Southern Man

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dark Chocolate

In celebration of Hallowe'en (which Southern Man will observe by grading astronomy papers, eating candy, and drinking heavily) this blog is pleased to bring to you the 2011 Candy Hierarchy from Boing Boing.

This is just a low-resolution teaser so click on the link above to view the real thing. We'll wait for you.

Now this hierarchy contains numerous errors (plain Hershey chocolate bars ranked above Nestlé's Crunch? Starburst and ordinary candy corn on the same level? 100,000 Dollar Bar on the second tier? What were they thinking?) but the one upon which Southern Man will focus is (a) the questionable positioning of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate and (b) the omission of any other mention of dark chocolate.

We begin with four hierarchical statements. First, Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate is superior to all other Hershey products. Second, all non-Hershey dark chocolate is superior to Hershey dark chocolate. Third, any chocolate product is improved by changing from milk chocolate to dark chocolate. And fourth, any chocolate product is improved by adding nuts.

The first of these statements identifies yet another error in the hierarchy: the Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar is at the same level as the regular Hershey Bar. While both products probably deserve lower rankings than they have, this is a grievous error; the Special Dark Chocolate is manifestly superior to ordinary milk chocolate. However, the second statement notes that in the sub-hierarchy of dark chocolate Hershey resides at the bottom. Dark Chocolate Lindor Balls and Dark Chocolate M&Ms and Godiva Dark Chocolate and Ferrero Rondnoir and even plain old Dove Dark Chocolate Bars all reign supreme over the pale excuse for dark chocolate that is provided by Hershey. The third statement codifies what everyone knows: Dark Chocolate Snickers and Milky Way Midnight bars and Dark Chocolate Kit-Kats and Dark Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are a giant leap beyond their milk-chocolate counterparts. And the fourth statement asserts that Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms reign supreme over all of these, even as the addition of a little almond sliver elevates ordinary Hershey Dark Chocolate Kisses to a higher plane. And of course dark chocolate covered almonds are gifts of the gods themselves.

Therefore Southern Man submits that there ought to be a level above top tier - call it the 1-Percent or Gifts Of The Gods or whatever. Most of the "pure" dark chocolate products mentioned in the above paragraph go there. Hershey's regular bar goes down a level, leaving Hershey's Special Dark as the only dark chocolate in Post-Tertiary. Most of the products in Top Tier get bumped down a level and are replaced by their dark-chocolate counterparts. We can continue to argue about the relative positioning of Crunch Bars and such. But that fixes most of the problems. We'll see if these improvements are incorporated into the 2012 version.

But at the end of the day if any of these make their way into your trick-or-treat bag consider yourself truly blessed, for dark chocolate is proof that there is a God and that he loves us and wants us to be happy. Lord, thank you for dark chocolate! Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reflections On Relationships

The teacher of Southern Man's Sunday School Class often confesses how back in her younger and wilder days she was a relationship junkie who traded "affection" (we'll put it that way) for a man's love and commitment.

It occurs to Southern Man that this is really what everyone wants. Most men would gladly provide commitment and love and "all their worldly goods" for genuine respect and, ahem, "affection." Indeed, the dream of most men is to build a world and put their woman and children in the center of that world and come home after a long day of dragon-slaying to enjoy the fruits of their labor and their love. Southern Man is convinced that the happiest women are those who are loved by a man they respect. Read Eggerichs' Love and Respect; he lays it all out there and Southern Man dearly wishes he'd understood these truths twenty-five years ago. But the balance of power works one way when dating and quite another after marriage.
When dating the woman gives her respect and affection in return for love and commitment. The man can bask in the pleasure of her "affection" for a time but is free to withdraw his love and commitment and end the relationship without suffering much in the way of consequences, leaving the woman devastated and alone. When dating, men have the upper hand.

After marriage and children the woman can enjoy the security of a man's love and commitment and possessions but can withdraw her respect and affection without suffering much in the way of consequences, leaving the man trapped in an unhappy marriage that he dares not leave, for if he ends the relationship (or have it severed against his will, which is usually the case) the world he's built is shattered and he's also bankrupt and alone and usually without much access to his children. When married, women can, if they desire, parcel out respect and affection to control the relationship.
Many of Southern Man's male acquaintances have trod this broken road: a marriage in which the wife withdrew her respect and affection, then wondered why she didn't "feel loved" (Eggerich calls this death spiral the "crazy cycle") and ended the marriage, cashed in on half (or more!) of the family assets and court-ordered alimony and child support, took the children, and moved on to another man. Southern Man himself is slowly edging away from the pit of bankruptcy - no, he didn't fall in but it was a closer call than anyone realizes - and faces four or five more years with only occasional weekends with his youngest and the frustrating inability to provide much in the way of assistance to his college-bound daughter (he had to move money around to send her a mere $20 last week!) The planned move to the FEMA trailer at The Land is, plain and simple, an admission that he can no longer afford the rent at Casa Southern Man and the only reason he's not out there right now is because he can't afford to break his lease. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise - divorce is harsh and life after divorce is, at least for a while, no fun at all. For men, the exciting post-divorce single life consists mainly of being broke and alone and wondering if you'll ever love or be loved again.

Southern Man's son is in a serious relationship (as in shopping-for-a-trailer-together serious); teen daughter is on the cusp of her dating life. Southern Man doubts that they have yet experienced the agonies of genuine heartbreak and figures that they will learn the truths of relationships the hard way, as Southern Man did. He certainly didn't pay much attention to his elders at that age, so this post will probably be of little help to them. Heck, Southern Man has read the words of the Apostle Paul about husbands and wives and love and respect for most of his life and didn't really begin to actually understand them until a few years ago. It's true - Southern Man can be a very slow learner. But perhaps they and others will read this and take a bit of care as to how they explore uncharted territory. And here are ten more books that Southern Man has found helpful over the last few years when dealing with relationship and their occasionally bitter ending. Lord, teach my children to guard their hearts and chose carefully who they love, but not to be so guarded that they don't love fully when they find the right one. Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Movie Day

Well Southern Man and twelve-year-old daughter lazed around the apartment all morning and ran around all afternoon but the bookend events were Paranormal Activity in the DVD player at Casa Southern Man in the morning and Paranormal Activity 3 at the afternoon movies (with Spy Kids 4 in between). So it has been a movie day. Spy Kids 4 was actually pretty good (the original Spy Kids are young adults and the new Spy Kids save the day, as expected) and was surprisingly touching in places. Both Paranormal Activity movies scared the living daylights out of both of us and daughter spent most of the movie hiding under Southern Man's jacket. And later in a stellar exhibition of raw mental prowess we spent an hour looking for a "fall fest" at a nearby church without success until we finally figured out that the advertised event wasn't until Monday night. So Southern Man feels rather foolish right now. But we are home and dinner (homemade chili and beer for Southern Man, canned ravioli for daughter - hey, that's what she buys for her weekend meals) is in the microwave and Southern Man had a long conversation with teen daughter who is up north at college and all is well with the world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What the Tea Party and OWS Have In Common

This brilliant Venn diagram was posted on a friend's FaceBook. The source of the idea (if not this particular diagram) is this post at a blog called "How Conservatives Drove Me Away" which turns out to be quite an interesting read.

An excerpt from one of the best comments on that post, by blogger Larry Garfield, is worth repeating (edited for profanity):
Tea Party: government/corporate collusion is ruining the country. F*cking government. Let's get rid of it.

OWS: government/corporate collusion is ruining the country. F*cking corporations. Let's get rid of them.

Everyone is so focused on which villain to blame that they totally miss the first sentence. Instead, what should be happening is this:

Americans: government/corporate collusion is ruining the country. F*cking collusion. Let's get rid of it.

Only a clueless moron anarchist actually thinks that government is the root of all evil. Only a clueless moron hippie actually thinks that a modern economy could exist without corporations.
Note that Southern Man says much the same thing (although not nearly so succinctly or elegantly as either author above) in this earlier post. But read it anyway.

In other news Southern Man had an outpatient procedure on his back early this morning and is relaxing at home on an ice pack planning to waste the rest of the afternoon watching movies (currently in the player - Source Code and Eagle Eye) and surfing the 'net. This evening he'll drive to former father-in-law's (about two hours out) to nab twelve-year-old daughter for the rest of the weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Richard Epstein on Wealth

Richard Epstein argues that transfer payments from rich to poor don't make the poor any richer and that income inequality gives rise to increased incentives and opportunity which increases wealth for everyone. Hat tips to Instapundit, who linked to Coalition Of The Willing (where Southern Man first saw the video), and original video source PBS (who provided the embed code)...

Watch Does U.S. Economic Inequality Have a Good Side? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Warning: if you're a liberal listening to this video might make your head explode. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Southern Man teaches (among other things) mobile application development - that is, programs for Apple and Android devices. The students put an astonishing amount of work into these projects. Many of them never make it to an app store, and the vast majority of those that do don't earn the students a dime. Why do they work so hard? Because of the compelling possibility that they might write the next must-have million-download app and the wealth that will flow from that work. If that opportunity wasn't there, they wouldn't bother to try.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Euro And The Dollar

Two economies at the top of the world; populous, productive, and wealthy almost beyond belief. And two currencies, each used and accepted across the globe. One will fall and one will stand. Why? This post at VodkaPundit puts it in terms of labor mobility and Southern Man paraphrases that argument here.

In the USA regional differences have endured to a surprising degree given our remarkable mobility; the very name of this blog is a nod to regional affiliation. And mobile we are: a Californian out of work has no problem moving to Texas and becoming a Texan (or taking the more humorous road and holding out as a California ex-pat; Southern Man knows many California Girls-in-exile). But these regional and cultural differences and our division into fifty states are, in the big picture, relatively unimportant; in the big picture, we are all Americans and our current region of necessity or choice is secondary to that essential national identity.

The seventeen nations of the European Union share a common currency but not a common identity. There is really no such thing as a European. Nationality really matters in Europe, in ways far deeper than Americans can really understand. And this means that even if there are no jobs in France and employers are begging for workers across the river in Germany, few French will cross the Rhine and become Germans.

And thus the argument that a common currency can extend only so far as labor is mobile. In spite of their best efforts and intentions, labor is not mobile across Europe because the denizens of Europe are not Europeans; they are French and German and British and they choose to adhere to those identities and those boundaries. And this will ultimately mean an end to their common currency and a return to francs and deutchmarks and pounds.

