Sunday, 23 April 2017

Appeal to authority


From powerline


The “March for Science” is underway today, featuring the usual mountebanks like Michael Mann and Bill Nye. Liberals sure are fond of marching. It is doubtful that this march represents a true cross-section of actual scientists, but you never know. In any case, the whole thing parodies itself, making our job easy.

How anyone could take the trouble to make that placard without grasping its import I've no idea. The inability to doubt must be in there somewhere.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Earth Day Laughs

Principia-Scientific has eighteen examples of predictions made around 1970 when Earth Day started. It is sobering but not surprising to see how absurd people can be when thrust into the public arena. All the predictions are worth reading, but here are my three favourites -

13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is 78.8 years).

16. Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

We seem to have reached the point where we may as well dismiss as drivel any story about the environment published by mainstream media where there is an element of drama. It is not an unreasonable default position.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Blue sky

A recent photo. 

Can't imagine myself doing that. It's probably wonderful, but how one deals with a lurid imagination and all that empty air beneath the feet I've no idea.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Changing the story

This is interesting if you haven't already seen it.

WUWT has a post about the New York Times regularly editing stories after publication, sometimes substantially. A website called logs the different versions published by a few major mainstream news sources including the BBC, although no edits are currently logged against the BBC.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

May be crafty

So now we know, we are to have a general election on June 8th. All very interesting and almost exciting in a race to the bottom kind of way, but this voter isn’t keen having to vote Tory merely in the hope of keeping Brexit on course and the loons at bay. This is the party which harboured hard-core toads David Cameron and Tim Yeo, so it is more than disappointing to have one’s hand forced, but forced it is.

The trouble is, a chap has to vote against the absurd Corbyn and that hole on the political spectrum Tim Whatsit – you know, the one who tries to keep the Lib Dems afloat. UKIP no longer counts and the Greens are ludicrous so where does that leave us? Perhaps it's the invisible hand, the political one Adam Smith didn't write about. 

Unfortunately democracy has become a matter of voting against the dross rather than voting for something positive such as tackling corruption, pin-striped greed, bureaucratic oppression and general government incompetence. Pushing Brexit along is a positive of course, but we’ve voted for that. Apparently.

May of course is taking advantage of the situation. An opportunity has presented itself and she is making the best move she has available. It’s a good sign and may even indicate political astuteness. Or it may be the obvious move and that’s all there is to it. We'll see.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Food critics - and one or two in particular

An Easter holiday post from Wiggia

A good dining experience is about so much more than the food. There's a reason chefs always have a white cloth over their shoulder and cutlery is always polished before service begins, it's because presentation matters.

I lifted that opening statement from a recent restaurant review. What he says and goes on to embellish is true, to a point. What I really wanted to talk about was the review by Jay Rayner, son of the late Claire ! that has caused a bit of a furor and delight in different circles for different reasons, but I will return to that a bit later.

The role of food critics as with some wine critics has verged on going over the top in many cases for years and several of these reviews have indeed verged on the side of hyperbole, and even fantasy in the writing in an effort to simply make headlines and hopefully increase one’s salary pull.

None of this is new. I can well remember that the Daily Express had a motoring writer, whose name escapes me, who many years ago when given almost a whole page to review a car would confine the review to the last 25% of the article, starting with some anecdote about something else that somehow would become the lead in to the article. This went on for years yet at the time there were no obvious high profile equivalents.

Today is a very different world with often deliberate outrageous claims and statements being the meat and two veg of many articles in many genres. Of course if every critic simply said x is good y is bad it would be a very boring world and article, yet so much today as with everything else is almost another form of fake news. The likes of Rayner and his contemporary Giles Coren make a living out of this style of writing, though in neither case are qualifications of any sort deemed necessary for such a pleasurable route through life.

I'll explain. For years when abroad I used the Michelin guide for restaurants to book in countries like France Italy Spain and Portugal and others if I was holidaying there. A few good meals were part of the deal and the Michelin guide, if I was spending money or even not spending so much, was as reliable a tome as any. For years there was little else, hence its reputation.

Was it always right? The short answer is ‘no’, there is absolutely no way any publication can, with the sheer number of restaurants world wide in it’s guides that they can always be up to the minute accurate any more than personal taste will not always be catered for as described, owners change, chefs leave, standards go up and down in many cases overnight.

But overall, using it over many years, the accuracy was pretty good, though its British edition for reasons unknown has never been so reliable. All described in straightforward prose on the dishes and chefs’ specialities and the pricing and surroundings with a not so straight forward method of symbols and stars, but it worked in those pre-internet days and it carried on working despite increased competition from other publications and the printed word online and in the world of the restaurant critic.

