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  1. The Roman Way, Part I
  2. 5 Years
  3. Economics Again
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  5. Lawmakers are Back in Town
  6. Elsewhere
  7. The Return of J. Cassian
  8. The Other Michael B.
  9. Oakeshott Get-Together
  10. Seattle's Silliest Architecture

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Roman Way, Part I
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards: If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus." - Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 3 Have you ever wondered why the Romans have gotten such good press over the last 15 centuries? I mean, Edward Gibbon’s opinion above might be a tad extreme, but it has been echoed by countless other writers over the centuries. The more I’ve read about Rome and thought about it, however, the more peculiar this positive glow cast over either Republican or Imperial Rome appears. Rather than one of the high points of civilization, Rome increasingly strikes me as an essentially perverse episode in human history. WAR AS THE ROMAN ARISTOCRACY’S BUSINESS MODEL How exactly did a small trading village on the Tiber end up not only taking over Italy but the entire Mediterranean world? Well, to put it bluntly, Rome was ruled by the most aggressive and militarized aristocracy in world history. Compared to the Senatorial class in Rome, the Spartans were a group of gentle pacifists quietly minding their own business. For Roman aristocrats, warfare was business and conquest was their ‘business model.’ As Charles Freeman remarks in his book, “Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean”: For the aristocratic elite [of Rome] war provided the main avenue to political success, the only way an individual could achieve glory and status, while the fruits of victory, in plunder and slaves, made war attractive for the luxurious lifestyle and status it brought. This same opinion is echoed by John Keegan in his “A History of Warfare”: Rome certainly did not need to find food for a growing population, as Athens did, since rich lands were easily annexed within a short campaigning distance from the city...Rome grew rich by conquest, and its empire’s expansion fed on itself… Mr. Keegan identifies the key military innovation that supported the Roman aristocracy’s ‘business’ strategy—the remarkably early conversion of the Roman army into a professional force: By the fourth century [BCE], Rome…was paying the legionaries a daily stipend. This development marked the most important divergence of the Roman [military system from the] Greek military system. Rome’s smallholders, at the dictate of an increasingly dominant political class, ceased to be attached to and supported by their land and became a recruiting pool for a professional army which campaigned, year after year, farther and farther from home. [Emphasis added] During the early Republic this Senatorial class had felt it necessary to share (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps under compulsion of social unrest) the grim profits of conquest with the mass of ordinary Romans. However, as Rome’s power overshadowed all others in the Mediterranean basin, an ever-more-entitled Senatorial class bought or seized very large estates and staffed them with slave labor captured in... posted by Friedrich at January 21, 2006 | perma-link | (34) comments

Friday, January 20, 2006

5 Years
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm pleased -- OK, scratch that, and let me begin again. I'm far beyond pleased -- I'm downright exhilarated -- to let you know that my blood-test results have come back from the lab, and that the numbers are (drumroll) excellent. Explanation: Back in early 2001, I was operated on for cancer. This year's blood test was a big one, if only symbolically -- I've now made it over the five-year hump without a recurrence. With my particular form of cancer, that doesn't mean I'm home-free, darn it. A few poor souls fall victim even 15 years after being operated on. Given my stats and numbers, though, it's unlikely that I'll be one of them. Even so, I'll continue being tested until 15 years have passed, and I'll continue spending a few days after each test awaiting the results. A few anxious days, as you'd imagine. The image that comes to mind is this: I'm on a stage in a theater, milling about with 99 other guys as part of a big crowd scene. Up in the theater's balcony, in the dark, is a guy with a rifle. The arrangement is that, once a year, the guy with the rifle gets to shoot one or two of us crowd-scene people dead. I know the odds are strongly against me being a victim. But, y'know, odds, schmodds: The nerves still tense and the sweat still runs when the time comes for Mr. Fate to gun one of us down. But I don't want to make too much of what I've been through. Many people have endured more dramatic, painful, and wrenching cancer trials than mine. I didn't have to go through chemo, for instance; I