My favorite thought-piece about Ferris Bueller is the "Fight Club" theory, in which Ferris Bueller, the person, is just a figment of Cameron's imagination, like Tyler Durden, and Sloane is the girl Cameron secretly loves.(via kottke via cynical-c)
One day while he's lying sick in bed, Cameron lets "Ferris" steal his father's car and take the day off, and as Cameron wanders around the city, all of his interactions with Ferris and Sloane, and all the impossible hijinks, are all just played out in his head. This is part of the reason why the "three" characters can see so much of Chicago in less than one day -- Cameron is alone, just imagining it all.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Called the Georgia Guidestones, the monument is a mystery—nobody knows exactly who commissioned it or why. The only clues to its origin are on a nearby plaque on the ground—which gives the dimensions and explains a series of intricate notches and holes that correspond to the movements of the sun and stars—and the "guides" themselves, directives carved into the rocks. These instructions appear in eight languages ranging from English to Swahili and reflect a peculiar New Age ideology. Some are vaguely eugenic (guide reproduction wisely—improving fitness and diversity); others prescribe standard-issue hippie mysticism (prize truth—beauty—love—seeking harmony with the infinite).Whoever planned this had pots of money, a knowledge of several languages, a fair understanding of engineering,a fondness for Stonehenge & Rosicrucianism, and an active sense of mystery. They may have intended it as a time capsule, religious item or massive practical joke. Those who don't know, as usual, are speaking, while those who do know say nothing.
What's most widely agreed upon—based on the evidence available—is that the Guidestones are meant to instruct the dazed survivors of some impending apocalypse as they attempt to reconstitute civilization.
This sweeping characterization of "the very subject matter" has no logical limit--it would apply to suits by U.S. citizens, not just foreign nationals; and to secret conduct committed on U.S. soil, not just abroad. According to the government's theory, the Judiciary should effectively cordon off all secret government actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the CIA and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
- Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.
- Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained. It is, therefore, necessary to help them prepare for work in fields other than higher education. The exposure to new approaches and different cultures and the consideration of real-life issues will prepare students for jobs at businesses and nonprofit organizations. Moreover, the knowledge and skills they will cultivate in the new universities will enable them to adapt to a constantly changing world.
Previously: Grad School Thoughts, Grad School and the Military.
Monday, April 27, 2009
She is now at peace. Incomparable joy! Moreover, it is a prince, so the joy cannot be oblique. The court ladies who had passed the previous day in anxiety, not knowing what to do, as if they were lost in the mist of the early morning, went one by one to rest in their own rooms, so that before the Queen there remained only some elderly persons proper for such occasions. The Lord Prime Minister and his Lady went away to give offerings to the priest who had read sutras and performed religious austerities during the past months, and to those doctors who were recently summoned. The doctors and soothsayers, who had invented special forms of efficacy, were given pensions. Within the house they were perhaps preparing for the ceremony of bathing the child.
Large packages [of ceremonial clothes] were carried to the apartments of the ladies-in-waiting. Karaginu and embroidered trains were worn. Some wore dazzlingly brilliant trains embroidered and ornamented with mother-of-pearl. Some lamented that the fans which had been ordered had not come. They all painted and powdered. When I looked from the bridge I saw Her Majesty's first officials, and the highest officers of His Highness the Crown Prince [the newborn child] and other court nobles. The Prime Minister went out to have the brook, which had been choked with mud, cleaned3 out.
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm Roger Deakin
"The Whole Earth Catalogue, our bible as self-builders of our residences in the hippie-ish days of the 1970s, was subtitled ‘access to tools’. ‘With tools,’ ran the editorial preface, ‘you can do more or less anything.’
Buckminster Fuller weighed in at the front with an encouraging piece about geodesic domes, and a movement was launched all over the world. They showed the earth as a tiny planet on the front cover, as photographed from space.
Tools were what we needed, and tools were what went out and sought. I went to farm auctions and bought impossibly long wooden stack ladders nobody needed or wanted any more for a few pounds. I bought a giant old 1948 Fordson Major tractor with a six-cylinder Perkins diesel engine in perfect working order, and a full armoury of ploughs, harrows, cultivators and hay-cutters to go with it, for well under £600."
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Meets a blind date
at a coffee shop
FRANCINE: Hi, you must be Arthur. I'm Francine.
SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMIST: TAX CUTS.
FRANCINE: I'm sorry?
SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMIST: TAX CUTS.
FRANCINE: (Nervous.) It's—it's nice to meet you.
SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMIST: TAX CUTS.
