Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A fishy post

When I really want to bore readers, I like to talk canned seafood.

For canned fish of any kind, I generally avoid the John West brand as being unnecessarily expensive, even though it does seem to be generally of high quality.  (Or am I just a pushover for their advertising line which has been the same for what seems like decades?)  However, in my search for  canned mussels which are not from China, I saw a couple of months ago that JW are now doing 2 types of canned Spanish mussels, and this one (despite it being pretty costly at $4 a can) is really very nice:

Then today, I was looking for sardines for lunch, noticed that these were on special for $1.95, and found (a bit to my surprise, as I never thought of rosemary as a flavour that would go with sardines) that they were quite delicate and delicious:

If only I were an "influencer" and thereby make money boring people...

Good news if you're thinking about a time travel story...

...as I have been.  Here:

How Quantum Computers Could Kill the Arrow of Time

Here are some extracts:

Very orderly and very random systems are easy to predict. (Think of a pendulum — ordered — or a cloud of gas filling a room — disordered.) In this paper, the researchers looked at physical systems that had a goldilocks' level of disorder and randomness — not too little, and not too much. (So, something like a developing weather system.) These are very difficult for computers to understand, said study co-author Jayne Thompson, a complexity theorist and physicist studying quantum information at the National University of Singapore. [Wacky Physics: The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]

Next, they tried to figure out those systems' pasts and futures using theoretical quantum computers (no physical computers involved). Not only did these models of quantum computers use less memory than the classical computer models, she said, they were able to run in either direction through time without using up extra memory. In other words, the quantum models had no causal asymmetry.

"While classically, it might be impossible for the process to go in one of the directions [through time]," Thompson told Live Science, "our results show that 'quantum mechanically,' the process can go in either direction using very little memory."

And if that's true inside a quantum computer, that's true in the universe, she said.

Quantum physics is the study of the strange probabilistic behaviors of very small particles — all the very small particles in the universe. And if quantum physics is true for all the pieces that make up the universe, it's true for the universe itself, even if some of its weirder effects aren't always obvious to us. So if a quantum computer can operate without causal asymmetry, then so can the universe.

Of course, seeing a series of proofs about how quantum computers will one day work isn't the same thing as seeing the effect in the real world. But we're still a long way off from quantum computers advanced enough to run the kind of models this paper describes, they said.

What's more, Thompson said, this research doesn't prove that there isn't any causal asymmetry anywhere in the universe. She and her colleagues showed there is no asymmetry in a handful of systems. But it's possible, she said, that there are some very bare-bones quantum models where some causal asymmetry emerges.

Martian lifeboat is full of holes

It's worth clearing your cache (if you have visited Wired too often already) to read this article: 

Sorry, Nerds:  Terraforming Might Not Work on Mars

Rainfall intensity increases are not in your (or my) imagination

I've been posting for years about my impression that an increase in rainfall intensity is one of the first obvious, and underrated, disastrous effects of climate change.   [Go on, use my blog search bar at the side for the topic "rainfall intensity".]   I noted in 2015:
My strong, strong hunch is, however, that at least South East Queensland (if not other parts of the country) is now clearly undergoing the type of intensification of rainfall that was always expected under global warming and is suffering badly for it.  

Last Friday's rainfall was deadly, remarkable, and unseasonal across most of the South East, but particularly just to the north of Brisbane.   It reminded me of the intensity of rainfall that led to the Lockyer Valley disasters in the 2011 floods - where all forms of normal drainage (and Brisbane's drainage is built to sub-tropical standards) is so overwhelmed  that the flood is disastrously out of the norm in terms of suddenness of onset.    

But I'm not sure whether we are getting a good analysis of this in a timely fashion.
Well, it took them a while, but we now seem to have a paper which confirms the hunch, and it is getting plenty of publicity.

The SMH writes:

"Unique and alarming": Engineers to be tested as rain events intensify

which ties in neatly with my recent complaint here:  
...sure, in theory, you can argue that flood prone cities can prepare themselves by spending more on higher capacity drainage systems.  But replacing pipes and drains of one diameter that used to be adequate 100 years ago with significantly larger drains to cope with the increased frequency of intense, overwhelming rainfall, is  surely going to be very expensive; and for a regional government it is not going to be clear which particular location is going to face an unexpected downpour first.

Why on earth should I think that the economic modelling of climate change effects could be accurately making estimates of that when tallying up the figures for their estimates of when the benefits of climate change crosses the line of being clearly outweighed by the harm?    I would think they can put a rough estimate of of the cost of increased damage from flooding - they've got some historical guidelines for that - but as flooding increases, governments will be under pressure to pre-empt them by the expensive sorts of capital works that I would think is very, very hard to estimate.

Even the Courier Mail appears to be covering the story with the some headline about "freak superstorms" and making reference to infrastructure too.  Good.

As for a science site that explains a bit about the study, try Science Daily:
Published today in Nature Climate Change, the study shows that in Australia:
  • Extreme daily rainfall events are increasing as would be expected from the levels of regional or global warming that we are experiencing
  • the amount of water falling in hourly rain storms (for example thunderstorms) is increasing at a rate 2 to 3 times higher than expected, with the most extreme events showing the largest increases.
  • this large increase has implications for the frequency and severity of flash floods, particularly if the rate stays the same into the future.
Dr Selma Guerreiro, lead author, explains:
"It was thought there was a limit on how much more rain could fall during these extreme events as a result of rising temperatures.
"Now that upper limit has been broken, and instead we are seeing increases in rainfall, two to three times higher than expected during these short, intense rainstorms.

Papal infallibility has got nothing on this guy

So, Sinclair Davidson posted about an article by the GOP conservative Senator Orrin Hatch in which he called for:

... a détente in partisan hostilities, an easing of tensions that can be realized when both sides adopt certain rules of engagement—norms to rein in the worst excesses of the culture wars.

This led to this response by one of the (likely geriatric) culture war/climate change losers in comments (with support from a few others, including uber 50's Catholic CL):

I used to have to argue with Lefties about this:    it's an obvious mistake to start thinking that Reason gives you only one answer in politics.   They are many ways to "reason" about people, politics and a bunch of other stuff - don't start claiming in politics that your side is the only one that has "reason" on its side, as if it is the equivalent of a message from God telling you that you have the One True (and Self-evident) Answer to complicated  matters.

The times have changed and it is now typically the Wingnut Right who are more likely to claim the mantle of infallibility based on "Reason."

What's worse, my complaint about the overclaims for Reason does not apply to the matter of facts.    Wingnuts, with their climate change denialism, don't even get to first base on the matter of the credible use of reason on that crucial issue, because they do not even accept facts.  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Another view of that building...

I let a weekend slip by without providing another photo of that building made of wood and glass.  Here you go:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The slippery polls

Congratulations are due to Bill Shorten and Labor on the wins in this weekend's by-elections, when most pundits (and, I think, polling - but more on that next) had seemed to prepare us all for the historically rare  scenario of an Opposition losing in at least one of the seats up for grabs.  Instead, Bill got what could be called "a beautiful set of numbers", and with Longman's result in particular, he must be feeling very happy:

Re the polls:  I saw on Twitter just on Friday some 2PP figures from Newspoll which looked better for Labor and made me think they may well be OK in Braddon and Longman after all.   So congratulations to Newspoll for at least predicting the winner accurately, again.  (Actually, they polled both seats as 2PP 51/49 to Labor, so they underestimated the Labor result.) 

