Pink surprise

I wasn’t expecting much action from my cacti until things warm up again in the spring, but the Turbinicarpus roseiflorus that I started from seed a few years ago popped out a couple of flowers this week. It’s a small plant, slightly over an inch in diameter, exclusive of spines.

Both photos are stacked-focus, the one above compiled from 40 separate images. As usual, click the pictures to see them larger and with better color. Open in a new window for maximum detail.

The hits just keep on coming

More popular tunes from the fourteenth century: the dances “Tristan’s Lament” and “La Rotta,” composed by Anonymous’ great rival, Traditional. I used to hammer these out on my dulcimer at Renaissance Faires and SCA events. The harp and cimbalom are both instances of Modartt’s Pianoteq. The rest of the sounds are from various soft synths and samplers.

I’ve played around with this pair in my DAW once before, back around 2004. The morbidly curious can find that very synthetic version here. Judge for yourself whether I’ve learned anything in the past fifteen years.

Back together, finally, sorta

Gentle Giant, the best prog rock band of them all, split in 1980 and never reunited — until now. Here’s a fan video of one of their later tunes compiled earlier this year which features an enormous number of GG enthusiasts, plus the Giants themselves. At last they’re back together, albeit only on the same screen.

Pink and black

The orchid above is a form of Habenaria Jiaho Yellow Bird. Evidently the color is variable. I photographed it at the monthly orchid society meeting this week.

There were also a few Catasetinae with dark flowers. The darkest was the multigeneric hybrid Monnierara Millennium Magic “Witchcraft”, above, which is such a deep burgundy-maroon that it can be called black. The flowers were just starting to open when I took the picture, and they ought to be flatter when fully open. (It’s a recent hybrid, and probably not the source of Basil St. John’s black orchid serum. My best guess is that his orchid was an obscure Dendrobium.)

There are many more pictures from the meeting here.

Today’s quote

F.L. Lucas, via Joseph Epstein:

I have come passionately to prefer sense to sensibility, and even cynics (if one must have either) to rhapsodists and rapturists. . . . I can only ­suggest that humanity seems throughout its history to have suffered far worse from mental intoxications and fanaticisms than from any rare excess of sober reason.

Bonus quote:

I sometimes wonder if there have not been two great disasters in the history of modern letters: the first when literature began to be a full-time profession, with writers like Dryden and Lesage, instead of remaining a by-product of more sanely active lives; the second, when the criticism of literature became likewise a profession, and a livelihood for professors.

Safety and psychosis

The Wichita city council this week extended the “mask mandate” into October. Why stop at masking?

How can I avoid the risks of drowning while swimming?

Recommendation: if you must swim, always wear a life vest, face mask and snorkel. This can interfere with swimming laps and draw comment at your local swimming club (assuming they reopen after a coronavirus vaccine is available) but your health is more important!

SER best practice: don’t swim at all. In fact, try not to go near bodies of water larger than a bathtub. Avoid hot tubs, especially if you are very short or have trouble maintaining your balance.

Pro-action: organize your fellow zero-risk activists to complain to pool operators about persons insensitive to your need for complete safety. Demand that the your health club or swimming pool have two trained lifeguards on duty at all time. Lobby local officials to fence off all ponds and lakes where people might swim unsupervised.

***

If you really want to do something about the CCP virus, Joseph Moore has the most practical suggestion I’ve come across:

Turns out that the majority of the population, those under 50 and in reasonably good health, have an IFR [infection fatality rate] of about 0.0001% – one in a million chance. (1) With this bit of information in hand, we should rejoice, throw away the damned masks, and throw a huge, sweaty, 2 week-long street party – for all those who are under 50 and in reasonably good health AND anyone else who would rather party and face a minuscule risk of death than cower like rabbits.

Because – pay attention here – after than 2-week party, we’ll have reached herd immunity! Huzzah! And it would cost us fewer deaths, maybe around 100, from COVID, far fewer than are going to kill themselves coming and going to the party, drinking too much and falling on their face, or in any of the myriad other mundane yet fatal ways healthy people routinely die.

