Friday, May 30, 2008

C level rising

You loved the book, you raved about the movie, now you can hear the opera! TigerHawk notes that La Scala has commissioned composer Giorgio Battistelli to produce an opera based on An Inconvenient Truth. With judicious use of the forklift, Al Gore might be able to demonstrate that high C level that he likes to talk about.

I have no intention of going to Milan to see this. (Wouldn't it make more sense to stage it in Venice? Scratch that. Make sense of opera? Make sense of An Inconvenient Truth? Unlikelihood squared.) But I do hope it will turn up on YouTube.

Update: Victoria has more, and funnier.

Another update: Battistelli speaks.

And another update: Russell Seitz has more, including video, apparently from a rehearsal.

Yet another update: Roger L. Simon has discovered that William Friedkin will be directing the production.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Planning a newer New Deal and a new Depression to go with it

This is about the "Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act," S. 2191.

In the 1930's the Government needed to control everything because the economy was bad. In the coming years the Government will need to control everything because the environment might be getting bad. I've lately been reading The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes, which chronicles ways in which government control of everything during the Great Depression made matters worse. Now here come some very smart people (might one call them a "brain trust?") promising to destroy the economy in the name of saving the environment. This is supposed to be a Good Thing. Power Line links to the WSJ and the Chamber of Commerce. The horrifying chart of the proposed new bureaucracy is even more horrifying viewed full size. (Inline update: That chart is a part of an even larger chart! Thanks to Chris Horner at Planet Gore.) The size of this proposal is like one of those things that Carl Sagan wrote about, incomprehensibly enormous. Billions and billions of billions and billions.

Some of these Congressmen who write these regulations don't seem to realize that every bureaucrat, every regulator, every paper-pusher, is someone who is not doing something constructive, but something obstructive. Or … do they? How can such smart people be so dumb? That's a rhetorical question.

Reducing the carbon footprint (click for bigger):

Update: Similar thinking in the British Parliament.

Are you ready for WW2-style energy rationing?

Environment Minister Hilary Benn again rebuffed calls this week for WW2-style energy rationing to return to the UK. He was responding to a Select Committee report urging ministers to issue 45 million Britons with an energy trading "credit card" - a mammoth techno-bureaucratic exercise costing several billions of pounds a year to operate.


However prettily the MPs would like to dress up rationing, it's fundamentally a form of social coercion designed to make people less comfortable than they were before. Wartime rationing needs a war-sized scare, and with the climate stubbornly refusing to conform to the computer models (which predict catastrophe) that looks like an impossible prospect.
(via Jerry Pournelle's mail.)

Another update: S. Weasel has posted on this, with a charming graphic.

New book from Václav Klaus is out in English

Blue Planet in Green Shackles.

Luboš Motl has a link to video of Klaus addressing the National Press Club. I could not get it to play; maybe your luck or skill will be better.

Power Line has excerpts from a transcript of the NPC address, including

My today's thinking is fundamentally influenced by the fact that I spent most of my life under the communist regime which ignored and brutally violated human freedom and, as I remember quite well, wanted to command not only the people, but also the nature....

I do not see the future threats to free society coming from the old and old- fashioned communist ideology. The name of the new danger will undoubtedly be different, but its substance will be very similar. Like their predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality.

In the past, it was in the name of the Marxists or of the proletariat; this time, in the name of the planet. Structurally, it is very similar. The current danger, as I see it, is environmentalism and especially its strongest version, climate alarmism.
More over there.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day sidelight on Francis Scott Key

Or, "everything old is new again." While looking around for something for a Memorial Day note elsewhere (I finally settled on "Decoration Day" by Longfellow), I came across an 1805 piece by Francis Scott Key.


