Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanks for the Tips!

Whenever I've mentioned a book or CD on this blog I've included an Amazon link. That's for your convenience, not mine. I do make a few pennies on the side as an Amazon associate, but I refuse to let it affect my blogging, like some people I could mention.

So it's time to say thanks. I just cashed a $25 gift certificate from you, my readers, and particularly Greg, who bought the Nautilus E514 Elliptical Trainer on a half price sale.

murakami_1q84.jpgHere's what I got: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa, and a 3-Foot RCA Cable to improve the sound of my living room stereo.
Thank you all!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


curiousity_mars_rover.jpgWSJ Weekend takes a look at Curiosity, NASA's newest Mars rover.

There's also a nice eleven minute animation that explains without words the whole mission; over at NASA's site. I thought the animation conveyed especially well the vast solitude of that uninhabited wilderness.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving at Lizzy's

thanksgiving_2011_thumb.jpgBelieve it or not we all sat down at that tiny table.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Tradition

As they have every Thanksgiving for fifty years, The Wall Street Journal publishes this week two essays by Vermont Royster, the first entitled The Desolate Wilderness, an excerpt from the records of Plymouth Colony, and the second And the Fair Land, written about 1950. The two pieces fit neatly together, as he intended.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Latest Swindle

Christopher Orlet began to wonder.
Ever since I moved to the inner city one thing has puzzled me more than any other, and that is how my low-income neighbors get by. Assuming they aren't doing anything illegal, how do they afford their homes, their meals, their gadgets, their cars?
None of them seemed to work. But even when you take TANF, WIC, Medicare, and food stamps, and tie them up in a neat little bundle, it still isn't enough.
Then a social worker friend clued me in. Many of the poor also collect federal disability benefits in the form of Supplemental Security Insurance, or "crazy money" as it is known on the streets, since one must "act crazy" to receive it. Oftentimes several people in the same household -- adults and children -- collect checks. This surprised me, since I had never for a moment guessed that my neighbors were disabled.
disability_payment_chart.jpgWelcome to the latest installment of what John Derbyshire calls The Slavery Tax.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Early Winter Storm

m_snow_11_19_11_thumb.jpgSnow levels made it down to the valley floor last night.

t_snow_11_19_11_thumb.jpgTimmy thinks it's too little and too wet.

Is it lunch time yet?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sequestration Isn’t Failure

It might be actually a blessing in disguise says Phil Gramm.
If Republicans win a majority in the House and Senate, they could use the provisions of the revived Gramm-Rudman Act to replace or modify the 2013 sequester with entitlement reforms or other changes in discretionary spending. Their plan could not be filibustered and would pass with a simple majority vote. The savings achieved would be in effect for only one year.

The resulting empowerment of a new Republican Congress and president would be profound. Rather than having to first adopt a budget, delaying real action until the summer or fall of 2013, a new Republican Congress could de-fund ObamaCare immediately and begin to reform entitlements for a year during which they could adopt a budget and use reconciliation to make these and other reforms permanent with a simple majority vote.

In his effort to put off the difficult decisions of governing until after the election, President Obama has made it possible for a new Republican Congress and a new Republican president, not tied to the mistakes of the past, to begin the repeal of ObamaCare and restore fiscal sanity the moment the new president's hand comes off the Bible on Jan. 20, 2013.
Something tells me Obama was never in the chess club.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drill Ye Tarriers

James_Dinnison.jpgHigh school dropout James Dinnison earns over $200,000 a year.
Mr. Dinnison belongs to a class of nouveau riche rising in remote and mineral-rich parts of the world, such as Western Australia state, where mining companies are investing heavily to develop and expand iron-ore mines. Demand for those willing to work 12-hour days in sometimes dangerous conditions, while living for weeks in small dusty towns, is huge.
Twelve-hour days, dangerous conditions, dusty small towns. Sounds vaguely familiar. Oregon had such people when I was young. We called them loggers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the News

The Supreme Court had agreed to decide whether Obamacare is constitutional. Good. It would be nice for them to make up their minds. And of course it would be nicer still if some of them ended up agreeing with me, but I don't care if they do or not. I've already made up my mind.

