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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, September 1, 2010

Actress Susan Ward. 1280x1024, 130 KB.


The 699KB  original. See, it really is Susan Ward.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Reactionary Left, or Modern Enlightened Thought[2010]

 Matt Ridley, at his "The Rational Optimist" blog, links approvingly to an essay by Fred Siegel in "City Journal," about how progressivism turned against Progress in the 1960s. I commented on "The Rational Optimist":

You may have observed that you get the best fit to activist behavior if you assign a value of 4.0 to the emotional age of activists. The evolution of liberal activist attitudes described by Siegel can be entirely explained by the "Well I never really wanted that anyway!" response.

As Siegel notes, everything promised by the Left was being achieved, even over-achieved, by 1960. The problem was, it was being achieved without the Left's methods. We were coming off 8 years of Eisenhower and gray flannel suits, remember? So the Left [...] had to either admit that 1950s free enterprise and gray flannelism worked at least as well as Leftism, or declare "Well I never really wanted that anyway!"

They chose the latter course. Not for the last time either.

To make a long story short, 80 years ago, socialism was a moral imperative because it was the best way to create smoke-belching factories and deliver copious goods to the masses. 40 years ago, socialism was a moral imperative because it was the best way to prevent smoke-belching factories while still delivering copious goods to the masses. The Wall fell, and today socialism is a moral imperative because it's the best way to prevent smoke-belching factories and keep copious goods out of the piggish hands of the masses.
[I edited out a redundant "either".]

From the environmentalist revolution of the 1960s until after the collapse of Soviet Communism, it was axiomatic on the Left that socialist governments would be incomparably better stewards of the environment than capitalist governments. But once the socialist governments fell, it became undeniable that they had, in fact, been worse. There needed to be some way that capitalism was still wrong. Since capitalism had long ago proven to be more productive, and since it was now undeniable that the productivity had not been bought with greater environmental impact, there was only one path left. Productivity had to be a bad thing.  Sure, at one time socialism had been supposedly superior because it was supposedly more productive. But that was then. This is now.

And so, we have locavores. Capitalism is able to bring you strawberries in February? BAD! BAD! BAD CAPITALISM!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 29, 2010

Actress Megan Fox in extreme closeup. 1280x1024, 332KB.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 28, 2010

Actress Sienna Miller. 1080x1920, 559KB.

The 1.8MB, 2524x3333 original:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 27, 2010

Model Julie-Marie Geyskens, in 1920x1080 HD, 253KB.

The 259KB original:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 23, 2010

Actress Olivia Wilde. 1200x1024, 306KB.

Wallpaper of the Day, August 22, 2010

Actress Emma Watson, enjoying nature. 1280x1024, 278KB.

The 575KB original:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

PBS, "NOVA", and Kennewick Man

Clayton Cramer has a blog post about the PBS "NOVA" program  on Kennewick Man. I haven't watched NOVA for 20 years or so, for reasons I explained in my comment to that post:

I may have to give Nova another chance. It won't be easy, though.

I pretty much haven't watched it in about 20 years, since the program on the "wild man" of Hunan Province, China. In the intro, they said it was based on the work of Ohio State physical anthropologist Gary Poirier (pronounced as French). I thought "What a coincidence, I took physical anthro at Ohio State from Frank Poirier (pronounced the way it's spelled, of Armenian decent). And he's interested in the same kind of stuff."

Then they showed "Gary Pwa-ree-ay" and it was the guy I had at OSU, Frank Poirier. The whole show was based on his work, he was on-camera a lot, and they got his name completely wrong. Made it hard for me to take "Nova" seriously after that.

There was also the NOVA episode about how MIT invented radar in WWII. (Hint: MIT didn't invent radar.)

Anyway, Clayton Cramer recommends the episode on Kennewick Man, and is even planning to use it in the American History class he teaches. So I may have to break my two decade NOVA fast.

From a teenager, I wondered why the possibility of humans in the New World prior to about 20,000 years ago, was so taboo. Then I heard an anthropologist stating, with heavy emphasis, that DNA evidence proved beyond any doubt that the ancestors of today's Native Americans arrived in the New World more recently than 20,000 years ago, and therefore any evidence of humans in the New World prior to then, must be rejected.

And the penny dropped. The problem was that any humans in the Americas prior to 20,000 years were not ancestors to today's Native Americans, but were replaced by them. That overturns the whole "First Americans" noble savage narrative. Hence the taboo.

Kennewick Man stirred this pot but good, since his remains were first identified as Caucasian, then as possibly related to the Ainu, the aborigines of Japan. (The Ainu themselves were originally identified as Caucasian by the first Europeans to study them.) And he was carbon-dated to 9,300 years ago.

