Thursday, April 6, 2017

Correspondence: A few curious phenomena

By Moristotle

Will warmer weather bring the birds back earlier? That’s the question on many antsy birders’ minds. “How Different Spring Migrants Decide When to Head North” [Kenn Kaufman, Audobon, March 22]. Excerpt:
Spring officially started this week, but for many of us it had already begun. Back in February, unseasonably warm temperatures swept over much of North America, buds began opening on trees, and flowers began to bloom weeks early. Naturally, birders began to ask: Will our migratory birds come back earlier, too?
    That question doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer because the timing of bird migration is . . . complicated. Every species is slightly different; short-term changes in weather do have an impact, but so do a variety of other innate and environmental factors. Here’s a quick primer on how North American avians schedule their spring journeys to aid in your own birding ventures. [read more]
What about e-waste? “What happens to discarded televisions, computers and mobile phones?” [Penny Travers, ABC Radio Canberra, March 21]. Excerpt:
To prevent it ending up in landfill, the Federal Government introduced the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) in 2011.
    Under the industry-funded scheme, companies that import or manufacture more than 5,000 televisions, computers or printers per year are required to help recover end-of-life products and divert them from landfill.
    They do this by being members of one of four authorised recyclers which organise collection and recycling of e-waste on their behalf.
    Each year 40,000 tonnes of computers, tablets, televisions, printers, scanners, photocopiers, keyboards and mice are recycled through the scheme. [read more. The British tonne, which is the same as the metric ton in the United States, is a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms; it is equivalent to approximately 2,204.6 pounds, 1.10 short tons (US) or 0.984 long tons (imperial).]

We should be asking ourselves how the people running our government came to wield such power: “The Scammers, the Scammed, and America’s Fate” [Paul Krugman, NY Times, March 24]. Excerpt:
...Until very recently both news coverage and political punditry were dominated by the convention of “balance.” This meant, in particular, that when it came to policy debates one was always supposed to present both sides as having equally well-founded arguments. And this in turn meant that it was necessary to point to serious, honest, knowledgeable proponents of conservative positions.
    Enter Mr. [Paul] Ryan, who isn’t actually a serious, honest policy expert, but plays one on TV....
    Now, however, the flimflam has hit a wall...The C.B.O. told the devastating truth about his [health care] plan, and his evasions and lies were too obvious to ignore.
    There’s an important lesson here, and it’s not just about health care or Mr. Ryan; it’s about the destructive effects of FALSE SYMMETRY IN REPORTING at a time of VAST ASYMMETRY IN REALITY [emphasis ours].
    This false symmetry – downplaying the awfulness of some candidates, vastly exaggerating the flaws of their opponents – isn’t the only reason America is in the mess it’s in. But it’s an important part of the story. And now we’re all about to pay the price. [read more]



Most people don’t realize that General Robert E. Lee was an indirect family member of George Washington, and Washington’s famous Chinese-export porcelain dinner service was given to him. Most of it ended up at Winterthur, which is the great museum of American art of the 18th and 17th and early 19th century. We even traded them years ago. We sold two of the plates from the service in the eighties for about $30-to-35,000 each, and one of them recently showed up at auction and sold for close to a hundred thousand dollars. That’s how much people are willing to pay for a name period piece.

A great American: “Robert Silvers, a Founding Editor of New York Review of Books, Dies at 87” [William Grimes, NY Times, March 20]. Excerpt:
Robert B. Silvers [was] a founder of The New York Review of Books, which under his editorship became one of the premier intellectual journals in the United States, a showcase for extended, thoughtful essays on literature and politics by eminent writers....
    The New York Review, founded in 1963, was born with a mission — to raise the standards of book reviewing and literary discussion in the United States and nurture a hybrid form of politico-cultural essay. Mr. Silvers brought to its pages a self-effacing, almost priestly sense of devotion that ultimately made him indistinguishable from the publication he edited, and it from him.
    He shared editorial duties with Barbara Epstein until her death in 2006, but it was Mr. Silvers who came to embody The Review’s mystique, despite, or perhaps because of, his insistence on remaining a behind-the-scenes presence, loath to grant interviews or make public appearances.
    “I put my name on the paper, and the rest I don’t care to be known,” he told Philip Nobile, the author of “Intellectual Skywriting: Literary Politics and The New York Review of Books” (1974). In a 2008 interview for the online program Thoughtcast, Mr. Silvers said: “The editor is a middleman. The one thing he should avoid is taking credit. It’s the writer that counts.” [read more]
Legislation can be crafted bottom up or top down. In bottom up you ask, What problems do voters have and how can they be addressed? In top down, you ask, What problems do elite politicians have and how can they be addressed? “The Trump Elite. Like the Old Elite, but Worse!” [David Brooks, NY Times, March 24]. Excerpt:“”
The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite – and certainly more vapid. [read more]

