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Category Archives: Culture

Robots and inequality

Amazon’s new automated store in Seattle. Source: Wikipedia Trump voters and consumers of Fox News are having the time of their lives these days, glorying in how their big man is sticking it to liberals, immigrants, and brown-skinned people. They actually feel safer, now that a con man is in the White House who feeds […]

Britannia season 1

I am five episodes into Britannia season 1. This was a must-watch for me, since I am particularly interested in the history of the Romans’ clash with the Celtic world. As for the history, the writers of Britannia seem to have stuck to the basic outline of what Roman history recorded. Everything else is imagined. […]

Ursula Le Guin

After the death of Ursula K. Le Guin this week, it was heartwarming to see so many beautiful eulogies and obituaries. Rarely is a fantasy and science fiction writer accorded so much respect in the mainstream. I can add very little, except to say that in addition to her fiction, she was a fine essayist […]

Delhi, 1993

I’ve had some distractions and haven’t posted for more than a week, but I’ll be back soon. One of my distractions has been getting myself set up for 120-format film photography. That included buying a film scanner. Having a film scanner enabled me to scan some of my slides from a trip to India in […]

Mysteries of the upper Dan River

⬆︎ The Dan River along Kibler Valley Road, Claudville, Virginia One of my New Year’s resolutions is to go on more photo-taking and hiking expeditions. Yesterday I explored the upper Dan River, on a quest to figure out where the river comes down out of the Blue Ridge Mountains into the foothills. The Dan River […]

I return to the Mystery House

Somehow I knew that only special people could live in that old house. There were many clues: The complete absence of no-trespassing signs; the horse tracks; the lace curtains in the upstairs windows; the smoke from the kitchen chimney; the unpretentious elegance of the clutter; the not giving a hoot what people think; not living […]

Architectural history: Some biodegradable, some not

Click here for high-res version My county, Stokes County (North Carolina), is a county of rolling hills and forest, with a few small and picturesque mountains, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which of course are a part of the Appalachian chain. Stokes was never a prosperous county. There were a couple of […]

The Fate of Rome

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, by Kyle Harper. Princeton University Press, 2017. 418 pages. ★★★★★ This book is an extraordinary piece of scholarship. It’s also a demanding and dense read. Kyle Harper retells the story of Rome, adding new findings that were not available until relatively recently. We […]

La saison des camélias

The abbey’s camélias have have reached above the roof line. It’s time for pruning, I think. The bee was working the camélias at 42 degrees F. And yes, when I think of camélias I always think of La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas the younger, which, before my French started getting rusty, I read […]

Against the Grain

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, by James C. Scott. Yale University Press, 2017. 312 pages. Why did human beings abandon their hunter-gatherer livelihoods, build the first towns and cities — and therefore create the first governments? This book uses new findings from archeology, epidemiology and climatology that may radically change […]