The Irish Harp

This part of the year is rightly their hour.

Elevating the tone

Right.  It's time to get more serious around here.

Hailstone Mountain

Our comrade Lars Walker has a new book out, as you may not know if you don't get over to his place as often as you ought.
Hailstone Mountain is an H. Rider Haggard-esque story, in which Erling is struck by a curse that could kill him slowly. In order to break the curse, he must sail north (along with Father Ailill, Lemming, and others) to confront the source of the magic face to face. Meanwhile, Lemming’s niece Freydis is kidnapped by her relatives from up in Halogaland, and it’s not a nice kind of family, so she must be rescued. And that sets off repercussions that could destroy the whole country. Erling must join forces with a bitter enemy to stave off a monstrous horror.
H. Rider Haggard was always a favorite of mine. I have his collected novels just a few feet away, in fact.

Elsewhere he offers an Irish song from the Clancy Brothers he particularly likes, as his St. Patrick's Day offering. It's a fine piece, but you'll get a lot more of that here. No reason to stop with only one such song!

Why, here's one now.

'Where Bacchus is sporting with Venus,' he says. Now that reminds me of another good song, this one in Latin.

I Sense a Sarcastic Disturbance in the Force

I haven't seen the series, but it has generated at least one review worthy of the time it takes to read it.
No critical love. No marketing oomph. No-name cast. Together equal — what else? — ratings smash!

Probably just coincidence, but the same kind of paradox confounded Hollywood some years ago, as it pondered the improbable success of another biblical movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” Of course, that international blockbuster had movie icon Mel Gibson. Not on screen, no. But it did land Jim Caviezel for the lead role. CAVIEZEL. That’s C-A-V …

And once Jim Caviezel was attached to star, it was practically inevitable that “The Passion of the Christ” would go on to become the all-time top-grossing R-rated movie in the U.S., and rake in over $600 million worldwide. As if. No, here again, we must admit, answers are elusive.

Now and then a right-wing critic will come out of the woodwork to fantasize about some imaginary silent majority of viewers hungry for inspiring, all-ages popular entertainment. But if there was some vast, under-served market for bible stories, then, obviously, Hollywood would be producing them.

Why is it?

First off, I'd like to start by begging Grim's forgiveness and indulgence.  I'm now FAR afield from why he granted me permission to post to his Hall in the first place.  A gracious host, he, and I am loathe to abuse that trust.

But I've been thinking (a dangerous prospect in the best of times); why is it that the media, and most especially the non-Catholic media, feels it is qualified to determine what the head of the Roman Catholic Church should or should not support as Church doctrine?  I suppose a lot of it is human nature.  We want people to believe as we do, and the choosing of a new Pope IS international news, so they feel they should comment on it.  By why is it that it seems to be Popes who get this scrutiny?

I can't even name the current Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church from memory, and I have no idea when was the last time they chose a new Patriarch.  But I CAN say, I don't recall any hand wringing about "will the new Patriarch support gay marriage?"  Likewise, I do not know who is the current Shia Grand Ayatollah.  The last one I recall was Ayatollah Khomeini, and he's been dead for decades.  Did anyone question the new Grand Ayatollah's stance on contraception?  No?  I can't recall any such discussion.  The current Dali Lama?  Anyone know his name?  His position on euthanasia?  I suppose I could look all this up, but it's actually irrelevant.  I know Pope Francis I's stance on gay marriage, contraception, and euthanasia.  The press won't let me not know it at this point.

But yet, none of these other religions led by a single figure receive this kind of scrutiny.  Why?  Is it just because there are 1.2 billion Catholics?  Is it because neither the Greek Orthodox Church, Shia Islam, nor Tibetan Buddhism are significantly represented in the US population?  I am honestly curious.


From Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago":
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking:  What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family?  Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? . . . The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!


It's amazing how few people you see when you go several miles out to camp in weather that is well below freezing. A fellow I once knew said, "If you could remove the pain, then everyone would be doing it."

I'm back. It's been a good run.

Bad data! Bad!

I enjoy AVI commenter BS King's blog "Bad Data!  Bad!"  The newest post takes apart a questionable study linking sugar consumption to depression.  Great embedded video, too.

Much writing about different kinds of sugar, other carbohydrates, nutrition, and "empty calories" doesn't pass the laugh test.  Add something like depression in and you can really go off the deep end.

