12/17/14

Now I just want to see The Interview

12/17/14
Since Sony canceled it.

I never read nor cared much about the hacking and various leaks. From what I understand, it paints Sony leadership in a very bad light. I still don't care.

But I do like the idea of having movie companies able to operate without fear of some douchebag dictator, much less without fear of getting people blown up. Even if it's making awful turd sandwiches like what The Interview appears to be.

A month or so ago I watched the trailer and I was mildly intrigued. There aren't many movies about North Korea you know. But after watching the red band trailer it became painfully obvious that the movie relies far too heavily on idiotic teenage ribaldry. No thanks.

Then the #GOP (Guardians of Peace)--not to be confused with the GOP (Republican party), or the GOP (Gross Old People), or the oft underrated GOP (Grizzly Owl People)--threatened violence on the scale of 9/11 over a stupid movie.

This whole thing is either an elaborate and cruel prank, or the workings of a highly sensitive, self-absorbed, narcissistic douchebag. It is difficult to tell which.

Maybe Sony really went there and portrayed a petty dictator as a petty dictator. Or maybe it's just a red herring or convenient excuse for the hackers to hurt Sony. Or maybe Sony's got the most convoluted marketing campaign ever! Whatever it is, it kind of makes me want to see the movie now.

Content Warning: Strong Language

A few words on Cuba

It's about time.

If Obama will be remembered for anything positive, it's probably going to be this. While not ideal, still, good job. Props to the Obama administration.


I don't know if the theory about free trade and its liberalizing influence still holds much merit, but I think even while states are increasingly adept at avoiding such liberalization, exposing the masses to more trade and outside influence is generally a good thing.

Human rights: the not-so-ideal part about normalizing relations with Cuba. What is there to say besides that it sucks, and will take time to improve? Even the horrendous violator China is begrudgingly, slowly improving its human rights conditions.

I am reminded of that old Vulcan proverb, "Only Nixon could go to China." It's funny, I don't think a Republican president would have dared, nor could have gotten away with this. I tend to doubt Hillary would've done so either--she seems hell-bent on appearing hawkish.

Perhaps only Obama could go to Cuba.*


*Except he didn't actually go to Cuba.

12/15/14

Short people rule the world.

12/15/14
Yesterday, I was doing a lot of handwashing, dishwashing, and other sink-related tasks. Today, my back really hurts.

I am barely 6' tall. That might be considered "tall", but increasingly it is nearing average; and soon, I'm willing to bet that it will be below average for American males (at least black and white males). People are getting taller and it's obvious.
What is that, like 3 inches off the ground? Who is this made for?

What I'm trying to say is that I am pretty damn close to average, and yet the standard countertops, bathroom sinks, toilets, and other miscellaneous surface heights are designed for 4 1/2 foot pygmies. 

I get it. Why make it difficult for short and disabled people to use the sink when we "tall" people can just bend down a bit more? Got to check your privilege, you entitled snowflakes.

Well, I checked my privilege, and have found that while I enjoy the idea of being "tall", the vast, vast majority of all furniture, surfaces, and utilities found in everyday America are not accommodating to anyone near my height. You must accept your back pain and awkward positioning, for the short people demand it! They can't be bothered to get a fucking stool.

Ohhh.

I can dream. I dream of waking up in a strange new place. A world where I am the short person. Where I walk into what appears to be a bathroom, and have to use a stool just to climb atop a majestically behemoth toilet. Where every single thing is designed for 8' giants. I have no back pain. In fact, I probably have better posture than most because I'm always sitting or standing as tall as I possibly can, just to get by. That's a world I could get used to.

But I'll settle for a few more inches height on everything. Anything less is accepting the oppressive minoritarchy!

8/28/14

The Hobbit: 5 Armies, Mad Max trailers

8/28/14
Either you've seen these already or you don't care. My target audience is the .001% who were born yesterday and stumbled onto this blog with an interest in sci-fi/fantasy films. Rare birds.

Unlike most nerds, I have not actually read The Hobbit. So I don't know whats going to happen. I'm pretty sure Smaug will destroy a bunch of stuff and kill a lot of people. And Bilbo keeps the ring. Frankly, I'm just in it for the ride:



Also, a new Mad Max movie. I don't care much for the ritualistic torture, but that opening scene and the contrasting palette! They piled on the aesthetic frosting:


Our thought leaders

Perry over at Samizdata boldly went forth and commented on a Guardian article, which refers to the Pakistani and Arab rapists as "Asians."

Perry's comment:
I have never… ever… heard a person of Pakistani or Arab origins called ‘Asian’ in the UK other than in the mainstream media. Never. Not even once. ...
It was deleted of course. So what kind of comments aren't deleted on such an article?

This kind:
Perpetrators of abuse are members of society that come from all walks of life, all nationalities and creeds. How many members of society have known or know of a child that is being abused and do nothing about it. If you want to live in a civilised society then society has to take collective responsibility for their actions, otherwise it is just a veneer. It is the people that create and choose what kind of a society they want to be. Maybe some soul searching is in order.
I lol'd.

That comment isn't only not deleted, it is a recommended comment!

So a bunch of non-native "Asians" go on a raping rampage and the proper response is to "take collective responsibility" and do some "soul searching."

I may not be a fancy Guardian editor, but if a bunch of Americans went on a raping rampage in Pakistan, the last thing I would expect from Pakistan is for them to do some collective soul searching and ask how society contributed to it. That would be absurd. Comically absurd.

It's not because I think the West is superior or Pakistan is primitive, but because that kind of a response is a priori absurd. It's self-freaking-evident.

The only "soul searching" and "collective responsibility" going on should be about why the raping wasn't ended much, much sooner: Fear of being labeled racist. Nobody wants to be called "the nigger guy." That's a societal problem, that's an environment we created--Guardian editors probably more than others.

7/17/14

Just checking in

7/17/14
Sometimes I go for weeks (or months) without really wanting to write. Well, I want to, just not bad enough to log in and write something minimally intelligent and fairly coherent. It's like twitter is too short and weird, and a blog is just too formal (not really--that's just how I perceive it, which probably inhibits me from writing more frequently). I guess it's a psychological hurdle I should just plow through more often.

Like so:

Hey guys, I'm gonna share a video because I thought it was kinda funny, and stroked my ego because I, too, am a grammar nazi (all you 80s kids & nerdy types will probably particularly enjoy this as well):


By the way, I did finish the book I promised to review. I took notes, bookmarked several pages, have sort of a draft in my head, but never got around to writing it when it was still blogospherically relevant. So, unless I'm stricken with acute debilitating lethargy, it will be up soon.

6/2/14

New Olympic Games to be hosted in North Korea, China, and by various other pompous dictators henceforth

6/2/14
After decades of more or less irresponsible spending in most of Western welfare-state civilization, the return on investments of throwing money down bottomless pits aren't looking so good. A few of us caught on many years ago:
Sports teams bring little net economic benefit. No disinterested economist has found any justification for the premise that they improve the local economy - instead, they just shift benefit around.

Teams take better care of stadiums they actually own....

Teams always underestimate the tax burden of the stadium and the implied subsidy. Often you see them arguing that the stadium will be funded only out of the revenues from the stadium itself -- well if that's the case, then why does the public need to be involved at all?
Fast forward to 2014, when it's time to bid on the 2022 Olympics. The only bidders left interested are Kazakhstan and China. Haha:
Bidding on the Olympics has been justified for years by one big economic lie: investing in hosting Olympic Games will lead to long-term economic growth.

It doesn't.

In a 2006 paper, "Mega-events: The effect of the world's biggest sporting events on local, regional, and national economics," Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson took this idea to task:

"Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system."

