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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Appeal to authority

source

From powerline

SCENES FROM THE SCIENCE MARCH

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 newsdiffs.org 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….

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/09/le-cinq-paris-restaurant-review-jay-rayner

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……

http://www.jayrayner.co.uk/news/spot-the-difference-the-food-pics-supplied-to-the-observer-by-le-cinq-in-paris-as-against-mine/

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.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Did they really?

Common black powder such as old women use to blow out the copper flues.
R. Austin Freeman - As a Thief in the Night (1928)

Apparently women sometimes did this when the washday copper was heated by a coal fire and sooty flues were a problem to be resolved without the expense of a sweep.

The intrepid ladies went out and bought little packets of gunpowder, threw a packet into the fire under the copper, slammed the door and – whoomph. The gunpowder blew a thick black cloud of soot out of the flue. Job done.

Different times, different ways.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Read all about it

They all, the young illustrators and the writers who gathered in the rooms in the evenings to talk—well, they all worked in newspaper offices or in advertising offices just as Bruce did. They pretended to despise what they were doing but kept on doing it just the same. “We have to eat,” they said.
Sherwood Anderson - Dark Laughter (1925)

Where does one go for a consistently reliable source of general news? I certainly haven’t found one. No doubt the answer is that there are no such sources, not in the sense that one or two may be relied on to the exclusion of all others. That is a sure route to misinformation.

As a chap who remembers reading a daily newspaper and who usually watched the evening news on TV, coming to terms with the unreliability of news sources is a lasting pleasure, because beneficial discoveries are pleasurable even when they come rather late in life.

The vast global range of modern news sources, our ability to compare different accounts of the same event with a few clicks - the importance of it all is so colossal we barely understand how it will affect our future. All we know is that one way or another it will. 

The endless prevalence of bias, exaggeration, guesswork and outright lies may be deplorable but to those of us who remember the old days these inherent flaws in human nature are also enlightening. News is generated for a purpose and that purpose is not altruism, never was. We know that now, better than we ever did before.

If there are no consistently reliable news sources, does it matter? Having so many of them allows us to compare one with another and assess uncertainties and possibilities instead of taking favoured sources as authoritative - as we used to do. Fringe news sources also give us a handle on wider possibilities and how important or unimportant the main stories of the day might be. So many events to choose from. Those which hit the headlines are not necessarily the most important.

In my case the expectation that one or two news sources should be sufficient is fading slowly. Forged by long habit and the long dominance of the BBC the slowness of it is hardly surprising but the change is certainly welcome.

As it becomes easier to assess the news from a sceptical standpoint, it becomes more likely that it will be assessed sceptically. The uncertainties behind mainstream narratives become more obvious, their bias clearer. The political mania for being seen to do something becomes more transparently self-serving. I like it.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Something Crazy This Way Comes

Stream has a piece by William Briggs on the forthcoming March for Science.

Last thing the March for Science needs, say some agitated folks, is Bill Nye the “Science Guy” co-leading the parade. Why?

Their complaint is not that he’s an error–prone non-scientist, though that’s true. See, Nye is white. And a man. And some organizers are concerned that onlookers will notice Nye is white, and a man, and project his male-whiteness onto science itself. That in turn will cause the gullible to figure science is mostly done by white men.

Which, historically and in many current fields, it was and is. Now this fact may be for good or for bad, but it is a fact. And it’s not likely those who say they are “for” science and reason would be pleased were the contributions from white men removed from science. So long, calculus!

Or maybe they would be. Because it seems organizers believe scientific results are less important than who is producing them. Diversity trumps science.


I'm not overwhelmingly surprised by all this - who is? Politics trumps science and diversity is politics. Towards the end of my career, diversity was being insinuated into the laboratory and there was no question about where it came from, it came from the top. Briggs' article is well worth reading if you can stomach this kind of thing. Try another quote to get a fuller flavour of the madness coming our way.

“I love Bill Nye,” said Stephani Page, a biophysicist at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who created the Twitter hashtag #BlackAndSTEM. Page was asked to join the march’s board in February after she tweeted criticism of its approach to diversity. “But I do feel comfortable saying to you what I said to the steering committee: He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist.”

