If former students can’t meet their payments, lenders can garnish their paychecks. (Some borrowers, still behind by the time they retire, have even found chunks taken out of their Social Security checks.) - Robert Reich, "Why Ordinary People Bear Economic Risks and Donald Trump Doesn't"

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Don't Watch The Speech: Read The Transcript

Neither of us in Our House plans to watch the SOTU speech. At his best, President Obama can be an enthralling speaker. But the moment you contemplate the original meaning of the word "enthrall," you'll understand why it is best not to watch the speech.

Forget your real-time response... it's not worth it. Don't be enthralled. Read the transcript and respond primarily analytically, not in the way Mr. Obama doubtless hopes you will respond. You'll notice more details, more choices of word or phrase, more deliberate obfuscations... in other words, you'll come closer to the true content of the speech. It may not be as much fun; it may not be a feel-good experience... but you'll learn something.

It's finally reliably, steadily cold here, by Houston standards, 30°F, with a forecast high of 34°F and a low tonight of 26°F. The seats, backs and arms of the patio chairs are visibly iced over right now. As recently as last weekend, we were comfortably sitting out there, wearing long sleeves, reading... and we probably will be out there again this weekend. But not right now, thank you...


  1. It has been around freezing and raining since 1pm over here, and we are becoming a skating rink. They not only closed the schools, the Air Force shut down to keep people off the roads, because the bridges and overpasses are going to be unusable without the studded tires that no one sells down here.

    The rain is light enough that we shouldn't have a problem with local power lines, but further north I can see it happening.

    It is cold and damp and miserable.

    1. Bryan, I just watched the evening news, and saw the most amazing thing: all the freeway interchange cameras showed drivers going at very moderate, downright safe speeds. A survey of the county and the emergency management office revealed that they had had no significant traffic accidents... none... last night and today. Maybe people are adapting to the change in climate. Or maybe all the really dangerous drivers have killed themselves off. Of course, we still have tonight to get through. But it's encouraging to see people behaving sanely.

      A lot of the communities north of Houston are getting snow, sleet and freezing rain. Some adults sent in pics of their kids playing on snow-covered trampolines; apparently none of them managed to damage themselves. For a day or two, this is novelty. After that, it will get old.

      And Stella's employer has still not called off tomorrow. They're forcing employees to take vacation days if they can't make it in safely. Many years ago I worked for those people; they have an unsympathetic, not to say greedy streak.

  2. One of the advantages of not watching television is that I avoid being spellbound by the oration. As you say, the flat text is far more revealing.

    Not that there was any hope of me watching it on television anyhow. Our Internet went down at 5:20PM this evening and I was talking with AT&T trying to get it back up until 8PM. Sigh. The life of an IT worker. So it goes.



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No Police Like H•lmes

Current and Recent Reading and Viewing

• King, Laurie R., Mary Russell series.
—. The Beekeeper's Apprentice.
—. A Monstrous Regiment of Women.
—. A Letter of Mary.
—. The Moor.
—. O Jerusalem. ...
If you are unfamiliar with Ms. King's Mary Russell series of Holmes novels, please do yourself a favor and begin with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and just keep going. If you have female children of the right age, you may want to introduce them to these books; Ms. Russell is a splendid role model for someone who would become a strong, intellectual, adventurous woman. King's prose is beautiful, too. Highly recommended!
• Rennison, Nick. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography.
Rennison weaves the scant information Conan Doyle provides on Holmes's background into the fabric of the stellar lights of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with such convincing detail that one could almost believe Holmes was an actual historical figure. If you like reading British biographers (face it; Americans write biography wholly differently) and you have a passion for Sherlock Holmes, you will very likely enjoy this book. As in eating a Dagwood sandwich, it helps to take it in small bites at a time.
• PBS Masterpiece - BBC. Sherlock, Season 3. Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman.
Sunday 1/19/2014, Premiere, "The Empty Hearse".
Sunday 1/26: "The Sign of Three".
Sunday 2/2, "His Last Vow".
Need I even comment on this?

I imagine people, especially Sherlockians, will either love this series or hate it. I am inclined to take each episode at face value, as a sort of parody of the traditional Conan Doyle Holmes story model, having (in my opinion) very little obligation to conform to that model as long as it does not deliberately poop on the basic conventions Doyle established. The setting is either present day or near future (some of the technology, and the reference to hardware Holmes apparently has installed in contact with his brain, lead me to call it the future), and many of the human elements are right out of Doyle: Holmes, who has just returned from his "dead" period, is an absolute a(bleep!)hole to Watson; Mrs. Hudson starts out talking to Watson, who announces he is recently engaged, as if he is surely gay; Watson is played (to type) as not the brightest bulb on the string, etc. My advice: do watch, but just sit back and enjoy the fireworks, the effects, and the unsubtle humor. I've read that women find Cumberbatch very good-looking; perhaps some men will as well.
• Douglas, Carole Nelson. Irene Adler series.
—. Good Night, Mr. Holmes.
—. The Adventuress (formerly Good Morning Irene)
—. A Soul of Steel (formerly Irene at Large)
—. Another Scandal in Bohemia (formerly Irene's Last Waltz)
Here's Dr. Watson (i.e., Conan Doyle) on Irene Adler:
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler... yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
Carole Nelson Douglas, perceiving the memory of Adler as anything but "questionable," frames a series of mystery novels in which Adler is the detective, accompanied by her own Watson, Penelope "Nell" Huxleigh, Adler's husband Godfrey Norton is the strong male lead, and Holmes appears only incidentally. Adler is granted an astonishing but undeniably plausible variety of skills to ply in her role, and her background as an American opera diva contributes to the stories in an entertaining way. Douglas has done us a real favor in fleshing out this character, who is only once mentioned in the Canon but deserves and receives a much deeper treatment in Douglas's books.
• Millett, Larry. Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota series.
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance
—. The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes
Millett writes a flavor of Holmes novels that I call either "American Sherlockiana" or "Sherlockian Americana," take your choice. Either way, the series comprises novels in which Holmes and Dr. Watson have an adventure involving America, which nation to all appearances Conan Doyle himself admired. Millett sets his stories in Twin Cities in Minnesota, adds his own detective, Shadwell Rafferty, a barkeep with an analytical mind, and lets loose with a series of five adventures well worth your time. I read these years ago, but they have been recently re-released; see Millett's web site at the link above.