Friday, January 23, 2015

eBook Review: The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 - 1783




Alfred Thayer MahanThe Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 - 1783 

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 894 KB
    • Print Length: 528 pages
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B004TQHBAI
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray: Not Enabled
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled 
    • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars (48 customer reviews)
    • Price: $0.00 

1. Short review:  *:D big grin    (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I shall read it again.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: I began reading The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 - 1783 (Sea Power) from the Kindle edition available from Amazon. That version does not include the plates (illustrations) in the original. After reading eighty percent of Sea Power, I switched to the Gutenburg version with the plates. It was tedious to move all my highlights and notes from the Amazon version to the Gutenburg version, but it was worth it.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Interesting question. It is a vicarious roller coaster -- someone telling me about someone else's roller coaster ride.
It is free to download. It was worth my time to read it.

2.2. What I did not like: A T Mahan's turgid prose. The writing is far better than that of Admiral Farragut, but Mahan sometimes still gilded the lily. It is as if he were addicted to purple prose. An example:
It may be pointed out, in the first place, that if a nation be so situated that it is neither forced to defend itself by land nor induced to seek extension of its territory by way of the land, it has, by the very unity of its aim directed upon the sea, an advantage as compared with a people one of whose boundaries is continental. 
The first nine words in that paragraph are the literary equivalent of a speaker clearing his throat. The clause is the middle is eleven wasted words.
     Who edited Mahan's writing?
If a nation has neither to defend itself by land nor to seek new territory by land, it has an advantage over those nations that do.
     Is that better? It says in 26 words what Mahan said in 65. Either way it is an assertion unsupported by evidence.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Naval historians. This is not light reading. You must have an interest in the subject.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Well, no profanity, no obscenity, no sex. The plates illustrate the positions of ships in naval battles. If reading naval history does it for the kid, sure, let him read it.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Maybe.

2.6. The work in a nutshell:
     Sea Power divides into three parts:
     1. Naval actions in the 17th Century; the supremacy of the Dutch at sea and their fall;
     2. The rise of English naval power in the 18th Century to supremacy at sea; and
     3. Naval actions in the War of 1778 (which includes the American War for Independence).

     1. Naval actions in the 17th Century; the supremacy of the Dutch at sea and their fall.
     The Dutch dominated the sea trade in the 17th Century. At one time, the Dutch East India Company owned the largest navy in the world. The Dutch fought the English and French in a series of short wars and inflicted upon the English the worst naval defeat in their history.
     In peacetime, the Dutch navy declined, because the burgomeisters were not willing to pay its upkeep. Their grandchildren would regret their parsimony.

     2. The rise of English naval power in the 18th Century to supremacy at sea.
     The Battle of the Medway impressed on the English the need for a strong navy, and they never forgot that lesson. The English navy began its rise in the War of 1704 (called by various names, such as, Queen Anne's War or the War of the Spanish Succession). It continued through the War of Jenkin's Ear, the War of the Austrian Succession (aka King George's War), and the Seven Years' War (aka the French and Indian War).
     By 1763, the English merchant marine fleet outnumbered all others combined, and English naval power dominated the seas.

     3. Naval actions in the War of 1778 (which includes the American War for Independence).
     The rise of the English navy continued through what Mahan calls the War of 1778 despite setbacks in India and the Battle of the Capes.
     In the Atlantic, the English were usually successful, the only exceptions being the Battle of the Capes and the Battle of Porto Praya. Praya caused delay and inconvenience to the English naval squadron bound for India. The Capes, a tactical draw, was a decisive strategic defeat; the result was the surrender of British forces under Cornwallis at Yorktown. (This was not the intent of the French gov't. The French did not care if the Americans won independence or not. They wanted the Americans to keep the English army occupied to suck money out of the English treasury. After Yorktown, the English went to ground in New York, Narragansett Bay, and Charleston and stayed there until the peace was concluded.)
     After the Capes, in 1782 Admiral Hood outsailed, outsmarted, and outfought the Comte de Grasse at the Battle of Frigate Bay, but that did not matter to the forces ashore: the French took St. Kitts. For all the fighting, neither Hood nor de Grasse captured or sank any enemy ships.  Later that year, Admiral Rodney defeated de Grasse and took him prisoner at the Battle of the Saintes.
     In the seas off India, Commodore Suffren took the offensive against Vice Admiral Hughes, but never managed to capture or destroy a single English warship. He never lost one, either. Suffren threatened the English fleet, gave succor to the French allies in India, and relieved the siege of Cuddalore, but never broke the English hold over India. That he did so much with no logistics support from France is amazing. For his valiant efforts, Suffren was elevated to the post of Vice Admiral of France.

2.7. Other:

     Sea Power is a seminal work on the use of naval power. It influenced naval doctrine in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
     Four points:
     1. Fleet action after fleet action after fleet action. Dutch against the English and French. Dutch against the English. English against the Spanish. English against the French. English against the French and Spanish.
     And none of them were decisive.
     In the period covered by Sea Power, the most decisive victory was won by English Rear Admiral Kempenfelt over the French at the Second Battle of Ushant.
     From all these indecisive victories, how did Mahan conclude that the way to victory was through a decisive naval battle?
     2. Mahan dismissed 'cruising war' -- that is, destruction of enemy commerce -- as indecisive. Maybe it was in his day, but the invention of the submarine changed that. Historically, the submarine works best as a commerce raider. Winston Churchill said the U-Boot came within a hair's breath of winning the war for Germany in 1917. The American submarine service destroyed Japan's ability to wage offensive war. The Japanese misused their subs as pickets for their fleets, vice commerce raiders.
     Maybe in Mahan's day commerce raiding was indecisive, but the submarine changed that.
     3. Rodney won the Battle of the Saintes and captured Admiral de Grasse, and Mahan still criticized him. Said Rodney did not win enough. That is like saying the Ravens won the Superbowl but did not cover the spread.
     4. Suffren. Among French naval commanders of the 18th Century, Suffren stands head, shoulders, trunk, groin, and kneecaps above the others. He commanded as a Commodore, which was a courtesy title given to the senior captain of a fleet. The fact that he could not swing the tide in his favor does not diminish the brilliance of his efforts.

