The peaceful savage

From Before the Dawn:  Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, by Nicholas Wade:
Both [Lawrence H.] Keeley and [Steven] LeBlanc believe that for a variety of reasons anthropologists and their fellow archaeologists have seriously underreported the prevalence of warfare among primitive societies.  "While my purpose here is not to rail against my colleagues, it is impossible to ignore the fact that academia has missed what I consider to be some of the essence of human history," writes LeBlanc. "I realized that archaeologists of the postwar period had artificially 'pacified the past' and shared a pervasive bias against the possibility of prehistoric warfare," says Keeley.
Keeley suggests that warfare and conquest fell out of favor as subjects of academic study after Europeans' experiences of the Nazis, who treat them, also in the name of might makes right, as badly as they were accustomed to treating their colonial subjects.  Be that as it may, there does seem a certain reluctance among archaeologists to recognize the full extent of ancient warfare.  Keeley reports that his grant application to study a nine-foot-deep Neolithic ditch and palisade was rejected until he changed his description of the structure of "fortification" to "enclosure."  Most archaeologists, says LeBlanc, ignored the fortifications around Mayan cities and viewed the Mayan elite as peaceful priests. But over the last 20 years Mayan records have been deciphered.  Contrary to archaeologists' wishful thinking, they show the allegedly peaceful elite was heavily into war, conquest and the sanguinary sacrifice of beaten opponents.
Archaeologists have described caches of large round stones as being designed for use in boiling water, ignoring the commonsense possibility that they were slingshots.  When spears, swords, shields, parts of a chariot and a male corpse dressed in armor emerged from a burial, archaeologists asserted that these were status symbols and not, heaven forbid, weapons for actual military use.  The large number of copper and bronze axes found in Late Neolithic and Bronze Age burials were held to be not battle axes but a form of money.  The spectacularly intact 5,000-year-old man discovered in a melting glacier in 1991, named Ötzi by researchers, carried just such a copper axe.  He was found, Keeley writes dryly, "with one of these moneys mischievously hafted as an ax.  He also had with him a dagger, a bow, and some arrows; presumably these were his small change."
It was a peaceful religion, as they say.

A Point of Commonality

I don't know if it's true, as Charles Barkley says, that every black parent in the South whips their children with willow switches. I do know it's true that my grandmother, who was Southern but quite white, certainly made use of them as she felt appropriate. I only received such a lesson from her once, and at the time I thought it was unfair because she was angry that we were playing ball near the street -- but we hadn't even gone into the street. I later discovered that my great-grandfather was killed by a car, walking across the street to get the mail from his mailbox. The woman driving the car that killed him never saw him, apparently.

I'm of the opinion that it did me no harm, even if the particular incident was in a sense unjust. My father, who was on the receiving end of far more whippings from her as a boy, is one of the best men I've ever known. He is generous, gentle, and -- far from being a 'child abuser,' as the overwrought discussion suggests of any parent raised as he was -- my sister would always try to arrange to be punished by him instead of my mother, because he was too scared of hurting her to paddle with any strength.

Ecclesiasticus gives advice on raising children that begins "Whoever loves his son will beat him frequently," and of course Proverbs 13:24 holds that "whoever spares the rod hates his son."

Certainly you shouldn't abuse children. But can we stop painting people like my grandmother as monsters, 'child abusers,' and the like? Is it too much to ask that we express our culture's desire to move away from spanking children in terms that don't require us to despise and hate so many who were doing what they thought was best, and had been taught was right, even by the wise of their communities and cultures?

'Your Dossier Is Fat With The Blood Of Kittens'

Apparently Sergeant Shlock and my dog have something in common.

He's a great dog, really. It's just that he's a country dog, and there's just no explaining to him the difference between squirrels and cats. Everybody's happy when you catch the squirrel!

"Can't tame woild rabbit"

...says the girl's father in Watership Down...explaining why she can't keep Hazel (whom she's rescued from her cat), so that he ends up being released at a critical point in the story. Adams put a lot of trouble into researching rabbits for his story, and now I see evidence of why he was right.

According to this story, the genetic code of domestic rabbits (who've been living with humans for 1400 years or so) is different from their wild cousins' in about a hundred places...some of those important for development of behavior.