And dollars.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Dinner

Southern Man enjoyed a nice dinner with no-longer-teen son and son's girlfriend to celebrate his recent birthday.

Southern Man needs a haircut. Photo by son's girlfriend.

He and girlfriend are talking about getting an apartment or a trailer together, which is a little scary but at least that'll get him out of Southern Father's barn loft where he lives now. But Southern Man is not yet ready to be a grandfather!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ron Paul!

As you’d expect, Senator Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate addressing real issues using clear language. Here he is on “Meet the Press” last week (hat tip to Gucci Little Piggy, from whom the imbed code was shamelessly stolen)...

And as GLP says (emphasis mine): "At the 2:40 mark, Paul opens up dialogue on the student debt debacle, pointing out that anytime the federal government sticks their grimy paws into markets, prices distort, bubbles inflate, the debt cycle speeds up and becomes more entrenched. And after all of the mess that the government makes, a clean-up squad comes in, backed by a propaganda machine that blames everything on the free market and capitalism." That is a terrific summary of the root cause of many of our current woes, right there. And if you've only heard about Ron Paul but never heard him speak, this is a fairly representative sample. As a candidate I don't think he'll get the nomination but will hopefully continue to have a lot of influence in Washington.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Update

Well it has been a full and busy week. Monday and Tuesday were Fall Break so Southern Man spent a fair amount of time out at The Land working on The Barn, cutting away the rotten sheathing on the south side and re-sheathing and re-shingling. That chore was finished Saturday morning and for the first time in many years The Barn is now leak free - and then it rained Saturday evening! The drought has taken The Lake to the lowest level Southern Man's ever seen so he collected some materials during the week and then Saturday morning started work on a fishing dock, setting some cinderblocks at the current water's edge (which should be about ten feet out into The Cove after the rains return) as the beginning of that project. The plan is to get the block pilings done this fall while the water is low, then the dock can be finished pretty much any time.

With part of the rotten decking cut away Southern Man finds that the damage is more extensive than previously thought...

Some new decking is in place; rotten decking is cut away all the way to the west end and for a few feet into the upper roof...

Bad decking replaced and shingles on! Next chore - finish shingling the lower south roof (an easy one-day job) and get to work on the damaged and missing siding on the west end.

And it has been a very social weekend. Thursday night Southern Man headed to his graduate alma mater for a most interesting talk by Don Lincoln (a senior scientist at Fermilab) on some current topics in astronomy and had a nice chat with several of his former professors, including his thesis adviser.

The reception was kind of a bust. When grad students are around you must be quick if you want cookies.

Friday night was our monthly outing to the bowling lanes where Southern Man again set a personal high score with which he is quite pleased. Saturday night was game night with the singles group and this afternoon after Sunday School was a luncheon / cookout at the singles director's home - fresh grilled chicken, mmm.

Next week should be routine until Friday, when Southern Man gets an outpatient procedure that will hopefully relieve the stress on that pinched nerve and relieve the constant pain in his leg and perhaps even allow him to sleep for more than a hour at a time. Lord, guide the surgeon's hand that I might be healed of this affliction and be free of pain. Amen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Hat tip to The Clue Batting Cage.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Movie Review: Starship Troopers

This post is really "What Southern Man Likes About Starship Troopers" and was inspired by a comment from a friend on an earlier post. Now for fans of the book there's plenty not to like about this particular film. And eldest son still claims that it gave him nightmares as a child. But here's what good:
The frequent government news flashes scattered throughout the film (a style Verhoeven also uses to great effect in Robocop) don't pretend to be anything other than nationalistic propaganda. They are all delicious. The film score (by Basil Poledouris, who also did the music for The Hunt For Red October and the wonderful Conan scores) has echos of nationalistic marches; it's excellent.

While everyone appears to have equal rights, the franchise (that is, the right to vote) is reserved only for veterans of government service. Numerous government ads end with the words "Service guarantees citizenship!"

Justice moves swiftly. "A murderer was captured this morning and tried today. Execution tonight on all channels..." Punishment includes lashes, administered in public. In one scene Rico is sentenced to "administrative punishment" (for, among other things, "incompetence of command") and takes lashes expertly delivered by a black officer. Sergeant Zim slips Rico a handmade mouthpiece with the words "Use this, it helps. I know." indicated that Zim had also erred in the past, and in both the book and movie Rico (and, apparently, Zim) return to duty and the punishment is never mentioned again.

As noted above, competence is demanded. The only Mobile Infantry officer who is depicted as even remotely incompetent was the badly-shaken sole survivor of a Bug trap; when asked by another officer to calm himself he says "I can't! Maybe you should just shoot me!" And the other officer almost does! In one view the "shaken" officer demonstrates supreme competency by recognizing his weakness in a combat situation (there had been evidence of mind control by the Bugs) and requesting that he be eliminated for the greater good. The Bugs get him later. That second officer, who earlier shot a teammate who had been taken by a flying Bug and could not be rescued ("And I'd expect anyone here to do the same for me!") was himself killed by Rico (on his own order: "Rico, you know what to do!") when mortally injured by a Bug. Commanders are responsible for the performance of their teams. On the Navy side Zander tells trainee Carmen "don't exceed port speed...or they revoke your flight status. And mine." During the first Klendathu invasion the captain of the dropship holds course as ships are destroyed all around them until their drop is complete (in the opening chapter of the book her captain takes extreme risks and demonstrates extraordinary skill to save "her" troops during a botched retrieval). After the failure of that invasion the "Sky Marshall" who designed the battle plan voluntarily steps down, yielding her position to another.

