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, September 3. 2014
From Lind's The Origins of Our Distress (h/t Vanderleun):
Good article. Readers know that my opinion is that all of the insanity of this conflict-ridden world is not my problem. I do not really care what Putin does (a "Hitler"? Give me a break). Iraq? I don't care. Memo To Washington: Iraq Is Not A Nation And You Can’t Build One There With Bombs
This administration goes from stupid to stupid, but so did the Bush admin. I am in favor of benign neglect unless those morons step on my toes in NYC or anywhere else in the US. Most other places are just tar babies, and ungrateful in the end. Beheading people? That's what they like to do. Everybody knows that. I am not shocked, but it's news to John Kerry.
Tuesday, September 2. 2014
Colorful socks for guys: The Tie Bar
Gear everybody needs, cheap: Sierra Trading Post
Perennials to plant in the fall to get a jump start on Spring: Bluestone
You like to read serious books. You like to think about them, and to write essays about them. Should you be a literature major in college? Or just read the canon on your own, along with some of the classic critics?
Or, if you enjoy eloquent instruction and guidance, why not just take a Great Courses on Literature? They are wonderful, and the price (and probably the high quality) cannot compare with college.
Sometimes we forget that fiction is written mainly for entertainment and stimulation, whatever its depth or quality, refinement or sophistication. Same goes for music and visual and performing arts.
The English major has lost its way; here is a path back.
Monday, September 1. 2014
Some people (especially Leftists) bemoan how hard Americans work. Boo hoo.
They say Europeans have more leisure time. How's that working out for them? More time to drink in cafes? More time to wear thongs on the beach in Ibiza?
I always relate to farmers, other entrepreneurs, and self-employed people. We are on the job constantly, partly out of ambition, partly for survival, partly out of interest.
I am essentially self-employed, but of counsel for a law firm. I work around 55 hours/week, but only bill around 40. I'm not greedy. When I sit by the stream with a cigar and a scotch, I often think about knotty cases. It's fun.
How many hours do you work at remunerative work? If it's less than 50, you ain't really working.
Below is a repost of a column I wrote at another venue for Labor Day 2006 and posted again here in 2011:
What remains of Labor Day? Some speeches about the hard work of our parents or grandparents, and some newspaper articles about current difficulties getting established or obtaining benefits for today’s workers.
Conservatives are distinguished by particular respect for the hallowed history from which current and future advantages spring, without which we would be rootless and at the whim of passing fancies or incitements.
Supposedly, the virtues and rewards of hard work are among these cherished principles.
The Left trumpets redistributive schemes from the affluent or hard working to the poor or lazy, most of which have relatively little benefit to the poor but create newly enriched bureaucrats and union leaders.
Conservatives’ answer is usually more along the lines of how to preserve and protect the fruits of the labor by those in the middle and upper rungs of the economic ladder.
Sebastian Mallaby steps on the Left and Right’s toes today in the Washington Post.
Mallaby points out the futility of most of the Left’s prescriptions, to the “point the left begins to seethe.” He then focuses on reducing tax incentives that mostly accrue to the middle and upper classes, to free up a quarter of them for $180-billion that could be used for increased earned income credits and reduced regressive payroll taxes.
The problem with Mallaby’s arguments is that they are another, albeit better, form of redistribution, and government has repeatedly proven its penchant for wasting such billions on other than targeted needs. More necessary is the unbridling of energies and rewards for labor. That requires investment which creates demand for labor, and skills-oriented education that creates competitive wage earners to fill those new openings.
As Mallaby correctly argues, many of the poorest workers are in service trades not impacted by international competition. Such positions that were once beginning rungs on the ladder now face a gap of steps up due to lack of skills.
Instead of redistributing tax incentives, more needed is redistributing our already huge tax outlays on education from schemes that create administrative and union positions, and posh campuses, toward greater vocational and skills education.
That honors labor, by providing the tools for all to benefit from labor.
Sunday, August 31. 2014
This month a new Dylan album comes out. The author thinks he has Bob figured out:
Against happiness: Why we need a philosophy of failure
The Ukraine: Who cares? Russia is a crappy, deteriorating third-world country with a bit of oil and with Czarist imperial delusions. Not our problem. If Europe cares, let them put on their big boy pants and do whatever they want. Start a European war. Last I heard, the Ukraine was not one of the United States.
