Archive for the ‘Other’ Category.

Wherein I Actually Advocate Regulation and the Precautionary Principle

Can we please make sure no one is able to put an AI into this thing.   We definitely don't want it to become self-aware.

Things Are Getting Better All The Time

My New Favorite Creature

Sea Dragons! (larger versions at the link below the video)

Sea Dragons! from Warren Meyer on Vimeo.

If you need any extra encouragement to go to the Monterrey Aquarium some time, try these two jellyfish exhibits

Jellyfish from Warren Meyer on Vimeo.

Jellyfish 2 from Warren Meyer on Vimeo.

Extreme Weight Loss Program

Last week, when I posted that I was attending an extreme weight loss program in Las Vegas, it turned out to be a bit of a test to see if people actually clicked on the link.  I will post more later (I have a bid due today and am jamming on that) but here is a picture

Your humble correspondent is roughly in the center, heading at high speed towards a looming equal-and-opposite-direction-type disaster with the camera man.  It is all well and good to fully intellectualize the laws of mechanics in zero-g, and quite another to convince your body's motor control system to accept them.

The Myth of Past Cultural Integration

Virginia Postrel had the same reaction to Charles Murray's recent book that I had -- it's a myth to think that there was some sort of greater cultural integration in the 1950's than there is today.  Because, you know, Wally and the Beav had so many black kids at their school.

American Ingenuity

My college roommate and long-time beer pong adversary sent me this.

A and An. Random Thought of the Day

Someday, I need to look up how the actual rule for use of "a" vs. "an" is written.  Most people, including me, have always said that "an" is used in front of a vowel.  "This is an unusual task."  But this is not always true.  How about, "this is a useful item."  In this case, I suppose we use "a" because despite starting with a vowel, "useful" really starts with a "y" consonant sound, as in "you."

If You Need To Get Fired Up Today

Someone's Been Sleeping in My Bed... And He's Still There


I have tried to write this post several times but we are having some kind of Internet problem and I keep losing the post just before I get it finished.  Anyway, let's try again.

Yesterday my daughter was reading after school.  Like many freshman English classes, they are doing Greek mythology.  I was asking her questions about her day when she yelled at me, "dad, I have one more paragraph left in Sisyphus, just let me finish.  Every time you interrupt me I have to start over".  So of course I had to wait about ten seconds, just when I estimated she was about done, and I interrupted her again.  I kept doing this for a while, thinking it was simply hilariously apt.  Unfortunately, I don't think she

OWS and Philip Rearden

I have been reading a lot of the data flying around of late about income inequality and mobility.  And it struck me that income mobility may be a large part of what is driving many OWS protesters.

Despite assumptions to the contrary on the Left, wealth is not a zero-sum game.  Steven Jobs got richer by making me better off.  But the one thing that is zero-sum is presence in the top 1%.  When someone joins the club, someone, by operation of basic math, drops out.

That does not mean that the other person who drops out is poorer, it just means that they are no longer as rich relative to their peers.  This same effect works int he top 10% and 20%, etc.

Looking at OWS protectors, they seem to be disproportionately children of the upper middle class or even of the rich.  They have expensive college educations, live in nice homes, and have gobs of stuff (OWS must be the most iPhoned event in history).  My guess is that they are of the upper two quintiles, or at least their parents were.

I am wondering if the problem is not income inequality but too much income mobility.  After all, a third of the top two quartiles in 2001 had dropped into the bottom three in 2007 (while an equal number moved up). Are these the angry proletariat, or are they children of the well-off who are upset their college degree in puppetteering did not automatically keep them up with the Joneses?   Are they, in other words, Philip Rearden?


Reasons I Love the 1%

The 1% make many beautiful things possible in the world which the rest of us could not afford.  Yes we could celebrate the ballet and the opera and the symphony, none of which would likely thrive without the 1%, but today lets celebrate something a bit more material.  I will never own anything like this.  In fact, I would feel like a sucker if I paid the asking price for one.  But I still enjoy the fact that they exist and I can admire their beauty.

