A Collection of Random Thoughts

1. The Wife “quit” Toastmasters last week. I’m only four speeches towards getting the basic certification, and I think I’d like to finish it, if only to have actually finished it rather than stopping going because The Wife did. She got burnt out, I think, because she did way too much, too fast, and got way too frustrated with others in the club who did not approach their tasks in a fashion which she thought was professional. So somewhere along the way, she stopped having fun with it. As for me, I have to admit I get an ego stroke when I win a blue “best speech” ribbon, which I’ve done three out of the four times I’ve spoken — I get the ego stroke even though sometimes it seems as though the level of competition is not high enough to justify it.

2. Pakistan is a country that scares the hell out of me. It seems to be packed full of Muslim fundamentalists hell-bent on forcibly converting the world to their religion (and their style of that religion) and its Northwest Frontier Province is functionally an anarchy. This weekend, the President — who is also the active-duty head of the armed forces — suspended the Constitution there. It’s also a place where lawyers protesting in the streets over an independent judiciary were able to foment such a serious threat to the stability of the government that the President of the country took that step. And it’s a place where somebody was so threatened by the former President — a woman — returning to her home country from a years-long exile that there was a spectacular assassination attempt on her. So I know that there is a substantial secular segment of that society; that there are people there who strongly desire and respect the rule of law, in addition to the crazed fanatics who so rightly inspire fear in the West. Oh, and the country has nuclear weapons, and a three-generations-old grudge with a similarly nuclear-armed India that includes a live territorial dispute over Kashmir. Why isn’t America working harder to constructively stabilize Pakistan?

3. Furniture is expensive. Replacing the sectional couch we’ve inherited from my parents (which looks great but is difficult to attach and too low to get into and out of comfortably) is looking to be a more costly task than I’d hoped it would be.

4. The Green Bay Packers are 7-1, and so are the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers play at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Especially if both teams continue to do well, it should be a very good game; at least as good as the Patriots-Colts game today. I note, though, that the Packers have only a four-day turnaround before playing Carolina the Thursday before Thanksgiving. The short week left over from Monday night’s game really showed up in some poor play-calling decisions at the end of the first half today. Brett Favre joins Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to ever beat all 31 other NFL teams; Manning and Brady only reached those milestones last week. So it’s a good year to be a Packer fan so far.

5. I haven’t written for Oval Office 2008 in more than a month. I don’t miss it. I have more time on my hands to write about politics there now, but I’ve less interest in doing so. It seemed all I ever got by way of feedback was criticism, if not outright trolling. I don’t need the abuse, and I’ll take my time before writing there again. Does this mean I’m not cut out to be a pundit after all?

6. Was Buddha an atheist? It’s hard to say.

7. NASA insists there’s a comet visible from even urban environments, and it should be about a third the size of the full moon since the coma and the tail are visible head-on right now. I went outside to look for it tonight and all I saw were bright stars. Maybe I’m too close to urban street lighting after all. I’ll try to remember to look again tomorrow night after class.

8. Sometimes I really like litigation. Sometimes I really dislike it. Part of it has to do with whether I’m winning or at least feel like I’ve got a good chance at winning; then I really enjoy it. Part of it has to do with whether I feel like I’m working with people (clients and adversaries, not my colleagues at work who are great) who are reasonable and honorable, which also contributes to my enjoyment of it. When those things are not present, it’s harder for me to get pleasure out of the job — and it seems that the quality of the people I work with, and the merits of the positions I get to take, are factors completely out of my control.

9. The water treatment plant, which draws the bulk of the Antelope Valley’s drinking water from the aqueduct, was shut down for most of last week. I was being very careful about our water use; I avoided washing my clothes and otherwise limited personal use of water. The agency in charge of such things turned on the spigots again Saturday. Now we can return to our
wasteful ways and pour buckets of clean, potable water directly into storm drains by the gallon, just like people who have health insurance can intentionally jump on rusty nails and used syringes.

10. Once again, I have to drive to Los Angeles tomorrow. I should have called my old tailor to meet up with him and have him take my measurements so I can get a new suit. Two of my old suits, alas, suffered irreversible waistband shrinkage not at all unrelated to my diet and exercise habits. I’d like a suit that has braces, so I can wear suspenders again. Suspenders can look very sharp when done with a nicely-pressed monochromatic shirt and the right tie.

11. Why did you think this list would be limited to ten posts? Down with the tyranny of decimal thinking!

12. I’d like it if we had more social friends who did things like hung out on the weekends, or came over for dinner, or things like that. But I see so little of The Wife as it is — Monday nights I teach, Wednesday nights I have my dinner meeting, Thursday nights is the Toastmasters club that I joined in no small part to do something with my wife. We seem to spend so much of the weekend doing projects that we don’t get a lot of time to just hang out together. Tonight we did for a while, and I enjoyed that even if we didn’t have to do a lot of chattering. We have many friends in Los Angeles but that’s just far enough away that it makes a spontaneous visit (“Hey, you guys want to get together for dinner tonight?”) very difficult.

13. Henry VII is England’s most underrated monarch. Overshadowed by his charismatic son, no doubt. But Hank 7 pulled off a significant trick by balancing the various claims to the throne and to power behind it, and restoring both peace and financial stability to England after a century of civil war, as well as proving his ability to lead armies during the closing acts of that same war.

14. William of Normandy, in 1066, was not the last successful invader of England. William of Orange was. Hitler would have done it too, if England hadn’t been smart enough to pick Winston Churchill and to follow his lead during the dark days of 1939.

15. Almonds are good to eat. So are grapefruit. They’re not really good together, although pears are good with either.

16. When you have to drink a lot of water all the time, you have to go to the bathroom all the time. This is not good for someone who craves the prospect of eight continuous hours of sleep. I don’t think I’ve had eight continuous hours of sleep for several months now — I did pretty good when The Wife and I were on vacation in Colorado and we didn’t have to attend to animals. Maybe replacing our mattress should take a higher priority to replacing our couch; but I don’t think the mattress (or the constantly deflating pillows) are the substantial factor in my periodic bouts of insomnia.

17. How much money would it take to solve all your problems? Pay off your mortgage, replace your cars, pay off your debts, fix up things around your house, get the computer you want, all of that. Call that amount of money “X” dollars. Add 40% to it because you’d need to pay taxes on it once you got all that money and, let’s face it, you probably didn’t take taxes into consideration when you figured out what “X” would be. So let’s assume you acquired $1.4″X” somehow. Would that make you happy? Yes, I think it would — at least for a while, because you’d be able to resolve a lot of your stresses. But I think $1.5“X” would not make you happy, because the extra money would get spent on something, and then new problems would arise from that.

18. How many links would you have to click to get from the wikipedia entry on Kerguelen Cabbage to the wikipedia entry for Kyra Sedgewick? And how much money do you think a tony restaurant in London or Paris or New York would charge for a Kerguelen Cabbage salad? Are we ever going to see “Battle Kerguelen Cabbage” on Iron Chef?

19. The Wife did a good job setting up our bookcase, which is the focus of the living room. She’s got the books stacked vertically and horizontally (piled atop one another) but there are plenty of interesting decorations — wine bottles, little sculptures, my 2,000-year-old Roman reading lamp, and some pictures — so that each rack of the bookcase is visually interesting and the whole thing gives a great impression of an intellectually interesting and artistic household. She really did a fine job of that. I’ll post a picture one day.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.