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"When Vidius Pollio, in the presence of Augustus, ordered one of his slaves, who had committed a slight fault, to be cut into pieces and thrown into his fish pond, in order to feed his fishes, the emperor commanded him, with indignation, to emancipate immediately, not only that slave, but all the others that belonged to him.  Under the  republic no magistrate could have had authority enough to protect the slave, much less to punish the master."

-Adam Smith

Ever since I posted the above quote I've had some quiet misgivings.  On the face of it, it is a nice quote that points something out about the nature of power and politics and it's the sort of thing you might expect from an apologist for monarchy or imperialism.  It points out, quite rightly, that an unopposed power can accomplish things that cannot be accomplished when a power is not so absolute.  The thing is, this can work for good or ill.  Unchecked power can (and frequently does) do terrible things.  But what I find most disquieting about the example Smith gives is this:  you really don't know what it was that Augustine found so offensive.  Smith implies (and it might be true) that his indignation arose from witnessing the master's injustice; how could a slight fault warrant such a cruel and inhumane punishment of the slave?  But what if human sympathy was not the primary motivation for Augustine's reaction?  Augustine, the absolute ruler of the Roman empire, watches a Roman sentence a slave to death.  Doesn't that undercut Augustine's power a bit, having some Roman trying to wield the power of deciding that a slave should die under Augustine's nose?  Isn't the power of deciding life and death supposed to be Augustine's prerogative? What if Augustine demanded that man free all his slaves as a way of asserting power over the master...reminding him of where he stands in the power structure?  
  • Drinking: tea
"It is not the multitude of alehouses...that occasions a general disposition to drunkenness among the common people; but that disposition, arising from other causes, necessarily gives employment to a multitude of alehouses."
-Adam Smith
  • Drinking: tea
"...rational beings, on the contrary, are called persons, because their very nature points them out as ends in themselves, that is as something which much not be used merely as means, and so far therefore restricts freedom of action (and is an object of respect)."

  • Drinking: tea
There's a deck of cards that comes packaged with a booklet that explains what the phrase on each of the cards is intended to convey.  It's called "The Observation Deck" and it's supposed to help writers get in touch with their own creativity.  One of the cards advises to 'follow the scent' and the booklet suggests for this card an exercise: list 25 scents (both pleasant and not so), and then think about what sort of scents a person would encounter in the particular situation you're trying to write about.  Most of the scents I listed are from my everday life though some of them are  recollected memories.  But one memory in particular stands out.  This concerns a fellow that at one time I worked with.  He was quite the formal gentleman, both in manners and in his choice of clothes, and from a distance looked quite polished and dignified.  Thing is, up close his breath smelled like he was in dire need of a professional teeth cleaning.  A wet dog wouldn't smell that bad.  It was all I could do to pretend I didn't notice it when he was around... and I made the effort because it was almost certain that he'd be offended if it was plain that I noticed such a lapse in basic hygiene.  It's not that I care much how people choose to dress, but the contrast between the fine suit with the square in his breast pocket and the scent that came out of his mouth made all his care in what sort of clothes he wore look a bit ridiculous.
  • Reading: Moliere's "The Misanthrope"
  • Drinking: tea
It is easier to conquer than to rule.

  • Listening to: a washing machine
  • Drinking: coffee
Usurpers always bring about or select troublous times to get passed, under cover of the public terror, destructive laws, which the people would never adopt in cold blood.  The moment chosen is one of the surest means of distinguishing the work of a legislator from that of the tyrant.

from The Social Contract
  • Drinking: tea
"To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will -- at the most, an act of prudence.  In what sense can it be a duty?
Suppose for a moment that this so-called "right" [of the strongest] exists.  I maintain that the sole result is a mass of inexplicable nonsense.  For, if force creates right, the effect changes with the cause: every force that is greater than the first succeeds to its right.  As soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity, disobedience is legitimate; and, the strongest being always in the right, the only thing that matters is to act so as to become the strongest.  But what kind of right is that which perishes when force fails?  If we must obey perforce, there is no need to obey because we ought; and if we are not forced to obey, we are under no obligation to do so.  Clearly, the work "right" adds nothing to force: in this connection, it means absolutely nothing."

from The Social Contract
  • Drinking: coffee
"It is no easy matter to make him obey, who does not wish to command..."
  • Drinking: water
[regarding parental power]

To turn [the child] loose an unrestrained liberty, before he has reason to guide him, is not the allowing him the privilege of his nature to be free; but to thrust him out amongst brutes, and abandon him to a state as wretched, and as much beneath that of a man, as theirs.

-John Locke (Second Treatise of Government)
  • Drinking: coffee
It's rather interesting that the return rate for llamas is 3 out of 4.  That is, for every 4 llamas I've sent out I've gotten 3 in return.  If I have the time I might take a closer look at that to see if there's an identifiable trait that can be used to predict whether a person is likely to return llamas.  