     Most people know that the Royal Navy commanded the seas for two centuries. What is forgotten is that the French built better ships, faster ships, and in less time than the English. That continues today. Today, the US Navy is by far the most powerful in the world. The US Navy is more powerful than all the other navies of the world combined. What is forgotten is that the French Marine is the second most powerful navy.
     The difference between the Royal Navy and the French Marine then was that the Royal Navy spent most of its time at sea. Like Jerry Pournelle or Jim Dunnigan -- I cannot recall which -- said, moving ships around in peacetime is very much like moving ships around in war. The Royal Navy had the opportunity to develop and maintain its skills. The French Marine did not.

YMMV.

PS Sea Power was a bestseller in England.

2.8. Links: Alfred Thayer Mahan

2.9. Buy the book: The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 - 1783

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Semi-Luddite




     My Life and Welcome to It.
     My wife is a semi-Luddite. She is not opposed to tech. She just does not use it well.
     Besides the iPad I gave her, she also has a smart phone. A Samsung android, I think. I don't pay attention to that stuff.


Yeah, that looks like Bunny's phone. 

     Me? What do I use? My phone ain't 'smart'. Does everything I want and fits in my shirt pocket. Does your iPhone fit in your shirt pocket? I can even surf the web on it if I am willing to endure the eye strain or use a magnifying glass to see everything.
     My wife likes to share things from her phone with others. Keep that in mind.
     My wife uses her iPad to surf the web. She does not use her phone for that. (Keep that in mind, too.) For reasons she never shared with me, she loves to watch Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor. She props the iPad on a bookstand and watches these shows.

     So I find her today, earphones in, watching some dance number on her iPad. She had her phone out but was not speaking into it. I walked over and looked.
     My wife was using her phone to video the dancing on the iPad so that she could share it from her phone!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pesto




     At Costco, bought a big package of basil, a big wedge of pecorino romano cheese, a wedge of parmigiano reggiano cheese, and pine nuts. 'Cause I had it in my widdle head that I was going to make pesto.
     Did.
     This stuff's good.
     You can make pesto, too. Here's what you need.
The ingredients of pesto:
salt
garlic
nuts
greens
oil
grated hard cheese 
     Now you're thinking, "Recipe?" That's where it gets sticky.
     You see, pesto is a technique, not a recipe. The name literally means 'pounded'. Which is why it shares the same root as pestle, as in mortar and pestle.
     The traditional way of making pesto is to throw course salt and garlic into a mortar and pound the garlic to a pulp. Add the nuts and repeat the pounding. Add the greens and repeat the pounding. Add the oil and the cheese and stir them into the pulp. Rest arm for four days until it's your turn in the pitching rotation again.
     I use a food processor.
     Let's go through the list of ingredients one by one.

Salt

     Tradition says use a course salt like sea salt to help break up the garlic. I use a food processor. If the gal who invented pesto had had a food processor, she would have used one, too. Instead she had to spend half an hour pounding garlic into pulp.
     I toss in kosher salt. How much? About a quarter teaspoon. Actually I saved the sample spoon I got at a Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop, and I use that little spoon to measure for pesto.

Garlic


     How much garlic? Two to four cloves, pealed.
     Why so imprecise? Good question. This is where it starts to get tricky.
     There are many views on pesto. Probably as many views as there are Italian cooks. Some say that pesto should bring out the taste of the greens. Some say that pesto should be redolent of garlic. Some say that all that pulp is there to infuse the oil with flavor (but if that is true, why not just stuff 'em all in a bottle with the oil and let it rest a month, hmmm?).
     If you don't like garlic, use two cloves. Yeah, even if you don't like garlic, you gotta use it.
     If you like garlic, use four cloves.
     Me? I use three fat cloves and have done with it.

     Next up are the nuts.

Nuts

Pine nuts on the left. Almonds in the center. Walnuts on the right.

     With nuts, you get a choice.
     Pine nuts are traditional. And wonderful. The nuts are oily and pulp up easily. They are also expensive as all get out.
     Almonds work, too, if you use a food processor. I have not tried pulping almonds in a mortar, and I ain't gonna. Their flavor is light, and it becomes submerged under the garlic and greens and oil. I have used them. No problem.
     Walnuts, I am told, work, too. I am not a big fan of walnuts, but I have some, and I will use them in the future.
     To toast or not to toast? That is the question. Some say ya gotta toast. Some say no. I have made pesto with toasted and untoasted nuts. No difference to my palate, but you let your tongue guide you.
     How much of nuts? I use a third of a cup to make one cup of pesto.

Addendum: Used walnuts to make some pesto. I will not use walnuts again. *:-& sick

Greens

Basil on the left. Celery leaves in the middle. Parsley on the right.

     Most 'recipes' for pesto say use two cups of loosely packed, washed and dried greens.
     What does that mean, loosely packed?
     I fill my food processor with leaves once, whiz 'em, and fill it again, and whiz 'em again. That gives me good results. YMMV.
     Basil is sweet and makes delicious pesto. The stems lack the flavor of the leaves, so I pick the leaves and discard the stems.
     Celery leaves have a strong flavor that mutes somewhat when made into pesto. I have made several batches of pesto with celery leaves and been pleased with the results.
     Parsley . . . well, I have seen people make pesto with parsley. Evidently it can be done. I do not like parsley, but I may try parsley pesto.
     I have seen two English women make pesto with sage. I have seen a cook step into his garden, rip off a couple of handfuls of assorted young greens, and make pesto with those. Basil is the original and the standard, but you can make pesto with any green, leafy vegetable. I suppose you can make mustard pesto or turnip green pesto.

Oil

EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) on the left. Olive oil in the middle. Light Olive oil on the right. 

     Which oil to use depends on the answer to the question 'why?', which is actually two questions.

     Why use oil at all? Why not water?
     The answer is that oil clings better than water. If you want pesto on pasta, oil is demonstrably better to use.

