Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Holiday Spectacular

Every year I face this post with a little bit of dread. I almost never know what it is going to be about, but does it really matter?  If I didn't write it no one else would notice. It reminds me of that Rodney Dangerfield joke about how unsuccessful his early career was - "At the time I quit, I was the only one who knew I quit!"

So, as usual, no battle plan here and I'm probably just going to wing it and make some predictions although, as with many of my topics, it's probably just an excuse to talk about whatever I feel like and I might even abandon the plan mid-stream. And, also usually, my holiday extravaganzas are light-hearted. I'm feeling something a little darker here. But, as Bilbo said about traveling - "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to." The same is true for me when I first start writing one of these posts.

Good-bye, Deacon  

It's pretty well known that I am an awful predictor of Super Bowl outcomes. So, when I get anything right in football predictions, I'm happy.  My self-congratulations award (these are generally the only kind I get) goes to my prediction that Robert Quinn, a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, was going to be the best defensive player in football.  I based it on seeing him in the first game of the year make one play. I decided then that he had one of those unique combinations of speed and strength that was going to make him almost unstoppable for one other man to block. I could have been completely wrong, but I thought he would be named defensive player of the year, though he came in second in the league to Robert Mathis in sacks and forced fumbles.  Whether he does or not win, I feel a small victory, though, of course, I have nothing to do with his success and was just watching. Sometimes we see someone perform and we expect great things from them. We forget when we think someone is going to be great and they are not (Ralph Sampson being the shining example for men my age of an exception to the rule). But, when we see their success become common knowledge, we feel a proprietary interest, almost like we managed them. For me, seeing Ivan Lendl, Billy Crystal, Billy Joel, and even Barack Obama (though, see below) perform near the beginning, but before they were super-stars, gave me some kind of bizarre ego boost. "Why I remember when he was just a lad and played a small hall."

But, that's just my intro to what I really want to talk about, which is a childhood sports hero who died this year.  The defensive player of the year award is named after the former NFL defensive end, Deacon Jones, who coincidentally, also played for the Rams for some years while they were in L. A.  It's hard to believe that he actually coined the name "sack" for tackling a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, but he did. It is now the official word for it and kept as a statistic. His actual initial description was kind of comically violent - beyond even football violence - and involved putting opposing players in a burlap bag and beating them with a baseball bat, but that is generally forgotten nowadays. Of course, his real name wasn't Deacon. It was David, although he was so big he'd be easier to think of as Goliath.  He chose his own nickname, but not because he was religious. He just thought it was memorable.  His teammates on the defensive line on the Rams were Merlin Olsen,  Rosey Grier and some other guy whose name I'd have to google to find out, and if they weren't the all-time greatest defensive line, they are in the top two or three. They didn't count sacks back when he played, but twice unofficially he had more sacks in 14 game seasons than the official record in the longer season.  Probably, if you were making an all-time football line up, he'd be one of the two ends.  If being an all-time great football star is not enough, though not as successfully, he also sang professionally and had a back up group in the '70s which became much more famous than he did as a result of being heard singing behind him. They took the name War (if you aren't at least 35, you might never have heard of them unless you listen to oldies radio). Perhaps their biggest hit was "Why can't we be friends?" and he backed them up on it, coming full circle.  Now you have some unforgettable trivia to get you into the new year.


I still haven't written my definitive Obama analysis, but not a fan. I shocked some liberally minded relatives in academia by saying that he was the worst president in my lifetime - and they both laughed at the idea that he could be worse than Nixon.  Yes, worse, and far more damaging.  It is not likely to get better in my opinion unless the Republicans win both houses decisively in 2016 and he forced to work with them or they create some sympathy for him if they try to destroy him personally unrelated to his policies and political actions, the way they did Clinton (for which it took me years to forgive them).

I have little doubt that he thinks some acts of political usurpation are just dandy, but I have always laughed at the idea that any of our presidents will seek to remain in power beyond their last constitutional term, but, will speak now only his monument to us - Obamacare.  I wonder when I read articles about whether it will ultimately fail. It seems like it already has. This is an old prediction for me, and one I take no pleasure in seeing come true. You can't always be right, but I'm a lot better at predicting politics than football.  Being a single person, I will have no choice soon to take part in it in some way.  Of course, though many played a role, and we often credit or blame presidents for things that have little or nothing to do with them, this is no doubt his work.  He has, while beating the pants off his Republican adversary in 2012 made the obvious and smart move of co-opting their derisive name for his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It will likely be the chain he carries around with him throughout history, walking the earth as a presidential Marley's ghost, just as Bush bears links forged from Iraq and Afghanistan around his neck.  So much for my attempts at literature for this post.