And in other news, water remains wet

Today, in a move that shocked thousands of journalists, the Roman Catholic Church chose a Pope who plans on upholding Catholic Doctrine.  Amongst his other monstrous flaws (aside from being Catholic) the new Pope is not a woman, not a homosexual, not under the age of 75, not a non-white... he even has the audacity to be a JesuitSally Quinn was reportedly hospitalized with a case of the vapors.  The nerve of some two-thousand year old organizations!

"They fight, and this makes them happy."

Maggie's Farm pointed me to an article about the tribal warfare that broke out among anthropologists studying the Yanomami.  Napoleon Chagnon raised hackles among his professional peers by suggesting that
Yanomami men who were killers had more wives and children than men who were not.  Was the men’s aggression the main reason for their greater reproductive success?  Chagnon suggested that the question deserved serious consideration.  “Violence,” he speculated, “may be the principal driving force behind the evolution of culture.”  The article was seized on by the press, including two newspapers in Brazil, where illegal gold miners had begun invading Yanomami lands.  The Brazilian Anthropological Association warned that Chagnon’s “dubious scientific conclusions” could have terrible political consequences. . . . 
Scientists have since endorsed Chagnon’s Science article. “It shouldn’t be a shocking finding,” Steven Pinker, the Harvard evolutionary psychologist who cites the paper in his book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature:  Why Violence Has Declined,” told me.  “As a pattern in history, it’s well documented.”  Pinker said that he was troubled by the notion that social scientists should suppress unflattering information about their subjects because it could be exploited by others.  “This whole tactic is a terrible mistake: always putting your moral action in jeopardy of empirical findings,” he told me.  “Once you have the equation that the Yanomami are nonviolent and deserve to be protected, the converse is that if they are violent they don’t deserve to be protected.”

He really means it this time

Why Republicans should believe that President Obama's "outreach" is real and he's not going to pull the football away:
The president and his advisers believe that a grand budget deal would help an economy that is poised to take off.  Recent economic data, including February's strong jobs numbers, confirm their view that economic conditions are on the upswing.  If the president can contribute to fixing the budget mess, consumers and companies will spend more and the economy will blossom.  The president would be able to claim he revived the economy after the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  A grand bargain would also allow him to say that even though everyone thought Washington was broken, he was able to forge a deal that tackled a problem people tell pollsters they care the most about. 
Now, let's consider the glory associated with the outreach-as-trap theory.  If the endgame were to win the 17 Democratic seats necessary for Democrats to take control the House—a few seats won’t do—that would be an accomplishment, but not really one to light up the history books.  More important, it wouldn't reflect direct glory on Obama.
The comments are the usual Slate stuff about how Republicans don't want to work with Obama because they're evil and he's black.

We're not dead yet

Sarah Hoyt is a Portuguese immigrant science fiction writer whose work I've never read, but she has a good blog.  A post from earlier this week on the sorry state of public education drew an amazing number of comments with even more amazing horror stories.  (A favorite anecdote:  her son once let the cat out of the bag, informing his teachers that his mom used the public school as a babysitter for eight hours every day so she could get some writing done, after which his real education took place at home during the three hours or so after school let out.)

Today's post responds to the depressed nature of many of the comments:
Yes, our education is beyond screwed up.  BUT here’s the thing, fundamentally they’re not transforming anything.  Fundamentally, the US is descended from or populated by people who said “I can’t take this anymore” and moved.  That is a completely different stock from those who stayed. 
Even the Mexican immigrants who are simply walking over the border, are different from the ones who stay.   (In fact, our economy has caused a wave of returning immigrants who ARE fundamentally transforming Mexico – and good for them.) 
I don’t think most Americans – or most colonials in general – FULLY realize how different. The tendency of humans is to clan: to stay near family and childhood friends. It’s also territorial.  You cleave to familiar landscapes.  The only way to get masses of people to move, normally, is famine or war. 
Most of us and most of our ancestors (with exceptions) moved long before it got to that point.  That it wasn’t to that point is attested to by the fact that most of our/our ancestors’ relatives stayed behind.
Well, maybe I'll have to try her science fiction.

Between worlds

An adult who received a cochlear implant at age six reports that the brain interprets any unfamiliar sensation as pain.  He also reflects on the identity issues that have roiled the deaf community in recent decades:
Sometimes, I think back to one of the questions that I asked my mom before I got my [cochlear implant].  I asked her if I would be deaf or hearing.  She told me that I'd be both. I don't think that's true.  I'm neither deaf nor hearing.  I don't sign as often anymore, but I don't speak or hear well enough to be like hearing people.
Oliver Sacks wrote an excellent book about this: "Seeing Voices."  He spent time on an island -- Martha's Vineyard, I think -- with a very high proportion of congenitally deaf residents.  So many were deaf that an unusual number even of hearing people were fluent in ASL.   If he asked someone whether Joe So-and-So was deaf, they would stop and consider.  "Joe? Let me think.  Yes, I think old Joe was deaf."

