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|Wednesday, November 26th, 2014|
|Some Things to Keep In Mind
Here are some things which are true:
People act, largely, according to the directions in which their incentives point. If a CEO's contract pays more to trash the company than make it successful, you'll get a trashed company 9 times out of 10. Organizations created to solve a problem, which will cease to exist upon completion, rarely solve the problem. Instead, they make the problem worse.
Included in incentives are: increased money, more power/authority, support for ones own self identity.
Leaders will in general act to increase their budgets and their staff, to the exclusion of accomplishing their actual assigned goals.
Finally, people in positions of power will tend to preserve the status quo. This is, after all, the situation that placed them into a position of power.
All of this may or may not be conscious. You can certainly have people earnestly working as hard as they can to do X, but failing and instead accomplishing Y, where Y is usually more aligned with their incentives than X is. I don't understand the mechanism, but it happens all the time.
And so on. You might ask for evidence, and I am going to decline to provide. Look around you, all of humanity is the evidence.
This is one of the areas of life that fascinates me.
How does this apply to, just to pull an issue out of thin air, the problem of cops shooting black kids?
Who are they players? Well, there's the poor schlubs, both cops and kids, getting shot out there. But, screw them. They got no voice, they got no power, they're actually not players at all.
On the cop side we have, more or less, The Man. The Current System. The incentives here are: preserve the status quo, increase budgets and staffing. Of course these people will promote the narrative of a deadly inner city, brutish and dangerous youths. We NEED more beat cops. We NEED that tank. We NEED more SWAT teams.
On the other side we have a variety of interesting voices, from bottom feeders on tumblr to nationally respected writers and commentators. These people are also incented to preserve the status quo, interestingly. Their identity and, sometimes, their paycheck, is tied up in the narrative of institutional racism, of violent and thuggish cops wasting innocent black men wholesale. Of course they will beat that drum over and over. It's their job.
So, who here is actually incentivized to solve the problem? Who benefits from an inner city filled with peaceful youths baking cookies for the local beat cop, who watches over them as a benevolent friend? Who, in fact, benefits from knowing the truth here? Are the cops shooting black kids, or poor kids? Are the cops brutish thugs of saints? Nobody with a voice actually wants a definitive answer here. It would end the game. They'd need to get new jobs.
Well, the poor schlubs getting shot, obviously. But as noted before, screw those guys.
And, just to re-iterate a previous point: I in no way mean to suggest that any particular person or persons in play here are not earnestly speaking truth as they see it, and trying as hard as they can to solve the problems. I believe that many, most, perhaps almost all of the players are indeed earnest and decent seekers. But their incentives do not lie in that direction, as so, what can we reasonably expect as the outcome here?
|Wednesday, June 11th, 2014|
It has come to my attention that a terrible joke is going around in some circles:
An infinite number of mathematicians walk in to a bar. The first orders 1 beer. The second orders half a beer. The third one orders one quarter of a beer, and so on, each one ordering a drink half the size of the previous. The bartender shakes his head, says, "You idiots!" and pours two beers.
This joke sucks, because the punchline is, basically "ha ha! I know a tiny bit of math!"
This joke is much better:
An infinite number of mathematicians walk in to a bar. The first orders 1 beer. The second orders half a beer. The third one orders one quarter of a beer, and so on, each one ordering a drink half the size of the previous. The bartender looks at the queue of mathematicians and says, "Ok guys, but your limit is two drinks"
Since the joke now contains an appalling pun, it rules FROM ORBIT.
|Friday, September 6th, 2013|
|Only White People Camp
There's a little fleet or articles going around the Internets these days. Apparently the National Park Service determined that most visitors to National Parks are white. This has sparked the usual suspects to whip out stupid little articles about how only white people camp or hike, because camping and hiking are literally the same thing
as visiting national parks.
The people writing these things are a) stupid and b) obviously never go camping. Tons of non-white people go camping. Which is, to review, not the same thing as visiting a National Park (which is generally NOT camping, FYI, the National Parks in the USA have decent hotels and things, and many of them are mostly set up for day visitors anyways).
