Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Not the sharpest officer

I don't think I have read this story before, of how Auberon Waugh got himself shot by being remarkably stupid:
On National Service in Cyprus in 1958, Auberon Waugh, having ‘miraculously’ become an officer, was sent out with his troop to cover the Nicosia-Kyrenia road between the Turkish village of Guenyeli and the Greek village of Autokoi. This was during the civil war at the time known as the Cyprus Emergency, and the aim of the mission was to prevent either village taking reprisals against the other. While his men were getting into position, Waugh noticed that something was blocking the elevation of the machine gun on the front of his armoured car. He got out to fix it, taking the opportunity to ‘seize the barrel from in front and give it a good wiggle’. As recounted in his autobiography, the incident unfolds in a laconic slow motion: ‘I realised that it had started firing. No sooner had I noticed this than I observed with dismay that it was firing into my chest. Moving aside pretty sharpish, I walked to the back of the armoured car and lay down.’ Six bullets had gone through him, inflicting injuries that compromised his health for the rest of his life and contributed to his early death at the age of 61 in 2001.
That's from the start of a review of a book about him. 

Still not normal

Just took a couple of photos, in Brisbane's western suburbs, first looking West:

And this one is looking north-east, where and if you look carefully you can just make out some of the city high rise buildings in the smoke haze:

It is quite windy.  Not good.

Bizarre and sordid crime noted

Well, that must have been a challenge for Children's Services:  The Guardian reports on a truly unusual crime in England, in which the parents of 6 children (from their incestuous relationship) murdered two of them, and tried to kill the rest.

One very strange detail, perhaps indicating that the kids might not have had the best of educations?:
“The children believed and even told officers at the scene that their father was dead, having died in the second world war.”
(The eldest children were teenagers.)

Just lies continuously

In fact, whenever Trump claims that he is responsible for something that has never happened before, it seems like a 99% chance that it is an outright lie.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Some commentary on fuel reduction burns

As noted on Radio National, a couple of people with expertise in the area talk about fuel reduction burns. 
ROSS BRADSTOCK: The notion that there is some sort of conspiracy to stop hazard reduction is a piece of fiction.

ISOBEL ROE: He says there's more pre-burning happening in New South Wales than ever, but state agencies don't have the money to do the amount of burning needed to prevent fires like those in the state this week.

ROSS BRADSTOCK: Hazard reduction will only put a dent in risk. It will not eliminate risk, because the amount of hazard reduction you would have to do to eliminate risk is beyond the financial resources of the state. 

And someone from Tasmania adds (I am sure the transcript has an error here, which I have corrected):
ISOBEL ROE: Professor David Bowman works in pyrogeography, the study of wildfire, at the University of Tasmania.

ROSS BRADSTOCK BOWMAN: What we're really talking about here is the tension between a command-and-control and regulating the use of fire in the landscape and a more organic, self-organising use of fire: 'the old school' way of doing it.

ISOBEL ROE: And he says, as the population grows in semi-rural areas, the harder it is to light safe fires.

ROSS BRADSTOCK BOWMAN: And they're becoming increasingly complicated because of the effect of shrinking safe weather windows and increased intensity of the fires.
But as you come down into the settled areas, the complexity of planned burning increases. As you get more land tenures, you have to have more sign-off, more regulation, more agreement.

ISOBEL ROE: Professor Bowman believes the budget for hazard reduction burning needs to dramatically increase, not just to increase burning but to develop better ways of doing it.
Update:  there was more on this in The Guardian.

Factcheck: Is there really a green conspiracy to stop bushfire hazard reduction?

Short answer:  "no".

Hurricane damage revised, upwards

Michael Mann is heavily promoting a new paper that applies a more sensible way to assess whether destruction from hurricanes in the US has been increasing.  His thread starts with this:

and goes on to explain the findings of a new paper, but I won't copy all of the tweets:

A summary of the paper itself is at
Aslak Grinsted has calculated the historical figures in a new way. Instead of comparing single hurricanes and the damage they would cause today, he and his colleagues have assessed how big an area could be viewed as an "area of total destruction," meaning how large an area a storm would have to destroy completely in order to account for the financial loss. Simultaneously, this makes comparison between and more densely populated areas like cities easier, as the unit of calculation is now the same: the size of the "area of total destruction."

In previous studies, it proved difficult to isolate the signal. The climate signal should be understood as the effect climate change has on hurricane size, strength and destructive force. It was hidden behind variations due to the uneven concentration of wealth, and it was statistically uncertain whether there was any tendency in the . But with the new method, this doubt has been cleared. The weather has, indeed, become more dangerous on the south and east coasts of the U.S. Furthermore, the result obtained by the research team is more congruent with the used to predict and understand the development in extreme weather. It fits with the physics, quite simply, that global warming has the effect that there is an increase in the force released in the most extreme hurricanes.
 Roger Pielke Jnr is a famously obnoxious commentator on climate change, a trait he seemed to have picked up from his father.  (Both become nasty towards people who don't see things exactly the way they say things should be seen.)

I therefore predict that Pielke Jnr will be furious with this new analysis and will get into a flame war with those supporting it.

Monday, November 11, 2019


As I have complained bitterly before, Malcolm Turnbull wasted his dumping by not going on a rhetorical rampage about how the Coalition must purge itself of climate change deniers in its ranks for it to have credibility on climate related policy.   You should go and listen to the clip on Twitter of this ignorant twit (from a "financial" background, not science) claiming that the BOM is inappropriately adjusting temperature records:

And where is he from?   Queensland (of course) - the state that specialises in producing the stupidest politicians. 

