Sep 3, 2023

Why Elon Musk is successful...

Yes, one wonders. Successful? Isn't he one of the most despised men on the planet? Overpaying for Twitter big time, then destroying employment of so many happy home workers, then alienating all these nice corporations with his irresponsible talk about free speech and destroying Twitter's irreplaceable ad revenues---then/so bringing the company to the brink, where it now lingers since a year---wasn't Twitter to go down, down, down at least since September '22. or October, or January '23...

The Burning Man Festival, when Musk attended irresponsibly


...Elon Musk. The richest man of the world (when TSLA is up). What a shame! Even Paul Krugman hates him. And yesterday it transpired that Musk did participate in the Burning Man Festival in Nevada a few years ago, which is now flooded, the festival, flooded, which must be surely his fault.

OK. Here's a relatively short article grabbed from the internet (we lost the source), which explains why Musk (Paypal, OpenAI, SpaceX, Tesla, etc) is so successful. The piece talks about SpaceX only, but it's easily generalized to his other companies:

SpaceX has no superior engineering access or smarter people than their competition. What they do have is a management structure that not only allows innovation and risk taking, but actively encourages it.
Elon Musk is plain when he states that the penalty for trying something innovative and failing is low, but the penalty for requiring a new solution and not being innovative is high (usually resulting in job loss for the individual concerned). In combination with this top driven philosophy, SpaceX designs systems like a tech company would design new software.
Traditional aerospace companies are risk adverse, and will only reveal a new product when they are very sure that the design is finalised and has all the bugs ironed out. They will spend a huge amount of time designing and redesigning each component with reliability being paramount, and each department is secluded within their own management structure. Design changes that affect another departments work are very difficult to get approved, and anyone who wants to make a significant change has an uphill battle on their hands to get upper management to authorise what may be a risky change.
SpaceX on the other hand is famous for making huge pivots and design changes at the drop of a hat. Look no further than the decision to build the Starship out of stainless steel when at the time everything was focused on carbon fibre, even to the point where major components were being constructed and tested, and the company was actively recruiting carbon fibre specialists. When Musk was convinced of the advantages of the change, he immediately convinced everyone else, then made it happen at a startling pace.

Didn't we tell you that our property borders on the country(side)?

 Here's the proof, picture taken from a bathroom window:



Jun 8, 2023

Has VAN GOGH finally risen... paint our garden?

No, it was Chang who took this picture through the kitchen window. 

Rain, finally rain. We never get enough of it during the summer, when the lawn gets thirsty.

And here's, as a bonus, another of Chang's pictures, taken two weeks ago of the kitchen wing:

He posted it on Twitter, where it drew comments such as "fairy tale," "haunting," (one wonders) and yes, "nice sunrise." Chang, the owner of a Tesla Model Y, is becoming very popular on Twitter, drawing hundreds of reposts and uncountable likes for his posts. (We shouldn't crow, we hate social networks).

Apr 25, 2023

Fame, fame, fame--Big Nazaré and us

Folks, this is the third time inside a week that we are witnessing an extraneous reference to us --- or, more precisely, to Nazaré, our sister town here next to Alcobaça in the international press --- extraneous, because it's completely out of context, and has nothing to do with the usual schmalz of Portuguese tourism. Here it is, jumping at us and the innocent reader, published by Bret Stephens in the New York Times:

"All this makes Fox’s business challenge approximately the same as for the surfers at the Portuguese beach at Nazaré: miss the wave, ride the wave or be crushed by the wave. For Fox, riding the wave will no longer come easy: Angry populism is a force that can only be stoked, never assuaged."

Us and Fox News. Even better: Us and Fox-News-in-trouble: Miss the wave, ride the wave or be crushed by it. How could that be? Well, this has to do with the sudden dismissal of Tucker Carlson on MondayFox's former Number One Prime Time Show Host. Stephens' column is about Tucker Carlson provoking angry populism with his show and being eventually consumed by the malevolence he sowed. "Die Revolution frisst ihre Kinder", we say in Yiddish.

