Parliament of Clocks

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Shannon Love presents “an old parable [that] explains why the professional subcultures of articulate intellectuals, such as academics in the humanities, artists and journalists, all experience such enormous pressures to conform to the same viewpoint” — the parable of the Parliament of Clocks:

In the parable, a king wants to buy some clocks and travels to the Bavarian village were the ten best clockmakers in the world keep their shops all along one street.

As he enters the street all the clocks in all the shops strike 1 o’clock in one massive group chime. The king marvels at the great accuracy of the clockmakers of the village, but a few moments later he hears another group chime. After investigating he finds that all the clocks in 9 of the 10 shops show the same time but that all the clocks in the 10th shop show a different time by several minutes. Puzzled, the king calls all the clockmakers together and ask why the clocks in the 10th shop do not chime at the same time as all the clocks in all the other shops.

The owner of the odd shop out immediately steps forward and says that due to his unusual skill and innovation his clocks keep more accurate time than the clocks of the other shops. The other shop owners protest loudly. The king is at a loss. The town lacks a master town clock or sundial, so he has no means of determining which clocks keep the best time. Confused, he decides not to buy any clocks and leaves town. Angered, the owners of the 9 agreeing shops burn down the shop of the odd man out to prevent such confusion from arising again. Now when someone comes to town, all the clocks will chime at the same instant. Customers will not become confused and everyone will sell more clocks.

The clockmakers destroy the nonconforming clockmaker among them because they know that as a practical matter we judge the accuracy of clocks by consensus.

Baby Tapir

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Today’s dose of cute comes from Vasan, the Baby Tapir:

Vasan, a baby Tapir explores its enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland, Friday March 30, 2007. The birth is a special event as it is the first time a Malayan Tapir has been born at the zoo and is also the first baby for this particular adult Tapir. Tapirs are hoofed mammals and are related to rhinos and horses.

Moira Hahn

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Moira Hahn produces mildly subversive works in the classical Japanese print style.

(Hat tip to Drawn!)

Wakandan Vibranium

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

I can’t believe that Colbert actually referenced Wakandan Vibranium. His geek-fu is strong.

Marvel‘s Joe Quesada is involved:

“I must confess that I am the culprit,” states Quesada. After reading Cap’s Last Will and Testament, I quickly snuck out of the Marvel’s offices with the shield. As so many of you know, Steve Rogers was a humble man and wanted his last remaining wishes to be carried out as privately as possible.

“After a small “transfer of power” ceremony occurring on the Avenger’s Quinjet, followed by several intense hours of introspection and deliberation with Mr. Colbert, we both felt it would be best to make a public statement of his inheriting the shield. Not as way of raising Mr. Colbert’s status even further (How is that even possible?), nor as a cheap ratings stunt, but rather to let evildoers across the globe know that even with Cap’s demise, there is no still place for them to hide. A clear message had to be sent that the mantle had been passed and that the Marvel Universe has gained a new (Colbert) Nation and remains secure.”

Rio Bravo

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

I didn’t realize that Rio Bravo “was made by Howard Hawks and John Wayne as a right-wing response to High Noon, which both men despised.”

High Noon “was intended as an allegory in Hollywood for the failure of Hollywood people to stand up to the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy era.”

Death of the cell phone charger

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

According to Death of the cell phone charger, “a Pennsylvania entrepreneur has developed technology that gives you all the battery juice you need directly from the air.” It all sounds a bit Atlas Shrugged. Here’s the scoop:

It may sound futuristic, but Powercast’s platform uses nothing more complex than a radio — and is cheap enough for just about any company to incorporate into a product. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device’s battery at a distance of up to 3 feet.

Pompoms, Pyramids and Peril

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

If you value their safety, steer your daughters away from Pompoms, Pyramids and Peril:

Emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries nationwide have more than doubled since the early 1990s, and the rate of life-threatening injuries has startled researchers. Of 104 catastrophic injuries sustained by female high school and college athletes from 1982 to 2005 — head and spinal trauma that occasionally led to death — more than half resulted from cheerleading, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. All sports combined did not surpass cheerleading.
In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program found that 25 percent of the money spent on claims for student-athletes since 1998 resulted from cheerleading. That made it second only to football. The ratio of cheerleaders to football players is about 12 to 100.

Navel Orange

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Every Navel Orange comes from the same tree — sort of:

A single mutation in 1820 in an orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in Brazil yielded the navel orange, also known as the Washington, Riverside or Bahia navel. The mutation caused each fruit on the tree to develop as a set of “siamese twins”, with a smaller orange embedded in a larger one opposite the stem. From the outside, the smaller, undeveloped twin left a formation at the bottom of the fruit, looking similar to the human navel.

Because the mutation left the fruit seedless and therefore sterile, the only means available to cultivate more of this new variety is to graft cuttings onto other varieties of citrus tree. Two such cuttings of the original tree were transplanted to Riverside, California in 1870, which eventually led to worldwide popularity.

Today, navel oranges continue to be produced via cutting and grafting. This does not allow for the usual selective breeding methodologies, and so not only do the navel oranges of today have exactly the same genetic makeup as the original tree, they can even be considered to all be the fruit of that single, now centuries-old tree.

Oprah chooses McCarthy’s "The Road" as book pick

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Oprah chooses McCarthy’s “The Road” as book pick:

Winfrey called the book “haunting and inspiring” with a lasting affect on the reader. “It is a quick read and a journey well worth taking,” she added.

I wouldn’t expect Oprah to pick for her book club a post-apocalyptic tale from a scribe of grim and gritty westerns.

1040 Form and Instructions in 1913, Only 4 Pages

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Prof. Mark Perry notes that the 1040 Form and Instructions in 1913 were just four pages total, and the top tax rate was 6% — of all income over $500,000, equivalent to about $10 million today.

Knut Day

Monday, March 26th, 2007

It was Knut Day in Berlin on Friday as Cute Knut made his public debut:

Knut stole the heart of Berliners after he was born in December but rejected by his mother Tosca. A bearded zookeeper moved into the enclosure to look after him round the clock.

But Knut’s fate grabbed global attention after an animal rights campaigner said hand-rearing polar bears was a violation of animal rights. German media interpreted his comments as a call for Knut to be put to sleep.

If I were to engineer an animal for cuteness, it would look an awful lot like a polar bear cub. If you can withstand the cute overload, enjoy the slideshow and video.

Sherman — Stoic Warriors

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

James McCormick reviews Nancy Sherman’s Stoic Warriors, and in the process examines the state of the world:

To summarize my argument then, (1) our prosperity and peace is far ahead of most of the world and increasing, (2) we don’t appear to have enough human capacity for combat to fix the world by force, and (3) money currently extracted from productive economies, filtered through unproductive economies, reappears as more combatants to start the cycle of disruption yet again. All in all, this seems more like a form of “Gap parasitism” enabled by the developed world’s good intentions.
Since industrialized nations are behaving, per Amy Chua, as a market-dominant minority for the entire planet, and setting the constraints (if not the standard) by which economics and politics are practiced for all humans, we are surrounded by those who not only disdain our solutions but cannot achieve them if they wanted to. America has such a dominant global role for at least a few coming decades that the nation is being cast as parent rather than hegemon. And it’s requiring inhuman levels of restraint from citizen and veteran alike to respond compassionately to cultures violently resisting any change. The world has become the G7’s resentful dependent — resentful of green cards, of food, of money, of irrelevance to the rest of the world’s economic and social progress. Defeated in war first, and then indulged in riotous violent peace.

What if, as some scholars suggest, the chaos and turmoil of pre-industrialized world is the norm rather than the exception, and tremendous effort must be expended to move it out of such a “steady state”? Perhaps the one-time military differential provided by gunpowder is now forever gone, and all future efforts at changing economic circumstances will be far more tenuous and violent than even the dramas of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

Tolkien Jr completes Lord of Rings

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

How did this slip below my radar? Tolkien Jr completes Lord of Rings:

The first new Tolkien novel for 30 years is to be published next month. In a move eagerly anticipated by millions of fans across the world, The Children of Húrin will be released worldwide on 17 April, 89 years after the author started the work and four years after the final cinematic instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one of biggest box office successes in history.

Amazon has it available for pre-order — and the publication date is not April 1.

Single-Payer Health Care,

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Arnold Kling says, “Here is single-payer health care in a nutshell”:

  1. People are forced to buy something that they don’t seem to want
  2. Provided by a monopoly
  3. Paid for by higher taxes

Drugs and Toxicity

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Andrew Sullivan cites an article on Drugs and Toxicity and makes the following observation:

The least toxic drug known to humans is now illegal. The most toxic is available at Safeway.