Monthly Archives: September 2008

More on the Bailout

I was sort of thinking along these lines earlier today but I didn’t immediately rush to post my brilliant idea because I couldn’t find all the statistics I had hoped to find.

One thing that came up on my mostly fruitless search was this post from back in May which contains this statistic: Foreclosure Market Report™, which shows foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on 649,917 properties during the first quarter… Okay, let’s just play with a few numbers. That number is going to vary from one quarter to the next but because it’s the only number we have let’s round it off to 650,000 and multiply by four. That gives us 2,600,000. Now divide $700 billion by that number and we get (if I’ve entered the right number of zeros; they tend to run together when you have more than 3 or 4) 269,230.77, rounded to the nearest cents.

Okay now, I’m not saying that we should give all those people $269,230.77. I’m just playing with numbers and if I had more numbers I’d play with those. For example, how many people are paying mortgages, the orginal amount of which was less than $500,000 and how much would they get if the $700 billion was divided among them?

As much fun as it is to fantasize about stuff like that, and as much as people like us are more deserving than the people who will actually get the money, I think what’s most important is getting the country to the point where banks are willing and able to make loans again and I doubt that giving money to everyone who “deserves” it would help.

Whatever. I don’t know. But shame on congress for playing politics as usual and then going on a holiday break instead of staying until they work something out.

Fun With Google

I never get any search engine queries as strange as what Charles gets. Most of mine are dull and ordinary and once in a while actually appropriate or relevant. Last night someone in Waukesha, Wisconsin wanted to know, does violin music hurt a cat’s ears. Well, you’d have to ask the cat to be sure (and good luck getting an answer) but I have cats and I frequently have violin music playing on my stereo and have never seen any sign that they notice at all except for one cat I used to have who always seemed nervous whenever I listened to Bach.

Opera and Athleticism

Here is an article from 1979 that I wish everyone, especially opera haters, would read.

Opera singers, athletes? Those paranoid, overpampered, overweight bags of air who won’t go outside for fear of catching a cold, who speak in monosyllables for fear of tiring their voices, who flee the room when someone takes out a cigarette? Dancers, yes, now they could be called athletes. After all, they move around, they even pick people up. But singers?

People speak of a singer’s musicality, his subtle phrasing, his feeling for a song. Never do they mention his athletic ability. And even when they speak of a singer’s power, they don’t usually equate it with physical strength. But the fact is, opera is extremely demanding physically, and a good opera singer must possess many of the same qualities as other good athletes: strength, coordination, stamina. His playing field may be a stage, his uniform a fancy costume and his warmup suit a five-foot scarf, but a singer is, in his way, as much an athlete as Terry Bradshaw or Reggie Jackson.

The article goes into quite a bit of detail about the physical demands of operatic singing. Again, I wish everyone in the world would read this. Honestly, I don’t expect everyone to like opera. Different strokes for different folks as they say. But when people dismiss opera as “nothing but a lot of screaming and bellowing” that is just as wrong, fundamentally dishonest and inexcusable as it would be if I said baseball players are not athletes because they spend a lot of time just standing around. You can recognize the skill and talent even if you don’t like the end result.

Quotes From Here and There

I must tell you, there are those in the public debate who have said that we must act now. The last time I heard that, I was on a used-car lot.here

This lost opportunity drove me to self-loathing far more than my other loss of the evening, when I wasted all my one-on-one time with Neal [Stephenson] explaining to him how to spell “Fredösphere” when he signed my copy of his book. there

Surfin’ the Music Blogs

A Trojan War themed opera season

Many strings – It’s about filming a commercial for a violin shop. I like the photos.

The troubled history of Schumann’s D minor Violin Concerto – I haven’t heard this one yet. I’m not a Schumann fan but this is intriguing.

Spinning Beethoven – Statistics. What fun. (And isn’t that clock just about the music-geekiest thing you’ve seen?)