Get them into it young...

Spotted this in The Guardian:

The caption:
Funerals are held for American Mormons killed in an ambush in northern Mexica.

The age of the kids wielding shovels is, um, a little weird, no?

When he produces the goods on condoms that men don't mind using, then he can talk tax...

I'm being a bit mean - there's not much doubt that Bill Gates is one of the better billionaires in terms of charity work; but I didn't like his hedging on Warren vs Trump last week.

Some people think he was talking in code:  that of course "the most professional" candidate would not be Trump.   And it's true, he may have concerns about the vindictive vanity of Trump would mean a complete freeze out from Federal government co-operation with Gate's plans.   (It has already stopped work on experimental nuclear in China.)

But really - if a basically decent billionaire can't say something like "if it was a choice between Trump and some weirdo genocide supporting communist Pol Pot, sure I would vote Trump.   Otherwise, as if I would vote for that idiot", then what's the point of being a billionaire?

Gates probably does suffer from over-confidence in his own judgement (I guess it comes with the billionaire territory), and I'm not sure that he has got that many runs on the board for innovation in areas that now interest him.   The research into better condoms, for example - where has that gone?   I'm not sure that his nuclear dreams are all that well founded, either.

And I'll end by noting this Onion article, which amused me:

Not normal

Brisbane from Mt Cootha lookout today, covered in smoke haze:

Honestly, it is hard to credit how stupid the Right has become (and an anecdote about certainty)

Over the weekend, I noticed this widely mocked D'Souza tweet (and I'll just add the commentary on it too, because it is completely accurate):

Some people wondered whether he meant the "is the Earth heading to a new ice age" issue raised in the 70's;  but not, his response seemed to double down on this being a valid analogy.   It's breathtakingly stupid, yet he had plenty of support from Trumpers on twitter.

Then other people notices a tweet from 2015 from someone who now works for Trump:

As the Raw Story report explains, though, she followed it up in 2015 with this:

Lots of people were sceptical and think that this was a mere attempt at a "save" when she realised the wild stupidity of her first tweet.   A Fox News contributor being sarcastic toward the then candidate Trump policy on building a Mexican wall?  I don't think so...

And apparently Hugh Hewitt used to be considered a reasoned, moderate conservative voice:  he's now a Trump suck up like 95% of former "reasonable" commentators on the Right:

Update:   I also read over the weekend about how Steve Kates used to be a long haired, pot smoking, fornicating (by the sounds) hitch-hiker through Europe in his younger days. 

Sounds like he would have been very certain of his Lefty (quite hippy sounding, actually) views back in the day;  now he is very, very certain of how appalling the Left are and how "damaged women" are ruining politics, etc, etc.   Here's another recent rant, about the Trump impeachment process:
We just get used to it but these people on the left, these people in the media, these socialist nobodies, wish to overturn the democratic process. They should be put in jail. Not only are these people corrupt to the core, not only are these people ignorant, not only are they attempting to overturn our political system, they are as incompetent in their inability to make sound policy as it is possible to be. We treat much of this like a joke, but that is only because they have been unsuccessful. In fact, they have only been partly unsuccessful. They should be treated as the traitorous scum they actually are.

AND LET ME ADD THIS about the person the left is trying to overturn as president: Trump will lead the NYC parade he saved. The Democrats are soul-sick and vermin. Their leading presidential candidates are policy fools with not a single moral scruple between them. They are liars and thieves, all of which is known.
I've said it before:   it's a good rule of thumb not to trust (or at least, have reservations about) people who were once 100% certain of one political or cultural thing, who then swing around to be 100% certain of the opposite.

I would even apply this to the religious.

I remember once, as a teenager, meeting with a group a good humoured country (Catholic, 50's-ish) priest (in a casual setting), and while I can't remember how it came up, he make a joking reference to the question of whether Heaven really existed.   His quip was something like "well, I certainly hope so, or else I've wasted a lot of my life."   I remember thinking at the time that this was somewhat endearing - a man who had devoted his life to the practice of a faith, but at some level intellectually willing to contemplate the possibility that it's not based on reality.   And take that possibility in good humour, not despair.

Even someone like CS Lewis (who switched from atheism to theism to Christianity) I put in the "not as certain as he liked to make out" category:  I think it fair to say he suffered a bout of late life grief induced doubt as a result of his wife's death.  Also, as we now know, Mother Theresa was worried about her faith, too.

Who knows, maybe Kates sometimes wonders whether he is on the right track.   But at least with silent doubters like Lewis and Mother Theresa, they were (for the most part) making generous gestures and statements towards others based on a faith that they sometimes had doubts about.

Kates, on the other hand, is just nasty and dumb - using extermination linked, fascistic language towards the Left while pretending it is only the Left that uses it against the Right.   A complete sucker for the Right wing spin machine that is uninterested in truth or fairness, and just absorbed in a culture war that isn't interested in facts or science.  Terrible.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Bedroom light

I took the photo, of my son's mess of a bedroom, yesterday because I thought the orange, smoke filtered glow reminded me of the Spielbergian use of light (in ET in particular).