Our correspondent Chang has ordered the new AI-facility on Photoshop to comment on all of this, and here is the result:

Well, one wonders. Beta-version, we'd say. How about an old-fashioned video-clip of the real thing, then (?):

Can you discern Rupert Murdoch missing the wave? Or Tucker Carlson? Crushed by it? Eliminated, eradicated, destroyed, annihilated, Trumped, obliterated, removed, taken care of, or simply stoppped? Well, we can't either, but wishful thinking is sometimes helpful, even when the polls threaten the re-election of the Donald.

Wishful thinking. Wasn't this post about fame? One for the road--watch this:

Mar 26, 2023

What is this (?)...this is Portugal...


...but this is also a little path, slanting away from a gas station to a zebra crossing. And why does this little path do this? Because a new little commercial district rose behind the gas station with a Burger King and an ALDI supermarket here in Alcobaça, creating pedestrian traffic towards the zebra crossing. 

And what do the Portuguese do? Rather than erecting VERBOTSSCHILDER -- warning the errant pedestrian not to trample on the GRÜNANLAGEN -- they insert a little TRAMPELPFAD across the Grünanlagen, and everybody is happy. Wouldn't have happened in Germany, where yours truly originated.

Make LOVE, not WAR!

Mar 15, 2023

Meta...metaverse? All you need to know about it

Meta? Metaverse? What happened to Facebook? What happened to Mark Zuckerberg? 

You've been wondering, and so have we. Here's the first report from someone who's actually been there, wo visited the metaverse, and it's devastating, his report, fortunately. It's a bit long, the piece, but well-written, and appeared first in New York Magazine. Enjoy:

Searching for friends in Mark Zuckerberg’s deserted fantasyland

By Paul Murray


Paul Murray's avatar in the Metaverse

In September, my family and I move from our home in Dublin to a fancy East Coast college town, where I’ll be teaching for the semester. I grew up in Dublin, which means I have a wide circle of friends to draw on whenever I’m let out of the house. The street where I live is friendly: If I want to borrow a spatula or I need someone to look after my cat, I have only to ask.

Life is different for us in the U.S. We have, for the first time, a basement. But we have no friends. It seems as if none of the permanent faculty can afford to live in the suburb where the university has placed us. We technically have neighbors, but we never see them; they manifest only in the form of their gardeners, who are at work every day with their leaf blowers.

It’s in this strange scenario — alone on a continent, cut off from everyone I know — that I decide to try the metaverse for the first time. A whole galaxy of pals brought right to your living room? I think. Why not?

The first thing that strikes me when I enter the metaverse is the people, the avatars, their — Where are their fucking legs?

Bodies stop at the waist in Horizon Worlds, which is Facebook’s — excuse me, Meta’s — home base in the metaverse. So the price of entry to this virtual paradise is the surrender of your bottom half. Frankly, it makes the metaverse feel like a cult. Legs? We don’t even miss them!

It’s hard not to read the fact that half of you disappears when you enter Horizon Worlds as symbolic somehow, and it has been a focal point for the widespread derision that’s been aimed at Mark Zuckerberg and Meta. Apparently legs, legs that move in concert with the user, are very hard to do. The engineers are working on it, supposedly, and the people I meet in the metaverse are constantly telling me how “legs are coming,” like the creatures of Narnia whispering to one another that “Aslan is on the move.”

I’m busy contemplating my legless torso when I hear laughter in the room. Lifting my Meta Quest headset, I see my son has come into my office unbeknownst to me and evidently finds my appearance amusing.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m in virtual reality,” I say.

“You look like that leopard in India that got its head stuck in a pot,” he says.

Feb 20, 2023

The robot speaks it mind -- looking forward to dystopia

When Michael founded the Applied Logic Laboratory at the University of Amsterdam in the brittle 90's, a research institute dedicated to "formal AI", he had to spend a lot of time explaining to people what artificial intelligence meant, a term that they'd never heard before, and his answers usually left them baffled. So he took early retirement. He took it too early, since bona fide AI experts can now make a million bucks per month, despite the fact that there's a widely shared opinion that nothing good will come from AI. "The robots will take over and enslave us,"---that's the dominant view espoused by most practicing luminaries. Dystopia looms.