Like everyone, and I mean everyone, I didn't fully understand how it was going to work when it was enacted, as it was never complete to begin with and congress and the public were kept in the dark (we do though remember Nancy Pelosi saying we have to pass it before we can learn what is in it - one of the dumbest things any American politician has ever said). But it was pretty clear to me and apparently most Americans that it was going to be a disaster one way or another.  I don't intend here to list its demerits, but there is a reason so many big companies demanded and got waivers, why the Employer mandate and other parts were delayed at least a year to avoid creating greater unemployment (putting all the weight of it on individuals and insurance companies), a reason why the same general legislation didn't work in Massachusetts (RomneyCare actually failed there and is completely different now), why so many people lost the insurance they had and liked that the president promised them that they could keep, why the administration is trying to get the insurance companies to bring back those same discarded insurance policies now and why a law with so many popular giveaways for so many people has never been popular with the American public. While there are many people love it because it's goal is so admirable (and whatever is said to the contrary, pretty much everyone would like it if everyone could actually be affordably covered), more Americans have always disliked it. They recognize coercion when they see it. They understand it is financially ruinous to insurance companies to have to cover everyone regardless of their history. Many recognize it is only the first step for progressives towards socialized medicine (and many progressives boldly acknowledge this to be the case or actively seek it) and they remember the unpleasant and (many would argue) unlawful way it was forced down the throats of congress and the public.

Of course, for now, we will be forced to do it and there will be millions upon millions of people signing up  because we really won't have a choice if we don't have insurance through a job.  That's the main complaint with it, not surprisingly. We no longer have choice. It rankled in the colonial era and it rankles now (hence - the "tea party").  We are just less the revolting type now than we were then and the tea parties, for other reasons, has become more odious to more people than Obama.

But, as bad a piece of legislation as the ACA is, it signals many of the problems we face in a general way. These include the demise of equal protection and the rise of presidential tyrannical power (there, I said it), the continued implacability and domination of the two partisan ideological groups that pretty much exclusively dominate government, the inability to recognize that the saying - the road to hell is paved with good intentions - is not just a saying, the calcification of the "classes" into more antagonistic groups and a complete failure to take actual economics seriously, but instead the continued "handling" and "planning" of the economy by so-called experts and politicians who have no clue.

My thought at the time this was being enacted was that Obama just, like most politicians, had little understanding of the economy and didn't really care, so long as he could "fundamentally change" America in the direction he wanted.  For him, best as I can tell and by his own admission, the best way to fundamentally change America is by transferring wealth.  Socialized medicine is one piece of the puzzle for them.  It sounds fantastic to say that he built this system to fail - it seems like one more conspiracy theory.  But it is getting easier to believe with the revelations that the administration (if not him) knew that when he said we would be able to keep our insurance plans if we liked them - was a lie.  As he has apologized for it, the other possibility - his own near total ignorance of the workings of his namesake and signature piece of legislation, is not really much better.   In a nutshell, if you haven't followed it, the ACA grandfathers in existing policies - hence he felt he could say you can keep your policies -  but subsequent regulations removed the protection if the policies are changed - and that was almost inevitable.  In fact, the administration, if not Obama, recognized that millions would in fact lose their insurance. It's no longer a debatable point.

If you gave me my way right now, as a single person I would probably prefer a catastrophic policy, one with low premiums that prevents me from high costs of care, but under which I still pay the basic costs of my own health care directly. But as a result of Obamacare, I can apparently forget it. Anecdotally, I keep hearing that they have become are (thanks to the Affordable Care Act) unaffordable for all but the very rich, and the high price tag for them defeats the entire purpose of having one.  But, I do not even qualify to get one under Obamacare, because I do not meet the government's requirement for it. In other words, I cannot contract with a company as we desire, but must only have what the government tells me I must have.

