28 November 2007

Shirt quotes

OK, now this shirt is cool.

P.S. For certain readers, perhaps this one might suit. And I can think of someone in particular who needs this.

Malfunctioning weather vane?

Via Instapundit comes news of former President Bill Clinton engaging in the typical liberal activity of rewriting history to suit current political currents. What’s odd here is how Bill Clinton seems to be tacking in to the wind, not with it, as the situation in Iraq is improving and other Democratic Party heavy weights are adjusting their stories the other direction. Is it a tactical necessity to let Senator Hillary Clinton play both sides, or is Bill Clinton spending too much time with sycophants?

27 November 2007

Mistaking bricks for dirt

Instapundit wrote

HOMEOWNER VS. BURGLARS: “When you hear a pump shotgun click, it makes everyone think twice.”

and I found it an excellent example of culture differences. When I was in Japan for a summer job in my youth, I found myself indicating displeasure with another person by grabbing an air gun and making the shotgun loading sound while simulating pumping another round in to the chamber. Not one other person there had the vaguest idea of what I meant. On the other hand, my 3 year old daughter understands the basic concept of loading shells in to a double barreled shotgun (trained in large part by Boy Two). It’s just another example in a theme I’m working on about how much what we think are basic facets of reality are just local epiphenomenon.

We can see the same thing in this discussion over at the Daily Duck about mathematics and its relationship to reality. Many people think that certain aspects of mathematics are intrinsically “true” or “real”, but that’s not at all the case. All of mathematics is simply made up, but the parts that are useful are so useful that they (like any other truly excellent technology) become second nature and people stop thinking of them as separate from the underlying physical reality.

Which brings me around to this post which is concerned about how “the younger set think that peace and prosperity are the norm”. It’s the same thing again, except this time with much less excuse as even a casual perusal of history demonstrates the rarety and fragility of domestic order. While I am sure some of the nihilists really are nihilists, my view is that they are a tiny but dominant minority in a sea of “never thought about it much” types who presume that our domestic order is the natural state of things, divided in to two main types.

The first don’t believe they can really bring down Western civilization and are just acting out with emphasis on the acting. This is the type that has been discussed here and elsewhere extensively, who acts to accomplish purely internal psychological goals. Because they can’t imagine anything different, they can’t imagine that their activities could have any sort of deleterious effect.

The other type has an understanding of culture is so shallow that they view it as equivalent to fashion. They think we’ve already reached the End of History (not that they would see it that way) and the only real differences between cultures are style and the ickiness of Western civilization. And I have to admit, Western civilization looks bad if you presume all of its benefits are automatic and universal and its flaws are purely local.

I don’t know what can be done about any of these types, other than to soldier on and hope the Clue-by-Four of Reality lays down an enlightening rhythm on their noggins before too much more damage is done.

Close but not quite right

It’s just a bit odd to get some junk e-mail to the effect of “Hi, I’m a nice girl who’s lonely and wants to chat” from an e-mail address of “Dennis Thatcher”. Something about it makes me suspect it’s not legitimate.

26 November 2007

Fallen Star

As I read about the gathering debacle in Annapolis, I can’t help but think how far Condoleeza Rice’s star has fallen. It’s been a long time since I have read any positive reviews of her, or discussions of her political future. I think she got too caught up in ends instead of means, hence Annapolis. The goal is clearly not to push any particular national security interest or principle, but just to get some people to show up and sign a document that will be irrelevant trivia before the ink is dry. Is that a function of how diplomacy is done in today’s milieu, or was Rice not strong enough to avoid getting sucked in to the State Department alternate reality?

UPDATE: There’s still one person carrying the torch.

The difference between genius and stupidity

Mickey Kaus writes

Instapundit argues the Court couldn’t duck the case in large part because it doesn’t involve one of the 50 states, or a city in those states:

Cases involving state gun laws raise the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to the states. But, where every other US city is legally part of a state government, the district is a direct creature of the federal government.

If that’s true, then how stupid were the gun-controllers in the D.C government to persist in their cause? The result may be a ruling that after 200 years actually gives meaning to distressingly clear language of the Amendment. Couldn’t gun-controllers from the rest of the country have talked them out of it?

