A Vast Wasteland of Prosperity

Yesterday my husband threatened to drown himself in the shower, if I didn’t stop ranting about the stupid things people believe about history. It’s not that he disagreed, mind you, but that he thought it was too much to endure a graduate-level lecture with side-excursions into various examples he’d never heard about before even getting his pants on in the morning.

I sympathize.  It’s been a long time since I became aware that when that darn, mobile soap box finds me and gets under my feet, I get really really fast-talking and sometimes drop details.

Weirdly, this fit wasn’t prompted by the commenter who came back to an old post yesterday to lecture us about how stupid it is to expect dem poo’ peoplez to be able to retool and find new jobs, once technology dispossesses them of the old ones.  Weirdly, it started because he was telling me about a TV show and something said in the TV show.  (Beginning of digression. I watch second hand TV.  Whenever you guys see a reference or a quote to popular culture, I acquired it by listening to Dan talk about it.  At least most of the time.  No, I don’t know why I don’t watch TV.  What’s worse, I find most of the people who say “Oh, I don’t watch TV” are the sort of prigs who are bragging of their moral superiority.  I’m not morally superior, and my inability to sit still in front of a television, unless I am ill or engaged in some complex project that involves most of my head and hands, is almost as my dad thought a “handicap”.  It isolates me from the culture.  But it is also true.  I think it’s because I never “got used” to watching TV, like some people don’t get used to reading for pleasure.  Most of the time I was growing up, Portugal had two channels, and one only operated on the weekends and evenings. End of digression.) Dan, as he puts it, watches TV so I don’t have to.

Anyway, he was telling me about how terrible conditions were after WWI, and I started pointing out they weren’t.  Not really.  Sure, some people (a lot of domestic servants) were displaced.  Sure, immediately after, a lot of men came back and found their jobs were gone.  Veterans went around the country side, selling booklets and stuff.  You see this in Agatha Christie.

Unspoken is the fact that a lot of these Veterans were actually not quite right in the head, not that you can blame them after the trench war.  BUT even in Britain, which did itself no favors by prolonging the same kind of rationing, etc, it had had during the war, the economy recovered.

Again, if you read Christie, who was unaware of writing history, since she wrote these books contemporary to the events, you see a lot of new houses being built, of factories being started.  Sure, the old families and the old houses never quite recovered.  But that wasn’t because of the economy.  It was because of punitive taxation.  If you had a death in the family, the estate would be lost.

“But Sarah,” you’ll say.  “That’s why the economy recovered and they were able to live better.”

Really?  You’re going to go with that?

I know that was the theory back then, and we really can’t hold it against them, I think, but no, the state doesn’t “invest” in the economy.  Or “ease transition.”

Mostly what the state does is create more and more bureaucracy.  Of course to the extent that that pays a salary to some people it does SOMETHING (I found out, and was shocked at the racism of it, that this is part of the reason democrats support the endless growth of the state.  They think there are a number of people — specifically black people — who cannot adapt to new tech, and therefore must be employed by the state, ad infinitum, in a sort of work fare program.)  I suspect though, having seen the make-work and endless nonsense of bureaucracy in three countries, what it does do is retard the growth of the economy by removing capital from useful purposes.  Oh, and retarding the prosperity of the employees, not to mention their mental health, by keeping them chained to ultimately meaningless work they know it’s meaningless.  A lot of those people are in the position of soviet citizens.  They pretend to work and we pretend to pay them.

Without the galumphing bureaucracy, these people would have shifted and adapted.

How do I know that?  Because they’re human and I’m human.  Yeah, okay, there are differences in IQ range, but you know what they are not that pronounced amid the whole species.  Oh, sure, our dumber friends annoy us, but they’re still smarter than any other thing this planet has ever seen.

And our species thrives on change and strife.  Our species are cunning apes, who keep finding new ways of doing things.  Which drive progress, which shatters the status quo, which in turn causes people who were forced to change to look for more cunning ways of doing things, which…

Yeah, I saw the arguments of our visiting Luddite.  I have also read people who say we were much better before the invention of agriculture.  But what I know is that before the invention of agriculture we lived as individuals maybe 30 years, and as a species occupied certain zones of the globe, and lived in family groups of maybe 15.  There was a total number of us of maybe a million.  Maybe.  Now we cover the face of the earth and as individuals we’re healthier and more longer lived than we’ve ever been.

And while I sympathize with my fellow libertarians who think agriculture brought in a tiered society, I’d like to say poppycock.  With raspberries on top.  It’s not that you don’t get history (archeology is uncertain, and confused at that level.  Agriculture brought greater prosperity, and that made some tombs much less equal than others.  Also, the tombs we tend to find form the nomadic period are all chieftains or their equivalent) what you don’t get is human nature.  You’re engaging in the same form of fallacy the leftists engage in “Humans were perfect, and then an event–”  Bullshit.  I’m human, they were human. I know exactly their degree of perfection.  And as for thinking some kind of egalitarianism prevailed pre agriculture, those of you who think family-bands are egalitarian have never lived in a family with a tyrannical matriarch (or patriarch.)  It can be (not my family, we were never that organized) like a miniature totalitarian regime but even closer and more in your face.

Yeah, yeah, paleolithic diet and people were so much healthier and stuffs.  (Rolls eyes.)  While some of our metabolisms don’t seem to have caught up with agriculture (almost everyone I know who has issues with carbs has a relatively near ancestor from a nomad/hunting culture. Say no more than six generations off.) and while I myself eat very low carb for health reasons, the whole idea that people became LESS healthy with agriculture is a little mad.

Sure, and if you looked at graves from the village, from the time mom was a kid and my time, you’d find modern medicine, vaccinations and antibiotics had wreaked devastation on a healthy population.  This is because people died younger/less battered in her time.  Also infants tend to sort of vanish into the soil, so you wouldn’t get the great culling that happened before 3 years of age.  Only the strong survived.  In my generation, OTOH almost everyone survived, including the halting, the lame and those with chronic conditions.

Yeah, okay, so no progress comes without a cost.  Sure, some things will get worse, if only for a little while.  Yes, I read Christie (as I said.  One of the amazing things about mysteries, because grounded in the quotidian, is that they are a good record of how life really was, not how historians interpret it) and I read a lot about “pre war” (first) quality.  And it’s true there was a quality never again encountered except now, at high end craftsman created threads and clothes and furniture.

But the industry of the time would never have supplied the masses of humanity that progress allowed to live and thrive.

So, technological progress causes some losses, sometimes for a while.

What it causes, mostly, is disruption.  And the older you get the more you feel all disruption is for the worst, and the world is coming apart.  And if the progress happens too fast (say the first 50 years) people have trouble adjusting their MENTAL PICTURE of the world and some depart reality altogether and when this happens, (the last time I can think of is the industrial revolution, which more or less opened with the blood of the French revolution and closed with WWI.  If it has closed) it ends in blood.

Yeah, it’s scary out there, and things are shaking loose.  But a lot of the things that are shaking loose are undoing the mass-industrial-entertainment-news complex, and the idea that one size fits all.  Some of what is shaking lose is the inability for any of us to reach a mass audience without intermediary “gate keepers” who have long been taken over by the long march of Marxists (speaking of people who have left reality far behind.)

Technological progress — or even change — hurts.  But so does iodine.  It still allows us to live better and longer than our ancestors.

And the one thing you can count on is that we, cunning apes that we are, will continue engaging in it, and adapting to it, and fighting over it.

Those people who are all concerned about you losing your way in this heartless society?  Those who try to cushion you and put you in a safe space?

They’re not your friends.  They’re afraid of what you do if you and your creativity were fully unleashed.  They have achieved a certain domination over their society but are afraid if anything more happens they’ll lose it.

It’s not you, but them, they seek to help.

Ignore them and build.  Build under, build over, build around.  Anticipate technology.  Build technology.  And ignore them.  It’s the only way to deal with them.



213 thoughts on “A Vast Wasteland of Prosperity

  1. On being unaware of writing history: that’s one of the things I find interesting about reading older works. You get a glimpse of how people back then saw things, unfiltered.

    1. Oh, they filtered them, just they filtered them differently. Even current events. Caldwell was surprised when poor whites objected to Tobacco Road; Caldwell thought he’d written an accurate portrayal. Except that Caldwell’s view was filtered through his perspective, which seems to be a class view favored by the “upper class” and “upper class wanna-bees.”

      That’s something I mention occasionally in my journal on the off chance anyone will ever read them. My view of current events is likely filtered by how I perceive things. Then I warn that their history is likely filtered, too. That’s why I urge going to original documents and forming their own opinions.

    2. Do keep in mind though, that it’s often true that history books are written by the side that won. When you can find them, history written from the losing perspective will give you insights you never expected. Always good to seek a balance.

      1. There can also be histories written by “outside observers”.

        IE people not involved in the fight but record the results of the fight.

      2. My late father the LtCol had a hobby of reading official reports, both American and Japanese, of events in which he had participated. According to him, they’re all lying.

        1. Of all the news reports I’ve seen with my own two eyes, and the few I’ve been involved in (quoted, etc), not a one of ’em matched anything quite like truth. Or facts.

          Okay, that’s not quite true. The facts were opposite of what was reported- and this was easily verifiable stuff- and the quotes were heard by dozens who to a man said it was bunk. But to the uninvolved, this was never questioned (yes, we knew that particular “effect” at the time, too).

          I put more stock in the folk tales my grandma told me. At least there, to a degree, I can be assured they were based on truth.

          1. I went to see Teddy Kennedy In Hackensack NJ on a campaign stop. Obviously this was pre-internet and pre-everyone has a cell phone with video recording capability. The Bergen Evening Record the next day reported on the large enthusiastic crowd with no protesters, everyone wildly cheering Teddy’s every word.

