DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Archive for the 'Think about it.' Category

Deaths in the Iliad: a Classics Infographic

31st July 2014

Read it.

I’m a sucker for infographics.

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Private Schools vs. Caste Discrimination

31st July 2014

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Nearly 30% of children in India (ages 6-14) attend private schools and in some states and many urban regions a majority of the students attend private schools. Compared to the government schools, private schools perform modestly better on measures of learning (Muraldiharan and Sundararaman 2013, Tabarrok 2011) and much better on cost-efficiency. Moreover, even though the private schools are low cost and mostly serve very poor students they also have better facilities such as electricity, toilets, blackboards, desks, drinking water etc. than the government schools.

Caste discrimination in the government schools is also one of the reasons why the private schools focus on teaching English. Among the Dalits, English is understood as the language of liberation not just because it offers greater job prospects but even more because Hindi, Sanskrit and the regional languages are burdened by and interwoven with a history of Dalit oppression. As one Dalit put it, “No one knows how to curse me as well as in Tamil.”

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Red Pill Blues

31st July 2014

John Derbyshire, Patron Saint of Dyspepsia, wants to sell out, if only he can find a buyer.

I want to believe that diversity is our strength; that Islam is a religion of peace; that the Republican Party is a force for conservatism; that if George thinks he is a woman, then by golly he is a woman—his cock, balls, beard, and 37.2 trillion Y-chromosomes notwithstanding; that my personality will survive when my brain is destroyed; that if not for the cruel legacy of colonialism, black African nations would by now have Mars colonies and world-conquering commercial enterprises; that poverty causes crime; that gay is just as good as straight; that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle; that I have free will; that importing one-quarter of the population of Guyana has been good for the U.S.A., and for Guyana; that IQ tests measure nothing of life-history significance, only the ability to pass IQ tests; that there is no such thing as race; that a loving invisible god is watching over me and listening to my mumbled preferences, when not attending to necessary maintenance chores elsewhere in the Virgo Supercluster; that women’s sports are interesting for non-lesbians to watch even when not conducted in skimpy bikinis; that 10,000 hours of dogged practice will make me a first-class tennis player; that Guatemalan gangbangers will become family-values conservatives once they have touched the magic soil of the U.S.A.; that invoking “culture” (which means: the customary behaviors of a people) as an explanation for the customary behaviors of a people increases our understanding; that black kids will do just as well as white kids academically as soon as we fix the schools; that some person somewhere knows how to fix the schools …

I want to believe the pretty lies. I’ve had enough of depressive realism. I want to take the blue pill. Where’s the nearest retail outlet?

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Global Warming Hoax: The Basics

31st July 2014

Read it. And watch the video.

This video is a nice, four-minute summary of some of the basics of the global warming debate. It was shot at the Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, between July 7 and July 9. If you have followed the science closely, you won’t learn anything you didn’t already know. But it is a good introduction for those who are new to the science, and an enjoyable overview for anyone.

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The Preppy Style & Clothes Primer

30th July 2014

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For those of ye not of the Crust. You know who you are.

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Why It Makes Sense to Bike Without a Helmet

30th July 2014

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As I was cycling home the other night I came across a few of my fellow students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Several of them asked me: Where is your bike helmet?

I get this question a lot. I have made a careful and conscientious choice to not wear a helmet when I’m cycling in urban areas because I strongly believe that it will help improve the overall safety of cycling in the long run.

It’s an unintuitive position to take. People have tried to reason with me that because I’ve spent so much money and time developing my brain, and the cost of an injury would be so devastating, it’s clearly more important to wear a helmet. But if we start looking into the research, there’s a strong argument to be made that wearing a bike helmet may actually increase your risk of injury, and increase the risk of injury of all the cyclists around you.

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Indian Techies-in-Training Face Down MAN-EATING LEOPARD – and WIN

29th July 2014

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For whenever you are minded to complain about your day….

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The Illusion of Intelligence

28th July 2014

Scott Adams never stops thinking … or whatever it is that he does.

Maybe the reason that scientists are having a hard time creating artificial intelligence is because human intelligence is an illusion. You can’t duplicate something that doesn’t exist in the first place. I’m not saying that as a joke. Most of what we regard as human intelligence is an illusion.

