Yet another weird SF fan


I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

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Other interesting web sites:
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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Are Conservatives Still the Stupid Party?

According to a leftist writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (see via Clayton Cramer), they are. I don't have much to add to Cramer's analysis other than the fact that the Berkeley psychologsts gave up on using traditional IQ tests in their character assassination attempt on conservatives.

On the other hand, we still have to explain why innovative ideas frequently come from the same areas as people who try regulating those same ideas out of existence. I have two and a half theories about that:

  1. Leftists have an attraction to centers of power. They would rather be Rhodes Scholar dropouts than professors at Unknown University. (I came up with this theory when two of the most prominent Republicans were Newt Gingrich and Richard Armey.) That's why they flocked to the Kennedys. (The Kennedys started out excessively far right and have moved left with their advisors.) That's why they went to great lengths to provide the cliches for Hollywood. Hollywood didn't start out on the left. L.B. Mayer was not noted for radicalism. (At the other end of the scale, an extra named Ayn Rand was not exactly a socialist either.) The propaganda abilities of Hollywood attracted the left.
    • They might be trying to fight The Establishment on its own ground. If you move to Manhattan or Silicon Valley, you can shut down capitalism or high technology at the source.
  2. The “brainier” areas not set up very well for raising children. People in those areas are less likely to be married or have children. As a result, they have more free time in which to come up with innovative ideas.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Gender Confusion

According to The Gender Genie, I'm male (which was unsurprising). On the other hand, the Spark Gender Test said I'm female (which came as a surpise).

On the gripping hand, both tests are probably bovine organic fertilizer.

A serious point: those Berkeley psychologists probably based their conclusions on similar research.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The Psy War Had an Effect!

When the Afghanistan campaign was starting, Glenn Reynolds has some suggestions for psychological warfare including the theory that Osama bin Laden was a Mossad agent. A few months ago, the same rumor was reported by Middle East Online:

A senior Palestinian security official claimed Saturday his services had uncovered an Israeli plot to create a mock Al-Qaeda cell in the Gaza Strip, while an Israeli official dismissed the charge as "absurd".

Gaza head of preventive security Rashid Abu Shbak told journalists at a press conference that Israeli agents, posing as operatives of Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, recruited Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Dr. Laura and Doonesbury

Dr. Laura'a recent spiritual problems reminded me of a Doonesbury comic strip:

Doonesbury had a great series. Rev Scotty [who is, by the way, modeled on the Rev Scotty McClendon, a UU minister who has been for years the chaplain at MIT, now at Stanford and the author of a new book "Finding Your Religion" Scotty and Gary Trudeau were friends at Yale] is thrilled that Lieberman has started talking about God, about a loving, justice seeking God. My favorite was when the Rev is talking with BD and says how wonderful Lieberman's talk is, that it is not about a vengeful, angry Old Testament God but a loving God of the New Testament. To which BD replies "But isn't he Jewish?" And Scotty says, well yes, technically. But that is only his base.

The Problem with Backup Power

The collapse of Seven World Trade Center (remember that?) may have been caused by a fire fed by the fuel tank for backup power:

As engineers and scientists struggle to explain the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, they have begun considering whether a type of fuel that was inside the building all along created intensely hot fires like those in the towers: diesel fuel, thousands of gallons of it, intended to run electricity generators in a power failure.

One tank holding 6,000 gallons of fuel was in the building to provide power to the command bunker on the 23rd floor. Another set of four tanks holding as much as 36,000 gallons were just below ground on the building's southwest side for generators that served some of the other tenants.

………

Engineers said that here and across the country, diesel-powered generators are used in buildings like hospitals and trading houses, where avoiding power outages is crucial. Partly for that reason, Jonathan Barnett said, a definitive answer to the question of what happened in 7 World Trade Center is perhaps the most important question facing investigators.