And speaking of the Navy, all of the pilots are women (as in the book), and all of the starship and space-station FX are terrific.

The Bugs aren't just mindless monsters; they're intelligent and curious, willing to do what it takes to learn more about their opponents. In the third film it's revealed that the Brain Bug allowed itself to be captured, to that end. They managed to arrange a trap in which Rico's squad was nearly wiped out. In the book the Federation is actually able to communicate with them and negotiate a truce.

They're serious about education and reject this touchy-feely "everyone's a winner" attitude that pervades our own system. Carl mocks Rico's poor math scores in front of his friends and (more importantly) a teacher is openly derisive of another student in class when she doesn't meet expectations. Furthermore, there's a course (in the book it's called "History and Moral Philosophy") that vigorously expresses political views that are compatible with Southern Man's own (in which students clearly feel free to speak openly even when the teacher shoots their ideas down). In the novel, failure of officer candidates to pass the military version of this course results in dismissal not just from officer training but from the military itself.

That education - and everything else - is not only co-ed but both sexes are treated as equals and judged solely on ability. The quarterback of Rico's football team (and, later, his military teammate) is Dizzy Flores, a girl. In Basic Training the men and women eat together, train together, are housed together, and even shower together (a scene the cast agreed to do only if Verhoeven consented to direct in the nude, which he did). And of course men and women fight side by side as equals. But gender roles aren't entirely ignored; Rico (guided by a psychic suggestion from Carl, which he later denies with a simple "Well, that's classified") takes great risks to rescue their female friend Carmen. Of course Carl can argue that he is simply sending Rico to where the Brain Bug can be found...

The military espouses an "everyone fights" attitude. Even Navy pilots Zander and Carmen and Intelligence Officer Carl (an asset far to valuable to risk in the field) demonstrate their competence with assault rifles. Carmen turns out to be fairly handy with a knife as well.

The government doesn't pretend that service is anything other than dangerous. A recruiting officer ("The Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today!") is shown to be missing both legs and one arm. At least one recruit dies in a training accident. Both incidents are true to the novel. The training officers don't hesitate to inflict pain on the recruits, including broken bones and knives through the hand ("Pain is in your mind!") and continually urge the recruits to "take a walk down Washout Lane" if they think they don't have what it takes. (Modern SEAL training is similar; the trainees are often urged and even bribed to quit).

The Peter Principle is openly acknowledged. Field promotion is often qualified with "until you get killed or I find someone better." If a soldier's performance after promotion isn't satisfactory he (or she) is simply returned to their previous duty without penalty. Ace mentions in passing that he failed as a squad leader and was restored to his previous assignment and rank, and Sergeant Zim, by means unknown, forces his own demotion ("The only way you're gonna see combat is if you bust yourself to private!") so that he can leave the training camp and serve on the front lines.

They do what has to be done. Rico attempts to rescind his resignation after Beunos Ares is destroyed; although granting that request is illegal his commanders bend the rules to let it happen. Later in the film Rico's commander makes sure his troops have entertainment and beer in the field. Carl, as a commander in Military Intelligence, knowingly sends his friend's unit on a mission with a "very low probability of survival" because he needed the information that the mission could provide. As already mentioned, dropship captains would rather lose their ship and crew than abandon their duties to the infantry they carry.

Verhoeven claims to have not finished the novel but much of Heinlein's philosophy (while in places distorted almost beyond recognition) still made it into the script. And that is probably Southern Man's favorite aspect of the film, right there. If Verhoeven ever makes The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress Southern Man will be first in line to see it.
Makes you want to pop it in your DVD player, doesn't it? Go right ahead. Southern Man is watching it again right now. And then he's going to watch Robocop and both Conan movies. It's a popcorn movie day! And the only thing that beats a popcorn movie day is popcorn movie day with beer and hydrocodone!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

There Were Giants In Those Days

Much of the technological world has mourned the passing of Steve Jobs, who more than anyone made computing more accessible and gave us generations of cool toys that "just plain worked." But a few days later another giant left us; Dennis Ritchie, a principle author of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system. As The Blog That Nobody Reads notes, his passing is equally worthy of our remembrance, if not more so. Jobs spent much of his career making operating systems (and thus computers) easier to use (and this was no small accomplishment); Ritchie created the tools with which you build operating systems and used then to construct one of the most important. And in an interesting convergence a direct descendant of Ritchie's UNIX powers Apple products today from the iMac to the iPhone, and Objective C is the primary programming language for both.