     Okay, but why? That is, what is the purpose of the oil?
     One chef says the purpose of the oil is to become infused with the flavors of garlic and basil (he was Italian; of course he used basil) and spread those flavors to the pasta. Because the oil is there to carry other flavors, you should not use EVOO but regular olive oil.
     I think this is nonsense.
     If the purpose of the oil is only to carry the other flavors, then you should never use fresh pesto. You should make it and let it sit and infuse for a week in a cool, dark place, but not in a refrigerator. And if the purpose of the oil is only to carry the other flavors, then you should use light olive oil, because it has almost no flavor. Or canola oil, which has no flavor.
     I think the purpose is to enhance the flavor of the pesto. The oil acts as a bass note for the other flavors. The flavor of the oil is there, too, but it is not dominant.
     I use EVOO. I do not use my high-end, fruity, salad EVOO. The flavor of that oil would compete with the flavors of the garlic and the greens. I use my cooking EVOO. YMMV.

     The answer to the question 'why?' determines the answer to the question 'how much?' If you agree with the Italian chef that the purpose of the oil is to carry the other flavors, then you want a lot of oil; at least a quarter cup, maybe a third. But then your pesto is fit only for pasta. For any other purpose, it is just a dipping sauce.
     If you use pesto for other purposes -- like I do -- you want it to be thick.
     I use about two tablespoons of oil. I drizzle EVOO into the pulp in my food processor for a six count. That gives me the consistency I like. YMMV.

Cheese 
Parmigiano reggiano on the left. Pecorino romano in the middle. Asiago on the right.

     After all the fuss over salt, garlic, nuts, greens, and oil, it is a relief that the cheese is easy. Choose one, choose all. Really.
     The classic is parmigiano reggiano, but any hard, dry cheese will do. I have been using pecorino romano for weeks, and I love it. And, yes, I have parmigiano reggiano. Look forward to using asiago.
     I have seen chefs mix cheeses, half parmigiano, and half asiago. Again, let your tongue guide you. The only restrictions are that the cheese must be grated fine and added last.
     How much? I grate until I have a happy pile; that is, a pile of grated cheese that makes me happy. Find the size of your happy pile.

     I spread pesto on celery sticks for snacks, on toast for sandwiches, and, of course, toss it in pasta.

     Good eating.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

eBook Review: The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861


   

Carter Godwin WoodsonThe Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 484 KB
    • Print Length: 331 pages
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0084980SI
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled 
    • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
    • Price: $0.00 

1. Short review:  *:D big grin    (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: I read The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (TEotNPt1861) to answer one question. TEotNPt1861 answered my question convincingly and decisively.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Neither. TEotNPt1861 is a scholarly treatise. Woodson wrote TEotNPt1861 as a post-doc research paper. Published in 1915, it is an exhaustive treatment of the subject.
It is free to download. It was worth my time to read it.

2.2. What I did not like: My expectations are different for scholarly works. I do not expect to be entertained, but I do expect to be educated. I also expect the author will present his argument logically and persuasively. Woodson did all those things.
     This a long-winded way to say there was nothing I did not like.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Historians. This is not light reading. You really must have an interest in the subject.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  No, with a caveat. The work is inappropriate for any child under 16. No child under 16 has read enough history to comprehend or to appreciate the work. An exceptionally bright 16-year old with a deep interest in history may read TEotNPt1861 to good effect, but such 16-year olds are few.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes. I want to read more of Dr Woodson's work.

2.6. The work in a nutshell:
     TEotNPt1861 is an exhaustive work on the subject of education of Negroes in the United States before the Civil War. The last third of the book is an annotated bibliography. The breadth and depth of primary source materials Woodson used are more than impressive. They are staggering.
     Briefly, black slaves and free Negroes in the South were given sporadic education until 1830. The financial environment changed with the introduction of the cotton economy. Systematic, institutional education ceased in the South. Literacy among slaves and free Negroes plummeted.
     The education of Negroes in the North was spotty. In some places, it was welcomed. In others, it was not. Woodson recounted the destruction of a school for blacks in Canaan, New Hampshire. A mob tore the school building from its foundation and hauled it to a swamp. Keep in mind this was before tractors and bulldozers, which means they did it by muscle and oxen. That means they had five things: 1) a sizable number of men and oxen, 2) a burning desire to destroy the school, 3) a plan of execution, 4) time, and 5) the acquiescence of the local authorities.
     Quakers and Catholics on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line continued to educate Negroes as a matter of conscience. They believed that literacy was necessary for understanding the Gospel and for salvation. Given that belief, how could they not educate Negroes?
     The colonialization movement educated Negroes to provide trained medical and legal professionals to the Liberia colony.

     I read this work to answer one question: How do you keep a man a slave? TEotNPt1861 answered that question convincingly.
     Woodson answered this way: To keep a man a slave, keep him ignorant and illiterate.
     Woodson spent his life educating himself and other black Americans. He knew that ignorance and illiteracy would keep black Americans in bondage long after they had been proclaimed free.