"Selection during domestication might have focused on tameness and lack of fear," says Pat Heslop-Harrison of the University of Leicester in the UK. "As a farmer, you neither want the animal to hurt you, nor for the animal to die from stress." Keeping lookout and fleeing from potential predators uses up lots of an animal's energy, which humans would rather see turned into meat. Because rabbits were only domesticated relatively recently, the new sequences are not all present in all domestic rabbits. As a result, Andersson says escaped domestic rabbits could revert to wild-like forms over just a few generations - assuming they survived in the wild.
It's unsurprising when you know about the famous Russian fur fox experiment...which took under 50 years to breed the wild foxes into something far more doglike (down to the floppy ears the breeders weren't expecting...they were just looking for tameness). The wiki on domestication gives estimated dates for various creatures that live with us...at least some of that based on genetic evidence.

Aye or Die!

We gotcher veto, right here

Nothing says "You're on the unpopular side of an issue" like a legislative veto override.

How to reduce federal spending

Michelle Obama came up with it, and it's brilliant:  impose unpopular regulations on the programs funded with the federal spending until the public rejects their products or services, to the point where it becomes more cost-effective for the programs to decline the federal subsidies.  Bonus:  less regulation.

Here's another effective response to dumb, intrusive regulations.  The Bank Street Brewhouse in New Albany, Indiana, wanted to serve only beer to customers, and to encourage them to complete their meals by patronizing nearby street-food vendors.  Indiana liquor laws, however, permit a business to maintain a retail liquor license only if it operates a restaurant on the premises, defined as the ability to serve hot sandwiches, hot soup, coffee with milk, and soft drinks in a sanitary manner.  Thus was born the "Bank Street Brewhouse Indiana Statutory Compliance Restaurant Menu":

Our Famous Hotdog Sandwich
Microwaved to perfection, including both weenie
and bun, sans condiments.
$10.00
Chef Campbell's Soup of the Day
Served in a bowl.  Your choice of whichever can is
on top of the stack.
$10.00
Instant Coffee
Caffeinated only.  Available black, or black.
$5.00
Powdered Milk
With or without water.
$5.00
Sprecher Craft Soft Drinks
Different flavors . . . market pricing.

H/t AEI.

The prisoner's lament

King Richard I of England (the Lion-Hearted) composed this song at the end of the 12th century, while imprisoned by the Duke of Austria during the Third Crusade.  He wrote it in his first language, an Old French dialect, with another version in a related Romance dialect that still maintains a precarious existence in Provençe and the Catalan areas of Spain.  Richard's enemies claimed he didn't even know English, but he probably did, though it's true that he exhibited almost no attachment to the country that revered him, preferring instead to live in France.


No prisoner can tell his tale well without expressing his pain,
But to console himself he can write a song.
 
I've many friends, but all their gifts are poor;
They'd be ashamed to know how for two winters I've been held for ransom.
My men-at-arms and barons know full well:
The English, Normans, Poitevins, 
Gascons. 
I would not abandon the poorest companion in prison,
And I don't say this merely to reproach, but still, I am a prisoner.
Richard did finally win his release, through the help of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, despite the connivances to the contrary by his brother John and King Phillip II of France, the son (by a later wife) of Eleanor's ex-husband Louis VII.

Friday Night AMV



Learning to fly.
I was a pilot once, I wish I'd had one of these. At least I can still enjoy listening to Tom.

Fun with Venn

From AEI:




Stormy weather

Over the last hour my internet (wifi) connection got wonkier than usual, and we noticed that we kept losing the satellite TV as we tried to watch the news over lunch.  It may an effect of the second and more powerful wave of this week's predicted solar storm, which apparently arrived at midday today.

