Monday, December 15, 2014

DC Celebrity Sighting

Saw Paul Begala in front of the Loews Madison Hotel.

Updating the list.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Celebrity Sighting

Saw Michele Bachmann at Pennsylvania Ave and 15th.

Updating the list.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Quote of the day


The division of labor is the essence of civilization, the underlying source of practically every good thing about the material conditions of the modern world. It is why civilized countries do not have famine any more, why we are surrounded by technological wonders, why things like air travel and mobile phones go from being restricted to millionaires to being ho-hum over a short course of years. Most of the technological ingredients for the Industrial Revolution had been in place not only in Britain but in Spain, France, Italy, etc., for years. But British subjects and American colonists had the opportunity and the inclination to begin a finer and more robust division of labor than did their European counterparts. They were just a little bit more free — and a little bit more determined to be free — and that little bit made an incalculable difference, not only to them, but to the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means


GQ's Douchiest College list.

Harvard at 4?  OK.
Princeton 3?  Gotcha.
Duke number 2?   Fine.
Brown topping the list?  Of course.  (Sorry, JTL)

But University of Colorado cracking the top 10?  Bob Jones?   University of Chicago?  University of Phoenix?!   Each have their issues, but douchy?  FLG doesn't think so.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Politics and the English Language

Peggy Noonan inspired FLG to read "Politics and the English Language" with this passage:
I mentioned last week that the president has taken to filibustering, to long, rambling answers in planned sit-down settings—no questions on the fly walking from here to there, as other presidents have always faced. The press generally allows him to ramble on, rarely fighting back as they did with Nixon. But I have noticed Mr. Obama uses a lot of words as padding. He always has, but now he does it more. There’s a sense of indirection and obfuscation. You can say, “I love you,” or you can say, “You know, feelings will develop, that happens among humans and it’s good it happens, and I have always said, and I said it again just last week, that you are a good friend, I care about you, and it’s fair to say in terms of emotional responses that mine has escalated or increased somewhat, and ‘love’ would not be a wholly inappropriate word to use to describe where I’m coming from.”
When politicians do this they’re trying to mush words up so nothing breaks through. They’re leaving you dazed and trying to make it harder for you to understand what’s truly being said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Foreign Service Officer Test

FLG just learned that the State Department offers an online practice version of the Foreign Service Officer Test.   Apparently, the Georgetown School of Foreign Service really does prepare its graduates well (at least for the test):


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FLG Hadn't Seen This

FLG was reading this piece by George Will about Hillary in 2016 when he came across this:

In October, Clinton was campaigning, with characteristic futility, for Martha Coakley, the losing candidate for Massachusetts governor, when she said:
"Don't let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."
Watch her on YouTube. When saying this, she glances down, not at a text but at notes, and proceeds with the hesitancy of someone gathering her thoughts. She is not reading a speechwriter's blunder. When she said those 13 words she actually was thinking.


FLG found the clip.  She clearly read the line and then started second guessing it in real-time.   It reinforces FLG's opinion that Hillary will basically say anything to get elected (although he's not sure this statement is particularly helpful), but also smart and resilient enough to carry on.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Robot Sex

What robot sex enthusiasts forget is that there's far more to sex than the mechanical act

Regular readers will remember that he welcomes the development of sex robots, as he thinks it will dramatically reduce sex slavery and other horrible sex-related crimes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Conversation

FLG:  Hey FLG, isn't that David Boies over there in front of the U. S. Court of Federal Claims?

FLG:  Why, yes, FLG, I do believe it is.  You should add him to the celebrity sightings list.

FLG:  Is he widely known enough to be called a celebrity?

FLG:  Have you looked at the list lately?  He is more famous than a lot of other people who made your list?

FLG:  Okay, I'll do it.

FLG:  Can I ask why are you talking to yourself?

FLG:  I was about to ask you the same question.