2.7. Other:
Quotes from The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861:
[W]hen it was discovered that many ambitious blacks were still learning to stir up their fellows, it was decreed that they should not receive any instruction at all. Reduced thus to the plane of beasts, where they remained for generations, Negroes developed bad traits which since their emancipation have been removed only with great difficulty.
Slavery was thereby changed from a patriarchal to an economic institution. Thereafter most owners of extensive estates abandoned the idea that the mental improvement of slaves made them better servants. 
The good results of these schools were apparent. In the same degree that the denial to slaves to mental development tended to brutalize them the teaching of science and religion elevated the fugitives in Canada. In fact, the Negroes of these settlements soon had ideals differing widely from those of their brethren less favorably circumstanced. They believed in the establishment of homes, respected the sanctity of marriage, and exhibited in their daily life a moral sense of the highest order. Travelers found the majority of them neat, orderly, and intelligent. 
"An ignorant people . . . can never occupy any other than a degraded place in society; they can never be truly free until they are intelligent. . . ."  --William Lloyd Garrison 
A good trade is better than a fortune, because when once obtained it cannot be taken away. 
Fearing imaginary evils, these modern Canaanites destroyed the [Noyes Academy of Canaan, New Hampshire], dragging the building to a swamp with a hundred yoke of oxen. 
[B]itterly as some white men hated slavery, and deeply as they seemingly sympathized with the oppressed, they were loath to support a policy which they believed was fatal to their economic interests. 
Separate schools were declared illegal by an act of the [New Jersey] General Assembly in 1881. 
Before the close of the Civil War the sentiment of the people of the State of New York had changed sufficiently to permit colored children to attend the regular public schools in several communities. This, however, was not general. It was, therefore, provided in the revised code of that State in 1864 that the board of education of any city or incorporated village might establish separate schools for children and youth of African descent provided such schools be supported in the same manner as those maintained for white children. 
The Negroes, too, had long since been convinced that the white people would not maintain separate schools with the same equipment which they gave their own.  
[W]hen the principal of an academy at Canaan admitted some Negroes to his private institution, a mob . . . broke up the institution . . ., while the officials of the town offered no resistance. 
1853. Then the [Indiana] legislature amended the law authorizing the establishment of schools in townships so as to provide that in all enumerations the children of color should not be taken, that the property of the blacks and mulattoes should not be taxed for school purposes, and that their children should not derive any benefit from the common schools of that State. This provision had really been incorporated into the former law, but was omitted by oversight on the part of the engrossing clerk. 
A resolution of the [Indiana] House instructing the educational committee to report a bill for the establishment of schools for the education of the colored children of the State was overwhelmingly defeated in 1853. 
Before the Civil War the Negroes of Indiana received help in acquiring knowledge from no source but private and mission schools.
Men are not valued in this country, or in any country, for what they are; they are valued for what they can do. It is in vain that we talk of being men, if we do not the work of men. --Frederick Douglass 
The helpless may expect no higher dignity than that of paupers. 
Most instructive.

It is ironic that TEotNPt1861 was published the same year that D W Griffith released his film The Birth of a Nation.

I debated whether I should give this work four stars or five. In the end, I asked myself if I will read it again. I answered 'yes' and gave it five.

YMMV.

2.8. Links: Carter Godwin Woodson

2.9. Buy the book: The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Naked Blade 1.0




     For those who missed it, here is Naked Blade 0.0.
     I know I promised to talk about the grip in my next post, but I lied.
     You see, before I can talk about grip, I have to do two things:
     1) Talk about the razor and
     2) Learn how to make video and post video to my blog.
     I have not figured out 2 above, but I will use this post to talk about the razor. That should give me at least a month to figure out 2.

     For any of this to make sense, you must know the terminology. 


See the caption in the illustration?
It is wrong.
These are the parts of a straight razor.
There are no other parts.

     The back is also called the spine.
     Likely you comprehend the importance of the terms blade, edge, point, heel, and spine. Like the muzzle of a gun, the edge is the business end of a straight razor, and the parts around it gets your attention fast.
     What might escape your attention are the shank, handle, pivot, and tang. These four parts are where you grip the razor. These four parts are where you control the razor.
     It is the same with a katana:


     Nobody denies that the blade is the killer, but everyone knows you do not grip a katana by the blade. You grip it by the handle.
     What most people do not know is that you do not grip a katana with all your fingers. (I know some will argue with me on this. They argued on the mat at the dojo, and we did not resolve the matter then. Who thinks we will resolve it now over the internet?)
     Because the grips are the same for both hands, I will talk about a one-hand grip. (You can wield a katana with only one hand, but I strongly recommend against that.)
     The first time someone grips a katana, he will use a four-finger grip. That is, he will wrap all four fingers around the handle.
     That is wrong.
     The right way to grip a katana is with three fingers. Which three fingers? Not the index finger.
     Look at your hand. 

     See where the fingers join the palm? The creases of the little finger, ring finger, and middle finger make one line. The index finger is not in that line. 

Notice how the last three fingers wrap the handle.
This gives the swordsman a good line and a strong grip.
Notice that the index finger is free.
This allows for fine control of the katana. 

     In fact, you can wield a katana without touching either index finger to the handle. Your control will be less, but the strength of your cuts will be the same.
     In terms of straight razor usage, what you should take away from this post is --
     1) the names for the parts of a straight razor and
     2) that the three-finger grip means a grip with the little, ring, and middle fingers. 


     (Okay, I know some of you weirdos are asking, "Could I shave with a katana?" I would not. You could. I doubt you would have an ear left after the shave, but you could do it. If you really, really have to go that way, better to use a wakazashi. 
A samurai carried two blades. The wakazashi was the shorter of the two.
It was and is wielded with one hand. 

     Now, I am telling you: Do not try to shave with a katana or a wakazashi. Doing so will win you a Darwin Award.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Costco




     My Life and Welcome to It.
     I got a crock pot for Christmas.
     You see, we went to Costco. I hate Costco. To me, Costco reeks of the Coneheads' motto: Consume mass quantities. I'm kinda okay with WalMart, but I find Costco and Sam's Club abhorrent.
     In contrast, my wife loves Costco.
     She wanted to go to Costco. I did not. So we compromised and went to Costco.


This is what Costco looks like. Huge stacks of things on a concrete floor.