Who do we hold in higher esteem, the man who made technology easier to use, or the man who created what was necessary to enable that technology in the first place? While the public is far more familiar with the fruits of the first, they could not exist without the second. And while few will know who Dennis Ritchie was or what he accomplished, we honor his achievements and note with sorrow his passing here.
#include <stdio.h>
int main(int argc, char * argv[]){
printf("Goodbye, Dennis...");
return 0;
[Added 31 October 2011] O'Reilly suggests that October 30 be designated as Dennis Ritchie Day. Spread the word!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Southern Man has lots of plans for The Land and usually keeps an eye on Craigslist for anything he might make use of and this morning had the good fortune to be the first to call on a bunch of rock that had been used in a koi pond - highly desirable as The Land has a little washout that has always been designated as the future garden pond and the native rock out there is soft red shale that's not much good for rockscaping. Warned that some were large and he ought to "bring help" Southern Man tossed a couple of long 4x4s and a two-wheel hand truck in the back of The Titan and headed out after work to pick them up. Some were indeed quite large but Southern Man is fairly adept at moving and loading heavy things by himself and once he got started the rock-owner came out to help. He had a large back yard that was clearly in the middle of several projects (including a half-completed swimming pool where that koi pond used to be) and the back of the house was in the middle of a major remodel as well so we chatted about landscaping and remodeling and such while moving big rocks on the two-wheeler and flipping the biggest ones up the 4x4 ramps. The rock pretty much filled The Titan's bed and he was crouching perilously low on the springs but he's a big tough truck and Southern Man wasn't too concerned about breaking anything...

...and then while looking things over one last time before departing the rock-owner's wife came out and Southern Man overheard one of the highest compliments a man can earn:
"How did you get all that loaded so quickly?"
"Honey, that guy really knew what he was doing."
So Southern Man was pretty happy on the slow and careful drive to The Land where he spent an hour or so unloading and stacking the rock on pallets (he'd nabbed a truckload of
those last month) and looking the place over as he hadn't been out there (other than a quick errand last week) since the pinched nerve flared up two weekends ago. Curiously, it didn't bother him at all while loading and unloading all that rock (it's really bad when lying down and trying to sleep). He had inadvertently left the AC on in the trailer and it was still cycling just fine so he pronounces that breaker problem solved but has a mild feeling of dread about what the next electric bill might look like.

And now he is home and had breakfast-for-dinner (bacon and eggs and chocolate milk and a hydrocodone in the hopes of getting some sleep tonight) and has a favorite movie in the DVD player and in a bit will take a shower and go to bed in happy anticipation of a long weekend - next Monday and Tuesday are Fall Break and he probably won't work the kids too hard on Friday either.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A deliberate style choice on this blog is to write in the third person and to avoid the use of commas if at all possible and to write very very long sentences that never seem to end but have this ephemeral Mark Twain-ish (or anti John Steinbeck-ish) feel about them and he also tends to put side comments between em-dashes — which are different from en-dashes — or in parenthesis (like this). But Southern Man was so annoyed at recent events that he discovered that he had lapsed into standard first-person writing on this recent rant which tells you how passionate Southern Man is about this subject. So he has re-edited that post a bit and is mentioning it here for no other reason than to have a post for today and to let you know that if you catch him deviating from his self-imposed style feel free to call him on it. That is all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We Are The 1%

This cheeky response to the Occupy Wherever movement is all over the net...

Photo taken from Google Images; original source may be this twitter account.

And on a slightly different note the thread on Southern Sister's Facebook account (from which Southern Man has been banned) has this juicy tidbit from none other than Southern Sister's SO:
The wealth of some has grown greatly in the last 40 years yet our calculation/definition of poor has not: poor is a family of four making less than $22,350/year...that's not poor that's starvation.
Southern Man suspected that this actually makes a point he's been hammering at for some time (that the "poor" in the USA are middle class in Europe and wealthy compared to most of the world) so he typed "world income" into Google and the top hit was the Global Rich List into which you enter your income and it tells you your rank for the entire planet. Two results of interest are:
USA Poverty Level of $22,350 - just inside 10%.
Southern Man - just inside 1%.
So someone explain how an intelligent, college-educated person can call a top-ten-percent income - and, mind you, people at this income level in the USA live in constructed homes with indoor plumbing and clean running water and have refrigerators and televisions and air conditioners and cable television and cell phones and iPods and pay other people to prepare their meals for them on a regular basis and otherwise live like kings compared to much of the world - "starvation." Does she really believe that 90% of the people on the planet are starving to death? And consider that any family of four who actually earns $22,350 as income is almost certainly drawing another half that in direct government aid (for example, in addition to a variety of assistance programs they'll pick up about 4K in Earned Income Credit alone) - and that puts them in the top 5% of global incomes, right there. Witness the power of capitalism and the free market, which has created a nation of such wealth that our poor are in the very highest echelons of world income. To be poor in the USA today is to be richer than 99% of the humans who ever lived. And no other nation is as generous about sharing that wealth. Southern Man can't count the number of times he's been in line behind someone at a convenience store who's got iPod earbuds hanging around their neck and is chatting on a smartphone while buying beer and cigarettes along with their food-stamp-subsidized groceries. That's what we call "poor" around here.

And Southern Man is pleased to join the Chicago Board of Trade as part of the 1%. It's good to be on top. Lord, you have blessed this nation beyond measure. Let us not forget the source of our blessings. Amen.