FRANCINE: I have to go now.
SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMIST: TAX CUTS.
The “whole sense of the book” is not the whole sense of the words . Look at the weird “Google erudition” of journalism researched online. Consider the hybridized “Creole media” of blog platforms. The line commands in software are text as an expression of will.
Let me offer an older example here, to show how deep this goes. Consider the literary platforms of a thousand years ago. This remote period saw the birth, or rather the stillbirth, of the novel, with Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji. This Japanese manuscript scroll, written with an ink brush in the late 900s and published in modern times as a book, is nevertheless a true novel. More specifically, it’s a romance. Jane Austen fans could easily parse The Tale of Genji.
While this proto-novel was being written, a rival work appeared, known as The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This other composition is certainly not a novel. It’s intensely literary, yet it can’t be described by contemporary literary-platform terminology. The Pillow Book is a nonlinear set of writings jotted down on a loose heap of leftover government stationery.
This experience was a four- or five-year effort to beguile the tedium of a tight circle of Imperial ladies-in-waiting. The experience had a star author/designer-the glamorous and attention-hungry Court Officer Sei-but it had no press, no publisher, no editor, no distributor, and it was never for sale. Its user base- in total, maybe 200 women-probably never read it. Instead, they heard the work recited aloud by someone crouching near a lantern after dark.
A strictly literary approach to this experience hurts our ability to comprehend what The Pillow Book is doing. This ancient “book” is related only distantly to our books; in function and audience, it has more kinship with a small-scale blog.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from "under control". As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.
Yeny Gregorio Dávila, Mexico City
The situation in Mexico City is really not normal. There is a sense of uncertainty that borders on paranoid behaviour in some cases. At this very moment, Mexican TV is showing how military forces are giving masks to the people in the streets. Moreover the news is sending alarming messages for the audience. Really, the atmosphere in the city is unsettling, a good example: pubs and concerts are being closed or cancelled and people don't haven thorough information. In this city (and country) there is an urgent need for assertive information, no paranoid messages from the government or the Mexican media.
Patricio Barrientos and Aranzazu Nuñez, Mexico City
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The Blue Brain project launched in 2005 as the most ambitious brain simulation effort ever undertaken.
While many computer simulations have attempted to code in "brain-like" computation or to mimic parts of the nervous systems and brains of a variety of animals, the Blue Brain project was conceived to reverse-engineer mammal brains from real laboratory data and to build up a computer model down to the level of the molecules that make them up.
The first phase of the project is now complete; researchers have modeled the neocortical column - a unit of the mammalian brain known as the neocortex which is responsible for higher brain functions and thought.
"The thing about the neocortical column is that you can think of it as an isolated processor. It is very much the same from mouse to man - it gets a bit larger a bit wider in humans, but the circuit diagram is very similar," Henry Markram, leader of the Blue Brain project and founder of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, told BBC News.
He added that, when evolution discovered this "mammalian secret", it duplicated it many many times and then "used it as it needed more and more functionality".
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
This [Thomas' assumptions] results in an equilibrium population of 36,346 humans and 18 vampires. Thomas then notes that interestingly enough the established population of Sunnydale on the show is 38,500 humans, pretty damn close to the equation result. Maybe Buffy needs to cut back on the slaying in order to let the vampires weed out that extra 2100 people, we wouldn’t want human overpopulation to lead to starvation.
But is this equilibrium stable? Will natural fluctuations in the vampire population prevent the equilibrium state from ever existing? Thomas then ran the model using several different initial population sizes and seeing whether they eventually moved to equilibrium, or spiraled off into an abyss where everybody died. Turns out the model is stable and the vampires and humans can co-exist forever! Hooray!
Twilight-style sparkly vampires don't work out that well.
JHN: I'm confident that you have seen more naked people than anyone else in the history of the world.
ST: More than Genghis Khan?
JHN: You've probably seen more people naked than there were people alive at the time of Genghis Khan.
ST: I have seen as many people naked, obviously, as I have photographed, over 100,000 people. Plus probably twenty.
Jane Lynch, Alicia Silverstone, Lance Bass, George Takei, LizFeldman, Jason Lewis, Sarah Chalke, and Sophia Bush parody the NOM ad.
"They'll turn tampons into rocket ships!"
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad|
"Psychology today differentiates between two methods of thinking: There is the intuitive method, and there is the rational one. The intuitive method is characterized by rapid learning, and it concludes very quickly that what has happened the last three times will happen forever, again and again."
Why is it that we believe that if it has happened three times, it will happen again?
