Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sterling Silver

There has been much hoo-hah in the media recently, where discussion of NSA "wire"-tapping, the performance of the government-run VA medical care, or of an economy for the past seven years endemically sluggish has been eclipsed by a two-minute hate declared regarding Emmanuel Goldstein Donald Sterling. Sterling, for those of you thankfully beyond range of the twitterverse, is the current stand-in for those perennial goldsteins, the Koch Brothers.

The exquisite sin of this two-time NAACP Lifetime Achievment Awardee has been that, having espied his mistress publicly accompanied by men other than himself, suffered the umbrage of all married men apparently being dissed by their mistresses and vented infelicitously regarding her behavior. In the course of this, he naturally mentioned those in whose company she had been seen and marked their most salient characteristic. Now, this venting was in a private conversation, but someone (presumably not the NSA) recorded it and distributed it to various publicity organs, in consequence of which the mistress' Q-score was increased from zero to a wee but positive number.

More Odds and Ends

Today, TOF presents for your delight a Quote of the Day, a Science! Marches On!, and a Statistical Puzzle for you to solve, among the usual sundry miscellany.

Quote of the Day

"An enemy is just a friend who wants to kill you." – Doug TenNapel
 

Elephant in the Room

"Boko Haram has been carrying out atrocities for years. The group has murdered thousands and caused thousands more to flee. It has burned churches with people inside them; it has massacred people in the streets. But until now, the Western media has paid little attention. Why the change?

Here’s a possible explanation: the majority of Boko Haram’s targets and victims have been Christians—according to one estimate, something like 60%. In fact, 60% may understate things. Boko Haram considers schools and places of entertainment  “Christian” institutions, so one should see attacks on those places as part of an anti-Christian campaign as well. In fact, although it hasn’t been widely reported, Chibok is a predominantly Christian city, and most of the kidnapped schoolgirls are Christians. That was the point."
-- Mark Movsesian, "Choose Your Victims Well"
The term "boko" is derived from the English word "book."  "Haram" means "unclean."

Revenge of the Scotsman


A: “All fish breathe through gills rather than lungs.”
B: “But whales are fish, and they breathe through their lungs.”
A: “Whales may look and seem like fish, but they aren’t truly fish because they breathe through their lungs.”
-- Amod Lele, "The No True Fish Fallacy"

Think about this one the next time someone tries to pull the "No True Scotsman Fallacy" fallacy. There are formal fallacies and material fallacies, and the latter are only fallacies depending on the matter of the proposition, not the form.

We Were Expecting an Auto Race

"Cycling Event Kicks Off Bike Month in Toronto"--headline, CityNews.ca, May 26

Despite

"Despite Enrollment Success, Healthcare Law Still Unpopular"--headline, Gallup.com, May 29

What if They Gave a Winter Olympics and Nobody Came Because They Had No Place to Go

"No Countries Want to Host the 2022 Olympics"--headline, ABCNews.com, May 28

Science!™ Makes Astonishing Breakthrough

"Tired All the Time? Maybe You Need More Sleep"--headline, Philly.com, May 29


A New Concept of Bipartisanship

h/t Mark Shea
At a recent commencement speech at West Point, President Obama called for closing Gitmo and blasted the U.S. for spying on innocent civilians.  We need to find out who's been president all that time.

No Sh*t?


"U.N. Vows to Eliminate Open Defecation by 2025"--headline, Inter Press Service, May 28
They're going to... "eliminate" it...

Science Marches On!


"Does Porn Affect the Brain? Scientists Urge More Study"--headline, Agence France-Presse, May 29

Computers Are Taking Over!


"New 'Electric Brain' Records Store Sales, Gives Receipts"
--headline, Reading (Pa.) Eagle, Jan. 24, 1938

Solve the Statistics Puzzle! It's Fun, Boys and Girls!

