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  • Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

    Such a Disagreeable Man

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2012 (All posts by )

    I’m sure I’m no ascetic; I’m as pleasant as can be;
    You’ll always find me ready with a crushing repartee,
    I’ve an irritating chuckle, I’ve a celebrated sneer, I’ve an entertaining snigger, I’ve a fascinating leer.
    To ev’rybody’s prejudice I know a thing or two;
    I can tell a woman’s age in half a minute — and I do. But although I try to make myself as pleasant as I can,
    Yet ev’rybody says I’m such a disagreeable man!
    And I can’t think why! –

    From Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida

    I suppose that one of the most enjoyable things about romping in the halls of historical research is getting to know people, some of whom are famous and others notorious, all of them interesting and they tickle my interest to the point where I would have very much liked to have met some of them personally. Sam Houston is one of them in Texas history that I’d have loved to meet, Jack Hays another, Angelina Eberly a third. I would have loved to have met Queen Elizabeth I of England – three of the four are complicated people, as nearly as I can judge from reading accounts of them. I just would have liked to have had the chance to form my own, independently-arrived at opinion, you see. About the only way that I can indulge this curiosity is to work them up as characters for various books – walk-on parts, usually. Assemble the various views, take a look at some known writing of theirs, consult the grave and sober historians and come up with something that I hope will be revealing, true to the historical facts, and at least a jolly good read … but now and again, in the pages of history, I encounter those that I don’t like very much at all. Some of them are so immediately disagreeable, dislikeable and all-unpleasant that I marvel they lived long enough to make a mark in history at all.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    Sunset Sky With Balloons

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th February 2012 (All posts by )

    At the balloon festival in Abilene, Texas – 2010

    Posted in Americas, Miscellaneous, North America, Photos, Tech, Transportation | 5 Comments »

    Slides

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th February 2012 (All posts by )

    I love the English language. Yes, I understand I have a lot to learn, and it isn’t as romantic as French, but neither is it as barbaric sounding as some of the Slavic languages (not saying these people are barbarians, just the sound to me grates a bit).

    English, to me, seems for some reason (I am obviously no linguistic expert) to be one of the easiest languages to twist and turn for modern usage. I have a vendor that manufactures their products in Germany. The manuals come in several languages, and you can see heavy English usage in the foreign languages, mostly for technical terms. I asked my wife about this – she is fluent in German. Her response is typically that “there isn’t a word for that in German”.

    Does anyone remember slide projectors? Of course we do. Such a hit they were in the sixties and seventies and eighties. You could actually put a slide in a slide projector and project an image on a screen of the Pyramids, or a product, or a photo of good old Aunt Sally from that vacation you took at Niagra Falls.

    Today, we have Power Point to replace the pictures and modern ways to project images on a screen. But we still call the separate pages of the presentation “slides” and the unit is still a “projector”. I have some young admin assistants that on occasion help me to create Power Point presentations and I have asked them before if they have ever seen an actual “slide” or a slide projector. Most of the time the answer is no.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 20 Comments »

    Committee of Vigilance – Part 2

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th February 2012 (All posts by )

    The shooting of James King – political murder disguised as a justifiable response to a personal insult – inflamed the city of San Francisco immediately. King, shot in the chest but still clinging to life was taken to his house. Meanwhile, an enormous mob gathered at the police station, and the police realized almost at once that the accused James Casey could not be kept secure. He was removed under guard to the county jail. The indignant mob was not appeased, not even when the mayor of San Francisco attempted to address the crowd, pleading for them to disperse and assuring them that the law would run its proper course and justice would be done. The crowd jeered, “What about Richardson? Where is the law in Cora’s case?” The mayor hastily retreated, as the square – already guarded by armed marshals, soon filled with armed soldiers. The angry mob dispersed, still frustrated and furious. No doubt everyone in authority in the city breathed a sigh of relief, confident that this matter would blow over. After all, they controlled the political apparatus of the city, at least one newspaper, as well as the adjudicators and enforcers of the law … little comprehending that this shooting represented the last, the very last straw.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Law Enforcement, Miscellaneous, North America, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Graphic Novels on Health Care and other items….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 8th February 2012 (All posts by )

    -from SHOTS, NPR’s Health Care Blog:

    Health care reform is no laughing matter, but MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s new comic book on the subject aims to communicate some pretty complicated policy details in a way that, if not exactly side-splitting, is at least engaging.
     
