In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Dealing With Divided School Loyalties
  2. Techie Opinions Wanted: Apply Within
  3. Q&A With Mark Sisson, Part Two
  4. Q&A With Mark Sisson, Part One
  5. Introducing Mark Sisson
  6. Terence Cuneo, Literal Artistic Icon
  7. Health Care Reform and the Golden Rule

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dealing With Divided School Loyalties
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- For quite a while now some people have been foolishly trying to abolish human nature. Maybe they use themselves as examples by claiming to be "citizens of the world" and not of some grubby country. Perhaps they try to foster "noncompetitive sports" in the schoolyard. Or even promise, as did our beloved leader Barack H. Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, that we would enter an era of post-partisanship if he were elected. Part of human nature is the tendency to create and join teams, and that tendency is hard to swat down. Poor us, this predisposition can be strong and has the potential to create problems when we are faced with a situation of competing loyalties. Or maybe team-choosing isn't much of an issue. While the tendency is there, its focus and intensity can be fleeting. Let's say you are a Chicago Cubs fan and that, by some strange circumstance, the Cubbies don't make it to the World Series. So what do you do? Forget about baseball till February? Root for the National League team (as a sort of extension of the Cubs)? Or cheer on whatever team happens to strike your fancy? My take is that while the potential is always there, it gets triggered by circumstances. Consider the matter of loyalty to a school, something that can range from strong to weak to even negative. Ordinarily this loyalty would be poised against a generic "other" or perhaps one or more traditional rival school (Michigan vs. Ohio State, Harvard vs. Yale, etc.). But if you attended more than one school (at the same educational level), which one do you root for most strongly? I'll have to go autobiographical at this point and leave it to commenters to add details. I had no conflicts until I was in grad school. I got a masters at the University of Washington (where I spent my undergraduate years) and then went to Dear Old Penn for a doctorate. So do I "bleed purple" for the Huskies or am I loyal to the "red and blue " of those ferocious Quakers? Tough call. I spent more years at Washington and live about three miles from campus, so the school remains pretty much in my face. Dear Old Penn, on the other hand, is across the country in Philadelphia, a town my wife loathes, so I seldom get there. Fortunately, the two schools don't play each other in football, the only sport I care much about; this means I don't have to make a choice regarding where in the stands to sit. Dear Old Penn has more prestige than Washington and I prefer its red-blue-plus-white colors to Washington's purple and gold. I suppose I favor Dear Old Penn slightly for reasons of snobbery, aesthetics, and perhaps because I attended there more recently. On the other hand, I'm not much pleased with either school and refuse to donate money because, like most of academia, they seem to be in... posted by Donald at August 15, 2009 | perma-link | (10) comments

Friday, August 14, 2009

Techie Opinions Wanted: Apply Within
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yes friends, it's good ol' bleg time here at 2Blowhards. ("Bleg" is an occasionally-used term for begging on a blog -- get it?) I have questions and would appreciate answers, so here goes: * * * * * I use the Firefox web browser on my Windows computer and the built-in Safari browser on my Mac laptop. Firefox seems to do a better job, so I'm wondering if I should download it to the Mac. Does Firefox for the Macintosh have pretty much the same features as its Windows version? Do you prefer the Mac version to Apple's Safari? * * * * * My digital camera performs well in most circumstances, but has defects I find annoying. Its telephoto zooming is jerky when trying to frame a subject, and resulting pictures are often blurred due to user-induced wiggle (even when I think I'm holding the camera steady). When taking non-flash photos indoors and outdoors (in the evening or at night) with the flash switched off, I often get blurred results. What I would like is a sub-$400 camera that has decent (mechanical, not digital) stabilization along with smooth zoom operation. Charley Parker over at the Lines and Colors blog shopped for something similar a while back and describes his results here. Was Parker's choice a good one? Is there something better on the market (technology changes rapidly)? Anyway, let me know your thoughts and personal experiences. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 14, 2009 | perma-link | (18) comments

