Friday, September 30, 2011

An off note in music history

It is little known today that Signor Alfredo Nobellini, inventor of the accordion, also invented another, even less successful instrument. Always seeking a greater fortissimo, he combined his interest in music with his interest in things that go boom! to produce the explodeon (rhymes with melodeon). Any accordion player could play an explodeon, though seldom for very long.

It is difficult, at this historical remove, to gauge the impact the explodeon had on its listeners, as few critical reviews of performances have survived. Audiences are reported to have been blown away, even transported to heavenly heights. The score of the famous 1812 Overture originally had an explodeon part, but this was later rewritten for cannon, which were found to be easier to manage in an orchestral setting.

Nobellini composed a suite for explodeon and pipe-bomb organ. He was reported to have said, before its only known performance, that it would mark the apogee of his career. Indeed, neither he nor the concert hall is known to have featured in musical history since the event.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Still working on it."

Beetle Bailey by Gregg and Mort Walker | Sept 5, 2011

Varieties of experience

MUTTS by Patrick McDonnell | August 24, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oil companies are not gouging

Some facts about oil and money at ExxonMobil Perspectives.

ExxonMobil’s earnings are from operations in more than 100 countries around the world. The part of the business that refines and sells gasoline and diesel in the United States represents less than 3 percent – or 3 cents on the dollar – of our total earnings. For every gallon of gasoline, diesel or finished products we manufactured and sold in the United States in the last three months of 2010, we earned a little more than 2 cents per gallon. That’s not a typo. Two cents.
Taxes are much more than that. Governor Molloy in Connecticut wants to add another 3 cents to his state's 25 cent per gallon gas tax. Gas is cheaper in Rhode Island, and cheaper yet in Massachusetts, but most Connecticut residents don't live close enough to a border to make it worthwhile to cross over just for cheaper gas.

Read the Perspectives post, and this one at Power Line, which adds some commentary. Higher energy prices are part of the Administration's plan to Win the Future. WTF!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palin in 2012

After listening to the podcast of the speech Sarah Palin gave in Madison yesterday, I felt like rushing to the polls to vote for her right away. Video and transcript at Conservatives 4 Palin.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A flappers' dictionary

Slang of earlier eras can be opaque. Here's a guide to some of it from the 1920's. Thanks to Virginia Lee on Facebook.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Crisis management in advanced democracies"

I like it when someone takes something I've sort of known for a long time and states it tersely and pungently. Mark Steyn's reader Ezra Marsh just did that, with this:

My experience is that most people, and all democracies, manage time in the following way:

Phase 1) A crisis is coming, but we still have time. There's no need to act yet.
Phase 2) Yes, a crisis is coming, but we still have time. There's no need to act yet.
Phase 3) We're out of time. There's no reason to act, because it's too late.

How often do we see this scenario? Seems like daily. Democrats are particularly good at it. They like to talk about vigilance as if it were paranoia, prudence as a culture of fear. But Republicans sweep things under the rug now and then, too. Thanks to Mark Steyn at The Corner.

Maybe that new car should have one of these

The Wave-Disk engine. What? I don't know, but if they can have a prototype by the end of the year as promised, this is a whole new direction for cars.

The Wave Disk Generator uses 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion; standard car engines use just 15 percent. As a result, the generator is 3.5 times more fuel efficient than typical combustion engines.

Researchers estimate the new model could shave almost 1,000 pounds off a car's weight currently taken up by conventional engine systems.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Obama's Marie Antoinette moment

One of many, really, but maybe this one will catch the public imagination.

Can't afford gas? Buy a new car!

That's the ticket. Glenn Reynolds has two posts so far. The first has a screenshot and link to video. The second, more thoughts on the matter. Update: Make that three posts: I missed this one.

And a couple of days later, another, with a nod to historical accuracy.

Heh. Another post on this: "LET THEM BUY HYBRID VANS." This topic keeps on giving.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Japan catastrophe

Received in email from Bud Tyler, the Old Marshal of Frontiertown, who claims not to have written it.

10 Things to learn from Japan--

Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.

The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn't fall. (?????)

People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly.

I think number 3 has a lot to do with building codes, but the architects and contractors need to be willing and able to follow them.

The whole thing says something about media. Someone said something recently about how different real catastrophes are from Hollywood catastrophes. In movies, we always see panicked mobs. In real life, we more often see this kind of cooperative and often selfless behavior. Compare news coverage, largely fictitious, of what was supposedly happening in New Orleans when Katrina hit, with the reports that came later, when real witnesses began speaking up.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Palin-bashing by the brain trust"

To go with the previously noted piece on Obama, Van der Leun also gives us On Palin Bashing by the 'Brain-Trust': "As far as coward Charles Krauthammer goes…."As a commenter says, "How did we go from Reagan to Pansy Patrol in so short a period of time?"

A propos of Palin, this from Glenn Reynolds:

MARC AMBINDER ON FACEBOOK: “My hunch is that this election will hinge on who best harnesses the gut fear that America is in decline — and turns it into real optimism.”
Who does this better than she?

Van der Leun speculates on Presidential malice

The question of to what degree Barack Obama hates America and wishes to destroy it comes up in conversation from time to time. Van der Leun's analysis, contrasting Hanlon's and Heinlein's razors, seems like a good contribution. Excerpt:

21 months is an extremely long time to have a rogue ego and malicious mind actively guiding and making the day-to-day, life and death, decisions of the nation. Twenty-one months of appointments, foreign policy, executive orders, and the odd military adventure here or there, can add up to a lot of problems unless your goal is the weakening of the United States. In that case, it might just be enough time after all.
Read the whole thing: Presence of Malice: Against the Conservative Portrait of the President. There is much discussion in comments.

And see, for contrast, the next post: "Palin-bashing by the brain trust."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pure gas

It seems that some lucky people, in parts of this great land of ours, can still obtain unadulterated, clear quill gasoline. The list of stations is maintained at Pure-Gas dot org. Hmm … they don't seem to mention whether there is MTBE in this stuff, or not. But that would still be better than ethanol. From Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

S. Weasel goes to an art show

A Norman Rockwell exhibition, to be exact. Turns out it's his first in England. Her review is here. Short version: "Superb."

Some discussion of the shortcomings of critics is included. Special credit to Uncle Badger, in comments. I find that if I am acquainted with the work of a critic, I can figure out whether he or she is likely to like a work that I am likely to like. But it's too much trouble to become acquainted with the work of every critic. And most art criticism, especially, is pretentious hooey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Leftist anarchists" are oxymorons

Good, brief discussion of "leftist anarchists" at Instapundit. Excerpt: "… there is no such thing as a leftist anarchist. We are using words here to describe groups of people in ways that those words were never intended to be used. It’s like a person carrying a yellow flag, but it’s called green. Everyone says, 'hey, I see you have the green flag with you,' whenever you go about town with a yellow flag. Such is leftist anarchy. It isn’t anarchy at all, but actually extreme statism.…"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Pournelle interview

Glenn Reynolds interviews Jerry Pournelle, at PJTV.

Compare and contrast: Tom Snyder interviewed Jerry Pournelle and Durk Pearson, back in 1979.


This blog appears to be suffering from it. It's not because the woodpecker has eaten all the suet, either. No, the squirrels got a fair amount of it too.

And it's certainly not because I have lost interest in current events, or in the Internet in general or the blogosphere in particular. No, for me the Internet reminds me of London in that line of Samuel Johnson's, when he said "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."

Actually, I have been very sick with cancer on my pancreas. Not pancreatic cancer, but a neuroendocrine tumor there, and on the liver as well. The general discomfort, the distractions of many visits to doctors and hospitals, and the debility induced by chemo treatments have all contributed to the lack of posting. So that's what's going on.

I'll continue to post links here every now and then, but I doubt I'll be indulging in anything lengthy, not in the immediate future, anyway.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Star Trek, Phase II

Really new adventures. All for love, no money. Thanks to Moe Lane, who explains a bit more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monbiot learning to love the nuke

Good for him. In the Grauniad: Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power. George is coming to see that civilization requires energy to operate. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

Of course the Grauniad has to pair this piece with a prime example of anti-nuke hysteria, just for balance. "Fair and balanced," right.

