Saturday, November 27, 2010

Those Who Want People to Be Controlled

A thought from the late great Robert Heinlein:
Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well, I was planning to make the long drive to the city and spend a few days visiting with my folks for the Thanksgiving holiday. But it wasn't to be. Yesterday the region was hit with a blast of wintry weather, and the worst of it was the freezing rain. Outdoors late yesterday afternoon, it was all I could do to stay on my feet. Area events last night were being canceled by the dozens. Highway condition websites showed nasty, nasty roads between here and there. I phoned my folks and told them not to expect me for Thanksgiving, barring a miracle.

So I went to bed early last night and slept soundly. Then up early this morning, as is my wont. Still nasty out there. And if I needed any further proof of the wisdom of not going out today, it was visible not far up the gravel road from me, in the dim light of dawn. A large truck had slid off the icy road and into the ditch, and some heavy machinery was at work, seeking some way to tow the truck back up out of the ditch again.

This, clearly visible looking out the window on my front porch.

So. I ain't goin' nowhere on this cold slippery wintry Thanksgiving. Will quietly spend the day at home, where Rice-a-Roni and stew beef and a few bottles of beer will have to do for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rod Dreher: The Other Shoe Drops

I've been wondering what happened to Rod Dreher, whose blog at his (new employer) Templeton's BQO site was mysteriously suspended back in August. His blog suspended, and any of his even mildly controversial posts suddenly gone.

What the H E Double Hockey Sticks is going on, anyhow?! I and a lot of other readers of Rod's have been wondering, with no definite answers, for three months now. Hey, I don't always agree with Rod, or with his manic and sometimes OCD tone, even though I often find myself more or less in agreement with him on many issues. But I like Rod, and I've been addicted to Rod's blogging for years, and (as was once said of MTV) I want my Rod Dreher!

Well, looks like we ain't gonna get our Rod Dreher. Not by the avenue of blogging. Not any time soon. Maybe not ever again. Certainly not as long as he's in Templeton's employ. (And thank God Templeton didn't fire Rod, as some have been speculating these past months.) I've asked repeatedly here on my blog, what happened to Rod Dreher? Over at Alexandria there have been lengthy threads here and here, and another comment here, with many of Rod's old readers and commenters wondering and asking and surmising, what happened to Rod Dreher? Now this morning a kindly and anonymous commenter has left a comment here at Bluegrass Up, referring me to a just-posted comment over at Alexandria where Margaret reveals:
I hope I'm not breaking some unwritten Code of Facebook, but Rod made a rare appearance on his page there yesterday, and replied to a few inquiries there with the following:
"Thanks everybody. I'm not sure what to tell you. I don't know what's going to happen with BQO, though my blog is definitely not coming back — not on BQO, for sure, and almost certainly nowhere else, under current conditions. I so appreciate your concern and interest, and I really hope I am free to blog again one day."
Followed by this comment:
"P.S. Sorry, that sounded alarming, and I didn't mean to be. My blogging, for various reason, has become incommensurate with my duties at my real job — and if I had to choose, naturally I'm going to choose my job. Maybe this is the opportunity I need to get off my duff and write that Benedict Option book I've been talking about for years."
Sounds like we may not be getting him back anytime soon. If ever :(
So. The other shoe has dropped. No more blogging from Rod Dreher, leastways not as long as he's working for the Templeton Foundation on its dark throne, "in the land of Philadelphia where the shadows lie."

Well. I first discovered Rod several years ago when I ran across his book Crunchy Cons, and I said, hey, I resemble that. If Rod ever writes his Benedict Option book I suspect I'll say, hey, my neighbors and I resemble that. Because, you know, when I moved in the late 90s from the city to a big old house on a gravel road here far out into deep rural America, I had certain Benedict-option thoughts in my head. Thoughts which I find only reinforced by a recent alarming conversation, about the likely future of American society, with a level-headed and very acute friend of mine who's a professional in the field of urban planning.

Most of my neighbors out here in the middle of nowhere are largely self-sufficient, most are heavily armed, and some are off the grid altogether. If and when the day comes that the White House "pulls a Templeton" and throws the Internet kill switch as the cities burn, I suspect I'll be thinking of Rod and praying for him as I hunker down out here in my remote rural redoubt.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laptop Battery

So, the new laptop battery I ordered arrived yesterday. And once again I have a laptop which will run for a convenient length of time away from an electrical outlet. Once again I can sit here early in the morning, websurfing from anywhere around the house for just as long as I please.

May I recommend Powermega in Vancouver BC to anyone who is in need of a new laptop battery? They really do go the extra mile on customer service.

And I ponder on how, back in my young adult years, the very idea of a personal computer, to say nothing of a portable laptop, would have seemed like science fiction. I haven't lived through as many changes in my life as my late grandmother, who was born 16 months after the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk; who could tell you the first time in her life she ever saw an automobile (she was already well into grade school); whose life spanned the introduction of radio and television; who never had electricity, indoor plumbing, and running water until she was well into her thirties.