had surgery and, as far as treatment goes, that was it. But it has certainly been an interesting ride, and I hope no one will find it too much of a downer if I take advantage of the occasion to muse out loud about my experience. I'd been tipped off that going through cancer would be interesting, come to think of it. A couple of friends who'd been through their own cancer scares had told me that, given survival, living through cancer is fascinating. And how true. Still, "given survival"... What a phrase, eh? My own cancer episode wasn't supposed to be as horrifying as it turned out to be. My stats and numbers were good, my cancer was small, and the procedure should have been routine. The docs were telling me that my odds -- there's that word again -- were terrific. The situation was scary enough, of course. There's nothing quite like a phone conversation when your doctor says, "I'm sorry to let you know that we found some cancer in there" -- unless it's sitting in a doctor's office having a conversation about your "odds of survival." Sleepless nights, life passing before your eyes, etc. Still: Although The Wife and I had switched into emergency mode, everything... posted by Michael at January 20, 2006 | perma-link | (45) comments

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Economics Again
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Teaching Company has just released a new version of Timothy Taylor's lecture series, "Economics." It's a clear, entertaining, and wonderfully-organized work, and one of the best ways I know of for non-math types to get a grip on the topic. It's also currently on sale for a very good price. Some time ago, visitors to 2Blowhards swapped tips about useful and fun introductions to economics. Timothy Taylor's lectures are about mainstream economics -- an essential topic to "get" if you want to understand much of why people do what they do in today's world. But does it explain anything deeper? The Post-Autistic Network's Edward Fulbrook lays out what he thinks is wrong with mainstream economics. Two key words: "Physics envy." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 19, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Rick Darby recommends the stylings of some exotic chanteuses. * Next week, Amazon debuts a 30 minute original weekly webcast, "Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher." On the books front, Rod Lott delivers the news that Signet will be publishing a podcast version of Joseph Nassise's thriller "Heretic: The Templar Chronicles." The content-distribution business is becoming very interesting, if not downright scary. * Did you know that the Indonesian military recently starved to death at least 170,000 East Timorese? It came as news to me. (Link thanks to John Ray.) * Corbusier muses about that architecture-world phenomenon, Philip Johnson. * Trixie has some advice that ought to be handed out to all guys when they become adolescents. Wantonabandon has some advice that ought to be handed out to all guys when they enter kindergarten. * Nancy Rommelmann recalls what it was like to work as a gofer -- er, as a co-writer -- for filmmaker Floyd Mutrux. (Via Anne Thompson.) * "Do you want the United States to become like Kuwait?" asks Randall Parker. * Larry Ayers takes a walk through Hannibal, Missouri, noticing a bit of this and a bit of that. Larry is my kind of architecture-and-urbanism buff. * Comic quiz for the day: "Are you a Democrat, Republican or a Southern Republican?" Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 19, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lawmakers are Back in Town
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- They're back. Like Capistrano's swallows, with predictable regularity my town fills with legislators and hangers-on. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld might say. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that small-r republican government is probably better than any alternative. Nevertheless, Olympia Washington's capitol grounds take on aspects of zoos and circuses every winter when the legislature returns for its session. And I get to see it daily because, unlike most citizens and state employees, my offices have tended over the years to be close to the capitol building. In the weeks before a session formally starts, activity builds. In December, once the budget-writers complete the governor's budget document and stagger off for a short holiday break they are replaced by legislative staffers and advanced scouts from the lobbyist corps who pick through the document like raptors seeking the choicest bits of carrion. As with army plans once the shooting starts, governor's budgets never totally survive contact with lobbyists and legislators. Me being me, one of the first things I notice is the women. Besides being a lot more numerous, they tend to be younger, more attractive and better-dressed than the state-employee women who populate the neighborhood the rest of