A depressingly long list of musicians who have died recently.

Robert discovers the harpsichord – Listen to the GV recording by Ton Koopman. It’s heavenly.

Random Linkage

Darwin’s Ghosts – an art exhibit

If Jules Verne Made a Bluetooth Headset – several steampunk accessories

Weird and Wonderful Weathervanes – Very interesting. (via Dark Roasted Blend)

Surname statistics – Interesting. (via David Thompson)

TV in Japan – a blog featuring YouTube videos of Japanese TV shows.

There Will Come Soft Rains – A 9+ minute video based on the story by Ray Bradbury. Disturbing.

Slime Molds – Fascinating nature photos. Some of them look so alien.

A Birthday and Something Awesome

Today is Steph’s birthday and she has posted a wonderful list of things that happened on this date in history and images of what life was like the year she was born. Happy birthday and thanks for sharing.

Also, this is amazing. Steph, please, please get a digital camera and take pictures and put them online. I’d love to see it in person, to be in the same room with it – I wouldn’t dare touch it though I’d love to – but one of the greatest things about the Internet is all the wonderful stuff that most people would never get a chance to see otherwise.

Sweetly Scented Dreams

Smells may affect your dreams according to one very limited study. It makes sense to me. We already know that things in your environment can affect your dreams.

This study only involved women. I think it would be interesting to do a study of both men and women. As anyone who has ever been married to or otherwise cohabitated with a member of the opposite sex knows men and women have such different senses of smell, it could make you wonder if we really are from two different planets. To men some of the most heavenly scents on Earth smell like “something dead” while some far less pleasant smells – gasoline and other chemical smells – don’t seem to bother them very much. It would be interesting to compare the dreams of men and women who went to sleep smelling roses and others who went sleep smelling gasoline.

More on the Bailout

Here’s an explanation of the investment bank bailout plan that makes it seem like not such a bad thing. The government might actually end up making money on the deal. I wouldn’t bet on that myself. The second commenter makes a good point too.

More Political Musing

Why must political “debate” always amount to little more than “I know you are but what am I?” I don’t regularly read a lot of purely political blogs. I’m seeing more politics on some mixed or mostly non-political blogs and I’ve been reading quite a lot of the articles linked on Yahoo’s editorials page.

The comments on even the most civilized blog posts can get very ugly. Don’t dare express disagreement with the local majority. No matter how politely you state your opinion they’ll immediately circle the wagons and bring out the virtual spears and flame throwers. In any political discussion there’s always someone who’s childish and unreasonable. You can’t ever just state a simple opinion without being expected to almost write a 500 page research paper in support of your position and if you can’t, well then your opinion is not valid and you’re an idiot, a hypocrite and a troll. No matter how polite you were. Moderates can’t comment either. Moderates are always seen as being on the “other side.”

Each side has its core group of supporters who think their candidate will be the Savior of America and the other candidate is the Anti-Christ but according to each group it is only the other side who thinks that way and it’s everyone on the other side not just the core group of wackos. This is all about turning people off the other candidate, making people think, “I don’t want to be one of those guys” and, sadly, it often works.

Here’s the truth, folks. Yes, I’m using that big scary word, “truth”, not just my truth but the truth. Both candidates are politicians and human beings. Neither one is anything like a messiah. All politicians are ambitious or else they wouldn’t be where they are now. All politicians have done things that seemed right or were expedient at the time but which later they would rather bury if they could. All politicians have associated with certain people who end up being a political embarrassment later. All politicians have made deals in order to accomplish their goals. Yes, some are worse than others but no politician is saintly.

The same kids who were taunting, “I know you are but what am I?” and “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” on the playground are still at it as adults. They’ll never change but we don’t have to listen to them. Do not believe anything that kind of person says about any candidate. Don’t let them sway you. Do your own research and make up your own mind.

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I bookmarked this editorial by Mike Rose almost two weeks ago but haven’t gotten around to commenting on it like I planned. Ever notice how even when they’re being nice Blue-staters are nearly always condescending? I live right in the middle of Red-state America in one of the reddest states of all and honestly, the reputation is somewhat deserved. There are a lot of people out here who are as dumb as rocks. But there are also some very intelligent people here – blue collar and white collar – and not just in a keeping-all-the-orders-straight kind of way. There are people who really have a good understanding of important issues and larger questions concerning the way the world works.

The important point that Blue-staters miss is not that a lot people in flyover country are as intelligent as they are; it’s that a lot of Blue-staters are at least as stupid as Red-staters, just in a different way. Their ignorance of human nature is shocking. They believe that with enough laws, enough redistribution of wealth, enough diplomacy, and enough trashing of American mainstream culture, we can reverse global warming, end hunger and disease, stop people from killing each other and create something close to heaven on Earth. And the most stupid thing of all – they apparently think that talking about how stupid the opposition is will help them accomplish all these things.

Now I know there’s probably someone out there who is thinking, “If you feel that way why on Earth would you vote for a Democrat?” It’s because candidates are almost never as wacko as their most wacko supporters and I posted some of my reasons a while back. Another reason is balance. We need to move a little to the Left so things won’t go too far to the Right. After (if) we have a Democrat in the White House for eight years chances are good that I’ll be ready for the Republicans to take control again for a while.

I think no matter who wins in November there will be change – some good changes and some not so good changes. And America as a whole will be okay. For most of us politics is a spectator sport and not our favorite one. Whatever happens in Washington we just go on living our lives the best we can with only minor adjustments to accommodate changes in the world.

Rules For Writers

Fred Kiesche of Texas Best Grok linked to Heinlein’s 5 Rules For Writers, plus one.

I’ve never gotten past Rule Number One and probably never will but if I ever did seriously try to write a book, or even a short story, the rule that would give me the most trouble is Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order. I don’t see how I could not rewrite. I can’t get even get through a blog post without rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. And then later I still think, “I wish I’d said that differently.”

Also, just the idea of an editor telling me I have to change something I wrote discourages me from even trying. I want my work to be all my work. If it has my name on it should be 100 percent my ideas and my words. I guess that’s very unprofessional of me. Editors are a fact of life for writers. So I guess that’s another reason I’ll never be a writer.

To Bail or Not to Bail

I found this Megan McArdle quote at Dustbury:

There is no industry in America that does not depend upon Wall Street. If credit seizes up and the banks fail, everyone will suffer deeply as businesses cut back for lack of capital, mortgage capital dries up, credit card rates rise and car loans become hard to get.

But that doesn’t mean one has to support the current bailout — you can add me to the list of libertarians standing athwart history shouting “stop!!!” I don’t think we can punish risk-taking managers and the shareholders who enabled them as thoroughly as we might like without possibly taking the rest of us down with them. But allowing banks to selectively offload their crap on the government without so much as a rap on the knuckles for having bought the crap in the first place is taking things too far.

That’s fairly close to my thoughts on the subject. I’m not shouting “Stop!” yet; I don’t think we should let the whole economy collapse because we want to punish a few big banks but, on the other hand, when you reward people for being stupid or corrupt they will just keep on being stupid or corrupt. Can’t we bail out the banks and punish the humans who are responsible for the mess?

Buying By the Numbers

Sheets with very high thread counts are not necessarily better than sheets with thread counts of around 300. This does not surprise me. Everyone always always wants higher numbers so is it surprising that marketers inflate the numbers any way they can?

Sheets with a thread count of 300 definitely feel smoother than those with a thread count of only 200 but once you find sheets that are smooth and comfortable enough is there any reason to look for an even higher thread count just because it’s a bigger number?