WHEN the warrior returns, from the battle afar,
    To the home and the country he nobly defended,
O! warm be the welcome to gladden his ear,
    And loud be the joy that his perils are ended;
In the full tide of song let his fame roll along,
To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,
Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

Columbians! a band of your brothers behold,
    Who claim the reward of your hearts' warm emotion,
When your cause, when your honor, urged onward the bold,
    In vain frowned the desert, in vain raged the ocean:
To a far distant shore, to the battle's wild roar,
They rushed, your fair fame and your rights to secure:
Then, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

In the conflict resistless, each toil they endured,
    'Till their foes fled dismayed from the war's desolation;
And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscured
    By the light of the Star Spangled flag of our nation.
Where each radiant star gleamed a meteor of war,
And the turbaned heads bowed to its terrible glare,
Now, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

Our fathers, who stand on the summit of fame,
    Shall exultingly hear of their sons the proud story:
How their young bosoms glow'd with the patriot flame,
    How they fought, how they fell, in the blaze of their glory,
How triumphant they rode o'er the wondering flood,
And stained the blue waters with infidel blood;
How, mixed with the olive, the laurel did wave,
And formed a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

Then welcome the warrior returned from afar
    To the home and the country he nobly defended;
Let the thanks due to valor now gladden his ear,
    And loud be the joy that his perils are ended.
In the full tide of song let his fame roll along,
To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,
Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
This one might be due for a revival. Everybody knows the tune.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Stilton and old Port

You eat the cheese, maybe with crackers. Those in the picture are oatcakes. Carr's Wheatmeal biscuits are good for this. You drink the wine. You do not make a paste from the cheese and the wine and then spread it on the biscuits. No, no, you do not do that. Capers and sprats could not do any harm; a gherkin might go well. Click the pic for a recipe for port wine jello! (Oh, all right, jelly.) And another recipe for sake-wasabi-oyster shots. Although with that one, once you know the ingredients, you don't much need the recipe.

Friday, May 16, 2008

States of consciousness

Have you ever wondered: What Does Your Drink Say About You? If I ever hear my drink talking about me, I'm going to obliterate it so fast… The link in this article to "Ten Drinks Men Should Never Order" doesn't work, go here instead. The link to "Ten Things Your Bartender Won't Tell You" is still good. And a commenter there links to Top Ten Myths About Bartenders, which includes

Myth 3: You can out-drink the bartender.

A more wrong statement has never been uttered; you can't, so don't even try. But, if you're buying, I'll certainly entertain the challenge. I don't care how much you think you can drink—any bartender anytime, anywhere can put you under the table, period.
Words to remember.

But then, some bartenders may take a different approach:
Strict Wildness

Music so poignant it wakes the dead,
We passion poets eke it from wine, not bread;
From wonder, not logic; heart, not head,—
But need clear heads to mix your heady brew.
We kitsch it if we swig it too.
Inspired insanity won't do.
Nor thin-lipped sane respectability.
Rigor lone is rigor mortis.
Rigor-plus-wild is the right-bank tortoise
That beats the chic hare of Rive Gaucherie.
Are poems magic? Sure. Till magic
Believes itself. Then it's bunk.
Art, being bartender, is never drunk.

— Peter Viereck
Before I Google'd up that poem, I had remembered that last line as "Art, like the bartender, is never drunk." Now I suppose I'll be the only source for that quote on the whole darn Interweb. Is that actually a different line, from another work? Anyone who can set me straight on this, please do.

All this brings to mind the ancient Persian custom of considering decisions in different states of consciousness:
It is also their general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk; and then on the morrow, when they are sober, the decision to which they came the night before is put before them by the master of the house in which it was made; and if it is then approved of, they act on it; if not, they set it aside. Sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine.
If Iranians would still do this today, they might have a more sensible take on the world. Do MADD and their prohibitionist fellow-travelers ever notice how toxic becomes the worldview of whole societies where drink is prohibited? I suspect not.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden recently linked to a description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She was intending to say that Internet trolls display this syndrome, and I'm sure that many of them do. But as I look through the document, I see Arafat and Ahmadinejad in every paragraph. I wonder if an entire culture can suffer from a personality disorder.


Update, Nov. 2009: Aha! It was Fritz Leiber who misquoted the Viereck line, in The Pale Brown Thing, which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in January

and February of 1977. That's where I would have read it. The longer, full version of the novel was later published as Our Lady of Darkness. Cover image swiped from SciFi Buys, an amazing (!) source of vintage magazines, to which I shall be returning, now that I've found it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

McCain drinking the AGW Kool-Aid?