National Parks are often hard to get to, and generally boring as well, which is probably why only more or less affluent people bother with them. Camping is cheap and fun, which is why all socio-economic classes are represented.
My favorite article, by the way, suggested that you need $1000 worth of gear to go camping. That's hilarious. Protip: You don't.
|Saturday, August 31st, 2013|
Some fellow on the internet really wanted to pay me some little sum for a thing, and I was a bit baffled as to why or how he could do it most conveniently.
I have hit upon a perfectly anonymous scheme for payments. It's not very capitalist, but capitalism's kind of a dead end anyways, Here's how it works:
When you receive a good or service, pay anyone, at random.
This approach has a number of properties. Discuss.
|Friday, August 23rd, 2013|
|XKCD and Columbus
Today's XKCD http://xkcd.com/1255/
cites the pretty well known fact that everyone knew the world was round, not just Columbus. Most people know that Columbus was an idiot and thought the world was quite a bit smaller than it is, and that everyone else had a pretty good idea that China was in fact 10,000 miles away.
What's not widely known, perhaps, is that if you happen to be out on the ocean, and you happen to know that the world is round, and you happen to have two ships of known heights handy, and you know as much geometry as the Egyptians did, you can work out how big the planet is.
Columbus had to hand everything he needed to calculate, with a couple hours of doodling around, how big the planet is. He also had copious free time to do so. An experienced sailor with a bit of geometry in him could probably get close just by guessing what the measurements would produce, without even using a second ship and measuring anything. The key is "how far away is the ship when it vanishes over the horizon" which an experienced sailor in that era should be able to guess immediately. Then you spend 10 minutes dorking around with lines and triangles, and you say 'Hmm, 20,000 miles around' or something.
It becomes almost inconceivable that he could have been 10,000 miles wrong. In fact, he probably had a pretty good guess that there was something, not China, in betweem Portugal and China, and he set out to find it, justifying his plan with a stupid "well, the earth is tiny, so China is basically Right There" story.
|Wednesday, November 28th, 2012|
When you see some structure (a novel, a building, a painting, some weird skin growth) and inside that structure you see a smaller structure which resembles the outer one, you DO NOT HAVE A FRACTAL. If you see a whole bunch of smaller structures that resemble the outer one, and inside each of those, a whole bunch of.. you STILL DO NOT HAVE A FRACTAL. You have a pattern, but NOT A FRACTAL.
Self-similar is the keyword, here. Fractals don't exist in a quantized universe such as, you know, this one.
|Thursday, August 9th, 2012|
Boy do I like that name.
I don't know how apparent this is, but Seeks Attention strikes ME as someone who wishes she had things to say about books. Evidently she does not, either because she is lazy, or lacks the intellectual makeup necessary (the latter is not an indictment, not everyone is built to be a critic). She compensates with this lazy schtick of deconstructing every damn thing in the light of Critical Race Theory, instead of actually performing criticism. It looks like scholarship! It feels like scholarship! It's kind of like scholarship!
Except of course none of those is true. It's self-evidently the crazy ranting of someone who's not being very clever.
|Wednesday, August 1st, 2012|
I am sick to death of the current anti-bullying narrative. We're seeing articles, columns, books, memoirs and GOD KNOWS blog posts. The narrative is always the same 'I was bullied and now I am STRUGGLING TO UNDERSTAND why bullies bully!!'
Here's the thing: You would probably have an easier time figuring out the mechanics if you didn't conveniently forget that not only were you bullied, you bullied. Yep. Almost without exception, everyone bullies and is bullied in their school years. It's how people work when you shove them into a situation like school. Or prison. Or summer camp.
If you want to understand bullying, stop wringing your foolish hands and take a good hard look in the mirror. The answer is right there.
|Monday, July 23rd, 2012|
|Little Known Fact
"Battle Royale" is actually the first Atlas Shrugged
movie. They trimmed the plot down to the scenes involving Galt Gulch to make it frankly filmable, and made a few rewrites to reflect a more realistic view of what a bunch of CEOs left to fend for themselves in an isolated valley would behave like.