Israel? They can handle things themselves. Their battles will never end just as in biblical days.
China? They want to be a big deal again. Well, they are, sort-of. They own most of the US debt, sadly. But that's our fault. If they want to be a big deal, it's ok with me. Why anybody would chose to live there is beyond me. Horrible, charmless place of desolation, with too many people and the stupid, paranoid, autocratic government they deserve. To each his own.
These sorts of things are not "crises," they are just ordinary life on planet earth. The "American Imperium" isn't over - it never really existed. Go ahead, try a round of golf - and tell me why I am wrong not to be hysterical. Trouble, conflict, and war is the way of the world.
I am going fishing now, happy to be a rebel American.
Friday, August 29. 2014
High tide, inner harbor, 5:15 am with dog and fresh Cumbie coffee
There is far more to do up there than one could do in a month - or a summer. Very pleasant not to own a place - no real work. The locals grow the local veggies for us. Cheap and good. We had 9 of us just in our (large) place alone including my vigorous in-laws (and not counting the rambunctious 2 year-old), and my relatives were all local too for a week or two. One bought a place up there, but I prefer the freedom of renting: ownership is just work, worry, and expense. With the $ from a second home one could explore the world for the rest of one's life. Why bother, unless a billionaire with servants and property managers? What's the point of ownership? We are brief sojourners here on earth, and all is on lease from God if not from a bank or a landlord.
August is an annual family tradition up there on the Cape. A fine thing indeed, but still a little strange with my parents gone even tho my fun sibs (5 of us) and their kids pop in daily for coffee or free beer, or a harbor swim with our pup.
- Two stage theaters and ye olde South Wellfleet Drive In - no time for that this year
- Body-surfing on the ocean at low tide - 2 times - not enuf. It's the supreme activity, IMO, along with skiing and sex. Is it cold? You betcha. Glacial. The gals use boogie boards to minimize the fun of boobs popping out; I just use my youthful body the way my Dad taught me to.
- Pond swimming to de-salt after ocean - only twice. My bro introduced me to Dyer Pond though - you hike through the woods to find it. It's another kettle pond way off the roads. Post-glacial.
- Long swims in the harbor with the pup, in our back yard - daily at higher tides
- Breakfast at The Lighthouse with all - once. Waffles or pancakes with eggs and bacon.
- Lobster supper buffet for BD and Mrs. BD's birthdays for 22 people - family and friends - at our place - only once! Twenty-two 1 1/2 lb. lobsters (thanks, Pops) plus wine, beer, potato salad, green salad, grilled corn on the cob, and birthday cake.
- Swims at Duck Harbor - twice and nother time to play with the rugrat.
- Great Island 7-mile hike - once
- 5 am walk in the harbor over Uncle Tim's bridge for the pup to sniff around and poo - daily
- Dinners out: Once at Pearl, only once at Mac's, once at Moby's. Mac's is perhaps best, but I just like the Moby's family place. I had the gluten-free chocolate cake at Mac's for dessert, but I had to ask for extra gluten because of my gluten-deficiency disorder.
- Dog woods hike - once. Lots of poison ivy but lots of ripe wild blackberries
- Marsh kayaking and pond kayaking - no time on this trip
- Fishing - not enuf time
- Whaler rental to zoom all around - a pupette did that with her friend. Great fun of course. Dramatic arrival to our birthday party
- Lunch at The Beachcomber - no time
- Biking - the lad did quite a bit with the rugrat in the bike trailer. The Cape seems designed for biking.
- Harbor Freeze for after-dinner ice cream - only twice. The gals like peppermint with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. Sheesh.
- Time lazing on some beach like a lazy lump - zero, as usual. Our family is terribly lacking in the decadent talent of "relaxing". Relax when dead.
- All the galleries - we always stroll through many of them. John Grillo still alive and working at 92.
- Shakespeare in the Park - no time for it
- Tennis at the club - only once
- Shopping? Only for seafood and produce. Lots of it. Oh - some wine and beer too.