Building a self

Steven Pinker, via Maggie's Farm, on "What's Wrong with Harvard":
I submit that if “building a self” is the goal of a university education, you’re going to be reading anguished articles about how the universities are failing at it for a long, long time.
I think we can be more specific. It seems to me that educated people should know something about the 13-billion-year prehistory of our species and the basic laws governing the physical and living world, including our bodies and brains. They should grasp the timeline of human history from the dawn of agriculture to the present. They should be exposed to the diversity of human cultures, and the major systems of belief and value with which they have made sense of their lives. They should know about the formative events in human history, including the blunders we can hope not to repeat. They should understand the principles behind democratic governance and the rule of law. They should know how to appreciate works of fiction and art as sources of aesthetic pleasure and as impetuses to reflect on the human condition.
On top of this knowledge, a liberal education should make certain habits of rationality second nature. Educated people should be able to express complex ideas in clear writing and speech. They should appreciate that objective knowledge is a precious commodity, and know how to distinguish vetted fact from superstition, rumor, and unexamined conventional wisdom. They should know how to reason logically and statistically, avoiding the fallacies and biases to which the untutored human mind is vulnerable. They should think causally rather than magically, and know what it takes to distinguish causation from correlation and coincidence. They should be acutely aware of human fallibility, most notably their own, and appreciate that people who disagree with them are not stupid or evil. Accordingly, they should appreciate the value of trying to change minds by persuasion rather than intimidation or demagoguery.
I believe (and believe I can persuade you) that the more deeply a society cultivates this knowledge and mindset, the more it will flourish. The conviction that they are teachable gets me out of bed in the morning. Laying the foundations in just four years is a formidable challenge. If on top of all this, students want to build a self, they can do it on their own time.

A New Day

That's when it happened. Someone said, "I can't believe it will be nine years this week since 9/11". And one by one we began to remember where we were, what we were doing, how it felt. It was this generation's "Where were you when they shot JFK?" moment and for a brief shining moment the shared memory pulled us back from the brink and made us one again.

But like everything that seems impossibly perfect, that moment wasn't meant to last.
In retrospect, 9/11 divides my life more clearly and cleanly than when I married or when my child was born. Before, I was committed to a life that was organized around the pursuit of knowledge. After, I was a man of war. I remember the day well, unlike the other momentous days: the hours spent watching the towers fall I recall far better than the hours in the delivery room, helping with a difficult birth. Though it was a dry wedding due to it being Sunday in rural Georgia, I barely remember my wedding day at all.

I don't object. I have the sense that I was sent, to live in this hour and place for a reason I'm not given to wholly understand. So be it.

Sounds like we are going to war again, against a foe not so very terrible. I think we can take them. The hard part won't be defeating them, or breaking their armies; the armies of the region are fragile, structurally, when on defense. The hard part will be not beating them until we've developed something better, and organic to the region, to step in and take our enemy's place.

Because it's organic, we can't make it happen faster than it naturally happens. That means we can't win this war by pushing too fast. We can break and destroy the enemy as fast as we wish, but we must be patient, to let the enemy develop its own opposition so we can nurture it. This is war as gardening.

Why doesn't that bother me? Shouldn't we rush to destroy the enemy and restore peace as fast as possible, especially given the brutality of the foe?

Perhaps it is because this is what works, and -- finally -- I believe that the rules of the world are not our fault. Things are as they are not because I wish it that way, but because that's how it is. We play the game that was put in front of us.

Could we refuse? Should we? Those are harder questions, really at the juncture of why someone might elect to be a Christian and not a Hindu or -- more radically -- a Buddhist. You have that choice. It is important to think about what is entailed in making that decision.

I am going to Jerusalem in December. The old tradition held that it is the center of the world. Perhaps it is the place for clarity.

We shall see.

Enid & Geraint

By custom and tradition of the Hall, today there are no posts except this poem.

Enid & Geraint

Once strong, from solid
Camelot he came
Glory with him, Geraint,
Whose sword tamed the wild.
Fabled the fortune he won,
Fame, and a wife.
The beasts he battled
With horn and lance;
Stood farms where fens lay.
When bandits returned
To old beast-holds
Geraint gave them the same.

And then long peace,
Purchased by the manful blade.
Light delights filled it,
Tournaments softened, tempered
By ladies; in peace lingers
the dream of safety.

They dreamed together. Darkness
Gathered on the old wood,
Wild things troubled the edges,
Then crept closer.
The whispers of weakness
Are echoed with evil.

At last even Enid
Whose eyes are as dusk
Looked on her Lord
And weighed him wanting.
Her gaze gored him:
He dressed in red-rust mail.

And put her on palfrey
To ride before or beside
And they went to the wilds,
Which were no longer
So far. Ill-used,
His sword hung beside.

By the long wood, where
Once he laid pastures,
The knight halted, horsed,
Gazing on the grim trees.
He opened his helm
Beholding a bandit realm.

Enid cried at the charge
Of a criminal clad in mail!
The Lord turned his horse,
Set his untended shield:
There lacked time, there
Lacked thought for more.

