Some people never re-read books or re-watch movies. They pick up the plot the first time, and as long as they don't forget too much of it, they find little value in seeing the same thing again. That's because these people are paying attention to the plot, and little else. This is a poor approach.

Movies, TV series, books...stories are interesting on many levels. The plot. The cool visuals depicted in visual mediums. The cool visuals easily create-able in one's mind for written mediums. The writing style. How dialog and subtle actions are used to sketch out the personalities of different characters. The stereotypes invoked. How the characters compare to various archetypes. For a surprisingly large number of pieces, the (bad) attitudes to parenting and children. The cultural memes portrayed, intentionally or not. The hidden and not-so-hidden messages and propaganda.

The viewer/reader can analyse the morality of each situation and its resolution, and compare to what happens and the results. Can pick up the relationship mistakes the characters make, and consider what would have worked better. Can observe the characters and their personalities, because, well people and life are interesting.

And, of course, there is the sheer enjoyment of it all. How cool is it to see a cyborg, covert-ops agent go roof-jumping, then charge a gun-wielding baddie while not firing, dodge bullets and kick him, and then, as he jumps away to another building, fire to hit his ankle as he lands (Ghost in the Shell)? How cool is it to see a half-goblin run though an encampment, dodging guards, arrows, and spears, dive through a wall (break it, not by turning ethereal), grab a previous gem, jump right back through the roof to avoid more guards, speed away, then turn at the last second to see an arrow strike his chest, and be pinned against a tree (Inu Yasha)? Who wouldn't be curious what will happen next when: a young boy wakes a demon (the hot chic variety), she is angry about the 700 years she spent imprisoned and playfully (well, maybe...) attacks him, destroys his school, then accidentally gets her hand cut off, leaves ... and when the kid returns home, he finds her sleeping in his bed (Tenchi Muyo)?

BTW, anime is great. And now that I think of it, here's a kickass webcomic. And here's a computer nerd style one.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
I wanted to put up more content yesterday, but I wrote 76 emails and got a bit burnt out. Today I'll probably mostly just watch anime, and write simple things, and answer comments.

I'm finding it a bit disturbing to learn how epistemologically unsophisticated most people are. Few seem to have any notion of what "objective" means, nor of how reality or morality could be objective. Most want to start discussion with definitions. Few understand evolution in its general form. I keep getting asked what perspective my statements are meant to be true from, and also getting laughed at, and also getting confronted with appeals to authority. It's a bit crazy-making.

*ahem* anyway, I'm now going to write something constructive:

"Moonlight Shadow" is a nice piece of music.

Sorry, here's something more useful:

The statement that "morality is relative" is a contradiction, because it says something about the objective nature of morality. The statement "morality is relative for me" similarly fails, because it implies that my morality is also relative, and that everyone's morality is relative, and is again a statement about the objective nature of morality for everyone.

Objective morality is also necessary to explain moral progress, which is a strikingly important part of history, without which most history is incomprehensible.

It is important that we can create true knowledge without certain or even true foundations. For example, even if I don't know what right and wrong mean, precisely, I can still correctly assess some things as right or wrong. If this was not true, there would never be any progress at all.

Here's my favorite Bush quote:

Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Inu Yasha is a really good anime series. *ahem* anywayz,

Relationship Theory

The word relationship is used to mean a number of different things. It can refer to the interactions between two people (I will use Jack and Jill). It can refer to said interactions, and the emergent properties of those interactions. It can refer to only the emergent properties. It can refer to an actual thing, that supposedly exists, and has consequences (I hold this view is false). If I say "relationships aren't things" or "relationships don't exist" that's what I'm referring to, though I try to be more clear than that.

Or sometimes people say "you should stick together, for the sake of the relationship." In this case, relationship is shorthand for the valuable knowledge of each other, convergence, incomplete joint-projects, and such that the people have.

Reductionist relationship is a good term for just the interactions. This would include physical specifications on body positions for the time Jack and Jill went to ... not "the pizza parlor" but some set of lattitude and longitude coordinates. And for everywhere else they had gone they met some specifications about proximity or sounds directed at each other or something. It would include what sounds they made, but not what the words meant.

