Interesting Times -CACS

Sarah remarked that right now a number the people who write alternate columns for her are having interesting lives.

As my life has progressed I have pondered the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” I have concluded that what is considered as interesting times changes with perspective.

When I was in school I thought of the curse as quite a threat, generally encompassing great disasters and upheavals. I thought of interesting times as The Revolution (American and French), The Late Great Unpleasantness, The Great Depression and World War II. You know, those big things you learned about in the history books.

I guess that The Cold War would likely have counted as interesting as well. The Bomb and the threat of nuclear war have always been a part of my life. My earliest political memory is a speech given by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (I admit I probably only remember it because it interrupted the movie King Kong.) To my parents and grandparents the Cold War was a real and active threat, but to me it was situation normal, an ongoing background noise that was always there.

As was racial unrest. I was raised with the stories of the Freedom Rides and Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. I recall being quite put out with my parents for not going down to join the protests in the southeast. The pastor and a few congregants from the Unitarian Church in center city Philadelphia had joined with others to take a bus load of people to participate. In my child’s brain I did not consider the real world responsibilities that my parents carried. At that time my father was working and going to law school, and my mother was taking care of me.

I watched on the TV as Watts was torn apart, as rioters and looters went on a rampage. There were major riots in the city in which I lived, although not in the immediate neighborhood. That seemed more urgent than the Cold War, but having been raised conscious of the situation, it had always been a part of my life. At one point I had organized all five year olds in my household for a protest march through my neighborhood. My mother kept the sign I made to her dying day.

Having always known the Cold War and racial unrest I did not think of them as qualifying as interesting times. They were simply what was going on, my reality. I now know better. I also sadly note, in spite of hopeful reports of their passing, that recent events have proved that they really are not gone from the world stage.

I am, obviously, older now. With experience, a broader study of history, and the wide availability 24/7 news I have long since realized that it is a truth that somewhere the world is going though some kind of interesting times. The political and social upheaval may not be on our immediate door step, but it is out there. While in the past distance might isolate us from the effects, with the global markets, it is more likely that some region’s instability will be felt.

I have also steadily expanded the definition of what constitutes interesting times. Living through a five year drought, reading about the effects of the great grasshopper plagues in the western planes, the 1927 Mississippi River flood and events such as Krakatoa have added natural disasters to the mix.

Yet the biggest change came with the realization that simply being alive meant that you were going to live through interesting times. Interesting times do not just involve disasters of cataclysmic proportions. They can be personal or familial, created by the upheavals that occur just because you are alive.

Just this year I have watched as people who I know (and their families) have had their lives change in a moment, when they receive a diagnosis from a doctor. A lovely young woman, a careful eater with an active lifestyle, had an unusual and entirely unexpected rare bi-lateral stroke. (She is slowly recovering, thank you.) A friend in her mid-forties with a loving husband and two young children had been feeling just a little under the weather throughout the summer. She finally decided to go to the doctor. Sunday morning she succumbed to leukemia after a grueling six month battle.

Moreover the circumstances do not have to be what we would necessarily call bad. A friend who has struggled to get pregnant and carry to term for years received the news that she is expecting twins. At first she struggled with fears of loosing them. Now, at twenty-three weeks along, everything looks good and she is thrilled. Still it is proving to be an exhausting challenge physically. (Those of us who have only ever had to deal with one small child underfoot at a time are doing our best to be encouraging and not to tell her of the exhaustion that comes with that.)

So now, my definition of the interesting times of the curse can be anything from the global to the personal situations that threaten to overwhelm. Even those who make the best of plans and prepared for their lives are going to experience them. We cannot anticipate or control for everything. So we best develop a sense of humor, and pray for some boring times. While you are at it make a conscious effort to treasure and enjoy those good things come your way even in the midst of your interesting times.

218 thoughts on “Interesting Times -CACS

  1. As the son of two history teachers I grew up knowing, or being told rather quickly, a lot of the context my schoolmates lacked. When the Environmental movement got going in the ’70’s and lots of well
    intentioned idiots were saying that the air had never been more polluted, my Mother was there to tell me about how grey a morning couod be in a city heated by coal. When a young, hip, teacher at my high school,wanted tomteach us about the ’60’s and the “first” draft and race riots I had the background to tell him he was missing an entire era, and to point him to the New York Draf Riots of the Civil War (which were both).

    Times are always interesting, indeed. And having some context can keep them from being so interesting that you freak out.

    The way the LIRPs do at the drop of a hat. I have to conclude that, even taking into account the uses they put their panics to, they enjoy them for their own sake.

    1. Daddy and his father both held degrees in history, had similar experiences growing up.

      Knowing some history does provide some grounding perspective when those around you start to run around in circles screaming, ‘The sky is falling! The sky is falling!’ or ‘The perfection of man is on the horizon!’

      1. And it’s astonishimg how little they appreciate it when you point out that the Very Latest Thing ™ is a recycled fad that tou’ve already lved through. Twice.

        As a minor example, the last time Troll Dolls made a comeback some acquaintence of mine was much taken by them, and expected me to enthuse. I had to explain gently that I’d thought they were bug-ugly the last three times they were fashionable.

        Or there are the many folks who are. Much alarmed by the Sex Trafficking™ panic, who are very pit out with me for pointing out that the White Slavery alarms of the late Victorian and Prohibition eras were basically the same thing, and mostly pigswill.

        1. I don’t know about the Victorian and Prohibition eras, but my father briefly dealt with white slavery in the UAE back in the sixties. It was not a pretty thing.

          1. Given that men were constantly being shanghaied during the Victorian era, does it really surprise you that some women were also shanghaied? It had been going on since the Muslims showed up in the Middle Ages (as a slave-kidnapping industry) and some of it did persist into Victorian times and post WWI.

            OTOH, it’s roaring back these days. A lot of girls from Mexico, the Philippines, the Ukraine, etc. go off to foreign parts to take good jobs, and then they find out when they get there that it’s a brothel. Happens to some young men, too.

            Of course, it’s statistically more likely that you’ll just be forced to do normal sorts of work without getting paid, with your passport and documentation disappeared, and a bunk in a stuffed illegal dormitory that you have to go back to, every night.

            1. Opportunity for profit + vulnerable population – risk of discovery/punishment = outrages on the vulnerable.

              Doesn’t matter if it’s poor folks in the PI or 15 year olds who see their bus driver more than their parent(s).

              And sex– especially illicit sex– is always a big profit.

        2. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
          ― George Orwell, 1984

          While it is a cautionary tale, some persist in using it as an instruction manual.

          Similarly, as George Santayana noted, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    2. Yep – pretty much that. I always like tweaking the global warmenists by pointing out that Medieval Greenland was warm enough for subsistence farming, and that Roman-era Britain was temperate enough to grow wine grapes.
      Generally leaves them sputtering.

      1. Doesn’t work with everyone. I know of a few history enthusiasts who happily compare notes of Greenland clothing and shoe and whatever finds, from the time the Vikings were homesteading there, and still may worry about something as whether they should buy a house close to the sea here as the seas will start rising any day now and it might lose its value before they or their kids can sell it again. And if you point out the history they know and acknowledge – it has been warmer than now. A lot warmer. For a long time. – they still don’t seem to get it. History. One thing. Present, and science. Something else. Can’t compare, it seems.

        I guess it’s some sort of authority blindness. If an authority says something it’s true. If two authorities say two somethings which are contradictory, if you start to think about them, they are still both true and probably you just don’t understand everything involved because you are not an expert in either. Common sense should not be used as it is not a valid way to look at things.


        1. If two authorities say two somethings which are contradictory, if you start to think about them, they are still both true and probably you just don’t understand everything involved because you are not an expert in either.

