is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


Culture Shock

While in Oklahoma, Maggie and I were exposed to several TV examples of Japanese culture. The first, and most impressive, involved the Food Network show Iron Chef. Iron Chef is this incredible show that is like a cross between pro wrestling and Martha Stewart. Basically, the mythology behind the show is this: Takeshi Kaga plays a wealthy eccentric guy who lives in his castle with a cabal of Iron Chefs, each representing a major genre of food, like Japanese, French, or Italian. His chief pleasure in life is matching his Iron Chefs versus challengers, who are real life chefs that would probably kill to be on this show, as it is very popular in Japan. In the dubbed version we watched, Takeshi Kaga is the only one who is Undubbable; he gets subtitles. So he unveils the Secret Ingredient, and then the chefs have an hour to make a full four course (or so) meal using that secret ingredient. Past secret ingredients have included Asparagus, Pumpkin, Eel, and one of the two episodes we watched, Japanese Lobsters. (Except the secret ingredient must be shouted: JAPANESE LOBSTERS!!!) Unofficial site here. The other cool thing about the one we watched: one of the guest judges was Akebono, the great Sumo Yokozuna from Hawaii. In one of the pictures there he looks like E. Honda from Street Fighter, except without the face paint.

Japanese culture is very intriguing to me, mainly because the social conventions are so different, and their sense of reserve and honor is so unlike the typical American. So these pages are probably atypical: Japanese slang. And Japanese street sayings. And best of all, rude Japanese street slang. All lifted wholesale from the Nutlog.

Jeff wants me to make sure I don’t forget to mention the unique subculture that is Okinawa. His wife, Kari, is Nisei (second generation), as her mom is from there.

How to write a blog

My sister Valerie has just started a blog. Welcome to the coven, Val. All the cool people are doing it. She notes today that mom suggested she post links or commentary about other stuff besides herself. I think that’s ok, but if she wants to write about herself that’s cool too. I mean, everyone’s mundanity is the height of the exotic to someone else. Personally, I want mom to start blogging too. She always finds the funkiest articles, like this one, which she sent me today. So I’d say to write about yourself but intersperse it with your favorite web gleanings. After a while you’ll find a style is just developing on its own. I am unfamiliar with the double periods, though. What does it mean?

Anyone forget Bush v. Gore yet? I hope not, since it currently ranks at number 3 in my mind (after Dred Scott v. Sanford and Plessy v. Ferguson) in Poorly Defended Decisions of the Supreme Court.



It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged any science articles, and that’s too bad. Despite my near perpetual focus on the social sciences, I really am very interested in many aspects of science and especially biology. I don’t get the physical sciences as quickly, although I know weather and geology as well as any layindividual could be expected to, and my absorbance of all things relating to dinosaurs is nearly legendary amongst my family. Every time I get together with my mom and anyone else, I can expect to hear this story about how I guided a tour in the Chicago Field Museum when I was around five.

That being said, it’s my brudda who is the science whiz in the family. Kevin is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, a physics major capable in speaking of concepts so dense that I can’t follow the general subject without paying very close attention. I’m impressed.

While we were out in Kenton we noticed many cicadas about. Cicadas are fairly large critters often misidentified as locusts. Cicadas are known for having strangely long breeding cycles, most famously the 13 and 17 year varieties. New evidence suggests that the evolution of prime intervals gained these periodic cicadas an evolutionary advantage. A fascinating read from the outstanding MNBLOG Honeyguide.

Speaking of evolution, what advantage would the development of music stand to gain our species? It’s an interesting question with no real answer, but this article makes the fascinating point that lab tests show young babies can tell when they are played the wrong notes. It almost would seem that we are hardwired from birth to appreciate music. The prevalence of music genes could be explained by “rock star status:”

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, has looked at thousands of jazz, rock, and classical music albums and noted the age and sex of the musicians. In every genre of music, he says, men produce about 10 times as much as women, and their output peaks at around age 30— near the time of their peak reproductive years. "Good musicians, particularly good singers, attract sexual interest," Miller says. "Successful male musicians are notoriously promiscuous and tend to produce a lot of children— and that's how the genes for musical ability tend to be passed on."

I have known so many women that would want to use these new drugs that are being developed to suppress menstruation. Personally, I am still waiting for the male birth control pill, but I’m not holding my breath for that.
Please go stand next to the stairs

Another round of (delayed) 1142 gleanings. I think I got this one from Jessamyn, the house librarian: Miss Charlotte Brown, Librarian, Goes Mad. A literary answer to flash kung fu. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Snarkout pointed me at the Terrible Secret of Space, a multimedia flash video. It’s extremely entertaining and hilarious. I think I’m the very last blogger to link to that, as all the cool people knew about that a long time ago.


