Yokels Abroad

In case you guys haven’t got a feel for it, I grew up in a village where being cosmopolitan wasn’t exactly a plus.  The thing to do was to do things like your ancestors had always done.

At the same time, stifled by this, a lot of “intellectuals” by which you should read “village kids who did well enough in their examinations to attend high school (let alone college) in the city often identified not with their homeland but with some foreign country.  (Yes, I went through this phase.  England, because my brother preferred France.  There are traces left of it in my fascination with English history and my turn of phrase.)

It wasn’t just the village, either.  This was pretty common all over the country. In fact in college I found people whose chosen allegiance was to Germany or Russia.  (The last ones were special snowflakes indeed.  Like the guy who signed up for Russian to read Marx in his original language.  Rolls eyes.)

Part of this of course is the inverse issue that America has.  Portugal is a tiny country.  On my dad’s globe the entire country was the size of the tip of my five-year-old fingernail (I remember being very disappointed.)  You can’t swing a cat without a passport.  And part of it is that it is a stagnant country, dozing and dreaming of past glories.  Almost all the advanced scholarship, from mathematics to language (even Portuguese.  The greatest Portuguese linguists are German) takes place abroad.  To get to a high level of studies you MUST learn a foreign language.

Now the more sophisticated of us who fell prey to this might have a country of allegiance of the heart, might love the language and read the books and magazines, but we did not commit social solecisms.  My love for England came from a love of the language, a love of Shakespeare, a love of Austen.  It did not come from a desire to lord it over my fellow villagers.  The one mistake I committed after coming back from the states was wearing shorts outside the house, and that didn’t brand me as “lording it over” but as an impudent hussy, which all the village women assumed I was anyway, gallivanting to foreign parts on my own.  Fortunately they were way too scared of mom (and particularly grandma) to give vent to the venom and contented themselves with inventing more boyfriends for me than anyone could have at the same time, or even serially.

But other people did what was obviously not a mistake, but an attempt to signal “I’ve been elsewhere.”  So you got the young man who had visited South America briefly and came back to the village shop and ordered Montserrat cigarettes.  He was henceforth known not by his name, surname or even family nickname, but as “Montserrat.” (Look, the cigarettes were right there, behind the counter, and you could see they had the two brands that were available in Portugal at the time.)I understand he’s now a local politician.

The culmination of this was speaking a foreign language in public.  Because my husband is not very tall and is dark haired, as recently as ten years ago when we visited, people make rude remarks to the tune of “they’re just speaking English to given themselves airs.”  Not in the village, where it’s well known that Dan is either an Italian I met in Germany (please don’t even ask.  I’d gone to Germany last before my marriage, and as everyone knows all Germans are tall and blond, so…) or a guy who works in a bakery the next village over.  I think they’ve gotten over that one, though, since I’m obviously living abroad and the guy isn’t and is clearly married to someone else.  (If you were a village baker, my love.)  But when we’re in downtown Porto, they often make jokes and laugh at the assumption we’re “giving ourselves airs.”  This is worse when I’m with younger son, who looks more Portuguese than I do.

Needless to say speaking a language in public that your fellow-citizens don’t understand is in my opinion not good manners, unless you have a good reason.  (I’m not sure practicing older boy’s French is a good reason, but the times we’ve done it we’ve been fairly isolated.)

So I understand the pseudo-sophistication that comes from loving “every land but your own.”

In the united states, though, this is overlaid with something weirder.  Because we have the opposite syndrome of Portugal.  We’re very big, and most of the scholarship (unless it’s in the latest branch of Marxism) comes from America.  The future, as it were, is forged here.

So while the same class of idiots — overeducated and under employed — here is obsessed with “foreign parts” and somehow convinced they’re subtly better than our habits customs and behavior (bah.  They don’t have anything in Europe that we don’t have bigger and better in Nowhere Kansas.  At least in the ways of creature comforts) even if what they have to come up with is the equivalent of “they know better ways of splitting a bean to feed ten people” but also, in a curious and bizarre way the people who think this way are the greatest American chauvinists and the only real ones I’ve found in present day America.

They will, absolutely and without hesitation believe that what is wrong with any foreign country has its origin in American actions (usually, such the provincial tribalism of such people in a Republican president.)  Part of this, of course, is that maleducation at American universities, teaches them fixed pie economics.  They presume, that is, that for us to be rich someone else must be poor.

G-d only knows why they think German public places — to pick a place at random — tend to have no water fountains.  I’m going to guess it’s either their sainted care for the environment or that somehow America hoards all water.  Or something.

To me this form of reasoning is particularly ridiculous because I’ve seen it applied to Portugal.  In the US people who aren’t absolutely sure where Portugal is will lecture me about how of course I came here because we were so poor (not by the time I came here.  Also, not really.  I came here because I fell in love with my husband and the country, though not in that order) and how our poverty results from the American tariff act of 1982 or some equally asinine nonsense.

Portugal is poor because it has never fully shaken off the Roman prejudices and form of government.  Portuguese institutions and public officials (not all of course, but as a system) tend to be corrupt, it was for a long time under a paternalistic form of government that, yes, was national socialism (without a racial component, though, because, well, Portugal).  The Roman prejudices, which Heinlein noted in his visit to South America, present as inheriting or being naturally rich is better than to work for a living.  Socially, you can’t let your compatriots see you working like a dog.  (In the North this is confused in that there is some English culture rubbing off and people like my dad manage to mingle opprobrium and admiration when they say “I’ve never seen anyone work like him.” Portuguese are capable of an untold amount of work and dedication, which they usually reveal while safely living abroad and hidden from censorious eyes.

However, there’s very little in those two factors that America had anything to do with.

Still some Portuguese — mostly those on the left — believe it too.  It’s convenient.  They really have no clue how screwed up the country is, because they’ve never been anywhere else.  So they will say that the reason Portugal didn’t invent its own computer was that if they’d tried America would have penalized them on rice imports.  (Heaven only knows where THAT theory came from.)  And yes, even at 16 I gave the rough side of my tongue to the idiot.  I don’t think — correct me if I’m wrong — that IBM which was butt of his rage has anything to do with rice imports in Portugal.

However, it is always easier to blame someone else.  And to be fair, particularly in Europe, a certain amount of resentment at the US is normal.  America has a disproportionate footprint in the world, both because it was the only giant standing after WWII and because it has a huge entertainment footprint.  Which means a lot of the anti-Americanism is fostered by our own yokels abroad.

Our yokels abroad to an extent behave just as the yokels who’d visited Venezuela or Argentina and came back to the village telling amazing tales of their two weeks abroad.

There are the outright stupid, like the idiot who told me that socialism must be great, look at all those wonderful buildings in Europe.  (Headdeskheaddeskheaddesk)  Apparently under the impression that Chairman Louis XVI was responsible for the Louvre.  (I tell you guys, those d*mn time travelers.) Or that having built wonderful monuments is the mark of a just and equitable regime.  (Though to be fair, communism joins to its other amazing characteristics an uncanny incompetence in the building trade.  The further you slide from social democracy to socialism to communism the more likely you are to find newly built buildings crumbling and/or architecture so ugly it makes you want to slit your wrists looking at it.)

Then there are the “Smarter than Havelock-cat” lot (mind you, Havey has three brain cells, one for eating, one for sleeping and one for cadging scritches.)  They will tell me the French or Swedish or whatever system must be better because AS TOURISTS while visiting they saw how  people have a lot more free time and security.  They miss the frustrations of day to day living, which frankly the citizens don’t realize are there, and therefore don’t realize how much better/easier life is in the States.

(One thing we do really well is provide everyday comforts and the ability to buy whatever strikes your fancy at the moment.  This might be stupid, and the yokels who’ve been abroad will scream “greedy” but often it’s neither, it’s something totally off beat one in a 1000 people need. And you can find it, easily, particularly now in the age of Amazon, a unique American development.)

You see, there is a trade off not just between security and innovation but between security and comfort.  Systems designed to make life safe from surprises are, by definition, hostile to innovation and competition. The Scandinavian countries, in burdening employers with regulations designed to smooth out employees lives also made it almost impossible for entrepreneurs and non-corporations to survive, thereby stifling the fountain of innovation, for instance.

It is important to remember all this as our economic lives become more interconnected.  In watching the economic follies out there (yes, yes, this WILL end in blood, duh.  But not everywhere, and there is a chance however slim that in the end sanity prevails) one can’t help but go “Who in heaven’s name thought it was a good idea to trust economic reports from a communist regime that controls everything that comes out of it?”  And then one remembers.  Maleducated yokels.

These are the same people who run around the net lecturing us on the virtues of things they never experienced — like communism — but about which they’ve read.  Because they think — being yokels, of course — that other countries function exactly as the US and that their priorities and “control” of information is the the same.  Also, inexplicably, that people abroad know more about the US than people in the US.  So when French or Scandinavians lecture them on how in the US we’re much worse off, it never occurs to our yokels to go “Wait? Wut?  How do you know that?” No.  They nod their little pinheads and go “Oh, yes, of course.  Because I’ve been there on vacation and–”  (In fact, if you talk to foreigners in web forums the “reporting” they get about the US is not only wrong but hilariously so.  For instance, people without insurance are routinely left untreated in our emergency room.  Yep.  Sure thing bob.  Because see, their governments have a vested interest in supporting socialism, which gives them power, and in keeping them on the farm without seeing Paree.)

But our yokels swallow all that without chewing on it, because, well, someone is saying it who lives there, and they must know.  It never occurs to them that to “know” something is better than the US people have to see both ends, and see both ends from the same perspective of the workaday world.

(There is a book I’ve been meaning to buy called A House In Portugal.  I don’t know if it flatters Portugal — or rather, I know it does, just not how truthfully.  I mean, let’s face it, Portugal has some awesome aspects, it’s in the daily life meets bureaucracy thing that it falls flat on its face — because it was a bestseller there.  It’s the story of an American woman renovating a house in Portugal.  My brother gave me to understand it has to do with the strange paths to licenses and the bribes to acquire materials, etc.  Don’t know if it’s true, but mean to buy it and read it when I have time.)

And this is how we end up with people who are convinced that all cultures are equally valid, except the US is equally evil.  And they must protect poor little communists from “slurs” (or as an unspeakable ignorant *sshole put it, “people who think communism is the worst regime ever should be pushed out of airplanes.”  Because he’s read books.  Books, I tell you.  Or more likely watched movies, or maybe cartoons.  And he’s been assured that greed and the evils of capitalism are much worse than being assigned a job where you pretend to work and they pretend to pay you.  Said idiot should contemplate the joke add that P. J. O’Rourke reported from the waning days of the Soviet Union “Want to trade Moscow state apartment for sleeping bag on the streets of New York City.”)

The thing to do to such posturing morons (of which my field has an overabundance) is to point and laugh and do the equivalent of sticking their stupidity to them as a tag that the village did when it nicknamed Montserrat.  (I am not understand, suggesting that anyone should be nicknamed Chicom.  Oh, whatever.  I know what you guys are.  Do as as conscience dictates.)

However, they are far more dangerous, because America isn’t Portugal.  While people living in both are basically as ignorant of abroad and what it really is like (well, not so much in Portugal now, where people are better off and travel is more affordable.  Again, you need a passport to swing a cat and the cat needs a passport to bite your *ss in revenge) the Portuguese footprint in the world is minimal right now.

There is no way that Portuguese yokels misapprehending the wonders of … oh, I don’t know, having to pay for all your water in Germany, can write scholarly papers that will make yokels in every other country decide this is da bomb.

There is no way Portuguese yokels deciding IBM is why their rice is so expensive, will write anti-IBM (is IBM even still a thing) screeds that will convince the rest of the world that IBM is teh evil that outranks all evils.

BUT American Yokels, because of America’s disproportionate footprint in the world can do just that.  And, in an increasingly interconnected world, that brings the risk of serious mistakes.  Like, believing that Iranian leaders think just as we do and aren’t really serious about this bringing back the Imam thing and the end of the world.  Or like believing the reports from a communist dictatorship.  Or–  you can fill in the blanks, right?

So we need to stop maleducating people and treating stupid opinions as though they deserved some sort of respect.

Just Montserrat them.

588 responses to “Yokels Abroad

  1. Anti-Americanism is a standard stepping-stone on the way to sophistication…

    Go back a few generations, and you’ll find the same said about the British Empire, and further back, whoever else was on top at the time. Go back far enough, and I’m sure you can find provincial Greeks bitching about Minoan hegemony…

    • And that sort of sophistication seems to be a stepping stone on the way to national & cultural decline … perhaps an affirmative belief in the value of one’s own nation or culture is a necessary precondition for continued vigor of the same?

      • It would be interesting to know if there was a similar decline in self-respect, and a rise in self-hatred during the Roman late Republic or Empire. I’ve not seen primary sources that indicate such, but one does wonder if this is the first time its ever been seen to this degree. It may be that it’s only apparent to us because we’re seeing it from the inside, so to speak.

        The Brits taking their empire down had kind of a different feel to it–More exhaustion and an expenditure of lives and resources in the wars of the 20th Century. The US, however, seems to have lost its way at the height of its powers and strength, and it was all internal. Yeah, Gramsci and all that, but without fertile soil for those socialist/communist seeds to flourish in, they wouldn’t have gone anywhere. There were all too many “intellectuals” willing to sign on to the program of anti-Americanism, which has always struck me as really bizarre–What do these idiots think is going to happen, once they’ve opened the gates to the enemy? Are they going to get rewarded, or overlooked, because they were on the side of the enemy? Not ‘effing likely, if history is any guide. They’ll be up against the wall right off the bat, as proven unreliables.

        • Before the British Empire hit the Exhausted and Discouraged point, there were several decades of Leftwing Intellectual drivel and pompous blovation about just what the Empire was doing All Wrong. Kipling writes of it, frequently. “Padgett M.P.” is s fine example.

          • My reading leaves me with the impression that while it existed, it was nowhere near as mainstream as it is in the here and now. Am I mistaken?

            • You are mistaken. Simply delve into the works of G.K. Chesterton, a man who waged vigorous battle against the Late Victorian/pre-WW1 era Leftards.

              It was, in fact, likely more prevalent, because it’s far easier to call out an Empire in name and fact than it is to call out one that is more a matter of implication.

              • And Chesterton himself railed against the Empire. He believed Kipling was a poser because loyalty to an Empire could not possibly be described as “patriotism.”

                Look up “Distributivism.” Chesterton wanted to tear down England-as-it-was for a good cause as passionately as the Lefties. He just strenuously disagreed about what should replace it.

              • Chesterton, yes… But, was it as pervasive in British institutions as it is in ours? There were voices speaking out against the Empire before WWI, yes, but was the entirety of the British higher education system doing what ours is to us, right now? I don’t remember it that way, but I’m a long way from an expert on Victorian/Edwardian British culture.

                I think you can find example voices of these things anywhere/anywhen; what you can’t find is the pervasive self-hatred we’ve got. I think you’d have to wait until the 1930s in the UK, after WWI, when the popular culture became such that the famous Oxford Resolution milieu existed.

                On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t recall ever seeing evidence equivalent to the anti-American and anti-Capitalist institutional mindset existing anywhere else, until after WWI, where the UK sacrificed entire generations in the war. Comparison-wise, Vietnam and Korea were a joke, in terms of loss. Especially amongst the so-called intelligentsia.

                • according to books written at the time, yes, it was as pervasive.

                  • Edwardian-era? Huh… And, I’ve done a lot of military history reading from the UK, original sources, from that era. Which is perhaps why–You’d hardly expect to find it, there. Should broaden my background in that period, I suppose…

                • Orwell wrote a lot about it and seemed to regard it as a major roadblock for socialism.

  2. I have noticed that in America a lot of the people in our media centers — NY and LA — are not there because they grew up there but because they disliked their hometowns sufficiently to move to “the Big City” where they mistake local parochialism for sophistication.

    Start spreading the news
    I am leaving today
    I want to be a part of it
    New York, New York

    These vagabond shoes
    They are longing to stray
    Right through the very heart of it
    New York, New York

    I want to wake up in a city
    That doesn’t sleep
    And find I’m king of the hill
    Top of the heap

    My little town blues
    Are melting away
    I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
    In old New York

    Washington DC has become similarly infested with those who can’t stand the people around whom they grew up.

    • It also seems that New Yorkers are incredibly provincial. This is common in urban areas, whereas country folk are aware that there is a Great Big World out there.

      • It is one thing to want something different. Another to deride those that enjoy what the life you left.

        • Deriding those who didn’t leave is de rigueur — it means not that “wasn’t my scene” but that you “wanted better.” Justifying our preferences as if they represent some universal standard of quality seems an all too common trait (one which makes puppies sad.)

          • I just loathe those that never did all three and still look down. Living in human habitrail vs on range is different. I’d rather be able to shoot off my porch than go to clubs. But nothing against those who sd

            • William O. B'Livion

              I loved living in a place where I could walk 15 minutes and hit one of seven different ethnic restaurants, and getting home from the clubs was a 4 dollar cab ride.

              These days most of those places have banned me.

          • William O. B'Livion

            And what I think is a later comment on the same thing:

      • I knew someone from New York in college, and she wanted to know if I went to Disneyland every week because it was “so close by” my home in Colorado (1025 miles according to Google). Meanwhile, she was horrified that I couldn’t name every boroughs of NYC. And no, she didn’t see any contradiction there.

