Archive for July, 2012

No More Reviews

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Someone put me on a list of people who write book reviews for blogs. About once a week I receive a request to read a book and write a review. If I say yes, I often get a credit at Amazon so I can download a book to my Kindle.

I have learned my lesson.

First, I feel bad for the people who pay the Amazon fee to get me to review the book. For almost all of them, the book is so bad that it will never sell many copies.

Next, people want me to review books that I would not normally read, especially Horror, Vampire, Zombie or Romance (porn for women).

Next, I feel bad when I read a book that I don’t like, so I lie about how good the book is, making me feel worse. When I hate a book, I try to find something nice to say, and this is insincere.

Last, it takes a long time for me to get to some of these books. I have lots of things that I WANT to read, and the the things that I HAVE to read get pushed to the bottom of the pile.

From now on, I am not open to reviewing books that I did not choose myself. My taste is quite narrow and there are many books that I want to read. I don’t need free books. I have about 500 books in my backlog from purchases that I’ve made at flea markets and garage sales including a few hundred magazines from the 1940s and 50s.

Don’t send me any more books to review.

Kid Anderson in Guitar

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

This is one of the things I recorded Wednesday night at The Turning Point in Piermont. Very cool.

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Jane Austen’s Ring

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Jane’s ring sold for 152,450 GBP or $241,467.13. Estimate was a max of 30,000 pounds, but I called it right and said it would go for as much as a quarter of million dollars. I was damn close.

Sotheby’s London auction house had predicted that the ring would sell for as much as $45,000, but auctioneers were surprised by the final figure the closely-held family heirloom brought in.

“The price achieved today is a remarkable testament to Jane Austen’s enduring appeal and her place at the heart of our literary and cultural heritage,” Dr. Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in Sotheby’s book and manuscript department, stated in a press release after the auction.

The natural turquoise ring set in gold originally belonged to the “Pride and Prejudice” author who bequeathed it to her sister, Cassandra, after her death in 1817. Cassandra then gave it as a gift to their future sister in-law, Eleanor.

Eight international bidders competed for the ring, which is enclosed in a box contemporary to the time. Bought by an anonymous collector, it was accompanied by a note written in November, 1863 by Eleanor Austen to her niece Caroline Austen, reading: “My dear Caroline. The enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!”

The piece was unknown to Austen scholars and fans until the family stepped forward to sell it, making it all the more exciting.

“That this ring only surfaced recently makes me wonder what else of hers is out there that we don’t know about,” Austen expert and author of “Jane Austen and the Theatre,” Paula Byrne told “She comes from a large family, and things were often given as gifts to other family members. There could still be quite a lot of Austen’s dispersed treasures that we haven’t yet laid eyes on.”

Sotheby’s History of Script

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Sotheby’s, the auction house, sold a large collection of old examples of ancient script. The History of Script: Sixty Important Manuscript Leaves from the Schøyen Collection.

These include a 2,000 year old section from Iliad and many other ancient texts.

An interesting one is The Adler papyri, an archive of documents in Greek and Demotic, on papyrus [Egypt (Gebelein), 134-89 BC.]. It is the records of a man named Horus, son of Nechoutes. Reading the catalog description spurs the imagination. If you can’t think of story where this man is character then you are not a writer.

Excavated in Gebelein (ancient Pathyris in the Thebaid of southern Egypt, Strabo’s Aphroditopolis) and sold in 1924 by the antiquities dealer, Hadj Mansur Mahmud of Luxor, to Elkan Nathan Adler (1861-1946). Adler published an account of them in 1937 and an edition of them in 1939. He was the first European to enter the Cairo Genizah, and brought over 25,000 fragments from that storehouse back to England. His personal collection of 4,500 manuscripts was partly sold and partly bequeathed to the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. The papyri here, however, were acquired by Dr. Martin Bodmer (1899-1971), Geneva, and sold in 1970 to H.P. Kraus: his cat.126 (1971), no.96; Schøyen MSS 128-179.

This is the archive of Horus, son of Nechoutes (Demotic: Hor, son of Nekhotf) and his immediate family, who were ‘Persians of the desert’ – mercenaries in the service of the Ptolemaic pharaohs, descended from “Persians of the Achaemenidic and Hellenistic time, [intermarried with] … Egyptian soldiers, Graeco-Egyptian half-breeds, Arabs, Nubians, Libyans and Jews” (Adler Papyri, p.3). They offer a remarkably personal portrait of a man who lived a century and a half before the birth of Jesus.

Horus was most probably born c.140 BC., in Syrene, near Elephantine. He is described in the Greek documents here as of ‘middle size’ with ‘honey coloured, curly hair’, with a ‘long face’ and a ‘straight nose’, and with his ‘left ear pierced’.

He was a member of the military garrison stationed near Gebelein in the aftermath of the Theban rebellion in 186 BC., but in later life retired and committed himself to his estates and spiritual responsibilities there, describing himself as a ‘servant of the god Harsemtheus’. He also appears in P.Cornell 4 and an unpublished papyrus in the John Rylands Library. A duplicate copy of Gr.7 here can be found independently in P.Mil.1.2 of the Università Cattolica, Milan (P.Milan 1.2).

The Greek documents here detail Horus’ acquisition of property in the area of Pathyris, and are extremely early real estate records. Many of the Demotic documents follow suit; one record concerning access to an important vineyard, and another a plot of land in nearby Crocodilopolis. The Demotic part of the archive also includes evidence of how the family integrated into the region, in marriage contracts for weddings held in 92 and 97-96 BC.

Adler detected Jewish observances in the loans recorded here, which were made in “complete accordance” with Exodus 22:24 and Deutronomy 15:1-7 and 23:20 (‘The Adler Papyri’, pp.15-16, and Adler Papyri, pp.5-6), and suggested that Horus and his family may have been partly Jewish or a gentile who lived among Jews in Hellenistic Egypt and chose to follow the Jewish law “so far as it seemed good to them”. Adler’s views have met with some criticism (cf. Tscherikower, ‘Jewish Influence’), but also defence (cf. Heichelheim, ibid.), and as the latter states, it does seem “likely that Judaism and the Septuagint were not unknown to Horus and his family”.

A handful of other archives survive from Ancient Egypt, but like the Zenon papyri (from ancient Philadelphia, mid third century BC.) and the Dryton papyri (found in the Thebaid, second century BC.), almost all were widely dispersed by the antiquities market in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and are now split between museum collections in the United States, Europe and Egypt.

The present papyri have been together for twenty-one centuries. Adler himself noted of the present archive that “such a collection … is, you will perhaps agree, not to be found in any public library” (‘The Adler Papyri’, p.19). With the current export restrictions for such material out of Egypt, it is unlikely that any other could be offered on the international market.

Justine asked for chicken pictures

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Chickens aren’t photogenic. It’s hard to take a good picture of a chicken.

Flesch’s Typography Rules

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Written in 1948, Rudolf Flesch’s book The Art of Readable Writing takes on some typography rules near the end. These could have been written this morning, and they apply to writing for the Web as much as they applied to writing 70 years ago.

1) Any type size under 10 point is hard to read.

2) Anything printed in an unfamiliar typeface is hard to read.

3) If there is no leading (by leading he means white space between lines), lines longer than 40 characters are hard to read. The rule of thumb is that “one-and-half alphabets” or 39 characters and wider require increased spacing between lines.

4) Headings printed in CAPITALS only are hard to read, especially if they are BOLD.

5) Try to arrange the page so to make reading and understanding easier. Use bullet items, indentation and shorter paragraphs.


Yes, Dammit

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Rudolf Flesch wrote The Art of Readable Writing. It is a great book, which, coincidentally is very readable. It is full of examples, and today I read a great anecdote about spitting Infinities.

Flesch writes:

I found this last example in an article by Raymond Chandler in the March 1948 Atlantic Monthly. Since I had read somewhere that the Atlantic considers the split infinitive taboo, I wrote a letter to the editor, Mr. Edward Weeks, and asked how come. His answer was interesting:

Dear Mr. Flesch:
I accordance with Atlantic usage, we do not encourage our authors to split infinities. In fact, we try to prevent them from doing so, and when our Proof Reader raised the question on the galley margin: “Is the split infinitive okay?”, Mr. Chandler replied: “Yes, dammit.”


Saturday, July 7th, 2012

I made this sign out of plywood and it now hangs at the foot of the driveway.

I cut some more shapes out of plywood for an Egg sign. The chickens will start laying eggs around Labor Day.

Bad Week

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

I took off Monday and Tuesday of this week to take advantage of a long weekend.

This was a mistake. I should have waited for a cooler month – like December.

I painted two sides of the chicken shed and finished painting the trim. I built shelves for the new shed, which Erica painted, and now my tools are in there arranged in some kind of order (I wonder how long that will last).

I power washed the front of the house where the paint was peeling off. I will repaint this when the temperature drops below 90°. I am very sore in my legs and back from climbing the ladder and holding the power washer for long periods of time. The heat was awful. I kept feeling dizzy which is not a good thing 25 feet above the ground.

I received a call from someone who wanted bees removed from their garage. I accepted, but this goes into the category of things I won’t do again on a hot day. A bee suit is not something you want to wear on 95° heat. I nearly fainted and did a half-ass job. I did get a box full of nice bees and I saw the queen. I left lots of bees behind and quite a mess. I was stung a dozen times through the gloves and I tore a hole in one of the bee gloves. I am gaining immunity to bee stings, though and they did not bother me.

I was called by work because one of my systems mysteriously stopped working. I went in Tuesday afternoon and fixed it. I am not sure what is going on. It appears to be working, but I don’t know what could have changed. Systems do not heal.

I worked more on power washing the house Wednesday, the 4th of July, and then put on my bee suit to work the bees. I put honey supers on two hives and put a second hive box on top of the hive rescued from the garage. At around 7PM I robbed one of my hives and got about 40 pounds of honey. This is not the job for a very hot July day. The bee suit was stifling and I felt like I was going to faint at one point. I was not stung, which is a change. The bees seemed very calm and did not care that I was taking their honey. Spinning the honey and then filtering it is sticky work on a good day, but the oppressive heat and humidity did not help at all.

My mother is up with my brother for her birthday, so I had to feed her cats. I forgot about it so I ran over to the house around 10pm and fed them.

I forgot to lock up the chickens, but remembered at 3 o’clock in the morning and ran out and locked them in. It was too dark to count them. I was not feeling well (exhaustion and a hot bedroom did not help) and worried about if all the chickens were alive, so I did not sleep.

I got up early this morning and counted the chickens, they were all right. I was all off schedule, so I did not take my pills this morning and I feel like crap. I left my wallet home so I have borrowed the money for the bus back. I don’t have any money so I did not get any lunch. I can’t stop at the grocery store to buy food on the way home so it is pot luck for dinner tonight.

I need a stiff drink and a good night’s sleep.


Thursday, July 5th, 2012

I mis-typed the url of the website that I have been working on. For those curious as to what I do, the backend (not the art) of is mine.

Jane’s Ring

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

If you really really want to make your woman happy, you can get her a ring once owned by Jane Austin. It is going to auction at Sotheby’s. The estimate is for 20,000 to 30,000 GBP. That’s about $47,000 in real money and I believe it will go for nothing less than a quarter of a million.

Jane Austin’s Ring

Harpin for Hunger

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Larry and I rode up to Pawling, NY last night, and despite leaving late and bad traffic on the bridge, we made it on time. Larry ordered dinner which was pretty good. I had Black Bean soup.

We saw Dennis Gruenling, Steve Guyger, Big Joe Fitz, and Chris O’Leary. Great backup by Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones. It lasted more than three hours, but unfortunately the house was light. I think 40 people or fewer were there, possibly because Sunday night before July 4th is a bad weekend to do anything.

Here is a neat video of the performers doing a really goofy set of Sonny Boy Williamson’s great song “Eyesight to the Blind”. Steve Guyger was the only one who knew the lyrics and he ran out of things to sing so he just sang the last verse for the last 5 minutes.

Good stuff nonetheless.