The downside for Shorten is that on a national level, recent Newspolls have also shown a narrowing of the 2PP down to 49% to 51% for Liberal/Labor.  Given that I normally would allow the incumbent government to pick up a bit during a full election campaign, I think it's still going to be quite a close Federal election.   But Turnbull now has no incentive to call it early (I bet he would have if he won a seat off Labor this weekend) so a lot in change in the next 6 months.

As for the nutty Right's reaction:   I couldn't be bothered reading the Catallaxy thread about it in any detail - as you would expect, it was all about Turnbull not being right wing enough, with many longing for the destruction of the Liberals under him so that from the ashes a truly conservative force in politics will arise to slash taxes, spending & immigration, sell the ABC to Gina Rinehart, etc.   Yes, they think the rise of Trump tells us something about where politics is heading: because they are his people - white, dumb (or at least, wilfully misinformed) and old. 

Sinclair Davidson, on the other hand, despite being pro-migration and relatively pro-Turnbull, will presumably continue to do his own bit to hurt Liberals if he keeps going on about privatising the ABC.

Seems to me that it doesn't matter whether they are of conservative or libertarian bent over there - they are all clueless about policies that actually are electorally popular.   Good.

Metrosexuals of the 18th Century

Boring, ageing right-wingers of today are always complaining about how so many modern young men are voluntarily emasculated metrosexuals, unlike the grand old days when men were real men, etc, with no appreciation that the very same talk had been around a couple of hundred years ago in Britain (and, I expect, other advanced countries).  Read this rather amusing review of a book about the Macaronis of Britain, around the heyday of Captain Cook.  Here's a taste:
As Peter McNeil’s Pretty Gentlemen efficiently illustrates, masculinity was a muddled business in 18th-century Britain. It masqueraded in different guises, literally: in costume, in print culture and on the stage. McNeil narrows in on the ‘Macaroni men’, those dedicated followers of fashion, deliciously lampooned in literature and yet central to the social, sexual and cultural history of Britain from 1760 to 1780....

The Macaroni, he explains, were the fashion eccentrics of the 18th century, marked by their distinctive sartorial preferences: heeled shoes, black satin bows in their hair, fitted jackets, tiny tricorns, elaborate wigs and eyeglasses. They were too loosely organised to constitute a subculture, but from the composite account that McNeil puts together, it is clear that the Macaroni could be as outré as punks once were and as affected as hipsters still are.

For a period of around twenty years, their style seeped into every aspect of public life. Their image was reproduced in stylish portraits and comic prints; their look was emulated by the leisurely classes and roundly mocked by most others. McNeil helpfully describes their identifying characteristics and then determinedly spots them everywhere – from Julius Soubise, a freed slave petted by the Duchess of Queensberry, and Charles James Fox, that most eminent British statesman, to Richard Cosway, the society portraitist, and Joseph Banks, the butterfly-catching botanist who sailed the South Seas....

I have posted a bit about Joseph Banks before.  I assume his fashion habits must have been a bit dandified when back in England, but I don't think he was considered anything other than enthusiastically heterosexual, given his stories of adventures with the South Pacific islanders.   However, the sexuality of other Macaronis (the name being partly derived from their fondness for visiting Europe) was questioned:
They were, McNeil suggests persuasively, a living embodiment of cosmopolitanism in an age of anxious nationalism. And so it makes sense to locate them in the tradition of carnival, burlesque and carousing, a gleefully festive and subversive upending of received attitudes, manners and hierarchies. 
This argument makes most sense in terms of the Macaroni man’s ambiguous relationship to conventions of gender and sexuality. McNeil’s detailed account of Macaroni trends – large floral corsages, chatelaines or hanging watches, finely turned canes, decorative snuff boxes, the use of cosmetics, face whiteners, rouge, breath fresheners, even preferred drinks (asses’ milk!) – suggests a profound challenge to ideas of patrician or military masculinity. Trawling through archives of prints and portraits, McNeil assembles a remarkable vision of the Macaroni: canes dangling insouciantly from wrists, toweringly tall toupees dressed with pomade and powder, arresting colours – ‘pea-green, pink, red and deep orange, garnished with a great deal of gilt’. We are accustomed to critiquing the male gaze that is habitually turned to scrutinise female bodies, but here the Macaroni is such a staggering spectacle that we might reflect on the idea of a male gaze powerfully scrutinising the male form too.

Crucially, in McNeil’s account, the Macaroni is an indeterminate personality, not fixed in gender or sexuality. It isn’t obvious that the apparently effete figure of the Macaroni automatically signalled homosexuality, but it is clear that their uniform, habits and culture provided a different and widely disseminated form of masculinity. The Macaroni presented an alternative model of social conduct, concerned with manners and deportment, keen to make visible the consumption of luxury goods and to engage in acts of self-care rather than displays of machismo and swaggering swordsmanship.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

About those Northern summer records

I see that Axios has a handy list of recent broken records:

The big picture: All-time high temperature records, along with heavy rainfall milestones have fallen as a warmer, wetter climate exerts its influence on day-to-day weather. Here are just a few of the records set so far:
  • In North America: Los Angeles set an all-time high temperature record of 111°F on July 6. Montreal, Canada also set its all-time high temperature record, during a deadly Quebec heat wave in early July. This week, Death Valley, California, has broken three straight daily records with a high of 127°F.
  • In Europe: Unprecedented heat led to a wildfire outbreak in Scandinavia, and record highs have been set all the way above the Arctic Circle this month. According to the U.N., Sodankyla, Finland hit 89.2°F, or 31.8°C, on July 17, which was an all-time record for that location.
  • Friday was the hottest temperature on record in Amsterdam, at 34.8°C, or 94.6°F.
  • Remarkably, in northern Norway, Makkaur, set a new record high overnight low temperature of 25.2°C, or 77°F, on July 18.
  • Heat records have also fallen in the U.K., Ireland and France. In London, high temperatures hit 35°C on Thursday, and were forecast to potentially eclipse that on Friday. The U.K. is suffering through one of its driest years on record.
  • In the Middle East: Quriyat, Oman, which likely set the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28, when the temperature failed to drop below 109°F, or 42.8°C.
  • In Africa: Ouargla, Algeria, may have set Africa's all-time highest temperature on July 5, with a reading of 124.3°F, or 51.3°C.
  • In Asia: Japan set a national temperature record of 106°F, or 41.1°C, in a heat wave that followed deadly floods. 
Of course, Southern hemisphere dimwit's think that a colder than usual winter in Australia means there's nothing to worry about.    

In the selfie mirror

It must be testament to my selfie uninterested age that I had not realised until this morning that when using the front facing camera on mobile phones, they flip the image on the screen so that it looks the same as a mirror image.   The photos taken then are also a mirror image, unless you go into settings and tell it to stop doing that.   The mirror image photo is a default on all phones, I gather.

I guess everyone under 50 who has taken a selfie with words on their T shirt has realised this.  But if you are over 50 and take about one selfie every year, it's easy enough to miss this.  

Friday, July 27, 2018

Twitter considered (and a Trumpian piece of stupidity found)

I find it very frustrating when you read a good tweet over breakfast that I'd like to re-post here, and then a couple of hours later you can't find it again.   Twitter search is not as good as it should be, either.

I might keep looking, later...

