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
Sunday, March 29. 2015
The genius of Anglo-American law and its relationship to individual freedom, property rights, capitalism, contracts, and equality under the law.
The above is a section from Alan Macfarlane's excellent, or should I say "magisterial" book, The Invention of the Modern World.
A quote from the section:
Cut 'em down. Replace it with something else.
Mountain Laurel grows to 10-12 feet, and tends to be naturally leggy in its natural Northeastern Oak woodland habitats (see photo above). If it's "overgrown" that way in your around-the-house landscaping in places where it is meant to look green and full, it's because it was planted in the wrong place. It wants to stretch out, unless in full sun. With plenty of sun and rich, slightly acidic soil, it grows like this:
Another alternative is, again, to cut it down to about 6-10" sticks in the Springtime, and let it re-start its growth from the bottom. Regrowth, though, will take far too long for most people to put up with.
The same principle applies to leggy Rhododendron maximum, ("maxies").Come to think of it, also applies to leggy Lilacs. Shrubs get leggy naturally.
Saturday, March 28. 2015
Our friend neoneo has been reminiscing about The Left Banke.
Those young fellows had talent, but came and went quickly. I hope they saved their $. I do know that one of them became an MD shrink. They all went off to do other things. Here's Desiree, reassembled with the NYU choir in 2012:
It's shrub and tree-pruning season up here.
When asked "When is the best time to prune a (fill in the type) shrub or tree?" my horticulturalist friend replies "When your blade is sharp."
His point is that, even if there are optimal times to do it (ie late winter for most things), it's more important that it just get done sometime. Poor-pruning or neglected ornamental shrubs are not only unhealthy for these hybridized plants but also makes for an eyesore: leggy shrubs, overly-dense shrubs, and hedge-trimmer buzz-cut shrubs. (Hedge-trimmers are for hedges.)
Beware of pruning anything before 2 growing seasons.
Up here, probably the most common errors are made in neglected or wrongly-pruned hydrangea, lilac, and forsythia.
Most people who grow roses know how to care for them (depending on the category of rose.)
And I almost forgot to mention Privet. Here's the way to keep a Privet hedge going forever.
Here's a good primer on pruning lilacs. I advise people to Google "shrub name + pruning" before taking a blade to a plant. Rejuvenating a long-neglected or wrongly-pruned shrub can take years because drastic correction can kill the plant. Sometimes better to get rid of it and start anew, or leave it alone.
The reason to care about the timing of your pruning is because some ornamentals bloom on the previous year's growth, and some on new growth. For example, the Macrophylla types of hydrangeas bloom on last year's, but Paniculata types bloom on new growth (a good hydrangea pruning site here.) If you prune at the wrong time, you will have no flowers.
This good pruning summary from Texas A&M says this:
Yes, for most things you prune from the bottom. Make sure you feed them afterwards and remember that roots get hungry before swelling buds appear. To keep well-established shrubs healthy, take out 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest base shoots each late winter and thus, like lawn mowing, you keep them youthful instead of letting them attain their mature form. For many ornamental plants, we have to fool them into thinking that they are young.
Photo on top: A row of hydrangeas on the bella Isola Bella, with a little rain blurring my lens. Those Italian gardeners prune the heck out of everything, and they do it right.
Now that we have finally been informed by our intellectual superiors that a real breakfast is healthier than fattening grains and fattening fruit, a new heresy appears to attack the dietary consensus: Breakfast is not important (unless you are a growing child or do physical labor all day)
Of course not. I thrive on coffee for breakfast, maybe with a cigar or some tobacco. A good diner breakfast, much as I love it on the rare occasion, puts me to sleep instead of giving me energy to do things.
Friday, March 27. 2015
I see no virtue in economic equalizing. It never worked anywhere, and efforts to impose it by force generally end up with plutocratic, privileged bureaucrats and a nation of serfs serving the State. Why ‘inequality’ can be ‘beautiful’. Furthermore, many people do not base their life choices on money but instead on things more important to them.
Poverty in the US? Let's define it first. The US has an extensive safety net able to contain the unfortunate, the feckless, the mentally-ill, the temporarily out of work, etc., etc. We even go overboard with disability, providing for people who could easily do something useful in the world but are working the system. Nobody in the US goes without food, shelter, and a big screen TV if they want those things. Notable also is that US poverty stats do not include any government charity or private charity contributions. Of course, family always helps out first, and that is ignored too.
Still, poverty will never go away as long as it is defined as the lowest x% of US income. I am still awaiting the official study which can tell me exactly who "the poor" are in America, and whether they care. NYT: How poor are the poor?
Thursday, March 26. 2015
The totalitarian impulse is omnipresent, and must be resisted at all times. The "offence principle," however, is nothing but a self-ridiculing bullying tactic which deserves mockery rather that resistance. If you equate offense with a wound, you live on the wrong planet. I am offended by people and things continuously, and that's normal life. But this is not really about emotional wounds - it's a bullying tactic and rarely if ever genuine. Not that that matters anyway.