        I don’t mean to tar all New Yorkers with the same brush, but there is definitely a subset that believes “New York is the center of the universe, and anything outside might as well be Little House on the Prairie.”

        • I’ve told the story before, but there was a middle-aged New Yorker who said I was the first Republican she’d ever met.

          The only previous time this had happened in my family was in then-rural Ocala, Florida, in 1940-something, when my grandparents moved down there so my grandpa could teach Army Air Force guys at the flying school. First thing Grandpa and Grandma did after moving in, they went to the courthouse and registered to vote. So the local Democratic Party head stopped by their house, and I quote, “To see what a Republican looks like.” 🙂

        • People from Chicago are the same way. Anything south of I-80 might as well be on another planet.

          • We are all hillbillies south of I80. So sayeth the sophisticates of C(r)ook county

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Case in point, there was an idiot cartoon in a Chicago Newspaper. It showed a bunch of high school kids on a bus being glad to be going to Paris.

            Then it shows them being very disappointed when they get to Paris IL.

            It annoyed me (I was living in Chicago at the time) because I knew it took about three and a half hours to reach my parents home in Danville IL and Paris IL is much further south than Danville IL.

            Not even Chicago High Schoolers would stupid enough to think they’d be going to Paris France after hours on a school bus. [Very Big Evil Grin]

            • You sure? We keep digging new lows

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, this was in 1980’s so you may have gotten worse. [Evil Grin]

                Ugh! I was just thinking how many years it has been since I lived in the Chicago area! Talk about making yourself feel old. [Smile]

            • Drak, I don’t know if you like country music, but if you do, give a listen to Brett Eldredge’s “Illinois: The video makes me all kinds of homesick.

            • I worked with an Ohio resident who had gone to Paris France on a school trip in the 80’s. All he would ever say about it was “it’s dirty.”

              • I know a girl who passed through Paris on her way to Africa a month ago, and spent a couple days there on her way through. All she said that she really likes French desserts, but found out that she has nothing good to say about the rest of French cuisine. Oh and she enjoyed going to look at the WWII battlefields that Americans fought on.

                If that is all you can find to say good about Paris, well, that is damning with faint praise.

                • The Cluny Museum (medieval stuff) and the Northern European wing of the Louvre. Otherwise forget it. Not worth the cost and the hassle.

              • Professor Badness

                My wife (Masked Pain) went to France as a little kid. She didn’t notice the old buildings or fine art, but her little girl brain did latch onto the fact that the country is filthy. Garbage cans overflowed, the people stank and cigarette smoke was everywhere.
                And Italy was even worse.

                • I made two port calls in France: Toulon in the Med and Brest at the tip of Brittany. It was night and day. Toulon was nasty and it didn’t help we were in the gut. Brest seemed more like my UK port calls.

                  As for Italy being worse I’ll concur. I’ve been to Mexico, Panama, Venezuela (very pre-Chavez), and Columbia but nothing was as nasty as Naples, Italy. Come to think of it, Toulon comes in second.

                  • Ugh now I am reminded of the trash monster that is Naples Harbor. Worst smell ever.

                    • I passed through Naples in 1983 or so — at a good speed in my trusty old Volvo on my way between military assignments — so as to defeat the local thieving element. The reputation it had … was just appalling. Nothing would have tempted me to pause, not even to gas up. My car was full of luggage and stuff – I figure that anyone who could have managed to rob me at 70MPH in broad daylight likely deserved it. I didn’t even slow down until halfway to Rome.

              • We went to Paris when I was eight, then to a wedding in the French countryside. Odeur de feces and French bums in the city and open air public toilets in country convinced me that America was the greatest place on earth. I never got that “we’re such rubes compared to…” mentality.

          • You need to refer to Illinois and Chicago using their proper name, “Madiganistan”.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              No, that’s just the Chicago area. The rest of Illinois (save for Springfield) is more sane.

              • Sane RELATIVE TO CHICAGO.

                Went to college in Peoria. Don’t regret it, much, but they are NOT sane by the standards of the rest of the midwest.

                • GAWD! Ain’t that the truth!!

                  I talk to people here I know about politics all the time. If you listen to them, you’d think they were conservative as hell, then they mention they voted for 0bama/Kerry/Gore or the local democritter in the last election….

                  Mentioning the dhimmicrap party platform gets a WUT? look from them. They never read it. They vote democrat because that’s what mom/dad/grandma/granddad/great-grandparents voted (and still vote)….

        • Yeah, it hasn’t been that many years since we’ve talked to people from the eastern parts of the US who were (apparently) seriously concerned that in the Pacific Northwest, a regularly encountered hazard was frequent Indian attacks!

          • Many of them still believe we are fighting Indians.

            • The Other Sean

              And are undoubtedly condemning you as genocidal racists for it, whether it is happening or not.

            • My daughter has FB acquaintances/friends in England who are absolutely certain that Texas is a dry, barren desert, with tumbleweeds rolling down dirt streets, that we all live in Grapes of Wrath-type shacks with outhouses, and there are gunfights constantly in the streets.

              • At the rate we’re going El Paso will hit there by 2020.

                I am so glad we convinced my mom to move after my dad died.

              • She should tell ’em that them’s fightin’ words, pardner. Maybe jingle some keys in the background to sound like she’s taking measured, purposeful strides in spurred riding boots.

              • She should recommend Google Earth to them. Celia.

              • Dry barren desert, gunfights in the street…

                Sounds like SoCal.

              • Dry? Kinda, depending on the year.
                Barren? Not really unless you need trees.
                Desert? See #1
                Tumbleweeds? Oh yeah, in spades, bushels, semi-trailer-loads.
                Gunfights in the street? Only in the lead-up to the big rodeos (WRR in November and CoorsWRR in July. WRR – Working Ranch Rodeo)
                Indoor plumbing? Town banned domestic outhouses in late 1940s.

                • Plano is dry but not desert. My house is the only one without a lawn. If there any tumbleweeds in DFW I’m sure they’re in the Botanical Society. I love DFW, I wish I’d grown up here.

                  • Plano is so citified that a number of people don’t even wear boots.

                    • Emily, I can remember driving through Collin County in the 1960’s when there were still a LOT of cotton farms, and Prosper, Nevada, Blue Ridge, and Allen were still small towns, and Plano/McKinney were only a moderately sized cities with still identifiable rural roots.

                • “Barren? Not really unless you need trees.”

                  Isn’t that the definition of barren? 🙂

                  • When I was a kid, my godfather put cows on a really huge area of land.

                    It had exactly one tree on it, a juniper.

                    But the sagebrush was tall enough that it wasn’t unusual to not be able to see someone else riding on horseback through it.

                • Also depends upon the place in Texas. My Southside Chicago wife was shocked when she first came down to see me when we were still courting. We were going to visit a college friend of hers who lived in Longview, deep in the piney woods. Driving east on I20 after leaving DFW airport, she was shocked on how green it was (in August), then we hit the piney woods and she was shocked again. Then after that we went to Corpus and she was shocked again, then back to Granbury through Central Texas where she was surprised again.

                  She thought it was a tumbleweed filled desert too. It was not until after we were married and I took her to Garden City for Thanksgiving that she saw a dust storm with tumbleweeds blowing…….

                  • True, that. I spent my high school years in the vicinity of San Antonio – my dad was stationed at Randolph AFB. The Hill Country northwest of there is beautiful, and I’ll always regret that I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of any of the real estate deals I saw near Kerrville back around 1997. I remember one was 40+ acres with pecan trees and 1500 feet of river frontage with a century-old stone house for <$100K, and other properties were similar.

                  • Professor Badness

                    Lived outside Houston in middle school. People have a hard time believing me when I tell them it was sub-tropical.

                  • Me, in DFW area, I noticed how far apart the trees were from each other, even when wild.

                    Also how you couldn’t see far because a tree or a house would block off the view from there. No seeing out to the horizon on the blue hills.

            • Hah! If that were the case there would be outrage over the name of the Washington professional football team because it was disrespecting our enemies and aiding their recruiting.

            • Well, if you’re in the wrong bar, it’s possible– but I suggest you avoid it, my cousins are kinda big. Turns out Scottish crossed with Paiute results in guys with an odd resemblance to refrigerators.

          • Geeze, what rubens! Everybody knows the real threats in the Pacific Northwest are feral tree squids.

          • They’re only a century off….

            • The difference between America and Europe is that in Europe 100 miles is a long way and in America 100 years is a long time.

        • Not long after I moved to Minnesota (from Wisconsin, not a big jump, really) I was visiting Sioux Falls and thought that sometime I might travel “out west.” And paused a moment. There I was in South Dakota, and living west of the Mississippi river. For a good many people in the US, I already was “out west.” Of course, for others are I am “back east” or “up north.”

        • William O. B'Livion

        • You get some pretty funny mildly amusing maps when you search on “america as seen by new yorkers” but this one —


          — seemed most suitable to this discussion.

          • That’s the classic.

          • Those New Yorkers are crazy. To show things in the correct perspective…

            • It’s how this former NYer sees things. I was a native NYer born and raised there.

            • That’s about what Amarillo and area can feel like December – March.

              • Yeah, I lived in Amarillo for a few years as a kid.

                First time I saw snow… I had gone to school with a short sleeve shirt and no jacket, because I didn’t know better (I was from California).

                • First fall after we moved here, I made the same discovery. It was the coldest block I’d ever walked, from the school back to the house. Never again.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Several years ago, I was working in Indianapolis. On one late Fall day, one young co-worker came and asked “does it always get this cold?”. I’m afraid that the rest of us (born and raised mid-westerners) laughed at that California kid. We *knew* the outside temp wasn’t cold compared to winter cold. [Very Big Evil Grin]

                  • Eh, if you don’t like the weather here in New England, wait five minutes. I’ve been caught by surprise now and again.

                    The time I walked back to my dorm with my winter coat slung over my arm to change into a short sleeved shirt was particularly striking. But surprise snow has also caught me.

            • Tthat is accurate in that El Paso is closer to San Diego than Houston.

        • Favorite bootcamp game of Texans: seeing how many NYers and other coastal types you can convince you took the stagecoach to Dallas to get the flight to boot.

          Yes, you can usually get only one.

          • Got one better, courtesy of Las Vegas: See how many of them ASK you if you lived in a casino.

            Yup, it happens.

          • Come on! It’s the 21st century nobody still believes there are any stagecoaches outside of the movies. If you’d said train or bus I’d believe you.

            • Now, you know there’s nobody so gullible as a guy who considers himself smart, and nobody has higher estimation of his intelligence than a sharp, sophisticated New Yawker.

              • I know very little about farm life so I’m sure you could pull my leg till it came off in your hand about that.

                My maid of honor at my wedding thought the Klan was going to meet me at Montgomery airport. This nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn married a hi-tech redneck. who lived in Montgomery, AL.

                We now live in a near suburb of Dallas. Buncha Jews live in Dallas. There’s a Yeshiva, kosher supermarket and even a Boy Scout troop that meets on Sundays.

            • Emily, Robert had an interview at NYU medschool. They asked him if he rode his horse to college. He was so amused by the end of it he was making up “ruralcisms” like “Well, shoe my horse with butter.”

            • I was a boot 30 years ago.

      • Example: NEW YORKER cover–Manhattan, Jersey, big nothing, California just a little long strip.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Then they talk about “It takes a village to raise a child”. [Frown]

  3. The Roman prejudices, which Heinlein noted in his visit to South America, present as inheriting or being naturally rich is better than to work for a living.

    Rome? Is THAT where the BS comes from?
    I know it usually gets lined up as Catholic vs Protestant, although I can’t find any inherent theological reasons for it– seemed much more cultural, and I couldn’t find a common thread.

    But Rome makes sense.

    • Yep. Rome. At the end of the empire most of the people who worked hard were slaves.

      • At the end of the empire, most of the people were slaves on latifundia.

        There, I fixed it for you.

        • not where the terrain didn’t encourage latifundia, such as the North of Portugal, but still craftsmen and other “People who worked” were often slaves.

          • I don’t know how accurate it is, but I saw a painful documentary about the “country estates” that made me want to scream… basically, folks would get rich, and buy the really pretty food-growing land for their out-of-town houses.

            And then underutilize it even worse than it was already being underused, because of technology limits.

            *twitch* *Twitch*

            • Latifundia were more like factory farms, with slaves living in big ol’ dorms. Of course, nobody really had an incentive to do a good job farming, since most of them were only slaves because of debt from the crushing tax burden imposed by Constantinople/Rome.

              I was reading a book that talked about an early Christian-late Imperial text addressed to a rich lady, trying to find her a good balance between “devout” and “richer than Midas and with all these slaves I own and punish.” I remember it talked about some of the latifundia reforms that were attempted, like treating slave families more like serfs and letting them have cottages. There was also talk about how slaves that didn’t actually get any contact with their masters or orders from them for thirty years were legally free under Imperial law, which I remember because Spanish law texts said that was part of the Law of the Goths.

              • “Latifundia were more like factory farms, with slaves living in big ol’ dorms”

                So, modern China, then?

                • Modern China and Imperial Rome have a lot in common, actually. From central control to expansionist ambitions, to the way they’ve “pacified” Tibet. All very Roman.

                  • I think it would be more accurate to say China under the Mandarins and Imperial Rome have a lot in common. The mandarins have simply renamed themselves for the modern era….

              • William O. B'Livion

                > Law of the Goths.

                “Thou shall dance til dawn in Black PVC and Lace”?

                Cause I like that one.

                Well, I did when I deserved to be allowed to wear PVC in public.

            • oh, you mean like how we’ve turned the Los Angeles basin into suburbia? Or how Utah Valley in Utah is being developed? Rather than building the blasted cities out in the desert so the good farmland can be kept in production?

              I’m really not a fan of most “land use planning”, but if there’s ever a good argument for it, I’d say keeping good farmland in production and putting the cities where stuff don’t grow would be it. The fact that people thrive better in the same sort of areas as agriculture does present a bit of a wrinkle…

              • One of the times I went back to my home town in Texas, I drove out to take a look at the old family farm. It was a subdivision full of houses. Made me feel ill.

                • A few years ago I found that one of the houses built on the farm I grew up on was a bed and breakfast. I was tempted to call them up and ask if they got the leech pond and if the mound-builder ant nest was still there.

                  (Hey, it lasted at least six years that I know of.)

                • Reality Observer

                  Well, my families old farms (both sides) are safe from that at least. Out in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas.

                  They’re also about 20 or so feet underwater, when they put in the dam for a recreational lake…

              • I am, in principle, a big fan of “land use planning” … but what I see put into effect is good “land use planning” the same way McDonalds is good cuisine.

              • More like how well-known farming areas get a lot of “back to nature” folks who buy old farms and then become a pain to the neighbors, but yeah. That’s pretty much what crossed my mind.

                Drive around Seattle’s edges with an eye out, and you’ll be able to spot the old farm houses– my usual trigger is three to eight old apple trees in orchard type configurations. We own one of these places, even.

                One solution is to make it easier for people to grow stuff on their own areas.

                • “More like how well-known farming areas get a lot of “back to nature” folks who buy old farms and then become a pain to the neighbors”

                  Oh yes. I recently heard one (originally from Virginia, of all places) complaining about how all the locals had ruined the ground around here, they had turned all the soil to clay.

                  ???????????????????

                  How exactly do you turn soil to clay? And if people have ruined the ground why are the only places where there is topsoil either where people have imported it, or where they have spent years developing it by fertilizing and tilling various things into the existing… clay?

                  • To turn clay into better soil, you need to put a LOT of sand and organic (NOT the hippy organic) material like composted manure and grass clippings into it for 2-3 years. That breaks up the clay, but it still retains water well and breathes well. It requires work and persistence.

                  • Turn soil into clay? Start with a volcanic eruption to cover the soil with a thick ash layer. Or better, have the sea inundate the area, then ash it, and wait a few million years for the bentonite and other clays to form. That’s one way. Or cover the area with a couple dozen meters of rock and wait the few million years. But those are about the fastest methods I can think of.

                  • Oh, and as a bonus… this feller is offering (I’m not sure if he has had any takers) classes on organic farming.

      • Given what I know about “working the unwilling”, I really have to wonder how hard those slaves worked.

        I think one of the bigger reasons the Romans failed had to do with a general lack of motivation, period. The upper classes despised labor and work; the lower classes did all they could to avoid it. The attitude of the typical victim of Communism is probably easily translatable to late Roman terms: “They pretend to pay me; I pretend to work…”. So, while I’m sure there was a lot of brutality and abuse, I’m also pretty sure there wasn’t a lot of efficiency or hard work. I can only imagine what the differences were between the production on an estate with slaves or serfs, vs. the same land managed by free peasants who were doing it for themselves. Somewhere, I remember reading a comparison someone did, looking at a specific piece of land somewhere in the UK, under different regimes. They compared productivity under feudal serfdom, a monastery doing it for themselves, church property being managed from a distance, free peasants, and then something else. The interesting thing was, the most productive period was when the monks were looking after things for themselves. Supposedly, even modern agricultural techniques were unable to do better, in terms of resources invested vs. returns.