Living off the land

It’s always such a revelation to realize that solutions to major problems aren’t easy. For instance, take my prescriptive solution to the situation of the Plains last week. My proposal of the Buffalo Commons was tossed out so easily, so flippantly, even, that in retrospect my statement smacks of smug liberalism in the way that I just can’t stand when I see it in others.

For starters, despite the well supported contention that much of the European farming experience of the plains has been a failure, this doesn’t mean that the plains are completely depopulated, nor that the people living there particularly want to leave, (nor even that I want them outta there, but it certainly wasn’t well supported). In short, solutions to the environmental problems facing rangeland and Native American issues aren’t going to spring full grown from the heads of pundits, but only will be solved in conjunction with the people that know best, mainly the people that live there.

Take the case of the area around Kenton, the ancestral stomping grounds of my family. The issues that face the ranchers in the area are familiar to me (namely, drought, water rights, riparian zones, overgrazing, private leasing of public lands) yet for some reason I’ve always considered such issues in a typical liberal fog of separation of people from the problems. My relatives (cowboys) have demonized environmentalists in a way that really makes me angry, but also makes me realize that much of the blame has to be laid at the feet of the well intentioned “tree huggers” that actually talk to them. It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that the political alignments of the majority of the ranchers is ass-backwards. Republicans, whom they support without even really thinking about it, are in actuality not acting in the best interests of the rural people. I offer in support of this the GOP’s shilling for oligopolistic commodity markets and the massive multinational corporations that keep prices low and screw the same people that actually vote for them. Environmentalists ought to be aligned with the ranchers. They are concerned with the same issues – my relatives aren’t going to allow the riparian zones to be denuded, nor their pastures overgrazed, because such things would destroy their long term viability where range land is scarce. It’s the concentration of ranches that encourage such lazy ranching – if you have so much land the temptation to just let the cattle run can take over.

Environmentalists should do a better job reaching out to these farmers and ranchers who are natural allies. As is my wont, I go back to history, the Grange declaration of purposes from 1874 to show the way:

We are opposed to such spirit and management of any corporation or enterprise as tends to oppress the people and rob them of their just profits. We are not enemies to capital, but we oppose the tyranny of monopolies. We long to see the antagonism between capital and labor removed by common consent, and by an enlightened statesmanship worthy of the nineteenth century. We are opposed to excessive salaries, high rates of interest and exorbitant profits in trade. They greatly increase our burdens and do not bear a proper proportion to the profits of producers. We desire only self-protection and the protection of every true interest of our land, by legitimate transactions, legitimate trade, and legitimate profits.

Still a blog, right?

Right. The unignorable noise. Sounds like the Deplorable Word.

LAPI city: update on the Gold Club trial. Previously mentioned, that’s the Atlanta strip club implicated in money laundering for the Gambino crime family. The client’s list reads like a who’s who of pro athletes. Andruw Jones of the Braves testified about his, uh, involvement; this follows up on Patrick Ewing’s testimony yesterday about the full service he received, and more to come. Whoa, Nelly.

Maggie sent me this: the Cheesy Lights page. So if you want holiday lights shaped like cows, or peppers, or tractors, this site is your one stop shopping site.


And suddenly, everything changes

We got back from the big trip to Oklahoma on Saturday night, but it’s taken me this long to get anything posted as an update. Why?
In short, because being on the internet is a difficult culture to get back in to. During the week, I get on the internet when I don’t have anything to do and I am suddenly in a noncorporeal world where I have net friends, net hangouts, and a net culture to keep up with. Being gone for ten days from that world left me fairly bewildered. I almost don’t feel like I can get back into it – although I can and will, to a degree. Yet on the other hand, I’m not sure my net life will ever quite be the same again. So, many other blogs recently have made entries like this to announce the end of their blogs. I post this not to declare that I’m quitting but to redefine the purpose of Hobbsblog. I am going to continue to maintain it, but I am not really even going to try to keep up daily entries, for the following reasons.

  • I have only one month left before law school.

  • I think I need to read more books.

  • I want to get out more while I still have some summer.

  • I am beginning to hate my preoccupation with deadlines and time.

  • I don’t feel inspired. I write much more when I do.

