Saturday, March 30, 2013
RERUN: AUTHOR APPRECIATION--ROSE WILDER LANE
(Originally posted in February 2012. I don’t usually rerun posts that are this recent, but RWL’s thoughts are relevant to the recent posts by Jonathan and myself, and more broadly, to the issues of freedom versus control which dominate our current political debates.)
Rose Wilder Lane, born in 1886 in the Dakota Territory, was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Lane is best known for her writings on political philosophy and has been referred to as a “Founding Mother” of libertarianism; she was also a novelist and the author of several biographies.
In her article Credo, published in 1936, she describes her political journey, beginning with the words:
In 1919 I was a communist.
Friday, March 29, 2013
RERUN: THE SCRIBES AND THE IDEA OF FREEDOM
(Originally posted in October of 2010. I was reminded of this post by Stuart Schneiderman’s post here about the growing acceptance of the idea that government knows best what’s good for everyone..and should have the power to make them do it. I should note that Cass Sunstein is no longer an Obama Czar but is back to being a law professor.)
I haven’t read Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom, but Erin O’Connor has been reading it and reviews it here. Based on her summary, it seems that Franzen’s basic opinion about freedom is this: he doesn’t like it very much. Consider for example these excerpts:
…the American experiment of self-government, an experiment statistically skewed from the outset, because it wasn’t the people with sociable genes who fled the crowded Old World for the new continent; it was the people who didn’t get along well with others.…also: The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.
“Freedom,” for Franzen, is a red herring. As a national ideal, it paralyzes us, preventing government from behaving with the rationalism of European nations (there are passages about this in the book). And, on a personal level, it is simply immiserating. Every last one of Franzen’s major characters suffers from the burden of too many choices.
In a novel, of course, one cannot assume that opinions expressed by the characters are those of the author himself–but in this case, it seems to me that they likely are, and this opinion appears to be shared by most commenters at Erin’s post.
What really struck me in Erin’s review is her remark that I am starting to think that this novel may amount to a fictional companion piece for Cass Sunstein’s Nudge..the referenced work being not a novel, but a book about social, economic, and political policy co-authored by Cass Sunstein, who is now runnning the Office of Regulatory and Information Policy for the Obama administration. (See a review of Nudge, Erin’s post about the book, and my post about some of Sunstein’s policy ideas.)
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
MAXEDOUTMAMA STAYED HOME WITH A BAD COLD...
If she gets well quickly, will we ever get to see the sequel?
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open (comments are also open at MoM's post)
KIDS THESE DAYS
At the age of 21, Danielle Fong cofounded LightSail Energy, a venture focused on energy storage via compressed air, with heat generated by the compression recovered for later use. Investors include Peter Thiel, Khosla Ventures, and Bill Gates. (GE and RWE of Germany are also developing a compressed-air-based energy storage technology that they call ADELE…it will be interesting to see how these two alternative approaches play out.)
A New York University student has developed a new substance for wound closure, which may be able to replace bandages in many cases. Any comments, Michael K?
Sunday, March 24, 2013
The post reminded me of a post from a couple of months ago by Bookworm, about finding a book in which her grandmother’s friends at her finishing school in Lausanne, Switzerland, wrote her farewell letters when she graduated and moved back to Belgium in 1913:
As befitted a young woman of her class back in the day before WWI began, my grandmother was multilingual, so the messages in her book were in French, German, Dutch, and English. The young ladies all included their home addresses — in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, America, Scotland, England, Wales, Romania, and Persia (Tehran). Each inscription was written in beautiful copperplate and the girls all drew exquisite little flags reflecting each girl’s country of origin.
Since I, unlike my grandmother (and my parents), am not multilingual, I was able to read only the inscriptions from my grandmother’s English-speaking friends. I have no word for how charming these little missives were. An American girl wrote about the irony that she and my grandmother hated each other at first sight, only to become close friends by the end of their time together. An English girl wrote about the “jolly good times” they had going to concerts with “modern” music consisting of one note, played so low no one could hear it. Another girl wrote about the disappointment of endless dinners consisting of macaroni and disappointingly watery “chocolate creme.”
