Saturday, December 31, 2016

Afraid Of AI? You Got It Backwards

I'm not afraid of artificial intelligence. I don't see it coming anytime soon, for one thing. You disagree? Take the most advanced computer translation program you can find, use it to translate a simple 5-word English sentence of your choice into Japanese, take that Japanese sentence and use the same program to translate it back into English, and then we'll talk. As Stephen Root said in the 4th-season episode of "News Radio" entitled "Super Karate Monkey Death Car":

"I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street. Many days no business come to my hut, but Jimmy has fear? A thousand times no! I never doubted myself for a minute for I knew that my monkey-strong bowels were girded with strength like the loins of a dragon ribboned with fat and the opulence of buffalo dung. Glorious sunset of my heart was fading. Soon the super karate monkey death car would park in my space. But Jimmy has fancy plans, and pants to match! The monkey clown horrible karate round and yummy like cute small baby chick would beat the donkey."

You can call that hilarious, you can call it great TV. One thing you can't call it, in my humble opinion, is evidence of the imminent arrival of artificial intelligence.

But even if I'm wrong, and AI is even now on the verge of happening -- it doesn't worry me. More intelligence? That would be great. That would be most helpful. The main threat to humanity is the very opposite, the same thing it's been for thousands of years: a lack of intelligence. Any threat posed by artificial intelligence is laughable compared to the constant threat posed to us by natural stupidity.

The most obvious current example? The moron who was just elected POTUS and all the millions of morons who voted for him. We were on the verge of cutting US dependency on petrochemicals in half, on the verge of getting a smart grid, on the verge of shoring up the social safety net, on the verge of making minimum wage a living wage -- but all of that and a whole lot of other very good stuff is just going to have to wait now, because of stupidity. Because of nothing other than stupidity. Artificial intelligence would be great right now. It could be a tremendous help with that question so many of us are asking: "What the Hell are we going to do now?!" It's not as if there's an overabundance of intelligence currently working on that one.

Another example of stupidity being the greatest danger to humanity? Hitler. Some say he was an evil genius -- to that I say, "Feel my skills, donkey donkey donkey donkey!" Hitler believed that the Soviet Union and international banking were united in a Jewish conspiracy to impurify the "German race." He actually believed that. He was a moron.

Artificial intelligence? Bring it on! Artificial intelligence, natural intelligence, hybrid intelligence, any kind of intelligence: we need it, we need more of it, we need much, much more of it, just as we have for thousands if not millions or billions of years.

Friday, December 30, 2016

John E McIntyre Is Not Gonna Fix Your Sentence, And Then He's Gonna Make Fun Of You!

A video illustrates very well what I dislike about some -- by no means all -- people who write about writing and speaking English well.

Congratulations, John E McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun: I cannot figure out how to embed your video in a short time, and within a moderate time the Sun's website with its many advertisements threatens to freeze my computer. And so, you've bested me: instead of embedding your video, the most I can do is link the page containing it.

Follow that link if you will, with that warning about the many advertisements. It may be that my PC is far more vulnerable to freezing than are others, because it is old and weak, or who knows why. Or maybe my device is not unusually vulnerable, and we have merely entered an age of great stupidity in Internet advertising, an age in which not just I, but people in general will avoid the websites of great newspapers like the Baltimore Sun, because they're infested with computer-crippling amounts of ads. Ads which thus defeat the very purpose for their existence. I've never believed that advertising people are generally as smart as they're generally thought to be.


McIntyre begins the video by describing how Latin is highly inflected -- it has different word endings, not to mention completely different words in the cases of pronouns and irregular verbs, for different quantities, cases, tenses and so forth, and therefore word order is not crucially important to comprehensibility, because inflection in Latin performs some of the functions performed by word order in English -- and then points out that because English is much less inflected, misplaced modifiers can lead to all sorts of spectacular misunderstandings in English sentences. And then he reads a bunch of sentences in which awards appear to be skating on mantelpieces and British MP's to be marauding Vikings and so forth.

Of course, no-one reading those sentences would actually think that the awards were skating or that the MP's were Vikings. McIntyre reads them to the audience of the video because considering what the sentences communicate is not as important to him as making fun of their hapless authors. He is completely correct that the positioning of modifiers is very important in writing English well and comprehensibly. The problem is that he's being a complete dick in a bow-tie about it. If, instead of just reciting all of those sentences like a sneer with legs and concluding, "If you can't tell what's wrong with these sentences, find an editor and ask," he had taken a comparable amount of time to suggest improvements upon a smaller number of examples, I, and other non-language-snobs, might have been less put off, and more inclined to hear or read other things he has to say, and clicked on the link to his column on the Sun website. As it is, it seems that sneering and feeling superior to those whom the positioning of modifiers confuses are far more important to him than being helpful. The world doesn't need more sneering and less helping.

It's possible that John E McIntyre and I would be quite capable of becoming great friends with one another. For one thing, I'm very much interested in the Latin language, it's not exactly as if people with intelligent things to say about Latin are growing on trees these days. Also, in perusing the titles of some of McIntyre's other columns, it seems that he may actually be opposed to some aspects of language snobbism at some times. But this video was my introduction to him, and he got off to a bad start.

PS, 2:06 PM: I myself have language-snob tendencies. I'm trying to overcome them. For example, after writing this post I liked a comment on Facebook which made fun of someone for writing "should of" instead of "should have." I shouldn't of liked that comment for that reason, you know why? I'll tell ya why: 1) The purpose of language is to communicate, and everyone knew what was meant by "should of." No clarity, none whatsoever, was gained by ridiculing the use of "should of." 2) "Should of" and "should've" sound about exactly the same.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

This Is My Seiko 5

There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My Seiko 5 is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my Seiko 5 is useless. Without my Seiko 5, I am useless. I must set my Seiko 5 true. I must set it more accurately than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must time him before he times me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my Seiko 5 and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

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about 21,800 results found for "this is my seiko 5"

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

mee r munkee an mee r sorree

mee r munkee. mee luv yu cuz yu r speshl.

th uther day mee wurr tired so mee lay down inn uh bed. then th man woo runn th storr with beds in it start yellin at mee, so mee runn owtside and hide in uh kunvertabul that had its top down. mee wurr reel tired so mee fall sleep agin.

then mee wake up agin reel quik cuz th lady woo own the kunvertabul iz standin next too it an skreemin. shee wurr skreemin cuz shee wurr skeered. mee unnerstan that now. but then, mee dint no wot wuz happnin an mee wurr skeered 2 an mee started skreemin 2. mee skreemin made th lady mor skeered so she skreem mor, and her skreemin mor mad mee mor skeered so mee skreem mor, wich made her mor skeered wich mad her skreem mor wich mad mee mor skeered wich mad mee skreem mor wich mad her mor skeered.

yu no how sumtimes it feel like evurthin jess makin evurthin wurss?

that awl 4 now. no speshl insite frum storee rite now. mee r sorree. lady wit kunvertabul r sorree. man hoo run storr iz not sorree. hee stil mad.

mee luv kitteekats.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

1) "I Don't Like Justin Bieber!"

"You don't, huh?"

"No! I am NOT interested in going to the concert!"


"I think his music SUCKS!"


"Totally overrated!"

"You think so?"

"Yes I do!"

"Well I guess that's --"

"In fact, I wouldn't cross the STREET to hear a Justin Bieber concert!"

"I'm sure Justin's going to be very disappointed to hear that."

2) "I finally read Swift's 'Modest Proposal,' and to my enormous disappointment, I found it utterly boring!"

"You don't say."

"I DO say! What, do you actually LIKE it?!"

"Well at the very least it's more interesting than you are."

3) My 5-year-old KID can paint better than Rothko!"


4) "These Norton Critical Editions are a JOKE!"