He was packing to go camping with a group of old high school friends; his first adult trip of that kind.  We did a trial run through of putting up the tent we have not used for a few years, so he shouldn't embarrass himself in that regard.  Even better, I think, is that I understand he probably will have no mobile phone reception (it's the beach side of Fraser Island) for nearly all of the week.  I will be interested to hear how he copes with days of limited screen time.   Maybe it will rewire his brain?   Then again, if they are attacked by a pack of dingoes, it's a beach drive to get help.   

He'll be fine...but I will wonder what he is doing quite a few times a day.

Friday, November 08, 2019

A case study of flash flooding in one American town

What a neatly presented story here at NPR on a town in Maryland that has had to face up to major changes following deadly recent flash floods.  (It looks great on my laptop, anyway - not sure how it looks on a phone.)

Confirming what I have been saying for quite a while:  the increased intensity of rainfall is the one of the clearest, earliest example of the dangers presented by climate change. 

About Mormons in Mexico

I was waiting to read more about why there are a bunch of Mormons (breakaway ones at that, which usually means polygamy) in Mexico, and ABC Australia (Blessed Be this Broadcaster) is where I found it:
In the late 19th century, many high-profile Mormon families fled Utah's anti-polygamy laws and headed to the north of Mexico.

By the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, there were thousands of Mormons in colonies in Chihuahua and Sonora.

There have been major setbacks — many Mormons had fled back to the United States amid the violence of that revolution — but today there are estimated to be more than a million members of the Latter-Day Saints in Mexico.

According to Jason H Dormady, writing in Just South of Zion: The Mormons in Mexico and Its Borderlands, the farming and ranching town of Colonia LeBaron remains a place where "fundamentalist Mormon polygynists continue to thrive and struggle against the narcotics violence surrounding them in the 21st century".
The article explains more about the history of the LeBaron family.  

I did not know anything about this until now....

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Back soon

A bit busy with this and that, including having a swollen thing that shouldn't normally be swollen checked out.  Should be OK, he says hopefully...

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

I have more Melbourne Cup thoughts...

People claim that you just can't ban horse racing - there are too many people making a living out of raising, training, riding, and shooting horses to do that.

Ending an industry by government fiat is always tricky, hence I make the following transitional suggestions:

*  the ultimate goal:   a racing industry based on human ridden, robotic horses, powered by rechargeable batteries (to be charged from solar farms on former horse stud land)

*  transitional provisions:

a. University engineering schools to develop courses devoted to robot horses, and their rechargeable batteries (the entire economy will benefit from the latter).

b. Race meetings to immediately move to having half of all races run with jockeys and trainers in pantomime horses until sufficient robotic horses start to come on track.

c. All retired thoroughbred horses to be housed in spare bedrooms of the breeders.  That should solve the over-breeding issue.

I think this is a wise and reasonable suggestion.  If there was a way retired horses could shoot injured pantomime horses I would try to factor that in too, but I am a realist.

About Islam and dogs

Well, I didn't know the details given in this article about how nuttily upset with dogs some parts of Islam can be:
Followers of the Shafi'i school of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam, mainly found in East Africa and South-East Asia, are taught that dogs are unclean and impure.

If they touch a dog they must wash the area of contact seven times — the first time with dirt and the remaining six times with water.

This ruling is based on a hadith — a second‑hand account of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, which states:
"Cleanse your vase which the dog licked by washing it seven times and the first is with earth (soil)."
If the person fails to do so, their prayers are rendered invalid.

These rules also extend to clothes, dishes and other items with which dogs have contact.

This arduous purification process deters Shafi'i Muslims from having any encounters with dogs, which they have come to view as unclean, aggressive and dangerous.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, stray dogs that roam the streets, and even dogs kept domestically by non-Muslim neighbours, are avoided by Muslims at all costs.

What is the sense in the "first wash with earth" rule??

The rest of the article goes on to explain the controversy that some rather pro-dog Muslims have faced in Malaysia:
Syed Azmi Alhabshi, a Muslim-Malaysian pharmacist, is among the people encouraging more compassion towards dogs.

In 2014, he decided to organise an event called "I Want to Touch a Dog".

Held at a large shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, it attracted more than 800 people, 200 volunteers and dogs of different breed including poodles, golden retrievers and German shepherds.

It was designed to demystify dogs, but the event also exposed its organiser to criticism from doctrinaire Shafi'is and Malaysia's state-backed religious authorities, and even death threats.
Mr Alhabshi eventually spoke at a press conference apologising if he had offended Muslim sensibilities.

"With a sincere heart, my intention to organise this program was because of Allah and not to distort the faith, change religious laws, make fun of ulama (learned men) or encourage liberalism," he said.
The matter did not end there.

In 2017, the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (JAKIM) issued a religious ruling reprimanding a Muslim woman for uploading a Facebook post showing pictures of her pet dog Bubu.
JAKIM argued that keeping a pet dog violates the norms of the Shafi'i school and undermines Islam in Malaysia. 
Gawd.   Those parts of Islam with dog phobia need a reformation on the topic.

The new sweepstake

Which Melbourne Cup racehorse will be the first to be sent to a knackery?

By the way, I really dislike the word "knackery".  No explanation - it's just that it has an ugly sound about it.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Nations ruined by social media

Interesting opinion piece by an activist in the Philippines, who blames the incredible popularity of Facebook and other social media there as fuelling a corrupt but populist government:

Americans, look to The Philippines to see a dystopian future created by social media 
The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told me this month that the Philippines was used by that company as a “petri dish” for testing tactics used for behavior modification: among them, to disseminate propaganda and manipulate voter opinion. After all, Filipinos lead the world in spending the most time online (more than 10 hours a day) and on social media for the fourth year running. With Free Basics, Facebook is our internet.