A Digression on the Decline of Google

While looking for news items about the collapse of Seven World Trade Center, I found that many of the responses from Google were wacky conspiracy theories.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

A Mathematics–Blogosphere Connection

I just noticed that Instapundit has permalinked Eric Zorn, a grandson of Max Zorn.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Palestinian Cameraman Killed by U.S. Forces

I'm sure everyone on the net has heard of the Palestinian cameraman killed by U.S. forces. He spent years on the West Bank, pointing devices that look like guns at supposedly trigger-happy Israeli soldiers and survived. That makes the usual stories about the Israeli Defense Forces look a bit less likely.

A Problem with Immigration “Reform”

It will eventually be run by people enforcing their version of political correctness. (In the early 20th century, that meant racism; today it means anti-racism.) For example, on Gene Expression, they might want to admit only high-IQ immigrants. Once the Berkeley psychology department gets their hands on this, the IQ tests will be replace by tests of “integratively-complex” thought. People who don't toe the party line are likely to be kept out.

Besides, the idea that we're mainly in danger from proletarians is dated. Proletarian conspiracies were the 20th century's headache. The Current Unpleasantness came from a tycoon from a hereditary monarchy. His followers were unemployed engineers from societies where it took family influence to study abroad. They're trying to use propaganda campaigns along the lines of “We're Westernized but still hate you.” Since the “Westernized” is used as a synonym for “rich” and since the rich are highly privileged in the Mid-East, it's not surprising that people claiming to be Westernized hate us. The downtrodden just might be on our side.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Any Radioactive Spiders?

If there are radioactive wasps, why not radioactive spiders? Can Blinky the three-eyed fish be far behind?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

The Question We Should Be Asking about the Blackout…

… isn't how it started, but rather why did it propagate so much instead of staying a local problem? In particular, why is the internet so much more robust than the power grid?

It isn't a matter of deregulation. We had these blackouts even with regulation. Besides. the example of the internet (or even the telephone network) shows that a deregulated system can be robust. The phones were back last Thursday after just a couple of hours. If we take the analysis of the notorious idiot Robert Kuttner:

Electricity can't be stored in large quantities, and the system needs a lot of spare generating and transmission capacity for periods of peak demand like hot days in August. The power system also requires a great deal of planning and coordination, and it needs incentives for somebody to maintain and upgrade transmission lines.
The above is true of telephone and data networks as well. Come to think of it, it's probably easier to store energy than data.

What is the difference between power and data networks? Is it a matter of multiple transmission paths? Is it a matter of excess capacity?

To return to Robert Kuttner, he also said:

The Enron scandal, which soaked Californians for tens of billions of dollars, was only the most extreme example.
I thought the real Enron scandal was that it pretended to be making profits. It couldn't have been much of a profiteer

Kuttner also said,

Much of the Southeast, by contrast, has retained traditional regulation — and cheap, reliable electricity.
Hmmm… If it were the other way around, you can be sure he would have gloated about the difference between red states and blue states.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

A Pack Not a Herd, Continued

On my way home by bus during last Thursday's blackout, I noticed not everyone directing traffic was wearing a uniform.

UPDATE: A first-person account can be found here.

“Love-Bombing” Is a Common Cult-Recruitment Technique

For example, Dr. Laura appears to be going through a rough period:

''By and large, the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive,'' she said. ''They'd say, 'We're praying for you.' 'We hope you can attain this because of the work you do.' 'We can see how committed you are.' 'You are doing God's work.' 'It's a shame you haven't been able to feel. ...' really supportive, nice stuff.
It can be contrasted with the expulsion of a “heretic”:
From my own religion, I have either gotten nothing, which is 99 percent of it, or two of the nastiest letters I have gotten in a long time. I guess that's my point, I don't get much back. Not much warmth coming back. It's intellectual, argumentative and angry. If anything, that's all solidified me where I am.''
Maybe, she should realize the dangers of doing what the Enemy wants her to do. Resistance should not be that hard. In my personal experience, I have found that the would-be inquisitors do not have very deeply-rooted opinions. On the other hand, a public personality might be deluged under a few thousand twits who argue for a brief period each.