The rest is basically just issues with the translation.
|Monday, July 16th, 2012|
|all you sociopaths
If you're one of those people who insist on scribbling in library books, please stop. Your marginal notes are embarrassing, the bits you underline are clearly selected at random, and you always peter out (thank god) after a few pages. This is not scholarship, you are aping the form, but you are not a scholar, you are some sort of sociopath and a moron as well.
That is all.
|Friday, July 13th, 2012|
This idea is not original with me, but the actual sources, understandably, are reluctant to mention it in public forums. I'm not.
The ability to trade sex (generally construed) for staples of life, like housing, food, and so on, constitutes a privilege enjoyed, mostly, by women.
Arguably, this explains why there are relatively few homeless women. Interesting, huh? Privilege isn't all wine and roses, but an advantage is an advantage, even if exercising it isn't very jolly.
|Saturday, June 2nd, 2012|
|art and beauty
In my irregular tour of a little handful of idiots-on-the-web, I ran across this:http://tempest.fluidartist.com/writing-and-the-art-of-provocation
in which Tempest describes how, as a moderator of a panel, she heroically beat down some guy who disagreed with her, and then goes on to quote and agree some other numbskull asserting that art needs to be beautiful.
I find that a pretty incredible claim. One could, I suppose, argue that anything that is ART accrues a certain beauty due to its ARTFULNESS but that's just begging the question. Tempest would, of course, not hesitate to do so because she confuses "my opinion" with "flawless logic" but she's still be wrong.
|Monday, May 21st, 2012|
You are not "signal boosting," you are re-blogging something because you are a lazy dumbshit.
|Friday, May 18th, 2012|
Nick Mamatas 100% appropriates Will Shetterly's position:http://nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com/1762812.html
The question is, does Nick know? Is he that ignorant of Will's position, having gotten most of his information about what Will thinks from posts starting 'Shorter Shitterly' written by, oops, kind of rapey people? Or does he actually understand Will's position, and manage to be so completely un-self-conscious as to not recognize that his position is identical? Or is Nick in fact simply playing his cards very close to his chest?
I am betting on un-self-conscious. In the past I have suspected Nick of playing a game, but since he never, ever, breaks character, who the hell cares if it's a game or if he really is an un-self-aware poseur.
|Tuesday, May 1st, 2012|
Thank you, International Workers, on this, Your Day!
I appreciate all the hard work you do to give me a basically pretty cushy life. While it's kind of a downer to stand on your crippled backs to grab hold of my pretty much awesome life, I think you'll agree that the alternative is worse and nobody sane would go for it. So, thanks!
Also, if you're reading this, you're also standing on the backs of those same workers. You might be a little higher up or a little lower down than me, but you're pretty far up the pyramid. How do I know? Well, unless your superpower is reading blogs with your mind, you're reading this via some electronic device. The device was, if not actually manufactured by absurdly cheap and more or less oppressed overseas labor, was priced to compete with same. This low price makes the device, or access to it, absurdly cheap in terms of how much labor you must perform (even at US minimum wage) to gain that access. Yes, even you people on food stamps, using an ancient computer your brother in law gave you. You benefit, you thereby partake of oppression, and you would be mad to do otherwise.
So, rejoice with me in your exalted position in the great heap of humanity, and join me in thanking the vast majority below us, lifting us upwards into our awesome lives.
|Monday, April 16th, 2012|
|Sunday, March 25th, 2012|
One axis upon which one can divide art is this: Is the first one the only one?
The first guy to paint a Campbell's Soup Can might have had something to say. The second guy was just a derivative twit.
It's still perfectly possible to paint, I dunno, a pretty girl with a earring and have it be a worthwhile piece.
