Notes on life offline

Some new neighbors have moved in the next street over.


Most of the plants I started this year are perennials which will take a year or two to reach blooming size. However, a number have flowered already. Currently, Helianthus mollis, the “ashy sunflower,” is putting on a good show. The plant has a more refined appearance than most sunflowers. According to what I’ve read it’s inclined to be rambunctious, so I’ve got it in the dry far corner of the yard where its aggressiveness will be a virtue.

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The polls return

It’s been years since I last ran a poll. The WordPress establishment has improved its “CrowdSignal” plugin to the point of utter uselessness, so let’s see how well the free version of “Poll Maker” works.

Some new poll

Which is correct?

(For context, see here. You may need to scroll down to the “nerd fight.”)

Vintage port

Congratulations to Robbo on fifteen years of The Port Stands at Your Elbow. You might want to put another bottle of fortified wine aside for November, when he will celebrate a full twenty years of blogging at TPSaYE and earlier at The LLama Butchers. A year ago I linked to a couple of his whimsical LLB pieces, well worth reading like most everything else at all his websites.

Congratulations to Robbo also with his success with the cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum, a nine-foot-plus relative of the sunflower. I’d like to grow it myself in the arid reaches of my backyard, but it prefers more water than I can conveniently give it.1

Today’s question

Richard Hanania:

On what basis did we as a society decide that the ideal way to spend a childhood was to attend government institutions 5 days a week, 7 hours a day, 9 months a year, for 12 years? That most of that time should be spent sitting at a desk, with say one hour for lunch and one for recess?

(Via Isegoria.)

Joseph Moore has a notion why that happened. (Moore has quite a bit to say about modern education on his website, all of it worth reading.)

Hot stuff up north

The Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland was quiet for 800 years, but it’s awake now. The third eruption there in as many years has begun. I’m suspending my “no YouTube” rule this once to post this video of the eruption’s beginning. For more information, check the recent posts and comments at Volcano Café.

Update: See also here.

Update IIb: This eruption is over, but there’ll be more soon.

Update III: The Greatest Show on Earth:

Chickens, dogs, banjos and bagpipes

Alan Arkin died a few days ago. You can find plenty of encomiums to this unique, legendary, etc. artist online1. Back in 1958, long before Peter Falk yelled “Serpentine” at him, he wrote a minor classic science fiction story, “People Soup.”2 You can read it here.


There’s an exhibition of Komar & Melamid’s art in New Jersey. I’d like to see it, but it’s a bit far to pedal. I wrote briefly about the duo here. The New Criterion article, worth reading though it is, omits one noteworthy project of theirs, a collaboration with composer David Soldier to produce examples of the “most wanted” and “least wanted” pieces of music. The “most wanted” song is inevitably drivel that not even Vernon Reid’s guitar can redeem, but people do like drivel, as I constantly rediscover. The “least wanted” song, however, is simultaneously wonderful and horrible and is worth hearing all the way though at least once.