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Boys and fire

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Yesterday I introduced Grandson to the manly satisfactions of building a fire in the garden. It was only a small affair with kindling and a few sticks contained by bricks, but we were able to make toast and he soon learned how a waft of smoke leads to watering eyes.

He loved it and later in the day had a go at barbecuing sausages over charcoal. I enjoyed it too, so what is it with boys and fire?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Academia’s Intellectual Orthodoxy

Quillette has a piece on the invasion of the humanities by an intolerant political orthodoxy.

Over the last three or four decades, the humanities have witnessed a shift so massive that it is barely noticed anymore. What was once an upstart movement has achieved the status of a truly successful usurper—normality. The leather arm patched ancien régime has been exiled to the land of past things. Horn-rimmed glasses, tattoos, and dyed hair no longer occupy the periphery, but the center. It is a revolution so thorough that it has completely painted over the canvas of our mental imagery.

If you consider the stereotypical picture of a literature professor at a major university today, a myriad of images might come to mind—so many, in fact, that it might be impossible to conjure a single, coherent figure. However, what almost certainly won’t come to mind is a Byron-quoting septuagenarian in tweed.

This revolution has been political. Entire disciplines—Literature, Anthropology, Sociology, and the various interdisciplinary programs that end in the word “Studies” – have all become more strongly associated with a particular species of left-wing interpretation that now influences the broader discourse in journalism and on social media. In some departments, the social categories of analysis—race, class, and gender—have attained complete hegemony.

Equally interesting is the first comment on the article which suggests an apolitical cause.

This outcome was foreordained when research surpassed teaching as an academic’s primary duty and function. A teacher needs to love an intellectual field and desire to convey its beauty to a new generation; a researcher needs to generate papers and get them reviewed and approved by peers. The latter is an inherently political activity, and it attracts people whose talent and passion are for assessing the zeitgeist–political, social, intellectual–of a particular community, catering to it, and winning a position of social status in it. It should surprise no one that such people share many traits, and are inclined to disdain–and use their political skills to exclude–those whose intellectual approach is very different from theirs. Nor should it surprise anyone that the research output of such people is of little use to anyone but themselves, and contributes only to their own career advancement.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Beyond their Ken

There is still much media kerfuffle over Ken Livingstone's claim that Hitler "did a deal with the Zionists". The BBC reports

Ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone faces a new investigation into his comments about Hitler, Jeremy Corbyn says.

The Labour leader said that since being suspended on Tuesday night, Mr Livingstone had "continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action".

These will now be considered by the party's ruling executive committee.

Mr Livingstone has continued to defend his comments about Hitler and Zionism and vowed to fight his suspension.


Inevitably one is reminded of the video below which apparently once adorned Jeremy Corbyn's YouTube page. An astounding party in so many ways.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The price of the wearer

source

Personally I detest diamonds. They are hard and showy. They give any young and lovely human creature an air of meretriciousness; and merely serve to disguise and conceal the old and ugly. They price their wearer, and only the evil come alive in their baleful company.

Walter de la Mare - The Lost Track (1926)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The end of the pier show


From Wiggia

We are fortunate to live not far from the North Norfolk coast so short trips decided on the day and by the weather are a frequent event. Most of the coastal towns and villages from Hunstanton to Happisburg have been visited and many of the more inland destinations such as Holt Burnham and many others have also received our blessing !

The more obvious destinations such as Blakeney, Stiffkey, Cley next the Sea and Wells are all along with inland Walsingham and Castle Acre and the Broads villages to the south, have all been on the itinerary of many a trip. Which brings me to the one obvious place on this coast I have never, until now, visited at all, Cromer.

There are several practical reasons for this among st others, the main tourist area is centered round the pier is quite small and the main road goes through an area just behind that on a one way system and is a nightmare even out of season so is generally avoided. When I have been forced to suffer the one-way what one notices is that a large part of the town is run down and dirty. Shops seem to be of the charity variety or tatty gift shops, not all but enough to remind one of Great Yarmouth and what that has become. So no reason to stop, that is if you can find a place to park anyway.

So for no obvious reason other than a curious mind and a desire to see the one shining jewel that Cromer offers, its pier, I announced to a surprised and rather reticent wife we were going to Cromer as there was some sun promised and we could probably park easily as it is still out of season.

The initial impression started badly at the car park. It was market day and part of the main central car park is cordoned off for the weekly market. Don’t bother as with so many markets they seem to dwindle and slowly disappear and Cromer’s market is at that juncture. The fresh fish van summed it up with the owner so busy he was reading a newspaper and had his feet up. Lively it was not.

I could see the wife's face showing that “what are we doing here look” as we crossed the road making in a general direction towards the pier area. The short lanes leading to the pier area are all full of old Regency and early 19th century buildings. Most are listed and many are wonderful examples of the era when wealthy business people purchased seaside properties in what was then an easily reached by train fashionable seaside resort, but even many of these have not seen a paint tin for many a long year. Many are now flats and holiday lets, few seem to be owner occupied, certainly not in that part of town.

Cromer is unusual in that it has a shoreline with cliffs, not much seen north of here and it provides a view when you arrive at the pier from above. A relatively short pier with a theater at the end and then a rather state of the art lifeboat station with a “proper” lifeboat in situ, not one of those rubber versions. The visitor center built around the lifeboat is well worth a visit, with all the rescues since inception on the walls round the inside of the building and who and what they rescued inscribed there.

The little theater has a bar and cafe that was open so we had a coffee and watched the world go by for a while. It is obvious the pier is the only reason that Cromer staggers on. The end of the pier show brings in the punters and many must come not from Cromer but the enormous caravan parks just up the road at East Runton, a form of holiday that is still very popular but whose attraction bypasses me.

The pier has survived a couple of serious fires and severe storm damage not that long ago but to their credit the town’s main attraction has been restored back to its pristine state each time with care and haste so as to be ready for the season. Whilst having coffee I noticed the posters for forthcoming events, the one-nighters and noticed Marty Wilde for the beginning of April and a month later the Searchers none of whom I believed to be still alive !

The whole raison d’etre of this piece however is to highlight the fact that several of these places that were jewels in the Victorian time for rest and recuperation, first for the upper classes and with the coming of rail the working class are in steep decline. Looking back up to Cromer from the pier there is the Hotel de Paris built in 1820 for Lord Suffield. It was turned into a grand hotel in 1830 and closer inspection now shows a very faded lady with mismatched curtains and cheap furniture in the lounge and dining areas, so what has happened ?

The answer is all around you. Whilst on the pier having coffee people watching revealed maybe not all but a large part of the problem. It was a street photographers dream, the endless passing of strange characters, large ladies with small dogs being towed by same and small ladies dragging old infirm dogs with twenty foot expanding leads that wanted to stay at home. Mobility scooters abound, people in wheelchairs abound, down and out young couples abound, elderly people who look as though they are waiting to die abound, non-working punk couples loiter and so on.

The place is decaying with its population and one of the contributing factors that I know is fact because a friend of mine had a daughter sent there when times went into reverse for her and her husband, is that councils farm out benefit recipients of all colours to places like Cromer because they can get cheap lodgings for them. It has become an industry on its own.

Very little of this shows in the summer as the crowds they get swamp the unfortunates described to a large degree, but what a sad world we live in when people can be all lumped together like that, all knowing that the person they just met on the pier is there for the same reasons, and it takes no time standing on that pier to see exactly that happening.

Will Cromer ever get back some of its former glory? It has the buildings to make the change and it clings on to its one wonderful asset and cossets it, the pier, but it will take a different mindset for those who run the town to achieve that and maybe they are happy with it to trundle on into downmarket obscurity. Maybe it is simply the fact that people’s tastes have changed, but not really as Cromer has exactly the same frontage as many other resorts that are still successful and blooming.

As we left on the long uphill run out of the town, we passed a gentleman of the road trudging up the same hill with all his worldly possessions in various plastic sacks about his person and puffing on a cigarette butt. He had even obtained a zimmer frame for the most difficult areas of the climb but what was significant is that he was leaving. Not a good sign. All quite sad really.