        • The Other Sean

          I watched a video once about agriculture in Vietnam, from prehistoric to modern times. Yield actually improved on average under the Communist regime. (This was in large part simply due to not having a war disrupt things, not any great ringing endorsement of Communism.) But you know what really improved yield? Long-term leases of the farming land and equipment to families. Amazingly enough (sarcasm), people didn’t work very hard merely to benefit the government. Under the lease agreement, the farmers working on land they’d leased worked harder, producing something like twice the yield the same acreage had under government management.

        • Do you suppose that the reason that the most productive period was under the monks was because all members of their community (with perhaps a few elderly exceptions) were able to work? The free peasants would have had children, elderly, possibly ill, and heavily pregnant women or women with infants, who would all have needed to be taken care of. So productivity per person would have been lower….but then, productivity isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the end goal, but a means to an end of a better life for the humans dependent on it.

        • Remember there could be a substantial difference between serfs and slaves. It was considered a high level of labor duty if you had to work for your lord for a full day a week. There were other taxes, of course, but serfs have a lot more incentive to work than slaves.

          • Taxes – and the opportunities you may have to market your surplus (i.e. distance to nearest market, degree of freedom in selecting what to produce vs. local tradition, etc.)

            • It still produced a lot of changes. The Middle Ages saw a lot of agricultural innovations. Why, they invented a plow that made large stretches of Europe arable for the first time, and crop rotation.

        • Another major reason the Western Empire failed was that the non-slave classes not only came to despise work and labor, but participation in the military.

          When all the fellows in the legions front lines defending the Rhenus and the fellows attacking across it are all cousins of each other from Germania, and basically no actual latins in sight, the outcome is much more likely to not be to the advantage of far away Rome.

          • Hee. I am reminded of a particular scene in Braveheart.

          • Part of that was the Senate no longer wanted to pay Romans or pay to train Romans. It was expensive, and took men away from working the farms and workshops. Cheaper to buy off a barbarian chief with some empty land and a military rank.

            • That, and there was the fun period later on when they forbade the sons of legionaries from becoming anything else but a legionary (at least until they served their time). St. Martin of Tours was one of these poor schmucks who didn’t want to follow his dad’s profession. The part where he was petitioning Emperor Julian the Apostate to let him quit the army and become a monk was both gutsy and semi-suicidal. (And the part where he got insulted that Julian thought he was trying to get out because he was a coward, and offered to walk out into the middle of the battlefield with no armor or weapons to prove that he didn’t care whether he died or suffered… yeah, that’s pure old school Roman.)

    • To be fair, the Church did inherit a great deal of the Roman cultural baggage, including most of the tradition of connections and tribute (what we now term insider-dealing and bribery.)

      Translate that into contemporary life and you get your typical corporate/bureaucratic culture where the higher one ascends the more one’s job entails directing the work of others rather than doing any work oneself. In the military this is reflected in the oft quoted non-com’s response to be addressed as “Sir.”

      Obvious room for expansion on this, if folks are inclined.

      • Well, it worked on them. The reason the term “nepotism” came into use in the Middle Ages was that it was the first era where putting your relatives into positions came to be seen as problematic, and they named the problem. Before then they didn’t need a name because it wasn’t considered a problem.

      • Jim Butcher has an interesting depiction of the patron/client relationship as it was practiced then in the Codex Alera.

    • I always associated that BS with Europeans in general, but yes Rome would make sense, since they had a fairly profound impact on the rest of Europe. Also Rome=Catholic in a lot of peoples minds, so I could see how you got the Catholic vs. Protestant. Though I’ve never personally heard Catholicism linked to “natural wealth” I know hard work is commonly referred to as the “Protestant work ethic.”

      • It’s interesting to me; I am familiar with the concept common to Christianity that labor is ennobling, and not surprised at all that a post-Christian culture such as ours is growing to despise physical labor and laborers themselves. When I heard “Roman” I immediately said “empire” rather than “church.” The Holy Roman Empire endured for much longer than the sack of Rome itself.

        • I’d guess that it lines up with folks being “sophisticated”– the English are really Protestant, and their hioity-toity folks got snobby about actually working.

          Or the Romans could’ve just been really good at expressing a human failing.

    • My wife (Japanese) never understood the pleasure I took in working on, and upgrading, my car. “Hands dirty” type work was inappropriate for “professional” people even as a hobby (or perhaps especially as a hobby).

      These days, I don’t have time for it. Pity that.

      • That’s amusing. One of my mother’s numerous brothers married a beautiful (and extremely funny) Okinawan woman he met while stationed in Okinawa. She thought it strange that I went to college, got a degree, and still did almost all my own mechanic work.

        In Asia, educated folks, even engineers, are loath to get their hands dirty. It does not fit the image they have.

      • Which goes a long, long way towards explaining the idiosyncrasies seen in some Japanese engineering…

        Any culture that has too great a distance placed between the guys turning the wrenches and the guys who are drawing out and designing the things they’re turning them on is going to have some major issues with making things work smoothly. A sculptor, at some point, has to learn how to chip stone with a chisel, in order to understand his art. If he never does… Watch out.

        • So the Japanese designed early US nuclear submarines and half the equipment on even most modern ones.

          Because I can remember things whose construction made no sense from the standpoint of actually working on them.

          • No, that’s just US engineer culture, where we think that you can substitute academic work for experience, and still get good results.

            I was just talking about this with a guy who retired as a University of Washington professor, and he grudgingly agreed with me that they need to start integrating more hands-on stuff with the instruction program. He didn’t, at first, but since we were fixing something on his new house that the architect and engineer hired to design it had overlooked… He kinda had to. Pretty damn humorous when you’re the tradesman pointing out the issues the educated types overlooked… And, the guy you’re talking to had one of them in his class as an undergraduate.

            • My kid in engineering? He has a tool box and he takes it every day with his books. I wonder what the neighbors think he does.

              • I built two tool boxes from Adam Savages. One for engineering with tools that I kept needing at work and the other for model building. I need to finish the insides though.

                • I have a half-dozen tool boxes, hammer boxes, saw bags, a bucket skirt — no, two, and various assorted bins. Like Harold Ross of New Yorker fame, I’m always looking for the Perfect System. Savage’s kit is too oriented toward model-making, though the scissors lift is intriguing. I do cabinetmaking and finish carpentry. I *do* need a bigger hammer, though I keep a small tack hammer that I love because it’s so beautiful. And on-topic for the OP, i am a brain worker — I do computer graphics for the music industry, and all my co-workers do hands-dirty work.

                  M

                  • I started in on building some scissors lifts. This has been a rather big experiment for me. I’m trying to take Adam’s and adapt them to my needs, while improving my fabrication skills at the same time.

                    • Given the level you’re working at have either of you tried building your own lathe from David Gingery’s book (or the rest of the machine shop for that matter). I’ve picked the first two (Casting and the Lathe) but will admit I’m a bit trepidatious about starting.

                    • I have the books, but I don’t have a shop, and building a furnace is right out. I already have a Sherline lathe and mill. I can do sheet metal and riveting on the picnic table.

                    • Lack of space is one of my issues but I can back the cars of out the carport if needed.

              • This is all reminding me I need to finish the truck when it cools down.

            • Frank Lloyd Wright is widely considered to be one of the best American architects, but he never built a damn thing himself. Which is why his buildings leaked, and other such indications of crappy design. In contrast, the Brothers Greene were actual builders first, and their buildings and other designs are masterpieces, both of design and engineering.

              • I dearly adore the Greene & Greene houses, and those influenced by Greene and Greene, which I used to see by the scores, when Mom drove over to Pasadena to visit her family. Gorgeous, lovely, livable houses of every size in the Craftsman design tradition … I understand that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater — although a beautiful design to look at — was a positive nightmare to live in and maintain..

              • In consideration of Wright, I gather that he had real problems getting contractors to follow his plans and strictly adhere to materials requirements.

                Whether this constitutes a defense or another count for the prosecution is left as an exercise for the reader.

            • A friend of mine studied mechanical engineering with an eye towards working in NASCAR (he did, for a while). One day his dad was changing the oil in the family car, came in the house and threatened my friend with bodily harm if he EVER designed anything as stupid as a car that requires removing a tire to change the oil filter.

            • The biggest thing I realized is they all used a book of fasteners to pick bolts so everything had a different head size matched to the application.

              Pick one or two head sizes and then change thread counts and torques to match application. When I’m in the hole with not a lot of space I want to bring one small tool bag down the ladder not every damn wrench in the M-Div tool box.

              And mount equipment with optional points (such as gage panels) out of the way of crucial access.

              Stuff drove me nuts BITD.

            • I got my undergraduate at a school where we were in a shop the first month. Half of my group does some sort of self repair, half don’t.

            • “No, that’s just US engineer culture, where we think that you can substitute academic work for experience, and still get good results.”

              Yes. And I’ll note that the Japanese designed Toyotas and Hondas. Go work on Toyotas and Hondas made between 1980 and 2005 for a couple days, then go work on Fords and Chevys made during the same period. Get back to me about the flaws in Japanese engineering.

              Of course the Chevy Luv was an Isuzu, which is also Japanese, and working on one of those is– a daily occurrence if you own one– a pretty damn convincing argument for your point.

              • From long experience, and many scars, I’d put Toyota, Chevy trucks, and Buick in the “easy” category. Some Hondas and all Chryslers go into the “invent new ways to curse” category.

                • Yes, Hondas tend to go full circle, and I fully agree on older Chevy trucks, or newer full-size ones. The compacts are a different story.

                • What about Nissans?

                  • I’ve only ever worked on one or two, and I can’t really say, the couple of things I had to do weren’t too bad. But a friend of mine owned a Nissan pickup. I repeated the saying my dad used to use about Toyota’s all the time, “those Jap engineers were pretty smart, they designed stuff to work on, all you have to do is figure out how they planned on you working on it.”*
                    My friend claimed that Nissans were as good of a rig as Toyotas, the difference was their designers didn’t care if you could work on them or not.

                    *His other claim was that they designed them to be worked on by JAPANESE, so sometimes you had to get a kid to help, because Japanese hands are tiny.

                    • Personally, I’m convinced Japanese mechanics have either six elbows on a side, or trained squids. Have known a few people who have gone to Japan. Politely asked each before they left for a picture of a Japanese mechanic before they left. Still don’t have the picture.

                    • Ditto- I’ve done a bit of regular maintenance on a few, owned a few others, and happily don’t have any particular recollections of difficulties or major problems.

                    • Hubby bought his Nissan Frontier in 2000(model year 2001) and it still runs well. Seatbelt on the front passenger is a little funky.

                    • I’m just over five foot tall.

                      The Japanese guys who came to work on the ship, who gave the same aura that my folks did? Were a bit smaller than me– not like “tiny” compared to me, but like “you’re almost as tall as I am.:

                      Consider that many of them may have the “I am bigger than I objectively am” aura…….

                    • Emily,
                      A friend of mine had a 2000 Frontier, the one with metal instead of plastic fenders; the only year that bodystyle was offered in a four door. He happened to be the one I mentioned above who claimed they didn’t think about working on them when they designed them. Still he was a logger and a hound hunter, so a lot of his miles were on gravel logging roads instead of paved highways, and he had over 350,000 on it when he got rid of it a year or two ago. He didn’t have many problems with it, although there at the last, when you drove down the road the door locks went chunk, ca-chunk, chunk; as they locked and unlocked randomly while you were driving. I know he had a couple minor issues, some of which stemmed from the design that made them have less ground clearance than the Toyotas he was used to driving, but very few issues for the mileage he put on it.

                    • Since hubby and I are city people our Frontier serves us well. It doesn’t get used that much anymore since I don’t drive and Steve is only in town 2 days a week.

                    • my 98 Frontier isn’t that bad, and on Hondas it helps to know the tricks, or realise what you think is long and time consuming isn’t really. Say a timing belt, water pump, and oil seals on a 90 Accord. It looks bad, with the “front” of the engine right against the left framebox. Pull the left front wheel and the work is easily done in a day … on the street in front of the house. Knew a guy who had an 80 something Prelude with a waterpump pulley loose. He couldn’t figure out how to get the bolts back in, so he took it to the dealer and was able to watch as the unplugged two connectors and removed the engine cradle bolts to drop the engine, install 4 bolts with LocTite, bolt up the cradle and plug it back in … all in about 45 minutes.
                      Saw a 90’s Integra with a bent con-rod (guy said he hit some water … we think it was the Gulf of Mexico), using hand tools a customers brother (not a full time mechanic, but decently experienced) took the head and pan off, replaced the set of rods (they came as a matched set) and put the thing back together and test drove it in about 6 hours. Book only pays 8 hours and they thought they would possibly take more, but once he started he realized it was easier to get to everything than it looks

                    • the boys have a Honda Pilot and an Accura RL. The Accura RL is a pain.
                      They are BY FAR better than our cars and only because my parents provided the money.

                    • Not had to deal with some of the newer stuff, but today everything comes with covers to make the look purdy under the hood. Best way to make an underhood look good? Close the hood!
                      Of the later Honda built Pilots I have seen, they look alright to work on.
                      On the other hand. I’d much rather I still had my 73 Dodge Colt, or my 76 Colt with an 84 2.6 motor than my 98 Nissan. I also should not have traded in my 90 Accord for the Nissan. Should have kept it

                    • My intro to Japanese was a ’74 Civic. The shop manual basically consisted of “pull the axles, drop the engine and transmission, and then proceed with repair.”

                    • Kind of like the old VW bugs? A guy who owned them (nobody owns just one, you need at least three to keep one running) once told me, “to do anything except change the spark plugs, you need to pull the motor. But the motor is only four bolts, and I can lift it out by hand.”

                      I’m not sure that being able to physically lift the motor out of the engine bay by hand was ever a criteria I looked for when car shopping, but it does have it’s positive aspects.

                    • Actually you drop the motor on a jack and lift the car off when working on a Bug.if it is converted to a Baja it gets even easier.
                      Bug Ins have engine removal contests. Full body bug, hand tools only. 4 people max. Like this:

              • 2006 Toyota Avalon: where you have to remove the cylinder head covers (and plug cables and air intake etc etc…. everything on top of the engine) to replace the starter, which is buried inside the engine.

          • Which is not surprising, since Rickover was not a sub man. He was mainly a propulsion engineer. He was such a dominant that everything HAD to be done HIS way. It took a few years to get him to accept input from others. Even his first nuke aircraft carrier was silly in some ways. He made the designers put 8 reactors on the Enterprise because the other big carriers had 8 boilers, even though 3 or 4 would have been acceptable, as the carrier could make full speed without using all 8.

            He was an arrogant asshole in many ways, but there is no denying he built the nuke navy well overall. 60 years and NO accidents with an operating ship.

        • I remember back when the Japanese car builders were first entering the American luxury car market and couldn’t grasp the American desire for cup holders in our cars.

          “Wait! What? Americans eat in their cars??!? Dissssgusting.”

        • I recall reading about some kid who wanted to become an automotive engineer. IIRC, his dad got him a summer job at a garage. WHY, dad? Because then you’ll know not to design something that can’t be gotten to fairly easily to be worked on or replaced. If you have to dismount or pull the engine to work on something, it’s BAD design.

          • Younger son’s car. Had to take apart the entire front end to change a headlight. Total? $500 Older son’s? Go to parts store. buy. Go back in, borrow tool to remove the old headlight. Put new headlight in. Give tool back. Drive home. Total $25.

            • My current Toyota, some idiot put the battery just about 1″ too close so that you can’t reach in and change the bulb. Guess which one keeps going out.

              • I seen a guy with his ten year old kid out there helping him change that bulb a while back; because the kid had small enough hands to reach past the battery.

            • Years ago my VW Rabbit had the water pump die the same weekend my then boyfriend’s Datsun 610 had the same problem. His involved nursing it to the local garage on a Saturday just after lunch, and even ordering the part in from another shop it was done in less than three hours, and less than an hour’s work.

              The Rabbit took, IIRC, over three hours work, and involved pulling the air conditioning and the power steering (don’t ask, never an option on a rabbit, and this one had it factory installed). I looked at the mechanic after he told me that and askd, “What, you didn’t have to pull the engine?” He looked at me and completely seriously said “Not quite.”

              I also recall it took a flashlight to check the oil no matter what the ambient light was because the top of the tube the dipstick went into was about six inches down in a tiny well about two inches across.

              I nearly died of shock the first time I looked under the hood of the Rabbit’s replacement. There had to be something wrong. I didn’t have to go spelunking to check the oil level.

              • For all a Rabbit’s downfalls, they made a diesel version that not only got astronomical fuel mileage, but ran practically forever… until they made contact with a deer or other vehicle.

            • I can top that; mumble years ago I had a Mercedes-Benz which needed a new headlight. I went to the grocery store across the street from where I lived, bought the light, went home and changed it in my driveway. No tools required except those on the ends on my wrists. Not sure if this is still true of newer M-Bs.

              • It is true of 90’s Ford pickups, and Toyota Tacoma’s from their inception up into at least the mid oughts, not sure when they decided to put the battery in the way, but it is on the new ones (and comes dang close on the Fords) but the other side is changed with just your hands.

              • Managed that on my wife’s Corolla. Only left a little skin behind.