I haven't lived through change like that. But I have experienced the fairly radical change which computers have brought to our everyday life. Email, websurfing, instant news cycle, online discussion forums, audio, video, downloads, items that go viral, shopping online, chat, Facebook, computer games, open source software and open source culture, a whole wide world open to individuals who are self-promoted and self-published and in touch with a broader and more variegated skein of humanity than your father ever imagined... a generation ago I could not in my wildest dreams have foreseen the world that comes to me via my handy reliable laptop computer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tripping the Prognosis Fantastic

The other day I had lunch with a friend who works in urban planning, and he made some pessimistic remarks that have set me thinking.

He said he, and some others who work in his field, are quite concerned about the United States and its shaky financial system, our burgeoning national debt, the prospects for future oil prices, and the growing polarization and disarray in matters cultural and political. He said he suspects "interesting times" are ahead, as in the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

Interesting times as in: energy and transport costs rising and mushrooming; disruption of the food distribution network (as in, how food gets to your supermarket); real personal hardship including shortages of such basic needs as food and home heating; civil unrest; and perhaps even political instability.

He said people think the comfortable and abundant life we've enjoyed in this country now for several generations can't come to an end; but people will have to readjust and learn to live with a different set of resources and expectations than they've come to take for granted. He thinks those who will do best are those who are competent, self-reliant, able to obtain many of their needs locally, with a good solid network of friends and neighbors to rely on, in a setting where the local culture is solid and stable; oh, and living away from any large urban areas, too.

He said he suspects we could find ourselves in this situation maybe 10 or 15 years down the road.

I don't know, I'm no economist and I'm no urban planner. There was a time when most people would've dismissed my friend's observations as twaddle from the fringe. But my friend is no fringe figure, and no extremist. And these past couple of years I've read too many mainstream economists who sound a similar note. I really can't dismiss my friend out of hand.

In fact I'll be honest, when I moved from the city to deep rural America back in the late 90s, thoughts of this sort were one factor cycling around in the back of my mind. The way of life we've come to take for granted in middle class America is unsustainable. It can't last forever. In fact it may not even last as long as it otherwise might, due to political timidity and shortsightedness, and the erosion of the self-sufficiency and self-reliance which were once widespread in America.

I don't spend my days dwelling on it. But if "interesting times" do come, I'll be a lot better off, living here on a gravel road in a remote rural region far off the beaten path, and surrounded by friends and neighbors who could feed themselves, heat their homes, keep their vehicles and machinery running, and in general supply most of their own needs, even if they were thrown back largely on their own resources.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lucid Blue

We're into that part of the fall where days are bright, sunny, and moderately cool. Not cold, but definitely jacket weather. Dark comes early, and it will come even earlier once the time changes this weekend. Daylight comes slowly in the morning, and I rise early enough that I regularly find the sky dark and star spangled. Then dawn creeps on slowly-- this very moment I can see dark clouds in the eastern sky against a light grey-blue-- and comes the morning.

But somehow what seems most characteristic of this phase of the fall, after Indian summer has fled and the first snowflake has not yet fallen, is the daytime sky. The daytime sky, lucid blue, fleecy clouds scudding to the north of us, and the sun bright enough that being outdoors calls for sunglasses in November. Lucid blue skies, an azure of stunning clarity and depth: well did the prophets of old write of the sapphire underneath the throne of God.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Coverage

Last night I sat down and was going to watch the election coverage on TV. Only I couldn't. The batteries were dead in the remote to my digital converter.

They were AAA batteries, and I couldn't find any other AAAs in the house. AA batteries like in any of my other remotes would've been fine, but there were no other AAAs to be found.

No remote, can't turn on the digital converter box. No digital coverter, can't access the outside world on my TV, relying on nothing other than the aerial on my roof, here far out into the countryside of deep rural America.

This is what I get for going literally months at a time without ever even turning my TV on. No biggy, though: I ended up listening to election coverage on the radio instead.

A Troll

So, after a year and a half my blog has acquired its first troll. I don't know whether to feel amused, bemused, or (as the troll evidently desires) hurt. I think I'll settle for bemused: my old blog years back, which actually had a regular readership of a few dozen, somehow went several years without ever acquiring a troll, and somehow we all managed to be unfailingly civil. It was a blast, though overall I think I prefer at present an essentially readerless blog.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day at Last

Guess I'll have to find time to drive in to town today, stand in line a while, and then mark up a ballot. Vote the crooks out, vote in a crowd of new crooks, same as the old crooks. Then we can go back to being misgoverned by a crowd of crooks, opportunists, and incompetents for another few years.

And hey, it will be a relief to be free of all them damn political phone calls at last. Phone rings, might be important, gotta answer; no, just another damn politicized recording... Really has been getting annoying lately. From now on, when the phone rings, I'll know it's just another pollster, underhanded charity, or a telemarketer who's bold enough to defy the Do Not Call list.