Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Links for Later

1. Two for Tennis
2. Lawrence Wilkerson refutes Dick Cheney thusly
3. DOJ blocks AT&T/T-Mobile merger
4. Thirteen Keys model predicts Obama re-election despite "lack of charisma and leadership"
5. A film producer with blindsight and a need to make only "serious movies"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day

By Delmore Schwartz

Calmly we walk through this April’s day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn ...)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(... that time is the fire in which we burn.)

(This is the school in which we learn ...)
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run
(This is the school in which they learn ...)
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(... that time is the fire in which they burn.)

Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,
But what they were then?
No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)
But what they were then, both beautiful;

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

Links for Later

1. The failures of macroeconomic modeling (DSGE, EMH, CAPM, Chicago School, New Keynesians, Grand Theft Auto)
2. The failures of cost accounting, or Why Amazon Can't Make a Kindle in the US
3. Throughput accounting as a remedy
4. Another op-ed critical of White House strategy
5. Tim Ferriss profile
6. People who just don't get evolution
7. Steve Jobs, Norman Foster and "sandpile management"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grant Morrison in Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone has a nice post-Supergods interview with Grant Morrison, including a description of his magical invocation of John Lennon:

"I put all the Beatles albums in a circle, a magic circle, wore my clothes from the band, tight trousers, Beatle boots, had a Rickenbacker guitar, and I had 'Tomorrow Never Knows' on a loop and I just played it, and I took this tiny lick of acid, just to give an edge. Basically, I got this image, this thing, like a huge Lennon head made out of music. It gave me a song – it's a pretty convincing John Lennon song."

At a Los Angeles book signing for Supergods with Way in late July, Morrison whips out a guitar and plays the song given to him by the floating Lennon head. "Keep taking the pills/Keep reading the books/Keep looking for signs that somebody loves you," he sings in a rough tenor. The audience laughs at first, then falls silent. He gets to the bridge – "One and one and one makes two/If you really want it to" – and the melody suddenly sounds like it could be on the White Album, or at least pass for Oasis.

Way, for one, is convinced. When Morrison performed the song in front of his two-year-old daughter, she started to dance – something she'd never done when her dad played guitar. "I was like, 'Well, clearly this is a John Lennon song,'" Way says. "Clearly!" Or maybe not. As Morrison observes in Supergods: "Things don't have to be real to be true. Or vice versa."

The New Heresy

Rick Perry has some very interesting friends.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Borges

On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror's face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I'd seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand; I saw a woman in Inverness whom I shall never forget; I saw her tangled hair, her tall figure, I saw the cancer in her breast; I saw a ring of baked mud in a sidewalk, where before there had been a tree; I saw a summer house in Adrogué and a copy of the first English translation of Pliny -- Philemon Holland's -- and all at the same time saw each letter on each page (as a boy, I used to marvel that the letters in a closed book did not get scrambled and lost overnight); I saw a sunset in Querétaro that seemed to reflect the colour of a rose in Bengal; I saw my empty bedroom; I saw in a closet in Alkmaar a terrestrial globe between two mirrors that multiplied it endlessly; I saw horses with flowing manes on a shore of the Caspian Sea at dawn; I saw the delicate bone structure of a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending out picture postcards; I saw in a showcase in Mirzapur a pack of Spanish playing cards; I saw the slanting shadows of ferns on a greenhouse floor; I saw tigers, pistons, bison, tides, and armies; I saw all the ants on the planet; I saw a Persian astrolabe; I saw in the drawer of a writing table (and the handwriting made me tremble) unbelievable, obscene, detailed letters, which Beatriz had written to Carlos Argentino; I saw a monument I worshipped in the Chacarita cemetery; I saw the rotted dust and bones that had once deliciously been Beatriz Viterbo; I saw the circulation of my own dark blood; I saw the coupling of love and the modification of death; I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon -- the unimaginable universe.

-from "The Aleph"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

-Leo Tolstoy

Links for later

1. Interview with Alinea's/Next's/Aviary's Nick Kokonas
2. Nick Kokonas, part 2
3. DNA origami for metamaterials

Thursday, August 18, 2011

True Blood

This week, 500 year old vampire 19 year old miscreant Lyle Bensley crept into a woman's home and bit her on the neck in an attempt to "feed" and is currently sitting somewhere quiet. I love this country.

