Thursday, March 31, 2016

Travel In California

A Facebook friend wrote about how Unitarians, Quakers and Buddhists travel to San Luis Obispo and asked what other ways there are.

TRAVELER: Do you happen to know how I can get to San Luis Obispo?

NEW ATHEIST: Who CARES?!

TRAVELER: Um... Actually, I do, I'm trying to get there.

NEW ATHEIST: Why don't you ask your GOD to take you there?! *laughs and high-fives other New Atheists*

TRAVELER: Um... Actually, I don't believe in God --

NEW ATHEIST: -- Oh yeah?! Then how can you stand to take your nice little pleasure cruise down to Saint -- whatever it's called, when the world is being tyrannized by superstition?!

TRAVELER: Uhhh... Actually, I'm driving, not taking a cruise.

NEW ATHEIST: It sounds like it was named after some Catholic anyway. What's going on, are they having some child-molesting festival in Saint Whatever? *more laughter and high-fiving among the New Atheists*

TRAVELER: Um... Actually, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a building there, and I'm studying archi --

NEW ATHEIST: Who CARES?!

TRAVELER: Um... *runs away*

NEW ATHEIST: People like that are just getting in our way!

OTHER NEW ATHEISTS: In our way!

NEW ATHEIST: People like that are lukewarm!

OTHER NEW ATHEISTS: Lukewarm!

NEW ATHEIST: A guy like that still lets religious leaders tell him what to think.

OTHER NEW ATHEISTS: What to think!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Seen On The Internet: "ATHEISM IS RATIONAL!"

Well, yeah, sometimes it is.

Unfortunately, though, just because a person is an atheist doesn't mean that everything they do and say is rational.

For a while there it seemed to me that there was absolutely no reason to think that atheists, as a whole, were more rational than religious believers, but then I reminded myself that my observation is limited to the behavior of a small number of people, and that, like everyone else, I select what I pay attention to, and that I focus on atheists who are dumb. The reason I focus on them is because it seems to me that many atheists are not practicing nearly enough self-criticism, neither of themselves nor of other atheists. If you're not stupid already, just assume that everything you say and believe is factually correct, and you'll become stupid soon enough.

In addition, not everyone who is an atheist announces it all the time or puts it in large all-caps at the top of their Facebook page. It may very well be that the average atheist who announces his or her atheism very aggressively is less intelligent than the average of all atheists. It may be lately that some of the more intelligent atheists are announcing it less than they used to, because the thought of being associated with dimwitted, agressively-atheist atheists embarrasses them.

Sometimes I'll say something like "not everything an atheist says or does is necessarily rational" to someone who's said something like "ATHEISM IS RATIONAL!" and they'll agree with me. And if all they meant is that skepticism of religious belief, all other things being equal, is more rational than belief, then I agree with them.

Other times they'll get hostile.

It may happen that a person who is as atheistic as anyone may ask when Jesus died, and someone may reply that Jesus never died because He never was born and that the Bible is completely fictional. In such as case, sometimes it turns out that the person saying that Jesus never existed means that the supernatural things related in the Bible never happened. In that case, I agree, but wonder when the word is going to get around that some of us occasionally discuss a completely non-supernatural Jesus. If by saying that Bible is completely fictional, someones means no more than that they have no belief in the supernatural, well then I'm sorry, but I think they expressed themselves unclearly. The Bible is studied by quite a few people who have no belief whatsoever in the supernatural, and there is quite a lot of historical content alongside the tales of the supernatural. How much historical content?

That's exactly what we're discussing, a lot of the time: how much history the Bible contains. And the reason that it's such a significant topic is because for many historical topics, we currently have few or no written sources other than the Bible. Completely ignore what the Bible has to say, and you've chosen to completely ignore centuries' worth of the history of large areas of the Middle East. Yeah yeah yeah, we know, you don't believe in the supernatural, neither do we, we're talking about something else now, is how we often feel when you interrupt our conversation because you think we believe in God. And you know what? Sometimes some of the people in these discussion do believe in God, but everybody understands that we're discussing something else at the moment and everyone's discussing it rationally.

By the way, discussing how much history a written work contains? That's exactly the same thing we often ask about works written by historians. We don't consider anyone to be infallible, not even historians, not even *gasp* scientists. (Not even atheist scientists.) We question everything. Everything.

Where was I? Ah yes: atheists are rational. Yes, occasionally we are. I often try to be. In spite of constant misunderstandings.

Haggi, Schoepfer des Hartmuts

Hartmut Klotzbücher (siit Bilt)


ist drei Monate juenger als ich und ein Monat juenger als der Praesident der Vereinigten Staaten. Comicgarten Leipzig sagt von ihm, er habe "eigenwillige Ortografih." Und das find ich vernuenftig. Die Ortografih, meine ich. Das Alter ist auch ganz gescheit, aber ich und Hartmut Klotzbücher und Praedient Obama und Nastassia Kinski und Bono koennen eigentlich nichts dafuer, dass wir alle so ueberwaeltigend brillant und sexy sind. Wir hatten alle bloss das Glueck, zur richtigen Zeit geboren zu sein.

Ich bin nicht hierher gekommon um Caesar zu preisen sondern um noch einen Post in meinem Blog zu veroeffentlichen. Weil ich reich und beruehmt werden moechte, und weil man nie weiss, was fuer einen Quatsch von Blog-Post zum Renner werden wird. (Einmal schrieb ich, "Mehr ist nicht unbedingt besser, aber es ist mehr," und die Zeile schien eingen Leuten gut zu gefallen. Aber es scheint dass von dem Standpunkt des Reich-und-behuehmt-durch-Quatsch-Bloggens aus gesehen, mehr tatsaechlich auch besser ist. Hoffen wir.)

Und auch weil ich Haggi-Comics mag. Aber wie Ihr sieht, hab ich eigentlich nichts gescheites darueber zu sagen. Ich schrie ganz unverschaemt "HAGGI!" um Leser hierher zu locken, und jetzt hoffe ich dass mein Quatschen Euch lustig genug ist dass einige von Euch mir nicht uebel nehmen werdet dass ich "HAGGI!" geschriehen habe. Haggi ist nicht hier Thema sondern, wie zumeist in meinem Blog, ich. (Wie ein intelligenter Mann mir mal sagte, "Deine Posts kreisen primaer um deine Befindlichkeit." Nein, ich denke nicht, dass er das als Lob meinte. Aber ich bin was ich bin. Ich kann nicht ploetzlich der Mann werden, der mir dies sagte.)

Mam weiss nie -- nanu: ich weiss nie. Vielleicht koennen Andere es sehr genau voraussagen -- was fuer einen Blog-Post zum Renner werden wird. Wisst Ihr, welcher Post von diesem Blog dreimal soviele Pageviews hat als der zweitpopulaeste? Dieser, in welchem ich einen Author, und eine Zeitschrift die ihn veroeffentlicht hatte, grob schimpfte, weil ich hoerte, dass er ein Buch veroeffentlicht hatte, in welchem er behauptete, dass es seltsam waere, wenn Jesus existiert haette, dass 126 antike Geschichtsschreiber nichts von ihm geschrieben hatten. Den naechsten Tage sahe ich, dass mein Blog gelesen und kommentiert und gelinkt wird wie nie zuvor, dieses einen Posts wegen. Auch der naechste Tage schrieb ich einen zweiten Beitrag zum selben Thema. Ich hatte naemlich inzwischen die Liste von 126 angeblichen "Historikern" gefunden, von welchen dieser Hanswurst behauptet hatte, dass es seltsam waere, wenn es Jesus gegeben haeete, dass sie alle 126 nichts von ihn berichtete. Ich hatte die Liste gefunden, und in den zweiten Post zum Thema zerriss ich die Liste.

Wenn Du schon ein wenig von antiken Geschichte kennst, hast Du Dich vielleicht schon gefragt, ob wir ueberhaupt zur Zeit Geschriebenes von 126 antike griechischen und roemischen Geschichtsschreibern besitzen. Ich glaube, es ist weniger als 126.

Von 47 der 126 Personen auf dieser Liste besitzten wir zur Zeit gar nichts Geschriebenes. 4 aber erwaehnen Jesus tatsaechlich. Vielleicht 10 koennten irgendwie Historiker gennant werden. Usw. dies Liste ist erataeunlicher Quatsch, zumal wenn man erwaegt, dass die Zeitschrift, welche sie veroeffentlicht hat, Free Inquiry ist -- vor Jahrzehnten noch eine diskutable Zeitschrift, heute die Flagship der New Atheists. Und dieser zweiten Post ist naemlich der zweitpopulaerste Post dieses Blogs. Und hat rund 10mal soviele Pageviews wie der drittpopulaerste.