But the world demands more than simple qualified information, so the critic reviewer resorts to ever more over the top techniques to grab the headline and make a name for himself whilst also promoting his subject at the same time.

What do I know about the subject? Well about wine quite a lot, with restaurants only those I have frequented over the years but enough to understand where the critic is coming from or not. Have I eaten in a Michelin 3* establishment? Yes on a few occasions, special occasions, and were they the best meals I have had? No, which brings me back to the opening line from the food critic. The overall experience at the top level is part of the experience, more so for someone not used to such places as against those who can afford to dine like that on a more frequent basis.

My first 3* dinner was at the Crillon in Paris a long time ago when it had three stars, the dining room is a version of Versailles hall of mirrors, quite stunning and to sit and eat at a place like that is an experience and one to be remembered, and a similar experience later at the Taillevent also in Paris when it too had 3*. Yet the best actual meals I have had were firstly in a 1* in the Alsace and others in the south of France and Italy and Spain that also never went above 1*, but none of them could provide that amazing feeling of an “event” that those top establishments gave, though they did give a wonderful glow of satisfaction.

So back to the review that caused all the furor the one by Jay Rayner in the Guardian. I only read it, proving that all publicity is good publicity, out of curiosity but could see where he was coming from. What I could also see was a writing style that was “adapted” in my view for his readership of the Guardian. The comments prove the point, his remarks about the enormous cost of eating in the Le Cinq were buffered by his statement that he nor the Guardian paid for the total sum.

That’s a new one on me as I never seen any reviewer say that before, but by doing that and implying he would never pay that sort of money for a meal, though I’m sure he has at similar places, he strikes a chord with all that readership allowing them to blast away in the comments in true Guardian readers’ fashion about “only capitalists” “who would?” “serves any one right” and on and on, so he certainly knows his readership.

What else he does in the piece is the more contentious, and in no way does this say he is wrong in his overall assessment of the Le Cinq. Firstly in the use of language that is used to justify his visit –

Irritated by reader complaints about the cost of eating out I decided to visit a classic Parisian gastro-palace, as a reality check.

And then by use of language to shock or show how right on he is, again with his captive audience with lines like this –

It is decorated in various shades of taupe, biscuit and fuck you.

Followed later by –

My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says.

I find it difficult to believe anyone would trot out a line like that or if they did they have strange sexual preferences. The full review is here….

He also makes a point about the photos of the meal supplied by the restaurant and compares them with those he took on his mobile. Now no table side photos with a mobile in available light are ever going to be the same as those taken by a food photographer in set conditions but he bangs on about this and produces the two sets of images……

But then goes on to say that the Guardian sends its own photographer to take similarly staged photos for the paper later after the critic has left, rather destroying his point.

For many this is all good fun, it’s Sunday paper in bed reading. It’s “did you see that restaurant article” at work on Monday and by Tuesday the article is in the waste bin. It really is not that important, except for one thing, the bending of facts may have been and is the trademark of numerous politicians political parties and various other factions of society these days, but does the same treatment of facts have to be included in all else? As with all there is a limit, perhaps it’s been reached.

The only thing I gleaned from the article was the pointed comment on a dish of lamb costing 95 euros and not being enough to fill a Big Mac, but you don’t have to go to Paris to get that on your plate. It has become almost universal in the “quality” restaurant trade and is one of the major reasons I do not eat out as much as I used to. The blood pressure that goes with receiving a plate of food consisting of more gel decoration than actual combustibles is not something I can cope with anymore.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Conspiratorial Corbynistas

Interesting article in Spiked about Jeremy Corbyn's problems with the media.

I give it six months until the Labour Party starts blaming the Illuminati for its consistently poor showing in the polls. In the meantime, Corbyn and Co will keep blaming the media. They are trying to persuade voters that Labour isn’t the hole-ridden ship we all think it is, but rather is a party that’s being slowly waterboarded to death by ghastly newspaper hacks.

Maybe so, but I don't entirely agree with this -

These crusades against the media spring from an existential crisis within Labour, and are a means of avoiding dealing with that crisis. Labour recognises that it is teetering on the edge of oblivion. With local elections looming, it looks set to lose key council seats. Its support among the working classes is plummeting. Its turmoil over Brexit reveals just how distant it now is from many of its traditional grassroots voters.

To my mind the party is hardly teetering on the edge of oblivion. However, the working class has changed and continues to change, if indeed it still exists. This seems to be a significant part of Labour's problem, the changing aspirations and expectations of voters.