Archive for December, 2017
20 Dec 2017

New York Used to Be So Much More Romantic

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19 Dec 2017

Lohort Castle

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Lohort Castle, County Cork, Ireland
Lohort Castle was built near Cecilstown around 1496 by Donogh Og McDonagh McCarthy. It was taken by Irish forces during the Civil War. In 1647, one of the bloodiest battles of the War took place at the Castle and over 4,500 men were killed. In 1650 Lohort was bombarded and captured by Cromwell’s troops but the structure withstood the cannon fire due to the strength of its 10 foot thick walls. Lohort was rebuilt around 1750 by Sir John Percival, the Earl Of Egmont. The Percivals lived there until 1922 when Lohort Castle was burned down by the IRA.

18 Dec 2017

Trump Derangement Syndrome

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Charles C.W. Cooke nukes Jennifer Rubin until she glows for her everlasting Never-Trump-ism, which is turning her into a liberal tool.

The era of Trump has been as hard on the mind as it has been good for the muscles in the chest. Ours is a moment in which millions rush breathlessly to exclaim. In defense! In resistance! In bloody-minded persistence! “I will not back down!” we are told, by people who have not been asked to, and could not be compelled to. They won’t be “intimidated” either, nor “silenced,” nor “bullied” nor, it seems, pushed to any form of self-reflection. Indignation, not analysis, is the perennial order of the day, and the tone of our debates is ineluctably Twitteresque. Retweets are points on the board, and hyperbole gets you oodles of them. The worst. Ding! Insane. Ding! Crisis. Ding, ding, ding! Congratulations, you have been promoted to the next level. Time for some game theory . . .

From this self-laudatory funhouse has emerged a host of cynical entrepreneurs, each with the same approach to our dismal, fractious moment: Take no prisoners, brook no opposition, and never, ever step away from the umbrage. These people end their sentences with “Really.” or “In 2017.” or “Let that sink in”; they pepper their analyses with eschatology; and, as is apt for a cult, they are promiscuous with their accusations of heresy. Like Lewis’s busybodies, they are convinced to a man that they are saving the country, and insistent that the dissenters are miscreants or weaklings. They have little sense of history, no instinct for context, and no meaningful faith in the system they want to save. They are marching in an army, and damn does it feel good.

Which brings us to Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s ostensibly conservative blogger.

Rubin is not the only example of this president’s remarkable talent for corrupting his detractors as well as his devotees, but she is perhaps the best one. Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene, Rubin has become precisely what she dislikes in others: a monomaniac and a bore, whose visceral dislike of her opponents has prompted her to drop the keys to her conscience into a well.

RTWT

Regular, long-term readers will recall that, right up to Election Night, I was anti-Trump myself, and I did not even vote for him. I voted for that Mc-Somebody-or-other guy from Utah.

But, I did indulge in some private gloating Election Night as Hillary went down in flames. And, as Inauguration Day arrived, I sat down with a large drink, and reflected. I realized that I had been wrong: Trump really was evidently not a democrat Q-Boat. He was actually sincere, and he was proposing to do a lot of good things. And, while Donald Trump was never going to measure up to the ideal form of President of the United States, if you compare him to the great majority of presidents in my own lifetime, he’s not really so awful as all that.

He isn’t really any more plebian than Truman. Trump was never a bagman for a crooked urban political machine. He is not even close to being as worthless and fraudulent in every way as JFK. He isn’t a total poltroon, and he probably won’t be banging hookers in the White House pool. He is not as vulgar and just plain nasty as Lyndon Johnson. He will not humiliate his underlings by making them talk to him while he’s on the can. Trump also will probably refrain from waving his male organ at the White House press corps. And he is not even close to being as nerdy and neurotic as Nixon. He won’t drink himself to sleep every night on taxpayer-funded Haut Brion.

He actually is more consistently conservative in his policies and is keeping a lot more of his promises than the Bushes.

The trick to enjoying the Trump presidency is simply never watch him speak, just sit back and watch all the liberal heads exploding everywhere, pour yourself another drink, and laugh.

The way I see it. Conservatives like me did not elect Donald Trump. The Liberals did by driving ordinary working class Americans round the bend with their left-wing insanity, their incredible arrogance, and their contempt for America and Americans. Trump is the ordinary American-in-the-street’s rejoinder. And they obviously deserve it.