Update:  here it is:

Not all economists.  There'll be at least one RMIT economist (Kates, of course) who will find a way to process his cult leader's words in some fashion that he thinks makes sense. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A neat combination

So, UFOs may be time travel machines, and aliens very evolved humans from the future.  I've toyed with that idea in my head for some time, but I don't think I had thought to drag in the Men in Black, too:
Then, there is the matter of the sinister Men in Black. They are perceived by UFO researchers as human-looking alien creatures or government agents, whose secret role it is to silence UFO witnesses, something that history has shown they are very good at. Maybe, though, the MIB are not the bad guys, after all. Perhaps they are “time-cops,” working to ensure that UFO witnesses don’t get too close to the truth – namely, the time-travel angle. After all, just about everything about the MIB is out of time. They almost always wear 1950s-era black suits. Their mode of transport – old-time Cadillac cars – is out of time, too. They have even asked witnesses, on more than a few occasions: “What time is it?”

Maybe they’re actually asking what year they’re in. Or even which century. Perhaps, in the distant future, little is known of our time. Maybe we destroyed ourselves and, as a consequence, the people of the future are tasked with repairing the planet and doing their utmost to save what is left of our species. Possibly, they have limited knowledge of our culture and even our fashions, apart from what they know from the pages of aging, crumbling old magazines from the 1950s. So, they adopt the attire they assume will allow them to blend in with the people of the 21st century, when, in reality, it’s the exact opposite. The MIB stand out like a sore thumb. Or, like a man out of time.

Paranormal researcher Joshua P. Warren comments on this link between time-travel and the Men in Black: “It could be that the Men in Black follow all this UFO stuff around; that’s their job. Not that they are causing these things to happen, but they’re alerted to it when there’s a dangerous timeline issue that needs to be corrected. They’re not necessarily the bad-guys at all; they might be doing damage control, and maybe that includes warning and silencing witnesses to protect the time-travel secret. They might be weird, and they might look weird, but their overall mission may be just to keep order and protect the timelines.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A study to believe in

Look, it's probably been debunked somewhere already even as I type this, but if ever there was a study that gets from me a "I want to believe" response, it's this:

Study: Drinking Alcohol More Important Than Exercise to Living Past 90

More idiocy

So Trump, talking today, has confirmed again that he thinks F35s are literally invisible;  has primed his wingnut cult followers to believe that if Democrats do well in the mid terms, it will be because Putin has changed allegiances; and gone completely Orwellian in his attacks on the free media (not that he would have ever read him.)  Jeez, even the imagery, with the silly uniform of the audience, looks Orwellian:

He is also having to offer government to bail out his mid West soy farmers, presumably from the deliberately depleted tax revenue:
Corporate tax receipts in June were 33 percent lower than a year ago, according to data released by the Treasury Department Thursday, as companies made smaller estimated payments due to the reduction in their tax rates. Total receipts were down 7 percent, while payroll taxes were 5 percent lower compared to June 2017....

“More broadly, the federal deficit is swelling as government spending outpaces revenues,” Rubin wrote. “The budget gap totaled $607.1 billion in the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, 16% larger than the same point a year earlier.”

But the anti Trump New York Daily News has put off staff, so all Tim Blair can muster is his Nelson Muntz act of "ha ha".   Yeah, 'cos that's what's important at the moment.

What a disgrace

From the Washington Post:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was speaking at an event hosted by the conservative group Turning Point USA on Tuesday when the crowd began to chant, “Lock her up.” The phrase was a common refrain among supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and referred to the desired punishment for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Sessions, whose position advising that campaign was parlayed into one as the nation’s chief law enforcement official, chuckled.
“Lock her up,” he said.
Jones, host of “Infowars” and “The Alex Jones Show,” posted the video Monday on his personal YouTube page, making the unsubstantiated claim that Mueller is responsible for child rape. Jones alleges that Mueller, leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement with the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign, covered up for billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who spent 13 months in jail for soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14.

“That’s the thing, is like, once it’s Mueller, everyone’s so scared of Mueller, they’d let Mueller rape kids in front of people, which he did. I mean, Mueller covered up for a decade for Epstein kidnapping kids, flying them on sex planes, some kids as young as 7 years old reportedly, with big perverts raping them to frame people. I mean, Mueller is a monster, man,” said Jones.

“God, imagine ― he’s even above the pedophiles, though. The word is he doesn’t have sex with kids, he just controls it all. Can you imagine being a monster like that? God.”
Yeah, but the more serious problem in America is that stupid young Lefties shout down Right wingers at colleges, hey Jason?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Let's talk STDs - again!

I'm a few episodes in to the British series The Frankenstein Chronicles, and it has grown on me.   As I noted in my first post mentioning it, rather unusually for any TV series, the main protagonist is suffering from syphilis at a time (early 19th century) when there was no cure, and it has become  increasingly clear just how important this is to the story.   My long time readers will know that I find it fascinating how people for centuries just took the huge risk of catching a horrible, deadly disease with no cure from illicit sex, and the devastating effects it could have on families.    You would think there must have been men guilt ridden from causing not only their wives to be condemned this way, but also their babies, yet this is the first fictional show or movie that I can remember it ever being incorporated into a story.   

Anyway, after the depressing story of syphilis making a come back in Queensland aboriginal communities, I see from The Guardian that it's making a come back in the UK too:
Last year, almost half a million cases of STIs were recorded in England and Wales, while clinic attendances rose by 13%. The most common diagnosis was chlamydia – easily treated with antibiotics, although it can cause pelvic pain and infertility if left. But what is ringing alarm bells is a rise in cases of gonorrhoea, up tenfold since 2008, and syphilis, an infection that had virtually been wiped out in Britain but is now running at levels not seen since the second world war. The rise is mainly among men who have sex with men, but not entirely. The Victorian spectre of babies born with syphilis is back, with three newborns infected by their pregnant mothers last year.
Much of the article is then about NHS funding cuts to STD clinics and how that has contributed.   I don't quite understand - it makes it sound as if no one in England ever just goes to their GP for a test and diagnosis if they are worried about an STD.   Anyway, I thought this exchange in comment in the thread following the article was pretty funny:

Some serious moral thinking on Trump

I don't visit the Weekly Standard any more - I forget which writers there bothered me too much.

But via Twitter I saw a recommendation for this article:  The Moral Ledger, and it's really good.

It's all about criticising those conservatives who argue that under Trump, some things are going well, so you have to balance that up against the nutty, dysfunctional side of the White House to work out how well his Presidency is doing overall.    It starts:
In recent months, a consensus has emerged among the conservative dissidents of the Trump era: We’ll continue to oppose the president when his policies and practices are counter to our principles, they say, but also be sure to publicly give credit whenever he stakes out an agreeable position on any issue that matters. During the campaign, obdurate opposition served the purpose of challenging his candidacy and elevating his competitors, but now, with Trump sitting in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, it smacks of sour grapes—and, given that he does do things with which we agree, it amounts to cutting off our noses to spite our faces. So, serve as the loyal opposition as necessary but join the cause when possible.

It is a coherent approach. It is the pragmatic one. But it is unsatisfying and unsettling. And with each casual lie, crude insult, attack on the media, slight of the intelligence community, and example of grotesque servility to Russia’s dictator, it increasingly appears morally misguided. 