          • A rule of thumb a mechanic of my acquaintance had for checking out new cars was this: 1) Open the hood 2) Look down.
            If you cannot see the ground, pass on the car.
            In my own experience as a mechanic for a religious organization- Honda and Chrysler are the worst as far as badly laid out vehicles go. I once had to redo the main bearing on an Accord just to change out a set of brake rotors- which would have been a half hour job on the standard Camery.

            • My favorite vehicle to work on was my first too, both AMC Hornets (1976) with the bigger straight six. If it hadn’t been for the hood you could have set atop the wheel wells to work on that engine. Good times.

              • in college I had my grandmothers old Rambler. It was a dream to work on. It had some problem where it regularly broke the push rods. {When it finally died we found out someone had put the wrong head on the block and the oiler holes didn’t line up.} Anyway I always kept a few in in the glove box along with a socket wrench. I literally could coast to the side of the road and 10 minutes later be off down the road with the broken push rod switched out.

              • A buddy had an original BMC Mini- that was a great car to work on. Pop the bonnet, pull up a chair, and you’re good to go.
                My old series 40 Landcruiser was also a joy to repair & service.

            • Joe–
              That “captive rotor” was only “featured” on 91-93 Accords. All the other ones have the normal rotor design. I wish I knew just who the non-mechanic idjit in the Honda company gave the OK for that design (guess what year my Accord is…that’s right…)

              • It was one of those WTF moments when I pulled those wheels, and the first time I’ve ever seen that bit of stupidity.
                Then again, I also had to pull an engine mount to change the fan belt (not timing belt) on a Honda Odyssey.
                But one of the worst I ever had was swapping the heater core on a Ford F150. Everything between the steering wheel and the firewall had to come out.

                • Heater core in a mid eighties S10 is the same way, and in those the instructions in the service manual for changing the two rear spark plugs are, “unbolt the body, jack it up four inches to provide clearance…” My dad took a ball-peen hammer and a pry bar to the firewall on his, when he was done you had plenty of clearance to change the plugs.

                  The brakes on an 87 Accord I had were a breeze to change, as was the fuel pump, which I changed on the side of the road… twice… once with a pair of channel locks, a screwdriver, and a pair of vice grips. But I gave it to my dad and the alternator went out shortly after I gave it to him. He unbolted the alternator and had it loose, but no matter which way he turned it he couldn’t figure out how to get it pulled out. He called the Honda Garage and asked them, he said he knew it was a bad sign when the mechanics started laughing as soon as they heard the question. Turns out your options are to either pull the front axle, or unbolt the motor mounts and jack the motor up. Imagine how impressed he was when he installed the new alternator, only to fire the car up and discover it was faulty… twice.

                • The only flaw in our Kia so far is that you have to take the bumper off to change the headlight.

                  This is a lot more impressive than it sounds– it’s one piece, either four or six bolts– but NOT something you want to deal with at 6:30 at night on a rainy winter day.

                  • From the limited exposure I have had to them, I have been fairly impressed with the Kia’s. They obviously aren’t a Cadillac, but they aren’t priced like one either, and the few people I know who have them, have had very few problems.

            • The Dodge Intrepids are the worst designed vehicles ever. To replace the battery, you have to remove the right front wheel first, then try to slide the batter holder out, hoping it’s not rusted tight.

          • True story, one of those fancy sports cars had the battery under the engine. To change the battery you had to literally pull the engine out of the car because there was no other access to it.

          • Grand Prix…new plugs? Engine has to be rotated forward

      • My next-youngest brother’s first wife was Iranian, from a very wealthy exile family — and she was just utterly horrified and humiliated when my brother popped up the hood of his car and did work on it the driveway. This just wasn’t done.
        When I lived in a nice little urbanization in Spain, our chief engineer also lived in the urbanization, and his wife told me that all their Spanish neighbors were just drop-jawed at the things that he worked on, to fix and repair.

        • yep. My family is vaguely mad at me for the house-fixing project.

        • The company I work for was bought by a Japanese conglomerate several years ago. Once when I was taking out a couple of engineers from Japan for lunch, I had to move my toolbox out of the back floor of the car and they were surprised I even owned tools.

          That being said, the Germans do make their engineers apprentice in a shop as part of their education. mechanical engineers are very familiar with shop tools and practices, electrical engineers know how to use a soldering iron, etc…..

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            There are US engineering programs that make an effort to expose students to that sort of things.

    • I think that it more or less has to do with the fact that North of the alps you have to work your ass off to survive while South of the Alps things were easier.

  4. Well, I like other countries because I haven’t been there. 🙂 Also because I can watch their movies and eat their food.

    I do have a basically uncritical love of other times and places, but I can also give you a brisk lecture on Things That Stink About This Otherwise Lovable Culture. I once bored one of my younger cousins with a long (bowdlerized) discourse on Why I Like Ancient Romans on Mondays and Hate Them on Tuesdays.

    • Ancient Romans, so much like us and yet so “WUT?” Forget mommy eating snakes in the kitchen (which is what P. J. O’Rourke characterized phillipine culture as.) This is where their living room looked SO MUCH like ours, but there would be a mirror of a monkey buggering someone right there on the wall.

      • Or the windchimes they’ve found at Pompeii that consist of winged penises.

        Though the ones carved into the streets make sense — they led from the bar bor to the brothel.

        • The those are designed to turn away the evil eye and as such can also be a charm to bring good luck. There was a time when I wanted to make one to hang in front of our house because of an ongoing issue with a neighbor.

  5. BobtheRegisterredFool

    But the Romans were Just Like Us. They are exactly what we would be if not for the pacifists and crime profiteers clogging things up. /sarcasm 🙂

    • Well, we’re getting more like *them* on a daily basis. He said not entirely jokingly.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        The right thinks the left wants Rome’s sexual depravity. The left thinks the right wants Rome’s violent brutality.

        I seriously think that nominal pacifists are a harmful influence. I think the influence of lawyers has gone from being helpful into being harmful. I think Roman laws and foreign policy are an important part of any lessons on law and foreign policy.

        I think a society’s ‘advancement’ tends to be inversely proportional to its stability and frequency in history and pre-history. I think leftism amounts to being reactionary, in the direction of less advanced forms of society. Rome was a civilization, and wasn’t the worst of them.

        Yet…

        Civis Americanum Sum. The ways of their ancestors are not the ways of my ancestors. Their gods are not my God. Their tongue is not my tongue. Their princes are not my princes. Their people is not my people. Their mores are not my mores.

        • IMO the original intent of the Law was to help and protect the common folk. But these days in this country the Law is being manipulated into a means to control and often oppress citizens. That the vast majority of politicians are lawyers is not a coincidence.

          • We’re turning from a Nation of Laws to a Nation of Men, using a corrupted legal system to try to hide the fact.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              I am suspicious of modern standards of professional ethics for lawyers. If I am correct, these at same time cause systemic issues in the legal system and blind lawyers to certain problems.

        • The more I read about Rome, the more similar it looks to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

          Sure, all the names are different, but the underlying structure is much the same.

          Unless I happened to be near the tippy-top of either pyramid, I would be a very unhappy person.

        • This 7’29” clip describes what aspects of Rome I wish were in effect.

          http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4549868/roman-senate-authority
          After 9/11 many in our media wrung their hands asking “Why do they not love us?” I wanted to know “Why do they not fear us?” The answer to my question, of course, was that so many were asking the first question rather than the second.

          We need the ability for one of our senators to do as Gaius Popillius Laenas did: draw a circle and declare “Watch your step.”

          Of course, looking at our senators I understand the nature of the problem …

          • The thing is, this is really how the rest of the world expects the US to behave: The Mullahs running Iran, for example, were completely terrified when the US invaded Iraq, as they completely expected the US Army to hang a right at Baghdad and proceed to Tehran. When the American’s didn’t, they were first befuddled, and then decided the Americans were just cowards, and could be played. Eventually BHO arrived and proved them correct on the latter.

            The rest of the world has been told over and over how the USA is The Evil but Bumbling Empire, staggering from disaster to disaster in foreign policy ad nevr providing enough foreign aid to really solve everybody else’s problems.

            My personal fear is that given the wrong sequence of events and US elections, the Heinlein/Kratman “OK, now you get to see what an American Empire really looks like” will come to pass. I do not think the various overseas idiots will enjoy the reality that has to date only existed in their fevered imaginations.

            • The world isn’t going to like the aftermath, when that happens. And, I think something like it will, almost inevitably, as the non-proliferation programs break down. It’s almost an inevitability, because someone is going to have to do it, and the most likely candidate is going to be a post-WMD attack US government that has been turned over to the more bloody-minded of us.

              Had I been running the US the day after 9/11, the moment I established probable Saudi government involvement, based on all the brand-new clean passports that someone in that government issued the hijackers, the Saudi ambassador would have been called in for a set of ultimatums that would have likely led to the total destruction of the Saudi nation, and their King being led in shackles before a joint session of the US Congress, before being summarily executed on the Capitol steps. And, I would have done it without rancor or hatred, simply knowing that doing so was the only way to save millions of lives in the probable future, where routine use of WMD from deniable places in the shadows was a part of daily life. To prevent that future, the only viable path is to set and establish the standard that playing that game leads to death and the destruction of your nation. Mecca, should it have survived, would have been turned back over to the Hashemids in Jordan, and the Saudi oil fields would be in a trust for the Third World. Saudi Arabia itself should have become a wasteland, populated by sand devils and camels, assuming they’d have done what I expect they would have, and refused to hand over the involved parties, who had to be fairly high up in the Saudi government and Royal family.

              We’re not going to realize just how badly Bush screwed up until another couple of generations have gone by. The destruction of the hard-won Westphalian international standards he condoned is not going to serve us well, in a world where WMD technology is easily available to even high-school dropouts. Mousepox, anyone? It’s coming, and probably within our lifetimes.

              Scariest thing I have to think about, laying awake at night, is knowing that there’s probably a reason we haven’t seen signs of intelligent life like us, out there: Most forms of intelligent life akin to us never make it off their homeworlds. Odds are, the moment they achieve a level of technology where that is even possible, they wind up killing themselves when some backwards recidivist part of their civilization takes advantage of the rising technological tide to try to turn the clock back. Look at what Isis is doing right now, in Palmyra, and despair. That particular genie ain’t going back in its bottle without some significant bloodshed and treasure being spent.

          • After 9/11, I put up on my company’s web site a quote from … somebody like Cicero (I come to find it was originally attributed to a poet I sure didn’t study in HS Latin and was a favorite aphorism of Caligula, which doesn’t recommend it to me)… oderint dum metuant. “Let them hate, while they fear.” Is the literal translation. The idiomatic one is “Let them hate [us] so long as they fear [us].”

            M

        • I think the influence of lawyers has gone from being helpful into being harmful.

          This. Across the board. Even though I currently derive my living from lawyer fun.

          An this includes the military. In spite of recent fears, the Pentagon will never move forward with autonomous armed drones as it’s too difficult to fit the required JAG on board to write up the legal approval for the strikes that the drone wants to drop.

  6. I grew up in Ohio. I was considered to be odd because I wanted to be an engineer. Worse I wanted to build space craft. This was unnatural because to them the highest calling was Football Coach, an engineer ran a train. (Actually I do like football, but then I grew up in Ohio.)

    • When I graduated high school in 1974 at Garden City TX, everyone knew I’d be going off to college, but all but one assumed I’d be studying to be a teacher/football coach. I was the guy who aced all the algebra/trig/science classes, shot model rockets for fun, and told everyone I was going to major in Aerospace Engineering (ended up in Mechanical). But because I played football, was big and very strong, they assumed I wanted to be a coach.

      They were shocked when I went to the University of Texas and graduated with an engineering degree. The prevailing common sense wisdom of the time was that engineers were digging ditches and working at gas stations since the Apollo program and Vietnam War had wound down. They had no clue that that was only the ones who were NASA contractors in Florida who did not want to leave Florida, and refused to work anywhere outside NASA. I later worked with guys at nuclear plants who were Apollo era contractors, who when laid off, showed no hesitation about using their skills in another engineering field and other states. They were contemptuous of those snowflakes who took menial jobs in Florida and tried to publicize it as a way to pressure Congress to get them hired at NASA.

      • Joe, as to NASA, it wasn’t just Florida, but Southern California as well, but there were other industries to absorb many of the engineers in Socal eventually. I remember 1970 well. My Dad had voted for Nixon in 68 because, he said, “Nixon’s from California, so he’ll protect the California jobs.” Famous last words. The moon? Been there. Done that. Take a t-shirt on your way to the unemployment line. ‘Course he eventually worked on designing the trains for SFs BART, and on the General Atomics HTGC Reactor (look it up!).

        As to my thoughts on NASA, I think we could use more men like D.D. Harriman and George Strong, and I hope Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos fare much better than Hank Rearden.

        • Very familiar with the HTGCR. My faculty advisor in college at UT worked on the Ft. St. Vrain and Peach Bottom 1 plants. I also had him for several heat transfer classes and nearly all our problems used HTGR examples.

          He also became head of the NRC during the Bush II admin.

    • I grew up in Ohio. In my school, there were so many Air Force brats that it seemed kinda odd not to want to be a pilot or an engineer. The real oddball rebels went into the Navy. 🙂

    • That’s interesting. When did you grow up in Ohio?

      I grew up there also, and I also wanted to be an engineer. (Aerospace, from a very young age). While elementary through highschool was a special kind of hell for me, I wasn’t completely devoid of support. I have a very talented family: My grandfather was an engineer, my uncle a physicist. My parents are machinists, and so are very involved in the industrial world of the midwest. (The 90’s suuuucked)

      I had the impression that until recently the midwest was a vibrant center for industry, invention, and engineering for the country. (Listening to my parents talking about when they were kids: You could get a job anywhere at any time doing almost anything just by walking in and being willing to do it.) (Granted, the industry was saddled with unions, corrupt governments taking the companies for a ride, inefficiency, etc, towards the end). Post-recently, however, there isn’t a lot left of our major industrial cities but factory corpses and debris. I swear, sometimes it seems like there would be less desolation if instead the cities had been bombed by an honest enemy.

      • Now that I think about it: The sort of counseling I got from my high school counselors when they heard my ambitions was: “The only engineer you’re suited to be is a sanitation engineer! Learn to like driving that garbage truck!” or “You’re going to have to learn to accept some disappointment in life. Not everyone who wants to can go to college or pursue the sort of career they want.”

        To be honest, I’m having a hard time remembering what prompted that hostility. By high-school, I thought I had done mostly okay in keeping my weirdness under control. I wasn’t rebellious or combative. I even made a friend or two. My grades were perfect. All the little columns to the left of the objective score were filled with “needs to learn to be more social.” “asocial and impertinent.”, “socially maladapted”, “does not play well with others.” etc etc.

  7. I have to disagree on one point here. If you want to rudely listen in to my private conversation, I’m going to make you work for it.

    • Okay — yeah, when someone is intently LISTENING — but I’m talking more of walking around SPEAKING THE OTHER LANGUAGE VERY LOUDLY and laughing in a knowing way.

      • Well, an obvious “I’m talking about YOU” sort of thing is definitely rude. I’m so used to it now that people speaking languages I don’t know gets my attention but in a cheerful way, like the three fellows in saffron robes at the Thai restaurant. I don’t know what language they were speaking but it’s just nice to hear the different sounds. I’ve never quite understood being upset about people not speaking English in public, but it used to be a thing in the US too. Maybe it was the same “better than you” vibe to start with. Not for your local elders speaking the language of the Old Country, which ever Old Country it happened to be, but “foreigners” for certain.

  8. Last night I happened to catch a Dana Perino book event on CSPAN2 and reading this post recalled one of her stories. It was while she was still a lower rung WH operative, assisting at a 2005 Summit between George W Bush and Vladimir Putin, where her job was to brief the two on questions likely to be asked by the reporters.

    Perino warned Putin he was likely to be asked about press freedoms in Russia, in response to which he sneered at Bush for firing “that newsman.”

    “What are you talking about, Vladimir?” replied Bush and Perino.

    He said, You know you fired that newsman.”

    43 asked, “Vladimir, are you talking about Dan Rather? And he said that is not how it works, okay. Private company, private decision, I had nothing to do with that. And I’m telling you as your friend, do not go out there and say that; you will embarrass yourself in front of the world.

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4549857/43-putin

    The rest of the world does not understand how this nation works; they are constantly peering behind the curtain for the man pulling the strings.

    • In the event that link* is only functional on my computer (first time I’ve attempted CSPAN’s “Create your own clip” function) go to this link

      http://www.c-span.org/video/?325835-1/dana-perino-good-news

      and press on the transcript at the 00:26:46 point.

      *If anybody gets the above clip to play I would appreciate confirmation of the function. It seems a bit much for them to allow any and every body to create such clips.

    • That clip worked for me. And I’m surprised that they’d allow that functionality, too.

      Very funny, and spot on.

      • Thanks for the confirmation. (Thanks Uncle Lar, as well.)

        Geeze, now I know it can be done I got me some browsin’ tuh do.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Sadly, much of the country also doesn’t understand how the nation works.

    • I was watching Last Days in Vietnam, and they mentioned something similar with regard to Nixon. The North Vietnamese were scared to death that if they did anything to provoke Nixon, he’d immediately send US troops back to South Vietnam. The fact that he couldn’t do that without congressional approval that he never would have gotten completely escaped them. They were flabbergasted when Watergate (which was pretty minor, as far as scandals go) forced him to resign. To them, it was inconceivable.