18 Dec 2017

Amish Roofers Working in the Snow

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We had hired a local Amish crew last Summer to install a new steel roof on the 1812 log cabin. Naturally, they finally showed up to work the day following our first six inch snowfall of the season, and even a bit of snow falling that day did not keep them from working.

We are both retired now, so we are finally getting to stay full-time out here at the 300-acre Central Pennsylvania farm we purchased as a vacation place thirty years ago.

Karen’s photos are here.

18 Dec 2017

Harvard Freshman Deciphers Meaning of Inca Knots

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Atlas Obscura:

There are many ways a college student might spend spring break. Making an archaeological breakthrough is not usually one of them. In his first year at Harvard, Manny Medrano did just that.

“There’s something in me, I can’t explain where it came from, but I love the idea of digging around and trying to find secrets hidden from the past,” Medrano says.

With the help of his professor, Gary Urton, a scholar of Pre-Columbian studies, Medrano interpreted a set of six khipus, knotted cords used for record keeping in the Inca Empire. By matching the khipus to a colonial-era Spanish census document, Medrano and Urton uncovered the meaning of the cords in greater detail than ever before. Their findings could contribute to a better understanding of daily life in the Andean civilization.

The Inca Empire reached its height of power in 15th- and 16th-century Peru. When Spanish conquistadors invaded, the Inca had established the largest and most complex society in the Americas. Architectural marvels from the civilization, such as Machu Picchu, survive to this day, but the Inca left behind no written records.

“The only sources we have at present are chronicles of the Inca that were written by the Spaniards,” Urton says. “We know in a lot of cases those histories were skewed by Spanish beliefs and Spanish motivations, and so we don’t really have any indigenous Inca history.”

The only records the Inca are known to have kept are in the form of intricately knotted khipu textiles. In 2002, Urton began Harvard’s Khipu Database Project. He traveled to museums and private collections around the world to record the numbers of knots, lengths of cords, colors of fibers, and other distinguishing details about every Inca khipu he could find—more than 900 in total.

Urton says he and other researchers in the field have always had a general sense of what the khipus represented. Many, they could tell, had to do with census data. Others appeared to be registers of goods or calendar systems. But, until recently, none of the khipus Urton studied could be understood on a very detailed level. If the khipus held messages or cultural information beyond just numbers, the meanings were opaque to modern scholars.

A turning point came when Urton began looking into a set of six khipus from the 17th-century Santa River Valley region of Northwest Peru. One day, Urton picked up a book and happened to spot a Spanish census document from the same region and time period.

“A lot of the numbers that were recorded in that census record matched those six khipus exactly,” Urton says.

It was an exciting enough coincidence that Urton mentioned it to his undergraduate students at the end of class in the spring of 2016. For Medrano, who was sitting in the lecture hall that day, it was too enticing of a lead to ignore.

“I walked up to him and said, ‘hey, spring break is coming up, if you need someone to put a few hours into this, I’d be happy to take a look,’” Medrano recalls. …

The khipus in question are in a private collection in Peru, so Medrano worked from information Urton had recorded in his khipu database. Medrano recalls combing through spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel, graphing some of the data, and enjoying the hunt for patterns.

“I have a love of puzzles, just for entertainment. I love to do a Sudoku on a plane or something, but this is so much more profound,” he says.

Medrano comes from a Mexican-American family and speaks Spanish, so understanding the Spanish census document was no problem. Handling numbers and data came naturally to him as well, as an economics major. The challenge, as both Medrano and Urton note, seemed to demand a perfect alignment of his skills and interests.

“Not every archaeology project operates in Excel,” Medrano points out.

Medrano noticed that the way each cord was tied onto the khipu seemed to correspond to the social status of the 132 people recorded in the census document. The colors of the strings also appeared to be related to the people’s first names. The correlations seemed too strong to be a coincidence. After spring break, Medrano told his professor about his theories.

“I just remember being pretty excited, that, ‘Wow! I think the guy’s got it,’” Urton says. “There were a couple of things that didn’t add up and I’d point that out and he’d take it back and work on it for a week or two and come back and he would have understood something about it at a deeper level.”

