Thursday, August 17, 2017

Depressing

FLG has long been interested in getting a salt block, but he never quite knew why and never actually bought one.   After reading this article, that was probably the correct decision.  But here's the depressing thing:

It’s fun, but I’m not sure I can justify the fun. Lot’s wife sits on the counter, giving me salty looks. She’s a hotty, but a high-maintenance one. I turn around and keep walking.

That the link to the wikipedia page was included made FLG depressed.   We're not talking about some obscure story, like Ehud in Judges.  This is Genesis.   This is Sodom and Gomorrah.   Are we at a point where we can no longer assume that people in the US or UK know the story of Lot's wife?

To be clear, FLG isn't lamenting that not everybody is a Jew or Christian, nor saying that people should believe the story.   He's just bummed that shared cultural stores of such power to convey ideas and thoughts are no longer assumed shared.   Will we soon have to provide wikipedia links to explain David and Goliath, having a cross to bear, brother's keeper, and picking up the mantle? 

Quote of the day

Heather Mac Donald:
The authors titled their study “Language from police body camera footage shows racial disparities in officer respect.” A more accurate title would have been: “Language from police body camera footage shows that officers treat all drivers courteously but are more colloquial with young black drivers.”

Isotopic Signatures Of Ancient History

FLG found this interesting.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Oh, Tell Me Again How Trump's Rhetoric Is Too Heated

Here's what North Korea recently said, which frankly is pretty tame for them:
If the planned fire of power demonstration is carried out as the US is going more reckless, it will be the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks

Quote of the day

Conrad Black:
The question of why large numbers of intelligent people have been reduced to babbling idiots by Trump’s presence in the White House will be a matter of great historical curiosity, though I find it a rather hackneyed subject now.

Monday, August 14, 2017

On Charlottesville

FLG was shocked and deeply sadden by what happened in Charlottesville.  This is probably as close to FLG's take as can be:

FLG Doesn't Have Access To Read It

...but laughed at this headline, given his recent post:

How Does That Poll?

FLG continues to read Jacobin despite being ideological opposed to pretty much everything written there, but he finds it useful to read something, think, "Holy shit, people really believe this shit?"   Because it makes him ask himself, wait, they'd probably ask FLG the same thing.  And so he has to ask himself, why does he believe what he believes.

Anyway, FLG read this and wondered...ok, at least there is logical and ideological consistency here, but how would this poll?  Or perhaps more specifically, is this really a politically viable strategy?    He doesn't think so.  And certainly doesn't hope so.  But who knows?  He didn't think and didn't want Trump to win either.

People see Al Gore living a lifestyle that clearly has more of an impact on the world than theirs, and they resent climate change solutions that threaten to make his lifestyle their problem.
[...]
Fortunately for the Left, there’s a simple response to this talking point: reclaim class warfare. The fight against climate change has to be understood as a fight against capitalism. If you leave climate action in the domain of private decision-making, then of course rich people who make decisions to disproportionately pollute are hypocrites when they call for action against climate change. But if you understand climate change as a fight to take personal discretion out of the equation — to abolish private property and place control in the hands of democratic governance — that’s another matter.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Writing

Stephen King wrote an entire book on writing, but FLG decided to read The Gunslinger, first novel in The Dark Tower series, while on vacation, and King included this passage in his foreword explaining why he revised The Gunslinger many years after being published:

Before I close, I should say a word about the younger man who dared to write this book.   That young man had been exposed to far too many writing seminars, and had grown far too used to the ideas those seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than one's self; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is to be preferred over clarity and simplicity, which are usually signs of a thick and literal mind.

That last part, the part about preferring ambiguity over clarity and simplicity, resonated with FLG.   His current job involves coaching junior employees on writing, speaking, and presentation.  He's constantly appalled at the average person in his field's facility with language.  It's terrible.   He's seen supposedly professional written documents littered with run-on sentences and passive voice.

A couple of years ago, FLG worked in a job where most of his colleagues were educated at prestigious institutions...Ivies, Duke, University of Chicago, Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics...you get the idea.   Back then, he was shocked when they didn't know who Kronos was or know much about Shakespeare, but the vast majority could write a clear, concise, and coherent sentence.

Currently, most of his co-workers went to Big 10 schools or are former military who completed a degree online.   The vast majority are smart folks who can get stuff done.   Rather than, for example, writing a policy position paper on it, but damn is their writing ever awful.   Rather than a Coke, he's tempted to buy the world a copy of The Elements of Style.

Some of the junior employees appreciate feedback.  In fact, one took a job at an extremely prestigious organization.  Not long after, she wrote to FLG thanking him because she'd been put in charge of reviewing the formal written products her department puts out.  Her writing was that much better than everybody else's there.  (Perhaps reviewing might be the shit job in the department, but she didn't seem to think so.)

