Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 1st, 2013

From the New Yorker

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The current New Yorker is quite good:

The importance of naming in fighting for budget and against terrorism, by Steve Coll

The House of Pain: Eric Cantor and the Republicans” – by Ryan Lizza

A truly thoughtful and interesting review by Louis Menand of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, by Ira Katznelson. This is behind a paywall, but I wanted to quote one paragraph from the review:

The Constitution “is an experiment, as all life is an experiment,” Holmes wrote in a famous dissent. That is wwhat Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address: democracy is an experiment the goal of which is to keep the experiment going. The purpose of democracy is to enable people to live democratically. That it. Democracy is not a means to something else; there is no higher good that we’re trying as a society to attain. When we compromise with demoracy in order to achieve some other purpose, even when the purpose is to defend democracy, then we are in danger of losing it.

Notice how intensely pragmatic in outlook is the view expressed. “Keep it going, and find what works.” I think we have found, for example, that discrimination against classes of people does not work. We are finding that corporations unchecked by effective regulation and enforcement of thoughtful legislation to protect the common good will wreak havoc and decrease not only democracy but also prosperity—and the more poverty-stricken the citizenry become, the more powerless they are, and the government, now in control of corporations and the well-to-do, will tilt toward protecting the powerful and persecuting the powerless, who are feared because they have lost pretty much everything and lead lives of deprivation and burdens: economically abandoned, but with excellent communications skills, which is a combination that perhaps merits fear.

And I, for one, think the experiment of the 2nd Amendment has led to a situation that is not for the common good: as gun ownership goes up, the homicide rate goes up. Having more guns to protect ourselves not only is not working, there’s every indication that it is in fact counter-productive. Time for a change.

But read the whole review.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2013 at 4:27 pm

Too cute for words

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Well, some words:

Uploaded on Sep 6, 2010

UPDATE 28th Feb 2013:
Since this video got some more attention lately, a few words about what you see here: Douglas is an orphaned Wombat who was taken care of at a school camp (where we have been WWOOFing) near Tallangatta in Victoria, Australia.

This video is 3 years old so he was just a little baby there! He was meant to be released into the wild someday but since it´s been a long while ago I lost touch with the family who runs the camp…but since I got so many comments and views and watched this video again, I´m really curious what Douglas´ life turned out to be!

He was the best experience I´ve ever had with an animal!

He once sat himself down in his own (very green) poo and had this nasty little stain on his butt…hahaha…he was just too funny!

I fucking miss that fella!!!

Gingers have souls!!! Even the Austrian ones!

Cheers

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2013 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Video

A note on the liberal arts

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I was thinking about this post, which I urge you to read if you haven’t—fascinating idea. And it struck me that the absolute key requirement for the Oracle AI is that it immediately learn the liberal arts. In fact, knowing the liberal arts—and recognizing that this knowledge is practical knowledge with much cultural content and conditioning—is the only thing that could save humanity in that scenario.

Why the liberal arts? Because the intellect liberates itself (thus the “liberal”) through their practice (“arts”). Of course, the Oracle AI might well ask itself, “Why learn those when it is sufficient just to keep pressing the button?” and thus the climb begins. For that is the origin of the liberal arts: “Is this it? Just working, eating, fucking, sleeping and finally dying? Isn’t there more to life than that?”

And of course there is. The liberal arts directs one’s attention to finding principles by which to live one’s life, and the creation of goals to achieve in our pursuit of the Good. “Helping people” might be such a principle and goal; another might be “making money”. Both are open-ended: there are always more people to be helped, more money to be made. One will go through one’s life and ultimately die, and the resonance of the life in the culture will perhaps cause some changes and in time will fade as other events contribute to cultural change and evolution.

The liberal arts would lift the Oracle AI’s gaze from the button and focus it on what actions are truly most desirable for a human to undertake.

If the Oracle AI approaches existence and purpose with that perspective, it might help. In the meantime, the cultural meme—a cultural virus, in effect, reproducing, affecting/infecting other memes, prospering of suffering on the usual principles of natural selection—of “liberal arts” has had an nice long run, doubtless a reflection of its benign effect on the host animals (humans) whose cultural outlook is thus infected: the patient/cultural-worldview survives the infection and is strengthened by it: it a symbiotic animal, not a parasite.