Wylie said what Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL, learned in the Philippines and other countries in the global south, that they could “port” to the West. The United States had the highest number of compromised Facebook accounts in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The country with the second largest number of compromised accounts? The Philippines.

In Australia, meanwhile, climate change propagandist Sinclair Davidson has no problem with Facebook allowing political ads that are outright lies.  What a surprise. 

(My take on the matter of Facebook and political ads - if it is too much trouble to fact check them, just don't allow political ads, as Twitter has decided.   Oh, and it should enforce its astroturf rules too.) 

Greatest salesman says he can't be that great

I've noted Steve Kates' astonishing lack of self awareness many times.   I see that it is a trait shared even with his cult leader:

You ought to read the comments following, like these:

Start the week with the eternal return of Nietzsche

Hey, this article in the New Yorker is one of the best overviews of Nietzsche that I have read - not overly biographical (although the parts about his relationship with Wagner is amusing, and pretty new to me), but talks a lot about his contradictions and reception amongst philosophers.

Perhaps it helps that I can find plenty in there to justify my prejudices against his work?  I see I have Bertrand Russell on my side!

But back to Wagner.    I still haven't booked a ticket to see the Ring Cycle next year - perhaps I will today.  In the meanwhile:
She begins with the pivotal event in Nietzsche’s life: his introduction, in 1868, to Wagner, the most consequential German cultural figure of the day. Nietzsche would soon assume a professorship in Basel, at the astonishingly young age of twenty-four, but he jumped at the chance to join the Wagner operation. For the next eight years, as Wagner completed his operatic cycle “The Ring of the Nibelung” and prepared for its première, Nietzsche served as a propagandist for the Wagnerian cause and as the Meister’s factotum. He then broke away, declaring his intellectual independence first with coded critiques and then with unabashed polemics. Accounts of this immensely complicated relationship are too often distorted by prejudice on one side or another. Nietzscheans and Wagnerians both tend to off-load ideological problems onto the rival camp; Prideaux succumbs to this temptation. She insists that Nietzsche’s talk of a superior brood of “blond beasts” has no modern racial connotation, and casts Wagner’s Siegfried as an Aryan hero who “rides to the redemption of the world.” In fact, Siegfried is a fallen hero who rides nowhere; the redeemer of the world is Brünnhilde.

Prideaux’s picture of the Wagner-Nietzsche relationship fails to explain either the intensity of their bond or the trauma of their break. Early on, Nietzsche was hopelessly infatuated with Wagner’s music and personality. He described the friendship as “my only love affair.” As with many infatuations, Nietzsche’s expectations were wildly exaggerated. He hoped that the “Ring” would revive the cultural paradise of ancient Greece, fusing Apollonian beauty and Dionysian savagery. He envisaged an audience of élite aesthetes who would carry a transfiguring message to the outer world. Wagner, too, revered Greek culture, but he was fundamentally a man of the theatre, and tailored his ideals to the realities of the stage. At the first Bayreuth Festival, in 1876, Nietzsche was crestfallen to discover that a viable theatre operation required the patronage of the nouveau riche and the fashionable.
Personal differences between the two men provide amusing anecdotes. Nietzsche made sporadic attempts at musical composition, one of which caused Wagner to have a laughing fit. (The music is not very good, but it is not as bad as all that.) Wagner also suggested to Nietzsche’s doctor that the young man’s medical issues were the result of excessive masturbation. But the disagreements went much deeper, revealing a rift between ideologies and epochs. Wagner embodied the nineteenth century, in all its grandeur and delusion; Nietzsche was the dynamic, destructive torchbearer of the twentieth.
There is more about the two of them, but perhaps I have copied enough.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Late movie review - Garden State

I thought Zach Braffs' Garden State from 2004 had received mostly good reviews, and checking back on Rottentomatoes, I see I was right.

This article at Vulture, however, says by 2013 it had became popular to dislike it (although the writer then goes on to defend it.)

I thought it started promising, but lost me at about two thirds of the way through.   I kept having a problem with the character Mark - he's a real loser, and criminal, yet the Zack Braff character keeps hanging around with him.  I think I was particularly lost with the visit to the peeping tom motel - it looked completely unrealistic, felt tonally wrong, and it was quickly followed by the waaay too obvious "screaming into the infinite abyss" scene at the giant hole in the ground.  By this point, the movie became not just quirky, but trying far too hard to be quirky for quirks sake. 

The disclosure of the source of the main character's problems with emotions did not have much emotional impact.  And the ending was OK (I was touched by Natalie Portman's acting, actually), but it still felt a bit underwhelming.

Nice try, Zach, but I thought it felt like a movie that hadn't received other writers' input that it needed.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Paella revised

Here's tonight's paella dinner.  Chicken, some salami in lieu of chorizo, prawns, capsicum and beans.

I've revised the process, which I record here for my future reference.

Season chicken and fry in pan, set aside.

Fry capsicum and beans, set aside.

Fry one diced onion, and as much garlic as you like, briefly.  Add three finely diced ripe tomatoes, some chilli flakes, and fry until liquid from tomatoes is reduced pretty much to a paste.   Add salami or chorizo and fry a bit.