     The day before Christmas, we were tramping the aisles at Costco in the company of at least ten thousand other customers, and nine thousand nine hundred ninety-seven of them were between me and the exit. I counted.
     Gleefully (see Celery) my wife looked at me and said, "If you go all the way down the aisle and go through every aisle, it's the same as walking exercise." (I am not making this up.)
     A thought hit me. In Costco, that is such a rare event that I like to indulge those thoughts, to see where they lead.
     This thought held the promise of getting me out of the store faster. You know for sure I indulged this thought.
     I suggested to my wife that we split up. I would get the groceries, and she could browse the aisles. I said this arrangement would save time. She agreed to it.
     Yeah, I know now that splitting up was a mistake.
     I had collected all the grocery items and was twenty-fourth in a line of twenty-six when my cell phone sang 'Honey, Honey, Baby'. I answered. Before I could say 'Hello' or 'Yeah' or 'Wassup?' I heard, "Come quick. Corner one-one-six." Click.
     Turns out that Costco numbers those ugly, industrial shelves. (In the picture above you can see '303' high above the floor on the right-hand side.) I left the line and stumbled around until I found corner 116. There stood my wife next to a six-foot high block built of crock pot package bricks. And she spoke the (to her) magic word:
     "Sale!"
     I point to the shopping list. "It's not on the list."
     "Sale!" 
     I looked at the price tag. "They knocked off only two dollars twenty cents. Not much of a . . . ."
     "Sale!" 

FWIW, I offer no offense to Rival or their products. This was the first crock pot image I found.

     I don't spit into the wind and I don't order the tide not to rise. I put a crock pot in our basket.
     By the grace of God, we made it through the rest of the store without adding to our basket. This feat was a miracle. My wife not only walked every remaining aisle in her part of the store, she ambled through every aisle in my part. The promised time saving did not materialize.
* * *
     On the ride home, things got interesting.
     Trying to find uses for the crock pot, my wife asked, "You can use it to make bread, yes?"
     "No."
     Silence.
     "You can cook rice in it, yes?"
     "No."
     Silence.
     "You can make soup in it, yes?"
     "Yes."
     Big smile. Gleefully (see Celery), she turned to me and said, "Merry Christmas! This is your Christmas present."
     The Ghost of Wand Mixers past had come to haunt me.
* * *
     We made it home. I unloaded everything but the crock pot. My wife grabbed that package and disappeared into the kitchen. Like the Wand Mixer, she decided that the best way for me to enjoy my gift was for her to use it.
     I had fired up my computer and was somewhere in the interwebs when I heard a ZZZT! BOOM!
     "Hmmph," said I. I flipped a light switch. Nothing.
     "Honey!?" a tiny voice said.
     I walked to the kitchen and found my wife holding the crock pot aloft. Its bottom was blackened and the table it had stood on was burned and scarred. The thing had shorted out and exploded when she plugged it in.
     At the breaker box, I found the crock pot tripped the main breaker when it blew. Took out the whole house. The main breaker saved the kitchen circuit breaker by tripping first. (I find this somewhat disturbing.)
     Me. "I guess we got a return, huh?"
     "Yeah."
     So two days after Christmas, we journeyed again to Costco to return the exploded crock pot. That was our sole purpose for going. Return the crock pot.
     Got out after spending only $143.46.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Naked Blade 0.0



     For personal reasons, I want to use a straight razor to shave. Have wanted for years. I have owned a straight razor like the one above for years but never used it because it was dull, and I could not get it sharp. 
     Finally, I took it to John Stewart in Boyd, Texas, who put a good edge on my blade. (To find Mr Stewart, go to the Bluebonnet Cleaners in Boyd. Mr Stewart works in a corner of the shop next to the front door. Sorry, I have no picture of him.) Talked to Mr Stewart a bit and found out what I was doing wrong in my honing. Maybe now I will do it right and not need others to sharpen for me. 
     There are those on YouTube -- Dr Matt most prominent among them -- who can tell you more about sharpening and honing your blade . . .  if that's what interests you. And it should. At least a little. It interests Dr Matt. He gets excited about it. Hey, whatever floats your boat.
     There is much to know about the art of shaving with a straight razor: 
1. The razor;
2. The associated tools: strop, brush, soap (or cream), cup, and scuttle (maybe);
3. Stropping;
4. Preparation; 
5. Grip; 
6. Shaving technique; and
7. After shave face care. 
     I am learning to shave with a straight razor, but already I have something to say about grip. But not today. Next time I do a Naked Blade post, I will say something about the grip.

     (FWIW, my wife opposes my use of a straight razor. Actually her exact words were "Are you crazy? You want to cut up your face?") 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

DFW = HELL

      Did some traveling over Thanksgiving and stayed to attend my nephew's wedding. (My wife was hot to see the wedding. Burned through two cell phone batteries making videos.) This is the tale of my traveling troubles and tribulations. 

     Let's start this post off right: 


     Everybody sing! "That Dallas airport sucks!" 
     I'm not talking about Love Field. No. Love Field has one way in, one way out, and one terminal. Everything works the way you expect it to. Easy. I ♥ Love Field. 

     DFW? That's another story. 

