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Cooper Book Update

I have been busy the last few weeks formatting and editing the print edition of Finding DB Cooper. It should be ready to go by early November. I have lowered the price of the Kindle version. Once the print book is published, the current Kindle version will be replaced with the second edition, which includes about 40% more material. According to the Kindle Publishing dashboard, it can take a day or two for the new price to publish.

From the Notebook

Ian McDiarmid as Senator Palpatine in The Phan...

Image via Wikipedia

Even when the winters aren’t long, the winters are long.

– Anyone else sick of the GOP nomination race?

– If anyone cares, I did caucus this year, supported Ron Paul in the preference poll, was elected a delegate, and I’m hoping to be elected a delegate to the 7th congressional district convention. Our BPOU convention is March 3rd. I have no intention to liveblog it.

– My Representative, Mary Franson, was grouped in with another GOP incumbent. The other guy, based on a quick look at the new maps, has an open district not too far from his current address, while Franson is surrounded by incumbents. I don’t know exactly if that’s how things are going, but based on her speech at caucuses and local media coverage, Franson is staying put. My new district is 8b. Redistricting is really boring.

– I am closing in on completing all of the Khan Academy math exercises. I’ve completed 285 of them, out of a total of 306. Sal keeps adding exercises, which is getting frustrating, there were only 129 exercises when I started my quest. Still, it has been a great experience.

– Watched through the Khan Academy Current Economics Playlist. This list included some basic econometrics, specifically capacity utilization, inflation and unemployment. There was a distinct bias towards Keynes, but that’s always the case when discussing macroeconomics. The microeconomics videos bias toward the classical view. This is a really good playlist for those seeking greater insight into the machinations of The Fed.

– Also watched the Khan Academy Art History; Ancient Cultures (to 400 AD) video list. These videos are not done by Sal, but by a small group of academics in the Art field. Like usual, it’s all excellent. This list covers everything from Greek statues to Roman victory arches. It amazed me to see the incredible works of art still in existence in the world, and the quality of these works is beyond description.

– Finished half an assignment in the Great Books of the Western World ten-year reading program: read Euripides’ Medea, and Hippolytus. Euripides needs no approval from me, but I have to say the vivid and sometimes brutal imagery in these stories really keeps these stories ageless.

– Read ‘Darth Plagueis‘ by James Luceno, a Star Wars expanded universe book. I was looking for something fast-moving and fun. My mistake. Expanded universe stories are getting too complex; there are too many new aliens species, there are too many characters, and too many references to events happening in other expanded universe materials (and we’re not talking books. Some references were to comic books, others to short stories in magazines that are out of print, all stuff I have no intention of ever reading). I spent more time reading articles on Wookiepedia than I did reading the actual book. Darth Plagueis, the mentor of Darth Sidious (Palpatine), turns out to be a banker, spinning financial intrigue a little too similar to the plot of “Too Big to Fail”, it is not something I wanted from a book about a Dark Lord of the Sith. All around disappointment.

From the Notebook

Cover of "Certain Prey"

Cover of Certain Prey

It was a bit of a rough year for me, I can only hope things improve. I can tell you, in the coming year, my goal is to continue to post about once a week. I don’t want the blog to die, but I also want it to take a back seat to everything else I’d like to do with my time. I am working on another novel, I figure I’m about a year away from publishing it. My writing goals no longer revolve around the blog. And I consider that a good thing.

And now on to the notes…

 – The Twins have had a very uninteresting offseason. Every move I’ve seen so far has been sideways. There haven’t been any upgrades, but I can’t point out any major downgrades either. The Twins should be significantly better than last year if only because Mauer and Morneau should be back in the lineup more regularly. And even if they aren’t, everyone else should be healthier. Regression to the mean should provide its own big upgrade for the Twins. But I still don’t see them significantly above the .500 mark this year, or even next year (2013).

– I finished Professor Bart Ehrman‘s New Testament course from The Great Courses (“The History of the Bible; The Making of the New Testament Canon”). This is a short lecture series on the New Testament, from an historical perspective. Ehrman didn’t make any theological claims. Much of the course was spent examining the texts of the New Testament as literature. It was really spectacular, and the conclusions are a challenge to those who see the Bible not as the documents of the early Christian Church, but as the irrefutable Word of God. Even if the original books of the New Testament were the irrefutable Word, those have been lost and major discrepancies exist in the surviving ancient texts.

– Watched through the Khan Academy Banking Playlist. Sal started the lecture series by creating a simple bank and ended the series with a full explanation and commentary on the fractional reserve banking system. Very edifying. With the current banking crisis still causing problems, this is a great primer for those of us who didn’t grow up wishing to be accountants.

– Read Certain Prey by John Sandford. I figured I should read the book after I gave the USA Network movie of the same name a thumbs up. This book was your typical John Sandford, fast-moving, compelling. It’s amazing, no matter how many of his novels I read, I want to read more. The guy is good.