That is, a trait aside from the fact that they got one first.  I'd estimate that less than 1% of the llamas I've received were sent before I'd given one to that person.
  • Eating: mango
That's what I've been experimenting with lately.
The first experimental cord that resulted has a bit of elasticity to it.  If I pull it it gets a bit longer, but then it retracts a bit when I stop pulling.  I suppose with enough tension applied long enough it will lose this trait.

After I've made a few I'll see about making a picture of them for posting to DA.
  • Drinking: coffee
"A moral reflection cannot be placed on the right or on the left hand of a passion..."

-David Hume
  • Drinking: coffee


Journal Entry: Thu Mar 2, 2017, 5:41 PM

    Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.   And if you gaze long  enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

--Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Drinking: tea
At some point I simply decided I was going to give away 10K llamas.  Well, it's now 10000 llamas later and I've noticed a few things.
  • Yes, a person who has a track record of giving llamas is more likely to reciprocate when I give that person a llama.  Some folks aren't into the llama trading business, so if you're into giving away llamas as a way to increase your own herd then that's you're best bet.  Overall I've had a return rate of about 74% which isn't too bad, really.  It isn't necessary to join one of the trading groups, either.  Simply being on the look out when you roam the pages of DA works.
  • I've come across a number of pages where people are expressing irritation if not outrage at other folks posting "thank you" on the first person's home page when the first person gave the second person a llama.  Perhaps mores have changed, but when I was growing up I was taught that saying "thank you" when someone gives you something is an appropriate response.  I would agree that the nicest way of saying thanks is to give a llama in return, but it seems weird to get pissy about someone acknowledging your gift in a conventional way.  If you're one of the folks who feels the need to post a nasty message on your home page that's intended to discourage written "thank you"s, maybe you should consider doing something else with your time besides giving llamas.  Preferably something constructive.
  • There are an incredible number of folks out there who are into bronies.  I simply had no idea they were so popular.  Llama trading has been for me an occasion to roam in parts of DA I ordinarily wouldn't think of visiting and it's been a bit of an education in pop culture.
  • Drinking: tea
Men outlive their love, but they don't outlive the consequences of their recklessness.

-George Eliot (Middlemarch)
  • Reading: this
First the obligatory notice:  The speaker in the video below cusses a lot (nearly punctuates his sentences with it), so if that is going to bother you then consider this journal entry as marked "contains mature content" and go watch something else.

There are so many ways to say this, but Mr. Pie has nailed it down so well:

  • Reading: this
  • Drinking: tea
There's no need for me to say whose.  But it does pose some interesting questions about the current political landscape in the US.

But even more interesting were ideas presented/suggested by Adam Conover the night before the election.  A few could be summed up as follows:
  • The attitudes and behaviour of Trump in many respects echoes that of Lyndon B. Johnson
  • American politics is polarized today to a degree not seen in the past and mass social media is a major contributing factor to this polarization.
  • The high degree of polarization of political groups is hurting the US as a country and is contrary to its political traditions.
So I would like to suggest to everyone out there who thinks that Clinton conceding to Trump foretells doom and destruction that perhaps this is not the end of the world, after all, and that spending time on Facebook/Twitter commiserating about it could better be spent engaging in dialogue with The Enemy.  You might find you have more in common with them than you had previously supposed.  
  • Reading: this
  • Drinking: tea
As I recall, years and years ago, it used to be that folks who visited DA would occasionally be confronted with ads that took up the entire screen, and you had to click on them to get to the page you wanted to look at.  The remedy for this mandatory nonsense was to sign up for an account.  It was promised that if you signed up for an account you wouldn't have that happen.   Now, even if you have an account, you have these full-browser ads thrown in your face that you're expected to click on...unless you pay through the nose for the "Core" membership.

What's next, I wonder.
  • Reading: this
"Your success will astonish everyone."

A more definite statement than "You are the greatest" (message inside another cookie), I suppose.
  • Listening to: the cicada chorus outside
  • Reading: this
  • Playing: catch my own tail
  • Eating: had a waffle for breakfast...
  • Drinking: coffee
This is what an upside-down quiche looks like:


For the most part this experiment went well.  However, a few minutes into the baking of the custard I heard (and saw) the pie pan go bump, and then still liquid custard started to dribble out of one side of the pan.  Turns out that the cookie sheet I had placed under the pie pan warped.  Aluminum foil, btw, is great for leveling out a tilted pie pan; simply take a sheet, wad it up into a wedge shape, and then stick it under one side of the warped cookie sheet to even things out so that you don't lose most of your custard.  The warping of the cookie sheet meant it was pretty much useless for future use, but it made oven clean up a snap (easier to toss a cheap cookie sheet with burnt egg/milk on it then kneel in front of an oven and clean it out of there).

Since I like to make bread I'm thinking the next thing to try is making baked French toast.
  • Reading: Spinoza
  • Drinking: tea