"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Book Review - of Reviews

Just finished (last night) an on and off again read

The Scientist as Rebel (New York Review Books Collection): Books: Freeman Dyson

I say on and off again as each chapter is self contained.

I've enjoyed many of Freeman's writings over the years, and have had the distinct pleasure of chatting with him at his daughter Esther's late great PCForum.

He writes with charm and a deep knowledge of the subject (science) as well as subjects, with personal relationships with many of those profiled. 2006 updates and comments on the original copy are illuminating.

One professional review"

From Publishers Weekly
In an eclectic but deeply satisfying collection, Dyson, a prize-winning physicist and prolific author (Weapons and Hope), presents 33 previously published book reviews, essays and speeches (15 from the New York Review of Books). Dyson expresses his precise thinking in prose of crystal clarity, and readers will be absolutely enthralled by his breadth, his almost uncanny ability to tie diverse topics together and his many provocative statements. In the title essay, Dyson writes, "Science is an alliance of free spirits in all cultures rebelling against" the tyranny of their local cultures. In a 2006 review of Daniel Dennett's book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Dyson, himself a man of faith, takes issue with Dennett's quoting of physicist Stephen Weinberg that "for good people to do bad things—that takes religion." The converse is also true, says Dyson: "for bad people to do good things—that takes religion." Three of the best chapters (reprinted from Weapons and Hope) deal with the politics of the cold war. And his writings on Einstein, Teller, Newton, Oppenheimer, Norbert Wiener and Feynman will amuse while presenting deep insights into the nature of science and humanity. Virtually every chapter deserves to be savored. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Then, as I neared the end there was a review of Star Maker (Early Classics of Science Fiction): Books: Olaf Stapledon,Freeman J. Dyson,Patrick A. McCarthy. This is a re-issue of a work I first ran across sometime back in the '70's and have had several copies ( occasionally "misplaced" during moves or just lost in the clutter of my office(s) ).

I'm amazed and pleased that Freeman would not only review this work, but wrote the foreword to this re-released edition.

My early reading was from a Sci-Fi perspective, and that, in my view, many writers took a chapter or two and built novels or whole series of books on just a sub-theme or so presented by Stapleton.

I later saw it as allegories of situations, politics and movements of the inter-war years. It was first published in 1937, although my copy had a prior book, Last and First Men, published in 1930 included.

More here:Olaf Stapledon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And from the original preface:

"At a moment when Europe is in danger of a catastrophe worse than that of 1914 a book like this may be condemned as a distraction from the desperately urgent defence of civilization against modern barbarism.

Year by year, month by month, the plight of our fragmentary and precarious civilization becomes more serious. Fascism abroad grows more bold and ruthless in its foreign ventures, more tyrannical toward its own citizens, more barbarian in its contempt for the life of the mind. Even in our own country we have reason to fear a tendency toward militarization and the curtailment of civil liberty. Moreover, while the decades pass, no resolute step is taken to alleviate the injustice of our social order. Our outworn economic system dooms millions to frustration."

Closing comment from Freeman:
"Star Maker may be, like the universe we happen to live in, a flawed masterpiece, but it is still a masterpiece. It is a classic work of imaginative literature, speaking to our modern age. It should be on the list of Great Books that anyone claiming to be educated should read. It is worthy to be compared, as McCarthy compares it in the introduction following this preface, with The Divine Comedy of Dante."

Well, guess what's back on my summer reading list.
It's been at least a decade or so, time to tackle it again.

Talk about niche markets

Millions of Addresses and Thousands of Sites, All Leading to One - New York Times:

"NameMedia recently finished building technology where visitors to niche sites - say, one on 1957 Mustangs - will be presented with links to other sites with similar images. The links will be between sites within the NameMedia network, but Mr. Conlin said that an unnamed Internet photo-sharing service with more than five million monthly users would soon join."

Mustang started production in 1964

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cause and Effect

A provocative idea that maybe the voting public is a bunch of idiots.