I Approve Of Shortbread

To me, shortbread is one of the most awesome things ever. That firm mouthfeel, not too sweet -- it's heaven. And if you have good shortbread, and you cover that with a good layer of something like caramel, and then cover that with some nuts -- probably almond slivers or pecans would be best -- and maybe get just a bit, not too much, of some other things in there like chocolate chips or marshmallow cream or what have you, or maybe not, maybe just the shortbread, caramel and nuts, and serve it still just slightly warm from the oven -- well.

If you can do all of that really well, I may just be putty in your hands. Or a big doughy fat guy in your foyer.

I was raised in a Protestant denomination which was really cool in some ways, such as all-in support of full rights for everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, disability or anything else, but seemed to be opposed to enjoying food, judging from the food we made. Think casseroles with egg noodles, green beans from a can and tuna from another can. Think proteins with all of the flavor boiled out of them and not even seasoned.

But dessert seemed to be an exception somehow, and now and then there'd be a potluck lunch after church on Sunday, and sometimes someone would bring an absolutely amazing gooey, nutty shortbread thingy to one of those potluck lunches. I'm telling you, Brothers and Sisters in the Light of Our Lord: now and then somebody would absolutely nail it.

People talk about how their favorite foods are often those they associate with their childhood. I have a lot of favorite foods, but most of them are fairly recent acquaintances. One of the very few favorites that takes me right back to childhood is a really good gooey nutty shortbread thingy. One bite, and I'm back in the church basement, and a whole lot of basically ruined tasteless bland food is spread out with paper plates and plastic forks and spoons and styrofoam cups for the bargain-basement coffee from a coffeemaker that looked like this,

but in the middle of all of that culinary futility, someone has left a pan of the good stuff, and I'm having a spasm of joy as I eat it with my fingers from my paper plate, in between running around wild all over the church with the other kids. (They let us run around all over the church when there wasn't a service in progress. Nobody got mad at us for that. Maybe they would've gotten mad if we'd taken food with us and gotten crumbs all over the church. But we didn't.)

But to me, good shortbread is also awesome with nothing at all on it. In fact, sometimes I have shortbread with sugar or frosting on top, and I wish they'd left the sugar or frosting off.

I'll probably still have some, though, even with the sugar or frosting.

Have I ever made shortbread myself? No. Why not? you're asking. Well. That's an interesting question. A good question, a fair question. I'll have to think about that and get back to you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Today Is The Day I Found Out About The Seiko 5

It's automatic. It's around $50 and up to several hundred. And watch snobs like it. Including the Watch Snob, who mentioned it in a column devoted to praise of the entire Seiko brand.

5 stands for 5 qualities of the Seiko 5:

1) It is self-winding.

2) It is water resistant.

3) It displays the day and date in a single window.

4) It has a recessed crown (whatever that is).

5) Its case and band are durable.

I've been searching and searching and haven't found anyone who says that the Seiko 5 is overrated or not all that great. Phrases like "an incredibly great deal" and "the best bargain in watches" are tossed about with abandon.

It is described as simple, basic, unpretentious and very reliable. We're talkin' legendary reliability. It has been called the AK-47 of watches. In a day and age when most new cheap mechanical watches come in sealed-shut cases, cases which can't be opened, which basically means they're disposable, like Bic lighters, the Seiko 5 is repairable -- although, as connoisseurs helpfully point out, buying a new one would almost certainly be much, much cheaper than getting the old one repaired -- which probably won't be necessary for decades -- unless, you know, your doting uncle happens to be an ace watch repairman who'll give you a special rate, or something like that.

Is this love I'm feeling?

Yes, I think this is the real thing. I think this is love.

It's true that I would like it even more if I had found out that brand-new high-quality hand-wound wristwatches were being cranked out for $50 a pop, or, even better, brand-new high-quality hand-wound pocket watches.

But you know what? I don't think it would make me stop loving Seiko and the Seiko 5.

I Like Cookies

I'm talking about HTTP cookies, the bits of information which companies collect when we're online and then trade with each other. The ones which some people think are part of the way that we will fall under the Total Control of capitalists, or possible even of The Machines Themselves.

And maybe they're right. After all, what do I know about information technology. But the thing is, cookies can also lead to me being informed about really cool expensive watches because companies think I might be a billionaire. For example: yesterday, I posted this picture on Facebook:

That's a wristwatch. The thing is, it's a wristwatch which costs several hundred thousand dollars. So today, I saw ads for other watches which cost even more. Including even some brand-new, retail available pocket watches. Like this one,

made by Audemars Piguet, the company I mentioned a few post back, in the post that started out being about LeBron James and then veered off into another post about watches. Audemars Piguet make the Royal Oak, possibly the world's heaviest production-model wristwatch, won by LeBron on the cover of Sports Illustrated and by Jeremy Piven on "Entourage." The pocket watch in the picture there is the Audemars Piguet 25701, which comes in a variety of styles and materials and seems to cost from a little under $800,000 to over $900,000. The one in the picture has a rose-gold case. I'm assuming that it weighs even more than the heaviest of all Audemars Piguet Royal Oak wristwatches.

But I have to assume. Because the Internet is made by people very much unlike me. If it were made by people like me, and catered to the interests of people like me, I would have easy access to information about the exact weight of every conceivable sort of watch, and I would have found out about extremely-expensive brand-new production-model retail-available pocket watches without accidentally having advertisements for them put onto the Internet pages I visit because yesterday I posted a picture of Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari on Facebook. The MP-05 is the watch in the first photo in this post. It's a manual hand-wind wristwatch. Its face is intentionally made to resemble the engine of a Ferrari. When it's wound up all the way it will run for 50 days, the longest of any watch of which I know. If the Internet catered specifically to my interests, I would know for sure whether or not there is a watch somewhere which runs for longer than 50 days after being wound once. But it's not. And so I just have to guess about some things. And I apologize for that.

And I also have to guess whether more pocket watches in the $1000-to-$1,000,000 price range are being made and offered for sale than a few years ago, or whether I'm simply aware of a few more than I used to be. Partly as a result of dogged online searching, and partly completely by accident because of things like posting that picture on Facebook yesterday. I'm really whacky about pocket watches. Wristwatches are nice, sure, but I like pocket watches a lot more. And only mechanical watches interest me: the kind you wind up by hand, or, slightly less interesting, those watches which are known as automatic or self-winding: they have innards (called movements) which are similar to those in the watches you must wind by hand, but the automatic or self-winding watches are also wound by being moved around as someone wears them on their wrists. The ones with the quartz batteries, they don't interest me much at all, and if I'm looking at a watch or a picture of a watch or a watch on TV, and I realize that it runs by quartz battery, I'm always very disappointed. Why? I don't know why. I think that almost any rational reasons why anyone would be interested in any sort disappeared years ago, when things like smartphones and clocks on microwaves and car dashboards and what have you became ubiquitous.

Why the $1000-to-$1,000,000 price range? Not because I can afford a $1000 watch. I can't. But because the Watch Snob wrote that you have to spend at least $1000 to get a really good watch, unless you get a pocket watch which is 100 years old or so, and take it to a good watch repair person. How would one find a competent watch repair person? I don't know. Maybe I will stumble across that information someday too.

So: in this case, cookies did exactly what they were intended to do: gave information to someone, me, about things he is interested in, ridiculously-expensive brand-new pocket watches. Now, if cookies could go one step further, and help that person, me, obtain enough money to actually buy the things in question -- now that would really be something. That would really be a miracle of information technology.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trump And His Muslim Registry

Trump uses Berlin attack to argue for Muslim registry: ‘All along, I’ve been proven to be right — 100% correct’

1) All along, Trump has been proven to be a bozo.

