Monday, December 19, 2011

The Art of Societal Change

The single most important thing a campaign for societal change must do is this: It must change itself.

"Be the change you want to see," in the words of Gandhi.

Sun Tzu addressed this in terms of war in a dozen different ways - the single most important thing one may draw from him is that, before defeating the enemy, you must first defeat yourself.

Campaigns which do not live up to their own standards, campaigns which -cannot- live up to their own standards - which is every progressive, socialist, and communistic movement - must ultimately fail.  This is not to say they cannot change government, that they cannot change society - but not in the ways they hope.  The hypocrisies necessary to these philosophies ensure they cannot change themselves, and hence cannot change society, in the manner they hope.  (See the percenters who refuse to give up their own globally exemplary wealth to feed the starving elsewhere, for example.)

The internet has given such campaigns immense power to communicate, to engage in the self-policing activities necessary to ensure that they live up to their own standards.  The "enemy" is basically irrelevant; this has been particularly apparent in the second amendment rights movement; gun control advocates have increasingly been pushed into irrelevancy.  It's important that the campaign has the facts on its side, but it is more important that it has done such a remarkable job pushing damaging elements to the periphery.

The most important thing for a modern campaign to do is precisely the activity of self-policing.  Scandals are fine if the campaign reacts appropriately to them; in the era of free information, scandal cannot be avoided, only dealt with.  The popular political parties, as campaigns, have been doing very bad jobs of dealing with their own scandals, which is a large part of their current state.

I routinely piss off the people on my side of the debate; I'm more likely to attack them than my enemies.  This is necessary, and it is necessary that a good movement be willing to rebuke and dismiss individuals in its membership, no matter how important they may seem.  Movements that cannot or will not do this will die.

Hitchens was willing to take to task his own.  He was a kindred spirit, if opposed in ideals, and represents a dying breed among his own.  I do not think the left will soon recover from his loss.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This seems a popular topic on the blogs right now, on account of it having recently become politically relevant, so I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

If a convention somehow containing every critic of Finnegan's Wake (chosen as one of the hardest subjects in English literature to understand) suffered a critical architecture collapse, and every one of them died, would society suffer any serious setbacks?

What if a convention containing every single kernel-level driver programmer (chosen as one of the hardest subjects in programming to understand; substitute BIOS programmers, if you wish, or even trivial branches of architecture or engineering) suffered the same disaster?

What advantages do liberal educations confer which extend beyond the first couple of semesters of material, which STEM majors are already obligated to study?  The fact that this is a challenging question to answer in liberal arts educations, but -not- in STEM majors (where the answer is fairly trivial; advanced studies are for specialization in field, specializations which industries depend upon), sums up the divergence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Following up on The Profit Motive, what constitutes success?

Ask a socialist, and perverse to naive expectations, the word is almost certain to mean -financial- success.

Ask a capitalist, and perverse to naive expectations, the word is almost certain to mean something far more personal.

Socialism is to a great extent defined by its deification of money; sometimes it's an evil and vengeful god, sometimes a benevolent one whose worshipers are the real problem, but the theories of socialism are money-centric; in bygone eras they were property-centric.

Capitalism is not.  Do not be confused by its name, or forget that capitalism was named by its detractors, who saw capitalism as about ownership; socialism from its root was obsessed with wealth, and capitalism was named for the holders of wealth by people who saw the accumulation of wealth as an inherently bad thing.

Capitalism is defined by choice, as mentioned in the profit motive.  Most important of all, the choice on what to do with your life - a choice which is missing from socialism, though few socialists would admit that taxation at its root is the loss of choice about what ends your efforts go towards.

The modern rhetoric of war as a political metaphor - the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on illiteracy, the war on this and the war on that - this is a useful metaphor.  Because taxpayers are all draftees in that war, whether they want to be or not.  This is the root loss of choice, of freedom.

And all of these wars come down to a single artifact - measure of success.  Socialists want everybody to be successful, by a particular definition of success, without regard to other definitions - and theirs is the financial definition.  Poor in money but rich in love is not success to them, it is tragedy.

That's not to say the reverse is tragedy, either.  The beauty of choice is that the person who foregoes love for money is as free to do so as the person who foregoes money for love.  We choose our own success.  And by and large, we achieve it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Costs vs Benefits vs You Shouldn't Do That It's Bad For You

I've recently taken up cigar smoking.

I'm doing it properly, so I -only- have to worry about mouth cancer, not lung cancer.  Only.

But y'know what?  Fuck it.  I like it.  I like nicotine - I discovered it first smoking a cigar in Las Vegas, and moved on from there to chewing nicotine gum, and cigars taste better than the gum (and give more nicotine, and are cheaper).

I like the taste.

I like the fact that my duster is going to smell like smoke and becomes an effective hippy repellent.

And I like the ritual of it.

The benefits of cigars outweigh the risks, and more broadly the costs, to me.  If I would live forever if I didn't smoke cigars, sure, maybe not, but I'm not going to - I'm going to die no matter what I do, and in the meantime I'd rather live on my terms.

"You shouldn't do that" is a cost-centric way of viewing the world; it ignores the benefits.  "You shouldn't do that" is the habit of people who have no sense of Other; they cannot comprehend that other people would or should have different values than they do.

It is the habit of both the Right and the Left, and it is the habit of authoritarians exclusively; it is to some extent necessary for authoritarian beliefs in an otherwise moral person, because it enables them to make dictates which they believe everyone fundamentally agrees with, but that some people are simply too weak of character to go along with.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I am... atheist.

I most definitely am not agnostic, although I am what is referred to as a "weak" atheist (There is no god because there is no proof of god, rather than there is no god and there is proof that there is no god), which some people sometimes classify as agnostic.

But bloody hell am I tempted to label myself agnostic sometimes.  Self-described atheists, by and large, are evangelistic -assholes-.  They worship harder and louder than most the religious I've encountered.

(Agnostics are rather preachy too, actually, load of stuck-up gits.  But they're less irritating about it than the atheists are, at least thus far in my experience.)

I attended a "humanist" meeting.  Once, and only once.  It is essentially an atheist meeting, only they call themselves humanists because... I don't know why.  There's probably a clever historic reason.  Or not so clever.  I'm curious, but not so curious to go and find out.

There was some interesting discussion, and one older atheist, who was facing death by cancer, asked the group for advice on how to handle dying.  It was rather sad.

But more attention was paid to an atheist who wanted the atheists in the group to distribute atheist literature on streetcorners and a rambling woman who apparently had a PHD in neuroscience who spent a half hour basically saying that religion was a mental disorder.  I stopped listening there.

That was the first humanist meeting I attended.  It will be the last.

Christians are right about atheists.  And "secular" by and large means atheist, not areligious.

It's my experience moreover that atheists replace faith in god with faith in something else, quite typically in government or Science with a capital s, which is to say, the institution rather than the process of science.  I'm frequently enough accused of being anti-science because I question the conclusions of scientists that I've ceased to be fazed by it.

And anymore I prefer the religious.  At least they aren't arguing for the wholesale destruction of the most potent intellectual process ever devised.  That's what every atheist shouting down the questioning voice of the skeptic is really arguing for, after all.

Creationism in schools is harmless by comparison to doctrinal "science," which does more to destroy scientific reasoning than any force I have yet encountered.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quantum Mechanics

I've fiddled with these thoughts for nearly a decade now.  I've considered their value, and if I'm correct, it's inestimable.  If wrong, well, nothing lost.  I'm bored with them, however - if I AM correct, I'm too far ahead of modern physics to be able to do anything meaningful to advance the ideas.  I need more anomalies.

So, Orphan Wilde, who makes no claim to being a studied physicist, on quantum mechanics.

First, it's not the observed which is uncertain, it's the observer.  The earth isn't the center of the universe, nor is the sun, nor is our galaxy; nor are we the center of certainty.  Our minds behave the way they do because they are four dimensional - and one of the products of this is that our observations are skewed across a chunk of probability-space.  We can't isolate these values because they can't be isolated; the particles are real, Einstein was correct, we're just observing a larger bandwidth of them than the single probability-moment that we think we do, which leads us into crazy conclusions about the way matter "really" works.

The process of observation represents a movement of our minds, not the universe.  Relativity and causality are maintained.

And an interesting side effect of this is that our brains are effectively quantum computers.  Cool, huh?  Also, free will is a product of this.  But don't expect that to mean anything to you; your past choices are permanent. And if that statement makes sense to you you should see a shrink.

Second, gravity is a wave.  It's a wave which propagates along space-time it has already bent, more; this produces a steeper gradient closer to mass, and a shallower gradient further from mass, producing the illusion of a wave which slows down as it escapes matter.  This is the grand unified theory, in case you're wondering; gravity is one side of this gradient, the cosmological constant is the next side over, when the gradient is positive.  Atomic configurations are the product of gravity flipping one way and the other.  It also produces bizarre space-time curves around black holes, but that's nothing new.