"I once told a story about this: We once traveled from New York to Boston on a Sunday night, and we saw a car on fire on the side of the road. A week later, again on a Sunday night, we were traveling and again saw a car on fire in the same place. The fact is, we were less surprised the second time than the first because we had learned a rule: Cars burn at this spot.
"We find this everywhere - the speed at which people create rules, norms and expectations, even when they know it's ridiculous. This is the intuitive method at work. It remains true that whenever I travel, I always look for burning cars at that spot."
Over the last 40 years you have demonstrated that we never employ the statistical method of thinking, just the heuristic one - rules of thumb. Some economists today say the models were indeed based on statistics, but the problem is that they were based on statistics according to which the market goes up, rather than on long-term statistics.
"When it comes to finance, people link risk to volatility, but in reality, there is no connection between the two at all. There is a connection, but not when we're talking about huge risks. Greenspan and others believed that the global system - by virtue of its being global - was ipso facto more stable. Then it turned out that while it might have been more stable, it was also more extreme.
"In the last half year, the models simply didn't work. So the question arises: Why do people use models? I liken what is happening now to a system that forecasts the weather, and does so very well. People know when to take an umbrella when they leave the house, or when it will snow. Except what? The system can't predict hurricanes. Do we use the system anyway, or throw it out? It turns out they'll use it."
Okay, so they use it. But why don't they buy hurricane insurance?
"The question is, how much will the hurricane insurance cost? Since you can't predict these events, you would have to take out insurance against many things. If they had listened to all the warnings and tried to prevent these things, the economy would look a lot different than it does now. So an interesting question arises: After this crisis, will we arrive at something like that? It's hard for me to believe."
The financial world's models are built on the assumption that investors are rational. You have shown that not only are they not rational, they even deviate from what is rational or statistical, in predictable, systematic ways. Can we say that whoever recognized and accepted these deviations could have seen this crisis coming?
"It was possible to foresee, and some people did. There were quite a few smart people with a lot of experience who said bubbles are being created and they have to be allowed to burst by themselves. But it turns out that this bubble did not have to be allowed to burst by itself. I have a colleague at Princeton who says there were exactly five people who foresaw this crisis, and this does not include [Fed Chairman] Ben Bernanke. One of them is Prof. Robert Shiller, who also predicted the previous bubble. The problem is there were other economists who predicted this crisis, like Nouriel Roubini, but he also predicted some crises that never came to be."
He was one of those who predicted 10 crises out of three.
"Ten out of three is a pretty good record, relatively. But I conclude from the fact that only five people predicted the current crisis that it was impossible to predict it. In hindsight, it all seems obvious: Everyone seemed to be blind, only these five appeared to be smart. But there were a lot of smart people who looked at the situation and knew all the facts, and they did not predict the crisis."
(via Mark Thoma)
Monday, April 20, 2009
More here, here and here. And here.
This story is so radioactive it's hard to know which of fifty different directions to go with it. In brief, Jeff Stein at CQ has a much, much more detailed account of that story, first reported in 2006, of Rep. Jane Harman getting caught on a wiretapped phone call allegedly discussing a quid pro quo with "a suspected Israeli."
There are a lot of hairy details on this one. But the gist is that an NSA wiretap recorded Harman in a conversation with a "suspected Israeli agent" in which Harman allegedly agreed to use her influence with the DOJ to get them to drop the AIPAC spy case in exchange for help lobbying then-Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi to make Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee -- a position she ended up not getting.
...The story suggests that the tapes show Harman crossed the line. And the gears were in motion to open a full blown investigation. But then Alberto Gonzales intervened and shutdown the whole thing.
Why? Here's where it gets into the realm of bad novel writing: because Gonzales (and the White House) needed Harman to go to bat for them on the warrantless wiretaping story that the New York Times was then on the brink of publishing.
"Bookazine" (A hybrid of a Book and a Magazine) is a term we have created to describe a glossy, A4 perfect bound (stitched paged) one-off product. Bookazines generally are between 116 and 132 pages, and are all printed on very high quality thick paper, with a glossy cover. Bookazines are specialist titles covering an area or genre, which also contain a small percentage of advertising to make the product more affordable
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
"Another habitue of Martin and Horton's, and an occasional visitor to the Cobweb Palace, was an itinerant healer who called himself the King of Pain. He was probably the most ornate personage in the San Francisco of his time -- his customary attire was scarlet underwear, a heavy velour robe, a high hat bedecked with ostrich feathers, and a heavy sword. When he went abroad, he rode in a coal-black coach drawn by six snow white horses. The King of Pain made a fortune selling aconite liniment from a pitch at Third and Mission streets, but he lost all his money at the gaming tables and finally committed suicide."