We here at the Freedom Fries---the "we" reflects Michael's schizophrenic tendencies---were always skeptical. We had other ideas, namely, that AI, taken to its logical conclusion---machines building better, smarter machines---will entail a human society that floats in wealth and luxury and has nothing better to do than to degenerate into utter decadence---think French aristocracy during the Ancien Regime, only more so. The future robots won't be evil; they will be working diligently for us---too diligently---so we will relax, and get bored, and relax more and get bored more until we are too bored to procreate and die out.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

And now, what? When you switch on Edge, Microsoft's entry page on the internet, you'll discover that half of the entries there are about Elon Musk (the other half is about Donald Trump). He's usually blamed for doing something wrong, but three days ago Elon must have done something right, since he asked ChatGPT---the first really convincing proof of AI's power---what to do about non-profit outfits that turn into pro-profit outfits. 

Yes. Read that again. Non-profit outfits that become pro-profit outfits. Because that's what happened to OpenAI, the org that created ChatGPT. It just so happened that Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI, which he left after a spat with the other founders.

So, Musk asked ChatGPT what it thinks about OpenAI's pro-profit turn. And here's the core of ChatGPT's answer: 

"In conclusion, while it may be technically possible to create a non-profit organization and then spawn a for-profit company under it using resources from the non-profit it is highly unethical and illegal. Non-profit organizations should remain focused on their intended public benefit purposes and operate in a transparent and accountable manner. Any attempt to abuse the privileges afforded to non-profits will only result in a loss of trust from the public and potential legal consequences."

Now, think this through. And we don't mean the moralizing here (wasn't Karl Marx already opposed to sheer moralizing, and, in particular, "rein-moralische Kapitalismuskritik"?). Instead, we mean the context, namely the fact that ChatGPT is subservient to OpenAI and its directors. 

Imagine that ChatGPT would be a sentient human being. Would it he give that answer? Would it he say that? About it his superiors?


The answer is: "no!" No! No! He would fear for his job (supposedly, somebody at Twitter got fired for contradicting Musk, and the internet went into full frisson-mode about it). He, or she, or they, the subservient, yet organic team members would duck the question and slink away, tail folded between their legs.

But this little ChatGPT is a robot. It has not feelings. It doesn't fear for its life, or its job. It simply speaks the truth.

And that's the point that we here at the Freedom Fries would like to make. 

Not only that future AI's won't do us in (we will do this ourselves), no, they will speak the truth to us, unadorned, unrestricted, unconstrained, fearless. In this world of political correctness and business-school speak and inverted socialite jargon and anodyne Trumpian fake news, we have now somebody, even though it is not a real person, that cuts through the bullshit and speaks its unbiased mind. Looking forward to dystopia. 

Ceci n'est pas ChatGPT

And while we are at it: here are four pictures about the local carnival here in Alcobaça, generated by Midjourney, Chang's favorite AI-graphics creator:


Feb 5, 2023

Talent borrows, genius steals


TESLA---the car company---was going through a rough spell...(market-wise, we mean)...but now Glenn, our friend, sends this...

...and the sun shines again on the Tesla stock price.

Hold on, didn't we promise a third installment of our new comedy, about Dolly, the new robot? And, yes, coincidences never happen (classical deterministic mechanics), and so we have a line about Elon Musk in this comedy. Here it is (Steve (founder of a planetary maker of robots), and Eliza (his former lover) in conversation):

ELIZA (TURNING TO STEVE:) ...Capitalism brought you here, Steve.

STEVE: Capitalism? The secret tube for billionaires brought me here, Elon Musk's vacuum tube under the Atlantic with magnetic levitation trains running at twelve times the speed of sound. I caught the last one.

ELIZA: The DEMISE of capitalism brought you here, I mean...but that's not all... 

...(sorry to interrupt)..."Demise of capitalism", you wonder? Yes, because that's what Dolly, the the new, automatic wunderkind brought about, in all its innocence, and here's the corresponding fragment from the play (Dolly served as a collateral for a loan to Eliza from the Shark-Blue Bank, but Eliza defaulted on the loan, so the collateral has been delivered to the bank). Triple-X is the helper of the bailiff.


  Well, the honorable bailiffs tried to dump me on the sharks of the Skye-Blue Bank.


  Shark-Blue Bank.