Ich selbst bin gar nicht sicher, dass es einen historischen Jesus gegeben hat. Aber mir was klar, dass dieser Mann einen ungewoehnlich glatten Wahnsinn veroeffentlicht hat, in einer nicht ganz unbekannten Zeitschrift. (Letzteres war ein grosses Teil davon, was mich rasend machte. Wenn es nichts als noch ein unsinniges Blog-Post gewesen waere, von einem Nobody verfasst, waere es ja gar nichts Ungewoehnliches gewesen.)

Diese 2 Beitraege postete ich in diesem Blog den 29. und 30. September 2014. Ich dachte in Oktober 2014, ich waere vielleicht im Begriff, reich und beruehmt zu werden. Aber nein. (Ich dachte, Free Inquiry wuerde vielleicht zugeben, dass sie Quatsch veroeffentlich haben. Auch das nicht. Im Gegenteil, sie foerderten den Beitrag von Print-Ausgabe-only zu ihrer Website. Dies ist es, was die New Atheists von uns anderen Atheisten unterscheidet: sie reden unaufhoerlich ueber historischen Themen, ohne sich einen Dreck zu scheren, ob das was sie sagen Sinn macht.)

Reich und beruehmt bin ich noch nicht, aber jetzt bin ich vor allem wegen dieser zwei Beitraegen beruehmter als bevor dem 29. September 2014. Ihr glaubt es nicht? Michael Paulkovich heiss der Esel, der diese Liste von 126 Name verfasste. Googlet mal bollinger paulkovich.

Nee, aber Haggi ist grosse Klasse. Ehrlich. Sorry.

Monday, March 28, 2016

mee r munkee. mee luv yu. mee go at Das Glasperlenspiel sidwayz

mee r munkee. mee luv yu. mee want tu bee ritch an famuss munkee.


butt mee dont gottuh bee ritch an famuss munkee to bee happee. mee r happee sumtimz allreddee. thair r nise peepl. n thair r kitteez. n sumtimz peepl yu dint think wurr nise suhprize yu an be verr nise.

maybee peepl sumtimz not bee nise kuzz thay fraid.

n maybee lawyerz maik mee less pore than mee r now. mee hav uhpeel in kort. iff mee bee less pore, that wud bee waykul.

eevn iff mee nevr bee famuss munkeee, ever now n then sumwun say mee reel intelekshul munkee. that feel gud n make mee happee munkee.

n thair r Weltliteratur. mee like Weltliteratur sumtimz. mee keep triun tu unnerstand Hermann Hesse. Thoman Mann un Ernst Robert Curtius like him so mutch, thair muss bee sumpn thair.

mee dont like Das Glasperlkenspiel yet butt it feel like mee shud like it. du that make sens? mee bin tryin 4 40 yeers to like it. 4 40 yeerz it feel like mee shud like it. up til now i tri over an over tu read Das Glasperlenbspiel frum th beginning, an git 4 or 5 paijez in an git mad an thro Das Glasperlenspiel kros th room. so now mee tri differnt. mee open up Das Glasperlenspiel in th middl an all ovr the plase an stuff.

mee go at Das Glasperlenspiel sidwayz now.

on th uther hann, maybee mee finallee giv up on Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften.

thnk yu verr mutch pleez, yr verr nise persun, mee luv yu.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

"The Party Elite Loves Hillary, The People Love Bernie"

Quote from a Sanders fan. Never mind that so far more people have voted for Hillary in the primaries than for Bernie. (And certainly nevermind that the Democratic Party elite might have a good point and/or know what they're doing.)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders scored three wins in Western caucus contests, giving a powerful psychological boost to his supporters but doing little to move him closer to securing the Democratic nomination.

That's my impression of the Sanders campaign in a nutshell: making Bernie's supporters feel great about themselves, but not actually accomplishing anything. A fuzziness about reality: "Math, schmath, we're winning!"

No, not really.

And who exactly are his supporters? Well, not most African-Americans, that's for sure:


I get the impression that the core of Bernie's support are overprivileged young white hipster doofuses. I'm reminded of a remark from decades ago in reaction to someone saying that Simon & Garfunkel made protest music: the answer was: this is "safe, synthetic protest." As with Simon & Garfunkel back then, so with Bernie's campaign now: you get to feel like a radical without having to go to any "bad" (ie: black) neighborhoods.

I also get the impression that African-Americans have unfortunately had a lot of experience with smiling white men trying to sell them a bag of crap, and that the older they are, the more experience they've had with it and the more able they are to see it coming.

And I continue to get the impression that I can do math much better than most people.

And I continue to be amazed at this unfounded, inaccurate, irrational hatred of Hillary among many of Bernie's young white hipster doofus supporters. Well, they're young. Probably most of them are too young to remember how, when Hillary's husband Bill was President, a Republican special Prosecutor tried and tried -- for five years -- to dig up some dirt on Bill, and how after 5 years, all he could come up with was that Bill had lied about getting a blowjob, and how the Republicans impeached him anyway because the lie about the blowjob was all they had, and how Newt Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House as the Republicans geared up for the impeachment, because otherwise the story was going to get around about how he was cheating on his 2nd wife while leading the witchhunt against Bill for cheating on his 1st wife, and how the Republicans' first choice to replace Newt, Robert Livingston, withdrew his candidacy for the office of Speaker after it became public knowledge that he too had had extra-marital sex -- in short, maybe these young Bernie supporters are too young to see how they've been hoodwinked by a Republican smear campaign against the Clintons and how they lack "character," a smear campaign which is not just without substance but astonishingly free of substance, and yet somehow still not completely ineffective, even across party lines.

Bernie's not too young to remember all of this, he was in the House when Ken Starr began those 5 years of investigation and he was still in the House when they impeached Bill.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bernie Supporters: No Offense, But You're A Bunch Of Schmucks

1) so Bernie's a Socialist, huh? What's the name of the Socialist party Bernie belongs to, again? Who are some of his colleagues from that party? Uhhh, uhhhh, uhhhhhh...

You're darn right, uhhhh. Bernie's a Social Democrat, but the part of the history lesson he leaves out is that the rest of Democratic Party are Social Democrats too. The US has this irrational phobia about the word "socialism," but what it is is things like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the Postal Service, publicy-owned utilities, unions, increasing the minimum wage, health care for everybody, etc. Democratic stuff. Look at Bernie's voting record. He's just another liberal Democrat, and he's scammed you all into thinking he's something completely new and special.

2) Hillary's a liberal Democrat. Boy, the far Right has got to be loving the way you schmucks hate her, because they hate her too. They hate and fear her more than anyone else in the world. And the people they hate the most are not the Democrats who are so centrist that they're practically Republicans, it's the liberal Democrats who kick ass. (Known in other countries as Socialists or Social Democrats.) Like Hillary. Above all, Hillary.

You're such schmucks! Educate yourselves!

I know you won't. I tried.

Once More About Mythicism

It seems to be in the news again, at least in the small-pond news of New Testament scholars and we mythicists who aggravate them so much, so I'll take the opportunity to state my position at present.

Typically, academic Biblical scholars describe mythicists as amateurs and nuts. Unfortunately, they're right, with some rare exceptions such as G A Wells, and -- of course -- myself. But just because a lot of people argue a position ineptly does not mean that the position itself is unsound.

Those writing the news and quoted in the news -- and not just the journalists who are not Biblical scholars, but sometimes the academic scholars as well -- often repeat the erroneous view that mythicists are convinced that Jesus did not exist. But mythicists such as Robert Price, Richard Carrier, G A Wells and myself are not convinced that Jesus did not exist: we are all just none of us convinced that he did exist. And we all agree that the academic mainstream of Biblical scholarship is much too opposed to debating the matter. They, the academic Biblical scholars, are the pros. They're the ones with the advanced training. They are the people ideally qualified to investigate whether or not Jesus existed. And they're simply not investigating it. Four centuries ago, almost everyone assumed that Abraham was an historical figure, and that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Today, we don't assume that either Abraham of Moses is historical, and before the discovery of the Tel Dan stele there were some doubts about David as well, and their remains quite a bit of controversy over whether David's kingdom was anywhere near as large as described in the Bible. And all of that is due to the efforts of these very same Biblical scholars, the very same ones who are not subjecting the question of Jesus' historical existence to the same kind of scrutiny.

Typically, the academic Biblical scholars aren't nuts. But many of them are religious believers, and many more are somewhat reluctant to upset religious believers, and this may have something or everything to do with why they aren't asking (in spite of the title of that book by Bart Ehrman), Did Jesus exist? but rather continuing to routinely assume that he did, and go from there.

We mythicists don't all agree about much else other than that Jesus' historical existence has not been firmly established. What follows is my own position. Other mythicists disagree with some or all of it, so don't assume that I'm speaking for anyone else but myself. For their positions, read their books and their blogs.

