Four Random Things

Friday, May 17, 2024

A Friday Hodgepodge

1. From a crowd-sourced collection of business trip mishaps comes the following funny and wise punchline:

PSA that's why you should NEVER keep your key in that hotel envelope with the # written on it. You don't know who is coming to rob or humiliate you. [bold added]
It's Item 10 of 12 if you're pressed for time and want a good laugh.

2. From an interview with Pete Wood, my favorite Arsenal blogger/podcaster, comes the following quote about getting to see them win the title away at Manchester United when he was younger:
We left as Champions. Nothing feels better than sneaking out of an away stadium needing to keep quiet just in case you get in trouble with the locals.
Arsenal have a chance to win the Premier League this weekend, but regardless of the outcome, they have had a remarkable season. Along with having watched All or Nothing: Arsenal ahead of this season, following the entertaining and intelligent commentary by Wood and his friends has made the season all the more enjoyable.


3. It was nearly thirty years ago, but it feels like yesterday that, as a poor and recently-divorced graduate student, I fired Bill Gates so I could get real work done on my computer.

Having to battle Windows 11 to do something simple yesterday, I was quite happy and relieved to boot back into Linux.

I was also reminded of a fun tool for people who need a real alternative to today's intrusive, helicopter parent-like operating systems: LibreHunt helps computer users at all knowledge levels, hardware support needs, and interests figure out which of the many flavors of Linux might be best to try.

4. Having recently moved to Louisiana, my father-in-law, who lived there for a long time and shares some of my political views, recommended Huey Long's Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship 1928-1940 , by Harnett Kane.

I started it recently and give it a mixed but overall positive review so far. Here's a representative excerpt:
Huey Long, Bayou Bolshevik (Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)
But, you may say, it couldn't happen anywhere but in Louisiana. It could happen in almost any American state. Louisiana was divided. So are many other states -- rural against urban elements, sect against sect, south against north. Louisiana had, and has, illiteracy, want, low health standards. So, too, have other states. The process that succeeded in Louisiana has been tested. As in ancient Rome, as in modern Germany, Italy and Russia, the politicians, playing upon the ingrown prejudices, the deepest needs and aspirations of their people, promised everything, gained power -- and then used that power to multiply taxes, to dig deep into public funds for their own uses, and meanwhile to give back just enough to keep themselves in power.

Louisiana lost much in those twelve years of serfdom. But the period had some partial compensations -- the provision of newer public services, a smoothly functioning administrative system, modernization of facilities. régime The took much, but it also gave something. The democracy that preceded it took less. But it also gave less. [bold added]
The book is well-written and provides lots of historical information. The author knows the state and seems to understand what drove the historical actors, but I think he has blind spots, primarily in the role of ideas in driving history and in economics. (Regarding the latter: Anything a state "gives back" or "improves" is, past a certain point, only an example of robbing or redistributing less, and is likely also an example of the broken window fallacy.)

The noted failings are common enough as to not disqualify a book like this as a valuable or even authoritative account of a historical era. As with many such accounts, I suspect that there are plenty of dots for anyone not blind to those areas to connect on his own.

-- CAV

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