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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Potpourri CXLVIII

Still lots of stuff of stuff out there in Cyberland, and I can't claim to understand it all--never mind the things happening in the real world. Be that as it may, I'll continue to dribble out new links and my reactions to them as I can. Let's be careful out there.

Economics

Since the economy continues to slog along, might as well start with this. Jerry Pournelle has some thoughts on deflation, tariffs, free trade, and the ultimate aims of economic policy. They bear thinking about, if not implementing.

Alaska and North Dakota lead the nation in job creation. Great. But they’re cold places. Got to want the job badly enough, I suppose.


Culture


This movie is just wild.



Found by Doc: a steampunk role playing game. And why is steampunk so popular anyway?

Also from Doc: apparently today is National Scotch Day. Who knew? Anyhow, I found some 12-year-old Glenlivet for the occasion. That stuff's expensive. Really looking forward to National Cheap Beer Day.


There is a reason why I no longer consider it my personal responsibility to right all of the wrongs or punish all the jackals/ignoramouses of the world: eventually they damage themselves. Case in point, socialist movie director Oliver Stone, who accused the "Jewish-dominated" U.S. media of making a scapegoat of Adolf Hitler. And now Oliver Stone has apologized for his Hitler remarks…that only took a single news cycle.

From Hu: a British comedy sketch on the real logic behind the "moon landings."

Oy… rocks are now too dangerous for school children? That’s what half my elementary school’s playground was paved with, for gosh sakes!

Why aren’t these Wikileaks guys in federal prison? Every time I submit a conference paper for NASA--a civilian federal gency--I have to submit a NASA Form 1676, signed by five civil servant officials, certifying that said paper does not reveal sensitive technologies to foreign powers. And mind you, I'm usually writing at a very high level about stuff that won't get people killed or that is already available in the public domain. I was informed that if I avoided this process, I could be punished via fines or imprisonment. These twits at Wikileaks have released tens of thousands of documents on activities that absolutely can or will put our troops in harm's way. Exactly how many forms were signed to get that cache out the door?

Jane Austen + Fight Club? Yes.

How to deal with pirates off the Horn of Africa: a handy guide.


Science, Technology, and Space


Some guy on YouTube is demonstrating a homemade carbon dioxide laser.


I’m a big fan of BoingBoing.net, as you can probably tell. If you’re ever interested in submitting to their site, they now have a “Submitterator,” which they use to gauge whether something goes in the regular queue or not.


Aside from logistical difficulties and pollution created by building their batteries, eco-friendly cars face another recurring problem: price tag shock. How does $41,000 sound? No, thanks. I’ll stick with my Honda.


Where are the flying cars? There were supposed to be flying cars! Oh, wait. Never mind

Google “will conquer the final frontier.” Well, we’ll see.

An astronaut made the first sign language address from space this week. Cool!

One study says that it’s time to slow down our reading speed. Amen to that. I had a discussion with someone about this awhile back--probably in grad school because it related to the general decline in literacy. I wasn't just grousing in a grumpy-old-man-English-major sort of way, I was arguing that the loss of concentration on linear, long-form reading could have serious long-term consequences for the sciences, too. A lot of things (calculus comes to mind, but also analytical geometry and other mathematical proofs required for engineering and science) require that a person learn them in a methodical, step-by-step, linear fashion. It's very hard to think that way if you're used to random-access, hypertextual thinking, which absorbs information in smaller chunks. Mathematical proofs, especially, require the individual to show their work--their logical, linear train of thought--or they cannot in fact be proven or replicated. Now it might be possible to teach such things in a hypertextual manner, but lacking a lot of in-depth education in education, hypertext, or math, I'm not sure how you'd do it. I do know that formal, linear logic is a foundation that is more and more often neglected. Just my $.02.

Another study says that relationship breakups are akin to cocaine addiction. Hmmm.

A court has ruled that it is now legal for iPhone users to "jailbreak" (hack into) their machines and install whatever applications they want or even switch service providers. I again had to defer to Doc on this one because I read this article and asked, "So what?" The answer is that there are some apps that, for one reason or another, Apple hasn't accepted. Also, since AT&T has exclusive rights to run the iPhone until 2011, that means problems for them. Apple's reaction to this appears to be that if someone decides to "jailbreak" their phone and there's a problem with it, said phone is no longer covered by the warranty. If the user wants to reinstall their factory default settings, Apple will be happy to help, but all the new/crazy stuff the user installed will be wiped out. This isn't over.

Foreign Affairs

Is Confucianism replacing communism in the hearts and minds of Chinese citizens? From what I recall from my Chinese history class, Confucius (Kung Fu-tze) was a social reformer who emphasized meritocracy and a ruling class that was steeped in history and literature, much like the British Empire used to emphasize Greek and Roman history in training its civil servants. This approach instilled several things: respect for tradition, including reverence and worship of one’s ancestors; deference to one’s betters (caste system); and a ruling class that was expected to behave morally and justly, or else face revolt. I can see why such a conservatism could appeal in China today: capitalism can upset a lot of apple carts, at the top and bottom rungs of the social ladder.

I've pontificated a bit more than I'd planned this evening, so I'll quit for now...but as always, there's more to come.

1 comment:

Doc said...

Short answer on Wikileaks: Because they're not in the United States, and are avoiding being so. I have no doubt if their source is ever identified, that person will face criminal (or military) justice, unless the political backlash against the leaked docs is sufficient to stay the hand of the Powers That Be.