Friday, April 17, 2009
One night after Christmas last year, in a dark, well-upholstered restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the American poet Frederick Seidel, an elegant man of 73 with an uncommonly courtly manner, told me a story about poetry’s power to disturb. “It was years ago,” Seidel explained in his measured voice, “in the days when I had an answering machine. I’d left my apartment, briefly, to go outside to get something, and when I came back there was a message. When I played it, there was a woman’s voice, a young woman’s voice sounding deeply aroused, saying: ‘Frederick Seidel . . . Frederick Seidel . . . you think you’re going to live. You think you’re going to live. But you’re not. You’re not going to live. You’re not going to live. . . .’ All this extraordinary, suggestive heavy breathing, getting, in the tone of it, more and more intensely sexual, more gruesome, and then this sort of explosion of sound from this woman, and: ‘You’re . . . not . . . going . . . to . . . live.’ ”
Seidel paused. The bright cries of a group of young women giving a baby shower in the adjoining booth rose and fell behind the bare crown of Seidel’s gray head. “So,” he continued, “the first thing I did was call a girlfriend. And the woman said, ‘I’m coming over.’ And did. And listened to this thing. And burst into tears. Because it really was horrific.” Another friend, a federal judge, also listened, insisting that Seidel call the police immediately and tell them he’d received a death threat. “They came by and they said: ‘It’s real. Have you published a book recently?’ I had. And that was it, really. Meaning nothing happened. But,” Seidel said, his large blue eyes brightening, “it was the most severe review I’ve ever received.”
Thursday, April 16, 2009
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|Elizabeth Warren Pt. 1|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|Elizabeth Warren Pt. 2|
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
We are, frankly, living in the last days of the Roman Empire once more, and it’s entirely typical that I’m pissed off that I can’t use my Wi-Fi to investigate current trends in jenkem use on the Ivory Coast instead of, I dunno, planting food or fomenting revolution or something.
These are truly the last days.... This is the problem with writing fiction in the early 21st century: the real world outdoes you for madness every day. You’d be overdoing it, as a fiction writer, if you had Congolese bushfighters eating their enemies’ flesh during an ebola outbreak… except that it’s happening as I write.
I wonder if they're really thinking of cinnabar, a reddish mercury ore used in alchemical recipes for the philosopher's stone.
(via Mr. Gibson)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
I recommend that we organically evolve into a more efficient decentralized system that concentrates on community resilience. Resilient communities involve intentional decentralization (lower connectivity or an ability to suffer a loss in connectivity without damage), which would radically reduce the chances that large network failures would result in cataclysmic black swans. We would be able to reboot quickly and with little long term damage.
He's also got some nice posts on "open source warfare" in there.
Actual Macro Data Are Already Worse than the More Adverse Scenario for 2009 in the Stress Tests. So the Stress Tests Fail the Basic Criterion of Reality Check Even Before They Are Concluded
Eucalyptus: Hybrid cloud computing from Sun
Johnathan Jones: Wind farms will save the traditional countryside, plus they're pretty.
PE Valuations of Life Science Companies
Healthcare IT innovation in the Northwest.
McKinsey map of Innovation Clusters. Chicago comes out as a "still lake": not so good, possibly because measurement of "momentum happens on a per-capita basis?
[Wang Chuan-Fu] started BYD with a modest goal: to edge in on the Japanese-dominated battery business. "Importing batteries from Japan was very expensive," Wang says. "There were import duties, and delivery times were long." He studied Sony and Sanyo patents and took apart batteries to understand how they were made, a "process that involved much trial and error," he says. (Sony and Sanyo later sued BYD, unsuccessfully, for infringing on their patents.)
BYD's breakthrough came when Wang decided to substitute migrant workers for machines. In place of the robotic arms used on Japanese assembly lines, which cost $100,000 or more apiece, BYD actually cut costs by hiring hundreds, then thousands, of people.
