;-(

Posted: October 30, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

You know the shine that happens after you’ve used a computer keyboard for a year or so?  My key between the ‘l’ and the ‘ ‘/” ‘ keys doesn’t have that shine.  And there’s little hope to change that.  The Guardian article on semicolons may be one of the most entertaining and enlightening pieces about the death of the the little piece of punctuation that is both a period and a comma but neither a period or a comma.  But I think there’s another reason for the shift in punctuation.

How did the semicolon survive the age of the telegraph but hasn’t made it through the age of email and text messaging?  What’s changed?  Somewhere along the line the semicolon fell out of fashion.  Yes, it’s dangerous to assume anyone knows how and where to use a semicolon (especially for those of us that don’t carry around our Chicago Manual of Style in a hemp messenger bag) and it might be even more pretentious to use a semicolon and expect the same person to understand how to read it.  But the biggest challenge in the 21st century is to appear both lavish and earth at the same time without ever simply splitting the difference and this is where the semicolon lost it’s place.

It’s important to dress successfully, but never at the expense of comfort or utility (JCrew figured this out two decades ago) and although your chinos may have cost $200 you don’t want to make your co-worker in $40 Dockers feel bad, so you always opt for the worn chino style.  However, you must also wear a $400 Gore-Tex jacket when it’s barely drizzling outside to demonstrate that you really could go climb K2 this summer because you are that hip, that in touch and that real.  You must have read at least 3 Jane Austen novels, but you would never so display your literary streak as to publicly humiliate someone who has read only one Austen novel.  You should also know enough about Harry Potter to know his middle name (it’s James), but your Harry Potter fetish can’t be so extreme that you know exactly when the next movie is being released.  You must always be two things.

This balancing of appearances between the upper class and the bourgeois killed the semicolon.  A semicolon is too serious for casual writing and it’s not clear and direct enough for business proposals.  Using a semicolon nowadays would be a bit like combining your $500 distressed jeans with loafers (a criminal offense in Milan).  The real choice is between the simple environmentally friendly flip-flops (a comma), or the definitive designer boots (a period).  The challenge is to be both upper class and bourgeois and splitting the difference is being neither.  So we are left with a terribly out of fashion semicolon in a world of commas and periods; however, emoticons are still hip, so that computer key isn’t going anywhere yet.

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It’s the Pinstripes

Posted: October 23, 2009 in Sports
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Its the Pinstripes

It's the Pinstripes

My love for baseball has always made me pull for whatever team was beating Yankees. Until this year.

The Yankees payroll equals the payrolls of the Marlins, Twins, Padres and the Rays combined (3 of those teams finished over .500 and the Twins won their division). Somewhere in that equation you have to wonder about payroll caps. But this year the pinstripes mesmerize me. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio may not play use the Bronx as a homerun launch pad anymore, but the cumulative greatness of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter will be comparable to, if not greater than any 3 players in Cooperstown. How old is Mariano Rivera and how many more superhuman Octobers can he pitch?

In the last few years, lesser teams have proven that a payroll equal to the GDP of Micronesia doesn’t equal World Series titles, but it does equal some sort of greatness.  I guess the change this year is the Yankees are playing like a team and not just like the divas that they normally are.  A-Rod is smiling, they are high-fiving and even hitting sac flies on purpose.  Derek Jeter looks like he’s having as much fun as a 12 year old in Little League, Sabathia is making jokes before games  and A-Rod is finally swinging the bat in the post-season and he looks pretty happy about it.  They’re enjoying baseball without acting like some of the greatest players every to play the game.  And pinstripes always have been a powerful fashion statement.

Just finished my first season as a whitewater guide. After a summer of patchy satellite internet connections and relying on the New Yorker magazine and the Clearwater Progress (a local weekly) for all my news, I’m back to civilization. Even with outside interaction, Idaho is a tough place to leave. The state is 68% wilderness and contains the largest wilderness area in the lower 48. It’s a hauntingly beautiful and wild state that still is, in many ways, the American frontier. And hey, the salmon’s great too (the blog title is an pro-salmon, anti-dam Idaho bumper sticker).