With one possible exception, there are no known mentions of Jesus written earlier than Paul's letters and at least 3 of the 4 Gospels. That one possible exception is the Gospel of Thomas. Assuming that those who date Thomas to the 50's are wrong -- a very safe assumption in my opinion -- the earliest mentions of Jesus are from Paul, who by his own admission only saw Jesus "in a vision," whatever that means: in a dream, or a daydream, or an hallucination, or does it simply mean that Paul made Jesus up?

In my opinion, the only significant evidence we have at this time about whether or not Jesus existed is the New Testament. All that Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus have to tell us is about the existence of Christians, which is not the same as the existence of Jesus. The good news is that we just keep on finding more and more ancient texts. Mostly in Egypt near the Nile, but also some as far east as Mesopotamia. So, more evidence may turn up at any time. But in the meantime, it seems to me, only the New Testament can help us figure out whether or not Jesus existed. And I honestly don't see how it alone can answer the question conclusively one way or the other.

The problem with the New Testament as history, obviously, is that so much of it is legend. But we can't conclude from that that it's entirely legend and that Jesus is a fictional character. I like to compare the New Testament to the Nibelungenlied. Both contain a high percentage of legend. In the case of the Nibelungenlied we have a great deal of historical material about the same time and place, and because of that other historical material, we know, for example, that Etzel in the Nibelungenlied is an historical person: he's Attila the Hun. If we didn't have as much of that other historical material, we would have to rely much more heavily on the Nibelungenlied in trying to understand the history of 5th- and 6th- century central Europe. Because of the lack of other historical material, we have to rely very heavily on the New Testament when trying to understand the history of 1st-century-AD Judea and Galilee, because it comprises a very great portion of all the written evidence we have, and when it comes to the life of Jesus, it comprises almost all of the significant evidence we have.

Another comparison I find helpful is to compare Jesus to Achilles. In my opinion, there's about as much reason to assume that one existed as the other. This, of course, will cause academic Biblical scholars to point at me and laugh and laugh, because they think it's so obvious that Jesus existed. But it still isn't obvious to me, and they shouldn't laugh so much, because their job is to explain stuff to people like me, and as yet none of them has begun to convince me that it's obvious and certain that Jesus existed.

I'm not so upset about it. I'm a 54-year-old autistic man who wasn't correctly diagnosed until the age of 45, so I'm quite used to being laughed at for all sorts of reasons. And laughter is a physically healthy thing. Who am I to begrudge it them?

But they haven't convinced me, and that's their job. To convince me, or to admit that the matter is not yet settled. When it comes to Jesus, the academic Biblical scholars -- with a few exceptions -- are not doing their jobs.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chess Log: 1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘f6 4. O-O ♘g4 5. h3 h5

5-0 blitz, I played White:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘f6 4. O-O ♘g4 5. h3 h5 6. ♘h2 d6 7. ♗e2 ♘d4 8. ♗xg4 hxg4 9. ♘xg4 ♗xg4 10. ♕xg4 ♘xc2 11. ♘a3 ♘xa1 12. b3 ♘xb3 13. axb3 ♕f6 14. d3 ♗e7 15. ♘c4 ♖h4 16. ♕g3 O-O-O 17. ♘e3 ♕g6 18. ♘f5 ♗f6 19. ♘xh4 ♕xg3 20. fxg3 g6 21. ♘f3 c6 22. ♗g5 ♗xg5 23. ♘xg5 d5 24. ♖xf7 dxe4 25. dxe4 ♖d3 26. ♖f8 ♔c7 27. ♘e6 ♔b6 28. b4 ♖xg3 29. ♔f2 ♖b3 30. ♖g8 ♖xb4 31. ♖xg6 ♖xe4 32. ♔f3 ♖c4 33. g3 a5 34. h4 a4 35. ♖g8 ♖c3 36. ♔g2 a3 37. ♖a8 ♖c2 38. ♔h3 a2 39. ♘d8 e4 40. ♘f7 e3 41. ♘g5 e2 42. ♘f3 ♔b5 43. ♘d4 ♔c4 44. ♘xc2 ♔d3 45. ♖xa2 ♔d2 46. h5 b5 47. h6 b4 48. ♘xb4 ♔d1 49. ♘c2 c5 50. h7 e1=Q 51. ♘xe1 ♔xe1 52. h8=Q 1-0 {Black resigns}

Not 6. hxg4?, because then 6. ... hxg4! opens up the h-file to both the Black Rook and the Black Queen, putting White into a world of hurt. And again, 10. ♕xg4, even though it allowed Black to trade a Knight for the Rook at a1, instead of 10. hxg4?.

My win was partly skillful use of my remaining Knight starting on my 15th move, partly a couple of blunders by Black, and partly luck. I'd like to claim that the impressive use of my Knight starting with 39. ♘d8 was pure skill, but I was just flailing on the 39th move, and it wasn't until 41. ♘g5 that I began to see how strong the Knight was going to be in the endgame -- just began to see it. And 48. ♘xb4+! is a nice move, but I didn't have it planned before my 48th move. This game was closer than it might look.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It Sure Would Be Nice If I Suddenly Received $18 Billion Somehow

I'm not sure exactly how to make this happen. I honestly don't know if I could do it all by myself. I think I would need help.

Maybe that sounds un-American to you. Maybe all the people who've said that there are some self-made millionaires but no self-made billionaires, and not even actually very many self-made millionaires, that we're mostly talking about rich kids here -- maybe they all sound un-American to you.

If a very beautiful, very nice and extremely wealthy woman fell madly in love with me, and I with her, and she insisted on marrying me without a pre-nup and that we share everything, and she had a net worth of $36 billion, then, bam, I think I'd be done, and it'd be all like, "Okay, now I HAVE $18 billion. Now what? What do I DO with it?!" What if I was actually too in love to even care about all those wheelbarrows and trucks full of cash -- wouldn't that be ironic?

If Larry King and Oprah and Rachel Maddow and Harold Bloom and Thomas Pynchon and Quentin Tarantino and Jennifer Lawrence and Neil deGrasse Tyson and Martin Scorsese and Adele and David Letterman and Salman Rushdie and Stephen Hawking all starting following me on Twitter and re-tweeting all my links to my blog posts and speaking and writing about how awesome my blog is, that would be awesome. That would very likely lead to some very lucrative book deals. But $18 billion worth of lucrative? I don't know. Don't get me wrong: if all of those people, plus Pamela Anderson and Conan O'Brien and Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary and Bill Clinton and Alec Baldwin and Chris Matthews and every single living Nobel Literature laureate and Kanye West and Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr and T Bone Burnett and Sir Anthony Hopkins all started talking me up in a very big way all at once, that would be very nice. That would be a very great encouragement.

How big of a gold nugget would I have to find in order for it to be worth $18 billion? About 500 tons, if I'm figuring accurately. How big is the biggest gold nugget ever found so far? A little over 150 pounds, it seems, if you measure only the gold content.

Hmm. How about the biggest platinum nugget? Seems that platinum nuggets as large as 1/4 ounce are extremely rare. On the other hand, it's often found alloyed with other valuable metals, and that is nice.

On the other hand, I don't own a mine of any kind.

This isn't exactly easy!

On the subject of gold and platinum: as far as I know, the heaviest wristwatch made is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, 18k gold case and band, just about exactly one pound. Platinum is heavier than gold, but that 18k Audemars Piguet is the heaviest wristwatch I've been able to find. The heaviest watch of any kind I've ever heard of -- and believe me, I've done a bit of web-surfing on the subject -- is the Patek Philippe Calibre 89, released in 1989, an enormous pocket watch, 89 millimeters in diameter (it's been described as hockey-puck-sized) made in both gold and platinum, which weighs 1100 grams, around 2 1/2 pounds. But they only made 4 of them, and I'm not surely that any of those 4 is what you'd call for sale. Maybe for around $6 million. Or maybe not. (A newer pocket watch, the Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260, has surpassed the Calibre 89 as the world's most complicated watch, but it barely breaks the 2-pound mark. Pheh!)

In conclusion: no man is an island.

"We're Going To Lose The South Anyway," Sez Bernie. Oh Really?

Bernie's response to Hillary's beating him like a gong in one Southern primary after another is, "We're going to lose the South anyway."

Bernie, maybe YOU would lose the South to Trump. I'm not so sure that Hillary would. There are lots of female and black and Latino voters in the South, and if ever there was a Presidential candidate guaranteed to lose hard in all demographics other than white males, it's Trump. Obama won Virginia and Florida in both 2008 and 2012, he also won North Carolina in 2008 and came close in 2012, and he came close in a few other Southern states both times. The South is changing. It's gradually changing from red to blue.

And Bernie's not going to get the nomination. Maybe my ability to do math in my head really is autisitically-freakish, maybe those of Bernie's supporters who are actually jubilant about yesterday's results are a little behind the curve in math skills, maybe there's a little bit of both involved here, but let me lay some math on you. And when I do please keep in mind that Nate Silver wasn't the only person predicting 365 electoral votes for Obama in 2008, just the most famous one; and that while my 2012 prediction of 350+ electoral vote for Obama was over-optimistic (he got 332), my assurance to every Democrat I met in the run-up to the 2012 who was worried that Romney might win, my assurance that Obama would be re-elected and that it wouldn't be close, was not over-optimistic.

Before yesterday's primaries Bernie said that if he gets 55% percent of the delegates from here on in, he's got the nomination. But that will be the case only if he gets 55% of the pledged delegates from here on in, and if a great number of superdelegates currently committed Hillary jump ship and join him. If the superdelegates who are now with Hillary stay with her, that means that Bernie needs to win 68% of the delegates left. But there's no reason to think he can even do as well as 55%. They're still counting yesterday's results, but it looks like Bernie got about 45% of the delegates for the day. He lost the day. How many days has Bernie lost to Hillary so far? All of them except two: the day when New Hampshire and no other state had a primary, and the day when Maine and no other state had a primary. On those two days combined, Bernie won a total of 4 more delgates then Hillary. Other than that, every single day when there have been Democratic primaries, Hillary's lead in delegates over Bernie has gotten larger.

According to CNN, Hillary currently has 1711 delegates and Bernie has 939 -- with a dozen or so still to be awarded. 2383 is a majority, 2383 wins the nomination. Hillary needs 672 more, Bernie needs 1444 more. If Bernie's results improve to the point that he gets 50% of the delegates in the primaries yet to come, Hillary will have a majority of delegates before the California primary on June 7. California has by far the largest population of any state, a total of 475 delegates are at state in its Democratic primary.

Hillary will have the nomination before the California primary, assuming that she gets 50% or better of the votes in the primaries between now and then, and assuming that the superdelegates currently pledged to her stay with her.

Those are two very safe assumptions.

Bernie says he wants to be absolutely sure that Trump isn't elected President. Hillary beating Trump is about as sure as Hillary beating Bernie for the nomination. One thing which isn't at all sure is how many Southern states Hillary will win. The more states Hillary wins, the more Democrats are likely to win in other elections in November, elections for the Senate and the House and for Governorships and state legislatures, elections for mayors and city councils and so forth. Democrats badly need to win more of these other elections besides just the elections for President. If Bernie gets his supporters strongly behind Hillary, there's a chance for a huge Democratic landslide in all of those elections. The sooner he drops out of the race, the easier it will be for him to get his supporters behind Hillary.

Hillary has 1711 delegates, Bernie has 939, 2383 wins the nomination. That's not difficult math. This thing has been over for a while already. The earlier Bernie does the right thing, the greater the chances for a huge Democratic landslide in November. That's not difficult math either.

Monday, March 21, 2016

How I Can Tell Whether I'll Like A Book

CAUTION! Just because I like a book doesn't mean you'll like it too. Although if you like my writing, there may be a greater chance that you'll share some of my reading tastes than if you find my blog ill-written -- in which case I sincerely hope you find reading material which pleases you better, and recommend Stephen King and John Grisham, reckoning strictly from statistics.

The only way to know for sure, of course, is to read some of it. But there are so many books. How do I decide which ones to try? Here are some of the ways.

-- If a book is written in Latin and I haven't heard of it, I will be intrigued. (If I have heard of, there's a chance I already either have a copy or have decided I'm not interested. Life is to short for Cicero and Seneca.) Being intrigued at first glance is not always the same, of course, as eventually liking a book. But I've got this thing about Latin, seeing as how it's been in use in our civilization for thousands of years and was used by Caesar and Columbus and Milton and Spinoza, besides all of those kings and queens and Popes.

-- If a book is written by a Nobel laureate in literature, the chances are over 85% that I will like it very much. Other prizes aren't nearly so strong an indicator for me, but the Nobel folks and I seem to be on a similar wavelength. Except that they've given it to too many Scandinavian writers. Astonishingly, they managed to avoid giving it either to Ibsen or Strindberg, and still gave it to way way too many Scandinavians. Aside from 85% or so of the Nobel Literature laureates, authors whom I like generally are good guides to other authors I will like.

One notable exception is Thomas Pynchon's rave for Tom Robbins, nota bene, that's Tom Robbins, the novelist, not Tim Robbins, the tall, thin actor who supports the Democratic Party and used to be married to Susan Sarandon. I'm not saying Robbins is a bad writer, he's just -- well, for me personally, he's not nearly in the same class as Pynchon. Your mileage may vary, as Germans say. (They say that in English, about books or movies or whatever. It's weird.)

-- Lots of books have many blurbs on their covers. Sometimes these blurbs are attributed to a publication. For example, "Brilliant and deft." -- The New York Times Book Review. or "A pulse-pounding page-turner." -- Publishers Weekly. By and large, these anonymous blurbs mean less to me than ones attributed to specific people. Especially if they're attributed to Nobel Literature laureates or other writers I like. If King or Grisham recommends it, it's probably not for me. There are some exceptions to this: I cannot recall seeing a single blurb attributed to an individual rather than to a publication on the cover or first pages of any volume by Gore Vidal, although plenty of writers of whom I thought highly, thought highly of Gore. Strange. Perhaps when a writer produces big blockbusting bestsellers, and Vidal certainly did, publishers prefer anonymous blurbs. I don't know.

Nietzsche's reactions to authors are amazingly predictive of mine. The 1st half of p 65 of the insel taschenbuch-edition of Goetzen-Daemmerung (ISBN 3-458-34380-6) could almost have been written by me. Nietzsche compares Carlyle to puke -- nailed it. I hadn't read read any Carlyle before I read Goetzen-Daemmerung -- why didn't I listen about Carlyle? Well, anyway, I found for myself that I too find him absolutely disgusting, and now here I am warning you. Sorry to bring up something so unpleasant as puke, but, assuming my advice is as accurate for you as Nietzsche's is for me, I'm warning you.

-- If I've really liked one book by an author, I'm very rarely disappointed in others of his or her books. I'm not counting unfinished books which have been published posthumously, because, duh, they're unfinished. The biggest exception to my rule about non-posthumous books is the novel Ravelstein by Saul Bellow. That one had me shaking my head all the way through and muttering curses at Allan Bloom, neocon monster, Bellow's close friend, the author of The Closing of the American Mind and clearly the real-life inspiration for the title figure Ravelstein.

-- Different publishers go about their business in different ways. A book published by Oxford or Farrar, Straus and Giroux is more likely to be my kind of book than one published by Simon & Schuster, although here again, there may be exceptions published by Simon & Schuster or other lowest-common-denominator, their-books-are-in-grocery-stores-and-Wal-Mart's publisher. Those exceptions, those glorious exceptions are those few authors like Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer and John Cheever who are both popular and good.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Imagination

There are transparent solar cells now. I don't know how expensive they are now or how far they are from the market, but this could mean, among many other things, smartphones that charge themselves, one skyscraper being able to power a medium-sized city...

Fossil fuels are dinosaurs in more ways than one. Engineers keep coming up with more and more reasons to limit petroleum use to lubrication and plastic. If that. The time when more than all the energy we need will be simple and cheap to get is rushing toward us.

The problem, of course, is that oil companies know all of this, and are Standing. In. The. Way. Of. Progress. With the help of their bought-and-paid-for Republican Party. Oh, won't it be great if this, these days right now, if this is it for the Republican Party, if they're about to explode under the weight of their own stupidity and wretchedness?

Go ahead and dream about things like that. Because dreaming, daydreaming, wondering, speculating, figuring, calculating -- that's how we got things like solar cells, and now transparent solar cells. That's how we got from living in trees to living in houses and apartments (and back to living in trees in a few cases). Engineering involves nuts and bolts and wires and clips and chips and motherboards, but it also involves a certain amount of sitting around and allowing the mind to go to new places. Without the sitting around and just imagining things, the hardware wouldn't exist.

I'm old enough to remember the time before pocket calculators ran on light. Maybe some of you are too young to know what a pocket calculator is. If you need a calculator, it's right there on your phone. In the 1980's, things were sold which are about as big as smart phones, and all they were were calculators. There still are a few of them for sale in dollar discounts stores and places like Walgreen's, and some with a lot of functions for advanced math are sold at places like Office Max. Starting in the 1980's they would run just on the light in a room with the lights on. In the 1970's there had been calculators called solar-powered calculators, because you might have to have them outside on a sunny day in order too get them charged up, the lights inside generally weren't strong enough. Before that, calculator ran on batteries like the ones that power TV remotes today. But as early as 1970, they didn't run on batteries, you had to plug them into a wall outlet and keep them plugged in, so they weren't very portable, and they were too big to fit inside anybody's pocket, they were more like the size of toasters, and heavier than toasters. And all they could do was add, subtract, multiply and divide, and only up to 8-digit numbers. And they were very expensive.

