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Great story. Every part of it, including the clerk and his lapidary pronouncements near the end. A sometime pastime of mine is to submit simple phrases to Google Translate, ones rather harsh or tart in English, and get the Latin equivalents. These aren't always stately or euphonious, although the output for "Might as well explain it to a dog" was as I recall pretty good. I should try the last three sentences uttered by that clerk. Each, I think, could be transformed into a motto, suitable for corporate letterhead, if such still exists.
Toggle Commented Aug 25, 2022 on What The Conch Shell Says at American Fez
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There is a "little library" in the municipal park where I lunch before my more or less weekly helicopter lessons. I try to get the most out of these across-four-counties drives. I eat, then walk to the restroom, on the way pausing to look through the glass. The contents do change a lot. A bare plurality of the books are what may be called teen fiction. Some old National Geographics; some thrillers with some thrill still in them; maybe some Bible stories; certainly nothing looks unloved or badly in need of pensioning-off. Once, I took out a slim textbook on art history, and I read it and learned a lot from it, and returned it the following week. Since then, I haven't seen it. Nor have I seen my own one contribution, which was my deceased aunt's copy of Villette. It had on its cover an old oil painting of a young girl (sorry I didn't retain enough from that textbook to describe this art any better), and I expect some other young girl was enchanted. By the picture, not the prose: I myself found Charlotte Brontë hard sledding. Federal aviation regulations are more fluently composed. I have in my town seen a few of these little libraries. None has ever displayed anything grumpy or pre-emptively censorial. (Also, none has attracted birds of any sort, which is funny now that I think about it.) One did offer masks as well as books. Maybe sanitizer too, since you had to have touched the knob to open the glass door. That's been the extent of do-gooderism. I find the installations cheerful. But no, I'm not putting one on my front lawn.
Toggle Commented May 30, 2022 on The Misuses of Literacy at American Fez
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I enjoy drinking, in Latin America, Latin American beer. Must be an "atmosphere" thing: in all such countries, the brews themselves are merely OK. Never great, but never bad either. Poured into a glass and sipped at a table outdoors - those details are important - they do communicate a mannered, constructive leisure, as opposed to a bored, loafing one. Last week I bicycled past a Mexican brewery. To my knowledge, no south-of-the-border beer is called Coahuila, so I presume the output gets whatever labels have been paid for by various distributors. The installation also had either smokestacks or distillation columns, neither required for making beer as far as I know. I should find all this off-putting, but I just don't. A self-termed "beer company" on a railway siding in a Mexican desert is a million miles from both a German winter and an English spring, but the industrial-scale facilitation of good living is, still, the facilitation of good living. It seems, in such a country, an achievement (as a Mexican microbrewery would seem an absurd pose).
Toggle Commented Apr 10, 2022 on Salvator Daily at American Fez
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Here's a theory of business theories: all of these should be, indeed can be, condensed to limericks. Or haiku. Or expanded to the dimensions of those art forms, and not a syllable beyond. Surely "thinking outside the box" lends itself to that. Where it shouldn't be, of course, is inside a whole book. Was it? Probably. The only such books I've ever read are Up The Organization and The Peter Principle. I read the former only because I saw it in a Johannesburg bookshop window decades after, and what felt like a million miles from, its debut. I read the latter only because it was mentioned in The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubblegum Book. Oh, and then there was the time I was bicycling near the University of Nebraska and it started to rain so I took shelter in the bookstore, and while there decided to inspect the required and optional texts for Marketing classes. I cannot imagine coming to any business book via less tortuous routes. Such as, "There's something I need to know about business right now." Not to be contemptuous of it, or of any scholarship that might be brought to bear on it. But what could that scholarship concentrate on? Management theory doesn't yet have enough doggerel and it may not have any historiography. At least I don't think it is the custom in any one such book to acknowledge the existence of any other such book. (Giving your competition free advertising would be bad business, no?)
Toggle Commented Feb 6, 2022 on Is Anybody There? at American Fez
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I drove to the Texas coast last week, with my bicycle in the trunk. I had a hotel room for two nights; on two days, I took long sunny rides. Perfect. As for reading, I did none on the trip itself, but before it I finally finished, or rather examined in full, Inside The Company, the 1970s CIA expose. You can dip it as I did, exhaustively as I did; or just start at the beginning and go straight through as the author intended; either way, it is a true Latin American period piece. I have been all over Latin America but never seen a golf course; I am still wondering what the Yugoslavian Embassy to Uruguay was like; tales of Ecuadorean naval vessels opening fire on each other and Brazilian interservice rivalry on that country's sole aircraft carrier are alien trifles now; but the continent remains chromatic.
Toggle Commented Jan 15, 2022 on Getting Away From It all at American Fez
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Ride a bicycle. You - and it - will be invisible.
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2020 on Invisible Man at American Fez
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Some years ago I gave away most of my foreign pelf to the chemistry library at UT Austin. I mean I gave it to the circulation desk, which had a glass counter, under which much quasi-money had been stuck. I don't know why, but a tradition had been established, and my contribution was instantly and happily accepted. It may still be there! I thought I might miss it. But the world has not run out of this stuff, and my personal collection was on later trips overseas fully rebuilt. Unfortunately it also includes coins as well as bills, and those are always a disappointment. They aren't pretty or artistic in any sense; their metallurgy is so questionable I bet they don't even conduct electricity; and even if they were all exactly the same thickness, no one would dare use them to underpin a big piece of glass. The other day I came across what may be the worst, a 100-franci [sic] coin current in west Africa. At least Guinea-Bissauans honored it. What they called it was "xof," given the phonetic Portuguese pronunciation "shoffee," and this derives from XOF, the symbol used in teletyped lists of foreign currency exchange rates. It doesn't get more unromantic than that.
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2019 on Bureau de Change at American Fez
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Jun 12, 2019