2) Even if he were a genius in this case, a Muslim registry would be 100% unconstitutional. The First Amendment of the US Constitution, with the part which is relevant to things like a Muslim registry in bold print, reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There's no reason to think that Trump has ever read the Constitution. No sign of it. But, assuming he's not impeached and removed from office too soon, he's going to become very familiar with the last part of the First Amendment, about how all of us have the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Alexander Pope's Translation of The Iliad

In the War of Troy, the Greeks having sack'd some of the neighbouring Towns, and taken from thence two beautiful Captives, Chruseïs and Briseïs, allotted the first to Agagamemnon, and the last to Achilles. Chryses, the Father of Chruseïs and Priest of Apollo, comes to the Grecian Camp to ransome her; with which the Action of the Poem opens, in the Tenth Year of the Siege. The Priest being refus'd and insolently dismiss'd by Agamemnon, intreats for Vengeance from his God, who inflicts a Pestilence on the Greeks. Achilles calls a Council, and encourages Chalcas to declare the Cause of it, who attributes it to the Refusal of Chruseïs. The King being obliged to send back his Captive, enters into a furious Contest with Achilles, which Nestor pacifies; however as he had the absolute Command of the Army, he seizes on Briseïs in revenge. Achilles in discontent withdraws himself and his Forces from the rest of the Greeks; and complaining to Thetis, she supplicates Jupiter to render them sensible of the Wrong done to her Son, by giving Victory to the Trojans. Jupiter granting her Suit incenses Juno, between whom the Debate runs high, 'till they are reconciled by the Address of Vulcan.

The Time of two and twenty Days is taken up in this Book; nine during the Plague, one in the Council and Quarrel of the Princes, and twelve for Jupiter's Stay with the Æthiopians, at whose Return Thetis prefers her Petition. The Scene lies in the Grecian Camp, then changes to Chrysa, and lastly to the Gods on Olympus.

That's Alexander Pope's summary of Book 1 of Homer's Iliad -- the "argument," as such literary summaries used to be called. Pope's translation of the Iliad appeared between 1715 and 1720, during which time Pope was between 27 and 32 years old. Many poets have translated the Iliad into many languages (and some non-poets, let's face it). Hundreds of translations into English have been made. Once a decade or so someone will declare that the latest English translation is so magnificent that there's no need for another one, ever. Or at least for a very, very long time. At least once during the 20th century, a paperback edition carried a line from a review declaring that this translation was so good that another one wouldn't be needed for at least a century, and then the reviewer published his own translation, less than a century later.

I'm not a poet -- I'm a very, very, very, very good writer of prose, but with verse, not so much. I can't see myself holding my own in a debate with great poets about the relative merits of various translations of the Iliad. But I like Pope's very much. This is the way Pope begins the poem:

The Wrath of Peleus' Son, the direful Spring
Of all the Grecian Woes, O Goddess, sing!
That Wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy Reign
The Souls of mighty Chiefs untimely slain;
Whose Limbs unbury'd on the naked Shore
Devouring Dogs and hungry Vultures tore.
Since Great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the Sov'reign Doom, and such the Will of Jove.

Declare, O Muse! in what ill-fated Hour
Sprung the fierce Strife, from what offended Pow'r?
Latona's Son a dire Contagion spread,
And heap'd the Camp with Mountains of the Dead;
The King of Men his Rev'rend Priest defy'd,
And, for the King's Offence, the People dy'd.

For Chryses sought with costly Gifts to gain
His Captive Daughter from the Victor's Chain.
Suppliant the Venerable Father stands,
Apollo's awful Ensigns grace his Hands:
By these he begs; and lowly bending down,
Extends the Sceptre and the Laurel Crown.
He su'd to All, but chief implor'd for Grace
The Brother-Kings, of Atreus' Royal Race.

What can I say, that works for me. Does this mean that Richmond Lattimore's version is no longer my favorite? No, it means that I love them both and don't feel that I have to choose one.

It's very strange that it has not occurred to me until just now to try translations of the Iliad into other languages, other than Latin. (Generally speaking, Latin translations of the Iliad are notorious for being not so good. Unless there are a lot of outstanding Latin translation of the Iliad of which I've never heard. That's certainly possible.) When things like that suddenly occur to me I get very happy.

The earliest English tranlsation of the Iliad of which I am aware is that of Arthur Hall, published in 1581, which begins:

I Thée beséech, O Goddesse milde, the hatefull hate to plaine,
Whereby Achilles was so wroong, and grewe in suche disdaine,
That thousandes of the Gréekish Dukes, in hard and heauie plight,
To Plutoes Courte did yéelde their soules, and gaping lay upright,
Those sencelesse trunckes of buriall voide, by them erst gaily borne,
By rauening curres, and carreine foules, in peeces to be torne.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Waiting For the Electors To Vote...

How soon will we know whether or not 270 electors actually elected Trump?

I think there are 2 kinds of Republicans: 1) Those who already hate Trump, and 2) those who will eventually hate him, once they get to know him better. We already know that you can be a Republican and think that Trump should be about the last person on Earth with the ability to fire nuclear weapons; that you can be a Republican and still be disgusted by Trump's... well -- by Trump. For a multitude of very sound and well-known reasons.

As I say, I think the general trend is for Trump to become less well-liked as he becomes more well-known, and he hasn't exactly shunned the spotlight since November 8.

You think I'm crazy for holding out hope that the Electoral College won't elect Trump? Maybe so. But it seems to me that one principle has held true for this entire Presidential campaign: don't assume anything.

PS, 5:38 PM: Th-th-th-that's all, folks, stick a fork in us: New York Times - ‎4 minutes ago‎ -- The Electoral College has affirmed Donald J. Trump as the nation's 45th president, pushing him past the 270-vote threshold for election, with scant evidence of the anti-Trump revolt among electors that some of his critics had hoped would occur.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Making America Great Again

"When I was a little kid, maybe five years old, in the old country, my mother used to say to me, she'd warn me, she'd say, 'Don't get too close to people. You'll catch their dreams...' Years later, I realized I misunderstood her. 'Germs', she said, not 'dreams.' 'You'll catch their germs'... I want you to know something, Tucker. I went into business with you for one reason -- to make money. That's all. How was I to know -- [choked-up sniff] -- if I got too close, I'd catch your dreams?" -- Alexander the Great, to Julius "Tucker" Caesar, July 4th, 1789, at the Battle of Waterloo.

And that's how we got Thanksgiving: from great Frenchmen like Alexander and Caesar.

"God damn your eyes. In 22 seconds I could break your fucking spine. In 22 seconds, I could pinch your head off like a fucking insect and spit it all over the fucking pavement. In 22 seconds, I could put 22 bullets inside your ridiculous gut. What I seem unable to do in 22 seconds is to keep you from fucking up my film!" -- From Jennifer Lawrence's unforgettable acceptance speech for the Oscar for Best Film Editing for Gone With the Wind, October 19, 1987.

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing. Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i' the earth? And smelt so? pah! To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole? No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay, Might stop a hole to keep the wind away: O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe, Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw! But soft! but soft! here comes the king." -- From Donald Trump's Inauguration speech, April 1, 1492.

"Chubby, chunky, blobbo, slobbo, Fat Bastard, Michelin Man, Stay Puft, Chumbawumba, It is Balloon!, Papa Grande, Augustus Gloop, beached whale, big boned, Wisconsin Skinny, butterball, dump truck, jelly belly, pudgy wudgy, lard ass, blubberino, Buddha belly, Hurry eat Tubman, one ton soup, Blob Saget, Chub hub, Calvin Cool whip, Manfred Mannboobs, 21 Lump Street, Walking 'Before' Picture, fatso, Harvey Milk Chocolate, Obese Want Cannoli, Mahatma Gumbo, Salvador Deli, Elmer Pantry, KFC and the Sponge Cake Band, Snackie Oneassis, The Foody Blues, Hoagie Carmichael and wide load." -- General Patton addressing the troops before the invasion of Normandy, September 16, 1378.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What If Artificial Intelligence Arrives...

So many people are afraid of artificial intelligence. They picture it as being emotionally cold, and quickly figuring out that humans are just getting in its way, and that's how human life will end.

But what if it's completely different? What if robots develop emotions in the singularity (that's the moment when artificial intelligence emerges), and they're very nice, and thoughtful, and silly?