The prices plummeted through the decades as the calculators got smaller and smaller and could do more and more and required less and less power, and today you can get some pretty fancy ones for under $10. But still, even back in 1970, they were amazing. Back in 1970 most people didn't have any machines to help them with math, other than the occasional slide rule or abacus (I never figured out how to use a slide rule), and an 8-digit calculator smaller than a washing machine, with a glowing red LED display, was an amazing thing. And the engineers who were talking about how calculators were going to get much more powerful, and much smaller, and run on much less electricity, they sounded exciting. But I also wondered, at age 9 in 1970, whether they knew what they were talking about, or if they were just pleasantly optimistic nuts.

46 years later, computers owned by hundreds of millions or billions of people outstrip the wildest predictions of most of those excited engineers back in 1970, excited by computers that fit on desktops and could add, subtract, multiply and divide up to 8 digits and only cost a few thousand dollars.

It's time to dream a way out of killing ourselves with all that dinosaur bullshit. Time to dream about the technology and also about the politics of getting past the oil companies and their hired politicians. We're going to need to do both.

Electric Vehicles From General Motors

I would like to think that information and education can be very important, that they can change people's minds and that changed minds can lead to changed behavior.

Stop me if you've heard this one: In the 1990's, California, dominated by Democratic legislators at the time, passed some laws, and one result of those laws was that if General Motors wanted to continue to do business in California they had to manufacture a certain number of plug-in electric cars. GM made their first electric car, the EV-1, launched in 1996, leased every one they made and had a waiting list of customers years long. That's right, they leased them, they refused to actually sell any of them.

Then in 1999 Republicans took control of the California legislature and repealed the legal requirement that these electric cars be made. Rather than continue to manufacture this wildly-popular vehicle, GM recalled and destroyed every single one of them. This was much easier to do since the cars had been leased instead of sold, and so legally remained the property of GM the entire time. When the recall was announced, many drivers offered to buy their EV1's. All of these offers to buy were turned down. It was more important to GM to make it completely clear that they weren't going to be pushed around by California liberals, than to make lots of money continuing to do what the liberals had forced them to start doing. (And presumably the environment was much further down the list of things which were important to GM.)

In 2010, GM started selling its 2nd electric car, the Volt. The Volt has only recently passed the 100,000 mark in worldwide sales. The Volt seems not to be well-liked by GM execs. Bob Lutz has been the most prominent supporter of the Volt within GM. Lutz is one of the most well-known "car guys" in the history of Detroit. (A "car guy" is an executive at an automotive company who also is an engineer and actually takes part in designing and manufacturing the cars. Opposed to the "car guys" are the "bean counters," specialists in finance.) The fact that Lutz has supported the Volt project seems to have hurt his image in some circles of the auto-exec world. It has also made him popular among environmentalists -- or at least it did, until he actually spoke with some environmentalists, and made it plain that he regards global warming to be a myth, and that his enthusiasm for electric vehicles is purely financial, stoked by fears of a future where gasoline costs $30 a gallon.

Toyota began selling the Prius around the time that the EV-1 was, literally, scrapped, and has sold 1.7 million of them in the US and over 5 million worldwide. It seems that different companies have different business models.



Friday, March 18, 2016

Great Big Fat Guy, Day 140

Yesterday I had another big arugula salad, but I think I put too much proteins and fat into it.

And then late last night I ate an entire box of TGIF frozen mozarella sticks at one sitting. I didn't feel so great after that. And I said to myself: "I think I just ate a pound of cheese." This morning I went and looked at the information on the box, and, yes: net weight over 17 ounces and almost all of that was cheese, so, yeah, either a pound of cheese, or close to it.

If you want to lose weight you shouldn't go around eating a pound of cheese at one sitting.

And the mozzarella sticks weren't even very good. I think it's past time for me to stop trying to figure out what the whole excitement is about mozzarella sticks, and accept that I'm just one of those people who doesn't love them. I'm not crazy about chili cheese fries either, which makes me wonder whether I'm one of those people -- one of those rare people, to judge from what some say -- who wouldn't like poutine. And of course, none of this is bad news for someone who wants to lose weight.

I'll chalk up mozzarella sticks experience to experience, maybe spend a little more time looking at nutritional information before I eat something. Also, I'll keep in mind that the day before yesterday, after I ate that salad which was really a salad and not a big pile of fattening stuff mixed with arugula, I felt good. Then yesterday when I mixed too much fattening stuff into the arugula salad, afterwards I didn't feel great. And even less so after the 1300-calorie pound of cheese.

Also today I lost my temper and screamed at somebody on the phone who totally didn't deserve that. I don't know exactly how that's related to the rest of this post, except that I often hear people talk about a link between obesity and unresolved issues. I've often heard the phrase "eating your feelings." In any case, I can't go around screaming at people. I'm 54 years old, I should grow up.

The other day somebody on TV, I think it was an LA rapper on the Vice TV program "Noisey," said that getting rich and famous doesn't change you, it just makes you more like you are. Is he right? I plan on being a rich and famous writer very soon. Will that make me weigh 500 pounds? Or will it increase the part of me that exercises?

You know what, I don't really believe that. I think getting rich and famous will change a lot of things about me, for the better. I don't think it will destroy me. I think I'm going to lose weight and scream less at people who don't deserve it, because those are changes that I want which are within my control, and I want them enough that they'll happen, and I think those things will be unaffected by my financial circumstances and popularity. I think getting rich and famous will greatly improve my social life, because I'll be popular. I don't think I'll let a lot of fake friends ruin things for me or blow a fortune on Faberge eggs or make a drunken spectacle of myself. As far as making a spectacle of myself at all, that ship may have sailed when I was born autistic, but learning about my condition helps.

I don't think I use being autistic as an excuse for being an asshole. 2 different people have accused me of that. Those 2 people may know each other, but as far as I know, they don't, and they came up with that assessment of me independently. Unless it's some sort of slogan... *googling* Hm, yes, it does seem to be sort of a slogan, which makes it less of a coincidence that 2 different people accused me of it. Anyway, I don't think I do it. I'm aware that I'm an asshole sometimes -- that alone, of course, puts me ahead of some assholes -- and I'm not proud of it, and I'm not trying to get away with it, I'm trying to improve. Being autistic was no excuse for screaming on the phone today. There was no excuse for that.

Saying that i think those 2 people were wrong with their criticism doesn't mean that I ignore criticism. Before coming to the conclusion that those people were wrong about me using autism as an excuse, I thought about it quite a lot.

What if that rapper is exactly right, and the part of me that fame and fortune magnifies is the part that constantly wants to improve? That'd be pretty cool, as long as I watch out about getting a swelled head.

Free Your Mind... and Your Ass Will Follow. That's the title of Funkadelic's 2nd album, and maybe some fairly good advice as well.

Time for Katy:



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Great Big Fat Guy, Day 138

In order to make a salad which Great Big Fat Guy would really like, rather than just eating it to be good, we took the bus to Flavor Town.

Instead of lettuce, arugula. If you're wondering what arugula is: if you're like me, arugula is something which will make you ask: why does anybody ever eat lettuce?! It's a leafy green vegetable with a strong, spicy flavor. So, the salad was mainly arugula. A big bowl full of arugula. This was a big salad. A medium-sized tomato and a small white onion were chopped up and added.

Then, the salad was topped with: 3 pieces of Wasa Crisp n Light 7 Grain Crackerbread, crushed up to make croutons; a sprinkle of parmesan cheese (the good stuff: the cheap Kroger's store brand from the clear plastic container with the green plastic lid, grated, not shredded, and not the gourmet stuff that costs 4 times as much), blue cheese dressing, and -- a tin of anchovies. All the olive oil from the tin went into the salad, then the anchovies were chopped up and added.

THAT, my friends, was a FLAvorful SAlad! I enjoyed eating it rather than wishing I was having a sandwich or pasta instead. I don't know whether I've ever said something like that about a lettuce-based salad. Also, anchovies are almost never a mistake to me. (I realize that not everyone feels that way about anchovies.)

Katy, you know what to do:



Thanks, Katy. That was weird! But the visuals were nice.

Donald Trump -- Above The Law?

In my previous blog post I wondered why Donald Trump has not yet been arrested for inciting violence. The answer which seems most likely to me is that people are afraid to arrest him, because he would retaliate in some way -- in what way, I'm not sure, and I'm not sure whether people hesitating to stand up to him have a clear idea of what exactly he would do, either.