Subjunctive in English

I prefer "If I were a rich man" to "If I was a rich man", though apparently I am in the minority.  This despite the fact that someone who is as bad at proof-reading and litters his posts with grammatical and spelling mistakes cannot afford to be snooty about verb tense.

I vividly remember the year in Spanish when subjunctive verbs were introduced.  After slogging for years learning verb conjugation on all kinds of tenses, it came as a rude shock that there was an entire second set of parallel subjunctive verb conjugations.  Eeek. It was like completing your tool box after years of careful purchases, only to discover you needed a second set in metric.

I have forgotten most all the Spanish, but since then I remain fascinated by what, to my knowledge, is the only remaining subjunctive verb conjugation in routinely-used English.

Time for Some Individual Action in NY

Folks in the OWS neighborhood in NYC are fed up and want the city to kick out the protesters.  While they grow old waiting for that, I would suggest taking some individual action right out of the army psi-ops manual (actually, its also from a Sopranos episode).

  1. Find some big-ass speakers
  2. Find the biggest amp you can
  3. Place speakers in window, point out at park.
  4. Find the single most annoying recording you can, and play it at volume 11 .. over and over and over and over, day in and day out.  I might try "I'm turning Japanese" or maybe "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas."  Possibly the song they used to play over and over in FAO Schwartz stores, or "It's a small world."   Or maybe something like a Joel Osteen sermon.  It almost doesn't matter once its been repeated 12 times an hour for 3 days.

Story of Sybil

An interesting story about the background of the real "Sybil," and how much of her personality problems were the result of aggressive third parties trying to make their career -- totally unsusprising to anyone who has studies the great child abuse / day care hysteria and JaneyReno's Miami method.  A very brief excerpt:

Mason, like so many patients diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (now rechristened “dissociative identity disorder,” in part to shake the bad rep of MPD), improved markedly under certain conditions — namely, the absence of her therapist. For several years after her therapy concluded, she lived happily as an art teacher at a community college, even owning her own house. But the publication of “Sybil” destroyed that life; Schreiber, who had invented so much of her biography, had so thinly disguised other details that many acquaintances recognized her. Too self-conscious to endure this exposure, Mason fled back to Wilbur and lived out the rest of her life as a sort of beloved retainer, cooking her doctor breakfast and dinner every day and nursing her on her deathbed.

Wilbur, on the other hand, thrived, presiding over the explosion of MPD diagnoses as one of the foremost experts on the condition. She played a key role in promoting the belief that conspiracies of fiendish, sadistic adults were secretly perpetrating murder, child rape and mutilation, human sacrifice, and cannibalism across the country and that repressed memories of such atrocities lay at the root of most MPDs. Innocent people were convicted of these crimes on the basis of testimony elicited from highly suggestible small children and hypnotized adults. Families were sundered by therapists who convinced their patients that they’d suffered similar ordeals despite having no conscious memory of it. This opened the door to years of expensive and ineffective therapy.

Man on Wire

This Reason cover spurred me to watch a movie I had wanted to see for a while called "Man on Wire" about Philippe Petit, who snuck up to the top of the World Trade Center, strung a line between the buildings, and tight-rope walked 110 stories up.  It is a great story, and you get to see a man who is a true eccentric, not to mention being either fearless or totally nuts.   He is exactly the kind of person with an eccentric but harmless passion who tends to be crushed by an ever-more intrusive state.

By the way, the movie is also a homage to the WTC, including a lot of construction footage and skyscraper porn.

I Would Have To Be Pretty Hungry To Hit This Vending Machine

Seen recently in an airport, but unfortunately I have been to so many I can't remember which one.  Sacramento, maybe?

Today in History: One of History's Great Botched Lines

Today in history, Neal Armstrong botched his lines in front of an audience of a billion people.  The line was supposed to be "One small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind."  Makes a lot more sense that way, but to most ears he dropped the A in front of "man" and ask any school kid to recite it, and they will usually say it without the A.  I'll cut the guy some slack, he did everything else pretty well and he had a few distractions.