    In Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works, Gruber steps into the pages of a comic book to guide readers through many of the major elements of the law, including the individual mandate to buy insurance, the health insurance exchanges where people will be able to buy coverage starting in 2014 and how the law tackles controlling health care costs.

    I draw your attention to another graphic novel: The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

    While I was buying a copy of Persepolis from a real-life book store a few years ago, a young woman at the sales counter mentioned that there was a “great” graphic novel about North Korea that I might like. I’m not a graphic novel reader and I think Persepolis is it for me unless I decide to review the health care book, but it interested me that she seemed so enthusiastic about the topic of North Korea and graphic novels. I guess it makes sense given our “information overload” society. I don’t know. Why not look for clarity?

    PS: Linking is not endorsement and all that.

    PPS: What’s the “all that” about? Eh, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for the past week or so and my blogging has been pretty terrible because of it. I linked the health care graphic novel because it amused me, not because I am simpatico with the message. I think you all knew that already….

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Big Government, Bioethics, Book Notes, Business, Economics & Finance, Education, Media, Medicine, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, Science, Society | Comments Off

    Frontier Surgeon or Ferdinand and Hermann’s Excellent Frontier Adventure

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th January 2012 (All posts by )

    The practice of medicine in these United (and for the period 1861-1865, somewhat disunited) States was for most of the 19th century a pretty hit or miss proposition, both in practice and by training. That many sensible people possessed pretty extensive kits of medicines – the modern equivalents of which are administered as prescriptions or under the care of a licensed medical professional – might tend to indicate that the qualifications required to hang out a shingle and practice medicine were so sketchy as to be well within the grasp of any intelligent and well-read amateur, and that many a citizen was of the opinion that they couldn’t possibly do any worse with a D-I-Y approach. Such was the truly dreadful state of affairs generally when it came to medicine in most places and in all but the last quarter of the 19th century – they may have been better off having a go on their own at that.

    Most doctors trained as apprentices to a doctor with a current practice. There were some formal schools of medicine in the United States, but their output did not exactly dazzle with brilliance. Successful surgeons of the time possessed two basic skill sets; speed and a couple of strong assistants to hold the patient down, until he was done cutting and stitching. Most of the truly skilled doctors and surgeons had their training somewhere else – like Europe.

    But in San Antonio, from 1850 on – there was a doctor-surgeon in practice, who ventured upon such daring medical remedies as to make him a legend. His patients traveled sometimes hundreds of miles to take advantage of his skill …
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Germany, History, Medicine, Miscellaneous, North America | 9 Comments »

    To The Lifeboats

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Pretty damned ironic, that the Costa Concordia disaster happened almost exactly a hundred years after the Titanic. It’s not all that often these days that a European/American flagged passenger ship becomes a catastrophic loss to their insurance company – although it happens with dispiriting frequency to inter-island ferries in the Philippines and hardly any notice of it taken in Western newspapers. The contrasts and ironies just abound; fortunate that the Costa was so close to land that some passengers were able to swim to safety, and that rescue personnel were at the scene almost before the air-bubbles from the sunken half of the ship even popped to the surface.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Europe, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous | 41 Comments »

    In Translation

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Ever since I finished the Adelsverein Trilogy, I’ve wanted to have a German language version out there.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Diversions, Germany, Miscellaneous, North America, Personal Narrative | Comments Off

    DeLeo’s Deli

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th January 2012 (All posts by )

    When I was a baby troop on my first overseas tour, at Misawa AB in Japan, I had a regular date in the form of a guy that Jenny bequeathed to me. Jenny was my friend simply because we were the only two women in the barracks who worked shifts. She was about to rotate out; her tour was up and she was going home.

    She also added, by way of convincing me to consider him as a regular date, “A nice guy, he’s a gentleman and he’s always good for a meal, he’s Baby Deleo.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative, Recipes | 17 Comments »

    What is on your Desk?