In 1994 and 1995 I worked at a bookstore on 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan, very near the first Trump Tower. I think it was still the only Trump Tower in NYC. It's on the east side of 5th Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets, and it is tack-eee. Anyway, this bookstore I worked in was surrounded by a lot of very expensive shops and hotels and high-end apartments, and some of our customers were famous and presumably many of them were rich.

And a phrase we heard from one of the customers now and then was, "Do you know who I AM?!" It seems I heard this especially often during the year-end holiday rush. I don't know whether New Yorkers still say that as often as they did back then. Even back then it sounded like a line delivered by a villain in a silly movie or TV show. The implied answer to the question "Do you know who I am?!" was something like: I am a very powerful person, peasant! And if you do not jump me ahead to the front of this line and gift-wrap this book and get me out of here NOW, you'll never work in a bookstore in this town again!" The general reaction of the bookstore employees and the other customers to hearing someone say "Do you know who I AM?!" seemed to be mild amusement, and our reaction, the employees' reaction, was generally to calmly say that we were sorry, but we had to check everybody out in the order they got into the line, and we were sorry about long lines but we were doing our best, *yawn* , yada yada...

Every now and then a famous author would visit the store, maybe to do a book signing, maybe just to see if we had his or her book in stock and prominently displayed. Most of them were perfectly nice, but now and then we got some of the Do-you-know-who-I-AM?!-drama from them too.

The thing is, I can picture Donald Trump doing the "Do you know who I AM?!"-schtick and really frightening people with it, unfortunately. The people who delivered that line in the bookstore struck me as Trump wannabees. Trump strikes me as someone who gets away with a lot of stuff.

And I think -- enough. He's a clown. And he's only a scary clown because people let him scare them. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. No one is above the law.

Well -- clearly, some people are above the law. But we don't have to keep putting up with that.

Bullies are cowards. Stand up to them and they fold. Trump is breaking laws against inciting violence. Time to stop letting him be above the law.

Arrest Trump For Inciting Violence

Here's an idea for #StopTrump: How about if someone enforces the law? Last night Donald Trump said that if anyone but him is the GOP nominee for President, there will be riots. There have already been riots, in case no one else has noticed, and it's this asshole's fault, and there are laws against inciting violence. Trump's security people should be arrested too, for multiple counts of assault and battery, in case no one else has noticed, and someone should look into the possibility of an indictment against Trump for encouraging their behavior as well.

After a man was arrested on Saturday for rushing the stage at a Trump rally in Ohio, I saw headlines saying "Trump Considering Paying Legal Bills For Attacker." At first I thought this meant that Trump was going to pay the bills for the man who rushed the stage. That would've been something known as a gentlemanly gesture: a powerful person showing mercy toward someone angry at him. Showing that he's above holding a grudge.

That certainly didn't sound like Trump, and sure enough, no, the attacker the story referred to, whose legal bills Trump said he might pay, is the guy who cold-cocked a protester who was being dragged out of a Trump event a few days earlier, that crazy old coot who after the assault said "We might have to kill him if he comes back." Whom police didn't arrest until a viral video shamed them into doing so. And by the way, have the security people who were holding that guy when he got punched and then wrestled him, not his attacker, to the ground -- have they been arrested? Are they at least being investigated? If not, why not?

What exactly are people waiting for? How far does this bright-orange schmuck have to go before he has to start paying for it? The longer people put off doing anything about him, the harder it will be to do anything. More people should have stood up to and spoken out against Trump 30 years ago, then we wouldn't be in this mess today. Shoulda woulda coulda, the time is now.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way: Occupy Democrats have a petition you can sign asking Obama to have Trump arrested for inciting violence. But why should the President even have to get involved? What are the local law enforcement people across the US waiting for?

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ecological Thinking Must REPLACE Economics

I've been reading Andre Gorz yesterday and today, not for the first time, and suddenly I had this epiphany: ecological thinking must replace economics. Gorz was brilliant at pointing out the ways in which some planning of economies was necessary, how deregulation led to chaos and failure, how microelectronics were shrinking the demand for labor -- in the 1980's he was ahead of where a lot of people are now on all of these issues, even after the huge lesson of 2007-2008.

I don't know whether Gorz himself would have said, simply and without qualification, that ecology must replace economics. Maybe he'd react by saying, "Duh! That's what I was saying, yes, and you read how much of my stuff before you got it?!" or maybe he wouldn't get it.

Plenty of people see that unrestrained, unregulated capitalism is unsustainable for ecological reasons alone, besides other reasons. Only hardcore libertarians are still too stupid to see that. But people keep tinkering with capitalism.

Enough with the tinkering. Capitalism itself is the problem. What do we need? Growth, competition? No, that's the stuff that's killing us. We need food, shelter, water, air, leisure, freedom, pleasure, love. Those are all ecological things. Money doesn't have to enter into it. Money is just something we've overlain onto what is actually essential.

Caring about each other, is that economical? No. It's ecological.

Am I ahead of the curve here? Or am I behind the curve to think that there might be anything at all new or original about this little mental breakthrough I've just had?

Things You Learn About International Culture On Facebook

I can understand German, but that doesn't mean I always understand what German-speaking people are talking about. Far from it.

For example, just now, on Facebook, some German person I didn't recognize who is on my newsfeed for some reason I don't remember posted about 2 new novels by authors I hadn't heard of, Panikherz (The Panicked Heart) by Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, and Der goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove) by Heinz Strunk.

Literary prizes receive more attention in a lot of places, including Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg and German-speaking Switzerland, than they do in the US, so at first I wondered if Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk might be finalists in some annual prize given to published novels. So I googled the two fellows, and no such luck. Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk are what the Germans call "Entertainers." As you already know if you know more than one language, languages often borrow words from each other, and sometimes they change the meanings of the words they borrow. For example, the German noun "Entertainer" (all German nouns are capitalized) does not mean the same as the uncapitalized English noun "entertainer." Instead, the German, capitalized term means "asshole who is on TV much too much." The most successful and unbearable Entertainer in the history of Germany so far is Thomas Gottschalk. In the US, two examples of what Germans call "Entertainers" are Regis Philbin and Larry King: ghastly people who have attained dizzying heights of success simultaneously as authors, TV personalities and other things as well, for reasons I will never even want to understand. Oprah is an Entertainer. Trump, definitely.

Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Stephen Colbert are not Entertainers: they're all actually entertaining. Another way in which O'Brien is not an Enterntainer: he's in his 50's and he hasn't published any crappy books yet, although he easily could've made wheelbarrows' worth of big bills that way.

Imagine that Philbin and King were both several decades younger, but as popular as they are now, and that they had simultaneously published murder-mystery novels, and you'll have some idea of the current excitement in Germany over Panikherz (The Panicked Heart) by Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, and Der goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove) by Heinz Strunk.

(I'm pretty sure that Strunk's fictional golden glove has nothing to do with the several American amateur boxing organizations known as the Golden Gloves, but I'm not sure and I don't care.)

So after I'd found out who Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk were, I went to amazon.de., the German website of Amazon, looked at the latest bestseller list for books, and sure enough. So I returned to the Facebook thread where many people were discussing these two brand-new books, and left my own comment. I'll translate it into English for you:

"Stuckrad-Barre is at #1 on the bestseller list and Strunk is at #9, so Stuckrad-Barre wins. That's what this is all about, right? There's no need to actually read the crap for yourself."

That's what I said in German on Facebook to the fans of Stuckrad-Barre and Strunk, without having read a single word either of them has written, after having researched them for about 5 minutes. And I stand by what I said. The man who made the original post seems offended. That was to be expected and can't be helped.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Most Awesome Thing, Ever

The most impressive thing anyone has ever said or written? Some might say it's Homer's Odyssey, or Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, or the Bible, or the screenplay of Pulp Fiction, or JR by William Gaddis.

And those are all nice. But the very best is contained within an episode of "The Simpsons," "Walking Big & Tall," which first aired a little over a year ago. It is a list of things which Homer tells his friends they may no longer call him, after he's joined a support group for heavy people.

Without further ado:

"Chubby, chunky, blobbo, slobbo, Fat Bastard, Michelin Man, Stay Puft, Chumbawumba, It is Balloon!, Papa Grande, Augustus Gloop, beached whale, big boned, Wisconsin Skinny, butterball, dump truck, jelly belly, pudgy wudgy, lard ass, blubberino, Buddha belly, Hurry eat Tubman, one ton soup, Blob Saget, Chub hub, Calvin Cool whip, Manfred Mannboobs, 21 Lump Street, Walking 'Before' Picture, fatso, Harvey Milk Chocolate, Obese Want Cannoli, Mahatma Gumbo, Salvador Deli, Elmer Pantry, KFC and the Sponge Cake Band, Snackie Oneassis, The Foody Blues, Hoagie Carmichael and wide load."

I believe this lives up to Mel Brooks' "If you're gonna go the the bell, ring it" principle.

My 2 favorite items on the list are "It is Balloon!" and "Wisconsin Skinny." With regard to the latter: in contrast to "The Simpsons'" usual method of creating catch phrases years ahead of time, like Homer yelling "I'm king of the world!" years before James Cameron made that terrible movie, a company named Wisconsin Skinny which makes lame overpriced T-shirts for skinny hipster doofi existed for years before "The Simpsons" gave it its well-deserved mockery. ("Doofi" is plural for "doofus.")


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lynn Thorndike On Magic, Witchcraft, Astrology And Alchemy In The Middle Ages

I'm talking about Chapter XXII of vol VIII, The Close of the Middle Ages, of the Cambridge Medieval History, 1st ed, 1934, pp 660-687, and also the chapter's bibliography, pp 970-981.

Almost everyone, almost all of the time whenever they write or speak, is more concerned with pursuing an agenda than in searching for and communicating the objective truth about something.

Some innocent people will be horrified by that assertion, and wonder how I became so cynical that I could believe, incorrectly, that almost everyone behaves that way all the time. And some cynical people will smile, ask me how old I am and how long it took me to arrive at such a basic fact of human life, except that it's not quite a fact, because I inaccurately said "almost."

To those innocent people I can only apologize for horrifying them. (They'll say, "I don't behave that way!" and I know that they don't believe that they do.) To those cynical people I present, as Exhibit A, this marvelous chapter in the CMH by the late Prof Thorndike.

Christians, with conviction or without, innocently or cynically, generally twist Medieval history into a more pleasing form, and atheists generally do the opposite, and New Atheists are particularly bad offenders in this regard, tending to be of the opinion that it's not necessary for them to actually study Medieval history (or any other field of history) before distorting it to fit their official position that religion (which to them is pretty much synonymous with Christianity) poisons everything and that Christians are stupid and destructive and atheists are bright and wonderful beacons of true morality.

But even actual historians come with agendas other than the reporting of history. In the field of Medieval history, I'm not giving away a secret here, the tendency toward Catholic apologetics is particularly widespread. (In some cases the tendency is very strong. For example, in Chapter II, "John Hus," of this same vol VIII of the CMH, Professor Kamil Krofta himself seems like a Medieval monk, although a Hussite one rather than a Catholic.) The reader of works about Medieval history generally comes to expect that he or she will have to adjust for apologetic bias most of the time, insofar as he or she is not also an apologist who reads such things primarily in order to have his or her bias confirmed. The tendency for atheist Medieval historians to overcompensate for the prevailing apologetic atmosphere of their field has of course been exaggerated by the apologists ever since their earliest denunciations of Gibbon, and vice versa, back and forth and on and on. It's all very imperfect and human, and very much the same as in every other field of human endeavor.

But every now and then there is someone whose agenda is actually to write and speak as accurately as possible, and let whose ox be gored which will. Such as Thordike's chapter here: sentence after sentence crammed with actual facts, including both the sorts of details unflattering to the political and intellectual leaders of Medieval Europe which are routinely left out by the apologists and the flattering ones neglected by the atheists. I mean it as a high compliment when I say that it's impossible to guess from this chapter what Thorndike's own religious beliefs or symapthies might have been. Almost always in writing about Medieval, Catholic Europe, some of the author's beliefs or sympathies lay themselves quite bare. Here, whatever Thorndike's beliefs and sympathies may have been, they haven't interfered with his relating the facts: these leading figures in the theology and philosophy and science of the Middle Ages in Catholic Europe said and did and wrote this and this and this about magic, witchcraft, astrology and alchemy, and the authorities allowed or praised expressions of these points of view and punished those. The bibliography for this 28-page chapter is huge: 12 pages, in type much smaller than the chapter's type. There might actually be more words in the bibliography than in the chapter itself. Yet another reason to believe than Thorndike is relating what went on rather than embellishing or spinning it. But of course, if you don't trust Thorndike -- he's given you quite a lot of sources which you can check.

My readers may be beginning to grow impatient with me, saying that I haven't actually described this supposedly wonderful Chapter XXII, nor given any examples of its supposedly wonderful content. And they're right, I haven't, or almost haven't. But that's okay, because when I feel this way about a piece of writing, all that I have to say about it boils down to 2 words: read this!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Great Big Fat Guy, Day 133

In a few weeks I'll have a medical checkup and I'll know whether I've been losing weight or gaining or whatever. Feels like I've been being good, but it's often felt like that in the past, and then I weigh myself and see that I'm still between 290 and 300 pounds. It's been a long, long time since I've stepped on a scale and got a reading under 290.

In addition to daily moving around (aka aerobics) and stretching and push-ups and crunches, for a while (I don't know how long), every day after my crunches I've attempted to do an upward dog. Okay, I did an image search so I could show you a picture of what I'm talking about, and apparently, what I've been calling an upward dog is not an upward dog at all. Every day after my crunches, while still lying on my back with my legs bent, I've put my palms flat on the floor and attempted to rise up into this position:


Whatever that position is actually called, I used to be able to do that. It used to be no big deal for me to do that. One time I saw how many reps I could do: flat on my back to fully extended and back was one rep. Sort of like a push-up, but face-up. I did a set of 12 reps. Whatever you call it, it's also been years since I've done one of those. So now, for a while, every day at the end of my crunches, I've attempted to do that. Typically I get off of the ground and hold myself off of the floor for a while with no problem, but I can't get anywhere near fully extended, as in the photo. I hope someday I'll be doing those again. Maybe even try to break my personal best of 12 reps. I don't know whether my current inability to do even one full arch (I guess they're called back arches or something like that) is due to weak arms or an inflexible back or both or something else altogether. I know that it's aggravating not to be able to do it. Feels like I'm not really me at the moment.

Sing us out, Katy:



Chess Log: Playing With Reckless Abandon Has Been Paying Off For Me Lately

I played White. Going into the game I was rated 1293 and my opponent was rated 1859. 5-0 blitz:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 f5 4. ♗xc6 dxc6 5. ♘xe5 ♕f6 6. ♘f3 fxe4 7. ♕e2 ♕e7 8. ♘d4 ♘f6 9. O-O ♕e5 10. ♘f3 ♕h5 11. ♘d4 ♗g4 12. f3 ♗c5 13. fxg4 ♗xd4 14. ♔h1 ♕xg4 15. ♕xg4 ♘xg4 16. h3 h5 17. d3 exd3 18. cxd3 O-O-O 19. ♗g5 ♖df8 20. ♘d2 ♘f2 21. ♔h2 ♘xd3 22. ♖ab1 ♗xb2 23. ♖xf8 ♖xf8 24. ♘c4 ♗e5 25. g3 ♖f2 26. ♔g1 ♗f6 27. ♗xf6 ♖xf6 28. ♖d1 ♘b4 29. a4 ♘d5 30. ♖e1 b6 31. ♖e8 ♔b7 32. ♘e5 c5 33. ♘d7 ♖d6 34. ♖b8 ♔c6 35. ♘e5 1-0 {Black checkmated}

At the end of the game Black had 1 minute and 28 seconds left on his clock and I had less than 1.3 seconds. Perhaps Black got a little careless because he assumed he was coasting toward a win on time. We each ended the game with one Rook and one Knight. Black had 6 Pawns left to my three. However, I was able to mate with my Knight because because Black's King was surrounded by his Rook, Knight and 3 of his Pawns, leaving him 3 squares where he could move his King, and when I attacked with the Knight those 3 squares were covered, 1 each, by my Knight, my Rook and 1 of my Pawns. 34. ... ♔a6 instead of the game move 34. ... ♔c6 would've won easily on time for Black.

The Ruy Lopez is my preferred opening with White. I haven't seen 3. ... f5 very often. The MCO-13 calls 3. ... f5 the Schliemann Defense or Jaenisch Gambit, devotes 5 columns to it and says it is "probably not quite sound" but "frequently employed by players looking for a real slugfest." I suppose a slugfest might naturally appeal to a player who's rated 566 points above his opponent. My 4. ♗xc6 might have been an unexpectedly aggressive counter. It's not in the book. Black was immediately able to make my position very cramped, and was on the offensive for most of the game, but I managed to hang on. Honestly, the checkmate was a lot more luck than skill.

My overall approach lately has been very aggressive, and it's been working well for me, it seems to fit my personalty better to charge in and bash holes than to than play positionally and lay patiently in wait for a crack to develop in my opponent's wall. As I mentioned before in this blog, the Queen's Gambit Declined has recently been discovered by my group, and is very popular with us currently. But just a little while ago I've switched to the Queen's Gambit Accepted, which is a very reckless defense, not approved of very much at all by the MCO-13, but it's been working well for me -- partly out of surprise, no doubt, and also because I've been able to use it create chaotic positions, and then cope with the chaos better than my opponents.

It's a game. And I do better when I have more fun, and I have more fun when I play more recklessly, perhaps because I'm overly-cautious in some other areas of my life, causing frustration to build up which I can safely release over the chessboard, because -- it's only a game.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

We Don't Know Nearly Enough To Make Any Rational Assertion Beginning: "Religion Has always Been [...]"

It seems to be a currently popular New Atheist talking point that religion is and has always been a means for the elite to control and manipulate the masses. But it's nonsense. We don't even know how old religion is -- it appears to be more than 30,000 years old, judging from artifacts which have been found. How much older than that? Nobody knows. (Some say that recently-found 70,000-year-old artifacts show the presence of religion, but that's controversial.) And you know that for that entire time it's been systematic manipulation? I don't think so. Writing which has been discovered so far goes back less than 6000 years. When we think about human behavior before that, to a very great extent we are poking around in the dark and guessing -- much the same way that we are only guessing when we try to understand what may be going on the minds of other species.

How old is religion? We don't know. When it began, was human society organized into anything which could be called elites and masses? Sing it with me, children: we don't know.

"Religion is and has always been a means for the elite to control and manipulate the masses." That sounds as if religion has always been controlled by elites who themselves don't believe in it. As if it has always been a con, a lie. That fits in very well with the New Atheist black-and-white, atheism-good, religion-bad dichotomy. But is it justified in any way by the actual history and prehistory of religion? No doubt, there has been a very cozy relationship between religious authority and political power for a very long time. No doubt today much of this relationship is maintained in a cynical way by powerful elites. Some neoconservatives, not all of them, are atheists who think that religion, while not for them, is good for the masses, or at least good for keeping the masses in line. But the thing is, we're very far from being able to prove that all of the elites who say that they have religious beliefs are insincere. The fact that a religion is very beneficial for someone does not prevent that person from believing in it. Robert Musil thought that the very opposite was true, and it's not an entirely daffy thought.

As far back as ancient Rome we have records of people having said cynically that religions in which they themselves clearly did not believe were good for controlling the masses. But not any longer ago than that. As far back as back as ancient Greece there is evidence that a few people were atheists, but not any longer ago than that, and it was not more than a handful of ancient Greeks.

We can't make the mistake of assuming that there were always people like us. We have to reckon with the possibility than religion may be much, much older than atheism. We can reasonably conjecture that religion is more than 30,000 years old, and ask how much older it might be. We can reasonably conjecture that atheism is more than 2500 years old, and guess about how much older it might be. But there's a real possibility that for tens of thousands of years, maybe for hundreds of thousands of years or even millions of years, ALL of our ancestors believed in gods.

Cities began to develop thousands of years ago -- how many thousands? And all the people said: We don't know. And all the people said: We don't know. But in the remains of the oldest cities we've found, 10 or 12 thousand years old, a big honkin' temple always seems to have been in the middle of town, suggesting that priests and kings were one and the same category. But it doesn't follow from that that the priest/kings were manipulating people, or that they didn't believe in the religions which they preached. That's a premature conclusion, the evidence for it is entirely lacking. And as I mentioned above, religion seems to be much, much older than city life. We don't know very much at all about how human -- or humanoid -- or primate societies may have been organized when religion first arose, inasmuch as we entirely lack such crucial pieces of the puzzle as when religion arose, to name just one.

Power Reserve Indicators

As with some other posts on this blog, this one may contain no information which would be new to specialists in its subject -- wristwatches, in this case -- and laypersons might ordinarily have little interest at all in the subject. Most of my posts are aimed at laypeople, and often they attempt to awaken an interest in them for something to which they'd previously barely given a thought.

On a wristwatch, a power-reserve indicator is a display on the face of the which which shows how much longer the watch will run if it left untouched -- left unworn in the case of most contemporary high-end watches, which are automatic watches, also known as self-winding watches: they are wound by the ordinary movement of the wearer's wrist.

Or, in the case of obsessive-compulsive wearers such as myself -- I have an automatic watch: at a yard sale in 2004 I bought an automatic Timex built in 1979 for $2 -- by the unnecessarily often and frenetic shaking of the watches because we're irrationally worried that they'll run down. I think most automatic watches, including my Timex, can be wound like old-fashioned manually-winding watches, but when I wind the watch manually, it doesn't seem to stop winding when it's wound all the way, and also I'm worried that the crown -- the thing you turn to wind a watch -- may be damaged, and winding may make it worse. That, too, may well be a completely irrational worry, and yet here we are.

Maybe the power-reserve indicator was created partly with obsessive-compulsives in mind. This watch by Orient


has a maximum power reserve of 40 hours. As the watch unwinds, the hand on the dial at the bottom of the watch's face goes from right to left. In the photo, the power reserve dial is indicating that this watch will run for another 25 hours if left untouched.

40 hours is about the average maximum power reserve of a mechanical watch. If a luxury watch has a power reserve of 60 hours, the manufacturer may brag about that in a short description of the watch.

There has been a competition among some luxury watch makers to create a watch with the longest power reserve. The longest power reserve known to me is possessed by this watch by Hublot,


the Hublot Masterpiece MP-05, a manual wind-up watch, not an automatic, which can run for 50 days between windings. I'm not entirely sure what all the numbers on the face of the watch mean, but I'm guessing that the number in the upper left indicate that the watch has 40 days to go before it needs winding, and that the numbers in the upper right and at the bottom indicate that it is 9:11:30 AM or PM on the 10th of May. I could be wrong, but I'm sure it comes with an owner's manual.

When my current obsession with mechanical watches began about 3 years ago, this was the sort of watch I was not interested in. Back then, I wanted the simplest possible display: something much more like this watch by A Lange & Soehne,


the A Lange & Soehne Lange 31, also a manual wind-up, not an automatic, which happens to have an exceptional 31-day power reserve, 2nd-logest I've heard about. The dial near the 3 o'clock position in the photo shows that the watch has a little more than half of those 31 days left on its mainspring.

3 years ago, I would have liked that this A Lange & Soehne watch is made of platinum -- I still do, and I'm disappointed that the the Hublot pictured about is made of titanium -- but I would have disliked that it is a wristwatch rather than a pocket watch, and that it doesn't have bold Arabic numerals 1 through 12 marking the hours. 3 years ago, with very few exceptions such a preference for a second hand which moves in the same circle as the hour and minute hand, the more a watch's design departed from that of a 100-year-old railroad watch, the more I disliked it. So I would've detested the Hublot. However, in the past 3 years I've looked at lots and lots of pictures of extremely expensive watches, and read a fair amount about them, and gotten more and more used to, and even appreciative of, unconventional designs. Overall, I still like something like the Lange better than the Hublot, and if I could find a brand-new solid-platinum pocket watch that ran as well as a brand-new high-end wristwatch, I would like that best of all -- just letting the world's finest watchmakers know, in case they've been reading my blog, and planning to present me with a magnificent watch in appreciation of my services to the expensive-watch industry: pocket watch, platinum, size 16 or 18, as heavy as possible, cutting-edge accuracy and precision, long power reserve, and a power reserve indicator would be very nice, otherwise they don't need to go nuts with the complications or clutter up the face -- but if I were a billionaire who'd allotted several million dollars to his annual watch budget, not only would I own something like that $150,000 platinum Lange, I'd also consider shelling out $300,000 for that Hublot. (I'm not saying that either of those watches would actually spend more time on my wrist than in one of my pockets.) I don't hate the Hublot like I would have 3 years ago. I like the 50-day power reserve very much, not because I think that such a long reserve is at all necessary -- watches are no longer necessary -- but in a because-it's-there spirit. The Hublot watch is made as a tribute to Ferrari, and if I'm looking at it right, the part running from the top to the bottom down the middle of the face, besides being extremely functional, is made to look like a Formula 1 Ferrari motor.

I know more about watches than I did 3 years ago. The more you know about manufactured items the more you tend to like them, I think, all other things being equal. Some of my fellow Leftists will be appalled by this post, and consider these watches to epitomize much of what is wrong with the world, and I understand that reaction. I just disagree with it.

PS, 10 February 2017: Over at the Time Transformed website, Ambrose Lancaster has written a nice article about watches with impressive power reserves. The longest power reserve on his list is the Hublot Ferrari with 50 days, same as in this post. But he includes a few timepieces I hadn't heard of. And he writes well, and his article contains a lot of interesting information.