"Offence" becomes offense.
It's the time of year when people begin to cook the game in their freezers. Readers know that I like to make a gallon or so of Gibier Sauce or Gibier Glace each fall or winter, and freeze it.
There are other tasty sauces too for game (or for chicken, pork, even steak) and they are easy, and fun, to make.
Whether it's meat from the field or meat from the market, these sauces are tasty and good fun.
Wednesday, March 25. 2015
For another example, cardiac surgeons who are willing to take on the most difficult, or oldest, cases have the worst survival ratings. Of course they do. They are the best at what they do so they take on high-risk cases.
That's why No More Numbers makes sense.
One of my proposals is for kids to learn stuff anyway they can, with degrees issued by degree-offering institutions following oral and written examinations.
You can tell quickly whether a person knows their stuff in an oral exam. You can ramp up your questions to determine the limits of their knowledge and thinking. If some kids need to be spoon-fed their education, so be it. There's been enough of this overly-costly "college experience" nonsense.
You can almost do that today, but you still have to pay. One of the brightest fellows I know got his BS in Physics from a highly-prestigious university in three years without ever going to class, while playing drums in a touring rock band. Picked up the syllabi, and showed up for exams.
What's your opinion?
Tuesday, March 24. 2015
Different people with different problems and different personalities can benefit from different approaches. Psychoanalytically-informed approaches can be extremely valuable for some people, and useless for others.
Monday, March 23. 2015
Why would any on-campus crime be handled any differently than an off-campus crime? Colleges today find themselves in a funny spot. Are they in loco parentis, or not? Do they enforce morals, or not? Do they have codes of behavior, or not? They certainly seem to have absurd speech codes. In any event, I would take them out of the criminal justice business.
"Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe. . . .
There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?"
Sunday, March 22. 2015
Cooking is chemistry. The Maillard Reaction is why every amateur cook dreams of a high-powered industrial stovetop with a big gas flame - "Cooking with gas." That way, you can brown things, even fish, while keeping the inside rare. Readers know that's how I cook steak, always on the gas stove (well, sometimes on charcoal for steak, lamb, and Bluefish but it's the same idea.) Chicken is more flavorful browned too regardless of what you use it for after.
To make a great European-style meat stock, you want max flavor. That's why you use the M Reaction to first brown all the bones and meat scraps, and the vegetables too (mushrooms, garlic, carrot, celery, onion, etc), before you throw them into the stewpot with the water, peppercorns, herbs, and wines.
I only use two stovetop heats: Max and Very Low/simmer.
For some recipes you do not want those intense flavors, which is why lots of Asian stew-type recipes use unbrowned meats. Boiled chicken, for example, pork, or shrimp, and lightly boiled vegetables and roots. The Maillard Reaction is thus avoided to permit more subtle flavors. Very pleasant things like like sashimi, carpaccio, steak tartare, etc., take subtle to the max.
Megan talked about browning her beef stew beef in the oven to make it easier. Not a bad idea. Browning chunks of beef or lamb for a stew in a pan is messy, and who will clean the damn pan? And, for a stew, you don't care how well-done the meat is.
Maple sap begins to flow when there are sufficient daily temperature swings between below and above freezing. That tends to be towards late February-early March in New England, depending on latitude and the weather. Curiously, Sugar Maple sap does not just flow up from the roots - it flows both downwards from the branches and up the trunk, depending on the time of day and the whim of the tree.
Our Vermont friends have been busy getting ready for sugarin', so it's time for some info. We tend to think of Vermont maple syrup, but Canada is the major producer. We consume it abundantly in New England and do not approve of the cheap substitute goop in the supermarkets. We buy the real stuff by the gallon when we can, especially the Grades below Light Amber. You can buy the rather intense Grade B here, but I think I prefer the third level of Grade A - Dark Amber. This place sells all of the grades.
- Put it on oatmeal like the Pilgrims did.
Saturday, March 21. 2015
We like to let people - mostly possible NYC visitors - know about cool spots. We've covered Arthur Avenue, Jean George's cheap lunch, Keens for mutton chops, The Campbell Apartment, and lots of other fun places.
Here's another to add to your list: Club Macanudo. You can smoke!
The most pleasant clubs in NYC are private, large, old, and gracious (and permit smoking), but you need a friend member to get inside. Still, plenty of nice places for the proletariat.
Friday, March 20. 2015
We often wonder what is gained by contributing all of this money, but in a Blue State you are at their mercy so you just try not to think about it. With all its dying cities filled with government-dependents, its liberal gentry, and the union power, you're screwed.
The higher they raise them, the faster they drive away the people who can pay them. It's a shame, because it's a wonderful little state with plenty of history, recreation, rural beauty, schools and universities, educated people, social life, every kind of church, seaside, rivers, real seasons, etc.