What's up with that? Was Andy Warhol doing art at all, and more generally are these inherently one-off deals art at all? Maybe they're... I dunno, commentary, or criticism. Is the one-offness itself just a matter of taste in the first place, so the point is moot?
|Thursday, January 5th, 2012|
If you consider yourself to be fighting *-isms, such as racism, sexism, and so on
if your activities in this struggles can be accurately summarized as 'I ****** online' (for example: I organize boycotts online, I educate people about racism online, I run a discussion forum for issues surrounding sexism online)
a) Fuck You
b) you are in all probability a worthless sack of shit and to the extent that you are having any effect, you are making the problem worse
|Monday, November 14th, 2011|
|NPR fails me again
This morning I heard a short item on Libya, discussing how under Quaddhafi (pick your preferred spelling) everything was subsidized, and how the new government was going to have to deal with this and oh my it certainly was going to be a tough time ahead weaning the populace off the subsidized lifestyle.
Planted in all this is the axiom that profits from an extremely lucrative national resource, in this case oil, should NOT be shared with the people of the nation. We get a couple obvious corollaries quite quickly: These resources should be placed in the hands of Efficient Private Enterprise which will, somehow, make things, somehow, better. Somehow. Maybe the wealth will "trickle down" or some bullshit. A further easy corollary which is certainly a bit of a stretch, but also certainly on the minds of many oldish whitish richish men, is that the Efficient Private Enterprises involved should mostly be US and European.
If NPR won't state the obvious:
It's THEIR FUCKING OIL, so it's THEIR FUCKING MONEY, so they should GET SOME OF IT,
then who will?
|Tuesday, October 25th, 2011|
|God, Religion, and All That
Another in the endless series of Things That Piss Me Off.
It's fairly trendy these days to dismiss religion as the trivial foolishness of another time. Implicit in this is the idea that we, as rational creatures, have pretty much figured it out, or will figure it all out, and there's no need to posit a mystical unknowable force to create the universe and us, Science Tells Us that it all just happened as a consequence of natural laws.
Generally people who trot this stuff out don't understand much science, it turns out. Let's take a look at a few things.
Physics: The collection of laws that appear to govern our universe give us a number of features which are very handy, like Time, and Subatomic Particles stable enough to hang about for enough Time for interesting things to happen, just to name a couple. These are apparently arbitrary features of the complex rules that, as far as our Science People can work out, govern the universe. Lucky thing, eh?
Chemistry: Holy shit, it turns out that the physics gives us a BIZARRELY complicated collection of STUFF. The particles can make molecules, with crazy "electron shells" that seem to obey a capriciously complicated set of rules and advisories that allow compounds to form in a wonderful array of ways. Water is a miraculously weird substance. The rules allow this to dissolve in that, but not in this, these things precipitate out, that ionizes in the other thing, holy crap. It's INSANE.
Biology: The chemistry, while freakishly well suited to supporting life doesn't make it easy for life to arise. All available evidence suggests that it happened one (1) time in a rather enormous universe, at least in the particularly curious form that seems to be specifically design to evolve and change and increase in complexity enough to produce:
Intelligent Life: The rise of intelligence appears to be another colossal accident. Intelligence sufficient to wonder about where it came from and why doesn't have any obvious evolutionary value, for one thing. Also, a human being is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery. A human CELL is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery which works damn near by magic.
So, if one insists that Science is The Way, and that one will believe only in what can perceive and verify (if not literally, at least it has been perceived and verified by some person, and could in theory be perceived and verified by oneself) one is stuck with a wildly improbable universe, with layer of wild unlikeliness built on layer of unlikeliness all the way down. The ultimate question of 'why' is answerable only with 'incredible luck, beside which winning all the lotteries of the world at once is a certainty'. It's tempting to sneak out of this trap by positing the existence of, say, an infinitude of universes; only in those unlikely ones in which intelligent life arose is there intelligence to wonder at the improbability of it all. This is a cheat, since you're positing the existence in some sense of an infinitude of un-perceivable stuff, which is exactly what the Theist is doing. You might as well just posit a God and be done with it. There are ways to do so that satisfy Occam, which is pretty much all you have to go in here anyways.
The point here is not that atheism is wrong. The point is that it's not the obvious and simple choice. Sticking strictly with the idea that existence and perceptibility are the same leads one into a rather tight corner -- it's not untenable, it's just tight. If someone dismisses theism lightly, they just don't know enough. There is a reason many scientists are religious.
The point here is also, by the way, not that Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or whatever is right, great, or even very good.