Third, quantum mechanics is fundamentally wrong; energy doesn't come in discrete packets, it forms a continuum.  The finite set of stable configurations of matter in a closed system produces the illusion of discrete packets; until and unless energy accumulates in sufficient quantities to shift to another stable configuration, the configuration remains identical.  Shifts from one stable configuration to another produce predictable energy emissions, producing the illusion of discrete packets.

Fourth, entropic interactions reverse themselves according to the direction of gravity.  Five years ago I had a clearer idea what this meant.  Today I'm less certain; it was an important idea to me then, however, so I'm writing it down.

Fifth, the big bang never happened.  I don't have any evidence of this, but it seems a natural progression of the past thousand years of science, in which each center of the universe in turn was proven to be just another unexceptional point.  Anytime somebody claims there's an exceptional spot in the universe fix them with a steely gaze and ask "Really?  Another?"


I encountered an article arguing for racial profiling on, among other grounds, the following: Minority drivers are significantly more likely to be pulled over at night.  (The difference is apparently more pronounced at night than during the day.)

...I'll wait for a moment while that processes.

Minority drivers are most likely to be pulled over when it is least obvious that they are a minority.  Setting aside one person arguing that police use military infrared binoculars (really?) to target minorities, this strikes me as a very interesting bit of information.

I'd like some real statistics on the matter, however, rather than taking an unsourced article at its word (even if it is using the data to argue the opposite point I would make).  Anybody encounter statistics like this?

I'd love to get my hands on some raw data including vehicle models, as well.  (Gang activity in a five mile radius of the ticket location would be too good to be true.)

In case it weren't obscenely obvious enough, this article piqued my interest on the matter of racial profiling, and I'm considering doing some work to see if the data supports the theory of racial profiling as neatly as it is represented to do so.

My suspicions are that, if you isolate the variables, there's actually going to be a substantial negative racial profiling mechanism at work, as a result of police sensitivity to racial profiling and the fact that non-racial profiling - targeting high-crime neighborhoods and certain vehicle makes/models - produces nontrivial racial bias in the data.  I base my suspicion on the belief that racial profiling in addition to nonracial criteria should produce substantially greater divergences in traffic stops and penalties for minority drivers than is actually the case.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Do Police Civilize Society...

...more than they uncivilize it?

First, an understanding: The justice system doesn't exist for the benefit of the general public, but for the benefit of those specific members of the public accused of crimes.  We're very good at vigilantism, not necessarily good at vigilante -justice-, and from what I have personally seen, 90% of what police do is discourage vigilantism; I think the death penalty results in fewer vigilante killings than it involves in executions, particularly in states like Texas.

Understanding that the justice system doesn't exist to protect the unaccused innocent, but rather the accused innocent, a lot of what goes on makes a lot more sense.  How many people have you encountered who "Just needed killing?"  Whose sole claim to life is that a penalty exists for taking theirs?

I'm not talking about people who talk too loudly in a theater.  People who engage in what I'll call petty violence; lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, for example - who use the law both as a shield -and- a club, who let the thugs of government legally do what they themselves could not get away with.  Or burglars in states without the right to protect your property.

Are the police making things better, there, by enforcing rule of law - or worse, by protecting people who turn rule of law into a weapon?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Protests... New York, by liberals.

Okay, guys, let me explain something to you: The conservatives don't care.  At best for your cause they're irritated at the naivety of it.  At worst they're rooting for you.

They don't care if you shut New York City down.  They'd love it if you succeeded, if you kept succeeding, if you drove business out of the liberal bastion of the east coast, and drove it to failure.

I'm kinda rooting for that too, but more because I think the era of the skyscraper has passed, and I think businesses are holding onto outdated business models you're going to help them to overcome.

This is like the communist version of the tea party; no cohesive plan or set of ideas, just opposition to everything the right stands for.  So hey, I'm kinda for that too.  The more browncoats, the more people who stand -against- government policies rather than -for- them, the better.

Pity you're so small and insignificant.  Your dear leader's ineptitude has possibly led to the downfall of the left, and it looks like we're going to need some substantial brakes to put a stop to whatever the right has in store for us now.  You guys won't cut it.

Relationships as Transactions

One of the regular criticisms of Ayn Rand is that she had a transactional view of relationships, which seems more like a lazy way to use economic models to interpret relationships than an inherently productive view of them; it isolates relationships in terms of some universal currency and then assigns values.  She didn't; a transactional view of relationships would isolate relationships down to a currency that is paid back and forth.  Her "currency" was "values," and was functionally rooted in the idea that relationships are an end product of two people's moral systems, independent of what they do for each other.  You can't make a relationship better by sending somebody flowers; you send them flowers because you want to give them flowers, not to try to heal a cracked relationship.

Try applying the transactional relationship model to a train and you quickly see the problem: You can't compensate for a cheap engine that can't pull a train by installing very expensive chairs for the passengers.  There's no exchange rate in the world that can convert comfort into horsepower.

Likewise with relationships, which are abstract enough that it can almost seem like it could work, until you actually get into the specifics.  People who focus on some central value repository - frequently called love, although depending on circumstances it can get called many different things - miss the point.  A forgotten anniversary doesn't subtract ten love points, and flowers and a handwritten apology letter don't add six back.

The transactional model Ayn Rand was criticized for seems more prevalent in the general culture than in Objectivists; people don't choose money as their store of value, but they do try to invent a store of value, and it doesn't really work.  There isn't some pot called love that you can pour a little water into every day, and simply being kind to somebody, or sending them flowers every day, isn't going to make them love you.  At best these are signaling behaviors, indicating some quality about yourself, which you are demonstrating/proving to the other person; it is that quality that they will love, or not love as the case may be, not the act of giving flowers itself.

Ayn Rand described relationships in transactional terms - as being value for value - but the values she refers to are non-transactional; you cannot give somebody your virtues, nor do you trade virtues; you value your mate for their virtues, and they value you for yours, but in no sense does this make a relationship a transactional experience.

Exercise Progress...

Hit week 6 of the 5k in 9 Weeks program tomorrow.  I think at this point I am actually done with the program, insofar as the elliptical goes; I "jogged" another three minutes past what I needed to for the program without issue, and only stopped because I had run out of time.  I'm now doing what I'm hoping is the jogging equivalent for 23 straight minutes; I'm probably not going to aim for the full thirty minutes as yet, and will just eat into the warm-up and cool-down periods to fill in the excess.

Jogging is a joy again, in the brief moments I've done it outside the gym.  I think I've hit the point where it's all downhill (except for what's literally uphill, anyways).  I don't know that I've hit the point I was at last time I was jogging, when I could jog between phases of running to recover, but I am at the point where I can enjoy the act itself, the joy of motion and speed, without my attention constantly drawn by pain in one part of my body or another.  If I can keep my shin splints from coming back, anyways; staying on the elliptical for now, and am going to increase the tension through the end of the month instead of switching back to jogging.

Doing maintenance and endurance exercises on my triceps now (at 285 lbs, which seems incredible to me), and shifted my workout emphasis to my biceps.  Keeping a journal now as well, as I am having trouble remembering each session what I achieved the last session.  (I could probably gain strength considerably faster if I went with the maximum I'm able to lift instead of steadily increasing numbers, but I prefer the steady gain over erratic; it means I'm less likely to injure myself.)

The last month and a half hasn't been easy, exactly, but it hasn't been nearly as difficult as I expected it to be.  Let's see how the next month goes.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Should have...

...kept going with Terry Goodkind [Edit: Miswrote this as Pratchett the first time through] for one more book.

Wizard's First Rule starts a bit slow, but is an excellent book.  Stone of Tears... feels like the author is stretching a little bit to continue the series, but is otherwise also quite a good book.

Blood of the Fold felt utterly pointless, and even more strained; Temple of the Winds feels like he's just making shit up now (okay, he used one sentence out of his very first book to justify this one, but everything else felt pulled out of thin air), Soul of the Fire was back to looking for excuses to continue the books...

I gave up there the first time around, which was right around when Pillars of Creation came out.

Recently picked up Faith of the Fallen for a buck, figuring it could be entertaining.

Okay, first of all, one warning: I'm pretty sure the guy read Atlas Shrugged right before he wrote this, because I swear he retconned all his villains into Randian villains.  (His heroes were already fairly close to Randian heroes, so there wasn't much stretching necessary there.)  Also, the nature and content of the book.

But I'm actually considering finishing the series now.  Okay, yes, there was some retcon going on there.  But it's actually, on its own, a decent Randian hero story.  Except his wording would have put Ayn Rand into fits in a couple of places.  Ah well.

