Misc Thoughts

Random things:

In researching the history of colonial history Texas it struck me that there were very few Spaniards that lived in Texas, and it struck me as well at how profound their influence was given their limited numbers.  A random example is the use of cumin in Tex-Mex cooking these days.  America must import tons of the stuff.  But, cumin is a North-African spice.  What’s up with that?  Well, in the early 1700’s the King of Spain decided that Texas needed more settlers so he told some Spaniards, a dozen or so families, living on the Mediterranean Canary Islands to move to Texas, to where San Antonio is now.  The Canary Islanders used a lot of cumin in their cooking, and when they relocated to Texas their took their cumin with them.  And nearly three-hundred years later here we are, tons of cumin imported and used in every Mexican eatery and a lot of kitchens in America.

We are supposed to be horrified at the thought of public figures being black-listed over, what those figures would have said were efforts, or even inclinations, to have better relations with the Russians around sixty years ago.  It was called McCarthyism. Speaking of the American media 39 years ago, Solzhenitsyn remarked: There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to the readership or to history? If they have misled public opinion by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, even if they have contributed to mistakes on a state level, do we know of any case of open regret voiced by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No; this would damage sales. A nation may be the worse for such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. It is most likely that he will start writing the exact opposite to his previous statements with renewed aplomb.  He hadn’t seen nothing yet.

Amazon is the darling of the stock market.  But it is a twenty odd year old company with the balance sheet of a start-up.  An astronomical P/E ratio and scarcely any positive cash flow.  Looks to me like a Ponzi-scheme where suckers buying the stock are funding the ongoing operations of the company, because, you know, someday they might actually make money and really be worth something.  When Wal-Mart, Sears, whoever, took over retail they did it with greater efficiency and gained market share and profitability at the same time.  Amazon is gobbling up market-share by pricing the competition out of business.  Those other business have to, you know, actually make money.   Unlike Amazon, that is allowed to party like it is 1999 for as long as it wants.  So what will Amazon do once it dominates?  Either crash and burn when it runs out of suckers to buy a stock with a 1,000 P/E ratio, or else raise prices.  Not a happy ending either way.  Sounds like an antitrust issue to me.

Fun web links:

  • The ax is one of the most ancient and fundamental of tools.  For a pioneer / mountain man / explorer of old, a good ax was one of their most important possessions.  Like a lot of old tools, like saws, files, and drills, there is a lot of knowledge behind their construction, maintenance, and use.  It is fascinating how such tools were refined over time.  There is a good video on them I found the other day here.  I used to live on some acres of partly-wooded land and had a good number of dead trees to clear, a wood lot to take care of, old lumber slash to remove, etc.  Never owned a chainsaw.  A couple of axes and cross-cut saws took care of it all.  Sure, a chain saw is faster, but for occasional use, the time to take it out a chain saw, lubricate it, add the gas/oil, get it primed, get on safety glasses and ear muffs, get it started, and so on, well a medium size tree would already be felled with a good cross-cut saw.  And instead of deafening noise and exhaust fumes, hand tools give good exercise in the fresh air.  A good source of axes, and all sorts of hand tools, is Harry Epstein.   A good source of cross-cut saws is the Cross Cut Saw Company.  A good (and free) handbook on how to sharpen and use them is here.


  • For people like me who would rather stay off the interstates while traveling, and those who find strange attractions, and off-the-beaten path things of interest, my new guilty pleasures are the videos of a strange fellow who goes by the name of Adam-the-Woo.  He can be a little goofy, but he has some great videos of the America behind the curtain.  The childhood home of Clyde Barrow, the bed where FDR died, the most confusing house in America, an abandoned iron foundry in Chattanooga, the filming locations of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  It is all there.


  • A blog I check most days is by a guy named Sci-Fi Wright.  I am not that interested in science fiction these days, which is sometimes the topic of the blog, but I find his philosophical observations interesting.


  • Just for fun:
    • Speaking of Wrights, found this gem on YouTube: The Appointments of Dennis Jennings.  A short film with Steven Wright (and Mr. Bean!)
    • Conspiracy Theories, the musical. A fun scene from the film True Stories.  The sort of movie people love or just do not get.  Only one way to find out if you get it.
    • Daniel Mitsui, a young artist who works in the style of medieval scribes.  Wow.


Well, enough of all that, next entry will be back on the San Saba Treasure.


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