          YES, The Cult of the Expert: I got some pretty paper on the wall proving I could navigate scholastic politics and please the prior documented experts. So who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?

          1. There was a time when this sort of knowledge about Expertise was widely recognized by the American public, as demonstrated in one of the greatest works of cinematic art:

            Sadly, nowadays we are all too prone to accept as determinative the Professor status of our Harold Hills.

        2. It’s a cult. Why do you think the cult works so hard to discredit and silence contradicting voices.

        3. “…still may worry about something as whether they should buy a house close to the sea here as the seas will start rising any day now and it might lose its value before they or their kids can sell it again.” You should ask them why the rich folks love their ocean-front properties and aren’t selling them and moving inland.

        4. If two authorities say two somethings which are contradictory, if you start to think about them, they are still both true and probably you just don’t understand everything involved because you are not an expert in either.

          Thing is… if the authorities are valid.. this is true. Usually the “don’t understand everything involved” is what I think of as a translation error– ever have a discussion where one person was using “casualties” for “deaths” and the other was using it for “wounded seriously enough to put out of action”?– but sometimes it’s not actually a contradiction, it’s just NOBODY knowing for sure what’s true and all the evidence pointing one way or the other.

          I think that’s why they’re so hot to snag groups with high credibility, like NASA, for their purposes. Destroys the reputations faster than it can change minds, but it does wear folks down.

          1. The technical meaning of “casualties” is

            ANY wounded (ok, and RECORDED as wounded, but if a medic gives a soldier a Band-Aid it gets recorded)
            So if those are the standards you’re “experts” are using, neither one of them is qualified.

            1. The problem with technical definitions is that they only work if you’re operating entirely inside of that field, and nobody is translating into normal use. Sort of like the “clip vs magazine” fight, but even more extreme.

      2. I thought Michael Mann ‘hockey sticked’ the medieval warm period out of existence? Something about a single tree in Siberia didn’t feel the heat.

        1. The “great” Pine of Yamal. Probably the only tree pining for the fjords and not, oh, southern Georgia (ours, not theirs).

  2. Times are interesting, but we don’t have to fight dragons.
    BUT Elizabeth A. Lightfoot’s characters in “The Ugly Knight” do, and it turns out well for them, but not for the dragons. Well, sorta for the dragons too, I guess. I’ve just posted the review on Amazon and my blog.
    Here’s something else interesting that I have personally witnessed: in my lifetime, it would have been against the law for my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock GA and I to go to the same school together.

  3. Sometimes life IS a little too interesting and while I get the point of the ancient Chinese curse, I still prefer that to being bored. If it wasn’t for our struggles and our trials we wouldn’t be who we are. Let’s face it: Easy times don’t build character. When everything comes easy there is no learning process. There is no need to expand a skillset or grow.

    I’m going to liken real life to fiction for a second. In fiction, we expect that a character will have changed and grown in some definable way by the end of the story. If you’ve ever read Eric Flint’s style sheet on he talks about it. Real life should work that way too. Lessons learned through struggle are the lessons you remember for the rest of your life. Everything else just gets washed away.

    1. Of course one’s character is shaped through withstanding or overcoming challenges. I don’t want nothing but boring times, that would be stupefying and stultifying.

      You have heard the saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’? The Spouse is want to quip, ‘It may just set you up to be knocked out by the next thing comes along.’ Once in a while a person can use a breather to recoup and regroup.

          1. Sort of, but it can be good motivating BS, you can use it on yourself or others to convince you or them to push on through the pain and get accomplished what needs accomplished.

            1. That saying fails to distinguish between significantly different types of pain. The pain of muscles suffering build-up of lactic acid is weakness leaving the body; the pain of gout in your big toe, back spasms or a kidney stone passing is a different matter entirely.

            1. Or just plain trying to get in shape after being mostly sedentary for a couple of years (me, right now, I haven’t done any exercise beyond walking for a while, and I didn’t do even that for several months after that tendon in my left shoulder got inflamed again, then I noticed that I was in a thoroughly lousy shape and the tendon was not getting any better. So I guess I’d better exercise anyway. Might even help with the tendon).

              Can hurt quite a bit. Should keep doing, anyway. Sometimes a bit difficult to figure out which hurting is okay, and which might indicate you should ease a bit with that exercise or you might do some damage to yourself, though.

              1. Be sure to make sure you eat enough protein to rebuild the muscles that are torn (that’s how you build muscle) — and possibly glucosamine if the joints are aching.

              2. My rule of thumb (or knee and back actually) is that late-onset dull pain and stiffness is probably good, especially if I know what I was doing to that area (like two days after lifting weights). Sudden onset pain in the middle of an activity is not good.

                1. 🙂 Like if your knee almost folds under you the next day when you get out of bed after doing leg presses, during which there was no pain, and after which you could walk just fine. Well, it did start working again after I had walked for a while, but the first steps were interesting.

                2. You should not sit still for too long after a day when you exercised a lot. It gives you too much chance to stiffen up.

                3. The one exception to that seems to be your back. Then again that isn’t necessarily a dull pain, so maybe it isn’t an exception. I have never had back problems, but I managed to do something to it last summer/fall. I have no idea what I did, but it didn’t have pleasant results, and this fall/winter I decided I needed to rebuild my sadly diminished shoulders and upper chest. Only to discover that while it might not hurt at the time, doing as few as twenty-five or thirty pushups would cause back pain the next day and that lasted for around a week. Attempting to work my way through it, by continueing the pushup routine daily, or doing large numbers of them had more severe and longer lasting effects. Waiting a month or so and trying again hasn’t improved that, so far*.

                  *I’m a slow learner, I will no doubt try several more times at suitable intervals.

                  1. If you have ancestry that ever crossed paths with Neanderthals, you may have ankylosing spondylitis. The blood test is HLA-B27. Nobody checks for it, because it’s rather rare, but if you’ve been working with a decent health care person and the pain doesn’t respond, you just might be a caveman. I am.

          2. You have to separate out the good pain from the bad pain. Working out and strengthening muscles hurts – but in a good way. Ripping muscles and tendons hurts in a distinctly bad way.

          3. most people who say that have never been in chronic pain… and if they get in chronic pain, mostly, they stop saying it.

            1. The problem with chronic pain (at least in my case) was that it came on slowly, and so I got used to it, and it was a couple of years until I realized that I was in a lot of pain.
              Then the doctor gave me a shot to kill all the pain for a couple of days, to see if it would come back or not, and wow! I had no idea how much it hurt, and what I’d gotten used to over time.
              Needless to say, had surgery for it two weeks later.

              1. Some of us don’t have that option. I’ve Osteo Arthritis which is a degenerative disease that has no surgical remedy.

                1. I’ve got ankylosing spondylitis, also no surgical treatment, but I’ve been pleased in the past year and a half with the results I’ve gotten with the Butrans patch. Does an adequate job of managing the pain, but does not fuzz my head at all, unlike all the other narcotics I’ve been given over the past ten years.

                2. I was developing dead arm syndrome, and the only reason they were able to diagnosis and fix it is because I was seen by the guy who takes care of the 49’ers. And the only reason I got to see him, was because he was a personal friend of one of my co-workers.
                  Was expensive, but well worth it, because eventually I would have lost the use of my arm.

                  As for arthritis, well, my mom has it, and I’ve got a touch of it, so I suspect it will just as bad as she has it eventually. It is definitely one of those things I feel sorry for the people who have it, especially some of the much nastier versions, like what you have.

                  1. I haven’t lost any mobility yet. I have lost sometimes some grip strength in my hands. Otherwise the worst symptom I have is moderate to severe pain. I take vicodin every day and a muscle relaxant and I’m usually good.