Hint to any aspiring authors out there: If you want an epic series, plan out some of the series in advance.  You don't have to plan everything out, and don't write your first book as a "To Be Continued" unless you absolutely must, but put the basic structure in there to follow up on.  (Non-epic series don't have to worry about this as much, not being as prone to the "I killed the big evil sorcerer now what" syndrome.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I find it amusing...

...what products you get if you apply this comic to its own author:

Firstly, the title.  She assumes others behave in this manner because she does.  I do not.  I long since grew past the notion that other people thought in a similar fashion to me - if I had not, Atlas Shrugged would have been a mediocre book to me, rather than the revelation that other people did think in the same ways that I did, even if they didn't necessarily draw the same conclusions.

Particularly amusing to me is the third row, first column.  She presumes rich people have a price and more have sold themselves, because she cannot see a way to achieve riches without doing so.

This seems to be a common presumption among the left.  It's an amusing one.  I view that mindset as similar to the religious mindset that you cannot be righteous without god.  Both tend to have rather dramatic effects when the believers loses faith.

Friday, September 16, 2011


...what would happen with Social Security if it had been running a -surplus- when we ran into the debt limit?

Seeing as how the government is legally obligated to sell the Social Security Administration bonds.  (That's where all the SS surpluses went.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Exercise-y Crap

I've scaled my jogging schedule back a bit on account of realizing that the pain that was developing in my legs as I jogged wasn't exhaustion, but shin splints.  (It took me three or four sessions to realize this.  Some genius I am.)

May shift to the eliptical for the jogging portion of my exercise until my tendons recover.  I've bought a new pair of shoes - I had been wearing a relatively new pair of Earth brand running shoes.  This was my second pair, and the quality was absolute shit compared to the first pair I purchased, with which I originally got into running; the first pair made running a joy, but unfortunately wore out.

I have two shoes I'm trying now; my second pair of Vibrams (my first pair wore out rather more quickly than I expected, on account of running them through the drier several times before I read the instructions explicitly stating not to do this) - I'm wearing toe socks with this pair so that I won't have to wash them as frequently as my first pair.

I also stopped into a Footlocker and bought their most expensive running shoes, which were still cheaper than the POS second pair of Earth shoes I bought, as well as some compression socks.  I'll be alternating between these two shoes for jogging going forward.

I really need to move into week four of the jogging program, but that is probably going to be put off.  (Also, WTH, whoever designed this program?  Is this designed for people trying to get back into jogging, rather than first-timers as it presents itself?  If I hadn't been in fantastic shape already to know that jogging gets kind of enjoyable after you get into shape, I'd give this program up as some kind of cruel torture.)

Weight-lifting is going better, although I really need to settle on a routine; I keep shifting it up, and was unable to target my biceps very effectively last session.  (I hit the rowing machine first; I had been doing 55 lbs freeweights in the session before last, and this last one, instead of moving to 60 lbs as I had planned, I was barely able to hit 45 by the time I got to it.  Which is great for working out, but terrible for trying to measure my progress is some kind of objective unit.)

Haven't been able to faze my back or shoulder muscles with the routines I've been doing, something else always tires out first.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Freedom is not Potentia

For potentia has two definitions; it is not merely capacity, but power.  It is not merely the limits of your ability, but your political influence.

It derives from potens, a word which roughly means "To be able to."  This phrase even today conveys dual meanings - the freedom to do so, by which I mean the absence of arbitrary power preventing you from doing so (arbitrary, now there's a word for another day), but equally the -strength- to do so.  (A good blog name would be "Possum," which has little to do with opossums, and translates as "I am able.")

Your actions are limited by two constraints - what you are capable of, and what politicians prevent you from doing.

Modern liberal philosophy, where it values freedom at all, can roughly be summed up as confusing freedom for potentia; for believing that what we are by our own efforts capable of doing is a limit on our freedom in the same sense that arbitrary power is a limit on our freedoms.  It emphasizes a balancing act between strength-potentia and power-potentia.

Because it has no mechanisms by which to actually modify your capabilities, all it is truly capable of doing is depressing your power-potentia.  The government, no matter how hard it wishes or tries, cannot make you stronger, cannot make you smarter, cannot make you healthier, cannot make you better - government is purely a lever of power-potentia, meaning the only influence it can ever have over your life is to limit your choices.

It depresses your power-potentia, therefore, attempting to enhance your strength-potentia.  But strength-potentia ultimately depends upon a single strength - strength of will.  This is that of strength-potentia that must depress with power-potentia.  And as all other strengths depend on this one - all strengths are depleted in the effort to strengthen a people.

They seek to create a powerful and emboldened people by telling them at every turn what they may not do.  Raise your child that way and tell me how well it works.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Working out...

...doing interval training.

I dunno if I'm doing it right; the jogging is a cinch, I'm just following the instructions on weekly interval training MP3s, not too difficult (okay, difficult from a "GOD I WANT TO STOP" perspective, but very easy from a knowing what to do perspective).  But the weight lifting, I have no idea; everybody's idea of what interval weight lifting is is different, and I kind of mixed up the different instructions to something which is at least entertaining to do.

I'm doing ten repetitions as heavy as I can do, waiting ten-twenty seconds, repeating.  Once I can't do ten (and I mean can't do ten, not doing ten is painful, I mean the muscles physically will not do it) I move down ten-twenty pounds.  Repeat until I consider the weight I'm lifting to be trivial (generally if I can do three sets without tiring out).  I'm doing this about twice a week.  (Jogging more frequently, every other day.)

(I'm also consuming -unholy- quantities of protein.)

It's... surprisingly effective.  I mean crazy surprise effective.  From one session to the next I'm making noticeable gains in strength; from my first session to my second, I could do fifteen pounds more on triceps (which I'm hitting the hardest as the exercises I'm hitting my back with are also hitting my triceps), five on biceps, and I'm not sure about the others as I haven't been keeping track.  From second session to third, another fifteen, another five.  That's a thirty pound gain in strength in one week, from 170 to 200, so a 15% increase.  (Yes, I'm a fairly sturdy couch potato right now.) [Edit: Gains have continued at this pace.  I did a comfortable 230 last session; I'll be trying 245 today.  The machine caps at 285; I don't have much more room to expand with targeted exercise there.]

Granted, this is the first week, when gains are supposed to be the highest.  But bloody hell, I'm not wanting to do a body building contest or anything like that, and the results for me are astounding.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Where We're Going

So the libertarian crowd is, once again, getting "serious" about building a city out in the ocean.  I'm pretty sure they'll go bankrupt, too, just like their predecessors.

But it's inevitable that eventually they succeed; the idea is workable.  Aircraft carriers are halfway there, although the pricetag of about $140,000,000 per person (granted, they're not -intended- as cities, so one intended as such should be cheaper), they're a bit pricy.

There are mansions (okay, one) which have fetched as much, and didn't carry the same tax benefits.

The ocean is the future of life on Earth.  But it's not the future.

Terraforming isn't the future either, as popular as the idea is.

The future is space stations.

Not for refueling, or anything silly like that - for living in.  The advantages are almost too numerous to list, but capital mobility would rank high if we did.

Anarchistic capitalism works in space in a way it does not work on earth.  It's hard to drag your factory somewhere else if the country you're living in pisses you off - unless it's on a boat or in a spaceship.  There's a reason the Russian train-based factories did so well when they were in a state of war.

Space does of course have an issue with scarcity of resources, particularly in the face of the bloom of a sentient species.  And planets do have an advantage there.  So I don't think they'll be entirely pointless, although I still think terraforming is right out.

But asteroids have the same advantages, and have transportation benefits to boot.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fix for Firefox and Hotmail Users with Editing Issues...

Just diagnosed a problem for somebody, figured I'd post it here: If you use Firefox to access your Hotmail account and have recently become unable to edit e-mail messages (whether forwarded, replied, whatever) - try loading your Hotmail account up in Internet Explorer and resetting the text editor to "Plain Text" (Tools->"Rich Text Editor ON/OFF" - you want it to say OFF).

Apparently Firefox doesn't support Rich Text editing, and Hotmail disables this option in tools for Firefox users; however, if it gets changed somehow (using Internet Explorer, for example), it's possible for it to get stuck on this option, which results in Firefox being unable to edit your Hotmail messages (as it doesn't support the editor).

That's my current theory, anyways.

Europe... still slowly circling the crapper.

Which is vindicating on the one hand, and frustrating on the other.

Vindicating for what I think are obvious reasons.

Frustrating because it has kept our interest rates artificially low - sure, our currency might suck right now, but it's still a more solid investment than the Euro.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Artificial Divisions

One of the things which perpetually irks me in activist groups is the "For us or against us" mentality.  Every single activist group has this to some extent.  And I've realized something about it.