Update: A related item from Seth Godin: "For every person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,000 die due to coal, adjusted for the same amount of power produced..." Thanks again to Glenn Reynolds.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

High cost of the green mirage

This is a little wind farm, mind you.

Wind power will cost RI taxpayers $1.5M

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Deepwater Wind's initial project will raise state and local governments' electric bills by a combined $1.5 million in its first year, according to documents reviewed by the Target 12 Investigators.

Municipal electric bills will increase by a total of $1 million while state government's bill will rise by $476,630, according to an estimate commissioned by National Grid from Energy Security Analysis Inc. The cost would rise by 3.5 percent every year for the next two decades.

The estimate was included in a document National Grid asked the R.I. Public Utilities Commission to seal from the public view as the panel weighed whether to approve a controversial 20-year contract between Deepwater and Grid. The PUC denied that request, opening the town-by-town breakdown up for public inspection.

The government cost estimates reflect the smaller of Deepwater's two projects, a demonstration wind farm off Block Island that will have up to eight turbines and is expected to be up and running by 2013.

The company – which was handpicked by Gov. Don Carcieri in 2008 to develop wind power off Rhode Island's coast – is also proposing a much larger, utility-scale development of up to 200 turbines that won't be in place until at least 2015.

Much more, and video, at the link.

In a sidebar to the story quoted above, we learn that "National Grid will pay Deepwater a maximum of 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for the electricity in its first full year of operation. After that, the price will increase 3.5 percent per year – theoretically to 25.3 cents in the second year, 26.1 cents in the third year, etc." For comparison, a recent post at Green Tech says "Recent power purchase agreements to buy energy from wind farms have been in the range of 5 cents to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour." And for further comparison, that sidebar says that "National Grid pays 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for wholesale electricity in Rhode Island right now." Most of that comes from natural gas and nuclear.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The good, the bad, the ugly, from Washington, D.C.

The good:

Republicans declare war on federal regulations.

The Republican-led House this week will push through legislation aimed at making government rules and regulations less burdensome for business, setting up a standoff with President Obama over some of his key initiatives, including the new health care law, and testing Obama's efforts to appear more business friendly. The House measure, scheduled for a vote Thursday, would require committees "to inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations" and the rules' effect on jobs and economic growth.
They can't begin soon enough. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

The bad: $53 Billion for High Speed Rail. As Nancy Pelosi said in another context, "Are you serious?"

The ugly:
A proposal to amend the First Amendment. Rep Donna Edwards (D-MD) has introduced a proposed amendment to the Constitution. The text:

`Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

`Section 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.'.

Amazingly, it has picked up 26 cosponsors. All the names I recognize on the list are Democrats.

The text seems to to call for, or to allow, specific statutes aimed at specific "entities." The built-in special exemption for the press takes care of the problem with McCain-Feingold noted by Ann Althouse in Why is the New York Times just noticing this? She says:
Liberals (including President Obama) think the Supreme Court was wrong in Citizens United to say that corporations have free speech rights, but newspaper and book publishers are corporations. For some reason, the NYT is acting like it took a year to notice this hitch (which has been perfectly evident since the Citizens United litgation began in the lower courts). I guess the excuse for pretending not to see what was obvious is that it has been hoping to rely on the notion that some corporations have more rights than others.
Democrats used to like freedom of speech. Maybe they were just claiming to like it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fear of a free future

Michael Barone had some thoughts on the SOTU speech. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the pointer.)

Obama’s Antique Vision of Technological Progress.

Barack Obama, like all American politicians, likes to portray himself as future-oriented and open to technological progress. Yet the vision he set out in his State of the Union address is oddly antique and disturbingly static.
Read the whole thing.

A lot of the speech was like finding an article in a magazine from 1930 about what the year 2000 would be like. The left can't let go of the dream of a command economy, even though command economies always fail. The knowledge problem is not amenable to wishful thinking. Over-regulation stifles activity of all kinds. How many nuclear plants could be under construction now if even half the money from the stimulus programs had been put into a program of construction? Killing the coal and oil industries without replacing them is a recipe for poverty. Lefties fear prosperity because poor people are easier to rule. Lefties fear technology because technology can lead to prosperity. You don't find computers in private hands in Communist countries. You didn't use to find typewriters, copiers or mimeographs, either.