The first problem with itemizing and compartmentalizing is that actions can’t be treated as discrete. In politics, they are the direct result of a system’s arrangements and a leader’s philosophy. They reflect the larger enterprise. We deceive ourselves by separating quiet streets from the oppressive police state that brought them about. We shouldn’t laud an initiative to aid the impoverished if it’s part of a Rawlsian undertaking that continuously impinges on liberty. Support for modernizing an outdated social convention is irresponsible if the larger agenda aims to replace all traditions with state-controlled institutions. In other words, we have to be mindful of a position’s pedigree and its role in a broader program. If President Trump has a modus operandi, it is the control, manipulation, and distortion of information: hiding his tax returns, meeting with Putin alone, firing the FBI director investigating him, lying habitually, undermining the media, pitting staff against each other. We are being purposely obtuse if we don’t assess his executive actions in this context. Our constant need to cordon off specific Trump actions from others is a red flag waving in the wind.

Almost every leader in history has had some redeeming characteristic or some defensible initiative. Even profoundly objectionable figures and the profoundly objectionable systems they created were often able to persist because they provided some good to some number of people—the making-the-trains-run-on-time argument. But time judges unkindly those who cheered the timely trains. Some of history’s most ghastly arrangements have been defended by relentlessly pointing to some number of their benefits and turning a blind eye to their costs. This does more than debase debate, it does long-term harm: It serves as a conscience-protecting strategy exactly when our consciences shouldn’t be protected. 
 And later this paragraph:
Of course, there’s a certain adolescent glee in deriding and dismissing old, stuffy things like modesty and prudence—in laughing off Trump’s Twitter taunts, congenital dishonesty, and breaches of protocol. Stop being so dramatic, they say: None of that really matters—we got tax cuts! They cry Gorsuch as if it were downright silly to handwring when the plus-side entries are tangible bonanzas and the minus-side entries are intangible norm-breakers like “attacking the media” and “insulting longtime allies.” But we are only able to scoff at the violation of longstanding conventions if we believe standards of behavior are just polite society’s decoration, the moral frippery of prigs. But norms are our community’s load-bearing walls. Undermine them too often, and the edifice will collapse.
 Yes, watching alleged conservatives, especially conservative Catholics, not only laugh at, but applaud things like his constant, authoritarian attacks on the media, or the routine vilification of immigrants, has shown them as being morally un-serious and a disgrace to their alleged beliefs. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

The President who gaslights himself

As noted on Twitter:

I'm not a fan of the term "gaslighting", but with Trump, and his cult following, it seems a very apt description to say they are engaged in the clearest case of people gaslighting themselves - so they no longer know what reality is - that has ever been seen...

Where are the wage rises?

From Noah Smith at Bloomsberg, who notes that while it is still too early to make a final call on the effects of the Trumpian corporate tax cuts, there's no evidence yet that they have led to any wage rises:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Nearly finished

The wood framed office block in Brisbane seems to be nearly completion:

As you were....

Too stupid to work at Disney

I knew nothing of the background of director/writer James Gunn, who has no doubt made millions out of his involvement in the very successful Guardians of the The Galaxy series.    Hence, I didn't know that he made silly low budget comedy horror before getting going up the Hollywood eco-system to the heights of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   I suppose this background gives some basis for believing he does really like bad taste humour.

But....what I can't comprehend about him is that he would not think until now that, if you're going to work for Disney and Marvel, it might be a good idea to go and delete some offensively un-funny tweets about underage sex and masturbation, made not when he was a stupid teenager or young adult, but in his 40's.  (??)

Cernovich is a moron conspiracist who thinks this proves Pizzagate, but this was like wingnut manna from heaven for him, and honestly, what else could Disney do but sack the guy?   At least Gunn has accepted the sacking as his own fault and a not unreasonable thing for Disney to do.   Maybe he accepts he is just too stupid to work for the company.

And, even for allowing that the tweets are out of context which might show (say) a poor taste string of escalating outrageousness, there are still going to be lots of people really wondering about him and what's going on in his head, 'cos no one gets to do bad taste paedophile jokes more than once or twice without people wondering why you would keep making jokes about it.

* (Readers may recall, I really liked the first movie, but found the second underwhelming.  They were the funniest characters in Infinity War, however.)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Two peas in a pod

A good piece in the Washington Post, talking about why Trump gets on with Putin.  Sounds very convincing:
When they emerged after more than two hours in private Monday at their summit in Helsinki, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin indulged in some of their favorite conspiracy theories. Trump spoke of “the Pakistani gentleman,” echoing false right-wing media reports about a Democratic IT worker, and reprised the debunked theory that the Democratic National Committee withheld its servers — and critical information — from law enforcement. Putin went down the George-Soros-as-puppet-master rabbit hole and claimed, falsely, that a London-based antagonist of his had given Hillary Clinton $400 million. Predictably, the two agreed that the narrative of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — supported by a body of evidence that seems to swell by the day — could not possibly be true because, as Trump said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be.” (Of course, he insisted the next day that he’d meant to say the exact opposite.) Putin gave Trump a soccer ball commemorating the World Cup, but the two may as well have exchanged tinfoil hats.

The summit had official Washington in shock for days, seeking some explanation for Trump’s refusal yet again to confront, or even criticize, Putin. Whatever it may have shown about Russian kompromat or Trump collusion, at a deeper level the meeting was even more revealing. Putin, it turns out, is no longer alone in the world. After years of churning out fabulist explanations for Russian actions that always exonerate the Russian government, the Kremlin has finally found a willing audience for Putin’s version of reality: the leader of the free world.

“It’s hard for me to imagine their conversation,” says political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky, who served as a Putin adviser during his first decade in power. “They’re both very strange people.”

Putin’s government has long insisted that its actions are not to blame for the sad state of the Russian-American relationship — not Russia’s grant of asylum to Edward Snowden, not its annexation of Crimea, not the war in eastern Ukraine, not the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the deaths of the 298 people on board, not the mix of indiscriminate bombing of Syrian cities and targeted strikes on aid convoys trying to help them, not the support for far-right candidates in Europe. And certainly not the hacking of the U.S. presidential election in order to kneecap Hillary Clinton and boost Trump.

Whenever he is confronted with these allegations, Putin demands proof. When he is given proof, he claims it is fake. Anything that proves him to be at fault is publicly labeled a provocation — Russian for “fake news” — and anything that proves him innocent is truth, no matter how baffling, bizarre or downright impossible.

And now, the Kremlin has a U.S. president whose understanding of truth aligns so well with the Russian one that it’s become increasingly difficult to tell them apart. On his way to meet Putin in Helsinki, Trump tweeted what Russians have long insisted: This state of affairs is all Barack Obama’s fault. “It’s nice to hear that Obama is at fault for everything,” Pavlovsky says of how the tweet went down in Moscow.
Read the rest of it.

Libertarians and the Strong Man

We all know wingnut, culture war conservatives are presently readily aroused by the idea of a Strong Man - their sympathy and excuse making for Putin being the obvious case.    Psychologically, their fondness for him is at least partially explained by his social conservatism - what other world leader can they point to who's not shy to label homosexuals as risky wannabe paedophiles and runs a country where gang bashings of gays is still a thing?   (The other Right wing Strong Man who gives the nod to extra judicial killing - Duterte - has decided to actually side with gays against the Church!)   But apart from that,  the appeal is surely tied up with being on the losing side of culture war generally, and identifying with someone who just gets his way and doesn't have to give a damn what anyone else thinks about him.    The appeal of the authoritarian, in other words.   They see that in Trump, too, and that's what they like about him:  his gives them permission to be obnoxious jerks, and not worry about facts. 