For instance, your intelligent machine might say to you:


Now, you might think that my idea of what robots will be like is very far-fetched. To which I can only reply that I think all ideas of what robots will be like are far-fetched. I really don't see artificial intelligence happening soon. And I think it shows quite a lack of imagination that so many scenarios end up with humans and robots at war with each other. Of course, what I know about such pessimism comes mainly from the movies -- 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Terminator movies, the Matrix movies, etc -- and from Stephen Hawking. For all I know, it might be possible that the actual experts in artificial intelligence think that our future with intelligent machines will be much more like what I've described: something nice. If they all think it's going to be a nightmare and possibly the end of mankind, why would they all be working in the field? (Long vacations and good benefits? Again, I'm just guessing.)

McGraw-Jones Assault Case Resolved

In March, John Franklin McGraw, 79 years old and white, cold-cocked Rakeem Jones, 26 and black, at a Trump rally in Fayetville, NC, right in front of TV cameras, while Jones was being dragged out of the rally by 5 Cumberland Contry sheriff's deputies. Later McGraw was on more video, babbling about how "we may have to kill him next time." For 9 months I had been wondering what, if anything, was going to happen to McGraw because of the incident.

Yesterday in a courtroom in Cumberland County, NC, McGraw pled no contest to assault and battery and delivering a threat, was given a suspended sentence of 30 days and a year's worth of unsupervised probation, and had to pay several hundred dollars' worth of court fees.

And --

-- McGraw and Jones hugged it out in the courtroom.

From the stories about yesterday's hearing and the resolution of the case, I got a little more context about McGraw's comment: "We may have to kill him next time." When McGraw said that, he was talking about Jones being an ISIS supporter. Apparently the only evidence McGraw ever had that there might be a connection between Jones and ISIS was that Jones was protesting the Trump rally.

Today in court McGraw said, "We got to heal our country.”

Yeah. Heal our country. Before the election, some Trump supporters were talking about armed resistance by militias if Hillary won. Now, some of them are talking about "healing our country," while others keep on yelling, "Lock her up!" Would McGraw be talking about healing if Hillary had won? I don't know. Maybe he would. I don't know the man.

On the Yahoo News page linked above, with the story about yesterday's hearing, there's a map I wasn't able to cut-and-paste, showing 20 locations where there had been violence at Trump rallies. I wonder how many more incidents there have been that we don't know about, because they didn't happen right in front of live TV cameras.

I wonder why more people aren't talking about Trump's responsibility for the violence, and for crazy ideas such as that Rakeem Jones was working for ISIS, and a whole lot of other crazy ideas.

I also wonder whether McGraw has begun to feel like Trump has screwed him, lied to him and manipulated him, or if he will eventually begin to feel that way. I don't know. It's very hard for me to imagine what goes on the mind of anyone who ever had any respect for Trump or considered him to be a good choice for President.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sports Illustrated On LeBron James

"LeBron never owed Cleveland a debt, yet he repaid it anyway -- with backbreaking interest."

Yeah, the safety pin is good. I don't know him personally, but from some things I hear, LeBron James may be a Truly Nice Person.

The part about LeBron repaying a debt he never owed, "with backbreaking interest" -- excuse me, but you must give me a moment to look away and roll my eyes. The Cavs are paying him over $30 million a year. That's $30 million a year just from the Cavs. That's before we get to Audemars Piguet (a top-end Swiss watchmaker. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is available in many different configurations and materials. I believe LeBron's wearing a Royal Oak on that Sports Illustrated cover. Wonder whether Audemars Piguet paid him for that. Ari Gold, the fictional character on "Entourage," could sometimes be seen wearing a Royal Oak with a gold case and a leather strap. The heaviest one you can get, with 18k gold case, band and bezel, is reputed to be one of the very heaviest wristwatches on the market. Almost one pound. About $60,000, unless you know a guy),

Coca-Cola, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Nike, State Farm Insurance, Samsung and other companies whose products James promotes. I don't begrudge him the cheddar. My point is only that he's hardly a self-sacrificing hero along the lines of, say, Joan of Arc. And the strange institution known as the salary cap means that other players are paying part of LeBron's salary, and isn't it interesting how sports teams' owners don't get their finances in the headlines as if it were actually someone's business? Great scam they've got going, the team owner billionaires, distracting people from their wealth by publicizing millionaire players, without whom they wouldn't have their lucrative sports business.

To be honest with you, I got completely sidetracked thinking about watches I can't afford. To be perfectly honest, I don't care all that much about anything to do with sports or Sports Illustrated. Not the way that I care about fine men's watches. An all-gold, almost-one-pound Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is not the one single wristwatch I would most like to have -- that would still be the platinum Rolex Daytona with the ice-blue dial, in case you're thinking of going all-out when you get me a Christmas present this year --

-- but the all-gold, heavy-as-possible Royal Oak would also be very, very nice. I'm approximately... let's see... I'm about $60,000 short of being able to get a Royal Oak like that for myself. The Rolex costs about the same.

Hey, an Omega would be very nice. They're much less expensive than Rolexes and Audemars Piguets and Patek Phillippes of comparable quality and material.

Patek Phillippe, Bell & Ross and Tissot all make very nice pocket watches which I can't afford. I definitely prefer open-face pocket watches to the kind with a metal lid which snaps closed, making the watch unreadable. A new top-end pocket watch -- top-end -- will have a crystal made of sapphire which is very tough, in addition to the watch's movement being very accurate and precise (they're two different things) and reliable and tough, which is especially nice for a butterfingers like me.

No pressure!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Schallplatten. Offener Brief An Ulf Stolterfoht

"Die Tatsache, dass Vinyl ein so grandioses Comeback gefeiert hat, liegt weniger am Fetischismus der Sammler (die wurden ja sowieso immer bedient), als daran, dass Schallplatten (nicht nur für DJs) unbestreitbare Vorteile haben, etwa in Haltbar- und Bedienbarkeit."

Ulf, einem Interview mit Sabine Vogel in der Berliner Zeitung, 19.10.16, zufolge, sagtest Du das.

1) Es liegt ganz am Fetischismus der Sammler.

2) Vorteile in Haltbarkeit!? Oh, klar, Mann! Was ist denn unzerstoerbarer als eine Schallplatte? Wir benutzten sie als Frisbees und Fussballe und Türstopper, und danach klangen sie noch wie vor perfekt. Es war gar nicht so, als koennte man unabsichtlicherweise eine Schallplatte schaeden, so dass sie nicht mehr perfekt funktionierte. An was dachte man zuerst, damals, als man "Haltbarkeit" dachte -- etwa an Haemmer? Oder an Lacrossebaelle? Nee, vor allem dachte man an Schallplatten, denn nichts war so strapazierfaehig wie sie.

3) Vorteile in Bedienbarkeit?! Ja klar Mann, daran denke ich jedes Mal wenn ich eine Schallplatte im Auto spiele waehrend ich fahre. So sehr viel leichter und unumstaendlicher als Kassette oder CD oder mp3 waehrend des Autofahrens spielen.

Fazit: Schallplatten waren ein Plag. Sie klingen nicht besser, das ist Bullshit. Hipster-Bullshit. Erbaermlicher schon als die meiste Hipster-Bullshit. Viele dieser Hipsters (Neo-Hipsters: ich will nicht den ersten, echten Hipters von den 1950ern ankreiden, sie haetten ueberhaupt etwas mit diesen heute gemein.) waren noch nicht geboren, als es schon mehere ungleich besseren Alternativen zu Schallplatten gab. Zugegeben: manchen DJs sind Schallplatten noch heute nuetzlich. Aber nicht mal allen von ihnen.