In Defence Of Capitalism

So after a long day at work and two, count 'em, two doctor visits (now waiting for insurance to approve the MRI) Southern Man drags his tired and very much aching carcass home and plops down in front of the PC and right at the top of his Facebook feed is (copied entirely without permission, and edited as well):
Southern Sister: In about an hour I will attend the Occupy Southern Man's Capital City kick off rally in downtown Capital City. I’ve spent much of the last week reading about the Occupy Wall Street movement trying to determine if I want to be involved and, if so, what results do I want to see. I want to be involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement because I want the United States of America to realize its potential as nation of tolerance and opportunity and I think the current culture of unrestrained capitalism has created a class disparity that weakens our society...
Sigh. Once again the fuzzy-headed liberals think that "capitalism" is the bad guy while living in the land of plenty built from... capitalism. Not to mention some notion that the USA isn't already the greatest example of tolerance and opportunity in the history of civilization. So let the lesson begin:

Capitalism is the greatest engine of progress and development in the history of humanity. Because we live in a Western country we are surrounded by the products of capitalism. Casa Southern Man and the wardrobe and the pantry and the medicine cabinet are filled with products produced by free enterprise in a capitalistic society. How does Southern Man know this? Because when he goes out to buy any of these things (and thousands more) he is showered with an abundance of choices, all of high quality, all competitively priced, from companies eager to exchange these goods for my money. Because he lives in a Western country he lives in a land of unequaled prosperity and opportunity. If he wants a pair of shoes there are hundreds of choices in his size within two miles of my house. If Ihe wants groceries there are a dozen stores competing for my business. The only reason Southern Man still has a four-year old cell phone is that there is such an abundance of choices to replace it, all vastly superior to what he has, that he's unable to make a decision. What a nice problem to have. The list goes on and on and on and on and on. And because Southern Man lives in the USA he's surrounded by such wealth that our "poor" would be considered middle-class in Europe and downright wealthy in much of the rest of the world. Indeed, Southern Sister's home is filled with the products of the genius of the late Steve Jobs, the ultimate free-market capitalist, who time and time and time again figured out what you wanted before you did and designed it and financed the factories to build it and sold it to you. And he earned billions and billions of dollars and you loved him for it. Southern Man was actually hoping that her Facebook update quoted above would end with "posted from my iPhone." But that would have been too good to be true.

Yet all is not well in our land of plenty. What has gone wrong? Can it be that capitalism is actually bad after all? Should Southern Man join the Occupy The Capital City movement?

What's gone wrong is that a large part of the economy is now controlled by huge corporations with strong ties- OK, very strong ties - to the central government. Let's call it "corporatism." And because government is fundamentally corrupt (the Founding Fathers called this a couple of centuries ago and wrote a Constitution specifically designed to combat it, which we have ignored to our peril), corporatism is fundamentally corrupt.

Capitalism gave us the iPad and smart phones and cars and a huge selection of high-quality clothes and pretty much every good thing in your life. Corporatism gave us the housing crisis and the student loan crisis and the financial crisis. Apple and Rebok and Microsoft and Wal-Mart are splendid examples of free-market capitalism. Goldman-Sachs and Fannie Mae and Fanny Mac are excellent examples of corporatism; there's very little about them that lines up with even the broadest definition of free-market capitalism. Collusion with government to such an extent that profits are privatized while losses are socialized is not free enterprise.

Now what are the Occupiers complaining about, again?

Housing? Federal "guidelines" (translation: you will do things our way) required banks to not only make housing loans easy to get (which drove the price of homes up) but required them to make a lot of loans that could never be repaid (and which were not). So a lot of people rather stupidly thought that their house was an investment (instead of, say, a place to live) and got badly burned, and a lot of banks are holding a lot of bad loans. And many of these banks are so closely tied to the federal government that they might as well be called the "financial" branch. Is that the fault of capitalism?

OK, college is too expensive. Federal regulations on student loans make them easy to get (and again, easy money drove the price of college up, up, and up) to the point that pretty much anyone who could more or less fill out an application could get one. So a lot of kids paid a lot of money for four years of essentially living at a resort, with four years of room and board paid by loans, and a relatively worthless diploma at the end. When it comes to college, Government edict required that we ignore the rules of how free markets work. Is that the fault of capitalism?

Well, we can't get jobs. Federal regulations mandate a minimum wage, and it keeps going up. Well, if a business can't afford the increased wage, they can either raise their prices (which negates the effect of the wage increase) or let people go (which increases unemployment). And the current administration in particular seems hell-bent on passing as many anti-job regulations as it can. Is that the fault of capitalism?

Want to see these problems solved? Eliminate government-sponsored (or entangled, or whatever you want to call it) corporatism and the resulting command economy and let glorious free-enterprise capitalism run wild and free once again.

