Notes from all over:
There are three signs that spring has arrived in Kansas.
1. The first lawnmower.
2. The first trail of ants in the kitchen.
3. The first tornado siren.
As of 8:27 a.m. this morning, when I heard the insufficiently-distant roar of a small gasoline-powered engine, spring is 33.3% here.
At this time, America, like the rest of the world, is coping with the Wuhan virus. It’s brought about a number of (hopefully) temporary alterations to our patterns of life. These have not been easy adaptations for most of us. Our vibrant economy is badly hobbled, our social mechanisms are largely idled, and our politics has…wait just a moment…great God in heaven! Nothing has changed about our politics!
The whole point of establishing the nation’s capital in Washington was that it was a dismal swamp uninhabitable most of the year. The mosquitoes alone kept Congress out of session for long months at a time. This narrowed the amount of time each year that federal legislators could be in Washington wasting your money and destroying the country with their ridiculous ideas and votes.
Then along came air conditioning, and that ruined everything.
In reflecting on the COVID-19 crisis, we need not agree with MacIntyre’s wholesale pessimism about our political and social institutions. We need not question shutdown measures in place, nor even subscribe to their “biopolitical” critique. But if we care about the future of our societies, we raise a simple question: Do the managerial experts performing within the drama of this crisis have an adequate understanding of the hierarchy of human goods?
What is worrisome is not so much or not only the present, but what comes after. Just as wars have left as a legacy to peace a series of inauspicious technologies, from barbed wire to nuclear power plants, so it is also very likely that one will seek to continue even after the health emergency experiments that governments did not manage to bring to reality before: closing universities and schools and doing lessons only online, putting a stop once and for all to meeting together and speaking for political or cultural reasons and exchanging only digital messages with each other, wherever possible substituting machines for every contact — every contagion — between human beings.
Everything we do is a more or less educated guess, as far as what, if any, lives will be saved. It’s always a balancing act. Decreased economic activity kills people, too, a notion our Left seems congenitally disinclined to understand, but which is nonetheless completely obvious upon inspection. So, make good decisions, knowing it’s a trade off, seeking some less bad and essentially unknowable outcome that is largely independent of anything we may do.
Unfortunately for us, speed and scale have considerably broadened our notion of physical security. We know what kind of actions Mighty Pharaoh took in a plague. Given the technological limitations of his time, he could do no other. We modern folks, on the other hand….
… well, look around. We’ve decided, as a culture, that “physical security” now extends to “never getting the sniffles.” And we have, or soon will have, the technology to make that kind of monitoring a reality. The mud huts along the Nile didn’t have two-way Alexas installed; the McMansions along the Mississippi soon will. The state of the art of government really does allow for 24/7 individual surveillance. If we don’t want the sniffles, this is the only way to do it.
We live in an age where the unthinkable, like the fog, quietly creeps up on us until suddenly the unthinkable is the new normal. Just as “shelter in place” is the new normal whenever it snows, mandatory lock downs will be the new normal whenever too many people get the sniffles. The unthinkable not only becomes thinkable, it becomes impossible to think otherwise. It also means that everything unthinkable today is suddenly on the table, maybe even the menu, for tomorrow.
I’m not a virologist, and it would be presumptuous of me to make any pronouncements on the severity of the current apocalyptic threat and the best strategies for meeting it. However, I have observed human beings in action for more decades than I want to count, and can confidently say that, in matters of power and money, it is impossible to be too cynical. I suggest that, after your daily dose of hysteria from the medium of your choice, you see William M. Briggs for a different perspective, in particular his Tuesday updates.
Wichita is under martial law lite, and the botanical garden is closed indefinitely now, right at the beginning of its prime time. I did find a little color elsewhere yesterday, such as the magnolia a couple of blocks from me, and fine display of henbit near the post office. Bradford pears are at their peak, and crab apples are showing color.
Stuck at home because of the CCP virus? Why not follow Isaac Newton’s example and use the time to revolutionize a field of study or two:
Soon after Newton had obtained his BA degree in August 1665, the university temporarily closed as a precaution against the Great Plague. Although he had been undistinguished as a Cambridge student, Newton’s private studies at his home in Woolsthorpe over the subsequent two years saw the development of his theories on calculus, optics, and the law of gravitation.
Adobe has transitioned from innovation to rent-seeking. Fortunately, there is are practical alternatives to Photoshop and InDesign: Affinity’s Photo and Publisher. You can buy them, and actually own them, and for excellent prices, too. Currently they are $25 each. There’s also Affinity Designer, a counterpart to Illustrator, for the same price. I haven’t had time to give them thorough workouts, but I have verified that most of the Topaz plugins I use work in Affinity Photo. The Affinity site is here.
Cherry Audio has made their Voltage Modular Nucleus free for the downloading for a while. I already have VCV Rack and Reaktor Blocks, so I’ll probably give it a pass, but if you have a yen to experiment with modular sound synthesis, it might be worth checking out.
If you have a digital audio workstation such as Logic or Cubase, here are some freebies you might find useful.
• Native Instruments’ Analog Dreams is an “instrument” emulating old-fashioned subtractive synthesizers. It’s in my armory, and it sounds convincing. I haven’t used it much, but that’s because I have more virtual noisemakers than I will ever use.
• Standard Guitar is an extended-range electric guitar that works well with pedal and amp emulations. (The site is in Japanese, but it’s not hard to figure out where to click.)
• Shiny Guitar is an arch-top guitar, suitable for jazz, of course, and quite a bit else.
Both the above guitars run in Plogue’s sampler Sforzando, which is also free.
If you have NI’s Kontakt, there are several other free guitars to consider here.
I wonder sometimes just how authoritative AllMusic is. The above is from the entry on Canned Heat’s second album. Strange — I don’t recall hearing the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus on “Amphetamine Annie.”
I recently received the above invitation. Um, yeah. Right. Just wondering: how many of these “women of excellence” need to shave?
I can believe that a man can fly. I can believe that a copper-powered spaceship can travel vastly faster than the speed of light. But I simply cannot believe that any superheroine, no matter how impressive she looks in superspandex, can run or fight effectively while wearing high heels.
(Via Jagi at John C. Wright’s place.)
• Cognivirus, as in “In other news, in the latest debate Joe Biden has pledged to beat SARS and Bernie Sanders is leading the fight against Ebola. Apparently Joe’s cognivirus is contagious.”
Weblog of the Plague Years II
Incidentally, anybody remember how news media make their money and politicians win their support? Clicks, eyeballs, followers. The more freakish the headline or pronouncement, the bigger the profit the larger the following. Now, honestly, do you think any editor or politician has succumbed to the temptation to exaggerate the coronavirus threat?
If you think the politics now is bad, wait until this is over. The blamestorming and trophy-giving will be truly nauseating.
What happens when the final tallies are made, and we realize that more people died from the associated stupidity (e.g. diabetics not being able to get their insulin due to supply chain disruptions) than were killed by the Wuhan Flu? The Media is responsible for all that, and when people are feeling the very real pain of a major global economic depression, they’re going to remember it.
The Maximum Leader proposes a game. “Assume the former/late Presidents of the United States were alive and in their retirement after leaving office, but living in 2020. What vehicle do you think they would drive?” For instance, Andrew Jackson:
If your Maximum Leader was choosing the “non-farm” vehicle for Jackson it would be a 1968 Chevy Camaro SS. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why, but he can imagine Jackson in a blue ‘68 Camaro wearing a leather jacket, mirrored shades, and cruising the streets of Nashville looking to beat the crap out of someone.
I’d play along, but I don’t know cars very well.
… Ol’ Robbo can really get behind this “social distancing” thing. Hey, I was a misanthropic shut-in before it was cool to be a misanthropic shut-in!
“Social distancing” is one of the methods by which I’ve preserved my sanity through the years. With a well-stocked freezer, I won’t need to go anywhere for weeks, perhaps months. Coping with this week’s apocalyptic threat requires no changes in my behavior. At worst, I’ll miss a few meetings. That is not a problem.
Um, if all you’re buying is water, toilet paper, and rice, you’re preparing for a very peculiar apocalypse. What, you’re gonna sit on the porch in the dark boiling bottled water over a toilet-paper stove to cook your rice as the zombies roam the neighborhood looking for brains? Relax, you’ve just proven that you’re safe from them.
Orchids may get most of the attention here nowadays, but I sill grow plenty of cacti and other succulents.
The hooked central spines of Mammillaria pennispinosa are as sharp as they look.
Pleiospilos nelii, above, and Hoodia gordonii are coming along nicely.
Token orchid: the little octopus, Prosthechea cochleata, is blooming again.
There are more pictures here.
Above is a list of some of the files in my camera this afternoon. Evidently it is unstuck in time. Some of the pictures that I took tomorrow at the botanical garden are below the fold.
This is the first game I ever played with Professor Anderssen, the greatest German player, and at that time in the zenith of his fame. For a novice to offer so brilliant an expert the Muzio was like Ivanhoe challenging Bois-Gilbert in the lists at Ashby, but we were nothing if not daring in those days, and the cautious modern safety-loving youth of today had not yet been evolved.