So, I’ll post when I feel like it and won’t when I don’t. Sound good?
Play this game

While in Oklahoma Maggie and I were introduced to the game The Settlers of Catan, which is a translated name for Die Siedler von Catan, a fine German game. This baby is kind of like a cross between Monopoly and Risk, and I’m told it also resembles Go in some respects as well. Maggie and I are sort of addicted to it now.


Gone to Oklahoma

I was originally going to post a followup to the wilderness post, but then got caught up in a lot of pre vacation planning and didn’t have time to do anything. I’m now off to Oklahoma for a week, and will return July 23. If you must get ahold of me please call the cell phone at (651) 387 1884. If you are bored peruse the links to the left or my archives, which are really fun to go through. At least for me. Or if I mention you. Heh. Anyway, here are a couple of random links as I go…

The official rules of the world Rock, Paper, Scissors association.

(from Jeff, again) The absurd inequality of Women’s professional tennis.

Big list of Saints. And on the other side of the equation, why to disbelieve in Hell.

One hundred and ninety seven years ago yesterday was the duel between Hamilton and Burr. One hundred and ninety seven years ago today Hamilton died. Here are all the Federalist Papers, as well as other major documents. I found the Anti-Federalist Papers even more interesting.

If Solar Power works for the Dominican Republic, it is probably getting cheap enough to become useful (read: dangerous).

This will be my longest stretch of not blogging since HB began.


Hitler and Jefferson

The Jefferson linkage I posted last time sparked the following IM conversation between me and Jeff, a portion of which I have reproduced with his permission.

Jeff says:
THere's a great comparison to be made between Jefferson and Hitler, ideologically speaking.
Jeff says:
That is a great link, one of the few honest ones about Tom Jeff and the tribes.
Nathan says:
yeah, he was a really kick ass guy, as long as you were in the right ethnicity/gender
Jeff says:
Just like Hitler.
Nathan says:
ugh. I don't know about that. my position is that you have to do with Jefferson what you have to do with any of the founding fathers -- take the philosophy and extend it to the greatest number of people; they had ideological blinders that prevented them seeing that people that didn't look like them were people, too.
Nathan says:
And don't say Just like Hitler again, dammit.
Nathan says:
I ain't gonna advocate fascism.
Nathan says:
I will advocate protected rights and delegated powers, tho.
Jeff says:
Just like ... Walther Darr.
Nathan says:
Nathan says:
[you] fuckin' pinko
Jeff says:
(A Nazi intellectual who was very influential with the party, and in the thought of Heidegger.)
Jeff says:
I'm very serious, actually. Think about it:
HITLER -- Organic farming will re-enchant the volk with the land.
JEFFERSON -- The U.S. should remain a nation of small farmers.
Jeff says:
HITLER -- Jews, Roma, blacks and homosexuals are not people.
JEFFERSON -- Blacks are subhuman; Indians are "merciless savages."
Jeff says:
HITLER -- The international bankers are out to get us.
JEFFERSON -- The national AND international bankers are out to get us.
Jeff says:
HITLER -- The volk need lebensraum ("living space"), thus we must expand our borders.
JEFFERSON -- We must purchase Lousiana and push Indians off it to achieve the ideal small farming society.
Nathan says:
HITLER -- I should take over all of Europe to gain Lebensraum and convert them to my ideology
JEFFERSON -- I should take over North America (you posted yours)
Jeff says:
There are differences, of course: Hitler gained power via pushing for a strong state, Jefferson gained power by positioning himself AGAINST a strong state (although he sure used the state's power), but ideologically, there were a lot of similarities.
Jeff says:
'Neither Spain nor Britain should be models of the German expansion, but the Nordics of North America, who had ruthlessly pushed aside an inferior race to win for themselves soil and territory for the future.' -- Hitler

(And I didn't even talk about Blood and Soil ideology, crucial to both Jefferson and Hitler's outlook)!

As explained in the link in question, Jefferson believed that Native Americans and those that didn’t want to be part of society had to be pushed to the wilderness to the west of what was then the United States. This idea of wilderness versus civilization is a dominant theme of American history, and still intrigues me. On one hand, my Social Contractarian philosophy presupposes that we have a choice and an input in determining what sort of government we have, or whether we get one at all. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, if you didn’t want to live within the strictures of polite society, there were many different options available, from going into the fur trade, logging, exploring, and the high seas. Now, the average person who is unable to deal with civilization is most likely to just become a criminal. But even this minor quibble with the direction our nation has turned pales in comparison with the plight of the Native Americans.