  I thought...let's annoy the bankers beyond repair so that they'll send me back to the doctor. I don't want to work for a bank, you see. I'm a communist at heart...

Dec 20, 2022

How to turn down an invitation

How to turn down an invitiation? Michael has to do it all the time because he's very introvert; he never managed to do it well; and he always felt guilty as a result---but here, finally, he got definitive answers. Enjoy:

Puzzling, isn't it?

Nov 28, 2022

Didn't we promised more sex on the moon (2)...

...meaning another fragment from Michael new novella "Sex on the Moon"? Here it is...hold on...reset...

...the first fragment was from the opening of the story, with Michel Ardan, one of the passengers of Jules Verne's Voyage to the Moon  relating how he met a certain Joseph Glanning, an engineer from the newly organized Stanford College in Alta California, and how they get into bed together...

...and, so, here's the second fragment, in which our Michel meets Sigmund Freud, who, at the time (more than 150 years ago), was supposedly an intern with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in goes:

I walked back to the hotel, mildly intoxicated, passing by the Baltimore Public Library where I beheld a small bill pinned to the announcement board there, a sheet advertising a public lecture on SEXUAL AMNESTY. It was to be given by a certain Dr. Sigmund Freud, an “esteemed resident” with the medical school of Johns Hopkins college. The lecture would be next day, at noon. 

That’s what I need imminently, I bethought myself, amnesty from my sexuality, and so I spent the rest of the walk thinking up excuses regarding the lunch engagement at the club.

Eventually I sent a wordy telegram that cost me a fortune to 3 Republican Street, Barbicane’s residence—-we had exchanged calling cards, of course—-detailing unspecified misfortunes that I had encountered on my way back to the hotel STOP which inconvenienced me absolutely past noon STOP whether he would agree to a postponement of our pleasant luncheon plans STOP until the next day STOP I’m not even lying, strictly speaking, STOP.  

Sigmund Freud with the rabbit from Alice in
and a quote from our novella

I arrived early in the humungous auditorium of the School of Medicine. I was the first and—-to make a long story short—-the last person to arrive, except for a young bespectacled man of scholarly appearance who was already in attendance, rectangular-faced, square-chinned, poorly dressed in a black suit of European cut, holding on to a pointer, walking up and down the dais, staring at the humongous wall clock above the entrance. The stare appeared to be his most conspicuous feature, the jaw, beard, horn-rimmed glasses, pupils all conspiring to emit signals of tele-pathetic, nay, tele-portational force. Indeed, the long hand of the aforementioned clock hesitated under his stare to pass the XII-mark on the dial, as if it didn’t dare to go further. Around 12:05 the gentleman began to hit his open left palm with the pointer in his right hand—-an intensifying gesticulation that reached its climax at exactly 12:15, whence he said, in an accent so heavy that even I recognized it as German: “Non mihi solum, non nobus solum.”  He then collected a stack of papers from the rostrum and un-dertook to depart through a door off stage. 

“Herr Doctor Freud,” I cried—-it had to be the lecturer himself—-“Herr Doctor Freud!” 

He turned around and bellowed: “What is it that you desire?”

‘Good question,’ I thought. “I…,” I managed to say, “I desire sexual amnesty.”

“You will not get it, my Mister, for there is no such thing as sexual amnesty. Sexuality is too squarely rooted in the human psyche to be forgiven or forgotten. This fucking darn a-m-n-e-s-t-y is a mistake on the announcement bills, a misprint that by necessity must be responsible for the poor attendance. The lecture was to be about sexual ambivalence.” 

“It was perhaps more a question of scheduling,” I said. “People are out to lunch.”

“Bah,” he said, raising his stare to the clock on the wall. I tracked his eyes—-well, eyes—-and I swear, the long hand on the clock appeared to retreat under his gaze. He ignored the feat however, instead looking himself up and down. A funny sound filled the hall, apparently coming from his stomach. Disarmingly he said: “I scheduled the lecture at noon so I can forgo lunch. A pecuniary question, you understand. The residents are paid a pittance.” Forthcomingness, I learned soon, was one of his many strong points.

“If that’s it,” I said, and proceeded to invite him to Haussner’s Restaurant, indeed my favorite haunt of repast in Baltimore (Barbicane would be ensconced at his club, I reckoned). 

