I posted about Manhattan's wooden homes yesterday, and Hamilton Grange was a stop from our Urban Hike, here's another little tidbit about how it moved:
Thursday, June 6. 2019
Thursday, May 30. 2019
Except for our technologies, I say that we live today much as did wealthy Romans. Same culture. I agree with this comment at Quora, responding to a query about whether modern-day Italians are descendents of the Romans (not much):
Tuesday, May 7. 2019
Saturday, April 6. 2019
Book recommendation: Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations
Sunday, March 24. 2019
Thursday, February 14. 2019
While he was not considered a generally 'good' mayor, Robert Van Wyck certainly is an integral part of the city. I've taken the Van Wyck Expressway many times, but I've never wondered who Van Wyck actually was.
A Tammany operative, his scandals eventually cost the group power. Robert was the first mayor elected after the consolidation of the five boroughs.
On Valentine's Day 1899, he signed a law renaming Western Boulevard. Western ran north of Columbus Circle, and his law changed its name to Broadway, thereby extending the famous thoroughfare. Today, Broadway runs all the way north on the west side, then turns east at Inwood toward the Spuyten Duyvil, across into The Bronx, and up into Yonkers (where it becomes South Broadway). At 178th Street, it becomes Route 9.
Sunday, January 6. 2019
Thursday, December 27. 2018
Tuesday, December 4. 2018
Sunday, December 2. 2018
That was the New York Times' opinion of Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey series of nautical novels, set during the Napoleonic wars. You might have seen the Russell Crowe movie about the first book of the series.
Royal Navy Master and Commander Aubrey and his ship's physician/spy Dr. Maturin are quite a pair. Maturin is the more interesting character, with his estate in Spain and his passion for natural history and for spying (for free). Aubrey is a skilled seaman and lucky warrior. The two men connect mostly by playing Handel on strings after dinner.
One theme of the series is that living on land is just too complex financially, romantically, socially, politically, and practically, while going to war at sea is comfortably simple with the possibility of becoming wealthy by seizing prizes. This series offers a similar delightful escape.
The sailing details are said to be remarkably accurate. You can learn a lot about topgallant sails. I had to look up quite a few antique nautical terms. I've never sailed on a square-rigger, but I would love to.
O'Brian died recently. We owe him many thanks for his efforts. Writing novels that anybody is willing to read, given limited free time to do so, is always remarkable.
Sunday, November 25. 2018
So you waste your money with those $120 spit tests. It has been known for a long time that all humans share an ancestor in Mitochondrial Eve, but it was never clear that we all might share the same great, great, great....etc - grandpa too.
There was an ancient genetic bottleneck, probably due to some natural disasters (caused by climate change?).
Clearly, we can name these people Adam and Eve.
Friday, November 16. 2018
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