Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FLG Might Not Have Gotten Into Grad School, But He Is Smarter Than A Lot Of Business And Economics Journalists

Stocks recouped some of Monday's losses today, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) finished March with their largest gains since October 2002.

Oh, perhaps if somebody had said to get into the market in mid-to-late February...ahem.

Oh, the big March rally in global equities wasn't enough to make up for the miserable returns of January and February -- at least not in my model portfolio of exchange-traded funds. But the rally has confirmed the optimistic bent of my portfolio, and I'm going to stay this course. I expect it to blossom with the spring.

I see. So, your investing strategy, Mr. Smartpants, is to get into the market after a rally? You, sir, are a fucking moron.

PS. These puff pieces make me nervous. I'll need to find out what a majority of Americans are thinking about the market right now. If they think it is going up, then sell. Another drop will come in before the actual bottom of the market.

Anyway, you should listen to ol' FLG. He predicted $2 gas when everybody thought it was going to $5 and now he called the bottom of the market two weeks early. That's right, biyatches.

Dear Birmingham City University:

According to the Telegraph, you will be offering an MA in Social Media that "will also explain how to set up blogs and publish podcasts." I know how to do those things, and I'd rather not pay £4,400 to learn. How about I give you four quid and forty pence for the diploma, you grant me credit for experience (consider this blog my portfolio), and we call it a done deal?


Miss FLG, Aged 3 Months, World Traveler In A Hat

* Post title gratuitously ripped off from Miss Self-Important.

On Political Theory Being A Big Rehash Of Plato And Aristotle

I'm at work, so I don't have time to find supporting evidence, and I don't have Plato and Aristotle memorized, but I was reading The Other McCain and came across this excerpt from Wikipedia on classical liberalism:
Friedrich Hayek identified two different traditions within classical liberalism: the "British tradition" and the "French tradition". Hayek saw the British philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke and William Paley as representative of a tradition that articulated beliefs in empiricism, the common law, and in traditions and institutions which had spontaneously evolved but were imperfectly understood. The French tradition included Rousseau, Condorcet, the Encyclopedists and the Physiocrats. This tradition believed in rationalism and the unlimited powers of reason, and sometimes showed hostility to tradition and religion. Hayek conceded that the national labels did not exactly correspond to those belonging to each tradition: Hayek saw the Frenchmen Montesquieu, Constant and Tocqueville as belonging to the "British tradition" and the British Thomas Hobbes, Godwin, Priestley, Richard Price and Thomas Paine as belonging to the "French tradition". Hayek also rejected the label "laissez faire" as originating from the French tradition and alien to the beliefs of Hume, Smith and Burke.

As far as I'm concerned the entire field known as political theory is one long disagreement with Plato's Republic, which began with Artistole's Nicomachean Ethics and Politics.

Plato was primarily concerned with The Good, and Aristotle with Nature. But I would argue that this is really an argument between ought and is. It doesn't really matter whether some teleological hierarchy of Forms exists for Plato's philosophy. Sure, it's a useful construct, but it doesn't really matter. Artistole on the other hand was concerned with the Nature of things. That includes physics, biology, rhetoric, and most importantly for this discussion, Human Nature. I'd argue he was an empiricist before there were empiricists.

Anyway, that brings me to the is versus ought portion of my theory. Rather than a dichotomy, think of it more as a spectrum. Aristole was concerned with the Nature of things, which is a question of is. He then reasoned, we might say, from the bottom up. He looked at what existed, and then articulated his ideal vision of the spoudaios. Plato, on the other hand, first thought of The Good, what ought to be, and then reasoned from the top down resulting in the Philosopher King. Between the two, the spoudaios are certainly more realistic. and closer to what is.

Furthermore, I would argue that the British philosophers in classical liberalism are the intellectual heirs to Aristotle, and the French Plato's. The empiricists, by definition, try to determine what is and then move from there. The entire concept of the tradition as knowledge passed down is the statement that what is is good until proven otherwise. Only an idiot couldn't see the parallels between the French tradition, especially Rousseau, and Plato.

Now, some of you are probably thinking that FLG is unaware that Burke disparaged metaphysics and theory, and that consequently Strauss argued Burke broke from the Aristotelian tradition. Yet, FLG is obviously aware, and disagrees. There are breaks, but the similarities between the British tradition of classical liberalism and Aristotle and the French tradition and Plato are so overwhelming that these differences are overstated. FLG views each tradition as simply a further refinement of the original disagreement.

Lastly, take all of this with a grain of salt because FLG has now been told by, he thinks it's the 207th, or perhaps 208th he's lost count, grad school that he is not wanted. FLG has come up with several reasons for this. First, his work. As you can see in this post, FLG largely repeated an long-standing theory, offered no support from the texts, and then simply asserted his opinion as correct and Strauss' wrong. Second, the repeated F-bombs in the applications may be a problem. FLG can't help it. Finally, and most likely, grad schools can sense FLG's insanity a mile away. Anyway, FLG will update you his future plans as they come to him.

Somebody's Missing The Point Here

A 14 year-old girl is facing a child porn charges because she posted naked pictures of herself.

The point of child porn laws is to prevent the exploitation of children. While I am open to the argument that somebody can exploit themselves, and I might even be open to the idea that she exploited herself in this case, charging her with a crime that may label her a sex criminal is certainly not the correct course of action to take here. This is the result you get when you combine "Get tough," "zero tolerance," and myopic prosecutors looking to "protect the children."

If there was ever a case that called for use of judicial discretion it's this one. Dumbasses.

FLG Is Of Mixed Mind On His Possible Attendance At This Event:

The Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (CERES)
invites you to a discussion:

The Future of NATO

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
ICC Auditorium – 10:30 a.m.

a discussion with

His Excellency
José María Aznar
Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership, Georgetown University
President of the Government of Spain (1996-2004)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Out Of Town

FLG will be out of town until further notice.

FLG is currently listening to

Fighting Nazis With Free Hugs

The Hoya:
“We might all have our differences at Georgetown, but none of us tolerate hate,” the statement read. “A few days ago, a Nazi SS party symbol and cross were discovered on the side wall of the Leavey Center, and we students, representing all identities and groups, have a response: We hear your free speech, but no thanks.”

The rally will consist of two large sheets in Red Square one entitled “love” and the other “hate,” on which students are encouraged to write and paint their feelings. Shindel added that free hugs will also be available.

Their hearts are in the right place, but the correct response is righteous indignation.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The President Does Realize Money Doesn't Grow On Trees, Right?

President Barack Obama said on Thursday the administration would unveil its next steps to help the troubled U.S. auto industry in the coming days, provided the companies push ahead with a sweeping restructuring.

There can no longer be three US automakers. I realize there are unions to pay back for favors and all, but the US can't bailout everybody, and yes it sucks for autoworkers and the entire economy in Michigan. The existence of American-owned car companies is not something worth spending billions of dollars on.

Yes, I realize we are spending trillions on Wall Street, but there are two things going on there. First, Wall Street is more important to our economy, and the world economy, than Detroit by several orders of magnitude. Second, Wall Street's business is something that the United States has a long-term competitive advantage in, which means that Americans will be working in finance fifty years from now when in all likelihood almost none will be building cars.

So Much For Those Middle Class Tax Cuts


Tom Friedman says BFD:
One of his most vivid memories was trying to judge how voters would react to Clinton breaking his oft-stated promise to cut middle-class taxes, right after his 1992 election. They held focus groups in New Jersey. What struck him most, said Greenberg, was that these voters “just didn’t believe any politician would cut their taxes.” That wasn’t how they were judging Clinton.

