Friday, August 04, 2006

A Climate of Sweat

Oh wait, that's not what I mean - it's just some sweaty weather, not climate.

That's right - climate is a long-term and large-area phenomenon, not just a local hot spell.

Even were I willing to grant the doom and gloomers' contention that - the Earth is heating up - we're all going to die! - I would want to think about some of their claims.
For example:
Overall global temperatures are the highest they've been since the 1400s. OK, so that means it's finally gotten as warm as it used to be? And we're causing the death of the Earth by getting the temperature back to where it was? Did everyone die during the Middle Ages of heat stroke? Did the Ice Caps Melt? Sorry, I got carried away. I was trying to apply rational thought to this topic, which is only approachable by the True Believers.
Speaking of melting Ice Caps: imagine the entire Arctic Ice Cap melting completely - do you know what that would do to the level of the oceans? Absolutely nothing. It's already floating on the water, melting ice that's floating in water doesn't change the water's level - it's displacing the same amount of water that is replaced when the solid turns to liquid. [I will grant, being a fair-minded person, that the Antarctic Ice is (partly) a different issue, as it sits atop a land mass (the continent of Antarctica). However, the fear-mongers don't factor this into their panic.]

I still say - where are the neutrinos? We're headed for a significant cooling of the sun (another periodic event, not due to the fact that we're sucking too much light out of the sun by having too many people trying to see all at once), and that means anything we can do to keep the Earth warm is going to be quite helpful.

Despite all these inconvenient facts, I think alternative energy sources would be great things to have - we shouldn't have all our ergs in one basket, so to speak. Let's get some solar generation satellites beaming power down in microwave form. Let's get some wind turbines going off the New England coast. Let's build some more nuclear power plants - if even the French aren't afraid, why are the Democrats?


Friday, July 14, 2006

The Cup!

Wow! I know it's been over for nearly a week, but the World Cup that just finished was a great time. It took me back to the late 70's when we had professional soccer here in Detroit (the fabled Detroit Express, coached by the legendary Ken Furphy) and we had season tickets at the soon to be no longer Pontiac Silverdome.
While it was disappointing to watch the US side exit as early as they did (thanks to the Group of Death in which we competed) and having no Belgian side for which to root, it was still a tournament of many beautiful games, many ugly games, and many cards - both red and yellow.
The saddest part was the way Zedane finished his career - it just made no sense. This is not the way he played the beautiful game - you have to go back several years to find something to stick him with - but it's apparently the way his Italian head buttee plays the game. Very sad.
Still, the game is great to watch, great to play, and it will be a big thing here in the States as soon as organized crime realizes they can take bets on the games. (That was our theory back in the 70's and 80's, and it seems still to be the case.)
Now if only Wayne Rooney hadn't been ejected!

Friday, June 02, 2006

e pluribus unum

As our erstwhile Vice President once told a school audience, e pluribus unum means out of one come many. It's beginning to look like the old Veep Gore's misunderstanding and mis-translation has taken root in the Senate (hey, that's where he used to hang out, isn't it?).
Yep, the Senate, thanks to a member from Hawaii, is poised to further fracture our Union. These United States will have even more levels of government, this time based on yet another racial or ethnic identification - Native Hawaiians.
As a native American of Belgian descent, I resent other ethnicities getting all the goodies - I want to set up a Barony of Belgian-Americans that operates in tandem with the current Federal government. As Baron of Belgian America, I will rule my brethren with kindness, mercy, frites, mussels, and beer. After all, if other groups get extra layers of government to insulate them from reality, why shouldn't I? Freedom for Flemish Americans! Up the Walloons!
I suppose it's more likely we'll end up with a federation of a Balkanized America than with my dream of the Barony of Belgian America. So, with a heavy heart, I say:

Charles, Baron van Becelaere

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gasoline Prices, etc

Well, at least it looks like there won't be any silly "tax rebates" coming from the Feds based on the increased gasoline tax revenues. Still, it does look at least possible that some kind of investigation of those evil oil companies may be in the offing.
Oh, and on the more local front, our "business friendly" governor, Jennifer Granholm, is busy pressing for a windfall profits tax on the oil industry. Hmm, I guess the message is something like, "We want you to come do business in Michigan. Be careful that you don't do too well, though, or we'll come take your profits." Sounds like a winning message, doesn't it?
Of course, everyone knows that the windfall profits tax back in the Carter years worked so well that the prices at the pumps went down immediately, so why wouldn't it work just as well today?
That's exactly the problem, it will work exactly as it did then.

Imagine this scenario.
Staples buys paper from the manufacturer at $75 per whatever, then marks it up to $100. Every time they sell one of those units, they make $25 - or, 25% of the sale is their margin.
Suddenly, there's a shortage, or a labor cost increase, or whatever, and the cost to Staples goes up to $112.50. Staples then marks that unit up to $150.
Now each time they sell one of those units, they make $37.50, a windfall of 50%!
Oh, wait a minute - they're still only making a margin of 25% of the sale. Maybe there's no windfall at all.