Quote of the Day

"I’ve been accused of not being macho enough to direct the Avengers. Oh yeah, that’s right. Well guess what: I happen to be very macho, so if you see me in a bar and you don’t think I’m macho, don’t talk to me. You walk away unless you want a cosmo all down your shirt. ‘Cause I will. I will pour it."

Links for Later

1. The Memory Palace of Andy Drucker: how to multiply two ten digit numbers (and perform other tasks) very slowly in your head using Flickr photosets
2. Obama and the Left
3. More on Obama and the Left
4. Dan Savage
5. Jonathan Ive
6. Sample filtering affects results of psychological experiments

Two from L'Hote

Two great posts in a row from blogger L'Hote: First Principles, in which the basic mainstream liberal agenda is articulated and compared to the Administration's track record, and The Contempt Gap, which looks at the attitudes of the media and the libertarian left toward the core left.

Anderson Cooper Cracks Up

Gerard Depardieu gets very merry, urinates ex-lavatorially on a plane, AC gets very merry on air.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to Fix the Economy in one Quote

This isn't hard. Hire people to build things with the free money the world is offering us.

Links for Later

1. Jaron Lanier profile
2. The Day Borders Got the Wobblies
3. Scott Sumner on the War on Drug Users
4. A candle shaped like Morrissey's head
5. How Groupon affects the Chicago startup community
6. Rick Perry's Fed Up is Effed Up
7. Joshua Walters is a bit bipolar
8. Alan Richman gets good food, weird response from M. Wells
9. 50 tips on writing
10. Republicans + Islamists = Christian Dominionists
11. Diary of a Revolutionary Guard conscript

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

-Stephen Spender

I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

-Stephen Spender

Decision Loops

The White House's decision tempo is waaaay down, which is another reason why they're getting outplayed. According to the NYT, they're still trying to decide whether to take a more aggressive stance, or to keep up with the bipartisan outreach. Sheesh.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mark Cuban's Very Good Idea

Mark Cuban has a plan for fixing the patent mess that we're in:
1. End software patents (but keep software copyright)
2. End process patents
3. Limit potential damages from "non-practicing entities" (i.e. patent trolls)

This is a really, really good idea. We need to cut back on the risk of lawsuits and open up innovation, and this is a fast, appropriate way to do it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mr. Nice the Elephant

My friend Blake points us at this post by Rude Pundit, because, after all, someone has to say it.

Links for Later

1. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola bibliography
2. Alice Flaherty interviewed on The Midnight Disease and the neurology and psychology of writing
3. Allan Bloom interviewed on The Anatomy of Influence
4. Clever shelves
5. Gluten-free brownie recipe
6. Sonar image: UFO or the lost kingdom of Kvenland?
7. Hart Crane "To Brooklyn Bridge"
8. Moogfest 2011
9. Alternately concentrating and releasing concentration results in bursts of creative insight

House Porn 21: The Cement Factory

Ricardo Bofill remoldeled an abandoned cement factory to house himself, his architecture practice and pretty much anything else you can think of. For the family that really needs big spaces. More shots here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Links for Later

1. Is the proposition P=NP necessary for market efficiency, and vice versa?
2. Is Bruce Schneier a powerful telepath who has mind controlled the TSA?
3. What do the cards hold for Alex Chee?
4. How should we pick strong passwords?
5. What do we need to do to maximize growth? (via marginal revolution)

Obama's Ostrich Option

I don't want to believe this either, but Robert Reich is pretty convincing:

I’m told White House political operatives are against a bold jobs plan. They believe the only jobs plan that could get through Congress would be so watered down as to have almost no impact by Election Day. They also worry the public wouldn’t understand how more government spending in the near term can be consistent with long-term deficit reduction. And they fear Republicans would use any such initiative to further bash Obama as a big spender.

So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama – to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington’s paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public’s attention from the President’s failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia.

When I first heard this I didn’t want to believe it.

More: Jamie Galbraith takes a whack.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Obama's Negotiating Strategy

The Nodding Heads of the Village agree that Drew Westen has written a Very Bad Thing in his editorial this weekend that criticized President Obama. In the essay, Westen accuses Obama of having taken his eyes off the ball during several major domestic crises: the banking bailout, stimulus act, healthcare act, tax extensions and this month's debt ceiling increase. In failing to use the bully pulpit effectively, he's emboldened his enemies and dismayed his allies. He's allowed the Republican narrative to run unopposed, and encouraged the Nodding Heads themselves to use the "both sides are at fault" position. Instead, Obama should use FDR as a model, and inspire the country and the Congress with his ideas.