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Q&A With Mark Sisson, Part Two
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- A couple of days ago, I introduced the eating-and-fitness coach Mark Sisson, who advocates what he calls the Primal Blueprint. I'm crazy about Mark's website, and I think his new book is downright sensational. (Buy a copy at Amazon.) Speaking from personal experience: I've obtained excellent results from doing my eating and my exercising in a more Primal way. Yesterday I ran Part One of my interview with Mark. Today -- in the second part of my two-part interview with Mark -- I talk with him about the Food Pyramid, "herd medicine," and what it's like to publish your own book. *** AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK SISSON Part Two Michael Blowhard: What sort of efforts do you and your team put into evaluating the studies and the science? Mark Sisson: My staff and I spend thousands of hours collectively going over the research every year, updating our knowledge base and refining our philosophy and our advice. No practicing physician today has a tenth of the time to do that kind of research. MB: What's it like to be out there in public on a regular basis? MS: That brings its own benefits. My blog has hundreds of thousands of visitors who are free to comment on or critique anything I write, which often forces me to further substantiate (or even alter or abandon) my position. Conversely, most research scientists are so engrossed in the minutiae of their particular specialty that they haven’t the luxury of a wide perspective to provide general lifestyle and health advice, let alone synthesize a world-view on that. MB: Many scientists do seem to have a narrow focus. MS: I certainly respect and admire the work they do, and I call upon many of those studies every single day. But I do so understanding that not all research provides an actual answer to a specific question. MB: Where health issues go, so much so often turns to be less certain than a civilian thinks it’s going to be. MS: For any health issue you posit we can each find opposing research to support our points. How do we know which one is correct? The lipid hypothesis of heart disease drove every well-financed study and every major new heart disease drug for 40 years, but there’s extremely solid research now that proves that the lipid hypothesis is wickedly flawed if not downright inaccurate. The USDA's Food Pyramid has had grains as the very basis of a recommended daily diet for 40 or 50 years. MB: The authorities seem to have driven themselves into a corner on that one. MS: Despite overwhelming new evidence that excess carbs (mostly from grains) have driven the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics, do you think the US government would ever admit to having given wrong advice -- even if it were shown to be 100% conclusive? The process of Public Health Policy decision-making is as inefficient, unscientific and perverse a system as could ever be... posted by Michael at August 13, 2009 | perma-link | (22) comments

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Q&A With Mark Sisson, Part One
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Yesterday I introduced the eating-and-fitness coach Mark Sisson, who advocates what he calls the Primal Blueprint. I'm crazy about Mark's website, and I think his new book is downright sensational. (Buy a copy at Amazon.) Speaking from personal experience: I've obtained excellent results from doing my eating and my exercising in a more Primal way. Today -- in the first part of my two-part interview with Mark -- I talk with him about the downside of grain consumption, about the perils of overtraining, and about how basing your fitness program on evolutionary wisdom can bring fast and lasting benefits. *** AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK SISSON Part One Michael Blowhard: Hi, Mark. Fun to run into you again. I remember you as one of the best athletes at our boarding school, as well as one of the most health-aware people I've ever known. Mark Sisson: Yeah, I was pretty health-conscious as a kid, and that mindset certainly carried me through Exeter and Williams. Problem was, I had health issues largely as a result of my voracious reading, my training, and following Conventional Wisdom so closely. MB: What kind? MS: As a top runner, I was putting in far more miles than I ought to have, and I was fueling myself with a diet very high in complex carbs -- especially grains -- just as I had been told to do by some of the best coaches. I could perform pretty well on the track and the roads, but I was certainly not the picture of health. MB: Given how lean and fast you were, I'm surprised to hear that. MS: I had bad skin, chronic bouts of IBS that would often keep me from classes, constant upper respiratory tract infections and later started developing early onset osteoarthritis. It wasn’t until a decade later (a decade of competing at a very high level, yet doing more of the same in terms of training and diet) that the work load and the diet finally ended my competitive career. MB: Ouch. How’d you react? MS: I began to investigate the science behind training and peak performance, and realized that there wasn’t a lot of real science to back it all up. MB: Really? MS: Most of what was going on at the elite level was “monkey see monkey do.” God forbid you should log fewer training miles than the guys you were trying to beat. The high-tech carb-centric diet was based on the need to keep up the high level of training and not on what would promote health. As a result, many of my elite contemporaries have suffered health issues over the years. MB: What’s wrong with high-mileage training? MS: Humans were not meant to run long distances with elevated heart rates for days on end, like I and so many millions have done over the past few decades. MB: What were we built for? MS: Our genes -- the genetic recipe for a healthy, lean, fit... posted by Michael at August 12, 2009 | perma-link | (33) comments

