Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An additional way to frustrate myself

After several years thinking about it I picked up a nice starter mandolin to add to my musical endeavors. Tuned like the violin, it can play much of the same repertoire, particularly in the folk realm. There are also some nice classical pieces for it.

The mandolin can be played more quietly than the violin/fiddle. It can also be played in a more confined space. My fiddle teacher says it comes out of the case more than any of her other instruments because of its convenience and versatility for exploring new tunes or bringing back old ones from the depths of brain storage. My violin teacher approves.

The picking pattern is actually very precise. That has taken some of the free-form fun out of playing around with it, but will lead to more solid technique. I don't think I could get any worse, so solid is good.

Monday, July 15, 2013


These tiny towers, suggestive of something from the desert southwest, were built by the little red ants living in the sandy soil next to the front of the foundation. All the rain has driven them up and out from the saturated soil. The moisture helps their sand grains stick together to form these fragile structures.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Visiting Bear

Daisy the cat alerted the cellist to the arrival of this young bear. The cellist called me quietly to the window. We did have to protest when it looked like it might pull down the feeder for a sweet snack.
When I discouraged it from taking the feeder it made its way around to the driveway and headed across the road.

I was going to bring the feeders in for cleaning anyway.

Right after the bear left, a gray fox came through.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Free Country Conundrum

No one likes the idea that the NSA is spying on them, but it is a natural outgrowth of the Cold War. In the 1950s the idea that spies and infiltrators could be undermining the security of the United States coincided with the growth of communication technology that could be monitored easily from a remote location. Government paranoia reflected citizen paranoia that the Russkis were going to get us if we didn't get them first.

As more and more communication lends itself to easily to surveillance and the enemies become more insidious, the urge to spy becomes unbearable.

In popular culture, the 1950s launched the Age of Espionage. James Bond debuted in print in 1953. The good guys went out and spied on the bad guys. It was something one country did to another country. And those other countries were under repressive regimes where most people had no freedom and no fun at all. Any technology we could develop to make our surveillance in those bad countries more effective was a good thing.

If one country is under relentless observation at the hands of another country where the citizens get to run wild and free, how long do you think it takes the masterminds of the "bad" country to figure out that the best place to hide their own observers is in the midst of that happy chaos? Substitute "stateless ideology" for "bad country" and you have the even more distasteful problem our security forces face today.

I would guess that the average citizen who appears unconcerned by the recent revelations of NSA spying feels, among other things, that there's nothing they can do to stop it. And they're right.

The people who believe that someone should keep an eye on things will keep an eye on things. If you make it illegal they will do it illegally. When surveillance is outlawed, only outlaws will surveil. And it will never be illegal, because who wants to sign off on the decision to quit looking, only to be asked later "why didn't you see this coming?"

The only way to do away with general information gathering is to go back to hand-carried letters and spoken communication directly from one human to one or more humans all present in the same space. And that would only mean that the spying would have to be piecemeal rather than broad based.

We are at the mercy of authorities who determine what is harmless and permissible. Even government of, by and for the people is made up of people who feel they deserve to govern.