These activists don't want intelligent opposition, they don't want debate; they want vitriol and battle, they want conflict, precisely because they do not think they can lose; they're so devoted to the righteousness of their cause they fundamentally believe that if things came down to an exchange of blows (or legislation) they would win, and the other side's attempts to keep things on the level of civil discourse (or outside the domain of legal remedy) is an admission of weakness.

I see this in gun bloggers; a dogged insistence that if they came to take our guns away and if we fought back, we'd win.  We're merely being civil because we don't want to resort to violence, it's beneath us.

In personal interactions, this is true, particularly for gun bloggers; I've heard it said by more than one person who carried a gun that it had fundamentally changed their perspective on violence, that suddenly, if it isn't worth killing someone over, it isn't worth hitting them over, or even getting worked up about, either.  Carrying a gun is a calming influence.

In the public sphere, I think the perception of power has something the opposite reaction, particularly because these -are- causes people are willing to get violence about if things really get down to the bones.

Gun activists, however, as prone as they are to the dogged insistence that we'd win, are -not- as prone as the usual crowds to the particular "With us or against us" mentality.  We recognize what "Against us" means.  It means we shoot you when things come down to the bones of it.  With us or against us means there are no neutral parties, and we're fine with neutral parties; we probably don't have enough bullets, patience, or moral resolve for the guilty ones.

Gunnies have a select number of other causes they tend to get behind, and few if any others.  I do not think there can be meaningful overlap between gun activism and most other popular activism.  "With us or against us" doesn't sleep well with most us.

And it shouldn't.

I'm having a hell of a time not naming names (of causes, primarily, although I could list people as well) here.  It's something which, as I've considered it, has made me blisteringly angry.  There's this great big evil cloud hanging over virtually every cause, threatening me over and over again with utter destruction for not ceding them the moral right to do so.

I've seen evil many times in my life, almost always masquerading as something good.  I wonder if someday I'll be callous to see it anew.

[Ed: A conversation in real life presented an alternative explanation: Gunnies, generally, come from a military background, or are familiar with military concepts, and this has less to do with not wanting to pursue an "Us versus them" mentality so much as it does an understanding of the concept of a civilian.  This is actually a better explanation than the one I posited, which requires a lot of similarly-thinking people thinking along the same and largely unexplored lines, so I think it's probably closer to the truth.]

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The most boring conversation topic... what dreams you had last night.

In that vein, I'm going to tell you about mine.

First, I dreamed I was, for some reason, watching creepy/horror YouTube videos.  I found a particularly creepy one in which one smiling once-human thing was about to do something horrible to another once-human thing, and was going to send it to somebody, and then woke up.

I then told my brother about this creepy YouTube video in my dream.  And woke up again.

I told my brother, laughing, about this weird recursion.  He got irritated with me for telling him about my dreams. I woke up once more.

(For real that time, if you're reading this.)  I told him once more, and he just raised his eyebrow.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I do believe I have set a new world record for boring.  My boring has gone recursive, possibly supercritical as I tell you about this now.

So if ever you think you're boring, take comfort in that there is a blogger out there who wrote about telling his brother about a dream in which he told his brother about a dream in which he told his brother about a dream in which he watched a creepy YouTube video.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Profit Motive... not what capitalism is all about.

I'm not a hardcore capitalist because I think I will be a billionaire, or even because I want to be a billionaire.  If either of those things were true I'd want a system other than capitalism, which makes it very difficult for me to accrue massive wealth, and would require decades of my life dedicated to the purpose.

Capitalism is about freedom of choice.  Full stop.

It has very nice side effects; y'know, massive wealth for everybody involved, to the point where somebody with air conditioning and color televisions and smartphones can be considered as living in poverty.

But that's not what it's -about-.  If you start thinking it's -about- the massive wealth, you'll start focusing on other ways of achieving the wealth, and generally fuck shit up trying to optimize a chaotic evolutionary system that I, with my genius-level IQ and no shortage of ego, know better than to think I could improve upon.  It's not about wealth.  It's not about food, or entertainment, or healthcare.  Capitalism is about freedom of choice.

Studies suggesting the profit motive isn't useful in generating innovation aren't demonstrating a flaw in capitalism.  They're demonstrating a flaw in socialism.  Projects like Linux can only succeed in a capitalist society - even ignoring the massive corporate funds which have gone towards making Linux (and every successful open source project to date) viable, even ignoring that a lot of that work has originated in clauses in employee contracts which forbid programmers from owning off-work development, even ignoring all the direct contributions which capitalistic enterprises have made which have permitted these community projects to succeed - these community projects are taking place in a capitalist society precisely because a capitalist society permits them to.

Single-payer healthcare, single-payer education, singly sourced projects are the holy grail of socialized systems.  The arguments used for these things - that we should be improving what exists so everybody can enjoy the superior system instead of creating a choice system in which there would be disparity of outcomes - are universally applicable within socialism.  Within a socialized society, Linux wouldn't exist - there would be only Windows, which everybody is required to use.  If you want to improve something, you have to improve Windows, and only if Society agrees to it, because we can't have unapproved people doing things which affect everybody, possibly adversely.

Capitalism has fostered and permitted Linux, and the open source community.

Of course, this entire argument can be rendered irrelevant by pointing out what profit really is.  Nobody would argue that consuming less to produce more is a bad thing, until we start quantifying the difference in terms of money.  Anger about the profit motive has nothing to do with profit, and everything to do with a hatred of money.  And I'll leave that argument to Francisco d'Anconia.

Friday, August 19, 2011

In response...

To this:

(This is another reply which grew too long for a comment.  I tend towards these.)

Hubris always seems to be involved in tragedies, but sometimes I suspect it's because the kind of people who write tragedies have never tried it out.

This post gives me something to talk to my girlfriend about, because a lot of this rings familiar in her own attitudes and questions.  (She's point-blanked asked, on more than one occasion, why I love her.  Which is a very difficult question to answer, even for somebody like me, who believes love should derive from virtue; even believing that, naming virtues seems crude, and slightly dishonest, just because I could never name them all, and I -wouldn't- love somebody who merely had the virtues I could list.)

I can't speak for Laramy, nor what emotionally healthy is, but personally, I don't generally worry about my girlfriend wanting the relationship to end because if she does, the relationship doesn't work.  I am who I am - I want to be who I am.  If she's not happy with that, we won't work together.  I worry that she's happy within the constraints of what and who I am willing and able to be, and I have to be honest with myself about who I am and who I can be.  Beyond that, no.

Will it hurt if she does make that decision?  Like a motherfucker.  It will hurt if -I- make that decision.  But it's a worthwhile pain in pursuit of life, and not wasted - and I won't shy away from life because it might be unpleasant sometimes.  You cannot run from misery, you can only fail to run towards happiness.

Which is to say, I don't want to feel that pain.  But I do want to be in a position where that pain is possible.

On the flip side of that, on insecurity - I think insecurity about yourself to some extent misses the point.  It asks the question "Am I good enough," but omits asking the question "For what?"

People can't be expressed as a series of sliding scales of quality; as a series of dimensioned quantity, I guess you sort of could, but quality, no.  There's the simple concept that different people value different things, but even that misses a lot of conceptual depth.

Expressed in terms of fate, Hitler was perfect; he did exactly what he was fated to do, had exactly the qualities necessary for him to do what he was fated to do.  In terms of fate, we're all perfect; or, expressed another way, in terms of fate, concepts of quality are meaningless.

To a great extent the same is true in relationships.  The only variable with any quality whatsoever is compatibility.  I've known more than one couple who were totally dysfunctional as individuals - drug addicts, for example - who worked very well as a couple.  It's not that as individuals they couldn't get a better mate by societal standards - it's that a more responsible person would not have worked in that relationship, for either party.

There is no "Marrying up" or "Dating up" - it's notable that these concepts tend to be limited to unidimensional considerations like "How attractive does the average person find you" or "How much money do you make/how much money did your parents make."  That's not to say people don't think in those terms - I don't disclose my personal income on dating sites because some people -do- - but rather that they're incorrect to.