Emergent relationship is a good term for talking about emergent properties of the reductionist relationship, without bringing up anything of the information in the reductionist description. This would include how Jack and Jill feel about each other, what they mean to each other, and Jack's obligation to show up at Jill's house at 8pm on Tuesday (because he said he would).

I consider "relationship" to mean both of these. Anyway, you will notice that all the emergent properties are direct results of various interactions between Jack and Jill. The term "relationship" simply refers to multiple things at once. It is not itself a thing, with properties. Why does this matter?

Some people claim that relationships bring about obligations or various other consequences, in and of themselves. Example obligations are: to stay together, to not fuck other people, to be nice, to be supportive, to not leave abruptly, or to take care of one's partner in times of need. This is false and harmful. (Or, one could make the case it's misleading, harmful, semi-true shorthand). [Some or all of the things mentioned may be implied by the morality of the situation in some relationships]

The reductionist view of relationships as various interactions and their emergent properties is valid, and I think useful for seeing certain things, but for many things is a bad idea. It makes a lot of calculations (like predicting whether there will be a breakup in the next 2 years) totally infeasible, and it can often obscure the morality of a situation. So, while I often use it to answer theory questions, it's not that useful for many real-life things.

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David Deutsch

Posted to the TCSsociety email list, reproduced with permission.

1: "It is better that 100 murderers go free than that one innocent person is convicted."

2: "It is better that 100 tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive states manufacture weapons of mass destruction than that one tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive state without weapons of mass destruction is liberated."

Spot the difference.

-- David Deutsch

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Relationship Theory

Setting The Stage: Jack and Jill see each other every few days, online if not IRL. They often chat, when something interests them both, and usually something does come up. They invite each other to do activities sometimes, and usually accept the offers, when they want to.

Thesis: Jack should not ask himself Do I like Jill? or Is Jill my girlfriend? and should not ask Jill Do you like me? or Why do you like me?.

Suppose Jack decides he does like Jill (romantically) -- what then? Won't he continue to do exactly what he had been doing before? And suppose he does not -- what then? Won't he continue to do exactly what he had been doing before? The same applies to girlfriend status.

Asking Why do you like me? has a bit of a different problem. Besides being useless, it forces Jill (if she answers -- she should refuse) to take a stance on what is good about Jack. Doing so can cause various problems. For example, if Jill gives reasons A, B, and C, Jack may become afraid to criticise those things about himself. Or Jack may be tempted to try and emphasise those aspects of his personality. Or Jack may become self-conscious about them. Or Jack may worry that they aren't all that good, and thus that Jill must not like him very much.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge that this isn't all completely true. Answering some of these questions can be useful for making (imprecise) long-term judgments for which the kind of approach I tend to recommend in the short-term is infeasible.

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Relationship Theory

Parents often make their children say 'please' and 'thank you' and send thank-you cards. In effect, they make their children apply compliments mechanically. Certain politenesses are appropriate in certain situations, period. The merit of the people involved is irrelevant.

The same thing can be observed, say, on sports teams where players are told to cheer on their companions, and chastised if they do not, even if they didn't feel like it or considered the event unworthy.

Some people realise this mechanical approach is silly, and then reject compliments and saying nice things altogether. It's difficult to accuse such people of wrongdoing. They aren't hurting anyone. All they are doing is failing to take action to, possibly, help others in a somewhat minor way.

However, even if there is no burden on people to say nice things, they still should do it. It must be merit-based and applied when felt, to have meaning. But fanmail (even very short ala "nice post"), comments on blogs that say "keep up the good work" (hint hint), or telling a friend "I'm having fun," when deserved and true, is valuable. It is encouraging, and we should like to make our friends feel good.

One might not see why this is particularly important. However, one reason it comes up is that I am generally against, say, telling one's friend "I like you" (see previous post). So, in the absence of normal things like "you're my friend" and whatnot, it is especially important to be active in expressing genuine, useful information like "I'm glad we did X today" or "that thing you said was brilliant" or "you look beautiful today".

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Warcraft 3 r0xx0r3z


We reject theories for being bad explanations (of reality), and accept theories for being good ones. How do we know which are which?