But what about libertarians?   Rand Paul - whose insipid looks and manner has always made me puzzled as to how he has electoral appeal to anyone - is a high profile libertarian who is the only Senator actually bending over backwards to defend Trump's obvious fondness for Putin.  Allahpundit writes, amusingly:
Rand Paul’s spent the past 72 hours doggedly defending Trump’s outreach to Putin to anyone who asks, going so far as to block a resolution by Bernie Sanders(!) aimed at Russia. Let me rephrase: Paul is more nervous about alienating Moscow than a guy who honeymooned in the Soviet Union. You can read Sanders’s summary of his resolution for yourself right here. There’s nothing bizarrely anti-Trump in it to the effect that he’s a secret Russian agent, as you might expect from Paul’s invocation of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” at the start of the clip below. All it says is that the Senate accepts the IC’s verdict that Russia interfered, that Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation and Trump should cooperate with it, and that the sanctions passed by Congress should be fully implemented. That’s what has Paul on the brink of an aneurysm. Why?
Allahpundit muses on why Paul is doing this, and comes up with one theory (to do with machinations about whether he really supports Trump's new Supreme Court pick), but I am more interested in the whole libertarians and Strong Men psychology thing.    You see it at Catallaxy quite a bit - for a supposedly libertarian blog, and libertarians' generally isolationist instincts,  it features military conquest routinely as a visual theme.  And, as is often easily observed, wingnut discourse on the internet over the last several years has been dominated by violence in language - their latest hero is always said to have "crushed", "destroyed" (or worse) their Lefty opposition.   

Of course, any libertarian who claims influence from Ayn Rand has her as an example to follow - her embarrassing fetish worship of rape-y Strong Men who know what's wrong with the world and forcefully get their way with women and society (or bunk out if frustrated by the dumb bureaucracy who pretty much deserve to die in a train wreck) is well known.  

But even others who don't seem so influenced by her - does Nassim Taleb, for example? - still have a fondness for the Strong Man - is it simply the case that anyone who aligns with pretty fringe politics, or has an over inflated ego, can't help but have grudging admiration for the ruthless Strong Man leader who gets just gets things done his way? 

It's a bit weird, if you ask me....

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Festival of the Sardine

Guess where the can of Brunswick sardines (with chilli pepper) I just ate for lunch was from?  

I was surprised. 

I've spent some time rating sardines before at this blog, and I see that other people like to discuss sardine preferences in on line forums.

Why did I try Brunswick brand again?   I reported here that I thought they were awful, even though from nice, clean Canada.   This time, the sardines were supposed to be premium, skinless ones with chilli, as are my favourite brand (Santamaria, from Portugal.)  I assumed that they would still be from Canada.   So I gave them a try.

The verdict:  not bad.  Perhaps not quite chilli enough, but pretty good.  On some toast with avocado.

But then I checked the box, and it turns out they are from - Morocco!

Since when did Morocco have a sardine canning industry?   Well, now that I Google it, apparently Morocco claims to be "world leader" in sardine production:

Speaking at the first edition of “Festival of Sardine”, celebrated from August 27 to 31 simultaneously in five beaches of the kingdom (Al Hoceima, Martil, Agadir-Taghazout, Dakhla and Mehdia), Aziz Akhannouch said that Morocco is the world leader in the production of sardines, “with nearly 57% of national fish production.”
The minister said that Morocco currently has seven wholesale markets, 22 ports of fish, 22 halls and units for industrial fish.
The Minister proudly hailed the achievements of Morocco in this area, noting that “sardines have always occupied a special place in the eating habits of Moroccans in terms of their nutritional value and the price that is at the reach of all segments of society.”
 There - you can learn something new about sardines every day.

A simple point about My Health Record

I haven't been following the argument all that closely, but I would not be alone in getting the impression, from listening to privacy protection advocates and others who were saying people should opt out of the Commonwealth's My Health Record, that once you were in it, everything about your medical treatment had to, and would, go into the record.  Hence, the risk was that sensitive infomation that might hurt careers or relationships (you know, STD test results, abortions, drug addiction) would all be in one easy place for hackers or a malevolent arm of the government to find and use against you.

It was not until this morning, and on FM breakfast radio of all things (I was driving a teenager to school) that I understood that patients can ask to not have sensitive matters entered on it.   I then flipped over to a Radio National discussion of the scheme, and was frustrated that no one there confirmed that very simple and pertinent point.

So, it's up to me to check on line, and yes, here's a part of the government's website explaining to doctors how this works:
Under the My Health Records Act 2012, healthcare provider organisations are authorised to upload information to the My Health Record System. This means that, subject to the situations described below, there is no requirement for a healthcare provider to obtain consent on each occasion prior to uploading clinical information. There is also no requirement for a healthcare consumer to review clinical information prior to it being uploaded.

It may be considered good clinical practice to advise a patient that you will be uploading information to their My Health Record, particularly if this information might be considered sensitive. This approach is recommended by the Australian Medical Association in its guide to using the My Health Record system (section 4.5).

Situations where documents should not be uploaded

If a healthcare consumer specifically asks a healthcare provider organisation not to upload particular documents or information to their My Health Record, the healthcare provider organisation must comply with the person’s request. This is a condition of your organisation’s registration with the My Health Record system. You can advise the patient about the potential risks of excluding information from their My Health Record and explain the benefits of ensuring all information is included. However, you must comply with their final decision, and not upload the information, if this is requested.

I am a bit puzzled as to why the government is not making this a very clear point whenever they are defending the "opt out" nature of it.

Repeat after me, Minister:   "Yes it is a system you can opt out of overall - but you will be missing many potential benefits.   But also - you can opt out of it on a case by case basis - if you have a condition for which you want maximum privacy, just tell your doctor not to upload it onto your record and they must comply."

Trump, Putin and NATO

 Allahpundit at Hot Air has a post about Trump's weird grudge against NATO, in the context of a Fox News interview.  First:
The U.S. doesn’t pay 90 percent of Europe’s defense costs, contra what Trump says. It pays 22 percent of NATO’s budget, which is still more than it should but the true figure undermines the resentment at NATO that he’s trying to nurture by implying that nearly all costs are borne by U.S. taxpayers. The Europeans are total free-riders! They aren’t. They ride at a deep discount, and he’s right to want to change that, but collectively they provide the bulk of NATO funding.
And the interview brought up the matter of new NATO member Montenegro (brought in under Trump's presidency even), and Carlson and Trump worry that this might be a bad thing. As Allahpundit writes:

The strangest part, though, is Trump’s aside about Montenegrins being “very aggressive.” He tries to frame that as a positive thing, explaining it as a matter of strength — they’re a strong people, therefore “aggressive.” (It’s interesting that he’d conflate those two concepts.) But the point he’s trying to make is negative, that because Montenegro is allegedly so aggressive, you never know whether they might make a move on one of their neighbors, thereby embroiling the U.S. in the conflict under the NATO treaty. Again: This is a country of less than a million people that sought NATO membership for one reason, to protect itself from invasion by the nuclear superpower Russia. (Russia’s already tried more subtle ways of interfering there.) The idea of Montenegro getting “aggressive” with Moscow is farcical, the sort of thing you can imagine Putin mentioning in his meeting with Trump just to see if Trump would bite on it and repeat it. That’s not to say that’s what happened, but it is to say that the only place you’d see the idea of Montenegrin aggression treated semi-seriously is on Russian state TV.  

