Sunday, May 27, 2012

A few more pictures from Lisbon 

The Son and I had a great day exploring the city, visiting numerous museums, centers of erstwhile ecclesiastical importance, and drinking the grape, fortified and otherwise. We also took in Fado, and rode an elevator. Along the way, we took a few pictures.

The Elevador de Santa Justa, more than 100 years old, from one part of the town to another.


Your blogger on top of the Elevador...

jbh on elevador

Your blogger's son, ditto.

John from elevador

Other views...

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There are commies in evidence. Could somebody please explain why the hammer and sickle is held in higher regard than the swastika?

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Jesus, carved from more than three feet of ivory, from 17th century Portuguese India, at the Museu de Sao Roque.

jesus in ivory

Every burg has its arch of triumph...

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Trees and tram wires...

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Tiles on the side of an ordinary house.

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Dead soldiers, at the Cafe Nicola, where I stopped for an afternoon beer.

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Last day in Lisbon tomorrow, then on to Amsterdam.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

A few pictures from Lisbon 

I am to be in Amsterdam for business next week, but determined that I could cut the air fare by more than half if I went through Lisbon, where I had never been. Bonus savings in hand, I brought along my son and occasional co-blogger for a long weekend in a great city. A few pictures of the day follow.

One must not leave America too quickly, especially after a long flight over night...

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We spent most of the afternoon at the Castelo de Saint Jorge, which, as any good fortress should, dominates the city.

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On the walk up to the castle...

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From the top...

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On the top...

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Your blogger...

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Below, the Museum of Modern Design...

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...which turns out to be Post-It Notes.

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More tomorrow. Maybe.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Phone camera dump 

Cleaning out my phone camera this evening after six weeks of heavy travel, there were a few pictures perhaps worth passing along, in something like reverse chronological order.

Lake Carnegie, Princeton, this afternoon, during a very labored run.

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The Delaware and Raritan Canal, also this afternoon.

5-22 canal

Poseidon, the University of Texas at Austin, Sunday morning last.

5-22 poseidon UT

Ernesto, who watches over our house in Austin.

5-22 ernesto

The Wynn, from the room in which I was meeting, last Tuesday.

5-22 wynn

The Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, just outside of Rats.

5-22 grounds for sculpture

A properly colored Tesla with an interesting vanity plate, outside Lola Savannah on Bee Cave Road, Austin, about three weeks ago.

5-22 orange tesla

A big screw, at the awesome National Museum of the War in the Pacific, Fredericksburg, Texas.

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The Austin Food and Wine Festival.

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Lucinda Williams, a few feet away, at the Austin Food and Wine Festival.

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A rather large bedazzled elephant, near DuPont Circle, Washington DC. I think the Romney campaign could use this.

5-22 elephant

Your blogger's shadow, just after sunrise, on the beach in Puerto Rico near our plant.

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The Gay Pride parade, South Beach, Miami, Florida.

South Beach Gay Pride parade

More whenever.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The lobbying ban and the concentration of power 

The Washington Post has an interesting story about the extensive activity of lobbyists at the White House, and is fairly up front in noticing the discontinuity with Barack Obama's campaign promises:

More than any president before him, Obama pledged to change the political culture that has fueled the influence of lobbyists. He barred recent lobbyists from joining his administration and banned them from advisory boards throughout the executive branch. The president went so far as to forbid what had been staples of political interaction — federal employees could no longer accept free admission to receptions and conferences sponsored by lobbying groups.

“A lot of folks,” Obama said last month, “see the amounts of money that are being spent and the special interests that dominate and the lobbyists that always have access, and they say to themselves, maybe I don’t count.”

The White House visitor records make it clear that Obama’s senior officials are granting that access to some of K Street’s most influential representatives. In many cases, those lobbyists have long-standing connections to the president or his aides. Republican lobbyists coming to visit are rare, while Democratic lobbyists are common, whether they are representing corporate clients or liberal causes.