Thursday, March 19. 2015
That was our ironic term for my all-boys boarding school. Since then, times have changed and the ruling class ain't what it usta be (and never was), but I'll tell y'all about it here, if you are interested. (No, it's not Groton)
The history of American education is fascinating to me. I'd like to write the book but it seems like too much work and my writing has no zip to it, no flair, wouldn't sell. I wish I could write like Michael Lewis.
Private boarding schools (prep schools) are a relatively recent development (late 1800s) in the northeastern US and California, but had a long history in England. Prior to that, children of the prosperous in the US were mostly home-schooled (tutors) to prepare them for college.
Public education in the US, since the mid-1800s, was based on the Prussian/German model, as are American universities. The older American private secondary schools, however, were modeled on English private ("called "public") schools. But, as always through human history, the brightest and most talented kids were/are self-educated in the end.
My school was as much about the cultural experience as it was about the information and skills acquired - but those were high-level too. In fact, they tried to pack in everything you might need to begin adulthood in a time when college was considered adulthood. Four years of this would make much of college today redundant.
Below the fold, I will tell you about it all and how it worked well even for kids like me without superior IQs.
Continue reading "Secondary Education for the Ruling Class"
I recently read that there are only 1 million Americans with net worth of $5-25 million, and only 142,000 Americans with over $25 million in net worth. There are so many millionaires in NYC, you would think it's normal and end up with a distorted view of life.
All inequality statistics could be solved by confiscating all of these wealthy assets. However, it would not even put a dent in American's debt to China. Another problem is that those people would go out and do it again, so best just to take their money and houses and stuff and then kill them, and kill their kids too just to be on the safe side. Kill the kulaks.
Maybe better just to confiscate the wealth of old people who lack the energy to make money again. Hey - there's a policy to campaign on.
Wednesday, March 18. 2015
A famous Cape-Codder, Lorenzo Dow Baker (scroll down a little for the story):
As the 8th & youngest child of a fisherman and his wife, Lorenzo grew up on a homestead on Bound Brook Island on the bay side of northern Wellfleet. When he was 6, his mother died and his dad married a widow with several children of her own. Needless to say, his was not an easy life. He was apprenticed to a fishing captain at age 10, became a cook on a fishing schooner at age 15 and was considered an outstanding fisherman at the age of 18. By age 20, he was captain of a fishing schooner and eventually owned his own fishing schooner, "Vineyard". He married his childhood sweetheart, Martha, when he was 21 and she was 17. They had 4 children, Lorenzo Jr., Joshua, Martha and Reuben. He was a devout Methodist and a devoted husband and family man. For nine years, he made his living as a sea captain and fisherman...
Read the rest of the story.
"The German language is sufficiently copious and productive to furnish native words for any idea that can be expressed at all."
Selections from Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition by Ben Schott:
Witzbeharrsamkeit - unashamedly repeating a bon mot until it is heard by everyone present
Abgrundsanziehung - toying with the non-suicidal idea of jumping from a height
Frohsinnsfascismus - the awful mediocrity of organized fun
Clashsyndrom - moments of etiquette perplexity when there is no polite way of behaving
Fetanlaushangriff - tuning in and out of a number of conversations at a party
Tuesday, March 17. 2015
Who is "we," pardner? While attacking straw men, bringing race into a non-racial discussion, and demonizing "individualism", he seems to be arguing for a top-down, one-size-fits-all, centrally-organized system of primary and secondary education in the USA. He suggests that it be oriented ideologically, and claims it would be "for the common good." He is a Bismarckian with that Prussian control attitude towards the masses.
Thus it's a little dissonant to read his views, coming as they are from the president of hippy-dippy, free-spirit, granola-ridden and hugely expensive, and private, Bard College. But maybe it's not odd.
I'd bet home schooling drives him nuts. As usual with Liberals, "I know how to deliver your pursuit of happiness and I would like to shove it up your butt." I hate hearing the elites and the experts pontificate about what "we" should do. I'd rather hear myself pontificate about freedom and free choices in life. Even the freedom to apply to the somewhat offbeat Bard College if you want to.
Monday, March 16. 2015
An annual re-post for our travel readers -
Pic is JFK in a snowstorm last week. Managed to get out after an extensive de-icing of the airplane. Got lucky - the plane had managed to arrive the night before in a sleet storm.
I always forget something, so I have a travel checklist to run through.
Obviously one does not need everything for every trip - it depends on what your plans are - but I print it out, circle what I'll need for a given trip, then check them off when they're thrown in the bag. Perhaps it seems obsessive, but it is annoying to arrive somewhere and to find that you forgot to pack any socks. On my last trip, forgot to pack a t-shirt for snorkeling, had to buy one for $25. Mrs. BD does her packing her own way, and always brings too much stuff. That's what females do.
I travel too light, she travels too heavy.
My travel checklist below the fold. Obviously you just bring what you need for a given trip. Let me know what I have left out, and I will add items.
Continue reading "Bird Dog's recreational travel checklist of items - feel free to steal it if you want to"
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