Category Archives: Mankind's Doom

Human Achievement of the Day: Guitars

When Human Achievement Hour rolls around each year, I make sure to do two things. One is to play an electric guitar. The other is to play an acoustic guitar.

Guitars are simple things. Stretch some thin metal wires over a plank of wood, and you’re most of the way there. Electric guitars add a few magnets wrapped in copper wire mounted underneath the strings, called pickups. This deceptively simple invention is one of the pinnacles of human achievement. Music made on guitars has brought unfettered joy to billions of people, most of whom have idea how to play one. Whether you like jazz, punk rock, flamenco, blues, death metal, or classic rock, guitars have enhanced your life. In a way, the guitar is one of the defining objects of modern Western culture.

Regular readers will likely be familiar with CEI’s “I, Pencil” video from a few years ago, inspired by Leonard Read’s famous pamphlet. Nobody can make a pencil on their own. It takes a network of literally millions of people cooperating to make something you can buy in a store for less than a dollar. The network of human cooperation surrounding guitars is arguably even greater.

For example, guitars made by Gibson, such as the Les Paul and the SG, are often made of mahogany wood, which grows mostly in Central and South America. Tennessee-based Gibson has to arrange with people more than a thousand miles away to harvest the lumber and ship it to Nashville, most of whom speak different languages and use different currencies. The fingerboards placed on top of the guitar’s neck are usually made of rosewood, native to Africa and Asia, presenting another coordination problem.

Fret wire, usually made of either nickel or stainless steel, relies on mining and smelting technologies, and requires precise math, skill, and specialized tools to install. Other hardware, such as a guitar’s bridge and nut, pickguard, and tuning pegs, present their own challenges.

Acoustic guitars use a soundboard, chambers, and soundholes in such a way that makes the instruments both loud and tuneful. Electric guitars instead use pickups, potentiometers, wires, soldering, and standardized connections leading to an amplifier powered by electricity. If a pencil is a miracle of cooperation, guitars are even moreso.

Part of the point of Human Achievement Hour is to celebrate modernity. So on March 28, sometime between 8:30 and 9:30, instead of merely leaving on the lights, I will pick up my electric guitar, plug it into my amplifier, and take in the pure, simple joy that comes with banging out distorted power chords. After that, I will pick up my acoustic and admire all the skill, elegance, and mastery of geometry and sound that went into making it. Nobody within earshot may much enjoy my point, but they will likely be thankful for two other human achievements: walls and doors.

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CEI Podcast for February 23, 2012: Global Warming and Mass Movements


Have a listen here.

In 1841, the Scottish writer Charles Mackay observed, ” the cup of life is not bitter enough to our palate, and we distill superfluous poison to put into it, or conjure up hideous things to frighten ourselves at, which would never exist if we did not make them.” CEI Warren Brookes Fellow Matt Patterson believes this glass-half-empty aspect of human nature applies directly to today’s global warming debate.

Sitting Down: Mankind’s Doom!

This is quite possibly the least subtle chart I have ever seen. See the original here. Expect OSHA and HHS to issue new regulations in 3… 2…

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

Regulation of the Day 143: Your Bedtime

Japan’s Environment Ministry is encouraging its citizens to go to bed an hour earlier at night, and get up an hour earlier in the morning.

There is much wisdom in the old “early to bed, early to rise” adage. But that’s not what the Environment Ministry has in mind. They see going to bed early as a way to fight global warming.

By saving an hour’s worth of lighting and other electricity use every day, the Morning Challenge campaign says the average household can emit 85 fewer kilograms of carbon per year. Staying up late ensures mankind’s doom.

It is astounding that the Japanese regulators think that your bedtime is government business. Then again, this is the same country that has a legally allowable maximum waistline.

Food: Mankind’s Doom

vegetable

In Sweden, food and menu labeling has started to include the estimated carbon footprint of each item.

Don’t read too much into the labels, though. The New York Times notes that “the emissions impact of, say, a carrot, can vary by a factor of 10, depending how and where it is grown.”

With that much imprecision built in, if the labels change consumer behavior as much as supporters hope, it’s entirely possible that eco-concsious diets could result in more carbon emissions, not less. A classic case of leaping before you look.

This new religion is a piece of work. It comes complete with a deity (Gaia), clergy (activists), indulgences (carbon credits), and now, dietary restrictions.

Regulation of the Day 61: Big Screen TVs – Mankind’s Doom!

bi screen tv

On November 4, California regulators may vote to ban big-screen televisions. The large sets use more energy than they would prefer.

Commissioner Julia Levin claims the ban “will actually save consumers money and help the California economy grow and create new clean, sustainable jobs.”

It is easy to imagine the ban costing tv manufacturing jobs; less so the jobs that would take their place.

Fortunately, the ban isn’t terribly enforceable. Consumers can just drive to Arizona, Nevada, or Oregon to get the kind of tv they want.

A final point on semantics: what does “sustainable” even mean, anyway? It is a meaningless buzz term, right up there with “synergy” and “paradigm.” This decade’s equivalent of “social justice.”

If anything, use of the word “sustainable” signals that a person knows not of what they speak. If you’re unable to defend a proposal on the merits, just use fashionable buzz words that poll well.

Lamb Roast: Mankind’s Doom

The Onion reports that “Government advisers are developing menus to combat climate change by cutting out ‘high carbon’ food such as meat from sheep, whose burping poses a serious threat to the environment.”

Oh, wait — that article was actually in the Times of London. It isn’t satire. At least, not intentionally.

(Hat tip to Drudge)

(Cross-posted at Open Market)