Sunday, November 29, 2015


How I know that this actually is my daughter:  When she said that she was looking for something to read, and we pointed out the box of books by her desk, she said No, that's the box of books I already read but I don't want to throw away.  And then she pivots and looks under the desk. Oh, here's the ones I haven't read yet!

Calling Captain Obvious....

Colorado Springs Shooting Suspect's Ramblings Suggest Animosity Toward Planned Parenthood, Sources Say

Friday, November 27, 2015

Can you keep a secret?

There are always people who can defend what seems to me to be indefensible; reject what seems to me to be obviously desirable. 

I read recently of a technique to convince people whose political philosophy is opposed to yours to nonetheless support positions which you support – even if those positions are inimical to their own.  Basically, you frame the question in such a way that it echoes things that they already believe in.  For example, to convince a gun freak that registration of gun owners is a good thing, you might say that this is a method of eliminating the argument of anti-gun forces that nobody knows who owns guns, so they should all be removed from the general population’s control.  You frame this position as a way of pre-emptively weakening the opposing side.  

The people who promote this don’t seem to care if you actually believe what you say or not.  The goal is to win the argument.

What brought this to mind was an article I read on the question of strong encryption.  Several politicians think that encryption methods should have back-doors so that law enforcement can get access to the encrypted communications of terrorists and criminals.   

This section got my attention:
“People who protect liberty have to take care not to imply, much less acknowledge, that the draconian anti-liberty measures advocated by the surveillance state crowd are justified, tactically or morally, no matter what the circumstances. Someday a terrorist will be known to have used strong encryption, and the right response will be: “Yes, they did, and we still have to protect strong encryption, because weakening it will make things worse.”

That “and the right response will be” gets me, because I don’t think that you can say that in advance.  I think there will be times when encryption should remain inviolate, and there will be times when we will want law enforcement to be able to break it.  The problem is that we don’t know in advance.  The cops don’t like the idea of having to ask for access each time.  I don’t like the idea of the cops having unfettered access to secrets, because I distrust their integrity.  

People who use phrases like and the right response will be are not primarily interested in the objective  truth.  They just want to win the argument. In this case, I think we want both -- security, but trustworthy security. We want to be able to trust the cops, but their actions lead us to think that we need protection from them, too. 

I believe that the 'authorities' know much more about the real world than I do.  But what do you do when you don't trust them?


Sometimes I think that I am a bit of a snob because I prefer,  and am willing to pay for,  hotels which delight.  Hotels which deliver a quality product.  As in --

- rooms that have sufficient acoustic insulation so that all one hears from people passing in the hall is a quiet murmur.

- restaurants with actual food, linens, and utensils.  I like a bowl of Froot Loops as much as the next person, but watching underpaid workers have to hustle to feed the masses is distressing, as is watching said masses showing up in pajamas.

- check in staff who know that the word is 'you', not 'yuhz'.

Good thing I don't have money, or I really would be a snob.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thinking about Syria

I read an article this morning about Syria, and how it became a hotbed of terrorism (which apparently describes Belgium, too.  Belgium!) It made me wonder when it is okay for a nation to interfere in the internal affairs of another nation. Who gets to decide?

And then I think Man, thats so awfully liberal of you....

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Trying to get restarted, with Italian, with French, with making menus, doing shopping.  But the memory of my daughter's travail hangs on..... and the idea of international terrorism sucks the air out of the room. I just want to huddle in bed.

Hoping that there are people who are smarter and more compassionate than me, running things.  Smarter, probably. More compassionate... compassionate at all to those who aren't like them.... kind of doubt it.

I want simple answers, and answers at all are thin on the ground. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Its over

Her appeal was granted.  She gets to stay in the Corps.

She also gets every single punishment that the cadets who actually did something wrong got.  Every single one.  Because, you know, she lied.

It appears that what nailed her was her desire to tell the whole story, which lead her to write a second explanatory statement, which lead them to say that the first was therefore a lie.  Apparently, their standard for statements is not 'truthful and complete', but just 'truthful'.  Leave out whatever you want. She told the full truth, and got nailed for it.

But she got what she wanted.  She's still in the Corps.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Oh joy. I'm now getting spam calls on my cell phone.

Still Waiting

Its not fair to say that, really.  She just turned in her appeal last night.  It will be at least a day, and possibly a week, until she hears whether the emperor gave a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  But when have they been fair in all of this?

One decent thing has happened, though.  Three different people have written to the emperor -- sorry, the commandant -- to say that she's a decent person, she's the kind of person we need, she's always gone above and beyond.  Two comments in particular struck me -- one, from a fellow cadet, one of the senior cadet-commanders, saying You always tell us that this is a training environment where we can make mistakes without affecting our lives.  And one from an actual officer,  saying I know this person, she's good, energetic, works all the time for the betterment of the corps.  I stand by her. And We can't let rigid adherence to rules make this a place where we are afraid to fail.

Neither sentiment is black and white, and the question of whether she acted exactly in the desired manner is black and white.  So perhaps these responses won't count for much in the results of things.

But finding out that her leaders, her compatriots - they think well of her -- that counts for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


And now we wait - again; this time, for the appeal to be lodged and reviewed - to see how deeply the insanity goes, in the Corps of Cadets.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


The Corps of Cadets Honor Court at my daughter's school recommended that she be expelled from the Corps.

Her sin?  When she wrote a statement of what happened during her roommates contravention of the Corps rules, she skipped over that she helped her roommates make a bed on the floor for the guys who were staying there past legal hours.  The next day, realizing that she should have included that, she amended her report to indicate that she had done that.

The Corps calls that initial omission 'lying on an official document'.  Not tolerable for someone who's going to be an officer.  Except, she's not.  She's in the civilian track. Everyone I've talked to says yeah, she'll get punished, but nothing serious.


My disgust with the Corps knows no bounds. I imagine they're deeply concerned about that.

Friday, November 06, 2015


I really want to take the Republican candidates seriously, especially since there is a chance that one of them could win it all - even Trump.  I think oh surely NOT, then I look at Silvio Berlusconi and think oh crap. Amuse the masses, make them feel as if only they get you, you're their pal, their defense against the nameless terrors,  and they'll elect you. They'll give you the keys. It's been done. 

So I really want to take them seriously.  I don't want to just despise them reflexively, I want to honestly look at them, evaluate them.

But they're such idiots and liars!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


That stands for First World Problems, of which I am about to describe one.  Normally I would be secretive about this, but one of the advantages of having very few readers of this blog -- I don't look at stats, but I would be surprised if it was more than five people, routinely - is that I can admit to being a FWP holder.

Here's the problem components, in no specific order --

Neither I nor my wife like vacations that keep us away from home for more than about 15 days. 10 is better, but longer is okay if we don't have to change a lot. Because -

Neither of us like vacations of any length that require us to change lodging frequently, defined informally as two days out of three, three days out of five, that kind of thing. We go somewhere, we pretty much want to stay there.

I want to go to France to see people that I know in Lille, Paris, Burgundy, Toulouse, Villelaure, Aix-en-Provence, and Nice.  Thats seven locations. The first three are in the north and middle of France; the other four are in the south.

I want to go to Italy to see a person I know who lives in the north; also, to a town in the center which is the ancestral home of some of my wife's relatives; and to Rome.  Thats three locations. One in northern Italy (not too far from southern France), and two in central Italy.

So as a rough counting, its ten locations, which means that  if we changed locations every other day, that a total of 20 days.  But of course we would want to be in Paris and in Rome for more than one day each, and the same is true for a couple of other places.  Say, 4 or 5 days in Paris, and 3 or 4 days in Rome, and 2 or 3 in other places.  Thats about 28 days, which if you're keeping track is about twice as long as we like to be away from home. Plus, for half the trip, maybe a little more, its a series of show up/stay a day/leave.  Something like five places in a row.  Unpack/do the tourist thing/pack. Which in turn argues for a shorter trip.

We''re contemplating breaking it into two trips.  Keeps the length manageable.  Does nothing for the staccato stuff in the south of France, and adds a second round trip flight from the US.  Ugh.

We're contemplating renting an apartment in central France and staying in it for three weeks, with field trips, which kind of works -- but still, this is travel from the north of France to central Italy.  Short of having a Lear Jet at our disposal, there's a lot of travel time involved. We would spend as much time away from it as in it.  Plus, we'd still have to pay for hotels. AND the apartment.  Ugh.

I know, its a nice problem to have.  But it is a problem. A First World Problem.

Monday, November 02, 2015