Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Good Jokes Never Die

This one has verifiable roots as far back as Eisenhower and Sherman Adams. It may be older, but I know not.

A: "My God, what if Bush died and Cheney became President?"
B: "But what if Cheney died and Bush became President?"

Hmm...y'mean things could get worse?

Friday, April 21, 2006

News of the Week

Slow times between posts. I've fallen into that evil geek trap of "a little extra work at night..."

Oh fuck.

Two thoughts obsess my twisted brain this week.

1. Has no one with time managed to come up with a parody entitled, "Hu's on First?"

2. Did anyone else notice that Hu met with Bill Gates before he met with George Bush? That, is, apart from Bill Gates.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I started in the mail room. My associate was Henry. Henry was, to be tactful, a character. One of his few lucid riffs was the story of how he had come to give up chicken farming in Maine and come to the big city. Too much pressure.

Surely you jest.

Not at all, said Henry. The business--specifically the egg business, which he was in-- was a wild roller coaster ride. When prices rose, everyone would drive hard to increase production and rake in the profits. Since the life cycle of a layer is fairly short, within a few months all the fast-buck artists would have generated excess inventory. Prices crashed. Hens became meat. Farmer fortunes became toast. When all the layers were under cellophane, there would be fewer eggs and prices rose again. I watched egg prices for a few months after this and damned if he wasn't right.

Stop me if this reminds you of gasoline prices.

It's a comfort to know that the supply cycle of a vital commodity is ruled by the same principles (greed and lack of foresight) that govern henhouses.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Repeating Myself

Repeating oneself is a perquisite of advancing years.

Today, I read a Republican pundit commenting that the Democrats still don't have much of a plan. (I saw a relevant quote somewhere that I'll add shortly). He did admit it's possible they don't need a plan.

Well yes, fool, that's the point. The party out of power doesn't need a plan. They just have to be the party out of power, especially when the party in power has screwed up even half as much as this one has. Just as Republicans never learned, from 1933 to 1981, how to be the party out of power, they have never learned how to cope with one in the years since. They desire hegemony, as I've said before. They want it because they can't imagine governing in any other way. Seems they can't imagine a whole lot else.

Now then, about pundits. It's become evident to many people that pundits miss many of the small changes. I suggest they miss all of the big ones, because they are too hooked into the way things are. That history M.A. of mine pops up in inconvenient ways sometimes. Recently, it's been reminding me that the pundits didn't expect Andrew Jackson to be elected. When he was, they didn't expect things would change much. They thought these things even though Jackson had more decisively "won" in 1824 than Gore did in 2000. They thought them even though the drastic social and political changes associated with Jackson's administration had already begun. They had been quietly perking along at the local and state level for several years before Jackson turned the establishment of his time on its ear.

Something is happening. It's happening now, and the pundits are probably going to miss it again. The velvet revolution will have happened here before one of them really gets that it has happened.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Quidditch? Not!

I may have bragging rights to unusual ways to spend an American Sunday in April. I went to the Men's World Curling Championship, which this year is being held in Lowell, Mass.

Sunday was only the second day of competition. I'm not sure whether it was defiance of fate that led the organisers to start the event on April 1, but there it was. At any rate, I think I'm justified in believing contemporary Americans have something to learn from this sport. I stand corrected on several other points.

Yes, pilgrims, it absolutely is a sport. The occasional US television coverage fails to convey that.
Fat men on ice? Not hardly. I saw one rotund Irish competitor during the "draw" we attended, who made up for his girth by his command of the game. The rest were commendably fit.

No wonder. In case you missed this detail, the stone weighs 44 pounds. All four members of a team slide that sucker twice in each "end" (or inning) for ten ends I recall...75 minutes of playing time. At this level of play, the curlers can usually land the stone within an inch or two of their chosen spot, more than 40 metres from their starting point, every time. Working as they are under a time limit, these guys are not exactly standing around. When one considers that there are four games going on simultaneously during each draw, one begins to understand that there is a lot going on.

Curling has the same mechanical appeal as billiards, with a lot more sweat. The aerobic demands pale next to the requirement that each player be able to make a succession of on-the-fly physics decisions, and make them more accurately at the end of an afternoon of hurling large weights and running after them with brooms than at the beginning. If billiards were played on a 50-metre, frozen table, with a surface varying from one minute to the next, with 44 pound get the picture.

The pace of the game certainly was level with baseball, and far beyond that staple of winter weekend sports TV, golf. Two features of curling that are probably beyond the comprehension of American fans are 1) it is mainly self-regulated and 2) victory demonstrations by players are frowned upon. (What would happen if someone tried to spike a curling stone does not bear thinking about.)

The American sports media were, naturally, notably absent. These are the people who have been dragged against their will into tolerating soccer, and it's taken a full generation to get that far with the world's most popular sport. They seemed to be the only sports media not represented. Sportscasters were covering the event in a dozen languages with well-instructed attention. The audience did not exactly fill the Tsongas Arena, but it was a fair-sized (and fairly rowdy) crowd all the same.

Oh yes: it's the winners who buy the losers a round. Seems to explain why curling is popular in countries that have as much beer as they have ice.