Could've Been Appeared in a London Paper in the 1770s

FLG read this David Ignatius column and thought to himself, if you change a few names around, this could've appeared in a London paper in the 1770s.   To be clear, FLG is NOT drawing a moral equivalency between ISIS and American Revolutionaries.  Far from it.  But from a military perspective, sentences like this:

When the jihadists stand and fight, as they have done in the northern Syrian town of Kobane, they get pounded. U.S. officials estimate the jihadists have lost 400 fighters in that battle.

Could just as easily have been:
 When the American rebels stand and fight, as they have done in the Battle of Long Island, they get pounded. Crown officials estimate the rebels have lost 3,000 fighters in that battle.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DAGOR

FLG wants one.   But he'll probably just end up buying a Jeep Wrangler, which he knows from previous ownership, is as good an off-road vehicle as he'll ever need because, well, he doesn't go off-roading all that much and Wranglers can go pretty much anywhere anyway.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ya Don't Say?

FLG watched this video, which reveals the closely held secret that when you deposit money in the bank it isn't placed in some super-secure vault and left there.  No, the bank...wait for it...lends the money out.   At, you'll never believe this, a higher rate of interest than they are paying you on your deposit.  This all leads to some sort of financial voodoo by way of fractional reserve banking and the money multiplier.

Thanks.  FLG had no idea.  Oh, neither did fucking Aristotle back in 300 something BC.

Also, while in theory this is maybe slightly interesting, there's this thing called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that backstops all this.  So, for retail investors, you know, depositing bank notes as described in the video, this is all more or less irrelevant.

If, however, he wanted to do an educational video on the repurchase agreement or Eurodollar markets and how these both affected and were affected by the financial crisis in 2008, well, that might actually be relevant.

FLG Is Intrigued

Thursday, October 23, 2014

FLG's Prediction

Jeff Bezos will be recognized as one of the most influential business people of all time.  Up in the pantheon with the likes of John Pierpont Morgan, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton.  Steve Jobs will probably end up close behind, but despite what most people currently think, FLG is convinced Bill Gates will be light-years down the list.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quote of the day II

Peter Weinberg:
Haters insist that Humanities majors graduate with no marketable skills. But what about the ability to bullshit? 

Funny article, but gets at the point FLG has been trying to make for years.   Technical skills are valuable, but soft, people skills are far, far more valuable.  And if you can understand what people want and need, even if they don't fully understand it themselves, and then turn that into a product that engineers can make, well,  the world will beat a path to your door.

Quote of the day

C.S. Perry:
I just need to meet a girl who smells of campfires and whiskey.

Object Sex Inspiring Art

Un "plug anal" géant installé place Vendôme

Video is in English with French subtitles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quote of the day

David Brooks:
Politics is slow drilling through hard boards. It is a series of messy compromises. The core functions of government are negative — putting out fires, arresting criminals, settling disputes — and much of what government does is the unromantic work of preventing bad situations from getting worse.

Amen. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

WTF!

FLG minor was watching a cartoon where the characters were making a time capsule.   This reminded FLG that when he was in elementary school it was the 25th anniversary of the school's founding and they had us put together a time capsule to be opened on the 50th anniversary.   After doing a bit of math in his head, FLG realized that would have been 2010.   So...FLG started googling for local news articles.  He found one.

It has been 25 years since teachers and students at Cranbury Elementary School buried a metal time capsule behind the school's main building, in ground now overrun by the root network of a tree that is flush with late spring greenery. [...]
Though they couldn't retrieve the original time capsule because of the position of the tree, parents, teachers, students and administrators last Friday afternoon celebrated the school's 50th Anniversary by burying a second time capsule -- this one made of plastic -- on the Cranbury grounds.

Couldn't retrieve the time capsule?   WTF?!  We worked hard on that thing.  Get a freaking backhoe or something.