            The reporter was at a different rally in Hackensack the the one I went to. The guy in the front screaming very loudly “Tell us about Chappaquiddick! Tell us about Chappaquiddick!” over and over again and again was certainly wildly enthusiastic. But my impression was he was a protestor…

            1. No, that was clearly an enthusiastic supporter wanting to know about Teddy’s bravery. After all, the MSM have told us that, had Mary Jo Kopechne lived, she’d have been very proud of Teddy’s senatorial achievements.

              Just think of her as a very very late term abortion.

              1. Several years ago, when Teddy was planning to run against Carter for the Democratic Nomination for the Presidency, there was a story (back pages of the local newspaper) about this medium who had talked with Mary Jo Kopechne’s ghost.

                Apparently, the spirit told the medium that Teddy didn’t know she was in that car. 👿

              2. BTW – your observation demonstrates the importance of only permitting trained professionals report news. Such reporting as yours reflects the naive idea that what the eyes see and the ear hears are what is actually happening. Trained reporters understand the importance of narrative in interpreting events.

        2. Two quotes from Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple express this tendency:

          Major Swindon: What will history say, sir?
          General John Burgoyne: History, sir, will tell lies, as usual!

          Dick Dudgeon: The rest of this story is pure fiction. Rest assured, you can believe every word of it.

        3. Go to an American Civil War battlefield sometime (Gettysburg is the one I’m very familiar with). Don’t bother so much with the big monuments, but read the little unit plaques that are located everywhere. They will say things like, “July 1 – retired smartly under withering fire.” You can then read that the unit started with 360 men and ended the day with 345. From that you can figure that “retired smartly” really meant “ran away.”

          Other times you will read something like, “”stood their ground until forced to retreat.” The starting count would be 280, and the ending count would be 130. That was much more likely to have been an accurate description.

        4. I don’t think it is so much that the “official reports” are written by deliberate liars, it’s that the crap they’re trying to capture is so ephemeral and so widely spread that it’s nearly impossible to capture the reality that would constitute a general consensus.

          Wellington said it thus: “The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance…”.

          Your report writers tell the truth that they saw, from their perspective, trying to impose a cohesion on things that, in reality, simply don’t exist. This syndrome isn’t unusual, and reflects a very human tendency to try to impose a pattern where none exists. You can observe the same thing happening in what a lot of naif historians take as gospel truth–The various plans and operations orders produced by the military. The reality is that the more control you try to impose, the more order you want to decree… The less you have, and the more chaos you create. Trying to write a history of what happened based on the operations orders issued before a campaign or battle is basically foolishness personified. Sure, a lot of what you will find in the various administrative paragraphs and annexes will be helpful, but… The meat of the matter, what happened? Not a damn chance. As the more cynical and experienced senior NCO will often tell his naif junior officers, an operations order is more often a list of things that won’t happen, than an affirmative document reflecting the nature of reality.

          This is why men like Rommel and Patton were so damn successful–Instead of trying to impose order, and manage every detail, they danced with chaos, out there on the knife-edge, and wrote their operations orders accordingly. This is why the Germans beat the crap out of the French and the Brits in 1940–Their orders were short and succinct: “Invade France; destroy the French Army”. The Allies, sadly, tried to bury the enemy in paperwork, writing such detailed orders that, often, a squad might find itself executing written orders from a command three echelons above them, which is insane. There were actually cases where French demolition troops were forced to let the Germans cross bridges right before their eyes, because they needed orders from a Corps headquarters to be able to initiate those demolitions. Insane–Meanwhile, the German Army was telling its junior leaders to go forth and find out what the enemy was doing, wreak havoc, and make reports of their findings and progress. The wonder isn’t that the Germans won in 1940, it’s that it took them so long. I did some digging, years ago, through the various histories of that campaign season, and it’s stunning to contemplate how differently those armies were organized, led, and trained.

          Point being, don’t try to force things: Train your people, set them loose, and see what develops. Try to orchestrate events down to the nth degree, and what you’re going to have is a major disaster on your hands. Loose the hounds of chaos, and dance with them? You’ll likely be eating the enemy’s dinner.

      3. I always thought this comment reflected more on the character of the commenter than on how histories get written.

        I mean, who assumes that the people who write down histories are ONLY going to write down the propangda bits that flatter the “winners”?

        I mean. I KNOW historians like this. They mostly work for Stalinists and progressives. The rest… I expect they try their best to figure out “what really happened” and tell it like it was. They may or may not fail, down to individual resources, but that’s a long road from “history is written by the victors”

        1. IMO sometimes it’s meant to say that the losers aren’t around to write any history. 😉

        2. According to a historian to whom I spoke (I would have liked to say he was of my acquaintance, but alas, he retired before I could take one of his classes) there are three very broad schools of historical thought: Traditionalists (Us good, Them bad), Revisionists (Them good, Us bad), and the school that goes ‘what did the original documents say’? The ones I usually see saying ‘History is written by the victor’ tend to be the Revisionists. Though some traditionalists will (usually smugly) and some of group 3 will as well, usually complaining about lack of records from a losing group that didn’t leave much in the way of records.

      1. I’ve been trying to research rosewater for my medieval recreation. It was common as mud and everything that I’ve found so far that was written down assumes you’ve already made it. It’s rather maddening. Did they they make it by tincture? Or steam distillation? The latter gets a better concentration, the former gets good dyes if you use red roses… Or did they use some other technique I haven’t stumbled on yet?

        1. It occurs to me that the SCA (and other reenactment groups) should compile databases of information that they have researched. Perhaps in a Wiki, so that multiple people can add their contributions. I’m sure that much research has been done dozens of times over, simply because someone doesn’t know that it’s already been done.

          1. There are some places that do, but it’s rather like herding cats. Usually by the time something gets organized the organizer burns out and so things gather dust until someone takes up the reigns (often having to start over.)

            1. Ah, and that reminds me of the conference call I was just on. The other guy from my company and I had no idea what we were trying to do with the data file we were exporting, so we couldn’t help the people from the other company figure out how to do it.

              1. The job’s not finished until the documentation is done. Whether it’s your successor after the bus hits you, or just you six months later, you will NOT remember why you did things.

        2. Have you tried bugging SuburbanBanshee? Or maybe just doing a search of her archives? I know she’s had a couple (say, at least one every few months) of cooking-type posts that are on that level of detail.

        3. Grain of salt and all, but according to this site, the “water of” is a misnomer for what sounds like a steam distillation after you’ve mixed the petals with alcohol.

          The oldest documented ‘essential oil’ is probably Oil of Roses. Legends say it was first created by the petals being immersed in water, causing the oil to float to the top. Avicenna discovered how to produce it by distillation in the 10th century. The discovery of distillation spread throughout the Arab world and slowly to Europe. Steam distillation of herbs and alcohol together, or sometimes water and herbs together, produced ‘sweet waters’ or ‘water of’ the particular herb. The ‘water of’ the herb is the hydrosol, a by-product of extracting essential oils; but some types of distillation will produce merely the water without separating out the essential oil.

          Several sources from the 1500s and 1600s give detailed recipes for sweet waters and for distilling essential oils, such as Gervase Markham’s 1615 English Housewife, John French’s 1653 Art of Distillation, and Hugh Plat’s 1594 Delightes for Ladies. Many (modern) sources claim that the oldest alcohol based perfumes were Queen of Hungary Water (a rosemary-based water) and Carmelite water (or King Charles’ water), whose ingredients vary– both allegedly from the late 1300s and originally used as medicinal doses and rubs.

          The most popular period way of making sweet waters, however, is illegal in this country today, because it involves distillation of alcohol. So, we must approximate. (Though the period and near period sources mention distilling with water, they consider the resulting product inferior.) Hugh Plat noted that it was quicker and cheaper to make waters of some types by purchasing oils and adding them to the water, so we do have some documentation for making waters by mixing alcohol, water, and essential oil.

          By the by, last time I checked it’s not illegal to distill alcohol– it’s illegal to distill alcohol for sale if you don’t have a license.

          1. I’ve made rose water by steam distillation (water based not alcohol based). The method for making essential oils involves water because you distill then force the liquid into a narrow tube and when the oil separates you syphon off the oil at the top. (You have to use a LOT of roses to get the oil because the concentration of the oil is so low. Other things are easier.) I’ve found a fair amount about modern proceedures. Much before about the 1600s perfumes/essential oils tended to be made in alchemist’s shops along with a lot of medicines.

            Finding much information pre-1600 is more difficult. I’ve found recipes as early as 1300 calling for the addition of ‘rose water’. I’ll definitely check Suburbanbanshee’s site. This is the first time I’ve seen that the distilling might have been done in alcohol. I know alcohol has been a carrier for ages usually for the weaker perfumes. (Analogous to what we have behind the perfume counter these days which are 5%ish scent up to about 15% for the Eau du Toillete. That’s what those little names mean: what concentration there is. That system dates back to at least the 1800s.) I’ve seen some records of oil-bases usually olive oil as well as scented waxes, usually beeswax, but again, mostly from the 1800s. I’ll check the works you cite and see if I can find references to earlier works.

            The trick with distilling with alcohol is getting anyone to believe you’re NOT going to drink the stuff. Just like it was almost impossible for me to convince the post office that I was shipping oil based perfumes to family members NOT alcohol based because there are no oil based perfumes, ergo I must be lying or trying to smuggle booze through. Period. No exception. Water is not dry.

              1. No, no. That kind of Rosewater attracts things I don’t want to have to deal with. It’s the corollary to “Don’t call up that which you can’t put down.” Something aren’t worth the effort so better to avoid them all together.

              1. Yeah, apparently there actually is a problem of people saying ‘perfume’ and shipping wine instead to avoid interesting fees and regulations. Which makes it really frustrating when you have actual perfume you’re trying to ship.

                1. Eh, I think you have it backwards. The oil-based perfumes’ scents last longer and don’t have the harshness of the alcohol-based ones.

                  Plus, a quick search for oil-based perfumes turned up mostly the pricey ones.