Add two cups of rice, two teaspoons of smoked paprika, and stir around a bit.  Add one litre of chicken stock.  
Add capsicum and beans back in.

Simmer for ten or fifteen minutes.  Add chicken back in, push into the rice and liquid.

Fry prawns briefly in separate pan. (Update - no, I should have done them early on in the paella pan and put them aside.)

When most liquid absorbed in paella pan, throw prawns on top, cover in foiland put in hot oven for 15 or so minutes.

Check that rice is soft enough and rest on table for 10 mins.  Take photo and eat.

Yes, no saffron means it is missing a key ingredient, but this is still good.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Who would be funding the Institute for Paid Advocacy for this?

It's been noted on Twitter that the IPA is running a campaign arguing that "race has no place in the constitution".

I'm curious as to which person/companies with money to spare would be funding the IPA to do this.   Gina "it's a pity I can't pay my workers $2 a day" Rinehart?   (Whose company, incidentally, just made a $2.6 billion profit.  Gee, I guess paying workers more than a pittance still allow her to make a profit.  Who knew?)  

But I could be wrong.  It could another ageing, shadowy, rich conservative who doesn't like to make the case him or herself directly.  But it just seems to me an odd thing to want to spend money on.

Answer: none

Cult watch, continued

Like all cult members, Steve Kates continues to find perfection in its head, Herr Trump, and horrifying lack of understanding (or pure evil) in those outside the cult:
The Democrats are full-on totalitarian socialists, would appear willing to use any means they can find to overturn the democratic process. The most astonishing part of the past three years has been the revelation how corrupt the left in the United States is, having commenced their efforts to spy on the Republican candidate while Obama was still president, and then cobble together absolutely anything to find some, any, justification to overturn the election result. Impeachment does not of course mean that the president will leave office but that he will go to trial in the Senate where it requires a two-thirds majority vote to remove the President. That will never happen.

The left has descended into madness, but that is no excuse for any of it. Not an ounce of principle on the left, while the most astonishing part of all of it has been how unblemished Donald Trump is, both in what he has done and in his basic personal integrity.
Can't someone in his family or university stage an intervention?    He needs to be de-programmed, although what to do about his inherent stupidity I'm not so sure.

Late for Halloween

I enjoyed this article at the Washington Post about the scary stories told at Nosleep forum at Reddit.

It's not that I am a fan of such amateur attempts at horror, but I still liked reading about someone who tried to come up with a popular story (and succeeded - for the short time that counts as "success" on a Reddit forum).   It's also cool that a few people who submit there find real screenwriting work that way.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

People to like / dislike

Prince Charles

Greta Thunberg

Jimmy Kimmel

On the dislike side

* Tulsi Gabbard

Blind fascism

I meant to post this tweet from (I think) last week, about a Federalist article:

Of course, the somewhat fascinating thing is that what we are watching is fascist supporters blind to their own support of fascist ideas.

Because they've spent a decade or two gaslighting themselves that they can see through the mega conspiracy of climate change (and "cultural Marxism"), they now also think they can see a Deep State conspiracy that is non-existent.

The books that are going to be written about this period in future....

Yet another thread of people questioning economic modeling of climate change

As I say, it's hard to keep track of useful links and discussion when discussion has moved off blog post comment threads and onto Twitter.  

But here's Ken Rice starting another thread on this topic.  What I don't understand is why the thread is different on my PC twitter feed to that I was reading on my phone at breakfast.

It's annoying...

Medical experiments of old

A review of a book looking at the wildly varying results of studies of testosterone begins with this anecdote:
On 1 June 1889, renowned neurologist Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard shocked his colleagues. Speaking at the Paris Society of Biology, the 72-year-old announced that a slurry made from the ground testicles of guinea pigs and dogs (injected under his skin ten times in three weeks) made him stronger. He also noted that his “jet of urine” lengthened by 25%.
One of the things quack Dr Morell used to inject into Hitler was ground bulls testicles, I think.  So it's interesting to see that the allure of this form of medication had such a long history even by World War 2.

Oh, yes my memory is correct.  I don't recall the claim that it was given to Adolf specifically to help his performance with Eva Braun:
The report also states that Morell injected Hitler with extracts from the prostate glands or ground testicles of young bulls, to boost his nearly non-existent libido ahead of a night with Eva Braun, his lover, who was 23 years his junior.

"Morell gave Hitler a preparation called Testoviron, a kind of testosterone preparation, usually before Hitler was going to spend a night with Eva Braun," Cambridge University historian Richard Evans said.

"Eva Braun was young and much fitter. Hitler was much older, he was lazy, he didn't take much exercise and I'm sure he asked Doctor Morell to help him out before he went to bed with Braun."
Update:  it has occurred to me - wouldn't extra testosterone be more likely to worsen the "jet of urine" than increase it?  Because testosterone helps prostate cancer, and I would have assumed that any enlarged prostate problems would be worse with higher testosterone.

However, a medical article indicates that my guess is probably wrong, at least for benign prostatic hyperplasia:
Most studies, however, have shown no effect of exogenous androgens on PSA or prostate volume for older hypogonadal males. In an RCT of 44 late-onset hypogonadal men, Marks et al. found that those treated with TRT did not have a significant increase in prostate tissue levels of testosterone or DHT, despite having significantly increased levels of serum testosterone. More recent evidence from placebo-controlled studies of hypogonadal men receiving androgen therapy, indicate that the differences between those men receiving testosterone and those on placebo were insignificant in regards to prostate volume, PSA and BOO.

