Politics, culture, business, and technology

I also blog at ChicagoBoyz.


Selected Posts:
Sleeping with the Enemy
Dancing for the Boa Constrictor
Koestler on Nuance
A Look into the Abyss
Hospital Automation
Made in America
Politicians Behaving Badly
Critics and Doers
Foundations of Bigotry?
Bonhoeffer and Iraq
Misvaluing Manufacturing
Journalism's Nuremberg?
No Steak for You!
An Academic Bubble?
Repent Now
Enemies of Civilization
Molly & the Media
Misquantifying Terrorism
Education or Indoctrination?
Dark Satanic Mills
Political Violence Superheated 'steem
PC and Pearl Harbor
Veterans' Day Musings
Arming Airline Pilots
Pups for Peace
Baghdad on the Rhine

Book Reviews:
Forging a Rebel
The Logic of Failure
The Innovator's Solution
They Made America
On the Rails: A Woman's Journey

arts & letters daily
natalie solent
critical mass
john bruce
joanne jacobs
number 2 pencil
roger l simon
common sense and wonder
sheila o'malley
invisible adjunct
red bird rising
academic game
rachel lucas
betsy's page
one hand clapping
a schoolyard blog
joy of knitting
lead and gold
damian penny
annika's journal
little miss attila
no credentials
university diaries
trying to grok
a constrained vision
victory soap
business pundit
right reason
quid nomen illius?
sister toldjah
the anchoress
reflecting light
dr sanity
all things beautiful
dean esmay
brand mantra
economics unbound
dr melissa
dr helen
right on the left coast
digital Rules
college affordability
the energy blog
tinkerty tonk
meryl yourish
kesher talk
assistant village idiot
evolving excellence
neptunus lex
the daily brief
roger scruton
bookworm room
villainous company
lean blog

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Saturday, March 30, 2013  

(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.
continued at Chicago Boyz

7:40 AM

Friday, March 29, 2013  

(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.
Erin summarizes:
“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.)
continued at Chicago Boyz

7:49 AM

Tuesday, March 26, 2013  

…and was inspired to write this very interesting post.
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)

7:31 PM


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?
Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

4:07 PM

Sunday, March 24, 2013  

Margaret Soltan’s husband was searching for his grandmother’s name on Google, and found her in a 1908 portrait, which is now in the National Museum at Warsaw.
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.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:03 PM

Saturday, March 23, 2013  

Neptunus Lex, from 2004: Monsters
Robert Avrech, from yesterday: Liberty, Then and Now
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open 

7:34 PM

Friday, March 22, 2013  

Via Isegoria, here is Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine–in high-resolution photography and with a video showing the machine at work. It was designed in 1849 but not actually built until 2002.
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.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:46 AM

Monday, March 18, 2013  

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.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:38 PM

Sunday, March 17, 2013  

…at Grim’s Hall.
Some songs
Speaking of things Irish, there is an interesting Dublin-based blog called Sibling of Daedalus. Check it out.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:17 AM

Saturday, March 16, 2013  

…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?
continued at Chicago Boyz

11:27 AM

Wednesday, March 13, 2013  

…from galactic clusters down to charm quarks and below.
I linked The Scale of the Universe a while back…was reminded of it by a link on Don Sensing’s blog…the performance of the site seems to have been significantly improved since I saw it and is now much smoother.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

12:21 PM

Sunday, March 10, 2013  

Sony world photography awards. A collection of 25 interesting photos.

Gift-giving birds

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?

6:16 PM

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.”
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

4:12 PM

Wednesday, March 06, 2013  

…since we lost Neptunus Lex
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.
The captain wakes before dawn…with a feeling that all is not well with the ship
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
Have you ever killed anyone? asked the massage therapist, after learning that Lex had been in the Navy.
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?
A troubled pilot and an F-18: Maybe they saved each other.
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.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:29 AM

Monday, March 04, 2013  

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.
Another overview at PC Magazine
A more detailed view, with a discussion of industrial applications, at the Engineer
General Electric on the significance of 3-D printing, Also, GE Aviation’s acquisition of two 3-D printing companies
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.
Printing a car, and a gun
Motley Food Stock Advisor (video–link via Bill Waddell) asserts that 3-D printing will bring “the end of the Made in China era”. The hype level in the Motley Fool post is pretty high.
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.
It’s interesting to note that Formlabs, a 3-D printer venture that Zenpundit mentioned in his post, is using Protomold services to make components for their printers. Protomold sees its services as complimentary to, and synergistic with, 3-D printers
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:17 AM

Friday, March 01, 2013  

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.
Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:22 AM

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