    Posted by Zenpundit on 26th December 2011 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Time for a bit of lighthearted, blogging fun.

    I spend a lot of time reading and writing and I do so primarily within a specific environment – my home office. The space reflects the man, to some degree.

    Surveying my office space here at home, I noticed that my desk has begun, like a coral reef, to accrete various objects, oddments and curious like a layer of bric-a-brac sediment.  Some objects change, others stay forever.  Exclusive of papers, books, printers and a computer, here’s what my desk holds:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Diversions, Human Behavior, Humor, Miscellaneous, Style | 18 Comments »

    Stand Off at the Salado – Conclusion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st November 2011 (All posts by )

    (Salado Creek today – not much water in it, because of the drought. And that is an egret. Part One of this post is here.)

    Texas did not have much of a regular professional army, as most western nations understood the concept. Texas did have sort of an army, and sort of a navy, too – but mere tokens – the window-dressing required of a legitimate nation, which is what Texas was trying it’s best to become, given restricted resources. What Texas did have was nearly limitless numbers of rough and ready volunteers, who were accustomed to respond to a threat, gathering in a local militia body and volunteering for a specific aim or mission, bringing their own weapons, supplies and horses, and usually electing their own officers. They also had the men of various ranging companies, which can be thought of as a mounted and heavily-armed and aggressive Neighborhood Watch. Most towns and settlements of any size on the Texas frontier fielded their own Ranger Companies. By the time of Woll’s raid on San Antonio, those volunteers and Rangers were veterans of every fight going since before Texas had declared independence - a large portion of them being of that tough Scotch-Irish ilk of whom it was said that they were born fighting. That part of the frontier which ran through Texas gave them practice at small-scale war and irregular tactics on a regular and continuing basis. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Ghost Ship

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th October 2011 (All posts by )

    (I came across this post in the old Daily Brief archives, and thought it would make a fantastic post for Halloween … for reasons that should become clear.)

    The searchers found it, the ghost ship, when they were looking for something else; it lay, broken but deceptively complete, draped across the crest of a dune, like a seabird on the flat swells of a calm sea. But this metal bird had landed in a desolate and frozen sand sea, an aeronautical Mary Celeste, all of itself, and remained eerily preserved. Baked in the desert sun, wheels-up, pancake-landed and broken in half aft of the wings and entirely empty of its’ crew … but still, their gear, and extra ammunition was perfectly stowed, the guns functional … the radio worked, so did the compass and at least one of the engines. There were still-edible emergency rations, drinkable water, even a thermos of still-potable coffee … everything as it had been left. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Film, History, Middle East, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Rivalrous and non-rivalrous goods and the OWS library

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th October 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- Jefferson, economics of possession and ideas, Occupy COG, library ]

    .
    1.

    Let’s start with Thomas Jefferson. I don’t know if he was the first to mention this curious distinction on record, but he makes the point nicely:

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

    John Perry Barlow quotes that gobbit of Jefferson as the epigraph to his essay, The Economy of Ideas.

    2.

    Here’s Lawrence Lessig, in his essay Against perpetual copyright:

    Tangible goods are rivalrous goods
     
    For one person to gain some tangible item, another person must lose it. For one person to gain the ownership of some piece of land, the previous owner must surrender ownership. T his is the ordinary state of physical property, and the laws around physical property are designed around this fact. Property taxes, zoning laws, and similar legal constructs are examples of how the law relates to physical property.
     
    Intellectual works are non-rivalrous
     
    Intellectual works are ordinarily non-rivalrous. It is possible for someone to teach a work of the mind to another without unlearning it himself. For example, one, or two, or a hundred people can memorize the same poem at the same time. Here the term “work of the mind” refers not to physical items such books or compact discs or DVD’s, but rather to the intangible content those physical objects contain.

    3.

    As someone whose work falls almost entirely in the “non-rivalrous” category, I am naturally very interested by this distinction, both for my own sake, and because (if the coming economy is an “information” or “imagination” economy) it may be the hinge on which the future of that economy turns…

    4.

