Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beach Drive

Since we moved to Crestwood in July, 2014, on most weekend days we have walked down Mattewson Drive to Blagden Avenue, and followed that to Beach Drive. From that point we have gone running, sometimes together, usually separately. That won't work for the next several months.

At the end of August, the contractors finished repaving Beach Drive from Tilden Street down to Cathedral Avenue. The National Park Service then blocked off the next stretch of Beach Drive, from Tilden up to Joyce Road. The barriers, as I encountered them that Wednesday, were nothing one could not step over or around. On September 3, the barriers had been pushed aside, and Beach Drive above Broad Branch was full of runners, walkers, and bicyclists.

Last Saturday, we walked down Blagden as usual, but found a construction site at the bottom. There were workers with jackhammers taking up pavement, and there was a policeman, polite but very definite that we might not pass through. We walked back uphill to Argyle Terrace, after which my wife ran around the neighborhood, and I ran up to get into the park near Carter Barron.

Now Carter Barron, the next obvious access point north, is a good route into the park. The difficulty arises with access from the south. The nearest way is along Piney Branch Parkway. The right side looking downhill  is mostly all right, in having a place to run out of the roadway. However, it has about twenty yards where a chain link fence comes right to the curb, and there one must run in the gutter while cars go by at what seems high speed. On the other side of the road the ground is less satisfactory, and there is an equal or greater stretch of chain link. After that, one ends up at Klingle Road, which is farther down the park than I'd prefer to get in, or, on a route that started upstream, out.

The neighborhood in general is unhappy, though more about vehicle access, or so I judge from the email traffic To cross the park one must go north to Military Road or south to Park Road. In the best case this adds ten or fifteen minutes to the time needed to drive to Chevy Chase or points west. A family on our block determined to sell their house this year because of the road work: the husband's commute to Tyson's Corner needed no lengthening, they thought. They now live in Chevy Chase.

I should add the bike trail replaced over the past year is very smooth, and I gather that the roadway is too. The pavement above Tilden is not smooth, but rather much patched. When running on it I aim to compromise between avoiding the worst bumps and cavities on the one hand and intruding on space the bicyclists suppose to be theirs on the other. I look forward to that work being done, if not to the detours we shall have to make around it in the meantime.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Friend of My Copier

This past week, I received a request to connect on LinkedIn from a person whose name I did not recognize. This happens regularly, but in most cases I can guess a connection: the person is in a technology business, or is connected with someone else I know. This person had no obvious connection.

Then I looked more closely at the mail, and saw that the email was addressed to scanning@myorg.tld. Then I understood, or thought I did. Somebody in our organization had used one of the Xerox Multifunction Copiers to scan a document to be emailed this person. At some later date his person had signed up for LinkedIn, and clicked on the button that allows LinkedIn to see her email address book. LinkedIn had immediately sent emails on her behalf to every address in it, whether that address belonged to a person or a machine.

I suppose that someone with time to waste could create a LinkedIn profile corresponding to the address--Steven or Susan Canning, maybe. But the minor amusement to be derived from prank doesn't seem to me to be worth the multiplication of junk emails.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Troubling Thought

Noticed last week in The World as Will and Representation:
Thilo (Über den Ruhm) also observes that  usually there belongs to the vulgar herd one more than each of us believes.
(Supplements to the Third Book, Chapter XXXI, "On Genius")

I am not sure that I ever considered myself as not vulgar--I remember too much evidence to the contrary. It is true that I seldom consider myself as mistaken. Yet an acquaintance with the history of reputations keeps me from believing too much in the lasting value of my judgments of any given work of art.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Unexpected Reading

On Friday, I had more or less a notion of what I would read Friday evening and Saturday: one book until it wore me out, then perhaps another. That might have worked had I not stopped by Second Story Books after work, and had I not found there The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith. Late Saturday afternoon,  I was able to think that I had probably read enough Smith for the week and might go on to other matter.

The volume is "Edited, with an introduction, by W.H. Auden". Auden justly remarks that
 As a general rule it is the fate of the polemical writer to be forgotten when the cause for which he fought has been won or is no longer a live issue, and it will always be difficult to persuade a later generation that there can be exceptions, polemical writers, journalists if you will of such brilliance and charm that they can be read with delight and admiration by those to whom their subject matter is itself of little interest.
Indeed so. I would not have said that the changes in Church of England benefices under a Whig administration a century and a half ago could hold the least interest for me. But Smith, a canon of St. Paul's, though probably at that point in his life not much dependent on such revenue, fills pages that I couldn't stop reading. One might call his arguments worldly--
I object to the confiscation [of livings from the deans and chapters of the cathedrals] because it will throw a great deal more of capital out of the parochial Church than it will bring into it. I am very sorry to come forward with so homely an argument, which shocks so many Clergymen, and particularly those with the largest incomes, and the best Bishoprics; but the truth is, the greater number of Clergymen go into the Church in order that they may derive a comfortable income from the Church. Such men intend to do their duty, and they do it; but the duty is, however, not the motive, but the adjunct. If I were writing in gala and parade, I would not hold this language; but we are in earnest, and on business; and as very rash and hasty changes are founded up contrary suppositions of the pure disinterestedness and perfect inattention to temporals in the Clergy, we must get down at once to the solid rock, without heeding how we disturb the turf and the flowers above. The parochial  Clergy maintain their present decent appearance quite as much by their own capital as by the income derived from the Church.... So that by the old plan of paying by lottery, instead of giving a proper competence to each, not only do you obtain a parochial clergy upon much cheaper terms; but from the gambling propensities of human nature, and the irresistible tendency to hope that they shall gain the great prizes, you tempt men into your service who keep up their credit, and yours, not by your allowance, but by their own capital.
.. when every atom of power and patronage ought to be husbanded for the Crown. A Prebend of Westminster for my second son would soften the Catos of Cornhill and lull the Gracchi of the Metropolitan Boroughs. Lives there a man so absurd, as to suppose that Government can be carried on without those gentle allurements? You may as well attempt to poultice off the humps of a camel's back as to cure mankind of these little corruptions.
--but I at least kept reading.

One can find the Peter Plymley letters on-line at Gutenberg, and they make a good introduction to Smith. The abuses the letters address, in the treatment of the Catholics of Ireland, were largely resolved within twenty-five years after the writing, and I think that I could canvass a fairly literate acquaintance of two dozen without finding three persons who could identify most of the persons that Smith wrote against. (Castlereagh and Canning, maybe; Spencer Perceval, George Rose, and Lord Eldon, probably not.) Still the letters are readable. They offer among other things an example of what political polemics can be in the hands of the literate. Perceval is a favorite target, but Canning gets his share:
It is only the public situation which this gentleman holds which entitles me or induces me to say so much about him. He is a fly in amber, nobody cares about the fly: the only question is, How the Devil did it get there? Nor do I attack him for love of glory, but from the love of utility, as a burgomaster hunts a rat in a Dutch dyke, for fear it should flood a province.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


At work, we have switched email systems for the second time in eight years. This transition, like the last, called to some users' attention just how much junk is in their list of contacts. In four hundred weeks, one can build--one's mailer can build for one--a remarkably long list of email addresses.

The last time, I set up some scripts to de-duplicate contact lists. The machine I ran them on was shut down and removed years ago, so over the last week I had a look to see what was involved in rewriting them. It wasn't difficult to write something that actually winnowed the junk. On the other hand, the number of the addresses was amazing.

How is that the list has the email addresses of forty persons at the Ford Foundation? I have never, that I know, exchanged an email with any of them. Why a handful of persons at this or that university where I have never had dealings? I suspect that I have the slightly misspelled email address of one of our department heads because somebody's fingers remembered "i before e" when it was not applicable. I know why I have the email addresses of persons who left our organization in 2010 or 2011, but do I really want to cull them one at a time?

Rather than grapple with these questions, I've set up a simple web page where the help desk techs may, if they wish, submit a comma-separate variable (csv) file, and get back three files:
  •  The better, meaning that every record is no worse than any other for the same email address, where "better" has to do with whether the name fields look like names, or like something split automatically from an email address.
  • The worse, meaning that every record is no better than at least one other for the same email address, using the definition of "better" given above.
  • The bad, meaning that there is no email address, or that it is in a less useful format such as an LDAP path.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


We have pickets around our front and back porches. They show well, but require a fair bit of maintenance. Those in the back get almost no sun, so that every now and then we suddenly notice that they have mold on them. Those in front get sun for much of the day, so that the paint peels and cracks; but they still get mold on, just less. The rails of both are apt to rot. In general, if you wish to know what sort of mold spores are in the air in your neighborhood, white pickets seem to serve well.

During the last couple of weekends, we have scrubbed what we could of the mold off the back pickets and about half of those in front. Once the scrubbing is done, we will next have to scrape away the peeling or cracked paint, and then, probably in October, we will paint them, either all or as needed.

Painting pickets is a remarkably tedious job. The difficulty of any given task of painting seems to me to depend on the ratio of surface to edge or corner work. Pickets are all edge, unless one finds it convenient to paint with a brush narrower than one inch. A contractor we knew said that he always quoted such work very high for just that reason.

Once in Martha's Vineyard, I noticed a couple of men painting pickets. One sat on one side, one on the other, and the work seemed to go very efficiently that way. Probably that is how we will paint ours. The men we saw seemed to be painters by trade, and no doubt did a good, professional, expensive job. We are not painters by trade, but we suit our own budget.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


I think of the noun "stuff" as colloquial. Years ago, when our son was in his mid-teens, and like most men of that age informed his parents on a need-to-know basis, we were returning from a neighborhood party. Those of middle age and college age had been out on the lawn, the young had been in the basement. My wife asked about the basement:
Wife: Who was down there?
Son: People.
W: What did you do?
S: Stuff
 Colloquial, perhaps, but not modern, for happening this week to open George Cavendish's The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey, I found
"Sir, then," quod I, "will it please your grace to move the King's majesty in my behalf to give me one of the carts and horses that brought up my stuff with my lord's, which is now in the tower, to carry it into my country?"
Well, what would one have said in place of stuff? "Property" or "belongings" would serve now. The OED gives several pages to "stuff", with citations going back to the 1400s in the sense of personal property.