The Indians. That quote by Hitler is chilling. What is the major difference between the concept of Manifest Destiny and Lebensraum? We are the beneficiaries of a genocidal program to dominate a continent. The impact on the legacy of our country is staggering; we who are the descendants of the executors of the policies that put us in place here. I understand that such positions are unpopular, and if some members of my family knew my full position on the matter, I could be disowned. I don’t just have a diagnosis, I have a solution in mind, at least for the Indians of the vast middle West. There is ample evidence that the 150 year old experiment of European farming the plains is a failure, in the sense that the plains are depopulating so quickly that many areas of the west have fewer people per square mile than they did in 1893, the year the frontier was declared closed. It’s time to let the ecosystem return to its natural state, to a Buffalo Commons, if you will, and let the Native Americans live the way they want to.

Funky disaster

Dating back to high school, I’ve always been fascinated by lesser-known disasters from the great Halifax Explosion of 1917 to the Quebec Bridge Collapse of 1907. The weirdest I have found yet has to be the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, where a giant tank of the stuff ruptured, sending a 30 foot high wall of molasses down streets, taking houses off their foundations, killing 21 people and generally making a big mess. It is said to this day you can smell molasses on a hot day. Great article here from 1965.


Hamilton and Jefferson

All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are rich and well born; the other, the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second; and as they cannot receive any advantage by change, they will therefore maintain good government.

-Alexander Hamilton, 1787

As I alluded to yesterday, Hamilton and Jefferson turned into the dominant philosophical voices for shaping the future of the new United States of America. No, these two voices for the republic are still heard today, although Hamilton seems to have won the debate. You see, Hamilton’s vision for the US was one of a new industrial, mercantile power; not a colonial one, necessarily, but one that used its power and its credit to guarantee the operation of a strong economy. Hamilton’s Report on the Nature of Manufactures was an enormously influential treatise on national finance and macroeconomics; its basic thrust was that the country could and should use its muscle to help and protect domestic businesses from competition and the vagaries of the business cycle in a way to help make merchants rich. Hamilton also was in favor of the national government doing whatever it could to increase its power and sway. This was primarily because he was not so much in favor of freedom as he was afraid of disorder. If the government could remain strong, then it could guarantee the wealth of people like himself. One of the ways that this was achieved was guaranteeing a steady money supply. He supported tariffs partially to protect domestic industries and partly to generate revenue.

Jefferson (superb link, by the way. I highly recommend it), on the other hand, was in favor of a decentralized, strict constructionist view of the federal government. He was in favor of an agrarian economy and a romanticized, bucolic ideal for the American dream. Jefferson was mainly afraid of too much government and wanted strict rules to hold the powers of the federals in check. Despite this general position, Jefferson had many moments of weakness, including the critical decision to purchase Louisiana – a decision that was certainly contrary to everything he ever said about the power of the president.

Where Jefferson was a populist, Hamilton was afraid of the people. I am sympathetic to both views. On one hand, the people certainly ought to act in a way that is most consistent with the greater good. On the other hand, the state of education and culture in America is such today that I believe many Americans are brainwashed into not recognizing the nature of the political choices we are presented with. As I get older, I recognize that there is a lot of truth in the saying that the USA is a new country. These choices that our country made are not ones made long, long, long ago, although they are several lifetimes removed from our generation. We are taught that these Founding Fathers were Important Patriots, that made wise decisions by consensus that are still locking us into our political heritage and system today. In reality, these Founding Fathers were also politicians, and were often at each other’s throats. Jefferson may be revered today, but very few people could tell you why. Hamilton is not remembered, although we see him more than many other early politicians (he is the guy on the $10 bill, remember?). George W Bush and his cabinet are the ideological successors to Hamilton and his Federalists. Coolidge’s “The Business of America is Business” could now be the national motto.

Jefferson’s vision is essentially dead. The nation used to be agrarian; one century ago over sixty percent of us lived on farms; now fewer than 25% do. The strict constructionists in our political ranks have been routed since the Great Depression and its New Deal. Rights have long been subjugated to liberty. It is high time we chose to remember Jefferson not just in name but in spirit and belief – not that we can reverse our population growth or become an agricultural economy again, but reshape the nature of the republic so it looks like the Constitution. And now I sound like a politician.