And what's with all of the self-contradiction anyway (a hallmark of the Trump presidency in all respects, not just NATO):

Which leaves you to wonder: What’s the point of him complaining publicly about it all the time without doing anything meaningful to withdraw from it? If he wants to complain privately about costs but defend the alliance publicly, that’s understandable. (Commendable, I’d say.) If he wants to withdraw altogether, that’d be disastrous for Europe and longer-term for the U.S. but at least there’d be clarity about his policy. And it’d give Europe some time to make alternate plans about mutual defense, whether via “NATO without the U.S.” or some new alliance. Hinting constantly, though, that he’s not really committed to NATO while remaining formally involved and supportive is provocative insofar as it invites Putin to test his resolve. What would happen if Russia made a move on Montenegro? Would Trump refuse to honor America’s Article 5 obligations? I doubt Merkel and Macron and May feel confident that they know the answer. How do you plan for defense under those circumstances? Or is that the point — that Trump’s trying to make NATO untenable in its current form due to uncertainty and hoping that other members will exit before he does? That seems to be his approach with problematic personnel like Jeff Sessions, hoping he can make life miserable enough for them that they’ll quit before he fires them. Maybe it’s his foreign policy approach too.

I think that is pretty good commentary, for a conservative!

Over at Vox, meanwhile, Alex Ward writes Trump Somehow Still Doesn't Understand NATO:
Trump said that if Montenegro got aggressive with another country, presumably Russia, then World War III would break out because the US would be obligated to defend it, thus dragging the US into a major war with Russia. 

What Trump misses is that the US doesn’t have to defend Montenegro if that country starts a fight, only if it’s attacked. NATO is a defensive treaty. If you start an unprovoked war, that’s your decision, and no one in NATO has to help you at all.

So even if Montenegrins were, as Trump said, “very aggressive people” — whatever the hell that means — the US wouldn’t have to lift a finger to help them.

The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to understand that is beyond disturbing. If this were his first day in office, maybe it would be understandable. But it’s not. Trump has been in office for a year and a half. He’s met with NATO allies as a group not once but twice — including spending two days straight talking to them just a week ago. 

There is no reason why he shouldn’t have that down pat at this point.

The very stable genius song

This is probably the funniest Randy Rainbow parody song I've ever seen:

(The Trump "very stable genius" quip sort of got swamped for attention by all of the other appalling things he's been doing and saying lately.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

In search of ancient bread

A short article at Nature tells me that the oldest bread ever found is this old:
The flatbreads’ ingredients include wild wheat, barley and other grains, as well as a type of wild tuber. At more than 14,000 years old, the bread is the oldest known. It pre-dates agriculture, which emerged in roughly the same region, by about 4,000 years. For Shubayqa’s residents, bread — which required laborious milling and grinding — was probably a delicacy rather than a staple.
Speaking of bread, I've become quite the fan of good quality sourdough from small bakeries - especially when used for toast the day after it is bought.   

First class boring

Gee, Sinclair Davidson is up to three five (!) tedious posts now complaining about an RMIT fact check of claims made by him and Berg in their book calling for the ABC to be literally given away.   (A nutty suggestion I would love to see the Liberals adopt as an election platform.)

He's still complaining about the ABC (and RMIT) pointing out Berg's IPA connection, when he's actually paid by RMIT now.

Yess - I mean it's not as if the IPA is helping promote the book at all.  Last time I looked, it was thoroughly ignoring the idea, like this: 

Anyway, bore away, Sinclair.   It keeps you away from other problematic ideas, like the Keynesian response to the GFC causing stagflation.   (Incidentally, maybe ABC cuts have something to do with it, because the link in my 2013 post about it no longer works.  Lucky I cut and pasted it, hey!)

The misspoke President

No one sensible believes him, and within a few years, possibly sooner, some staffer will leak or write a memoir about the discussions in the White House about how to come up with some excuse and this was the one they settled on.  

Pathetic how the GOP will seize on it as an excuse to just keep putting up with him.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The gullible, gullible playthings of Putin

So, all Putin has to do is make a claim that US intelligence helped get dirty money ($400 million worth!) to Hillary Clinton's campaign, and the dumbest gay man on the planet, Jim Hoft, repeats it and it's being believed by hundreds of thousands of conspiracy loving Trumpkins around the world.

Never mind that there appears to be no basis at all for believing that Putin's claim is true.

Their openness to any and all conspiracy claims (except any about Trump - the one whose secrecy about tax makes him the most likely politician caught up in dubious finances) is just the hallmark of gullible Trump cult worship.

Has Trump lost Newt? (Probably only for 24 hours)

Ha!   The execrable Newt Gingrich has tweeted a demand that Trump "clarify his statements" on US intelligence services and Putin, and correct them, immediately, and he has 16,000 comments following.   Quite a few are just saying "it's simple - it's treason", but I am more amused about those  wingnuts accusing him of going over to the "Deep State".  

Maybe they'll have to be a civil war, but amongst the Right, hey Tim?

The disingenuous (or just dumb?) Tim Blair

Tim Blair has become the Nelson Muntz of Right wing punditry: never, ever tiring of going "ha ha" at any Lefty (or, especially - obsessively - Jonathan Green), and then getting on with his cheery outlook on the world in which motor sports is more important that just about anything else.

But really, sometimes I just can't work out if it is disingenousness or increasing stupidity which is more at work in some of his commentary.   Take today's column, wherein he notes that on his recent American trip, people were just getting on with life, without obsessing about Trump every day.   In particular, this:
Anyone who has not visited the US since Trump’s hilarious 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton might be surprised by the utter absence there of Trump in daily life. Everyday Americans are mostly just getting on with things, as normal, non-obsessive people tend to do. The apparent civil war we keep hearing about just isn’t happening.
The problem here is that those links to "civil war" are to articles in what Blair would call unreliable Left wing magazines - Newsweek and the New Yorker.   So he's suggesting that it's the Left that's been beating up the matter of America at risk of a new civil war??

How absolutely ridiculous, or just plain dumb, of him to ignore that the tsunami of paranoia about the Deep State plotting against Trump and the need of patriot Americans to be armed and ready to take out the wannabe usurpers of the last great hope for America (Trump) has been a ground swell building during the Obama presidency (he was about to stealthily disarm them, remember, and was a secret foreign Muslim not even entitled to the office)  that has gone mainstream at Fox News under a genuine conspiracy believing, dumbass President and a huge chunk of GOP congress persons.   

The civil war fantasies have arisen entirely from the paranoid streak on the wingnut Right of American politics, and just because some Left wing journalists note it does not mean they are responsible for promoting it.

In reality, like a lot of Australian Right wingers, Blair probably doesn't really care for Trump as a person, but their culture war attitude means that they will either defend him against all evidence, or (as in Blair's case) do another  Nelson Muntz and go "ha ha, look at how he drives Lefties nuts".   

It is a deeply irresponsible attitude, just as his is on (yes, but it's true) climate change.   "Ha ha, I can ignore science because it drives Lefties nuts.   Ha ha."