Medrano worked with Urton over the next several months and the two compiled their findings into a paper which will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Ethnohistory in January. Medrano is the first author on the paper, indicating he contributed the bulk of the research, something Urton notes is extremely rare for an undergraduate student.

Sabine Hyland researches Andean anthropology at the University of St. Andrews. She has read Medrano and Urton’s forthcoming paper and describes their discoveries as “thrilling.”

“Manny has proven that the way in which pendant cords are tied to the top cord indicates which social group an individual belonged to. This is the first time anyone has shown that and it’s a big deal,” Hyland says.

Urton is now optimistic that the six khipus examined in the research could serve as a key to decode the hundreds of others he has in his database. The colors of the cords as they relate to first names could hint at the meanings of colors in other khipus, for example.

“There’s a lot we can draw on from this one case,” Urton says.

RTWT

17 Dec 2017

Weird Al: “The Saga Begins”

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17 Dec 2017

If Only

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17 Dec 2017

They Don’t Make Men Like They Used To

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NME

Gary Oldman has revealed that he gave himself “serious nicotine poisoning” after smoking nearly $20,000 (£14,800) worth of cigars during filming of his new Winston Churchill biopic film. …

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Oldman revealed that he made himself ill after smoking 400 cigars over the course of a 48-day shoot.

“I got serious nicotine poisoning,” he said. “You’d have a cigar that was three-quarters smoked and you’d light it up, and then over the course of a couple of takes, it would go down, and then the prop man would replenish me with a new cigar — we were doing that for 10 or 12 takes a scene.”

Director Wright, however, said that the price was worth paying, adding: “It’s Winston Churchill. You can’t have Winston Churchill without a cigar.”

RTWT

16 Dec 2017

How Donald Trump Plays the Media

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15 Dec 2017

Zen Tahr

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Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) ♂, Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary, Uttarakhand (Ankit Singh Bisen Photography).

15 Dec 2017

When Should You Doubt a Scientific Consensus?

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Jay Richards has some good answers.

A well-rooted scientific consensus, like a mature oak, needs time to grow. Scientists have to do research, publish articles, read about other research, and repeat experiments (where possible). They need to reveal their data and methods, have open debates, evaluate arguments, look at the trends, and so forth, before they can come to agreement. When scientists rush to declare a consensus — when they claim a consensus that has yet to form — this should give everyone pause.

In 1992, former Vice President Al Gore reassured his listeners, “Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.” In the real 1992, however, Gallup “reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.”

Seventeen years later, in 2009, Gore revised his own fake history. He claimed that the debate over human-induced climate change had raged until as late as 1999, but now there was true consensus. Of course, 2009 is when Climategate broke, reminding us that what had smelled funny was indeed rotten. …

It makes sense that chemists over time may come to agree about the results of some chemical reaction, since they can repeat the results over and over in their own labs. They’re easy to test. But much of climate science is not like that. The evidence is scattered and hard to track. It’s often indirect, imbedded in history and laden with theory. You can’t rerun past climate to test it. And the headline-grabbing claims of climate scientists are based on complex computer models that don’t match reality. These models get their input, not from the data, but from the scientists who interpret the data. This isn’t the sort of evidence that can provide the basis for a well-founded consensus. In fact, if there really were a consensus on the many claims around climate science, that would be suspicious. Thus, the claim of consensus is a bit suspect as well.

RTWT

15 Dec 2017

How the Left Won in Alabama

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They imported activists and students.

And they brought out the African American vote. mynbc.com:

U.S. senate elect Doug Jones won big with the African American vote.

According to the Washington post Jones got 96% of the African American vote.

93% of the men voted for him.

African American women led the vote at 98%

DeJuana Thompson helped organize a program called “Woke Vote.”

Organizers targeted hundreds of African American churches, businesses and college students at HBCUs (Historically Black College & Universities) statewide.

“We’re talking about making sure that every HBCU had a campus coordinator,” Thompson said. “We gave them buttons T-shirt’s some of the students did a study Jam for “Woke Vote” and they brought in people and they had to commit to vote when they came in the door.”

Other group partners also made a push to get votes from those in jail.

“We got over 3000 absentee ballots from inmates who still had the right to vote,” she said.

RTWT

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