    Which brings me to the Occupy movement, and to this curious fact which I found in an article I didn’t otherwise read. It’s from David Graeber, On Playing By The Rules – The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet :

    It’s no coincidence that the epicenter of the Wall Street Occupation, and so many others, is an impromptu library: a library being not only a model of an alternative economy, where lending is from a communal pool, at 0% interest, and the currency being lent is knowledge, and the means to understanding.

    In quoting this, I mean neither to endorse nor to condemn the movement, but simply to note that its center of gravity as described here (although technically, books are rivalrous goods) falls clearly within the non-rivalrous category: it is a market-place of ideas.

    5.

    As a one-time tank-thinker, I was trained to spot early indicators.

    I don’t know what this one means, but I suspect it’s an indicator. Give me another to pair it with, and I may be able to foresee a trend.

    What do you see?

    6.

    I spotted a copy of Mikhail Bulgakov‘s The Master and Margarita in one of the photos.

    tumblr_lsdaiufma61qzpfhxo1_500.jpg

    photo credit: Blaine O’Neill under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license

    and DH Lawrence, Sons and Lovers and Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories; Strindberg, The Plays and Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape; Dr Who, yeah and Star Wars too; William Gibson‘s Neuromancer and his Mona Lisa Overdrive; Max Marwick‘s Witchcraft and Sorcery; Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game and Lewis Carroll‘s Alice in Wonderland — and for the politics of it all, Marina Sitrin, Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina and Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict… which I’ve linked for your convenience.

    7.

    For what it’s worth…

    Nathan Schneider‘s article, What ‘diversity of tactics’ really means for Occupy Wall Street, cites Zenpundit blog-friend David Ronfeldt‘s study (with John Arqilla) Swarming & the Future of Conflict — along with (among others) Gene Sharp, whose work I discussed on Zenpundit a few months back.

    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics | 11 Comments »

    The Obama economy really is the pits

    Posted by onparkstreet on 18th October 2011 (All posts by )

    I’ve been in a mild funk lately because of all of the changes to one of my favorite little corners of Chicago Land. Closed and vacant shops mixed in with lightly populated high-end condo buildings turned rental. Halted construction and empty lots from development projects that fell through after the 2008 “crash”. Noisy restaurants where once stood second hand mom-and-pop shops, stationers and book stores. Closed, closed and closed. And yet, the local government persists in its grand 20-year economic development plans (I am not making that up) so that citizens are paying good money to brick streets, put up complicated and fashionable street lights, or have closed door meetings between developers and governmental officials. Welcome to Chicago and its suburbs. Lots of this-FEST and that-FEST sponsored by local officials in order to bring in business traffic, although many residents are inconvenienced by the crowds, noise and garbage. Some months ago while walking through the hospital, I overheard a conversation about this very neighborhood. It wasn’t very reassuring. I heard the words “scary” and “changes”. Urban blight. The beginnings of urban blight. People are so in denial.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Obama, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    Strawberry Cows Forever

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th October 2011 (All posts by )

    For Dan, another in my series of Texas cows… Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Miscellaneous, North America, Photos | 12 Comments »

    Tea Party and / or Occupy?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 9th October 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- parallels, opppositions, analysis, games, coincidentia oppositorum ]

    .

    labelling-bodies1.jpg

    My friend Cath Styles, who has been developing an iPad playable version of my HipBone Games under the name Sembl for the National Museum of Australia, made a point I’ve been trying to make for a while now, with sweet lucidity, in a recent blog post:

    A general principle can be distilled from this. Perhaps: In the very moment we identify a similarity between two objects, we recognise their difference. In other words, the process of drawing two things together creates an equal opposite force that draws attention to their natural distance. So the act of seeking resemblance – consistency, or patterns – simultaneously renders visible the inconsistencies, the structures and textures of our social world. And the greater the conceptual distance between the two likened objects, the more interesting the likening – and the greater the understanding to be found.