Waiting for the Fox News spin

I'm curious as to what Rupert Murdoch wants done re the disastrous* reception of the Trump "well, I think I can trust Putin more than my own advisers and intelligence agencies" Helsinki press conference.  [It also means he doesn't trust other allies intelligence either:
Damian Collins, a Conservative member of parliament in the U.K. who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into Russia’s use of social media and tech companies to influence the Brexit vote, was blunt: “To deny the existence of evidence linking Russia to disinformation and interference is to say to countries that are the victim of this that they are on their own,” he said. Collins added that the world had seen “odd messages” from Trump over the last week. “On the one hand, Trump has said, ‘spend more on security,’ and ‘the influence of Russia on your country is too great.’” (Trump slammed Germany during last week’s NATO summit in Brussels, accusing them of relying too much on Russia for oil and gas.) “On the other hand, he says Russia is not interfering,” Collins continued. “So he’s saying, essentially, ‘if you defend yourself against Russia, you do it without my support.”]
So, I think all eyes should be on Fox News as to how much excuse making they will engage in with Hannity and Fox and Friends. 

I see that Breitbart has gone with "Oh my God, the Deep State secret coup plans will be gearing up now, using Helsinki as an excuse":

I think it very likely that Hannity will take the same line, because paranoia trumps the tiny brains of the average Trump acolyte.  

Update:     I had missed that Trump suppository Steve Kates was already out with his summary of how the Helsinki meeting went.  Trump is, apparently: 

The Winston Churchill of our times

LOL.  What a nutter.

*  except to members of the Trump Cult, who remain obsessed as ever that nothing their glorious, inane, dumb, wildly inconsistent, jerk of a leader is ever really all that bad, and 100% better than what Hilary would have done.     Fear of strong women amongst wingnut men lingers long after they have gone.

Yah for the ABC

Typical that it was the ABC and 4 Corners that gave us a timely, calm and fascinating account of the Thai cave rescue.   It was well worth watching the interviews with the actual divers explaining why it was so difficult and dangerous, and a bit of a minor miracle that no boy was accidentally drowned.

Journalism of this quality is just not done by the major networks anymore.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ethan Hunt is going after Putin?

What's this?:

The initial release is in Russia?   Surely that's unusual for any picture.

Actually, IMDB shows it being released in the UK on 25 July, so I'm not sure who got Russia up there on the Google search.

Over the weekend, the reviews were already released, and they are very positive.   (86% on Metacritic, higher on Rottentomatoes.)  

Unfortunately, for some reason (Tom Cruise used to like us!) it's not being released here until 2 August.   A whole extra week to wait.

But I'll be there early.   Now that I think  of it - this might be close to the last film my whole family will go see together. :(   [My daughter enjoys the MI films - she was impressed with the deadly neck breaking thigh technique of the heroine in the last one.]

In other weekend reading...

...I enjoyed this long, often funny, feminist's essay on the Jordan Peterson phenomena.   There are many sections that made me laugh, and I think she is pretty perceptive.   A sample:
Here’s his explanation of why men are frightened of women. (It comes with diagrams in the original video. They don’t help much.)
“Out of chaos emerges this first form, it’s the feminine form, it’s partly the form that represents novelty as such, and on the one hand it’s promise and on the other hand it’s threat…. Well, here’s the decomposition of the fundamental archetype. The dragon of chaos differentiates on the one hand into the feminine, that’s the unknown, and the feminine differentiates further into the negative feminine and the positive feminine. The negative feminine is the reason for witch hunts.”
Believe me, you are not too dumb to understand this. I speak fluent theory-wonk, and I promise, there’s no great secret here. I had a university housemate who used to come out with this sort of stuff at 3 a.m. on the morning before his essay was due while contemplating the ineffable beauty of his own screensaver in a fug of weed-smoke. In fact, I suspect that in order to absorb the full shuddering impact of platitudes like these, one needs not merely to be mired in the throes of a male identity crisis but also catastrophically high, and that would be a waste of good drugs.

Peterson has worked out the secret to monetizing his own persecution complex: If your audience is angry and lonely and you tell them that’s justifiable, you can take that muddle of meaning, blend it, and serve it through a candy-colored straw to those who are prepared to swallow anything and call it a juice cleanse. You can go quite far in the gig economy of modern entrepreneurial proto-fascism by talking to young men as if their feelings matter.

The Revolution remembered

Over the weekend, I enjoyed reading this essay summary of the French Revolution that appeared in Jacobin magazine, found via Peter Whiteford's great twitter feed.

You know, what I do find a bit odd about French history is how it seems high schools care enough to teach a bit about the revolution, but then the Napoleonic period is left as a great, lengthy mystery.  (Perhaps I am just generalising from my own experience.)

Virgin on the ridiculous

Who could resist that pun title?

Here's the article:
The US Association of Consecrated Virgins has said it is “deeply disappointed” at new rules issued by the Vatican that appear to say consecrated virgins need not be virgins.

The group has taken issue with section 88 of the new document, which states: “Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”

The USACV said it was “shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.”
A few observations:

*  I have never even heard of Consecrated Virgins as a "thing" until now - certainly not in Australia. 

*  Here's what it is:
A consecrated virgin is a woman who has never married who pledges perpetual virginity and dedicates her life to God. Unlike a nun, she does not live in a community and leads a secular life, providing for her own needs.
I dunno - seems a little creepy to me, a bit like those American conservatives Dads who go to "purity balls" with their teenage daughters.    Why want to live a secular life but with some sort of special public purity badge which, after all, is actually just what the Church says it expects of everyone (living a chaste life outside of marriage.)    Talk about unnecessarily setting yourself up for failure, too.

*  The Church would surely be better served by saying that this is an idea that has gone past its use by date.   Not virginity per se - but "consecrating" it.

Reason for optimism

Due solely to my wife's influence, both of my kids are musically talented.  They both do it as a subject at their (State) high school, and my daughter also has long been in various levels of the Queensland Youth Orchestra, which practices weekly during school terms and has mini concerts at the Old Museum at the end of each term, as well as one big concert at the Performing Arts Centre at the end of the year.  My son has been less active in using his talent, but his school bands have been in various inter-school competitions, one year ending up in a final concert involving schools from all over Queensland.   (Much to my surprise, it would appear that tropical North Queensland has some great music teachers and the school orchestras up there are terrific.)

Some years ago, my daughter was also persuaded by her violin teacher to participate in the annual Creative Generation concerts that Queensland Education has put on since 2005.   It's a show put on in the Convention Centre auditorium which features many excellent student vocalists (mostly from High Schools, but some primary school kids too), an orchestra backing that plays for just about the whole two hours, massed choirs, hundreds of dancers, drumming, a Big Band section, and even drama students sometimes doing a bit.  The staging and lighting is done by professionals, and there are some (not many) adults lending a hand musically.   But the end result (and we have been to three now) is a very professional and enjoyable show that is open to the public for 4 performances.   (Tickets are pretty cheap, but they don't sell out  -  it seems to me it doesn't get the publicity it deserves.)

Of course, they don't allow photos or video during the performance, but this is what the pre-show stage looked like on Saturday night:

And here is a screenshot (taken from their Facebook page video, so it's not great quality) as to what it looks like when nearly everyone is on stage at the end:

This is not one of those cheesy inter-school performance competitions that used to be popular and were dominated by private schools that taught microphone technique from year 7 3. (Have they stopped? You don't see them on TV any more.)    They feature primarily "pop" pieces but with the orchestra and massed choirs, can be quite moving in parts -  both from the effect of the music, and also when you see Special School kids being incorporated into segments.  

And this year, my daughter got out of the orchestra and did one "solo" bit (by which I mean, she and two other violinists were standing on stage doing their shared solo parts on one song.)   For that, she had the fun of being professionally made up and having her hair styled by a team of make up artists.   Of course, the end result was startlingly "adult" on a 15 year old, but she got used to it.  