– Read “I, Steve”, a collection of Steve Jobs quotes regarding business, design and management, edited by George Beahm. Interesting stuff. Jobs was very much a genius, and the tidbits of his thinking should help clarify the way other business leaders think. Quick read.

-Read “Getting it Right” by Bill Buckley Jr. It is a novelization about the early conservative revival, in response to FDR’s New Deal, in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The reader follows a young couple, him a John Birch Society adherent, her an Ayn Rand cultist, through the various trouble spots of the time. As it turns out, the right spot is the mean between the two extremes. Who would’ve guessed? A good novel, and a necessary one to understand how the modern American conservative movement matured.

– Saw the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. I liked it. The pacing seemed a little slow, there were some ridiculous, uh, ‘intuitions’ by Holmes that really took you out of the moment. The plot was dumb and preachy. But I still enjoyed it.

From the Notebook

Official photograph portrait of former U.S. Pr...

Image via Wikipedia

El Dos de Mayo is coming up, I’ll be there (though I do have jury duty). Any regular readers who want to meet me at one of my few public appearances (it’s hard to keep a straight face even writing that) can catch me at Sally’s on Monday, May 2nd, sometime after 4pm. Or, I’ll be at Stub and Herbs sometime after 8pm. I won’t have a book to premier this year though. However, over the next year, I might have up to three books coming out. The novel is set for midsummer, and the two other projects I can’t talk about (yet). Other stuff in the notebook:

-Looking at my visitor stats, I saw a Google search asking “is ‘you done good’ grammatically correct?” No, no it’s not. Idiot.

-There are two bits of information I’ve seen showing the employment market’s recent resurgence will be short-lived. First, Teen unemployment levels went up last month (teens are always the first out, last in) and rising gas prices are correlated to a rise in unemployment (albeit two years after the rise; research I found gives a solid .58 correlation). It will be interesting to see if the economy presses through the higher fuel costs and the coming consumer price inflation.

– Interesting tidbit from Federalist 23:

The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation, BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FORESEE OR DEFINE THE EXTENT AND VARIETY OF NATIONAL EXIGENCIES, OR THE CORRESPONDENT EXTENT AND VARIETY OF THE MEANS WHICH MAY BE NECESSARY TO SATISFY THEM. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be coextensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.

-The end of April marks the completion of the fifth year of my exercise plan. Five years ago I committed to exercising at least 5 days a week (or more). Previous to this I averaged 3-4 days with a workout. I boosted that number to 5-6 and continued it for a very long time. I get at least 30 minutes of cardio every workout, with flexibility and strength training sprinkled throughout. I also try to get some walking done in addition to everything else. Now, if only I could keep to a diet…

Books Read:

-Decision Points by President George W. Bush. At the end of Bush’s presidency, I was among the millions of Americans who were frustrated with him, despite being a solid supporter. Reading this book was great because Bush provided what he never did while president: reasonable arguments. His justifications of his policies were quite thoughtful. He had his own doubts about many of the actions he took. The book, unlike other presidential memoirs, appeared completely sincere. Regardless of what you think of Bush, you should at the very least get his side of the story before criticizing him.

-Your Marketing Sucks by Mark Stevens. I picked it out of a bargain bin for a couple of reasons, 1) I try to read something business related every couple of months, and 2) I don’t know a lot about marketing. It turned into a great read. The author has done large marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies and had a common sense perspective on the topic. What was frustrating is that, despite the title, the author still wrote like an MBA. The technical-businesspeak was unnecessary and took away from the book. And some stuff got repetitive. However, as an introduction to “ROI-Marketing” it can’t be beat. Stevens promotes the idea of stopping all marketing expenses until you can prove every dollar spent is making more than a dollar in revenues. Common sense, but rarely found in large companies.

Twins Thoughts:

-The Twins offense will come back. It’s called regression to the mean. No team is this bad at the plate. Seriously. I would definitely be looking for upgrades at SS. I think Trevor Plouffe is an option. I think Luke Hughes should stay on with the team (the Twins can go to an 11 man pitching staff). For some more offensive pop, I think Rene Tosoni, Chris Parmelee or Joe Benson should get called up to take over Repko’s spot. That won’t happen, and it wouldn’t make a huge difference anyway. More worrisome is the team’s pitching. The Twins need to upgrade their bullpen by removing some dead arms (Dusty Hughes) and sending Joe Nathan to AAA for some low-leverage innings and calling up Anthony Swarzak to take Nathan’s spot. Kyle Gibson is looking like he’s ready for a rotation spot as well (when June comes around, if one of our starters is struggling, I would give Gibson that rotation spot).