    That’s absolutely right, and it gets to the heart of my games and analytic practice — to see and acknowledge both parallelisms and differences, oppositions…

    Oxford is the polar opposite of Cambridge as anyone at the annual boat race between them will tell you — yet they’re so similar that the term Oxbridge exists to distinguish them as a dyad from all else the wide world round…

    Similarly, in the example illustrated above, Cath shows two items from the Museum collection that were juxtaposed by players of an early version of her game, and writes:

    the Sembl players who linked the above branding iron to the breastplate – because both are tools for labeling bodies – cast new light on the colonial practice of giving metal breastplates to Aboriginal people.

    * *

    Since the essence of my own analytic style (and that of HipBone and Sembl games) is the recognition of parallelisms and oppositions, I was particularly interested to see one group of early Tea Party folk reaching out to the emerging Occupy movement. Here, then, are two posts in which we can see the beginnings of recognition that there may be a kinship between the two…

    Occupy Wall Street: Another View:

    You know what the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is?
    .
    It is all the things that were in the original Tea Party, but were steadily ignored as the TP became a Republican booster club.

    That comes from a post on FedUpUSA, a site with the Gadsden flag as its web-logo that was [as "Market Ticker"], one of the founding orgs behind the TP. It’s from someone who identified as a Libertarian Party activist.

    Here’s another post from FedUpUSA, not so identified:

    An Open Letter From FedUpUSA To Occupy Wall Street Protestors All Over The Country:

    This is a letter to OWS from FedUpUSA, one of the original Tea Parties:
    .
    We support you in exercising your First Amendment Right. We are outraged that any peaceful demonstrator would be assaulted or abused by any authorities.
    .
    If you are protesting because there are no jobs— We stand with you.
    .
    We are for a free economy and recognize that what we have now is NOT a free economy; it is not capitalism what we have is a fascist state or crony-capitalism. There is nothing free about doing business with Countries that manipulate their currencies to attract cheap labor. We agree that these jobs need to come back to America.
    .
    If you are protesting because no one has gone to jail— We stand with you.
    .
    Regardless of what is being said from the white house and media, we know that there are many in the financial district and the banks that have committed fraud and outright theft and we too want to see them prosecuted. We support the stop looting and start prosecuting.
    .
    If you are protesting because everything costs more— We stand with you.
    .
    We see prices rise in our food, gas, clothes yet our wages have stayed the same or have decreased. The Federal Reserve has bailed everyone out but us and not only are we going to have to pay for that, those bailouts make the price of everything else go up because it devalues our currency. We support monetary reform.
    .
    If you are protesting because you are tired of our bought and paid for government on both sides— We stand with you.
    .
    We are also against the banks and big corporations buying our politicians and writing laws that favor their special interests. We understand that our economy is broken BECAUSE of this and that all of our other issues will never be addressed as long as the financial elite control OUR government.
    .
    We understand that these issues cross party lines and ideologies and effect each and every one of us. We also understand that these issues will never get fixed as long as we continue to let the media, the elite, and members of the government separate us by our differing ideologies.
    .
    Only Together, can we Implement Change
    .
    It is time, We Americans, put our ideologies in our back pocket and not let them separate us so that we can work together for this ONE COMMON GOAL: to get the special interest money and elite out of OUR Government and return it to US — the people.
    .
    As long as the banks, largest corporations, and wealthy elite control our government, we will never have a representative republic and laws will continue to be passed that only benefit the few 1% at the expense of us 99
    .
    Demand that NOT ONE MORE LAW gets passed until they pass:
    .
    Lobby reform:
    .
    It is a Federal Offense punishable by a minimum 5 years in prison to:
    .
    Lobby any member of the US Congress outside of the district you live, work, or own a business.
    Lobby a member of congress while they are physically outside the district they represent.
    .
    Campaign Reform:
    .
    It is a Federal Offense punishable by a minimum 5 years in prison to:
    .
    For any one person, corporation, enterprise, group, union or the like, to donate more than $2,000 to any one candidate during one campaign period.
    For any member of the media to deny equal access to competing candidates.
    .
    These two laws will cut the control the Financial elite have on our government by leveling the playing field. You will have just as big as a voice with your representative as the big box retailer that resides in your town. Simply, it will end the Crony-Capitalism that is strangling our economy.
    .
    I encourage all my fellow Tea Partiers to join Occupy Wall Street protesters in their non-violent, peaceful protests and together demand that the Government be returned to the people. After all, this is precisely what the Tea Party was intended to be before it was taken over and marginalized by the establishment politicians.
    .
    FedUpUSA.org

    * *

    And we’re deep into John Robb territory…

    What do you think? Do the parallelisms strike you, or the oppositions — or, perhaps, both?

