Saturday, June 2, 2012


I am pretty sure today I ate only breakfast and while riding home after a day in the saddle and cooking of ribs I bonked. For the last mile I could barely turn the pedals and, I think, sweated out approximately three gallons of fluid. Arriving back at home base I ate, in no particular order, six to ten snack-sized candy bars, a small water melon, and a banana and then fell into a dreamless sleep.

It is actually a fairly frightening experience and at one point I thought that I might just lie down by the side of the road and sleep. You would think I could at least remember to eat while cooking but no.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Over to the Crooked Timber they are having a book event on Red Plenty. I am going to have more to say about the obvious problems with this text in a bit. Today, I wanted to focus on one aspect of the discussion arising from this essay on the difficulties of creating a computer-based centrally-planned economy.

For many of the critics of central planning such an economy's inability to innovate is a key marker against it.  For these critics the sainted Steve Jobs' creation of the the Ipad could never ever happen in a planned economy. Leaving aside the dubiousness of this claim[1] and leaving equally dubious notion of the Ipad as a game changer, let's consider a slightly different innovation.

When I was a kid all medicine cabinets, or so it seemed, had a slot in the back.  The purpose of this  slot was to accept safety razor blades when there keenness went the way of the dodo.  The safety razor is innovative. I used to use a cut-throat razor and they are a pain. Safetyu razors aren't. I have used some form of safety razor, Shick injector, Mercur, or Gillette for over 20 years now. Shaves great costs little and lasts nearly forever. Indeed the only razor I ever had to replace because it broke was the plastic Gillette I bought in Germany. [2]

In the same period, more or less, the "personal grooming" industry have spent, I'll be conservative, billions creating new razoring technology.[3]  Blades went from two to three to five to goodness knows what is next.  The razors excrete unguents, oils, balm, and, for all I know, Frankincense and Myrrh. The thing is, my Mercur or any safety razor does just as good a job at a fraction of the price and with none of the waste. Not just the waste of the unneeded blades oils and unguents but also the waste of the zillion plus dollars in advertising designed to get you to think that you need a razor of 15 blades with attached palm oil applicator.

Think if that wasted time, effort, and money had rather gone into teaching and funding primary and secondary education. Surely that kind of investment would have paid much greater and longer lasting dividends.

And consider this.  One of the new trends among the rising generation, who have a way of becoming both old fogies and models for their immediately younger cohorts, is the bearded or complicated mustachioed youth. Should the image of male beauty, much like our economic and political systems, revert to a 19th century celebration of the unshaven and, perhaps, unshorn all that time, energy and money will have gone up in smoke in the service of a temporary advertisement-induced fad.

My point, while long-winded, is simple, most capitalist innovation is finding some way to package things already readily available in new and unnecessary ways as the real problems that plague the world go unaddressed and often unacknowledged.

[1] There is little new technology in the Ipad mostly it was a clever packaging of already existing technology and, what is more, if all the Ipads in all the worlds disappeared it would have nearly no effect on the world and its wife.

[2] I was living in the good ol' USA at the time and when I went to the store where I bought the blades I asked if I could buy a new safety razor only to have the  clerk explain that they would have that.

[3] You can remove razors and put in the automotive industry and cupholders to get a sense of the widespread silliness of capitalist innovation.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The World and How It Got That Way (USA Edition)

Here is a long essay by a former Republican congressional staffer filled with well deserved criticisms for the radical right and tepidly egalitarian neoliberal centrists who currently seek to drive the ship of state further into a ditch, to engage in metaphoric mix and match.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

You Are Welcome

As a year-round, decades-long every-day cyclist let me just say you are welcome for my percentage of the billions saved.

Memorial Day

Ernest Hemingway on war and heroism:

I wouldn't mind being wounded again so much because I know just what it is like. And you can only suffer so much, you know, and it does give you an awfully satisfactory feeling to be wounded. It's getting beaten up in a good cause. There are no heroes in this war. We all offer our bodies and only a few are chosen, but it shouldn't reflect any special credit on those that are chosen. They are just the lucky ones. I am very proud and happy that mine was chosen, but it shouldn't give me any extra credit. Think of all the thousands of other boys that offered. All the heroes are dead. And the real heroes are the parents. Dying is a very simple thing. I've looked at death and really I know. If I should have died it would have been very easy for me. Quite the easiest thing I ever did. But the people at home do not realize that. They suffer a thousand times more. When a mother brings a son into the world she must know that some day the son will die, and the mother of a man that has died for his country should be the proudest woman in the world, and the happiest. And how much better to die in all the happy period of undisillusioned youth, to go out in a blaze of light, than to have your body worn out and old and illusions shattered.
So thanks one and all for your service.