Even though it may be self serving publicity, I am inclined to believe those from Queensland Education who say that our State system instrumental and music programs are top notch.   (Of course, a lot of the talent would be having private lessons too, like mine, but still...)   I am curious as to what the comparisons are like with the other State's public education systems.

But the end result is this:   for any ageing person suffering from the old "young people aren't what they used to be" syndrome,  and even those who whine endlessly about our education system, their attitude is surely held in ignorance of these school and community activities. 

This is the best thing about having kids participating in these things:  it makes it pretty much impossible to stay pessimistic about the future of the world when you know about the effort and talent of large numbers of our youth as shown on Saturday night, and at QYO too.

Never was the saying "takes one to know one" more accurate

Have a look at this sophisticated bit of analysis of Australia's energy policy from Catallaxy, and be sure to glance at the comments too.  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

They take their fire drills seriously in India

It's hard to believe that a bunch of Indian college students were made to jump off a second floor balcony into a safety net below as part of a fire drill.   (The story is about a student who was pushed, hit her head on the way down, and died.)  Have a look at the photo in the article, which will explain her nervousness.

What a nutty drill.  Don't they have fire exits in that country?

Friday, July 13, 2018

In the "funny 'cos it's true" category

From The Onion:

Herpes and brains

Ed Yong has an interesting look at the previously rejected, but now somewhat more plausible, idea that herpes infections in the brains may play a significant role in many cases of Alzheimer's dementia.

To love a jerk you have to be a jerk

Just checking how the angry, angry, entertainer is going.  Here he explains when he started to love Trump:

It's so transparent, it's embarrassing for them:   just as in the US, to love Trump you basically have to be an over 50 year old white guy (the older the "better") who has never come to grips with feminism, climate change or the change in sentiment to gay relationships:

The latest Washington Post-Schar School poll, released Friday, highlights the differences in the way women and men see Trump. Overall, the president’s approval rating among men is 54 percent positive and 45 percent negative. Among women, it’s 32 percent positive and 65 percent negative.

He's the last Hoorah of those, particularly men, who have already lost the culture wars, and think that exposing their anger at losing is a way that it'll be won back.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Time travel discussed

It's fairly generic, from a BBC show, but it has bits which are of interest.

'We can build a real time machine'

I have been mulling over an idea for a time travel story of my own, so any such discussion of the topic is of interest.    

A light anthropology study on Trump cult members

I recommend this Twitter thread by David Roberts, about his look at some twitter accounts of Trump followers.   (Very much like what you find at Catallaxy, by the way.)

Simple things sometimes work

Quite an interesting article at NPR about a relatively straight forward anti-suicide strategy implemented in some emergency rooms in the US which has shown good results.

I think I posted an article once before where it was mentioned that delaying the ability of people to impulsively make a suicide attempt can work - hence a barrier on bridge that might not be impenetrable, but just make it more difficult to climb over, may prevent a lot of attempts.   This program just takes that approach, it seems:
The intervention studied by Stanley and her group starts in the ER or a clinic, before the suicidal patient is released. First, a health care professional talks with the patient and tries to understand that person's warning signs for a suicide attempt.

"If they've grappled with being suicidal, they know what their warning signs are," says Stanley. For example, she says, someone might say, "'I find that I'm staying in my room, not answering the phone, not answering texts, not answering emails.' That could be a warning sign." Others might have repeated thoughts that they're not worthy.

The next step is for the patient — with help from the clinician — to come up with a set of coping strategies to help get through moments of intense suicidal ideation.

For most people, this intense state lasts only from between a few minutes to a couple of hours, she says.

The coping strategy could be something as simple as playing video games, watching TV or talking to a loved one.

If people contemplating suicide can distract themselves with something they enjoy doing, they can bypass that narrow window during which suicidal thoughts can overpower them, notes Stanley. "For suicidal people, the passage of time is their friend," she says. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

That insect movie

A quick review of Ant-man and the Wasp:

*  Perhaps not quite as wittily enjoyable as the first Ant-man, but fun enough, and certainly amusingly inventive in its action use of varying sized cars, buildings and people.   I think it's likely to be one of the most appealing Marvel movies to the under 12 demographic.  

* Quite a funny cameo by Stan Lee.

* You might think it ridiculous that I say this, given the genre, but my fantasy physics toleration boundary was being pushed to its limits at quite a few points.   Even for Marvel, it seems particularly careless about providing  explanations of how some things happen (how the lab building has power no matter where it's enlarged, for example.)  But then again, some science-y explanations attempted in parts were very cringe worthy, especially the "healing quantum power" that features at the end in the post credit sequence that, nonetheless, achieves one of those satisfying tie ins with the greater Marvel universe storyline.

*  I do admire Disney/Marvel for making entertainment that is readily embraced by adults and children of all ages.   The ability of these films to appeal to the 9 year old, the cynical teenager, and the 50 something year old who never even cared for superheroes in their comic book incarnation, is quite the achievement.

The return of syphilis

The other night, I tried the first episode of The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix (it was OK, but after the lush, expensive looks of Babylon Berlin, the production values looked a little on the cheap side.  I'm also not that big a fan of Sean Bean).   I was interested to see that the main character is revealed to be suffering from syphilis.   (I would guess that, going forward in the series, this might be significant for introducing ambiguity as to whether what he is investigating is real or not.)  The show is set in  1829, from memory.

My son asked if taking mercury, as the guy does in the show, really did cure it.  Good question, I said.  I didn't think so - it might have helped a little, but there was always the risk that the mercury would kill the patient before the disease.   I had to double check, but I think my summary was right.   See this article from 1990, but there are several around discussing the many centuries of attempting to use mercury successfully.

Anyway, that's by way of background to some startling bad news from my home State:
In the last six years, six babies have died in the state from syphilis — a sexually transmitted disease that was nearly eradicated in the early 2000s.

In 2008, two cases were diagnosed in Queensland, and in the decade since, more than 1,100 other cases have been recorded in the north of the state, with about 200 new presentations each year.

The numbers continue to grow, despite penicillin being a cheap and effective cure.

Cairns sexual health clinician Dr Darren Russell works in the epicentre of the outbreak and said it was "out of control". 
It is, unfortunately, centred on the aboriginal communities in the north:
The outbreak started in the Indigenous community of Doomadgee, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 2011 with a handful of cases.

At the time, sexual health services across Queensland were cut by the Campbell Newman-led Queensland government, and health workers claimed the opportunity to stop the escalation was missed.

The number of cases quickly spiralled out of control because of the transient nature of people in Indigenous communities, and the outbreak spread across Queensland, into the Northern Territory, and into South and Western Australia.
I thought that it was at least one of the more obvious diseases to have realised you have caught, but according to this health worker:
Aboriginal Health worker Neville Reys from Wuchopperen Health, said testing — and therefore treatment — was hindered because of shame and stigma.

"Syphilis can draw out up to six months before you really realise that you have got it, and in that timeline there's lots of sexual activity, so it can be spread around really easily."
Well, now that I double check the timing, I see that the first, painless chancre can take  10 days to 3 weeks to appear, and particularly in women, may be internal and not noticed.  The secondary rash can take 2 to 10 weeks after the chancre.  So, yeah, that is getting close to 6 months if the primary indication is missed.   I would assume, however, that most men who have it for more than a few months have ignored the sore on their penis.  

Still, its appalling that the disease has been spreading so widely without successful public health intervention.