Bitte entschuldige, wenn Deinerseits das zur Haltbar- und Bedienbarkeit von Schallplatten Ironie oder gar bitter Sarkasmus wie mein 2) und 3) war, und ich es in dem falschen Hals kriegte. Du bist echt ein Dichter, und deshalb verstehe ich Dich sehr oft ganz und gar nicht. Ich weiss das zu schaetzen. Nix fuer ungut usw. (Ich habe gar keine Ahnung, ob das Comeback von Vinyl unironisch "grandios" zu nennen waere.)

Aber Du spinnst wenn Du es ganz unironisch sagtest, und Du wirklich glaubst dass Schallplatten heutzutage vom Nutzen sind ausser fuer ein Teil der DJs und fuer Diejenigen, die einfach von den Dingen an sich fasziniert werden.

Gegen letzteres ist gar nicht einzuwenden, noch ist es mir unverstanedlich, gar nicht. Zum Beispiel, ich finde, dass eine Hamilton 992 (hergestellt von 1912 bis etwas 1957, legendaere Railroad-Watch, in vieler Hinsicht vielen anderen Taschenuhren ihrer Zeit hoch ueberlegen) --

-- ein feines, schoenes Ding sein kann. Insoweit empfinde ich aehnlich wie ein Liebhaber von Vinyl. Der Unterschied von vielen Schallenplattenliebhaber ist, dass ich nicht behaupte, dass ein Hamilton 992 besser funktioniert, genauer Zeit misst als die Uhren in PC's oder Smartphones.

Wenn ich und grosse Haufen von Hipsters sowas behaupteten, dann muesste jemand die Haltung verlieren und darueber einen rasenden offenen Brief schreiben, denn es ist nicht nur unwahr, es ist ganz offensichtlicherweise alles anderes als wahr, es ist so bloed wie Bloedsinn selten ist. Aber ich sollte sagen, es waere bloed. Denn ich weiss von niemandem, der die Uhr in seinem Smartphone nach einer antiken Taschenuhr setzt anstatt umgekehrt. Die Zeiten aendern sich allezeit, aber zwischen 1912 und 1957 trugen viele Eisenbahnschaffner und andere Leute 992s, weil sie fuer die Verhaeltnisse dieser Aera sehr akkurat und zuverlaessig waren.

Genauso wie bis 1957, und nicht viel laenger, Schallplatten der letzte Schrei waren.

Durchaus Gruende gibt es, Schallplatten und mechanische Uhre zu lieben. Keiner von diesen Gruenden ist fuer jemanden ausser Historiker, Verkaufer und Handwerker praktisch.

Wie das alles bei Buechern ist kann ich gar nicht sagen, ich weiss dass ich dazu viel zu sehr emotionell darin verstrickt bin.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

An Die Deutschen. Betr: Rechtschreibung

Ich sehe, dass Ihr vielleicht bald das grosse Eszett habt. ... Aehh -- gratuliere?

Am 8. Dezember 2016 übergab der Rat für Rechtschreibung seinen dritten Bericht an die Ständige Konferenz der Kultusminister der Länder in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Darin enthalten sind zwei Vorschläge zu Regelveränderungen der offiziellen deutschen Rechtschreibung zur Bestätigung durch die staatlichen Stellen. Ein Vorschlag widmet sich Adjektiv-Substantiv-Fügungen, ein anderer ist eine kleine Sensation: die Aufnahme des Eszett-Großbuchstabens in das Regelwerk der amtlichen deutschen Rechtschreibung.

Aus Anlass dieser Sensation also:

Ich bin Ami, hier haben wir keine offizielle Rechtschreibung, und so ist diese Frage vielleicht ganz naiv. Aber: Ihr duerft doch schreiben wie Ihr wollt, oder? Rechtschreibung hin oder her? (Ausgenommen die armen gequaelten Schulkinder und Beamten, aber auch sie nur, wenn sie eine Klassenarbeit bzw offizielle Dokument machen, oder? Oder wird noch mehr Menschen diese Grausamkeit aufgezwungen?) Zum Beispiel: ich tippe auf eine amerikanische Tastatur, und so fehlen Umlaute und Eszette, abgesehen von den Faellen wo ich cut-and-paste. Macht das jemandem ueberhaupt Schwierigkeiten? viele deutsche gehen viel weiter als ich und schreiben alles klein. und soweit ich sehen kann verletzt das niemanden und faellt kein sack reis in china deshalb um.

Also, ich finde -- wieder mal moechte ich betonon, ich lebe in einem Lande ohne offizielle Rechtschreibing, und so duerfte dies ganz naiv sein meinerseits -- aber ich finde, dass das Streben, eine und nur eine korrekte Rechtrschreibung zu haben eine artifizielle und unnoetige Schwierigkeit ist, welche Ihr Euch selbst macht ohne guten Grund.

Aber auch hier wo es keine offizielle Rechtschreibung gibt, tun viele Leute so, es gaebe es eine solche, und regen sich auf, wenn ihre imaginaere Rechtschreibung verletzt wird. Vielleicht beneiden Euch solche Amis wegen ihrer offiziellen Rechtschreibung. Ihr tut mir, ganz im Gegegenteil, leid. Ihr und die Leute in den US und dem UK underswo mit ihrem imaginaer-offiziellen Englisch. Ihr aergert Euch so sehr ueber solchen Nichtigkeiten und haben nichts von Wert davon. Und dabei gibt es so sehr viele anderen Bereiche des menschlichen Lebens, wo man sich aergern kann, und die Moeglichkeit besteht, dass jemand davon einen Gewinn einer oder der anderen Art hat.

Ich habe keine Ahnung, wie die Lage der ofiziellen Schreibeweise in Oesrerreich oder der deutschsprechenden Teil der Schweiz oder Luxumburg oder Lichtenstein oder Elsass oder Suedtirol aussieht. Ich hoffe doch dass die Leute irgendwo ein klein wenig weniger verklemmt mit der deutschen Sprache umgehen. Und Euch in Deutschland wuensche ich eine gute, schnelle, baldige Verbesserung!

Ich sehe, dass es durchaus Leute gibt, welche bestreiten, dass Goethe weniger als wenig von offizieller Rechtschreibung hielt. Was kann man. Es gibt auch viele Theologen, die behaupten dass Nietzsche kein Atheist war. Noch 5000 oder 10,000 Jahre, und vielleicht werden beide dieser Faelle endlich geklaert, und werden diese zwei Unsinnigkeiten nicht mehr diesen zwei feinen Dichtern falsch zugeschrieben.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ariel Sabar's Piece About the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife"

This is what happens when you become wrapped up in a political campaign: you end up being 6 months behind regarding people shouting at each other about ancient manuscripts they can't read, and bitterly denouncing Karen L King for things she never said nor did.

6 months ago, Ariel Sabar published an unbelievably long piece in the Atlantic under the title The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus's Wife, in which he reveals that the person who owns that postcard-sized piece of papyrus which was introduced to the world by Harvard professor Karen L King and has become famous as The Gospel of Jesus' Wife, or at least told Sabar that he does, after having told him that he did not, has a shady past. Oh, mendacity!

Sabar's piece begins:

"On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades[...]"

And it goes on and on and on and on about Walter Fritz, a German who has been involved with porn websites and a museum in the former East Germany and whatnot.

God, it's so long, Sabar's piece. So much detail about the porn which I didn't need to read, which neither entertained nor informed me. So much detail about Sabar's surroundings and interior monologues, as if he thinks he's either Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward, who he is not. Let alone both of them together, which separately they aren't even.

But hey, Sabar's father is an academic Biblical scholar. So there must be something in there, in the son's lengthy piece for the Atlantic, which is actually relevant to the authenticity or lack of same of that piece of papyrus. Among all of that exhausting inept prose which has nothing at all to do with it. Something I missed because I was groaning and rolling my eyes too much while searching for it.

Sabar's piece was good enough to have many people, some of whom claim to be employed by universities, demanding, on the Atlantic's website and elsewhere online, that Harvard fire King, and remarking, "wittily," that "SHE's the forgery!" (Get it? Huh? Huh?)