I will hedge my claim a little bit and say human intelligence is mostly an illusion because math skills are real, for example. But a computer can do math. Language skills are real too, but a computer can understand words and sentence structure. In fact, all of the parts of intelligence that are real have probably already been duplicated by computers.

So what parts of intelligence are computers failing to duplicate? Answer: The parts that only LOOK like intelligence to humans but are in fact just illusions.

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13-Year-Old Boy Killed, 22 Wounded Including 3-Year-Old in Chicago Weekend Violence

28th July 2014

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Thank God for those strict gun control laws, or the place would look like Texas.

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‘Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League’

27th July 2014

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These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from themthe private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.

The Children of the Crust don’t want the competition.

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You’re Not Allowed Science Any More

26th July 2014

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A fable for our times.

 

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Thought for the Day

26th July 2014

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New Study Looked at Whether Smoking or Obesity Takes More Years Off Life

25th July 2014

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Hint: Obesity is worse. So if you smoke to keep your weight down, you’re ahead of the game.

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The New Extraterrestrial Geography

24th July 2014

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This month marks forty-five years since men first left planet earth and set foot on another world. The last man to walk on the moon did so in December, 1972, over four decades ago. It’s a good moment to ponder what we haven’t done since.

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Sierra Leone’s hief Ebola Doctor Contracts the Virus

23rd July 2014

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Let that be a lesson to us all.

 

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Beretta Dumps Maryland After New Gun Laws

22nd July 2014

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Beretta USA, one of the nation’s largest firearms manufacturers, will move its manufacturing and approximately 300 jobs out of Maryland because of the state’s new gun control laws, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Rick Perry’s phone number is (512) 463-2000. Just sayin’.

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Thought for the Day

22nd July 2014

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Obama Donor Fights to Keep Riff-Raff Away From Private Beach

21st July 2014

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A wealthy venture capitalist and major Obama donor is fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent others from accessing his private Northern California beach, according to Bloomberg News.

Vinod Khosla’s support for Obama has paid off in the form of millions in taxpayer subsidies for green energy companies in which he has invested.

A prominent environmentalist, Khosla nevertheless cherishes his control over a private beach alongside his 56-acre property near San Francisco—which he bought for $32.5 million—Bloomberg reported on Monday.

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World Mysteries – The Piri Reis Map

20th July 2014

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The admiral’s scanned the yellowed charts and found the tracings to be precise. Using his collection of antique charts, Admiral Piri Reis compiled a world map in 1513. In 1929, a group of historians found the Piri Reis map in a pile of rubble in the harem section of the Palace of Topkapi in Constantinople. These scholars were astonished to discover that the map showed the coastal outlines of South and North America. It also included precise data on the southern polar continent, Antarctica.

Piri Reis could not have acquired his information on this region from contemporary explorers because Antarctica remained undiscovered until 1818 CE, more than 300 years after he drew the map. The ice-free coast of Queen Maud Land shown in the map is a mystery because the geological evidence confirms that the very latest date that it could have been surveyed and charted in an ice-free condition is 4000 BCE. It is not possible to pinpoint the earliest date that such a task could have been accomplished, but it seems that the Queen Maud Land littoral may have remained in a stable, unglaciated condition for at least 9,000 years before the spreading ice-cap swallowed it entirely. There is no civilization known to history that had the capacity or need to survey that coastline in the relevant period, i.e. between 13,000 BCE and 4000 BCE.

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Samsung Electronics Mobile Executives Take Bonus Cuts

20th July 2014

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I’d love to have a job where unsatisfactory performance only resulted in a 25% reduction of my bonus.

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The Benefits of Failing at French

20th July 2014

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Every now and again, something in the New York Times is worth reading. This is one of those rare events.

In the last few years, unable to hold a list of just four grocery items in my head, I’d begun to fret a bit over my literal state of mind. So to reassure myself that nothing was amiss, just before tackling French I took a cognitive assessment called CNS Vital Signs, recommended by a psychologist friend. The results were anything but reassuring: I scored below average for my age group in nearly all of the categories, notably landing in the bottom 10th percentile on the composite memory test and in the lowest 5 percent on the visual memory test.

And yet he is paid to write for the New York Times. ’nuff said.