"When I first visited the BYD factory, I was shocked," says Daniel Kim, a Merrill Lynch technology analyst based in Hong Kong, who has been to the fully automated production lines in Japan and Korea. "It's a completely different business model." To control quality, BYD broke every job down into basic tasks and applied strict testing protocols. By 2002, BYD had become one of the top four manufacturers worldwide - and the largest Chinese manufacturer - in each of the three rechargeable battery technologies (Li-Ion, NiCad, and NiMH), according to a Harvard Business School case study of the company. And Wang stresses that BYD, unlike Sony and Sanyo, has never faced a recall of its batteries.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Colette, in one of the books of memoirs with which she delighted in scandalizing her readers, tells the story of imaginary catalogues compiled by her friend Paul Masson—an ex-colonial magistrate who worked at the Bibliotheque Nationale, and an eccentric who ended his life by standing on the edge of the Rhine, stuffing cotton wool soaked in ether up his nose and, after losing consciousness, drowning in barely a foot of water. According to Collette, Masson would visit her at her seaside villa and pull from his pockets a portable desktop, a fountain pen and a small pack of blank cards.
"What are you doing?" she asked him one day.
"I'm working," he answered. "I'm working at my job. I've been appointed to the catalogue section of the Bibliotheque Nationale. I'm making an inventory of titles."
"Oh, can you do that from memory?" she marvelled.
"From memory? What would be the merit? I'm doing better. I've realized that the Nationale is poor in Latin and Italian books from the fifteenth century," he explained. "Until chance and erudition fill the gaps, I am listing the titles of extremely interesting works that should have been written....At least these titles may save the prestige of the catalogue...."
"But if the books don't exist...."
"Well," Masson answered with a frivolous gesture, "I can't be expected to do everything!"
Previously: Alberto Manguel's Library profiled in NYT.
Friday, April 10, 2009
There are two things you really need to know about the "state secrets" privilege.
The first is that the government lied in the 1953 Supreme Court case that established the government's right not to disclose to the judicial branch information that would compromise national security. The widows of three civilian engineers who died in a military airplane crash sued the government for negligence. The government refused to turn over records, citing national security. But some 50 years later, when the records in question were made public, there were no national security secrets in them, just embarrassing information establishing the government's negligence. (More about the case here.)
The second thing is that the way the state secrets privilege has typically worked since then is that the government can refuse to publicly disclose a specific item of information if it explains why to the judge. The idea is not that government officials get to tell a judge to dismiss an entire case because they don't want to answer any questions at all.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Someone would slip you a mix tape, and the next day, you would wake up a Smiths fan. It was a badge of being a mopey, dreamy kid. The sad, lonely songs made you fill up with happiness inside. Some days, they still do. Pop Louder Than Bombs on the old iPod, and you're 17 again (if your're not already, sweet and misunderstood and pining for someone somewhere:
Ask me, I won't say no, how could I?
Spending long summer days indoors
Writing frightening verse
To a bucktooth girl in Luxemburg
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Yesterday, you delivered a foot-stomping little hissy fit over Google and aggregators. How dare they link to you and not pay you? Oh, I so want Eric Schmidt to tell you today that you're getting your wish and that Google will no longer link to you. Beware what you wish for. You'd lose a third of your traffic overnight. If other aggregators (I work with one) and bloggers (I am one) and Facebook all decided to follow suit, you'd lose half your traffic. On most of your sites, only 20 percent of the audience in a day ever sees your homepage and its careful packaging; 4 of 5 readers instead come in through search and links. In the link economy - instead of the outmoded content economy in which you operate - Google and aggregators and bloggers are bringing value to you; they should be charging you for the value they bring. You should rise up today and give Mr. Schmidt a big thank you for not charging you. But you won't, because you've refused to understand this new business reality.
You blew it.
- What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Grow nothing too big to fail.
- No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains.
- Find the smart people whose hands are clean.
- No incentives without disincentives. Don't incentivize risk where you don't want it.
- Counter-balance complexity with simplicity.
- Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning . Ban risky financial products
- Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence.
- The debt crisis is not a temporary problem, it is a structural one.
- Economic life should be definancialised.
- Make an omelette with the broken eggs. Rebuild the whole system.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
- Bunker A dwelling stuck in time and closed to all but a few close relatives and intimate friends that provides protective shelter
- Hearth A functional, affordable, dynamic, intimate family space with warm, traditional furnishings and liberal use of pastel colours
- Forum A house groomed for aesthetics as well as function with social kitchens, distinct private spaces, outdoor areas and decor in muted, natural tones with splashes of intense colour
- Office A collection of rooms used by different people for anything from work to recreation to relaxation
- Theatre A stage-set that prioritises aesthetics and personal considerations over function or economy with contemporary design and technology plus antiques and art for effect
- Tent A perfunctory, undecorated set-up for the young and highly mobile
- Commodity An anonymous dwelling occupied by a professional whose real home is elsewhere
Monday, April 06, 2009
Ask big questions, go and talk to big thinkers, be curious about news in your field, have many potential ideas until you find a way to attack them, then drop everything else to press your opportunity, communicate well, work well with others, know yourself.
