You Don’t Say

In the local paper today:
Elections officials held a meeting this morning to clear the air about a sudden increase in ballots favoring Democrats.
Democrats got smashed locally, but with these changes they won’t be completely excluded from the local government. 

Happy Veterans Day

My father as a Vietnam-era Drill Instructor; I think he was a Staff Sergeant in this picture, but I can't see the rank insignia. 

My best to all of you who have earned the distinction of calling yourselves Veterans. Have a glorious day, and a wonderful weekend. 

Child ballads

As fond as I am of Child ballads for lo these five decades or more, I don't recall hearing "Earl Richard" until this week. Possibly I'd heard other version of it that didn't suit me and so didn't stick in memory, but I quite love this Sean Garvey rendition. I wasn't familiar with him, either, and am sorry to find he died earlier this year, and also to find that his recordings mostly don't seem available for purchase. This is a slow, repetitive, pretty, sad, hypnotic tune. What a nice burr Garvey had in his lower register.

Captain Blood

For one reason and another, until just now I had never read the once-popular novel Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. It is exactly the sort of book I would have liked in my teens and twenties, kin to The Three Musketeers and its ilk. I've also never seen the movie, the one which launched the career of Errol Flynn and gave rise to other movies I've enjoyed such as 1935's The Adventures of Robin Hood. I will review it here, past a jump to avoid spoiling it for anyone who would like to read it.

Happy Birthday

To all the Marines in the audience, enjoy the day. 

(Meme by Gruntworks)

Aristotle's Ethics in One Brief Lesson

While the best way to study Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is to read the whole thing carefully, over and over, and then read Aquinas' adaptation and commentary, most students these days do not ever take a philosophy class at all. Those who do often only take one survey course, and it is necessary to convey the basics quickly. 

With this in mind, I have decided that you could teach an excerpted form of the EN fairly quickly. This would be the necessary introductory materials from Book I, and then the virtues of courage, justice, and magnanimity.

The reason to approach it this way is as follows.

1) The introductory materials are necessary, so included.
2) Courage is the easiest virtue to teach and serves as a model for all the rest. It's easy to grasp what it is, and why it is a virtue/strength/excellence. Once students grasp the model, you can just hand-wave indicate how self-control is obviously a virtue in the same way.
3) Justice serves as a _substitute_ for virtue, because the lawfulness component requires laws that compel people to act the way that a virtuous person would (or face punishment). In that way, it 'can be said to be complete virtue,' but really isn't. Courage comes up again here too: the laws should compel you to go fight or face death, so that you'll go fight like a courageous person (but because you're afraid of being put to death, not because you have the virtue).
4) Magnanimity is actually complete virtue, and in fact a crowning quality that one can only obtain once one already really does have all the virtues. It's an alternative model for complete virtue from justice, but the one that actually entails virtue. The contrast will help them see how the system is really supposed to be completed; but justice has to do for most people, because most people aren't actually virtuous.

This would only be the briefest of introductions, but students would leave with a functional mental model of how the system works: what ethics is, what a virtue is, why justice (which we hear so much about these days) is only a substitute for virtue, and what true and complete virtue really looks like. You could teach this in a long afternoon or one week in a semester, and it should stick with them ever after. 

Those who develop the taste for it can read the whole book. For the rest, as Tolkien says, it's enough to go along with.

A Good Night Locally

The elections are the subject of a lot of discussion today, for obvious reasons; but at least locally, things went as well as I could have wanted. There is a lot to be said for concentrating on the local right now: the national government is subject to a deeply divided populace, as are many state governments, but locally a lot can still be done. Communities often agree on the problems that face them, even if in a larger context there is division. 

The only race I cared about particularly was the local sheriff, where Iraq war veteran Doug Farmer carried the day. He becomes the first Republican sheriff in Jackson County in a hundred years, or right at it. All the candidates came to the fire department to talk to us, and all but him said the same thing: 'Drugs are the biggest problem, and if you vote for me I will seek additional Federal resources to tackle that problem.' Farmer said, 'Drugs are the biggest problem, and they're being sold out of the same houses they've been sold out for years. We know where they are, and we know who is doing it. Vote for me and I'll go walk across their porch, knock on their door, and run them out of town or send them to prison if they won't stop.' We'll see if he does what he said he would do, but if he does he has the right kind of courage for the job.

Offices like this are a kind of honor, and honor is properly the reward of virtue. One ought to award the honor of the office to the person who has the specific virtues that office requires. The problem with our nation is that instead our system has devolved into awarding offices of honor to those who prove they are adequately corrupt to keep the money train going. People move up to higher offices not because of their demonstrated virtues, but because of their demonstrated capacity to make the money flow. Here was an exception, and a chance to award an office according to the virtues that merit it. Hopefully he will do well; hopefully, we might find more chances to award offices in the proper way.


Last night at 1:45 AM the county paged out an all-stations-call to let us know that 911 was down, and there were large-scale phone service outages for the government statewide. We were directed to man all stations and not rely on dispatch services like usual. Phone lines came back up six hours later; 911 services went back down this afternoon, though they are reportedly working now.

Both my internet service provider and my cell phone's AT&T internet service, two different corporations with completely different infrastructure, were offline simultaneously this afternoon for several hours.

I have not heard any explanation of all this, but it sounds rather like a cyber attack; and there was a significant outage just two weeks ago affecting North Carolina government. Officially this was because crack cyber security agents recognized a danger and took systems offline to fix it; but as the article says, the governor "is being tight-lipped" about the outages, and no word at all has come down about today's.

Today is of course the midterm election day. The National Guard has been called out for just this purpose, although I'm not sure what being 'called out' actually means for a cyber unit
In North Carolina, cyber units have trained state entities and officials in most counties, according to Maj. Gen. Marvin Hunt, adjutant general for that state’s Guard. He said the work of his cyber team will “surge during the election to ensure that we have 24-hour coverage throughout this whole process.”

“We’re really that third party that comes in—it’s just assisting them—to give them a different look, so that on election day, we can all have confidence in our election systems,” Hunt said. 

Neely told Defense One that few states are strong enough in the cyber arena, and the need is only growing. 

Security professionals hired by states often face “military-grade adversaries” they aren’t equipped to counter, said Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Washington Air National Guard.

Keep your eyes open, and take special care in case your local 911 service goes down. In the event of an emergency and the service isn't working, go to your local fire department, police station, or emergency medical service facility and report the emergency in person. Go to whichever one is closest. They'll have radios that work even if the phones are out. 

It's not a bad idea to have the local phone number written down somewhere in case the phone lines work but the 911 services don't. People call the station here all the time rather than dialing 911, and for many purposes that works very well. In an emergency 911 is usually a better option because it allows the dispatcher to contact everyone who needs to respond at once, but it is good to have options.

Happy Day

You say it's my birthday (66).