- Yoga? The gals were too busy.
- Golf? Our golfer was home with a new little bitty one but there is a lovely links-style course there
- Daily morning 5-10 mile run concluding with a one-mile pond swim? My sibs do that, often with their kids. I provide coffee or water for them. Lunatics. I usta do that, but it no longer charms me.
- TV and/or movies? Zero
- Surfing internets? Zero
- Clamming ? - no time to even get the license. Tons of them, tho, in the mudflats.
Carpe diem, friends.
Wednesday, August 27. 2014
Readers know the BD is a lover of marshes and swamps. They are full of life - more than any other form of habitat.
When a dike was built across the Herring River in the late 1800s, the tidal flow was interrupted and the river began silting up and turning into fresh water. A few years ago, the bridge was reconstructed to permit a full tidal exchange without removing the road dike.
The phragmites is dying out, spartina is returning, and the tidal flow is vigorous. Environmental successes usually come in small pieces.
Deep in town, a railroad dike was built in the late 1800s to carry vacationers and mail to Wellfleet - and to carry fish and oysters to NYC. This dike also impeded free tidal flow and caused the inner harbor to silt up. Tall ships used to dock in there. The pilings of the railroad bridge on the dike remain:
I doubt that the village would spend any $ to remove the old dike.
Here's my challenge to the town of Wellfleet: re-open the dike between the marina and the marsh behind it - the marsh that begins behind
All it needs is a simple 30-40' bridge there to de-silt and salinate the old marsh.
Addendum: Thanks to commenters for some corrections.
That's an assertion by AVI, but I don't know whether he refers to high school or college students. Presumably every college-bound kid would have taken Alg ll in high school, if not AB Calc (most do that too, it seems). He also says:
I'm not sure what I think about this. How much math is enough to make a person functional and numerically-literate, and how much to be considered well-educated? I think all of these areas are excellent training for rigorous and critical thinking. It's basically a logical language, and seems best approached that way.
I have heard experts say that around 5-10% of high school grads are truly eager and ready for rigorous higher ed. The rest are just postponing adulthood.
Tuesday, August 26. 2014
I always figured that it was because my friends are friendlier, wittier, and more fun than I am.
Drizzled with a little olive oil and salted, all of these are tasty: red onion, peppers, asparagus, tomato, summer squash slices, potato slices, pineapple, apple, etc. Anything can be grilled, and it keeps you outdoors.
Best way to grill corn on the cob? Soak them in the husks in a bucket of water for an hour or two, then strip off the roughest outer husks, then toss on grill. When the husks brown a little and the flossy stuff burns, they are done. A little salt to serve - no butter.
(A good, non-academic intro is Tom Sowell's Basic Economics (2nd Edition): A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.)
We all seek all of the kinds of basic literacy we can attain: Moral, Religious, Mathematical and Scientific, Historical, Literary, Artistic, Recreational, etc., but it's a never-ending pursuit because life is so full of riches. Most of us join the heavenly choir before the job is done. Either that, or begin to forget what we once knew and need to start at the beginning again.
For example, at lunch I have been trying to figure out how Hannibal fed his 90,000 troops, plus the elephants and horses, during his march from Carthaginian Spain over into what is now called Italy around 218 BC. I learned about it once, but have forgotten. Talk about logistics...
Prof. Jacobson found this: New study finds economic illiteracy correlates with political preferences. I find that basic economic illiteracy is rampant, and thus is replaced by emotion.
Monday, August 25. 2014
Photo below is the Marsh Mallow plant which is a native of marshy areas in the Old World, now wild in North America. You can read about it here.
Apparently it is easy to make your own Marshmallows at home.
I prefer my Marshmallows plain, on a stick over an open fire, preferably permitted to burst into flame to produce a black crust before blowing them out. Few can resist some campfire S'mores, but I can. Too sweet for me.
In three years, any ordinary, motivated kid can get through the HS basics: Essay-writing, grammar, basics of research papers, math up to or through Calc 1, American History, World History, Bio, Literature-reading, Chem, Physics, Civics, and whatever.