By the way, why doesn't Dr. Laura have an e-mail address? We have to use faxes? That's like using cuneiform!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Sambo Was Indian, Not African

James Lileks was dubious about the Indian theme at a restaurant named Sambo's:

And even when it was Sambo’s, the mascot wasn’t that dreadful pickaninny archetype - this Sambo was an Indian child. That always made me wonder why they named the place Sambo’s at all.

Gentlemen, I propose a nationwide chain of restaurants based after an old story about a clever colored boy. We’ll call it Sambo’s.

Fine, boss, but that’s not going to go over well. In the North, anyway. Why don’t we make him an Indian child? I mean India Indian.

Brilliant! Little Brahmin Sambo. Our dinner values are Untouchable!
On the other hand, I checked The Story of Little Black Sambo:
NOTE: The "Story of Little Black Sambo" is rarely told any more, because it is presumed to be racist. However, examination of the story shows that it is about India, not Africa. The story refers to "ghe", a type of butter used in India. Also, tigers exist in India but not in Africa. The only thing African about the story is the "mb" sound in Sambo and Jumbo, which is a sound commonly heard in African languages.

More NIMBYism

Apparently, normally green celebrities are against wind power next door (seen via Asymmetrical Information). All I have to say is: When you ride to a protest against wind power, you ride with Osama.

By the way, NIMBY rhetoric usually includes horrible-sounding scenarios. Has anybody tried checking how many of these scenarios actually took place? I know of an un-horror story that took place near my house. A few years ago, some real-estate developers wanted to build a new shopping center and movie theater nearby. Some of my neighbors went into anti-American mode and opposed it. (Apparently the riff-raff were about to move in and ruin the supposed character of the neighborhood and cause The End of the Neighborhood as We Know It. They even got eight-year-old puppets to throw fizzling arguments instead of fizzling bombs.) Even despite local opposition, a court (run by someone similar to Judge Naragansett) said that the developers could build on their own property. The neighborhood is still there anyway.

Come to think of it, the Arab opposition to Israel can be considered a type of NIMBYism …

Monday, August 11, 2003

Terrorist Attacks on Low- and High-Density Areas

Jay Manifold speculates about the possibility of a terrorist attack on Kansas City, a very low-density metropolitan area. It's hard to arrange a terrorist attack on Kansas City using methods such as explosions or nerve gas. If the attack method can “live off the land,” on the other hand, its power is proportional to the area, so low density is no defense. At present, the only reliable terrorist attack that can extract resources from its surroundings is arson. Arson is commonly used by the Earth Liberation Front, but it's rarely spectacular enough to make headlines. That can change.

If the terrorists use gray goo as a terrorist weapon, they may prefer to attack areas with more potential food for the goo available. Food sources may include the obvious (gas storage tanks, oil storage tanks, munitions dumps) and also the not so obvious (reams of paper, asphalt roads, nearby trees, or maybe even lawns). If it will release energy when combined with oxygen, it is a potential gray-goo food. A low-density area might still be relatively safe, but only if all the streets are concrete instead of asphalt and if lawns and trees are prohibited.

High-density areas are not necessarily easier targets, even at present. Biological attacks might be less effective in areas with more hospitals. It's probably easier to wash radioactivity from a “dirty bomb” off concrete than out of dirt. The vulnerability of skyscrapers can be reduced by building down instead of building up. For a while, it seemed possible there could be a few survivors in some of the World Trade Center's basements.

In general, there are two types of ways to deal with terrorism: to reduce people's options in the hope terrorists will be unable to carry out their plans or to allow people to foil the terrorists on their own (also known as the pack-not-a-herd principle). Since terrorists depend on surprise, it is impossible to anticipate their every move. We will have to depend on letting people improvise. It is, of course, easier to improvise a response when there are more people around.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Keeping Potential Terrorists out of the Country

Open borders can be dangerous since some of the “immigrants” are potential terrorists trying to infiltrate the US. At present, such terrorists are likely to believe in an ideology that calls for death before dishonor. So if we insist that immigrants be dishonored (e.g., by being filmed as they are hit by cream pies) before they can become citizens…

Friday, August 08, 2003

Feminist Loon says, “Logic Is Insane!”