Villanous lance licked the
Ancient shield. It split,
Broke, that badge of the knight!
The spearhead searched
Old, rust-red mail.
Geraint awoke.

Master and black mount
Rediscovered their rich love,
And armor, though old
Though red with thick rust,
Broke the felon blade.
The spear to-brast, shattered.

And now Enid sees
In Geraint's cold eyes
What shivers her to the spine.
And now his hand
Draws the ill-used sword:
Ill-used, but well-forged.

And the shock from the spear-break
Rang from bandit-towers
Rattled the wood, and the world!
Men dwelt there in wonder.
Who had heard that tone?
They did not remember that sound.

His best spear broken
On old, rusted mail,
The felon sought his forest.
Enid's dusk eyes sense
The strength of old steel:
Geraint grips his reins.

And he winds his old horn,
And he spurs his proud horse,
And the wood to his wrath trembles.
And every bird
From the wild forest flies,
But the Ravens.

Civilization v. Celebrity



Foul language warning, though nothing you won't expect if you know who Mike Tyson is.

I have never seen a celebrity called out like that before. Not just any celebrity, either, but a former heavyweight champion of the world who is a demonstrated violent felon.

This host has some guts.

More Richard Thompson

A version of a Child ballad, King Henry V's Conquest of France, making a little fast and loose with history:



A version of another Child ballad, the ubiquitous "Cruel Mother" ballad; this one fills out most of each verse with "Edinburgh; Stirling for aye; the Bonnie St. Johnstone lies fair upon Tay":

Super-Henge

Dragging earth-penetrating radar around Stonehenge has some interesting results.

More on Trash

Skip ahead a few minutes, and you can hear an Oxford scholar talking about a hundred-year old find of trash that includes, among other things, lost sayings attributed to Jesus in the early period.

In a hundred years of work, they've gotten through a very small percentage of the trash. Old copies of the Iliad, tempting fragments...

The author's top three finds:

#3: A copy of the Book of Revelations' passage with the Number of the Beast, the earliest known copy we have... which gives a different number.

#2: A non-Homeric version of the story of the Iliad in which the Greeks lose the Trojan war.

#1: Turns out one document that they found in the trash mounds over, and over, and over, and over... well, let's call it a "romance novel."

28 weeks later

The Ebola epidemic, as expected, is getting worse:  about 3,600 infected and 2,000 dead so far.  More ominous is the even more complete breakdown of a medical system that could only have been described a rudimentary even before 79 healthcare workers died of the disease.  Hysterical rage is setting in:
“A US federal air marshal has been quarantined after being attacked by a man with a syringe, suspected to be containing an Ebola-spreading substance, at the Lagos international airport,” read a report out of Nigeria in the International Business Times on Tuesday.

Today's outrage in education

A young piano prodigy's parents would prefer to leave her in public school in Washington, D.C., but then she'd have to give up the piano competitions she keeps traveling to--while maintaining stellar grades--in order to avoid exposing her parents to truancy charges.  So now she's home schooling, a solution that suits no one involved.

Retirement and satisfaction

Statistics about Americans' retirement planning have a tendency to be a bit alarming.  This AEI article by Andrew Biggs and Sylvester Schieber takes an interesting approach, which is to examine the effect of children on retirement savings.  Apparently there was some recent scare-mongering about a discrepancy between the savings of families with children and those without.  Biggs and Schieber note that families with children spend a lot while the kids are at home or in college, then cut way back.  They don't drop their standard of living, though, so much as keep consuming what they always did, not counting what the kids consumed.  Parents save, therefore, not to permit themselves to adopt the standard of living common among childless people with equal income, but to preserve roughly the same standard of living they were used to, which of course makes sense.

The childless Texan99 household always adopted a standard of living significantly below that of my colleagues, even those with children.  Apparently they weren't as fanatically focused on retirement as I was; many of them seemed terrified of the idea of retirement, to be truthful.  In any case, if we get along in our working years at about the level we'd like to preserve in our retirement years, we'll be able to save a lot more than most people think is ordinarily prudent for whatever income we have.  It's not about the income, anyway, it's about getting used to whatever standard of living the income permits.  People are remarkably flexible that way.  The big thing is to be uninterested in how other people live; even if their incomes are comparable, their circumstances often are not, depending on how large a family they choose to raise and how prudent they are about emergencies and the future.