    FWIW, Cath’s Sembl version of my game looks like it is going to be a beautiful steampunk affair…

    Posted in Americas, Conservatism, Leftism, Libertarianism, Miscellaneous, Tea Party, USA | 25 Comments »

    Dead Sea Scrolls & Nag Hammadi Codices online

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th September 2011 (All posts by )

    [ corss-posted from Zenpundit -- archaeology, Biblical scholarship, eschatology, digital literacy ]

    .

    Both the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran and the Gnostic and associated codices from Nag Hammadi are now available for study online:

    quo-codices.jpg

    The Nag Hammadi Archive can be explored via the Claremont Colleges Digital Library, and the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls via the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

    Here’s a description of the War Scroll from Qumran, which “is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE”:

    Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 7-12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the “Sons of Light” (the term used by Community members to refer to themselves), under the leadership of the “Prince of Light” (also called Michael, the Archangel) – and the “Sons of Darkness” (a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike), aided by a nation called the Kittim (Romans?), headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants, and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.

    You can see why I’m interested.

    The Nag Hammadi texts are a little less well known but include — along with a variety of other texts, some of them self-described as “apocalypses” — the now celebrated Gospel of Thomas, which Bart Erhman reads as continuing a “de-apocalypticizing” of Jesus’ message which he finds beginning in Luke and continuing in John:

    In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, written somewhat later than John, there is a clear attack on anyone who believes in a future Kingdom here on earth. In some sayings, for example, Jesus denies that the Kingdom involves an actual place but “is within you and outside you” (saying 3); he castigates the disciples for being concerned about the end (saying 18); and he spurns their question about when the Kingdom will come, since “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the earth and people do not see it” (saying 113).

    Again, you can see why I am delighted that these texts are becoming available to a wider scholarly audience…

    In both the Nag Hammadi codices and Qumran scrolls, we have texts that were lost for almost two thousand years and discovered, somewhat haphazardly, in 1945 and 1947 respectively, providing us with rich insights into the religious ferment around a time and place that have been pivotal for western civilization.

    Now, more than half a century later, the web — as it becomes our global museum and our in-house library — brings us closer to both…

    Posted in Christianity, History, Internet, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Miscellaneous, Religion | 2 Comments »

    Bookworld

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th September 2011 (All posts by )

    There was a lot of discussion earlier this year and in a great many different writing and general interest venues regarding the success of indy writer Amanda Hocking  - which, however you slice it, remains a self-published and e-book success story. Candidly, I think that we need another zombie-werewolf-vampire saga like Custer needed another Indian, but hey- that’s just me. Not my cuppa, but if it floats yer boat . . .  To paraphrase the lyrics of a certain old pop song – I can barely run my own life, why the hell should I want to run yours? Yeah – Sunshine, go away and get those kids off my lawn!

    Anyway – as an indy-POD-author, untrammeled by the shackles of the literary-industrial complex, I had to give the Ms. Hocking all kinds of mad respect, for writing savvy,  plus marketing skills and the sheer neck to go out and just do it. 450,000 copies of nine books, each at a price of .99-2.99 and the author getting 30-70% in royalties  . . .  is  . . .  a  . . .  a lot of turnips.*

    I’m an English major, dammit! But I appreciate the business aspects of it all.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions, Internet, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    Eating Good in the Neighborhood

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th September 2011 (All posts by )

    For your weekend delectation … excellent eating, in San Antonio and environs:

    On the grill at Easy Picken’s BBQ, in Harper, Texas. Alas, they don’t have a website, and are only open Fridays and weekends … but the grilled meats are sublime.