If I should go to jail for disagreeing with the opinions of the three weird sisters (four if you count Breyer) that is just fine by me. Justice Thomas will certainly take my side, as probably will Justices Scalia, Roberts, and Alito. Kennedy? Who gives a damn what Kennedy thinks.

Jail isn't so bad. In jail the food is dull but adequate. The beds are lumpy but you can sleep. In sleep you dream and in your dreams you are free. In my dreams I'll remember what America was like half a century ago when I was a kid and this was a free country.

Half a century. A long time to remember. Plenty to dream about.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mysterious Standing Rocks

mysterious_standing_rocks_thumb.jpgMarielle took me for a walk down by the river this afternoon.

Where the old diversion dam used to be we found dozens of rocks such as these balanced precariously on their narrow ends in seeming trepidation at the approach of the evening storm.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our Most Enduring and Effective Enemy

For almost two centuries, Canada was the greatest threat to England's American colonies and the young United States. The main theater in this contest was what Indians called "the Great Warpath," the 200-mile route of water and woodland paths that connected Albany and Montreal—and, by extension, New York and Quebec cities. It was here that Americans faced threats, conceived doctrines, and demonstrated martial qualities that we recognize today.
Veterans Day is a fine day to learn a little military history.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank You

Thank you all for your expressions of sympathy and offers of help. We very much appreciate both; I especially enjoy the sympathy. As for the help, keep your powder dry. Among the world's seven billion we're still in the top 1%, but this may be a hard winter for others more in need of your help than I.

My wife and I enjoy a little gallows humor at times like this.

"Do you suppose someday," she says, "we'll be living in a tiny apartment and working at McDonalds?"

I hug her but not too tight. (Ouch, still tender.)

"You want fries wi' dat?"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Don't Like To Complain

I really don't. We've been lucky so far. Got a good college education, married well, raised three pretty good children, and drifted into a career that pays very well most of the time. We've got a big house on an acre and a half and three cars.

But lately we've had a series of setbacks, and Monday night was the low point.

Saturday I felt fine. Sunday evening I got sick. Leslie was across town staying with her eighty-eight year old mom who is waiting for gallbladder surgery. I was supposed to drive Marielle to school Monday morning. But as the night wore on I got sicker and sicker. Finally at 5:30 I called Leslie.

"I think I need to go to ER."

"Do you want me to come get you?"

"No, I can drive myself."

"Are you sure?"

Long pause.


I managed to walk into ER on my own but spent the rest of the day on my back getting X-rays, CT scans, and HIDA imaging. They ruled out one organ after another. Heart fine, liver OK, kidneys good. The gallbladder has got to go.

"I was hoping to go out with the parts I came in with."

"Not gonna happen." Of course, as a surgeon, he would say that. But the pain had been increasing all day.

"You can have both gallbladders if you make it stop hurting."

He smiled and patted my shoulder. Two hours later I felt great.
Modern medicine is a miracle. Medical bureaucracy, not so much. We don't have insurance; we almost never do. Three babies were born in that hospital and we paid out-of-pocket for all three. We paid our student loans. We paid our mortgage. We paid our taxes. We've always paid our bills.

But Monday night we hit rock bottom. I've worked four months out of the last twelve, we still owe thousands of dollars in back taxes, and now we owe who-knows-how-much for an emergency laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Send me the bill.

It feels great to be alive.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two Worth Reading

  1. Neal B. Freeman channels Bill Buckley.
  2. Mark Steyn comments on the Oakland riots.
(As always, if the WSJ article is behind the paywall, email me.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just In Case

zombie-package-photo.jpgHornady has a new line of ammo in calibers from 9mm Luger to 12 gauge.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eat the Rich

eat_the_rich_orourke.jpgIt seems to be a popular sentiment these days.

But P.J. O'Rourke was already there twelve years ago, writing Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics way back in 1999. It is still, my brother and I agree, the best layman's introduction to the dismal science ever written. You should read it.

Read it by flashlight as you huddle in your tent listening to the soothing rhythms of the drum circle. Be careful though. You know what they say about reading books.

You might accidentally learn something.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I See Your Problem

Western Communications, the parent company of The Bulletin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Portland on Tuesday, citing difficulty renegotiating $18 million in loans with Bank of.... is available to subscribers. To continue reading, please log in — or purchase a day pass
Yeah, right.