And Bookworm’s post, when I first read it, reminded me of a passage in the memoirs of British general Edward Spears, close friend of Churchill and emissary to France during the campaign of 1940. Spears had grown up in France, and in the 1960s he returned to the house he had lived in. There, he found a picnic basket filled with his grandmother’s old letters:
The next letters I opened dropped me back two generations into a land of other people’s memories but with an occasional sharp glint as they recalled things I had heard of as a child. They were the letters of a poor sick young woman written to her absent husband whilst she was immobilised awaiting her first and only child, my mother.
I never imagined my grandmother other than I had known her, white haired, stout, and dignified. The picture painted in these letters of a girl frantic with loneliness and longing, exasperated at the threat of a miscarriage which kept her lying on her back, begging her husband to come to her, all told in the reserved language of that day, filled me with a kind of fond protective amusement. It was so unexpected. Time, so long imprisoned in these boxes, was revealing itself in an entirely new guise, oscillating quite regardless of years from one generation to the next or back again–more, it was taking me, an elderly man in the 1960s, and leading me back to the year 1864, there to watch over, with infinite tenderness, a young woman I had never known, my grandmother as a young wife…
Another time-travel experience, albeit of a less directly personal nature than the above three ventures back in time, can be found in this set of photographs: 1910–The Summer of our Content.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
TWO POSTS WORTH READING
Friday, March 22, 2013
The Difference Engine is not a general-purpose computer, but rather was designed for the specific purpose of producing mathematical tables by the method of differences. More about Babbage, the Engine, and the Method of Differences, here.
Monday, March 18, 2013
WWII B-17 BOMBERS AND THEIR CREWS, IN COLOR
Dresden: a meditation on strategic bombing
ShrinkWrapped has published his father’s recollections of flying 50 missions as a B-24 tail gunner. There are 6 different posts at the link–start at the bottom for the first one–and one more post here.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
MUSICAL SELECTIONS FOR ST PATRICK'S DAY
Speaking of things Irish, there is an interesting Dublin-based blog called Sibling of Daedalus. Check it out.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
WHOSE INTERESTS WILL JACK LEW BE REPRESENTING??
…as Secretary of the Treasury?
Prior to joining the Obama administration (initially as a Deputy Secretary of State, later as White House Chief of Staff), Mr Lew worked at Citigroup, where his employment agreement contained an interesting provision…specifically, a provision protecting his accrued bonus money in the event that he left the bank to take “a full-time high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”
Suppose you were running a business, the XYZ Company, and were considering hiring for a key position a person who was working for one of your customers or suppliers..and you found out that he had an employment agreement providing special bonus protection in the event that he takes “a full-time high-level position at the XYZ Company.” Would you hire him? Might you be just a little bit concerned that your customer/supplier was trying to implant in your company an individual who would steer the business decisions in favor of that customer or supplier, rather than focusing resolutely on the interests of XYZ Company itself?
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
THE WHOLE UNIVERSE ON YOUR SCREEN
…from galactic clusters down to charm quarks and below.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING
Sony world photography awards. A collection of 25 interesting photos.
Promoting narcissism with the "me" curriculum
Conscious parenting strategies may be harmful--so argues Dusk in Autumn, who offers a comparative analysis of articles in Parents magazine from 1983 and 1989.
Why we should abolish social studies...a view from City Journal.
Nine traits of the best leaders
Using ugly friends to appear more attractive...a strategy used by guppies
Heroes and villains of the British railways
Bears in the valley of the geysers, in Russia. Some great pictures.
The decline of snark and the return of sweetness. From (oddly enough) the Harvard Business Review.
Sunstone--did the Vikings use it to navigate on overcast days?
Friday, March 08, 2013
“It is to the point that writing about the news is like writing about telekinetic squirrels.