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    Posted in Americas, Diversions, Miscellaneous, Photos | 11 Comments »

    Into the Wilderness – Part Two: The Platte, Fort Hall & the Desert Sink

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th September 2011 (All posts by )

    (The continuation of the essay from 2005 which eventually became my first historical novel – To Truckee’s Trail.  The print version is going to a second edition, but it is currently available as an e-book. Along about 2006 I began to be overcome with a belief that we had to reclaim our American history, to remember who we were and where we came from, to know that the American experiment was a grand and optimistic one, and that our forebearers were for the largest part, decent, courageous and honorable people. So, I turned to writing rattling good adventure yarns in an attempt to educate readers painlessly. We can’t let scum like Howard Zinn and Michael Moore have it all to themselves, can we?)

    Fifteen miles a day, more or less; the inexorable calculus of the overland trails. The wagon trains can only move out in late May, when the prairie grass is grown tall enough to feed the draft animals. And they must be over the last palisade of the high Sierra Nevada before the way is blocked by the winter snow. And they must do so before their food supplies run out. Any one of a hundred miscalculations, missteps or misfortunes can upset that careful arithmetic and bring disaster upon all. Is the water in that creek running fast and high? Can it be forded, or should the wagons carefully and laboriously be ferried over. An accident to a wagon, the loss of any of the supplies, an ox-team felled by disease or accident may be compounded later on. Balance taking a day to cross a high-water creek, against a day six months in the future and an early snow fall in the Sierras. Balance sparing a day camping by a pleasant spring of clear water, and the men going to hunt for meat – which when dried over the fire and stored away, may mean the difference between a nourishing meal by an ice-water lake half a continent away, and starvation in that place instead. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    3,650 Days

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th September 2011 (All posts by )

    Three thousand, six hundred fifty days, more or less,depending on leap years – since the end of the 20th century. Oh, I know, calendar-wise, only a year or two off. But we don’t count strictly by the calendar. Afterwards, we count by events. Myself, I have the feeling that the 19th century didn’t truly end for good and all until 1914. That’s when the 20th century began, in the muddy trenches of WW1. All the previous comfortable understandings and optimistic assumptions of the earlier world were shattered right along with three monarchial dynasties, over the course of four years. When it was over, the world of the time before seemed impossibly far removed, to those who could remember it – a number which, as the decades passed, became steadily fewer, until that old world was entirely the stuff of books, paintings and relics, rather than true human recollections. We eventually adjusted and accepted the new reality of things. The old way, and the shattering events in which it passed – became a date on a monument, a paragraph in a history text, a book on the shelf.

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    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Islam, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative, Society, Terrorism, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Fire Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th September 2011 (All posts by )

    The winds kicked up over last weekend, here in Texas – and it  was wonderful, after what seems like an eternity of soggy, brutal and unrelenting heat.  It has rained here in San Antonio precisely twice in the last three or four months, and the second rain was nothing but a thin mist that moistened the ground and dried up almost at once.  The temperatures have been in the 100s, all summer long, and now most of Texas is dried to a crisp. Seasonal watercourses are bone-dry. Even in the spring, when my daughter and I took the dog and walked along the Salado Creek Greenway, there were only occasional stagnant pools of water in the creek bed.

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    Posted in Diversions, Miscellaneous, North America | 5 Comments »

    Shopping and sacrifice

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 30th August 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- values ]

    .

    Sacrifice was high among the unifying ideals that many Americans hoped would emerge from the rubble of ground zero, where so many Good Samaritans had practiced it. But the president scuttled the notion on the first weekend after the attack, telling Americans that it was his “hope” that “they make no sacrifice whatsoever” beyond, perhaps, tolerating enhanced airline security. Few leaders in either party contradicted him. Bush would soon implore us to “get down to Disney World in Florida” and would even lend his image to a travel-industry ad promoting tourism. Our marching orders were to go shopping.

    I’ve drawn this partial paragraph from Frank Rich‘s New York piece of August 27th, The 9/11 decade is now over. The terrorists lost. But who won? – it really caught my attention.

    If you shake it down in the mind like someone panning for gold to get rid of the lightweight details, the heavier material that remains for you to sort through will, I think, consist of two words: “sacrifice” as representing one order of values, gleaming in contrast with the darker “shopping” representing another.