The public thinking that politicians are lying sacks of shit is a good thing?

Obama Isn't Fit To Wipe Alexander The Great's Dead Ass

Arethusa pointed out that Archbishop Demetrios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, compared Obama to Alexander the Great.

Let's compare their lives:

At age ten, Alexander tamed a prize horse that nobody else including grown men could. He subsequently named a city, Bucephala, in the horse's honor. Obama was still picking his nose.

When Alexander was 16 he was appointed regent of Macedon in his father's absence. Pretty cush job until the Maedi revolt. He put down the rebellion and renamed their city Alexandroupolis. Obama was jerking off.

Two years later, at age 18, Alexander was tasked by his father with destroying the Sacred Band of Thebes, a hitherto undefeated force, and defeated them. Obama was at prom.

At 22, Alexander had already conquered Greece and crossed the Hellespont. Not only did he cross it, by he threw his spear into the ground and claimed the whole fucking continent. Obama was getting ready for law school.

At 23, Alexander had cut the fabled Gordian Knot. Obama was smoking dope and hoping to be editor of the Harvard Law Review.

By 25, Alexander had conquered Egypt and Persia, and was heading for India. Obama had just finished school.

At 28, Obama was doing some bullshit organizing of a community in Chicago. Not even all of Chicago, mind you. Just a small part. Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.

Alexander died at 32 and left behind an empire so vast that his generals built some of the greatest dynasties in history with the scraps. Obama was running "a voter registration drive with a staff of ten and 700 volunteers."

Julius and Augustus Caesar both paid tribute to Alexander at his tomb in one of history's greatest cities, which also happened to bear his name. The legacy of his deeds, both good and bad, echo through the millennia to this very day. Obama was not, is not, and will not ever be one tenth of the man Alexander was.

Thank Goodness dave.s. Reads This Blog.

A man police caught performing a sex act with a car wash vacuum has been sentenced to 90 days in the Saginaw County Jail.

I'm guessing a car wash vacuum requires less quarters than one of those peep show booths.

A Conversation

A few weeks ago.

Coworker: FLG, what are you doing with your 401k money? Shifting to cash?

FLG: Uh, no. I've done nothing to my 401k allocation, but I am putting more money into the stock market in general.

Coworker: You're crazy. I'm thinking of selling. The markets are too spooked.

FLG: Didn't we have this conversation recently?

Coworker: Yeah, I bought and it didn't help.

FLG: Do yourself a favor. By stocks and then don't look at the balance for five years. You're too risk averse for your own good. In fact, your actions are bigger threat to your retirement than the current market.

Coworker: How do you know that?

FLG: I just know.

Coworker: You don't know that the stock market will be up in 30 years. You can't.

FLG: There's a very high probability that it will be up given historical returns, but you're right. I don't know for sure. However, think of it this way -- If the stock market hasn't gone up in 30 years, then I've got bigger problems than my 401k balance.

Coworker: Like what?

FLG: The roving bands of post-apocalyptic gangs and fighting in Thunderdome.

More On Austerity

RSM writes:
The Schiff video elicited some friction from Fear & Loathing in Georgetown, who suggested that hard-money guys like Schiff are "willing to risk a financial Armageddon in support of free-market principles."

To FLG, I would reply that supply and demand are not philosophical "principles," but ineluctable forces that operate remorselessly despite every effort to escape or evade them. In economics, a thing is only worth what you can sell it for, and operating as if this were not true will inevitably produce bad results.

Agreed. Supply and demand are like gravity.

We all admit there was a bubble, but allow me to change that analogy to a balloon. So, we flew too high and too long on government hot air, the and we are plummeting back to Earth. It is not unreasonable to argue that some more hot air may be necessary to increase the chances that the passengers can survive the landing.

Now, I agree that the Left thinks the hot air is magic and gravity doesn't exist, which is poppycock, but I'm not sure that saying hot air is not a permanent solution so let's just hold on tight and enjoy the ride like Slim Pickens in Strangelove is the answer either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Please Tell Me

...that I am not the only person fired up about Where the Wild Things Are.

I'm roaring my terrible roars and gnashing my terrible teeth in anticipation.

Quote of the day

The only way that Alexander and Obama are anything alike is that both were/are men who came to believe themselves above their equals, who fell in love with their own hype, who thought they had earned their success instead of being in the right place at the right time*, who demanded proskynesis, literal or figurative, to take ruinous risks and go too far**, and who had no idea what to do with Afghanistan. Oh, and no doubt they will both be burned in effigy in the streets of Tehran come the next anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

I'm tempted to rant myself, but I couldn't top that. The Afghanistan bit got me big time.

Obama Commencement Flap

There's been a firestorm over President Obama giving the commencement address at Notre Dame. Jack Fowler over at The Corner is particularly giddy about the backlash. And the bishop isn't going to attend.

For those of you living in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears, the reason for the hub-bub is Obama's position on stem cells and abortion. Given that Notre Dame is a Catholic university, so the thinking goes, he shouldn't be asked to speak at the University. I find all of this dumb. Now, granted I'm a heretic, but I feel like everybody has bought a one-way ticket to Crazytown.

First, in case you missed it, he's the President of the United States. So, by definition, he is, to borrow a phrase from Las Vegas, "The Whale" of commencement address speakers. Furthermore, you are inviting the office as much as the man. Second, I seriously doubt he is going to use the commencement address to speak about abortion or stem cells. He will almost certainly give some cliched and vague speech about making the world a better place like everybody always does. Third, while Notre Dame is a Catholic, it is also a university. The idea that somebody who disagrees with church teachings shouldn't even be allowed to speak, especially the leader of the nation in which it resides, flies in the face what a university is all about.

On several occasions I have expressed concern about some of the speakers invited to Georgetown. Many advocate policies directly in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and I questioned whether inviting them to speak made sense in the context of Georgetown being a Jesuit university. However, there are several differences between my concerns and this thing about Obama. First, most of the people I was concerned about were invited specifically to talk about the issues with which the church disagrees. Second, many of these speakers are zealots and wackjobs. So, they are vehemently opposed to the Church's teachings, which often precludes reasonable debate. Lastly, none of the invited speakers have the authority and prestige of the office of the President of the United States.

Given that President Obama is 1) not a complete wackjob, 2) not going to speak on topics of disagreement with the Catholic Church, and 3) is President of the United States and Leader of the Free World, I just don't understand the opposition except in the most cynical of political motivations. Does every professor, every student, and every speaker at the school have to adhere to Church teachings? Or just some teachings? Or just some speakers? It's not like Obama is a crazy postmodernist art history professor who pisses on crucifixes.

American Economic Exceptionalism

So, I'm watching this video that Robert Stacy McCain posted in which Peter Schiff is calling for austerity, increasing savings, etc:

It's extremely appealing argument to FLG. We got into this mess, at least in part, through loose monetary policy. Logic dictates that more government spending and quantitative easing aren't the ways to get us out. Furthermore, if a similar situation happened in a Latin American country the IMF would only provide a bailout if the government got its fiscal house in order, but the US Government is going in precisely the opposite direction at full clip. Nevertheless, I fear this analysis is oversimplified and ultimately wrong.

First, I agree loose money dating back to the 1990s got us into this, but this doesn't mean that loose money can't get us out. To steal an analogy from Paul Krugman: If I run somebody over in my car the answer isn't to slam on the brakes, throw it in reverse, and gun it backwards. Perhaps we are in a similar situation economically. Second, the IMF isn't going to bail us out. It can't. The American economy is too damn big. More importantly, the American economy is the central hub of the global economy. If Argentina's economy goes belly up, it's tough for Argentines, her neighbors, and some investors, but the global economy keeps moving. If the US freezes the whole thing drops dead. To put it simply -- the US is too big to fail. Likewise, there are only three possible explanations for people saying to let these huge financial firms fail -- 1) They're insane. 2) They have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. 3) They got the world's largest set of cajones and are willing to risk a financial Armageddon in support of free-market principles.

