Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Quote of the Day


"The mailings of pipe bombs, and similar activities, have been described as hate crimes. Is that what makes them bad — the hatred? Or is it the way the hatred is expressed?
Might it be okay, for instance, to mail pipe bombs randomly, to people you do not hate, indeed, don’t even know?"
-- David Warren

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Released into the Wild

Well, they're kicking me out tomorrow, but not until Monday do I see the surgeon about maybe putting weight on my let foot. That means I have to hire a wheelchair ambulance on Monday to go from home to doctor and back. This is Very Expensive, since the government insurance (Medicare) covers it not. Forget about pre-existing conditions, what about covering existing conditions? How I will hop up the steps to the front door with one leg ia currently undecided. Perhaps the ambuleers will carry me up, chair and all.

A local politico is running ads about how his opponent will gut insurance protections for pre-existing conditions. Boo. His examples are deceptive : diabetes, cancer. But this is not what is meant. Currently, one may opt to buy health insurance after getting sick or injured. That's not insurance, that's demanding other people pay your medical bills. That may be a good and desirable thing, but it is not insurance and it is not sustainable. That's why Obamacare had that provision that everyone had to buy a policy. So healthy people would be paying into the pool without drawing out. But people wanted coverage for pre-existing conditions without the ugly necessity of buying an insurance policy first. Hence, premiums and deductibles skyrocketed.


Meanwhile, I sit and watch TV, which allows my brain to rot. There are hundred of channels, but they are all running veterinary shows, home renovations, reruns of Roseanne, M*A*S*H, Gomer Pyle, and That 70's Show, as well as a variety of football games, car repairs, and Donnie Brasco: The Real Story. Tonight. reruns of Family Feud will be strip-run on two different channels, neither of them the Game Show Network. When I surf from channel to channel, I almost never see an actual show in progress but invariably a commercial. And they are the same commercials, on every channel.

The good news is that there are only twenty commercials. The bad news is that they run over and over -- and half of them are political. An incredible number of commercials are for prescription medicines. There are traditional commercials for cars, but we seldom see any for toothpaste and of course never for beer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NybJiNihiZo
I assume we are to Ask Our Doctor about these wonderfuls drugs and their multitudinous side effects, including possible death. That's because the takers of these drugs are shown swimming, playing golf, reading to their grandchildren, and other activities that their hithero but now-cured illnesses presumably kept them from doing . Seldom are these activities related to the illnesses.

We are also instructed that the other candidate is a crook or in the pay of Big Pharma or even -- I am not making this up -- a sexual harasser and child rapist. Fortunately, the targets are politically situated such that such Credible Accusations will never have a Kavanaugh-like fallout. Like a breath of fresh spring air are those commercials which tout instead the ieas and merits of the candidate him (or her) self. Alas, in many cases, these ideas are lunatic.

The commercials seldom mention the party to which they belong. ("this commercial was approved by the Congressional Leadership Council".) Although in naming the orc or troll in opposition they will mention his benighted party so their own affiliation could be deduced. Often they are deceptive in subtle ways. One local candidate mentions that she was inter alia a chemistry teacher in an inner city school. Go go google. A web site detailing candidates with a scientific background notes that she was a teacher for an entire year before packing it in. She also announces she was "the CEO of a successful start-up", but the science site tells us further that the company was started up by her husband. So perhaps the skids to CEO-dom were greased?  Another commercial deplores the rich backers of his opponent, but an election site states that he has spent $9.5 mill. to his opponent's $1.0 mill. Another is the grandson of a former VP-USA, Henry Wallace.

PA is in the envious position of having brand-new Congressional districts imposed on her by the courts, replacing those that had been drawn by the legislature. These were suspected, indeed convicted, of being gerrymandered.
New court-drawn districts
Old districts


Yeah, no fooling. Well, it was a predictable consequence of racial gerrymandering. It didn't take the Republicans long to notice that when safe districts were created for black candidates, the adjacent areas became safer for Republicans. This enabled Republican redistricters to pose as both virtuous and self-interested at the same time. Throw in a few twists and turns to ensure an incumbent of his seat and you could even get bipartisan support!