"More than half of the world's 671 million obese people live in the U.S., China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

America's Next Top Model -- Part V


Now, where is that equation hiding?
Now that we have a lovely bunch of Xs, we need to knit them into equations, and thus introduce entire new species of uncertainty. This is done in two basic ways:
  1. pulling the equation out of our vast fund of scientificalistic knowledge.
  2. pulling the equation out of the back pocket of our jeans, or somewhere close by.
In the continuum of knowledge, the most certain knowledge is mathematical, for once the reasoning is grasped, the conclusions follow with a determinism that even the most determined materialist cannot match. Physics being so highly mathematized -- to the extent that some physicists have fallen prey to idealism and regard the mathematics as the "real" world and the empirical world as something of a nuisance -- physical knowledge is sometimes regarded also as deterministic. This was Descartes' explicit program: by mathematizing the physics he hoped to prove physical truths by demonstrating corresponding mathematical truths.(*) Although, since the physical world never quite conforms to the mathematical model (especially at the margins) that a mathematical model has a term in it does not obligate the natural world to go along with the gag. (Can we say "epicycle"?) 
(*) Descartes' program. In the meantime, mathematicians have latterly found that they can't even prove everything in mathematics... Damn!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

TOF at Large

all too large.

TOF spent the past week week entertaining various brothers and the weekend down by Philly town, where Fourth Brother Sèan was celebrating his marriage to Dana with a celebratory celebration. In the course of things, it so happened that all four surviving brothers and their Pere were in the same place at the same time, a concentration of Flynnic mojo that threatened the very fabric of the space-time continuum, at least locally of not globally. Faithful Reader is invited to cast his gaze upon the sight:
front, l to r: Bro Kevin, Pere, TOF
back: Bro Sèan and Bro Pat
Pat had to hold Pere down in his chair, lest he float off to the empyrean in his delight.

And again, though only the Brothers Four, this time on the patio at the casa de Sèan:
l to r: Kevin, TOF, Sèan, Pat. Despite his ever-youthful
appearance, TOF is the eldest of all.
 Due to the out-of-state nature of Third Brother and Fifth Brother, such concatenations are rarer than we might otherwise desire.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Odds and Ends

Fukuyama's "End of History"?

'But they also give rise to the further irony that it is ultimately in the name of "history" that history itself is currently in the process of being deleted from our collective memory. The "common core" educational standards subsume it under history/social studies and subsume that under what used to be called English — but only that part of English which involves the critical reading and analysis of "texts."
There is no body of historical knowledge that the common core identifies as mandatory or even useful for secondary school pupils to know.'
-- James Bowman, Negative Side Effects

"I am appalled to find that Fukuyama is a fool." -- John Lukacs, review of "The End of History"

On the Death Penalty

“We all deserve to hang, of course, but it can be a serious administrative embarrassment when someone is hanged for the wrong reason.”
-- David Warren, "Against Happiness"

This Worked Out So Well the Last Time We Tried It

"Obama to Loosen Lending Standards to Boost Home Ownership. What Could Go Wrong?"

Hey, Isn't This Called "Stalking"?

"Researchers followed 30,000 women for 20 years and found that those who avoided the sunshine were twice as likely to die"

Coincidence?  We Think Not

1. "HURT: Media Lap Dogs in Hot Pursuit of the Wrong Story"--headline, Washington Times, Sept. 18, 2012
2. "CHP Officers Rescue Scared Chihuahua From Busy Highway"--headline, KNTV website (San Jose, Calif.), May 12, 2014

1. "Missing: Furman White Swan Eggs"--headline, Greenville (S.C.) News, May 8
2. "Eggs Up Grill to Open in Downtown Greenville"--headline, Greenville News, May 9

Asked, and Answered

1. "What if College Is Making People Stupid?"--headline, Commentary website, May 13
2. "College Students: No, We Can't Name a Single Hillary Accomplishment, But We'd Vote for Her"--headline, Townhall.com, May 14

So, According to Daily Kos, Hillary....