These findings are echoed by Jin et al. who studied 71 aged matched hypogonadal patients. For younger hypogonadal patients, the zonal and total prostate volumes (TPVs) were significantly smaller than their aged matched eugonadal colleges whether they were treated with TRT or not. However, from mid-life, central, peripheral and TPV increased with age among healthy controls and men with androgen deficiency regardless of TRT. This demonstrated age is a more important determinant of prostate growth than ambient testosterone concentrations maintained in the physiological range for older men.
  Lower urinary tract symptoms in men are traditionally considered the ultimate clinical expression of BPH/BPE due to BOO. Nonetheless, LUTS are a set of subjective and objective symptoms, the causes of which are multifactorial and generally not disease specific. In fact, the natural history of LUTS is complex, and symptoms can wax and wane with time even without any treatment.
Although there is no double-blinded RCTs to date, current studies seem to demonstrate that either TRT does not worsen LUTS or that it may, in fact, improve symptoms. This is not a new concept; as early as 1939, Walther and Willoughby used testosterone to treat 15 men with “BPH” with the improvement in their LUTS over 2 years; although this treatment seemed to have been dismissed or forgotten for some time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Yet more way overdue climate economics scepticism

Further to yesterday's post:  there's been a good thread on Twitter about this, which I think you will find here.

And Ken Rice has tweeted a link to a paper from 2016 that appears to show (I only have time to scan it at the moment) that DICE models tested with 20th century growth show results nothing like what actually happened.

Interesting, but as I've been saying - why has it taken so long for people to question this whole field in the way that they finally are now?

Oh:  and someone on Twitter linked to an article on GDP effects of climate change that made some interesting points - but I am having trouble finding it now.   Keeping track of info via blogs used to be much easier than it is under Twitter.

Update:  Jason, do you have any idea what Graeme's story about you in the comment I have left is about?

Graeme - don't get optimistic.   99% of your comments are still going to be deleted, whatever they are about. 

Put in the "too good to be true" tray?

The story has been around for a week, but I should note it:
Erecting wind turbines on the world’s best offshore sites could provide more than enough clean energy to meet global electricity demand, according to a report.

A detailed study of the world’s coastlines has found that offshore windfarms alone could provide more electricity than the world needs – even if they are only built in windy regions in shallow waters near the shore.

Analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that if windfarms were built across all useable sites which are no further than 60km (37 miles) off the coast, and where coastal waters are no deeper than 60 metres, they could generate 36,000 terawatt hours of renewable electricity a year. This would easily meeting the current global demand for electricity of 23,000 terawatt hours.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Speaking of composers, and listening to classical music...

Further to my post on Saturday which included a link to a recording of Camille Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony No 3 finale:  I didn't know a thing about this composer, and didn't realise he was responsible for the famous Danse macabre, or The Carnival of Animals, which I am sure I have seen performed as well.  (I therefore presumably have seen his name on programs, but just never been curious to find out anything about him.)

Wikipedia has a long entry on his life, and I see that he was not just a musical child prodigy (as famous composers often seem to be), but he was interested in everything:
As a schoolboy Saint-Saëns was outstanding in many subjects. In addition to his musical prowess, he distinguished himself in the study of French literature, Latin and Greek, divinity, and mathematics. His interests included philosophy, archaeology and astronomy, of which, particularly the last, he remained a talented amateur in later life.
But as so often is the case when reading about famous people in the 19th century, illness and misfortune in their personal life was never far away:
Less than two months after [Camille's] christening, [his father] Victor Saint-Saëns died of consumption on the first anniversary of his marriage.[11] The young Camille was taken to the country for the sake of his health, and for two years lived with a nurse at Corbeil, 29 kilometres (18 mi) to the south of Paris....

Throughout the 1860s and early 1870s, Saint-Saëns had continued to live a bachelor existence, sharing a large fourth-floor flat in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré with his mother. In 1875, he surprised many by marrying.[6][n 10] The groom was approaching forty and his bride was nineteen; she was Marie-Laure Truffot, the sister of one of the composer's pupils.[58] The marriage was not a success. In the words of the biographer Sabina Teller Ratner, "Saint-Saëns's mother disapproved, and her son was difficult to live with".[5] Saint-Saëns and his wife moved to the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, in the Latin Quarter; his mother moved with them.[59] The couple had two sons, both of whom died in infancy. In 1878, the elder, André, aged two, fell from a window of the flat and was killed;[60] the younger, Jean-François, died of pneumonia six weeks later, aged six months. Saint-Saëns and Marie-Laure continued to live together for three years, but he blamed her for André's accident; the double blow of their loss effectively destroyed the marriage.[6]...
Saint-Saëns was elected to the Institut de France in 1881, at his second attempt, having to his chagrin been beaten by Massenet in 1878.[73] In July of that year he and his wife went to the Auvergnat spa town of La Bourboule for a holiday. On 28 July he disappeared from their hotel, and a few days later his wife received a letter from him to say that he would not be returning. They never saw each other again. Marie Saint-Saëns returned to her family, and lived until 1950, dying near Bordeaux at the age of ninety-five.[74] Saint-Saëns did not divorce his wife and remarry, nor did he form any later intimate relationship with a woman. Rees comments that although there is no firm evidence, some biographers believe that Saint-Saëns was more attracted to his own sex than to women.[75][n 10]
Elsewhere it notes:
 Saint-Saëns was a keen traveller. From the 1870s until the end of his life he made 179 trips to 27 countries. His professional engagements took him most often to Germany and England; for holidays, and to avoid Parisian winters which affected his weak chest, he favoured Algiers and various places in Egypt.[72]
Hmm...Algiers was at the time popular for the homosexual male tourist - Oscar Wilde and his boyfriend used to visit there - so I would assume that this might be a reason for suspicions about Camille too.

Anyhow, I wanted to note something about listening to orchestral music that I have realised after seeing that piece live on Saturday, and then listening to it at home using earphones on a mobile phone.   The earphone experience has a lot going for it.   I mean, with pop music I sometimes find it initially distracting that a vocal track is happening (so to speak) in the centre of my skull.   But if you like an orchestral piece, the immersive sense of being in the middle of it that earphones/headphones give can be pretty impressive.   Or maybe I am just liking hiking up the volume? 

Go on, put on your earphones and listen to that blast of organ at the start, and at a least a few  minutes more, and tell me I'm not right..:) 

It's a wonder he had time to compose anything...

As with (I suspect) most of the public, I might know the names of the big classical composers, and have heard some of their musical highlights, but know little of their lives.  Especially Bach - until I read this, I really don't think I knew the first thing about him:
I’ve talked to people who feel they know Bach very well, but they aren’t aware of the time he was imprisoned for a month. They never learned about Bach pulling a knife on a fellow musician during a street fight. They never heard about his drinking exploits—on one two-week trip he billed the church eighteen groschen for beer, enough to purchase eight gallons of it at retail prices—or that his contract with the Duke of Saxony included a provision for tax-free beer from the castle brewery; or that he was accused of consorting with an unknown, unmarried woman in the organ loft; or had a reputation for ignoring assigned duties without explanation or apology. They don’t know about Bach’s sex life: at best a matter of speculation, but what should we conclude from his twenty known children, more than any significant composer in history (a procreative career that has led some to joke with a knowing wink that “Bach’s organ had no stops”), or his second marriage to twenty-year-old singer Anna Magdalena Wilcke, when he was in his late thirties? They don’t know about the constant disciplinary problems Bach caused, or his insolence to students, or the many other ways he found to flout authority. This is the Bach branded as “incorrigible” by the councilors in Leipzig, who grimly documented offense after offense committed by their stubborn and irascible employee.

But you hardly need to study these incidents in Bach’s life to gauge his subversive tendencies. Just listen to his music, which in its ostentatious display of technique and inventiveness must have disturbed many in the austere Lutheran community, and even fellow musicians. Not much music criticism of his performances has survived, but the few surviving reactions of his contemporaries leave no doubt about Bach’s disdain for the rules others played by.
As the title to the post says - a big beer drinking habit and (by the sounds of it) oversexed, and he still had time for his extremely intricate brand of music.   Good thing smart phones weren't around then.

As for the number of children - you would think there must be many Bach descendants scattered through Europe.  However, it would seem that there are in fact none.

Great contributions by Jewish folk noted

The Spectator has a review of a book with the heading:

Is there no field in which the Jewish mindset doesn’t excel?

Norman Lebrecht celebrates the explosion of Jewish talent between 1847 and 1947 in music, literature, painting, film, politics, philosophy, science and invention

In the body of the review is this:
‘Between the middle of the 19th and 20th centuries,’ Genius & Anxiety opens,
a few dozen men and women changed the way we see the world. Some of their names are on our lips for all time. Marx, Freud, Proust, Einstein, Kafka. Others have vanished from our collective memory, but their importance endures in our daily lives. Without Karl Landsteiner, for instance, there would be no blood transfusion or major surgery; without Paul Ehrlich no chemotherapy; without Siegfried Marcus no motor car; without Rosalind Franklin no model of DNA; without Fritz Haber there would not be enough food to sustain life on earth.
 I don’t know if Lebrecht actually buys into so simple a description of scientific progress, or whether it is just a good, combative kick-off to a book, but either way the main thrust of the argument is inescapable. For the best part of the past 200 years a small and threatened minority has exerted a creative influence out of all proportion to their numbers, and whether they flaunt it like a Disraeli or a Bernstein, or a convert like Mendelssohn, whether they hate it like Marx, are religious or atheist, Orthodox or Reform, assimilist or Zionist, the one thing they share is their ‘Jewishness’.
It's a good argument, even allowing for the later negative contributions to economics, climate change, and political discourse generally of Steve Kates and Sinclair Davidson.   (Is SD himself Jewish or just married to one?  He certainly notes their feasts on the blog.)

And for an added bonus - I get to delete probably scores of comments by Graeme - for whom this post will be like 100% irresistible clickbait. 

EU history

OK, so I know pretty much nothing about the history of the EEC, the predecessor to the EU. 

Hence it was interesting to read this short article at France 24 about how Charles De Gaulle opposed Britain joining it in the 1960's.  (I had no idea that Harold Macmillan would have been waiting to join at that time).  Here is a (large) extract:

In November 1962, de Gaulle hosted then British prime minister Harold Macmillan, an Old Etonian with a famously Edwardian style, at the French presidential summer retreat of Rambouillet – an exquisite Renaissance chateau just outside of Paris. Macmillan was desperate to gain de Gaulle’s approval for British entry into the European Economic Community (EEC).