Morris, don't forget to watch your recording of Tuesday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert. One of Bob Boldt's three “golden anomalies” among comedians demonstrated what Bob was talking about. Louis C.K. starts out talking about regretting saying something about Trump last year. “That isn’t what I work for, what I’m trying to accomplish.” Then, when you’re off balance and not expecting it, he zaps you, kills it! Check out this video on YouTube: “Louis C.K. Calls Trump A 'Gross Crook Dirty Rotten Lying Sack Of....'.”

I thought you might like this story from The Washington Post: “Dear Science: How does soap make things clean?” [Sarah Kaplan, March 20]. Excerpt:
Most of the stuff you try to clean off with soap — food baked onto dishes, dust caked into your skin — is infused with oil. It’s hard to wash off with water because water molecules are more attracted to one another than they are to oil. Oil molecules are large and awkward, and they don’t have poles — ends with different electric charges — so they’re not very easy to bond with. When you try to wash a greasy pan with mere water, it will just run off without picking up the dirty, oily particles that cling to the surface.
    But thousands of years ago, people figured out how to make a substance that overcame the deep antagonism between oil and water. If they took a fatty acid, like rendered fat from a cow or sheep, and mixed it with an alkaline substance, like water mixed with ashes, it would produce a thick, brown curd that was incredibly efficient at getting dirt to wash away. This recipe dates back to ancient Roman times. [read more]


I never met an electrician who was both careless AND old.

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle

14 comments:

  1. Bob, let's BOTH thank the correspondent who brought Louis C.K.'s appearance on Tuesday's Late Show to my attention. I might not otherwise have caught his "technique" the correspondent points out.

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  2. Got a link to the comment the 'correspondent' made about Louis DK? I'd like to read it to see if his impression matched my own.

    Trump is of course an easy punch line and guaranteed to get a laugh from Liberal/Progressive/sane audiences everywhere. The reason CK thought the session with Colbert crashed at the end was because it went from the obvious to the nuanced. It's easy to get a laugh from calling Trump "a lying sack of (bleeped)" to the fact that nearly all our leaders have engaged in acts every bit as heinous as bombing wedding parties. (I thought his "register for a drone" comment was pretty funny). Sadly it is a lot easier laugh at Hitler than to crack jokes that make fun of National Socialism. Personalities are always fair game for comedy. The causes and cultures that produce them are more nuanced and difficult.

    Actually Michael Moore did a pretty good job of helping us understand the forces that swept Trump into power, even before the election. I think his "Trumpland" one man show, nailed it with humor and aplomb.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQhgnJv1P1Y

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    1. Bob, the correspondent's correspondence was simply as included in today's column:

      Morris, don't forget to watch your recording of Tuesday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert. One of Bob Boldt's three “golden anomalies” among comedians demonstrated what Bob was talking about. Louis C.K. starts out talking about regretting saying something about Trump last year. “That isn’t what I work for, what I’m trying to accomplish.” Then, when you’re off balance and not expecting it, he zaps you, kills it! Check out this video on YouTube: “Louis C.K. Calls Trump A 'Gross Crook Dirty Rotten Lying Sack Of....'.”

      Before Louis C.K. came on, Colbert had (either by design or by chance) established that there was one Trump supporter (at least) in the audience. Colbert acclaimed his love for the young man, etc. Louis C.K. said in his comments that "Trump wasn't lying to me, or to most of the people in the audience - we knew what he was saying wasn't true. He was lying to the young man up there," who believed it.

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    2. Bob, it has taken me several days to try to understand what you were saying by your second paragraph above:

      Trump is of course an easy punch line and guaranteed to get a laugh from Liberal/Progressive/sane audiences everywhere. The reason CK thought the session with Colbert crashed at the end was because it went from the obvious to the nuanced. It's easy to get a laugh from calling Trump "a lying sack of (bleeped)" to the fact that nearly all our leaders have engaged in acts every bit as heinous as bombing wedding parties. (I thought his "register for a drone" comment was pretty funny). Sadly it is a lot easier laugh at Hitler than to crack jokes that make fun of National Socialism. Personalities are always fair game for comedy. The causes and cultures that produce them are more nuanced and difficult.