Looks like it. NRO editorial, May 13:

Senator McCain gave a speech in Portland, Oregon Monday reiterating and explaining his longstanding support for a “cap-and-trade” approach to global warming. He proposes that the government require reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions but allow companies to trade emissions credits, supposedly creating an efficient, market-based distribution of the regulatory burden. Support for this policy is the biggest mistake his campaign has made so far.
Holman Jenkins in the WSJ looks for the bright side:
Mr. McCain's virtues are many, but he's a politician. Yet, happily, the spheres are moving and whatever energy boondoggles are coming, they are likely to be less costly than the boondoggles that might have been enacted even a year or two ago when Al Gore was riding high. For this, we will be able to thank the climate gods and no one else.
I fear Jenkins may be overoptimistic.

Bjørn Lomborg has some things to say about McCain in an interview with Kathryn Lopez at NRO. Short excerpt here; full interview here.
John McCain’s daughter recently told GQ magazine that her dad is “freaked out” by climate change.

I think freaking out is the worst thing that any of us can do. There’s a lot of hysteria about this problem, which means that we don’t look at the full picture.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Just another batch of things that caught my eye.

Drug war casualty: "Marie Walsh was the very picture of American suburban respectability. She and her husband, a company executive, lived in a £400,000 house in an affluent area near San Diego, California. But the 53-year-old had a secret that even her husband and three children did not know: she was really Susan Lefevre, a convicted drug dealer who had been on the run for 32 years after escaping from the Detroit House of Corrections."

Fierce comment threads at Althouse and Volokh on Ayers and Dohrn, and Barack Obama's relationship with them. The Althouse thread inspires a post by Blake: Terrorism and Indoctrination vs. Education, which gets some silly comments by yours truly.

Adopted Man Finds Biological Father on Death Row.

Bagpipe bands violate EU noise regulations and must be muted. (via)

PSA from Hungary intended to promote bicycling. Looks pretty persuasive to me.

How'd you like to walk (or cycle) across this footbridge? (via)

Strange But True photos at the L.A. Times.

Great tits cope well with warming. Well, that's good news! (via)

ROFLcon. Sounds like fun. Over, though; it was held the last weekend in April. The blog includes a list of Sleeper Hits of the Internet, a bunch of (mostly) fun videos that you may have missed. And that seems to require a mention of ROFLMAO. "Do-doo-do-do-do."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Memristor" invented at HP Labs

The approaching Singularity is seen from another angle.

"The memristor is our salvation, because it works better and better as you make it smaller and smaller," said Chua. "The era of nanoscale electronics will be enabled by the memristor. This is not just an invention, it is a basic scientific discovery. It has always been there -- we just had to face these nanoscale problems to realize its importance."

The memristor behaves like a non-linear resistor with memory -- a small, compact and highly energy-efficient means of creating a memory device. But Chua and Williams claim it is also a new type of circuit element that should enable the creation of new devices never before imagined.

Read the whole thing. By way of Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Monday, May 5, 2008


It was a very fraught year.

P.J. O'Rourke gives a commencement speech

One that makes sense, for a change.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.

So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!
Read the whole thing. But remember, it's comedy, and a magazine article, not an actual commencement speech, and take the last point, number 6, with a grain of salt:
6. Don't listen to your elders!

After all, if the old person standing up here actually knew anything worth telling, he'd be charging you for it.
since commencement speakers may indeed be charging for their services. The most satisfactory charge for some is sheer egoboo, of course. But there may be honors involved, or even large sums of cash.

Lots of comments at Hot Air.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

To welcome in the May, oh

Hurray, hurray, the first of May! So, to welcome in the May, Hal-an-Tow. Long version, the song when it's at home:

Shorter version, in a smoky pub, with more careful harmonies:

Jolly Rumbelow,
We were up
Long before the day, oh,
To welcome in the Summer,
To welcome in the May, oh …
The Summer is a-comin' in, the Winter's gone away, oh.

Hybrid picking

Flatpick and fingers at the same time. It's tough, but Tommy Emmanuel makes it look like a piece of cake. The piece is called "Angelina."
Some forum discussion on this. Thanks, Charles!