The Feast of the Epiphany

Also known as Three Kings' Day, the feast celebrates the revelation to the Magi that God was before them incarnate. The feast is often taken to be the end of the Christmastide. Some wait to remove decorations, though, until Candlemas.

Here is a famous hymn associated with the feast.

For another, one more time, the Reverend Horton Heat.


Maggie's Farm puts up good verse:
You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me . . . .

Parris Island and the Bomb Cyclone

Image from an old friend.


This one is from the Battery in Charleston, South Carolina.


I've read somewhere that a sort of biochemical traffic along the neurons or axons flows backwards during sleep (maybe something like this Scientific American article). This Atlantic article has interesting information about how little we know about what's going on:
If you needed more proof that sleep, with its peculiar many-staged structure and tendency to fill your mind with nonsense, isn’t some passive, energy-saving state, consider that golden hamsters have been observed waking up from bouts of hibernation—in order to nap. Whatever they’re getting from sleep, it’s not available to them while they’re hibernating. Even though they have slowed down nearly every process in their body, sleep pressure still builds up. “What I want to know is, what about this brain activity is so important?” says Kasper Vogt, one of the researchers gathered at the new institute at Tsukuba. He gestures at his screen, showing data on the firing of neurons in sleeping mice. “What is so important that you risk being eaten, not eating yourself, procreation ... you give all that up, for this?”
* * *
Sleep-inducing substances may come from the process of making new connections between neurons. Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi, sleep researchers at the University of Wisconsin, suggest that since making these connections, or synapses, is what our brains do when we are awake, maybe what they do during sleep is scale back the unimportant ones, removing the memories or images that don’t fit with the others, or don’t need to be used to make sense of the world. “Sleep is a way of getting rid of the memories in a way that is good for the brain,” Tononi speculates. Another group has discovered a protein that enters little-used synapses to cause their destruction, and one of the times it can do this is when adenosine levels are high. Maybe sleep is when this cleanup happens.

What a billionaire is like

Devin Foley ruminates on Trump's spat with Steve Bannon:
I don’t know what it is, but there is something about the guys who are billionaires that is very different from everyone else. To you and me, having $500 million is practically the same as being a billionaire. Even having $50 million or just $5 million is a lot of money to me and far more than anything I have. But here’s the thing, the guy with $500 million is just like the guy with $5 million and just like you and me, he will go to his grave scared that he’ll end up destitute in some filthy poorhouse at the mercy of a nurse-maid who hates life.
But not the billionaires. Yes, they care about their wealth, but they’re after something different at the point they have nine zeroes in the bank account. They’re oddly beyond money.
Of the ones I have met, they have been good men and shockingly frugal. They’re very interested in the interplay between ideas, people, and institutions. They’re looking for trends and rely on their gut instinct quite a bit. They have a small group they trust because they know that the vast majority of people around them, no matter all the nice things said, just want some of their money. They must be detached and insulated from the world, while still able to touch and feel it, they need to have their fingers in things just enough to get a sense of the trends and currents.
The most important thing you can be for a billionaire is honest. Flattery and awards work for other men, but the billionaire doesn’t need any of it. The rare gem for him is honesty.
I'm trying to remember if I've ever met a billionaire. Perhaps not. Many extremely wealthy businessmen, but no one truly over the top in wealth in the way Foley is describing, what I think of as "Bill Gates money."  I have at least worked with a number of wealthy guys who valued honesty more than flattery, and therefore were willing to put up with my egregious tactlessness, something I'd have done well to learn to control much earlier in life.  I shudder to think of the number of enemies I made for no good reason and without even being entirely aware of it at the time.

On the other hand, a lot of people probably benefited from my honesty.  I'm interested to see now whether it will play with local voters, who will have to be deeply concerned about opacity in local government in order to find it attractive in a candidate.

Thomases and Henries

Maggie's Farm pointed to a new website, Idlepost, where I found this rumination on Henry II, Thomas à Becket, Henry VIII, and Sir Thomas More:
Let me be plainer. The Covenant is not a collectivist arrangement. It is actually the opposite of a collectivist arrangement, and was so from the beginning. The true Christian teaching stands in anticipation of, and opposition to, the ideals of that “Reformation,” which worked themselves out as a spiritual as well as contractual relation between the People and the State (exalted in “Americanism”). The Covenant is instead with persons, both vertically in their relations with God, and horizontally in their relations with each other: cor ad cor loquitur. To love God and to love thy neighbour: that is the whole teaching. Everything follows from that.

How Does This Happen?

You'd think the scion of a political family of such influence would know better than to produce a headline like this.

Flyover country in Iran

John Ringo's perspective on the Iranian riots.

Full Service

When I was a child, my grandfather ran a service station in rural Tennessee. He'd retired after a long career: welder, working on the atom bombs at Oak Ridge during WWII, then owning a service station for long-haul trucks in the early days of I-75 near Knoxville. He didn't like retirement very much, so after his retirement he bought a smaller service station within walking distance of his house and ran it mostly to keep himself busy. He did light work, oil changes and tire repair, and sold gasoline.

One of the things he offered was "full service," although even in those days it was an option. If you pulled up to the pump closest to the station, you ran over a pressure device that set off a bell inside. He or one of his employees would come out, pump your gas for you -- as much as you wanted, by dollar or by gallon -- and while they pumped it they'd wash your windows, check your tire pressure, clean your headlights, things like that. Though I was a child, he'd often let me do the parts of it that I could do, which I thought was great fun at the time.

Apparently this kind of thing still exists in Oregon. They're very alarmed that it's becoming optional. I hadn't heard of it in years.

The Year of Breaking Things

Often we have spoken about the dangers of ossification to bureaucracy, following Joseph Schumpeter. The usual way this gets solved is through competition, where new and more agile firms break off pieces of the business of giants like IBM. But it turns out there's another way:
The press is doing a good job of telling us what he accomplished in 2017. But they keep leaving out all the stuff he broke that probably needed to be broken. I’ll fix that for you here.

GOP – Trump broke the GOP and reconstructed it along his terms, successfully it seems.

DNC – The DNC has no charismatic leader, no game plan, and little money.

Clinton Dynasty – Done

Bush Dynasty – Done

Mainstream Media – The public learned that news coverage is based on bias as much as fact.

NFL – Ratings down, attendance down.

FBI (leadership) – The FBI as a whole is still highly credible, but the leadership is not.

Pundits – Nearly all the pundits were wrong about Trump’s nomination, election, and successful (by Republican standards) first year.

Government Regulations – For good or bad, we have fewer regulations now.

Hollywood – Big stars are alienating 40% of their potential audience whenever they take time off from groping.

North Korea – They used to have a pathetic but functioning economy. That situation is changing rapidly.

ISIS – Remember ISIS? They used to be a big deal.

TPP – Pulled out

Paris Climate Accord – Pulled out
That's a good point. What else needs to be broken for the good of us all?

Go, Mighty Bulldogs

If you didn't catch the Rose Bowl tonight, you missed perhaps the finest game of football ever played.

Auld lang syne

I've finished a batch of black-eyed peas and greens for tomorrow, as well as a spinach-orange-olive-pecan salad and a radish-jicama-queso-fresco-pine-nut salad for our neighbor's shindig tonight. There's a roaring fire in the fireplace. We've covered a few plants in preparation for a freeze tonight and tomorrow night--not an extreme freeze like you're getting in the rest of the country, but more of a freeze than we normally get here. We even have a few overnight guests, also unusual for us. I'm looking forward to the party tonight, which includes my annual dose of playing and singing, my heart's delight.