                    1. I think it may be the US is weird on this one– we don’t have a “perfumes in an oil suspension” option, not popularly.

                      When we have “perfume oil,” it’s basically the scent itself. The stuff that gets mixed with the alcohol. If it’s for wearing, it’s VERY light oil.

                      I know I have some “vanilla perfume” that’s in an oil-base and is designed for one of the old school spritzers. (Use one with alcohol, it gets torn up; use it with the US perfume oil, one squirt is half the bottle!)

                    2. I think it ill behooves us (Orvan might differ) to engage in any debate premised on the proposition: “Portugal is weird.”

                2. *handwaggles* All the cheap stuff (department store level) has been alcohol carriers. You can’t get the oil base through the cheap spritzers. One of the biggest differences between the cheap stuff and the expensive stuff is concentration of essential oils. Real perfumes are defined, legally, as 30% scent to 70% carrier, whatever that carrier may be. You only get those in the high end ones. Cheap ones are Eau de Toillette (15% ish scent oils) or Colognes (5%).

                  There are high end perfumes in an alcohol carrier; however, the really good stuff I’ve found (and only once been able to afford, but that was in Europe which may be different. TDY pay and no other obligations was nice.) has been oil based and used in much smaller quantities to similar effect.

                    1. Most tend to be various vegetable oils. Or at least most of the ones I’ve been able to buy. Jojoba and Fractionated [sic] Coconut oil are popular. Olive oil is one of the historical ones. Grapeseed, Almond, Avacado, and Primrose oil are all popular with the ‘all natural do it yourself’ crowd (or at least by their prevalence on the sites catering to such folk). I haven’t been able to find much information on the commercial companies carriers beyond ‘alcohol base’ and ‘oil base’ sometimes it’s hard to find even that. Most of the recipes tend to be trade secrets.

                      Sorry for lack of cites. Most of my research is in boxes and a not-yet-hooked-up hard drive. I used to have a list of brands that were oil. Most of them were in the $300/fl. oz range.

                    2. And I’ve only been looking in the past 10 years so there may have been changes. *adds something to the ‘to be researched’ list* 🙂 Interesting stuff.

  2. But Sarah, everybody knows that the State fosters growth the same way we can make longer blankets by cutting six inches off one end and attaching three at the other.

    It is taught in all the best schools.

  3. So, technological progress causes some losses, sometimes for a while.

    Name something that doesn’t. The difference is between attributable losses and covert losses, with the latter being greater for going unnoticed (and generally being misattributed when they do get noticed.)

  4. Anyway, he was telling me about how terrible conditions were after WWI, and I started pointing out they weren’t. Not really. Sure, some people (a lot of domestic servants) were displaced.

    I’m not sure if you’re speaking only in the British context (you mention Christie) or with a broader scope. On the broader scope, what you say does more or less extend to the US and Canada, and northwestern Europe. But much of Eurasia outside those areas was in chaos in the years immediately after the Great War. Revolution, invasion, hyperinflation, counter-revolution, redistributionism, count-invasion, liquidity issues, and civil wars seemed to be quite common up through about 1924, from the Rhine to the Pacific.

    1. How many of those terrible conditions were caused by the War, and how many were own-goals (i.e. local government induced)? Even before the punitive treaties against Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria, the socialist government in Austria had finished flattening the economy by hiring tens of thousands of people (Full employment!) and printing money (to pay a living wage!) in a country that no longer had 4/5 of its tax base (oops). Farther east, the Russian economy almost rebounded under Lenin’s NEP before Stalin “corrected the error of capitalism” again. If the argument is “war->disaster->poverty only a strong social-democratic government can solve” then the person arguing misses that the government extended the disaster, not improved it. And are they looking at 1918-1919 or 1918-1929? Very different results if you shift the scale.

      1. I think that many of them were own-goals. Certainly Austria, Germany, and Hungarian socialists did their countries’ economies no favors. In the case of Hungary, their communists were even worse, and the anti-Semitism of some of the elements that replaced the communists didn’t help with obtaining international credit. There were that whole series of wars between the successor states of the old empires, and between some of those successor states and their neighbors, that also hurt things. OTOH, they did mostly wrap up within about a half-decade. On the gripping hand even those wars left a lot of things unresolved – like all those pockets of people of different origins and cultural identity scattered about the successor states of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

        I was thinking the 1918-1923 time period. By 1929, the picture certainly shifts. Things in Eastern Europe had settled down substantially with economies growing (or at least stumbling along), the Russian Civil War was more of less over, the Ottoman Empire had been replaced by the Turkish Republic and various protectorates, etc. In fact, Hungary by 1930 or so was finally in a bit better shape economically than it had been before the outbreak of the Great War – which is impressive given it was so much smaller than it had been before the war.

      2. Certainly the Turkish War of Independence was a by-product of the war as was the Russian Civil War which would last into the 20s.

        In both of those occasions I’d say 1918-1923 would the war leaving people worse off mainly by creating knock on wars.

        1. Same thing happened in Germany; they were having pitched battles involving artillery between the Freikorps and the Communists.

        1. I dislike being disagreeable, but I am reliably informed that this blog s a haven for white males,often of the Latter Day Saints persuasion and occasionally in possession of great racks (like deer, elk and moose.) Thus it seems highly improbable that a tan gent carried you off. Perhaps it was something else which you had gone off on? I myself have been known to go off on the fish … or is it the fish had gone off on me; I find I can no longer recall.

          1. Thus it seems highly improbable that a tan gent carried you off

            Going off on a tan gent is raaaaacist, too, since it puts him in a submissive position of doing the work while you just ride. You should carry him to make yup for centuries of exploits.

            What’s that you say? The word is tangent, not tan gent?

  5. At my age and older, transitioning becomes harder. It’s not so much as the inability to learn – I knew a doctor who took up piano lessons at the age of 81 – but the reluctance of employers to invest in older heads. That’s far different that people being unable to adapt.

    Nasty thought: Is a unemployed harness maker still considered a member of the Harness Maker’s Union? Would there efforts by the HMU to discourage members from training for other jobs?

    1. My father worked as a surveyor for some 30 years. First, he got to where employer couldn’t afford to pay him what his experience was worth; and then advances in technology made his experience more or less obsolete and no one would train him on the newer stuff. When it got so no one at all would hire him in surveying, he took a correspondence course, learned locksmithing, and started a second career with that.

      1. Locksmithing is an excellent career choice; there’s always a demand for that skill, one side of the door or the other.

      2. Surveying now is a point and click profession. I’ve watched some modern surveying crews at work. The laser and the gps do the work. The surveyor makes sure the right areas are pointed to. And that was few years ago. Now there’s probably video attached to the pointing and clicking.

        1. Heh. I had to take surveying at company expense. The idea was for a bunch of us to know route surveying. The class was taught by a couple of actual surveyors who went into things like error of closure.

          Now, our equipment at work was an old style transit and an old style theodolite. They had a up-to-date laser ranging theodolite and targets.No stretching and breaking tapes here, no sir. And we were going to use it on the last day of class to run a plat around a small cemetery. No sweat.

          No sweat, that is, until we tried to do it. We all took turns being rodman and running the theodolite. Holding the target steady was a challenge. I ended up doing what we do when aiming a careful shot: talking a breath, letting it halfway out, and holding it.

          When we finished and ran the error of closure . . . well, if that had been an actual plat, it wouldn’t have been legal in the state. Even with a laser, surveying is harder than it looks.

          1. Surveying streams for classification. You are in cold water, sinking into the muck, holding the rod and target, in a brisk breeze. “So easy with technology” my hind leg!

          2. Good.

            (I’ve got a character who’s a surveyor in the beginning. Though I coudl put it back a little in tech.)

            1. Depending on the state, he might have to go through apprenticeship in addition to the course. To see what’s available equipment-wise, a handy reference is Ben Meadows, an outdoor supply company. They tend to be pricey, but you can get some ideas. A fairly recent text on surveying might help, along with looking at some deeds and plats. Know that some surveyors in the past sometimes left a lot to be desired. I heard rumors of one that would run a line anywhere you wanted it for a 5th of liquor. Having to go behind his plats on occasion at work (ROW issues), I can believe it.

              If you can, talk to some surveyors. Oh, the war stories they can tell. And know that my surveying knowledge is thirty or so years old. At the time I wondered why they didn’t have a tripod with a laser target on top that you could set up with an plump over a known point and level. They might have such a target now.

              1. He’s not going to be a surveyor long. . . though I suppose I will have to beef up enough that he notices everything a surveyor would in the rest of the book.

            2. In some states, professional land surveyors are licensed by the same board that does professional engineers.

              A land surveyor uses math, and makes claims that are legally actionable.

            1. When GPS first got not-terribly-expensive and truly portable (rather than luggable) and geocaching was new-ish, $HOUSEMATE and I did some. Exercise with something to do. The targeting was decidedly approximate and $HOUSEMATE was surprised a few times when I walked right up to some cover and found the cache. “How did you know it was there?” “It doesn’t look natural. Someone had to arrange those {sticks, rocks} that way.” “Really? It just looks wrong to you?” “Yes.”

              1. It can be *really hard* to get the concept of “it just looks wrong” (or right) across.

                I never realized how much my mom had trained us to see what isn’t there (but was) until I freaked out a couple of folks by asking about buildings that had been gone a while.

                For the love of Pete, THE OUTLINE WAS ON THE WALL! It’s not magic! Yeah, it was an all-white wall, but there was the really obvious outline of a building next to it, and I was curious about something or other in the shape, I don’t remember. It wasn’t a big deal, I just remember their reaction.

                1. I’ve noticed in the past few years that I have apparently learned how to “Sherlock” things – make inferences based on relatively minor observations. It really struck home when my wife and I walked in the house and she was shocked to find that our younger son was home. I knew before we walked in, because when we walked past the dryer vent, it was obvious that the dryer was running.