The click heard round the world

Slate runs an interesting article about lock-picking in 1851 and the first shifting of the ground beneath Victorians' feet.

The bee in James Taranto's bonnet

Much as I like James Taranto on most subjects, I don't understand him at all on gender roles.  He's at it again today, writing about the historical effect on black society of a high ratio of women to men, and extrapolating to society at large:
As this column has repeatedly noted, women are hypergamous, which means that their instinct is to be attracted to men of higher status than themselves.  When the societywide status of women increases relative to men, the effect is to diminish the pool of suitable men for any given woman.  If most women reject most men as not good enough for them, the effect is no different from that of a low sex ratio.
Hmm, always have to wonder about that word "instinct."  Isn't it also possible that the supposed natural attraction of women to higher-status men is an outgrowth of the difficulty of women achieving status of their own, and that it's fading now along with those difficulties?  Hypergamity is nothing I've ever experienced, at any rate, so I'm a little disinclined to accept that it's an instinct.  Why would I look to a man to lend me status?   It's weird.   I want a man to be my partner, not my fairy godmother.  If women are getting used to being able to win their own "status," whatever that is and however important it is to them, maybe we'll see a trend in which they quit chasing a diminishing pool of higher-status men with nicer cars and start choosing mates on the basis of wild ideas like character, grit, good sense, and willingness to be good fathers.

Old Ghosts

David Foster reminds us that it has been a year since Neptunus Lex's sudden death.  Foster remembers him with links to some favorite posts, including this fine one about leadership.


What kind of a meanie wouldn't let me bring this cute little fella to class with me?

To tell the truth, if I were put in charge of all the difficult questions over where people should be allowed to take their animals, I'd rubber-stamp 'em all "approved."  But I still shake my head in dismay over a lawsuit brought under federal fair housing laws to require a school to accommodate a "therapy animal" prescribed to a student to supply her with "emotional support and attachment (reducing symptoms of depression), and physiological and psychological benefits."  The school bent over backward to accommodate her, too, insisting only that she couldn't bring her therapy animal into class or into food service areas.  Now they've agreed to pay her $40,000.

Still, I say:  bring all the therapy animals on.  I'm going to enjoy restaurants, doctor's office visits, movie theaters, and even plane rides a lot more if they're chock-full of animals.  I'd like to see a lawsuit over a therapy boa constrictor, or perhaps an elephant.  Elephants are a sure cure for depression and attachment disorders in my book.

Riding Out

Time to go, again.

The Savannah River, below Lake Hartwell

I will be in the Wild for a few days. I'd like to take up Tex's post on Natural Law when I get back. In the meantime you are in the good hands of each other, companions of the Hall.

Stodgy progressives

A couple of old Coyote Blogs from the good old days before Hope and Change.  First, how progressives are conservative:
. . . I must say that on a number of issues, particularly related to civil liberties and social issues, I call progressives my allies.  On social issues, progressives, like I do, generally support an individual's right to make decisions for themselves, as long as those decisions don't harm others. 
However, when we move to fields such as commerce, progressives stop trusting individual decision-making.  Progressives who support the right to a person making unfettered choices in sexual partners don't trust people to make their own choice on seat belt use.  Progressives who support the right of fifteen year old girls to make decisions about abortion without parental notification do not trust these same girls later in life to make their own investment choices with their Social Security funds.  And, Progressives who support the right of third worlders to strap on a backpack of TNT and explode themselves in the public market don't trust these same third worlders to make the right decision in choosing to work in the local Nike shoe plant. 
Beyond just the concept of individual decision-making, progressives are hugely uncomfortable with capitalism.   Ironically, though progressives want to posture as being "dynamic," the fact is that capitalism is in fact too dynamic for them.  Industries rise and fall, jobs are won and lost, recessions give way to booms. Progressives want comfort and certainty.  They want to lock things down the way they are.  They want to know that such and such job will be there tomorrow and next decade, and will always pay at least X amount.  That is why, in the end, progressives are all statists, because, to paraphrase Hayek, only a government with totalitarian powers can bring the order and certainty and control of individual decision-making that they crave.
Second, why the labor theory of value is lunacy.

People going "poof"

From House of Eratosthenes:
Liberalism is all about wishing things out to the cornfield
Which raises the question of:  What is the cornfield? This is the scary part: They don’t know.  They really don’t know.  Not even a little, tiny bit.  They are not like the semiconductor manufacturer working to make sure anything that might be a contaminant is kept outside of the million-dollar “clean room,” or the bartender telling the argumentative customers to “take it outside,” or the TSA checkpoint that keeps you from going into a secure area until you have been “cleared.”  Those agents possess a good, developed understanding of 1) criteria applied, and 2) where things should go when they fail to meet the criteria.  Liberals only understand the criteria.  It comes easily to them to say things like “There is no use discussing [blank] with someone like you, who can’t see [blank].”  You, then, are supposed to go away — but to where?  It’s completely obvious you aren’t supposed to take your money with you as you leave.  They’re building a society that “works for everyone” and you’re part of the “everyone,” at least when it comes time to pay taxes, regulatory fees and union dues.  How do you exclude the undesirables from an all-inclusive society that refuses to recognize undesirables?  This is the puzzle they’ve never managed to solve.
This rings true to me, but whenever the argument takes the form of "Liberals always. . .," I like to do the thought experiment of replacing "Liberals" with "Conservatives."  I suppose we all do our share of wishing people out to the cornfield.  On the other hand, I'm not sure conservatives expect liberals to leave their wallets behind when they go "poof."

Causation is hard

Fun with correlation-vs.-causation:  Why do climate activists hate longer lifespans?

H/t CoyoteBlog.

"Personnel and whatnot"

Screenshot of redacted EPA email produced in response to a FOIA request.  The message was sent under former Director Lisa Jackson's alternative identity "Richard Windsor," which she allegedly used to circumvent FOIA obligations.


Related:  activists try to FOIA the FOIA process.

Fighting fire with fire

Combatting leukemia with disabled HIV.



“ROLLERBLADING MEN INVITED VITRIOL UNTIL X GAMES.”  That's how you can remember the waves on the electromagnetic spectrum (radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray, gamma), in case you ever need to.  But then you'll need a mnemonic for the not-so-memorable mnemonic.

Y'all come on down

One more reason to move to Texas:   The Sunset Commission, which has led to the abolition of 78 state agencies and saved nearly a billion dollars in the 29 years since it was established.

If we turn out to miss one that we abolished, it's only too easy to bring it back.
Thanks to Bookworm Room for this video:

Which elicited this comment on YouTube:  ✬ ;`*❊ *`;✬ Ⓢ Ⓤ Ⓟ Ⓔ Ⓡ ✬;`*❊*`; ✬

More from McSweeneys

We can say we love each other all we want, but I just can’t trust it without the data. See also "Hello, and welcome to the interactive call center for my girlfriend."

Russian Driving

You know, I've occasionally suspected that our brothers at BSBFBs might be cherry-picking their Russian driver videos.

Not so, it turns out!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

More here:
I apologize that the thought ever crossed my mind, gentlemen.

Magic scissors

A tangled web indeed.  First a CDC politico tries to explain why $30 million in sequester cuts to a vaccination program would have killed the children while the President's magic powers could cut $60 million from the same program without hurting anyone.  My favorite part is at the end, addressing the White House's new program to "re-calibrate" its sequester message in the wake of a pile of Pinocchios awarded by those conservative troglodytes at the Washington Post:  The White House plans to "de-emphasize the veracity of its previous statements."

Speaking of…Science

I was walking with my wife in this morning's frigid sucker hole in the weather when I flashed on a solution to both of our age's major questions: where are the other intelligent life forms, and where is the universe's missing mass?

The answer is breathtakingly simple, and it solves both mysteries. 

The missing intelligences have been present all along, and they're still here.  They've just placed themselves inside Dyson shells.  We can't detect the intelligences because of the lack of emissions, other than gravity, escaping the shells.

The gravity part is key to the other solution.  The so-called missing mass currently is considered to be composed of "dark matter" that doesn't interact with the composition of our universe, except…gravitationally.  How convenient a set of characteristics.

The missing mass, clearly, is ordinary matter; it's just contained within all of those Dyson shells.  After all, there are a double potful of LGMs and BEMs, and they've all built these spheres.

Why would a species do such a thing rather than getting out and about, or at least shouting out their existence to the universe around them?  Speculating on the motives of an alien mindset—that really would be magical thinking.

I’m ready for my NSF and NASA grants, which I promise only to use for good.

Eric Hines