Idea Lab - Voting and Voters - Elections - Politics - New York Times:

"Now Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, has attracted notice for raising a pointed question: Do voters have any idea what they are doing? In his provocative new book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies,” Caplan argues that “voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and vote accordingly.” Caplan’s complaint is not that special-interest groups might subvert the will of the people, or that government might ignore the will of the people. He objects to the will of the people itself."

And a sampler of what we get...
A Washington, DC airport ticket agent offers some examples of why our country is in trouble!

1. I had a New Hampshire Congresswoman ask for an aisle seat so that her hair wouldn't get messed up by being near the window.

2. I got a call from a candidate's staffer, who wanted to go to Capetown. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information, then she interrupted me with, "I'm not trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts," Without trying to make her look stupid, I calmly explained, "Cape Cod is in Massachusetts, Capetown is in Africa," Her response - click.

3. A senior Vermont Congressman called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that's not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state. He replied, "Don't lie to me, I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state!"

4. I got a call from a lawmaker's wife who asked, "Is it possible to see England from Canada?" I said, "No." She said, "But they look so close on the map."

5. An aide for a cabinet member once called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas. When I pulled up the reservation, I noticed he had only a 1-hour layover in Dallas. When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, "I heard Dallas was a big airport,
and we will need a car to drive between gates to save time."

6. An Illinois Congresswoman called last week. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:30 am and got to Chicago at 8:33 am. I explained that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she couldn't understand the concept of time zones. Finally, I told her the plane went fast, and she bought that.

7. A New York lawmaker called and asked, "Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?" I said, "No, why do you ask?" She replied, "Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I'm overweight. I think that's very rude!" After putting her on hold for a minute while I looked into it (I was laughing) I came back and explained the city code for Fresno, CA is (FAT), and the airline was just putting a destination tag on her luggage.

8. A Senator's aide called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, she asked, "Would it be cheaper to fly to California, and then take the train to Hawaii?"

9. I just got off the phone with a freshman Congressman who asked, "How do I know which plane to get on?" I asked him what exactly he meant, to which he replied, "I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these planes have numbers on them."

10. A lady Senator called and said, "I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola, Florida. Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?" I asked if she meant fly to Pensacola, Fl. on a commuter plane. She said, "Yeah, whatever, smarty!"

11. A senior Senator called and had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded him that he needed a visa. "Oh, no I don't. I've been to China many times and never had to have one of those." I double checked and sure enough, his stay required a visa. When I told him this he said, "Look, I've been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express!"

12. A New Mexico Congresswoman called to make reservations, "I want to go from Chicago to Rhino, New York." I was at a loss for words. Finally, I said, "Are you sure that's the name of the town?" Yes, what flights do you have?" replied the lady. After some searching, I came back with, "I'm sorry, ma'am, I've looked up every airport code in the country and can't find a Rhino anywhere." The lady retorted, "Oh, don't be silly! Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!" So I scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, "You don't mean Buffalo, do you?" The reply? "Whatever! I knew it was a big animal".


Not much posting
"Summer time" and we are scrambling to get ready

Short list
Shirley wrapping up on her studio ... almost done, but painter slapped up some "sample's"
will have to take a photo - as Mary said years ago about a "bike jacket " I'd bought ... "baby shit brown" ... whoops
But Shirley's already moving art gear from guest house to studio

Which brings us to guest house - getting redecorated (long overdue)
Some paint, new carpet, and furnishings

Back to Cabin - logs getting "treatment" (linseed oil) and new chinking
Should be good for a few years, getting ready for us/family/guests

Boat lift done, time to slide it into the water, float da boat

House - some new flooring downstairs - tile hall and re-tile the "utility" shower (the one I use after outdoor work)
Later, I hope to finish up some furniture updates ... dining room table - have a Le Corbusier in mind.

Misc other stuff like trim paint ...
Keeps us out of too much trouble

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

OK I'm a Skeptic

Gasoline prices are up
Reports that they are up 32cents per gallon over last year.

