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Five thousand janitors October 25, 2010

Posted by caveblogem in Other.

Just saw this post about a post about an article about the over-education of the American workforce and had to track down the stats myself.

Just a snippet

These are just some numbers I found interesting when browsing the data.  The full tables from which this snippet was derived can be found here.


Blood Sausage January 31, 2010

Posted by caveblogem in Books.
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Just finished Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and found it very interesting and compelling.  I have to wonder a little about the marketing of the thing, though.  My lovely wife got it for me for a Christmas present, upon recommendation of some of her colleagues (she is an English professor), and the blurb on the front of the book didn’t affect her decision either.  And I’m not sure it would affect anyone’s.  But here it is in all its glory:

A classic American novel of regeneration through violence.  McCarthy can only be compared with our great writers, with Melville and Falukner, and this is his masterpiece.

That by Michael Herr, who I don’t know.

I totally agree about the great writer masterpiece stuff at the end, but I’m having a little trouble with the first sentence.  I think that the phrase “regeneration through violence” is from Slotkin, a sort of restatement of  part of the Turner Thesis.  This novel has lots of violence, but I don’t remember any regeneration at all.  A lot of people have interpreted Turner to be saying that a sort of descent into barbarism and the subsequent rebuilding of civilization, again and again, at the frontier, is what made America the type of society is now, democratic and independent and blah, blah.

Having a hard time seeing the part of the book where civilization is rebuilt.  Maybe the reader is supposed to imagine that part.  Is it at that point where the action becomes so disgustingly violent and abhorrent that the characters can no longer describe it, are finally rendered speechless?  Is that it?  The narrator is so viciously raped (or something) that the writer can’t even imagine the words to describe it? Or perhaps the people in this awful manufacturing town depicted in the final scenes have, despite the fact that they have finally stripped the skin off the last of the buffaloes, become so civilized that the state that the narrator is left in is observed without comment. I like that explanation best of all, but it leaves a little to be desired, since it makes civilization look an awful lot like mere exhaustion.

I am, obviously, still thinking about all of this.

We’ll see if it works for viewers in the same way when the movie comes out next year.

Backhanded Blurbs December 9, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Other.
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Seems like I’ll read anything these days.  It definitely takes me longer to read books that don’t interest me, but that is not enough to stop me from reading them.  The last two books seem to have been sitting on my dresser for a long time, long enough for me to actually look at the marketing blurbs on their covers.  and I noticed something odd.

First, we have The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, by Storm Constantine, which is taking me forever to slog through.  (I’m definitely in the wrong demographic for this one, wrong age and, I suspect, the wrong sexual preference.)  On the cover is only one sales blurb: “A tremendously impressive first novelist,” it says.  Ms. Constantine went on to a prolific career, publishing dozens of novels, but I think this was the only first novel she wrote.  But I’m no expert.   Setting aside the question of whether someone can be a “first novelist,” it is a shame that they couldn’t find anyone willing to say something positive about her book.  Maybe the reviewer was saying that, although impressive, she will always be a first novelist.

Next (actually not intended as a joke) we have Michael Crichton’s last (not a joke either) novel. (Unless Dr. Crichton has some posthumous scribblings I am unaware of, there will not be a sequel to Next.) The blurb in question is the only one on the cover of the book consisting of more than one word (which I’m sure you realize can be so much more easily taken out of context than a phrase) is the following: “As entertaining as anything he has written since Jurassic Park.” This phrase is rendered on the cover in all caps, but I couldn’t bring myself to reproduce it here like that, particularly given the context.  And I suspect that the Dallas Morning News did not print the review in all caps either.  At any rate, imagine this quote read by Eeyore.  It can be taken more than one way, is what I mean to say.

So, I find myself wondering if that is the real secret to becoming a widely read reviewer of media, that liminality or hidden ambivalence or whatever it is.

