November 2010

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

The 2010 Midterm Election Results 

I don't have anything unique to write about the recent election results, but I thought I should write something. If for no other reason than to record my current thoughts and see how wrong they are/were.

Mostly, I'm happy about the new gridlock we're likely to experience. I suspect that the worst of the socially-conservative legislation that some Republicans might like will be blocked by Democrats and the president, and that the worst of the economically damaging ideas that the president and the Democrats have will be blocked by the House Republicans (and the larger Senate minority that doesn't depend on Collins and Snowe to threaten a filibuster). Hopefully we won't see much legislation pass that's both stupid and evil.

I am heartened that there will be more congressmen who are more sympathetic to my views (although they aren't coming from my state; so much for representation). And, I'm happy that many more people are willing to speak of libertarianism without pretending that it's something insanely unrealistic. But, I'm not naïve enough to believe that there's been a radical transformation in America, or that most of the new politicians will withstand the temptations of power to sacrifice their stated principles quickly. However, I'm glad that the damage may be slowed down, and perhaps some of it will be reversed. The Tea Party Movement has had a big influence on this election and it's been impressive how they've been able to maintain discipline and keep their focus on economic issues, but I also understand that many of the Republican votes came from independents who were frustrated about the economy and could easily swing back if the economy improves and the Democratic promises seem more attractive.

So, I guess I'm cautiously optimistic, but extremely skeptical.

Just like always.


Bookmarks and Endnotes 

I don't have an e-reader device (I'm afraid I'd spend too much on the many books I thought interesting, and few of these are available for free, electronically, from my libraries. Perhaps everybody will soon have an e-reader that handles this situation seamlessly, and this post will be even more useless than I already suspect it is.). So I read a lot of physical books, and many of these are non-fiction books with useful endnotes.

A few years ago, I changed the way I use bookmarks.

I used to just leave the bookmark where I'd left off in the main text, and when I started to read I'd move the bookmark out of the way (to a random spot elsewhere in the book, or on my lap or side). When I would encounter an endnote reference mark, I would sometimes (if the context was sufficiently interesting) bother to flip to the end of the book and find the corresponding endnote, and then (after reading the endnote) I'd let go of that page and return to my reading in the main text. This system caused me to rarely read endnotes, because there was a non-trivial cost to finding the endnote and risk that the flow would be interrupted so much for trivial endnotes that I'd lose my focus on the subject.

Now, what I do is place (or leave) the bookmark in the corresponding place in the Endnotes section of the book, so that I can easily flip back and forth between the main text and the endnotes. Also, when I finish reading, if my bookmark is long and flexible enough (it's usually just a slip of paper) I use it to mark the current locations in both the main text and the endnotes.

I find that I now read almost all of the endnotes, and I'm getting more out of books than I would have otherwise. For example, I'm now reading The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris (and enjoying it a lot), and I'm finding the endnotes a very useful supplement to the main text (although I understand why he chose to separate this content).

This all seems like such an obvious thing to do, I wonder if I'm the only person who hasn't always done this routinely. But, since it did take me so long to adopt it (and because my blog posts have become so infrequent), I figured I'd go ahead an post it so that it might be useful to others.