the year. To make this more concrete, just after New Year's I went to the capitol building snack bar to buy my lunchtime Starbucks. And what did I see but young, slender women with nice long legs and just-above-the-knee dresses that flattered those legs mightily. As nearly as I can figure it out, there are two broad (no pun intended) classes of such women. One class I peg as political groupies that I assume are attracted by power and the excitement of political maneuvering and conflict. I suppose they work part-time for the legislature or for lobbyists. A few might be journalists. The other class of attractive women consists of full-time employees of lobbying firms who are employed for their looks as much as for analytical skills. I know that, in an age pervasive with feminist ideas that physical attraction should not matter, female lobbyists ought to look ordinary. But, even in a political environment dominated by Democrats such as Olympia is, appearance does seem to matter: practicality and hormones trump ideology. Now that a sizeable share of the legislature is comprised of women, I suppose lobbying firms might be expected to hire men who women find attractive. Unfortunately, I've never quite figured out which physical sorts of men attract women, so I can't make any observations regarding the men I see that parallel what I mentioned above. Actually, many of the men showing up for the session strike me as odd or wonky. The wonky ones are fairly young, overweight, try to dress well but are too sloppy to pull it off, and talk too fast. Older men can present themselves as "characters," as lawyers are sometimes wont to do. For instance, today I saw a guy wearing a suit, and with a... posted by Donald at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (8) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Lexington Green expands on some remarks he made in response to FvB's posting about the American Revolution and its causes. Good lord, but I learn a lot from surfing the blogosphere ... * Colleen's of the (strongly-worded) opinion that computers ought to serve humans, and that it's about time that Microsoft caught on. * This excellent NYTimes article by Charles Isherwood is an eye-opening look at the rough living-and-money conditions endured by most actors. (Thanks to FvB for the link.) Nice passage: She'd been working in television for a couple of decades, and is today making less per job than she earned in the beginning; guest spots that would once have provided a week's work were being squeezed into two days. No more "breaking top" - paying over strict scale - for actors with extensive experience. But if actors feel increasingly marginalized economically, it was their neglect as artists that rankled perhaps even more at the conference. (As Ruben Santiago-Hudson somewhat ruefully observed: "You can explore the depths of your soul. That is your pay." Which is doubtless true, but it won't buy you much at Whole Foods.) * Tyler Cowen asks if longer and bigger in the arts might not sometimes also be better. * I thought Steve Sailer's Vdare piece about Puerto Rican nationalism was a fascinating piece of cultural history. * It's Roger Kimball vs. Michael Fried. * "Most of my friends are liberals," writes Arnold Kling. "This series is the conversation I wish that I could have with them." * On a visit to Turkey, Steve Bodio samples a local delicacy: a dish of spices, onion, bulgur, and uncooked, minced raw mutton. * Shouting Thomas's beloved Myrna recalled her days as a stripper fondly even after she'd found respectability as a cube-dweller. * Should the survivors of a California mudslide be allowed to sue the county they live in? Reid Farmer wonders. * Affirmative action for whom? Right Reason's Steve Burton does the bean-counting and concludes that "white Christian males are almost as underrepresented at America's top schools today, compared to their representation in the overall population, as African Americans and Hispanics are." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

The Return of J. Cassian
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of my very favorite bloggers, J. Cassian is also one of the blogosphere's most on-and-off bloggers in a scheduling sense. For three months or so, he'll write a ton of postings. Then he might plead a busy life and treat himself to a five month break. Doesn't he know that life must always -- always -- take a second place to blogging? Given the irregularity of J. Cassian's blogging habits, it can be hard to know when he's doing his thing and when he isn't. Darn it: What about my convenience? The good news, though, is that he's currently in one of his blogging phases, and that his blogging is as full of velocity, dry humor, deep (but not-explicitly-stated or dwelled-upon) convictions, and idiosyncratic knowledge as ever. Why not treat yourself to a visit? Don't miss his ironic celebration of Slavoj Zizek. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

The Other Michael B.
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Design Observer's Michael Bierut has been setting his DSL lines afire in recent days. Here's a moving tribute to the late book-jacket designer Fred Marcellino (think "Birdy" and "Bonfire of the Vanities"). Marcellino sounds like everything you might want an artist to be: deep, cultured, imaginative, technically adroit ... How funny/sad that the gallery-art world had no place for such a creature. And here Michael B. savors the sheer, wonderful boringness of the design of The New Yorker. Given what a presence The New Yorker has been in America's cultural life, how is it possible that more artsies aren't familiar with Rea Irvin, the designer who established that magazine's look? Besides, how many fine artists have created anything that has had such an enduring impact on the visual/intellectual texture of our shared lives? A great quote from Michael B.: To a field that today seems to prize innovation above all else, The New Yorker makes a case for slow design: the patient, cautious, deliberate evolution of a nearly unchanging editoral format over decades. Michael links to the site of a Slow Design organization. Hey, maybe something really is in the air: I blogged about the Slow Thang generally here. Michael also supplies links to some other fascinating material. Here's Philip Nobel's first encounter with a museum designed by the starchitect Zaha Hadid ("Her tiny gray rooms with guillotine angles made no sense, brought nothing new to the art, even seemed to damn it"). And here's an article providing yet another reason to hate architects' bizarre, always-and-everywhere love of glass: over a hundred million (and perhaps as many as a billion) birds a year die in America from slamming into windows and glass buildings. Interesting fact: "In Chicago, researchers have collected more than 26,000 dead birds over the past two decades from the footings of the McCormick Place Convention Center." Best, Michael... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Oakeshott Get-Together
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- In early blogging days, I raved on a regular basis about the work of the British philosopher Michael Oakeshott. Although unknown to most Americans, Oakeshott (who died at the age of 89 in 1990) is a giant, at least in some very small circles. Along with David Hume, Stephen Toulmin, Michael Polanyi, and Denis Dutton, he's also one of the few philosophers whose work has meant anything to me personally -- for what that's worth, of course. I find his blend of conservatism and radicalism, of aestheticism and practicality very congenial. (Great Oakeshott quote, though I don't remember from where: "I'm a conservative in politics because I'm a radical in everything else.") I also find the way he presents his views -- and the way he explores life as he finds it -- mind-opening and helpful. Delightful, too: he's a heckuva writer, if in a mandarin, Henry Jamesian way. A few quotes for your delectation: I regard as an enemy that modified form of Utopianism which picks at one problem of society at a given moment and is prepared to upset the whole of the society in order to get that one problem solved ... I should say that no problem in politics is ever solved permanently, and that no problem in politics should be allowed to get out of proportion and to exclude the real business of politics, which is to keep the society as a whole, in all its arrangements, coherent and stable as well as progressive ... The moral life of a man does not consist entirely in performing a number of reasonable actions, it consists in living according to certain habits of behaviour, which may be analysed into separate actions but which do not appear as separate actions except on a few occasions ... In a conversation the participants are not engaged in an inquiry or a debate; there is no "truth" to be discovered, no proposition to be proved, no conclusion sought. They are not concerned to inform, to persuade, or to refute one another, and therefore the cogency of their utterances does not depend upon their all speaking in the same idiom; they may differ without disagreeing ... Sensible yet sophisticated, bang-on yet nuanced, solid yet perverse -- I read Oakeshott experiencing mucho deep pleasure, and breathing big sighs of relief, too. Fun to notice that the once-every-few-years get-together of the Michael Oakeshott Association is taking place this year in Colorado Springs, from June 8th through June 11th. I wonder what Colorado Springs is going to make of having a crowd of Oakeshottians around. Here's the announcement and schedule; here's the MOA's home page. If you want to sample Oakeshott's brain and writing, you could start with Wikipedia's good entry; move on to this Andrew Sullivan talk (Sullivan did his dissertation on Oakeshott, and the talk is an excellent one); and then try perhaps a half a dozen essays in this collection. Here's one of the best of... posted by Michael at January 18, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Seattle's Silliest Architecture
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Fiancée sometimes chides me for getting too negative in my posts. Her bête noir is my review of the new de Young Museum in San Francisco, a building she mostly liked. So I'm under a little pressure to take a sunnier outlook in my critiques. But not always. Alas, this last weekend was spent rebuilding the software on my computer following its hard drive's untimely demise. After I posted about it, I had to spend a couple more hours dealing with tech support regarding internet connectivity in general and e-mail specifically. The obvious solution to my pent-up frustration and rage is to take it out on someone or something else, right? Gentleman that I surely am, I would never dream of bullying someone smaller and weaker. Instead, I'll pick on huge targets -- buildings -- specifically, buildings that have the misfortune of looking really silly. In my opinion, natch. [Draws hex signs to keep lawyers at bay.] I'll deal with three buildings that I have the misfortune of seeing almost every time I'm up in Seattle; out of sight, out of mind doesn't apply. Here they are, in my subjective ascending order of silliness: Experience Music Project The Experience Music Project (EMP) is one of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's gifts to his home town. Allen is a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix (1942-70) another Seattle guy who was/is more famous than Allen himself (who takes second-billing to Bill Gates when the subject of Microsoft arises). Allen spent some petty cash on Hendrix memoribilia over the years and eventually sought a means to publicly display it. EMP, by Frank Gehry. By the year 2000 the result was a Rock-oriented museum sited on the grounds of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and designed by starchitect Frank Gehry. The site also houses Allen's Science Fiction Museum. Locals were quick to observe that the place looks like crushed food cans. If you are driving south on Interstate 5 towards downtown, as you pass along Lake Union, look to the right towards the Space Needle. Near the Needle's base are lumpy, colored metalic objects that look like -- giant crushed food cans. That's the EMP. I need to confess I've never been inside the EMP, so I can't say how well it works as an exhibition space. My gripe is strictly about the exterior. It looks silly and there is no serious reason why it has to look the way it does. (A semi-serious reason might be that it evokes one of Hendrix's famously smashed guitars.) Seattle Central Library Another starchitectural gift to the so-called "Emerald City" (I hate that moniker) is the Seattle Central Library building by Rem Koolhaas. It has received international recognition as well as almost nothing but praise from the Seattle Media/Cultural Establishment. Seattle Central Library, by Rem Koolhaas. As for nyekulturny me, I gag every time I see it. I suppose the interior was the result of lots of deep thought and clever... posted by Donald at January 17, 2006 | perma-link | (29) comments

Monday, January 16, 2006

Waikiki by Troopship
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- It was a far cry from my only previous visit to Hawaii. High on the hog. Very high. The Fiancée and I spent the last five days of 2005 in Honolulu. We stayed at the fancy, classic steamship-era Moana motel in Waikiki. She splashed in the ocean and sunned herself while I read. We perused fancy shops (Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermès). On New Year's Eve we ate a buffet dinner at the Halekulani while watching the sun set behind a smooth Hawaiian musical trio and a hula-hands former Miss Hawaii. After dinner we repaired to the Royal Hawaiian's beach bar for drinks while awaiting midnight. That was now, but what about then? -- "then" being 1963 when I was in the Army. It was a shock to get orders to be sent to Korea. Korea was a 13-month "hardship" duty tour (unlike two-year European or Japan tours) and when the orders came through I was on the cusp of having too little time left in my enlistment to be sent to such a place. In those days South Korea was a poor, economically isolated country where most damage from the 1950-53 war had been repaired, but not much progress had been made beyond that. At the time, we had a corps with two divisions between Seoul and the frontier. It was considered a potential war zone, and it still is. I was able to arrange a short leave in Seattle on my way from Fort Meade, Maryland to the Oakland Army Terminal in California. (I flew from Baltimore to Seattle and took the bus from Seattle to Oakland.) While in Seattle I was on hand for the death and funeral of my 94-year-old grandfather and I also was able to make arrangements for entering grad school the next fall at the University of Washington. At the Army Terminal barracks I bumped into some guys I knew from the Army Information School at Fort Slocum, New York who were to sail on the same troopship. We were able to get into San Francisco and have dinner at a popular Italian restaurant on Columbus Avenue. A day or two later we boarded the troopship and sailed through San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge and past the Farallon Islands into the Pacific. A popular song those days was Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." I came to hate it, knowing that it would be a year before I could actually be in San Francisco again. AP Class Troopship. The troopship was a late World War 2 vintage vessel which meant that it was fairly large (length just over 600 feet, beam about 75 feet) and luxurious, in troopship terms. As you can see from the nearby illustration, it resembled passenger liners of its day; in fact, it was broadly similar to the Matson liners ("Lurline," etc.) that sailed between the Bay Area and Honolulu until the end of the 1960s. And it... posted by Donald at January 16, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Too Much Car?