      I think your point is that we NEED comic treatments of IDEAS (movements, causes, cultures, classes of actions), but they are hard to create and present. And perhaps they make greater demands on audiences, maybe even demand that they "enter a different dimension," a response that I admitted in a comment on your "Bronze age of comedy" post I wasn't even WILLING to give.
          My current understanding of the point I think you're making above, anyway, is challenging me to try to think up to your level about this. Thank you for your inspirational service, and thanks in advance for further contributions I hope you will make to this progress....

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  3. I meant CK in the first sentence. I really wish the typing window was large and easier to compose it. It makes it really impossible to correct mistakes in. And then after you publish the only way to change an error is to delete the post and start over. I suppose there is nothing you can do.

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  4. What I do is compose elsewhere, and then paste....

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  5. I once resolved to do that, but in the heat of the moment, I too often forget. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Yeah, me too, and the same sort of thing can happen in other apps, as I learned to my chagrin as recently as 48 hours ago. And, because I really wanted that one, I re-did it, this time following my own advice!

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  6. I am amazed by a column by Krugman with which I generally agree. My problem with him is he can be so disingenuous himself. I have often described him as a Nobel Prize winning economist who either can't count or can't tell the truth. For example he wrote a column on how we should thank President Obama for cutting the deficit in half in 2014, when he only spent half a trillion dollars we didn't have instead of the trillion dollars he spent in previous years. Never mentioned the difference between the deficit (the money we spent this year we don't have) vs the debt (the total amount we have spent we didn't have in all years combined and have yet to pay back). Overall Obama added some 8 to 10 trillion to the debt, effectively doubling it, ostensibly on infrastructure and green energy, while I can find no particular improvement in the infrastructure nor increase in green energy sources. The average citizen may not know the difference between the debt and the deficit and his column wouldn't have enlightened them. I generally find him to be partisan on such issues, and as one of about 50 million Americans severely damaged by the ACA I bridle at his claims that it is "working). What I cannot argue is that the AHCA is any better and is most assuredly NOT what Trump and the GOP promised to do, although I can't say I am surprised. Ryan is not only dishonest, he also seems trapped in a time warp from the 1980s when tax cuts for the rich were the GOP's sovereign remedy for jobs and prosperity, a concept thoroughly debunked which he might still really believe.

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    1. Roger, I really appreciative your corrective on Krugman, for I tend to be a disciple and am probably less knowledgeable and well-informed than you are. My understanding of Krugman's views of Keynesian Economics is that deficit spending is not the verboten that you seem to think it is. And my respect for Krugman's intelligence and integrity is such that I would look for better reasons for his pronouncements with which you disagree than that he is "disingenuous, can't count, or can't tell the truth." You, too, are intelligent and have integrity, so I tend to think that you and he are simply coming from different places, and come with different assumptions.
          I am not an economist and, so, can't converse long about this stuff, but our colleague Rolf Dumke, is, and, if anything, he seems to think more highly of Krugman than I do. Rolf is, unfortunately, not usually inclined to get into Internet discussions, or I would call out for his help to further defend Krugman.

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    2. Rolf's blurb from our sidebar:

      Rolf Dumke. An economic historian whose life-long, wide-ranging interests in the arts and sciences were inspired by Yale College courses, which provide ovided him a smorgasbord of great ideas. Has taught in Canadian and German universities, and today lives in Bavaria, near the Alps.

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    3. Ha, I see there's a BIG TYPO in that blurb ("provide voided")– I'll go fix it!

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  7. Not so much has views on deficit spending but that he takes it too far. Even Keynes said it was the short term in which deficit spending could be beneficial. One day we should discuss what the ACA has done to the self employed and their dependents it would illuminate my reservations. Again in this article I can find little fault, and I don't trust Ryan (or Trump) as far as I can throw a '55 Chevy.

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  8. On the birds the wife has tracked the arrival of painted buntings to SE FL for about 15 years usually to within a few days in early September, but they seem to vary their migration by conditions and may come as late as October.

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