This quote from Instapundit is too good to not repost:
No doubt, Marx and Lenin would be astounded that, amid the most prosperous and free society in the history of mankind, so many useful idiots could be convinced to protest against the very individual freedom and economic liberty that made it all possible.
[added later] And once again dear Sister has deleted my comments on her FB feed. Gotta love those libs and their tolerance for opposing viewpoints. But Southern Man will continue to respond to her empty-headed political ramblings until she either de-friends him or grows up.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Scream

This is pretty much how Southern Man is feeling today. And somehow he has to get through work tomorrow. But he sees his regular doctor tomorrow afternoon. Who will hopefully send him to a specialist who can find the problem and fix it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

World Business Forum Day 3

All praise to our secretary, who booked us out on a late flight and gave us a free morning in the city. Southern Man will bring her genuine New York City Godiva chocolate (where he had the most amazing dark chocolate shake ever) and a nice street-vendor scarf. Southern Man spent his morning geocaching and by noon had cut a fairly decent swathe of finds across the city.

The smiley faces are finds. Southern Man had only a single DNF, yesterday at High Line Park. The one at the far left was near the Javits Center; the others, within walking distance of the DoubleTree.

Geocaching in NYC is an experience; it takes real skill to establish and maintain a cache in such a densly populated city, and a bit of both skill and luck to find them. Many were in the tiny parks that are tucked away throughout the city. By noon he had worked his way up to Central Park. After finding a nice cache he was tapping on the iPad to enter the log when he spotted another fellow loitering nearby. Seeing a GPS in his hand Southern Man called out "I'm not a muggle!" and was quickly joined by fellow geocacher PalMedic. After finding that he was from Israel Southern Man gave him the travel bug he'd taken from the cache. And then we spied another couple trying not to be obvious about watching us; they were geocachers on vacation from Eastern Europe. You meet the nicest people while geocaching.

By then it was time to meet at the hotel and take our van to the airport. On the trip Southern Man found that many of the students had gone up to Wall Street to see the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters, which led to discussions on economics and redistribution and corporate greed and productivity and such that extended well into the flights home. And then Southern Man was able to tumble into his own bed for the night.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

World Business Forum Day 2

The first set of speakers were pretty good; standouts were Seth Godin and Jack Welch. The worst hour was a panel discussion with Robert Rubin and Martin Feldstein, neither of whom were particularly inspiring but did give an insightful glimpse of how inside-the-beltway economists view our current situation.

Lunch Break was spent geocaching at the nearby High Line Park; lunch was half a very large and delicious deli sandwich (the other half served as dinner). That fabulous US Flag tie, purchased the previous evening from a street vendor, got lots of complements. Photo by a kind stranger.

The Canada booth demonstrated their complete awesomeness by serving sliders and beer during the afternoon break.

With two Mounties at the Canada Booth.

We heard from Bruno Ferrari, the Mexican Secretary of Economy - it was interesting to hear how he danced around the issues of guns and drugs that are much in the news today - and finally from Daniel Lamarre, the CEO of the Cirque du Soleil, who was preceded by an amazing stage performance by Zarcana.

And, frankly worn down to a nub, Southern Man took the shuttle home, soaked in the tub, and crawled into bed without setting the alarm. We're not scheduled to leave the hotel until 2:00 tomorrow afternoon, which will leave time for site-seeing and geocaching if Southern Man's leg allows it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

World Business Forum Day 1

WBF 2011 was held at the Jacob Jarvis Convention Center, a complex on the west side of Manhatten, and consists mainly of several thousand people in a huge room listening to various captains of industry up on the stage.

At registration and in the meeting hall. Photos by assorted students.

That stage contained a grand piano and Southern Man waited with considerable anticipation for someone to make use of it. The morning and early-afternoon speakers ranged from OK to pretty good (Bill George was almost inspiring - he'd do well for a while and then spout some Harvardian nonsense - and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was particularly disappointing) but the man who stole the show (and made frequent use of said piano) was the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. He was lively and engaging and funny and gave us all permission to add "sang under the direction of Ben Zander" on our resumes. Oh, yes - "in German." He earned the first standing ovation of the day, even after going long by forty minutes and not only consuming out afternoon break but going into Bill Clinton's time.

Photo from the WBF Flickr site. Bill didn't play the sax or the piano.

Yes, the former president was the last speaker of the day. Southern Man heard Clinton speak 'way back in his governor days (at the Arkansas Governor's School for the Gifted and Talented, at which Southern Man taught one summer) and was most impressed, to the point of predicting that Clinton would go far on the national stage. Southern Man made a similar prediction after hearing (on TV) a speech by a fiery but relatively unknown senator from Illinois, giving him a good record for picking winners in the D column. Well, that was then and this was now; Clinton more or less phoned in his speech and covered his usual territory of late. Southern Man would guess that the house went from packed to a third empty during that time. Southern Man tuned him out when he complained about conservatives being "anti-immigration." For some reason liberals always omit the "illegal" part of that issue and Clinton predictably stuck to the party line. He was still pretty funny and Southern Man may use the page of notes he took to write a separate post on his talk. Until then, here's a summary from the Wall Street Journal.

Getting to and from the Javits Center was easy as they ran shuttles between there and the hotels. The only real down sides were constant pain (Southern Man is going through his new bottle of hydrocodone at a frightening pace) and the tasteless lunch he dropped $20 on (a "barbecue and ale" place that had tasteless potato salad and no ale). But once home he picked up a gyro from a street vendor and got a small bottle of milk and a bag of M&Ms at the deli. Guess which cost more? He should have done a better job packing snacks. And now he is going to soak in the whirlpool and go to bed, for tomorrow is another day!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

World Business Forum Day 0

The trip to NYC is somewhat hazy in Southern Man's mind. He does recall that the trip was unusually smooth and that aircraft may have been involved. The only glitch was that he had to wait an hour for his room.

And what a room it was! A huge suite with all the amenities in the DoubleTree, right on Times Square, and all his own. So after crashing for a few hours Southern Man pulled himself together and went exploring, nabbing his first NYC geocache and treating himself to a fine steak dinner at Tads. The Big Apple is a testament to free enterprise. Southern Man picked up three cool neckties for $10 and will hit the seven-t-shirts-for-ten-bucks place tomorrow. The WBF kicks off tomorrow morning!

Monday, October 03, 2011

World Business Forum Day -1

Yes, that's one less than the usual day zero because it has been quite a day. After a restless night at the land and to the apartment to shower and change Southern Man swung by the chiropractor for his morning appointment and had a routine day at work, ducking out right after his last class to go home and pack. And then there was much pain...

After five hours in bed frozen in the one position that didn't cause him to yell in agony and a couple of hydrocodone Southern Man was facing the very real possibility that he might be making a trip to the ER and might not make it to New York City. But the drugs finally kicked in and he called the night number for his clinic and Thank God his own doctor was on call and after a brief discussion phoned in a prescription for pain meds to a nearby Walgreens but not until making Southern Man swear on all he holds holy that he would come in for a checkup next week. Three cheers for the American health care system!

So Southern Man is gingerly limping around the casa packing his bags and keeping half an eye on the clock. He won't bother to try to sleep tonight but will head out at about four-ish to the pharmacy and then go on to the airport for the six-am flight. New York City, here we come!


The Sunday School class Southern Man attends is a ten(ish)-week package taught by two dear friends; this is his third pass through the material. Yesterday was the first day for the new session so we all got to introduce ourselves and the discussion turned to dating history. Southern Man made a few notes and did a little recollecting and finds he's kind of unusual in that regard.

Up to a year ago Southern Man had been on exactly ten first dates, starting with high school. All but two blossomed into long-term relationships lasting a year and a half or longer (one wasn't so much a date as a movie night at a friend's apartment that turned into a one-night-stand - Southern Man's one and only entry in that category - and we stayed friends; the other - well, we just didn't click). The last year and a half is the longest he's ever gone without being in an LTR. Conclusion: Southern Man doesn't have much dating experience but neither is he accustomed to being "single" and seems to move into relationships fairly easily. And in the last year or so he's been on a mere two "meets" (he won't call them dates) with girls met by replying to ads on Craigslist (he does this every now and again) or on the few dating sites where he has profiles (mostly OKCupid; he's too cheap to pay actual money to Match or Chemistry), neither of which went anywhere. So his social life revolves around family and the church singles group and mens group, who do enough interesting things to keep him busy.

Thus the three-peat of a SS class that focuses on how to be a healthy single. As noted above Southern Man doesn't have much practice at being single and sadly still carries a bit of relationship baggage (especially from the last one) but he's dealing with it a little better every day. And he's not sure if he even wants to date right now; having time to work out at The Land and focus on his daughters and actually making time for himself is a blessing. And Lord knows life is simpler without it. But deep down everyone wants someone to love and everyone wants to be loved in return. Teen daughter teases him by saying he needs a Chinese wife. Southern Man has no idea where that came from. But every now and then he out an email out or responds to a message, just to see what happens. And always from the Southern Man email account and with a link to the blog. Hey, why not? Southern Man is always looking for new readers. And there has been an upswing in anonymous comments of late; one wonders if some are from girls who might be interested.

So if you're one of those, or just stumbled across the blog some other way (Southern Man is a frequent commenter on any number of blogs) step on inside and kick off your shoes and stay a while. It's a homey little blog about nothing in particular but you might find something that catches your eye. Constructive criticism and suggestions are always welcome. And who knows? Perhaps there's a cup of coffee in our future.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Daughter Weekend Day 4

A morning spent lazing around the apartment (less a couple of hours when Southern Man slipped off to his Sunday School class), lunch at one of our favorite Chinese buffets, and then to the airport to send her back to her mother.

Photo credit - a fellow traveler

After seeing her onto the plane Southern Man swung by the office to do a little work and headed home and is now gathering a few items to take out to The Land where he will probably mess around until evening and spend the night in the trailer. Tomorrow will be a busy day at work; on Tuesday a bunch of us are off to New York City for the World Business Forum!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Daughter Weekend Day 3

With daughter off with Southern Sister Southern Man made a run out to The Land and piddled around for a bit and brought back a movie tween daughter had requested, then that afternoon on her return we watched said movie and then headed out to the local amusement park.

In front of the Mind Bender. Southern Man rode it once, and that was enough. And by "once" he means once long ago.

The park was in full Halloween mode and crawling with characters and creatures and zombies...

With a living statue.

...and of course the Magic Show and the Gunfight Show (which we always attend) had supernatural themes as well.

Cowboys and Sheriffs and Zombies, oh my!

The big event was the Haunted House which kept us there till late so we came home and collapsed into bed after a fun but exhausting day.