Friday, October 3, 2014

FLG Still Thinks It's Time Horizons

David Brooks highlights the problems with pragmatism:

“This pragmatic liberalism,” Mumford writes, “was vastly preoccupied with the machinery of life. It was characteristic of this creed to overemphasize the part played by political and mechanical invention, by abstract thought and practical contrivance. And, accordingly, it minimized the role of instinct, tradition, history; it was unaware of the dark forces of the unconscious; it was suspicious of either the capricious or the incalculable, for the only universe it could rule was a measured one, and the only type of human character it could understand was the utilitarian one."

FLG concurs.  Although, his take goes back to the time horizons thing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FLG's Stream of Consciousness Brain Dump

FLG has been having some conflicts at work.  He has only had conflicts at work very rarely, so this threw him for a bit of a loop.  It's a fundamental personality difference, but he had trouble explaining to the other party because they couldn't get beyond the minutiae of the proximate issue of conflict.   Straight-up could not understand what FLG was saying.  This led FLG to try and find some sort of framework to analyze and hopefully explain the situation, which in turn led him to the DISC model.

The DISC model is a bit like Myers-Briggs, but less complicated.  There are two axes  -- task-focused versus people-focused and then active versus thoughtful.  In case you are wondering, FLG squarely in the people-focused and active camp.   The person he is having conflict with is task-focused and thoughtful or Type C in the lingo.

"The C DISC Styles are accurate, precise, detail-oriented, and conscientious."  Also,  "The C may need to focus more on people in order to build strong relationships, as they may have a tendency to focus on tasks more than people and to want to work alone. At times, the C will need to push themselves to be decisive and take risks, even if all the research isn't there to support it."

Since FLG is so action and people-focused, analysis paralysis as well as seeing people pretty much solely as means and not ends, drives him fucking batshit.  As he tried to explain any of this, it was like trying to explain a desert to a polar bear.  There was just no frame of reference to even build upon.   People are important to get tasks done, so clearly they care about people.  All very weird for FLG.

Anyway, as FLG was pondering this further, he began to think of the Type C's he has encountered before and it occurred to him that they are all hostages to their insecurities.    Now, we all have insecurities.  Even action-oriented, people-focused FLG has insecurities, but he thinks the most insecure people are Type C's.

And then he began to think of the careers that appeal to Type C's -- technology, bureaucracy, and academia.  Anybody who has been around college professors can tell you that accurate, precise, detail-oriented people who try to "right" and "accurate" and worry about credentials.  Bureaucracy has plenty of risk-averse, overanalyzers, who are sticklers for rules, order, and hierarchy.   Technology, particularly programmers, same deal.  It's more or less why FLG left engineering school.

But then FLG went back to the model and the three types break up along these key lines:

Dominance
Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.
Inducement
Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
Submission
Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
Compliance
Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.

Therefore, the Type C's think of themselves as less powerful and the environment is unfavorable.   This, oddly, came back to FLG as he was watching Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  He realized that the absurdity of everything was trying to imply that deeper meaning was non-existent.  Or to state the opposite, the present and objective reality is the most real.  So, then the question is whether Type C's believe that.  And if we assume that they are focused on objective fact and afraid to take risks because of potential future adverse consequences, then that may very well be true.

FLG started thinking about this and realized that his time horizons theory would predict, through his corollary about empirical fact, that Type C's, if they are focused on empirical fact, have to be focused on short time horizons, then this means that Type C's would most often be liberal in their orientation.  And this holds for academics and bureaucrats, although probably for a lot of self-interested reasons in addition to the short time horizons.  Technology folks are probably a little different.

But then he went back to the model again.  It makes sense that somebody who perceives their environment as unfavorable and they lack the power to change would be political liberal, right?

See, but then FLG remembered Jacob T Levy's talk about taking politics less seriously in which he uses Augustine (and by extension FLG's homeboy Plato) to call for acceptance of the political environment and order, even if it is unfavorable.  FLG was confused.  But then he said, Ah!   That's Submission -- less powerful than environment, but environment is favorable.   What's interesting about Augustine in that argument is how he frames the environment.  It's not that Hippo was less powerful than the Vandals, for example,  and that environment is unfavorable.  No, no, no.  It is that we are less powerful than God and since we exist in his love the environment is favorable.