                  1. You are lucky t wasn’t some burglar who had broken in to do laundry. I gather such criminals often don’t even bring their own detergent.

  6. Side note: I also don’t watch TV any more, except for sporting events, and in my case, I think I’ve figured out why. It’s because there don’t seem to be much in the way of episodic dramas any more. It feels like almost every show is now of the soap opera format where what happened in the previous episode will drastically effect what happens in the next episode. Everything needs to be watched in order, or you’ll be lost. When I was a kid, I followed several shows, and if I missed an episode, I missed one. Maybe I’d catch it in re-runs, maybe not, but either way, I’d simply tune in next week and not worry about it. Now, you can’t really do that with most dramas. Yes, you can now potentially catch up On-Demand or something similar, but it feels like work. You HAVE to watch this episode before it gets taken down, or you’ll never be able to keep up with what the characters are doing, and when someone tells me that I HAVE to do something, it doesn’t feel much like entertainment.

    The only exceptions to this seem to be sitcoms (which I dislike for other reasons) and some crime dramas (which political correctness have made boring).

    1. I don’t watch, because I seldom find anything worth watching. That, and because the wife and kids have control of the TV. What’s there is riddled with commercials until it’s hard to enjoy. I’m more likely to watch a DVD than a TV program these days.

      1. I strongly recommend a DVR. You don’t realize how much you rely on fast-forward until you don’t have it anymore (cough … on demand when DVR $!@# up thanks to things not running on schedule).

    2. We don’t watch anymore (except Doctor Who, of course) because everything seems to be reality programming. I watch TV for the same reason I read. To escape reality for a while. I don’t need other people’s drama.

      1. I don’t need other people’s drama.

        That’s why I tend to stick to cartoons. Young Justice is excellent, by the way. DC seems to do TV shows much better than it does movies.

      2. The Three-Decker
        “The three-volume novel is extinct.”

        Full thirty foot she towered from waterline to rail.
        It took a watch to steer her, and a week to shorten sail;
        But, spite all modern notions, I’ve found her first and best –
        The only certain packet for the Islands of the Blest.

        Fair held the breeze behind us – ‘twas warm with lover’s prayers,
        We’d stolen wills for ballast and a crew of missing heirs.
        They shipped as Able Bastards till the Wicked Nurse confessed,
        And they worked the old three-decker to the Islands of the Blest.

        By ways no gaze could follow, a course unspoiled of Cook,
        Per Fancy, fleetest in man, our titled berths we took
        With maids of matchless beauty and parentage unguessed,
        And a Church of England parson for the Islands of the Blest.

        We asked no social questions – we pumped no hidden shame –
        We never talked obstetrics when the Little Stranger came:
        We left the Lord in Heaven, we left the fiends in Hell.
        We weren’t exactly Yussufs, but – Zuleika didn’t tell.

        No moral doubts assailed us, so when the port we neared,
        The villain had his flogging at the gangway, and we cheered.
        ‘Twas fiddle in the foc’s’le – ‘twas garlands on the mast,
        For every one was married, and I went at shore at last.

        I left ‘em all in couples a-kissing on the decks.
        I left the lovers loving and parents signing cheques.
        In endless English comfort, by county-folk caressed,
        I left the old three-decker at the Islands of the Blest! . . .

        That route is barred to steamers: you’ll never lift again
        Our purple-painted headlands or the lordly keeps of Spain.
        They’re just beyond your skyline, howe’er so far you cruise,
        In a ram-you-damn-you liner with a brace of bucking screws.

        Swing round your aching searchlight – ‘twill show no haven’s peace.
        Ay, blow your shrieking sirens at the deaf, grey-bearded seas!
        Boom our the dripping oil-bags to skin the deep’s unrest –
        And you aren’t one knot the nearer to the Islands of the Blest.

        But when you’re threshing, crippled, with broken bridge and rail,
        At a drogue of dead convictions to hold you head to gale,
        Calm as the Flying Dutchman, from truck to taffrail dressed,
        You’ll see the old three-decker for the Islands of the Blest.

        You’ll see her tiering canvas in sheeted silver spread;
        You’ll hear the long-drawn thunder ‘neath her leaping figure-head;
        While far, so far above you, her tall poop-lanterns shine
        Unvexed by wind or weather like the candles round a shrine!

        Hull down – hull down and under – she dwindles to a speck,
        With noise of pleasant music and dancing on her deck.
        All’s well – all’s well aboard her – she’s left you far behind,
        With a scent of old-world roses through the fog that ties you blind.

        Her crews are babes or madmen? Her port is all to make?
        You’re manned by Truth and Science, and you steam for steaming’s sake?
        Well, tinker up your engines – you know your business best –
        She’s taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!

        Rudyard Kipling

    3. We went to a Roku box about three years ago – and have amused ourselves by watching what’s available thru Netflix, Amazon and Acorn. A lot of old shows that we never got into at first, and a lot of British, Irish and Australian productions. Which have considerable charm – and they are different. Currently watching “Father Ted” – which is a hoot.
      Waiting for Longmire to come back with another season, although I am using it to teach my daughter plot and characterization, and the necessity of being consistent and logical.

      1. Am I to take from this comment that over the past four days, you’ve binge-watched Season 5 of Longmire? Or, rather, that you are unaware that it released on the 23rd?

        If the latter: wish granted!

          1. I have heard wonderful things about Father Ted, though I’ve never watched it myself. Perhaps this latest endorsement will induce me to find time for it. Regardless, enjoy yourself.

    4. Also a non-tv person. We used to watch shows when I was little, but that wasn’t nearly the main focus. There was always a tv on (black and white) in the kitchen since I was, I think, six. I believe Mother just liked the background noise.

      News was the newspaper, or radio. Unless it was local, then it was the local women’s chapter of the Backdoor Kitchen Gossips, who got news faster anyways. Drama tended to run like the news, and was more interesting besides. You could become news, if your drama was big enough. If you were smart, you tried very hard not to become news. Mostly because that would become you, no matter how old you got, you’d be the guy they arrested for “Dunkirk on the Little Harrow Creek” with a whole neighborhood’s worth of lawn furniture floating peacefully down to the dam, three sheets to the wind, passed out in a tree the firefighters had to get you down from, dressed in nothing but cargo pants with two different sets of ladie’s undies in each pocket, and a pair of tennis balls down your pants.*

      Television- mass entertainment, really- is a part of national culture. Even international, I suppose. I’m not opposed to tv. It’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. I just think most of the things on tv stink in comparison to what I *could* be spending/wasting my time on. Like good books.

      The good things about television are that it can gives us stories we can all relate to- or at least complain about together. While I’d kind of like “things we can relate to” to include things I think are important, like, oh, American history, local government, and bad sports teams (there’s always at least one), I’ll take what little I can get for now. It’s like Wal-Mart culture, or fast food culture. Sure, the coffee is browned industrial waste and the security camera footage has *got* to be in the running for the next hit reality tv drama, but little things like that help draw us together.

      It’s a good thing to remember in the current rage-fest for divisiveness.

      1. *: No, this wasn’t me. But I was never able to look at that guy the same afterwards, even after he moved one town over, got married, had kids, and took over the leading the local AA meetings.

    5. Despite being on a bit of a hill (nearby lake is well downhill, which is a Very Good Thing Indeed), the house is in a TV-signal hole. “Served equally poorly by all networks,” is an apt description. I suspect a good antenna and amplifier in the attic (or on the roof) would get a few stations, but every time I am someplace with TV signal, I find I loathe it. Gave up cable a few years back (for TV anyway) and didn’t get satellite. So… any “TV” is pretty much youtube.

      That said, I know darn well that if I did have TV signal, I’d wind up watching something though I have no idea what any more. As it is, sometimes I relive old times with shows of years ago. Or even go to radio shows – since I don’t need to keep an eye on those.

    6. I generally don’t watch TV either. I stopped watching sitcoms because they are inane, and I find that I actually *like* the series that have major story arcs over a season (so long as they finish major portions of the story arc at the end of each season — I may like longish stories, but I like my stories to end, too)…but I also prefer to watch those story arcs on DVD, so that I can watch them in order, when I have the time, without some network executive (or personal activity) ruining everything.

      While I have only seen a few episodes of Firefly, and really enjoyed them, apparently they were supposed to be shown in order, and apparently one reason Firefly didn’t do so well was because the Network decided to show the episodes out of order. (Ironically, that was the one thing I didn’t like about Firefly — that it seemed to be yet another Episodic series — which turned out to be an illusion created by the Network, rather than an actual “feature” of the series.)

      I haven’t watched much anime on Network TV, but it’s my understanding that even with story-arc anime, networks like to show episodes out of order…

      So, yeah, Network TV is the reason why we can’t have nice things.

      1. Note that the Firefly DVD release isn’t quite in the correct order either. (The DVDs were released before there was thought of a movie, so the last episodes are ordered to give the series a dramatic finish rather than stick to the unfolding narrative.)

        You can see my justification for the order at http://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/12978/1430 (but beware spoilers), but here it is:

        1–10. Serenity through War Stories (as on the DVDs)
        [Note: That’s Serenity the pilot episode, not Serenity the movie.]
        11. Heart of Gold (#13 on the DVDs)
        12. Objects in Space (#14 on the DVDs)
        13. Trash (#11 on the DVDs)
        14. The Message (#10 on the DVDs)

        Then Serenity (the Big Damn Movie; and read the collected comics too, while you’re at it (but only read #1, Serenity: Those Left Behind before watching the movie).

  7. Agriculture took us from hunter gatherers, totally dependent on the whims of nature, to villages and farms. It also brought us disease, need to figure out sanitation, and we no longer just had to defend the group, but the land as well.
    Industrialization took us from dawn to dusk all day every day to fixed working hours, more leisure time, and the availability of goods and services heretofore unheard of. Also higher risk of disease, that pesky sanitation thing, bigger populations which made crimes of property and passion more prevalent and less likely to be resolved.
    We are now in the midst of the information technology and automation revolution, who knows where it will lead us in benefits and problems.?
    Here’s the dirty little secret: Pandora’s box never ever had a lid on it. All that evil had been streaming out from it full blast from day one. And that glowing gem, that thing called Hope? It’s there all right, and with operating instructions. And those read “Adapt or Die.”