It's not that I don't share a formulaic view of love - my view of love is that it derives from one's virtues, after all - but rather that, even as an Objectivist who believes in objective virtue, I recognize that recognition of virtue is inherently -subjective-.  I don't value humility, only honest self-evaluation.  (Some would argue that humility -is- honest evaluation, as some would argue that arrogance and hubris mean a dishonest self evaluation - and while these could be technically correct, the use of these words in that fashion ignores their connotations to society at large.  I describe myself as arrogant because I recognize my own genius, without regard for that that genius is honestly recognized.)  Others value humility of the dishonest sort; meekness as a virtue, particularly in women.  (I value mostly the traditionally masculine virtues, and judge men and women alike by them.)  The value of a relationship is how it adds to -your- life, not how it would add to the life of some fictitious average; you should aim to be the Hitler of snuggling in your relationships, substituting your own values, and accepting that your partner wants you, not because of how you would add to the life of a fictitious average, but because of how you add to their life, the way they want their life to be.  And that "want" there is important, because "need" is irrelevant; you cannot base a relationship on the idea that it is the kind of relationship you need; that is putting off present happiness for some theoretical future happiness that will never be achieved because you never achieved the kind of present happiness necessary to love.  It's a cold and clinical relationship.

There isn't good enough, only compatible enough.

(But I suspect this entire response is irrelevant, and that a reminder that low thyroid hormones tend to result in irrationally self-deprecating thought patterns might be more helpful.  "Fuck you body, cut that shit out, you're mine, do what I say" can sometimes be a helpfully inspirational train of thought.)

Lost Knowledge

I was homeschooled for a significant part of my education.  Not because my parents were religious and wanted to protect me from evolution, but because about two months into a semester, I would go to school, get "sick," and demand to come home.  Going to school, being in school, made me physically ill.

I remember in second grade I burst into tears when the teacher put yet -another- morning correct-the-errors-with-this-sentence on the blackboard.  She allowed me to do something else instead - I think I read the book I brought to school.  (I don't know when I learned to read.  My parents don't either.  At six I was reading Carl Sagan's Cosmos because the children's section bored me, and I can just barely remember him talking about possible lifeforms on Jupiter harvesting helium for lift.)

Because it was boring to the point of torture.  My mind was still raw then; small pains seemed great.  And the boredom and hopelessness of being forced to do mindless task after mindless task was physically painful.

But that's not the point of this post, although I think it would make an excellent post of its own.  The point of this post is what homeschooled entailed for me.

I read the Illiad, which sucked, and that sort of garbage.  I was assigned writing assignments, which I frequently ignored.

Most of my lessons from a young age came from college textbooks.  Chemistry was no exception, but my lessons were also hands-on.

A child was recently taken away from his parents because the father was instructing him in the making of bombs.  I learned to make gunpowder from scratch, smoke bombs, and thermite in my practical chemistry lessons; knowledge which is largely gone from the general population.  I also had rural metallurgy taught to me; I know how to use a river bend and charcoal to melt and form metals.  (In practice, we used a shop vacuum set on reverse combined with a sand and brick furnace, which works slightly better than the river bend and was less likely to get you in trouble during the frequent burn bans in our county.)

There was a lot of knowledge my father couldn't impart, either because its use is now illegal - techniques for river trolling and animal snares and traps for catching small and large game.  Old fishing and hunting tricks illegal now for no more reason than that they are -too- effective - tricks which were sometimes necessary to survival a hundred years ago, which my father's great uncles taught him.  His tracking skills were limited to finding commonly traveled paths of animals, which is substantially easier than what we typically think of as tracking.  (If your survivalist training includes following -particular- animals, leave.  That's not survival training, that's sports hunting and extreme camping training.)

Some of these tricks, he's the last in our region to know; in his youth, game wardens knew who to ask about that snare which was large enough to catch -them-, because he was the only one still making them.  When he dies, some of that specific knowledge may be lost entirely, although there are likely others in other parts of the  country which have recorded similar tricks.  (I say likely.  I'm not entirely certain; I've never been a fan of survivalist training stuff, in large part because everything I've ever seen has been complete and total garbage.  I'm assuming here there is survivalist literature out there written by people who actually know their stuff.)

We've tried convincing him to record this knowledge, but I don't know that that would work anyways; there is no arena in the modern world in which to use it, and there is a substantial difference between theory and practice.

What are the odds that we'll need such knowledge again, in this part of the world?  Remote.  But it still strikes me as sad that when I am an old man, nobody will know how to do it at all - and a generation or two from when I die, people will have forgotten that such things even existed.

I know many of the basics.  I've forgotten a lot, too - I can no longer recognize poison ivy.  (Partially because I've discovered I'm not particularly sensitive to it, and can't be arsed to care.  Fire ant bites itch a hell of a lot worse and a hell of a lot longer.)  And I have hints of a lot of the advanced survival techniques - I theoretically know how to build traps and snares to capture animals as large as wolves alive, provided I have access to prefashioned lumber, screws, and prefashioned ropes.  But I can't practice even that kind of knowledge, and I've forgotten many if not most of the specific details.  I can create a trot line - fishing for people who don't have time to muck about with a pole, illegal in many if not most places now - and I could go buy a seine and do basic trolling.  But these are the beginner's tricks of freshwater fishing, better than sport fishing for actually feeding you, but only the beginning.

A lot of his knowledge was too specific to be passed on.  It's not important anymore to know how to effectively demolish a beaver dam.  (His uncles taught him to use dynamite, incidentally, but it's more complicated than it sounds, because you want to keep the debris from clogging the stream back up a few hundreds yards down.)  A lot doesn't matter in our part of the country any more - fire ants changed a lot of things, such as the viability of sleeping on the ground.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I'm considered something of an asshole in the discussion of rape; I'm inconsiderate, frequently rude, blunt, and I don't follow the rules about how things are "Supposed" to be discussed.

My experiences aren't that of a rape victim - I legally am defined as a rape victim, but only because of silly laws.  That's not where I come from.

I come from the background of somebody who has seen a wide range of the victims in question; a victim of childhood sexual abuse by a father, a victim of rape who said no but didn't fight back, and dozens of perhaps the most common, abused wives/girlfriends (I am largely omitting in this discussion, but it is noteworthy, that almost every one of the wives in question was not merely abused, but abusive, like abuse is a language of its own I just don't speak.)

It's the lattermost which color my opinion most strongly, because invariably they are the victims of serial abuse; they leave one abusive husband/boyfriend for another, who they leave in turn for another - frequently leaving and returning to even the same abusive situation.

At first it's easy to paint them as victims of their own psychology, or victims of manipulation - they feel they have no control and must return, after all.

But children are almost always eventually involved as well, and their skipping from abuser to abuser isn't just affecting them; they're forcing their children into abusive situations as well.

I know somebody who has called CPS on one of their own friends - a woman with several kids including one daughter, who my friend is quite certain is being sexually abused by the mother's boyfriend.  The mother is at minimum complicit - she instructed at least one of the kids to lie to CPS about being hit by the boyfriend, which the kid told my friend.  A follow-up call didn't do much more good.

Is this really any different from a woman lying about her own abuse?  Does a mother have greater responsibility to take care of her kids than any woman does to take care of herself?

Not as I see it.  Not one of these women ever ceased to be victims because a man changed; not a one of them ceased to be a victim because society changed.  The only ones who ever get out of their situations are the ones who themselves change.

I have long since ceased to be able to regard a victim as being blameless solely on the context of victimhood; these women see themselves as victims, powerless to change anything.  Telling them they're victims, not responsible for what happens to them, is -not- empowering.  It is telling them exactly what they already think - because somebody who isn't responsible for what happens to them is somebody who has no power to change what happens to them.  They cry, possibly get one abusive boyfriend put in jail - and go right on to another because they didn't learn anything.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Alcohol Abuse...

(This post was written some time ago; clearing out my backlog of posts which I delayed posting for a number of reasons.  For example, the debugging post I delayed writing so even if somebody does figure out who I am, it's impossible to tell what clients I'm referring to.  This one was delayed because I have rules against SVN commits, e-mails to clients, and blog posts while under the influence.) a concept has one fundamental problem:

I am -happier- slightly intoxicated.

I am more productive.

I don't mind repetitive tasks as much.

...I could go on, I suppose, but I'm slightly intoxicated, and it seems unnecessary.  Another point in alcohol's favour.

A slight buzz does not damage my cognitive abilities to any extent that anybody would notice, and I'd go so far as to say it makes me a -better thinker-, for the simple and expedient reason that I'm less likely to drift off into other avenues of thought.

I think Terry Pratchett hits something with a genuine reflection of reality with the concept of "knurd" - which is simply "drunk" spelled backwards, and is an implication of somebody who is, by nature, the opposite of drunk - which is to say, -too sober-.

I've taken exactly one IQ test in my life.  I was above 180.  I was estimated to be in the 220 range (IQ tests fail above 180).  Yes, I know, lots of people make this kind of ridiculous claim.  Believe me or disbelieve me as you wish.  I will add that I was eight or nine at the time, that I was not -supposed- to take the IQ test, that I was given it "by mistake" by a school which was trying to prove I -wasn't- gifted and -shouldn't- be moved up a grade, and that they didn't even bother to give me the test I was -supposed- to have taken, to skip a grade, when my score came back.  My IQ is probably considerably lower now, as it's a measure relative to your own age group, and I've grown considerably lazier in my mental processes since then...

Well, I'm drifting off topic.  The short of it is, I'm a fuckin' genius.  Yeah.

And I'm stating outright, here and now, that alcohol makes me -better-.  Especially mixed with energy drinks or coffee.

Alcohol doesn't make me dumb.  It might make me -dumber-, but it doesn't make me dumb.  And at my intelligence level, it is actually easier to function in the world with a little bit of fuzziness to my thoughts.  Because, let us face it, there's little practical application for genius.  Not only is there little practical application for genius, it's a drawback in almost everything you can do.

I work with my mind for a living.  My job is purely cognitive; everything I produce, I produce from my thoughts.  And my job bores me to fuckin' tears.  I prefer manual labor, to be honest; I'd do something physical if it paid as well as my current job.  I entirely sympathize with the guy on Office Space, except I started with the manual labor jobs, and moved into an office job.

Alcohol makes me better at my job; I'm more focused.  I used to drink small sums of red wine regularly throughout the day; I was extraordinarily productive in this arrangement.  I was gaining weight on this plan, however, so I haven't done that in a long while, and my productivity has declined a bit.

This post?  This post was written on a mixture of gin, vodka, grain alcohol (Everclear), and energy drink.  Oh, and coffee, but that came later.  It tastes awful, I have to say.  But it gets the job done.

So yeah.  I can see where alcoholics come from.  There are some people - myself included - who simply function better with alcohol in their system.

I function better with a bit of tobacco, too, but I'm saving that for when I'm old and my heart is more likely to go out than my lungs.  I'm not particularly concerned about my liver, as, while I function better on alcohol, the absolutely horrific taste means I rarely actually drink it.  I prefer red wine because it tastes an entirely different kind of nasty which masks the taste of ethanol.  (I can taste shit most other people can't, incidentally; I have a talent for identifying what spices went into a meal as a result.  Ethanol tastes the way polyurethane smells, if you're curious and can't taste it.)

Bitter Edition

Voting for the welfare state is like having unprotected sex with an irresponsible person who wants nothing to do with you.

Fifteen years later you realize you have no money because you're having to pay for the living expenses of immature people who can't and won't hold a job, who go to school learning pointless shit with no productive value instead of working, who despise you for believing in the value of hard work, and think they're smarter than you.

The problems should never have been allowed to reach the point they're at now.  The American public deserves what's coming to it.

My Debugging Skills...

...are not top-notch, apparently.  Spent the last two and a half hours trying to figure out what was wrong with a message.

Turns out, nothing.  It was the addressing that was messed up.  The trading partner used the service proxy's address as the service endpoint.  Resulting in the service proxy routing the message to itself, declaring the message a duplicate, reporting that error back to what it thought was a client (and was actually itself), and being quite startled at the response it got back from what it thought was a third party trading partner (and was actually itself) declaring that the message it had just sent was a duplicate.

At least we had the proxy checking tokens for duplicates.  An infinite loop in our request gateway is a pretty big DOS risk.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interesting Times

I'm not particularly afraid of what's happening.  I'm young, I have a career in a field which is not merely in demand but hopelessly understaffed, and I save a substantial portion of my income and still have substantial room to make cuts in my lifestyle.

We're rapidly approaching a dead end, and are still accelerating.  Libertarians have been predicting this moment for something like twenty years - the brief respite of the Clinton era, funded largely by a technology bubble, was not enough and will not return.  We consume and spend too much, and the hard stop is looming ever-closer.

The far left has proposed a budget which increases spending and relies on economic growth to survive.  Republicans have proposed a budget which decreases spending, but not nearly enough; it merely postpones disaster.  Many on the left honesty believe that printing off more money to finance the federal budget is fine, and many on the right honestly believe we can get out of the mess we've put ourselves in by blaming the left and cutting their programs only.

We live in Interesting Times.

I'm a hardcore Objectivist, but one thing makes me different from many of my fellows - I believe rule of law trumps final destination.  How we get there is more important than that we get there.  That's not what makes me different.  What makes me different is that this applies not only to the way things should be run, but how we get to the point where things are running that way.

Any change must be gradual; we can call businesses or individuals parasites until we're blue in the face, but ultimately people have structured their lives and business plans around expectations which the government has created, and government must allow sufficient time for plans to change; it is not merely destructive to change the rules on short notice, it is immoral, for the same reasons that government changing the laws under which contracts are governed and making those laws apply retrospectively to contracts signed before the law was passed would be/is immoral.

Rule of Law is not merely a pragmatic position, but a principled one, and it takes precedence.  Rapid changes to the way our society is structured are not principled, they're arbitrary.

A principled position dictates therefore that we cannot even make the changes we need to make right now.  They needed to have been made twenty years ago; it's too late now, and we're in for some pain.

The changes that are necessary?  Taxes increasing over a period of five years, and then decreasing again over the next five.  We can't expect to grow our way out of this problem.

Spending decreasing over the same ten year period.  Regularly.  Social programs have not achieved what they set out to achieve; scrap them, but do so gradually.  People need to be able to plan for changes in our societal structure, remember.

Scrap social security over the next years, sunsetting further benefits so that after the ten year period, nobody is due for new benefits (leaving existing benefits in place until the people in question die.).  We should not ever be -obligated- to be in debt, which is what Social Security amounts to.


Link to article:

Short of the article: Women get paid higher wages in jobs with higher levels of sexual harassment directed at women.

The surprising piece of information to me is that men demand higher wages still to put up with sexual harassment directed at men.

Hansen's point revolves around the idea that this wage premium makes sexual harassment in some sense okay, a proposition I agree with; wage premiums for sexual harassment are a natural extension of my belief in the legalization of prostitution.  Nobody who thinks prostitution should be legalized should be opposed to this.  (I would like the facts of which companies and occupations which have high levels of sexual harassment to be public knowledge, to optimize this relationship, and ensure that men and women negotiate for fair compensation in advance.)

My point is going to be directed at the fact that men demand higher premiums - this fact flies in the face of my expectations.

There are a few different possible explanations; one could be that averseness to sexual harassment is more extreme in women than in men (that is, more women than men who do not want sexual harassment are not willing to put up with it for any price premium, or put the price premium out of the market).  Another could be that the study itself is flawed, something I never discount.

One possibility I cannot exclude, however, is that men are simply more averse to sexual harassment, and are more likely to leave such a job, or to demand higher wages to put up with it.  Rephrased conversely, in a way that matches my expectations more closely - women are more likely to put up with such a job without posing any additional demands.

I insistently believe that the solution to many of the problems women deal with is not to raise boys more like girls, but to raise girls more like boys.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Nobody should study martial arts for the purpose of self defense without also studying the use of firearms; in order to be capable of reacting appropriately to firearms, you must not only understand them, you must understand how your opponent will use them, what mistakes your opponent is like to make, and what his weaknesses will be.

Every martial artist should be proficient in the use of firearms if he takes self-defense seriously.

Studying martial arts without studying firearms is studying the punch without studying the block.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Caution... only as valuable as our knowledge of what to be cautious of.

Imagine you are standing in the middle of a trapped room; blades are spinning everywhere, crossbow bolts are flying across the room, pieces of the floor are randomly falling into oblivion.

What do you do?

Do you stand where you are, because for the last five seconds it has been safe?  Do you step forward, because clearly a safe spot just hasn't been hit -yet-?  Do you head for the area with the most trap activity on the presumption that it has already used up all of its traps?

All decisions are equally good, or bad, in the absence of any additional information.

This is something of how life is.  Human life is surprisingly fragile; we live in a universe of whirling blades, falling floors, and crossbow bolts.

We've gained a lot of information about how to survive; some in the process of evolution, about how to survive in current conditions, some in the form of knowledge and technology.

In much of our daily life, we are no longer standing blind in a trap-filled room; we already know many of the hazards, and a step away from our routine is, in fact, a step into danger.

Some people preach caution in terms of climate; that we should avoid disturbing the daily routine of the climate, in case we fall into a trap we haven't seen before.  This is rather like buying shares in a coal mine, not because you have reason to believe coal will grow in importance, or because you believe the mine has many years of life ahead of it, but because it has always done well in the past.

They ignore first and foremost that the dance we are doing into the routines of climate is a dance we have done to avoid traps now behind us, and that returning to those traps has certain hazards, whereas the hazards of climate are uncertain.

They ignore further that the hazards of climate are completely unknown to us; in climate, we are standing in a fresh room of traps.  Standing still might be the right move; moving forward, or left, might be the right move.  We have no substantive way of knowing which the right move is, however.