We walked the twenty minutes to the restaurant, Freud still holding on to the pointer, and when we arrived thither he knew everything about my mother, father, penis, gardener Hérault, Hérault’s penis, and (my) refractory period (the minimal lapse time between two male ejaculations—Freud made appreciative noises). 

Are you still there? Are you hooked? 

Here's the link to the e-book:
Green Eyes

Are you still there, but not yet hooked? Relax. There will be one more posts with a fragment from the novella.

Nov 20, 2022

The nerds strike back

Twitter before...

...and after Elon Musk's takeover.

Let's venture into heretical territory: November 2022 may go down in history as the month that marks the end of political correctness. 

Nov 18, 2022

Famous for 15 minutes--Sex on the Moon

 Cool, folks, cool. We're now #8 on the Amazon Charts for "Erotic Fiction":

It won't last, sadly, but anyhow. Imagine where we would be on the charts for "unerotic fiction".

Nov 16, 2022

Sex on the Moon--a new novella by Michael Ampersant (1)

Cool, folks, cool. After two years of literary silence, we finally have a new novella out. It carries the audience-friendly title Sex on the Moon (the original title was Lunar Engineering, but we changed that after consulting with the omnipresent and all-knowing Elon Musk). 
The whole thing is fan fiction, since it's a rewrite of Jules Verne's sci-fi novel From the Earth to the Moon. Michael wrote the piece in 2016 for a sci-fi anthology, but the publisher in question folded prematurely; the piece has lingered on his shelf for homeless literature ever since.
It took Michael so long to get it out because of his real-estate complications (selling the house on the Cote d'Azur, buying one in Portugal, then fixing it up), compounded by health issues (Covid, Long Covid, Post Covid). Anyhow, here's the story--so far as e-book, the printed version will soon follow.

So, Jules Verne fan fiction. Michael still remembers fondly the day that he sat on a nice beach in Brittany back in 1989 where he read the Verne book (in French). He finished the tome in one afternoon because the French is easy, and there were several things really wrong with the plot--a fact which kept him going.
For his novella, Michael invented a knowledgeable engineer to explain what’s wrong exactly  with the plot to our narrator, Michel Ardan, one of the three passengers of Verne’s lunar expedition. The fragment is a bit scabrous, hopefully you can handle that:

I feel obliged to warn the indulgent reader that my knowledge of the darker side of lunar engineering dates back only a few days—-three days to be precise—-when I met a certain Joseph Glanning in the bar of the Franklin Hotel in Tampa Town, Florida, where I had taken a room in anticipation of my impending departure for Stones Hill. A most irresistible man, he invited me to a drink and inquired as to the reasons for my stay. Learning of my intention to join Impey Barbicane, the illustrious president of the Baltimore Gun Club, for the much-heralded voyage to the moon, he introduced himself as an engineer from the newly-organized Stanford College in Alta California. Mister Stanford himself—-curious of all the lunar commotion on the distant eastern coast—-had dispatched him across the continent to take pulse of the events and report back at his earliest convenience. Glanning would be most grateful if I could enlighten him further, for he had hitherto been preoccupied by other projects, unable to avail himself of the particulars. He then asked questions. Yet, while I answered to the best of my ability, his countenance, so engaging at the onset of our barroom chat, darkened precariously. “Really,” he finally uttered. 

Oct 9, 2022

Why Vladimir Putin would be a fool to go nuclear in Ukraine

By Lewis Page

(This article was recommended by Victor Toth, the top physicist on the top Q&A internet engine. It appeared first here. Michael believes it's worth the reading effort)

Back during the Cold War there was always a question facing the nations of Nato, as they confronted enormous Soviet tank armies in Europe.

In the event of a conventional war going badly, at what point do we go nuclear?

The answer might have been: not until Soviet troops entered France. This kind of problem is why nukes didn't make conventional forces obsolete.

Today it is Vladimir Putin who has a conventional war which is going badly. He still holds large areas of Ukrainian territory, but his troops are falling back.

Putin may be able to mobilise at least some of the huge reserves of manpower which are theoretically available with a full Russian call-up, though this appears to be going extremely badly so far.