    1. Umm . . . descriptions of American Indians have a different picture, Granted they were recovering from a collapse of society, but there are accounts of a mixed culture, with hunting and gather and some agriculture, along with palisaded towns. They defended territory because even though they might not till it, they were living off it, and you find things like rivers a flash point when they were unable to fish when the sturgeon were running and things like that.

      You might want to look into Medieval feast days. Some studies show they had more down time than we do now. That said, the Industrial Revolution triggered a stream of workers looking for options other than farm laborer. Here’s the thing: farm laborers often didn’t own land and knew they likely never would, which made factory work a way out.

          1. I don’t know about North Eastern tribes, but in the South they had a combination of agriculture and hunting and gathering. There’s one account I’d have to find again that describes a tribe engaged in game management; Whether that supposedly happened before or after the extinction of forest buffalo in the East has a huge bearing on how seriously I take it. If it happened before, they didn’t do a good job; if it happened later, then maybe they had a precedent. Or maybe the account was made out of whole cloth. Considering that tribes on the West Coast cultivated oak trees, it’s possibly true.

            Centuries after initial contact, Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins asked the Creek why they didn’t adopt “white” farming methods. They had, or would, put in for blacksmith tools, so they weren’t adverse to new tech. He was told that farming was typically done by those unable to hunt, such as older folk, and this would essentially put them out of a job. Whether that was a recent or traditional part of their culture isn’t known.

            This makes the issue of palisaded towns and what was similar to Greek city-states interesting. Was it a vestige of old culture tech and structure, or was it something they built from scratch after the Mound Builders collapsed?

        1. Yeah, IIRC a lot of what the English colonists saw were essentially post-apocalyptic groups, after disease had killed off 95% of the natives. We didn’t get a good sense of how developed and civilized the established civilization was, because by the time the Pilgrims landed it was _gone_.

            1. Have they found any non-theoretical support for the “90% of the population was wiped out by disease” theory?
              Last time I was looking at the support, it was things like “the island where the natives attacked was massively depopulated” and “someone’s diary mentions that there was a camp of Indians over in one way where we heard someone got sick, and when we went to look nobody was there anymore.”

              Digression: “leave the place where people die, it’s cursed” is both a very popular tribal level thing, and good sense. If it’s disease, it prevents spreading; if it’s something environmental, then the “it’s cursed” thing removes you from the bad area.

              1. I don’t know. Part of the problem is estimating the number of Indians. I think it’s significant that some places that the Hernando de Soto accounts say where heavily populated were practically deserted in the 17th Century. I’m thinking about when Gaspar de Salas and some priests went to Tama, a town visited by Hernando de Soto. Tama was still populated, but on the way back they cut across country and found it deserted.

                1. Do you mean Tampa? I’m trying to not make you do all the work– but there aren’t any results with de Soto and Tama; on the other hand, I can’t find anything with Salas and Tampa, and the only overlap I’ve found at the moment is really not very well supported notion they may have both hit the Shoulderbone Archaeological Site, but even that is post-loss-of-population for the first guy getting there, and they didn’t find the cannon he said he left there OR the place to put it.

                  Maybe Tamatli? This page calls it the Tama province… but it’s listed as being solidly populated the whole time, although Salas’ group wasn’t welcomed back. They were doing fine until they were in a rather nasty…. inter-Cherokee war, I guess you’d call it? Their group killed the leaders of the other group in their sleep, right after a nasty war, and in the fighting that followed they were practically wiped out.
                  (attempted summary of the relevant information you can reach by ctrl-f Salas at this link, if that sounds sort of right)

                  1. No, it was Tama. If you look at a map of Georgia, you’ll find a river named Altamaha. The meaning is “The Way to Tama.” Hernando de Soto encounteredTama possibly on the Ocmulgee. He first encountered vacated buildings on the south side of the river, then contacted the chief of Tama on the north side. At that time, Tama was a vassal to Ocute to the north, and the chief of Tama took one look at de Soto’s army and tried to cut a deal to overthrow Ocute. I think de Soto placed a cross there before heading to Ocute. There was also a baptism at Tama: A couple of Indian guides got roughed by other Indians that night and expressed a desire to convert. De Soto turned them over to a priest, and there they were Baptized

                    A Spanish map shows Tama on the Ocmulgee, but exactly where is the problem. The Hernando de Soto commission or committee placed it about a town called Hawkinsville, with Ocute at Macon, but a Roman Catholic priest declared it was further south near a town called Jacksonville in Georgia, where the river does indeed turn east as described. I think modern interpretations that put Tama at the Indian Mounds at Macon are pretty much off: That would more likely be Ocute than Tama.

                    Gaspar de Salas accompanied two priests to Tama, who hoped to place a mission there. I’d have to look at my notes to find their names. One was a huge man, so large that the Indians feared him. It was the same one who had the misfortune of returning to the mission during an uprising, and was ambushed. Gaspar de Salas did an account of that, and acted as translator when then the Spanish came in force. Sorry, can’t remember if there was a trial or not.

                    The one thing is that Gaspar de Salas said he saw some rocks near Tama that might indicate silver ore. That sounds like it might have been closer to the Fall Line, and Jacksonville, Georgia, is many miles to the south. Then it turned out there’s a formation called the Broxton Rocks on the south side of the Ocmulgee that’s a limestone formation. Was this was Gaspar de Salas saw? Hmmm . . .

                    Okay: Went to the file cabinet and pulled the folder. It’s Relacion de la Tama y su tierra y de la poblacion de ingleses., February 4, 1600, St Augustine, Florida. Also, from the contents, think the huge priest was Francisco de Verascula, but could be mistaken.

                    Decades ago I had a notion to nail down Tama, which would help fix de Soto’s path. Obviously I failed, but the research was interesting.

                  2. That was sounds like when the Carolina traders allied with the Creeks to attach the Apalachee Indians. The Spanish were using the Apalachee as troops, and the English were keen to curb the threat. The Creeks were under Brim then, IIRC, and he had his own agenda. They pretty much wiped out the Apalachee, who moved west, I think, and shamed the settlers there by being more devote Catholics than they were. That’s how the Creeks and traders took the town: They had a church on the interior wall, and cut a door through the wall to make it easier to come to worship.

                    IIRC, Brim overplayed his hand in the Yamasee War, when the Creeks and Yamasee rose up against the English. The Cherokee joined in with the English and they did quite a number on both the Yamasee and Creeks. The seat of the Creeks withdrew to the Chattahoochee from Old Ocmulgee Fields (the Indian Mounds at Macon).

                    IIRC, there’s an old road running through Georgia around the Ocmulgee that was called Chicken Road. The book I read advanced several theories as to the origin of the name. But it turns out that there was a Colonel George Chicken who fought for the colonists in the Yamasee War. Could he have been the one who led the attack deep in Creek territory and that was the road he took? Don’t know.

          1. Hah! Shows how much you know! All of the Native Americans lived in haHarmony with Nature and used native holistic medicines, so the idea that virulent disease could have devastated their culture is prima facie bald-faced lies spread by the Patriarchy attempting too cover up their White Privilege.

            Sad to realize the credulity of so many so greatly exceeds anyone’s talent for satire.

      1. From my readings, pre-industrial work was often “work your tail off during certain seasons” and “more relaxing times in other seasons”.

        Industrial work had about the same work level year round.

        Of course, there was the factor that people were willing to leave the farm to take work in the factories.

        1. The people writing that about agricultural work are daft. No, seriously. Pants on head nuts. Not their fault, they never lived in a mostly agricultural society.
          Look, the work is year around and as much as can be crammed into a day, when you take in account that you’re mostly dependent on natural light.
          Thing they don’t take into account is that while you can’t work in the fields in winter, there is still livestock to care for, implements to mend, and that — even in the temperate climate I grew up in — it’s all made much harder by the weather.
          My mom, dependent on the weather to wash and dry clothes did three times the work on that in Winter. Why? well, there was hanging clothes to dry. And again when they got wet, and again. and if they mildewed on the line, or got funny smelling, you had to re-wash.
          Then there was chopping wood to keep the house warm-ish. Same for the “creation”: rabbits and chickens and guinea pigs (we didn’t keep pigs or oxen by the time I came along, but we weren’t a proper farm.) For the neighbors across the street, who were farmers, there was milking, and feeding the animals. And since they relied a lot on grass for the rabbits, there was trying to find grass and cut it when it was not wet or freezing.
          Same jokers who write about “off time” in winter, sometimes write about it in the summer. Which means the daft buggers don’t understand irrigation (yes, even with channels, as foxfier explained, you have to keep them clear — and btw, the agriculture she learned was two centuries more advanced than the one my neighbors practiced — and repaired. And then there’s weeding and getting pests off the plants. The potato bug was the bane of my existence till my family stopped growing most of its own food. My first job (at FIVE) was weeding the onion patch, and it took hours EVERY DAY.
          ALSO there’s roofs to repair, walls to repair, cold frames and henhouses to build, world without end.
          The difference is work in the fields is sun to sun, and you really don’t get Sundays off. I mean, you sort of kind of try to, but some of the farmers loved going to mass because it was the one time they didn’t work. Ditto with women going to rosary at night.
          AFAICT, the daft buggers who think farmers have tons of free time, think so because there are oral traditions. Ie stories get carried from generation to generation. Being modern people, from an academic background, they view people sitting around telling and listening to stories. DUMB. Most of that was done while cleaning/mending/fixing/sewing/repairing/building.

          1. Point.

            While farm work “never ends”, IIRC there were periods of Really Work Hard (like harvest) with other times of (comparably) lighter work.