1,000 years of pop music

Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing, cuccu.  Here, summer is on its way out, finally, and we're looking forward to the first day we can open the windows with about the same enthusiasm that our forbears in England looked forward to the warm season.



"Sing it loud, Cuckoo."  That word lhude, according to the linguistic podcasts I'm enjoying this week, is related to the one found in Ludwig and Ludovicus (a/k/a Louis, or Clovis), and in that context means not so much "loud" as "famous."  All those names mean "famous leader," but were transformed from a title to a proper name, much as though we started to name kids "Boss."

These linguistic lectures adopt a leisurely pace.  I came in at around lecture 28, by which point the topic had advanced only to 5th-century Roman Britain, when the locals were still speaking some form of Celtic or Latin, and Old English was merely a glimmer in the eye of some European shore-hugging Anglo-Saxon-Jute-Frisian types between modern-day Denmark and Holland who were beginning to feel pressure to relocate somewhere across the water.  Now I think I'll go back and start with Lecture One.

"Sumer Is Icumen In" is not Old English.  Though it's one of the oldest preserved pieces of English music, it dates from the 13th century, post-Norman Conquest, and therefore features Middle English. If there's already a French influence in there, though, I can't see it; I'll have to await that lecture in the series.  Maybe it was a traditional song and therefore something of a linguistic throwback.

Ezra Pound parodied the song in a winter version:  "Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us, An ague hath my ham." In his Grand Oratorio "The Seasonings," P.D.Q. Bach rendered it as "Summer is a cumin seed."

YouTube has the whole Richard Thompson concert, which looks worth a try.  I may spend all of today listening to things and hardly getting anything read at all.  Update:  Oh, yeah!  This is long, but well worth listening to, if only for the verison of "Oops, I Did It Again," madrigal style.

What Are The Chances?

Racketeering charges?

Perhaps there is some strange computer virus that selectively trashes records inconvenient to incumbents, like the “glitch” that erased part of Nixon’s tapes. How else to explain the fact that this is the fourth announcement of an ever-expanding computer calamity connected to Lois Lerner to emerge from the IRS? First it was just Lerner’s computer that was affected, then those of her closest co-conspirators, then “no more than twenty” computers, and now an ever larger batch of burned out workstations.

Even more interesting, the IRS has apparently not yet shared this newest tidbit with Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, the distinguished and courageous jurist presiding over Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Here was Remy singing about it when it was just seven hard drives...

How They Count Time in The Mountains of North Carolina

Two minutes, forty seconds.

Not All of Us

I won't be looking up any such stolen naked images, and I don't expect any of you to do it either.

A Spirited Woman

I've slapped a boyfriend across the face, hard, and more than once, and shoved and struck too. Now, you might say these were extraordinary circumstances, or that because I'm a fairly small woman striking a much larger man it's not so bad, but the fact remains that if the tables were turned, such behavior would be considered appalling.

When I sounded out some friends, several of them admitted to lashing out physically at a boyfriend, and while no one was exactly pleased with themselves over it, it also didn't seem like the Big Deal it obviously would be were a boyfriend doing the same thing. I can't speak for others, but in some ways, I feel like violence was encouraged in me; people always found my temper, with its foot-stomping, drink-tossing, vase-smashing theatrics, to be hilarious, largely because I am so small and because it comes out so rarely. Like my grandmother, I was "a spitfire," my grandpa always said approvingly. As a result, I didn't work to curb it as I should have, probably feeling in some way that it even denoted "spunk" or something, and doubtless there was some half-baked, unacknowledged idea of "lady's prerogative" at work, a double-standard I'd consciously have mocked.
Your grandpa was right. Sometimes the only way to get a man to listen to you is to knock him upside the head. That's true for other men, too: once in a while, a man just needs a good knock on his door.

The double-standard is wise and proper, though, because if he knocks you back he could kill you.

Separate but what?

If anyone was hoping that the WaPo editorial page would get more respectable with the advent of Jeff Bezos, this article is bound to prove a disappointment.  Andre Perry argues that it is an important function of the public schools, at least on a par with the task of educating children, to provide jobs to disadvantaged teachers.  Thus, movements to limit teacher tenure are a stab in the heart of black professionals.