My reason, however, for not signing up with NY's exchange (and the exchanges are the one good part of the law) is that I don't trust them as they are targets for hacking and you have to give them your social security number.  I might soon do it anyway, but, it is a little worrisome.  Now, I give out my social security number to various governmental departments and commercial companies all the time (like my bank, for example). But, though we know what a target they are for hacking (like, no pun intended, the retailer Target) I trust them more than I trust the exchanges, particularly after the exchange website fiascos that cannot even be denied in the usual government knee jerk fashion.  One of the major parts of the fiascos is that they didn't bother to try to see if they were hack proof until they were up and running.  A major hacking in the next year is my prediction in the coming year and I hope, really hope, I am wrong.

I don't know what will become of Obamacare.  It is hard to believe that it will be completely repealed while Democrats have any say in congress or the presidency.  If the Republicans get a majority in the Senate, they might very well end the filibuster completely as punishment for the Democrats doing so with respect to presidential appointments (which I approve of, though, as usual, both sides are unashamed to be remarkably hypocritical about it).  It is hard to believe that there are not aspects of Obamare will continue to exist, like coverage for children up to 26 years old living at home. But, I have always been one of those who have believed this legislature will fall upon its own weight or will so morph that all that remains is the name.  When, I don't know. But it seems to me, despite more and more people signing up, it is happening as we speak.

The World at Large

I'm 54, hopefully going on 55. I do not remember a time when the Middle East was a settled place.  I know that I would not go to it as a tourist.  This is just because it is a dangerous place but because as a result it is a sad place. A few years ago I begged my "idiot" friend not to go to Egypt a few years ago, and he ended up missing the riots by a few months by sheer luck. He still argues that it was reasonable to go because the "Arab Spring" hadn't happened yet. This misses the point. It is the same reason I don't live on volcanoes or faults. Some risk in life is natural if you want to do anything or go anywhere, but going where people live on the edge of savagery is not for me.  The safest prediction for the next four years is that the Middle East will remain as it is, so long as the Islamic religion world continues to reject  enlightenment values, especially religious and equality for women.  It would be interesting to see what would happen, historically, if either the Sunni world at large, or the Shi'a, gravitated towards the West en masse.  Though I have little doubt millions of Muslims in the world desire this, it is too hard to imagine it happening.  Much of what we call the Arab Spring was just an excuse to topple regimes and put in replacements that are as bad or worse.  I understand why many Muslims want to live here. Only a handful of Americans with warlord or Islamicist fantasies want to live there.

Two of the last three decisions the administration has made about the Middle East have been disastrous.  The forth remains to be seen.  Our intervention in Libya was a constitutional disaster for which congress had no stomach to contest. It was followed by our unprotected diplomatic presence there and the subsequent tragedy in Benghazi, whatever the reasons for the attacks (which may be several).   But, our threatened intervention in Syria, resulting in a chemical weapons agreement, has practically guaranteed Assad's survival for the foreseeable future, as his administration is necessary to carry it out.  I don't have a dog in the fight. Assad is bad enough and his death along with the end of the regime could not be a bad thing, but he is no worse than an Islamist government, which is probably what they'd get after an even worse Civil War.  It does not appear at all that we have helped the so-called moderate groups there ("moderate" being a very flexible term) and perhaps in protecting his future, we have fatally damaged theirs. It is hard to see how the international conference will accomplish anything as the U.S. and Russia fundamentally disagree on whether Assad could stay in power in a transitional government. This process was started a year and a half ago. Why would we expect progress now?

It can't be said enough, democracy is not enough. Uunless there is an interest in a Madisonian Democracy somewhere in any of these countries, there is no point in our helping either side.  What makes this clearer than Egypt. Obama called for the ouster of Mubarak, who was no doubt a tyrant, but also in some respects our ally. This was followed by our opposition to the military taking down Morsi. It is hard to say, with respect to the this last, whether our official disapproval is for show, and secretly we support Egypt's military, just as we continue to arm them and train with them. But, as it seems we can have little if any influence there on what form the government will take, our poor choices have not really harmed anyone.  However, our continued working with their military does not seem a mistake. Last, I cannot say yet whether the temporary agreement with Iran is a help or a hindrance to us. If Iran has a secret nuclear weapon program, then we have made a terrible mistake and aided them behind a friendlier mask. If they do not, we have made a wise choice. I don't know which is true, but I do know that anyone who tells you they know should not be listened to at this point.

Of course, the Middle East is not the whole world. There are many terrible things here in Middle Earth, but there are many good things too. On the whole, I am convinced that the world continues to get better, more peaceful, more technologically advanced (though, I am a level three inept when it comes to the digital world). For those who think about such things, we know that it ever balances on a dime.