If You Are Buying All Your Games at Toys R Us, You Are Missing Out

For some reason I do not fully understand, there are two worlds of gaming - the Wal-Mart/Target/Toys R Us world of Monopoly and Risk, and the geeky world of strategic gaming.

It used to be that the strategic gaming world was just too complicated and arcane for prime time.  I once spent a whole summer playing through a game called "War in Europe" from SPI.  It had a 42-square foot map of Europe, thousands and thousands of counters, hundreds of pages of instructions, and simulated WWII in weekly turns.

However, there is now a whole slew of games in the strategic arena, mostly from Europe, that are very accessible.   A number are not much harder to learn than Risk but are more fun and play a lot faster.  Unfortunately, few of these have migrated to mainstream stores, so you may be missing them.  Here are a few my family plays that are excellent places to start.  I have put them in approximate order of complexity, from low to high.

[By the way, don't have a family or friends?  Your in luck!  At least 3 of the games below have very high quality iPad game apps with good to very good AI competitors]

  1. Ticket to Ride. Very easy to learn.  Even visiting kids get the idea immediately.  This is a railroad line building game.  Start with the original North American version, it is the least complicated.  Also, if you have an iPad, there is a very good game app port of this game.
  2. Small World. This is an absolute freaking classic. Totally fun, pretty easy to learn, fast to play.  Sort of a wargame ala Risk but it doesn't feel like Risk.  Very repayable because the army or race (e.g. dwarves, elves, giants, etc) you play changes each game as special powers are mixed and matched.  As important to taking territories will be recognizing when your race has become senescent and when it is time to start a new race.  If you have an iPad, there is an awesome Small World game app I heartily recommend.
  3. 7 Wonders. A new game that has quickly become a favorite.    This game is typical of many modern strategy games -- there are many ways to score and you only have a limited number of actions, so the trick is figuring out your priorities.  The play rules of this game are dead simple.  The complicated part is deciding what action to take among many alternatives, since the scoring is complicated.  Here is my advice on this game and for many of these games that follow.  Just play the game once.   This is what my kids and I did with 7 Wonders.  They yelled at me at scoring time that they hadn't understood that such and such scored so well or poorly, but they understood it better with one play-through than by any number of times parsing the rules.  This is our current favorite.  Interesting dynamic here as after each card play, everyone passes his or her whole hand to their neighbor.
  4. Dominion.  Similar to 7 Wonders in that it is a card game building to victory points.  There is a constant tradeoff of getting victory points now or building up "infrastructure" that will allow more scoring later.  It is more complex than 7 wonders as it has even more options and paths.  I play it with my family but both this and the next game fall out of what are typically called "family" games.
  5. Race for the Galaxy.  Again, similar to 7 Wonders and Dominion, just more complicated.  A planet development game.

Here are some other family accessible games I can't recommend as much

  1. Settlers of Catan. This is a popular strategy classic, and is simple to learn.  My kids think its kind of meh.  It has a diplomacy negotiating element that does not seem to work well in my family for games
  2. Cargo Noir. I have only played this once, so I can't say how it wears.  My kids liked it better than I did.  It is easy to learn, but I thought the strategic options were a bit thin.
  3. Carcasonne.  There are very few games I don't care for, but I have tried this game several times and it just does not click for me.  But it is wildly popular, so what do I know?  A game where you add tiles of roads and cities to try to score based one where you have put your mini people (meeple in euro-game speak).   There is a high quality port of this game on iPad.

Here are some games I really love but are not appropriate for the entry level family

  1. Twilight Struggle - replay the cold war.  My son and I played this and it was awesome, but it took some time to learn and was pretty wonky.
  2. Agricola - one of the reigning kings of hard-core Euro-style strategy games, this game is fairly complicated to learn (not helped by instructions that really need a re-write) and very complicated to master.   The concept -- trying to keep a medieval family alive - bored the hell out of my kids but it is similar to many of the games above in that there are far more ways to score than one can pursue in a turn, and it has a very strong element of balancing immediate returns against investments in the future.   I have never played Puerto Rico but my sense it is in a similar genre.

