Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Read August 2010

This is not exhaustive or literary; it’s a simple, quick rehash of off-the-cuff observations, something to memorialize my  reading, a mile post in my literary progress.

I had a hard time persevering with this book. By about half way through, though, I was interested in the plot. I had a hard time wading past the language and idioms, a hard time relating to the characters. It was sufficiently foreign, that I could not put myself in the place of the people.

I did appreciate the appeal to simplicity and loyalty, the forge and Joe’s warmth vs. the grime and duplicity of London and other characters like Pumblechook; I grieved for Miss Havisham’s bitterness; I could not fathom a little girl being broken of natural affection as Estella was; the boy-fight in the brickyard was beyond my grasp- I couldn’t imagine boys doing this.

I saw the self-destructive nature of Miss Havisham’s resentment, and equated it with that I’ve seen in a few acquaintances over the years. It’s a moral warning for me. It was satisfying to have her redeemed at the end.

When the note read “Don’t Go Home”, I was hooked on the plot.

Reading on Kindle, it’s nice having definitions so readily available. Putting the cursor in front of a word brings up a definition. But note-keeping in the margins is better than the note keeping in Kindle. So I notated not at all. I feel poorer.

I couldn’t tell the extent of Estella and Pip’s warmth at the end.

I’m not a plot expert. I used Sparks Notes to help confirm plot elements as they occurred and at the end of reading.

Some of the humorous descriptions tickled me.

Dickens seems both moralistic and nuanced.

Campaign highlights

Campaign journal

August 11, 2010

Last night the temperatures were sublime. I began my second trip around the district, knocking on doors. It was pleasant duty.

I met S., with his 8 year-old son. They were wandering, waiting for the bishop, who had been delayed, to make it to their appointment. He and I played church basketball and ball at the MSU rec center and worked in Sunday School. He’s moving his family to Casper next week.

I met a college-bound athlete, whose brother I had played basketball with. I gave him an application to become an absentee voter so he can vote from his college in OK. He’ll play ball for them.

I chatted with H., my associate in Tea Party activities. D., the retired carpet installer who’d bought seat covers from me, came along and we three chatted.

I met D., a coach at MSU with whom I played basketball 20 years ago. He’s going to visit a grandson for a birthday party in CA.

I met Fa, a recently graduated, masters-level nurse who is looking for work and starting a doctorate online. I told her that as a legislator, I would have no inclination to take ever larger portions of her earnings. She said, “Then you’re a Republican.” I said I am. She approved. Her necklace had a crucifix. She’s a single mother.

I met another man who we discovered had purchased seat covers from me twice. He had many Democratic-sounding ideas: Wall St. is bad and under-regulated, oil execs control the government, the party of “no”. He had Tibetan prayer flags. He was retired from MSU. He had very conservative leanings on finance and considers the country to be in a very serious position, a mess. He will not vote for my Democratic opponent. He had strong feelings about that. He wants critics to have positive ideas. He is disgusted with almost all of Congress. He gave me a very interesting tour of finance for buildings at MSU.

I met two women who called themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I’d like to have more details from the next person who says this. What five points define each position? (The MSU retiree also talked about being a fiscal conservative.) There seems to be no home for these people. Is there a philosophical ground that bundles frugality with moral restraint? That bundles profligacy with abandonment of taboos? Would a FisCoSoLib (fiscally conservative, socially liberal) party be impossible? (Shorten that to FicoSoli Party.)

I believe all this talk about being a fiscal conservative comes from alarm at out-of-control spending, stimulus, deficits and debt, from suspicion about welfare and dependency and the dole, from a realization that the private sector is being swamped by the public sector.

It was a rewarding evening.

Fiscal Phantoms

Which Montana Fiscal Phantom Scares You Most?

  1. $470 million budget shortfall predicted for the next biennium.
  2. $2.2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, combined teacher’s and public employees’ systems.
  3. $1 billion worst-case scenario for firefighting the two million acres of beetle-killed forest, which is above-and-beyond the normal forest fuel loads.
  4. Continuing growth of state spending at the rate of the past six years: 41%.

Though #3 sounds bad, it is probably the least troubling. If all the dry forests burned in 2010 or 2011 and we insisted on fighting them in the standard way, (spending $50,000 of taxpayer money to protect an individual’s $10,000 cabin, and protecting forests that have no economic value because logging is prohibited), at least that problem would disappear for a few decades. Cost “one time” to taxpayers: [1]$4,000 per family.

If #1 was resolved through tax hikes, nothing would have been done to tame the appetite for spending and growth in spending. The escalation would continue. Fiscal problems would be exacerbated. A tax hike of just under $2,000 per family would temporarily resolve this problem.

If #2 is resolved with a $8,800 per family bailout, and the problem of overly optimistic investment yields and promises to pensioners is not addressed, this problem grows again. It would be like cutting out most of a cancer. Eventually it returns. In Washington this is called kicking the can down the road, putting off really solving the problem. (Even C is basically a deferral, kicking the can. Forests grow again.)

D portends logarithmic growth.

All of the problems, if resolved by taxpayer bailouts, are only temporarily resolved.

[1] Take the cost figure, divided by approximately 1 million Montanans, divided into hypothetical families of four individuals.

Book, Bookstores, Libraries

Bookstores and Books

It’s Personal

Reading the Wall Street Journal article this morning, Bye-Bye Bookstores, I thought of my Kindle. I’m reading Great Expectations on it presently. It’s a stream of words without a body. Books have presence and identity and history like a person. As books lose their personal-ness due to Kindles and Nooks, simultaneously, human beings are losing theirs. Ray Kurtzweil thinks we humans would get along just fine dis-embodied, a personality, history, memories, all downloaded onto a hard drive.  In his digitized universe, we’d be a personality without personhood and human dimensions and bounds and future.

A Kindle Book is like this, all spirit, no embodiment. My Bartlett’s Quotations has an ancient teal-green, canvass-y texture, with a water stain. Red lettering is the text. Curly symbols dress it. It has heft. It takes space. It has been on my shelf for years. It can be a friend. The digital Bartlett’s is not these things. It’s all information, all spirit, no body.

As human face-to-face contact and physically authentic actions and adventures lose sway, so books, bookstores and libraries, the subjects of the WSJ article, tread the same ethereal fate.