Nonsense, says Jonathan Chait, FDR did nothing of the sort. It's a fairy tale, says Andrew Sullivan, Obama's doing just fine running things from the center. Andrew Sprung and Ezra Klein both respond with a combination of "Obama deserves partial credit" and "Pushing harder in the face of intransigence is counterproductive."

There may also be a bit of reflexive liberal bashing and anti-Krugman sentiment going on, but that could just be my imagination. It's equally possible that they simply think that the very strong criticisms from the right have little merit that there are no reasonable criticisms of Obama from the left; that if one's enemies aren't able to criticise usefully, one's friend's cannot do any better.

The countercritique suggests that either the President is utterly powerless to affect the outcome of a policy debate regardless of any strategy he might take, or that he's already hit upon the best possible negotiating strategy. I can believe neither of these things.

I cannot believe the proposition that there is nothing to be done in the face of a unified opposition, because it ignores a lengthy empirical record of negotiations and political infighting. We have, as a people, been in hard situations before. We've seen good horse traders and bad, good leaders and bad. We've also developed a useful toolbox of techniques for dealing with uncooperative people. It's useful for us to know these things, as it's useful to know self-defense in case we get into a fight.

We could, as an alternative, just collapse any time someone makes a fist in our direction, or we can prepare ahead of time, take some self-defense classes, and have an idea of what to do when someone tries to mug us. Likewise, when we know we're in a hard negotiation, we can either capitulate or we can use appropriate and skillful means to try to achieve our ends. If our ends are good, then we must be skillful in the use of such means as are available to us to achieve those ends. To repeatedly state that "if you don't do what I tell you, then I'm absolutely not going to even threaten to do anything," will lead to poor results.

In the second case, I do not believe that Obama has found the optimal negotiating strategy for the long term due to the side effects of the strategy he's chosen. The strategy is in part to begin with a "compromise" position and to compromise flexibly with the Congressional leadership in an attempt to gain the necessary votes on a given piece of legislation. The easy negotiating stance fits well with President Obama's character, and has resulted in successful pieces of legislation passing both houses--so he earns partial credit for that. The side effects, though, are horrendous. Obama's softness means that the Republicans are consistently rewarded for bad behavior, while the Democrats can be sure that the President will undercut any firm position they may take. Because he's willing to pay high ransom without complaint, future ransoms will be larger. Because he's never openly punished anyone for opposing him, there's no need to hold back for fear that this will happen in the future.

How might he do better in the future?

First: lean against the wind. Start extra big, extra far to the left. See how much you can get away with. Be daring. Second: give ground grudgingly. Make the opponent do a lot of work to move forward even an inch. Third: Make them pay for everything. Fourth: Prove that you want to win so much that you're prepared to do whatever it takes. Have a temper tantrum once in a while. Prove that you, too, can be crazy, if that's what it takes to get your way.

Show us how it really should be done.

Previously: What Happened to Obama?

Monday, August 08, 2011


OK, here's Matt Yglesias marking one up for Obama: the economy did do a very rapid turnaround in the Great Recession, and will probably pass the pre-Recession high water mark 4-5 years post crisis, versus seven years for the Great Depression.

Coldplay - Fix You (Live at Lollapalooza)

Michele Bachmann

Profiled in the New Yorker. Beyond belief.


On the sofa and onthe piano is arranged a collection of small stuffed animals, belonging to [Harold] Bloom: a penguin, Percival; an owl, Wordsworth; a donkey, Eeyore; a gorilla, Gorilla Garilla; a duck-billed platypus, Oscar; and a wombat, MacGregor. The wombat is named for a real wombat owned by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which Rossetti used to bring over to William Morris's house. Morris, being fond of animals, would play with MacGregor while Rossetti slipped upstairs and played with Mrs. Morris.

-Larissa MacFarquhar

"The Prophet of Decline"

New Yorker 9/30/2002

Links for Later

1. MacLeod's bookstore in Vancouver
2. All your ISP are belong to us
3. Looking back at Friday Night Lights
4. On the Tea Party plantation
5. Response to the response to Matt Damon
6. Miles Fisher: Pinkberry 3D: the Musical
7. RIP Bernadine Healy

Iron & Wine - Love Vigilantes

Sunday, August 07, 2011

27 String Guitar

Keith Medley awakens harp guitar envy in all of us with this beautiful full-range 27 stringer.