              2. Oh, yeah. I think I’ve been enduring chronic pain at practically every movement for a few years — I should have known it, but I didn’t. Well, once this is healed we’ll see if it went way.

        1. I prefer Sergeant Schlock’s “That which does not kill me has made a tactical error.”

          There is something to the “stronger” part, though, in that it gives us experience and a point of reference. Experience to help us deal with the problem, and a point of reference for comparison. I’ll never forget sitting beside my father in CICU, after he had five bypasses, and he looked across the hall and said “That guy over there is in bad shape.”

          1. I think my husband has a new motto. Possibly a family motto, at that– wonder what it would look like in Latin, or Italian….

            1. “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger; that which does kill me makes me undead.” 😎

        2. Type of pain issue. “Pain is weakness leaving the body” was typically used in boot camp in regard to sore muscles and uncalloused hands and feet. Such is our modern life that there was an article a day or so ago of why we “hurt” the second day after beginning work-outs. Except on the farm we called it soreness instead of pain, reserving the latter for intense body-says-do-something-now pain. We’d expect to be sore for three days after starting a new physical chore, and didn’t think anything of it. Urbanites don’t have that experience.

            1. I’m currently being told, “You’ve done something bad to your sciatic nerve. Stop it.” Except that it won’t tell me WHERE the “something” is. Usually it’s supposedly coming from being pinched at the spine, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this time.

              This resulted in one of the ER visits I mentioned earlier, before I knew what was causing it. The pain got so bad I was afraid it was a blood clot. It wasn’t, but I wound up losing nearly two weeks’ work before we figured out what I needed to do to keep it under control.

              1. Probably something along your knee or thigh or neck, something weird like that. All those muscles do tie together.

                Maybe take a shower and see what loosens up?

                1. I’ve done the shower thing several times in the past few weeks. The first three times, I couldn’t stand up long enough to help. Later, it did help, but no particular spot. It’s been hurting in my butt, the back of my upper thigh, the back of my calf, and in my ankle. I have been using an ankle brace that seems to help, but I don’t know if that’s actually where the source of the problem is or not.

                  1. Sounds like you need to get your spine looked at. Disc or nerve trouble could be the culprit.

                    1. Spinal X-Ray showed up normal. As did the Doppler Ultrasound to check for blood clots, and a knee X-Ray.

                      Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers are helping, but I have to be careful.

                    2. Wayne, did they just do an X-Ray, or did you also have a C-Myelogram?

                      Basically, that’s an MRI where they inject the contrast into your spinal fluid at the base of your spine, then tilt you so it oozes like ketchup up your spinal column while they take the pictures.

                      My neurosurgeon had to use that to find my issues because X-Rays wouldn’t.

                  2. Believe it or not, Tiger Balm actually works very well on that sort of pain. My wife has back and joint issues and a good shot of Tiger Balm will allow her to avoid extra doses of hydrocodone. I know Walgreens and Amazon both carry it.

              2. Do you know anybody really into the woo-woo stuff, or a good vet?

                It sounds like it may be… can’t remember the term… compensation pain? You move to avoid something hurting, and that adjustment eventually hurts. I had hideous pain in my heel for a few months at one point, and come to find out it’s because I had a chunk of glass in the ball of my opposite foot– it would poke, I’d thump down on the opposite heel; I’d subconsciously learned that if I didn’t, it hurt worse… but the long term ouch was enough to get my attention. My mom figured it out when we found the chunk of glass and she checked my shoes… no wear on the part by the glass.

                Another friend had issues with his shoulder. The woo-woo doctor, some type of chiropractor, told him to carry his walled in his front pocket. Poof! Worked.

                1. I actually thought that maybe the fact that the pain was moving around was caused by compensation, but it didn’t appear to be. And I can guarantee that my wallet is not doing enough to this barn-sized butt to make a difference (I don’t actually sit on it – the pocket isn’t low enough for that).

                  Near as I can tell, what really happened was that I pulled something when I tried to start using my treadmill (almost two months ago now), which caused inflammation and pressure on the sciatic nerve. I spent a couple of weeks limping because of it pulling behind my knee. It seemed to be getting better, even though the pain went from the knee, to the calf, then to the thigh, and the ankle. But then we got snow, and a day or two after doing a bunch of shoveling, I could barely walk.

                  I spent two weeks almost exclusively laying on my right side (if I laid on the left, the pain would make my eyes cross, and on my back was nearly as bad), except for short excursions to get on the internet to keep from going stir-crazy. First doctor visit I told her it was muscle pulls, because it felt like I was just about to get a charlie horse, so got a steroid shot and a muscle relaxer. Second, she said, she was pretty sure it was the nerve, gave me 10 days worth of steroids, an anti-inflammatory, and it has been getting quite a bit better.

      1. I believe that we should all have a boring day – about once each month or so. I always remember the only place that you get “eternal peace.”

        1. I’ve kinda liked Tamora Pierce’s description in _Song of the Lioness_. Paraphrased: free time [or peace] is what the gods give you after you die (if you’ve been good).

    2. Tastes vary. Dull is fine. I like dull. I could use more dull in my life.

      Dull makes a very nice background on which to put your own interesting things.

      1. Hmm, interesting take, I thought dull was just there so you could get set up for the next time the waste hit the impeller.

        1. How reactive of you. Go forth and find what you want to make your life happy.

          Except for the budgeting worries, unemployment was kinda fun.

          1. Guess I’m a little slow this morning. How is getting ready for your next challenge re-active?

              1. Nope. If all my stuff is squared away ready the next crap to hit the fan, then I can relax and enjoy things.

      2. You are more likely to cut yourself severely with a dull knife. I prefer one sharp as a razor, it makes cutting stuff much less work, and you can be much more precise. Every time you lightly touch a sharp knife you will get cut, but usually you only brush up against a sharp blade. A dull knife on the other hand requires you to saw and force it through things, and when it slips when you are putting your back into, well there is a lot of force behind it that you are unprepared for, and a severe injury is much more likely than with a sharp blade.

        1. I was actually meditating on this the other day while I was cooking… it depends on the technique you use with the knife.

          Using a dull knife like a sharp one, the way my cooking teacher taught us, will get you cut– and badly. Or stabbed. Or break the dang thing. Etc.

          Then there are things you should “never do” that work fine with a knife that’s rather dull– cutting frozen meat, for example; some sawing things loose, I actually prefer a butter knife. It’s just a different technique, like the difference between a scraper and a chipper for paint.

      3. After three wars, any day where nobody is actively trying to kill me is a good day. I agree that dull is good.

        Specifying, of course, that dull is somewhat different from boring.

  4. Imagine your typical peasant in China. Life was either routine and you were struggling to survive, or some event, came along, disrupted your farm and you starved. No wonder they wanted to avoid interesting times.
    Now, our culture is a long way removed from subsistence (our poor suffer obesity). We understandably have a little more tolerance for interesting.
    For you writers out there, of course I don’t want to read a book where the characters get up, go to work, get paid, nothing happens. Kind of like a diary of me walking my dogs; I don’t think even I would want to read it.
    Now, the fact that books are pretty much always written about interesting times may distort our view, as again, very few novels tell of a protagonist struggling against evil and ends up being hung. (Except for Sir Prachett, and even he has them being hung at the start of the novel, and some of the magic has now left the world with his passing)
    My philosophy of life is that life gives you two choices: change or die. When you start whining for the ‘good old days’, you already have a foot in the grave. And besides, if you could remember all the details, they were definitely the old days, but the good part is questionable.

    1. When you start whining for the ‘good old days’, you already have a foot in the grave. And besides, if you could remember all the details, they were definitely the old days, but the good part is questionable.

      The human being has an amazing ability to put a shine on what never was…
      the good of the old days often is that they have been survived.

      1. Makes sense, if you think about it. Already did that, know how to survive it. Haven’t done this before, not sure how to handle it. Obviously, the past feels safer.

      2. My problem with the modern world is that my “good old days” are being recycled.

    2. Minor quibble. I occasionally see some pretty cool stuff walking the dog. Saw a bolide, about a year ago, looked just like something out of a Buck Rogers serial. Saw a satellite flash a while back I still haven’t found an explanation for. Learned “what the fox says”. Apparently we were getting too close to its territory. Saw a Toyota pickup with a frame stretch that looked like a wild idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while. No, a list of which dog dropped a load where isn’t gonna be much, but a case could be made that with some effort, an interesting record could be compiled.

    3. Imagine your typical peasant in China. Life was either routine and you were struggling to survive, or some event, came along, disrupted your farm and you starved. No wonder they wanted to avoid interesting times.

      Yes, for it to be a curse, one would have to believe that it meant “interesting” to the level of significant death and destruction going on. I always tended to think of it in the sense of an invasion, a revolution, or major natural disaster.

    4. In all pre-industrial societies “Interesting Times’ pretty much suss out as “Their Lordships have a case of the ass”, which is seldom pleasant.

    5. Hmm. If you follow my Live Journal, you will find irregularly posted posts tagged “nature” which are a series of observations mostly made on my walks. People have found them interesting.

      1. Ah, but you are probably taking a walk in a target rich environment. I sometimes take my dog to the riverside, or the local reservoir (he likes the horses he sees on the trail). Those, and even some walks around home can be interesting. (Or sad, once we saw a young fawn without its mother; the next day there were a circle of buzzards.)
        And, of course, there was the time they dug into the ancient alien excavations and we found a starship with a working FTL drive, not to mention the Dragon cave, but 99.44% of the time, it is same-old same-old.

      2. It’s like “slice of life” anime; even “boring” times have interesting things– check out any good family reunion for the stories that don’t involve war.

        It’s like… life’s a cut diamond, and those bits are the twinkly, shiny bits. You want them to be close together, but far enough apart to be admired instead of overwhelming.

  5. I was most definitely a child of the Cold War. And as a SAC B-52 Crewdawg, I experienced the Cold War up close and personal, and even saw the end of it (In 1988, the practice of having SAC bombers and tankers on 24-hour-a-day ramp alert, loaded, fueled, and basically “cocked, locked, and ready to rock”, ended.) I was there, on Alert that day, when we stood down. It felt wierd. And when it was all over, and the now-weaponless jets taxied over to the maintenance side of base, for removal of the “war” chaff, IR flares, and other purely wartime loads. . . it was a very strange day.

    Because the only time we ever expected to be taxiing out of the Alert Ramp, would have been World War Three. . . .

    1. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may have come as a bit of a relief as well. I could be wrong here. You lived it. I didn’t. But “weird” can be good when it translates into “Myself and my family are more likely to be alive tomorrow.”

      Just my two cents. Take it FWIW.

      1. Well, I was still single then. And. . . let’s just say that the late 1980s, we had moments that were just as scary as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

        But most people never even noticed.

        The upside ? By the time I left the USAF in 1989, I was no longer dreaming World War III in Technicolor and Cinerama. . .

        1. This one I can tell. So there I was, Berlin, early summer ’89. Communism was sputtering, and nobody knew what the Soviets were going to do. We got a new guy in the message office. Said message office was responsible for routing all message traffic from us to US forces in the West. NCO puts New Guy to work practicing pre-formatted messages. Then NCO and others go to lunch. (Major Mistake #1.) New guy makes sure message looks perfect, then clears the screen and goes to lunch. Leaving the message office empty. (Major Mistake #2.) The “send” button was adjacent to the “clear screen” button. The “send” function also clears the screen. (Major Mistake #3.) The message being practiced? Essentially, “The balloon has gone up and we’re under attack. The Warsaw Pact armies are heading west.”

          About two minutes after New Guy accidentally sent the perfectly formatted message, the phone started to ring. In the empty message center. From which no further messages were being transmitted.

          So, to the people in the West, Berlin sent the “WWIII has started” message, and then went off the air. During a period of high tension.

          Oh, the unprintable stories I heard from friends in the West after that. Mostly along the lines of, “That’s the only time the Sergeant Major ever looked scared.” You really don’t want to know how close things got that day.

          Shortly thereafter, NCO became a Private.

          1. Reminds me of a article I read abkit the privitization of the Nuclear Power industry. One of the first things the new bosses did was have the control consoles re-designed so that the switches were more clearly labled, were farther apart, and didn’t all look the same.

            Number of “accidents” went down precipitously.

    2. I was in Berlin then – 9 November 1989. Everything changed, leading to the way things are today. History happens one day at a time, but some days are more interesting than others.

      This gives me a chance to bring out one of my old jokes that nobody gets anymore- Two Soviet tank generals are relaxing on a beach on the French Riviera, sharing a bottle of wine. One looks over to the other and says, “By the way, Ivan. Who won the air war?”

      Even older joke – A Pan Am pilot is getting ready to retire. For his last flight, he gets his choice of route. Since he’s been working the Pacific, he chooses to fly to Europe. When he flies into Frankfurt, he has trouble finding his way to the proper gate – the airport is huge and rather complex. After four or five requests for directions, the guy in the tower finally has enough. “What’s the matter with you stupid American? Have you never flown to Frankfurt before?” “I did once back in ’44, but I didn’t stop!”

      1. 😀 Ah yes, old tankers. And the airline one is still current in the aviation crowd (usually followed by something involving Fokkers and Messerschmidts, or just Fokker-built airliners).

      2. Hilarious! Love the pilot joke. Berlin Wall coming down was amazing to me. It was built the year I born (1961). I never understood the concept of Central Europe until after the Cold War ended.

      3. I was in Fitness Training Company on Nov 9. 1989. On ‘fire guard’. Saw it on a newspaper. Bought the paper, took it upstairs to the CQ NCO (a drill sgt) and said “What now, drill sgt?” answer was to pick up the paper, start reading, and say “I don’t know. Carry on, Private.”

    3. Funny how readily we forget the shooting of Major Arthur D. Nicholson and how he was allowed to bleed out for some two hours before medical “assistance” was rendered.

      Then there was Korean Air Lines Flight 007 …

        1. I confess it strained my Google-Fu to find him. I remembered the name (well, almost: I was looking for a Nichols) but not his rank: I thought him a colonel, a promotion he received posthumously.

          I also remember a lot of conservatives furious with Reagan for “letting them get away with it.”

      1. Cpt. Nicholson’s driver was a friend of a friend. Nicholson was an idiot and an ass, acting against orders (never get out of the boat, I mean car, and never go on a base.) The driver tried to talk him out of doing a stupid stunt. The Soviets, as much as it pains me to say this, were in the right to shoot him. He was caught on a Soviet military compound where he had no business being, and was shot while between the inner and outer fence, while sneaking back out. It took a while to get an officer on the scene to decide what to do, then a while longer for them to get somebody in between the fence lines to look at him. The Soviets weren’t exactly known for their compassion for anybody, much less spies on their own compound. The driver begged them to let him help them, but they refused, since the idiot was between the fence lines, clearly on their base and not out in the open.

        I have no sympathy for Cpt. Nicholson. I reserve that for the five guys in my unit who were killed by the Soviets in West Berlin, minding their own business (drinking and looking for girls). Or the seven guys on PanAm-103, which was full of GIs heading home for Christmas. I knew people in the La Belle Disco.

        KAL-007 was a real tragedy, but one I can’t talk about.