      • Sure glad we don’t have a chief executive who thinks he can enact vast changes in, oh, say immigration policy or renaming mountains by his whim.

    • William O. B'Livion

      (a) Link worked for me.

      (b) Funny, I follow the news *VERY* carefully, and have for decades. Don’t remember that being a news story.

      • Not as big a story as some nut hurling a shoe at Bush, was it? Can you imagine the outraged squeaks if anybody heaved a shoe at Obama?

        Humbert Wolfe’s epigram about British journalists applies to American ones as well:

        You cannot hope
        to bribe or twist,
        thank God! the
        British journalist.
        But, seeing what
        the man will do
        unbribed, there’s
        no occasion to.

  9. I did not know Portugal grew rice *or* in sufficient quantities to export. *hangs ignorant American head in shame*. But it must be good if IBM is trying to block it, no?

    I haven’t traveled abroad nearly as much as I would like to, but my observation is you learn about the wonderful minor comforts you take for granted especially if you avoid cocooning tours. e.g. in admittedly very beautiful Switzerland, a) good luck buying a quick cheap bottle of aspirin, it all has to go through a pharmacy for an UNGODLY sum b) good luck buying ANYTHING from noon to 1:30 pm when everybody goes home for lunch and c) you want local insular prejudice in a 5 km radius, try speaking German in the French area. They prefer *English* to German. Yep, so cosmopolitan and suave…

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I understood that as Rice imports to Portugal.

    • no. It does now, weirdly. But in the seventies it was the IMPORTING of rice that IBM was blocking. Importing BY Portugal. (there had been a shortage of rice. Socialism, you know.)
      Now Portugal grows rice AND a type of shrimp in the rice paddies. Shrimp are pests in the rice paddies. go figure. And they poison them, which I consider an abomination.

      • As an aside, I recall reading a while back that Japan greatly restricts if not totally forbids the import of American rice into their country. Strictly as protection to their native rice farmers who otherwise could not compete with more efficient American rice production. But then as I recall the US did much the same thing over cheap Argentinian beef as told in the same article.
        So economics always bows to politics.

      • They poison short people? 😉

      • Now I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that nobody seemed to ask WHY IBM, in amongst the executives I sort of grew up among, would want to stop rice exports to Portugal.

        • I DID ask. He gave me a lot of strange and confused talk that boiled down to “because moon ferrets.” I think he read Soviet Life.

          • I now have a mental image of a little IBM robot going “Rice and rice! What is rice?”

          • Soviet Life was a very strange magazine. In fact all those magazines, which the University Of Bridgeport had them all, were truly bizarre. One of the most fun ones was the movie review magazine for Soviet movies. One review stick in my head because it was a railroad disaster movie and I still would like to find it and see it.

          • I remember laughing uproariously at some goof in college who claimed with a straight face that we were in Vietnam for the tin!

          • Reality Observer

            Iggerant PorComs. Everyone over here knew that Ma Bell was the secret master (mistress?) of the United States.

      • Koi. The answer is to introduce koi. 🙂

    • I remember trying to deal with the politics of language in Eastern Europe. “Never speak Hungarian to the Romanians” and “Never speak Russian to the Hungarians” were two rules that were drilled into our heads pretty much as soon as we got there.

      • Never speak Russian in any European country that was in the USSR and has a separate language of their own. That’s not as universal in the Stans.

    • “I did not know Portugal grew rice *or* in sufficient quantities to export.”

      That is what I thought when reading that, too. But obviously we are just ignorant local yokels.

    • The Other Sean

      As far as I can tell, from 1st hand experience and 2nd hand stories, most people living in countries occupied by Germany during WWII prefers English-speakers over German-speakers, excepting perhaps Austria. This tendency increases the older the people are (i.e. lived through occupation) or were born in immediate aftermath.

      • …excepting perhaps Austria.

        Well, yeah, that’s obviously because they speak Austrian.

        Duh.

      • Depends on where in Austria. What amused me were the people who instantly switched to English, and insisted on speaking harder-to-understand English. So I was speaking German and they spoke English back, at least at first.

    • The confusion is that IBM was/is known for marketing via FUD, which means Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt (“nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”, etc.), not “Food”.
      Or maybe not…

    • Didn’t you know? IBM controls all. Hence the poim:
      I BM
      U BM
      We all BM
      For IBM.

    • Wait! Who was it that wanted to keep Rice out of Portugal? Was it because of the NSA? Or maybe just none of our Secretaries of State are allowed to visit Portugal? (I challenge you to give me an example of that happening even once in US History.)

      • Well, come on, guys!, Obviously, somebody heard rice as “lice”, figured the Chicoms were up to something or it was hideous scheme to infest Portugal with those little blood-suckers.

  10. As a freshman in a LIBERAL arts school in the Deep South, WAY back in 1971, I had to read a book called “North Toward Home,” by Willie Morris. He grew up in Mississippi, and graduated from University of Texas at Austin. At some point, he learned to read, and found out that the South at the time (late 1950’s) was racist. He moved north, but wasn’t missed much. He became editor in chief of Harper’s MAgazine, but got fired for being too liberal in 1971. He hung around with the Yankees for nine more years before he moved back to Mississippi, where he wrote about his dog. Now, in 1971, when I was reading ‘North Toward Home,’ I of course had no idea that he was getting fired from a Yankee magazine for being too liberal, but I clearly got his message: South is bad, North is good. That turned out, by the way, to be a load of dingos’ kidneys.
    Anyway, I read books. And write about them. So I don’t HAVE to go anywhere to find truth, unless I just want to. I’ve walked in the streets of Jerusalem and drunk beer in Berlin. And now I write about good Southern writers telling stories on other worlds, like this: http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2015/09/alma-boykins-elizabeth-of-donatello.html.
    It’s good enough for me.

    • Man, the past truly is a foreign country. My brain kind of skips a groove thinking of Harper’s ever firing someone for being “liberal”… ‘Course such days are long gone, which doesn’t stop the liberals from claiming that McCarthy’s coming back any second now which is why they have to blackball anyone to the right of Marx himself. Reasons.

  11. “In fact, if you talk to foreigners in web forums the “reporting” they get about the US is not only wrong but hilariously so. For instance, people without insurance are routinely left untreated in our emergency room.”

    I think that’s something that comes from American entertainment, and there’s two reasons for that:

    1) Most entertainment industry types support government-run universal healthcare, if not full-blown single payer. Therefore, it’s in their interest to present the existing (or at least, pre-Obamacare) system in the worst light that they can get away with.

    2) The average entertainment industry type has the same level of knowledge of what healthcare is available to the uninsured in America as the average foreigner does – i.e. little to none.

    • You mean the Hollywood elite do not go to ER’s full of people with sniffles that go because its free and immediate

      • …and still only have to wait a few hours when there’s people with actual emergencies to get treated first. And some of whom tend to complain about it.

        • Oh I know. I have bit my tongue on calls, but take some pride in txt to waiting room. It needs solving but not by nationalizing.

          • As a resident of the UK, I can tell you that ERs are still swamped with non-emergency cases, even though everybody is supposed have free access to general practitioners. It’s a combination of the aging population, a shortage of inpatient hospital beds, and people needing non-emergency care outside of GP office hours. So yes, you’re right, nationalizing is not the answer.

            • Actually here Obamacare made ER congestion worse. Partly because you might be in a “plan” but there might not be anyone who TAKES the “plan” around there.

              • Oh, I know that, but a TV scriptwriter is unlikely to put that in a show, since they mostly support Obamacare (at least for the time being) and want to show it in a positive light.

                • Right – the most popular TV show in Oz when I visited last (in 2000) was “The West Wing” which vastly outdrew anything produced locally.

                  If all you know of the USA from overseas is what the hacks writing for “CSI: Wherever” put in their horribly slanted scripts each week, you are going to have a very much incorrect concept of life in the United States.

              • William O. B'Livion

                While that might be a small percentage of the cases, that’s not where the problem is.

                I worked in an ER for a while, and poor people are poor because they’re utter crap at planning. Thus the young mother presents her child with a fever and something (foregive me, it’s been 23 years) at 5:30 on a friday.

                “How long has this been going on”?

                “Since Monday”.

                >>boggle< (100 feet away, TOPS) you’re now in the ER where it costs twice as much and you get a generalist rather than a specialist.

                No wonder you’re on medicaid and food stamps you ignorant b*tch.

                • That’s why they’ve started a lot of urgent care to divert non-emergencies. But I’ll argue two things, first that people *stay* poor because they’re no good at planning, understanding that it’s much harder to plan when you’re in crisis and you need to plan twice as well to get out of it, but second about planning doctor stuff? Just *try* to call in for an appointment anywhere today because your kid is sick today. Or psych? Call, “I need an appointment for my kid.” “Okay, sure, how is Wednesday the 14th two months from now?” “I really need to see someone sooner.” “If you have a psychological emergency please call 911..”

                  It’s got nothing to do with how good you are at planning.

                  • One reason poor people are bad at planning might be because planning typically doesn’t work for them.

                    A poor person doesn’t get time off from their entry-level job so readily. A poor person often “enjoys” unreliable transportation or must deal with complicated arrangements, such as depending upon three bus transfers, each happening at the right time; one bus goes through late while the other passes early …

                    There is also less margin of error and weaker support systems for poor people. They might have to arrange a caregiver for an ailing parent or grandparent or find somebody to watch over one or more other kids.

                    Planning ahead a week, ten days for an appointment? Too many things able to go wrong in the interim.

                    None of this excuses failure to plan, merely points out why planning often seems useless to somebody with scant control over their circumstances. Having little experience with planning they plan poorly, which is prone to persuade them planning is a poor proposition.

                    • To an extent this is true, but a lot of poor people are “poor” simply because they spend more than they make. Which is poor planning. I know some “poor” people who make 150K a year. But not only are they always broke, and living hand to mouth, they have absolutely nothing to show for it, and you wonder where the money goes, do they just toss it out the window while heading home from cashing their check?

                    • well, paying house mortgage AND rent and college tuitions plus health bills and a series of expensive “disasters” has us there right now. But we do have something to show for it, to wit the house for sale.

                    • When my husband and I were living on his reserve pay, he had a conversation with one of his officers who was busy lamenting how she lost money on duty weekends.

                      She earned more on a weekend than he got being activated a month. And he was only getting about one to two weeks a month activated.

                      For starters, she thought a “full freezer” was the one on one of those dorm fridges, with a lot of ice cubes……

                  • William O. B'Livion

                    >first that people *stay* poor because they’re no good at planning,

                    It is utterly trivial to avoid being (in the long run) in poverty by doing two simple things:

                    1) Graduate Highschool.
                    2) Don’t get pregnant/father a child until AFTER you get married. Best is to wait 2 years after.

                    These aren’t “build the space shuttle” level of planning.

                    > understanding that it’s much harder to plan when you’re in crisis
                    > and you need to plan twice as well to get out of it,

                    I lived in massively poor neighborhoods in Chicago and routinely witnessed children buying breakfast at the bodegas on the corner. Things like hohos and twinkies.

                    > but second about planning doctor stuff? Just *try* to call in for
                    > an appointment anywhere today because your kid is sick today.

                    That ER I worked in? As mentioned there was a pediatric clinic about 100 feet away INSIDE THE SAME BUILDING that would do same-day visits.

                    When my kid was born we *planned ahead* and developed a relationship with a local clinic && doctor BEFORE she was born. When she was 9 months old the pediatrician (well baby checkup) thought he heard a heart murmur. I had to make an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist. He saw her 2 hours later. Why? Because I was calm, pleasant and flexible.

                    Years ago there was a program in rural Mexico to incentivize Mexican poor to do what the Middle Class does in most countries–stay in school, take their kids to the doctor etc. It did fairly well, so the idijits at the Rockefeller Foundation sought to replicate it here:

                    http://www.city-journal.org/2010/eon0408hm.html

                    TL;DR: Rural Mexican’s aren’t poor the same way and for the same reasons as Urban Poor. “…that the lives of America’s underclass are characterized by a degree of disorganization that is rarely grasped or acknowledged.”

                    It is possible to be well organized and still be “poor”, but that’s a poor of *choice* or of random circumstance (house burning down, medical/health issues). Most of America’s poor are poor because they cannot or will not do those things they need to do to make their lives better.

                    • Yep.

                      Seen it, dealt with it, and despaired of ever being able to fix it. There’s a reason some lower enlisted couples go on to great financial success, and others crash and burn into poverty, and it all comes from an ability to plan for the future rationally. Poverty isn’t due to a lack of income; it’s due to a lack of comprehension for the effects of your decisions. My guys would routinely offer me examples of why certain behavioral patterns and cultures persist, sometimes along racial lines. My black guys would bitch and moan about how their white peers were able to do things they couldn’t, on the same pay. Now, this wasn’t all of them–Some of my most feckless were white, but the most common feature I observed among the dysfunctional blacks I had working for me was a complete obliviousness to the implication and consequence of what they were doing, here-and-now.

                      “How come so-and-so can afford to go do X?” Uh, he and his wife planned better than you and yours did? This was often ascribed to them “getting help” from other whites, while there were no blacks to help them out, but the sad fact of the matter was that the white couple they were looking at was driving around in a ten-year old Toyota, and the black couple had the latest Detroit product with 20″ rims bought on credit. I’d point this out, and they would just look at me like I was ‘effing crazy. Same way they’d complain about how all the black neighborhoods around Fort Lewis were run down and looked like ass, while the white ones were all full of neatly kept-up homes and maintained public areas. I literally drove through a couple of these with one of the complainers, one weekend, and casually pointed out that on Saturday morning, most of the people in the white neighborhoods were out mowing lawns and doing upkeep, while in the black ones, nobody was doing much of anything. Stereotypical, but there you are. And, the average black guy would blame the whole thing on some kind of racism, as if the people in those neighborhoods hadn’t made their choices on their own…

                      Honest to God, I didn’t used to sound like a racist, talking about this stuff, but after dealing with the BS I did for 25 years, it’s damn hard not to. Most of the issues afflicting black Americans are entirely self-inflicted, just like many of the poverty issues of the lower class whites are.

                    • “Poverty isn’t due to a lack of income; it’s due to a lack of comprehension for the effects of your decisions.”

                      Yep. I’m pretty sure I have been below “poverty-level” income more than half of my adult life. I would have to look up what the levels were each year, and then look up my income for that year, to get exact figures, especially the last 8-10 years my income has been very sporadic. But I managed to buy property, build a house, own three (well four, but one is for sale) reliable four wheel drives, a couple of ATV’s and a couple of snowmobiles; all without going into debt. That is entirely due to planning, and making smart decisions about when and what to spend my money on. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been times when money was tight, (well actually, about all of them) but you prioritize what is important to you, and what you will give up in order to afford that. My choices are going to be different than a lot of yours, most of you have very little need for a snowmobile, for example, and would be much better off spending that money on upgrades to your house, or possibly a reliable work car. But you have to know what is important to you, and budget, then unless you are very good with money, you need to make a budget and follow it.

    • Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what’s going on in other country’s media representations of their healthcare systems. Japanese anime generally shows doctors as smart and good, and yet there are always a lot of people who seem to be in the hospital and not getting better. And mystery shows tend to depict a lot of anger toward doctors, but with very little real explanation.

      The underbelly (albeit from 1970’s source material) shows up in Black Jack, an sf-ish anime about a genius mercenary doctor. Basically, a lot of Japanese specialists want you to give them extra money under the table in order to treat you. So you think this is made up, and then you find out that it’s actually something that still happens quite a lot in Japan. Other stuff happens too, and you find out it’s also based on real scandals.

      And after a while, you start to figure out why a lot of animes have good guy side characters who run free clinics, or who are doctors who are visibly poor.

      But Japan has a “good” healthcare system, and the US one is “evil.”

      Japanese law enforcement is also very weird, and its very weirdness is disguised by everything looking so Western. This apparently tends to come back and bite any foreigners who get into trouble, because they have no idea what the cultural script is. (And Japanese police will beat you up, if you don’t follow it well enough.)

    • I met somebody in St John’s, Newfoundland (Canada’s farthest eastern province) who was actually afraid to visit the USA because he could see, via movies and TV, just how violent the USA was. This was in 1998…

  12. I believe that it was Mark Steyn who defined multiculturalism as “Feeling vaguely good about other cultures in order to absolve yourself from the responsibility of having to learn anything about those cultures.” Seems to describe most of those mentioned in this article.

  13. … the reason Portugal didn’t invent its own computer was that if they’d tried America would have penalized them on rice imports.

    Why would Portuguese care if the US slapped tariffs on those idiotic vampire books?

  14. Using chicom as a nickname would dilute its meaning and confuse when it is used to refer to real chicoms. Not just some idiot on the internet.

    • As the Doctor said, “Make mistakes – Confuse your enemies.”

      “Wait when you say chicom, do you mean the real chicoms from Chine who are Communists, or Chicom Three Names?”

      • None of the above. It’s about CHIme COMmunication. The messages sound like noises from dangly metal things suspended in the wind, and thus are unparsed even by those intercepting them.