Corporate tool that I am, I do not blame the lobbyists or the interests that commission them. When government at one level or another accounts for 30% of GDP, it is a huge source of business and regulation that any executive ignores at his or her peril. The extent of lobbying, therefore, is in direct relationship to government's intrusion in to the economy, and since this government has intruded more than any predecessor going back at least to the first half of the Carter Administration, lobbying has no doubt grown notwithstanding Barack Obama's stated ambition.

The question, of course, is whether this president's promises and bureaucratic steps to "change the political culture" are ingenuous, or cynical. If one were to search high and low for an argument in favor of cynicism, one might make the point that the various "reforms" enacted by President Obama tend to shift the target of lobbying from federal agencies and Congress to the White House itself. That has the fairly obvious effect of concentrating lobbying around the president, maximizing his ability to extract political benefit from the quotidian decisions of the federal government.

Of course, maybe I'm just cynical. CORRECTION: Per commenter "Anon Attorney," aggregate federal, state, and local government spending is now 40% of GDP. I forgot about the local part.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I'm very busy and fairly tired 

I am very busy and fairly tired, and no longer have the time to blog properly. On the small chance that you have not already noticed. That said, I will still pop in reasonably often with small thoughts and news from the front, so check in occasionally. One day, I'll have more time and I will be less tired, and I will return with the force of this blog's glory days, now a couple of years back. Just thought I should write that out loud.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Young Women for Change 

I went to school with an Afghani girl named Noorjahan Akbar who leads a group called Young Women for Change. Their goal is essentially to educate men to have respect for women, allow women to dress the way they want to, and to end street harassment. Recently she got a huge spot on an Al Jazeera program that talked about Sahar Gul, a 15 year-old girl who was forced into a marriage and tortured. Noorjahan has been visiting this girl frequently and giving her emotional support.

Please donate or just send good vibes to Young Women for Change. It's an exceptionally worthy cause.

UPDATE: Noorjahan sent me a Facebook message saying that their primary goals are to end torture and rape, and to get women into schools. The dress code is mandatory and isn't on their priorities list.

(18) Comments

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Over on Facebook my friends and I have been proposing the appropriate term for a medical condition or psychological disorder that leads my 12 year-old to have violent bathroom urges at the moment he is asked to wash the dishes. I used to be accused of this myself, and later in life I found the Sterling library stacks had the same effect on me. Here are some of the proposals:

First, the Germanic category

then, from a friend living in Amsterdam: and more latinate: Any other thoughts?

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

The disappearing genius 

Here's a weird and interesting story for those of you who enjoy evolutionary biology. Or mysteries.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What sea ice anomaly? 

In what will be comforting news for those of you worried that the warm winter in the United States reflects anthropogenic global warming (and discomforting news for those of you who worry that we are all just complacently burning fuel to our doom), the area of the planet covered by sea ice is again over the mean for the satellite era, defined as 1979-2008:


Even the Arctic sea ice is essentially at the mean.

Put that in your grill and smoke it.

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Spectacularly wrong 

Differences of opinion make markets -- in every trade, one party is wrong. But this prediction from early 2007 completely redefines the meaning of "wrong."

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Keystone: Even the editors of the Washington Post support its approval 

We know the president is to the left of the American center, because on one of the totemic regulatory questions of the year he is to the left of the editors of the Washington Post, who are themselves to the left of center. A fortiori leftyness, as it were. Anyway, the political argument appears in the excerpt below; the economic and technical arguments are behind the link.

Even if environmentalists manage to stop one pipeline or another, given high world oil prices, the enthusiastic support of the Canadian government, the many transport options and the years available to develop infrastructure, it’s beyond quixotic to believe that enough of the affordable paths out will be blocked. Environmentalists might succeed, however, in relocating some construction jobs outside the United States.

So President Obama’s refusal so far to authorize Keystone XL has little rational basis. (emphasis added)

Barack Obama's obstinacy is irrational as a matter of public and economic policy, perhaps, but if the people who oppose the pipeline are more passionate and organized than its supporters, it may be very rational politics. And the WaPo editors know that, even if they do not say so.

For those of you watching from home, the Post is essentially saying that Barack Obama is either irrational or a cynic. The former is not hopeful, and the latter is not a change.

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Paul vs Paul 

Ron Paul and Paul Krugman face off and it's all interesting and stuff.

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