This argument has always seemed implicit in the attitudes of many progressives, but I believe this is the first time I've seen it made openly.

Canto

Via AEI:

Lending and spending with burning ire
The people cannot control the government
Ex-Im! Fall apart! The center must not hold;
Set anarchy loose upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide be loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence be drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of cronyist intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely de-authorization is at hand.
Kartoffelsalat! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of Irish sand;
A plate with potatoes, red onion and chive,
Bacon bits and warm vegetable broth,
Prepared in Germany, while all about it
Wind shadows of shameless export subsidies.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of scarcity
Will come to haunt my people in a faraway land,
As yam and tater, taxpayer-financed,
Slouch toward Munich, never to return.

A Reliable Alternative Energy Source

Trash.
“A good number to remember is that three tons of waste contains as much energy as one ton of fuel oil… so there is a lot of energy in waste,” Göran Skoglund, spokesperson for Öresundskraft, one of the country’s leading energy companies, explains in the short video below. That means that the two million tons of waste incinerated each year produces around 670,000 tons worth of fuel oil energy. Sweden even helps to clean up other countries in the EU by importing their trash and burning it.

Thanks again, Lord Keynes

Japan struggles with the stubborn refusal of its citizens to agree with the approved economic theories:
The world's third-largest economy contracted at an annualized rate of 7.1 percent in the April-June quarter, according to updated government figures Monday. The initial estimate released earlier this month said the economy contracted 6.8 percent. Business investment fell more than twice as much as first estimated.
The economy's contraction was expected after Japan increased its sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent on April 1.
* * *
Surveys show the public opposes a further tax increase, though increases are needed to counter ballooning public debt, which now is more than twice the size of the economy.
The revised data Monday show business investment fell more than twice as much as estimated before, or 5.1 percent, while private residential spending sank 10.4 percent in annual terms.
"Theoretically, there should be no impact from the consumption tax increase on corporate spending or long-term corporate planning, but a large number of Japanese corporations seemed to see a large impact from the hike on final demand," said Junko Nishioka, an economist at RBS Japan Securities in Tokyo.

Can fish think?

Another post from the consistently interesting Phenomena site (the source of Not Exactly Rocket Science weekly updates), about fish send signals to eels about tunnels where prey may be hiding and can be flushed out, to the mutual advantage of the fish and the eels.  It's charmingly entitled "When Your Prey's in a Hole and You Don't Have a Pole, Use a Moray."

The judicious mind

Phenomenon blogger Virginia Hughes, facing jury duty, has done some research into the role of stress in making us excessively judgmental.  She concludes that a prospective juror would do well to embrace relaxation techniques, which seems sensible.  It also occurs to me, however, that if we want people to judge us with calmness and temperance, we would do well not to put them under stress.  Many of civilization's proudest achievements are the ways we signal to strangers that we are not necessarily an immediate threat.

Grid parity

That's the PC term for comparing the cost of conventional electrical power and PV (that's the PC term for what we troglodytes call solar power).  A new study cited at Greenbuilders claims that a handful of states, including Texas, my Texas, already have reached grid parity, with more on the way.  The calculation includes heavy federal subsidies set to expire in 2016.

Casa Texan99 is interested in solar, notwithstanding our climate skeptic character flaws, because we enjoy independence and because there are more reasons to favor renewable energy sources than mixed-up anxieties about carbon poisoning.  That is, I don't consider CO2 a toxin, but that doesn't mean mining and burning fossil fuels produce no unpleasant effects of any kind.  On the whole, I believe they produce benefits far outweighing the costs, but I'd move to solar power for my home in a heartbeat if I thought it made economic sense.

As my husband points out, though, this study, like most, glosses over durability and the time it takes to recoup upfront capital costs.   From what he hears the solar panels are getting cheaper, but they aren't lasting the advertised 20 years, either.  In some states, the upfront capital investment is addressed by leasing arrangements, but a few states, like Florida and South Carolina, have outlawed these.  In South Carolina, for instance, public utilities so far have succeeded in arguing that a company that installs solar panels on a homeowner's roof and then charges them for the power produced is a utility that must jump through all the usual monopolistic hoops.