     My wife booked the flights. Anybody who knows how my wife goes ditzy at the mention of SALE! knows she booked the cheapest flights possible. That meant two changes of planes to wing it back to Texas. 
     Delta was our carrier, and they played games with the flight schedule right up until we boarded the first flight. The first flight was late taking off. That means we missed our connection in Seattle. A lot of people did. Delta put us on a later flight to LAX and upgraded us to First Class on our flight from LAX to DFW. An upgrade in an Embraer 170 is not much, but it is what the Delta agent could do for us and she did it. Missed flight and all, we arrived on time at DFW. 
     To understand my troubles and tribulations at DFW, you must know the lay-out of the airport:
     This diagram does not well represent how big the terminals are. That outer terminal ring in blue? It is a mile from end to end. And some terminals are partitioned so that you cannot walk from one end to the other. No. Gotta go down to the basement level (Arrivals), walk along the sidewalk until you come to your gate (hundreds of yards), and take the escalator or elevator up to ground level (Departures). 
     The DFW architecture was based on a FAILED idea of airport design. AFAIK, it is the only airport in the world whose architecture was based on this FAILED idea. (You understand that when I say FAILED I actually mean FYCKED UP, right?) 
     Other airports get it right. Here is the plan of the Orlando Airport:
     It is not obvious at first, but this is a brilliant layout. All ground traffic goes through the Main Terminal. Coming or going, you go to the same place. Going, you find your gate and get on a monorail shuttle to go from the Main Terminal to your gate concourse. Coming, reverse the process. 
     The key is that ground traffic and airplane traffic are separated. Going, you drop off at one place and one place only. Coming, your ride meets you at one place and one place only. No confusion. No confusion possible.
     Compare that to the DFW airport architecture. Go back up and look at it. You have five - 5 - terminals to drop off or pick up at. To make matters worse, each terminal has multiple entrances and exits. My best guess is that each terminal has 8 entrances and 8 exits. Could be more. And, yes, the entrances are separate from the exits. On different levels, even. 
     This means that at DFW, you have 80 frelling choices for drop off and pick up. The odds are against you getting it right. 
     And get this. Even you get the terminal right, even if you get the gate right, you can still be wrong. Departures are on one level (below ground) and arrivals are on another (ground level). Everything about the design of DFW makes me glad the Air Force taught me to swear and swear big time. 
     Oh, yeah. DFW is not in Texas. Hell, it is not even in the United States. DFW is in England. (Or maybe the Australian outback, given the heat that rages there all year long.) 
     Outside DFW, all vehicular traffic exits and entrances are on the right. Inside DFW, all exits and entrances are on the left side. 
     But, but, but, they saved the day by marking all the exits clearly and with preparatory warnings (Terminal D Exit/500 Yards), right? Oh, hell, no. 
     For many -- no, too many -- exits the ONLY sign is the one right on it. Some exits are not marked at all. And all the signs are blue. Blue. Every highway sign in the state of Texas is white on green. Why did DFW choose BLUE? It's as if the bastards who designed this abomination of an airport chose to make it as difficult as they could for people to find their way around. 
     Tell you what. From this point on, I'm not going to refer to that airport as DFW. From this point on, I'm going to call it HELL. 
     So there we were in HELL, having deplaned, collected our bags (my wife got on the plane with no bags and got off with one and how she magicked a full bag into existence I'll never know), and made our way to the curb. That's when it dawned on me . . . our original itinerary -- the one my sister had -- had us coming in on American Airlines. But at the last minute Delta changed us to fly Delta. Anywhere but HELL this would be a minor problem. In HELL, it is catastrophic. 
     We are not just at a different gate. We are at a different terminal. We are miles away from where my sister thinks we are. 
     I did not have my phone (forgot it). My wife had hers. Luckily, she also had a text message with my sister's cell phone number. She dialed that and shoved the phone at me. Also lucky, my sister has call waiting. She put her husband on hold while she answered our call. 
     First thing my sister said to me, "Where are you?" In HELL, obviously. 
     Turns out she was at home, prepping for Thanksgiving. She sent my brother-in-law to pick us up. He went to the American Airlines terminal and waited there until the terminal emptied. 
     (When my wife booked our flights, Delta handed off our last leg to Alaska Airlines, 'cause they got a deal with Alaska Airlines to handle their overbookings. Alaska Airlines does not fly to HELL, but they got a deal with American Airlines who does. In fact, American Airlines has its headquarters in HELL. Anyway, that is why my sister expected us to arrive in HELL via American Airlines.) 
     For the last half hour, my brother-in-law had been frantically driving around HELL trying to find us. My sister gave us his cell number, we called him, and he headed our way. 
     He never made it. 
     He got close, but a traffic cop directed him down to the underground level. HELL was dead silent everywhere but Terminal E and that was a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. Where were we? Terminal E. Bro-in-law called us and told us he was below ground. I said, "Stay there. We'll come to you." 
     We went back inside, found the escalator down to Departures, and rode it to the subterranean vaults of HELL. Found bro-in-law a few yards away, put the bags in, and fell in the car. 
     You might think the torture had ended, but you would be wrong. 
     They make you pay to exit HELL. We stopped at a toll gate to pay to get out of HELL. Bro-in-law started to dig for money, but I handed him the ransom. 
     SIX BUCKS! 
     That's right. The toll to get out of HELL is $6.00.
#
DELTA.

     How much opprobrium falls on DELTA for my troubles and tribulations? 
     I have given this much thought. Much thought. 
     At first I blamed DELTA for all my troubles. Then I laid all the blame on HELL. Given perspective, I can say -- with evidence -- that DELTA shares the blame. 
     The massive confusion arose because DELTA played games with our ticketing RIGHT UP TO THE TIME WE GOT ON THE FIRST PLANE. At the first airport, this earned my wife a questioning and a pat-down search. 
     Officer: "Why did you change flights on the day of departure?" 
     Me (screaming): "We didn't! DELTA changed our fycking flights! Go question the president of DELTA. Pat him down." 
     Officer: "Our computer shows you paid for your flights today."
     Me (screaming): "Your computer is fycking wrong! My wife paid for these flights last fycking month." Wife diddles with her phone and calls up her bank's payment to DELTA dated 29 October. I shove this in the agent's face. "SEE! I have independent confirmation of payment. Your fycking computer believes the fycking lies fycking DELTA tells it." 
     They let us go. 
    (Like I said, the Air Force taught me to swear and swear big time. Swearing a little is useless. Some people say you should never swear. Those people are fycking wrong.) 
     Besides playing reindeer games with our flight schedule, every DELTA flight we had business with coming to HELL took off late -- except the one we missed. That one was on time. Which is why we missed it. 
     Returning, our first flight was 'delayed' -- that is, late -- taking off, but the next two were on time. Of the six flights we were on, four took off late. Is that any way to run an airline? 
     Last, but most important, it is my judgment that the ground personnel at DELTA are ill-trained. 
     If nobody else told you, I'm telling you now: Your little blue smock does not entitle you to call me 'Baby'. As in 'How can I help you, baby?' 
     It certainly does not entitle you to be short and disrespectful with passengers who have come to you for service. (Did not happen to me but to the passenger next to me.) 
     And don't pick up my bags and fycking throw them onto the conveyor. I think that as compensation I should be given your fycking purse with the liberty to fling that mytherfycker as far and as hard as I can. What? Do I have to slap FRAGILE on every bag for you to place it on the conveyor instead of throw it? 
     For all that DELTA did right (and that last landing in the 747-400 was feather soft), the things they did wrong convince me that DELTA's management has its head up its ass. They are missing the details. 
     Choices I got. Fooled me once. I shall not fly DELTA again. 
#
     Returning home, once again we had to pass through HELL. The traffic to the airport was bad enough, but we arrived at 8:30 for a 9:45 flight. Bro-in-law dropped us off at the first Terminal E entrance that was not marked CLOSED. (Stop with the fycking construction already. You cannot make HELL better. The only thing you can do is dynamite the whole bitch into dust and start over and do it right. Give the fycking contract to Disney like the boys at the Orlando Airport did, and you'll have something that works instead of that half-assed abortion you call an airport.) 
     Well, of course, that was not the right gate. Well, of course, we could not just walk through the terminal to our gate, 'cause there was a fycking wall between this gate and that gate. 
     So we went back down to the subterranean reaches of HELL. We walked 500 fycking yards to get to our gate. It was marked CLOSED, but it wasn't. Went up to the ticketing counter. They had automated check-in. Of course, my documents did not not scan. An unsmiling DELTA agent directed us to Special Services. 
     Special Services in HELL. As tedious and rude as we can possibly make it. 
     Finally, bags checked, TSA passed (HELL is the only place TSA did not ask us to take off our shoes), we made it to our gate. 'Delayed.'
     This 'delay' worked to my benefit. Gave me time to go to the nearest bar and slam down two Bloody Marys. 

     I'm all for posting a sign over the entrance to the Dallas airport (not Love Field):

WELCOME TO HELL
ABANDON ALL HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER

     Everybody sing! "That Dal-las air-port sucks!"

Movie reviews: Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy



1.1. Edge of Tomorrow - Short review:  

1.2. Long review: Groundhog Day meets Skyline

1.2.1. What I liked: The story, the action, and the characters were just good enough to hang together till the end. Well, almost.

1.2.2. What I did not like:
     Tom Cruise plays Marine Major William Cage, a PR guy who avoids combat. A Marine? Marines are famed for the saying 'Every man, a rifleman.' I found this premise unbelievable.
     Cage lives and dies and lives and dies and, along the way, finds out that everything the United Defense Force knows about the invading Mimics is a lie. So when Doctor Carter infodumps his working theory of who the Mimics are and how they do what they do and a thousand other little factoids, why should Cage (or we) believe him? Everything else was a lie; why not this? But like a horse pill, we have to swallow it whole. (I thought this was bloody stupid writing. In the middle of the movie, I thought this. While Carter was speaking, I thought this. Bloody stupid writing.)

1.2.3. Who I think is the audience: Tom Cruise fans.

1.2.4. Is the movie appropriate for children to see? I dunno. Maybe. Movie deaths but no gore. No sex.

1.2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? Oh, God, no.

1.2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

1.2.6.1. How I rate movies:

 -- I want my money back.
 -- Worth a rental, not more.
 -- Worth first-run theater price once. <-- Edge of Tomorrow
 -- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again.

Running time: 113 minutes.

1.2.6.2. The plot in a nutshell.

1.2.7. Other:

      For the action and the special effects, yeah, this was worth seeing once.
      If this seems like a luke-warm review, that's because it is.
      YMMV.

1.2.8. Links:
IMDb review
Rotten Tomatoes review


2.1. Guardians of the Galaxy - Short review:   *:D big grin

2.2. Long review:
2.2.1. What I liked: The dialog. The characters. The over-the-top action. The music. Absolutely the most fun I've had with my clothes on this year.

2.2.2. What I did not like: 
     I don't know who  did the makeup for Zoe Saldana, but this guy has a rare talent. He took one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and made her unattractive. 

2.2.3. Who I think is the audience: Everybody. 

2.2.4. Is the movie appropriate for children to see? Sure. One bad word. Okay, eight bad words. Maybe five, 'cause two of 'em are repeated. Movie deaths but no gore. No sex. 

2.2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? Yes. The sequel cannot come soon enough. Here, take my money. 

2.2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.2.6.1. How I rate movies:
 -- I want my money back.
 -- Worth a rental, not more. 
 -- Worth first-run theater price once. 
 -- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. <-- Guardians of the Galaxy 

Running time: 122 minutes.

2.2.6.2. The plot in a nutshell.

     What? There was a plot, too? Yeah, kind of. 
     1988. Peter Quill's mother is dying. He hides from his grief by playing his Sony Walkman loud. When she dies, he runs from the hospital and -- get this -- is abducted by aliens. 
     Fast forward 26 years. 
     Peter Jason Quill, now a Ravager, combs a dead world for a valuable Orb. Finds it. Others find him. Big fight. Big escape. Big laughs. "I forgot you're here." 
     Quill tries to fence the Orb on Xandar. His buyer nixes the deal. Gamora, working for Ronan (but secretly betraying him), steals the Orb. Quill steals it back. 89P13, aka Rocket (a genetically modified and cybernetically enhanced raccoon), and Groot, a humanoid tree, intervene. Everybody goes to jailworld, aka Kyln. "Not helping!"
     At Kyln, the foursome meet Drax, who has no sense of sarcasm or metaphor. The foursome becomes a fivesome. And they escape. "That was a pretty good plan." 
     Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ronan meets with Thanos. They spend a few minutes insulting each other, and Ronan takes off to get the Orb. Personally. "That is true."
     The fivesome go to Knowhere, a hive of scum and villainy in the severed head of a celestial being. (Is this over the top or what?) They meet the Collector, who wants to buy the Orb for four billion Units. The Collector tells them that before the universe was, there were six Singularities. Blah, blah, blah. The universe started, and the Orb is really the Philosopher's Stone. Nope, nope, nope. Wrong movie. It is the Infinity Stone. The Collector says it has the power to destroy worlds. "This vermin speaks of affairs he knows nothing about."
     Meanwhile, Drax drunk dials Ronan and challenges him to a duel. Can you say "Bad idea"? Yondu, the Ravager captain, comes to Knowhere. This ain't good for Quill. Ronan comes to Knowhere. This ain't good for anybody. Fight, fight, fight. Ronan's minion Nebula takes the Orb from Gamora and leaves her to die in space. Quill saves Gamora and surrenders to Yondu. "That is also true."
     Everybody heads for Xandar. Quill messages ahead and gets the Xandar constabulary to come to his aid, because when you are a Xandar cop and a life-long outlaw calls you up to say "Hey, big baddie is coming to spoil your day forever, so let's join forces" of course you say yes. Fight, fight, fight. Fall, fall, fall. Crash, crash, crash. "We are Groot."
     Ronan is THAT close to doing the dirty deed that will turn Xandar to toast when Quill challenges him to a dance-off. (I am not making this up.) More than once Ronan asks Quill "What are you doing?" when what he shoulda done was pull his pistol and shoot the sword swinging Arab. Oops! Wrong movie. "Subtle."
     Quill grabs the Orb, er, Infinity Stone, which shoulda killed him. Gamora takes some of the pain. Drax takes some of the pain. So out of character it works, Rocket takes some of the pain. Groot takes . . . well, Groot ain't there. One for all and all for one, Quill tells Ronan they are the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and blows Ronan apart. "You said it yourself."
     In gratitude, Xandar pardons their crimes and expunges their criminal records. This is a mistake. Kinda The End. "Break it down hard."