So then FLG started asking himself, if he is conservative and Type I and the argument about Submission is really a conservative argument, then does perceiving the environment as favorable make you a conservative?  On the face, it would seem yes.  If one likes the existing order and presumably one wants to conserve it.

Here's the thing though.   The Type I and Type S have people and relationship orientation in common.  That's where FLG started thinking some more.   He always asks the following question to try to downplay the importance of objective fact -- In what way would my life be negatively impacted if I believed the Sun revolves around the Earth?   Liberals have the most trouble with that question.  They know there's no negative impact, but they reject the falsehood purely for non-consequential reasons.  So, are people who are focused on objective fact, entirely separate from a facts meaning, more liberal?   FLG would argue yes from the individuals he knows personally and his time horizons theory, but that's just a collection of anecdotes and his crazy theory.   But let's say it's true.

If that is true and relationship-oriented people are conservative and task-oriented people are liberal, then conservatives would fall into Type I and Type S and liberals into Type D and Type C.  FLG no no way thinks that's 100% the case, but he's going to keep an eye out while trying to keep himself from confirmation biasing the whole damn experiment.

Just so you know, FLG feels like he just walked around in a mental circle.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Objective Journalism

As regular readers will remember, FLG is deeply skeptical of the idea of objective journalism.  Nobody is objective and trying to create the illusion of it is, at least in FLG's opinion, more insidious than being upfront about the point of view.   This story about a real estate developer who wants to buy a bankrupt Atlantic City casino and turn it into a university for "white" geniuses provides an example.

Here's the gist:
A Florida developer interested in remaking the shuttered Revel Casino Hotel told Reuters his vision for the empty Atlantic City property includes a university that would ideally be attended by students who are "white and over 21."
Next sentence:
Glenn Straub made the incendiary remark, which was his way of describing someone with no financial obligations, during a larger interview about his ambitious plan for the vacant property, Reuters reported.

FLG is okay there.  Incendiary, while getting closer to subjective thoughts by the reporter about the statements, can factually describe that some people are upset, not necessarily the reporter.

Ah, but then we get to the last sentence:
Despite his unsavory comment, his $90 million bid remains on the table.
Now, it is unambiguously clear where the reporter stands.  FLG is fine with that, but the language at the beginning is trying to keep it objective, only at the end does the reporters personal feelings get outed.

FLG would be more comfortable if the reporter had just started the story off with : Racist asshole wants to buy casino.   Regardless of where FLG or anybody stands, best to know where the reporter stands so you can take that into consideration. 

BTW, this is completely separate from the questionable choice to write a story solely using information from another news story, but that's neither here nor there in this case.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quote of the day

Anthony Bourdain:

There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed and smoke weed all day and watch cartoons and old movies. I could easily do that. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

MBA, Innovation, & Selection Bias

Nathan Furr makes the case over at Slate that many notable innovators have qualms about hiring MBAs because, he thinks, the MBA curriculum teaches skills used in large, industrial corporations where there is more certainty, at least in comparison to innovative, start-up-ish companies.

FLG, who has an MBA, largely agrees, but thinks Furr misses something more fundamental -- selection bias.  People who chose to get MBAs, particularly name brand MBAs, are those who, pretty much by definition, are choosing the safe, well-worn path.  The stereotypical Harvard and Stanford MBA is somebody who did an Ivy League undergrad, then worked for McKinsey or Goldman for a couple of years, before heading to Palo Alto or Boston to punch their ticket one more time.   Basically, somebody who is extremely good at working within the established system, not the against the grain type that is needed to innovate.   The content of the coursework only further intensifies this, but the root is there at the selection bias.