The following properties make theories better:
- says more (deeper)
- simpler
- explains what it purports to
- bold (exposes itself to refutation by all sorts of observations)
- supported by good arguments

The following properties make theories worse:
- contains unexplained complications
- is not consistent with some observation
- criticised by good arguments

Note the use of comparative words. There is no way to measure how good a theory is in absolute terms, only compared to its rivals.

I probably left out some important things, because I tend to do this very intuitively. Please comment on any glaring omission. (And yes I'm aware some items are a bit redundant -- redundancy doesn't hurt anything and can help.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)
I noticed a parallel.

Taking a reductionist view is useful in Physics when people make things up. It is easy to characterise made-up things on a human level (like describing what elves look like), but not easy to give a description in terms of atoms (without making the elves easy to refute via observation).

Taking a reductionist view is useful in Relationship Theory when people make things up. It is easy to characterise made-up things on a human level (like describing the effects of a supposed obligation), but not easy to explain what specific event created the made-up obligation.

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There is a very pernicious idea in epistemology, called induction. It's an imaginary, physically impossible process through which, supposedly, justified general theories are created from observations. It's still popular with some philosophers. Others realise it does not work (it was refuted by Hume hundreds of years ago), then wonder how we can know anything, and get stuck on the Problem of Induction (solved by Karl Popper, who should be super famous, but isn't). And, normal people hold many inductive ideas as common sense, too.

The primary claim of induction is that a finite set of observations can be generalised into a true predictive theory. However, any finite set of observations is compatible with an infinite number of predictive theories.

To see this, just imagine a paper with dots (observations) on it. We're going to draw a line from left to right (with the flow of time), and it has to connect the dots. The line is a predictive function, that gives values at all the points, not just the dots. So, how many ways could we draw this line? Infinitely many (go way up or down or zigzag between points). What inductivists do is pick one (whichever one feels intuitively right to them), and declare it is what will happen next. And people with similar intuitions often listen...

If you want a real-world example, think about the sun. We know it will rise tomorrow because it is a good explanation of reality (via our physics). Not because we saw it rise yesterday (and the day before).

I tried to write an entry that would be more helpful to people who don't understand, and it didn't go well. I have doubts about how helpful this will be to most people. I can answer stuff in the comments section.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
My intuition claims Inverse and Anti theory are closely related, but I can't explain why it is, so they will get different titles for now.

Inverse Theory

Coercion is a state of enacting one theory while another active theory conflicts with it. All emotional pain, amounts to coercion.

People with one of the in the limit, stable, complete worldviews (empty, good, inverse), will never be coerced. Because they have no contradictions in their worldview, and no unanswered questions, they will always wholeheartedly go for some single course of action.

As people approach one of these complete, stable views, they will find it easier to avoid coercion, because they will be closer to having a unified, contradiction-free view. Which means that sufficiently bad people (near inverse view) will be difficult to coerce. Perhaps this helps to explain suicide attacks.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

After a comment on the last entry, I will now work out a bit about numbers in base -2. To start, I'll convert a random number to base 10. 101 would mean: 1*(-2)^2 + 0*(-2)^1 + 1*(-2)^0 or 5. From right to left, putting a 1 instead of a 0 is worth 1 -2 4 -8 16 -32 64

So, to get the number 2, we have to write -10. It seems very confusing, on a human level, that using a minus sign has nothing to do with whether the number is negative or not. I guess a computer wouldn't care about that, except that we often work in positive numbers, and can use unsigned numbers to save space.

Now I'll count to 10 in base -2:

0001 -0010 0111 0100 0101 -1110 -1001 -1000 11001 -1010 which is really jumpy, and a total mess for humans, and it's very strange to need more digits to write 9 than 10. I think it would be slow for computers to do addition with this. In positive bases, using digits from 0 to base-minus-one, adding is nice, because you just increment the one's column repeatedly (and each time it overflows, reset it to zero, and increment the next column). There are tricks, like if you have two numbers in the same base, you can add various other columns directly to each others. There may be tricks with base -2 also, but I still bet it's inefficient, because you can't just increment the next column when one overflows.