        1. And yes, I’m being deliberately offensive to his memory by posthumously demoting him – as he should have been, for endangering his driver and the overall mission.

          1. Being stupid doesn’t commonly carry the death penalty, nor did the Soviet guard need to shoot him. Their interests would likely have been better served by arresting him, staging a very public trial, sentencing him and then trading him for one of their agents hold by us — such as Jimmy Carter or Teddy Kennedy.

            There is a principle of not letting your people be shot out of hand, no matter how deserved such disposition might be.

  6. I was kind of hoping for a less interesting year this year, but instead, it got ramped up, at least so far. Between me, my wife, and younger son, we’ve been to the ER about a half dozen times this year alone.

      1. That was me last September. This year I got to experience what an epidural feels like. Apparently I have tight epidural spaces since the doc stopped halfway through and asked for a 22 gauge needle to inject more lidocaine. I really could have lived quite happily without the experience. 😦

        Which reminds me of one definition of experience: That thing that’s happening to you that you really wish was happening to someone else!

        1. Anesthesiologist on one of my kids (IIRC, it was #2) must have been distracted – or I was, one. I swear he asked for a 22 caliber needle at one point…

          (Needless to say, I just blinked and kept my mouth shut. That is the one time that it really does NOT matter how much the wife loves you…)

          1. When my leg was operated on I got one of those. I have absolutely no memory of how it felt. The part I do remember is that I was asked to kind of curl up a bit because that made it easier to get the needle between somethings in my back (?) but I don’t remember if it hurt, or didn’t, or warm or cold or anything.

          2. Never had one, but everybody I have heard describe it describes it as either warm or hot.

          3. My epidural was for a procedure that only old guys usually get. Don’t recall hot or cold, just a slight pinprick. Then waiting.

            While waiting, got to chat with a lovely young Indian anesthetist assistant. Found out her husband went to elementary school at a school founded by the father of an 85-year-old friend of mine in Bangalore.

            After 10 or so minutes waiting for the epidural to kick in, and it never did, they knocked me out and got on with it. Sort of miffed I didn’t get to watch the video as it happened. (Bio major background interests have never abated.)

  7. While we’re talking history and context – there are a few subjects the knowledge of which strongly tends to mitigate the tendency of humans to be easily stampeded: history, as others have noted above; math, since it train one up to follow reasoning and add up the numbers; science, as it tends to make one wonder exactly what the evidence really is and to distinguish between untethered speculation and solid theory.

    Oddly, these are three subjects barely taught at all in school, and taught in such a way that the vast bulk of students will find them boring and pointless.

    It’s as if the schools are not intended to help us think for ourselves.

    Mere coincidence? I think not.

    1. Probably not coincidence, but I doubt it is a deliberate plot; thempeople who benefit from it don’t strike me as that subtle. I think it is a side effect of the “learning shiuld be fun” silliness that has infected Educational Theory for more than a century.

      HAVING an education is a lot of fun. Acquiring one is frequently a slog. The basic tools are not, in and of themselves, interesting to most people, and so the teachers we get these days,steeped in “learning should be fun” tend to bypass the boring foundations and concentrate on amusing trifles.

      1. what’s worse is that education needs to be a slog in order to learn the most valuable lesson of all: how to keep going through a slog.

        The children themselves eventually come to know that something is wrong, even if they are not able to articulate their knowledge. Of the generations of children who grew up with these pedagogical methods, it is striking how many of the more intelligent among them sense by their early twenties that something is missing from their lives. They don’t know what it is, and they ask me what it could be. I quote them Francis Bacon: “It is a poore Center of a Mans Actions, Himselfe.” They ask me what I mean, and I reply that they have no interests outside themselves, that their world is as small as the day they entered it, and that their horizons have not expanded in the least.

        “But how do we get interested in something?” they ask.

        This is where the baleful effect of education as mere entertainment makes itself felt. For to develop an interest requires powers of concentration and an ability to tolerate a degree of boredom while the elements of a skill are learned for the sake of a worthwhile end.

        Full thing here:

      2. Well, there’s this: Woodrow Wilson, after whom numerous public schools are named, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909:

        “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

        And this: William Torey Harris, the fourth United States Commissioner of Education, from 1889 – 1906:

        “Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”

        And there’s similar stuff stated by the architects of modern education going back to at least the early 1800s, from Fichte and Humboldlt in Germany through Mann & Dewey in America, and on up to the present day. They invented stuff like grouping kids by age, not by what they need to learn; special approved texts with the allowable questions stated, for which the teacher’s copy had the correct answers; and most important, the isolation of schooling from the rest of life, especially the family and culture (if you doubt this, try just dropping in on a local school and looking around, see how that goes, then ask yourself why you get the reaction you get).

        This is a fascinating topic to explore.

        1. In fact, those who can not often make better teachers than those who can. They understand from personal experience all the difficulties that a student can have with a subject, while those who can are often reduced to saying “It is obvious.”.

          1. I must take exception to this. Not that savants make good teachers – they often don’t. (YMMV) But the assertion that people who can not perform a task are better suited to teach, than those who can perform that task. Especially in knowledge based activities. The instructor should always have more facility with the subject than those being educated. For some physical events, this may be different – those who used to be able to, but no longer can, can make excellent teachers – because they can still describe the task, know when it is being performed correctly, and can make appropriate corrections. But even then, especially for complex tasks, there should still be an assistant who can properly demonstrate what “right” looks like.

            Sorry, my kids are still in school in the PDRMd. This is a sore subject with me.

            1. Generally agree.

              There was Data Processing stuff that I knew forwards and backwards.

              Lot’s of times I could help out people and other times I couldn’t help them out.

              But IMO while “knowing it too well” was a factor in making it more hard for me to teach what I knew, the biggest problem was my lack of patience.

              Every body who taught me this stuff were better teachers than me but “not knowing the subject” would have made them worse teachers.

            2. Agreed that the instructors should be better at the task than the students. My point was that instructors who struggled with the subject matter as students but did eventually learn it but who perhaps are still not at the level of expertise needed to do research in it, or even use it in complex situations can be better instructors than the cream of the crop who you would want using the skills in research or industry. Of course there are a few such as Richard Feynman who are supurb all around and if your kids are lucky enough to have even one of them as a teacher I am glad for them.

            3. The instructor should always have more facility with the subject than those being educated.

              Yes on the basics for sure, but beyond this is not entirely necessary. Anyone who is working with kids, particularly with highly gifted students, will either get this, or fail their students.

              There is the classic boy who on becoming interested with a subject will learn everything that he can on the subject. I knew one who was obsessed with everything that flew. I seriously doubt he met a teacher who knew more about anything that touched on the history of flight, aerodynamics or ornithology until he reached the university.

              At some point what a truly good teacher does is guide the student in how to learn for oneself.

              1. I’ve tangled with one of those. I just pointed him in the right direction and asked him to stay on topic in class. We reached an amicable compromise.

              2. There is a school of thought that argues you don’t truly understand a subject until you are able to teach it to somebody else.

    2. My kids have studied topics in math in high school that I learned in college, so this isn’t always true. Science is always spotty in that many teachers confuse science with a collection of facts instead of a process of inquiry. Here there’s significant decline, in that we used to rig up experiments from household items all the time in science classes.The kids have done projects, but not much experimentation until high school.

      History is a sore point. The state history text is fluffy trash, and the kids quickly learned to hide it from Daddy. They knew some of it was garbage, too, as we have a couple of discarded state textbooks that they read just because they liked history. In many of the cases the teachers don’t know much of the history, either.

      1. At some point in Jr. High I stumbled onto a Texas state history textbook from the late 1960s. It used stories and character studies as a way to walk you through history. What stuck in my memory, and really makes me give the current books the hairy eyeball, was the chapter on segregation and Jim Crow. It played it straight. The story was an educated black man (high school level?) who passed the reading test, could pay the poll tax, and the county clerk still had to turn him away because of the laws. There was no beating the reader over the head, just a straight-forward story with the understanding that this was not right, that a number of the people at the court house knew it was not right, but that that’s how it was. And then came the traditional dates and names section.

        1. Are they still allowed to teach ‘Yellow Rose of Texas’? Even after changing darkey to soldier in the lyrics, there is the interesting point of what ‘Yellow’ means racially.
          Here in Virginia, they decided that ‘Carry me back to Ole Virginny’ had horrible connotations in that a slave was proud of the beauty and serenity of the countryside.

          1. Yes, with the lyrics, “The sweetest lady that this soldier ever knew.” Or “The sweetest wild flower that this Texan ever knew.” There are other versions ranging from the original to mildly objectionable (modern standards) to pure as Ivory soap.

          2. The problem with the fluffy texts is that it’s second-generation “sanitized” version. History went from warts and all to either just warts, or, if it was for a “protected” class, to a rose-colored tint. Some minor, but important, historical figures were not mentioned at all for the latter reason.

          3. Not to visit the forbidden topic of the Late Unpleasantness, but I’ve always been baffled that Dixie is considered politically incorrect. The only thing I can figure is they’ve never heard The Bonnie Blue Flag.

            1. I suspect you are correct. “Goober Peas” is too universal (and unknown by SJW-types) to be hated. Although I suspect if they just saw the name or heard the chorus, they’d assume “Bonnie Blue Flag” was a paean to the state of Texas, so they’d pan it on those grounds alone. *rolls eyes*

            2. I think the complainers are projecting a lot of their values/beliefs into the lyrics, even if they are not there.
              Old Virginny: A black slave loves the countryside so much he wants to return there.
              Rose of Texas: Claiming excellence in a woman of mixed race.
              Dixie: The whole civil war thing (even though the war was hardly civil).

              1. I wondered if because the singer of Dixie professes a desire to be in Dixie, where the objectors have no desire to be. It’s mild compared to the black composer Scott Joplin’s I Am Thinking of My Pickaninnie Days

          4. *interested* The only version I know is the
            “sweetest rose of color/
            this cowboy ever knew/
            her eyes are bright as diamonds/
            they sparkle like the dew;
            you can talk about your sweetest maids/
            and sing of Rosalie/
            But the yellow rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.”

            It’s old enough to be a western song, rather than any of the modern “Country” varieties, and I think the one we grew up listening to was sung by a guy who also did Red River Valley, but it wasn’t one of the TV cowboys and I can’t find any other hints.

            Growing up knowing that “yellow roses” were traditionally brought EVERYWHERE by folks who were traveling from back east– that, a lilac and an apple tree are sometimes all that you can see without poking around and finding the bottles and such– the notion that “of color” might mean “black” is utterly new to me.

            1. Probably why the song has not been ‘banned’. If the reference is obscure enough for the SJWs not to understand, they will not whine about it.
              Old Virginny has the word ‘massa’ like master/slave. Dixie has nothing especially bad lyrically, but Southeners sing it so it is evil. The term is High-Yellow, and it is from a very dark, very bad part of our History.

              1. The term is High-Yellow, and it is from a very dark, very bad part of our History.

                I learned the term simply as a term long before I knew the meaning of “mulatto.” It was a neutral connotation because a mulatto had no say in their ancestry. Maybe it was used differently in your neck of the woods.

                1. Sigh, my neck of the woods historically considered a drop of black blood to be a mulatto and as thus ‘colored’.
                  Neutral connotations were not allowed.
                  My problem with our Nation’s collective memory hole is that you need to be aware of these terms and understand the inhuman and degrading purposes they were put to. The only way to defeat it is to reject it and vow to never let it happen again.
                  My best friend’s son attends Nolfolk SU a Historically Black College. He brings different classmates for an overnight visit occasionally. We got into the discussion of racially insensitive comments when I was taking a couple over to visit my Dad. I told them that he was 84 and had a tendency to call anyone under 30 ‘boy’. They were not aware that it was a racial insult. We compared notes, and quite a few of the ‘old standards’ aren’t recognized.
                  I understand the progressive idea that if we avoid all these bad things from the past, our minds will be clean and clear for the wonderful utopia ahead of us. While I understand, I certainly disagree. Tribalism and ‘Othering’ are hardwired into human biology. I think that only by confronting the past and declaring it wrong will keep future occurrences from happening.

                  1. I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble a few times, because I tend to use the term, “boy”, when I am emphasizing something (in the sense of, “oh, boy”). This tends to get some black people a tad irritated.

                    1. Years ago, my Dad was driving some Black male teens some place and referred to them as “boys”. One kid got “huffy” but Dad’s response was that compared to him (Dad at his age) they were boys. IIRC that handled the matter. [Smile]

                  2. Seeing as we’re now at least three generations into people only “knowing” they’ve been insulted by being called “boy”– when there was only a subculture that used it as an insult in the first place, and they got their asses handed to them– we most assured do not need to teach everybody every word that has ever been used by those who are dehumanizing others, especially not when it requires insulting every freaking other group who has used the word for normal meanings.

                    You want to fight dehumanization? Then teach that dehumanization is bad, and the techniques used for it; do not keep teaching people words they’re not allowed to use around folks or that they’ve just been insulted by a common phrase being used around them without sufficient examination of a list of possible slurs used by any group in history.

                    Teaching people “you can’t talk like a normal person around That Group” is a freaking golden opportunity for othering– and it really gets teeth if members of a group are taught to take offense to being treated normally, or heaven forbid familiarly.
                    Want to make enemies? Then make sure to take violent offense when someone’s grandfather treats you exactly like all of his grandson’s other friends– basically, a relative you don’t have much authority over– especially if you start calling him actually insulting names like “racist.”

                    The idea that people should be carefully taught to take offense at every word that has ever been use to insult their group, if they’re of a currently accepted victim group, is the only reason I know that “monkey” was ever used as an insult for Africans. How do I know this? Because an entitled blanker let her children climb in someone else’s fruit tree, breaking off branches and destroying a lot of the harvest, and when the guy used the phrase “climbing around like wild monkeys” she accused him of being racist.
                    Alienates folks, and gives them a reason for disliking the group it’s supposedly protecting.

                    1. +1

                      Yep, getting offended by a description that just happens to include a word that has been used somewhere, somewhen, as an insult is not going to win friends and influence people.

            2. The version I learned didn’t even mention color

              “sweetest little rosebud/
              that Texas ever knew/
              her eyes are bright as diamonds/
              they sparkle like the dew;
              you can talk about your Clementine/
              and sing of Rosalie/
              But the yellow rose of Texas is the only girl for me.””

            3. Same version I knew, and yes I never for a moment thought it might be talking about a ‘colored’ woman. I guess I can see that now in the line “sweetest rose of color” but never noticed it before. As you said, practically every homestead you find has three things, lilacs, apple trees, and yellow roses (and usually what we called horse pears) and that is what I always thought of with the song.

              Donald, I’ve never heard of a mulatto being referred to as ‘yellow’ but then I grew up where there were almost no blacks, yellow would be used at times referring to Chinese or other Orientals.

