Thursday, July 13, 2006

AROUND THE WEB 7-13-06

Cross-posted from Gus Van Horn

The fun thing about getting tied up enough to lose track of the blogs that you follow is that there's more good stuff sitting around for you upon your return!

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Cox and Forkum have posted a good cartoon and commentary on immigration.


Among the many excellent points in the commentary is one I can recall once being uncomfortable about, but not being able to figure out exactly why.
I also find suspicious the frequent invocation of "rule of law" by some opponents of illegal immigration. It's as if they think "rule of law" means to always obey the law no matter how unjust. From that perspective, blacks escaping Southern slavery and Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were all violators of the "rule of law."
On an unrelated point I have been meaning to mention here for awhile, I recall thinking, upon first seeing the photo of a recent desecration of the Statue of Liberty, that it looked like a Cox and Forkum cartoon. As it turns out, they'd bounced around an idea for just such a cartoon some time back!

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Diana Hsieh discusses one of my pet peeves -- cell phone interruptions -- in a particularly annoying context: lectures in a conference for which she paid good money to attend.
While most of the lectures are OCON were excellent, that value was frustratingly diminished for me by the routine ringing of cellphones during lectures, both general sessions and optional courses. At the opening of the conference, Dr. Yaron Brook announced that each cellphone ring would warrant a donation to the Institute of $250. If people pay up -- and they ought to, since every ring caused serious interruption to speakers and listeners -- ARI should see at least a few thousand dollars.

Yes, it was that bad. ...
I agree that it would be the honorable thing to do on the part of these individuals. However, I do wonder whether the organizers of the conference did anything to remind people before lectures to turn off their phones. Furthermore, given the severeity of the problem, it would seem that more drastic measure might need to be taken before the next conference. Perhaps the conference could advise attendees that it reserves the right to remove from the premises anyone who distracts others from the lectures.

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Andrew Dalton links to a story about a British sculptor -- who is a "shrugging" engineer in Britain.
Simon Willmott, 52, has ditched fixing radiators and boilers to turn his hand to making bronze or stone sculptures.

Mr Willmott, from Ruthin, Denbighshire, said red tape and rising taxation in his work as an engineer had led him to make the switch.
This reminds me of a story I read a long time back about a physician who quit his practice to avoid outlandish liability insurance rates. He became a dry cleaner and remarked that the worst he'd ever have to do is buy an unhappy customer a new shirt.

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Gideon Reich points to a book review of Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. A commenter notes the following passage from the review.
Mann is to be congratulated for giving us a picture of the Indian that respects his complicated humanity, but he still has no answer for the fundamental question raised by the collision of the Old World and the New: why were the Spaniards in Tenochtitlan, and not the Aztecs in Seville? [my bold]
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Blair notes with dismay that the notion of reparations for slavery is picking up steam.

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Sarah Beth alerts us to a good Alex Epstein piece on Enron and Ken Lay.
[Enron's] leaders were not honest with themselves about the nature of their success. They wanted to be "New Economy" geniuses who could successfully enter any market they wished. As a result, they entered into ventures far beyond their expertise, based on half-baked ideas thought to be profound market insights. For example, Enron poured billions into a broadband network featuring movies-on-demand--without bothering to check whether movie studios would provide major releases (they wouldn't). They spent $3 billion on a highly inefficient power plant in India--on ludicrous assurances by a transient Indian government that they would be paid indefinitely for vastly overpriced electricity.
Enron, far from being an example of the folly of greed, is in fact an example of the folly of whim-worship. Read the whole thing.

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Vigilis blogs about a feasibility study of Archimedes' Death Ray by students at MIT. They disagree with the conclusion of a recent episode of the Discovery Channel's Myth Busters.
Intrigued by the idea and an intuitive belief that it could work, MIT's 2.009ers decided to apply the early product development 'sketch or soft modeling' process to the problem.

Our goal was not to make a decision on the myth -- we just wanted to assess if it was at least possible to achieve in a simple manner, and to have some fun in the process. Jumping ahead, you can see the result... but let's start at the beginning.
Whatever you think of their efforts, they are far more impressive than another modeling "effort" I recently came across!
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Isaac Shrodinger points to a real gem by James Lileks on what Hollywood's new metrosexual (HT: Jennifer Snow) version of Superman might call "all that stuff".
"We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," said co-writer Michael Dougherty. "I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

Ah. Well, in the '40s, the American Way included incinerating German cities, nuking Japan, installing occupying armies and imposing our form of government -- all the while referring to the enemy with hurtful ethnic slurs. All this plus forced relocation. If these actions are deemed noble and idealistic now, it'll be a handy sentiment the next time the United States gears up for total war.
Fuck yeah!

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Hannes Hacker emails me news that Russia has launched an inflatable spacecraft that could pave the way for space hotels!
The basic concept calls for launching soft-sided spacecraft that could be inflated once they're in orbit. The walls are made from multiple layers of graphite-fiber composite materials, tough enough to stand up to micrometeoroids and orbital debris. Such modules would be cheaper to send into space, and allow for larger pressurized volumes once they were inflated.

Genesis 1 measures about 14 feet (4 meters) in length and 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter, and was designed to inflate in orbit to twice that diameter. The module is equipped with 13 cameras inside and out, and could transmit views of Earth as well as items floating inside the enclosed space for years to come.

[Las Vegas-based aeronautics company] Bigelow's time line calls for testing larger and larger prototypes, with roughly two launches per year, leading up to the launch of full-scale Nautilus-class modules each enclosing about 11,650 cubic feet (330 cubic meters), or roughly the volume of a three-bedroom home.

In comparison [to the $75 million spent so far by Bigelow], the international space station has cost on the order of $100 billion so far, and encloses about 15,000 cubic feet (425 cubic meters) of habitable space.
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Not that I condone vandalism, but ...


... some grafitti artists in Houston have recently asked themselves WWJD -- "What would Jesus drink?"

--CAV