To be charitable to those wishing to lower CO2, climate random-walks; we could as easily be averting a cooling disaster as creating a warming disaster.  To be less charitable, climate -doesn't- random-walk, and has followed a relatively consistent pattern over the past few hundred thousand years - and that pattern is calling for a cooling trend in the (geologically) near future, and a big one; a warming trend now to offset the coming cooling one is exactly what we should want, for stability's sake.

That's without even getting into the question of whether stability is itself desirable, which is a presumption that all such individuals start with.

Caution and hesitation are only virtues when you're standing on safe ground.  We don't know what we're standing on.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Prejudice-Free Society

What would it look like?

Would women have equal representation in jobs such as firefighting and police work?  Or does the explicit advantage that men have in terms of physical strength mean that only a prejudiced society could favor women over men for a job men are, on average, significantly better suited for, all other characteristics being equal?

Let's say firefighters, at least, are mostly men.  Would a prejudice-free society have equal representation in all other jobs?  It's not even possible; the latent overrepresentation in some jobs -requires- underrepresentation in others.

Which others should we expect them to be underrepresented in?

Posit, for a moment - really stretch your imagination here - a society in which men seek different qualities in a mate than women do.  Is this sexism?  Nevermind where it came from, is a discrepancy, in and of itself, sexism?  Could these tendencies be self-propagating on a purely informational/game theoretic (memetic) level, without getting into genetic tendencies?

Is a society, as Quizzical Pussy posits, in which most people prefer men's voices to women's sexist, or black people's voices to white's racist, without the preference itself being prejudicial on an individual level?  That is, is it possible for a society of unprejudiced individuals to be prejudiced on the whole?

At what point did we begin confusing preference with prejudice?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Been Absent...

...and going to be for a little while longer.  (And was just getting a regular audience going - again - too.)

I recommend Terraria, for anybody reading this who hasn't tried it yet.  Very entertaining game, if you have more spare time than I do at the moment.

(Lots of home improvement projects going on right now, and when I'm not doing that, I'm wanting to unwind, which writing angrily doesn't help me do.)

Monday, May 16, 2011


A quick thought, which I invite rebuke on: all investment risks are equal to the average investor.  The market has already surveyed all available information and calculated the value of that risk.  It might be a long-term risk, and priced accordingly, or a short-term risk, and priced accordingly, but the prices, and the risks, are fundamentally equal.

A key point on this is that the average investor is investor who would engage in the sum of the least and most skilled investments in the market - which means that the average investor assessed by investment is in fact an exceptionally -good- investor, as good investors make considerably more investments than poor ones (owing to that they don't lose all their investment on the first go).

If this idea holds true, investment is a bad idea for anybody who isn't exceptionally skilled at investing to begin with.


Capitalism rewards the most efficient competitor.  Efficiency can loosely be treated as having the highest return for the investment (where maintenance costs, salaries, capital goods, and anything else necessary to operations are part of investment).

Our culture has long since stopped respecting that efficiency; we find a company that takes in 100 million a year while spending 99 million a year more impressive than a company which takes in 10 million a year while spending 9 of it; one has a return on investment a magnitude greater than the other, and it isn't the one we tend to focus on.  Billionaires are frequently better off investing their money in smaller start-ups than in expanding existing franchises; franchises are great and have their place, but they are low risk and low return; a place for businessmen looking for businesses to administrate, but not the place for skilled investors.

Sometimes size can create economy of scale - and this is a good thing.  This is the second concept of efficiency; size can bring about certain advantages.  Size -also- comes with disadvantages, however.  The bureaucracy necessary to accommodate that size decreases efficiency.  Perhaps more importantly, a large organization is less flexible; other, more capable authors on the subject discuss concepts such as corporate culture in describing this flexibility, but the end result is that, from a strict economic perspective, size has little natural sum advantage beyond inertial moment; the biggest companies still eventually die.

The third concept relating to efficiency is that of law - and this is where small companies get crushed.  Wal-Mart has real economy of scale here; it has lawyers on payroll and retainer to stay abreast of legal matters, and modifying its entry to accommodate wheelchairs or whathaveyou is a small expense in comparison to its income.  The Mom and Pop hardware store with an annual revenue of 200,000 and an annual profit of 60,000 can't afford lawyers to make sure they're staying in compliance, and probably can't afford to renovate their entryways to come into compliance anyways.

Wow.  An English essay.  Three supporting paragraphs.  God I've spent too long being "educated."  And that third really was an extension of the second, a definite sign of "education."

My point here comes to this: Capitalism itself carries no particular penalty OR benefit for being a large corporation.  Large corporations are large, a la evolucion, by virtue of having survived the worst economies could throw at them, and still being capable of expansion; they are the best of the best at what they do.  Being large gives them reserves when times get tough, true - but they can still die the same death as any small company.

Media "Balance"

Following up on the first idea expressed in this post; the problematic implementation of media balance.

The not-so-pithy summary: The same phenomenon which results in feminists accusing the media of fostering a rape culture also results in a large part of the US right of believing that the media, and hence the Left, fosters Islamic terrorism.  It results in white people accusing the media of hiding black-on-white crimes.  It results in the people of both sides of the political schism of believing the media to be unfairly protecting the other side.

The modern media's idea of balance is, regardless of actual merit, to -present- some kind of merit to both sides. The Associated Press exemplify this concept most strongly, which is a large part of where their decline has come from; a news story about the US bombing its enemies for being bastards cannot be "balanced" without coverage of a stray bomb destroying the homes of civilians in the area.

Identifying something close to the truth is hard, so fairness is substituted in for good judgment; there have been too many stories about Muslim extremists doing bad things lately, we need to show how the Muslims really aren't bad people, so here's the head of an institute talking about how Muslims aren't that bad.  (Oh shit the dude beheaded his wife quick find somebody else).

The media -cannot handle- lopsided stories; its dependency on controversy, and its tendency to generate it, comes about not just for the ratings, but because controversy is necessary to balance a lopsided picture.  The modern media couldn't get away with just reporting black-on-white and white-on-black crime; the former is significantly more common, the story would be lopsided and unbalanced.

Reality is lopsided, however.  Muslims -do- engage in a lot more violence than their Christian counterparts; burn a Koran, people a thousand miles away die.  Burn a bible, or a cross, and people a thousand miles away never even know about it; it's beneath their notice or their care - well, unless you're Christian, then burning a cross suddenly -does- deserve media attention as a hate crime.

Reality is lopsided, and as a general rule of thumb, whoever is getting media sympathy is probably a member of a group least deserving of it, because otherwise there wouldn't be any controversy to fuel that sympathy's projection in the media.  Media' favorite villains are the people you'd most expect to be upstanding members of society, their favorite victims are those you'd most expect to be garroting people in the streets after dark.

I will be worried when libertarians start getting cast in a more sympathetic light in the media.

A Challenge to Anarchists

[This was originally an e-mail to Billy Beck, which I'm reproducing in a slightly modified version here.  I'll post replies only with permission.]

On the nature of government:

I assert first and foremost that government is not a collective, not a representation of society, not any of the things it is normally asserted as being - I assert instead that government is a tool without moral value of its own, no different from a gun, or a nuclear weapon.  (See this post for more on this)

Like a gun, government can be used either for good or for evil; for offensive purposes, or self defense purposes.  I assert that a government formed on the sole principle of self-defense is a moral government.  To argue this purpose immoral is to argue that self defense itself is evil, or that we have no right to band together for mutual self-interest.  Whether or not government is doomed to expand beyond its moral purposes by historical evidence is, to me, as silly an argument as whether or not anarchy is doomed to spontaneous organization into governmental structure; no government yet has been formed on a moral basis, just as no sustained anarchy has yet arisen.

More, I'm going to assert that specific forms of taxation do in fact have a moral basis as well as a moral purpose - property taxes.  Not the property taxes that exist today, which tax a person on their achievements with that property, but a property tax which serves solely to recognize and ameliorate that our right to property is derived from our conversion of it, and that consequently we have no right to the unconverted resources which we do not use, and which are always going to be a part of any property.  That is, property tax should be proportional to the base value of the land, absent any improvements - the unconverted value of the resources upon which it lays.

They are rent, of a sort, paid not because somebody else has claim to something, but paid because somebody else has -equal- claim to that thing as you.  They are paid as part of a broader - and yes, social (see note one, below) - agreement that expands our domain to go beyond our basic right not to have our property destroyed (by which we may rightfully claim the farm we have tilled and the house we have built) to further protect "property" which remains unconverted and thus for which we have no right whatsoever; it is an agreement that others will not mine beneath us, or build around us.

Wilderness we have staked claim to is not ours by any natural right; the planting of a flag does not invoke ownership.  Thus property taxes allow land to be put to uses without any value of conversion - but do so solely on the basis of one's capacity to conversion, and disproportionate productive capacity on other land.