            Mind you, the greatest difference between farm work and factory work was that in the factory the “work” ended when the whistle blew but farm work continued until it was done.

              1. My dad, born 1917 on a farm in Oklahoma, had one goal in life, AFAICT: NOT to live on a farm. For him, putting in 12+ hours/day, 6 days a week in a sheet metal fab shop was *better*, incomparably better, than working sun up to sundown, in 100F summers and 30F winters, rain, snow or shine – and, as you say, having stuff to do when you weren’t in the fields. In the winter, once the Depression hit, they’d dig coal to get a little money. This is how he spent his childhood.

                Me, I lay bricks around the house as a hobby, because I spend 8, 10 sometimes even 12 hours a day in a soft chair in an airconditioned office, to get a little sun and exercise.

            1. With subsistence farming, which is what we’re really talking about here it breaks down into two categories work where if it’s not done and done correctly you lose the crop and starve, and necessary work you can put off until time permits such as mending torn clothes or laying in extra wood. None of that is unnecessary, it’s just some is more time critical than other.

            2. Coming from a farming background I can say that the nice thing about the periods of “comparably lighter work” is that it is very self-directed. Sometimes you have to go take care of something urgent, but most of the time you just have a long, long list of maintenance or improvement work that needs to be done over the next few months. If you don’t feel like working on the tractor, you can work on the trucks or implements today. If you don’t feel like turning wrenches you can cut up that tree that fell down or sit inside and go through your budget and expenses and plans for next season. If you’re sick of whichever you can often take off for an hour to drive around and inspect the fields, take a look at your neighbor’s fields, and compare notes with them. It all needs to be done, but unlike in a factory YOU get to decide which order you do them in and how.

            3. And with farm work, if there were periods of “free” time due to not being able to do something because bad weather etc – raining when you should have been haying etc – it might mean you just lost something vital, like that crop you couldn’t harvest because it rained, or couldn’t plant in time earlier because the spring came late.

              And then, even if you didn’t starve you had less resources for the next year. A couple of bad years and maybe you lost the farm, or if you worked for that farmer maybe he no longer could pay you.

              Those types of free time are not what anybody would want.

              Factory work was much more certain.

            4. Fellow I know, 93 or so now, joined the Army in 1940 – knowing full what was coming – as he wanted off the farm that badly. And I recall my mother once telling me, approximately, “Be anything you care to, doctor, lawyer, electrician, plumber, whatever. Just stay off the farm!” She grew up on a farm and had (and has) no desire to return to that life in any form.

          2. Thing they don’t take into account is that while you can’t work in the fields in winter, there is still livestock to care for, implements to mend, and that — even in the temperate climate I grew up in — it’s all made much harder by the weather.

            Not entirely their fault– if you grow up doing it, you realize cows still eat on Christmas.

            I mean, would you seriously not consider it a day off if you had to do food prep, shower, get dressed….? That’s just NORMAL stuff.

          3. Yeah. While I want to get a family farm if I manage to emulate Larry to any degree, it won’t be a _real_ farm unless there’s a serious infrastructure collapse. It would mostly be a way to generate meaningful chores for offspring.

            Eggs for spending money, hogs or other livestock for Christmas money and other big expenses.

              1. I wonder if that might be part of the issue… folks try the stuff that’s basically a luxury good– farm fresh produce– and they go wild over how very good a fresh tomato is, how very carroty a carrot you just got the dirt off of is, and don’t consider the part where you can have fresh tomatoes in January, rather than for two month of the year. (that’s a rough average; I know some places that are really, really hard on tomatoes, although the breeders are working on it….)

          4. Well . . . even when I was a wee lad, it was more relaxing in some seasons than others. What’s overlooked is that relaxing is relative. My father talked about some all nighters they did when they raised sugar cane, and of having to sleep at the tobacco barn in the days when they used wood for the heat. Then was the time a storm got into the tobacco, and my father worked all night to stand it back up.

            Here people let their livestock run loose until the practice died out sometime around WWII. Instead of branding irons, people would notch the ears. Fields were fenced, originally with split rail and then with fence wire. My parents and grandparents were at the very end of this era, and would talk of how letting livestock run free kept the woods clear of underbrush.

            That gave a bit more leeway, but no one took it easy. Sometime from November into December, men would take jobs like road construction, right-of-way maintenance, or logging. My mother’s father used to build a timber raft and float it to the mill to raise money, a common practice back then. Later he did all of the above at one time or another.

            This may have been the time my father’s father tanned leather. I think it was when my father’s mother made things like turpentine for home remedies (something about rigging a caldron until it was like a type of still) and hominy It was the time she’s shell black walnuts to sell.

            Then when cold weather hit, it was time to butcher for the smoke house, and with that done, it was time to start plowing again. There seems to have been some down time around Christmas, but that’s about all.

            Later, with livestock confined, feeding was a daily chore. There were enough creeks that we didn’t have to water unless there was a drought. Since all things are relative, we considered just tending to the hogs and cows as light work. When I was old enough, I was expected to mend fence and see after livestock when I came in after school. That was just a daily thing. And it was a rare Saturday that we didn’t do at least some farm work.

    2. Agriculture took us from hunter gatherers, totally dependent on the whims of nature, to villages and farms.

      Agriculture is somehow less dependent on the whims of nature? I think not! At least if one hunt and gathers, one can move away from the current whim.

    3. I’m sorry, but the hunter/gatherer types had their share of diseases too. Drink from a river? Congrats, you just picked up additional parasites. Bit by a mosquito? Congrats, you just picked up sleeping sickness or malaria or … Ditto when that tick or leech attaches itself to you. Maybe you don’t have to worry about your own wastes, but there are still plenty of possibilities for disease.

      More specifically, if you have ever dealt with real wildlife, you would know that they tend to come with a fair number of free riders/parasites. Now, in the wild, if the parasite gets them too sick, the host dies and the parasite doesn’t reproduce as well – so there is a natural tendency to reduce the killing potential for such bugs. But certain diseases have been endemic to humanity even before we climbed out of the trees.

      So, I have a real problem with any assertion that agriculture is responsible for diseases.

      1. It’s not so much that agriculture is responsible for diseases, it’s that diseases have more chance to propagate to a larger portion of the population when lots of people live close to each other.

        The problem with waste management is well documented as a disease vector, plus providing living space for huge numbers of vermin, another disease vector. Also, before we got large cities that kept out a surprising portion of the insect life (believe me, I live in the country, surrounded by forest – the insect problem is at least 10 times as bad as in even a smaller modern town), the problems you mention, while not quite as common, were still a problem, even in most cities.

        So no, agriculture is not responsible for disease, it’s just responsible for concentrating it.

        1. Additionally, it seems that a lot of our major plagues and diseases seem to come from livestock, which comes from domestication, which is largely something that farmers do.

          Apparently diseases that are typically only as bad as a mild cold in a cow can be devastating plague to a human; combine that with dense cities that agriculture makes possible, and you get a recipe for disaster.

          What’s pretty amazing is that, despite this perfect storm of plague-making, the boons from agriculture and city life made even living through plagues worthwhile…

          1. Hm, a possible sample problem– the sample of “serious diseases” is only from the group of “post-agriculture humans;” kind of like how cows kill more folks than sharks, it’s hard almost as hard to get wild animal diseases in the middle of the city as it is to be attacked by a shark. (Note, “wild animal,” not just “pest.” Pest is a fancy word for animals that have found humans to be a good source of food without it being voluntary. 😀 )

            And even then, the “where diseases came from” sorting is biased towards things that are pretty easy to track– contrast cowpox or even food poisoning with the trouble finding similar support for HIV being from getting blood from a freshly hunted monkey in their system. Even when some idiot gets plague from various tunnel rats, they usually have to say “well, we KNOW that he went through an area with prairie dogs, can we find some place they interacted?”

            Another possible issue…. we know that reaching middle age was problematic; wouldn’t it be reasonable to suspect that we might be able to shrug off diseases that would knock them for a loop, sort of like how modern standards of living let us shrug off stuff that put our recent ancestors in the grave?

  8. The part about being less healthy with agriculture can easily be overblown and overgeneralized, both innocently because people love lazy overgeneralizations and dishonestly because people love to push agendas. But it’s not wildly wrong. There are things that go right with agriculture, but there are also things that go wrong with agriculture, and some of the things that go right (moar people! but also surplus and specialization to do things like trade with distant people and thus participate in the most recent outbreak of bubonic plague) aren’t necessarily reflected in average health going right.

    Contagious infectious diseases alone were a huge factor, and with agricultural population density (not only density of humans, but of their cows and chickens and pigs, and the rats and lice and other things that went with) the infectious disease story seems to have gotten a lot nastier. Anyone who wants a reminder of this can look at the military campaigns in recorded history which were affected by typhus or whatever, or look how many famous people died of tuberculosis or whatever. Non-agricultural populations can be *susceptible* to many of those, indeed can be very susceptible, as we see over and over from the history of civilized people meeting non-agricultural people. But absent agriculture they tend not to be reservoirs of as many diseases as civilized people. (Occasionally they contact nonhuman reservoirs of disease, like bubonic plague living in wild rodents, or some European diseases perhaps spreading in America through feral pigs.) And it’s a common pattern that an infectious disease burns out in a small population (and for a humans-only disease like smallpox, that solves the problem unless you come in contact with a new human reservoir population). The pattern is apparently pronounced even in small civilized outposts, even for annoying but not very dangerous diseases like the common cold: e.g., essentially no colds until the boat comes in.

    And any lifestyle which changes only a few percent per century tends to run into Malthusian constraints, so the average health seen at death tends to depend on whether your population is near carrying capacity, so the historical average tends to depend on whether your population spends most of its time near carrying capacity. There seems to be no absolute rule for whether an agricultural population will have spikier die-offs than a non-agricultural population, and all other things being equal, the one with spikier die-offs (a generation or so of prosperity, then everyone gets the Black Plague or whatever, then the cycle begins again) will look like they were living healthier before the sudden die-off than one in which a few percent of the most desperately malnourished die every winter. (And the American Indian lifestyle as most commonly observed by Anglophone writers seems to have been an extreme one-off non-cyclic case of this: after the one-time sudden introduction of a dozen or so horrendous European diseases smashed the population, the remnant could often enjoy underpopulated abundance of resources right up to the time the expanding frontier of civilized high-population-density heavily-armed technological agriculture crushed them.)

    And the nutrition story you mentioned is complicated, both in things we understand and probably also in things we don’t understand. It was also changing rapidly over historical and near-historical time, including in some important ways that were largely invisible to historians until very recently. (Genes for lactase persistence apparently increasing at more than 5% per generation, e.g., which alone suffices to change tradeoffs in practical forms of agriculture — and, probably, in common patterns of nutritional deficiency and infectious disease — pretty dramatically in a modest number centuries.)

    1. A lot of the question of “more healthy” depends on how you’re defining it.

      It looks like Sarah holds the view that “well, the average health of those bodies we can find” is a poor way of figuring out how healthy it is for human beings; the more healthy a way of life is, the sicker the corpses are going to be– because you don’t DIE until you’re too sick to live, and a healthier environment gives you a wider range of “healthy enough to survive.”


      Something to keep in mind for the disease aspect is that large populations do tend to have more outbreaks of disease.
      That’s at least partly because, as Mary’s story of the little girl in the family who was the only one healthy enough to do any cooking, and all she knew how to make was oatmeal illustrates, it’s possible for the population to survive multiple outbreaks of disease.
      If you’re a 15 person family band, even one of those 48-hour-what-the-heck-was-that flus sweeping through half of the contributing adults can weaken you enough to kill you. (Most easily observed in trees, oddly enough, but hardly unknown in animals.)

  9. What’s worse, I find most of the people who say “Oh, I don’t watch TV” are the sort of prigs who are bragging of their moral superiority.

    Ouch. Sort of like the people who don’t read Hugo-award winners anymore (and for similar reasons)?

    1. I’m not morally superior, I just get bored from the commercial interruptions followed by repeating what has just been said, and am easily made queasy by fast camera cuts and flashes (also why I can’t play video games).

        1. I hate it when there are 2 or more people standing and talking and the camera just keeps circling around them, around, and around, and around, and around . . .

        2. That, and the bright flashes that go along with the cuts, and the zoom-jerk. and wiggle-waggle, and stutter-zoom, and “drunken cameraman mode”, and…

          The problem is, most people got used to that over time, and they literally don’t *see* the bouncy-zoomy-wobbly camera work, just like they zone out and don’t notice that 14 minutes out of 30 is commercials. And that’s assuming they’re not hammering the channel changer like a rate at the kibble dispenser…

          I quit watching TV in 1986. That’s “not ever in the same room with one”, as opposed to “at least one all the time, but I haven’t allocated the time to watch any specific program”, which is how most people “don’t watch” TV. We haven’t even *had* a TV in the house for the last five years.

          Watching movies and torrent downloads, I can usually guess within a couple of years of when something was made, just from the psychotic camera work. And then click on to something else, because the Bouncy-Cam(tm) gives me motion sickness, and I’m not into vomiting for entertainment.

          And frankly, compared to reading, the data rate of TV is sooo slloooowww my attention slips away before I can make any sense of most programs, assuming there’s any sense to be had.

          1. We don’t have a tv. We have a computer. If I’m very ill, I will watch whatever, but I prefer stuff like “Walking with dinosaurs” because I’m not right in the head.

            1. If you were right in the head, why would you be hanging out here? Oh, wait… it’s your blog.

              Oh, dear (raises umbrella just for the symbolism, ’cause I know it won’t help).

          2. The handheld camera craze was just that – a fad with a very few camerapersons that was picked up as a marker for signalling “I am avant garde” by some directors, and then adopted by producers who were desperately trying to not be seen as “old hollywood” – which led to entire TV series being shot as if the trades were drunk or on strike and the third assistant cinematographer’s assistant had to run the camera.

            I absolutely hate ShakeyCam – unless it’s used for a very specific point and then never used again. It’s a technique in the toolbox, but it’s overuse has turned me off of more dreck from hollywood than even the horrid “insert PC theme of the week here” writing.

            1. Shakeycam on most TV shows makes me go “I KNOW that y’all have tripods, with your budget… stop pretending this is a ’70s 16mm film”

      1. I hate the commercials, and I hate trying to keep track when something I might want to watch is due to start. Reading I can do whenever I have the time and feel like it, as well as watching DVDs etc. Television has a schedule, and does not usually offer much I’d be willing to alter my other schedules for.

        So I quit watching years ago. I still go to movies, something I also need to adjust my other schedules for, but with everything else connected to it it is bit more of a spectacle sort of thing (and you get to go out of your apartment which a person needs to do now and then, especially somebody like me who lives alone and works jobs which I also do alone and mostly at night so I don’t even get much of a chance to chat with coworkers or anything) and more nice, in some ways, than watching the exact same movie from the small screen on my home when some channel shows it (with commercial breaks…).

        But since you can find the same movies and series several other ways now (and without those damn commercial breaks), especially if you don’t mind waiting a couple of years, that I just don’t have the patience for television any more.

      2. Almost as soon as steadycam became possible, or as soon as it became not-insanely-expensive, somehow shaky-cam became an in-thing. I suspect a few engineers somewhere want to administer some serious dopeslaps.

    2. LOL. No. Most of the people who brag of not watching tv read Hugo award winners. They are “Smart.”
      I don’t mean the rest of us watch television, but we don’t usually BRAG of not watching it. (And they watch it. they just brag of not. It’s… a bit tangled when you get to social signaling.)

      1. OK. I don’t know if it’s bragging to claim that about the 12th time of “30 channels of Cable and nothing worth watching” gives the same sort of turnoff that going into a bookstore in search of something decent to read and coming out empty-handed does.

        1. No, no. Look, I’m not talking about people like us. I’m talking about lefty columnists who say something like “I don’t watch TV, that’s entertainment for the masses and I prefer to read the greatest literary/critical success.” Those are the people I don’t want to associate with.

          1. You mean, the people who don’t watch TV for the masses but aren’t afraid to praise the latest, most disgusting piece of sleaze to the heavens because of how edgy it is? I give those types at most a passing glance and move on.

            1. I find myself more intrigued by the stuff which is actually outside the box rather than picking at the edges.

              1. Ah, a memory of the county fair where there was, of course, a merry-go-round and I’d ride that… but it wasn’t about the ride on the horses that weren’t really horses. No, the mechanics of it were exposed and those held my attention. And years later the fair changed what company was hired for rides (generally an improvement in overall safety and customer comfort) and the new merry-go-round had all the gearing and such all carefully covered… and while I am sure it was safer to operate, it wasn’t as interesting.

      2. A goodly number of people find that the semi-catatonic state which television is known to induce is not semi- for them. There are ties when I find staying awake while watching TV nearly as impossible as remaining awake during a sermon.

    3. Sort of like the people who don’t read Hugo-award winners anymore (and for similar reasons)?

      Only if it’s for similar reasons. They might very well choose to not read Hugo winners because experience shows that they’re less likely to enjoy the books preferred by the publishers’ sycophants.

      If you want a closer comparison, look at the people who voted a No Award slate without even reading the nominees, because they pretend to think slates are bad.

    4. Nah, if it’s like the Hugo thing, it’s a mater of quality– not the “oh, I don’t watch TV, that stuff is horrible for you.”

      See also, sane folks’ rant about the “child experts” who class all “screen time” as identical to watching Sponge Bob on repeat, like my daughter reading from a computer screen is invalidated because she turns the page with a click instead of a licked finger.

      1. And also, on nights like tonight, I have a handy excuse for saying, “NO, I didn’t watch the debate. I don’t have TV.”

        Though I did check in on some blogs to see reactions.

    5. We don’t watch “TV”, but we do watch television shows. On Netflix and Amazon prime. Nothing on “TV” is so important that we can’t wait until it shows up without commercial interruption. This also means we don’t watch football or other sports because they’re on “TV”. Oh, well.

      1. Exactly! Having gotten used to watching via streaming video, we can hardly bear watching broadcast TV shows, interrupted every ten minutes or so by two minutes of stupid, intelligence-insulting commercials. Talk about being dumped out of the narrative, and loosing the plot thread, over and over, and over. We found this out the hard way,BTW – going down to Brownsville to meet with a client, and having to watch cable TV in the hotel suite.

        In my military service life, which was two decades ago (Hey- where did all those years go??!), I used to schedule TV programming for an AFRTS station. We had the programs from the “package” which were usually from the previous year – popular broadcast stuff, which the AFRTS programming management central had gotten permission to pass along the circuit. We tried to program our stuff on the hour – but eventually had to settle for the nearest five minutes. Every hour-long program from broadcast television actually contained only about fifty minutes of program content. Only the very oldest of programs in rotation had anywhere near 58 minutes of actual program. Some of the half-hour programs only had 19 minutes of content. What that meant was – a third of a programming half-hour was commercials.

        Seriously – why bother?

          1. Yep – so why watch, indeed. Better to pay a little bit through Netflix or wherever, wait a couple of months — or years – and watch something uninterrupted.

            Yes – the commercials pay for the show, I know that. But I have come to realize that audience toleration has been milked dry, Milked more than dry – milked into a soul-sucking desert dry. There is a point beyond which audiences are no longer willing to endure a third of commercials per half-hour of content.

          2. In some markets noticeably less than *that*.

            Not to mention having the program shrunk to half-size, surrounded by scrolling or dancing advertising top, bottom, and side bars, with occasional animated popups over the program you were trying to watch,

            And then the “real” commercials come on, power-miked until the whole TV jumps around on bystanders are sticking their fingers in their ears…

            1. The “show a promo while folding the credits over” thing (I assume it persist or has gotten worse since 2009…) annoyed me. For what someone with humor and creativity can do with credits, go have a look at the closing credits of the Ernie Kovacs Show.