Also, FLG realizes this reality flies in the face of the elite B-School marketing that emphasizes the social anthropology grad who did a tour in the peace corps and then successfully launches a company that produces cheap, solar powered toilets that produce potable water for the developing world, but that is just too bad. 

BookBook

This is fantastic:

Quick Round-Up

As The Ancient hinted in the comments, September 19th was International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day.   FLG knew, but didn't get around to posting.  He thinks this might be the second year in a row, which is makes FLG sad.

On an completely unrelated note, apparently, the gray matter volume of a region in the right posterior parietal cortex is positively correlated with risk seeking.  FLG was then curious whether males this varies by sex, as this could explain why women are more risk averse than men.  Upon googling sex variations in the right posterior parietal cortex, he found this article, which reads like a bunch of gobbledygook and FLG isn't even sure he understands because he lacks sufficient knowledge of brain biology and isn't interested enough to learn it, but the last paragraph says:
in an MRI study of cortical volumes Kennedy et al. found normal sex differences in the parietal lobe, but although left and right hemispheric measurements were obtained, the authors did not specifically examine sex-by-hemisphere interactions (Kennedy et al., 1998). As sex-based asymmetries in the IPL have not previously been examined, we thus made the following hypotheses: (i) males have greater total IPL volumes compared to women, (ii) males have larger left versus right IPL volumes and (iii) males have larger left IPL volumes compared to women.

This is contrary to what FLG would have assumed.  If more gray matter in the right posterior parietal cortex is correlated with risk seeking, then presumably smaller volumes would be associated with risk aversion.  Yet, males, who are more risk seeking, have larger left relatively to right hemispheres.   Then again, the other article was just comparing gray matter volume of a particular region in the right posterior parietal cortex with the volumes across subjects in some absolute sense, not relative to the right.  So, the risk seeking behavior could be explained by the greater total volumes men have compared to women.   OR these studies could be talking about completely different parts of the brain entirely.  FLG, quite frankly, isn't very clear.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
If you can find the people who generate alpha, and convince them to give you some of it, then that's great. If not, probably stick to indexing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

FLG is currently listening to

Quote of the Day

WonkBlog:
it appears that technical abilities are highly valued among recent graduates, which explains why a student who graduates from an engineering program at California Institute of Technology will likely be better compensated, at least up front, than a Harvard graduate with an English degree. It also seems that those specialized skills offer a comparative salary edge for only a handful of years before that advantage begins to dissipate--and the salary benefits of a holistic, liberal arts education begin to catch up.

Ties in well with what FLG has been writing about STEM education for years.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is That Really Your Job Title?

FLG noticed that somebody had their job title listed as Principle on LinkedIn.   FLG made note to never do business with a company whose Principal  doesn't know the difference between Principal and Principle.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

FLG Goes Back To Tocqueville

There are a few passages from Tocqueville of which FLG is particularly fond of posting and reposting.   This article about how a hodgepodge of online courses will never replace a proper degree makes FLG want to post one of them again.

Enter the “nano-degree.” If you can’t “disrupt” education through innovation, the thinking goes, just downsize it so much that it becomes training for just one task that a particular company wants at one particular moment.
[...]
We’ve seen this many times before in American history. As I recently pointed out in Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Booker T. Washington wanted to help ex-slaves acquire practical skills so they could become self-sufficient after the Civil War. And around the time of World War I, chambers of commerce and labor federations united to back legislation for a dual secondary educational system. According to that plan, some young people would be trained for specific jobs, while others would get a broad education allowing them to continue their studies in college. The movement led to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 to finance vocational instruction.
Those who opposed this vocational turn certainly realized that people needed skills to get jobs. But they also realized that this kind of tracking would only exacerbate social and economic inequality. As John Dewey wrote, some of us “are managers and others are subordinates. But the great thing for one as for the other is that each shall have had the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance.”
Education should aim to enhance our capacities, Dewey argued, so that we are not reduced to being somebody else’s tool. “The kind of vocational education in which I am interested is not one which will ‘adapt’ workers to the existing industrial regime; I am not sufficiently in love with the regime for that.”
This is what Udacity is missing in its willingness to tailor its program to the existing industrial regime’s immediate needs. “You'll learn skills that match industry demands,” the company promises on its website. “With the credentials to prove it.” Fiona M. Hollands of Teachers College Columbia University voiced cautious approval, telling the Times: “We still need rounded people, which you can’t get through mini-certificate courses. But we also have an economy to run here.” Those who make the most lasting contribution to the economy, however, will be the “rounded people.”