Seriously, this is yet another recommendation for the position staked out by Scott Adams in his life-changing book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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Corporations Are Refrigerators

20th July 2014

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An odd article that contains a great deal of inconvenient truth. Most people would profit from having this pasted on their bathroom mirror where they would be forced to read it every damned day.

Don’t allow where you work or what you do become who you are.
There’s more to you than your job. There’s more to you than the title on your business card, the name of the corporation that employs you – while we’re at it, there’s more to you than where you live, what you drive or how much you earn. Sure, there may be some prestige associated with a certain employer or type of work, but one thing is certain: at the end of your life, it’s sure as heck not going to be the most important thing you remember or cherish. Who you are is who your family and friends love; who contributes back to society – not what you do or where you work. What are your talents, what do you love to do, what other roles do you play in your life? Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Friend – WHO are you – not what do you do.

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No One Said They Wanted Faster Horses, They Wanted Less Horseshit

20th July 2014

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With all the bitching these days about the problems with automobiles, from air pollution to traffic fatalities, you would think that they were an unmitigated disaster — until, of course, you consider the alternative.

Since the base premise is around the usage of horses as a metaphor for the “status quo” of transportation, let’s look at it for a minute. Horses have been a preferred means of transportation for thousands of years. The earliest record of domestic horse usage for transportation goes back as far as 2000 BCE. As we built more and more complex, crowded villages, towns, cities, horses became a real problem. Here are some of the things people would have responded with if you asked a mid-late 19th century city planner what he needed with regards to equine transportation:

  • An easier way to remove the average of 41 dead horses a day on the streets of New York
  • Some place to relocate the 1200~ metric tons of manure produced each day, and someone to do the relocating
  • Some place to stable the 100,000+ horse that operated within New York, and food to feed them

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Thought for the Day

20th July 2014

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Let’s Start Telling Young People the Whole Truth About College

19th July 2014

Karen Cates, Professor at Nortwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, tells it like it is.

The idea that college is appropriate—essential, even—for all Americans is a myth. We’ve been told there are no decent jobs without a college education. While unemployment among recent college grads is 8.5 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute, if you dig into the numbers you’ll find that 46 percent of them consider themselves “mal-employed.” Translation: They’re working largely in retail and entry-level hospitality, jobs that do not require their college degree.

One folktale that’s been spun from this is that you’ll never earn a living wage unless you have a college degree. This is patently untrue. Our trade professions are clamoring for quality employees to keep up with the demands of a recovering economy. “The homebuilding industry faces a chronic shortage of skilled workers,” laments Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders. In many professions, workers can earn as much or more than someone with a degree in marketing or advertising.

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Thought for the Day

18th July 2014

Bad rich people

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Hitler, Continued

16th July 2014

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There is one respect in which I would take Evans’s characterization further, as Lucy Dawidowicz does in Chapter 20 of my book: Hitler didn’t lose the war. Not the war Evans argues was most important to him: the racial war. Hitler won that war. Six million to one. Yes, he committed suicide at the end. (And yes, 50 million others lost their lives so he could win the part of the war he cared about most. Collateral damage.)

Thinking about that suicide now, in the light of 9/11 and the subsequent exaltations of suicide bombing on messianic, theological grounds, does in fact offer a radical new way of characterizing Hitler. In retrospect at least, it’s tempting to argue that Hitler was, if not the first, then by far history’s greatest single suicide bomber. He blew up Europe to kill the Jews in it, even if it meant killing himself and tens of millions of others in the end.

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What Exactly Is in McDonald’s Famous French Fries?

16th July 2014

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In the good old days, McDonald’s fries were cooked in beef tallow. But customer demand for less saturated fat prompted a switch to vegetable oil in the early ’90s.

No, it’s because they were sued by some asshole Hindus. Diversity means never being allowed to live like an American.

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All Clintoned Out

14th July 2014

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Barack Obama did not blow apart Hillary Clinton’s huge lead during the 2008 Democratic primaries just because he was a landmark African-American candidate, new to the scene, and a skilled campaigner. Even Democrats were all Clintoned out.