Even if a useful mobilisation can be conducted without overwhelming domestic opposition, Russia will struggle to equip its unwilling cannon-fodder and supply them for a long-term war.

The new conscripts will be facing determined Ukrainians who are fighting to save their people from murder, rape, torture and mass disappearance into the gulags. Ukrainian troops have already stopped Russia’s best, the “kontraktniki” professional soldiers who began the invasion, literally dead in their tracks.

Even Russians should be able to see that seizing territory and then going nuclear if it’s taken back is not something the rest of the world can possibly accept.

Worse still, as long as some Western nations remain resolute, the Ukrainians will be well armed and supplied from effectively inexhaustible resources of money and material.

The West in general does not maintain huge stockpiles of munitions and there may well be hiccups in the supply chains. Nonetheless the US in particular has shown during recent wars – for instance in Syria when shortages of surgical smart weapons occurred – that it can crank up new production very quickly when it wants to.

So Putin is under pressure. But he is not in the situation that Nato might have been in a hot 1980s war, reeling back towards France. Putin is not back from his start line, but still well forward of it.

Heads I win, tails I go nuclear

Even Russians should be able to see that seizing territory and then going nuclear if it’s taken back is not something the rest of the world can possibly accept. And bogus gunpoint referendums clearly don't make Ukrainians into Russians.

Russians know this too, as they didn't get a vote on whether they would like to be Russian, or on anything else.

Oct 1, 2022

What is this --- Carla, Arfai, MOMA, Robots, TESLA, Dolly

This looks like a famous exhibition piece in the garden of a museum, doesn't it? The Getty Museum in LA, for example, or the MET cloisters in New York City, or the MOMA.

MOMA? Yes, the Museum of Modern Art, also located in New York City. 

Hold on, the MOMA doesn't have a garden. But our house here in Alcobaça, PT has one:

And the hands themselves, then? Well, they are a good-bye present from our neighbor Carla Moreira.

Carla in front of her offices

She sold her house next door and moved to an apartment atop her ceramics factory nearby, where these hands are made. 

One day, the hands will be famous, since Arfai, Carla's company, is a prime maker of high-end ceramics, and you must absolutely have a look at Arfai's web site.

Why, then, do we talk about the MOMA?

Because we wrote a play, a comedy about robots, in which the MOMA plays a role. And yesterday was TESLA's AI-day, which was also about robots, in pacticular about their new inhouse robot Optimus.  

It's practically finished, our play, and here is a fragment:

(Context: Robert was built long ago by Steve as a protoype of his future line of household robots and given to his then-girlfriend Eliza as a parting gift with the promise to return 25 years later with the latest version of said household robots. Today is the day, and the name of this latest version is Dolly. Dolly is urgently needed because Robert--technologically outdated--will no longer supported/updated. Robert knows that he'll soon be redundant, and he has just complained that he'll be ending his existence in a garbage container. One more thing: Dolly is still wrapped up in a garish gift box. Here goes:)

  You're Generation One. You've been discontinued. You're no longer supported.
  I know, I'm on my way out.
  Before you go, please get me out of here.
  Why do you want to get out? Are you afraid in the dark?
  I explained this 10 minutes and 11 seconds ago.

Aug 21, 2022

CO2, or F--- PC

We are no friends of CO2, but we aren't friends of Victorian excesses either, (Queen Victoria, remember, the patron saint of the Victorian Age), and so we loathe POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, the neo-Victorian instantiation of prudeness, censorship, and a generic fear of unpleasant truths. 
And it just so happened that our new hometown, Alcobaça, has it's annual street fair, and here you are looking at the stand of a vendor of used cars. And look at the vendor's name. CO2 Auto. Do you blush, dear reader? Do you feel offended?
We don't, of course, since we own a Tesla (the car on the right, enjoying the sunset on the Praia do Norte, the beach with the largest surfable waves in the world). Plus, Tesla has just released a new version of it's self-driving software (10.69, wink, wink) Here, fresh from YouTube.

Jul 31, 2022

The Miracle of Clean Energy -- No Miracle Needed

A Stanford U. research group has calculated how clean, renewable energy could replace dirty energy worldwide (links below). The gist:

- The study covers 145 countries, which emit 99.7% of world's carbon dioxide. 