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In base 2, 19 is 10011. In base 1/2, 19 is 1.1001

In base 10, 19 is 19. In base 1/10, 19 is 9.1

The trick is to write the number in reverse, and in the fractional version, put a decimal point after the ones column. This is because decimals have negative exponents, so the fraction gets flipped.

Fractional bases that aren't 1/something seem like a real mess to use.

Also, I wanted to count in balanced base 3. I will use -, 0, and + for my digits.

+ +- +0 ++ +-- +-0 +-+ +0- +00 +0+

You'll notice that you *can* count be incrementing the one's column repeatedly. You just have to remember to reset things to - not 0, after they overflow.

Will count from -1 to -5 now:

- -+ -0 -- -++

Notice it's the same as positive, with the -'s and +'s reversed, and 0's untouched. And you can count by decrementing the one's column, and when it overflows, decrement the next column and reset things to a +. I guess I should point out that you can add as many leading zeroes as you want, which is how decrementing a column that doesn't exist works.

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I hear there is a biology professor who won't write recommendations for creationist students. I wanted to comment in general:

If I ask Joe Dirt to write a recommendation letter for me, he is perfectly right to refuse. People needn't write letters for anyone they don't want to.

However, in a school setting, students are required to have these letters. And professors are expected to write them. Refusing to write students a letter hurts them. And such a blanket refusal is morally wrong.

Refusing letters over a student holding some theory, only makes sense if the theory directly interferes with the student's studies, and makes her/him significantly (meaning "enough to matter" not "lots") worse at them. This basically means refusing letters for incompetence (math major who thinks 2+2=5; politics major who thinks "democrat" is a type of fish).

So what about biology and creationism? Well, if you want to be a doctor, you learn how human beings are, and about medicine, and it doesn't matter. If you want to be a vet, and you disagree about why vestigial organs exist, but know the same facts about them, it again doesn't really matter. If you want to be a zoologist, and study the evolution of animals, it does matter.

So my view is, to be moral, the biology professor must refuse recommendations on a case by case basis, and only in very specific circumstances will refusal for belief in creationism be acceptable.

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Reviled in Many Places Around the World, Americans Are Adored in Kosovo

"Two years ago, after a U.S. soldier's weapon accidentally killed a 6-year-old boy, the grieving father publicly forgave the soldier and said he considered him part of his family."

The father is a Muslim living in Kosovo. Although the accident is sad, it is very nice to see such reasonableness over a collateral damage issue, by the victim. And doubly nice to see a demonstration that Islam is perfectly compatible with morality.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Inverse Theory

One may wonder what view based on the theory "No other theories are true" approaches as it becomes a complete worldview. Prima facie, it cannot quite get to the empty view, because it, itself, will always remain. However, with no other supporting theories, it will be completely meaningless gibberish, because the person will not be able to understand it any longer. And so s/he will reach the empty view.

What about "No other theories but this one, and the ones necessary to understand this one, are true" (will refer to this as the flagship theory of a view)? This will include knowledge about not accepting false theories, and knowledge that truth exists, so it cannot go to the inverse or empty views. Can it go to the good view?

You may think it is not compatible with the good view, because the theory that the War on Terror is right isn't necessary to understand the flagship theory, only to avoid contradictions. Well ... knowledge is interrelated, so I'm going to take the position one couldn't claim full understanding without the complete good view.

Oh, also, for those people who like foundations: in physics we determine the truth of theories by how they conform to physical reality. In morality, we can now determine it by how they conform to the good moral worldview.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
I learned a new HTML tag today.

Make that two.


There is a new yahoogroup called You Poor Dear. The purpose is comfort and support without problem solving, debate, or criticism. How will that work? Approximately like this:

You, my dear reader, are a brilliant person. You're good at everything you try, and always persevere through misfortune. You're witty and fun, and a pleasure to be around. If you have any problems right now, which seems unlikely, I'm sure they are nothing for one such as you. If you are in school, you have my sympathy.