Just as the constitution is not a suicide pact, neither are free-market principles. All that said, I'm really fucking uncomfortable with all this.

NATO's Institutional Inertia

Lawrence Freedman: (PDF)
Given all this, the most interesting question about NATO is not whether it has a future but how it has managed to survive for so long. In the past, alliances were often seen as expedient responses to short-term crises or actual war.Why has this one

One answer may simply be that the longer this alliance lasted the more it became embedded in the policies and practices of member states. Sheer inertia should never be
underestimated when considering the durability of international institutions, which is why so many linger after the purposes for which they were established have passed.
They have their own bureaucracies with a stake in the organisation’s survival, and as they rarely do any actual harm, this is greater than the stakes outside sceptics may have in dismantling them.


Ensuring that military preparations are undertaken in a cooperative manner and providing a forum for reaching consensus on policy debates may be necessary conditions for NATO’s future survival.But are they sufficient? There is also an expectation that the alliance should add substantial security value. This will bemore difficult.

The mechanism for doing this will be the promulgation of a new ‘strategic concept’. One thing international organisations are not good at is strategy, unless framed in the most vague, platitudinous and cryptic terms.

Strategic concept? You jest. It's been fumbling around for almost two decades. If it hasn't found one by now, then it is never going to find one.

Toga Comics

I have to admit that Miss Self-Important's webcomic is pretty fucking funny, but I can't believe somebody who wrote webcomics about Plato has the temerity to call GEC and I dorks.

FLG is currently listening to

Adversus Solem Ne Loquitor

Mr. Robbo discusses how his Latin education helps him appreciate Monty Python.

AIG Anger

This letter is fascinating, and I agree that the AIG bonuses that are being demanded back did probably go to people who had nothing to do with the problems at AIG.  And they probably were assured that they would get bonuses to keep them on-board.  However,  efficient, hard workers lose their jobs all the time when companies fail.  And these workers are, quite frankly, rich to begin with, so I don't have too much sympathy but I see where he is coming from. 

The most striking thing was this:
You and I have never met or spoken to each other, so I’d like to tell you about myself.

The CEO of AIG has never met the Executive Vice President of AIG's Financial Products unit?  I realize that the CEO has only been around a few months, but how the fuck is he running the company when he has never met his Executive Vice Presidents.  This ain't a mailroom clerk we are talking about.


Obama:Teleprompter ::

Sampson:Hair ?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Roman Recipe

Mary Beard:
The most interesting bit for me was the recreation of the 'Trojan pig'. This is a joking dish described by Petronius in the Satyricon, but known elsewhere in Roman literature. It's a large roast pig stuffed with sausages, so that when the flesh of the pig is slit, what looks like intestines tumble out.

Pirates and Economics

In November, I mentioned an article about the economics of piracy. Now, the author has a book, called The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates. Genius!



Learning French definitely changed FLG's English. He's more conscious of grammar. He has a better understanding of etymology. The strangest part of all is that French is seeping into his thought processes.

Some examples:
  • A few months ago, FLG referenced Ne Me Quitte Pas when somebody told him not to leave.
  • FLG sometimes uses the phrase "take a decision" from the French prendre une décision. He'd always said make a decision previously.
  • Today, FLG uttered, in English, the phrase "The habit doesn't make the monk," a direct translation of the French phrase l'habit ne fait pas le moine, which means "Don't judge a book buy its cover."

FLG is losing it, but thank goodness he isn't becoming a socialist.

Economics and Rationality

Free Exchange:

That's via Robert Waldmann via Mark Thoma, who also links today to this piece, which notes:

The most important thing that global financial crisis has done for economic theory is to show that neoclassical economics is not merely wrong, but dangerous.

Really, economics is fine. It just needs to improve its models to recognise that humans tend to be more complicated than homo economicus in predictable and important ways.

He's repeating himself, but FLG's convinced that we simply need to realize the following:
Economic jargon and financial lingo obscure that all investment decisions are the result of a tug-o-war between two primal human motivations – greed and fear. Reason is in there too, but only as a referee.

In Which Alan Makes Me Spit Up My Drink

Alan writes in response to my Poulos post:
How about selecting a sentence each week and allowing your readers to pull out their thesaurus (thesauri?) and substitute words? Give us points for faithfully representing the original meaning in a more understandable manner (if the original meaning can be deduced) and points for a comic rendering. Allow only word-for-word substitution. Word count must match. Rank us in each category and combined totals. Invite Poulos to compete.

I have half a mind to start this competition.

Video Game Action

FLG saw a preview for The House of the Dead: Overkill while watching 24 on Hulu a few weeks ago. It looked promising.

Zombies and 70's Porn/Exploitation kitch. What could go wrong?

FLG Is Shocked

FLG is usually pretty up on world events, but he had no idea that this was going on:
The Czech government lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence Tuesday, suffering an embarrassing defeat midway through its presidency of the European Union and casting doubt on the country's ability to shepherd the world's biggest trading bloc during a time of economic crisis.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said Tuesday that he would resign after the motion passed, 101-96, in the 200-seat lower house. Three lawmakers were absent.


Dumbest Person On Capitol Hill

She's at it again. As Megan McArdle put it:
She seems to get all of her questions off of the fringier conspiracy sites.

In particular, she's extremely concerned about Goldman Sachs.

Now, as you may know, FLG remains convinced that at the bottom of all conspiracy theories is, of course, the fucking Jews. Given that we are talking about a bank and the name of said firm is particularly Jewy, is it unreasonable for FLG to wonder whether the craziest and dumbest person on Capitol Hill may be antisemitic? FLG is going to have to investigate further. It's not like the nutjob wing of the African-American community has the best record on antisemitism.

She certainly is a fucking idiot though. No doubt about that.

Not Exactly Object Sex, But Close Enough


Poulos' Writing

Conor Friedersdorf links to this article on Culture11, which is interesting and all, but the funniest is the part about Poulos:
Poulos’s writing was prone to densely cerebral sentences that unfurled over the course of a whole paragraph, and he addressed the panel in a similar tone.

I'm trying to find a polite way of saying nobody knows what the fuck he is talking about half the time.

He continues later:
"In the interest of being more than provocative," he said, getting to his serious question, "are we ever going to be able to address the question of cultural necessitarianism without being confident that we’re getting our cultural criticism right?"

Stripped of its woolly academese, what Poulos was asking was, can conservatism properly push back against a popular culture that it doesn’t really understand? How does a movement that yearns for the values of the past confront a culture that prizes novelty?

My guess is that most of the audience, probably to include the author, had no fucking clue what Poulos was asking and all hoped that somebody on the panel did so that the answer would allow them to deduce it without having to ask somebody else what the fuck Poulos was talking about.

PS. I'll leave Poulos alone from now on.

This is starting to get annoying

David Brooks continues to use the word decimate when he means destroyed or otherwise obliterated. Today:
The terror and the fall of the Taliban reduced clerical authority, too. By 2002, when the coalition forces arrived, village society was fractured, social capital decimated.

Somehow I don't think he means that 90% of the social capital remained. Remember decimate means to eliminate 10% of a population or sum. It is most properly used when referring to a punishment whereby every tenth man is killed. (Aside: The fate who measured the thread of life was named Decima.)