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Introducing Mark Sisson
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As some visitors may have noticed, over the last few years I’ve been blogging a lot about food and fitness. Partly this has to do with having been laid off -- er, with having retired. As a downsizing casualty, I have the time and leisure to concern myself a lot more with quality-of-life questions than I once did. But it's mainly been because, despite having a lively-enough mind, I’ve always been a physical guy. I learned early in life that when I treat my body severely, or when I neglect it, I pay a price. Not only do aches and pains pile up, my soul starts to sag and moan too. When, by contrast, I make an effort to foster a respectful relationship with The Bod -- when I’m active, out in the world, and treating The Bod to some love and some pleasure -- my experience of life generally is much improved. I’m bright-eyed: alert, resilient, and optimistic. In the last couple of years I’ve found myself more and more interested in one particular branch of the food-and-fitness world. As far as most Americans are concerned, healthy eating is low-fat eating, and sensible exercise is either loads of cardio or regular sessions of wipe-you-out weightlifting. That’s the mainstream-expert antidote to the usual American-slob predicament. The people I’ve become fascinated by -- the low-carb people (my favorites are Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades); the Real Food and Slow Food crowds (especially Nina Planck); Dr. Barry Sears and his Zone Diet; the Weston A. Price Foundation; and the Paleo, Evolutionary, and Primal worlds (especially Loren Cordain, Arthur De Vany, and Mark Sisson) -- dispute all of this. They look at the usual American health-tips litany and wonder: What if lowfat eating contributes to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease? What if the heaps-of-cardio approach to activity produces not health and peace of mind but stress and boredom? What if, in other words, what’s usually thought of as the solution to the usual dispiriting American thing isn’t a solution at all? What if instead it’s contributing to the problem? So what does this crowd peddle as an Alternative Way? One thing they certainly share is a vision of the problem. They generally feel that many Americans are wildly out of touch with their innate rhythms, and that obesity, TV addiction, slobbiness, and distractedness are convincing evidence of this. (FWIW, I agree -- although I also feel that if anyone wants to live on chips and soda pop, spend his / her day driving from parking lot to minimall, and treat his / her brain to regular jolts of “American Idol,” it’s OK with me. It’s also none of my business -- at least until these people start imposing too many of their values and priorities on my life. Then it’s war.) The crowd I favor addresses the problem -- for those who experience it as a problem -- from two directions. One is paleoanthropology. Although some... posted by Michael at August 11, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Monday, August 10, 2009