Question: Is brainstorming a daily process?
Hamming: Once that was a very popular thing, but it seems not to have paid off. For myself I find it desirable to talk to other people; but a session of brainstorming is seldom worthwhile. I do go in to strictly talk to somebody and say, ``Look, I think there has to be something here. Here's what I think I see ...'' and then begin talking back and forth. But you want to pick capable people. To use another analogy, you know the idea called the `critical mass.' If you have enough stuff you have critical mass. There is also the idea I used to call `sound absorbers'. When you get too many sound absorbers, you give out an idea and they merely say, ``Yes, yes, yes.'' What you want to do is get that critical mass in action; ``Yes, that reminds me of so and so,'' or, ``Have you thought about that or this?'' When you talk to other people, you want to get rid of those sound absorbers who are nice people but merely say, ``Oh yes,'' and to find those who will stimulate you right back.
For example, you couldn't talk to John Pierce without being stimulated very quickly. There were a group of other people I used to talk with. For example there was Ed Gilbert; I used to go down to his office regularly and ask him questions and listen and come back stimulated. I picked my people carefully with whom I did or whom I didn't brainstorm because the sound absorbers are a curse. They are just nice guys; they fill the whole space and they contribute nothing except they absorb ideas and the new ideas just die away instead of echoing on. Yes, I find it necessary to talk to people. I think people with closed doors fail to do this so they fail to get their ideas sharpened, such as ``Did you ever notice something over here?'' I never knew anything about it - I can go over and look. Somebody points the way. On my visit here, I have already found several books that I must read when I get home. I talk to people and ask questions when I think they can answer me and give me clues that I do not know about. I go out and look!
Sunday, April 05, 2009
"Tell the spirits to leave you with ease," Hamilton says to me.
"They won't!" I yell out. And now they appear to be escaping en masse from my throat. I hear myself making otherworldly squealing and hissing sounds. Such high-pitched screeches that surely no human could ever make. All the while there is me, like a kind of witness, watching and listening in horror, feeling utterly helpless to stop it. I've read nothing about this sort of experience happening when taking ayahuasca. And now I see an image of a mountain in Libya, a supposedly haunted mountain that I climbed a year and a half ago, despite strong warnings from locals. A voice tells me that whatever is now leaving my body attached itself to me in that place.
Haunted mountains. Demonic hitchhikers. Who would believe this? Yet on and on it goes. The screaming, the wailing. My body shakes wildly; I see a great serpent emerging from my body, with designs on Hamilton. He shakes his chakapa at it, singing loudly, and after what seems like an infinite battle of wills, the creature leaves me. I grab the vomit bucket and puke for several minutes. Though my stomach has been empty for over eight hours, a flood of solid particles comes out of me.
The visions fade. My body stops shaking. Hamilton takes his seat again and Rosa releases her grip on me. I examine the vomit bucket with a flashlight: Black specks the size of dimes litter orange-colored foam. The shamans believe that what we vomit out during a ceremony is the physical manifestation of dark energy and toxins being purged from the body. The more that comes out, the better.
"Good work, Kira," Hamilton says to me from across the room.
My entire body hurts. My head throbs. I can hear the others in the room, whispering to each other. I had barely been conscious of their experiences, they had seemed so quiet by comparison.
"Is Kira OK?" Christy asks Hamilton.
"She just had a little exorcism," Hamilton explains with relish. "She's fine."
"Bloody hell; was that what it was?" says Katherine.
"She just picked up some travelers," Hamilton says. "We had to get rid of them."
"Bloody hell!" Katherine says again. "Is this what you'd consider a normal ceremony, Hamilton?"
"About one out of a hundred ceremonies is as intense as this one. We kicked some real demon butt tonight."
...There is probably no hangover that comes anywhere close to the hangover from an exorcism. It's the next morning and I can barely walk—not that I really want to. I have zero energy. My voice is almost gone, and I must communicate in a hoarse whisper if I communicate at all. This has proven not to be an issue as the others on the tour are so freaked out by what happened last night that they can barely mumble an obligatory "good morning" to me.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
At best, it looks like the revisionist evidence is thin on the ground; at worst, revisionism is being used to create a political counter-movement to the Obama Administration's interventionist policies.