So Kennewick Man gives us this picture: an aboriginal New World population is displaced by the ancestors of today's Native Americans. This is inconceivably anti-PC. If Kennewick Man turned out to be Caucasian, it would be Slartibartfast's-signature-on-the-glacier-level proof that God exists and has a sophomoric sense of humor. Native American tribes in the Kennewick area wisely invented a cultural aversion to DNA testing of ancient, unidentified remains. Who knows how many faculty clubs would have been littered with exploded brains otherwise.

BTW, one of Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol" novels features a time-traveling anthropologist studying an  encounter between New World aborigines and Palaeo-Indians. I suspect it's a lot more accurate than the politically correct narrative where the aborigines never existed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 20, 2010

Model Anne Vyalitsyna is back again, this time in 1920x1080 HD. 319KB.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 13, 2010

Model Florencia Salvioni in glorious blonde 1920x1080 HD.

369KB. The 2544x3392, 597KB original:

Wallpaper of the Day, August 12, 2010

1280x1024, 207KB.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Evolution is such a hacker

Transterrestrial Musings links to an article on "The Big DNA Letdown." The sequencing of the human genome was insanely overhyped back at the funding stage, and has produced almost none of the promised medical wonders.

This was, of course, easily predicted. The linked article attributes the letdown to something that wasn't known at the time, "epigenetics," the influence of cellular context on the expression of genes. But it was predictable even based on what was known.

The linked article describes the pathetic state of our understanding at the time: "But in the past few years, researchers have come to recognize how grossly oversimplified was the so-called central dogma of molecular biology — the notion that DNA makes RNA, RNA makes proteins, and proteins make us." The sequence of DNA codons produces a predictable sequence of amino acids in the protein.

And then the protein folds. Sequences of amino acids from far distant parts of the protein are brought next to each other, the chains twisted and bent, to make the active sites of the protein. The protein folds itself in milliseconds. Human beings with supercomputers pretty much can't do it at all. So, knowing the DNA sequence still leaves you  an NP-complete problem with large n  away from anything biological.

I happened to know about the folding problem because I shared an apartment with a couple of theoretical biochemists who were working on it in the winter of 1986-7. It's still far from being solved. Solving it would be one of the biggest steps that could be taken, to make genomic sequencing useful. But as I commented over at Transterrestrial Musings:

Protein folding — being able to predict the 3D shape of a protein from the amino acid sequence — would be a lot more immediate use. But the public mind isn’t prepared to accept “protein folding” as a magical incantation. “DNA,” on the other hand, is used as magic in innumerable movies, TV shows, and comic books. Anything to do with DNA is already overhyped.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 9, 2010

Candice Swanepoel relaxing by the pool. 1280x1024, 324KB.

The 483KB original:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 8, 2010

A pensive Scarlett Johanssen for Sunday.

1280x1024, 555KB.

Purple Hearts

Random Jottings has a post on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. My comment:

The War Department ordered 750,000 Purple Heart medals for the invasion of Japan, to be awarded to servicemen killed or wounded. Because of the atomic bomb, they weren't needed, and were stored.

Some of them,  were awarded during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts. They are still being issued in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

All the combat seen by American forces since WWII still have not equaled the first installment of what was expected in Japan.
(The number actually awarded in WWII was about 965,000.)

In my opinion, the invasion of Japan would not have taken place even without use of the atomic bomb. The US would simply have continued the submarine campaign against Japanese shipping, and the air campaign against Japan itself, and starved and bombed Japan to death. This would have minimized Allied losses, while killing many times more Japanese, and destroying Japan as a nation, a culture, and a people.

One thing people don't grasp is that US war production was still ramping up when it ended. The US Navy canceled more aircraft carriers scheduled to be launched in 1946, than the Japanese Navy had built in its entire history. Henry Ford's production line for B-24 bombers had just gone into operation in Michigan. It took in aluminum stock at one end and launched a bomber every 60 minutes at the other. All that firepower, and nowhere to use it but Japan.

Most of those Purple Hearts  would have gone into storage anyway, The people who call the use of the atomic bomb a war crime, would be calling the failure to use it a war crime, with considerably more justification. It's very unlikely that I would be blogging about it, in either case, since my mother was working in a clerical position for Japanese Army Intelligence in Nagoya.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 7, 2010

A sideways HD 1080x1920 wallpaper for Saturday. 472KB.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 3, 2010

Model Zoe Duchesne contemplates her lingerie-clad reflection. As do we all.

1280x1024, 182KB.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 2, 2010

Actress Susan Ward in a rare wet bikini.

1280x1024, 251KB. The 702KB original: