Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ambivalent about snow
It's snowing in the Northeast and Midwest. I look out my Tallahassee trailer window and see only fog in the morning, clouds all day. Right now it's over seventy inside and the heat hasn't been on for several days. Oh, sure, it's supposed to go down to twenty degrees tomorrow night. But no snow. Every now and then I would like to walk out on crunchy crusty snow like up in Concord, New Hampshire. But then I think about scraping ice off windshields and ordering a new tank of heating oil every couple of weeks. That's when I realize I had a reason to move down here. My envy of snow is somewhat less powerful than my envy of warm weather was when I lived in New England. So I guess I've improved my status in life, my Happiness Quotient (HQ). The question is, in what direction do I move to make it even better?
Finished Pepys overview
Just finished reading Claire Tomalin's biography, The Unequalled Self of "old Pepys", as Samuel Johnson called him. Very well done, with a minimum of feminist finger-wagging. Tomalin does cluck about how Pepys hardly ever mentioned his women except to boast about his pleasures. But she doesn't let this obvious annoyance get in the way of a fully-realized portrait. I've been reading about Pepys for years, including all the Diaries, but I learned quite a few things. It's good to get a fuller idea of what really happened after SP stopped keeping the diary, in the exciting years leading up to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. I know have a much better appreciation of SP's historical importance beyond that of a daily record-keeper. Some day I'll get around to reading John Evelyn's Diaries, too.
Weekly World Tour continues - Africa Day again - Malawi
Our survey of net resources for relatively obscure places focuses today on Malawi, the former Nyasaland, for all you philatelists out there. It's a reportedly beautiful country wrapped around Lake Nyasa between Mozambique and Zambia. I've heard it called the Switzerland of Africa. But, hey, why isn't Switzerland the Malawi of Europe? Stats and other info are available easily (thanks again,!) IQ is not given, but Zambia's is 77 and Zimbabwe (a near neighbor) sits at 66. Tanzania, on the other side of the lake, comes in at 72. Mozambique's doesn't seem to be available, either. So have a guess. (All data from IQ and the Wealth of Nations, as always.) Here's a U of Texas map in .jpg format.
On our grand tour of the world, I would like to find at least one interesting fact or highlight one noteworthy feature of each of these countries, localities, islands or regions. For Malawi, I found a remarkably open-minded cartoon, Taxina, which the properly-trained academic could probably interpret so as to shed light on Asian/native cultural dynamics. As for me, I'll just enjoy.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Brave Old World?
Is it me, or does this New Yorker article (via Arts and Letters Daily)purposely ignore that great Aldous Huxley book, Brave New World? I can remember a time when the present back-and-forth about the heritability of intelligence would bring up Huxley's book immediately. It's still a presence in my mind. This trenchant passage in Jim Holt's appreciation of Francis Galton could have been right off the back cover of Brave New World:
It is the goal of the new eugenics that is morally cloudy. If its technologies are used to shape the genetic endowment of children according to the desires—and financial means—of their parents, the outcome could be a “GenRich” class of people who are smarter, healthier, and handsomer than the underclass of “Naturals.” The ideal of individual enhancement, rather than species uplift, is in stark contrast to the Galtonian vision.
I'm sure the Epsilon-minuses of the world would never mind, (they're too interested in "roof!") but all those on Alpha Island have the right to feel unjustly slighted.
Hayek, yes.
Vladimir Georgiyev, "Novaya Zemlya Is Ready for Detonations"
What, again?

Vast frozen beautiful wasteland.
Vast frozen wasteland day
So here we are at the end of our world tour standing in a vast frozen wasteland, today having been projected as Antarctica-day but craving diversity in iciness, one has liberated one's thoughts to subsume the essence of Antarctica and identify it anywhere it appears around the world. Or, even, if one expands one's horizons, on other worlds, like Titan or Neptune. Now the usual frozen wasteland entry should look like something like this:
Bouvetøya , 54°25'S : 3°22'E

Also known as Bouvet, this island is a single volcanic island with an offlier. The island covers 54 km² with its highest elevation being Mt. Olavtoppen at 780 m. It is 93% glacierized. Discovered by Jean Baptiste Charles de Lozier Bouvet on January 1, 1739, the first recorded landing was by sealers in 1822. The island is uninhabited with no wintering population, and is a dependency of Norway (claimed in 1927).
The important part of course is "93% glacierized". The fact of no habitation with no wintering population is also to be carefully noted. The Norwegians seem to specialize in this sort of place, looking desperately around the world, no doubt, for some environment that makes good old Trømso look habitable by contrast.
Elevation envy?
Peggy Noonan's cautious review of the President's Inaugural speech has to bring up the possibility that she really, really would have liked to have written the speech for W. I never thought of her as an old grump, but this:
This is--how else to put it?--over the top. It is the kind of sentence that makes you wonder if this White House did not, in the preparation period, have a case of what I have called in the past "mission inebriation." A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts.

One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.
comes pretty close to grumpiness. Aren't inaugural speeches for visions of perfection? Remember, W is right up there battling with the Washingtons, Jeffersons and Lincolns of the earth, as well as the bin Ladens. I say go for it.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Lord Howe Island Day
Thursday was going to be Australia Day, but I realised there was only one government in the smallest continent, so I could only learn about its currency and culture once. That may be simple-minded, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to make Thursday "Australia, Oceania and other little interesting islands-day" And Friday, which was going to be Antarctica Day, could be Frozen Wasteland Day, since there's no government and precious little culture in Antarctica. But there are plenty of frozen wastelands out there.
Anyway, here's a link to info about Lord Howe Island, an isolated nature park about halfway between Australia and New Zealand in the sunny South Pacific. Politically, it's part of New South Wales, but it looks like it might be a cool place to spend a vacation week if you really really liked birds and plants.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

North America Day Focus: St. Pierre et Miquelon
You would think it might be hard to find an obscure political entity in North America. The US, Canada, Mexico, that's about it? Not quite. A few historical remnants persist, like this shadow of the great-a-long-time-ago French Empire in North America. Not too hard to get too, either, with multiple ferries and airports. French electrical system, the Euro and no cybercafés, though. Yuck. Well, I guess one wouldn't go there to sit in front of a computer. OK, then, why would you go there? Give me a minute. To say you went there? To fish?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

23 degrees in Florida
It's a bit chilly tonight, although not unprecedently so for Tallahassee. My poor Peugeot has to endure another cold night. I really need to get it going for good. Or at least for as long as a 1987 Frenchiemobile is supposed to last. It's a great car when it's running - smooth, powerful and luxurious. Perhaps someday I'll ship it over to the Massif Centrale. Or sell it to a Cairo (Egypt, not Georgia!) cabbie. They charge twice as much for a ride in a Peugeot. And they can probably find parts and mechanics who know something about Pugs. Unlike in chilly Tallahassee.
It's those darn dancing robots again!
First they take away my factory job, then they outperform me at math and chess, now they're dancing away with all the women! (via Slashdot) Somebody's got to do something about these robots. Give a fat old white guy a chance! There's no use applying for that job driving a backhoe. They've got that covered (scroll down). It wouldn't be so bad, but do they have to be better dressed and with flashier sunglasses, too!? And I bet they don't get gout.
South America Day. Focus: Paraguay.
The Weekly World Tour continues, with a look at the overlooked, such as this alluring and temperate refuge. (Rumor has it certain Teutonic refugees took advantage of its obscurity in, oh, just coincidentally, 1945 or thereabouts). The only problem with the web resources I'm finding is that a good number of them have an odd habit of being written in Spanish! Go figure! I mean, "Contactico Turistico"?! Why can't they just say "Tourist Contact" so people can understand them? Stubborn Spanish-type South Americans!
Finally! A page in a civilized language, via the Hotel Westfalenhaus (Westphalia? Hmm. What country is that in?) Hey, the calendar says only one day of the year is a "Day of Work"! My kind of country! (pais?)

Unfortunately, Paraguay isn't listed in this table, taken from Lynn and Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations, so I can't tell you the national IQ. Perhaps you can make a guess from the recorded 96 IQs of Argentina and Uruguay, though, since they are somewhat similar, I believe, in ethnic composition and climate. The only divergence might be traceable to Paraguay's interior position, implying a larger Indian population. Peru, for instance, with a heavily Indian population, comes in at 90. Keep in mind that the Nazis may have actually increased the IQ, and the national susceptibility to martial music and mustached haranguers. It's always good to know the cognitive status of a country's people before you trust them with your money and time.