This Grist article points out that our society can be unpredictable about which emerging industries get the red carpet treatment, in ways that don't necessarily line up with our usual assumptions about libertarian trends:
It’s been interesting to watch this play out in light of the Wild West atmosphere that so often surrounds technological breakthroughs.  I’ve been reading American Odyssey, Robert Conot’s history of Detroit, and I’m continually surprised at how easy cars had it in the first few decades of their creation.  They killed people left and right, but it was was years before “drivers’ licenses,” “insurance,” or “parking tickets” came on the scene.  Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft were able to muscle into long-established monopolies and get comfortable before facing any major pushback, and the first major online retailer, Amazon, was able to go nearly two decades without charging the sales taxes that brick and mortar stores had to.
It’s not that this kind of preferential treatment for new technology is fair.  And to be sure, solar has gotten some breaks over the years as well, particularly at the federal level.  Solar may have widespread appeal to everyone from hippies to libertarians.  Yet it’s still having to fight to claw its way into a surprising number of markets, while other industries get to zoom ahead.
I wouldn't want to minimize the headaches the "distributed power" causes for electric utility companies. I've been involved in a dozen or more power utility bankruptcies, and the administrative nightmares caused by allowing people to force utilities to run their meters backwards when their co-gen power was being produced were always a big part of the intractable disputes.  But it does seem as though we make it unnecessarily difficult for people to generate some of their own power.  I was pleased to see that South Carolina appears to have taken some steps recently to reduce the barriers to solar leasing.

Ghostbusters



It's the 30th anniversary right now. For a week or so, you can see it in theaters.

I took the family today. I hadn't seen it in ages. It's a surprisingly good movie. Almost everything that happens on screen is beautifully wrapped up in building out the plot and its universe. Well worth a few minutes, if you happen to have some time in the next little while.

Choice

Some promising news:
"This year, 2014, we saw the largest single-year growth in enrollment in programs in the history of school choice," he says. The fastest-growing state is Indiana, which is expected to award 30,000 scholarships this year, up from 590 in 2010. "And the momentum's not going to stop."

"Freedom!"

I had nearly forgotten that the Scots are about to vote on independence.  I know nothing about the problems they face today, of course; my head is entirely full of claptrap from Braveheart and songs of the Jacobite rebellion and movie versions of Mary, Queen of Scots (the Glenda Jackson/Vanessa Redgrave production is terrific, by the way).  I had a vague notion that romantic old ideals of freedom and independence were bursting forth, so it was disappointing to read this analysis from Andrew Stuttaford at HotAir:
The problem with an independent Scotland is not that the economics are dodgy (although they are), but it is that that is in the grip of an authoritarian leftist political class, a grasping, thuggish vulture class that should be wished on no people. There is also the little matter of the EU. If an independent Scotland wished to join the EU (the membership it “enjoys” through membership of the UK would probably not survive) its (enthusiastically europhile) leaders would have to commit to joining the single currency as soon as Scotland satisfied the necessary tests. They deny that, but the EU’s rules are clear. The euro would ruin what’s left of the Scottish economy and make a mockery of “independence.”
The polls are actually looking as though the vote might go for independence.

"My son, the . . . ."

I've been listening to a series of lectures about the history of 20th-century science, which has now reached the career of Niels Bohr.  The lecturer claimed that Bohr was the only person ever to have won both a Nobel Prize and an Olympic Gold Medal.  Alas, the wonderful factoid is not quite true.  His brother Harald was on a team that took a silver medal in soccer, and apparently Niels sometimes played with the same team, but not in the Olympics.  Still, it suggests an impressive well-roundedness.  If nothing else, you have to imagine that Mrs. Bohr had plenty of tidbits to drop into conversations with her friends about what her sons were up to these days.

It turns out that Nobel laureates who won other prestigious prizes generally have received Nobel Peace Prizes or literary prizes rather than straight science prizes.  George Bernard Shaw, for instance, had to find room on his mantel for a Nobel Prize in literature as well as an Oscar (1938, Pygmalion, best adapted screenplay). Philip Noel-Baker, a British diplomat, won both the 1959 Nobel Peace Prize and a 1920 Olympic silver medal in track. Charles Gates Dawes, who was vice-president to Calvin Coolidge, won a 1925 Nobel Peace Prize after writing a tune in 1912 that ultimately was recorded as a number-one pop hit in the U.S., "It’s All In The Game.” George Smoot won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics after winning $1 million on TV's "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader," but that's not cross-training, strictly speaking.