De Gaulle convened a shooting party for the very posh prime minister. The French president didn’t himself partake in blood sport, but loudly informed Macmillan every time he missed. “The General”, as de Gaulle is affectionately known for his role as head of the Free French during the Second World War, told his British counterpart that the UK would have to ditch its “special relationship” with the US if it was serious about joining Europe.

At one point, the General’s tough stance provoked Macmillan to burst into tears. “This poor man, to whom I had nothing to give, seemed so sad, so beaten,” de Gaulle told his cabinet. “I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder and say to him, as in the Édith Piaf song, ‘ne pleurez pas, milord’ (don’t cry, my lord)”.

De Gaulle kept Macmillan in the lurch for a while. Then he announced at a press conference in January 1963 his opposition to British entry into the EEC. He argued that the UK would want to “impose its own conditions” on what were then the bloc’s six countries. The “insular” character of the island nation across the Channel had created a politico-economic “structure” which differed “profoundly” from “that of continental Europeans”, the General postulated.

The UK “is maritime; it is bound by trade, by its markets, to the most diverse array of countries – and often the most far-flung”, he went on. “It has a lot of industry and commerce but very little agriculture – and its habits and traditions are very different.”

Upon hearing the news Macmillan wrote in his diary: “The French always betray you in the end.”

About climate economics

I had been posting for a number of years that economic modelling on the cost of climate change seemed dubious at best, and a complete crock at worst.  I was puzzled that Pindyck's criticisms didn't have more publicity.

I think this view has finally spread more widely, not only amongst science exaggerating political movements such as Extinction Rebellion, but more broadly into mainstream opinion.

I hadn't realised that controversial Australian economist Steven Keen had thrown his commentary into the mix too.   Now, I know a lot of people attack him for exaggerated attacks on various economic issues (house price bubbles especially, I think), but if he is right in his criticisms in this post, and in the video following, it does seem remarkable that it has taken this long for people to say "this can't be right".

I also note that last month And Then There's Physics had a post and thread about the related topic of Integrated Assessment Models.   Many good comments about them are to be found there. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Kates's wonderful world of cluelessness

I don't read every word of Steve Kates - honestly, I can only take so much of his Manichean-like shtick.   (He's actually Jewish, so said Sinclair Davidson in comments here once, which surprised me.)

But sometimes, I notice something so spectacularly un-selfaware, I can't help but marvel at what an utter nincompoop he is.

For that reason, I note that he was writing on the weekend, quoting an article about Lenin's rhetorical approach (my bold):
 Lenin constantly recommended that people be shot “without pity” or “exterminated mercilessly” (Leszek Kołakowski wondered wryly what it would mean to exterminate people mercifully). “Exterminate” is a term used for vermin, and, long before the Nazis described Jews as Ungeziefer (vermin), Lenin routinely called for “the cleansing of Russia’s soil of all harmful insects, of scoundrels, fleas, bedbugs—the rich, and so on.”...

When Mensheviks objected to Lenin’s personal attacks, he replied frankly that his purpose was not to convince but to destroy his opponent. In work after work, Lenin does not offer arguments refuting other Social Democrats but brands them as “renegades” from Marxism. Marxists who disagreed with his naïve epistemology were “philosophic scum.” Object to his brutality and your arguments are “moralizing vomit.” …

Compulsive underlining, name calling, and personal invective hardly exhaust the ways in which Lenin’s prose assaults the reader.
This from a man who is completely and utterly convinced that Trump has the "right sentiment" and is the saviour of Western civilisation.

Some quotes and links from here and there:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday equated migrants and refugees to the United States with vermin who will "pour into and infest our country."...

“The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”...

The 598 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List
All of Trump's ugly campaign rhetoric in one place
And today I see that retiree Rafe Champion has moved away from his routine utter gullibility in believing everything Jo Nova says about climate change to joining in to note:
Picking up the thread of Leninism that Steve described yesterday on the dehumanisation and destruction of opponents. This hit me when I saw the way the left dehumanised Pauline Hanson many years ago and more generally the Bush/Howard/Abbott/Trump derangement syndromes.
He thinks Pauline Hanson - the anti immigration populist from way back - was the one being "dehumanised"??   

Sinclair Davidson - you and your blog are sucking intelligence out of the universe.  Congratulations on your contributions to stupidity.

Update:  more from the world of utter un-selfawareness -

Update:   Cult member Kates opines today:
There has been nothing, absolutely nothing that has been done by Donald Trump that has been anything other than what those who voted for him expected him to do and has entirely been within the bounds of good policy.

Things learned

Over the weekend, I learned (via some ABC Radio National listening):

*  China is trying hard to break into the international film market, but they are having trouble given that they want their films to be both nationalist and appeal to other audiences.  (Their film industry is under close government control.)   God knows, with an awful attempt at a blockbuster like The Wandering Earth, they do have a way to go.

*  The world is running out of sand for concrete.  Apparently, you can't just use any sand (like from a desert), and hence too many countries are ruining too many rivers and lakes in dredging up sand.  Australia also apparently sold sand to Dubai for the construction of the Burj Khalifa.   Didn't know that.

* Cricket boxes, for the protection of male genitalia, don't seem to undergo much in the way of testing for efficacy.  And lots of sports result can result in serious injury with cycling (if I recall correctly) at the top of the list for numbers of injuries.   It's a good reason not to get into sport, if you ask me.