  15. Portugal is poor because FDR was a communist sympathizer… obviously.

  16. ” And to be fair, particularly in Europe, a certain amount of resentment at the US is normal. America has a disproportionate footprint in the world, both because it was the only giant standing after WWII and because it has a huge entertainment footprint. Which means a lot of the anti-Americanism is fostered by our own yokels abroad.”

    It can’t possibly be as bad as the European yokels that visit America. I swear, almost every time I meet some European that is visiting the States and spend two minutes talking to them; I walk away shaking my head. And thinking that the biggest mistake we made in WWII was to only use the bomb on Japan.

    • European in Chicago: “Let’s take a drive and visit my cousin!”
      American: “Where does your cousin live?”
      European: “San Diego!”
      American: *facepalm*

      • Even better, the ones that assume that public transit is pervasive and you need only wait ten or fifteen minutes for a bus, train, or subway to take you any place you might want to go.

        When they find the bus runs Tuesdays and Thursdays, the culture shock is palpable.

        This is America. We drive. We’ve left our used cars and gum wrappers on the Moon and we’re busily covering Mars with tire tracks. Because that’s what we do.

        • Snerk…take pubic transport in ATL. Walking is faster and safer. Only use I had was red line to airport

          • I liked MARTA back in the early 1990s (when Underground was still fun, safe, and a neat place to people watch.) And very much yes on the Atlanta airport run.

        • Jumping a turnstile is a minor thing, but stealing a car is Grand Theft. “Civilization” means the car thieves only serve time (if that) and not get the treatment horse thieves used to often get.

        • “When they find the bus runs Tuesdays and Thursdays, the culture shock is palpable.”

          That’s really about how much more of the population in most Western European countries tends to be concentrated in major towns and cities than in America. Here in the UK, you’re lucky if you get two buses a day in the more rural areas.

          • Well, part of it is that we put our rail system to use toting freight, and use the roads to travel on. They put their rail system to use to travel on, and use the roads to tote freight.

          • Here in Texas, many even rather big towns have no sort of Public Transport. I think here in what is pretty much a ‘burb of DFW, the nearest bus stop for me is 12 miles away and is a park and ride, meaning you drive there, to get on the bus to get into Ft Worth.
            I had a lady in St. Ives who knew me and a fellow on line acquaintance were in the same Metro area, (Me in Burleson TX and He in Mesquite) but didn’t realize it was 60 miles drive from my house to his and was shocked it was often considered by some folks as all one city

      • I had that conversation once with an European. I told her to layer a map of the USA and Europe and pointed out that where she was in London was as if the federal government of the USA was in Moscow in terms of relative distance from my home to D.C. How well did she think Moscow could handle London affairs? It was not the eye opening she wanted.

        Though I can’t help but think that your proposed road trip would be enlightening to the European, and therefore a very good idea.

        • I remember looking at a map not long ago, and realizing that it’s sixty percent further as the crow flies from LA to NY than it is from London to Moscow.

          Good thing for Napoleon that he never had to invade the US Midwest.

          • And some of us have done that trip. Okay, not directly, we had a stop off for a few weeks at home, but Best Friend #1 got married in June in LA, Best Friend #2 got married in July in Pennsylvania, or maybe it was Delaware (I get confused with her: she moves between them), so after the second wedding we drove up to NY visiting various relatives. (These are shovel friends, so you see taking two kids under four while six months pregnant to their weddings made perfect sense. Though for some reason my in-laws blamed my poor husband.)

      • Scale is hard for some of them to get, even after visiting here. Made our first trip to Germany last spring, talked with an older couple (she was Italian, he was German, they kinda wanted to practice their English which was better than our German, had a relative in NYC who’s done well (borough politician) who they’ve visited at least once) – and they still didn’t really conceive that Seattle was more than a few hours’ drive away from NY.

        • I’ve seen the same thing. You have to remember that France, a good-sized European nation, is the size of Texas. Which is a large state, but not the largest…and only one of fifty states.

          The Europeans have very little concept of the sheer size of North America.

          • And also why Euros often call us “uncultured” because we don’t visit other countries. They fail to realize that said countries are not just hundreds of miles away from the average US home, they themselves are HUGE. By land area Canada is bigger than the continental US, and Mexico is (IIRC) in the top-15 in terms of land area. Congrats, that’s our ENTIRE CONTINENT. Even with our economic prowess, the average American family can’t spring for foreign travel too terribly often since it almost always involves hopping a plane for several hours.

            Meanwhile, France scrapes into the top-50 or something? Maybe Spain is in there too? And all packed together so conveniently. It’s longer to drive from Tennessee to Florida down I-75 than to get from Vienna to Warsaw.

            • WP hates the link and won’t let me post it here, but there is a neat map of the UK one can drag and drop on a 48 state map of the USA. Also one of Europe (minus Finland) that can be used that way as well

              • Bill Cosby, a while ago had a monologue to the point that in Europe, you could drive twenty minutes and be in a WHOLE ‘NOTHER LANGUAGE!
                (Not to mention a whole ‘nother country.)
                Me, I lived off-base on the local economy for nearly ten years – Greece and Spain. I was so glad to get back to the States, to a place where it didn’t take nearly a month to fix the central heat plant in my house. (Which it had, in a particularly cold Spanish winter.) Same thing happened in Utah – nice repairman showed up at the house and sorted it out in half-a-day. Europe’s a lovely place to visit, but living there, unless you are feeeeelthy rich, takes some adjustment of expectations.
                There were stories that it took years to get a private phone number and a telephone in Athens, back in the day.

                • My Supervisor at the Airport had lived off base in Spain. He was glad his kids got that experience, and was very glad to get back to the States, The kids then knew how good they had it here in the US.

                • John Stossel had an interview with the CEO if Carl’s Jr discussing how long it takes to open a new store (time is money, drains capital) and said (IIRC) in Texas it took 60 days, Shanghai China’s 63. We just opened a restaurant in Siberia in 180 bays … in Los Angeles it takes 280. I can open-air restaurant easier in Siberian than in California.

                • So how is European living for the handicapped? I’m trying to imagine dh getting around without his specially-rigged car, needing a cane to walk and only having one un-paralyzed arm … keeping his balance in crowded trains, etc. … um, no, he would not be able to get to and keep his iob. My adopted-Mexican sister tells me the Mexs keep their handicapped and elderly people basically cloistered … do the euros do likewise?

                  • Depends where, but yes, at least where I was the accommodations were pitiful.

                    • I had a good friend in Greece – now deceased – who was increasingly sidelined by MS. I used to think how difficult it must have been for her to get around in the neighborhood in Ano Glyphada — and how relatively easy it would have been for her in the States — with the dips built into the sidewalks and the little motorized shopping carts on offer — or even the wheel-chairs with the attached baskets.
                      In one of the last letters I had from her, she noted that her husband had to borrow a wheelbarrow to get her down to their little holiday home out in the Islands.

                    • That is so sad. One more reason to be glad for America, I guess.

              • In “European Vacation”, the Griswolds have to catch a flight late in the day but first drive out to see Stonehenge. I saw that once and was skeptical it was possible — London’s near the east side of England, Stonehenge near the west! — but checked it out and, yes, it’s possible. As long as you don’t get caught in a line at Stonehenge.

                And the only time I flew into Heathrow, we began our descent over Ireland. Coming into Cincinnati, we usually begin our descent over Indiana.

                • Yeah, A trip across Texas is further than most trips in the UK top to bottom in Texas is over 800 miles drive. Penzance to Aberdeen is 690 or so. Forget about east – west.

                  • My brother and I did an Iron Butt 1000 together. That’s 1000 miles in 24 hours, on a motorcycle. It wasn’t a big deal since I’d made the Little Rock to Colorado Springs ride nonstop several times, 1050 miles by my odometer.

                    After that he wanted to do one of the Mexico-to-Canada runs. You get 36 hours to make it from one border crossing to another; the route you take is up to you.

                    Interestingly, there’s no direct path. The most-used path is a set of two-lane roads across the largest distance between the countries – Laredo TX, zigzagging to a border crossing below Winnipeg.

                    The problem was that just getting to the beginning and end points was an adventure itself. It’s 750 miles to Laredo, then 1250 miles from Canada back to Little Rock. Oh, and about 1700 miles from Laredo to the Canadian border.

                    There are shorter, interstate routes, but they’re all “scenic” or go through urban congestion; most riders take the two-lanes through Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and the Dakotas where they can keep rolling at the speed limit in as direct a path as possible.

                    (oddly, we never considered starting from Canada and running south…)

                    Just the leg to the starting point is longer than the distance between the bottom of England and the top of Scotland, more than twice that for the ride, and almost twice that back home.

                    The Mexico-to-Canada is a *serious* motorcycle ride. We would have started not too far from the main path, so the home-run-home total would have only been 3700 miles. A thousand miles in one swell foop is one thing; four times in a row just didn’t look fun at all…

                    • I’ve done several unofficial Iron Butts. last vacation trip was 26 hours and 1400 miles. I went from here in Alvarado to Duluth and then over to the U.P.
                      Texas though does make Iron Butt easy peasy. even the side roads in a lot of places are 70 mph, anything with a shoulder is 75, and some of the State Highways are 80.
                      Mex-Can run I’d do it starting in Brownsville, and run near that route I went to Minnesota by if I was looking for just the “I did it” shirt. 2 days tops for the run, if I was a bit younger, “one Day” (defined by waking up and going to sleep) But yeah, a day to get to the start.
                      The ST100 is the bike to do that on, with a Russel Day-long seat on it (or an Airhawk, and sheepskin in various combos) and if one is a real masochist, an added fuel tank (seen a stock 7.3 gl modded to 8.2 and an added 5 gallons on the tail in place of the fender .. between 570 to 660 miles between gas stops!) Second best would be a ‘Wing. few more stops, but more comfort.

                    • Free-range Oyster

                      I’m looking at riding to WorldCon next summer (about 1100 miles), but I’m not going to attempt the trip in one day. It’ll be all I can manage to work my way up to a two day ride that long, and I sure as heck ain’t doing it on the Ninja. I may only be 2^5 years old, but I feel the weight of every one of them. 😉

                    • You’re 32?

                    • If you come by CO and we’re not living under a bridge by then, you can crash in spare room.

                    • When you stay in the spare room, just remember: don’t go in the wardrobe!

                    • But it would only be a nine or ten hour day on the Ninja. 🙂

                  • El Paso is closer to LA than to Texarkana, Texarkana is closer to Tallahassee than to El Paso, Brownsville is closer to Mexico City than to Amarillo, and Amarillo is closer to Chicago than to Brownsville.

        • My brother married a German woman (he was in the Army in Germany) and about 10 years after they moved back to the USA, her brother came to the USA to visit. My brother tells me that as they drove from Utah across Nevada to California and then up to Oregon, that his brother in law could not believe that you could drive for hours and hours in places where nobody lived. Also, he was astounded by how much wilderness we still have. He thought that Americans had cut down all their forests.

          • Dave Freer asked me for a place where you could hide a small town in CO. I said “you’d be spoiled for choice.”

            • Actually it would be quite hard to hide a small town, other than a few places like around the edges of Denver, Boulder or the Springs; a small town would stick out like a sore thumb.

                • Dropping a town into a place with a very sparse population would really stick out.

                  • Here in Arkansas there are a number of towns with only one road in or out. And a couple of entire counties with just a few roads joining them to adjacent counties.

                    If your town is on a dead-end road there’s very little non-local traffic to worry about. Everyone in the area might know, but nobody else would know or care.

                  • They’re magic users and can “blank” it. He just wanted to know if there was an empty space to drop it into “2 or 4 hours from Denver.” I had trouble explaining how EMPTY this state is.

                    • That’s… Odd. Doesn’t Dave live in Australia, now?

                      I’ve run into the “scale thing” with a lot of Europeans, but never with an Australian. They get it, usually.

                      Although, there was that one charmingly daffy Aussie girl I met, who was hitchhiking to the Grand Canyon… In Central Washington. She thought it was somewhere around Yellowstone, and just. Did. Not. Grok. Maps. Literally–She’d come to the states, picked Seattle because the flight was cheap, and headed off into the center of the US with a blithe disregard for planning and land navigation. Not to mention, season–I ran into her in late fall. She didn’t have any winter clothing with her. And, she was from that bit of Australia that basically mimics Southern California–I don’t think she’d ever seen snow, and when informed that some would be falling in a few days/weeks, squeed in pleasure–She’d always wanted to see some, apparently. Uh, miss… You’re backpacking/hitchhiking across the northern tier of the US in early November, you’re gonna see some. A lot of “some”.

                      That encounter was soooooo bizarrely out-of-whack-with-reality that I left it with my jaw on the floor, and wondering if she wasn’t just messing with me. Kept my eye on the news for missing cute Aussie backpackers, for awhile after, but nothing showed up, so I assume she survived her no-doubt interesting learning experience.

                    • Dave was in SA at the time, but yes, even there, our scale is hard to grok.

                    • And, yes… I did think I had just met a real-life Teela Brown. Why? ‘Cos, as I was talking to her at the local Safeway, she glommed onto a traveling couple who were headed back east, and who just happened to need someone to help with the toddlers they had…

                      She literally got a ride, and a place to stay for awhile right near Yellowstone, while I was talking to her. This is one reason everyone absolutely hates small, cute blonde people, often without knowing why. They go through life in a charmed manner that the rest of us just don’t experience.

                    • Meh. I was pretty d*mn good at getting what I wanted when I was small and cute, and I’ve never been blond. Eh. Male privilege my sore ass.

                    • I don’t know, given her ultimate fate I think Nessus was right and he only found her of the ones he was seeking as she had failed to get the gene.

                      Strange aside, the Ringworld RPG uses BRP so the Power stat (rolled on 3d6) was used as a percentile for luck. To simulate Teela the game instituted triples roll over and add for humans to let you generate multiple generation birth lottery winners.

                    • “Meh. I was pretty d*mn good at getting what I wanted when I was small and cute, and I’ve never been blond. Eh. Male privilege my sore ass.”

                      Exactly. What I find really baffling is how there are some people who go through life seemingly unaware of risk or danger, and the Gods of Fate and Circumstance never seem to call them on any of the stuff they get up to. I can almost guarantee that if I were the person that chose to blithely fly off to another continent and just go looking for some well-known location without a real idea where it was at, I’d probably blunder into the hands of some psychotic cannibal cult within about five minutes of departing the airport. This girl up and decided to fly off to the US on an adventure, chose to fly into Seattle, met someone at the airport who was “headed east”, got a ride from them and wound up in my hometown in Central Washington literally about six hours after she landed, and found another fortuitous ride further east to Yellowstone within about a half-hour of being dropped off at the local Safeway to buy some food for her further travels…

                      Mind-boggling. And, let me tell you what, I am fully confident that the rest of her sojourn through life probably went about the same. She just had that aura of blithe charm and wonder about her, and I bet money that even if Ted Bundy had been the one to pick her up, he’d have wound up dropping her off at the promised destination, intact. You just have to contemplate such people with the awe and wonder due any amazing natural phenomenon of grace…

                    • Dave lives on a little island OFF of Australia. But yes South African’s come about the closest except Australians and Russians to grokking North America’s scale, but we would still look at SA and see a state, not a country.

      • I graduated college with an Italian. Parents came over for graduation and my parents were talking with them. They were going to leave northwest Missouri that afternoon to drive to Florida to go to Sea World. Then drive to LA to see Hollywood, then drive up to Yellowstone. Then they were going back east to NYC, stopping in Philadelphia along the way, to catch their flight home. And he, the father, expected that the 4 days before their flight from New York was going to be sufficient. All of it driving in a rented minivan. He didn’t believe us when we told him he’d be pushing it to get to Sea World and up to New York in the time they had.

        • William O. B'Livion

          It took us 3 days to drive from Alice Springs, AU to Cairns.

          It took me 30 hours to get from LA to Denver in the same truck (the 80’s diesel truck. It doesn’t go fast.) Of course about 4 of that was sleep.

          There are some vast areas in the world. They aren’t in Europe.

          (Which, BTW I’ll be in Amsterdam over the weekend).

      • I’m a big Agatha Christie fan, but I still remember the facepalming moment in Murder on the Orient Express when Poirot was explaining how “obviously” the Hungarian ambassador to the U.S., stationed in Washington D.C., would have been well acquainted with a wealthy family from Chicago.

      • “You’re from Philadelphia? I knew a kid from Pittsburgh at summer camp — maybe you’ve met?”

      • The counterpart to that is when they’re in their home country, and think that a trip of thirty miles is incredibly long.

        • “It’s far away.”
          “How far?”
          “About 100 miles.”
          “That’s far?”
          “Yes.”
          “Wow, just how bad are the roads?”

        • uhhh, those of us living in the Western US have exactly the same experience with many inhabitants of the Eastern US.

          • Yes, we measure distance in hours, not miles.

            • It’s the only reasonable way, after all…

              The urbanites try to make fun of that, but most of the ones I’ve talked to operate entirely by time; they have no concept of physical distance, or even location. I might drive 40 miles in 50 minutes or so to go to a nice restaurant. Their restaurant might only be a few miles away, but they perceive the distance as waits and walks between the bus, subway, etc. And it takes the same 50 minutes…

              • $HOUSEMATE wonders how I managed to live several miles out of a small town. “You’re 10 minutes from anything.”