Others..not so much.  When FLG explains that fewer words are better...that their primary goals should be clarity first, followed closely by concision, they nod their heads and continue churning out rambling, ambiguous prose.   At one point, FLG took to editing an entire paper to show how he could reduce the length by 30% without losing an ounce of meaning.    (In fact, he thought he improved the clarity with the shorter length.)  'Oh, okay' was the response.

Getting back to the specifics of the passage above.   The thick and literal mind part resonated with FLG because in many cases the root cause of the ambiguous, lengthy prose is the desire to cover their ass, which in turn leads to tons of caveats in the argument.  Very literal and thick minds.   This is different from weaselly ambiguity because they lack the courage to write what they really want to say.   That's a problem as well, but not the literal and thick problem.    The literal and thick problem is when somebody can't write "The Sun is out during the day" without including "except during an eclipse" or "when it's really cloudy and it's there, but behind the clouds" or some such nonsense immaterial to the claim made in the sentence.

FLG fears he sounds like some sort of pedantic asshole.  And maybe he is.  But he steadfastly believes that if everybody wrote more short, concise, and active sentences, the world would be a much improved place.  And if being a pedantic asshole makes that happen, then he'll gladly accept the moniker.

FLG Doesn't Like Trump, But...

the North Korea situation isn't his fault.    Certainly not when taking the long view and not even taking the very short view.   Furthermore, he thinks many of Trump's critics are making themselves look foolish.

Long view -- The North Korean regime is a horrible regime.   Let's just state that at the out set.   More relevant to the discussion, however, is that it has has pursued nuclear weapons for decades, during the watch of presidents from both parties.  (Although, FLG places probably an unreasonably large and possibly unfair amount of blame specifically on Carter, a brilliant and caring man who somehow seems completely devoid of practical wisdom, and these types of statements only add to FLG's level of blame against him.)   They just happened to acquire or will very shortly acquire the capability to launch an ICBM against mainland US during Trump's tenure.   In the long view, any of Trump's actions, inactions, statements, tweets, etc are vanishingly small to the story thus far.    There is a reasonable argument to be made that the North Koreans are merely rational actors trying to use strategic nuclear weapons to deter the US, but, again, FLG sees Trump's presidency as immaterial to getting to where we are now.

Shorter view --  FLG thinks this is a stronger case that Trump is at fault, but ultimately it's still not compelling.   The North Koreans have been making completely irresponsible and outrageous statements for decades, a trend that has seemingly increased since the current leader took power.  FLG sort of understands the concerns of critics who say the US shouldn't use such rhetoric in return.  Too dangerous, might spook the North Koreans.  The only issue is their fear of the US, which this just exacerbates.     FLG thinks this is fundamentally misguided.   Kim Jung Un who in addition to being a horrible tyrant, which nobody refutes, whose regime consistently makes outrageously irresponsible and bellicose statements as a matter of course.  They've threatened to annihilate the US multiple times.   Yet, it's Trump that is somehow irresponsible all of a sudden?   The world has spent too long ignoring this type of language from North Korea.   Apparently, the regime that has been making outrageous threats for so long is unable to withstand the factual claim that the US will fucking wipe the country from the Earth if they loose a nuke at the US or her allies?    And maybe the madman theory will work in reverse to make the North Koreans or, more likely, the Chinese to get scared shitless, take a step back, look around, and say maybe there's something more we can do here.

Is this dangerous?  Yes, FLG is very scared.   But let's be clear here.   The North Korean regime is deadly serious, murderous, and very likely cares fuck all for what happens after any would be fall precipitated by causes either foreign or domestic.   Late night talk show hosts looks, see a jolly, fat guy, and think he's just goofing.   He's not ,and he definitely needs to know the consequences of any disastrous actions he might be thinking of taking.  

FLG thinks Obama's failure to press for robust missile defense might end up being what history views as his biggest mistake.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
You cannot stop terrible people from promoting sound ideas for bad reasons. Liberals who think that ad hominem is a sufficient rebuttal to a policy proposal should first stop to consider the role of Hitler’s Germany in spreading national health insurance programs to the countries they invaded. If you think “But Hitler” does not really constitute a useful argument about universal health coverage, then you should probably not resort to “But Jim Crow” in a disagreement over school funding.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

This Probably Says More About FLG Than Anybody Else

...but he just realized, all things considered, he'd rather have a White House with The Mooch in it than Ben Rhodes, that smug fuckhead.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

While FLG Is On The Subjects Of 80s Videos

Sometimes, randomly, the words "Give me a bottle of anything...and a glazed donut..to go!" pops into his head, and he chuckles to himself.

FLG is currently listening to



Old Skool.
 
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