Monday, May 30, 2016


I find it useful, or at least encouraging, to try to figure out what the good was that was perverted into some evil. Echo-chamber ideological bubbles don't advance civil discourse. I'm afraid I consider that evil, since none of the political parties have anything remotely resembling a monopoly on truth. (Or of falsehood, though several come temptingly close.)

Some of the echo-chamber is tribal signaling: "I'm one of you: see, I don't even listen to the bad tribe!" Wanting to be a member of a tribe is a good thing, but we all know how badly that urge gets misused.

There's another factor: "Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge." (Prov 14:7). If you hang around fools, you will waste your scarce minutes and brainpower with foolishness, and have to unclutter your mind again to be able to receive wisdom. I'd take that verse to be a directive to avoid TV, but I could also take it to apply to avoiding sloganeers. Since sloganeers seem to be a majority of the people speaking for a particular party, it is only a short step from there to avoiding listening to anybody speaking for that party.


We all know perfectly well that of the soldiers who died, some died because of stupid accidents, some were cowards, some were nasty people in civilian life and so on. But since judgment is God's, maybe we should forget about all that stuff for a while, and remember that they were there, and there for us, and assume the best for a change?

I wrote that for all their other faults, Mandela and de Klerk were the right men at the right time. For the sake of our own souls, if for no nobler reason, we need to remember the good they tried to do. We more Laodicean sorts need reminders of what courage can do.

I've never heard the speakers at the ceremonies for the dead this day offer caveats. They lump all the soldiers into the category "brave and honorable." This makes some of us itchy, but suppress the urge to complain. Many were brave: to say all is not a polite lie but a prayer that they all will be found so, and that in whatever crises we face, we with our mixed motives, will also be found brave.


How long after the inventions of fabrics did we have the invention of "doing the laundry?"

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Don't bother bringing your camera into the caverns at Mammoth Caves. No flash, no tripods, and only their lighting ⇒ images will be blurry and colors will be wrong.

They have lots of things outside to photograph, though. Wish I'd had a polarizing lens, to try to get a good shot of that snapper...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Before we lose the notes

Family recipes:
aFrench Doughnutsb
1pkgdry yeast1/2 pkg
1/4 cuplukewarm water1/4 cup
1 1/2 tspsugar1/4 cup
2 1/2 tspsalt1/2 tsp
1/2 cupshortening1/8 cup
1 3/4 cupboiling water1/2 cup
6 cupflour3 3/4 cup
evap milk1/2 cup
Recipe (b) (no instructions for (a) listed)

Pour boiling water over shortening, sugar, and salt. Add milk. Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add to cooled mixture, with egg. Stir in 2 cups flour. Beat. Add flour to make soft dough. Chill in greased bowl w/ waxed paper over dough.

Roll 1/4". Cut into squares. Fry.

Serve with plenty of powdered sugar. These recipes have no nutmeg. Others do.

This was a rare Sunday morning treat once upon a time. If you serve it at night instead it is much more conveniently prepared.

Lemon wafers:

  • Cream 1.5 Tbsp shortening
  • Add 1/2 cup sugar
  • Beat in 1 egg and
    1 tsp lemon flavoring
  • Sift and add alternately 3/4 cup flour
    1/8 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
  • c 3 Tbsp milk
  • Drop by tsp on greased baking sheet, well apart.
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hearing songs

One's hearing is supposed to deteriorate with age, and from time to time I detect signs that I am not an exception to the rule. But for some reason if I have the oldies station on, I can hear the words much more clearly than I did years ago. Perhaps hearing them mumble the lyrics a few times makes it easier to pick out the words. Perhaps the car speakers are far superior to the tinny ones of the 70's. Certainly the airport speakers are much easier to understand than they used to be (easily verified by listening to recordings made back then--even at a Presidential address the sound was terrible).

No, we didn't go to concerts, but I suspect the audience noise would have made them even harder to understand than the radio versions. (Maybe understanding wasn't the most important thing about concerts--darsan and tribal bonding...)

I'm not always overjoyed when I finally figure out what they were talking about. "Are you nuts? Life's not like that; love's not like that!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What did they mean by it

On the grounds of the Mammoth Cave national park are the cemeteries and many of the churches of the communities that were displaced to create the park. In fact the park is open 24/7 precisely because of those cemeteries and an agreement that they needed 24/7 access.

On of these is Little Hope Cemetery.

I assume the name came from a community or river called Little Hope. I wonder that they let the name stand, though.

A map at the Mammoth Cave visitor's center claimed that Little Rock Central High School is among sites under the aegis of the National Park Service. I didn't realized I'd gone to school in a park ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I'm not traveling as much as I used to, so I'm not so worried about bringing little critters back. But I wondered today: What eats bedbugs? Choices like freezing my luggage for a week or abandoning the house for a couple of months or loading up on superbug-bombs don't enchant me. Could we bring in a predator to take care of the critters.

Cockroaches, among other things, eat bedbugs. Or centipedes. Some spiders.

Feeling itchy?


Fortunately Judge Gbeneweleh dismissed Lincoln Brownell's suit. I find it very sad that he filed the defamation suit in the first place. I hoped for better of him.

The judge said Brownell had given the interviews that he subsequently claimed defamed him. Filing frivolous lawsuits doesn't speak well of his character either.

Abandoned ship

I wrote earlier that an abandoned ship washed up on shore of Liberia and got no official reaction for 2 days: This at a time of nominally heightened security.