F&S Interview

Field and Stream magazine interviewed presidential candidates Obama and McCain. Nothing really surprising unless you thought Obama is a commie who wants to take away all your guns (he’s not) or that McCain is the all American down-to-earth hunting and fishing guy. (he’s not) But of course people who read the article will still keep on believing whatever they believed before they read it, as you can see from some of the comments. Sort of makes you wonder why some people even bother to read anything.

A Thought For the Week

“The characteristic fact of the moment is that the mediocre soul, recognizing itself as mediocre, has the audacity to assert the right of medocrity and impose it everywhere.”

Jose Oretega y Gasset

The Knit Age and Other Clothing Crises

Years ago, when I was still young enough to think I had life figured out, early 20s I think, I was in a conversation with a group of women who were mostly a generation older than me. One of them made a comment that some woman they had been talking about was “too old to wear jeans”. I confidently declared that there was no such thing as being too old to wear jeans and that I would keep on wearing jeans for my whole life even if I lived to be over a hundred. No one responded to that. They were wise women in some ways.

Well, now I’m 50 (Really? 50? That can’t be right!) and I still stand by the first part of that. You’re never too old to wear jeans as long as you still want to wear jeans. I still wear jeans occasionally in the cool months. I like the way I look in them. (Well, as much as I ever like the way I look.) But dammit, they’re just not comfortable anymore. They’re reasonably comfortable when I first put them on but an hour or two later I start to feel slightly desperate to get out of them. I have a couple of pair of “stretch” jeans. There’s barely any difference.

Yes, it’s sad but true, I have reached the dreaded Knit Slacks Age. Several years ago I bought a pattern for fairly loose, but not too baggy, slacks. I made several pairs out of medium weight non-stretch fabrics like twill and gabardine. They’re much more comfortable than the jeans but still, after a while I’m feeling the need for knit. Or a dress. I love dresses. They are very comfortable and I wear them often during the summer but I feel sort of limited somehow when I wear a dress – like I always have to be careful to move in a graceful, ladylike manner which is not a bad thing but you know what I mean. When you’re taking out the trash or sitting in the dirt weeding the garden or something like that you just don’t feel right doing it in a dress. Also, there’s no graceful way to get in and out of a full size pick-up wearing a dress.

So I always come back to knit slacks. Fortunately there are now some nice cotton spandex pants instead of those horrible polyester double knit things women used to wear. Right now I really need some more knit slacks. I have three pairs of jeans and more than enough of the loose but not baggy non-stretch pants I mentioned so I should just be satisfied with those until they wear out but I keep going for the few pairs of rapidly deteriorating knit slacks that I have left. (Here’s some very nice fabric. I sent for a free sample swatch. It’s more of a t-shirt weight but suitable for lightweight summer slacks also.)

By the way, forgive me for being blunt but I must say this. Ladies, if you wear snug knit slacks or leggings please be sure to wear a top that is long enough to cover your hips. No one wants to see your jiggly parts. (Well, at least half of us don’t want to see your jiggly parts.)

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I bought a pair of these in red. I like leather boat shoes, even though I rarely go anywhere near a boat, because it doesn’t hurt to get them wet so I can wear them on rainy days or in wet grass. I had a pair of brown slip-on boat shoes from L.L. Bean – no laces except for decorative ones – for well over 10 years. They had holes in the soles and in the toes. I kept putting off replacing them because I wanted to find some just like them but they only have the lace-up kind now.

Having red shoes seems delightfully self-indulgent – almost bad in a feels-good-to-be-bad sense. It probably only seems that way to me because I tend to buy shoes in the brown to beige color range. I briefly thought about being “sensible” and getting one of the neutrals but never seriously considered them, which is surprising for me. You might say these are my mid-life crisis shoes except that (1) I’m not having a crisis and (2) although these are very nice casual shoes they’d be a pretty pathetic choice for mid-life crisis shoes. It would be like a guy buying a Volvo station wagon for his mid-life crisis car. Real mid-life crisis shoes would be something like these or these. If I tried to wear either of those I’d probably have a crisis of the falling down and cracking my skull kind.