I am not making this up. It's right there in Word of Power by Andrea Nye. I'm reminded of the “Appeal for Sanity” from the Reverend Arthur Belling as reported by Monty Python:

You know, there are many people in the country who, through no fault of their own, are sane. Some of them were born sane. Some of them became sane later in their lives. It is up to people like you and me who are out of our tiny little minds to try and help these people overcome their sanity. You can start in small ways with ping-pong ball eyes and a funny voice and then you can paint half of your body red and the other half green and then you can jump up and down in a bowl of treacle going ‘squawk, squawk, squawk…’ And then you can go ‘Neurhhh! Neurhhh!’ And then you can roll around on the floor going ‘pting pting pting’…

Okay, she didn't mean that; she meant that logic is male chauvinist. (That rumbling sound was Ayn Rand turning over in her grave.) Apparently, logic has been used as a weapon by an occasional male chauvinist in the past. Somehow, I suspect that more women were in danger of male chauvinists wielding fists than male chauvinists wielding arguments.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

European Weather This Summer

This weather calls for NUCLEAR WINTER!

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Why Can't the Left Use Historical Examples?

One of the more amusing aspects of the left is the way the supposedly intellectual side of the political spectrum almost always uses historical analogies based on events that occurred since liberalism was invented. As far as they're concerned, the universe began with the French Revolution (or maybe Karl Marx) and recorded history started with World War II. They rarely used the example of the Star Chamber during Clinton's impeachment even despite the fact that it was both a plausible analogy and a cute sound bite. (Googling usenet for “star chamber” and clinton and impeachment produced only 186 examples. Googling for “starr chamber” and clinton and impeachment produced 210 examples.) Antiwar leftists talk about Nazi Germany in a very misplaced analogy. Antiwar conservatives talk about Imperial Rome (a far more plausible analogy).

Of course, from the point of view of the Berkeley psychology department, an optimistic conservative talking about the past wants to return to an idealized time and a pessimistic conservative talking about the past is showing fear and aggession …

Monday, August 04, 2003

An Alternative to Cracking down on Visas

Instead of simply keeping people from terrorist-ridden nations out of the country, maybe we should apply the pack-not-a-herd principle and use an analog of Megan's Law. Instead of leaving the decision to let would-be Americans (or would-be saboteurs) into the country in the hands of overworked bureaucrats, we can distribute the information and let their neighbors, their flight instructors, and the neighbors of their flight instructors keep track of suspicious activities.

One potential problem is that the immigrants might cluster in a neighborhood that's 90% from X-land. (This is the situation in Israel. The Palestinians are concentrated which means they have no Israeli neighbors to snoop on them.) That will lead to a shortage of neighbors that can keep track of them. It might be necessary to invert the usual zoning laws and disperse potentially undesirable minorities.

Why We Need Policy Analysis Markets

They can enable John Gilmore to get a seat on an airplane. Once it's possible for him to point to the actual odds against being a real terrorist, getting a seat should be a snap. It will be like getting a loan once you can point to your value in the labor market.

Friday, August 01, 2003

“Cheap-Labor Conservatives” …

… vs. no-labor liberals (seen via Fark). According to the latest caricature of conservatism from the looney left, conservatism is based on cheap labor. That appears to make sense until we realize that wages are not set by a band of Evil CapitalistsTM sitting around a table and saying “We'll pay everybody $1 per hour! Ha ha!” The only two ways to raise wages are increased productivity (which usually increases profits as well) and limiting the supply by forcing people to not work. For example, minimum wage laws prolonged the Depression, immigration restrictions shut the door in the faces of the “wretched masses,” and legalized abortion forces people not merely out of the job market or out of the country, but out of existence. When the left takes over you might be one of the lucky ones still working, but don't count on it.

On the other hand, I must admit there are some rich people who fit the stereotype. You can tell who they are because the looney left thinks they're socially responsible.

UPDATE: There is a more extended fisking at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

 
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