              1. Understand that I am damaged goods. When I was 3 or 4 we asked my Mother if we could invite the black kids living behind us over to play. This was not something done in the South in 1956. Naturally, to her answer “No”, we asked “Why?”
                My mother didn’t want to go into the full disclosure of racial hatred, so she gave a simple answer: “Black people have germs.” Technically, this is true, all people have germs. So now imagine my formative years, anytime I see a Black, it correlates to Germs. Certainly in my adult life, I have not acted in a racist manner, but still things Mothers tell 3 year olds are not remembered, but still sit under all the associative thought processes I use every day.
                This was all social pressure. My Father came from the Virginia mountains, where Blacks were few and far between. My Mother had a Mammy that she loved more than her own Mother. Neither was hateful, but were abiding by societies ‘norms’ at the time. I certainly don’t think we should be sharing historical prejudices with 3 year olds, but as adults, I think sometime we, as adults, have to look at the ‘good old days’ and understand they were not actually especially ‘good’.

      2. They knew some of it was garbage, too, as we have a couple of discarded state textbooks that they read just because they liked history.

        Ooooh. That just brought to mind Interstellar. Happy memory. Thank you!

        Daddy used to complain about my text books, what was and what wasn’t in them.

        I went to school at a weird time. Remember new math? Our school tried a new grammar program as well. Words were broken down into four classes and intensifiers. IT DID NOT WORK.

        1. What the heck is “New Math”?

          I know it was less than useful, from reading granny’s Erma Bombeck books, but what the heck is it?

            1. Not actually very helpful if you don’t already know what they are.

              The illistrations that I could find suggest that it’s exactly the stuff my niece is getting in her classes, with some of the same flaws as “whole word reading”. (It’s like it was created by folks who didn’t remember learning how to do what they’re doing, so they use the shortcuts that work when you’re already an expert at it…..)

              1. New Math started being taught in the 60’s. It has a theoretical basis in set theory and is a way to teach math so that algebra is an extension of the English language. If you know any octogenarians, the very way they ask a question makes it difficult to formulate an equation.
                While New Math still required some rote memorization at the early levels, it aspired to teach all children math in such a way that algebra and higher learning was easy. (Very PROGRESSIVE idea isn’t it?)
                Unfortunately, since teachers don’t like the multiplication tables, and set theory is somewhat abstract, cue to this millennium and your HS graduates can’t make change without a calculator.
                Thus, along comes Common Core math, which is indecipherable, until you realize it comes from China, and your child needs an abacus to properly understand the techniques. It will teach children to make change, but they will be totally unprepared for higher mathematics when they encounter it.
                (This is all from my head, I’m only *now* going to follow Paul’s link to Wiki… As you know they always provide a socialist slant on everything.) 🙂

                1. As I recall the telling of it, New math was demonstrably successful at teaching kids the principles of mathematics — in the laboratory, when taught by highly motivated and well-trained instructors.

                  You’ve probably already figured out the flaw in implementing the pedagogy.

                  1. BTW — early on in my business career I observed that even a crappy business plan could prove successful* if the people responsible for its implementation were wholeheartedly supportive of it, while the most brilliant plan could go “tits up” if the employees disdained it.

                    *N.B., this does not mean that any crap business plan will succeed if the employees get behind it. For example, no matter how enthusiastically the barristas engage their clientele in “a conversation about race” before delivery of their morning coffee, this plan is so sure to crater that the company’s board of directors deserves to be sued for breach of fiduciary duty for not suspending if not outright dismissing, the company executive responsible.

                    1. …the same leadership that, when a stockholder objected to him attacking half the country, said something to the effect of how they didn’t need the business of anyone who didn’t agree with the talking head?

                    2. Ummm, yeah. Note, I said the BoD should be sued for breach of fiduciary duty. All those pension funds (if any) invested in the company’s stock are similarly guilty of breach of fiduciary duty if they fail to act to protect the value of the stock holdings.

                      As Glenn Reynolds noted at Instapundit yesterday, the DOJ’s attacks on the citizens of Ferguson MO have resulted in the homes of those 8,192 households losing 50% of their value (some $250 million) — which, since that community is 61% African-American means that the administration has “protected” 4,997 families out of half the value of what were likely their most valuable assets.

                      Pity a class action suit against the Feds has even less likelihood of success than does a suit against a certain purveyor of horrible over-priced pretentious coffee brought in Olympia, Washington.

              2. Heard more than once “That’s not how she (the teacher) does it” while helping at math. I was showing how lining up numbers in a column keeps the ones, tens, hundreds, etc. groupings straight, and teaching how our notation is a calculation aid. Once I was old it was easiest, but they had misgivings since it wasn’t the approved method. Told them to do it this way, then write it out like the teacher wanted.

              3. Here is an easy explanation, in song:

                I’m surprised nobody beat me to that.

                I actually enjoyed New Math when they hit us with it in school, about 2-cubed times 5 years ago. But then, I’m reputed to be Odd.

                1. Ugh … I hated, hated, hated New Math, which caught me in the neck in about third grade. Here I was, happily learning to do long division, and to figure out the practical applications of various problems … and then we go off into pre-algebra? No, I didn’t get it at all – in spite of being a rather logical and practical sort of thinker, I was put off higher math to the point where I didn’t learn to figure percentages until I was 43.
                  I DID scrape through high school algebra, and did well enough on the SATS that I didn’t have to bother with any kind of remedial math … but I hate New Math (and all kinds of jazzy new educational fads) with a passion of a thousand burning suns.

            2. of course whats funny, is they tried another new math in ’89, and another in the oughts…

              1. Oh gads, we got the “put everything in one big mass” thing in my last math class; it had the world’s dumbest algebra combined with poorly designed word problems and those “memorize the laws” things that would only be useful if we’d ever had a freaking logic class. (Some eight years later when I did take a logic class, I was amazed– they CAN make sense!)

    3. I’m using The Story of the World and The History of the World in home schooling. The first is a four book set aimed at younger grades. The later is unfinished, aimed at older students–my pre-teens are finding it suits well, but they both read at adult levels, so not generally indicative of appropriateness. I hope the author, Susan Wise Bauer, gets the next one done soon–I’m pretty sure my ten year old has been sneaking extra history reading time!

    4. The present model of pedagogy dominant in the American Schools was based on a Prussian system developed to transform illiterate peasants into good factory workers and soldiers — trained to obey without asking inconvenient questions.

      Or so I’ve been told.

      1. Just as a general observation, the most useful courses I ever took were the business law classes I took in college, which could have easily been taught at the HS level. What’s a contract for, what is a breach of contract, what’s a Tort, and so on. I’ve rounded back to that particular stuff in detail more often than any other individual subject. Now the AP English track stuff from HS and the piles of Math and Engineering coursework in college have certainly been valuable, but that more on a background skill level – i.e. I can write more coherently than most EEs most of the time, I can understand the Statistics and Math stuff if I hit it, and I speak engineering generally, but what I learned in those business law courses (I think there were two) have saved my professional butt on multiple occaisions.

  8. I have a somewhat cynical idea about some people’s views of the “good old days”.

    Too often, it was when they have few (or no) responsibilities and somebody else was paying the bills. IE when they were early teens.

    1. I take mind of the fact that when I was young I was wont to look at all the mail received by my parents and happily anticipate that as an advantage of growing up.

      Of course, at that age my main experience of mail received by me was that it typically contained holiday or birthday greetings, often accompanied by a check.

  9. I was an enemy of the state for a while, when Clinton was in office, well maybe not an ‘enemy of the state’ but I was on the Clinton’s enemies list, so back then it was pretty much the same thing.
    That was an ‘interesting time’ that I would have preferred not to experience.
    And one that appeared to have some minor repercussions even after Clinton was no longer in office.

      1. I don’t think that Hillary will get the nod from the party. I think she has angered too many people in the DNC. Yes they are trying to do the ‘Clinton’ fatigue bit, where they out the scandle way far in advance, so that when the time to vote comes, everyone is tired of it and ignores it.
        But I’m not so sure that it will work this time.