Updates to the story involved arresting looters and discovering that the control room had burned--at some point. (The area is heavily Muslim, btw.)

But all is well--we hope. One of the putative owners showed up, saying he'd bought the oil tanker (transporting groundnut oil) on the installment plan, and that after it started leaking in the engine room the crew got off using one of the lifeboats and were picked up by a fishing trawler. The Nigerian tanker is registered in Panama, ironically. (Instead of Liberia)

Nice to know it probably wasn't pirates. Or arms smugglers.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Japanese Destroyer Captain by Tameichi Hara

When I heard of this I bought a copy for Kindle, figuring that my Better Half would find it useful in putting together her father's memoirs (submarine quartermaster in WWII). As is often the case in our clan(*), somebody else wound up reading the book first. This time it was me.

Hara rewrote the book on torpedo attacks for the Japanese Navy, and as the blurb says, became a very successful destroyer captain. As the war wore on, successful came to mean surviving more than it meant actually accomplishing the official mission.

He is quite frank in his judgments. He tries hard to explain what went on during naval battles (which this novice found quite helpful). And he tries to explain how he managed to survive "a hundred sorties."

If you have any interest in the Pacific war, read it.

(*) Christmas afternoon has often been a quiet time, with everybody perusing everybody else's book haul. If you have to drive back to Wisconsin the next day, you have to read in a hurry.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Suppose that we add a new condition for eligibility for public office: The candidate must spend at least a month living in an isolated community with a Trappist-like(*) vows of silence and obedience. That includes living without electronics, and with minimal writing.

Granted, quite a few politicians would simply burst under the strain. I think we could afford the loss.

Think of the salutary effect when the survivors realize that the world won't end if they can't get their oar in. And that things don't get radically worse when they are obeying other people rather than having other people obey them.(**)

The higher the office, the longer the stay required.

(*) Yes, I know Trappists don't actually vow silence. Close enough, though.

(**)Some politicians are capable of learning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Listening to speeches

AVI wrote that most of his interaction with popular culture is text-based--would that make it hot media?

The first thing I thought of was "I haven’t watched or listened to a Presidential speech or debate in decades. I skim the transcript. If that."

That’s partly because I hate to waste a half an hour when I can get the same information in 2 minutes. Partly it’s because I discount their claims and promises by 90% or so—don’t listen to the magician’s patter, watch his hands. ("You can keep your policy.")

I’ve delivered addresses that were compelling, and others that were fumbling, with equally sound data and reasoning behind both kinds. (At the equivalent of 3am my time, I rarely perform at my best.) I don’t put quite as much weight on presentation as on content, at least when listening to the pros. With acquaintances, yes, I pay attention to tone and posture—but pols and other actors practice sounding convincing.

I wonder if one side effect of this detachment is a lack of perceived relationship. When I read a speech I don’t feel that Obama is addressing me the way I’m told the fireside chats made people feel that Roosevelt was talking to them. I didn’t feel attached to Bush either, or to Clinton, or to Bush or … But some people seem to feel more than just a simple tribal connection.

On reflection, I don't think that lack is a real problem. There is no personal relationship between us--why kid myself? Perhaps David Warren would argue that there should be--the king should have a small enough kingdom to make that at least remotely feasible. But for better and for worse we intended to design a government with replaceable rulers to whom one makes no lasting commitment beyond a pension.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Alert and watchful

Liberia has gotten a few warnings that Boko Haram or an affiliated group is interested in launching attacks, and the government has been making noises about increased security.

And so, of course, an abandoned tanker went aground and nobody noticed for two days. (Apparently local folks noticed, but the authorities didn't get around to showing up.) "A source at the National Port Authority (NPA) told the Daily Observer that the NPA was not aware of the situation because “Robertsport does not have a seaport.”"

Apparently the ship went missing three weeks ago. Nobody was found aboard--the port authority thinks the owner ran out of money to pay the crew and they all skipped out.

Or else pirates killed the crew, but officials don't dwell on that possibility.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Confederate Monuments

A monument to Confederate soldiers was to be removed from a University of Louisville campus, but a judge blocked it until a hearing.

When I was 20 I’d have been gung ho for removing it—the Civil War was about slavery and I don’t want to honor that.

I’m not 20 any more. The Confederate powers-that-were wanted slavery, but seriously, did the soldiers actually say "Ma, I’m going off to fight the Yankees so our neighbor Jeff can buy himself a slave if he ever saves up enough money"?

One of the points of the war in the first place was "these Southerners are part of us." You can get away with damning the soldiers because of the cause of their rulers, provided you don’t want to be part of the same tribe with them afterwards.

I get the impression that those calling for the universal destruction of all such monuments (*) aren’t interested in living together afterwards.

(*) Though you can melt Jeff Davis down for scrap and I won’t mind.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lake of the Woods

We stopped off at Lake of the Woods on the way back home today. It isn't a big place, but it is pleasant, the museum is nice and hands-on, and there turns out to be a botanical garden in the place--not there 30 years ago. A path leads by a bench installed in honor of an ex-Stalag POW who founded about 4 different businesses in Mahomet, a gazebo and an arbor that the clematis hasn't climbed up yet, over to a lily pond aswarm with tadpoles and an artificial waterfall.

Along the way I saw a slab-throne covered with colorful small tiles, with the images of pendants on the arms. I wondered what they could be--was this something for weddings, or what is something Marian--what did those pendants mean?

I found a small sign near it: "Throne Rococo Nouveau." In other words the decorations didn't mean anything. I found that somehow disappointing.