Best Wishes,
Elliot Temple

If you're objecting that the above is rather meaningless, you're right. I don't have a clue who you are, I just made it all up. How will the list avoid this? Easy. The participants will give out personal information to a public internet forum. This is a safe way to meet people and make friends, and I highly recommend it extremely dangerous. The more personal information one gives out, the easier it is for the other posters to hurt her/him. (To hurt someone with words, one must know enough about the person to know which words will hurt. Also, giving out personal information tends to lead to being hurt accidentally, if people talk about what one does give out without knowing everything else, like one's sensitivities.)

Anyway, the group doesn't allow saying mean things anyway, only nice ones. So when people post support it will be genuine totally meaningless, because it was the only type of reply possible.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)

I just read this USS Clueless piece and wanted to comment on a few bits. Quotes in italics.

I simply don't believe that Germany and France would be willing to sustain, let alone cause, the kind of damage they have just for the sake of moral inhibitions.

and later

And they have now reached the point where they are seriously imperiling the process of creation of the European Union. I do not believe that they would have gone this far if their primary motivation was moral inhibition.

I agree they wouldn't do all this just to hold to pacifism. But pacifism is an absurd moral stance, that very few people take seriously. Perhaps it's really about some other moral stance, like anti-Americanism.

And Rumsfeld refers to their behavior as "beyond comprehension".

I don't like to believe that this may be the reason, but I can't think of any other explanation that makes any sense.

Let's examine the roots of anti-Americanism, and it's close relatives like Jew Hatred. As I'm not much on history, I'll do this in abstract:

Long ago, no one knew about morality, and success was mostly random. All cultures had some people who were good at things, and some who were not. But over time, one culture evolved some moral knowledge. It's members led better lives, and were more successful. And it wasn't just luck, they did this consistently.

The other people knew of no way to be consistently successful. They watched the moral culture, and could not figure out what the important differences were. As the moral knowledge was evolved, it couldn't simply be copied. So, they were faced with a few possible explanations. They could, while having almost no clue what morality even is, decide they were bad people. Of course, they did not. Alternatively, they could decide the successful culture was somehow cheating, and hate its members.

In a perverse way it makes sense: if we are fundamentally the same, with the same chances to excel at any given thing, and I always beat you, I must be cheating somehow. And that you do not know how, must make it even more infuriating.

So, over time, the immoral cultures evolve their own traditions. They learn to hate the successful, moral culture. Partly, they want to destroy it, because it is living proof of their own immorality. Partly, they want to bury their heads in the sand, and get on with life as it was before there were any moral people. Partly, they want to be successful, and are unable. And, above all, the very premise of the moral stance of the immoral cultures, is a denial that they are bad.

So, I feel the explanation that France and Germany are in the grips of an anti-American morality explains why they will go to such great lengths to oppose the US.

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Here's two generalisations:

Right wing folk deny explicable, rationally discussable causes for human behavior.

Left wing folk do not value anything.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Here are two generalisations (if you haven't already, read previous entry first):

Left-wing folk object to TCS because they view all sorts of things as coercive, and see parental coercion as miniscule in comparison, and a defense of children. For example, some lady got the word "gun" removed from her daughter's spelling test. One can imagine the reaction if her daughter wanted to get a gun, and write gun a bunch, and draw gun pictures. The justification? In essence "guns are coercive/bad". Another common one is "TVs are coercive/bad" and therefore must be kept from children to protect them. Also, not having a college education is coercive, and so are fatty foods, which justifies... Also coercive is capitalism, which justifies not letting children buy things (they'll be tricked into wanting more and being materialists).

Right-wing folk object to TCS because they don't understand causality in human behavior. Mindless causes are ok, but not rationally discussable ones. Hence, children have bad theories because kids are dumb, not because their parents mistreat them. And TCS is a waste of time, because children won't understand anyway. Children are dumb, you can see it if you just look around and watch some kids mess up. The solution is to discipline/spank them (notice this is a method that can be applied, unthinking, to any problem). Also, as behavior isn't caused in any rationally discussable way, people who say treating children as inferior messes up their theories can be ignored. Besides, do children even have any theories besides the ones we teach them..? And also, genes cause behavior and being naughty is human nature (but beatings can overcome human nature).

Thanks to Rachel Lucas for the gun link.