  10. At my very poorest (and yes, I have been below the official poverty line as a grad student) I had multiple pairs of shoes. And more than one change of clothing. Even *homeless people* now have more goods at their disposal than a truly poor person from the middle ages. Articles of indenture used to specify the servant was entitled to one new set of clothing per year. One.

    Yeah, clothing may have been better made when every suit was hand-sewn, but how many people had one? And heaven help you if you wanted a little variety in your wardrobe…

  11. “the commenter who came back to an old post yesterday to lecture us about how stupid it is to expect dem poo’ peoplez to be able to retool and find new jobs, once technology dispossesses them of the old ones”

    Oh, who was that? I missed it.

      1. Quite willingly will I point out that you are lazy. Scarce six novels in a year, numerous blog posts, with countless bloggish comments. And that’s just in your professional status, quite ignoring moving your household multiple times in a very few months.

        Too much trouble to make us all pumpkin spice muffins, I don’t doubt.

        1. Too much trouble to make us all pumpkin spice muffins, I don’t doubt.

          It’s not making them that’s the problem, it’s getting the ingredients. If you want to make a quick trip to Arrakis to borrow a cup of spice, you’ll get your muffins.

              1. Raaaaacists!

                I am preparing a full-scale, end-of-the-world beat down on the abomination of pumpkin spice for an upcoming Week in Pictures, but I can’t help but wonder whether I’ve been trumped (heh) by this recent “scholarly” article in the journal GeoHumanities:

                The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins

                Lisa Jordan Powell & Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt

                This article examines the symbolic whiteness associated with pumpkins in the contemporary United States. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a widely circulated essay in McSweeney’s on “Decorative Gourd Season,” pumpkins in aspirational lifestyle magazines, and the reality television show Punkin Chunkin provide entry points into whiteness–pumpkin connections. Such analysis illuminates how class, gender, place, and especially race are employed in popular media and marketing of food and flavor; it suggests complicated interplay among food, leisure, labor, nostalgia, and race. Pumpkins in popular culture also reveal contemporary racial and class coding of rural versus urban places. Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography. When considered vis-à-vis violence and activism that incorporated pumpkins, these analyses point toward the perils of equating pumpkins and whiteness.

                Unlike many such academic articles, you can read the entirety of this one for free online, but put away sharp objects first so you don’t poke out your eyes by the end. You’ll find gems of critical thinking such as this:
                — — —

                Emphasis in the original (sorta). Its The Great White Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!!!!!

                1. Would this mean Leto II is the Great Pumpkin? I must go to my no-room and contemplate this.

                2. And here I thought the call for entries that I forwarded to Sarah was the ne plus ultra of academic absurdity for September . . . RES wins, paws, down.

  12. . I watch second hand TV.  Whenever you guys see a reference or a quote to popular culture, I acquired it by listening to Dan talk about it.  At least most of the time. 

    I tend to game or read (places like here and pop news, not good books or new information type nonfiction) while the Elf or the kids are watching TV.

    About the only thing I can watch is really good documentaries I don’t already know much about (doesn’t matter if it’s pop or very serious, the Naked Archeologist often is good enough that I watch a few whole minutes of it for example) and Good Eats, some anime. (New information, lots of stuff going on, you actually get a return on attention paid– contrast with the average TV show, where it’s kept simple so that you can follow along reasonably well if you miss five minute chunks.)

  13. Those people who are all concerned about you losing your way in this heartless society? Those who try to cushion you and put you in a safe space?

    They’re not your friends. They’re afraid of what you do if you and your creativity were fully unleashed. They have achieved a certain domination over their society but are afraid if anything more happens they’ll lose it.

    Thus, in part, the kerfuffle about the spread of 3D printing. Make your own X? Why, that will put X-makers on the street!

    Not to mention, ‘OMG UNTRACEABLE GUNZ!’

    And, I don’t watch much TV qua TV. Growing up, Dad wouldn’t have one in the house so just didn’t get the habit. Read instead. (poor me.) Watched the first Apollo moon landing on Gramma & Grampa’s TV in their trailer (sorry, ‘manufactured house’) on the property, Nixon announcing his resignation, also. (Gramma had to have her soaps.)

      1. Or hammers, hacksaws, hand drills and files . . .

        Search ‘Pakistani hand-made AK-47’, and be amazed!

    1. The ironic thing about 3D printing, though, is that if it’s something that will be commonly needed, then it’s far more worthwhile to mass produce it, than it would be to 3D print it.

      Thus, I expect 3D printing will only be useful in cases that resist mass production, namely: one-off (or few-off) things that are only used in highly specialized situations; creating prototypes for something that will ultimately be massed produced; and unusual designs (such as a layered honeycomb structure for a part, to make it lightweight yet uniformly strong) that otherwise resist mass production.

      Sure, cheap 3D printing will still be a game-changer, but I suspect that the hype is bigger than its ultimate usefulness.

      (Incidentally, I think cheap CNC machining is probably just as important as cheap 3D printing, and tabletop CNC mills and lathes have been around for a while. Indeed, I suspect that someone serious in designing things or creating custom widgets will want both a 3D printer and a tabletop lathe and mill.)

      1. I forgot to add, after “ultimate usefulness”: But then’ that’s true of pretty much every technology, isn’t it?

  14. About pretending to work and them pretending to pay you…
    I don’t fly, but the only thing worse than dealing with the TSA as a passenger would be working for them.

  15. IRT TV, when I was spending time in China building an embassy, I discovered a video shop that had bootleg copies of every series and movies I had ever(and never) heard of. So I ended up with a whole lot of them(5-600). (At roughly2-3 reumbi / yen per DVD, why not? Yen was seven to the dollar. Most of them are still in the wrappers, BUT, eventually when I get the time I will watch TV, but it’ll be what I want to watch and when.
    I still have cable in the house, but every time I pay the bill I wonder why.

    1. We’re paying Comcast for “basic cable” even though we don’t have a TV. But they won’t sell us phone service or internet without the TV part.

      There’s no other broadband where we live. And the fact that we use Comcast for phone service should give you an idea of what our local telco is like.

      We have the land line because each successive generation of cell phones has lowered the bandwidth of the voice window until holding an actual conversation on one is impossible.

      1. Dunno if it’s that you are dealing with Comcast or if it’s the grade of service. $HOUSEMATE called local cable provider about a business class net connection (static ip, servers) and “What about TV?” “Not interested.” “Ok. $MORE_NET_STUFF.” But then Midcontinent isn’t Comcast.

        1. I used to have commercial-grade cable modem so I could run DNS and mail servers at the house. I don’t do that any more. Instead, I pay $15/month for a VPS in, um, West Des Moines and get faster Internet service at the house for $50/month less total.

          And the VPS is in a nice data center with redundant power and multihomed feeds. Highly recommended.

      2. Comcast took over my apartment complex’s internet connection (one of the reasons why I moved here in the first place) but I was able to get just a broadband package and no cable, though it looks like the connection comes in through the cable. I rarely turn my TV on nowadays, and when I do its to view a DVD.

        1. Nod, I have Comcast/Xfinity and was able to drop the Cable TV part.

          I only have Internet Service via them.

          1. …and theoretically I have access to 24×7 support. Whatever local company they used before didn’t have a line I could call on the rare occasions the line went down. Had to contact manager’s office, if they were open.

            1. Sometimes all the support you really need is an unanswered ring or even just a dial tone.

              There are times I believe I’ve listened too carefully to the Clintons and parse terms too reflixively.

        2. I’ve never had cable. I use Hulu for some stuff, and Netflix for others.

          AT&T delivers my internet connection. The odd thing is, whenever I go to AT&T’s website and check out possible speed upgrade packages, the site always checks my address and then informs me that it’s not available to me.

          1. When we moved to our new house, the website said we were served with 12 mbps; we finished out our contract, I called up to cancel….

            And we got a new, two year contract, for five bucks less and it had 24mbps. And didn’t have the “mandatory” upgraded help thing.

  16. “They’re not your friends… It’s not you, but them, they seek to help. Ignore them and build.”

    Timeless advice. Thanks.

  17. I don’t know why I don’t watch TV.

    Perhaps you subconsciously recognize TV as akin to Tolkein’s palantíri? It lets you look far and wide, but only at that which your enemy wishes you to perceive?

    Some visionary, that Tolkein.

    N.B., this was prompted by headline at National Review Online (Looking into Palantir) about the Obama Admin. investigating Peter Thiel’s Palantir Technologies Inc. for possible discrimination against Asian-Americans. I Know! Discrimination against Asian-Americans in the software business? How crazy is that! Heck, the Left is down with discrimination against Asian-Americans in colleges and universities, right?

    From the article:

    When I read it, I thought for a second that it might mean not that Palantir Technologies Inc. was accused of discrimination but that Palantir itself stood so accused.

    Palantir is an artificial-intelligence platform. There are many versions of it operating around the world: The federal government uses it to track down financial criminals and, if the whispers are to be credited, sundry terrorists camped out in the dusty corners of Jihadistan. Hedge funds use it for their own purposes. Information Warfare Monitor used it to uncover the GhostNet in China. It was used to help organize relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy. It is, to say the least, an interesting piece of technology.

    But the science-fiction stuff — artificial intelligence, machine-learning systems, neural networks, all that cool-sounding innovation — already is working its way into the much more quotidian aspects of life, particularly in areas such as actuarial analysis and credit.

    Suing AIs for racial discrimination? Some Fun!

  18. Too many good and relevant lines in the first three minutes to bother quoting, let alone extracting bon mots from the entire 42 minutes:

    Well, okay, one: “It is not the origins of poverty which need to be explained. What requires explaining are the things that created and sustained higher standards of living.”

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