Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum...

is of course, like the best movie EVER! But I do have a question that has gone unanswered on FaceBook for a few days: Why does Bourne tell Vosen that he's in his office? In a way it compensates for how easily he gets into his office in the first place, but two fuzzy bits instead of one isn't better. I think it was just stuck in there to sound cool, but if I'm sure Paul Greengrass has some bullshit story to explain it and I wanna hear that story! If it doesn't totally suck I'll totally buy it.

The ending is poorly done, my guess is that they ran out of time again and rushed it. The endings of both previous films were rushed; the ending of Supremacy was shot two weeks before the premier. It bothers me that the last scene of the series is Bourne getting caught out, damn damn damn!

Federer irrationality

Four times a year I pretty much abandon any pretence of rationality. Now is one of those times.

Last year I thought a Nadal Federer final was almost certain. After Wimbledon this year I thought the same thing but now it seems less likely. William Hill has Djokovic as the second favorite not Nadal, who looks slightly injured.

Anyway, time for my completely ridiculous predictions. I predict that John Isner will beat Federer in the next round. The stage is perfectly set. Isner has burst on to the scene dramatically in the past couple of months, he is American and can count on raucous home support and he has never played Federer. He's also about 12 feet tall. In the past 4 years Federer has pretty much only lost to Nadal in finals and to random nobodies early on in a tournament.

I'm looking forward to the articles announcing the end of the Federer era when he loses. The end of the Fed era might be near but one loss wont be enough to demonstrate it.

Despite my prediction I'll say my betting insanity for the final. You have been reminded.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Lefties are usually keen on paternalism. This is because people do not know what is good for them. They'll eat unhealthy food, fail to save for retirement and get conned at every street corner.

At the same time however lefties are very sensitive to inequalities of wealth (not many other things, like inequality of tennis skill or sexual partners). Wealth = status and it sucks to be low status. Libertarians like Will Wilkinson reply that there are zillions of status hierarchies and a "poor" people can be at the top of many of them. Leftists will then reply that World of Warcraft is a low status activity so it doesn't matter if you're at the top of it. In other words each activity is part of one big status hierarchy and its back to square one.

But if people are so stupid why are they suddenly able to calculate their global status so precisely? Jane Galt sums up nicely that not only do people not realise their "true" status level, they often scorn traditional status structures.

If you've ever spent time around competitive rock climbers, for example, you'll know that they really do believe that being the world's best alpinist is superior to being, say, Secretary of State, even though most people would rather meet Condi Rice than Reinhold Messner. Indeed, in many cases, their status hierarchy is inverted; being a total loser is better than being a certain sort of corporate cretin.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Katie died last night. I don't know which one Katie is in these photos.

She had a lot of bad luck in a really short time, but she did get a lot of playing in too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Selection bias

Years ago I was surprised to learn that a majority of philosophers were atheists. This of course made me feel good about my own atheism, but I never found out if a majority of philosophers of religion were atheists. I don't know, but I'd guess that a majority are religious (probably Christian).

If this is true, should this make me feel worse about my atheism? Maybe I should, they are they relevant experts after all, but I can think of ways to squirm out of that, mostly because of selection bias in the group. A religious philosopher could be excused for thinking this is a lame response, she can just say, "Here are the six million papers showing why I'm right, have you read any of them?" I haven't but I still don't change my mind, I think they're biased by their prior commitment to their religion.

Tyler Cowen disagrees with the relevant experts about the likelihood of being able to upload our brains to computer. If they chose to study that they probably already had pretty strong views on that before they became experts, making bias a serious problem. But is it less of a problem to simply go with of common sense intuitions? Isn't that pretty much asserting that there's no point in even studying the problem in the first place.

I can see both sides of the argument. I'm torn, how can I side with the uploads, but against the philosophers? I think I should "choose" to revise my estimate of uploading down and my estimate of the likelihood of God up. But practically, it is very difficult to change what you actually believe even if you think you should. My brain thinks the odds of us being a computer simulation are quite good, but I don't really believe it in my heart.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Who wrote this?

"The phrase "weak atheist" is apparently nothing but a weasel self-label for agnostics who have picked a side and don't want to be seen as giving any opening to religion. It is politics disguised as philosophy."

That's from the Dilbert blog. The post is dumb.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Not that I’ve done any, like actual research on the subject, but the dropping of the Bomb on these cities never seemed justified to me. The reason given in standard 9 history is that it saved a million lives by preventing the need for an invasion of Japan. The figure, one million is obviously pulled out of someone’s arse, but the point could still stand.
Oliver Kamm’s a clever guy and he has a go at explaining why the bombs had to be dropped. I feel like I could be convinced by this didn’t do it.
I have a few questions (they may be stupid questions) that the article doesn’t answer.

  • Why two bombs rather than one (or three?)
  • Why those cities? There are reasons, but what were the criteria? Wasn’t the bombing largely symbolic?
  • There is major emphasis on saving American lives. What was the ratio of Japanese civilians to American soldiers were they willing to tolerate. There should be an answer to this and I doubt I would be impressed by the number.

Added: The answer to the first question is a little too obvious to keep like that. What I mean is why were the two bombs dropped so close together? Maybe three days is a long time to think after a nuclear bomb. I donno.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why read books on Atheism?

Part of the reason is that it's fun to read someone smart confirming your own opinion. Humans are tribal creatures, for almost no reason we are fanatically loyal soccer teams, political parties and Roger Federer. Once we've picked our side, we distort reality in its favour and we always like to see our side win. This isn't admirable, but it's pretty difficult to shake the instinct if you've been sucked in. Atheism is just as prone to this kind of loyalty as soccer or whatever.

All this is pretty negative on buying these books but I don't want to diminish the entertainment value they provide even if it isn't noble. I also don't think it's a coincidence that there are suddenly lots of atheism books at a time when religion has suddenly become much more prominent in public. The more I bang on about something position I feel strongly about the more likely it is that'll I'll hear from people who disagree. It makes sense.

Now does anybody deny that the world seemed a more religious place after Bush came to power and September 11th happened?

This post was inspired by Steven Levitt, who is not concerned he might upset people by telling them that abortion reduces crime, but is concerned that people might think he's anti-religious.