Sunday, March 30, 2014


No, this isn't a post about Random Paul, our beloved junior senator. Man, I keep posting them, no one seems to like my snarky Random Paul memes. Maybe just too snarky? There's
Here in KY we call him Random Paul because you never know what he's going to say next.
The Boy Who Would Be King
Sarah Palin with a Y chromosome, a narcissistic lightweight.
Random Paul is like a stopped clock. Occasionally he gets something right.
Oh well, I'll keep on plugging I guess. I of course recommend my post from before his election (sigh) "Random Paul's Top 10 Randomisms".

Life has been somewhat disrupted lately. My mother-in-law died March 16, 2014, after having a massive heart attack and stroke. She was making oatmeal for her 55 YO Downs Syndrome son, said, "I feel woozy.", passed out, and never regained consciousness. 93 YO, pretty coherent til the end, but in increasing pain. For the next few months, I will be taking a turn watching Uncle Bruce 1 or 2 days a week with his sibs and other sib-in-laws. I'm going to try to get him out to shoot some hoops, we used to do that.

So haven't read any of "Wealth of Nations" for over a month. Magazine stack is clear, so hopefully I'll be back on it RSN. I have stayed current with my online course "The Age of Sustainable Development". Main thing I have gotten from that course is just how screwed sub-Saharan Africa is:

  • tropical diseases;
  • no coal (for an industrial revolution);
  • no oil;
  • no major rivers, giving many land-locked countries;
  • no connected network of railroads like India has, since there were many colonial occupiers rather than 1.
I did read the collection of short stories "Adrift in the Noƶsphere" by Damien Broderick. He's Australian and has been writing for decades but somehow stayed under my radar. It's a nice mix of stories. A couple are pretty creepy, particularly the final one with a UFO abduction theme.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Letter to the Editor

I wrote a very snarky letter to the editor re our beloved junior senator Random Paul -- The Boy Who Would Be King -- a couple of weeks ago. I was pretty sure it wouldn't get published -- way too snarky -- but, I didn't save a copy it anywhere, and now it's gone. I am going to continue to write letters to the editor -- I've had a few published over the last few years -- and I think I'm going to write them in Blogger rather than directly on the Herald-Leader site so that I'm sure to have a copy. So here's the latest.
Our senior senator Mitch McConnell has in recent statements continued to deny climate change, despite 97% of climate scientists finding that the evidence for human-caused global warming is overwhelming. I guess that, sadly, it is the new normal for Republicans to ignore and deny any science that is inconvenient for their donors or unpopular with their voter base. But it is surprising to me that McConnell is also ignoring the strident alarm being raised by the US military. In its 2014 Quadrennial Review, the Pentagon states that climate change is real; that it posts a clear and present danger to our troops worldwide; that is a "threat multiplier" and a terrorist incubator; and that we should take urgent action to combat climate change.

So the next time McConnell or other Republicans say that they support our troops, ask them why they are ignoring the Pentagon's recommendations that we address climate change as a urgent matter of national security.

The Pentagon report is available at:

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Light Reading

I was in Naples FL from February 4 to February 27. It rained twice. It was cool (overnight low 45 degrees, high of 66) 1 day. Other than that, 2 weeks of highs around 83-84, which are actually a little hot, and 1 week of highs in the upper 70s, which are perfect. You leave all the doors open, mild breezes move the air, perfect. Plus green and colorful flowers everywhere. Very hard to come home to gray and white and more snow and ice.

I also really miss the exercise opportunities that I have down there. The biking is weird -- mostly bike lanes on 4 and 6 lane highways -- but I still got to bike 9 times for 430 miles total, an average of 47.7 miles. That puts me on the bike 3-4 hours, and that seems to put too much stress on my hands. I still have some numbness in the ring and pinky fingers on both hands. I was biking with a guy on one of the "leaning on your forearms on the handlebar pads" bikes, he said that bike totally fixed the hand thing for him. So I'm going to look into getting that type of bike.

I also walked 10 times for 50 miles. The default walks in the community there wind up at around 4.5 miles, so I've come up with some more convoluted routes that get up to 6-7 miles. At the end I was also stopping by the exercise room towards the end of the walk and doing arm and torso work.

Well, that pretty much seemed like a vacation, so I decided to reread "The Great Book of Amber", by Roger Zelazny. This is the 10 Amber novels, which were all around 200 pages and published from 1970 to 1991, in 1 book. There are actually 2 stories of 5 books each, the 1st of the older generation doing a "Game of Thrones" thing and vying for the "King of the Multiverse" job, the 2nd of the next generation vying for the "King of Primordial Chaos" job. They are very quick reads. I like the 1st 5 better. I liked these a lot back in the day, they were pretty good on the reread. The 1st one was funny, hippy slang ("I couldn't dig what he was talking about") definitely jarring and gave some chuckles.

Then at the recommendation of my brother the author, I read "Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths", by Nancy Marie Brown (2012). This was a biography of Snorri Snurluson, an Icelander of the early 13th century. Snorri was responsible for the creation of the Eddas, which are our major source of Norse myths, which I have always loved. Iceland at the time was independent -- it came under Norwegian rule later in the 13th century. If you weren't a mighty warrior, you could get by on being a mighty poet (called a skald), which describes Snorri. Snorri eventually became the most powerful man in Iceland, before his allies and in-laws betrayed him and he was killed.

I think the most interesting thing about this to me was how many of my favorite stories were apparently not passed down from older stories but were instead created whole cloth by Snorri. 1 example is the 1 where Thor and Loki visit the giant after spending the night in his glove and their young male companion races Thought, Loki has an eating contest with Fire, and Thor wrestles Old Age.

This was an interesting and a quick read, and puts me up to 3 biographies that I can remember reading in my life. The other 2 were Albert Einstein and Harpo Marx.

I am 6 lectures and quizzes into the online course I'm taking at coursera on "The Age of Sustainable Development". I skim or read the recommended reading materials, which takes 2-3 hours. I then watch the lecture, which are up to around 1 hour 40 minutes. I then take the quiz with the help of the PDF of the lecture, which takes around 5 minutes. It's getting a little boring, but maybe the slower rate of information transfer will help it stick. Around 1/3 of the quiz questions involve looking stuff up in online databases and doing some easy math, which I guess is an OK thing. It doesn't seem like I'm really learning much new stuff, but getting a lot of this knowledge in the framework of a course again will probably help it to stick.