Speaking about Middle Earth

My casual reference to Middle Earth above was just one of those things that pops out when you type away and not planned as a segue for this next section, which is about the second Hobbit film that came out a week ago. My love for Tolkien's work is obvious to anyone who chances upon this site. My appreciation for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Ring's ("LOTR") film trilogy is great. It was a magnificent achievement.  But, my dislike for the Hobbit trilogy deepens. Indeed, with it, a pall grows over the film world's Middle Earth as the dark power rises once again and corrupts all in its path.

My complaint is not difficult to understand. While there a few anachronisms in LOTR which annoyed me (dwarf tossing,  skateboarding and the turning of Aragon's love interest into a Xena like warrior maiden), they could be edited out with only ten seconds of the film lost. They did make changes from the books. And while I would have preferred a straight and unabridged transference, it was pretty close. The natures of the major characters and their roles were unchanged. But, in The Desolation of Smaug the whole thing has come off the tracks, in an effort to stretch Tolkien's children's story into something else, both by including parts from his over-all Middle Earth corpus which destroy the simple tale of a Hobbit on an adventure that became the basis for his great epic later.  Remember, at the time he wrote The Hobbit in the 1930s, Tolkien placed it in his Middle Earth scheme he had been playing with for years as a writer and linguist, but the story line that became LOTR simply did not exist at all. The first part of the Hobbit trilogy was just bad, in my view, but the second part, near awful. It is no longer mostly Tolkien's work, but shared with Jackson's fan-fiction. Unfortunately, Tolkien sold the rights to it, and this is what we get. But I don't want it.

I do not want a love story between a warrior maiden-elf and a young dwarf that isn't in the book. I do not want an enlarged role for Radagast, a Wizard who Tolkien barely saw fit to introduce in his books, but who is Jackson's Jar-Jar Binks. At least when Lucas stuck us with Binks - the canvas was his own and he wasn't reinterpreting someone else's work.  I want the dwarves to be as those from Norse mythology - which still have resonance with us - not Disneyesque dwarves, more like in many cases, short humans (if bigger than hobbits). I do not want Xena like elf-women. I loved Xena - but her type was not found in Tolkien amongst Elvish women. The closest we can come is to two humans - Haleth who became a warrior by necessity when her family was killed off and Éomer, who becomes a warrior against her father's will and without his knowledge, also out of a desire to protect her people when disaster befalls them. But, there is no history in Middle Earth of Elf-woman being intentionally trained to be warrior maidens and captains of the guard, as Tauriel is in Jackson's The Hobbit.

What next? We in the public learned that the actor who plays Gandalf (which character and actio is in some ways the life of the book and films), Ian Mckellen is gay.  We are also in the midst of the gay rights revolution. Will Jackson bow not just to the film and literary trend in making women the superior of man in combat but now to bring about a gay aspect to the story  à la Dumbledore in Harry Potter.  It would have infuriated Tolkien as such a touch could in no way be part of an English mythology he was trying to create.  Will we need some black or Hispanic character in our story, the way it seems virtually every police chief in tv and movies needs to be black? I understand they are trying to make up for past minority practices but they have created a new stereotype in place of old ones. To extend it to Tolkien, who was greatly imbued with a love of archetype, they were medieval and Nordic ones, not modern American. Tolkien, though very conservative in his ways, was not a bigot by any stretch as can be seen in his letter to a German publishing house that queried about his ancestry. But he created Middle Earth to be a haven for his vision of a world gone by and it did not include many things that are of Hollywood's concern today.  Concerns for anti-semitism, minority rights and so on were not part of his vision.

Try being safe - why brain damage is fun for me.

There is no doubt in my mind that the smugness or satisfaction one feels upon being validated in an unpopular or controversial thought is human, even when the prediction does not bode well for someone or some group. It's not that you want bad things to happen to them, but you feel satisfied that you what you thought inevitable, happened (whether inevitable or not).  At least, that is my excuse when I feel pride at having a prediction come true. I was just reading an article about the upswing in the use of helmets for skiing by 300 percent.  However, the article also notes that head and brain injuries haven't decreased at all and that was the whole purpose of the helmets. Leaving aside the joyous feeling of being able to say "I told you so," what gives? It is actually pretty simple.  Mildly increased safety in a sport is going to lead to riskier and more unsafe behavior without rigorous discipline or rule making to counter it (such as the NFL does) and will often either be useless or have a negative impact. It's part of the reason why, when I taught my daughter to ski and ride a bike, I did not make her wear a helmet.  She only wore one when biking when there were other kids riding so that the little brats wouldn't complain.  I told her (my kid) she was going to ski/ride safely as opposed to wearing a safety device.  There is an irony in it, of course, as my reckless behavior has led to many near death experiences.