Why not just complete HS requirements as quick as you can, and then leave?
I still do not understand the mission of Middle School.
Sunday, August 24. 2014
We noted in our piece on Visiting Colleges that responsible parents can decide what their kids need to learn in college, even if they go somewhere with minimal core requirements.
This should not be left to the kids to decide, because 1. It's too important 2. We know better than they do what they need to know to be educated adults with an openness to the richness of life, 3. We should have our own ideas about what we want our own kids to know (eg, any kid who doesn't know basic geology is a bore), 4. Colleges, in their pandering to students, tend to not want to tell them what they need to know, and 5. Who pays the piper calls the tune.
Here's an example of Mom and Pop's Minimum Required College Courses for a Liberal Arts education, regardless of major or interests (these can be met with High School APs or equivalent too):
Math and Science: Math through at least first year calc (BC calc), Statistics, Bio with lab, Physics with lab, Chem with lab, Geology intro, Astronomy
General: History of Western Thought (or Western Civ, or whatever it might be called), Art History Survey, Music History Survey, a political science course, Micro and Macro Economics, a Bible-based Christian Theology course, Intro to Accounting (if you can find something like that in a fancy college. If not, take over the summer at a local college. It will be a huge help to anything a person does in life, including volunteer jobs.)
History: American History, European History, Classical History
Literature: Shakespeare plus 2 other lit courses
This is a minimal foundation for "lifetime learning" and reading. A young person with this foundation ought to be able to discuss almost any subject that comes up - if maybe only superficially - and to know how to learn more about it efficiently when they want or need to do so. Corny but true.
nb: Before you debate me on this, note that these are minimal requirements. You ain't eddicated if you don't know this stuff. Of course, you can get it all at Great Courses.com, cheaper and better and without exams.
Please don't do this when there is a line of ten people at a busy Dunkin Donuts in Wellfleet at 9 am, as happened on Thursday:
A chubby short gal around 40 finally gets to the front of the line. Nice lady asks her for her order. "Let me think," as she scans the overhead menu which has been in full view of the line. She decides on the #8. OK. Then, "but can I have it on a croissant instead of a bagel?" Nice lady says OK. Then, "I want extra mayo on that too."
Everybody in line is now rolling their eyes.
Nice lady explains that DD has no mayo at all. Short gal takes time to express her disappointment in DD. I'm thinking "Does she think this is a restaurant?"
Then she has to decide on how she wants her coffee. Decides on cream and double fake sugar, of course, because only fat people and anorectics use fake sugar. The nice lady at the counter then rings her up.
For some women in lines, this requirement to pay always comes as a surprise. She starts rummaging through her bag to try to find her freaking wallet amongst all the crap in there, and has to go through her change purse too. (Ever notice how guys always have the money in their hands when they order?)
She doesn't say "Thank you." I think she is still pissed about the mayo.
Don't be like this.
I eventually got to order two small black coffees, and asked the lady for extra mayo with them, and got a good jolly laugh out of her. One of my jobs in life is to lighten the loads of service people.
Saturday, August 23. 2014
Took this pic of a clamming boat coming into dock in Wellfleet in September a couple of years ago. The refrigerated truck will arrive just as he ties up.
Those are Sea Clams which are harvested along the Northeast coast by dredging, from deeper water than the Quahog of the tidal flats but much shallower waters than those inhabited by the deep-sea Ocean Clam. Here are Sea Clams up close:
Sea Clams are the main processed clam in the US, and their shells are commonly used as ashtrays.
The hard-shelled clam, the Quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria - why that name?) is the clam of Atlantic US estuaries and tidal flats. It tastes better, in my opinion, than the Sea Clam - especially when you dig them yourself. Unlike the Sea Clam, you eat the Quahog feathers and all: Littlenecks and Cherrystones - and the chowder-sized Quahogs.
This is from Thoreau's Cape Cod:
The entirety of Thoreau's report of his amusing 1849-1867 ramblings, Cape Cod, can be read here.
Friday, August 22. 2014
How much of it is vanity, and how much functionality?
It seems clear that if you are fly-fishing for big fish, you might need a decent drag, etc. I have a cheap Cabela's 4-weight reel for small trout on small streams, and for drag, if ever needed, I can just palm it. It's just a line-holder really.
Over time, I have turned against fancy, expensive sporting equipment. What makes a fly reel worth the money?
If you google the question, you get many opinions.
I have often fished for big fish, but never fly-fishing.
Thursday, August 21. 2014
We have commented on the subject of the human diet and health before, but it's time for another comment, because the NYT Science Times has written on it.
"Healthy food" has been an on-and-off American obsession, comparable to the obsession with flavor in France.
Since Rev. Sylvester Graham, a minister, vegetarian, and food-obsessive invented the Graham Cracker in the 1820s to provide "digestive fiber," Americans have been food faddists and vulnerable to food quackery.
More famously, Dr. John Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, an 1870s charlatan with a diet fad, fooled Americans into thinking that cereal was breakfast food. It is not. In Yankee-land, breakfast is eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, potatoes, fruit and apple pie.
Eat what you want, and be happy. All humans are prone to "magical thinking" - aka "wishful thinking." We'd like to imagine that we have some control over things like health, and that things we put in our mouths will make a difference. There is essentially no evidence for that idea, assuming absence of a disease, or a problem like high cholesterol, or pregnant, etc.
Even being fat doesn't seem to make any significant difference to health. (Being obese is a bad plan, though.) I advise patients to eat plenty of salmon, trout and char for their magical properties, and whatever else they want; to exercise and work out if they want to be strong and fit but not because they will live forever; to lose weight if they want to look better and feel less tired; to eat all the salt and steak they want; and to avoid magical health diets. Vegetarian? Fine. Leaves more lamb and steak for me. Just don't imagine that it's about health. What's a healthy diet? Any average mix of stuff, but most of all - enjoy it, and don't fuss about it too much.
(Image from the excellent medical blog Kevin, MD. That steak could be a bit more rare, if you ask me.)
Does anybody use bathtubs anymore? I mean, unless they have 1940s-era bathrooms?
I don't mean big Jacuzzis, or outdoor hot tubs, but real old-fashioned bathtubs. Does anybody use them anymore, unless they are just the antique bottom of a nice shower?
Who would want to float in dirty, soapy water?
Wednesday, August 20. 2014
I have never had a super-rich client, but I have dealt with many wills and estates.
Some people say "Die broke." Most prefer to leave something for their kids and grandkids and make some modest sacrifices to do that. There is no "should." People ought to do whatever they want, even if it ruins their kids.
I am completely opposed to any death taxes. They are legal theft, and the money has already been taxed once. When families can accumulate assets over generations, families achieve independence and freedom.
More from McArdle: Money Won't Buy Your Kids a Future
Tuesday, August 19. 2014
Readers know that the Soft-Shelled Crab (ie moulting Blue Crab) in all of its forms is perhaps my favorite food. My friends and I would catch them at the shore with bacon tied to string and bring a bucket of them home to Mom. She'd steam the hard-shelled ones, and sautee the soft-shells.
I love the soft-shells fried, sauteed, in a sandwich with mayo, Chinese-style - or anything. A perfect combination of juiciness and crunchiness, and you just eat the whole darn thing feathers and all.
Here's an easy one: Soft-Shelled Crabs on Toast.
Methods of crabbing.
Delicious photos of soft-shell crab recipes.
Soft-shells are often frozen for use through the crab season.
It's a cliche because there is so much truth in that expression that it is at least half-true. You could make the same case for bad luck.
I advise the youth to regard life as a conveyor belt of opportunities rolling past you. Experiences, jobs, relationships, books, learning, etc. They roll by, but almost never come back. If you grab enough of them, some will work out. On the other hand, the same bad selections that life offers keep returning, don't they?
I have been lucky in ways that I had nothing at all to do with (raised in an educated, middle-upper middle class church-going American family with no divorce), decent genes, a functional and honest personality (despite my share of flaws which nobody really knows about but one of which happens to be a lack of talent for anything requiring talent), etc. However, I give myself credit for making the most of those gifts in my pursuit of happiness and satisfaction. I suppose that I "could have made more of myself," but I didn't want to.
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