The court-drawn districts actually look reasonable, since they better preserve geographic contiguity. But they are numbered all differently. The Lehigh Valley, for example, constitutes a single district, rather than parceled out as hitherto and conjoined to areas lacking common interests. The new 11th District amusingly comprises the counties of Lancaster and York, so we may predict a rosy future for it.

I note that in the early years of the old Republic, Penna. sometimes elected two or three Congresscritters from the same district and even elected Congressmen at large for the whole Commonwealth.That's a charming notion. Instead of laboriously redrawing maps, make the districts permanent and bump up the number of representatives it sends in.

Disbursements so far:
1st District (Bucks Co.)
Brian Fitzpatrick     $1,923,009
Scott Wallace         $8,396,873

7th District (Lehigh Valley)
Marty Nothstein     $567,484
Susan Wild     $1,563,222

meanwhile across the river, in the 7th NJ
Leonard Lance     $1,231,529    
Tom Malinowski     $3,673,046












Friday, October 26, 2018

The Dangers of Childhood

The Incomparable Marge had a close call in her childhood. In fact, she had several close calls.

the incomparably cute

 


  1. While visiting cousins in Dustin OK, she was chased by pigs and treed. These were not cute little pet pigs or cartoon pigs, but enormous farm pigs. They would eat anything, including small children. Fortunately, among their many skills, tree-climbing is not numbered and eventually her cousins came and corralled the pigs.
  2. While she and a friend were a-setting on a rock overlooking a lake, Western rattlesnake crawled out from underneath said rock toward them. She never saw the snake until she was shown its carcass by her friend's father, who had shot it.
  3. Once on vacation, she had hopped in her father's rowboat and her father cried not to move. Lo, there was a water moccasin in the boat between her and her father on the dock. She immediately teleported from boat to dock and the safety of her father.
  4. TIM on the stoop of her duplex
    with two neighbor boys
    When she and her father were living in a cluster of duplexes near the hobo jungle, she managed to get herself locked into the trunk of her father's car. This is no laughing matter in the Oklahoma heat. But Fortunately, her father and a neighbor managed to free her.
  5. When playing Tarzan in the kitchen, she swung on the refrigerator door in lieu of a vine, and tipped the thing over, fortunately not on herself
By TOF's count, these were five opportunities for him to be deprived of the company of the Marge, which is four more than the close calls of his own. Or else, TOF was in danger in his own youth and was oblivious to it, obliviousness not being beyond the range of reason. Still, TOFling was never threatened by snakes, let alone a herd of pigs.

Quote of the Day

“Indeed men too often take upon themselves in the prosecution of their revenge to set the example of doing away with those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity, instead of allowing them to subsist against the day of danger when their aid may be required.”
-- Thucydides, History of the Pelopponesian War, Book III



http://www.wright.edu/~christopher.oldstone-moore/Thucydides.htm
The consequences of refusing to accept the outcome of an election -- in 431 BC.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Quote of the Day

“Social” justice is the opposite of justice as intelligibly conceived. It is justice not to persons, but to abstract groups. It is invariably a programme of State intervention, and it will invariably bring real and often acute injustice to most of the individuals it touches. There is no coincidence that those who cry for “social justice” not only engage in brownshirt demonstrations, but call their opponents “Nazis.”
-- David Warren

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Thought for the Day

The British justice system put a rapist in a women’s prison because he claimed to be female though he is an unaltered male. There he sexually assaulted four women prisoners.
In its reporting of this case the Guardian uses “she” and “her” throughout to refer to him.
https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/09/the-state-has-failed-karen-whites-victims

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Thought for Today

The Pyramids were older when Cleopatra saw them than Cleopatra would have been had she watched the Moon landing.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Three Useful Definitions

The words thanks to N. N. Taleb are
  1. Pedophrasty
  2. Bigoteering
  3. Partializing

1. Pedophrasty
Argument involving children to prop up a rationalization and make the opponent look like an asshole, as people are defenseless and suspend all skepticism in front of suffering children: nobody has the heart to question the authenticity or source of the reporting. Often done with the aid of pictures.

Taleb gives the example of beggars who would rent children from others to use as props at their begging station. Rent, because children grow up and they did not want to have them indefinitely. He also says:
"Pedophrasty has its most effects on actors, journalists and similar types who are intellectually insecure, deprived of critical judgment, and afraid of being classified as violators of some norm of political correctness. For instance, pedophrasty has been commonly used in the Syrian war by such propagandists as Julian Roepke continuously supplying the German public with pictures of dead children. Or the various lobbies hired by Saudi Barbaria (and allies), such as the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, to promote Sunni Islamist policies under the cover of “think tanks”.
The Nayirah testimony: a false congressional testimony by 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah (she turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.) was a bit responsible into tipping the US into the (Kuwait) war. Nayirah claimed that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators a Kuwaiti hospital, and leave the babies to die. Nobody dared to question the veracity of her claims. Her claims, it turned out, were all fabrications; but it’s too late to reverse the war."

-- N.N. Taleb

Other useful definitions:

2. Bigoteering
Tagging someone (or someone’s opinions) as “racist”, “chauvinist” or somethinglikeit-ist in situations where these are not warranted. This is a shoddy manipulation to exploit the stigmas accompanying such labels and force the opponent to spent time and energy explaining “why he/she is not a bigot”.  (h/t Tim Ferriss)

We have seen any number of examples of this these days.

Partializing
Exploiting the unsavory attributes of one party in a conflict without revealing those of the other party. Example: “He is a dictator”, giving the illusion that the alternative is the Swedish parliament not some worse faction.

Taleb: "The problem can take absurd proportions: in the Syrian War, it was used by interventionistas describing the “dictator” without mentioning that his opponents are Al-Qaeda head-cutters." H also cites "people who decry civilian casualties in Aleppo but forget about it in Mosul."

Quote of the Day

"Conservative presidents were 0-3 in appointing O'Connor, Souter and Kennedy, and if even one of the appointments turned out otherwise much of the last 30 years of the Sexual Revolution would not have happened (cf. Casey, Lawrence v. Texas, Stenberg v. Carhart, Obergefell).  Anthony Kennedy alone is arguably as important to the advance of the Sexual Revolution as Hugh Hefner, and to reflect on him being Regan's alternative to Robert Bork is to recognize how contingent, fragile and unpredictable the great movements of history are."
-- James Chastek

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Quote of the Day

From Elizabeth Anscombe's article, "Why Have Children?":


This very title tells of the times we live in. I would like you to imagine a title for a lecture eighty years hence: "Why digest food?" I leave it to the reader to imagine -- or think of -- the technology already with us; and the 'scientific advance' and its practicalities, including the resultant apparatus ending in tubes with needles and switches in every house. Also the successful propaganda denigrating the "merely biological" conception of eating and the hostility -- known to have prevailed in the Catholic church for many centuries -- towards its pleasure and thereby towards its spiritual meaningfulness and civilized quality. As whole peoples in our time have regarded feeding their babies at the breast as something rather for savages, so might people of the future regard nourishment by digesting the lovely food we eat in the same way.

Don't think it inconceivable. The human race is a fallen race. It has fits of madness, sometimes merely local, sometimes nearly global....

G. E. M. Anscombe, "Why Have Children?", Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, Volume 63 (1989), pg. 48.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Quote of the Day

"We have developed an allergy to poetry; like the allergy to peanuts, but often worse. Take allegory, for instance. In the modern mind, it can induce a stroke. Most of the Bible, to say nothing of other significant literary works, has become unreadable or incomprehensible to us, because we cannot take “play” seriously"
-- David Warren

Monday, October 8, 2018

For Your Reading Pleasure

Clarkesworld is an SF magazine that sometimes runs reprints. Twice, they have run TOFian reprints. "The Promise of God" ran in June 2016. And in May 2018, they reprinted "In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon."


The Promise of God
You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both.
It began to grow cold in the cabin after the sun went down, and Nealy thought about building a fire. It would be a fine fire, roaring and crackling and toasting warm. It would light the room with a delicious dancing light, and he and Greta could beek on the outer hearth. He loved the way that firelight played off Greta’s features, making them red and soft and shiny; and he loved the way the smoky smells of the burning wood blended with the earthy smells of Greta herself. Yes, a fire was surely what was needed.