Why can't everything be this simple and clear? Perhaps because we don't want to think, we just want to blame.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Immigration Arguments

I was listening to one of the proponents of amnesty for illegal immigrants the other day, and something struck me about his arguments.

First, they were strictly economic in nature. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to hear that from the left, given the essentially complete takeover of the left by socialist thinking, but it still seems odd.
Secondly, they seemed eerily reminiscent of arguments not heard in this country since the mid 1800s. The whole justification seemed to be essentially the same as the justification for keeping slavery in the soon-to-be Confederacy. It boiled down to this: we can't find Americans willing to do these jobs at these wages, so don't take our Mexicans away. Given the amazing blinders as to the true costs of illegals with which the left tends to view this situation, I suppose it's far from surprising that they don't see that paying a wage at which an American would do the job would actually cost us all less than paying the outrageously low wages and letting the taxpayers pick up all the extras.

I have absolutely no compassion for businesses which are based knowingly on breaking the law. Neither should you.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Perhaps I Just Don't Speak English Well Enough

I'm afraid I'm having trouble understanding some of the news reports lately.
It seems that I don't quite know the correct usage of some of the basic terms in our current immigration debate.
Somehow, people are up in arms at the thought if making it criminal to do something that's against the law (or "illegal" as we often say).
Hmm. Seems to me that if you break a law - I'm not talking about a civil infraction, such as a traffic ticket (and only some of them) - then you've done something criminal. Perhaps there are some fine distinctions of which I'm unaware. For example, is it only felons who are criminals? I don't remember reading that anywhere, but I suppose it could be the case.
Still, I don't think that's the distinction anyone is "honestly" making in this debate. Somehow, those who want immigrants to "play by the rules" (that's a nice way of saying "obey the law" in my book) are evil Blue Meanies who are bent on creating a new class of criminals out of whole cloth.
It seems more likely that those on the other side are attempting to end the crime of illegal immigration by defining it away. "Oh, it's no longer illegal to do that; and look - our crime rate has gone down dramatically!" What nonsense.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Well, it's back, apparently. That's right, folks, narrow-minded busybodies are back at it - high-minded do-gooders are out to tell you what's good for you, and make it stick!

Oh wait, this time it's folks on the left, and it's tobacco. Oh, then it's alright. Man, what are these folks in California smoking? Clearly it's not tobacco!

Don't call it a ban, though - you can still smoke in certain well-defined remote areas, as well as in your car (provided the windows are rolled up and no one can smell your smoke). I wonder if they're going to ban smoky cars (diesel delivery trucks need not bring their wares into town! doesn't matter how green the product - or produce - bring it by mule, please)?

Next thing you know, we're going to ban highway salt. No, not because it rusts our cars, or causes trouble with grass growing next to the roads - we've got to limit exposure to second-hand salt!
That's right, folks - second-hand salt is a deadly danger (it's been researched in India, and that's where all our jobs are going, so they ought to know, right?). Next up, the HHS (Health and Hubris Services) will be baning that shaker on your table.

OK, I feel better now (think I'll go find a salt lick). Smoke 'em if you've got 'em - just not near anyone else!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Global Warming my Eye

At last, there's a report of what's really going on with the climate [check here] - we're headed for another Ice Age.
For years I've been telling everyone who'll listen that we should pump as much of those "greenhouse gasses" into the atmosphere as possible - anything to cushion the coming Ice Age. Just look at the activity of the sun: where are the neutrinos? Riddle me that, global warming man!
The sun is entering a downtime in the cycle of sunspots, and it's already dropped its fusion activity radically - there are simply not nearly enough neutrinos coming out to sustain current energy output. We're about to see the sun's radius reduced slightly, causing an increase in density, causing a re-ignition of the fusion reaction. Of course, in the meantime, we're looking at dropping temperatures. Cuddle alert if ever there was one!
For a fun novelized exploration of what's about to happen, check out "Fallen Angels" by Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn [check it out here]. It's especially fun if you've ever been part of a science fiction convention, but once you're into the story, that's just icing on the cake. Highly recommended.
Now go put on a sweater!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Linguistic Musings

Here are a few things that I've posted in other places over the years. Kind of fun, and it helps keep this blog filling up!

1. What is an adverb?
Adverbs, like Adjectives, are words used to modify other words.
In the case of Adjectives, they modify only nouns.
All other words are modified by Adverbs.

Can you give an example?
You're bloody right I can.
That was an example, in case you didn't notice.
In that sentence, bloody is used as an adverb, while in other contexts it can be used as an adjective. One of the confusions among students of grammar is that the classification of a given word can differ, based upon its use.

I thought you'd never ask.
Think of that same word, "bloody," in another context:
That is one bloody wound.
There, "bloody" is used as an adjective, simply modifying the noun "wound."
If we were in England, we might hear someone say:
That is one bloody vicious rabbit.
Note that there is no comma between "bloody" and "vicious," indicating that they are not serial adjectives, both modifying the noun, "rabbit." Thus, "bloody" in this context is acting as an adverb, and actually modifies the adjective. "vicious."