The Boardgame Geek website is a great place to learn about these games (I have just listed a few of the most popular of literally thousands of games).  Their ranking of top family games is here.  To give you an idea, Monopoly is rates #781 in family games and #7148 overall by their readers (though there is some geek snob factor in this, it really is not a very good game), so you probably have some good games to discover.

PS- Most all of these are on Amazon.

This is Really Wrong

Courtesy of the Doublethink blog, comes something really, really wrong.  A cross between My Little Pony and Serenity.  Eek.

Things Are Getting Better All The Time

Bad Start to the Day

This morning, I got stung by this little f*cker in the shower

I have been stung by fire ants and bees and wasps but nothing hurt as much as this sting.  Right now, my entire foot is pins and needles (not numb, but the painful feeling when your circulation returns) and the toe that got stung really aches.  I also have other weird symptoms like dry mouth.  I also have pins and needles on my tongue and everything I eat or drink tastes funny.

I am lucky -- my wife got numbness and pins and needs all the way up her thigh from a sting on the foot, and she didn't regain full use of her leg for three days.

I know I will get commenters encouraging a call to poison control.  We have called before.  There is nothing to do short of just gutting it out  (unless one goes into shock, where there is an anti-venom but there are downsides to using it).

Update: The pins and needles have moved halfway up my calf.  This reminds me of those adventure stories (e.g. Lonesome Dove) where one of the characters has gangrene moving up his leg and there is great suspense as to whether they will get to a doctor in time before it reaches his torso.

Update #2:  The tingling is up to my knee now (remember, the sting was in my little toe).  My whole mouth has that acidic taste, like biting on aluminum foil, and my vision is a bit jumpy.  Given the trivial volume of venom that I received, this is nasty stuff.

Update #3: Up to mid-thigh now.   My teeth have pins and needles too.  Is that even possible?

Update #4: Walking is interesting.  Think of the worst pins and needles you ever had after regaining circulation, and how it hurt to move that limb at first, and that is what walking feels like.  It's odd to me that a toxin can mimic the exact same feeling as that of circulation returning.  I suppose some medical type might be able to explain this.  By the way, though it does freaking hurt, I am trying to treat this with levity because I know it will go away eventually.   I don't want to insult people who deal with true disabilities or chronic pain by whining too much.

Update #5: My hands now have pins and needles too.

Update #6: Its now 10 hours after the fact.  My entire leg is still all pins and needles but the pain at the spot where the sting occurred is greatly reduced.  My hands still are both tingling and my eyesight is still jumpy

Final Update: When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt vastly better.  However, I still had tingling in my stung foot as well as both hands.  The tingling finally went away entirely about 30 hours after the sting.  Unlike other kinds of bites or stings, once the tingling went away, there is no after effect of any pain or even itching.  I was lucky -- my wife's arm remained numb and tingling for three days after she got stung on the wrist.

XKCD is Awesome Today

Greatest Bedtime Story Ever

As read by Samuel L Jackson (hat tip Radley Balko)  Warning:  R-rated language.


I don't write about the Middle East much because its a big muddle that requires a lot more knowledge than I have to comment on seriously.

I will say this about Israel, though:  I too would love to see better civil rights performance at times (just as I would like to see better performance from our own damn country) but it's interesting to hypothesize what the US would do in similar circumstances.  After watching our post-9/11 Constitutional rollback, I wonder what other extreme steps we would be taking if, say, Mexican rockets routinely landed in San Diego or Nogales or El Paso.  One does not have to go too far out on a limb to call the Israeli response "restrained," at least in comparison to what the US would do in parallel circumstances.  Not to mention our reaction if a major foreign leader came to our country and urged us to give back the Gadsden Purchase as a solution.