What Happened to Obama?

Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze.
Drew Westen sums up the problem at the core of the Obama Presidency in this New York Times editorial. As many observers have noted, there's a lack of connection somewhere in the storylines inside and outside our President's head.

The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.
The Administration will, no doubt, shrug Westen's column off as sour grapes from a spurned liberal. This is the same willful obliviousness that we saw in the W years, and is a further example of exactly the problem that Westen identifies. We're in worse shape now than we were before the election, because this time, there's no better alternative waiting in the wings.

The Administration continues to believe (as the Bush people did) that they can create reality. Reality begs to differ. And reality carries a might big club.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ready! Fire! Aim!

Assclowns at the White House blame liberal groups for not selling the debt deal.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Few More Wins Like This...

Self-delusion continues inside the Obama White House.

Democrats Dive

Matt Taibbi calls it (again):

The Democrats aren't failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there's political hay to be made moving to the right. They're doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I've said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television.

For evidence, all you have to do is look at this latest fiasco.

The Republicans in this debt debate fought like wolves or alley thugs, biting and scratching and using blades and rocks and shards of glass and every weapon they could reach.

The Democrats, despite sitting in the White House, the most awesome repository of political power on the planet, didn't fight at all. They made a show of a tussle for a good long time -- as fixed fights go, you don't see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did -- but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive.

Links for Later

1. Patrick Bateman's New York
2. NPR is looking for the 100 best SF/fantasy novels/series of all time. The long list is a pretty good starting place
3. Best practices in VC deal sourcing
4. Elvis' fried chicken recipe

Or Maybe Just Nuts

Fire up the "is Obama stupid or evil" argument now that the debt ceiling debate is over.

Matt Damon Schools the Libertarians

Matt Damon explains why classical economic theory as taught to MBAs (and Reason camera people) is not a good model for education policy. His mom (a teacher) is pretty awesome, too.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Image of the Day


Anyone telling you that cutting spending in the middle of a recession will generate jobs is bullshitting you.

Debt Ceiling Deal Roundup

I think Paul Krugman gets pride of place for expressing disgust with a President who has abandoned not only his principles, but also his dignity in a rush to make a deal, any deal, no matter how bad. Obama has failed to fight again and again. He has failed to use skillful means to achieve what is achievable.

Like Krugman, I'd have to vote no on this deal, and push for alternative resolution of the crisis. Despite protestations to the contrary, I think that non-bad deals are still possible, and that failure to reach a non-bad outcome in this fight increases the chance of having non-bad outcomes in future fights.

Why is it so important to look ahead? Tim Duy has a good summation of the strategic consequences of the deal:

Four thoughts come to mind:

  • The debt-ceiling has been proven to be a very effective weapon, simply because there exists a non-trivial contingent of Republicans willing to push the button, but not a single Democrat. With that dynamic, the Republican goal of dismantling the social safety net looks achievable. They only need to chip away at it one debt ceiling at a time.

  • Obama's attempt to stabilize the political system by moving to the center has failed utterly and completely. The problem for Democrats is that Obama's "center" keeps moving to the right. Obama thought that as he co-opted Republican positions, such as Romney care, he would gain Republican support. Instead, he pushed the Republicans even farther right as the only way to differentiate themselves from Obama. Then Obama thinks he needs to meet in the new "middle" - and hence we get a deficit deal with no revenue triggers, but only after a near-debacle that leaves the rest of the country, if not the world, shaking their heads. Will this episode bring sanity? No - expect the Republicans to move further right in the next debate.

  • Is it futile to vote Democratic? Seriously, it is obvious now that your vote will deliver the same policy outcomes should you choose Democratic or Republican - but by voting Republican (at least on a national level), you also get the satisfaction of being on the winning team.

  • Finally, it is utterly unbelievable that we are about to pursue an obviously contractionary policy course when the White House is held by a Democrat and in the wake of a GDP report that vividly illustrates the weakness of the economic recovery. Yet here we are. Team Obama must believe that deficit reduction worked in the 1990's, and thus should work now. Would a Republican president have seen the unemployment rate and the pace of growth and thought the odds of reelection where greater with a debt ceiling plan that couples long-term cuts with near term stimulus?

Links for Later

1. Interview with witch house artist ritualz
2. The platinum coin option for debt ceiling increase (save it for next time)
3. Obama was warned that this would happen
4. Learn Perl in 2.5 hours (via ycombinator)