Quick math
Assume 15 gallon fill up, it's $4.80 per fill over last year.

A bottle of cheap (real cheap) wine, a bit more than a fancy coffee, don't know about bottled water (I fix my own plain coffee and don't buy bottled water)

But it's enough for politicians to grab the mike and talk about price gouging.
What about the demand side?
Stop driving so much, cut demand, therefore ease pricing pressures?

Whoops - drivers are voters, can't do that.

And don't look at sales taxes, here in Michigan, the state would pick up about 29cents on that price hike.

Ah but I'm just a cynic as well as a skeptic

What happens if prices go down?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Al Gore is running

Despite protestations to the contrary, I think he's setting up for a run.
Al Gore has Big Plans - New York Times

Interesting comments on his treatment by the Clinton White House with regards to Kyoto and the environment in general

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Close to home

Quicktime presentation by
Ben Whitehouse

24 hours in extreme high def of North Bar Lake
Just a few min from us (either lake house or cabin)

A project sponsered by Panasonic, shot Oct '06

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ironic Icon

In conversation last week with my daughter, who's just back from London, about the Tate Modern, and in particular, the Rothko Collection which I particularly liked when Shirley and I visited back in '99.

So I found it ironic that a Rothko went for 72.8Million this week at auction.

Well, even if I don't have pockets that deep, guess I have a little bit of "taste", or at least similar taste to someone with deep pockets.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Possible positive news

Did a quick check of NYTimes and other sources, but didn't see coverage. Maybe because it offers something other than doom and gloom?

Climate change | How to cool the world | Economist.com:
How to cool the world

May 10th 2007
From The Economist print edition
A new report on the state of the planet offers some grounds for optimism

"THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body set up under the auspices of the United Nations to produce a global consensus on the science and economics of climate change, reports once every six years. On May 4th, it published the third tranche of its fourth report. The first two tranches, on the science of climate change and its impact around the world, made for depressing reading. Climate change was getting worse, mankind was responsible, and most regions—especially the poorer bits of the world—were going to suffer. The third tranche, by contrast, was upbeat. Climate change may threaten mankind, but mankind has a good chance of averting it—if it puts its mind to it.

Some greenhouse-gas emissions, as the IPCC points out, can be cut at no cost at all—through straightforward measures such as improving insulation and binning wasteful incandescent light bulbs. Such measures could both save people and companies money, and save the planet from a chunk of carbon emissions."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wow, what a trip it's been ... so far

Charles Babcock reviews the web so far
Takes me back through various iterations and I've managed to use most, execpt AOL IM, Craigslist, Hotmail and WoW...

What's The Greatest Web Software Ever Written? -- Web Software -- InformationWeek

I recall the launches of several, AltaVista, Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia

Jerry Falwell 1933 - 2007

Bye Bye

Jerry Falwell 1933 - 2007 - TMZ.com:


From friend Keith (BTW - good stuff on his blog)

"Linenger, who is 52 and has lived for eight years in Suttons Bay with his wife, Kathryn, and four young children, published a successful book in 1999, Off The Planet, about his Mir experiences. I had a chance to ask him during a free moment on Saturday how he got to northern Michigan. He smiled and said Michigan’s green mitt, surrounded by the blue Great Lakes, is one of the most recognizable and truly beautiful sights from space. He said that only the Himalayas, the Caribbean, and the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia compare. He also said that Sleeping Bear Dunes, the centerpiece of our national park here, is easily seen from space, a great slash of white that drops headlong into Lake Michigan on one side. And on the other side is a string of inland lakes that from space look like a necklace of pearls."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gas Crunch

Couldn't tell by the traffic coming back from Chicago

I cruised around 80, and, not counting semi-trucks, almost as many cars passed me as I passed.