Terence Cuneo, Literal Artistic Icon
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Continuing the discussion of English illustrators specializing in transportation and military art (I wrote about Frank Wootton here), let's consider Terence Cuneo (1907-1996) whose work was so beloved in some circles that ... Princess Royal unveiling statue of Terence Cuneo in Waterloo Station Cuneo's drawing was more accurate than that of Wootton, but he sometimes got more hard-edge detailing into his paintings than suits my taste. Below are examples of his work beginning with a couple of train paintings -- the genre that led to his Waterloo Station statue. Gallery "Flying Scotsman" Steam engine emerging from shop I think it's a shop and not a train shed, but I might be mistaken. Both paintings avoid the excessive hard detailing I mentioned above. Sir Edward Heath Cuneo also painted portraits. I wonder who selected that blue suit -- the artist or Ted Heath himself. "First Air Post" Like Wootton, Cuneo did airplane illustrations. This depicts final preparations for the initial air mail flight by the RAF from England to the continent in 1918. "The Defense of Calais, 1940" Another Cuneo subject was combat scenes. This shows the British army's Queen Victoria Rifles fighting off German attacks on the Channel port that eventually fell just prior to the Dunkirk evacuations. An account is here. "The Snipe Action" (detail) This is a combat scene probably from the North Africa campaign, 1940-43. The quality of the reproduction isn't good, but offers some idea as to Cuneo's skillful, economical brushwork. "Bentleys at Le Mans, 1929" If Wootton could paint Bentleys (see link above), then Cuneo also could and did. The subject is the Bentley triumphant effort at Le Mans in 1929 where the marque claimed the first four places; race results are here. Cuneo and Wootton were contemporaries and in some respects competitors in that there was a fair amount of overlap in their subject matter. Wootton is best known for his airplanes and Cuneo (in Britain, at least) for his trains. From my standpoint, Cuneo is the better all-rounder thanks to his more accurate drawing, though both created very good paintings that made enjoyable viewing for fans of their genre. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at August 10, 2009 | perma-link | (2) comments

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Health Care Reform and the Golden Rule
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards, I happen to be in the process of reading Thomas Ferguson’s">Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (1995, University of Chicago Press). The title’s a mouthful, I grant, but it’s a pretty interesting book. But as a consequence, when I picked up the L.A. Times today, and my eye fell on a column discussing healthcare reform (“Healthcare debate framed by fear-mongering ads” by David Lazarus), my recent reading of Mr. Ferguson sent off a few sparks. Mr. Lazarus in the L.A. Times says: …a key problem here is that most of us aren’t taking the time to understand the various parts of this admittedly complex equation. Instead, we’re leaving it to interest groups to call the shots, and the debate has devolved into a pathetic shouting match between partisan camps. This certainly struck a chord with what I had very recently read in Golden Rule. To briefly summarize, Mr. Ferguson begins his discussion of the 'investment theory' of politics by quoting Anthony Downs on the prohibitively high cost of gathering the information necessary for the ordinary voter to meaningfully participate in the political process: “The expense of political awareness is so great that no citizen can afford to bear it in every policy area, even if by doing so he could discover places where his intervention would reap large profits.” Mr. Ferguson then goes on to argue that: …in a political system like that of the United States, where even highly motivated voters face comparatively enormous costs when they attempt to acquire, evaluate, and act upon political information, effective electoral control of the government process by voters becomes most unlikely. He continues by asking: …if ordinary voters can’t afford to invest [the necessary large sums required to first understand what's at stake and then to influence] American political parties, then who can? And by virtue of their unique status, do not these “big ticket” investors automatically become the real masters of the political system? Mr. Ferguson explains that such big ticket investors normally amount to businessmen who can draw on corporate resources to pay for political activity and who have a large financial stake in the outcome that justifies the expenditure (unlike the Average Joe). This ‘mastery’ of the political system by large investors does not, of course, imply that voters are irrelevant. But according to Mr. Ferguson: …in situations where information is costly, abstention is possible, and entry into politics through either new parties or existing organizations is expensive and often dangerous…large investors try to assemble the votes they need by making very limited appeals to particular segments of the potential electorate. If it pays some other bloc of major investors to advertise and mobilize, these appeals [will] be vigorously contested… Gee, that “vigorously contested” sounds a lot like, um, what’s been going on in Florida. It has dawned on me that it would be of nice to have a detailed explanation of who... posted by Friedrich at August 9, 2009 | perma-link | (23) comments