By such weariness, I don’t suggest that either of the Clintons is unpopular. Indeed, Americans apparently look fondly back on the high-growth 1990s as the continuation of the Reagan-Bush boom years, and a time when Democrats and Republicans finally fixed budget deficits. (Note well that when Obama went back to the Clinton-era tax rates for the more affluent, the deficit dipped, but certainly did not approach the balanced budget that was once achieved by spending discipline under the Clinton-Gingrich compromise.)

The problem instead is Hillary Clinton herself. She is not a very good speaker, and is prone to shrill outbursts and occasional chortling. She has a bad habit of committing serial gaffes (e.g., speaking too candidly), and what she says on Monday is often contradicted by her rantings on Tuesday. She seems cheap and obsessed with raking in free stuff. When Bill steps in to correct her mistakes, either sloppily or out of some strange psychological spite, he usually makes things even worse. We saw that often in 2008 and are seeing it again now. But aside from the cosmetics of her political style, the Clintons are faced with two fundamental obstacles in 2016.

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Which Immigration Impasse?

13th July 2014

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The trouble with a piece like the billionaires’ op-ed is that there are really two immigration debates, and their article will turn up as an exhibit in the immigration argument they don’t endorse. They join hands with the Silicon Valley magnates who want more H1-B visas for tech Ph.D.’s, and I’m happy to join with them in supporting that argument, though I can’t help but notice that some of the most fabled names in the tech business allegedly have conspired to fix the wages of their highly qualified engineers by forming illegal non-competitive hiring pacts, so it’s hard to tell just how pressing the demand for engineering talent really is. Still, since human knowledge and ingenuity are the most valuable of all natural resources, it’s impossible not to think that the more of them we have, the better. And if our own schools and colleges aren’t turning out enough of such skills, by all means let’s import as much as we can.

But this argument has nothing whatever to do with the massed children at our southern border, admitted through a foolish loophole unintentionally created by the Bush administration and exploited by the Obama regime as a way of changing the character of the American people, both by enlarging the underclass whom Democrats can claim it is their mission to rescue with ever more generous welfare programs, and by creating yet more Democratic voters, if these kids ever become citizens—or if they become anchor babies who can then legally bring in their parents and siblings under our existing, and harmful, family-unification immigration policy.

The real immigration debate is over illegal immigrants like these—Hispanics with no skills, little social capital, and less education. To be sure, they have been a boon to industries that depend on cheap unskilled labor, from agriculture to construction to hotels and restaurants. And they are a boon to the prosperous, who hire them as nannies, pool-boys, gardeners, butlers, what-have-you—though I take for granted that our billionaire-authors make Social Security payments for such employees, after making sure they are legal immigrants.

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The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit

13th July 2014

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In downtown Detroit, at the headquarters of the online-mortgage company Quicken Loans, there stands another downtown Detroit in miniature. The diorama, made of laser-cut acrylic and stretching out over 19 feet in length, is a riot of color and light: Every structure belonging to Quicken’s billionaire owner, Dan Gilbert, is topped in orange and illuminated from within, and Gilbert currently owns 60 of them, a lordly nine million square feet of real estate in all. He began picking up skyscrapers just three and a half years ago, one after another, paying as little as $8 a square foot. He bought five buildings surrounding Capitol Park, the seat of government when Michigan became a state in 1837. He snapped up the site of the old Hudson’s department store, where 12,000 employees catered to 100,000 customers daily in the 1950s. Many of Gilbert’s purchases are 20th-century architectural treasures, built when Detroit served as a hub of world industry. He bought a Daniel Burnham, a few Albert Kahns, a Minoru Yamasaki masterwork with a soaring glass atrium. “They’re like old-school sports cars,” said Dan Mullen, one of the executives who took over Quicken’s newly formed real estate arm. “These were buildings with so much character, so much history. They don’t exist anywhere else. And it was like, ‘Buy this parking garage, and we’ll throw in a skyscraper with it.’ ”

