Thursday, 10 July 2008


Here is a scene from today’s stage of the Tour de France. Here is tomorrow’s stage.

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 50

In May, 1823, my professional occupation and status for the next thirty-five years of my life, were decided by my father’s obtaining for me an appointment from the East India Company, in the office of the Examiner of India Correspondence, immediately under himself. I was appointed in the usual manner, at the bottom of the list of clerks, to rise, at least in the first instance, by seniority; but with the understanding that I should be employed from the beginning in preparing drafts of despatches, and be thus trained up as a successor to those who then filled the higher departments of the office. My drafts of course required, for some time, much revision from my immediate superiors, but I soon became well acquainted with the business, and by my father’s instructions and the general growth of my own powers, I was in a few years qualified to be, and practically was, the chief conductor of the correspondence with India in one of the leading departments, that of the Native States. This continued to be my official duty until I was appointed Examiner, only two years before the time when the abolition of the East India Company as a political body determined my retirement. I do not know any one of the occupations by which a subsistence can now be gained, more suitable than such as this to any one who, not being in independent circumstances, desires to devote a part of the twenty-four hours to private intellectual pursuits. Writing for the press, cannot be recommended as a permanent resource to any one qualified to accomplish anything in the higher departments of literature or thought: not only on account of the uncertainty of this means of livelihood, especially if the writer has a conscience, and will not consent to serve any opinions except his own; but also because the writings by which one can live, are not the writings which themselves live, and are never those in which the writer does his best. Books destined to form future thinkers take too much time to write, and when written come, in general, too slowly into notice and repute, to be relied on for subsistence. Those who have to support themselves by their pen must depend on literary drudgery, or at best on writings addressed to the multitude; and can employ in the pursuits of their own choice, only such time as they can spare from those of necessity; which is generally less than the leisure allowed by office occupations, while the effect on the mind is far more enervating and fatiguing. For my own part I have, through life, found office duties an actual rest from the other mental occupations which I have carried on simultaneously with them. They were sufficiently intellectual not to be a distasteful drudgery, without being such as to cause any strain upon the mental powers of a person used to abstract thought, or to the labour of careful literary composition. The drawbacks, for every mode of life has its drawbacks, were not, however, unfelt by me. I cared little for the loss of the chances of riches and honours held out by some of the professions, particularly the bar, which had been, as I have already said, the profession thought of for me. But I was not indifferent to exclusion from Parliament, and public life: and I felt very sensibly the more immediate unpleasantness of confinement to London; the holiday allowed by India-house practice not exceeding a month in the year, while my taste was strong for a country life, and my sojourn in France had left behind it an ardent desire of travelling. But though these tastes could not be freely indulged, they were at no time entirely sacrificed. I passed most Sundays, throughout the year, in the country, taking long rural walks on that day even when residing in London. The month’s holiday was, for a few years, passed at my father’s house in the country: afterwards a part or the whole was spent in tours, chiefly pedestrian, with some one or more of the young men who were my chosen companions; and, at a later period, in longer journeys or excursions, alone or with other friends. France, Belgium, and Rhenish Germany were within easy reach of the annual holiday: and two longer absences, one of three, the other of six months, under medical advice, added Switzerland, the Tyrol, and Italy to my list. Fortunately, also, both these journeys occurred rather early, so as to give the benefit and charm of the remembrance to a large portion of life.

Notes from KBJ: (1) Some philosophers never leave academia. Mill never entered. (2) Mill’s final sentence is interesting. I traveled widely during the first 40 years of my life. I’ve been to most of the states in this country, some several times. I no longer have an urge to travel, even though I have plenty of money and 15 weeks off every summer. I haven’t left Texas in 11 years. I do, however, have wonderful memories of my various journeys. Every journey has three stages: planning, execution, and remembrance. I vastly prefer the first and the third to the second. How about you?

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “As Web Traffic Grows, Crashes Take Bigger Toll” (front page, July 6):

When I was a systems analyst 25 years ago, it was considered one of the tenets of the field that a good system was always accompanied by a backup system.

There are several ways to back up the current system, but some are definitely not in place. First, there should be a network of backups for the servers themselves. And companies should have local backup systems. Often customers call a merchant when a Web site is down only to discover that the merchant is relying on the same Web site for its information.

Yes, it costs money to have such systems in place, and before anything will get better, we need to give up the mentality of getting something for nothing and reflect the true price of living in 2008.

This includes expending more manpower for backup systems (reducing unemployment), making the systems more expensive (reflecting their true cost) and reducing our overall expectations of an expansive lifestyle.

We need to ratchet down the intensity of our connections but make the ones that we have predictable. Otherwise, we have only an Orwellian future to look forward to.

Terry Weitzen
Highland Park, N.J., July 7, 2008

The Grand Old Party

John Hawkins of Right Wing News surveyed right-of-center bloggers to find out which elected Republicans are their favorites. Here are the results. (I didn’t participate in this survey, although I was invited to.)

Addendum: Note that the first choice is a dark-skinned Indian-American (Bobby Jindal), while the fifth choice is a fair-skinned female-American (Sarah Palin). So much for the progressive conceit that conservatives are racist and sexist. I still believe that the first nonwhite president and the first female president will be Republicans.


Here is a slide show of yesterday’s dramatic game between my adopted Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels.