Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Latest Environmental Crisis: The Tropics Are Shrinking! Greens Blame Bush Administration And 40,000 Year Long Planetary Cycle...But Mostly Bush.

The positions of the Tropic of Cancer, the Tropic of Capricorn, the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle all depend on the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun. As the axis tilts, so do all these lines. So, all the useful Tropic of Capricorn markers around the world (some of which are pictured here) aren't really all that accurate. They can't be.

The Tropic of Cancer line is therefore also unstable, meaning that every year the Tropics decrease in size by about 1100 sq km. The Arctic and Antarctic Circles are also moving towards the Poles, meaning the polar regions are technically shrinking too. This all takes place over a 40,000 year cycle, but what happens at the end of that period isn't clear. Maybe it moves back slowly. I certainly hope it doesn't bounce back suddenly.

25 Internet Startups That Bombed Miserably.

Billed by as “the shining example of a good idea gone bad”, Kozmo actually shocked many people by failing. The idea was to let city dwellers order late-night impulse items like movies and snacks that would be delivered free in an hour. It was a big hit with its target market, but before long, Kozmo became a victim of its own success. The very thing that made it appealing - free, fast delivery - made the business model unsustainable. It was simply not possible to deliver items that cheap for free and still turn a profit. By the time Kozmo began charging for delivery it was already too late, and the $280 million in funding was lost when the company closed its doors in March, 2001.

More Here.

I care about the planet, probably more than you.

Unofficial, not-actually-used-by-Toyota Prius ads (according to this article, an advertising firm employee created them as an “unsolicited project”). All show people engaged in bad behavior (dumping a body, hiring a prostitute, having an affair) with the tagline “Well, at least (s)he drives a Prius.”

More on Not-Very-Green Mass Transit.

A full bus or trainload of people is more efficient than private cars, sometimes quite a bit more so. But transit systems never consist of nothing but full vehicles. They run most of their day with light loads. The above calculations came from figures citing the average city bus holding 9 passengers, and the average train (light or heavy) holds 22. If that seems low, remember that every packed train at rush hour tends to mean a near empty train returning down the track.

Transit vehicles also tend to stop and start a lot, which eats a lot of energy, even with regenerative braking. And most transit vehicles are just plain heavy, and not very aerodynamic. Indeed, you'll see tables in the DoE reports that show that over the past 30 years, private cars have gotten 30% more efficient, while buses have gotten 60% less efficient and trains about 25% worse. The market and government regulations have driven efforts to make cars more efficient, while transit vehicles have actually worsened.

In order to get people to ride transit, you must offer frequent service, all day long. They want to know they have the freedom to leave at different times. But that means emptier vehicles outside of rush hour. You've all seen those huge empty vehicles go by, you just haven't thought of how anti-green they were. It would be better if off-hours transit was done by much smaller vehicles, but that implies too much capital cost -- no transit agency will buy enough equipment for peak times and then buy a second set of equipment for light demand periods.

Milwaukee Man Shoots Lawn Mower.

Lawnmower Man Keith Walendowski

“I’ll tell you the truth,” a criminal complaint quotes an apparently inebriated Keith Walendowski. “I got pissed because my lawn mower wouldn’t start, so I got my shotgun and shot it.

“I can do that. It’s my lawn mower and my yard, so I can shoot it if I want,” Walendowski told police.

Ignorance of the law, however, is not a legal defense.

Mysterious Chinese Tunnels of the Pacific Northwest.

In the mid 1930s, the U.S. Government launched the Federal Writers’ Project to support writers during the Great Depression.

As part of a project documenting American folklores, a guy named William Zimmerman told the story about "mysterious Chinese tunnels" (or "Shanghai tunnels") beneath cities in the Pacific Northwest, where kidnapped city dwellers would be smuggled to the docks and sold into slavery in Shanghai (hence the name).

The tunnels are clearly there - so it’s interesting to see how whatever their original purpose was - in this classic urban myth, it has been nefariously subverted to be a malicious one.

The article is here.

On Language.

Why do we capitalize the word “I”? There’s no grammatical reason for doing so, and oddly enough, the majuscule “I” appears only in English.

Consider other languages: some, like Hebrew, Arabic and Devanagari-Hindi, have no capitalized letters, and others, like Japanese, make it possible to drop pronouns altogether. The supposedly snobbish French leave all personal pronouns in the unassuming lowercase, and Germans respectfully capitalize the formal form of “you” and even, occasionally, the informal form of “you,” but would never capitalize “I.” Yet in English, the solitary “I” towers above “he,” “she,” “it” and the royal “we.” Even a gathering that includes God might not be addressed with a capitalized “you.”

Global Warming, Global Myth.

Do you ever wonder how communism could last for 70 years in Russia? Surely there was plenty of evidence, for decades, that the system was failing: food shortages, declining life expectancy, increased infant mortality, low standards of living, primitive hospitals, and sanitation facilities lagging far behind those in Western Europe and America — not to mention pollution far worse than in the West. But to diehard communists, the facts did not matter. All the observable negatives of collectivism were trumped by ideology. The same is true of the ideology behind global warming.

Ian Fleming Interview of Raymond Chandler

The creator of James Bond meets the creator of Philip Marlowe ...awesome!

As Ace says:

Interesting if you're a fan of either man, and especially if you're a fan of both. Be aware that Raymond Chandler was a genuine hard-case full-blown alcoholic,* and he decided to show up for the interview in his normal state, three sheets to the wind. He slurs and doesn't have much to say. Fleming is pretty clearly straining to carry both ends of the interview here.

* In writing one screenplay -- Double Indemnity, I think, but I could be wrong -- he was afflicted by his other big problem, writer's block, and so informed the producers "I can't write this sober, but I can write it drunk." To write the screenplay, he got falling-down drunk in the morning, and was taken by studio car to his bungalow, and typed out pages while getting drunker still through the day; at day's end, they loaded the insensate drunk into the car and drove him back home. And he followed this routine for a couple of months.

Via Ace of Spades.

Why the Left is Unpatriotic and Why the Right Should Say So.

The Oregon Country Fair is an excellent example of the culture of the left in today's America. This is not a culture that favors middle-class capitalism or the traditional form of American patriotism. It is a culture seeking a one-world government, a primitive socialist economic system, a low-tech manufacturing infrastructure, and a religion that worships nature instead of God.

The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company.

Apparently they have stuff for supervillains like myself too.

Sherman's March.

A cool interactive website about the decisive campaign of the Civil War.

The Mysterious Origin and Supply of Oil.

A so-called fossil fuel, petroleum is believed by most scientists to be the transformed remains of long dead organisms. The majority of petroleum is thought to come from the fossils of plants and tiny marine organisms. Larger animals might contribute to the mix as well.

"Even some of the dinosaurs may have gotten involved in some of this," says William Thomas, a geologists at the University of Kentucky. "[Although] I think it would be quite rare and a very small and insignificant contribution."

But another theory holds that more oil was in Earth from the beginning than what's been produced by dead animals, but that we've yet to tap it.

The State Hermitage Museum.

Cupid and Psyche: Antonio Canova
1808, Marble

One of the world's great museums.

Kennedy's Illness, and the Left's.

The Media keep reminding us of the issues that divide us as a nation: Iraq, different approaches about reviving the economy, socialized medicine, the role of mankind in global warming, gay marriage, social issues, and many others.

As Ted Kennedy’s recently diagnosed brain tumor demonstrated, Right and Left are also divided based on whether they display basic human decency when misfortunes befall a member of the other side. The American people seem to be fundamentally cleft about how they treat news of an opponent’s impending death in a conservative manner – with prayer – or a leftist one – with champagne and hate mail.

When Jessie Helms and Tony Snow passed I got an instant message from an old lefty friend who couldn't help but gloat over their demise. I was more than a little shocked. This person is someone I've known for years and considered a friend. We've always had our political differences but I didn't think we ever thought of the other side as evil.

I thought we were opponents but never enemies. Perhaps I was wrong. I simply can't understand taking joy from the misfortune of my fellow Americans.

Barack Jennings Obama.

Most analysts compare this election to 1976 (though in some ways I think 1952 is more apt). Michael Zak has his eye on 1896.

Early on, Bryan looked like a winner, but his campaign faded in the fall. Rhetoric that had once seemed inspirational came off as pompous and bombastic. Worse, many voters wondered if Bryan really knew what he was talking about. While McKinley presented himself as a seasoned team leader, Bryan proved himself to be a naive, one-man show.

Indecent Images.

Indecent Images is a gallery of evocative pre-Raphaelite paintings...some are fairly racy. Think of it as the Diminished Expectations version of Theo's Totty. View at your own risk.

10 Dead People Who Weren’t Really Dead.

Who wouldn’t like to get away from their responsibilities now and then? No kids, no job, no financial worries. Sounds nice, but these 10 people took it to the extreme by faking their own deaths. Although some of these people didn’t do it to shirk their responsibilities - some did it just to see who would show up at the funeral. Yikes.

The list is here.

Wine-and-cheese thuggery.

Tom Matzzie is mailing threatening letters this week to nearly 10,000 people with whom the liberal political operative vigorously disagrees.

If the recipients act in a way he disapproves of — namely, donating to certain conservative or Republican causes — Matzzie and his new nonprofit group, called Accountable America, will unleash what The New York Times describes as “a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.”

Matzzie claims he’s simply seeking to prevent dishonest attacks on politicians and causes he favors, but the reality is that such letters are nothing less than political thuggery.

And, as Judicial Watch points out, the Accountable America letters are also quite possibly violations of the civil liberties of those receiving them: “A key federal civil rights law (42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)), popularly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, may be applicable if ‘two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for President or Vice President, or as a Member of Congress of the United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such support or advocacy.’ ”


One of the first things that prompted me to move away from the left was the realization that it was never really about "peace and freedom".

Would You Buy an Electric Car Now?

The argument for electric cars goes like this. Most Americans have two cars, and most driving is within 20 miles or so of home. Therefore, the usual shortcomings of electric cars (small, short range) would not matter if the electric car were used as a commuter car.

According to some, like the makers of the documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, electric cars might be plentiful on the highways today but for the conspiracies of Big Oil and Big Auto.

I’m doubtful about this, because of a simple, simplistic metric: I, who am tempted to buy many techy things, have never been tempted, have never even been curious about buying an electric car. And if I am outside of the target market, my reasoning goes, it’s not that big a market.

Why do Asian students generally get higher marks than Latinos?

Because cultural and family expectations matter.

A surprisingly candid piece from the L.A. Times.

Win at the Carnival.

Midways are notorious hives of scum and villainy. Impress the rubes by emerging triumphant.

Strict Liability, Constitutional Rights, Guns, Speech, Abortion, and Underage Sex.

Sexy title huh? Professor Volokh weighs in on the constutionality of of laws that hold someone criminally liable even if he's made an honest mistake (or perhaps even a reasonable mistake).

Satirical Maps of the First World War.

Very cool.