1. "Let None Doubt That Karl Rove Is a Liar"--headline, DailyKos.com, March 23, 2012
2. "Rove on Hillary Clinton: 'Of Course She Doesn't Have Brain Damage' "--headline, Washington Post website, May 13, 2014

He Wouldn't Have Been Had There Been only 2

"Gunman Sought in 3 Shootings 'Armed and Extremely Dangerous' "--headline, Seattle Times, May 14

One Wonders What Else Could be Suspected

"Arson Suspected After Nine Vehicles, House Torched"--headline, Toronto Star, May 9

Usually the Robbery Doesn't Work if it Isn't

"Police Seek Man Who Robbed Bank in Surprise"--headline, Arizona Republic, May 13

D'uh Moment of the Week

"At present, the total biomass of mammals raised for food vastly exceeds the biomass of all mammalian wildlife on the planet (it also exceeds that of the human species itself). This was certainly not the case 10,000 or so years ago, at the dawn of the age of pastoralism." [Emph. added]

Be Careful What You Wish For

"Run, Joe, Run: Why Democrats Need a Biden Candidacy'--headline, TheAtlantic.com, May 9

Quote of the Day

"Being in love with yourself means never having to say you’re sorry.” -- Spengler

The War on Fat. Fat Won.

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we're eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.

Consistency is a Jewel, Valuable Because it is Rare

In Nigeria, Islamists think nothing of seizing hundreds of schoolgirls for the crime of aspiring to an education. Here in the United States, the educated class thinks nothing of denying an honorary degree to a fearless Muslim woman who at peril of her life, and in the name of liberal democracy, has insisted on exposing such outrages to the light.
Ruth R. Wisse, "The Closing of the Collegiate Mind" WSJ May 11, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bro Kevin

is running for city council in Denver
so he is now officially a Dirty, Rotten Politician (DRP).  When TOF was in politics, he was smart enough to stay behind the scenes as District Captain and House District Leader.  That way you can go to the assemblies and conventions, have fun, and decide which DRP you want to put on the ballot.  Mwahahah.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Save Lives, Stop Funding Science!

There is a 99% correlation between "US spending on science, space, and technology" and "suicides by hanging, strangulation and suffocation." You can't argue with statistics, can you?

It is unclear which is the cause and which is the effect. But clearly Something Must Be Done! Even if the correlation might not be as strong as it appears, the Precautionary Principle demands that we take measures Just In Case.  And of course, further research is needed. Why does science spending cause this particular mode of suicide? Does it perhaps suck all the oxygen out of the room?

Or not.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Snarf!







Somebody Paid Money for This UPDATED!

A Devoted TOFling yclept Guy Stewart writes:
"While reading io9 (which I enjoy a lot), I came across this article: “Are Religious Beliefs Going To Screw Up First Contact?”

Based on: “...[clinical neuropsychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre]…sent a questionnaire to 116 American, Italian, and Spanish university students.”

Reached this conclusion: “…he found that many of the students — and by virtue the rest of society — lack awareness on many astronomical aspects. He also learned that the majority of people assess these subjects according to their religious beliefs.”

As a statistician, what do you make of the significance of the conclusion of this survey?

To which TOF responds: "Not Much."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Odds and Ends


No Comment Needed


The Limits of Tolerance

Salon, a lightweight "magazine" in which writers bravely face the applause of the echo chamber, features a vitriolic attack on Shi'a Islam.

Ha ha. Of course not. It is to laugh. That would be islamophobia and right-thinking people avoid that, um, religiously. No, it is a vicious attack on the one group the author knows will not fight back. How many instances of hate speech and logical and factual errors can you spot?

Sometimes the Mask Slips, a Little

Because the same arguments used to back X can also work for Y, why not be upfront about it?

Getting a Load On

Chastek gives us this tidbit:
Considered mechanically, loading and reloading [a semi-automatic rifle] are the same. The slide moves back in response to a force. In fact, we might just as well consider the slide as pushing the hand as the hand pushing the slide. It’s all one big machine, if machines are all you’re trying to explain.

Scientism in three steps: a.) give an account of, say, loading that applies to both loading and reloading – say, a mathematical law. (b.)  call the account a description of “the mechanism” (c.) proceed to be baffled and snicker at any appeal to “vital forces” or “free will”. The mechanism suffices to explain anything! Who needs to put some ghost inside of it!

But Need He Remain Faithful to Her?

Only a bigot would disparage his love. How is it different from this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this?  Where is the understanding?  The tolerance?

Meanwhile, in an Unexpected Move...

China may become the largest Christian country.


Whoa, What's This?