Seemed like the right time to freshen up the blog. I’ll be spending the next 8 days driving across the country from East to West and will try and get some posts (and pictures) in from some great outdoor destinations (Moab, Yellowstone, and rafting the Rogue are on the list so far). All the best, and I’ll be back soon.

Free Rossignol Gear

Posted: February 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

I don’t know about you but I use Google about 10,000 times a day.  OK, maybe only a few dozen but it’s a lot.  Rossignol is an outdoor company that is offering free reward points for using their search engine that is powered by Google and Ask.com.  The search results aren’t that much different than Google and getting some free gift certificates or outdoor gear at the end of the year is pretty sweet.  Check out the link below.

Search & Win

If you’re wondering how Rossignol can afford this, they have sponsors (similar to Google) that pay to have customized links on the search results page.

Liberal Arts Degrees: Bollocks?

Posted: February 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

I discovered Adrian Monk (not the fictional character from the show ‘Monk’, but the professor from City University) this last weekend after he spoke at a Cambridge lecture (posted in iTunesU) on the arts.  Monk takes a very practical, very realistic and very cynical view of the real value of  liberal arts degrees.  Here’s an article from the Guardian where Monk explains himself: Guardian Article.

James Booker

I’ve heard the name a hundred times but only recently did I discover the music of James Booker.  If Ray Charles was a genius, then Booker was a brain surgeon.  If Harry Connick Jr. is an artist, then Booker was da Vinci.  Seriously, this guy is phenomenal.  But Booker wasn’t just a jazz pianist, he played blues, gospel, latin, and classical.  Singer-Songwriter?  He did that too.  Even Ben Folds admits to being influenced by James Booker in his iTunes celebrity playlist.

I have a few friends (Dénes Dosztán, I’m sorry) that would kill me for waiting so late to ‘discover’ James Booker but, in my defense, he really is underplayed and underrecognized as the giant that he was.  A little gospel, a little classical virtuoso, a little jazz and blues, a little latin, more drugs and alcohol than most rock stars dream of, a lot of New Orleans and all legend.

I apologize to all 3 readers of this blog for the last couple posts about baseball.  It’s the baseball off-season and I’m itching for Spring Training.  I’ll try and focus on slightly more interesting (and maybe important) things.

From Alexander Tytler:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.  The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.  During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. From Bondage to Spiritual Faith;
2. From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage;
3. From Courage to Liberty;
4. From Liberty to Abundance;
5. From Abundance to Complacency;
6. From Complacency to Apathy;
7. From Apathy to Dependence;
8. From Dependence back into Bondage.”


The above quote is attributed to 18th century Scottish lawyer/historian Alexander Tytler, however, it has only caught like wildfire since the 2000 US presidential election.  Loren Collins and Gary North present solid arguments for this quote being much younger than the 18th century.  I’m not going to argue the age or origin but I would like to consider some of the content.  Dozens, perhaps  hundreds of blogs attempt to chronologically place the US somewhere near the end of the cycle.  At least the tone of the blogs sound like the end of something.   But since no cycle has an end, look somewhere between stages 6 and 8 above for the popular blogger consensus on where the US currently stands in the cycle.

But can US civilization be classified along with the Greeks and Romans and others?  Some argue that we are an empire instead of a civilization, but is the US economic empire comparable to the British or Mongol military empires? Perhaps.  But note the change in terms in the above Tytler quote: the demise is predicted of democracies while the evidence presented is about civilizations.  Quite frankly, the US is neither.  With the modern communication, airlines and the internet it may be possible to classify the entire Western world as a civilization but not the US as its own civilization (if any Brits read this … please claim US culture as British in the comments below).  Furthermore, the US isn’t a democracy but a republic.  Semantics?  Not even close.  A republic is a representative democracy but the founding fathers were careful not to create a government that fell the same way Athens did (Tytler was writing about Athens in the above quote).

Tytler was correct with regards to many democracies and civilizations in history and there are easy comparisons drawn after the election of Obama.   Perhaps we did elect the candidate who promised the most benefit from the public treasury (think bailout).  Maybe America is at the ‘end’ of the Tytler cycle or maybe we still have some more re-inventing to do.  Where would America fall into the Tytler Cycle?

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

– Winston Churchill