I thought you'd see it my way. Just remember that there are many other, less family-friendly modifiers which could be used in just the same way!
Happy Modifying!

2. What are personal pronouns?
There are two uses beyond the simple substitution of he for Bruce or she for Sheila, for example.

And those are?
The singular indefinite pronoun and the singular pronoun of personification.

'He' is the singular indefinite pronoun in English ("if a person drinks too much, he will likely experience a hangover"). 'He' also happens to be the masculine personal pronoun.

'She' is the singular pronoun of personification in English ("if England fails to advance America's foreign-policy ambitions, she will suffer terrible consequences"). 'She' also happens to be the feminine personal pronoun.

Confusing the two exhibits not a warm-and-fuzzy concern for the inclusion of women so much as a writer's or speaker's ignorance. Using the feminine personal pronoun as an indefinite article is as moronic as using the masculine personal pronoun for personification. Thus the captain greets us: "Welcome to my ship. Isn't he splendid?"
I mean, give it up, people. It's not thoughtful; it's just illiterate.

btw - many thanks to Thomas C. Greene of the Register for his unusually grammatical (at least for the Register) analysis of this topic.

3. What new words might I want to use?

Here are several new coinages for your lexical pleasure, enjoy!

grandmonition (v. n.) - The urging of (especially) kin to overindulge somewhat, as in "Eat up," she grandmonished him, "you're nothing but skin and bones."

plebicide (v. n.) - This is the killing of one's "people" in order to assure electoral dominance. For example: The Baath party called for a plebicide on the eve on national elections.
[compare plebiscite - a direct vote of the entire electorate].

weblication (v. n.) - The "replication" of someone else's web materials in order to create one's own (not that this ever happens).

Super Bowl Ads

Well, it looks like I'm one of the few who enjoyed the Burger King commercial on the Super Bowl. Apparently it had one of the highest scores for reducing people's perception of the advertised brand's quality.
I thought is was clever, funny, fun, and well done. Their website lets you build your own Whopper just the way you like it, and it's plenty fun to watch those "condiments" leap onto one another on their way to finishing that Whopper.
Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


We netizens seem to be a bit schizophrenic on the topics of privacy and its relative, identity theft.
  • We get outraged at the idea that the government can see the aggregated searchings of us all through Google (although they're fighting the subpoena at this time), Yahoo!, MSN, et al.
  • We quake with fear before sending our credit card numbers or Social Security numbers across an encrypted connection to buy or confirm something.
  • We lie about our ages, incomes, pretty much everything except a valid email address when registering for access to various websites.
  • We post the most intimate details about our lives, loves, hates, bodies, friends, whatever; seemingly with no thought for the fact that anyone in the world might run across that stuff.
It's a bit frightening to realize just how easy it is to learn something that you'd just plain rather not know about people with whom you're acquainted.
I suppose this has some relationship to the general coarsening of our society. When "family hour" programs persist in showing us precocious kids explaining the ins and outs of sexual relationships to their peers and parents, it probably shouldn't be surprising that kids think that's normal. Frankly, there are plenty of things I'd never put out here in my blog, and I don't know that anyone ever really reads this stuff anyway. I just wish I didn't feel so square / old-fashioned / out of it for thinking this way.

As the saying goes, grr.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


You know, I kind of understand the fascination with Mozart - quite wonderful music written from the age of 3 months or whatever - but good grief! OK, 250 years is impressive, but he lived for less than forty of them. I've never been that big a fan (I much prefer Haydn in that school, and Bach or Beethoven are very clearly far superior to Mozart), but the CBC is driving me crazy. I want my Vinyl Café, my I Hear Music, my Sound Advice. Oh well, I guess the consolation is that this won't happen for another fifty years.
Nonetheless: grr.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

B-minor Reflections

Well, it's been a few days since we performed the Bach B-minor Mass, but it's still going through my head.
On the way out of the dress rehearsal, one of the other singers mentioned that she was looking forward to the next piece (the Mozart Requiem, in case you're interested), as there would finally be different melodies stuck in her head. I don't know - we haven't started in on the Mozart yet, but the Bach seems awfully well lodged in my head.

Anyway -

This was simply the best music I've ever performed. It's trite to say that Bach was a genius, but it's still true. This man was gifted beyond comprehension, and still signed all his compositions SDG - to God alone be the glory. Now, I'm at least as humble as the next guy, probably more so, but that's a level of humility that demands respect.
Singing those glorious lines with a pretty darned good orchestra (the flautist was spectacular, and the 1st violin and the trumpets shone as well) was a highlight of my musical life, and one that won't soon leave me.

If you have the opportunity to stretch beyond your normal levels of activity, whether it's music, athletics, writing, cooking, whatever, go for it - no one ever got better at something by standing still.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bach Bminor

Well, it's just a few days (and a few rehearsals) until we get to present the Bach Bminor Mass. This is the most amazing music I've ever sung. Not only is it perfectly suited to the text, but it's singable, in an extremely difficult, yet rewarding kind of way.
It's interesting to realize that much of the best church music ever written for the Catholic church was written by a Lutheran!
ah well, SDG