In other words, it can’t possibly even be real, so writing about it feels creepy, pointless, and silly.”
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
IT'S BEEN ONE YEAR
Here again are some of my favorite Lex posts, most but not all of which I linked last year at this time. All are very much worth reading.
Movie vs reality. Lex, who served as executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), answers some question’s from his daughter’s friend about the movie.
Some reflections on a less-than-perfect carrier landing, a verbal interchange that probably shouldn’t have happened, and the nature of leadership
You’re having a dinner party and have the magical ability to invite 10 people–5 men and 5 women–from all of history. Who would you pick?
Tennyson’s Ulysses, personalized and hyperlinked. Created by Lex to mark his retirement from the Navy. Perhaps my favorite of all of Lex’s posts, and particularly appropriate today.
Bill Brandt, a frequent Chicago Boyz commenter, has a tribute to the Captain at The Lexicans.
Monday, March 04, 2013
SOME 3-D PRINTING LINKS
Zenpundit had a recent post on 3-D printing. I’m only in the very early stages of researching this field, but thought it might be useful to put up a few links on the subject.
A more detailed view, with a discussion of industrial applications, at the Engineer
CFM International, a joint venture between GE and the French aerospace company Snecma, will be using 3-D printing to make certain components for the Leap series of turbofan engines. They cite an example of a component which previously required the brazing together of 15 or 20 separately-fabricated piece parts and which will now be made as a single printed entity.
A couple of other approaches to the fabrication of one-off and low/medium-volume items:
eMachineShop.com is a service which provides remote (Internet) access to a whole range of fabrication technologies, including CNC turning and milling, casting, extrustion, and waterjet cutting…as well as 3-D printing. A downloadable CAD package allows the user to design a part, get a price quote, submit it for manufacturing (using whatever combination of machines is required for the task), and get the part(s) sent back to him.
Protomold is focused on providing fast turnaround for injection-molded parts. The customer electronically sends them a CAD model and fills out an on-line quote form; after the price and terms are accepted the company fabricates the mold (out of an aluminum alloy) and then makes the parts from the selected resin. You can play with the quote form here.
Friday, March 01, 2013
WORTHWHILE WATCHING: WISH ME LUCK
I recently discovered this British TV drama from the late 1980s, which is focused on British underground agents operating in occupied France during WWII. The series is based on activities of the real sabotage-and-subversion organization which was known as Special Operations Executive. I think it is quite good.
The first agents we meet are Liz Grainger (acted by Kate Buffery) and Matty Firman (Suzanna Hamilton.) Liz is an upper-crust wife and mother who comes to the attention of the SOE recruiters when she responds to a BBC request for holiday photos of France to help in military planning…her excellent French language skills and experience living in that country make her highly desirable as a prospective agent. Matty, from a much less-affuent background, is of mixed French-British parentage (also Jewish) and is eager to contribute to the war effort as an agent, partly because she hates Naziism and partly because of boredom with the factory work she has been doing.
Various newly-recruited agents and French local people make their appearance over the course of the series; continuity is provided by Colonel James Cadogan (Julian Glover) and his deputy Faith Ashley (Jane Asher) in London, in the roles that in real life were played by Maurice Buckmaster and Vera Atkins.
Some reviewers have said that the series has too much of a soap-opera quality, and some have attributed this to the fact that it was created by two women (Lavinia Warner and Jill Hyem.) But people don’t cease to have personal lives when they go to war, and there are also subplots which could be viewed as soap-operatic in many male-written novels about WWII….Nicholas Monsarrat’s naval classic The Cruel Sea comes to mind. (See also Vera Atkins’ comment, at the above link, about a real-life British agent who fell inconveniently in love.)
Wish Me Luck is available from both Amazon and Netflix.
For those interested in learning about the real SOE, a good introduction can be found in Between Silk and Cyanide, the memoir of SOE Codemaster Leo Marks. I reviewed it here…the review also contains links to posts about several individual SOE agents.