FLG, who is deeply skeptical of all things John Dewey, thinks we ought to heed this passage from Alexis de Tocqueville:

It is important that this point should be clearly understood. A particular study may be useful to the literature of a people without being appropriate to its social and political wants. If men were to persist in teaching nothing but the literature of the dead languages in a community where everyone is habitually led to make vehement exertions to augment or to maintain his fortune, the result would be a very polished, but a very dangerous set of citizens. For as their social and political condition would give them every day a sense of wants, which their education would never teach them to supply, they would perturb the state, in the name of the Greeks and Romans, instead of enriching it by their productive industry. It is evident that in democratic communities the interest of individuals as well as the security of the commonwealth demands that the education of the greater number should be scientific, commercial, and industrial rather than literary. Greek and Latin should not be taught in all the schools; but it is important that those who, by their natural disposition or their fortune, are destined to cultivate letters or prepared to relish them should find schools where a complete knowledge of ancient literature may be acquired and where the true scholar may be formed. A few excellent universities would do more towards the attainment of this object than a multitude of bad grammar-schools, where superfluous matters, badly learned, stand in the way of sound instruction in necessary studies.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dodgeball

Did anybody else know that schools are banning dodgeball?   FLG was just informed when asking what Miss FLG Maior was doing in gym class.   What the fuck is wrong with the world?   FLG will tell you what, a bunch of yellow-bellied sissies mollycoddling the fucking kids.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Social Interaction

FLG found this article about politeness interesting.  It's different than the article about male charm FLG was so found of.  Politeness and charm are somewhat overlapping, but ultimately different things.  In fact, some of the most charming people occasionally breach certain norms of politeness.  Or perhaps in a Picasso-esque way, the charming know the rules, so they can break them.   In any case, a few things stuck out.

This passage, considering FLG's focus on time horizons:
She was surprised to see the stubborn power of politeness over time. Over time. That’s the thing. Mostly we talk about politeness in the moment. Please, thank you, no go ahead, I like your hat, cool shoes, you look nice today, please take my seat, sir, ma’am, etc. All good, but fleeting.

But then there's this statement:
One way to be polite is by not touching people unless they specifically invite it. 
And perhaps this is where the politeness versus charm divide is so striking.  FLG thought of the passage from Primary Colors about the handshake:
The handshake is the threshold act, the beginning of politics. I’ve seen him do it two million times now, but I couldn’t tell you how he does it, the right-handed part of it—the strength, quality, duration of it, the rudiments of pressing the flesh. I can, however, tell you a whole lot about what he does with his other hand. He is a genius with it. He might put it on your elbow, or up by your biceps: these are basic, reflexive moves. He is interested in you. He is honored to meet you. If he gets any higher up your shoulder— if he, say, drapes his left arm over your back, it is somehow less intimate, more casual. He’ll share a laugh or a secret then—a light secret, not a real one—flattering you with the illusion of conspiracy.
If politicians are anything, they're charming.  And then there's the Pick-up Artist community, which while not concerned with charm in the traditional sense or for its own sake, is on the other side of the not touching people divide:
Short for kinesthetics, "kino" is PUA language for light touching in order to get a lady in the mood.  

Even after all that, FLG isn't exactly sure of the relationship between politeness and charm, but if he had to be called one, then he'd prefer charming.
 
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