Anyway, let's all try to keep the correct definition in mind, shall we?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Global Analyst

While the blog could use some sprucing up, The Global Analyst, an international affairs journal run and written by student in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, is pretty bad ass.

Here are links to the first two issues:
The Global Analyst. Volume 1, Issue 1. November, 2008 - "Changing China: Engaging China in the 21st Century."

The Global Analyst. Volume 2, Issue 2. March, 2009 - "Terror in Nigeria: The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta."

If this blog goes silent after March 25th

...then FLG may have been blown up.


The so-called drivers of innovation:

I actually like Cadbury Creme Eggs and Rube Goldberg machines a great deal.

More On An Apology To The Achaemenids

Strategy Page:
The newly installed U.S. president issued a "happy new year" video (celebrating the traditional Iranian new year, which occurs on the first day of Spring) that was intended to make nice to the Iranian leadership, and renew relations with Iran. In response, Iran demanded a large bribe and many apologies for real or imagined American sins against the Iranian people. Some have decided that this response was positive, others are not so sure.

That last sentence kills me.

Paul Krugman Demands Awesomeness

I’m working at home today, waiting for the Fios guy.

FLG is currently listening to

FLG is currently listening to

FLG is currently listening to

More Japanese Weirdness

Oh Boy

Who wants to pay for my ticket to this?

On An Apology To Iran

Probably won't do much good because we pretty much already tried it and got this in return:
The question is, what good will this admission do us?... What good does this admission - that you acted in that way then - do us now?.. An admission years after the crime was committed, while they might be committing similar crimes now, will not do the Iranian nation any good...

It's time for people, especially on the Left, to wake up to the idea that maybe, just maybe, Iran is a petulant state and that perhaps complaining about things that happened over half a century ago is not really about legitimate grievances but about a propaganda war to keep heat off until a nuclear bomb can be completed at which time they will officially tell everybody to sit on it and rotate.

On Superstition

For those of you who actually read my paper on witches or some of my previous posts, I contend that superstition is a belief constructed to benefit society in some way. It becomes ossified over time and as circumstances change the superstition can have largely negative consequences.

My theory immediately came to mind as I read this story:
In 2003, imams in northern Nigeria fomented a boycott of polio vaccinations, claiming they were a Western plot to make Muslims infertile or infect them with AIDS.

Now, after another tripling of cases in 2008, a big new anti-polio push is under way in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. And this time, some Muslim clerics have made themselves part of the solution, joining community leaders, health workers and the victims themselves in waging the war.

This isn't exactly superstition. However, the reflexive, irrational anti-Western reaction is akin to my defintion of superstition. A belief was created to benefit the society, but in this context and as the situation has changed the society fights back against the belief.

Something similar is at work with society trying to stamp out the fucking idiotic idea that sex with a virgin cures AIDS. As sad as it is, I can see how this type of idea comes into being. Virgins don't have STDs, and therefore having sex with a virgin is considered safe, and with poor logic and the false hope of an AIDS sufferer it gets bastardized into having sex with a virgin cures AIDS. This in turn reaches its most grotesque form when grown men rape babies.

Just As Expansion Has Diluted The Quality Of Pitching In The Major Leagues

...so has it diluted the talent pool of Somali pirates.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


A reader writes:
I see that you have installed Fedora 10. I've never understood why somebody would install linux. I tried it a few years ago and it was so complicated.

It's not that complicated anymore. The Fedora install was simple. So is the Ubuntu Desktop install. Almost everything works straight away. There are some multimedia issues, but I don't use linux much for that anyway.

Reasons for installing linux are numerous, but mostly it is because you are a computer geek or wannabe computer geek. Some people do it to spite evil corporations, but those people are nutjobs. If you want to learn how an operating system, networking, web server, email server, whatever work, then you should install linux and toy around with it. This is especially true if you have an old computer lying around that you are going to get rid of. Just throw linux on it. As I said before, FLG stores all of his important data on an old Pentium II or III with 192 megs of ram.

FLG is using Fedora for various networking related tasks. UNIX is much better than Windows at networking.

There's one last reason to install linux. It's a safer operating system. You are far less likely to get infected with a virus on linux than windows. FLG doesn't think it is so much because linux is so much better written than Windows (but it probably is). Virus writers get more bang for their buck writing for windows. Macs, which are relatively safe right now, need to watch out as the adoption rate climbs. If you are super concerned about computer security, want to figure out how an operating system, networking, web server, email server, whatever work, and have enough patience, I would actually recommend OpenBSD. It is hands down the most secure operating system on the planet except perhaps Z/OS, but you aren't going to run a mainframe in your closet.

More On Geek Versus Liberal Arts

Andrew Stevens writes:
Steve Jobs wasn't a liberal arts major or any kind of major. He dropped out of college after one semester. He does credit auditing a class in calligraphy for his decision to include multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts in the Mac.

I'm not sure that your argument actually tells us what's so special about liberal arts majors. I think your argument could equally well be used to say that people like Steve Wozniak need to keep themselves surrounded by non-geeks so that they can tell him what parts of his machine they don't understand so he can improve them.

My point about Steve Jobs is classes like calligraphy contain knowledge about how human beings think and interact with the world. It's not important whether jobs graduated from Reed College or not. It's that he went to a liberal arts college in the first place.

As a former engineering student, I can definitively tell you that the people there were not attuned to the needs and wishes of other human beings. The user interface as a secondary or tertiary consideration.

While it sounds easy to say that engineers should just keep non-geeks around so that they can improve the machines misses a very important dynamic in that relationship. I'm going to exaggerate for emphasis, but the geek would view this as keeping stupid people around so that he can make machines stupid people can use. It's a relationship built upon condescension. A contemptuous relationship. I realize it may seem that it doesn't have to be that way, but it almost always would be.

No. The fundamental problem with engineering schools and the engineers they produce is that they focus far too much on how to produce something not why and for whom. To the extent that they do focus on how to improve the user interface it is almost always using psychology and other types of scientific methods that result in the hideousness that is that Windows interface tips. You know, the one that tells you it can clean up your desktop icons for you.

So, really the problem is that engineers design discrete systems and then try to use the same type of analysis to interaction with the continuous systems known as human beings, and too often when those continuous systems act in ways that somebody who thinks discretely doesn't understand it is seen as at best an obstacle to overcome and at worst a defect.

We need engineers who have more of a liberal arts background so that they can better understand human interaction and motivations.

Ten Little Indians

FLG remembered, all of a sudden, a version of And Then There Were None filmed in the 70's that was set in an abandoned hotel in a Middle Eastern desert somewhere. Perhaps Egypt. He forgets. Anyway, he was trying to find the title of that film when he remembered that And Then There Were None is also referred to as Ten Little Indians. But he did not know that the original title was Ten Little Niggers, which anachronistic or not offends FLG.

But long story short, FLG has found that there have been a bunch of movies based on the premise, including Clue, but he can't figure out what that 70's version is called or where he can get a copy.


Bob Zoellick isn't happy with them.

Wine and Cancer

The Times:
A new research study told us that just one small glass of wine a day was enough to significantly raise a woman's risk of breast cancer.

Unsurprisingly, the French demur.

Le Monde:
Deux verres de vin rouge n'augmentent pas les risques de cancer

Two glasses of red wine do not increase cancer risks.

More On Science And Engineering Education

The American Scene:
I’ve always admired the geek tendency toward whimsical anti-pragmatism, toward building (nearly) impossible, strange, wonderful, and silly things — not out of necessity, but just because someone figured out how. This counts on all fronts.