Update: Looks like Brad DeLong didn't think much of it:
It is hard to know what to say. The fall in unemployment from 23% in 1932 to 11% in 1939 is not "recovery" because the economy only "started recovering in 1939"? The post-1939 recovery--as unemployment falls from 11% in 1939 to 9.5% in 1940 to 6% in 1941 to 1.2% in 1944--is "not expenditures... expenditures... did not jump until 1941"? The claim "the current administration has abandoned the use of cost-benefit analysis" would astonish Cass Sunstein and Jeff Liebman, who are doing just it in OMB right now. And who were those "businessmen who had fled to England" and stayed there until 1939 in the aftermath of Roosevelt's election? Can Prescott name a single one? No.
This is not economics. This is fantasy pure and simple.
Also, check out his letter to Patricia Cohen, who covered the event for the NYT:
An Open Letter to Patricia Cohen of the New York Times
Dear Ms. Cohen:
Eric Alterman speaks very highly of you indeed. And right now I am trying to resolve a certain... cognitive dissonance. The reports I got of the Council on Foreign Relations's conference last week on the Great Depression portrayed a day that was--frankly--insane.
We had Edward Prescott ranting about how the Depression came about because Herbert Hoover was not free market enough; denouncing "Hoover's anti-market, anti-globalization, anti-immigration, pro-cartelization policies"; and claiming that the economy only "started recovering in 1939, when... Roosevelt... called up the businessmen who had fled to England... and said please come back." I have never heard of a single one of the "businessmen who had fled to England" in the aftermath of Roosevelt's election, stayed there until 1939, and was then called back by Roosevelt.
And unemployment did fall from 23% in 1932 to 11% in 1939.
We had Ellen McGrattan misrepresenting my friend Christina Romer and claiming that because she is "using estimates of spending multipliers of about 1.5," she believes pure socialism in which we "have the government basically do everything." But Christy Romer says that she believes that the fiscal policy multiplier is 1.5 (or larger) now when unemployment is high--and thus that the government should do more right now--but that the multiplier drops to a very small value whenever unemployment is low.
We had Amity Shlaes claiming that "unemployment remained high throughout the decade" of the 1930s--in spite of its fall from 23% to 11%--because "the uncertainty created by Roosevelt’s continual tinkering paralyzed private investors"--in spite of the rise in inflation-adjusted private investment spending from $11 billion in 1932 to $77 billion in 1939.
Yet you seem to write of a quite different conference. I would have thought that Prescott's denunciation of Hoover, McGrattan's claim that the Obama administration seeks socialism (and their denials), and the striking disjunction between Shlaes's claims of little progress in unemployment and falling private investment in the 1930s and the reports of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis would be... somewhat newsworthy.
Can you shed some light on the difference between the CFR conference as related by, say, James Galbraith and the conference that you attended?
Friday, April 03, 2009
Off early for a breakfast meeting for a healthcare IT company, then back home. Parking is chaos. The entire area of town is being roped off for something to happen on the 5th. Spring cleaning?
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
The real answer is it's because they have no idea how their company makes money in the first place.
Cutting productive people almost always decreases costs less than revenues over the medium to long term due to direct and indirect loss of productivity, knowledge and morale. The only time this is not the case (that I can think of) is if the business is being fundamentally transformed (e.g., you were a construction company, and now you're going to be a university).
This is unfortunate because, had the Americans read the report, they would have noted two vital findings. The first is that while the same old countries — Iran, China, North Korea, France probably, haha — want to have a pop at the US, America has to accept that we are now in a “nonpolar” world and must redefine its strategies to cope with “nonstate actors” — your Hezbollahs and al-Qaedas. These are defined as forces that are “strong enough to resist an American agenda but too weak to shape an internationally attractive alternative”.
Of course, by those criteria, America’s newest enemies are not merely Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. They would also include atheists, pedestrians, socialists, European film directors who make films with unhappy endings, drizzly weather and Courtney Love — but not, interestingly, vegetarians, who have been pretty strong in “shaping internationally attractive alternatives”, what with the Quorn burger and McDon-ald’s Toasted Deli Grill Veggie Melt.
The IISS’s second conclusion was that, in the “complex battlefield” of the 21st century, America needs to concentrate more on psychological warfare. Of course, those who have read Jon Ronson’s excellent The Men Who Stare At Goats will know that the US has already been, albeit in a low-key and mad way, experimenting with psychological warfare. The conclusion of its 20-year-long experiments resulted in the playing of heavy rock music, including Guns’n’Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle , within earshot of the former Panamanian President Manuel Nori-ega when he was holed up the Vatican Embassy in 1989. As many will have subsequently noticed, this particular tactic of psychological warfare did remarkably little in ending the siege, but oddly coincided with the high-water mark in Guns’n’Roses’ career — possibly marking out the thin red line between state-sponsored psychological combat and a very effective marketing campaign.
However, once an entity loses the ability to use Guns’n’Roses as a weapon, it’s understandable why the ensuing period would be one of intense confusion, bordering on panic, with no obvious alternative taking its place. US psychological warfare is at an all-time low at the moment. Luckily, however, I do have a few suggestions for future activity:
1)Stage a massive army-recruitment drive among the table-staff of Hollywood, and assemble a battalion of actresses/models/ whatevers. When invading a city, send in the Ninth Battalion of Hot Chicks first, dressed in skin-tight catsuits. Get them to enter the city with a series of excitable screams and yelps, while doing leaps, rolls and cartwheels down the high street — like Catherine Zeta-Jones’s training scene in Entrapment but, obviously, without Sean Connery sitting on a chair and watching. A man may well be devout enough to shoot old men in the head, but I’m pretty sure he would at least pause for a few vital seconds before shooting at an Angelina Jolie lookalike doing the splits in mid-air. And while he’s pausing, some giant Marine can shoot him.
Lot of strange preachers on the radio in rural IN. One guy left a whole bunch of churches, apparently over the Sola Scriptura dogma; talk show hosts sort of nodding and saying yep, yep, that happens all the time. Another preacher starts talking about how he wishes there were a little pill he could take so he could ride around in womens' purses and men's wallets. No idea how that connects to anything.
Reminds me, though, that when I used to do the long drive, I once got some televangelist who was doing a word-perfect Valentinian Gnostic sermon, all about the fall of Sophia into the material world and the archons and Demiurgos and whatnot. Another one talking about how to do sigils raise egregores and other techniques developed by the chaos magic kids, without ever once referring to that fact. There's a lot of stuff buried out there in the American night; a lot of 18th and 19th century utopian communities that just turned out to be dumps like everywhere else.
Wonderful and inexplicable and tacky, all at the same time.
Yochai Benkler discusses the use of the "assumption of universal rationality and a sub-assumption that what that rationality tries to do is maximize returns to the self" as a primary analytical foundation for our models of sociological, political, and economic behavior:The End of Universal Rationality, The Edge: The big question I ask myself is how we start to think much more methodically about human sharing, about the relationship between human interest and human morality and human society. The main moment at which I think you could see the end of an era was when Alan Greenspan testified before the House committee and said, "My predictions about self-interest were wrong. I relied for 40 years on self-interest to work its way up, and it was wrong." For those of us like me who have been working on the Internet for years, it was very clear you couldn't encounter free software and you couldn't encounter Wikipedia and you couldn't encounter all of the wealth of cultural materials that people create and exchange, and the valuable actual software that people create, without an understanding that something much more complex is happening than the dominant ideology of the last 40 years or so. But you could if you weren't looking there, because we were used in the industrial system to think in these terms.
A lot of what I was spending my time on in the 90s and the 2000s was to understand why it is that these phenomena on the Net are not ephemeral. Why they're real. But I think in the process of understanding that, I had to go back and ask, where are we really in between this what's-in-it-for-me versus the great altruists and the stories of Stahanovich and the self-sacrifice for the community?
Both of them are false. But the question is, how do we begin to build a new set of stories that will let us understand both? The stories are actually relatively easy. How we build actual, tractable analysis that allows us to convert what in some sense we all know, that some of us are selfish and some of us aren't. That actually most of us are more selfish some of the time and less selfish other of the time and in different relations. That we don't all align according to the standard economic model of selfish rationality, but that we're also not saints. Mother Teresa wouldn't be Mother Teresa if everybody were like her.
So this is the puzzle that I'm really trying to chew on now, which is how we move from knowing this intuitively and having a folk wisdom about it to something that probably won't in any immediate future have the tractability and precision of mainstream economics. Not, by the way, that as we sit here today, mainstream economics necessarily enjoys the high status that it might have a few years ago, but nonetheless so that we will be able to start building systems in the same way that we thought about building organizational systems around compensation, like options that ties the incentives of the employees to that of the business, like we thought with regard to political science that's completely pervaded today by the understanding of, how does politics happen? Well, it depends on what the median voter wants and what the median Senator wants, and all of that.
We have a lot of sophisticated analyses that try, with great precision, to predict and describe existing systems in terms of an assumption of universal rationality and a sub-assumption that what that rationality tries to do is maximize returns to the self. Yet we live in a world where that's not actually what we experience. The big question now is how we cover that distance between what we know very intuitively in our social relations, and what we can actually build with.