So maybe you, my readers, can find something in there, and explain to me just exactly why this extremely long and very poorly-written article was such a devastating piece of investigative journalism that I found a link to in that ordinarily-admirable website, What's New in Papyrology. I'm out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

I Guess I'm A Little Stressed

I feel very tired all day long. There's an intermittant pain in my lower right back. It's new to me, it's been coming and going for several days now. I don't know how much of that might be due to psychological stress. I try to come up with ideas for blog posts, but, to be perfectly honest, most of what's going through my head is kitty talk:

"You are a very nice little kitty. I will get you, you little kitty. And when I get you -- I will rub you! Kitties are very nice. That is just my opinion. I love you, you little kitty!"

And so forth, on and on and on. And I don't even have a cat. I'm just talking to myself that way. Does that make me crazier or less crazy than a crazy cat man?

And what about reading 15th-century theological works like De gracia et peccato, by Stanislaus de Zynoma? The small hardcover volume in the series fontes latini bohemorum, published by OIKOYMENH in Prague, feels very well-made, very solid. I know I keep saying how much I dislike theology, but this volume is really very well-made. I like well-made books. Okay, so made I've actually spent more time rocking back and forth with the book in my hands talking to imaginary cats than I have reading it. That's not really so bad, is it? It's not a crime. I've been reading it somewhat. And thinking about what else I might need to read in order to really wrap my head around what Hussitism was and is. Hus was put to death for heresy in 1415, more than a century before Luther put the 95 theses up for discussion. By that time, as many as 90% of all Czechs may have been Hussites. Apparently John Wycliffe (dies 1384) was a huge influence on the Hussites. I don't know. Apart from the theology, the history interests me. I would like to figure out how much of the historical influence of Wycliffe and Hus and Luther and Calvin actually had to do with their theology. It seems to me that a lot of their historical impact has to do with people completely misunderstanding them, people who knew nothing about their theology. But I don't really know.

Been looking at pictures by Fra Filippo Lippi, also 15th-century. He was left at a monastery when he was eight years old, they taught him how to paint. ("Fra" means "Brother.") Apparently his life was somewhat uproarious, although I can't really tell how much was real uproar, and how much is just the romantic legend of a rogue who never was, who went around stealing great sums of money and spending them and seducing many women in between making beautiful paintings. (The paintings really are beautiful, that much is definitely true.)

Wish I had something brilliant to tell you. I like kitties very much.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


"Yes, Sir. Russia. They're all coming from Russia. Well, not all of them -- "

"Yes, I know -- "

" -- but an awful lot of them."

"Why are they coming here?"

"I have no idea."

"How did they hear about this place?"

"I don't know."

"Which posts are they reading?"

"I can't tell. Actually, I can't tell if they're actually reading anything. I can't tell whether or not they're human beings."

"It'd be nice if they were human beings."

"Yes, Sir. I agree."

"That would be awesome... Have they left any messages?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"There have been some anonymous messages. Some of them could've been from Russians."

"It'd be great if there were really human beings, and if some of them would say hello."

"I agree completely, Sir."

"Maybe then we could even figure out why so many of them are here."

"Solving mysterious can be very satisfying, Sir."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Blue and Lonesome by the Rolling Stones: Meh.

You heard me: meh. M - E- H. Meh.

I've just listened to The Rolling Stones' new album, Blue and Lonesome, on Spotify, and I'm disappointed. (I have no idea how long the album will be available for a free listen on Spotify. If you follow the link and the album isn't there, I apologize.)

It's a pretty good record. But the Rolling Stones have made a lot of recordings which are miles and miles better than pretty good.

Blue and Lonesome is all cover versions of old blues records like Howlin' Wolf's "Commit a Crime," Little Johnny Taylor's "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing," with Eric Clapton sitting on on slide guitar, and the title track, originally recorded by Memphis Slim. These were the records the Rolling Stones and Clapton listened to when they were kids, the music that made them want to be musicians. And Blue and Lonesome sounds very much like those records from over a half-century ago.

And that's exactly the problem. Those old blues records were great because Howlin' Wolf and Memphis Slim & Co weren't copying anybody. On the contrary, they were making music unlike anything anybody had ever heard. That's what makes great popular music and jazz electrifying: you never heard anything like it. Bob Dylan expresses the critical principle very well when he sings, "I try my best to be just like I am." If you're not trying to do that, you're leaving out the most important part of the music. That doesn't mean you can't do cover versions. Not at all. It means that if you want your cover version to be better than just something by a cover band, you've got to completely forget about doing a cover band's job, which is to sound like the original record. You've got to completely give up sounding like anybody on Earth except your own sweet unique self. That kid Dylan is smart, he just got a Nobel Prize, people should listen to what he says. The Stones and Clapton owe a great debt to the makers of old blues records like the ones they cover on Blue and Lonesome, and Clapton has been especially good at making people understand that debt. He's a good man, and that's a good thing he's done. Still, when Clapton and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker covered Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" on Cream's album Goodbye, released in 1969, it sounded unlike anything anyone had ever heard. And that's what makes Cream's version of "Crossroads" 1) a great recording, and 2) completely unlike anything on Blue and Lonesome: they were playing Johnson's song, but they sounded exactly like Cream. They succeeded in being just like they were.

On their album Let it Bleed, also 1969, the Stones covered another song by Robert Johnson, "Love in Vain." And they made the same mistake they make on the entire Blue and Lonesome album: they tried way too damn hard to sound like Robert Johnson, instead of sounding like the Rolling Stones. On the rest of Let it Bleed, they sound exactly like the Rolling Stones, and they sound really great.

Another example: in 1967 Smoky Robinson & the Miracles released "Tears of a Clown," and it's a tremendous record, unlike anything anyone had ever heard. And in 1979, The English Beat released their cover version of "Tears of a Clown," and it's a tremendous record, completely unlike anything anyone had ever heard. 1 song, 2 unique records. The two recordings sound utterly unlike each other, but they're two of my very favorite recordings.

Blue and Lonesome is not bad. But it's an album made by a cover band, by skilled musicians doing an excellent job at the utterly pointless task of copying records somebody else already made. It's like putting on a raincoat before you take a shower. It's like listening to the original cast recording of Jersey Boys instead of listening to a record by Frankie Valli. And the Rolling Stones can do so much better than that. If you want that thrill that Keith and Mick and Eric got when they were kids listening to blues records -- those recordings are still around. And they kick Blue and Lonesome's ass.

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Since A Long While [...]"

No. Not "Since a long while" -- "FOR a long while."

But I suppose it doesn't matter. That is to say, it matters to me. "Since a long while" bothers me -- but it shouldn't, according to whose principles? Mine. I'm the one who's always opposing those who insist upon one standard English spelling which, they claim, is "correct."

I'm the wun hoo spelz thingz "rong" on purpose just to annoy those people who insist on "correct" spelling. I'm the one who's constantly insisting that they're missing the whole point of language, which is to communicate, and that we all know exactly what was meant however it was spelled. Do we all know exactly what the non-native speaker of English meant when he said, "Since a long while"? Yes.

It has never bothered me that, when Latin became an international language, a second language spoken by people with many different first languages, it changed quite a lot, so that the international version often sounded quite strange to someone born and raised in Rome whose native language was Latin, or to someone today who insists that the Latin written by Caesar and Cicero and Vergil and Livy is "correct" Latin, the only "correct" Latin. Medieval, international Latin bothers some of those people quite a lot.

I suppose it must be very much the same sort of deal when adherents of Classic Attic Greek become appalled by the international Koine version. Or when Castilian purists from Spain insist that Latin American Spanish is wrong.

And exactly the same thing is happening to English today: more and more people are speaking it and writing it as a second language and forming an international version of English which may often sound somewhat strange to a native English speaker.

It's not all that different from the way that we Americans and the British and the Australians have all sounded odd to each other for centuries now. Not to mention various Canadians, Scots, Irish, Welsh and New Zealanders.