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. I have no trouble believing that the DC anti-gun crew were this stupid. However, I think that the rampant general stupidity, over-zealousness, and biased Old Media have to acknowledge their contributions as well. If there is one set of local politicians who live in a bubble of “progressive” politics, it would be the DC city government. I don’t find it hard to imagine them living for years in an environment where the cause of gun banning is so natural, so correct, so blindingly obvious that the idea that it could fail in court was inconceivable. After all, isn’t that the day in day out spin of the hoplophobes? Why shouldn’t they believe it? Is Kaus implying that of course all of the gun banning politicians are cynical enough to realize that their position is purely a posture and not to be tested against reality? I think he gives them too much credit.

An observer of our current political scene might wonder how such a large party as the Democratic Party and its affiliated political factions (MAL, Old Media) can persist in subscribing to so many obviously falsified positions1. It can be done through sufficiently pervasive propaganda, but that approach seeds its own destruction, as one is forced to eventually have a level of cynicism that can’t be disguised, or self-destructive actions. I think the Democratic Party may well be on the way to achieving both.

1 It is important to note that part of this is that the underlying position isn’t bogus, it is the extremal form of the derived position that’s bogus. For instance, President Bush is a bad President vs. “worst President ever, an open fascist crushing American democracy”. One is a debatable position a rational person could hold, the other simply delusional.

25 November 2007

Language users

I was too busy to comment on this Tom Wolfe essay that went around recently, but I must say it’s gratifying to seem Wolfe come to the same conclusion I did — proves he’s a smart guy.

His basis also seems roughly the same as mine, that language makes possible the preservation of extra-somatic (out of body) information. That in turn creates a new, powerful layer of reality that can affect the survival of human groups as much as if not more than genetics.

Just as importantly, such information is self-modifying. That’s again qualitatively different from genetics, as DNA can’t modify itself, it must wait for some external event to provide variance (mutations). Culture, the embodiment of accumulated language, can be modified directly by further language.

Because of this, after language is invented human evolution becomes qualitatively different than that for any other terrestial species. I think language is even more fundamentally human than tool use, because language is a higher level tool that can manipulate higher layers of reality beyond the physical. What I called enhanced reality in the previous post is closing the circle, making the previously invisible linguistic layers of reality part of directly perceivable reality again.

Enhanced reality files

Because it was the Thanksgiving weekend, I went off with SWIPIAW to her maternal aunt’s house for a gathering. As normal humans (i.e., not me) do on such occasions, there was a football game on the television. I noticed that the first down line display technology had improved so that additional information such as the scrimage line, down, and yardage were also displayed. That’s exactly the kind of thing I mean by enhanced reality, except that in the not too distant future that technology will be available personally. If I had to guess, I think it will happen via cell phones first, based on cell phone cameras. In effect the current camera display would become a window on the enhanced world, so you could look “through” it to see the various additional dimensions / manifolds / overlays of the enhanced world. I should be able to afford a cell phone upgrade by then.

P.S. I need to write a review of Lady of Mazes which touches on some of these issues. Anyone else read that?

23 November 2007

Fashion shot

Hey, for once I am in fashion! Instapundit noted the Nerf Longbow toy gun as a popular toy both for kids and adults who modify them. Boy Two, being the fashion forward boy he is, bought his months ago.

21 November 2007

Broken tools

Gah! Consider the following program:

# include "stdafx.h"
# include <memory>

struct A
    A() : _member(0) {}
    void method() { _member += 1; }
    int _member;

int _tmain(int argc, _TCHAR* argv[])
    std::auto_ptr<A> pA;

This will compile and crash in Visual Studio 2005. The documentation doesn’t even have a warning that assignment of a raw pointer to an auto_ptr is a bad idea. If you want to talk about a language feature that is totally useless, auto_ptr has to be at the top of the list. What the !%#$^&*@ were the C++ designers thinking when they came up with this? Although, I will admit, according to the standard this shouldn’t even compile — it took the Dark Empire to make a useless thing actively dangerous.

18 November 2007

But violence never solves anything!