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Ever want a 1,000 horsepower car? A car that could go 250 miles per hour? That could accelerate from zero to 60 MPH in less than 2.5 seconds? Well, thanks to your friends at Volkswagen, such a car can be yours!! All you need is one-and-a-quarter million or so dollars. The car in question is the Bugatti Veyron. There is no real connection with Bugattis of the first half of the 20th Century aside from the name. The original company essentially ceased automobile production early in World War 2 (only a handful were built after the war). Bugatti was founded around the turn of the century in Alsace (then part of Germany) by the Italian-born Ettore (Hector) Bugatti. He came from a family of artists and practiced engineering with an artistic temperament, making sure that his cars were beautiful with or without bodies. Bugattis were successful racing cars as well as cars for well-heeled customers. His "ultimate" cars were the Royales, huge cars intended for royalty but which were sales victims of the Great Depression. Despite the Italian name and German origin, the company became French in fact and spirit after the Great War when Alsace reverted to France. A serious attempt was made to revive the brand in Italy during the period 1987-95. A factory was built, prototypes constructed and journalists were brought in to keep the hype flowing. One source I read said 23 cars were built altogether. This International Herald-Tribune article, printed the year before the company failed, reports claims of dozens of orders and projections of quick profitability once production got underway but also reports indications that the venture was in trouble. Ferdinand Piëch, Volkswagen's chief, bought rights to the Bugatti name in 1998 and set in motion the project that resulted in the Veyron. Bugatti Veyron. An article here by Jeremy Clarkson in The Times sketches the car's genesis, discusses its engineering challenges and offers some driving impressions. I'll mention some of his points here as insurance if the link goes bad. The idea was to create the ultimate-performance sports car. Top speed was to be at least 400 kilometers per hour (248 MHP). A body design was prepared and then tweaked and engineered to meet the speed goal. The engine is a 1,000 (or thereabouts) horsepower W-16 design -- basically two V-8 engines siamesed side-by side. Clarkson emphasizes that even 200 MPH is at the outer limits of controllable driving on highways (assuming such speed was legal). At top speed (253 MPH) the Veyron is traveling 370 feet per second, which is longer than a football field, end zones included. Where I live, there are typically 20 blocks to the mile, so a Veyron would pass by almost one and a half blocks each second. This is too fast to see -- let alone react to -- emergent conditions. In practice, no one would likely drive a Veyron at top speed where, besides visibility problems, aerodynamic forces create... posted by Donald at January 15, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Hard Drivin' Blues
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I guess nobody noticed. Nothing about it in the Style section of the Post (Washington), ditto in Page 6 of the Post (New York). Even Instapundit didn't give it a single "Heh." And if you didn't notice it either, it so happens that I haven't been blogging for more than a week save for a couple comment posts. You see [sniff] my hard drive went south. Bought the farm. Went to Blighty. Croaked. But here I am, back in business with a (mostly) working computer and a newly slimmed-down wallet (lighter by $200). I suppose that most of you have lost hard drives now and then, so my experience is no big deal given any true disasters you might have experienced computer-wise. But humor me. Let me vent. For the past 23 years of personal computing I've had pretty good luck on drives. (Though my previous computer, age 6, probably died because of a hard drive failure.) I did lose at least one hard drive at work, but because my agency is at the top of the state government administrative heap, we have good tech support and a new computer arrived the same day. This time, however, I was on my own. Initially I thought I simply had software problems due to conflicts in all those software patches the Internet allows one to receive. But the tech at the repair shop thought it was the drive. Several days later, once the machine worked its way to the top of the work queue, word came back that indeed the drive was failing. So in went a new, empty drive. To save big bucks I opted to install the operating system and other software myself. It turned out that Dell's driver set is hard to install (thanks to an unclear user interface). But it seems I have a year left on my warrantee and I could get a Dell tech to walk me through installation. In the midst of that we found that my internal Zip drive hadn't been re-linked at the repair shop so I had to open up the machine and fool with various cables: haven't done that in ages. Once the basic stuff was in place I had to re-install internet service and Norton Internet Security. Before I got to Norton, a virus slipped into the machine. While pondering what to do about that I spent nearly nine hours (I'm on dial-up at home) downloading and installing all the Windows XP patches and service packs that were issued over the last two years. This morning I got on the phone with a Norton tech (probably in India -- he had the accent) and, $70 later, the virus was gone. I still haven't quite gotten my e-mail working and I have more applications to install. But I'm almost okay. Essential files were backed up on Zip cartridges, so nothing serious was lost. The most annoying loss concerns e-mail. All my in-box and out-box content... posted by Donald at January 15, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments