Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Megan gets mad

It's always nice to see your heroes get indignant and self righteous on a topic you feel strongly about. Apparently many liberals oppose vouchers but few (read none) will send their kids to the crappy school in big cities. Trouble is that lots of people find it pretty difficult to just up and leave, cos they're poor. Here are some
posts. I don't much care about the substance, but here's a juicy quote:

I very rarely get angry about politics. But every time I see some middle class parent prattling about vouchers "destroying" the public schools by "cherry picking" the best students, when they've made damn sure that their own precious little cherries have been plucked out of the failing school systems, I seethe with barely controllable inward rage.

Monday, October 29, 2007

my life finally has meaning

I just saw the team!! I saw the trophy!!!!!!!
  • The players look very, very bored. They were not smiling.
  • People really, really care. There's a seething mass of people running along with the bus, and it's not just school kids lining the route. People arrived over an hour ago to get a good spot on the pavement.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oh. My. God.

Eliezer Yudkowsky is super duper smart. He's 100 times smarter than me, which is probably why he intended this for primary school kids. In my experience, clever people often know they're clever but massively overestimate what other people should know, which is actually very stupid. It is so pathetically out of touch with reality I don't know how he can excuse it. Most types of intelligence correlate quite well with each other (although this doesn't fit the image of the socially inept mathematician. I think that's a special case), but this is a genuine and terrible stupidity so don't laugh it off you smug bastard. Will my dear, unsmug readers challenge the claim that smart people actually enjoy demonstrating their superiority in this way? Ah, the age old question, is person X evil or stupid? Here's an easily pasted section.

The right side of Bayes' Theorem is derived from the left side through these steps:

p(AX) =


p(AX) =


p(AX) =

p(X&A) + p(X&~A)

p(AX) =

p(XA)*p(A) + p(X~A)*p(~A)

The first step, p(AX) to p(X&A)/p(X), may look like a tautology. The actual math performed is different, though. p(AX) is a single number, the normalized probability or frequency of A within the subgroup X. p(X&A)/p(X) are usually the percentage frequencies of X&A and X within the entire sample, but the calculation also works if X&A and X are absolute numbers of people, events, or things. p(cancerpositive) is a single percentage/frequency/probability, always between 0 and 1. (positive&cancer)/(positive) can be measured either in probabilities, such as 0.008/0.103, or it might be expressed in groups of women, for example 194/2494. As long as both the numerator and denominator are measured in the same units, it should make no difference.

PRIMARY SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Don’t mistake this post for a functioning patriotism gland

Right at the very top of my List are people who somehow think that England's "try" was a real try, or say stuff like, "it just didn't go our way this time". Yes, it was very close and without the TMO it would have been given, but the guy was very, clearly in touch (after the game, he claimed that it should have been given, I wonder if he's sticking to that). I notice that a Facebook group he sprung up to deal with the issue.

Is it just me or did he screw it up embarrassingly? Did he really need to thwack it into the ground so emphatically (requiring the triumphant lift above the head)? Couldn't he have approached a little more Habbannaly, a little more horizontally? I think the excruciating closeness has diverted English fans from the important work of murdering Mark Cueto.

Added: He is sticking to it
I will take with me to the grave the certainty that I should have been given a try in a World Cup final and that, with a Jonny Wilkinson conversion to come, we might well have had a lead to defend instead of still having to chase the game," he insisted.

"No matter how many times I look at it, I still can't believe he turned me down."
I'll have to kill him myself now.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Question about global warming

Al Gore stupidly says, "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity." The bit about morality isn't the stupid bit; most of the people I know agree that it is. I might agree with versions of it. Now, as far as I know, vegetarians have a much lower carbon footprint than meat eaters.

So my question to you meat eating global warming nuts is this; will you stop eating meat because of the morality issue? Or will you see tradeoffs where there were none before?

Police Race To Scene Of Car Alarm

Since you people don't read the facebook stuff I post, you just must see this one.

Police estimate, however, that as many as two-thirds of these incidents may have been so-called "false" alarms, caused by children bouncing up and down on the tires, subways shaking cars slightly when passing underneath, or kittens rubbing their furry bodies against the vehicles in a stroking motion.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Random stuff I’ve found (probably best skipped)

A monolog delivered by a cat to her owner:

Okay, opposable thumb thing person, you can shut up now. I can't actually speak your monkey tongue language. Also I don't care. See? This face? It's me not caring. So cram it. Now. Shut. Up. You and your monkey tongue, I swear.

"Now is the time where you rub my belly. Because you are behind in the belly rubbing. Also in the neck and head scratching. Also back scritching. Scritching is different from scratching. You always forget. Which is why I claw you and make you bleed. You will learn. Even opposable thumb thing persons can learn. Sometimes...

..."But for now rub my belly. And be quick about it, opposable thumb thing person. I am behind in my rodent disembowling quota today and I cannot let that orange cat get ahead. I have things to do! So get to it, and I may not smother you in fur while you sleep. Today. Maybe."

Megan McArdle finds the idea of academic diversity especially funny:

Perhaps the funniest sight I have ever witnessed is the spectacle of a sociologist cruising straight past the analyses of power relationships and group norms that they apply to every single other facet of human existence, and insisting that the underrepresentation of conservatives in academic could only be explained by the fact that conservatives are a bunch of money-grubbing intellectual lightweights who can't stand rigorous examinations of their ideas, and moreover are too intolerant to fit into the academic community.

From a review of Klein's book is a quote from Klein on libertarianism (neo-liberals):

[it belongs among] the closed, fundamentalist doctrines that cannot co-exist with other belief-systems ... The world as it is must be erased to make way for their purist invention. Rooted in biblical fantasies of great floods and great fires, it is a logic that leads ineluctably towards violence.

And here is the reviewer himself. John Gray used to be a prominent libertarian type philosopher. He weighs in on the age old question, are libertarians evil or stupid?

These ideologues were not the sinister, Dr Strangelove-like figures of the anti-capitalist imagination. They were comically deluded bien-pensants, who promoted their utopian schemes with messianic fervour and have been left stranded by history, as the radiant future they confidently predicted has failed to arrive.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Al Gore should be summarily killed *

Please note that I don't hate Al Gore, I just think he should go on The List for saying, "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity." Apparently all the measure he's keen on will spring spontaneously into being throughout the world. Or maybe he's just an awesome libertarian who thinks his movie and book will be enough.

* (note to CIA, I don't actually think this)

Naomi and Che

Exhaustive research reveals that Naomi does like Che. He's a hero.

Holocaust denial is a really big deal, it causes people to organise demonstrations or even to end up in jail. The offence though is pretty small, it’s just a stupid view, held in bad faith that’s suggestive of unsavoury moral views.

If Klein is to be believed, people walking free in the west have murdered hundreds of thousands of people to move from being very, very rich to very, very, very rich (the oil dudes behind the Iraq invasion). Many people really do believe this and maybe it’s true, but it’s easy to forget what an enormous claim this is. I often think people like Klein are overly outraged, but they are not nearly outraged enough.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


died 40 years ago last week. Anybody who has a pair of functioning eyeballs will know that many people think Che is awesome, some may even know something about his life and ideas.

I don't know much about him, but I gather that he wasn't squeamish. He was a hardcore Marxist who wanted to confiscate all private business down to the smallest shop and he was in charge of executing counter revolutionaries. If a war is just, ruthlessness might be a virtue and he his opposition to private property was principled; he was fighting for the poor, the workers and for justice. So, even if we personally disagree with things he did to achieve his goals, we can still think that he was a good guy. We often judge people by their motives and Che was trying to do the right thing.

Naomi Klein has written an enormous book about the evils of the "Friedmanite" revolution which has swept the world on the back of war, torture and various other disasters (natural or otherwise). Apparently Friedman was keen on using violence and torture to get his free-market reforms implemented. But, if we go the "Che was a good guy route", what exactly is wrong with this? Guevara used violence to achieve justice so why can't Friedman?

