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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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Friday, August 28, 2009

Uncle Milton's Human Farm

There's a house in Manhattan that's 9½ feet wide.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Musical Health-Care Reform

The video of “One Single-Payer System” sung to the tune of “One Singular Sensation” from A Chorus Line has been going around the blogosphere. I think some other songs from the same musical also have some potential. For example, we might have a song about how reforms designed in academia tend to fail upon contact with politics (“Everything was beautiful in the classroom …”) or about a skeptic's reaction to health-care reform (“There is no feeling, except the feeling that this bullbleep is absurd …”).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What If That's the Goal?

The Democrats have been so emphatic that “You will not have to give up your doctor or insurance company” that I'm starting to wonder if that's the goal. Right now, insurance companies have to be more generous than they would like because of the possibility of losing customers. If the regulations are written in such a way as to tie customers and insurers together until death them do part, they can start squeezing. (I recall reading that health care spending is higher in parts of the U.S. with more competitive insurance markets.)

By the way, the U.S. health-care system is very good at the sort of things that insurers are supposed to be reluctant to pay for (major operations, cancer chemotherapy, etc.). It's not so good at routine medical care (e.g., prenatal care) that we should not need insurance companies to pay for. I don't see how any of the proposed reforms will improve the latter.

If Only Senator George Murphy Were Still Alive …

Former Congressman Tom DeLay is joining the cast of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Latest Excuse in the “Death Panel” Controversy

  1. I didn't touch your bicycle.
  2. It was broken when I borrowed it.

In other words, there are no death panels and the Republicans are responsible for them.

It looks like at least one Republican (and that's enough to blame them all) made the mistake I warned about a few years ago and tried writing general-purpose bills to prevent a future Terri Schindler Schiavo case.

By the way, I suspect that one reason leftists try to get some conservatives on board one of their bandwagons is to be able to blame them when they run into trouble. This might be another case of that.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Anti-Gun Paranoia in Action

A school administration goes into hysterics when a history teacher brings plastic guns into a school for a history lesson:

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A teacher who brought plastic replica rifles to his class prompted a lockdown of two San Diego schools when a staff member thought he was a gunman.
I'm surprised teaching history is even legal nowadays.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's the Fortieth Anniversary of Woodstock

Why should I care?

By the way, is it my imagination or are people who pride themselves on being the “Wave of the Future” more prone to nostalgia than us reactionaries? There was the Camelot nostalgia about the Kennedy administration, the nostalgia about the unpolluted pre-industrial era, and the nostalgia about the supposedly-peaceful pre-monotheist religions …

Friday, August 14, 2009

On Saving Money

I just realized that the people who think that it's possible to stop health-care inflation by eliminating profits, marketing, and administration expenses from health insurance voted for someone whose reaction to demands to balance the budget was to look for $100 million of savings.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Proper Analogy

In an effort to prove Jane's Law (“The devotees of the party out of power are insane.”), some of my fellow wingnuts have been comparing the proposed health-care reforms to Hitler's policies. There's a much better analogy, even if we stick to German history: It resembles Bismarck's policies on social insurance.

On the other hand, those policies made it possible for the Nazis to control Germany's doctors …

There are many potential government policies that should be opposed, not because they are evil in themselves, but because they will make it easier to adopt evil policies later.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Eyeglasses and Stagnation

A few years ago, Michael Flynn mentioned in the Analog article “De revolutione scientiarum in ‘media tempestas’” (with my earlier comments here and there) that there was a pause in the European scientific revolution between the High Middle Ages and the Baroque and speculated that it was due to the bubonic plague epidemic killing off most of the potential scientists.

More recently, he posted that the invention of eyeglasses doubled the working lives of scholars. I just realized that that might have caused the world to be taken over by gerontocracies. On the other hand, we managed to recover.

Let's see … the explanations of the pause include: bubonic plague, the Little Ice Age, the state monopoly on guns, and now eyeglasses. What's next?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Abortionist to New York: Drop Dead!

In case you've been wondering how abortionists justify themselves, it's by the mind-bogglingly silly argument (seen via The Brothers Judd) that human cities are a cancer on the planet:

In 1990, we proposed that the similarity in the morphology of urban settlements and malignant lesions could be studied with the use of fractal geometry (Hern, 1990). We placed images of malignant lesions and urban settlements side-by-side to show this similarity (Fig. 4).
I've seen similar patterns on my computer from simulations of diffusion-limited aggregation. Clearly, snowflakes are also a cancer on the planet (and don't get me started on the coastlines of Maine and Norway).

There are other phenomena that could be mistaken for cancers. Many plants have a fractal structure and are deadly to nearby anaerobic bacteria. Spider plants send out metastases. Slides taken from growing antlers, when viewed by a microscope, look like they came from bone cancers.

Most important of all, placentas have a fractal structure. The evidence that purports to prove that humans are a cancer on the planet can also show (to people inclined to take this bullbleep seriously) that Mother Earth is pregnant.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Giant Oxymorons Invade Internet

Peter Thiel has been called “oxymoronically gay.” Would it make sense to call a left-wing tycoon “oxymoronically rich”? For that matter, would it make sense to call a supposed rationalist who uses phrases such as “oxymoronically gay” as “oxymoronically prone to unwarranted assumptions”?

Credit: The subject line comes from “Seven Scenes from the Ultimate Monster Movie” by Robert R. Chase.

Yet Another Reason to Be Suspicious of Health-Care Reform

The speed at which we're expected to approve of a change this far reaching looks suspicious. Usually, demands to DO SOMETHING NOW come from frightware virus writers and similar frauds. I'm reminded of the following Stephen Colbert quote:

Right! We have to give unchecked financial power to the President and his appointees now to implement a plan that no one understands. (Especially the President and his appointees) Then later, much later, when the crisis is either over or far, far worse, there will be plenty of time to decide if this plan was a good idea, if we could review the actions of the Secretary, which we can't. (Hindsight if $2020 billion) The point is this is one of the most important, irrevocable economics decisions we will ever make. Let's make it in a state of panic.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Theory on the Cause of the “Obesity Epidemic”

It's the Internet's fault. It used to be necessary to go out and do something to interact with others. Now you can sit on your increasingly padded fanny in front of the computer.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What Will a Government Monopoly on Pharmaceuticals Research Do for Medicine?

Coyote blog and Megan McArdle have comments on Ezra Klein's suggestion that government money can make up for the lack of private money.

I will answer the title question with a question: What did a government monopoly on nuclear research do to nuclear energy? (I mean besides hand Joseph Romm and similar clowns a set of excuses for suppressing nukes.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Family Guy vs. South Park

Which is weirder?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

This Might Be Useful

Dispute Finder is supposed to be a Firefox extension that, given a claim, will help locate evidence contrary to it. It might be the start of something resembling Resartus (with my earlier comments here) or it might be another web site under the control of People-with-Too-Much-Free-Time.

According to the Dispute Finder blog:

You can now more easily unmark snippets other people have marked. The intention is that this be used if you see that someone is spamming the system. This is combined with a background moderation system that lets us see when users are disagreeing over whether something is making a disputed claim.
It's easy to see that this might be gamed. It's also possible that the administrators might crack down faster on abuses on one side of an issue than on the other side. We'll have to watch them.

A more subtle form of gaming the system is possible. It's possible to use the system to collect evidence against a straw man argument and pretend it's evidence against against a robust argument. We might even see graduates of the “University of Google” get advanced degrees at Dispute Finder.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

U.S. Medical Insurance Companies Have Been Innocent Since …

December 2007. At least, I assume that anything more recent would have been mentioned in the course of the current debates on health care.

 
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