Another three men on a boat quote

Matthew Fedder Monday, November 24th 2014, 2:03 PM
 
There is something very strange and unaccountable about a tow-line. You roll it up with as much patience and care as you would take to fold up a new pair of trousers, and five minutes afterwards, when you pick it up, it is one ghastly, soul-revolting tangle.


Just another installment of "some things never change": How many jokes in sitcoms have emerged from this phenomenon observed with earbud cords, now that everyone carries them around to use with their cellphones?

Antiques

Matthew Fedder Monday, November 17th 2014, 2:45 PM
 
From Three Men in a Boat, a novel written in 1888 and taking place in London:
... [T]hey must have had very fair notions of the artistic and the beautiful, our great-great-grandfathers. Why, all our art treasures of to-day are only the dug-up commonplaces of three or four hundred years ago. I wonder if there is real intrinsic beauty in the old soup-plates, beer-mugs, and candle-snuffers that we prize so now, or if it is only the halo of age glowing around them that gives them their charms in our eyes. The "old blue" that we hang about our walls as ornaments were the common every-day household utensils of a few centuries ago; and the pink shepherds and the yellow shepherdesses that we hand round now for all our friends to gush over, and pretend they understand, were the unvalued mantel-ornaments that the mother of the eighteenth century would have given the baby to suck when he cried.

Will it be the same in the future? Will the prized treasures of to-day always be the cheap trifles of the day before? Will rows of our willow-pattern dinner-plates be ranged above the chimneypieces of the great in the years 2000 and odd? Will the white cups with the gold rim and the beautiful gold flower inside (species unknown), that our Sarah Janes now break in sheer light-heartedness of spirit, be carefully mended, and stood upon a bracket, and dusted only by the lady of the house?


That certainly sounds like a timeless-enough musing. Here we are, "in the years 2000 and odd", and most anything Victorian-era that has survived to today is now an antique. But the narrator delves into his reasoning, and quickly finds himself (as he so often does) at odds with reality:

That china dog that ornaments the bedroom of my furnished lodgings. It is a white dog. Its eyes blue. Its nose is a delicate red, with spots. Its head is painfully erect, its expression is amiability carried to verge of imbecility. I do not admire it myself. Considered as a work of art, I may say it irritates me. Thoughtless friends jeer at it, and even my landlady herself has no admiration for it, and excuses its presence by the circumstance that her aunt gave it to her.

But in 200 years� time it is more than probable that that dog will be dug up from somewhere or other, minus its legs, and with its tail broken, and will be sold for old china, and put in a glass cabinet. And people will pass it round, and admire it. They will be struck by the wonderful depth of the colour on the nose, and speculate as to how beautiful the bit of the tail that is lost no doubt was.

We, in this age, do not see the beauty of that dog. We are too familiar with it. It is like the sunset and the stars: we are not awed by their loveliness because they are common to our eyes. So it is with that china dog. In 2288 people will gush over it. The making of such dogs will have become a lost art. Our descendants will wonder how we did it, and say how clever we were. We shall be referred to lovingly as �those grand old artists that flourished in the nineteenth century, and produced those china dogs.�

The �sampler� that the eldest daughter did at school will be spoken of as �tapestry of the Victorian era,� and be almost priceless. The blue-and-white mugs of the present-day roadside inn will be hunted up, all cracked and chipped, and sold for their weight in gold, and rich people will use them for claret cups; and travellers from Japan will buy up all the �Presents from Ramsgate,� and �Souvenirs of Margate,� that may have escaped destruction, and take them back to Jedo as ancient English curios.


Some things he gets right: "We, in this age, do not see the beauty of that dog. We are too familiar with it" recognizes that something cannot be valuable unless it is rare, which is pretty much necessary for anything old to be considered value.

But it is not sufficient. The many relics of recently bygone eras that are in less than perfect condition are worthless, unless they are an example of something extremely rare or amazing. Here the narrator fancies that, rather than being at the forefront of an era of ever-improving manufacturing and artistic technique, he is at such a pinnacle that his despised trinkets will be future marvels, regardless of condition or skill.

Given the tongue-in-cheek buffonery of his character's actions, I would guess that rather than believing the latter, the author actually disbelieved that his era's manufactured goods would ever be of value. And in that I can sympathize: What of today's mass-produced plastic goods will survive the test of time to be treasured in the future? Perhaps it's the very destructible, disposable nature of today's goods that guarantees that what does survive 100 or 200 years will be rare and treasured.

Matilija Poppy

Matthew Fedder Saturday, September 7th 2013, 8:13 PM
 
Thought I'd at least put something on the front page to push that bike crash cut below the fold. So here's a picture of a Matilija Poppy, from the Tijuana Slough
Matilija Poppy

Spontaneous Adjustment

Matthew Fedder Thursday, July 19th 2012, 12:59 AM
 
In the grand tradition of my dad's blogs, I will heretofore document my bicycling injuries.

I've been pretty lucky, all in all. I can't recall so much as a scrape that I've received since some idiot in La Mesa driving a Green Mustang ran me over. (OK, he only actually ran over my wheel. It still wasn't fun.)

In fact, I think that means that my previous bike - the Raleign SC-30 - has so far lived its entire life without an accident.

The new bike - which I have so far had less than a month - can no longer claim the same.

Because of my particular measurements and riding preferences, I purchased an adjustable stem. Before leaving work, I made some adjustments to it (raising it higher).

Unfortunately, I did not torque it adequately. As I was comming to a stop at the stop sign in front of the information booth at the north entrance to UC San Diego, it decided that my adjustment was incorrect and in fact should be ALL THE WAY DOWN.

The result was a fairly minor fall, all in all. Two scrapes, a couple of bruises, and a chomp from my pedal.
- Left Knee
- Right Knee
- Pedal in left Achilles

Blood connects most immediately with other humans, but the worst of has been the bloodless bruises. My steering column had an intimate date with my chest, resulting in invisible bruises that leave me groaning every time I attempt to adjust my torso. And a huge bruise around my left knee is silent until I try to do any of the everyday tasks - tying my shoes, picking up my cat, or just resting it against the car door - that I take for granted.

All in all I count myself lucky. Beyond the inconveniences, so many I know have suffered so much worse. It makes me wonder if I'm just a wimp w.r.t. injury.

And to put it in perspective: Not far past the fateful stopsign are a pair of long, steep descents. If the stem had collapsed on one of those, at 30-40MPH instead of nearly zero, I can only imagine that I could have wound up #6.

Instead, I instantly got up and pulled the bike off the road, hopped around for a few moments dumbstruck, and sat down for a few minutes. Knowing how much it hurt on the inside, it felt incongruous to watch everything continuing on as normal around me. Cars stopping and continuing on, kids playing on the grass across the street with their parents, bicyclists completely unquestioning of the akimbo angle of my handlebars and oozing blood.

After that, fueled by adrenaline, I just tightened my handlebars and continued on home. In light of how my ribs have hurt for the next few days, and the massive bruise on my left knee, I'm rather astounded at how normal the ride was after that.

At least I got a nice sunset out of the ride:

Union Tribune pricing

Matthew Fedder Sunday, July 15th 2012, 3:28 PM
 
The San Diego Union Tribune recently implemented a paywall: One can only view a limited number of articles before being redirected to a Subscription Offers page.

OK, fine, I get that the UT is bleeding, and that Doug Manchester didn't purchase the paper solely to advocate his political views. But you never win fans by charging for something you used to give away freely.

What I find interesting, though, is the pricing structure. An "unlimited digital-only" subscription costs $3.50 per week. A Sunday-only paper delivery, which includes the same "unlimited digital-only" subscription, also costs $3.50 per week.

There are a number of ways of viewing this. The one I choose to take is that the UT recognizes that their content is the only thing they have of value. The Sunday paper only just pays for itself with revenue from advertising/coupons, hence it can be given away for free once you have chosen to pay for the content - it makes no difference to them either way. And the paper delivery of the rest of the week is the albatross on their neck, just costing them extra money, so you're going to have to pay up if you want that delivered.

It is at the same time mind-boggling to admit that their primary purpose for being, their namesake (the "news paper") is worthless. But in an era where so many papers have gone under for refusing to admit that fact, perhaps it is an admirable admission.
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