The wood was stacked against the back wall. He had chopped it himself, as Greta had asked. Use the axe, she had told him before leaving to trek down the mountainside to the village. Don’t do it the Other Way.
 continue here

In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon

The man who slipped into the Second Dog that day was thin and pinch-faced and crossed the room with a half-scared, furtive look. Willy cut off in the middle of a sentence and said, “I wonder what that Gof wants?” The rest of us at the table turned to watch. An Authority cop at the next table, busy not noticing how strong the near-beer was, slipped his hand into his pocket, and VJ loosened the knife in his ankle scabbard. Robbery was rare in Panic Town—making the getaway being a major hurdle—but it was not unknown.

Hot Dog sucked the nipple of his beer bottle. “He has something.”

“Something he values,” suggested Willy.

VJ chuckled. “That a man values something is no assurance that the thing is valuable. It might be a picture of his sainted grandmother.” But he didn’t think so, and neither did anyone else in the Dog.

continue here

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Potpourri

Bully!

One of the great challenges of the  Late Modern Age is how to define a disparagement so that it does not include oneself. For example, 'sexual predator' must apply to teen-aged boys who are said to go horizontal on the sofa and the girl later has an attack of the vapors, but does not apply to Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton, at least while they are still in office. To wit:

bully (v.): "to overbear with bluster or menaces," 1710, from bully (n.).



Brett Kavanaugh shared the DC Court of Appeals with Merrick Garland, who was its chief judge. Republicans so opposed Garland's appointment to succeed Scalia that they would not even allow a vote. (TOF thought the power play was churlish and did not object to Garland.) But they did not try to smear him.  There was no asisault on the very basics of the law. Anyone who remembers the Massachussetts day care center hysteria -- or the Salem witch hysteria, or the numerous lynchings once common the south and midwest, often in consequence of miscegenation hysteria -- should be wary of swallowing any accusation simply because it is fraught. The latter in particular was often accompanied by chanting, intimidating mobs. Recall also Tawana Brawley, the Duke lacrosse players, and others. No one of the usual suspects "believed the victims" of Bill Clinton.

FDR would never get loyal Democrat and devoted New Dealer, Hugo Black, onto the court today. His youthful indiscretion was his membership in the Ku Klux Klan. He resigned from the KKK in 1925, at age 39. 

###

Quote of the Day

"History never repeats itself. Only the laugh track is on a perpetual loop." -- David Warren

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Kav-enough?

The Manhattan Contrarian notes that the Democrats seem to acknowledge the failure of their teen-aged groping accusation on Judge Kavanaugh by shifting their pearl-clutching from his alleged teen-aged indiscretions to his "demeanor" in his response to the accusations and/or to whether he drank beer in college. (Quelle surprise!) If he had responded like Spock, the complaints would differ, but who can doubt that his demeanor would have been attacked, regardless?

Meanwhile, the media are in a hoo-hoo because Fred Trump managed to turn over many of his properties to his children and not pay as much in gift taxes as some think he should have. Much is made of 'undervaluing' the properties, although as the Contrarian points out, the values were still high enough that the IRS would have reviewed the transaction and signed off. Recall that, at this time, the Trumps were Democrats and big donors to the Clintons.

For a full discussion, see the link, above.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Quote of the Day

"Blood and kinship relations found racial distinctions, and there has been a campaign since the wars to minimize their significance. One sign that problems have arisen in this attempt has been the transition from integration to diversity, i.e. where as before we wanted all races to share a common life we now want them to live different lives, but put them on display for an alleged pedagogic value. “Separate but equal” returns as celebrated."
-- James Chastek

Monday, October 1, 2018

Quote of the Day

"It is an elite rage of law professors and management consultants. It’s the rage of the powerful, which is always more dangerous than the rage of the downtrodden."
-- R.R.Reno

Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology aphorisms Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics potpourri psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the russians are coming the spiral arm the writing life thomism thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play xmas you can't make this stuff up