***

Some perspective on our historical moment:

In 2005, Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben published the book State of Exception. The title refers to an old idea, traceable at least to the Roman dictatorship, which holds (to coin a phrase) that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

Of course, sometimes extraordinary times do require extraordinary measures—e.g., the American Revolution. The problem, of which ancient thinkers and jurists were well aware, is that there are always people wishing to proclaim any and every time “extraordinary” so they can grant themselves extraordinary powers which they resist ever giving up. The Roman solution was to limit a dictator’s term to six months and to enforce a strong political-cultural norm that the sooner a dictator surrendered his office, the more honor he gained. Whatever the precise solution, for law and liberty to endure, some means has to be found to deal with extraordinary moments without permanent recourse to lawless power.

Agamben argues that few, if any, countries—and virtually none in the West—have any such means anymore. And all the elites like it that way. Hence the “state of exception” has everywhere replaced the rule of law and is, de facto, the rule.

Nothing has made this clearer than the COVID-19 lockdowns, mask mandates, and other executive directives by governors and mayors who make no pretense of even consulting legislative bodies, much less going to the trouble of passing actual laws. They just decree what they want, and that’s that.

Americans initially were willing to go along because they feared that COVID-19 would turn out to be what the ruling class and the “experts” still lyingly insist that it is: a once-in-a-century plague primed to kill millions within months. By now it’s obvious that this virus is not that. But the “state of exception” remains.

***

And that’s enough. I am beyond disgusted with the viral hysteria and the gangsters who exploit it. From here on out I intend to completely ignore it and return this weblog to its original focus on trivia like literature, cartoons, the end of civilization, botany and music.

*** Update: I wasn’t happy with the original title, so I changed it. (This was in the back of my mind.)

***

Update II: Edward Feser is ferocious.

Stomping strings

I’ve been experimenting with the trial version of Reason Studios’ Friktion, a physical-modeling synthesizer that emulates bowed instruments such as the violin. All the voices in the “Estampie” above except the percussion are instances of Friktion.

Compared to the Applied Acoustics String Studio, the bowed sounds are more natural, and it’s easier to figure which knobs to twiddle to get the sound you want. However, String Studio handles plucked strings better and is more generally useful.

While Friktion does get closer to a proper fiddle sound than most synthesizers and cheap sample sets, it’s not really convincing. It might work with a bit of reverb in a busy arrangement, but I wouldn’t want to use it solo or with just piano accompaniment. I probably will let the trial lapse and get one of Embertone’s violins instead.

And now for something vaguely nostalgic

I’m currently rewatching Oh! Edo Rocket. Set in 1843 Edo, it’s excessively timely, with many of the characters out of work because of government decrees, and all public performances banned, along with pretty much anything else that’s fun.

TWWK recently posted his “top 30” anime series. Although I’ve quit following current shows, I still frequently rewatch old favorites, and I thought it might be fun to assemble my own list. TWWK doesn’t define what he means by “top,” and neither shall I.

1. Haibane Renmei
2. Serial Experiments Lain
3. Dennou Coil
4. Shingu
5. Mononoke
6. Oh! Edo Rocket
7. Humanity Has Declined
8. From the New World
9. Hozuki no Reitetsu
10. Cardcaptor Sakura
11. Mouretsu Pirates
12. Natsume Yuujincho
13. Shounen Onmyouji
14. Animal Yokocho
15. Kino’s Journey (2003)
16. Gurren-Lagann
17. Madoka Magica
18. Princess Tutu
19. Mushishi
20. Crest/Banner of the Stars
21. Kill la Kill
22. Dirty Pair (OVA)
23. Katanagatari
24. Galaxy Angel (including Z and A)
25. Jubei-Chan: The Secret of the Lovely Eye Patch
26. Un-Go
27. Joshiraku
28. Pupipo
29. Noir
30. Ouran High School Host Club

Honorable mentions: Cromartie High school, Tsuritama, Kaiba, Magical Witch Punie-chan, Kerero Gunsou, [C] Control.