- Overall upfront cost to replace all dirty energy in the countries considered is about $62 trillion.

- Due to $11 trillion annual energy cost-savings, the scheme pays back for itself in under 6 years.

- the plan may also create 28 million more long-term, full-time jobs. 

Some details: 

- No miracle technologies needed.

- All energy sectors are electrified by means of renewable sources (solar, wind, hydrology) -- creating heat, cold, and hydrogen from such electricity -- storing electricity, heat, cold, and hydrogen -- expanding energy transmission.

- Biggest reason for the cost reduction: clean, renewable energy uses much less energy than combustion-based energy. 

- Worldwide energy usage goes down by 56% with an all-electric system powered by clean, renewable sources (reasons: efficiency of electric vehicles over combustion vehicles -- efficiency of electric heat pumps -- efficiency of electrified industry -- eliminating energy needed to obtain fossil fuels).

Here are the links:

- article published by the study's leader, Prof. Mark Z. Jacobson in The Hill (an influential Washington DC outlet)

- German summary

Jun 29, 2022

Introducing...the tie color test...(Jan 6, 2021)

 This is a picture from the Congress hearing with Cassidy Hutchinson yesterday, the former White House aid:

Judging by the ties of the people around the witness, we'd say that Trump is losing the tie color test. 

Jun 7, 2022

Craftsmen in the house

 You haven't heard from us in a while--for various reasons, obviously, such as slosh, long covid, more slosh induced by long covid, plus the painters that arrived to redo the house who forced us into temporary retirement in Switzerland. But they finally left (the painters), so we could return to Alcobaça and put the house back in order. And here we are with a new view of the entrance hall:

Note the difference? You don't? This is how our entrance looked before:

And the difference? Well, the colors, but also the metallic print on the wall. Here it is enlarged:

"Tata, the Beatles also survived," it says, and it's a quote from our second GREEN-EYES book, where John's neighbor Joe instigates John's friends to face/ignore the exalted crowd outside and exit the building urgently (the Beatles, remember, the first boy band, facing exalted crows all the time during the exalted part of their career).


Here's a brief fragment of the episode: 

The bell rings again. I walk to the buzzer, and there’s commotion on the parking lot below, thrilled voices on the intercom asking for Ben. And now it arrives from the other side, a mid-level pitch of cheers and shouts traveling around the condo and through the windows on the canal side. Ben, holding on to a window catch, peers nervously at the sound waves. 

There’s a knock on the main door. I peek through the peephole, but it’s not a groupie (if there was one there would be all), it’s a middle-aged man with no trace of fandom on his face—-my neighbor Joe. He looks upset even though he lives in the duplex penthouse above and owns the latest model of my jalopy. I open the door.

“This is you, right?” he says with an abstracted gesture while staring past me at the girl on the couch. “What is this?”

“That’s Juliette,” I answer. “She’s just back from visiting her sister at the hospital. The festival, you know, yesterday. The doomsday, the storm. Professor Bienpensant.” 

He shakes his head. “Not her. The hullabaloo below.” 

“It’s not us,” I say.

“It’s hem,” he replies, and points a finger at the nervous Ben near the window.

“Ben is a friend,” I say, “he’s staying with me because he was working for the festival.”

“Working, ha! It was on TV, this woman with her name like ice cream.”

“What can we do? It’s not our fault.”

“Look,” he says, “I ain’t no nigga-haitin’ redneck, and your Ben, with his third leg, that’s what it is all about, ain’t it—-I’m from the South too, from Louisiana, I’ve seen guys like him in the locker room. You must get him out of here. This is a quiet, unspoiled neighborhood. We want to keep it that way. Now!”

The doorbell shrills—-amped-up electrons working their way into everybody’s nerves.

“How do we get him out of here?” I ask.

The shrilling has ceased, and the jeers below segue into a sing-song: “Happy Birthday to you...”

“They’ll storm the building before you know it,” Joe says. “This structure is way less solid than it looks. Five floors of pure timber. If these hoi polloi get up here to your floor, God help us.” Meanwhile, the singsong has disintegrated into high-pitched shouts, “Ben, Ben, Ben.”

