URLs du Jour


  • James Taylor (II) James Taylor turns 64 today, and we're all grateful (and somewhat surprised) about that. At Power Line, Scott Johnson (like me) has grown up with Mr. Taylor, and shares his memories. Worth reading.

    If you get a chance to see Mr. Taylor in concert, take it. I've been to a couple, and he puts on a great show.

    In celebration, I cued up some JT on the iPod on the ride home tonight. I needed to lower my blood pressure…

  • … thanks to this story from Katherine Mangu-Ward in Reason. Quick summary: the Feds recently awarded a $10 million prize for "cheap, green, domestic light bulb". Non-incandescent, of course.

    Who won the $10,000,000.00? Dutch electronics company Philips, the only participant.

    How much does their "cheap" lightbulb cost? My friend, it costs fifty smackaroos.

    According to this chart, your Average American Family pays about $264 for lighting energy per year. Buying six of these bulbs would be more than that.

    Ouch! But at least it will pay for itself, right? Well, maybe, eventually. I calculate a break-even point somewhere north of 6500 hours between a $1 60-watt incandescent and a $50 10-watt LED bulb, assuming an electric rate of $0.15 per KwH. How long that really takes depends on how long you leave your lights on. And the LEDs are supposed to last a lot longer than incandescents. If they don't break at some point before their "projected lifetime".

    Or you could wait until the price comes down and the quality improves, as it almost certainly will. That might be a better bet.

    Or—here's an idea—if a company came up with a lighting solution that made obvious economic sense, they wouldn't need government prizes: they would, almost immediately, start raking in money from actual consumers. Who would be buying something they want, rather than something the government has decided they should buy.

  • Also at Reason, the DJ Kennedy has a funny and insightful article putting forth the proposition that "Atheism is a religion". She dared put forth this opinion on Bill Maher's TV show; she was unprepared for the "biblical floodgate of ridicule, name-calling, and abuse" that followed.
    My Twitter feed and Facebook page became engorged with angry responses. "Your adherence into adulthood to what is usually an adolescent phase (Libertarianism), speaks volumes about your confirmation bias levels," wrote Kernan. Touchstone Supertramp added; "Damn girl you got a big forehead." A guy named Kevin and about 70 other people shared this bumper-sticker nugget: "?If atheism is a religion, then off is a TV channel." Liz wrote, "Kennedy, is that if atheism constitutes a religious belief than anorexia is whenever you don't eat." Michael wrote: "re·li·gion /ri'lijən/ Noun: 1. Whatever Kennedy says it is." That was awesome. Beth called me a minor celebrity and a major troll--and it was also awesome to have somebody think I'm a celebrity.
    Why it was almost as if… she was some kind of heretic.

Last Modified 2012-03-28 3:36 PM EST

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

[Amazon Link]

Woohoo! Finished the last Potter book!

Tradition dictates that I do a little plot summary here. That seems pointless, but I'll do it anyway:

It's a dark time for Harry, his allies, and his friends: at the close of the previous book, a very important figure in his life was lost. Now Voldemort and his henchpersons are on the Potter hunt, and don't care too much about who they need to torture and kill in order to get to him.

Worse: nearly right off the bat here, they manage to kill off another of Harry's allies, and—this is the really nasty bit—Harry's owl, Hedwig, who had been with him from the start.

The only hope for the good guys: find and destroy the remaining McGuffins (here called "horcruxes") into which the V-dude sequestered little bits of his soul years ago; they provide for his immortality. The minor problems: they have no idea what they are; they have no idea where they are; they don't know how to destroy them once they're found.

Nevertheless, the book winds its (dare I say it? I guess so:) magical way toward a satisfying conclusion. All the major loose threads of the plot are tied up, mysteries are solved, and secrets revealed. Really good stuff that had me hooked right to the end.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:43 AM EST

Libeled Lady

[3.0 stars] Libeled Lady (1936) on IMDb [Amazon Link]

No, this isn't yet another post about Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Fluke. This is about a 1936 movie, a screwball comedy with four, count 'em, four big stars: Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, and William Powell. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

The plot, or should I say pretext: Ms. Loy is the high-society daughter of a fabulously rich tycoon; a scandal-sheet newspaper, run by Spencer Tracy, has just printed some sort of slur against her, and will almost certainly lose the $5 million libel suit her dad is about to file against them.

And in 1936, $5 million was a lot of money.

This emergency causes Tracy to put off (yet again) his marriage to Jean Harlow, who's understandably frustrated. Tracy's plan is to enlist his old friend/adversary William Powell in an underhanded scheme to get Ms. Loy into a compromising situation. The resulting scandal will derail the problematic libel suit! Problem solved!

A moderate amount of funny stuff happens, but the humor leans a lot on fast-talking wisecracks and sharp retorts. There are a number of stretches with nothing much going on. The outcome is not surprising. Ordinarily this might not deserve 3 full stars, but—hey it's Loy and Powell, and they had more chemistry than Linus Pauling and Marie Curie.

Now, if Netflix could only track down the two Thin Man DVDs we haven't seen yet…

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:44 AM EST