2.2.7. Other:

     I saw this movie the day before Thanksgiving. Since then, I have seen it three more times and had a ton of fun each time.
     This movie has plot holes big enough to pass supertankers, and I don't care. The dialog is wicked funny. The characters are likable. The whole circus rambles along at light speed. And the music never ends.
     Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic book, and it never forgets that. Not for one second. Great movie. 
     YMMV.

2.2.8. Links:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

eBook Review: Ball Four





Jim BoutonBall Four

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 2187 KB
    • Print Length: 508 pages
    • Publisher: RosettaBooks (March 20, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B00CME4ROM
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled 
    • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars (295 customer reviews)
    • Price: $1.99 (Sale price. Now $9.99.)

1. Short review:  *:) happy (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The continuations. Jim Bouton added Ball Five, Ball Six, and Ball Seven to the end of the book. These sections update the story to 10 years after Ball Four, 20 years after, and 30 years after. They are much happier than the main book.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A sometimes amusing and always interesting walk in the park.
Good value for the money I paid. I recommend you wait for a sale.

2.2. What I did not like: The depressing account of Bouton's time with the Seattle Pilots.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Sports fans. Baseball fans.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  No.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? No. I believe Jim Bouton can write and write well, but I have only a passing interest in baseball.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     Jim Bouton kept a diary during the 1969 season and published it under the title Ball Four. Bouton took a lot of heat for telling the truth about baseball: the low pay, the childish pranks, the clubhouse politics, the prolific use of profanity, and the rampant drug use.
     The book started with Bouton negotiating his salary with the New York Yankees. Next he went to spring training in Arizona with the Seattle Pilots. I do not recall if the Pilots got him in the expansion draft or traded for him.
     Bouton was a knuckleball pitcher. He had his good days and his bad days. Throughout the book, Bouton worked on developing his rhythm to throw the knuckleball.
     Soon after the season began, the Pilots sent Bouton down to their AAA club, the Vancouver (BC) Mounties. A month later they called him back up to Seattle. In August, Seattle traded him to the Houston Astros, who were in a pennant race when Bouton joined them. The Astros faded in September and fell out of the playoff picture.
     When Bouton was with the Pilots, he seemed sad and depressed. When Bouton was with the Astros, he seemed much happier.
     Ball Five related Bouton's story for the years 1970-1979. He retired in 1970 when the Astros sent him down to the minors, but came back to baseball in the minors in 1975. He traveled around minor league baseball as a journeyman pitcher and finally made it to the majors again with the Atlanta Braves.
     Ball Six related Bouton's story for the years 1980-1989. He divorced Bobbie. He continued to play baseball with semi-pro and amateur leagues. He invented things and marketed his inventions. He met and married Paula Kurman.
     Ball Seven started with the death of Bouton's daughter, Laurie, in a car accident. That happened in 1997, and the grief was still with Bouton when he wrote Ball Seven in 1999. He got his first invitation to a Yankees Old-Timers game in 1998 through the campaign of his son Michael.
     Even with Laurie's death and the grief Bouton felt taken into account, Ball Five, Ball Six, and Ball Seven are much happier reads than Ball Four.

2.7. Other:
Quotes from Ball Four:
Publishers like sports books because, while they rarely make a lot of money, they never lose money. 
There's a difference between optimism and wishful thinking. 
The world doesn't want to hear about labor pains. It only wants to see the baby. 
[W]hat these kids need is not a half-hour of conversation with some big-name guy who's just passing through. What they need is day-to-day-attention . . . .
A young girl asked one of the guys in the bullpen if he was married. "Yeah," he said, "but I'm not a fanatic about it."
[Y]ou are what people think you are. 
[I]n order for rules to exist, deviant members must be punished by the group. 
[T]he real experience of baseball was the bus rides and the country ballparks and the chili at 3 A.M. with a bunch of guys chasing a dream. And it was true enough. 
Think of a ballplayer as a fifteen-year-old in a twenty-five-year-old body. 
Being a professional athlete allows you to postpone your adulthood. 
[P]eople need to do what they love or find a way to love what they do. 
[P]eople don't want to hear the truth. They prefer their steadfast beliefs, acquired over time and developed into a mantra. 
     Bouton gave much of the credit for Ball Four to his editor, Leonard Shecter. It is evident that Bouton considered Shecter a friend and that Bouton loved Shecter dearly. Shecter edited Ball Four. He could not have edited Ball Five, because he died 5 years before it was written. Paula Kurman edited Ball Six and Ball Seven. I prefer Ball Six and Ball Seven to Ball Four and think Kurman's editing better than Shecter's, but that may be because she had happier material to work with or that may be because Bouton had more experience writing when he wrote those sections.

YMMV.

2.8. Links: Jim Bouton

2.9. Buy the book:  Ball Four