                But he was in a big city, and he was also at lest 10 minutes from anything. Ten frustrating idiot-filled traffic-filled minutes. Going anywhere meant frustration. Whereas I had this relaxing drive, as long as one kept an eye out for deer.

              • After living in town* for the last few years, I can understand why. That’s before I consider that my parents are less than a hundred miles away by GPS, but three hundred plus by distance!

                *by my measure; I’m prolly suburbian as they figure

              • I was in WV on a trip a few years back, needed a bigger tent … Wally World GPS said 10 miles the wrong way, or 12 miles even more wrong way … Directions, GO. 25 miles ride and near an hour time. iirc the 12 mile store was almost 40 miles of road. Their “distances” are time as well much of the time.
                My cousin moved back home from Detriot area and everyone thought he was nuts driving 40+ miles to work, and his wife was doing nearly 60. But both had hour and a half commutes in the Metro area and their new commutes were shorter in time for them being 45 minutes for him and an hour for her. I too have had to adjust a bit on my home search up there, Here the speed is 70 and 60 most of my commute. up there it is at most 55 if I stay in Michigan. it goes up to 60 maybe 65 in WI if I stick to US41, but that is a four lane. I met one of my new bosses and he lives south of Oconto, It takes him less than half an hour to get to work, before it was 45 minutes if he got lucky on the traffic lights in Oconto, Peshtigo, and Marinette. Go west and we are back to low speed side roads (In Texas a side road can still be a flipping 75mph road, Mine is slow …. 60mph limit)

    • Yes, but a lot of Europeans learn from experience. Like those girls from England who thought it would be awesome to fly to California and Greyhound back to New York. I met them in Chicago, and they had plenty of experience of America by then!

      But OTOH, they were pretty happy about getting their money’s worth from Greyhound, and I guess they were young enough to still be positive after so long of a ride.

  17. Though to be fair, communism joins to its other amazing characteristics an uncanny incompetence in the building trade.

    One has to differentiate here whether they’re building for use or building for propaganda. One thing communists do well is propaganda. The subways in Moscow, at least the parts that foreigners see, can be quite beautiful. The housing units out away from the “beaten track”? Not so much.

    • The Moscow subways were built by British engineers, many of whom were than arrested for espionage because they knew so much about the subway network [facepalm].

    • Like Cuban hospitals…one for tourists, none for people

    • I recall a story about a North Korean general being driven in a South Korean parade and being so amazed upon turning a corner that he complimented his hosts on “building the facades all the way around.”

      • Viktor Belenko defected from the USSR in the 1970s, taking a MiG-25 with him. The CIA brought him back to Langley.

        Belenko’s autobiography is hilarious in spots. He was a Soviet fighter pilot… but he was from a very rural area, even by Soviet standards.

        After the CIA was finished with him they put him on a salary and turned him loose. He had no idea what he wanted to do, and eventually decided he’d buy a car and drive across the country. He expected the CIA would provide him with a driver’s license.

        “You’ll have to take the tests and get a license.”

        “You’re the CIA. Fix it.”

        “You don’t understand. We’re the just CIA. They’re the Department of Motor Vehicles. You really don’t want to cross them…”

    • Well, sometimes. Socialist Realism in sculpture and painting can be quite easy on the eye. In literature?

      Mind you, the SJWs would be in big trouble there because experimental fiction would get it with a big hammer. Nothing the proles wouldn’t understand.

      • Yet another little element for my “the SJWs get the revolution they say they want” fantasy: the SJW writers get to hear from the commissars how their dinosaur fantasies totally suck.

    • Fifteen years ago I passed through Washington DC. The tourist areas were well-kept. Much of the rest of the place looked like some post-apocalyptic hellhole.

      “Just keep the cameras pointing *that* way, comrades…”

  18. I was just remembering something that happened some years back. We were at my ex’s parents house in New Hampshire for a holiday dinner. Ex’s sister, who lives in Wales, was visiting along with her alcoholic Irish husband (now ex). Alcoholic Irishman informed me, at some point in the evening (after he’d had a bit too much to drink) that all the trees in Oregon had been cut and were gone. It was completely deforested. I shook my head in disbelief (having been born and partly raised in Oregon, and having just a few months earlier been in Oregon to visit family), and asked him how he knew that. Oh, he saw a television program that told all about it. Sigh. The forests in Oregon could swallow all of Great Britain and you’d never find it again. I never was sure if he believed me when I told him the TV show was wrong.

    • I had in-laws from Boston and New York visit when I lived on the coast, they believed the exact same thing. They were absolutely flabbergasted to see all the trees everywhere. I’m not sure if they ever did comprehend it when I told them that trees are a crop, they grow back when you replant them.

      • Photos I’ve seen of Cincinnati in the late 1800s show almost no trees, even on a hillside that’s now so heavily wooded you can’t see the buildings from the same viewpoint.

        Trees were heat and cooking fuel back then. Today they’re shade and scenery.

        • The Other Sean

          Yep. The main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has a giant photo from that time frame on a wall as a mural. The hills have a few scraggly trees here and there, mainly near houses. Otherwise it is nearly bare of foliage.

          If you walk outside the library to a cross street you can stare east towards the hill called Mount Adams (though from a different angle than the photo) and indeed, the trees are so dense, and large, that you can only catch glimpses of any but the largest structures there.

        • The Southern Cheyenne and other Indian groups deforested swaths of the Arkansas and Canadian River valleys in search of firewood and winter fodder for horses (inner bark of young cottonwoods). So much for “living in harmony with Nature” et cetera.

      • Do these idiots watch news…only reason no trees is because all burning down

      • The Adirondacks were pretty bare, once upon a time.

        • The Other Sean

          Hence Adirondack Park, to preserve what remained and let the rest recover.

          • An observation on that- the Forever Wild provision in the NY Constitution for the Adirondack Park. When it was put in, everyone thought that mixed hardwoods was the natural wild state of the forest. It wasn’t, of course. The hardwoods grew because the original settlers cut down all or most of the pines. In order for it to stay mixed hardwood, parts of it would have to be selectively cleared from time to time, that is- LOGGED. Which can’t happen, because the NY State Constitution forbids it…

            • Except that pines are pioneering species. They would be crowded out in due course.

              • Depends on the area, in a lot of areas firs will crowd out pine, but there are a lot of old growth pine forests, or mixed (fir, pine, tamarack, cedar) here in Idaho. They have never been crowded out. I don’t know how hardwoods would do about crowding them out, I have never lived in an area where hardwoods were prevalent except for right in the creek bottoms; so I always assumed that they would be crowded out by evergreens, just like Gospace describes pines are currently doing in New York.

      • What’s odd, I’ve seen this in reverse. When my young cousins from Sacramento made their first trip out East, they were astonished at all the trees in Connecticut.

        • I grew up in LA. Seeing trees meant you were near a creek, in the mountains, or near civilization. I was shocked by my first trip to the great eastern forest!

        • A guy in the Arizona electric power industry came to Connecticut and during his talks with the guys in its electric power industry was told that their tree trimming budget was N million dollars.

          his reaction — you mean thousands of course.

          they corrected him.

          his reaction — he could cut down every tree in Arizona for that.

          • The last couple of years, after storms, the power company here has hired tree trucks from as far as Georgia to clear trees. Power repair trucks too. The month of the October snow storm and Sandy was, interesting.

          • Well, sure. But he wouldn’t have to cut down every tree in Arizona. Why? Because back East they seem to insist on dangling the electric and communications infrastructure up in the air. In the West, ESPECIALLY in urban areas, such infrastructure is far more likely to be in the ground.

            I think that Las Vegas may be the apogee of this dynamic. The only time you’ll see a traffic light hanging from a wire stretched between two poles is when it’s a temporary light. 95%+ of residential electricity connections are underground, only the oldest neighborhoods are on poles.

            It’s kinda like the disconnect between natives of the Sunbelt and Snowbelt when it comes to snow, driving, and snowplows. Folks from Michigan are disbelieving, then mocking, when they hear that Clark County School District (7th largest in the nation) cancels school following an inch, yes, one inch, of snow. What they don’t understand is that 99.9% of the school buses have, at best, all weather tires, likewise for all the cars in the area. The school bus drivers, except for maybe half a dozen of them, aren’t trained to drive in snow, and even if they were, most of the rest of the drivers on the road aren’t, and with snow every 5 to 10 years, there isn’t a lot of recent experience. “Well, so what? Just plow the roads.” Right, sure, with what snow plows? There’s 4 snow plows in the entire county, at 3 different mountain locations. Without snow plows to worry about, all the major roads use Bots Dots, so they aren’t going to turn plows loose on them anyway. So yeah, an inch of snow on roads that may not have seen ANY precipitation in a month or more can shut things down. (Yes, a lot of the kids, especially elementary, can WALK to school. Not many of the staff live within walking distance of their schools though….)

            Precipitationless for a month or more leads to another realm of misunderstanding/ domestic yokelry. Visitors and noobs to Las Vegas (and Phoenix as well, plus other places in the DESERT Southwest) are puzzled by how slow traffic can get when it starts to rain. So the visitors go whipping along and next thing they know they’re making a call to their insurance company and talking to the nice officer from Metro. Every time it rains, anywhere, the rain will lift the oils and such from the road. How slick the roads get depends on how much oil is on them and how heavy the rain is… Consider how much oil can accumulate on a road that gets rain every 5 days on average, versus one that hasn’t seen more than a sprinkle in 2 months…

            btw, this also works in reverse. As a native of the desert Southwest, my gut reaction to the drivers in the Hilo area is that they’re insane. Rain has almost zero effect on how they drive. Perhaps being rained on almost every day keeps them a bit cleaner than I’m used to???

            Yokelry comes in local, national, and international flavors. No ideological bent is free of it, although I would tend to agree that some are more inclined to, even dependent on, it than others

            • Actually practically everywhere I have been in the West, except big cities the power is ran overhead. It is only in the cities that they generally run it underground, in my experience. Overhead is just so much cheaper and faster. And you may have faults or breaks more often, but they are also much easier to find and fix than underground power.

              • Fits with the East, too, from the Panhandle to Pennsylvania. Bigger metro areas are usually underground, everywhere else is above.

                Case in point. We had a bad wreck in town the other day, snapped two poles and splintered a few more. Cut lines and loose cable everywhere, this was a fairly major run (right near the industrial district).

                Time to power restored was less than eight hours, full-up fix done in less than a day. Those boys worked fast, and did a good job there. Can’t imagine an underground cable would be that quick and easy.

      • Reality Observer

        I used to know people that boggled at the figure of 400 billion trees on the planet.

        If I was still in contact with them (yep, they’re all still Back East), I’d ask them what they think of the 3 trillion “revised” figure.

        • I would think that is low, by an order of magnitude. I mean we think we have quite a few trees here in the US, but Canada at least rivals us, and Siberia and South America have to outnumber us.

    • Yup. Most Europeans get their impression of the United States from television…which is NOT our best face. And if they do come over here, many Europeans visit Manhattan, Official Washington, the Orlando theme parks, and Hollywood.

      They completely miss the United States.

  19. I’ve been to several European countries, including Portugal. I like them…as places to visit. And I’ll be the first to say that the Europeans do some things better than the U.S. – and other things in an odd but not indefensible manner.

    But in many ways, it’s like a time machine. The idea of spending two weeks in the 1960s may be appealing, but you would not want to spend a lifetime there. I’m that way about Europe. Two weeks is just about right.

    • Yes, on the time machine.

      • Yes. That is why I would like to be *stationed in* England.( Or, say, Hawaii. Because, Hawaii.) Two or three years is just enough to enjoy all the history and awesome, but the knowledge that I would be moving on from there after those couple of years would help alleviate the frustrating aspects. This is why I can stand a year in Bahrain. Because I know I don’t have to STAY here.

      • The Other Sean

        I’d use the time machine to go back and give free condoms to the parents of the SJW’s. 🙂

  20. IBM isn’t just still a thing, but a thorn in my side. “Nobody ever got fired for buying from IBM” — despite half of their offerings being reskinned open-source projects, a quarter incompetent reimplementations of open source projects, and the remainder original work that will shortly either be open-sourced or have a superior open-sourced version available.

    Ten years ago my employer got a refund from IBM that included the TRAINING costs. And just this year the executives started asking if we really need to be paying them so much in licensing.

    • William O. B'Livion

      To be fair the “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” was a thing from the ’90s, and IBM has gone to crap.

      This is what happens when you fire all your western educated workers and hire people at 1/2 the wage who’s paper is from some place in Bangalore.

      • No, that is what happens when you don’t have proper hiring criteria. That happens when your managers and HR people haven’t the slightest idea what they are doing.

        • Sadly, EVERY large company is being hamstrung by HR. We needed to add someone for our team, and had six interviews — using a process dictated by the HR department, with candidates they had pre-screened. None really impressed — half just couldn’t communicate clearly enough, and too much of our work is either understanding what someone wants or getting on the phone to talk to someone having a problem. The interviews were each an hour long, we got to ask TWO technical questions for a software development position.

          We eventually gave up and brought in a guy contract-to-hire.

          Then we got two more projects dumped on us — our team of five has six projects.

        • William O. B'Livion

          The H1B laws are such that there is significant economic incentive to fire American workers and replace them with foreign workers at much lower prices.

          This doesn’t mean you’re wrong–I’ve worked for more than a few manglers who have no idea what they are doing[1], and HR is uniformly a hinderance rather than an asset in the acquisition and retention of quality personnel. But this is a scaling problem, and there are solutions that the wise can employ.

          I’ve worked with conslutants from IBM and Cisco (most recently Cisco) and they have been (a) not Americans, (b) demonstrably under skilled, and (c) overstaffed EVEN SO. But because we *expect* computer projects to be overbudget and under performing, and they won’t complain because it’s their projects and they’ll look bad, it perpetuates itself.

          I guess I shouldn’t complain, I’m heading to an overseas interview, and there’s a reason THEY can’t find good people in their own country.

          [1]I pulled my current Director into a meeting room and chewed on his ass for about a half an hour. He still made noises about converting me to permanent until I made it clear that that was no longer an option.

          • Okay… I gotta ask… is “conslutants” a deliberate thing, or just a happy accident?

            If that wasn’t an accidental typo, I have to commend you for coming up with that. I will use it, again, ‘cos it’s oh-so-very apt.

      • Dunno. Around 2002 I was working on a project that used IBM’s “new portal framework”. It was LITERALLY the same code as one of the Apache projects, same class names and package structures, but they’d put everything under the “com.ibm” tree so the two couldn’t interoperate.

        Next job involved an IBM-supplied web framework that was the source of the refund. Adding a page to a web application required touching seven files — one of them had to be edited in two places. If you didn’t have everything perfectly consistent, your application wouldn’t start. No error messages, just… nothing happened.

        Both of those products had to have been started in the 90s. Maybe they were the head of the decline, but…

    • I, Cringely has a series articles on the death of IBM http://www.cringely.com/2015/07/21/ibm-is-so-screwed/

      • William O. B'Livion

        IBM has successfully reinvented itself several times, don’t count them out.

        After all CA Software is still alive.

  21. Sarah,

    How many people lived in your village?

    Good ol’ Garden City, TX, a.k.a. “the armpit of the state”, had a grand total of 250. there were another 1800 in the almost 900 sq mile county. The only time Garden City has more than 500 folks in it was (and still is) on Friday nights when there is a home football game.

    • depends on how you define it. Granja was probably 3 to 4k “fires” (meaning households. Eh. Roman wordings again.) BUT the core of the village, the old street, was probably a couple of hundred. Boundaries were fuzzy.

      • Interesting. Garden City had sharp boundaries that had about 250 folks living inside them. Then it was open ranch or farmland with anywhere between 2 to 20 miles between households. The German Catholic farmers in St. Lawrence were probably about an average of 3-4 miles apart, whereas the hardshell Baptist ranchers averages 15 to 20 miles apart.

        There were, and still are, more pumpjacks and cattle/goats/sheep than people….

        And teenage kids could get away with almost nothing…..

      • Different terms again, I would never consider some place with a few hundred people a village, that is big enough to be a town.

  22. I would observe that of late your blog posts seem to be getting a bit more verbose. Thank you for that. I hope this is an indication that your health and other issues are resolving themselves and that this trend is also in full force in your fiction writing.
    Sitting here with nary a beta read on the hook, so this is my subtle crack of the whip.

  23. I have seen and heard exactly this sort of thing –

    ” So they will say that the reason Portugal didn’t invent its own computer was that if they’d tried America would have penalized them on rice imports.”

    Sugar, coconut oil, garments, etc. – exports in our case.

    I am from the Philippines so the nature of the yokelism isn’t quite the same (Filipinos being xenophiles vs xenophobes) so the common people were not usually so deceived, but among the “educated” it was and is very common, even among high government officials.
    There is also the general paranoia about the US, in that it has some unspecified powers to influence local public policy, or that the US government somehow cares about these critical matters. Its hard to grasp just how uninterested the US is; I suppose that to be insignificant is worse than being the target of evil attention.

    • and then, every now than then, you learn that the US _has_ done something, often unintended, that affected a foreign local economy adversely. Pavlov’s positive-conditioning experiments proved you can maintain a conditioned expectation with occasional, random rewards…

    • “Its hard to grasp just how uninterested the US is”

      A missionary’s wife once told me, “the world watches America… and Americans watch TV.”