On the other hand, you might say, why not teach her to ski/ride safely but to also wear a helmet?  I can't really argue about that. Of course, it would be safer. But, my refusal was also a little bit of a protest - you can call it petulance - against the law enforcement aspects of it and the trend towards so overprotecting our kids, they are becoming wimpy shades of children not in the past seen outside of the pampered peerage of royal families.

My daughter is grown now and I have no idea if she wears a helmet if she skis or bikes now. Maybe she think I unnecessarily risked her life. Maybe.  And hope I'm not setting myself up.  An accident can happen to anyone.

My anti-safety measures are really for things that don't really work or are what I believe subjectively are overkill.  One of the few rules I gave my daughter when she was a teenager was no motorcycles - period.  It's a good rule. For that matter, her first year of driving I did not want any boys in the car other than her very responsible boyfriend.  My little bit of research and personal experience told me that motorcycles were inherently unsafe and that for every teenage boy you added to a car, the death rate dramatically increased. You get in a car you should wear a seatbelt and you get on a motorcycle, which - apologies to riders for your hurt feelings - is about the most dangerous thing you can legally do, you should wear a helmet.  In fact, in the latter case - you should wear body armor.

Despite my lifetime of near death experiences, I won't scuba dive or parachute period. I like to hike and have scaled a few challenging rocks. But, I would not scale a mountain with a history of killing people either. Everest is out. Recreational activities which have almost a certainty of death when equipment fails is just not for me.  I'm a walking accident to begin with.  I've always thought that if there was a way to break air I would have suffocated as a child.

More books, books, books

I'm running out of room on this holiday catch-as-catch-can post and want to update my reading list, just because. Right now I'm reading -

Washington: A life by Ron Chernow. I've read a lot of GW biographies, enough so that I do not feel that I have a lot to learn. But, as with his Alexander Hamilton, it is proving to be an excellent one. Washington had a much more exciting young life than you would think looking at that solemn face on the dollar bill. Already on my recommendation list.

Lucian, Satirist and Artist by Frances G. Allinston. Lucian was once possibly the funniest writer in the world. Or at least writer that has come down to us. He was the Aristophanes of his time. But, he lived and wrote in the second century A.D., in Greek, though born in Syria. He's not real popular these days. Not even to quote.  And, to be honest, it is difficult for us to find a lot of mirth in his work as his schtick is dated.  But, he was interesting for his anti-superstition satire and willingness to mock just about everyone, real or imagined.  There is not much known about him so the book is largely about his work and can be, as he was, a bit repetitious. Not sure I will finish it, but it is sitting here right next to me, so . . . maybe.

The Ebony Tower by John Fowles. Lee Child and Robert Crais adventure novels aside, I do not read much fiction these days and can barely finish the ones I actually like. And Fowles is not reading.  But, his The Collector, The Magus and The Maggot are three of the best books I ever read back when I was a fiction reading machine. I figured I'd give this other classic of his a chance.  If I can't finish it, he will be in good company.

Dixie Betrayed - How the South Really Lost the Civil War by David J. Eicher.  Seems like in-fighting is his answer.  I'm 75 pages in and it's a keeper. I can't say I agree with him though. Books which argue why won side won the war or not are at best only partially right and at worst just wrong. The South primarily lost in my view due to the fact that the North had more men and more industry.  War of attrition. Of course there are other reasons, some of which, had they gone the other way, would have changed history, particularly if France or Britain had become antagonists.  Infighting applied to the North as well as the South and is probably a factor in most wars on both sides. We just notice it more with the losers. 