The morbidly curious can find information on these shows along with plentiful spoilers at TV Tropes. Many of them can be viewed at Crunchyroll or Tubi.

Junk mail

While I was technically a member of the Stupid Party for many years (you have to declare an affiliation to vote in a primary in Kansas), I never, ever considered joining the Evil Party1. Therefore, I was a bit surprised to find the above in my mail this week. I think I detect a whiff of desperation in the air.

Flower of a thousand names

The botanical garden requires masks only when you are inside the buildings, not when you are in the gardens themselves, so I was able to grab a few pictures there without suffocating this week. While the naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera) are past their prime, the closely-related Lycoris radiata is just getting started. L. radiata has all kinds of significance in Japanese culture (if you see it in an anime, you’re probably in a graveyard), which I’m too lazy to summarize.

There are more pictures from the expedition here.

Just wondering, and a note

Any test of Joe Biden’s cognitive functions would be a waste of time. At this point, I wonder: could he pass a Turing test?

In related news, I see that the democrats have picked the most nakedly demagogic of the candidates to finish out Biden’s hypothetical term. Some months back she blindsided the senile creep for not supporting busing enthusiastically enough. At the time I wrote a brief note on an aspect of sending children to distant schools that is usually overlooked, but for some reason I never published it. I might as well put it up here now.

Why is there only one “s” in “busing”?

During the middle of second grade, my parents transferred me to the nearest Catholic grade school, 30 miles south of our home in northern Utah. My home was the second stop on the morning bus route, and the second-last in the evening. Every school morning I needed to get up while it was still dark out — always a bitter struggle — swallow something (I got thoroughly sick of Carnation Instant Breakfast) and run out to the bus before it drove off. The bus spent the next half-hour picking up other sleepy students around town, and another half-hour on the highway to school. I was barely awake, my parent were cross, the other students were cranky, and the bus driver resented us all. It was a marvelous way to start the day.

After school, the process was reversed. The main difference was that we were all tired and hungry rather than sleepy, but it was nevertheless as much a pleasure to ride the bus then as it was in the morning.

So, every school day through fifth grade, I spent two hours each day confined in a decrepit old school bus with bad shocks1, enjoying the company of 30 or so other surly children, because my parents thought I would benefit from being in a Catholic school. Were they right? No. Even assuming that the education in the Catholic school was indeed superior2, it was not worth the waste of two hours every day.3

Note that I spent those hours on the bus because my parents wanted me in a Catholic school. There was no question of good or bad neighborhoods or schools. Even so, it was a mistake. Busing itself is intrinsically bad.4

Odds and ends, mostly odd

Today’s useful term: “counter-Renaissance.” E.g.,

The Nazi leader who described the National Socialist revolution as a counter-Renaissance spoke more truly than he probably knew. It was a decisive step in the destruction of that civilization which modern man had built up from the age of the Renaissance….

—F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.

***

J Greely:

… for all the (mostly true) complaints about how horribly misogynist the Gor novels were, the core audience was female. The local bookstore clerks who more-or-less adopted me in the late Seventies often laughed about how women would come up to the counter with a Gor novel artfully concealed in the middle of their purchases.

I tried reading one of Norman’s novels once but gave up half-way through. He didn’t like women and had no understanding of them. Or so I thought — apparently he understood some well enough.

***

Greely found a little game:

“List 5 famous people you’ve either met or have been within a few feet of, but ONE is a lie. Then let your friends guess which one they think is a lie.”

Let’s play.

1. Wendy Whelan

2. Phil Keaggy

3. William F. Buckley, Jr.

4. R.A. Lafferty

5. James Lee Burke

(Don’t recognize all the names? All are legendary in their fields, though those fields might be ballet or music, rather than sports or television.)

***

The maskerade

A few weeks ago I announced my intention to never mention the CCP virus again. Unfortunately, the creeps and nitwits who run the country1 and their media accomplices won’t leave me alone, so here’s another small collection of notes from the medical front of the war on civilization. I’m putting the rest of the post below the fold, so those who are sick of this nonsense can skip it.

Continue reading “The maskerade”