        1. 2008 showed us that Hillary is nowhere near the politician her husband is. Considering the only reason we know her name is because of who she chose to marry, that isn’t surprising.

            1. Possibily, yet the GOP seems to have mastered the fine art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

                1. The national GOP makes the egregious error of thinking that the MSM reporting matters — in spite of the proof offered weekly by such as Cruz, Walker, Cotton and others. Thus they fear being accused of raaaaacism (for being color-blind), seeeeexism (in spite of treating women far better than does ANY leading Democrat) and a lack of patriotism.

                  Thus we have the MI-effing-NORITY Democrat caucus in the Senate holding a bill against sex-trafficking hostage over Hyde Amendment language that has been routine for four decades. IN SPITE of public support for such language greater than 80% (and those opposing it aren’t ever going to vote Republican anyway) — and if the GOP caves on this because Democrats are race-baiting (accusing McConnell of, in Dick Durbin’s* words, “sending Lynch to the back of the bus”) that will put the Hyde Amendment language at risk in all routine spending bills.

                  *Yes, you & I know Durbin’s comparison of our troops in Iraq to Nazis was largely ignored in the MSM, which tells you all you need to know about the stupidity of Republican leaders giving a hoot about their coverage in the MSM. It’s only treason to speak truth to power (or aid & abet the enemy in time of war) when it is their power being challenged.

                  1. McClellan is our biggest problem right now. Unfortunately I don’t see any way to fix it soon. Right now I’m wondering if putting the Senate back in Reid’s hands might help. It’s not like the Senate agenda would be much different than now, and the loss might be enough to cause Senate Republicans to choose a new leader.

            2. Even with Bill and his friends she doesn’t stand much chance. She can’t pull an Obama and let people write their preferred candidate onto her, she’s too well known. So she has to actually show up in front of the voters and say something, and when she does they turn away.

      2. As I said before, yes. I’ve prepared to campaign against that rape apologist.

      3. Since there’s talk about running Algore as well as Runs-With-Socialists (Warren) or Biden, methinks the D party is starting to have second, third, and fourth thoughts about the Unsinkable Hillary C.

  10. I’m having an “interesting” time with a book project. I have used Atlantis for years, but this project needed an index. So, we took the file from Atlantis over to the new version of OpenOffice, because it has indexing capability and could handle all the endnotes in the document.

    To say that that it has not been easy is an understatement. If I ever decide to do anything like this again, can anybody recommend better software for next time? And not too pricey? On a Windows system, probably. I’ve looked at NotaBene off and on for years, but I don’t think it is necessarily a good fit for me personally.

    (In the midst of this project, it became evident I need to get a new laptop ASAP. Computer guru relative says that it should have a SSD, and I’d prefer no webcam or microphone. That is proving hard to find; if anyone has recommendations I’d love to hear them, too.)

    1. If the reason you don’t want a webcam or microphone is because of privacy issues, a little epoxy can go a long way. It is amazing how ineffective a webcam is once you have covered the lens with some of the two-part epoxy solutions. Bonus points for the fact that anyone trying to remove the epoxy to get the camera working again is just as likely to destroy the camera in the process. Win-win. A suitably modified placement of gunk can render just about any microphone equally inoperable.


      1. Thank you for the epoxy suggestion. Someone else suggested simply black tape on the camera. (I tend to have good ideas for bookcovers at about 3 AM. Besides, I really don’t like the idea of hackers somehow accessing it at any time.)

    2. On my laptop, I taped a piece of paper over the camera. Then went into the device manager and disabled the camera and the microphone there. Fortunately, I’m the only one that uses my laptop, so I don’t have to worry about someone enabling that stuff on me.

      As for the SSD…it is nice for the speed and reduced power consumption, but the question is – are you away from power enough to warrant the extra cost of a decent sized ssd? You’re talking about $400 for a 1TB range SSD as opposed to $65 for a 1TB standard laptop drive.

      1. Yeah, the prices for laptops with SSDs is a bit more than I had in mind (although I spent more than I meant to on my current Sony Vaio from 2008 or so and have loved it). There was a Fujitsu LifeBook SPFC-E554-001 Notebook with SSD on NewEgg that I looked at, it but I don’t know anything about the brand.

        I have probably typed millions of words on the Sony Vaio, and the keyboard has held up really well. And it has been pretty comfortable to type on.

        I’ve wondered if it would actually be cheaper to buy a laptop and install a SSD in it, rather than buying one that came with it. Or maybe I should wait until the price of SSDs come down more, and for now buy a laptop that doesn’t have it.

        1. If you want just a word processor, I’d suggest getting a normal drive and waiting. Heck, you could probably get some kind of a UPS for the price of the hard drive….

          1. Not just word processing, I want to be able to use photo/artwork software too (once I get a new machine, I hope to get FilterForge since I’ve heard good things about it from you all here).

            My patience is being sorely tried tonight. I had decided to print the book files from OpenOffice to CutePDF, then tweak and enter the illustrations in the resulting PDF in either NitroPDF or Serif PagePlusX4. Serif PagePlusX4 can’t read the Goudy Old Style font in the imported PDF (although if I am working in PagePlus, the font is available to be used). On the other hand, NitroPDF is substituting a different page size.

            If I can’t find a way to embed the font, I wonder if CreateSpace will still recognize it? I am suspecting that an update from February’s Patch Tuesday that messed up many of my fonts (made Times New Roman almost unreadable) may be behind some of the problems, but I thought I’d managed to delete the update.

            We will get through this, somehow. But I am finding different software if at all possible for next time around!!!!

  11. Sabrina Chase recently put out an EXCELLENT book about interesting times (note how I tied that book plug into the OP so seamlessly? It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?) called Jinxers. I just reviewed it on my blog and on Amazon.

  12. Those of us who have only ever had to deal with one small child underfoot at a time are doing our best to be encouraging and not to tell her of the exhaustion that comes with that.

    What kind of cupboard doors are there in the kitchen? Kid level ones?

    If they’ve got handy pointy bits, you can buy some pretty hair bands for her– if they just have handles, I’ve found a way of basically folding a towel in half (to make it as long and skinny as possible for the shape) and then sewing a bright button to the top two touching corners, then you can loop the long end through to “tie” the doors shut.

    They’re also easy to make pretty and colorful, which I know helped me a lot when I was in the “I am an exhausted ogre” phase.

    1. I am not familiar with her kitchen. I will keep your suggestions in mind once she has her children. … Oy, think of that. … No breaking in period and trail run with a single child. No, this women is going straight from childless to children.

      1. *nod*

        That, when I examine my reaction, is probably why I immediately jumped into “lifehacks for moms” mode.
        Kids are really awesome, but it’s tough when you’re sick, when you’re learning, or when you’re tag teamed. She’ll be all three.

      2. Well, apparently, WP does not like links with a lot of stuff in them, because I just posted a link to Amazon for a child safety lock that we used when our kids were small, but it went to moderation heck.

        Basically, it’s a u-shaped ratchet affair with a sliding fastener. It worked really well for us. If you search for “child safety cabinet locks”, it turns up several different types.

        1. Oddly, the most effective varieties of child safety lock are likely to impose a Child Protective Custody Services intervention.

      3. Depends on the kids… #1 was sweet, lovable, virtually no trouble whatsoever. So, hey, we’ve got this down, right?

        #2, well… First words were “I’m MAD” (actually “MAT”, but whatever). That was also the one that decided waxing the kitchen floor with butter was JUST the thing to do when she woke up in the middle of the night. Highly amusing when Daddy stumbled in for the caffeine fix!

        1. Oh, yes – forgot to mention that we ended up with a cargo strap around the fridge… Sigh. (Yes, she is now 22. I really don’t know how…)

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