A man with no arms, no legs, who hangs on the wall

Another 1142 gleaning: an explanation for why crap art sells. I wish I could make $29,000 for a styrofoam cup with a bug in it. Basically, speculators have driven up the price because other stupid rich people buy it. Essentially, the art market today is a large bubble economy. The emperor still has no clothes, folks.


Pleading the Fifth

Two hundred and twenty five years ago, John Hancock woke up with a large hangover and said, “Damn! I knew I should have made everyone sign that thing right away.”

You see, John Hancock signed it on July 4 and was the only one to do so. The others didn’t sign until July 19 at the earliest, the official signing ceremony. When the first copies of the Declaration of Independence were disseminated, they bore only Hancock’s signature. And now he’s dead and another posthumous advertiser, like Fred Astaire with that stupid vacuum cleaner and Einstein with Pepsi. There’s really nothing that gets my goat like seeing dead people endorsing product. Every time I see John Wayne with a Coors, I retch.
So here’s to you, John Hancock. May you rest in peace, and ignore the fact that your famous signature is now a trademark of a company founded nearly seventy five years after your death.

Nevertheless, Hancock was really wealthy; having inherited an ungodly sum at the age of 27, so he might not be so against the company’s usage of it. Another of our founding fathers who got his wealth by happenstance was Alexander Hamilton, who was a prototypical Republican in that he wanted to use the power of government to aid the wealth holders. I think it’s terribly ironic that in the famous ideological dispute between Hamilton and Jefferson it is Jefferson who is remembered and revered by history, yet it was Hamilton’s side that won.

This is beginning to interest me, so I’ll pick it up next time.

They fought for my right to post LAPIs

This jury has had to sit through over five hours of hard core sexual videos in the trial they are deciding in New Orleans. I think if I was in New Orleans, I would be very unhappy with the District Attorney that decided to bring that case to trial.

Shades of Candiru: two New Guineans have died after fish apparently bit off their wankers. Ouch.

Not a LAPI, but an interesting tale of the blog: I found this photo, reputedly of an entire iceberg a few weeks ago and was amazed. I posted it to 1142 and Brad rapidly pointed out that the photo is not real. The woman whose site I found it on got the picture from her mom.
My mom sent me the same picture two weeks ago and I got to give her the same debunking. The web is weird.


It’s worse than that; he’s dead, Jim

I love my mother, but sometimes she strikes me as somewhat, ermm, weird. Actually, that’s not even the best term for it. She lives in the South, and despite the stereotypes about the conformity expected in southern culture, there is a strong tradition of the eccentric that runs among those that occupy Dixie, and she is rapidly filling a key niche as the eccentric cemetary lady in her town.

Mom just went to Boston for a gravestone conference. She is a nationally recognized expert in the analysis of graves, and really enjoys all aspects of the messages to the dead left by the living. She picks apart sympols on gravestones, and assigns them acronyms that she and my sister have given to various motifs, such as GA (Gates Ajar) and LC2C (Lady Clinging 2 Cross). When she got home I got an interesting call.

“Nathan, guess what!! (breathless excitement)
“What is it mom?”
“I have just found the most wonderful stone, and I definitely want my gravestone made out of it. Slate! It’s great! I just visited all these neat graves from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, and they are still so nicely legible!”
“Mom, do you realize how most people would react to getting this announcement from their mother?”

Heh. I dig on the stuff too; I’ve blogged roadside memorials (the next day, she emailed me a better site than the one I blogged.) and I think there is definitely a lot that is revealed about the living by how we treat our dead. With that in mind, I must share with you a custom coffin catalog, which features graphics on the coffins to go out with. Mom’s favorite is the “Return to Sender” post office model. I personally am fond of the NASCAR checkered flag version. Although the Hunting one is funny too.

For those of you wondering how you would find graves that were buried in forests as part of the new eco-death movement, technology has the answer. And here’s the gravestone horror story of the day: their gravestone arrived on Tuesday. He went up with his chainsaw to clear a space for it, and died of an apparent heart attack. When she found out about his death, she collapsed and died of a heart attack too.

Please also check out Cold Marble Musings, the outstanding grave blog.

Another Pie in the Face

Marc Boris St.-Maurice, who was jailed on charges he hit a Mounty with a pie, was cleared of the charges after videotape revealed his target: himself. You see, Mr. St.-Maurice was attempting to pie a statue of Emily Murphy, a noted Canadian feminist and anti-cannabis activist who helped usher in pot prohibition in Canada. When it became obvious the authorities were going to stop him, he pied himself.

"The only honourable thing to do at that point was disarm the pie on myself, which I did."