One answer (the one I'd go for) come down to motives, Friedman wasn't really interested in justice or any of that stuff but Che was? We know this because Friedman supports free-market stuff which he knows will ravage the poor in various unjust ways (we know this because...?). In other words, people who disagree with us, for whatever reasons, are bad (at least when it comes to economics and politics).

(By the way, I don't know if Klein likes Che, maybe she hates him.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just to prove I’m evil

I don't especially like Al Gore. I'm sad he didn't win the 2000 election (or I'm sad that his win was not properly acknowledged, like by making him president). His CV now makes him look like the most accomplished human in history (especially if you believe that he "took the initiative in creating the internet"), which he isn't. He's pretty impressive, but I think he has a flexible relationship with the truth and think his responses to points about his power usage are lame.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You’ve got your invites

Now join the group!

I remembered another one!

"I'd love to do [Activity X] but I just don't have the time." (maybe this one could be dealt with by torture rather than murder since it would wipe out most of the world's population in one fell swoop. Perhaps reading this post will do?)


This may need a little explanation since I have such a hard time convincing people. People who claim this usually admit after interrogation that they sometimes go to a movie or dinner with friends or whatever. So they could do activity X instead of those things! Ah! But socialising is better (more important than, whatever) than activity X. Fine, but that just means you prefer other stuff, not that you don't have time.


Even having a job doesn't excuse you, you could always quit.

Yay me!!

I have watched a heavy, slow moving foreign (which of course means non-American and possibly non-English. I half consider South African films foreign, not that I watch any) film and loved it. "The Lives of Others" is awesome. There is still unnecessary stuff that's included to make its point. When the baddie hears pretty music, we don't need him to cry and we definitely don't need the goodie to say, "I don't believe anyone who truly hears
this music can be a bad person. I initially thought that the baddie's transformation was too quick and easy but in the end that one of the most impressive parts of the film, cramming the transformation from committed communist party man to dissident into less than two hours and making it pretty believable.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Is awesome, but it has its limits. Here's what it has to say about disciple and "fagging" at Maritzburg College

Over the years, some Old Collegians and parents have been outspoken about College's allegedly outmoded system of "fagging" - where a second year boy waits upon and serves the senior boys, as a butler would. However, this system - together with the general "privilege" system that underpins the school's ethos and sense of discipline - is carefully monitored by the staff, hostel masters and senior prefects. College's rigorous structure of traditions and concepts date back to similar styles found in pre-1900 British boarding schools, and this is perhaps the only school where this structure is retained to something like its original extent.

If memory serves, one of my senior prefects would have a line of second formers wait their turn to sumo wrestle him during breaks. Ahh, I can still here the sounds of young flesh thwacking into cold hard cement as if it were yesterday.

I don't think it's an advert for the school that one of its old boy's actually thinks that College is really the only school that still does this stuff, the only school in the world??

Defective patriotism gland


I was very, very upset after the cricket semi-final in 1999 (this probably has a lot to do with my Klussner adulation) and I was very happy when Josia Thugwane won the Olympic marathon even though I'd never even heard of him. Nevertheless, I find myself caring less and less about the fate of our national teams including the Springboks in this world cup. This is despite the fact that I find the current team more appealing than most past teams.

My Federer devotion shows that I can be fiercely loyal to a group, so my patriotism gland still seems to do stuff, it's just malfunctioning. I wonder why that is, and I wonder if Trevor will offer this as a candidate for instant execution.

Dear reader

On Mandy's suggestion, I (we?) am thinking of starting a Facebook group documenting pet peeves, crimes that warrant instant execution. I've blogged about it before, but it would be cool if there were a place that was easily available and updateable. I know my list is very long but when it comes to remembering what they are I'm lost. You don't happen to know what they are do you? It's ok if you don't know, but perhaps you'd like to add some of your own pet peeves in the comments. How about suggestions for a name etc, I don't wanna do all the work.

Here are some of the ones I do remember

  • Yes, but once you start earning pounds...
  • WWF is fake you know!
  • Those soccer players deserve an Oscar for their acting


Of course, as the list grows, the list of people entitled to life will dwindle alarmingly and we'll start to find that reasonable, decent people are in the cross hairs, so it should only include stuff that that is quickly revealed to be silly and commonly said/done by less intelligent individuals.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I hate nature...

and those stupid nature documentaries it spawns. Nature is mean and the suffering that goes on the whole time is staggering. I couldn't stand watching the injured polar bear slowly die of starvation in the recent BBC version of Planet Earth. I generally wish that environmentalists would focus more on the individual suffering caused to animals, rather than bombard us with other measure of how terrible things are. Pitiful polar bear deaths are a good way to do it. Although we should realise that extreme suffering will remain the standard lot for most animals even in natural utopias.

In theory, I have no problem with massive intervention in nature to reduce the suffering that goes on and I hope one day it will be feasible.

Skip this post

I've got this post on Federer that has been growing for about a month. It's really long now and I suspect the quality is decreasing each time I add to it, luckily for you this means I won't post it. A lot of it revolves around the quality of Sampras and Federer's competition. Will you be surprised to read me claiming that it can be looked at in many different ways? No? Without boring you about why I settle on this measure, Federer wins because he has played a "much" higher percentage of his matches against fellow top ten players, 24% to Sampras' 16%.

I'm surprised that this is close to my intuitive impression. Clearly I am a genius.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I’m a philistine

Predictably people are lamenting the advent of 20-20 cricket even after the success of the tournament. Part of me does sympathise, cricket seems to be an especially random game, so the longer a match, the more likely the better team will win and the better chance each player has to display his worth, all very fine things. But there are many fine things out there that nobody gives a shit about and if test cricket is one of them, well so what? I also disagree with that it impacts negatively on the skills necessary to be a good test player or team. Yes the test game has changed in the past 10 or so years but in a good way, teams score faster and totals have been increasing. It's easy to surmise that this is because of the influence of one day cricket, but it's a good influence. Australia were the first to really change and they kicked ass more than normal all of a sudden. One day cricket has also changed; what counts as a good score is much higher now than when I started watching. My theory is that it was test cricket that made the initial scores so low. People did not (do not) realise that in almost all cases, scoring at a faster rate is better.

I was super excited the first time we played a test at Lords. We'd arrived! We were part of the world! But I remember being mystified at the many empty seats in the ground, which I found out were reserved for members, the purists. If the purists can't be bother to go watch test cricket why the hell are they (yes I know they're not necessarily the same members) moaning at the philistines who are also too bored to watch. The stupidest complaint I've read it (top blogger Norm describes Gideon Haigh as cricket writer supreme) that it's dumb to try attract people who don't normally like cricket, "A novel idea, this: to redesign a game to the specifications of those who don't like it..." Yeah, but the same thing can be said of any rule change that's designed to improve the game or any marketing promotion. There will always be people on the margins of any activity, make it more appealing, those people will join in. Make it less appealing they'll drop out. If we agree that this is bad then why is it not considered good to make test cricket even longer and more boring. Then only true purists will stick around to play and watch, yay!! Of course there will still people on the margin crass bastards and they'll be the ones who don't really like the game, demanding that the activity be pleasurable. How few people must enjoy cricket before it achieves true perfection?

It's a problem with sport, we forget what the point of it is. There is nothing intrinsically valuable about winning; sport exists to bring out human excellence. Players should be trying to win and the game should be set up so that this effort, on average, produces a maximum of valuable moments. In other words, all goals count the same but the beautiful ones make sport meaningful. Batsmen should not be allowed to pad their averages (teams should never declare, unless they've been scoring at 8 an over for a while, they should be bowled out), teams that win by playing an unappealing style should be respected but placed below flamboyant teams with similar results.

The shock doctrine

Tyler Cowen claimed to enjoy Naomi Klein's new book L but then ripped it to shreds in this review
J. Joe Stiglitz raves about the book even though he hints at its shortcomings, "Klein is not an academic and cannot be judged as one." i.e. many of her claims wouldn’t withstand much scrutiny. My impression is that Stiglitz is pretty much the greatest economist of the past 20 years so what do I do? Agree with the true expert and rush off to buy the book or dismiss him as a hugely biased left wing ideologue?

What do you think I'm doing?