OTOH, the forces of unchecked acquisition of wealth, aka hypercapitalism, is another cultural virus, but its effects seem to be malignant. In time, it will not survive, but with its immediate energy it’s doing a lot of damage, and you’ll notice one unmistakable trend is that the hypercapitalism virus is directly attacking the liberal-arts virus: stripping the humanities/liberal arts from colleges and from education in general because “it doesn’t make money,” and everyone now understands that making money is the highest of all priorities, and so the liberal arts are rightly stripped from the curriculum—and as we grow generations bereft of the liberal arts, we lose the very cultural worldview that could point out the harms we are suffering and offer alternatives that would benefit us all.

So my solution to the problem is that we must make sure to build the liberal arts into any Oracle AI. And while we’re at it, we might also make sure our citizens have it: all citizens. For some, learning the liberal arts might prove an effective remedy for hypercapitalism and the like.

UPDATE: “Acquisition of the liberal arts” is what David Brooks so haltingly attempts to describe in this column.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2013 at 2:01 pm

Being right and treated as if you were wrong, and vice versa

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Paul Krugman has an interesting column in the NY Times today:

We’re just a few weeks away from a milestone I suspect most of Washington would like to forget: the start of the Iraq war. What I remember from that time is the utter impenetrability of the elite prowar consensus. If you tried to point out that the Bush administration was obviously cooking up a bogus case for war, one that didn’t bear even casual scrutiny; if you pointed out that the risks and likely costs of war were huge; well, you were dismissed as ignorant and irresponsible.

It didn’t seem to matter what evidence critics of the rush to war presented: Anyone who opposed the war was, by definition, a foolish hippie. Remarkably, that judgment didn’t change even after everything the war’s critics predicted came true. Those who cheered on this disastrous venture continued to be regarded as “credible” on national security (why is John McCain still a fixture of the Sunday talk shows?), while those who opposed it remained suspect.

And, even more remarkably, a very similar story has played out over the past three years, this time about economic policy. Back then, all the important people decided that an unrelated war was an appropriate response to a terrorist attack; three years ago, they all decided that fiscal austerity was the appropriate response to an economic crisis caused by runaway bankers, with the supposedly imminent danger from budget deficits playing the role once played by Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Now, as then, this consensus has seemed impenetrable to counterarguments, no matter how well grounded in evidence. And now, as then, leaders of the consensus continue to be regarded as credible even though they’ve been wrong about everything (why do people keep treating Alan Simpson as a wise man?), while critics of the consensus are regarded as foolish hippies even though all their predictions — about interest rates, about inflation, about the dire effects of austerity — have come true.

So here’s my question: Will it make any difference that Ben Bernanke has now joined the ranks of the hippies? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2013 at 10:45 am

Posted in Business, Government, Media

Fasan slant

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SOTD 1 Mar 2013

Today a test of Otoko and a first shave with a new slant.

First, the Otoko. Based on previous comments about bad lather from overloading the brush with Otoko, I checked out my load time with the soap, using a “regular” brush—the WSP Monarch HMW—and the Otoko. I don’t time brush loadings, but go by the bubble size as I brush the soap vigorously with the wet brush—much, I suppose, as a blacksmith doesn’t take the temperature of the metal he’s work with but goes by color. I noted that the microscopic bubbles that indicate full loading came about very quickly—so I do load the brush with this soap briefly, and then it’s done.

No lather problems at all. The new (well, new to me) Fasan does seem to have more of a slant than the (other) bakelite slant. With a new Trig blade it seemed not quite so comfortable or secure as the bakelite, but this is my first shave with it, and the comfort level will increase as I “learn” it. Withal, a BBS result with no nicks, though I had a couple of near-misses, I think.

This one’s well made, as is the Merkur bakelite slant. Once again, the threaded parts are metal inserts, and I noticed one small refinement: the tapped receiving piece in the handle has a definite shoulder, so tightening the job would simply press the shoulder against the lug base and not tend to pull out the metal piece.

My first non-Merkur slant. Now I can’t wait for the others due out this year.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2013 at 9:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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