This is the primary reason why liberal arts graduates, not science and engineering degree holders, drive innovation. No matter what you hear from people who think they are sophisticated and intelligent.

Geeks are in love with technology for the technology's sake. While Light-Up Sheep Art is silly and fun, that same motivation to do something because they can without regard to why is a problem.

To oversimplify the issue. Geeks focus on how. How can they do something impossible? Or how they can do something more efficiently? However, what is too often lost is why and for whom they are doing something. Many of the silly stunts are done for themselves, which is cool and fun. But the products that are supposed to have practical value are for people. Average people. Not geeks.

So, educating more engineers will result in more people who do silly things to make themselves laugh, but have great difficulty understanding how the average human being interacts with their software program or device. For example, we'd still have command line interfaces on all computers because, from the perspective of a computer scientist, it's an elegant and simple solution to the problem of interfacing with a human being.

Yes, geeks make odd and cool stuff. But the same thought process that results in that odd and cool stuff is why liberal arts majors, like Steve Jobs, are key to technology innovation. Jobs, unlike the geeks, understands normal human beings.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Let's Not And Say We Did

Danger Room:
The Air Force has faced resistance to its plans to build a new, stealthy, long-range, supersonic bomber almost since the day the project was announced.

And rightfully so. First, nobody else is going to build anything like it. So there's no particular strategic threat it will be countering. Second, in the battle between stealth and detection we have to remember that stealth is very expensive and the computer hardware that tries to detect it is relatively cheap. So there's a cost effectiveness question surrounding super-expensive stealth bombers. Lastly, let's also remember that the Air Force has a lousy track record:
But the Air Force has done such a lousy job at managing its new plane programs that the air service worse enemy may in fact be... itself.

Quote of the day

Ian Bremmer:
New York used to be the financial capital of the world. It's no longer even the financial capital of the U.S. For the moment, Washington is.

An Important Question Answered

Are Pirates Going to Attack My Cruise Ship?

WTF is wrong with the US Navy

Are the captains drinking on duty?

It will cost some where between $25 million and $40 million to repair damage to the USS Port Royal, which ran aground off Honolulu International Airport last month, the U.S. Navy said.

A nuclear-powered United States submarine collided with a navy warship early Friday in the Strait of Hormuz...Both ships were damaged in the crash and 15 sailors onboard the submarine, the Hartford, were slightly injured, according to the Fifth Fleet, which is based here in Bahrain...The second vessel, the New Orleans, an amphibious assault ship carrying 1,000 personnel, ruptured its fuel tanks and spilled 25,000 gallons of fuel into the Gulf, he said.

These are big ships with lots of sensors. As far as I am concerned there is no reason for this ever to occur in fair weather. And with a submarine I don't understand how it happens at all. Yes, I'm sure the Strait of Hormuz is relatively narrow and shallow, but come'n. Are you professional sailors or not? Somebody needs to be court-martialled.

A Conversation

President Obama: I want to be friends.

Iran: Suck it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Different Languages, Different Stories

FLG likes that France24 has both French and English versions of its website. That way he doesn't have to translate. Today, he noticed something odd.

Two stories about Renault moving production from Slovenia to France. One French. One English. But the videos are different.

In the French version, Sarkozy says:
Renault a choisi de créer 400 emplois en France. Honnêtement, je suis président de la République Française. Je m’en réjouis.

Renault chose to create 400 jobs in France. Honestly, I am president of the French Republic. I am delighted by it.

That soundbite is conspicuously absent from the English version, which presumably is more for foreign consumption.

FLG is currently listening to

Idiots On The Radio

I was listening to the BBC's Wake Up To Money on my iPod this morning, and they were talking about the dollar weakening sharply in Hong Kong on news that the Fed had enacted $1.2 trillion in quantitative easing.  The supposed finance expert said that he disagreed with the market getting spooked over this, and that's when I knew he was not only not an expert, but also an idiot.

I will make this very clear.  There are broadly two things that affect the strength of a currency.  1) In the short-term, it's relative interest rates.  Since the purpose of the quantitative easing is to lower interest rates, then this means the dollar should be weaker.  2) In the long-run, the strength of a currency is determined by relative inflation rates.  Since materializing $1.2 trillion out of thin fucking air seems like it might, just might, cause a tinsy winsy bit of inflation in the future this means that the dollar should be weaker.  So, it's a double whammy against the dollar, and the guy who disagreed is an idiot.

Sex Positive Week At Georgetown

The Hoya:
Not all reactions have been positive to Sex Positive Week here at Georgetown.

Ya don't say?

The week, which ran from Feb. 23 to 28, has drawn both accolades and criticisms from those in and outside the university gates. Hosted by GU Pride, United Feminists and the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, the week’s events ranged from “Torn About Porn?” and “Relationships Beyond Monogamy” to “Celibacy, Virginity, Abstinence and Sex-positivity.”

So, it was sponosored by groups whose entire reason for being is to organize and promote ideas and lifestyles directly opposed by the Church.

Olivia Chitayat (COL ’10), co-chair of GU Pride and an organizer of the event, said the week was designed to open up discussions about sexual expression and that it succeeded.

“Sex in general — it’s not something you talk about. There’s a lot of misinformation,” she said. “The idea is to open up a space where people can talk about sexuality and how that fits into their lives.”

Is there really a lot of misinformation? I'm sure students at Georgetown are pretty damn clear on how sex works and the risks.

The event, which took place during the week of Ash Wednesday, quickly received some negative backlash.

In a press release, the Maryland Coalition Against Pornography, a volunteer-based organization that aims to eliminate pornography, criticized the university for condoning sexual behavior.

“We condemn Georgetown University leaders for promoting sexual perversions that are physically, emotionally and spiritually harmful,” the organization said in the release.


The university officials maintain that with the exception of one flyer, which included the F-word in large letters, used to advertise the event, the week was within the bounds of the university’s policies on expression.

What's wrong with the fucking F-word?

“We are committed to living our mission — which includes the free exchange of ideas and our Catholic and Jesuit identity — and balancing complex issues in thoughtful and appropriate ways,” university spokesperson Julie Bataille said.

The problem is that the students who organize these things are often zealots and fucking wackjobs, so thoughtfulness and appropriateness are often in short supply.

Patrick Deneen, a professor in the government department who was unavailable for comment, also criticized the university in a comment on “Crunchy Conservative,” the Beliefnet blog of conservative editorial columnist, Rod Dreher.

“We should recognize that the same moral climate that contributed to the devastation of the worldwide economy is the same moral climate that informs ‘Sex Positive Week’,” he wrote in the comment.

I really wish Deneen had responded, and wish that response would have omitted the damn global economy stuff. Love Prof. Deneen, but can't get behind his economic views.

Julia Shindel (COL ’10), a member of United Feminists and GSC who helped organize the event, however, said Sex Positive Week was essential at a Jesuit university like Georgetown.

“Around Catholicism it seems to me, [sex] is not talked about at all — silenced, [whereas] abstinence is preached,” she said. “Not everyone who goes to Georgetown is abstinent. There are other students and other viewpoints.”

I'm sure if you talked with a Jesuit they wouldn't silence you. They would calmly explain the rationale and reasoning for the Church's stance. And since the Church has thought about this shit for two millennia, your arguments would be like bringing spitballs to an intellectual gunfight.

David Gregory (COL ’10), editor in chief of The Georgetown Academy, a conservative student publication, said he agreed that sexuality needs to be discussed, but believes that it should be done differently at a Jesuit school.

“Have events during the same week that would have the Catholic point of view,” he said. “[Without that view] it’s not really education; it’s not conversation. It’s not a true discussion because it’s not a real debate.”