Monday, January 17, 2005

IQ - in a nutshell
You don't really have to read The Bell Curve to understand the state of thinking about intelligence, although I highly recommend the experience. This "public statement" makes most of the points Herrnstein and Murray make, in one page. I don't pretend that it answers all the questions, but it certainly presents them clearly and honestly, along with the contentions that have stirred up so much controversy in the last ten years. Now if you want something controversial, but still coherent and logical, try La Griffe du Lion. Don't worry, you can get past the Frenchiness.
Svalbard Day!
Who knew there was a Radisson in Svalbard! I didn't even know Svalbard and Jan Mayen were considered part of Europe (this being Europe Day) but they are owned by Norway. I guess there wouldn't be any other category to put them in, other than "Frozen Wastelands". If you like snowmobiles, polar bears and Northern Lights, this is your kind of place. Judging by the number of hotels and guest houses, a good number (and I use that word advisedly!) of Norwegians get up to this Ultima Thule every year.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Titan Day!
Some images (via Instapundit) of the surface of Titan from the European Space Agency have been manipulated by amateurs to produce interesting mosaics and panaromas. As the compiler says:
This work has been done by amateurs with no extensive scientific background, publishing the first images in under 8 hours. We'll have to wait for ESA/NASA to deliver us the correct images, so please, take the resulting images on this page with a grain of salt (that was a disclaimer). We have shown, however, to be able to bring composited images online earlier than ESA/NASA! It was an amazing night, these results have been gathered in about 8 hours time starting with the raw images and having no idea of what to expect, or what goals to reach.

The images that have been used are the same images that ESA/NASA is using, and we expect that the resulting images created by the professionals will be more extensive than those on this page, but they will be based on the same quality raw images as used in the pictures below, so do not expect higher resolutions from ESA or NASA.
Astonishing! They said the rivers were of liquid ethane, but just for a minute I thought they said "ethanol". The mountains were of some foamy stuff that might - just possibly! - be peppermint flavored. Rivers of whisky, seas of gin in the Big Rock Candy Mountains. When does the next probe leave?
Just think of the trouble that could have been avoided if Mary Mapes had taken the faxed documents she got from the Kinko's in Plano (or wherever it was), scanned them to a webpage, emailed the link around the blogosphere and said, in effect, "Hey, fellows, what do you think of this?" before she jumped to any conclusions! I'm sure amateurs would have taken that raw data and come to far more appropriate conclusions far sooner than CBS News did.
Perhaps we should lower our sights a bit. At least we can get the name of the country right. But then why be so boring as to have just one name? The US is also USA, America, United States, Les Etats-Unis, Los Estados Unidos, The Land of the Big PX (only service brats would understand that!) ZI (Zone of the Interior) and others that can't be repeated, usually used by those losers being out-competed, out-invented, out-fought and out-hustled by the world's greatest yet most humble nation!
The y/i distinction changes the Kyrgyz Republic into the Kirgiz ethnic minority in China. Google's quite adamant about that. But why!? The Weekly World Tour, as usual, raises more questions than it answers.
Asia Day!
Focus: Kyrgyzstan. Problem: not too much is available in the way of local sites in Kyr-stan. I'm not really looking to link to USAID or other NGO-supported sites. The idea of this Weekly World Tour is to identify web resources cobbled up by local residents on their own initiative. That said, this Freenet site, though it appears to be a USAID project, looks to be a good intro to places where locals might contribute real stuff. The fact that the Kyr-stan freenet links to an article about Uzbekistan that originated in Moscow, from Nezavisimaya Gazeta, tells you how thin on the ground net resources are in Kyr-stan. I'll keep looking.

Jackpot! I found a Kyr-stan site funded by George Soros, with a link to a cartoon by Ted Rall, who has "traveled extensively in Central Asia"! Of course, I'm not going to link to anything by either of these spawns of the devil. I just hope the two of them, traveling together, get caught up in a revolution in Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan and someone points out to the soldiers capturing them the cartoons Rall has drawn mocking the local governments. If I could only be there to see it, I would die happy!