Sunday, July 24, 2011

War Bonds and the Debt Ceiling

At the Metropolitan Museum this afternoon, looking at this and that.

In passing in the hallway, we saw war bond posters that are part of the excitingly titled exhibition, "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection". The selection on show is described this way on the Met's web site: "Also on view will be a group of World War I posters that focus on the ever-changing image of the Statue of Liberty..."

What struck me, however, in the midst of the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling was the difference in tone from our current debate. America had a great goal it was seeking to achieve--winning the World War. It raised the money the politicians felt they needed not only by raising tax revenue--though they certainly did that too--but by persuading Americans that America was a good bet and getting them to pony up their own cash voluntarily as a loan to the government.

This post would be better with photos.  Another reason my next phone will be fancier!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why I Stay Out of Bookstores (or should)

Mutatis mutandis, though not quite so dire:
Even though we get a lot of people into the shop, only a small percentage of them buy anything. The best customers are the ones who just have to buy a record on a Saturday, even if there's nothing they really want; unless they go home clutching a flat, square carrier bag, they feel uncomfortable. You can spot the vinyl addicts because after a while they get fed up with the rack they are flicking through, march over to a completely different section of the shop, pull a sleeve out from the middle somewhere, and come over to the counter, this is because they have been making a list of possible purchases in their head ("If I don't find anything in the next five minutes, that blues compilation I saw half an hour ago will have to do"), and suddenly sicken themselves with the amount of time they have wasted looking for something they don't really want. I know that feeling well (these are my people, and I understand them better than I understand anybody in the world): it is a prickly, clammy, panicky sensation, and you go out of the shop reeling. You walk much more quickly afterward, trying to recapture the part of the day that has escaped, and quite often you have the urge to read the international section of a newspaper, or go to see a Peter Greenaway film, to consume something solid and meaty which will lie on top of the cotton-candy worthlessness clogging up your head.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Friday, July 15, 2011

Traditional Catholics: Just Like Spies

A quote from the former head of MI5 reported in The Telegraph sounds just like some folks I know:
One Dartington audience member asked Dame Stella for her opinion of security services in other countries. She replied: “The Italians were all ex-admirals and terribly courteous - lots of hand-kissing and bowing. The French were extremely good and seemed able to do anything. We worried about laws, they seemed able to do exactly what they liked so we rather envied them.”
I think we can conclude that traditional Catholics are just like spooks in these respects.

via Jay Nordlinger

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shrimp and Watermelon

Shrimp and watermelon was a combination new to me. It was one of the fun flavor combination dishes that we ate last night at Queen's (relatively) new Salt and Fat restaurant.   Another was pork buns with apricot mustard.  The buns themselves, meh, but the apricot mustard idea (with or without pork) I can really get behind.

But to return to shrimp and watermelon, today I get this in my e-mail from Havana Central:

a promotion for a "Watermelon Fiesta" featuring shrimp and watermelon.  Is this some new trend?  Nope, it goes back a ways.  Here's a related recipe on Google Books from 1998.  So not as creative as I thought, though still darn tasty.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pot of Gold at the End of the Ethernet Cable

Back in the days of MUDs and MUSHs there was a story going around about a guy—addicted to cocaine—who got so addicted to MUDding that when his "friends" laid out a line of cocaine next to his keyboard he couldn't stop playing long enough to sniff it.

But a couple of weeks ago, I read in the New York Observer the most outrageous internet overuse story since those days.

Here it is:
One college student sustained permanent minor brain damage due to heatstroke after he dozed off in his room next to four computers furiously mining Bitcoins. “I wish I was joking,” he said in a forum post that was reposted on the website

Bitcoins are a virtual currency, created (or "discovered") by solving a mathematical problem with a computer.  People can use their home computer setups (very powerful home computer setups) to create new coins and that's what caused the accident in this case.  A later post on provides more details.

The gold standard is the most exhausting topic in politics, but discussion of Bitcoins has the potential to combine all that economic wonkery with hard core computer nerd-dom.  Bitcoins may take over the world, but only if everyone doesn't fall asleep first.