You tell 'em, David Gregory. Love you on Meet The Press.

Chitayat said that initially organizers did consider involving Jesuits in the celibacy and virginity event, but to do so might have sacrificed the open environment organizers wanted. Other organizers, however, were outraged that the event would be condemned without a Catholic perspective.

I'm not sure what she means by "sacrificed the open environment." Is it that the Jesuits would participate conditional upon the removal of some participants? Or that the mere participation of the Jesuits would preclude an open environment, which is to say that opposing views are not wanted by the organizers?

Shindel said she believes the negative reaction from some objectors is in part to be expected but that saying a Jesuit must be present is assuming that sex-positivity and Catholicism are mutually exclusive.

“The whole point is to open up dialogue and talk with people who don’t agree or don’t quite know,” she said. “Doesn’t Catholicism preach love? Love how people express themselves peacefully for their own happiness and accept it. It’s not mutually exclusive — sex-positivity and Catholicism.”

Wow. That is the most superficial, oversimplified description of Catholicism I've ever seen. It's much like when people talk about the Catholic Church as if it were some huge social justice NGO.

Chitayat said that for her Sex Positive Week upholds Georgetown’s ideals of cura personalis and social justice. Organizer Alessandra Rivell (COL ’09) also said that the week was in line with Georgetown’s mission.

Ah, there it is. The social justice thing. And I'm certain that homosexuality, pre-martial sex, etc isn't part of cura personalis.

“I think dialogue is a crucial part of Georgetown’s mission to promote diversity on campus,” she said. “People need to talk about sex in order for the subject to break free from the category of the taboo.”

Dialogue is good. But "Relationships Beyond Monogamy" is not the type of dialogue that needs to go on at a Catholic university.

PS. Before somebody who organized this event things FLG is a homophobe or something, that's not the case. He's cool with homosexuality. However, he also believes that Georgetown is a Catholic institution and since the Church is against homosexuality there's a fine line between maintaining open dialogue and going against the Church. Shit. FLG's not even a Catholic and he's concerned about it.


Best as I can tell, the experience Miss FLG gets from her Classic Pooh Mobile is roughly equivalent to a Pink Floyd laser light show at the Hayden planetarium while baked to the bejeezus.

Quote of the day

Zola's L'Argent is turning out to be less about The Jews than I'd imagined. Unless things get especially Jewy in the final 200 pages

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Operating System Change

FLG reloaded one of his workstations with Fedora 10. It was running Ubuntu Desktop, which he liked and still has loaded on a laptop. He made the change to test drive Fedora 10's full disk encryption. It's going well so far.

By the way, FLG runs Ubuntu Server Edition at home on an old computer with a measly 192 megs of ram and it keeps on chugging like a champ. It's been up for 62 days and it only shutdown because I installed a second hard drive. I can't recommend it high enough if you want to run a small server in the house.

Continuing Proof That The Japanese Are Just Not Right


Book of Armaments (Chapter 2, verses 9-21)

First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Shoreditch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it

A Conversation

A coworker walks up to FLG's desk the other day.

Coworker: You were an economics major, right?

FLG: International economics, but yes.

Coworker: What's quantitative easing? Somebody told me that it is the government just printing money.

FLG: Not quite.

Coworker: Oh, good. I was sure it wasn't that easy.

FLG: No, it's much easier. They don't even have to print it. They just change the numbers on a computer. Yesterday, you had X dollars. Today, you now have X + some number of dollars.

Coworker: That's not what they are doing, is it?

FLG: Actually, yes. That's exactly what they are doing. They change the numbers in an account and then buy stuff with it.

Coworker: And I was pissed they were printing money. Now, you tell me they don't even take the courtesy of printing it?

FLG: That's pretty much it.

Coworker: Why couldn't they change the numbers in my checking account?

FLG: It doesn't work like that.

Coworker: It never does. It never does.

Quote of the day

Jim Manzi:
Yesterday, while Congress and the media were obsessed with the $165 million AIG bonus outrage, the Fed decided to create another $1.2 trillion of U.S currency.

Yeah, Congress really should devote more time to the Fed creating a trillion out of thin air than $165 million in bonuses. Maybe the trillion is necessary, maybe it's not. I dunno. Probably is. Nevertheless, I'd much rather senators ask about that.

Yes, the AIG shit is offensive, but it's not even in the same league of importance as what the fed is doing.

FLG is currently listening to

Since Comments Are Down Over In Llama-ville

the fine folks at Global Security.org confirmed the Raptor's ground attack capability. The question which comes to mind is whether a Raptor can carry the type of munitions needed for a pre-emptive strike on hardened facilities and maintain its stealthy characteristics.

To maintain stealth the armament must be stored internally. That means two 1000-lb JDAMS or eight 250-lb small diameter bombs. That's like shooting a spitball at Iran's nuclear capability.

The plane to sell them would be some B-2s; if there weren't only 21 of them and they didn't cost a gazillion each. This F-22 shit is a red herring.

FLG is currently listening to

F-22 To Israel?

LMC links to this article arguing that the US should commit to selling Israel F-22 Raptors if Russia sells its new antiair missile system to Tehran so that nuclear diplomacy could continue. The logic is: Israel would be tempted to strike before the new hardware was installed, but with the F-22 the Israelis would still have a strike option.

Should diplomacy fail, the United States can mount a powerful strike, regardless of the state of Iran's air defenses; Israel, operating at extreme range with the F-15I and F-16I, cannot. The F-22 fighter, however, might represent a trump card that could dissuade Russia from transferring the new air defense systems or that could preserve Israeli options should Russia go through with the sale.

This is fucking bullshit. The F-22 is an air superiority fighter, which means it is designed to shoot down other planes. Since the problem Israel faces isn't from other planes, but rather anti-air missiles, ballistic missiles, and nuclear reactors, this doesn't make any sense in the context of the Iran nuclear issue. Perhaps there is merit to selling Israel F-22s, but it sure as shit isn't because of the nuclear Iran problem.

FLG's Ideal EU

...would be the euro, a free trade zone, and a defense alliance with an integrated command structure. These EU political institutions and regulations that they keep forcing on the people of Europe are the problem. They should drop the entire supranational project altogether.

I hear arguments about how Europe is less efficient because it has differing labor and product rules. Furthermore, the economic benefits and consequences of the migration of labor are hugely important. Therefore, Europe has to be a single market with standard regulations and rules.

This is poppycock. Yes, it's inefficient, but so is having 23 some odd languages and a whole host of other things that different countries and cultures have and nobody is calling for homogenizing. The elites of Europe need to admit that they are sovereign, independent states with differing cultures and attitudes and because of this the best that can really be hoped for is cooperation on the two aspects of European affairs that look the most mutually beneficial -- common defense and trade.

This whole trying to create a single European state needs to be thrown into the dustbin of history.

This Is Bound To Hit The Law Of Unintened Consequences

"In using robotic fish we are building on a design created by hundreds of millions of years' worth of evolution which is incredibly energy efficient. This efficiency is something we need to ensure that our pollution detection sensors can navigate in the underwater environment for hours on end."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bizarre Workings Of FLG's Mind

He asked for an office chair with soft, Corinthian leather and only received a blank stare in return.

The Palin Thing

Mrs. P devoted an entire post today to Sarah Palin. Arethusa has been pretty staunchly pro-Palin. Also, Ace wrote this today:
I'm so glad we don't have Sarah Palin getting on-the-job training as Vice President. Instead, we have Obama getting on-the-job training as actual President. With the calm, reassuring hand of Slurpee Joe Biden there to guide him.