In the process, the Motor City has become the testing ground for an updated American dream: privateers finding the raw material for new enterprise in the wreckage of the Rust Belt. Whether or not they’re expecting to profit, Gilbert and other capitalists — large and small — are trying to rebuild the city, even stepping in and picking up some duties that were once handled by the public sector. Shop owners around the city are cleaning up the blighted storefronts and public spaces around them. Only 35,000 of Detroit’s 88,000 streetlights actually work, so some owners are buying and installing their own. In Gilbert’s downtown, a Rock Ventures security force patrols the city center 24 hours a day, monitoring 300 surveillance cameras from a control center. Gilbert is proposing to pay $50 million for the land beneath the county courthouse and a partly built jail near his center-city casino, with the intention of moving the municipal buildings to a far-off neighborhood; his goal is to clear the way for an entertainment district that flows south, without interruption, from the sports arenas past his casino and into downtown. Detroit’s new mayor, Mike Duggan, told me he had no problem with the private sector doing so much to shape his city: Other metropolises had their entrepreneurs and deep-pocketed magnates who built and bought and financed things. With a state-appointed emergency manager overseeing various aspects of Detroit’s operations, with many civic services inoperable for years and with a dire need for investment, Duggan said he felt lucky that his town was getting its turn.

In a city where a government based on machine politics and cronyism is collapsing, the inhabitants are learning that you can do for yourself what the government promised and can no longer deliver, if you’re clever enough.

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A Theory of Jerks

13th July 2014

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We need a theory of jerks. We need such a theory because, first, it can help us achieve a calm, clinical understanding when confronting such a creature in the wild. Imagine the nature-documentary voice-over: ‘Here we see the jerk in his natural environment. Notice how he subtly adjusts his dominance display to the Italian restaurant situation…’ And second – well, I don’t want to say what the second reason is quite yet.

Precedents for this type of work include the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay ‘On Bullshit’ (2005) and, closer to my target, the Irvine philosopher Aaron James’s book Assholes (2012). Our taste in vulgarity reveals our values.

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Robot Writes Torah at Berlin’s Jewish Museum

11th July 2014

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The Torah-writing  was developed by the German artists’ group robotlab and was presented for the first time Thursday at Berlin’s Jewish Museum. While it takes the machine about three months to complete the 80-meter (260-foot) -long scroll, a rabbi or a sofer—a Jewish scribe—needs nearly a year. But unlike the rabbi’s work, the robot’s Torah can’t be used in a synagogue.

I have always found fascinating the strictures around writing a Torah scroll.

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Why Teenagers Today May Grow Up Conservative

11th July 2014

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A very odd thing to appear in the New York Times.

To Americans in their 20s and early 30s — the so-called millennials — many of these problems have their roots in George W. Bush’s presidency. But think about people who were born in 1998, the youngest eligible voters in the next presidential election. They are too young to remember much about the Bush years or the excitement surrounding the first Obama presidential campaign. They instead are coming of age with a Democratic president who often seems unable to fix the world’s problems.

“We’re in a period in which the federal government is simply not performing,” says Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center, the author of a recent book on generational politics, “and that can’t be good for the Democrats.”

Good to see more recognition that Democrats are the party of big government.

It has always astonished me that anyone could possibly think that the same government that gave us the Post Office and the Transportation Security Administration could be safely entrusted with running our economy and our health care.

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The Pointlessness Crusade

10th July 2014

Freeberg lays down some inconvenient truth.

“It’s funny how so many far-left posers get a hard-on for violence and smashing stuff.”

But what kind of grown-ups do kids become after watching “don’t kill that bad guy, bring him to justice instead” movies? Non-vengeful, angelic types? Or, are they taught to de-value human life, to see it as not worth avenging, or for that matter, much of anything else. The latter, I think. For that reason, and some others, after watching the recent Star Trek installment I always come away with the same aftertaste as the closing credits roll: I don’t want to see the “don’t kill the bad guy” trope, ever again. Let’s go back to Han shooting first again. It isn’t that I entirely disagree with the point, that the desire for vengeance should be checked. The problem is that it’s bland, boring, reeks of lazy writing and that’s probably what it is. My impression is that the writers never even bothered to contemplate the other problem with vengeance, that those who crusade against it may have as many problems as those who crusade for it. They may pose just as grave a threat against what we think of as “civilization,” which, if it relies on anything at all, must rely on the idea that humans are worth something. Also, that actions have consequences.

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One Cheer for Meritocracy

10th July 2014

John Derbyshire, Patron Saint of Dyspepsia, considers George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh.

As both writers foresaw, meritocracy has come upon us. We don’t, thank goodness, have it in the pathological form that Orwell described, although some elements of the current political correctness regime strongly resemble Orwell’s vision. Those of us who write commentary on social topics, especially on matters of race and sex, have to keep checking ourselves to stop overusing phrases out of Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Thought Police,” “crimestop,” “Two Minutes Hate,” and so on.

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I’ll Check My White Male Privilege Right After You Check Your Arrogant Liberal Assumptions

10th July 2014

Matt Walsh has had it with leftist jerks.

I read this email from a reader, and now I’ve spent the whole day checking all over my house to find my privilege. I don’t know, I must have misplaced it….

This is one of the best fiskings of an arrogant left-wing jerk that I’ve ever read.

And, in the end, what have we accomplished? You assume that by the mere fact of being a Caucasian male I’m as privileged and elite as the wealthy son of an oil tycoon, and I assume that you’re an oblivious, sheltered, brainwashed, insufferable liberal college student. We both negate the other based on the caricature we’ve painted, and then we go on with our lives. This whole exchange proves utterly pointless, but at least we get to stay in our comfort zones where our ideological opponents are narrow and manageable categories, rather than dynamic and uncontainable individuals.

But I guess that is the point, isn’t it? The ‘white male privilege’ shtick wasn’t invented to foster a dialogue, it was invented to suppress it. You tell someone to ‘check their privilege’ because you want to discount everything they just said. It’s a Get Out of Thinking card. It allows you to push wide swaths of people into a nice little box labeled ‘privileged’ and summarily disqualify every thought and idea they bring to the table.

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15 Ways Liberals Are Like Bratty Kids

9th July 2014

Read it.

4) Half their vocabulary seems to consist of the words, “That’s not FAIR!” It’s not FAIR that they’re not allowed to lie as much as they want! It’s not FAIR that other people get to have opinions, too! It’s not fair that after yelling at someone for 30 minutes, someone said something back to them. It’s not fair! It’s not fair! It’s not FAIR!

14) Little kids believe in Santa Claus. Liberals believe big government works. Both beliefs are equally dumb.

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Amazon Rainforest Was Farms Once

8th July 2014

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It’s generally assumed that it would mean a disaster for the planet if the rainforests of the Amazon were to be replaced with farmland. But it turns out that, actually, much of the area was indeed farmland just a few thousand years ago.

We learn this from new research just published in the august Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of mainly British-based scientists carried it out, seeking to explain the presence of various large human-dug ditches and earthworks criss-crossing today’s thick Amazon jungles – and pre-dating them.

Some in the paleo-boffinry community suggest that the ditches mean that the pre-Columbian civilisations of South America had slashed and burned the immemorial rainforests to create large intensively farmed areas home to dense populations. Others contend that actually the jungles remained largely intact, with just a few incursions by small communities of people.

Neither of these scenarios are true, apparently.

“We went to Bolivia hoping to find evidence of the kinds of crops being grown by ancient Amerindian groups, and to try to find how much impact they had on the ancient forest,” explains Dr John Carson of Reading uni. “What we found was that they were having virtually no effect on the forest, in terms of past deforestation, because it didn’t exist there until much later.”

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Insights From a Real Swordfight

8th July 2014

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I am as appalled as anyone at the outbreak of violence at the Golden Temple in India last week. It is amazing and very fortunate that so few were injured. It does however give us a (thankfully) rare insight into how trained fighters (I am assuming that these chaps actually practise with their weapons; there is a long tradition of Sikh warrior arts) actually behave under the stress of combat.

I am as appalled as anyone at the outbreak of violence at the Golden Temple in India last week. It is amazing and very fortunate that so few were injured. It does however give us a (thankfully) rare insight into how trained fighters (I am assuming that these chaps actually practise with their weapons; there is a long tradition of Sikh warrior arts) actually behave under the stress of combat. – See more at: http://guywindsor.net/blog/2014/06/insights-from-a-real-swordfight/?fb_action_ids=10152520065582354&fb_action_types=news.publishes&fb_ref=pub-standard#sthash.4NevmRg1.SsQraMqC.dpuf

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Speakings Fees Potentially Huge Tax Deduction for Hillary

6th July 2014

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Trying to quell a controversy over a $225,000 speaking fee at UNLV, Hillary Clinton told ABC News Friday that all her speaking fees from colleges were “donated” to the family’s Clinton Foundation. It naturally didn’t occur to ABC News to ask whether Hillary deducted this “pass-through” from her taxes, as would likely be legal under the tax code.

“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation,” Clinton told ABC.

The political value of large amounts of money comes not from the power to spend it but rather from the power to determine how it is spent. Control of spending on the part of a well-funded ‘non-profit’ is just as politically valuable as having it in your own bank account. You don’t have to own an airplane if whenever you fly somewhere you can charter one and charge it to someone else. The power of the Presidency doesn’t stem from the magnitude of the office’s salary.

The Clinton Foundation has grown to a non-profit behemoth, with over $225 million in assets. It isn’t entirely clear what the foundation actually does. Reading a summary of its activities filed with its annual 990 reads like a Clinton State of the Union address. With over $50 million in annual donations, Hillary’s speaking fees would be a very small part of its operations.

Hillary says it does “life-changing and like-saving work,” but it pays twice as much in salaries as it gives out in grants. It stands astride the nexus between government, big business and mega-wealthy individuals. The potential conflict of interest between its work and a Hillary presidential term would ordinarily invite thorough media scrutiny and vetting.

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HAPPY DANCE SUNDAY

6th July 2014

Safety Dance

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Reading in Restraint: The Last Chained Libraries

5th July 2014

Read it.

The original DRM.

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How the Middle Class Lifestyle Became Unaffordable

5th July 2014

Read it.

Why have the costs of a middle class lifestyle soared while income has stagnated?Though it is tempting to finger one ideologically convenient cause or another, there are four structural causes to this long-term trend:

1. Baumol’s Cost Disease
2. Systemic headwinds to the current version of capitalism
3. Dominance of global corporate capital
4. Financialization

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Nathan Myhrvold’s Recipe for a Better Oven

5th July 2014

Read it.

Most of us bake, roast, and broil our food using a technology that was invented 5,000 years ago for drying mud bricks: the oven. The original oven was clay, heated by a wood fire. Today, the typical oven is a box covered in shiny steel or sparkling enamel, powered by gas or electricity. But inside the oven, little has changed.

Well, except for me — if it can’t be cooked on a range or in a microwave, I don’t eat it. But it’s a problem for other people.

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The Presidency Has Turned Into an ‘Elective Monarchy’

5th July 2014

Read it.

And not the British kind, either.

It’s about time for some constitutional impiety on the right, and F.H. Buckley answers the call in his bracing and important new book, The Once and Future King. Buckley, a professor of law at George Mason University and a senior editor at The American Spectator, is unmistakably conservative. But that doesn’t stop him from pointing out that America’s not so all-fired exceptional—or from arguing that our Constitution has made key contributions to our national decline.

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Happy Independence Day

4th July 2014

And happy birthday to a great American:

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Hillary Clinton Raked in Nearly $2 Million in Campus Speaking Fees

4th July 2014

Read it.

Democrats — the party of the 1%.

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Why the Deep Norms of the SF Genre Matter

2nd July 2014

Eric Raymond, more famous as a computer geek than as a literary critic, nevertheless has some firm and well-argued opinions on my favorite form of writing.

It is not fashionable these days to be so normative about any kind of artistic form, let alone SF. The insistence that we should embrace diversity is constant, even if it means giving up having any standards at all. In a genre like SF where the core traditions include neophilia and openness to possibility, the argument for exclusive definitions and hard boundaries seems especially problematic.

I think it is an argument very much worth making nevertheless. This essay is my stake in the ground, one I intend to refer readers back to when (as sometimes happens) I’m accused of being stuck on an outmoded and narrow conception of the genre. I will argue three propositions: that artistic genres are functionally important, that genre constraints are an aid to creativity and communication rather than a hindrance, and that science fiction has a particular mission which both justifies and requires its genre constraints.

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US Book Publishers Are Making More Through Online Sales Than Physical Stores

1st July 2014

Read it.

Speaking as someone who hasn’t bought a physical book in a walk-in bookstore in about ten years, I find this unsurprising.

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