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True and mutable is one of the wisest phrases I know. It means we should hold our best explanations true and act on them, not give in to relativism. Just because we may be wrong, does not mean any particular idea we have is wrong, or that we should not hold our ideas true. It also means that our ideas must be mutable -- they must be open to criticism and change and improvement. And being mutable does not make them less true.

When someone says something is true, s/he does not mean s/he's certain it is true. That, of course, would be absurd. So what does it mean to assert something is true? Simply that it is the best explanation.

There is a common fallacy that says fallibilism implies mistakes. The logic is that because we can't be certain, we are bound to make mistakes. The refutation is to look at a particular action or theory, and point out that, while it may be a mistake, fallibilism does not state it is, and all we can do is use our best explanations. So, fallibilism is not an argument against this specific thing. Then, we examine another action/theory. Then another. The point is, fallibilism does not imply any particular mistake, and cannot be used as an argument against the truth of any particular proposition.

Credit for the phrase true and mutable goes to Yehudit's LGF comment here.

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Sociobiology is a very popular theory. It claims that genes (at least partially) control human behavior.

Now, in the general case, if we want to explain behavior, and we just attribute it to something random, like where the stars in the sky are, we will be laughed at. There is no explanation of how stars control behavior.

How's sociobiology different? It's not! There are studies that show correlations, but none that demonstrate causation. And there is no explanation of how genes cause the behavior, no more than there is of how stars do it. And there's a very compelling alternative explanation, that does include a mechanism: we act on our theories (worldview).

Now, you may know that animal behavior is determined by genes. And you may know that aspects of human bodies like eye colour and brain structure are (at least partially) controlled by genes. How can brain structure not (partially) determine behavior? Because the laws of computation state that universal computation is hardware independent.

In other words, universal computers -- ones that can do any calculation possible for computers -- all compute the same, no matter how you build them. Whatever the structure, if it's a universal computer, it won't give different results for the same input. It may have more or less storage space, and process slower, but, given adequate time and disks with extra memory, the results of all possible computations will come out the same.

So too with human brains. Any brain with the same input problem set, will give the same answer, because brains are universal computers. (Note that the input problem set includes all the theories [including memories] of the person).

Why is this different than with animals? Because animal brains are not universal computers. They cannot do all possible computations.

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Premise: All use of force risks collateral damage
Premise: Self defense requires the use of force
Conclusion: Self defense involves risk of collateral damage

Premise: All use of force risks collateral damage
Premise: Fighting evil requires force
Conclusion: Fighting evil involves risk of collateral damage

Premise: Self defense and fighting evil involve risk of collateral damage
Premise: Some people object to war against Iraq on the basis that collateral damage is morally wrong
Conclusion: These people think that fighting evil and self defense are morally wrong or these people are inconsistent

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Anti Theory

Here's a relation between Anti Theory (about opposing things) and Inverse Theory (about the inverse moral view, the good view, and the empty view).

Inverse theory provides a strong reason that being focussed on anti theories is dangerous. If you're wrong, you approach the inverse view.

But what if you're right? Won't inverse theory predict you approach the good view? Technically, yes, as your worldview becomes complete, it will go to the good one. However, holding a theory sacred has no effect if the theory is never challenged. And it's not as if reasonable people are in danger of approaching the inverse view unless they grab hold of "people who think apples are the spawn of the devil are wrong" for dear life.

Focusing on theories and holding them strongly has the most effect on one's progression to a stable worldview when those theories come up a lot, and say a lot. So, holding some trivial falsehood wrong, won't matter much. But holding something true false, will matter quite a lot. Anytime the subject comes up, it will lead to lots of badness.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Inverse Theory

Evolution requires truth to function. Evolution progresses towards truth. The inverse view may be complete and stable but it is not true by the normal use of the word.

The term inverse theory originally came from the following notion: an idiotarian is a person who needs an anti-idiotarian to tell her/him what white is, so s/he can call it black. I don't think this is the right definition for idiotarian, but I do think it's a useful idea and deserving of a word. Moral inverter is fitting.

(I've been using 'view' and 'moral view' interchangeably. I just used 'moral inverter' for someone who inverted a physical fact. Basically, I don't think there's any particular difference. Because people twist their factual theories according to their moral ones.)

