The Canny Admirals


Found this picture of John McCain Sr. (the Senator’s grandfather) and William “Bull” Halsey on Wiki while looking up something or another.


Here’s McCain Sr and Junior (the Senator’s dad) at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.  McCain Sr. dropped dead four days later.


The writing process

Holiday Gift Guide


On display at the National Building Museum, thanks reader Melissa L!

Our number one pick is: THE WONDER TRAIL: True Stories From Los Angeles To the End of The World, available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  You’ll enjoy it.

Other items we enjoyed this year and can endorse:


Not exactly a steal at $299 but if Tony Robbins is to believed it’s very important for your lymph nodes to be shaken.  We’ve found it stimulating!


Treat yourself or a loved one to a Coyuchi towel? ($48)





For the California adventurer, we recommend Tom Harrison maps? ($8.95)


Or perhaps a Delorme atlas?:


But really, what you want is:




Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Remember this guy?  For some reason or another I bought this pamphlet of a speech he gave at King’s College, London, November 1993:


Stockdale was a 38 year old naval aviator when he got sent to Stanford for two years of study.  He was pretty bored until a professor handed him a copy of The Enchiridion, a collection of the teachings of Epictetus.


What does Epictetus teach?


He taught how to play the game of life with perspective:game-of-life

an A-4

an A-4

Five years later, this is what happened to Stockdale:


Stockdale was wrong about how long he’d be there.  He was there for 7 1/2 years, much of it in solitary confinement:


How did he spend his time?  Well, for one thing he constructed a sliderule in his mind from equations tapped to him in code through a concrete wall::

unnamed unnamed

A bigger collection of Stockdale’s speeches and essays:


where he distills what he learned through his prison experience down to “one all-purpose idea, plus a few corollaries”:


What he has to say about public virtue is distressing as I watch the future president:


A badass:


Recommend Courage Under Fire, which costs five bucks or $3.85 on Kindle.  Thoughts Of A Philosophical Fighter Pilot is for the serious Stockdale student.

I think you can appreciate the greatness of Stockdale and also find this funny:

Coverage of another philosophical fighter pilot, John Boyd, here.


Hearts & Minds

from the doc Hearts & Minds (1974) which was on TCM on Election Night.

Meet Farkas


Meet Farkas.


He’s Chile’s own Donald Trump. farkas-3

Shoutout to my pal Fabrizio Copano for telling me about him. farkas-4

More about Farkas.

TO lighten the mood deep down in the San José Mine, the 33 trapped miners would playfully imitate Leonardo Farkas Klein, donning makeshift wigs to simulate the long curly blond mane of the mining executive.

Faithless electors


Salving myself with fantasies of whole state delegations of presidential electors tossing out Trump when the Electoral College voting goes down.

The Electoral College never actually meets as one body. Electors meet in their respective state capitals (electors for the District of Columbia meet within the District) on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, at which time they cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for president and vice president.

The history of “faithless electors” doesn’t break a five on a 1-10 scale of interesting (with 10 being reasonably interesting) but the case of the last faithless elector is kind of funny:

1 – 2004 election: An anonymous Minnesota elector, pledged for Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for John Ewards [sic],[8]rather than Kerry, presumably by accident

There’s some talk of the Electoral College in The Federalist 68, which seems a little optimistic at the moment:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.