      Most Americans are supremely uninterested in all these other Podunk countries, 9/11 changed that to a degree, but not really all that much.

    • A mailing list that I’m a part of once had a Filipino who was rabidly anti-US. The mailing list had nothing to do with politics, and yet the guy in question could still be counted on to periodically post a rant about the horrible United States. Whenever nothing else was available, he’d dig up the actions of the US forces in putting down the fighting that occurred in the years after the US took control of the country from Spain.

      • I remember an Aussie on Usenet who ranted about America whose particular beef was centered around a bar brawl between US and Australian servicemen.

        That happened during WWII.

        • ” whose particular beef was centered around a bar brawl between US and Australian servicemen.

          That happened during WWII.”

          And great fun was had by all.

  24. Christopher M. Chupik

    When I visited Cuba a few years back, I was stunned by the poverty. Even in the tourist areas, there were vacant lots, shells of buildings, everything rundown. Saddest was the mother dog and her puppies, sitting abandoned on a street corner.

    In retrospect, I can now say that communism contributes to puppy-related sadness.

    • Now you don’t even need a passport to see communist ruins…see fiery Detroit

      • The Other Sean

        Detroit’s just the legacy of long-term Democratic misadministration. Although telling them apart from communists is getting even more difficult, especially for the chair of the DNC.

        • Anytime you demonize the goose and their eggs they may leave…

        • Communists vs Democrats is sorta like termites vs carpenter ants. The only significant difference is how difficult it is to remove the pests.

        • It’s more the obsequiousness toward the state and tragedy of Commons. .gov is good at killing peeps and breaking things. Maintenance not so much. Exacerbated by the ‘ooh shiny’ factor and the ‘its not my issue’ of populace.

          • Lack of accountability is an issue … how many veterans have to die waiting years for their claims to be processed before ONE VA administrator is fired?

            Yeah, yeah – imagine it was Bush assuring the nation a month and a half ago:
            “Real strength is measured by how we take care of our veterans when you come home. VFW, working together, we’ve made real progress. I brought in [new Secretary of Veterans Affairs] Bob McDonald, and I went down to the Phoenix VA to see and hear for myself. The VA reached out to vets across the country to get them off those wait lists and in for care. Bob is bringing energetic new leadership. He is working to hold people accountable and make sure the whistle-blowers are protected instead of punished.”

    • Michal Totten has written about Cuba.

      The biggest problem there is that not only are the wages so bad, but keeping your home looking nice makes you look like you have more money than you ought to. Which means that the government starts to suspect that you’re selling things on the black market.

  25. Going back to your comment about water fountains and Germany and so on…
    DH and I walked most of the way between Lisboa and Valenca (please pardon my spelling!) and while there were a couple of for-immediate-drinks-only water fountains, the most common characteristic of Portuguese water fountains appeared to be the “Non Potable” signs almost all of them had. It was definitely not possible to refill water bottles at the few potable water fountains we found. Most water dispensing things out in public seemed like they were there for the local people to use for other stuff, like clothes washing. And the one fellow who washed out his dustpan after sweeping up broken glass in his business!
    Perhaps people are used to paying for their water anyway? Or never wanting water unless they’re at home?
    (Apologies for being distracted by a throw-away comment and then commenting on it!)

    • The problem with Portugal is that you need to know where things are. Even monuments aren’t well signaled. It is perfectly possible to go from the extreme North to the extreme South (my family has done it while driving.) refilling water bottles at natural springs, but these are usually out of the way, up steep paths, and sometimes associated with saints. No s igns leading to them anywhere.

      • Not unknown around here. There’s stories about people who give direction that feature “where the Smiths’ barn was before it burned down” as a landmark.”

        • Where the school used to be.

          You mean the Walmart?

          • That’s common in the rural west. We live in the ‘Lady who had the house built’ House. And it’s totally legitimate to say “Turn left where the bicycle shop burned down.”

            • Ya go out to the old Jackson place, an’ take the road to the left mebbe 2 miles fuhther to the stump. Go 5 more miles, you’re there.

            • We had it in the Northeast. I am still wrapping my head around street based directions.

              Fun lines include turn off the dirt road

              • You even get that in larger cities. I was once given directions for Minneapolis-St. Paul that included, “..and then take Crosstown…” and I had to ask if that was what the signs read. Nope. Locals knew what Crosstown was. What I needed was what was signed as (I think) Highway 62.

  26. richardmcenroe

    To be fair, America in fact cannot feed ten people with one bean. We are, however, superb at turning one bean into ten beans and then being damned for GMO foods.

    • The American agricultural culture is one of those unseen treasures. The US does so much with fewer workers in the field and keeps driving itself to be yet more efficient and nobody really understands how it works. Frankly, what most people think of as a farm is those toy farms like the ones they used to sell, sort of more or less early 20th Century. A lot like the recreational farms in Litchfield County CT. That’s not what real farming is.

      • American agriculture single handedly made Malthus into a bloody liar.
        In fairness, lots of other foodstuff exporting countries, but most rely on science and technology from good old US A&M research.

        • How many Bachelors level Ag-degreed grads does the European university system turn out each year?

          Having multiple relations working on their Agriculture undergrad educations right now at major midwestern universities, I’d guess the US beats most of the world in Ag graduates quite handily.

          • No idea, but I know that Kansas State University has the only PhD grain science program in the US. Granted, there’s probably a slightly lower demand for that level of grain science than for, oh, PhD chemists, but still. (Midwestern schools have some odd, and Odd, advanced programs. Useful, I presume, but still odd.)

            • Little Mountain U’s Ag campus is approximately the same size as the rest of the college. Combined. Not including fields, barns, and assorted land grants here and there for hands-on work…

              It’s a State College, so it has a pretty respectably sized “liberal arts” campus. It’s just that, well, tobacco farming and every little patch of flat that doesn’t have a building on it seems to grow corn, tobacco, potatoes, peppers, and tobacco (did I mention tobacco? It’s kind of a thing, still) if you aren’t watching it *real* close sometimes…

        • William O. B'Livion

          > American agriculture single handedly made Malthus into a bloody liar.

          Well, along with Increases in CO2, and Norman Borlaug.

      • I actually don’t mind the hobby farmers unless they’re busy making laws about how real farmers are supposed to work.

        *Glares at the idiots busy outlawing farrowing crates*

    • Hell, one bean to ten acres of beans in half a decade

    • Norman Borlaug

      Spent his life coming up with ways to get more food to more people. Usually people nothing like him.

      Nobel Peace Prize.

      Some credit him with saving the lives of a billion people.

      Of course, that’s “against tradition”, “forcing people to change their diets” and “contributing to overpopulation”.

      Penn Gillette called him the “greatest person to ever live”.

      All from a little cross-breeding, crop rotation and introduction of farm techniques. (Okay, a LOT of all that.)

      • Don’t forget about Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. Large scale artificial synthesis of ammonia for making fertilizer was *huge.* This turned marginal fields into solid producers, increased yields, and made the entire process more efficient.

        Before the Haber-Bosch process, we were mining a coastline in Chile for *bird crap.* Sodium nitrate, that was our single biggest source of nitrogen based fertilizer in the world. *shakes head* In the *world…*

        • Dan Lane,
          Have you ever rebuilt a 271-D transfer case? How difficult is it? If I have time I am going to split mine tomorrow and see what all is wrong inside. The fluid is pretty ‘glittery’, so that has me kind of worried there is going to be more wrong than the stretched chain that everyone claims is always the problem.

          • Haven’t myself, I don’t think. That’s the old Dodge, right? One of my old coworkers did, though, and if can manage it without effing it up, it can’t be too bad. I think it was a shift fork he was replacing originally.

            Glittery’s not a wonderful sign, but here’s hoping it ain’t too bad.

            • Well, not really old Dodge, they started using it I think in the early to mid-nineties, but it is what is in my 08. I don’t think they still offer a manual shift transfer case, but from what I understand the 273-D is still what is in the new ones, and that is just an electronic shift version of the 271.

        • Didn’t Borlaug add protein to his rice so that it would be more sustaining than regular rice? I believe it’s called golden rice? I wish there was more written about him.

  27. Also to be fair, you’ll get more accurate coverage of American political shenanigans from UK papers than the American media.

    • That’s because the American media is a monoculture that has essentially turned itself into the propaganda wing of one political party. Note how much time Trump gets as opposed to the Hillary emails.

      • The MSM is a monoculture for the same reason the Dept. of State has a pro-Arab bias.

        A new staffer gets stationed to Israel and that is the first, last and only M.E. assignment. A new staffer gets stationed in Saudi Arabia, steps up to a Qatar assignment, steps over to Egypt, gets a promotion to Bahrain, takes another tour in Saudi Arabia and eventually retires with a sinecure in a Saudi funded think tank and handsome honoraria for speeches to OPEC conferences.

      • It’s not just that they’re a monoculture, it’s that they’re a boring and lazy monoculture. The local papers are mostly just arranging stuff from the AP, and as far as I can tell, the AP is mostly just passing along press releases from various government agencies. That and the navel gazing “what does this all mean” editorials seem to be about all they get.

        The foreign papers have their biases, but they also seem more inclined to follow the sent of scandal wherever it leads.

  28. “And you can find it, easily, particularly now in the age of Amazon”

    Yesterday I went to a “local” (30 miles away) book store and did not find what I was after. This morning I ordered Night Shifters online – before breakfast.

    • That’s the distance of my closests “local” bookstore as well. Since they only seem to carry Stephen King, cookbooks, and travel books, I don’t go by there often.

      As all of the new books stores have closed, most of the used book stores have closed as well.

      Interestingly, a used book store moved from 10 miles south of us to 30 miles north, next door to a pizza place. The owner says at least 50% of his business comes from people buying something to read while they eat lunch, and he’s doing quite well in his new location…

  29. (Though to be fair, communism joins to its other amazing characteristics an uncanny incompetence in the building trade. The further you slide from social democracy to socialism to communism the more likely you are to find newly built buildings crumbling and/or architecture so ugly it makes you want to slit your wrists looking at it.) Part of that is the result of “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. The rest, I think, is part “elegance is not socialism”, part “workers would do a crappy job, so forget it”, part “it ain’t socialist realism”, part “we hate the proletariate”, and other parts you might add.

    • Don’t forget, ‘Comrade Stalin is always right.’ Comrade Stalin did not butcher his way to the top of the heap by having good taste in architecture. But his taste in architecture is the only one anybody is allowed to consult, so…

    • It’s not a coincidence that the Potempkin Village(Potyomkinskiye derevni) was a Russian inwention ; )

      • While it is very likely that Potemkin never built the eponymous villages, it is a concept the Communist took to with a vengeance.

  30. >> “You can’t swing a cat without a passport.”

    My first thought on reading this was “The cats who have passports will let you swing them?”

    My second was “My cat hates being held, maybe getting him a passport will help him mellow out?”

    The moral here is that I probably shouldn’t read your blog before I’m fully awake. 😛

  31. I’m sorry, I hit “learned Russian to read Marx in the original” and . . .ow. Just ow. I’ve read some Marx in German (ow) and trying to imagine how convoluted that stuff might be in Russian just, ow. (And I’m exhausted from assisting with a recording session. Serious dain bramage.)

  32. In regards to Americans Abroad, I’d put them into two classes- tourist, and expats. Upon return to the USA, the tourist is the person loudly trying out foreign phrases, getting picky about authentic food and sundry, and making sure everyone knows they have Traveled Abroad and have Thus Broadened Their Horizons.
    The expat is the one weeping tears of joy at Walmart.

    • Guy I know told me the first thing he wanted upon return form VeetNam was a Big Mac.

      • scott2harrison

        In the 90’s I spent 2 months in Tokyo. The first thing I ordered when I got to Stapelton airport in Denver was prime rib. It was almost a religious experience and I like Japanese food.

        • after three weeks in Portugal, we came back and in the airport in Chicago had normal American service. We cried and I almost kissed the waiter. We gave him like 50% tip.

          • ‘normal American service’?

            • Is that where they only spit on your food, not on you?

              • That’s where they bring you what you asked for in less than two hours.

                • From what I’ve always seen, the higher the prices, the longer the wait. Somehow it is sophisticated to sit at the table, while the restaurant staff waits until after you order to shopping for the ingredients.

                  • No. In Portugal it’s cultural. “You’re not the boss of me.”

                    • If they don’t like waiting on people why are working in a restaurant?

                    • Oh, it’s okay, Emily, they do the same in shops too. I once got told I was too fat to shop in a certain store. (I was a size seven.)
                      It’s cultural. A job is a sinecure, not an obligation.
                      Well, not for me, obviously. But it took years to unlearn.

                    • It is all part & parcel of the same conceptual thinking feelz that believes businesses exist to provide jobs, and that the basis for a worker’s wages should be the worker’s “needz” rather than the worker’s productivity.

                    • To Americans, a waiter’s behavior is an act he puts on for the job. But not in all cultures is this distinction as clear; for such a waiter to provide American-standard service he would see himself as being servile—and that he won’t do.

                    • being a waiter is as servile as being a taxi driver.

                    • Thirty (migawd – that long? Gracious, how time flies!) years ago I was working part-time at a movie theatre, slinging popcorn and filling drink cups for the masses. On particularly bad nights, when the carriage trade was attending an art flick, I was wont to remind co-workers that just because it is a menial job doesn’t make the person performing that job a menial person.

                      So what you’re saying is the Eurotrash wouldn’t share that view? You are what you do and not how you do it?

                      Makes me love America all the more.

      • Very true. The years over here have made me a fan as well.

    • After a year of teaching English in Korea, We marveled at the sheer variety of foods in the average USA grocery store.

    • “The expat is the one weeping tears of joy at Walmart”

      This. So very much this. I am halfway through my seventh year of overseas service (Not all at once, mind you. Over the last seventeen years or so) and I cannot tell you how happy I will be to be back in the States. When I first moved back to the States after my first stint abroad (Four years in Europe. Spain and Greece), I literally got down on my knees and kissed the sidewalk in front of Walmart. And that was eleven years ago.

  33. OT but tangental re Hollywood and, hmm, lets call them HollComs, it seems the headline writers at Variety have found at least one person that they think deserves to be on a “Blacklist.” But not for being a Communist – Hedda Hopper apparently deserves to be blacklisted for being mean to actual Hollywood Communists. People actually dedicated to overthrowing the US government. Who were organized in Communist cells, but only apparently for picnics and BBQs.

    The actual article under the headline doesn’t go so far as to propose a new blacklist for mean journalists, instead just reviewing a new flick and reminiscing on how brave the author was back in the 60’s. But note that the author says these writers accused of being Communists in Hollywood were in fact actual Communists, who were organized in actual Communist Cells, but since none ever actually made any progress in advancing their cause (Gee, maybe because maybe they were outed and blacklisted, however unfairly?) they are just poor victims of paranoia.

    And then he notes that when he bravely hired them, they wrote bad scripts, so he never did that again, but at least he got to be brave.

    I love reading Variety – the view into just how weird Hollywood really is is just invaluable.

    • No influence? Read the Hollywood history “Backstory”.

      And for laughs, watch “Son of Kong”, where the mutinous crew throw Denham and Captain Engledorff into the lifeboat chanting, “No More Bosses!” in the best Wobbly tradition. (You never see anyone chanting “Who can work a sextant?’ in the next scene.)

      • Yeah, I thought the “they were harmless innefective eccentrics who were cruelly victimized by the enormous power of that evil Hedda woman” (Hey, wait, I though they told me women had no power anywhere in the past!) was a bit too much whitewash on that fence.

        As I’ve found typical in anyone who has worked for more than a short time in Hollywood, it’s all blatant self promotion, and no apparent concept of irony: “These poor communist writers were evilly blacklisted until I was brave enough to hire them, and then I fired them because they wrote bad scripts. Aren’t I really great?”

        The prejudices and unspoken presumptions on display in any given Variety article really does provide an amazing window into the bizarro world that is Hollywood.

        • Albert Maitz. the head of the Screen Writers’s Guild that was run out by the studios forming and endorsing the Writers’ Guild of America, was a stone Communist and a s**t writer. He used to bully other screenwriters into listing him as a collaborator on their own scripts to stay on the good side of the Party members in the SWG/

          • Any good-to-excellent screenwriter advocating Communism is akin to a cat asking for “that lovely collar with the bell on it.” Or like a top-of-the-chain predator becoming vegetarian.

  34. Largest per capita population of rocket scientists (PhD s in Engineering, physics, etc)…is in Alabama

  35. A) Dang it all to heck! “CHICOM Mary” has a ring to it. You KNOW it has a ring to it. Why do you tease us this way?

    I’ll stick with Mary Mary Quite Contrary, myself.

    B) I used the great and powerful Google on “Chicom ethnic slur”.

    Fauxtrage is the top result. Followed by several pages listing ethnic and racist slurs.

    Guess how many of those lists include “CHICOM”.

    Go on, guess.

    Take a wild-assed, shot in the dark, hail Mary pass, doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong guess.

    Anyone whose answer is >0, please see me after class.

    • Reality Observer

      I would use “ChiCom Chu.”

      “Mao Mary” is better for Three Names.

      You have to get the alliteration for a proper chant.

  36. Best post yet.