I just don't get it. Sarah Palin for all her potential was not ready to be president. Period. Now, you can say, like Ace does above, that Obama was not ready to be president either and was at the top of the ticket. But I think this misses something very important.

McCain was running on the I'm the experienced hand theme. Picking an ill-prepared person directly undermined that rationale. In fact, the Palin pick was what definitively lost my vote. Was Obama ready to be president? I'd say yes. At least he knows what newspapers he reads. The problem isn't his inexperience so much as his liberal impulses, which definitely give me buyer's remorse. Yet, if I had to vote all over again on the Obama-Biden/McCain-Palin ticket I would still vote Obama-Biden.

It's not that Sarah Palin is stupid. She's not. It's that she was so flummoxed at points in the campaign that the idea that she was ready to be vice president is ludicrous. Her one debate, which tv talking heads said was good only because of the apocalyptic expectations, was terrible. Maybe she'll be ready in 2012 or 2016, but she was not ready in 2008. Maybe Obama will be a historic flop that destroys the country, but I am certain that a Palin presidency, if something had happened to President McCain, would have been a freaking disaster. Given McCain's age I could not take that chance.

On Cleanliness

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'll wade into the waters again.

Today, I noticed a sign on the microwave in the break room here at Room 101. I don't often go to the break room, so it may have been up for some time. Anyway, the sign read that the cleaning gnome had quit and people were now on their own. This happens in almost every office, and I always find these types of messages funny. Mostly because of what they say about the person who posts them.

Presumably, the cleaning gnome is a very cleanly person. In fact, for the cleaning gnome to clean up the common area so often is proof that they value cleanliness more than the average person. I think this merits additional explanation.

Every person has a level of messiness that they can endure. Some are higher than others. The cleaning gnome probably had a very low tolerance, which is why they felt compelled to clean the microwave in the first place. The cleaning gnome probably had a lower tolerance than everybody else in the office, which again was why they felt compelled to clean it before everybody else.

So, what's are the effects of the cleaning gnome's refusal to clean? The person with the second lowest tolerance will probably end up cleaning the microwave. So, the second lowest tolerance person will have to do the work, and the cleaning gnome will be upset because the microwave will be messier than they prefer, and most everybody else will go along on their merry way.

What I find funny about this is that the cleaning gnome felt they were doing the rest of the office a favor, but in point of fact the gnome was and was not. The rest of the office didn't really give a crap because the microwave never exceeded their messiness tolerance, but it never reached that point only because the gnome kept cleaning it. This is pretty obvious.

What I find interesting is the thought process that goes into the posting of notes like this. The cleaning gnome, sick of being the only one who cleans, goes on strike and makes a point of doing so because they resent the rest of the office for not appreciating what they do and chipping in. Why do they have to clean the microwave for everybody else when the other people are making messes too? And that's the thing to other people they aren't messes. Or at least they haven't reached the level of messiness that bothers them. The cleaning gnome assumes that because they see a mess and are bothered by it that everybody else sees the mess and is bothered by it too. The cleaning gnome then believes that everybody else is lazy because the others aren't cleaning. When really the rest of the people never think about it because the microwave never reaches the point where they are bothered by the mess.

What I've found happens in offices is that somebody is borderline OCD, they start cleaning the microwave because the feel compelled. Then after a few months or years, they get pissed because they think everybody else is lazy. Write a nasty note. Then, after the tactic is a failure, and it is inevitably bound to fail because nobody besides the OCD person is as bothered by the mess, they go back to cleaning the microwave.

While I find this dynamic funny in the office because I never use the microwave or fridge there, it does cause some tension at home. You see, your humble host has a very high mess tolerance. Mrs. FLG, like most of the human population, has a lower tolerance. This causes a problem. The solution, and I think Mrs. FLG has reluctantly accepted it, is to tell me when she wants something cleaned. Tell me to clean the bathroom and I do. I just never think to do it because it doesn't often reach a level of messiness that bothers me. I realize that my messiness bothers her, and I do try to make note of it, but it is hard for me.

Well, I think this dynamic applies to many couples. Almost all men have a higher mess tolerance than women. So, when a woman sees a mess she thinks that the man is just lazy and expects her to clean it. But that is not exactly the case. You see, women see a mess and think "there's a mess and it bothers me." Ah, but that level of messiness is not even obvious to a man. Where you see a mess he does not. Now, women, I know what you are thinking. I'm looking at the mess. It's irrefutable. I can see it with my own eyes. But I assure you he doesn't see it that way. So, the whole I-shouldn't-have-to-tell-you-to-clean-up-because-I'm-not-your-mother tactic is just going to cause trouble for both of you. Just ask him to clean whatever it is you want cleaned.

There are usually two responses to this:
  1. The aforementioned I'm not his mother complaint.
  2. Then he says or I feel like I'm a nag.
I think I've explained the I'm not his mother thing. And now onto the nag...

The primary friction exists because you have a lower mess tolerance than he does. When you expect everything be as clean as your tolerance demands it may seem like nagging. You are viewing the world through your eyes, and then trying to impose your preferences onto him and then getting upset when he doesn't have the same preferences. So, the best way, I think, to cope with this is to try to relax your preferences a bit. Realize that what you see as dirty, disorganized, or unsightly probably doesn't in fact bother him as much as it bothers you. Therefore, if you want him to clean you may have to ask him. If you ask him to keep the house as clean as you want, then he may feel like you are nagging. If that's a concern, then you either have to relax your standards, ie try to increase your messiness tolerance, or realize that you get more value out of cleaning than he does and resign yourself to doing more of the cleaning.

That said, I love you sweetie and I'm trying to be better.

Misleading Headline

Fight for education pits civil law against Islamic tradition

What's your first thought? I'd bet -- Another instance of Islamic traditionalist preventing girls from going to school. That's what I thought, but oh no. That's not it.

Twenty-one years ago, Mursi, now 43, went through a sex-change operation as she was about to enter her fourth year at Al-Azhar's medical school, where classes are segregated by gender under Muslim traditions of piety. Al-Azhar officials expelled her, saying she couldn't go to the men's classes because she was impersonating a woman — or to the women's classes because she was actually a man.

I try to be open-minded, but the whole sex change thing is just icky to me. Yes, I know icky isn't the most mature, rational response, but there you have it.

The EU Defines Military Success As Standing Around And Doing Nothing

One reason for the calm has been the presence over the past year of a European Union force of 3,300 soldiers. They are drawn from 26 countries, but nearly half come from the old colonial power, France, and they work with 850 United Nations gendarmes. It was the first major test of the European Union's military arm outside the NATO alliance — the sharp end of what is known as the European Security and Defense Policy.

The Europeans agreed, under a U.N. mandate, to deploy for a year to try to stabilize the deteriorating situation in eastern Chad, where about 260,000 Sudanese refugees, and an additional 180,000 Chadians driven from their homes by the fighting, are gathered in camps centered on the regional capital, Goz Beïda.

Although they have done little fighting, the Europeans have been an important deterrent. But the situation remains deeply uncertain, given the anarchy of Chad, the unbroken war in Darfur and the international arrest warrant issued for Mr. Bashir this month.

In the end, most agree, the European force — with an Irish general, Patrick Nash, in command and a French general on the ground — strictly followed its mandate to protect refugees, the displaced and aid workers and did not intervene in Chad's internal conflicts. Even last June, when rebels attacked and briefly occupied Goz Beïda, the Europeans protected refugees and aid workers but did not try to defend the city.

3,300 soldiers doing next to nothing is consider success?

For Mr. Kouchner [the French Foreign Minister], a founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, the success of the European deployment helps show that France can reintegrate in NATO and keep its independence.