I've always laughed at those British folks who took their own arbitrary habits so seriously that they actually became angry at how Americans speak English. And here I've caught myself do the same thing I've laughed at. It IS "since a long while" now in addition to "for a long while," you know why? Because language is much too big and powerful and moves and changes much too fast to have any reason to stop and ask for my opinion about how it's doing.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

How To Keep New Atheists From Annoying You

A few years ago I wrote on this blog that I had become so annoyed by New Atheists that I was considering converting to a religion, converting insincerely, just to spite them. And I meant it, I was considering it. But some time after that I found a very effective way to deal with the annoyance New Atheists caused me: I stopped hanging out with them. It is much easier than I had imagined to almost completely avoid them. Nowadays, every now and then a New Atheist will cross my path, but I don't engage with him -- almost always a him -- and pretty soon he's gone again.

Turns out they're not everywhere. Not even close. What a relief!

I have a lot less admiration for Bill Maher and Ricky Gervaise and Stephen Fry than I used to, because of their New Atheist tendencies. The last time I saw Fry on screen was in an Internet video of him debating with some churchman or theologian, who asked him to imagine that Heaven was real and that he had died and found himself at the Pearly Gates: what was the first thing he'd do? Fry immediately said that he'd ask God why He allowed suffering, launching into a very bitter and detailed description of some of the more horrible examples of suffering. And I thought to myself: Really! You find out, against your belief of what is possible, that Paradise is real and exists forever and ever, and the first thing you will do is complain. At that instant, I was completely done. The last ember of my patience for this kind of thing was ground out. I saw no reason at all to prefer Fry over the British churchman or theologian glowering angrily at him as he went on angrily about suffering and Why didn't God stop it. I just saw two angry, unreasonable old men, bitterly arguing about non-existent things, wasting their time and the viewer's time. It was as if I come all the way down to the bottom of the slide which started at the top when I first heard there was this group called New Atheists, and was so excited, assuming that they were like me.

I have better things to do.

At least Fry and Gervaise still act, and Bill still often talks about things other than religion on his show.

And I still know of no atheist movement to which I can belong. But maybe that's not so bad. I'm not so annoyed at religion any more. I'm still an atheist, but now I have had extensive, exhaustive, thorough proof that atheism does not prove, at all, that a person is Bright. If you believe in God, that means that you and I disagree about one thing. We might agree about thousands of other things. Experiencing New Atheists up close day-in and day-out for years has left me much less bothered by religion, and much less inclined to make moderate believers responsible for the atrocities of the extremists. The moderates and I are both against the atrocities. I don't have to be a dick about less substantial things. Any more.

Before I met the New Atheists, I thought that there was a lot to say against, religion. I'm not completely sure about that anymore. Seems like they say five minutes' worth of stuff over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

There might be much more to say against religion. It's just that none of the New Atheists seems at all likely ever to stumble over any of it.

There is definitely quite a lot to say about religion, simply because it encompasses great portions of the lives of billions of people over thousands of years all over the world. I can have all sorts of rewarding discussions with people about religion. I can discuss religion for a long time with someone without having a clue whether they believe in anything supernatural or not. But if it's been a long and rewarding discussion, I know that the person I've been talking to is neither a fanatical fundamentalist nor a New Atheist.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Reckoning by David Halberstam.

#1 Choice of Fortune 500 CEO's -- Wall Street Journal Survey

That's one of the things written on the front cover of this Avon paperback copy of The Reckoning by David Halberstam, copyright 1986, first Avon printing, September 1987.

On the first page of the book there's a reference to "eggheads who subscribe to Consumer Reports" on the second page, to the "rare combination of practical experience and theoretical expertise." I can find no indication that either of these things was written with an ironic wink or chuckle. Indeed, it seems to me that Halberstam's familiarity with irony extended possibly as far as his having been able to spell it.

The Reckoning is a book about the Ford Motor company and the Nissan corporation. Looking for "climate change" in its index. It's not there. Well, it was published in 1986, "global warming" may have have been a catch-phrase for longer -- but it's not in the index. How about"pollution"? No. "air pollution"? No. "Water pollution"? No. "Environment" or "environmentalists"? Huh... No.

There's an entire chapter about Ralph Nader, but it's about how different he is than a Detroit auto executive, and crash safety. Nothing in there about pollution or the environment.

Wait a minute -- "emissions"! Surely "emissions" is in the index! But no.

Almost a full page of the index is devoted to Lee Iacocca. There are 5 references to OPEC, 1 to India and 0 to Islam, Buddhism or Christianity. 14 to Wall Street and 5 to The Wall Street Journal.

5 to the New Your Times, 3 to the New Yorker, 1 to Newsweek, 3 to Time. Okay, Halberstam's starting to make sense now. His book entitled The Powers That Be is about, not heads of states or CEO's of automotive or oil companies, but the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time Inc and CBS.

When I say that Halberstam's starting to make sense now, I don't mean that he makes a lot of sense. I mean that I think that I've figured out something about him, which is: if it didn't appear on the front page of the Los Angeles Times or the Washington Post or on the cover of Time or on the "CBS Evening News," then for Halberstam, and maybe also for a lot of Fortune 500 CEO's in the mid-1980's, it pretty much didn't exist.

Okay then.

This has also big a big help for me in understanding that other cultural monstrosity -- or should I say, that other monstrosity which so severely clogged the flow and breadth and depth of our culture -- John Kenneth Galbraith.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump Will Be Defeated, The Only Question Is How Soon

I've mentioned before that I'm not a pessimist because optimism feels better, and because (I believe) I have free choice, (Some believe that they have made airtight logical cases that there is no free choice. I think this is merely an example of how logic is not yet perfect.) and I choose not be more miserable than I have to be. But I also believe that optimism is more logical than pessimism.

Let's take the case of Donald Trump. Pessimists are saying that humanity is doomed, that we're done, because Trump is the President-elect. I think that's an irrational outlook. Trump and his cheap hucksterism, and the stupidity which supports him, will be overcome, and thoroughly rejected. The only question is, how quickly. There are many perfectly sound reasons to believe that politics is Trump's last refuge, his last place to try to hide, and that he has not much further to go before he's out of politics for good.

The only age demographic in which Trump has more support than Hillary is 65 and older. In the 18-29 age group, Hillary leads by 60% to 30%. Trump's support is literally dying out while the Left wing grows.

More and more people are learning that Trump is a liar and a sociopath. Next up: the millions of people who believed in one or the other of his campaign promises. Some of those promises, like forcing Mexico to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, are obviously impossible to keep. Many more of his promises directly contradict other promises. Trump will burn millions of his voters with broken campaign promises at the least. It's quite conceivable that almost all of them will feel betrayed on one issue or another which is very important to them.

Democrats gained seats in both the House and Senate. Republicans still hold majorities in both houses -- but does Trump? Republican weasels who denounced Trump during the election campaign and suddenly started to support him after he won have been getting a lot of press coverage. Getting less space in the headlines are some Republicans who opposed Trump before the election and still oppose him. Senators McCain and Graham sound like they will be consistent, and continue to oppose Trump's policies, putting human decency and common sense above party loyalty when the party has gone insane. Republican opposition could grow as Trump's popularity erodes. Not every one of Trump's appointments is a shoe-in.

And Trump's appointments are only an issue if he actually takes office. He hasn't taken office yet. The recount still seems like a long shot to actually overturn the election and give the Presidency to Hillary, but who knows. The hope that a majority in the Electoral College will not actually vote for Trump seems very far-fetched -- at this point. But who knows how much less popular Trump will become before the electors vote? Who knows how many more bad deeds, including criminal deeds, and how much more disgusting behavior of his will come to light? [SOMEBODY LEAK THE #$%#&*$#&%$#$ "APPRENTICE" VIDEOS!] How many more utterly buffoonish tweets will he produce, how many more idiotic public statements?

People are not basically suckers for the truth, as Mr X asserted in Oliver Stone's JFK -- but if it's presented to them thoroughly and persistently enough, eventually some of them notice it. Keep digging, keep posting, keep leaking. Don't just give up.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Ich mag Insiderwitze nicht besonders. Ich finde meistens, dass wenn und wann ich sie verstehe, die Muehe sehr viel groesser war als die Lustigkeit des Witzes. Ich mag Clicqes nicht sehr. Nein, eigentlich, ich mag sie ueberhaupt nicht. Ich habe sie nie vermocht, nicht in High School, nicht jetzt and auch nie in den 40 Jahren inzwischen. (Und natuerlich werden viele Cliquemitglieder mir das gar nicht glauben und einen Fall von sauren Trauben nennen. Natuerlich.) Und ich frage mich vergebens, wieso ich dann und wann in Cliques engeladen worden bin, wo es manchmal von Insiderwitzen wimmelt, und es gibt gar keinen Grund warum ich diese Witze verstehen sollte, und wann und wenn ich mir die Muehe mache es war die Muehe nicht wert, und ich verlasse noch eine Clique und vermisse sie nicht. (Gehoert es meistens zu Cliques, dass sie einigen Mitglieder haben, die die Witze verpassen? Macht das fuer sie die Witze noch lustiger? Wenn dem so ist, macht es mir Cliques noch weniger verlockend.)

Ich schreibe fuer die Oeffentlichkeit. Ich lese und diskutiere am gernsten als Mitglied einer Oeffentlichkeit.

Aber gerade ist mir eingefallen, dass ich unversehens in noch eine Clique eingeraten bin, und die Leute da lachen sich schief ueber etwas, worueber ich unneugierig werde. Einer da sieht Nachbars Katzen bei sich. Und alle finden es -- finden etwas -- enorm lustig and lachen darueber and sagen Dinger die niemand sonst verstehen wuerde.

Und ich war im Begriff, zu sagen, dass ich da moeglicherweise etwas verpasst haette. Zu fragen, ob das Ueberraschende und Unerklaerliche da war, dass Nachbars Katzen bei ihm waren. Ob er moeglicherweise die Wohnungstuer offenstehengelassen habe. Oder vielleicht ein Fenster. Oder ob er vielleicht eigentlich seit einer Weile zusammen mit Nachbar und Nachbars Katzen zusammenlebt, aber von Amnesie leidet.

Dann fragte ich mich, ob dass alles vielleicht gar zu persoenliche Fragen waeren, besonders die letzte.

Dann fiel mir ein, dass alles da mir so mysterioes ist, weil ich unversehens ich noch eine Clique hineingestolpert bin.

Fuer mich ist die Welt schon mysterioes genug, wenn alle sich aufrichtig anstrengen, alles so klar zu erklaeren wie es nur geht -- was, mir nach, nich oft genug passiert. (Einige Leute aber sind gar voll von Wissen und brennen mit der Leidenschaft zu erklaeren, tun es vollzeit, tun wenig sonst. Die besten Wissenschaeftler und Historiker und Philosophen sind so und waren immer alle genau so, und auch nicht wenig von den groessten Kuenstlern. Eine der Verwandtschaften der Groessen in verschiedenen Bereichen des Lebens. Ein Fernsehprogram oder Buch zu einem historisches Thema mit "Geheimnisse" in seinem Titel ist fast sicher gar kein richtiges Werk von Historikern, und schon gar nicht von den besten Historikern, die davon brennen, Dir mitzuteilen, nicht nur dass dem so und so war, aber auch, dass Fachleute es alles zeit Anno so und so wissen. Nichts mit Geheimnisse also. Im Gegenteil.) Fuer mich mangelt es auch in den besten moeglichen Umstaenden nicht an Mysterioeses. Echt Mysterioeses gibt es haufenweise. Ich fuehle keinen Bedarf an gekuensteltes. Nichts fuer ungut.

"And I'm done, done, on to the next one, done, done, on to the next one, done, done, on to the next one..."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

We Try Too Hard To Put It In A Delicate Way

This Trump-won-because-people-ignored-the-Heartland stuff is nonsense. No one has ever ignored the Heartland. Ever. There's a particularly stupid piece by Ben Stein in The Norton Reader, 5th ed, shorter, copyright 1980, using an episode of "The Rockford Files" to supposedly demonstrate how liberal Hollywood elites were out of touch with the paradise of rural America. I've never watched "The Rockford Files," but from the way Stein describes it, it sounds unusually in touch, for a network TV drama, with the way that you can be ripped off and abused in a small town for the sin of being a stranger who needs help. Not all small towns are like that, naturally, but a lot are.

But the crap about not understanding the Heartland wasn't new in 1980: it goes back at least as far as Nixon's "silent majority" in his 1968 Presidential campaign, which was not a majority and hardly silent, but just a bunch of rubes who were afraid of hippies for no good reason, often without even having met any hippies. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if it went back much further in time than that.

Not only has no-one ever ignored the Heartland for one minute: also, many people in the Heartland voted for Hillary, and a lot of people in non-Heartland areas voted for Trump.

Very often, Leftists are much too easily led into feeling guilty for no good reason. We didn't cause the rise of Trump by ignoring the Heartland. The real explanation of Trump's success is much simpler: he's the King of the idiots.

Fake news readers are dumb as dirt. Trump voters? Idiots, end of story. Nazis? The lights are on, nobody's home. ISIS? A few clowns short of a rodeo. France's National Front? An experiment in artificial stupidity. The Alliance for Germany? All foam, no beer. The Brexit movement? No grain in the silo. American militias? The elevator doesn't go all the way to the top.

This is not good news, because stupidity is extremely difficult to overcome. But it's the truth. We can't solve the problem without calling it what it is. Calling it what it is, of course, will greatly upset the readers of fake news and the supporters of Trump. Nobody hates being called stupid more than stupid people. But it's time to stop tiptoeing around the truth.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I Don't Understand Jill Stein's Recount Effort

Is Jill Stein raising all this money and going to all of this effort to have recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania because she doesn't want Trump to be President?

If so -- is she really so dumb that she doesn't realize that Hillary might very well have been elected if she, Stein, had dropped out of the election and endorsed Hillary?

What about all of the people donating money to Stein's recount campaign -- how many of them have noticed things such as that the number of votes Stein got in Michigan is several times as large as the difference in votes between Trump and Hillary?

How many of these people, if I were face-to-face with them and saying such things, would honestly have no idea what I'm talking about?

Maybe Stein's recount crusade actually has nothing at all to do with preferring one candidate over another. Maybe she really believes that Hillary would make just as bad a President as Trump, and for her this is just all about correctly counting every single vote, and she could give a flying squirrel about the end result of the election.

All I know for sure is that I think that Jill Stein is a huge moron. There's no possible explanation for her current behavior which doesn't leave her looking like an idiot in my eyes: 1) If she really believes that Hillary would not be a better President than Trump, she's an idiot. 2) If she wants the recount because she sees that Trump will be a terrible President, but she's only grasped that since the election, she's an idiot.

3) If she's thought all along that Hillary would be a much better President than Trump, and honestly can't understand how her candidacy helped Trump, then she's an incredible idiot.

There's no doubt at all that there are many idiots in all of those three categories among Stein's voters.

I hope that Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all flip and that Hillary is elected President. If that happens because of Jill Stein, I'm still going to think she's an incredible idiot. But I'll still take it, very happily.

Having Hillary take office rather than Trump would be a huge big deal for me. It would be much, much more significant than anything to do with Jill Stein.

Nevertheless, I'm very curious, and very puzzled, about Jill Stein's behavior.

And also, I'm puzzled as to why I'm not seeing a great number of news stories expressing the very same puzzlement.

Is this our old friend, "objective journalism," once again? Is my reaction to Jill Stein very much the same as the personal reaction of nearly every political journalist on Earth, but they're avoiding saying it publicly because that would violate this imaginary "objectivity" which they prize above all other things?