-There has been plenty of discussion about moving Mauer away from catcher. It’s something I’ve promoted for a long time. While I understand Mauer’s relative value is greatest as a catcher, the Twins have him signed longterm (until he’s 36). I would prefer we raise his absolute value, get his bat into the lineup more often, and extend his quality years as a player (by up to five years!). I know Mauer is against this, as he knows his ticket to the HOF carries a catcher’s stamp. It might be void if he moves (ask Joe Torre). Still, Mauer is a very expensive team asset who needs to be protected.

-Regardless of everything else, this year’s Twins team has a lot of problems that will require more than patchwork. We have a terrible fielding outfield. A hole at shortstop. Durability problems at catcher and first base. Mediocrity problems in the bullpen (and a lack of power arms). And a terrible bench. Maybe the great run is over for a bit.

From the Notebook

Cover of "The Zero Game"

Cover of The Zero Game

-About 30,000 Romans died in riots over the 121 and 113 B.C. elections. Seven Black Republicans were murdered in Alabama in 1874. Or Ocoee Florida in 1920 where fifty Blacks were killed in a KKK driven pogrom. These are three examples among a tragic history of political violence the world has lived with for thousands of years. Versus today in America where one crazy anti-Semite obsessed with grammar (more than clearly mentally disturbed) committed an horrendous act of violence. While I’d like society to do a better job getting help to the crazies, I don’t see a meaningful correlation between our current political rhetoric and societal violence. It’s likely Loughner would have found anything to become obsessed and violent about.

-Anyone hanging around the U of M campus can pick up a copy of the Minnesota Republic. They’re publishing a serialized short story of mine taken from my novel. The novel should be available this summer. The short story is only available from the MNRepublic, they have a website but it hasn’t been updated in a year.

– Saw True Grit. It was not as good as people were saying. The dialogue was forced, the accents were mostly laughable, at times just mumbling somehow passed for “olde west speak” and there was a humorous scene with CGI rattlesnakes that took me right out of the movie. Sometimes it was pleasant, or at least not annoying. Initially I didn’t hate it, but now that I’ve had some time to think it over, I don’t really like the movie at all.

Books Read:

-Confucius’ Analects. Confucius suffers from a popular illiteracy in the United States. Many people like to say they have read, or are aware, of Confucius. But those that do are never really that familiar with the actual teachings. A lot like Buddhism. Confucius’ philosophy, as it appears in The Analects, is very subtle. Anyone not familiar with Taoism (particularly the concepts of te and Tao) will simply not “get” much of Confucius. However, The Analects is very approachable to novice readers, especially if you get an edition with plenty of footnotes and explanatory extras.

-Bill Buckley’s “Saving the Queen“. This is Buckley’s first Blackford Oakes spy novel. These novels provide an interesting look into the world of espionage that Buckley himself briefly participated after his graduation from Yale. It’s not the world of Mitch Rapp or 007. But it’s surprisingly close. As a novel it is superb, Buckley’s expertise in language, particularly his effortless vocabulary, is something to behold. I’ll be reading through all the Oakes spy novels in due time.

Brad Meltzer‘s The Zero Game. I hated, passionately, the first 70 or so pages, and almost threw this book away. I kept it in the sauna, reading it occasionally. Finally, somewhere near page 350, the book picked up enough to live up to the “thriller” label. I like the book more for its depiction of the nation’s Capitol Building than anything else. Whether I’ll read another Meltzer book? I just don’t know.

-Judith (Bible:NLT). Judith, a beautiful widow, stops an invading army by out-partying then chopping the head off of an Assyrian general. Possibly the first historical novel. Included in the Catholic canon. I really like the book.

-The Wit and Wisdom of Poor Richard’s Almanack (Ben Franklin). Dover Thrift, too thin to call it a book but I don’t care. Lots of good stuff in it.

Julia Elizabeth Gutierrez Andrade, RIP

Julia Elizabeth Gutierrez Andrade was born in Albuquerque on December 13, 1919. She graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1937, and attended the University of New Mexico where she graduated in 1941. During World War II she worked at the Foreign Broadcast Information Service as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese language broadcasts. She met Americo (Mike) Andrade at the FBIS where he also worked as a translator. They married on February 22, 1944, in Washington, D.C., where she was given away by Senator Dennis Chavez, New Mexico’s senior senator. She returned to Albuquerque after Mike was posted overseas and began a long term career as a Spanish teacher in the Albuquerque Public Schools, starting at Washington Junior High. She later taught at Albuquerque High School, then moved to Valley High School when it opened. Later years saw her teaching at Monzano and Del Norte high schools. She taught for more than forty years. Julia died at home Saturday, Sep 4, 2010 at the age of 90. She is survived by two brothers, her two sons, and four grandchildren. Viewing will be Saturday Sep 11 at 9:30 followed by Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church. Burial is Monday, Sep 14 at the National Cemetary in Santa Fe at 10:30.

Link

From the Notebook

-Read “The Covenant of Genesis” by Andy McDermott. I wonder when George Bush will stop being fodder for hack writers. In this book, the president destroys the most important archaeological site ever. Why? because he didn’t want the Muslims to have it and he wanted to unite the US against the world (If you’re wondering “WTF”, don’t worry, so was I). McDermott is not a bad storyteller. But it was impossible to suspend disbelief throughout this novel.  I’d pass on future McDermott books, despite their inventive storylines.

– And so begins the summer of trashy grocery store novels. I’ve had enough intellectual stuff for a while. I got a bunch of novels to read and none of them will require deep thinking.

-I am hoping to start blogging, and even podcasting, regularly now that I’m done with grad school. My goal is to post something everyday. However, I am keeping the aggregator posts. They look terrible and don’t read well, but it’s an easy way to get through a lot of news without putting in a lot of time.

Mr. Baseball Cliche Man

Thank you Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

What would I do without you?

What was that? Morneau should have hit that ball in the air? Of course Mr. Baseball Cliche Man; I’m sure hitting in the majors is just like hitting in batting practice, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

Huh? Joe Mauer is not trying hard enough? Of course, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man. The Twins should have never given him that big contract, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

What would I do without you, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man?

Maybe I’d actually enjoy the game, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

Just go home, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

Just go home.

From the Notebook

-A few people might still know that I was a McCain supporter. An early McCain supporter. And I defended him, including the BCRA (the campaign finance bill). No one brought it up (probably because I’m such an insignificant blogger, but I still expected one of my friends to ridicule me) but I still feel a sense of cognitive dissonance over the fact I defended BCRA yet I was happy SCOTUS recently took the teeth out of the bill.  The idealist in me is happy the government no longer restricts the rights of associations of citizens to pursue shared interests in the dynamic speech arena of American democracy. But, I also know this changes helps the left much more than it does the right. As a practical political hack, I didn’t mind the restriction. Having read the decision, I can’t say I disagree with the majority opinion.

-Read The Iliad as part of the GBWW reading program. Not much I can add to the copious literature related to this Homeric Epic, but I will say this book completely changed my perception of the violence in the Old Testament.

-Having a hard time coming to terms with Glenn Beck. I have openly criticized his program from being simple hyperbolic rabble rousing manipulative showmanship. But, I’ve been watching more and more, and he is one of the only talking heads who willingly shows actual data in the forms of graphs and charts. He also digs up the words of long dead philosophers. Something all pundits should do, since hard data and aged wisdom speak louder than BS rhetoric.  Maybe I criticized Glenn too soon, but he still makes me cringe whenever I watch; which is more and more often.

-Read Plato’s Meno as part of the Great Books of the Western World Ten Year Reading Program. The more I read Plato, the more I enjoy it. Meno starts out as a search for the true nature of virtue and it turns into a discussion of the problem of knowledge and the nature of the human soul. It’s “deep” but very approachable philosophy.

-What a great winter. I wish I was more of a shutterbug, the weather this year provided so many opportunities to get those great winter snow shots. The snow has been great. And I normally hate winters. It was too cold for only a few weeks there, otherwise very pleasant. And now, with a pair of size 17 hockey skates coming my way, I have more reasons to look forward to a long winter.

-Read an article on the shortage of rare earth elements, which are important in new electronic gadgets. It suggested the US needs to subsidize rare earth element mining to avoid shortage because that’s what China does. 1) Why subsidize these elements when we already get subsidized elements from China? 2) Couldn’t it be said the coming shortage of rare earth elements was caused by the subsidy itself? Come on, these elements will be mined when it makes sense to do so. Subsidization will only end in a misallocation of scarce resources. Let the Chinese do that.

-I’ve never been able to understand when other people complain about trade deficits. Normally defined as when the US imports more foreign stuff than exports US stuff. Isn’t this good? It means we have more stuff. Let other countries try to eat our money or use it to play videogames. Hazlitt, in his “Economics in One Lesson” dissects this issue better.

Travels through America’s Purgatory: Rochester, MN

Just a note: I have finally finished this essay, over a year after I originally started writing it and almost 14 months removed from the event that took me to Rochester.

It’s famously known for being the home of the Mayo Clinic, the premier medical center of the world.

Well, if it weren’t for the hospital, there really wouldn’t be much else to Rochester.

And why is the hospital so important? Aren’t hospitals about death, dying and sickness? Wouldn’t you rather have your town known for other things?

Say what you will about Milwaukee, at least they have Bob Uecker.

I shouldn’t say Rochester is only known for the Mayo Clinic. They also have a water tower painted to look like a giant ear of corn. Yea.

I was in Rochester for the MNGOP state convention. Oh yeah, I’m living the gangsta life.

Timing myself rather successfully, I got to Rochester early enough to drive around a bit. I soon realized leaving this place wouldn’t be hard at all.
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