Archive for the ‘Other’ Category.

Unintended Consequences

These women's weight gain ads seem funny because they are so out of step with most women's concerns today.  But what changed?  My guess is that the whole weight-gain thing really was about larger breasts.  If you wanted more cleavage, you had to gain weight.  But breast implants changed that.  Now one can have an improbable rack while still starving.  So while breast implants are a positive in terms of empowering women to have control over their body, they have eliminated an important counter-balance to this crazy pressure on skinny-ness.

Disclosure:  On a scale from 1=Kate Moss to 10=Rubens paintings, my preferences definitely are in the higher numbers, so I am not without bias.  I also have a daughter who wastes way too much of her life worrying whether her body properly meets societal expectations for fat content.

Time Perception Paradox

This is true for me, ymmv.

Time seems to pass much more quickly as one is experiencing it when one is busy.

However, looking backwards, time periods that were chock-full of activities tend to lengthen.  A point in time a year ago seems further in the past in a busy year than a sparse year.  Almost as if your mind assumes some average activity density, then applies this to remembered activities to estimate time passage.

The absolute randomness of this observation should give readers an idea of my state of mind today.

Wyoming Ranch

A family member is selling this beautiful ranch in Wyoming.  I can't afford it, but if you know someone who can it is a gorgeous location in the mountains adjacent to the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Sorry for the shameless promotion but the owner has some health issues and I agreed to help out a bit, despite the fact that I have absolutely no experience trying to sell something like this.

Things I Didn't Know

I had always assumed the cover for the Beatle's Sgt. Pepper album was just a photo mosaic, a cut and paste of photos that was then re-photographed into the final image.  But it appears to have been shot life-size all at once.  More here.  Apparently Hitler and Jesus just missed the cut.  Can you imagine anyone even bothering with this in the age of Photoshop?

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

Meta

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