Sign of Chaos

[Amazon Link]

As I'm sure I may have previously mentioned: I own the one-volume compendium of Roger Zelazny's ten Amber novels, The Great Book of Amber. It's nice to have one big doorstop of a book instead of having to keep track of ten various hardcovers and paperbacks, but I keep getting reminded of how slapdash the "Great" book was.

Case in point, on the back cover, the eighth book's title is "Signs of Chaos." Guys, that's wrong. It's just one sign.

As the book opens, our second-half protagonist, Merlin, has been lured by sorta-antagonist Luke into a Lewis Carroll situation, with Humpty, the Cheshire Cat, a Bandersnatch (variety: frumious), etc. It's a trap, but (eventually) Merlin escapes, leaving Luke behind, on to work out the ongoing mystery of who's threatening to do what to the merry land of Amber.

And he does that for a while, about 135 pages in fact. That's the problem with reading these books so far apart, especially at my age: one tends to forget who's who and what's going on. ("Vielle? Who is Vielle, again?") Anyway, there's a stunning revelation about the true identity of Merlin's antagonist "Mask", and a cliffhanger for the next book.

Anyway: now only two left to go.

URLs du Jour

2018-11-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Hey, hey, it's Election Day! And it's a good thing, too, because I got pretty sick of seeing the same stupid intelligence-insulting commercials over and over again. (They're done for a while, right? I can go back to being irritated by commercials for Eliquis, Symbicort…?)

    I'm also sick of people demanding that I get out there and vote. Here's what I say, potential voter: if you need to be hectored into voting, maybe you shouldn't.

    And I know I've linked this article before, but In Case You Missed It: Katherine Mangu-Ward says It's OK Not to Vote. I feel like adding this link this as a comment to every one of those GOTV Facebook/Twitter/Blog posts. But that would just piss people off, I suppose. I do enough of that as it is.


  • But it also seems like a lot of people are making predictions! Should I do that? I'm not quite sure why. Que sera, sera! And I was humbled enough two years ago, when I believed, backed by every reputable political prognosticator and pollster, that Donald Trump was toast.

    On the other hand, why not? I'll go this far: I'm thinking the reputable political prognosticators and pollsters have not learned their 2016 lessons. I am guessing that they are still underestimating GOP votes. So:

    • Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website shows a range of possible outcomes based on their modeling. As I type, the site's "average" over all possible outcomes predicts GOP pickup of 0.5 Senate seats. Pun Salad prediction: the GOP will pick up one or more Senate seats.

    • Similarly (and, again, as I type), FiveThirtyEight predicts that the Democrats will "on average" pick up 39 House seats. So Pun Salad's prediction is: Democrats will pick up fewer than 39 House seats.

    • The Survey Center at the University Near Here runs its Granite State Poll (GSP). Their pre-election polling, released on Sunday, showed at 49%-49% tie between Republican Chris Sununu and Democrat Molly Kelly.

      Pun Salad prediction: Sununu will win.

    • In NH-1 (my district) the GSP has Democrat Chris Pappas over Republican Eddie Edwards 54%-43%.

      Pun Salad prediction: Pappas's percentage minus Edwards' percentage will be less than 11.

    • And finally, in the other Congressional district, the GSP poll has Democrat Annie Kuster over Republican Steve Negron 60%-37%.

      Pun Salad prediction: Kuster's percentage minus Negron's percentage will be less than 23.

    So we'll see how we do.


  • At Cato, Chris Edwards forwards the news about Paul LePage, getting the heck out of that state across the Salmon Falls River: Top-Scoring Governor Moving to Florida. "Top-Scoring" refer's to LePage's record of relative spending restraint, which won him an "A" in Cato's "Fiscal Policy Report Card".

    Anyway, LePage is term-limited out, he's moving to Florida, and his reason for doing that is quoted:

    I’ll tell you very, very simply: I have a house in Florida. I will pay no income tax and the house in Florida’s property taxes are $2,000 less than we were paying in Boothbay … At my age, why wouldn’t you conserve your resources and spend it on family (rather) than spend it on taxes?

    A Democrat, Janet Mills, is considered likely to win the Maine Governorship today.


  • The Reason headline pretty much tells Christian Britschgi's tale: Same D.C. City Council Members Who Want to Lower the Voting Age to 16 Also Voted to Raise City's Smoking Age to 21.

    The Washington, D.C., City Council is rapidly advancing a measure that would lower the voting age to 16. On Thursday, the council's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee unanimously passed the Youth Vote Amendment Act, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in all elections, from local races to the presidency.

    And yes, some of the same people who think 16 and 17 year olds are old enough to make weighty voting decisions about the future of D.C. and America… also don't think they can be trusted to buy a pack of smokes.

    Commenter "Cato the Chipper" sez: "This makes perfect sense. Who you vote for is trivial. Deciding to become a nicotine addict is an important decision."


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is on The Tribal Appeal of Conspiracy Theories.

    I’ll be honest: I am far more annoyed by conservatives who traffic in conspiracy theories than liberals who do so. My reasons are twofold. As a practical matter, it bothers me because they make conservatives look bad, and I consider myself more invested in protecting my “side” from making an ass of itself. More generally, it bothers me because conservatives are supposed to understand, as a matter of philosophy, the limits of planning.

    For instance, it’s one thing for liberals to claim simultaneously that George W. Bush was an idiot and that this idiot nonetheless managed to orchestrate a massive conspiracy to attack the United States on 9/11. It’s another for conservatives, presumably trained in the laws of unintended consequences, the limits of reason, and the fatal conceit of planning, to argue that the hijackers were just a bunch of patsies for an operation that would have involved hundreds or thousands of American agents — without a single whistleblower among them. This can best be visually represented by someone turning Occam’s Razor into a heavy spoon or soup ladle and beating Friedrich Hayek about the head and neck with it. But that’s what happened to people such as Morgan Reynolds and Paul Craig Roberts. Worse, these people have to believe their colleagues and ideological comrades — whom they knew and for whom they often worked — were in fact brilliant mass murderers.

    A point we've seen before. To quote Bill Whittle: "How much hate for your own society do you have to carry in order to live in such a desolate and ridiculous mental hell? What psychoses must a mind be riddled with in order to negate what was perfectly obvious and instead believe a theory of such monumental fantasy? How much pure constant hatred does that take?"


  • Some good news from Andy Kessler in the (possibly paywalled) WSJ: Big Brother Isn’t Watching You.

    Hardly a week goes by that I don’t run into people who, when I ask how they are doing, tell me they’re worried about authoritarianism. Living in California, my impulse is to ask if they’re worried about the state’s one-party rule. But before I can get that out, the complaints begin: Trump, Facebook, Google, police state. Uh boy. Pot-dispensary paranoia?

    This fascist-behind-every-tree thinking isn’t helped by the tech industry. Apple CEO Tim Cook told privacy commissioners in Brussels last month that personal information “is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. Today, that trade has exploded into a data-industrial complex.” Mr. Cook was poking at Facebook and Google and calling for more regulation.

    Andy goes on to point out that there's little evidence to support the paranoia. Unless you live in China, which just happens to be the country that Apple and Google are helping to keep track of their citizenry.


  • And finally a cool video showing the top ten countries' GDPs 1960-2017. It's kind of mesmerizing to watch (most of) the countries rise and fall.