    Yesterday I made a post about words and culture, this one is about culture and sacrifice… what comes next will be the series on ritual and ceremonial…

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Society | 3 Comments »

    Historical footnotes to game theory

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st August 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- philosophy, psychology, history, game theory, dilemma, commons cooperation, analogy, 9/11 ]

    .

    I have an interest in game theory that is much like my interest in music: I can’t play, but I can whistle. And so it is that I’ve substituted curiosity about the history of the thing, and whatever analogical patterns I can discern there, for any actual ability at the thing itself.

    Somewhere in my analogy-collector’s mind, then, I have these two quotes, cut from the living tissue of their writer’s thoughts, and prepped fpor contemplation. I find them, in retrospect, quite remarkable.

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in On the Inequality among Mankind, wrote:

    Such was the manner in which men might have insensibly acquired some gross idea of their mutual engagements and the advantage of fulfilling them, but this only as far as their present and sensible interest required; for as to foresight they were utter strangers to it, and far from troubling their heads about a distant futurity, they scarce thought of the day following. Was a deer to be taken? Every one saw that to succeed he must faithfully stand to his post; but suppose a hare to have slipped by within reach of any one of them, it is not to be doubted but he pursued it without scruple, and when he had seized his prey never reproached himself with having made his companions miss theirs.

    And David Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature:

    Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both that I shou’d labour with you today, and that you shou’d aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know that you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains on your account; and should I labour with you on my account, I know I shou’d be disappointed, and that I shou’d in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone: You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.

    *

    Those two, I believe, are fairly well known – I was delighted the other day to run across a third sample for my collection. William James, in The Will to Believe, writes:

    Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned. A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted by a few highwaymen, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before any one else backs him up. If we believed that the whole car-full would rise at once with us, we should each severally rise, and train-robbing would never even be attempted.

    *

    The first two quotes are of interest as showing the forms that an idea which will later be mathematized can take. They are, if you like, precursors of game theoretic constructs, although neither Hume nor Rousseau appears to be mentioned in von Neumann and Morgenstern‘s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.

    The third, I think, is even more interesting.. Consider the eerie and heroic “fulfillment” of that third paragraph if read “as prophecy” – in this account from the 9/11 Commission Report of the events on United Flight 93:

    During at least five of the passengers’ phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted. At 9:57, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows:

    “Everyone’s running up to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.” The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door.

    Yesterday’s highwayman is today’s hijacker, yesterday’s train is today’s plane…

    *

    If there’s anything to be learned here, it’s not a novel way of protecting trains or aircraft from passengers of malicious intent –

    It’s that there’s a subtle thread running from something akin to instinct that’s also close to unspoken common sense, surfacing for a moment in the writings of thoughtful individuals, leading on occasion to the formulation of exact mathematical principles — but also (i) available, (ii) in the human repertoire, (iii) to be acted upon, (iv) cooperatively, (v) as required, (vi) via the medium of human common interest, (vii) which provides the resultant trust.

    Which may in turn offer some reason for hope — for a humanity in various forms of communal distress…

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Education, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    An excellent method for wholesale job creation (please note the slight sarcasm)

    Posted by onparkstreet on 9th August 2011 (All posts by )

    Instapundit linked to this Walter Russell Mead blog post, leading me to stumble across the following item (from the Chicago Journal):

    The project has had a tumultuous ride to get to this point, Fioretti said. Lease negotiations between Costco and the Illinois Medical District (a state-controlled body that owns the Costco site) were rocky, but a deal was reached earlier this year.
     
    “When negotiations began in earnest, the medical district wanted to make 982 changes to the lease — and I called the governor to intervene on it,” Fioretti said. “The governor’s office was very eager to assist. They understood what it meant to have almost 250 permanent jobs.”

    Yes, you read that correctly. Go ahead: rub your eyes, read it again, do a Looney Tunes or Bugs Bunny-like double take, and then read it a third time. THIS is why some of us were so deeply skeptical about transporting greater Chicagoland and Illinoisian, er, “political concepts” to DC, however well-meaning….

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Tea Party | Comments Off