Guess gas prices weren't a concern.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Trackin Politics

Click the link "Trackin Politics" above or here

To the NYTimes blog on politics and the elections, with links to other political/politics blogs

"About The Caucus"
Kate Phillips and The Times's politics staff are analyzing the latest news from Washington and around the nation and looking ahead to the 2008 presidential elections.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

VRM - Mission Impossible

Doc (Searls) has posted often about
VRM (Vendor Relationship Management)

I've had a few beefs as well

Shirley was trying to wrap up her mother's estate and when dealing with the local Electric Utility came up with a great phrase : "As impossible as possible"


Had to leave home too soon.
We have some downstate, but not carpets of trillium like this.

On a lighter note


Live by the PR, die by the PR

E! News - Paris' To-Do List: Ask for Pardon, Rehire Publicist - Paris Hilton | Nicky Hilton:

"'My friend Joshua started this petition, please help and sihn it,' the spellcheck-challenged Hilton wrote on her MySpace blog. 'i LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!'

The petition, looking to appeal to 'all fans and supporters and all that are outraged by injustice,' describes Hilton as someone who 'provides hope for young people all over the U.S. and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to [most of] our otherwise mundane lives.'In exchange for her global good deeds, the petition contends, she should not be locked up."

Global Good Deeds ?!?!?

I must have missed the Mother Teressa phase

Reflective reading

Time to read lastnight
Basically while "sitting" getting prepared for minor medical procedure, I read a few chapters of the following book.

Sorry that NYReview of books keeps the full text in the "pay-per-view" archive, and may transcribe some further excerpts as I think that they are most interesting... calling into question "Global Warming" while acknowledging Climate Change.

I greatly enjoy Freeman's writing and have had the pleasure of occasional conversations at PCForum.

What a World! - The New York Review of Books: "Review

What a World!
By Freeman Dyson

The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change

by Vaclav Smil

MIT Press, 346 pp., $32.95

"It is refreshing to read a book full of facts about our planet and the life that has transformed it, written by an author who does not allow facts to be obscured or overshadowed by politics. Vaclav Smil is well aware of the political disputes that are now raging about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, but he does not give them more attention than they deserve. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the superficiality of our theories. He calls attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution which are poorly understood, and which must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured."

Some of Freeman's further comments on the subject here:
University of Michigan

"Unfortunately, I am an old heretic. Old heretics don't cut much ice. What the world needs is young heretics. I am hoping that one or two of you may fill that role. So I will tell you briefly about three heresies that I'm promoting.

The first of my heresies says that all the fluff about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of twilight model experts and the crowd of diluted citizens that believe the numbers predicted by their models. Of course they say I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak.

But I have studied their climate models and know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.

The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That's why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There's no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. The warming happens in places and times where it is cold, in the arctic more than the tropics, in the winter more than the summer, at night more than the daytime.

I'm not saying the warming doesn't cause problems, obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it. I'm saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important. Poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans."

But we are in the political season, and "Global Warming" is the rallying cry.
Tectonic forces of politics are shifting under our feet.

I will reiterate - energy savings, in and of itself can be good, regardless of one's thinking about "greenhouse effect" but mandates of behavior based on incomplete science should be questioned.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reflections on IT

I've posted before on the end of PCForum and commented on changes in IT

Looney Dunes: Reflecting on the late great PCForum

"Seems that maybe there isn't all that much left to create/invent.
A new Google?
I don't think so.

Thinking about electricity, Edison and Telsa created major infrastructure, microwaves and toasters, power tools and PC's are applications.

The internet and IT are now ubiquitous, there will be many many applications, but will there be revolutions?"

Looney Dunes: Loss

Now an observation from Bank Credit Analyst (BCA Research)
Special Report "Will the Supply-Side Low Inflation Boom Persist?"

"The growth in IT investment has slowed in the U.S. from its earlier rapid pace, and there have not been any groundbreaking software developments for some time. Nonetheless, there is no indication that the IT revolution has run its course. The prices of technology goods continue to fall, and the pace of innovation remains high."

Prices drop, IT becomes more and more integrated in day to day life, but fewer revolutionary changes, if any. Many incremental changes, but few revolutions.