The second step in this argument would be a discussion of what moral purposes such taxes can be put towards, but that requires resolution of whether or not such an agreement to be moral to begin with, so I'll leave off here without response.

Note 1: There is a somewhat more substantial argument possible here over whether "society" has any right to trade away the miner's right to convert the iron and coal beneath your farm, provided he can do so without harm to your converted property; this is indeed a moral issue.  While writing moral treatise is entertaining, the potential right to unconverted property is something I am already convinced of, and if my reader shares my convictions in the matter of whether one can meaningfully be said to own as-yet unconverted resources, the work involved would be meaningless.  I may write a follow-up post on the subject, however, at a later date.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The High Costs of Small Fees

One of my clients does business in [I decided not to specify the state; it's a liberal state on the east coast, however]; they are hardly the only client to do so, but let's consider the lone case for illustrative purposes.

Their billing process for this state varies by ZIP code.  Depending on the ZIP code, they have to charge different local use fees to their clients.

They're spending about $200 of my time to handle this one case.  This isn't much for them, but I'm only one part of the process, and one of the cheaper parts; for every hour I spend handling this one case there are ten other people spending an hour or three or their time, some of whom provide me the information, some of whom check my work, some of whom run the QA process, some of whom's time is being wasted in meetings they aren't relevant in, some of whom are just overseeing the process.

My small part of this process costs them around $4,000.  And my part is cheap.  They, or their clients, are spending around $20,000 to handle this one case, one you figure in the additional costs of lawyers, business administrators who identify and build the logic to handle this, etc, etc, etc.  Each client ends up paying this money, some several times over because they have multiple internal systems.  (AT&T has literally -dozens- of distinct billing systems; they don't pay these particular fees, but I guarantee they're paying different ones.)

They have a few dozens clients.  This one state's idiosyncrasies cost several hundred thousand dollars in this company and its clients alone.  I've seen these fees, and I am willing to put money down that the total cost to businesses - before they even pay these fees to the local governments - exceed the actual revenues from those fees.

I see this situation over and over and over again in clients; from state, county and city fees for business transactions to different sales tax reporting guidelines across cities, counties, and states, to simpler regulatory rules (some states explicitly require my clients to use social security numbers to uniquely identify customers, others explicitly forbid them from using them), the sum costs just in compliance - never even minding what these companies pay in taxes and fees - is mind-boggling.

There are hundreds of companies in the industry that operate in this state; if each of them pays a mere $20,000 to comply with these fees (I guarantee half of them are paying substantially more), we're discussing millions of dollars a year (the work I'm doing has been done before - our client previously worked with another vendor, and there are system upgrades, and training costs, and the laws change more than once a decade on top of that) to achieve a few hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue for the government.

This isn't even the grossest case.  I've seen single companies pay millions of dollars to have vital systems completely reworked to produce a new kind of document because a state changed some compliance paperwork submission rules to save itself a few thousand dollars of processing a year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Niche Markets

To The Left, capitalism works solely to the benefit of the biggest companies, who drive small companies out of existence.

Blockbuster put out hundreds of small video rental stores; this didn't stop Movie Gallery from doing the same to them.  Movie Gallery is defunct now, Blockbuster just shy of.  This without even getting into Blockbuster's predecessors.

The Blockbuster near me is closed.  The two locally owned video rental stores are still in business; I am an occasional patron of one, by virtue of that it's cheaper than Netflix.  (I very rarely watch movies, so a monthly plan is not to my benefit.)

Being big didn't save Blockbuster; indeed, to a significant extent it killed it.  The video store I am an infrequent patron of, I chose for its selection of cult movies which could not be found in the Blockbuster, such as Six String Samurai.

It succeeded because it catered to more eclectic tastes which were not sufficiently being serviced by the bigger companies, who focused on the common denominator - comments on "low culture" aside, as these are the domain of Left-leaning elitists, ignorant of the history of culture.  (Guess which characterization was used of Shakespeare among his contemporaries?  It wasn't "high culture.")

I am a niche market - and capitalism serves me well.  Communism, and collectivization more broadly, never has served niche markets, save by fiat and at the expense of the common market.  Capitalism can sustain both.  And as markets grow, ever-more niche markets will be viable.

You could say they're the bread and butter of small companies, but this would be patently false.  Most small companies serve the same common markets as the large companies (although in some sense they take advantage of niche markets anyways as a result of a popular move for local products and/or companies, I ignore this where they do not choose the market).

Niche markets aren't the bread and butter of small companies, but small companies -are- the bread and butter of niche markets; partly because if the market took off the companies would cease to be small, but perhaps more importantly because of the aforementioned flexibility, and the fact that niche markets also tend to be fad markets, prone to vanishing - small companies often don't get the opportunity to expand before their business dries up.

This is why large companies stay away from them, which leaves substantial room in the spaces of the economy for companies to grow, possibly prosper, possibly die, and rarely to explode in an unexpected way. The niche markets are perhaps the defining characteristic of capitalism.

Wal-Mart doesn't just fulfill the basic shopping needs of a populace - it fulfills a specific and limited set of those needs.  If you want to buy a top-20 book, it's just fine.  If you're looking for a book that's been out of print for 20 years, you'll need to look elsewhere; thus, it simultaneously puts small bookshops out of business, while creating a new and more specific market for them to exploit.  (We'll put aside the ways the internet has changed this, being irrelevant to what I'm getting at.)

The specificity is important, because it requires niche players to service a broader range of that niche than it otherwise would; a small bookstore might have stocked a few old books and a lot of new books before giants filled the "new books" space.  In the new market, it must cater to those the giants miss in order to survive - a significant percentage of which it ignored before.

Think of a sex toy shop, itself a niche market.  They have a broad range of toys - which is great if you're looking for what everybody else is looking for - but in truth, the selection is really rather scanty in regards to any particular thing.  They might have four or five different varieties of restraints, four or five vaguely S&M related things, three or four different kinds of strap ons, a rainbow of different vibrators/dildos (the largest market segment for them), a few hundred of the more popular (and less imaginative) porn titles, etc.  To the genuine S&M fan, completely useless, which is why these individuals have typically had to resort to mail-order (or homemade) goods in the past.

Imagine if Wal-Mart started selling "marital aids".  Sex shops would be forced to broaden their niche markets in order to survive, because that would become their selling points - things which Wal-Mart (or more ordinary stores more generally) wouldn't stock.

Wal-Mart has generally encouraged niche players, actually - it frequently owns the surrounding storefronts, and leases out to even companies which compete with some of its products, like GameStop - this is because GameStop, while it does compete to some extent with Wal-Mart's electronics department, caters to a different market that Wal-Mart is largely unable to capitalize on.  Same with some office supply stores, and pet supply stores, which also frequently appear in proximity.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some Games...

...that the nerdier among you might appreciate, as I'm not up to writing anything today:

Dwarf Fortress:
An ASCII-based sandbox game I've mentioned before (you can get graphic packs that will make it -slightly- more intuitive) with an unparalleled level of internal complexity, the main game has you running a pack of perpetually drunken dwarves. You make up your own goals, but in general the idea is to lose in as interesting a way as possible; players frequently write (or draw) major events in their fortress as a story, culminating in its eventual (and some might argue inevitable) fall.

You can do quite a lot in this game; you can dig into a volcano, create a magma aquifer to fill up a tank, and then use the tank to dump magma on uninvited guests (read: goblins, elves, humans, or just unwanted dwarven immigrants).  Or you can divert a river and drown them.  Or build a copper drowning chamber that fills and empties on its own when "guests" walk through it.  You can even build a water-based computer; players have figured out how to create logic gates and timing mechanisms.  (And I don't know if anyone has coded Life in it, yet!  An accomplishment yet to be claimed!)

The complexity I mentioned is nontrivial, incidentally - you will lose, and lose badly, the first dozen or so fortresses you create.  (If you don't realize you missed an important concept and start them over before even reaching the "Losing" point.)  There is no learning curve, there's just a cliff.  Here's your pick.

A transport simulator, is the short of it.  It started off with a strong emphasis on trains, and played more like a digital model train game than a transportation game, but this has gradually subsided over time, driven at least in part by more realistic cost considerations; it could now be regarded as a primitive city simulator with an advanced transportation simulation.  There's a lot I think could be done with it to make it better, but even as it is, it is a truly awesome game.  I recommend playing to it while listening to Taco.

A high-fantasy hexagonal turn-based strategy game which I have not actually played, but which comes highly recommended from some of the nerdier people out there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is Cauliflower

In case you wanted to see what stir-fried cauliflower looks like.  I cheated; this used some vegetable oil to fry it better.