Matheson also argues that Olympic economic impact reports often ignore the significant costs for things like security and conflate "general infrastructure" with "sports infrastructure."
Read the whole thing, and be sure to check out the video showing a lot of the abandoned Olympic stadiums of yesteryear. The only places left willing to throw money down that hole are desperate countries/dictators attempting to prove themselves to the rest of the world.

5/30/14

Time to close some tabs

5/30/14
I've been wanting to write about most of the stories behind the following links, sometimes starting a draft, sometimes leaving my browser open for days just to avoid extending my already absurdly long list of bookmarks (sleep mode is my new friend).

Hours, days, a week goes by and I just can't force myself to write about something a week old. It's odd how something seemingly so important is considerably less so a week later. But that's the nature of blogging, and news in general (I never claimed to be a great blogger). Also, distraction.

Image from Toolfools

In no particular order, some interesting stuff, even if a few are a bit old:

First, a few links related to what I'm reading. Glenn Greenwald's new book, "No Place to Hide," so far, is okay. I should finish it tonight.
'800 dead babies: if it could, the religious right would bury this story in the same septic tank.' Ignore the tactless linkbait phrasing: this is a big and awfully tragic story. Via The Prussian.

'The 'Miracle' Berry That Could Replace Sugar' and help millions effectively fight obesity.

Remember the Gibson Guitar raids? There may be more to that story.

This piece is over a month old, but I remember wanting to discuss it. I just don't remember why, exactly (obviously something to do with the ousting of the Mozilla CEO, Brenden Eich). It's still a good read however.
  • But if you read this blog post from Mozilla, it is maddening. What are they talking about? I'm so sick of vague language--it probably was mostly read as an apology for letting Hitler run their business. BUT, because it's so vague, it can just as easily be read to suggest that they are very sorry for their intolerance--evinced by ousting a man for having an opinion. Even though it was a very common opinion, one shared by Barrack Obama at the time.

Three links from Slate Star Codex:
I always wanted to try something like this. I tend to think I could easily succeed, but if my Thanksgiving experiences are any indication, probably not.

I want to write a post about anonymity on the Internet, which was partly inspired by this post from the Last Psychiatrist. I will write that post one day.

So VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and White House press Secretary Jay Carney resigned. Why does everything feel like it's all heavily scripted, like a bad TV show? Probably because it is.
  • Is it just me, or are presidential and senatorial politics are feeling very Orwellian, almost Soviet when it comes to appearances? I know congressional politics is highly susceptible to populism, but at least it's a lot more transparent--which makes me reconsider term lengths for the other two (but that's not about to happen).
Comcast, Netflix, and data caps... If you, like me, have given up watching TV through traditional means, be afraid, be very afraid. Relatedly, I've found if you spend enough time searching for channels you like--and they probably all exist--YouTube can all but replace your entire visual entertainment diet. Some people say YouTube is a bubble about to burst; I say it's just getting warmed up.

Possible blog post spoilers (lol, like anyone cares). Stuff I found in the last day or two I kinda want to write about:

'GOP House Votes To Leave States Alone On Medical Marijuana.' Despite the headline, note that the GOP votes in favor were decidedly a minority of GOP votes. At least they allowed a vote on it.

'Scientists Report Finding Reliable Way to Teleport Data'

'It's Time to Stop Babying Mars'

5/17/14

New Interstellar trailer. And why I dislike many "space movies"

5/17/14
Matthew McConaughey and Michael Caine together in a big budget sci-fi, directed by Chris Nolan... What could go wrong?

From the looks of the trailer, it surprisingly seems to be fairly balanced between a character-driven story and one driven by events or the environment.

Although space travel obviously plays a crucial role here, as a sci-fi fan of the Trekkie persuasion--and from what little I can glean out of this--it seems that space, and space travel won't receive the attention it should. Traveling through a wormhole and speeding through space I fear will be an afterthought, compared to the characters and the story (of course the characters and story should come first, but the space aspect should be emphasized, else why bother?). Like space isn't interesting, except as a way to draw in crowds--as if it's a troublesome hurdle to be quickly overcome and forgotten.
 
Oh yeah, and I'm sure it will be a great thriller movie. Because all space movies have to be psychological thrillers, can't have any awestruck adventure with a focus on sci-fi concepts now. I am sick of that Hollywood rule. Because apparently space isn't the fantastical vast sea of beautiful, mysterious, and mind-bending things it truly is. It's a backdrop. It's the thing between point A and point B--no need to explore. Spend a couple minutes in a spaceship and throw some CGI nebulae in the window. Remember Prometheus? Alien? Hell, even the new Star Trek movies have no sense of adventure. Don't have time for space, must kill bad guys.

Why can't we just have a space adventure film? I know I'm probably in the minority on this (likely because I spent way too much time reading Heinlein and watching classic Trek), but I'm tired of space movies that don't care about space. If you can replace outer space with say, the ground, a cruise ship, or a magic portal without affecting the main story, then it's a horrible "space movie." It's just a story that happens to be in space.

I hope I'm wrong. It's clear this movie isn't about space, and that's fine. It's about saving humanity or something, characters maturing. But the name is Interstellar, there better be a lot of time and emphasis devoted to space/space travel and how freaking awesome that is.

5/15/14

We just need a Death Star now

5/15/14
Life imitates art, or something.

Army's new helmet concept
Wookie hunter

Now that we've got laser guns, spaceships, and lightsabers, should we convene and formally establish the Galactic Empire already and build a Death Star? I mean, we've already got the blueprints for it.

Then again, perhaps we should wait till we have hovering cars. And it won't be long until you see the closest thing to a living, breathing Darth Vader on planet Earth.

There isn't much time. We've got to prepare!

5/14/14

The world isn't going to hell in a handbasket

5/14/14
Before people have started using that or a similar phrase in the affirmative, the world has only gotten better. We are all richer, live longer, less hungry than before, and it's only getting better.

Yet as we always have, we still complain like things are getting worse. This pessimism bias afflicts us all (perhaps that is what keeps us improving things).

Speculate about the Flynn effect, natural selection, availability of capital, population (more hands=more work=more stuff), whatever you want: life generally gets a little better everyday.



Let's hope we continue the trend.

5/11/14

Why patriotic, law-and-order types should consider marijuana legalization

5/11/14
My headline is a bit over-broad, but instead of saying xenophobic, anti-immigrant right wingers, I'll be both polite and accurate:

People who strongly oppose weak border security/illegal immigration (who also often oppose drug legalization for different reasons) at least in part due to the drug cartels and the violence they cause, more than they oppose some citizens getting high, should reconsider their position on the latter.

But why give those dirty hippies more weed, when we can solve both problems, if only the government would do its job! Well, the government is doing its job about as good as it is going to do. And it sucks at it. This is why we libertarians, conservatives, and a few liberals oppose big government and its endless programs.

Legalization, (even if highly regulated) is doing a better job at harming the cartels than prohibition could ever do:
Facing stiff competition from pot grown legally and illegally north of the border, the price for a kilogram of Mexican schwag has plummeted by 75 percent, from $100 to $25, the Post reports:
Farmers in the storied "Golden Triangle" region of Mexico's Sinaloa state, which has produced the country's most notorious gangsters and biggest marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop…increasingly, they're unable to compete with US marijuana growers.
As demand for pot is satisfied better elsewhere, what happens? The cartels turn to other banned-in-America substances.
Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, Va., and Brattleboro, Vt., where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown.
I'm not going to win over many people saying we should legalize heroin, too. The cartels are following the path of least resistance, economically speaking. The demand is always going to be there. We can have cartels supply that demand, or we can have somewhat more responsible American citizens and businesses supply it.

That doesn't mean legalize everything, it just means that fighting this with blood and guns has accomplished very little over the decades, while marijuana legalization changed the cartel's behavior practically overnight.

If this were a science experiment, you would note well the variable that had an effect. And if you were a scientist with half a brain, you might follow that course.

Dawn of the sequel of the planet of the apes of the San Franciscan tropical jungle

Why is San Fransisco covered in vines and turning into a rainforest? Is it from the virus? Does it make apes and plants grow smarter and stronger? Or is it global warming?

I bet it's both.

Still, this new trailer makes me want to see it. It looks mind-numbingly predictable, but the whole intelligent ape society draws me in. A lot they could do with that. A whole lot they could do with that, and much better than the original, especially the awful 2001 film.

Gotham, sans Batman: the TV series. This is a thing now.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought the coolest, most interesting thing about the whole Batman universe, was, um, Batman.

Granted, there are other, cool things going on in the Batman universe besides Batman, but he's like the whole point of the thing. Not anymore it seems.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: My assumption has been that the reason this TV show can be done — rights-wise — is because Batman himself is not in it. That way, it doesn’t overlap with any films. Is that correct?

BRUNO HELLER: Certainly from Warner Bros. and DC’s business point of view, that’s why it can be done. For me, if they said, “Do Batman,” I would have said, “No.” I would have not been interested at all. I don’t think Batman works very well on TV — to have people behind masks. Frankly, all those superhero stories I’ve seen, I always love them until they get into the costume. And then it’s, “Oh, okay, they’ve ascended, they’ve stopped becoming humans.” It’s their apotheosis. They go to heaven and they’re Superman. There have been so many great versions of it. This is a version of something else entirely.
Those were sort of my first thoughts too, upon seeing the trailer--that Batman is too big for TV, and it probably has something to do with the rights. But after the wow-they're-really-doing-this-thing shock/interest wore off, I started imagining Batman movies without Batman. And all the potential coolness I initially hoped for, vanished.

Perhaps I just lack imagination. Maybe they'll pull it off:
When reading your script, I kept thinking how difficult this must have been to write — there’s so many tough decisions that need to be made, so many ways to do this idea wrong. How did you decide the tone, how realistic vs. comic, which villains you would use? Can you talk me through the creative process?

The first thing was starting with Jim Gordon, who is the most human and real and normal person in the DC pantheon. What would the city of Gotham look like to a young rookie cop coming into this world? And that’s where we calibrated. This is a world that’s going to become that familiar world of Batman, but it’s not there yet. It’s an embryo. A lot of the work was reverse engineering the story to look at what these characters were like when they younger. Penguin, for instance, is not a powerful gang leader, he’s a gofer for a gangster. It’s about giving the world room to grow, but at the same time giving the fun and pleasure and drama of that heightened world. One of the great things about the Batman world is [the characters] have no super powers. Nobody flies or leaps over buildings. You start with psychology and that’s where we build from.
So it's going to be a cop show in Gotham city. That's either good, or really bad.

If it's Gotham City: The Wire, hell yeah! It would make my day to watch Jim Gordon and his rag-tag group of mostly straight cops navigating the corrupt waters of the system, whilst trying to take out bad guys, not infrequently bumping into future Batman villains.

If it's Law and Order: Gotham, no thanks, I've got to keep a sharp eye on my Florida paint drying and my Death Valley grass growing.

Link via Ace, who warns: "Coming soon: Jimmy Olsen, Boy Reporter."
I hope not.

 

5/10/14

Dude

5/10/14
I was going to put this in the Mystery Link in the sidebar, but it's just too good (too good to check as well).

But my skeptical spidey sense is going crazy.


He's like, living the life of James Bond, without any actual spying . . . just consistently escaping death in sensational ways.

Little late on this

But good stuff.

Maybe I should hang out on twitter more often.

4/18/14

The Entertaining Drama of Online FPS Games

4/18/14
I used to play an online FPS game, and still probably would today if I felt like getting sucked in to an overwhelming addiction (or play casual and suck at it). So for me, this YouTube series I stumbled onto was hilariously salient. But I think most people would find it entertaining.

We all love to hate stupid people. In the world of gaming, we call these players noobs, and they are abundant (yes, even veteran players can be noobs--noobness no longer is limited to newness).

In real life, stupid has consequences and only rarely is it funny. In games however, while stupid people are frustrating, often they are the source of unlimited amusement.

So enjoy about 1.5 hours worth of solid satirical FPS gaming entertainment:


Props to Hank and Jed. If you like what you saw, that was all from them.

4/15/14

Linkables

4/15/14
Lot's of interesting stuff, not enough energy (nor expertise) to write about them. So here's some links:

Funding fake charities and sock puppets.

Restaurant googles you before it seats you.

I never knew how precariously efficacious the IRS really was.

Kyriarchy.

Utah police search entire prescription history of United Fire Authority employees, because some morphine went missing, which nobody was ever charged with stealing. Sounds like good fishing.

Rand Paul is too scary! Well, he's a lot better than his dad, but he is different. Can't have that.

List of Democrats who took money from the Koch brothers. A sizable list, too. I guess it's time to find a new bogeyman and MoveOn.org.

Civil Disobedience: King versus Huemer. Should one accept punishment for breaking an unjust law or no?

The Bundy saga is different things to different people.

That's about as clear and definitive a statement on pro and anti-Bundy sentiments as can be.

To some, it's about government overreach. To others, it's a clear-cut case of a rancher not following the rules. And then there's a bunch of related (often alleged and rumored) nefarious stuff going on around it.

By now, most of you have heard of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's troubles with the BLM.

I'm not too worked up over it, and won't be writing much about it. I'm ambivalent, with misgivings should I support any one side. I'll just briefly summarize my feelings:
  • Bundy stopped paying the fees for his cattle to graze on federal land.
  • Bundy disputes that it's legitimately federal land, and/or that the feds do not have authority in the matter.
I'm sympathetic. But those two points--which are at the heart of the matter--to me, paint a picture of a pretty clear path from protester to martyr. With our legal system, continued disobedience pretty much ensures prison time. For some reason I don't see Bundy as wanting to be such a martyr.

I mean, we have a pretty well-established system in this country regarding state and federal land, who owns it, and how the people use it. But what if you feel the system is wrong? Do you go along to get along? Or do you go further and refuse/disobey everything you disagree with? Expecting to change the laws and coming away at least somewhat victorious seems overly optimistic. Getting lots of other people to think about it and and then try to change things seems a bit more realistic.

I guess I'm still mulling it over.

That said, I mostly agree with Warren Meyer at Coyoteblog--in a logical, very concrete, matter-of-fact way. For Bundy is not petitioning his government through the accepted and official means (or maybe he did and got nowhere), and resorted to breaking the rules. Why support a cause that has no legal leg to stand on?

I don't buy this Obama-age, Harry Reid involvement crap. I wouldn't put too much stock into that. As this remarkably refreshing article illustrates: there's not much there, there.

But just in general, the rebel in me wants Bundy to win. At least symbolically. To expose all the bullshit the BLM forces upon ranchers, to expose how tactless the federal government is, to expose how little of shit the government gives, to make us question why does the federal government have to own so much Western land? It doesn't have to. It can and should give it to the states, at least most of it.

Edited to add: Should this turn into a civil disobedience issue (which it probably is already... and less about fees, but more about the scope and purpose of government agencies): Bryan Caplan thinks martyrs should avoid martyrdom.
If the law is unjust, doesn't consenting to punishment simply compound the injustice?  The subtler challenge: "Evading" or "defying" just laws could easily lead to "anarchy" in a pejorative sense.  But why on earth is King so pessimistic about the social effects of "evasion" or "defiance" of unjust laws?  Indeed, if the laws are really so awful, you'd expect every violation to make the world a little bit better. . . .

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