Staple Cover Redux December 3, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Other.
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It’s not often my paper folding posts get comments on them. Somebody noted that my previous post on paper staple covers was difficult to follow. I put this one together counting on the pictures telling the stories. Hope it is a little more clear (although it is slightly ugly, I see).  Let me know how this works, Dave.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

Step 8

Step 9

Step 10

Step 11

Step 12

Step 13

Spoiler Alert–The Lost Symbol October 25, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Books.

I guess it should be no surprise to me that I am not part of the demographic for which Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol was written. I find myself very irritated by the protagonist, who I find wimpy and self-righteous and boneheaded.  How could Tom Hanks have wanted to play this guy on the big screen?  An example:

Then watch ESPN, Langdon thought, always amused to see professional athletes point skyward in gratitude to God after a touchdown or home run.  He wondered how many knew they were continuing a pre-Christian mystical tradition of acknowledging the mystical power above, which, for one brief moment, had transformed them into a god capable of miraculous feats. –pp 87

Can you continue a tradition without knowing it?  What if the meaning you are trying to convey is: we’re #1?  And why does this amuse our symbologist?  The first two questions are rhetorical, of course.  The answer to the third is because he thinks he is superior to them.  I would love to take the guy to a sports bar to watch a game, and I actually smiled briefly during the part of the book where you are supposed to think that he has drowned.

But I do find myself wondering who it is that makes up his main demographic, the people who like this Robert Langdon and identify with him in the way you are supposed to care about protagonists of bestsellers.

See, much of the tension in the plot of The Lost Symbol depends upon the reader feeling that the unearthing of a secret by its central villain will be incredibly destructive.  The reader is unsure what constitutes this secret until very nearly the end of the book.  We are led to assume that the consequences will be on par with an atomic bomb.

Langdon turned to her trying to speak, but he could find no words.  It didn’t matter.  Understanding was written all over his face  Sato was right. Tonight was a national security crisis . . . of unimaginable proportions. (ellipsis in original, I’m afraid, pp. 438)

So when I finally get to the denouement of  this terrible secret, that many high-ranking politicians are Masons, and were caught on videotape doing their Masonic rituals, and the villain is going to send the video to major media outlets, I am mystified.  You read that last sentence correctly, not Mansons, he’s writing about Masons. And this is supposed to be a bad thing because people won’t understand.  There will be a sort of witch hunt that will lead to total chaos.

I have nothing against Masons.  But I found myself thinking that it would not be the tragedy he makes it out to be.  Secret rooms for Masonic rituals in the Capitol building sub-basement?  Covert brotherhoods among the most powerful people in the country?  The Director of the CIA scrambling operatives to keep all this stuff secret?  Maybe I am a little angry about the mismanagement of this country over the last (pick a number) years, but I found myself thinking: Bring on the videotape, bring on the chaos.

So, naturally, I found myself wondering, who, when reading this part of the book, breaths a sigh of relief, thinking “gosh, I’m glad they were able to keep that stuff under wraps”?

It’s at the top of the picture there. October 16, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Other.

Snow pretty early this year

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Happy Fall October 12, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Other.
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Maggie doesn’t even know it’s there.

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Wipe Board October 8, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Other.

Yeah, it’s another gray cubicle, but it came with a wipe board.

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Sloppy Taggers September 13, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in Other.

Apparently the gangs of Tyngsboro, Massachusetts don’t really value artistic tagging skills.


It is a little embarrassing when we have visitors from California here, I must say.

I’m looking over August 25, 2009

Posted by caveblogem in luck or time.
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I find maybe 50 or so four-leaf clovers a year.  A couple of years ago I tried giving them away as gifts, but I guess I don’t have enough friends to do that successfully, because I have a pretty big backlog

I started looking for them, in part, because I was intrigued by how you could actually get better at finding them (other reason was a puppy that took forever to do her business).  Once you know where and how to look, you see tons of them.

A couple of weeks ago I started taking pictures of them before I picked them, to look into the perceptual issues a little more formally.


The picture above, taken right next to the flower bed that encloses my mailbox, has two four-leaf clovers in it.  See if you can find ’em.