Currently, EU deployments are a bunch of soldiers playing dress up for political symbolism, but without any real military impact or authority. One day, and I'm sure that day will come, an African army is going to slaughter an ill-prepared EU force.

I'm not arguing that soldiers in the armies of the EU member states are poor soldiers, they certainly aren't, but rather that the EU views militaries as a tool for showing force but not actually using it.

For example, the troops are in Chad, but not in Darfur, which is where the real cause of the problems is and where the Europeans might have to do actual fighting. So, they deploy next door with a few troops in pretty uniforms, calm the situation temporarily, and call it success.

Many of you are probably asking, "Hey, FLG, isn't a strong EU military command what you hope replaces NATO?" And the answer is yes. I remain convinced that the existence of NATO allows Europe the luxury pf being nonchalant about real security and defense matters. When the chips are on the table there's always NATO. So, the EU can play world power on the weekends, much like a corporate executive playing paintball. And with largely the same long-term effectiveness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

From the FLGs:

Also, that's it for the fucking baby pictures for a while.

On Writing

So, I've been thinking about my writing style. I'm never happy with it, but it gets the job done.

My primary goal is clarity. I want to clearly express my thoughts. To further this goal:
  • I try to write using short, simple sentences.
  • I write using the active voice as much as I can, but this is definitely an area of weakness. I too frequently revert to passive voice.
  • I utilize words to signify opposition, such as however, nevertheless, nonetheless, etc. In fact, I probably overutilize them.
  • When writing if->then constructions I always prefer to include the then. People often omit it.
  • When mentioning several points, I try to signify them using words like first, second, and third. I don't like firstly, secondly, etc for some unknown reason.
  • I avoid former and latter. It often confuses people.
  • I'm careful with the word "last." Sometimes it can mean final, previous, etc.
  • Kill phrases like "the fact that" and "in order to."
  • Use the verb "to be" as little as possible.

Things I am less concerned about:
  • Spelling. This mostly because I am terrible at it, especially whether compound words should have a hypen or not. Nevertheless, when I notice a spelling mistake I do fix it.
  • Split infinitives. For those of you who don't know him, Alan tries to remove split infinitives even from his speech, which is just messed up.
  • The traditional rules of grammar. I write sentence fragments and use misplaced capitalization for emphasis all the time. I probably overuse commas as well, but I feel they add clarity.
What you are left with is a relatively utilitarian style of communication. Since that can be boring, I throw in some conversational phrases to lighten the tone. And, as you may have noticed, a curse word livens up almost any sentence. For example, the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy fucking dog is a great sentence. You're reading along thinking, oh, not that sentence again...and then the f-bomb hits you like a kick in the ass. Wakes you right up. Is it a cheap way to improve readbility? You bet.

FLG is currently listening to

Poulos Expands And Explains

So, to be fair, I have to admit that today he did answer the questions that I had regarding his Boston Globe piece:

The deep cultures of Europe and the US point in very different directions, both economic and political, because the matchup, there and here, between psychological longing and environmental reality have created such different sets of problems and opportunities. The kind of chastened — and, yes, collectivist — austerity that we’ve seen follow bad times in Europe just isn’t likely to take shape in America.

This is so for good and for ill, of course. So Brooks is correct to point out that “the financial world is abashed” as “members of the educated class explore and enjoy the humiliation of the capitalist vulgarians.” But a prime result of this downward turn is the further rise of vulgarian capitalism — the aspirational slumming behind what today I call the Scumbag Millionaire economy.

Furthermore, I can't agree more with his first sentence in his Scumbag Millionaire article:
Americans have busied themselves lately showing how little a decline in the vice of materialism begets a rise in virtue.

Hardship still doesn't lead to virtue.

French Economics

Le Monde:
Un article...à paraître en mai dans la Revue économique, étudie l'effet théorique d'un "salaire" maximum, ou plus précisément d'une rémunération totale maximale. Celle-ci, écrit l'auteur, permet à de plus petites firmes d'avoir une chance d'attirer un meilleur manager. Pour les plus grosses, la perte de performance est en partie compensée par le coût moindre des dirigeants. Au total, les actionnaires pourraient y gagner. La simulation sur le cas français montre le réalisme de ce scénario. Voilà un résultat plus gênant pour les patrons qu'une renonciation temporaire aux bonus.

Rough Translation:
An article...to appear in the May edition of la Revue économique studies the theoretical effect of a maximum salary, or more precisely of a maximum total remuneration. This, the author writes, would allow smaller firms to have a chance to attract better managers. For the larger firms, the loss of performance would be partially compensated by the lower cost of the managers. Overall, the shareholders would gain. A simulation of the idea in the French case shows that the scenario is realistic. There's a very embarrassing result for the business leaders that temporarily renounced their bonuses.

Okay. Let me get this straight. Some Frenchman, probably a socialist activist, created a model of France onto which this maximum salary was imposed, and it showed that shareholders gained, and this is supposed to embarrass managers in the real world? First, the model and simulation could be flawed. Second, the return to shareholders is not society's primary concern. Welfare is. So, this idea that shareholders benefit is hardly proof that this would be a good idea.

All told, French economists are batshit nuts. I'll wait until an American or Brit publishes a paper saying that a salary ceiling would be a good idea.

Computer Science Enrollment Increase

For the first time in six years, enrollment in computer science programs in the United States increased last year, according to an annual report that tracks trends in the academic discipline.

The revival is significant, according to computer scientists and industry executives, who in the past have pointed to declining numbers of science and engineering students as a canary-in-a-coal-mine indicator warning about the nation’s weakening ability to compete in the global economy.

I'm telling you...this reasoning is wrongheaded. No amount of classes in Data Structures, Assembler, Algorithms, Numerical Computation, Operating Systems, Bayesian Models, Chaotic Dynamics is going to help the too frequently misanthropic computer geek from creating systems human beings can use. In fact, the above courses probably hurt that cause. They create a thought process within the student of modular, compartmentalized, linear, serial, and discrete steps because that's how a computer processes information.

The fundamental problem with all engineers, not just computer scientists, is that they don't get people. They don't get people because the geeks are awkward or misanthropic or both, but they don't get people. So, they create systems that are efficient internally with God awful human interfaces. We need humanities majors to make things useful to people.

My go-to analogy for this is Microsoft versus Apple. To a large extent, and for the purposes of this post, let's say that each respective company is like its founder. So, Microsoft is Bill Gates and Apple is Steve Jobs. Apple popularized the graphical interface, (Yes, they stole it from Xerox...) while Microsoft was still dicking around with the damn DOS prompt. Steve Jobs has continually created products that appeal to people, which are then copied, usually poorly, by Microsoft whether it's Mac and Windows or the iPod and Zune.

Bill Gates and Microsoft have no idea what makes people tick. It's a company of geeks. You can see this in their operating system design, marketing campaigns, etc. They're stuff is vanilla and boring. Apple's, on the other hand, is cool, flashy, and easier to use.

What I find most annoying is that Microsoft tries to overcome this weakness by hiring psychologists to improve the usability of Windows. So, I keep getting operating system interface redesigns that are extremely counter-intuitive and often infuriating. For example, if XP tells me one more time that I have unused icons on my desktop that it can help clean up I might blast the whole thing away and go with linux. But the entire idea that some science, in this case psychology, can determine what the best interfaces is for human beings is suspect. I agree that psychology can provide insight, but it will never beat the intuition a person like Steve Jobs has into what is useful to people.

So, we don't need more computer science students to compete in the global economy. We need more liberal arts students with an understanding of technology.
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