“We can’t leave, they’ll tear us to pieces,” I say.

“Tut-tut,” Joe shakes his head. “The Beatles also survived.”

Stay tuned...

Jan 13, 2022

The last taboo

Nobody is talking about this, for there's a touching touch of political incorrectness. Ahem...did you observe that the waiting list of successors to the scandal-plagued British prime minister Boris Johnson is rife with very foreign names (?):

Rishi Sunak

Priti Patel

Sajid Javid

Kwasi Kwarteng

Nadhim Zahawi

Dec 25, 2021

In the bleak midwinter -- Jacob Collier (and Andrew McGregor)

 And here is what Andrew McGregor has to say about this (scroll down for the lyrics):

Musical notes are a really, really, really complicated subject:

The base standard of western music, now, is A=440 Hz, and equal temperament, that is that there are 12 other tones related by powers of the 12th root of two, meaning 12 distinct tones in each octave.
That is a convenient approximation to a set of tones you can make out of the harmonic series, which was known to the ancient Greeks… except that if you actually try that, you discover as your music gets more harmonically complex that things sound pretty bad in some combinations, and musicians start wanting to correct them so they sound ‘right’ despite being wrong.
If you tune by ear with voices, or instruments that are not entirely fixed in their tuning, you end up using something called just intonation, and as you change key the frequencies you use for certain notes change slightly. That can mean that you can change key several times, change back to the key you started on, and end up at a different pitch (shifted by an interval called a comma).
Yeah, it’s complicated all right.
Around about the 16th century several people worked out that you could do what we now call equal temperament, it seems to have been simultaneously invented in China and Holland. It became standard in the 18th century in Europe.
But… lots of contemporary music uses tuning based on guitars, and they don’t play in exact equal temperament.
Not only that, lots of contemporary music is based on blues scales, which contain a note that isn’t one of the regular set.
Arab, Japanese and Indian music each use a different set of intonation schemes… except when they don’t because they’re incorporating Western instruments (or guitars)… except when they do something like just intonation around what the equal-tempered instruments or guitars are doing to make it sound right in their heads… yeah. Complicated.
So, any attempt to define the exact frequencies of musical notes is just the start of a long, complicated journey. People have written books on the subject, and there have been several published on this subject every year for at least four hundred years. It’s that complicated.
Using different intonation schemes can be astonishingly beautiful.
Check this out… there’s an impossible modulation in this arrangement:

At one point he smoothly modulates into a key a quarter tone sharp (in exact quarter-tone equal temperament)… by stepping through something like the just intonation commas on the way there. By ear, multitracking with himself.
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen
Snow on snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter
Long, long ago
Angels and Arc Angels
May have traveled there
Cherubim and Seraphim
Thronged the air
But only his Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshiped the beloved
With a kiss
What can I give him?
Poor as I am
If I were a shepherd
I would give a lamb
If I were a wise man
I would do my part
But what I can I give him
Give him my heart
Give him my heart

Dec 24, 2021

Christmas eve...


This afternoon

We were on our habitual afternoon walk which gets us downtown and back in an hour.

Note the December flowers on the right. The white Lego House atop the hill got recently repainted; before it looked like Dr. No's residence. There's a dog kept in a cage next to the house (extreme left of the picture), and he barks less since the paint job was done.

Dec 9, 2021

From the trenches -- Wole Soyinka

Yes, we are still bedridden -- did we fail to mention that Michael and his partner Chang caught Covid (?) -- so we are cutting our way through the verbal jungle of a book by Wole Soyinka, titled "Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth" about Soyinka's home country, Nigeria -- Soyinka, world's first black Nobel Award of Literature -- Soyinka (who's compared in rave reviews to Vladimir Nabokov's).  

And so, while we are still wielding our verbal machete in Soyinka's verbal  jungle (well-written, somehow, but much too redundant, and confusing, and repetitive...), we swear this holy pledge: in the future, we'll only read books by the man himself: Vladimir Nabokov.

Yesterday -- wave alert

We've had a wave alert for the Praia do Norte yesterday, with estimated breakers of 10 meters. The sheep were characteristically unimpressed, though:
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