Obama's EPA turning off the water to California's Central Valley is poverty by decree. It's not of the same magnitude as Stalin's Holodomor, or decreed famine, in the Ukraine in the 1930's, but it's the same type of thing. Shutting down West Virginia's largest coal mine is another move to promote poverty. And these moves do not have only local effects. They raise the prices of food and energy to the whole country, and indeed the world.

Update: Rick at Wizbang links to William O'Keefe at the Examiner: "Setting a goal to raise energy prices seems to be the last thing we would want to do as a nation." Yet it is the Administration's policy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looking at the SOTU speech

I remember thinking more than once during that speech that it was so far removed from reality as to be "not even wrong." Jerry Pournelle has been writing about it. Three parts so far: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. "[W]ind, solar, and biofuels won't support a first world economy."

Ace has a long, thoughtful post looking at Obama's tendency to vote "present," then take credit for whatever happened next, and how well or poorly this approach works for an executive: Obama the Passive-Aggressive Coward.

Obama gives a speech studded with claims about his own "boldness" while punting on all the important issues and only offering cute-sounding, poll-tested anecdotes about the wonders of government intervention. Solar shingles! Fuel made from sunlight and water! High speed trains!

None of these address the central problem this nation faces, which is that we are going bankrupt and in fact stand on the edge of a financial precipice.

It's so much easier to address made-up problems than to deal with real ones.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nabokov was right about those butterflies

In the NY Times: Nonfiction: Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated.

Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” But even as he was writing those books, Nabokov had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.

He was the curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and collected the insects across the United States. He published detailed descriptions of hundreds of species. And in a speculative moment in 1945, he came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves.

Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right.
I wonder why the professional lepidopterists didn't take his ideas seriously? I suspect credential-related snobbery, a form of argument from authority. Looking at the science is more important than looking at the degrees of the scientists.

Update: more about VN and butterflies here. And: Neo-neocon has a thoughtful post on this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What happened to Greenpeace, and the environmental movement along with it

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore has written a book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist. (No reviews at Amazon yet; I anticipate a lot of 5's and 1's from those on opposite sides.) In a similarly titled article at the Vancouver Sun, he describes some of the history of the organization and the evolution of his beliefs and program. An excerpt:

Some activists simply couldn't make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain confrontational and antiestablishment is to adopt ever more extreme positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favour of zero-tolerance policies.

The collapse of world communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall during the 1980s added to the trend toward extremism. The Cold War was over and the peace movement was largely disbanded. The peace movement had been mainly Western-based and anti-American in its leanings. Many of its members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their neo-Marxist, far-left agendas. To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.

I don't blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilization and the environment.

The group was infiltrated and taken over by enemies of Western civilization, following the Gramscian paradigm. I would call myself a conservationist, and many others, I'm sure, who are in favor of the continuation and advancement of industrialized civilization would as well. We are not in favor of pollution or environmental destruction, but we do not want to go back to living in huts and reading manuscripts written by hand on parchment.

One way to tell genuine environmentalists, or conservationists, from the enemies of civilization is by their attitude on nuclear power. Energy is the sine qua non of civilization. An abundance of cheap energy is what provides the leisure for all the pursuits of civilization, such as art, science, debate about law and government, and everything else beyond wresting a bare living from the land. Patrick Moore is in favor of nuclear power. How many current Greenpeacers are in favor of it? I'd venture to say very few.

Most of the movement followers are dupes, of course, not consciously enemies of Western civilization. People don't follow through their thinking. If we put the coal companies out of business, if we don't allow new nuclear plants, if we don't allow drilling for oil, all to follow the green mirage, then our energy supplies will dwindle, and we will be on the verge of a new Dark Age, certainly an end to prosperity. But the useful idiots of environmentalism don't think far enough ahead to see their own doom in the policies they espouse.

A contributor at AoSHQ has linked the article in the post State of Fear, 2011. Contributor Andy has worthwhile observations of his own to add, and some videos of Michael Crichton. The whole thing is worth the click.