Die Trying by Lee Child. Did I say I read Reacher novels? He's basically a great big non-super hero, but whose ability to beat up just about any three men at a time, if not many more, without getting killed, even when they have guns, and his ability to make astonishing leaps of logic the way only people in literature can - "That paper has a green tint to it. It's likely been dipped in olive oil. Olive Oil is produced in Italy - THEY ARE GOING TO KILL THE POPE!!!!," to tell the time without a clock to within 20 seconds by some internal clock and shooting abilities (of course) seems super-human. I can't say it is literature and sometimes he is just a bad writer. But, like James Bond, it's fun. This one seems like all the others. He's thrown into yet one more impossible situation that can't possibly happen yet again to one guy, and includes a gorgeous woman he's sure to bed and . . . you get it.

Man on his nature by Charles Sherrington. Science, reason, man-body. That kind of thing. It was first a series of lectures in 1937-38. I have read some Irwin Schrödinger, the famous physicist who played a critical role in quantum mechanics back when they were actually a creative force and one man with his slide rule could change our understanding (I'm very unimpressed these days with big machine physics) and wrote on a number of philosophical topics including, notably, what is life, one of my favorite small books (the answer he says - is an aperiodic crystal. Read it if you care what that means.   I don't know if there is a better answer out there to date). Anyway, Schrödinger recommends Sherrington like nobody's business, so I thought I'd give him a try. I have just started it so I can't comment on it. I have this fear it will be more boring than enlightening. Maybe it's just the prosaic cover. I wish I could capture an image of his portrait shown on the inside of the book as someone forgot to say "Cheese" and it's kind of funny. Wait a second. I've been time-traveling a lot lately and forgot what century I'm in. I can do this. Here it is -
The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley. I'm not a mystic by any stretch. In fact, I am so unmystical, they probably need to coin a word to describe me. But, life is ironic and I enjoy reading mystics. Huxley is most famous for his Brave New World. I know what it is about and feel I must have read it, but I can't remember it at all. Maybe I didn't. He came from a family knee deep in intellectuals, scientists and writers. I've already thumbed through the book, which I had heard of before but also became interested in through Schrödinger. I don't believe in any of this stuff, but I read it because it is a cornucopia of great quotes.

Ancient Thoughts: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Studies by Thomas McEvilley. What a tome this is. It's about exactly what the title says. I realize that there is no practical reason for me to read it. But I love history. I love Indian philosophy. I love Greek philosophy. I love linguistics and comparative religion and science. So . . . I already started and it is going to take a long time to get through. Much of it is, as are all similar ambitious books, speculative to the max. But, in case there is a test for this kind of stuff to get into heaven, I'll be more ready than most.

Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity by Alf J. Mapp, Jr.   There are a lot of Jefferson books out there. I don't know how many I've read, but it's relatively a lot. Mr. Mapp promises that he will reveal the real TJ.  His premise is we really don't know him. Oh, I think I do. Probably he is more  positive about TJ than I am, but that would not be hard. I have been writing another Jefferson post for months now and keep getting sidetracked.  There's always something to learn about him, so maybe I'll get through this first.

Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World by Donald R. Howard. How can there be so much data about a 14th century poet, even one as famous as Chaucer. Yet, there is more than one would think. Not that some speculation isn't also necessary. But, is also a lot known about his works and his world and the latter in particular is usually what makes for a great biography.

The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America's Most Famous Residence by Robert Klara.  My nephew gave me this one for Christmas. I don't know what to expect except that these days I prefer history about something I haven't read about before, rather than another biography of someone I've read about a lot. I read the first chapter and he sets up a little drama - Mrs. Truman unhappily hosting a party with the chandelier above her trembling as the house is about ready to come down around them. I don't know if it covers the assassination attempt on Truman by Puerto Rican terrorists (pardoned by Carter, to the ire of many), but I hope so.
That's twelve books to churn through. I'll buy a lot more before I finish them. These days I spend more time on translating than reading, but I just finished a major project after six years (or is it seven?) of work on it, so I might take a breather. Then again, maybe not. It's a lot more fun than working.
Last thing, I promise. Best movie of 2013 - Captain Phillips followed, surprisingly, by World War Z. Biggest disappointments - Man of Steel and The Hobbit. I may never see another Superman movie again.  No way I would even see The Lone Ranger.  Two that might have made the best movie list, but I didn't see yet - American Hustle and Kick-Ass 2 (Kick-Ass was a great and underrated movie).
I always do best comments award in my holiday spectacular. Due to a dearth of entries this year - none. How sad.
That's it. No doubt you are starting your New Year's celebration by seeing if I posted. Have a happy one.

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .