Frodo vs. Rameses

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo said of Saruman:

He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it.

In The Ten Commandments, Rameses said of Moses:

Let him rave on, that men will know him mad.

Whenever I encounter someone who is being wrong on the internet, one or the other of these statements comes to mind, and I remain silent.


Once, long ago, I was at my desk, in a classroom at River Forest Elementary School, sitting through another day of third grade.

This is boring, I thought. I’m going to wake up now.

And I did. I wasn’t at school, I was at home, in bed. (It might even have been a Saturday.)

Years later, I thought: What if you only get one do-over like that, in your entire life, and I wasted mine on skipping a day of third grade?

The Rules of Facebook

Before creating an account on Facebook, study & understand the rules:

  1. Nothing is private.
  2. Nothing is deleted.

Assertions to the contrary from Zuckerberg et al. are mainly to dupe the users into providing more data that can be sold to advertisers.

How Many of Me, Revisited

In 2006, I said: reports that there are 376 Patrick Rices in the United States.

I had the notion this morning to check again. The results were…discouraging:

There are 343 people in the U.S. named Patrick Rice.

Thirty-three of my doppelgangers have vanished since 2006: that’s one every 104 days, more or less. If current trends continue, by June 22, 2113 there will be no one left on Earth named Patrick Rice.

HRC vs. BS

Presidential campaigns are a bit like the Christmas shopping “season” – every year, they start a little earlier, run a little longer, get a bit more shrill. I’m left with the feeling that everyone involved is fed up with what campaigns have become, but nobody’s willing to stand up and say, “This is stupid.”

I’ve been observing (from a safe distance) the 2016 campaign, bemused at the degree of self-deception necessary for a candidate to soldier on despite voter support numbers smaller than the polls’ margins of error.

2016 is Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second try for the Oval Office, and – just like 2008 – somebody in her own party is getting in the way. I imagine her thinking, Not this again.

(Who will I vote for? I haven’t decided yet – and suspect that the nominations will already have been settled by the time Illinois holds its primaries on March 15.)

WordPress, ransomware, etc.

Interesting new item making the rounds: somebody’s been hacking WordPress sites. Ars Technica says:

It’s still not clear how, but a disproportionately large number of websites that run on the WordPress content management system are being hacked to deliver crypto ransomware and other malicious software to unwitting end users.

Well, that’s awkward. The dusty & neglected Daybook has been running WordPress since mid-2009; am I now serving “crypto ransomware” to all (three of) my readers? (I logged in on the server just now, and poked around a bit. No signs of unusual activity.)

I use WordPress, but I don’t like it all that much. I’m not even sure keeping the Daybook online is such a good idea any more. Perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.

The vast wasteland

I was thinking this morning of FCC Chairman Newton Minow’s speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, May 9, 1961:

When television is good, nothing – not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers – nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit-and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you – and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials – many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.

I wasn’t thinking of television, though, when the phrase “vast wasteland” popped into my head. I was thinking of Facebook.

When I visit Facebook, I don’t get updates from family and friends. I get deceptive, provocative headlines designed to lure people to pseudo-journalistic junk articles on pages festooned with ads. I get stock photos of children, animals, sunsets, etc., etc., captioned with inspirational treacle. I get retro-looking cartoons, featuring a Gibson Girl or a 1950s housewife, captioned with something edgy, profane and distinctly unfunny.

It’s all clickbait. I hate it.

I wish there were a way to hide / block / banish from my timeline forever all third-party content.


Current reading: AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, by David Miller. (It’s a faster read than Dozois’ Thirty-First Annual Collection, for which I am grateful.)

Hiking all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one go has a certain tinged-with-insanity appeal to it, but it’s a safe bet that I never will. Odds are slim that I’ll ever set foot on the AT (as the footsore cognoscenti are fond of calling it), let alone hike any significant portion thereof.

I can walk nine or ten miles in one day, on the (mostly) flat & (mostly) paved streets of Champaign-Urbana, if I put my mind to it; but maintaining twice that pace, out in the wild, climbing up & down mountains, every day for four straight months – the wise man strives to know his limitations, and that would definitely exceed mine.

The thought of sleeping in “shelters” that don’t provide much actual shelter, but do provide mice, bugs & other assorted nasties, isn’t all that appealing, either.

Worst of all – for an activity pursued in the remote wilderness, hiking the AT is a strangely social activity. If I ever managed to walk twenty miles in one day, the last thing I’d want to do is talk to strangers about it.

AT hikers are – apparently – fond of picking up a stone at one end of the trail, carrying it to the other end & leaving it there. One imagines a large population of stones, original provenance long forgotten, circulating endlessly back & forth along the AT.


Today is Thanksgiving; and also my brother Mike’s 54th birthday.

Mike’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving seven times during his life: 1964, 1970, 1981, 1987, 1992, 1998, and 2009.

I recall that on one of these – probably 1970 – my mother made a turkey-shaped birthday cake for him. I wonder whether any pictures survive of it.


I bought my first CD in March of 1985. (It was, as I recall, Dark Side of the Moon.) For the next ten years, I added to my collection at a prodigious rate: two or three per week, sometimes more.

The credit-card companies were doubtless thrilled at the debts I ran up, and the finance charges I paid.

I kept it up for twenty years, more or less – though each year saw fewer acquisitions than the one before. And then…I stopped. I still receive the occasional CD as a birthday or Christmas present (or give them), but I don’t remember the last one that I bought for myself.

After a few years’ resistance, I started buying music from iTunes (with the occasional 99ยข special from Amazon thrown in).

I don’t play CDs any more. I don’t even have a CD player. Everything was long ago imported into iTunes, downloaded to the iPod; that’s how I listen to music these days. The CDs are just taking up space.

(During the recent bedroom-painting project, we had to move the two CD shelves away from the wall. The sheer quantity of dust & sludge behind them – not to mention all over them – was a bit alarming.)

The notion of getting rid of my (obsolete, neglected) CD collection – selling it to the used-CD store, or donating it to the library – has a certain appeal, but I don’t suppose I will.