Just a quick cite. A while ago a commentor asked about the raid on Syria by Israel. A number of observers noted that one significant effect was that it sent a message to Iran that they had control of their airspace only until the USA or Israel decided differently. This commentor points out that it may well be no coincidence that Iran is now starting to be more cooperative in with regard to Iraq —

No doubt that Iran took notice at the abject ineffectiveness of Russian “state of the art” air defense systems protecting the Syrian nuke plant, and recalculated their situation. Meanwhile Iran and Syria are on hold with Putin’s ADA customer service line, wondering if the warranty covers aircraft detection software upgrades.

I can’t believe any one in our government was smart enough to plan at this level, but I could believe that the Israelis could have been.

Brat politics

Instapundit wonders

If, as seems likely, Iraq succeeds, Republicans will be able to say it was in spite of the Democrats’ efforts. If, as remains possible, it fails, Republicans will be able to say it was because of the Democrats’ efforts.

What a bright and rainbow filled world he lives in. The GOP may well say that, but the remaining MAL control of history and Old Media means that the actual conventional wisdom is likely to be exactly the opposite, that

  • If Iraq fails, the Democratic Party was right to oppose it.
  • If Iraq succeeds, then it was because the Democratic Party won the 2006 or 2008 elections and removed GOP control of the effort.

This is one of the key reasons that the Democratic Party and the MAL engage in such destructive and apparently non-sensical efforts — there are no consequences for them. One need only look at the Cold War or the Reagan Presidency to see how, if things don’t work out as the MAL predicted, they can simply way two or three decades then rewrite history to make themselves the good guys. Even specific events can be rewritten, such as the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Why not do whatever seems like a good idea at the time, with no concern for the consequences, if you can always memhole any mistakes?

Cleary Not News

It seems like everyone is beating on CNN for political bias and favoritism, particularly towards Senator Clinton. The question for me is, of the set of people who care that CNN is basically a propaganda organ for certain political factions, is this actually news? Sister Toldjah mockingly says “All this from the ‘most trusted name in news.’”. Given the state of Old Media these days, is it so clear that there is some Old Media outlet that is distrusted less than CNN?

15 November 2007


The Economist has another article on the Ehrenfeld libel case which asks a question that seems to be of the “duh!” category: “can English1 libel law be enforced in the USA?”. When the British government gets around to enforcing the Iranian death sentence on Salman Rushdie, then we can discuss Ehrenfeld.

P.S. What’s interesting is that it’s Ehrenfeld who’s pushing the case in the USA, the plaintiff apparently would prefer no ruling and claims to have made no effort to collect the judgement from Ehrenfeld. One is left wondering what exactly the point of the original lawsuit was, as the book had sold very poorly in the UK (“a few dozen copies”).

1 That is the exact term used in the article. The secessionists are everywhere.

Just sitting here watching the compiler lines go by

I was checking my RSS feeds while waiting for a system build and I saw a post about OJ Simpson. I almost clicked on it, but then common sense prevailed and I decided I would rather watch messages like


scroll by in my build output window than read anything more about OJ Simpson.

Silence of the Socialites

The recent flap over Senator Clinton’s whining about vicious questions serves as an excellent segue in to the long Clinton history of intimidating Old Media. It seems most commentors are focused on what this says about the Clintons. I find it actually more interesting to think what it says about Old Media, which is basically what I have written about earlier. The key point is that this intimidation works, even though it’s mostly of the “you won’t be one of the cool kids” style. Intrepid journalists who fold at the thought of not being invited to the good parties — that’s the meme we should be extracting from this history.

10 November 2007

Not quite dead yet

A Public Missiles X-Calibur on an H128-M.
Predicted altitude: 556 meters.
Lesson learned: Do not paint your rockets white!

02 November 2007

Defining your work as failure

Those University of Delaware struggle sessions were interesting, although once again it’s clear that the program organizers are completely lacking in any sort of logical thought. The program is, according to its own tenets, completely useless. The putative purpose is to fight racism and oppression in college students. But the program states outright that

  • All European descended people in the USA are racist
  • There is no such thing as a “non-racist”.
  • Except for the non-European descended, who are never racist.

If those are true, how can the program achieve anything? The NED can’t be helped, because they’re already not racist. The ED can’t be help because they’re racist by heritage, unchangeably. So the program is completely incapable of changing anything about racism or oppression. That leaves as its purpose, in the world view of the creators, to be what, exactly? Sadistic humiliation? And what does it say about the University staff that they never thought to ask this obvious question?