Friday, July 08, 2011

You Can Buy Lots of Hats for 2,000 Sestertii

Caesar militibus pro tanto labore ac patientia, qui brumalibus diebus itineribus difficillimis, frigoribus intolerandis studiosissime permanserant in labore, ducenos sestertios, centurionibus tot milia nummum praedae nomine condonanda pollicetur legionibusque in hiberna remissis ipse se recipit die XXXX Bibracte.
C. Iuli Caesaris
Commentariorum De Bello Gallico
Liber Octavus ab A. Hirtio scriptus
Caesar might have saved himself a bit of money if he'd outfitted his troops in warm and stylish knit hats like this from Etsy:

Thursday, July 07, 2011

New Independent High School to Open in Norwalk

The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny posted this news a few months ago: New Independent High School to Open in Norwalk:

A new independent Catholic high school, Cardinal Newman Academy, will open this fall in Norwalk, CT. The school will be closely connected with the highly successful independent Catholic elementary school, Anchor Academy. The photo above is a scene from an Anchor Academy classroom. The idea for the school arose from the desire among parents to provide a high school program for the graduates of Anchor Academy and to any students who are interested in receiving a solid Catholic, academic education. This fall the school will have a 9th grade, with plans to add a new grade each year until the school is complete. Anyone who is interested can direct inquiries to Kristjana Underhill, 203-536-3800 or
This is really great news. Catholic schools with authentic Catholic distinctives are our chief weapon (o.k., amongst our weaponry) for building Catholic culture and Christian society.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Noli Me Tangere

Many months later, I've finally finished reading José Rizal's, Noli Me Tangere.  I don't recommend it.  Aside from the setting, it feels derivative of writers like Dumas and Hugo.

It's place in the literary canon, enshrined in the Penguin Classics, is similar, it seems to me, to that of Uncle Tom's Cabin.  They are books that are politically important, but not only secondarily artistically interesting, if at all.

Harold Augenbraum's introduction in this edition is interesting and useful, but the notes are idiosyncratic, one example suffices. Rizal's biblical quotations from the title on are offered in Latin. Augenbraum has used the King James Version to provide translations rather than the Douay or another Latin-based edition.

I wrote a previous post about anti-clericalism in the novel, which can be found here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Debt Ceiling, Fail-Safe, and Fire Ants

Jonathan Alter has a nice piece at Bloomberg on the debt ceiling.

Alter gets some bonus points for his discussion of the wonky Fail-Safe, though not as many as if he'd mentioned the 1962 novel and not just the 1964 film. I've read the novel several times since discovering it in our middle school library. I like it a lot. The movie, which I saw at Film Forum a few years ago is not as good as the novel, but the novel sets a high bar (for the sort of thing it is anyways).  The plot and conclusion (no spoilers!) are still profoundly upsetting in the film version, but the back-story is not explained as effectively. IMDB points out that the movie will air next Saturday, July 9, on TCM at 8 P.M. It's also coming to Lincoln Center's Walter Reade theater as part of a retrospective on director Sidney Lumet later this month, where there will be a Q&A with screenwriter Walter Bernstein.

(The live television adaption in 2000 was technically interesting and impressive, but ultimately not as good as either the novel or the movie. The sometimes odd casting choices did it no favors.)

But returning to the article, the part about Grover Norquist is fun:
Norquist Looms

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader recently described by Alan Simpson as “the most powerful man in America, including the president,” has convinced the majority of House members to sign his pledge to oppose all tax increases. He’ll fight even these fail-safe triggers, just as he fought them under the first President Bush.
But even being the dark prince of the GOP doesn't prevent Stephen Colbert from stealing the show right from under you, though Norquist has a pretty good comeback:
(When Stephen Colbert asked Norquist this week whether he would support a tax increase if it would save grandmothers from being bitten to death by angry fire ants, he said: “I think we console ourselves with the fact that we have pictures and memories.”)