If a moral inverter's view is not true, s/he cannot evolve it. So, to create it, s/he must find a true view to reverse.

But how can we reconcile this with the notion that someone holding on to a part of the inverse view, will, as s/he approaches a complete worldview, approach the inverse? Well, if an inverter has a bunch of inverse theories in a sphere, s/he can compare new ones to the preexisting ones for consistency, and to see how well the theories mesh in terms of explanation. However, when approaching a completely new issue, won't the inverter be at a loss?

In a sphere, to make very much progress, one needs to have some notion of what truth means. It doesn't need to be explicit (in a language with symbols and grammar). Without some notion, how can one evaluate theories? One cannot. Of course, in all objective spheres, every person alive does have such a notion. But sometimes the notion is only marginally better than none at all. I would offer up aesthetics as an example of a sphere where people do not have a good conception of truth. I would offer up science as one where people have a very good conception of truth -- true scientific ideas correspond to physical reality.

If a practitioner of the good view approaches a new sphere, s/he will create some notion of truth, and try to make progress. If a practitioner of the inverse view approaches a new sphere, I do not expect her/him to create an inverted notion of truth -- an inverse-epistemology -- and make progress towards it. This is because no one wants to be bad.

Talk to an inverter. Ask her/him about her/his view in some sphere s/he hasn't thought about much -- try to get her/him to create a view. In my experience, s/he will likely be at a loss. This is because s/he does not have any epistemology to work with in the sphere. However, if I present my view, the inverter will no longer be lost. Her/his worldview is very clear that I must be opposed, and thus s/he will chronically disagree with me, and set about creating the inverse view of mine.

The word 'true' generally refers to the good view. But the inverse view can have its own meaning for truth. But few or no people actually adopt the inverse meaning for truth explicitly. It is very difficult to adopt, because no one wants to be bad.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)

Some people believe that the truth is manifest for all to see, if only they would look. Under this view, anyone who does not see the truth, must be bad. So, if you ever hear someone arguing that their view is self-evident or obvious, be wary -- s/he either thinks you are intentionally bad or s/he is inconsistent.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
I want to respond to Perry de Havilland's Samizdata piece, found here. It's in italics with comments interspersed.

Many of the anti-war protesters has been carrying placards with the slogan 'Not In My Name'. Well if you voted in the UK, regardless of whether it was for Labour or Conservative or LibDem, then you gave your consent to the system which taxes me without my consent,

Voting for someone does not make one responsible for what s/he does. Voting at all does not make one responsible for any injustices of the State. A vote for a candidate only means that the voter would prefer that candidate to the others.

so I suppose I am robbed in 'your' name.

One difference between taxes and robbery, is that reasonable people generally are coerced by robbery, and generally are not coerced by taxes.

I was disarmed (by a Tory government) and forbidden to effectively defend myself in 'your' name. My rights to own property and control my own labour and capital are abridged into meaninglessness in 'your' name.

There is no system under which knowing better is sufficient for a wise one's ideas to be implemented -- save a tyranny with that wise one in charge.

A libertarian utopia is not the natural state of affairs which government came along and destroyed. Rights are not self-evident. And it is folly to expect the same people who support policies to take away rights, [thinking they are not rights at all] to in the absence of government, respect those same rights.

So when you say say about a war against the Ba'athist socialists of Iraq "Not In My Name", please forgive me if I really do not give a damn if something gets done by the state that you do not like.

Suppose they were responsible for various bad things. Would that make them wrong about the war, or be reason to disregard their view of the war? No.

I do not think George Bush and Tony Blair want to topple Saddam Hussain due to an abiding concern for the Iraqi people, but frankly I really do not care why the statists who tax me are going to do it,

This retreat from explanation speaks volumes.

just that they do it.

So, if the war was done for utterly immoral reasons, Perry would support it just as much as if it was done for moral reasons.

Provided there is a net gain in liberty in Iraq, and it is hard to see how that could not be the case post-Saddam, then I am in favour of the violent and hopefully fatal removal of the Ba'athist thugs.

Thus Perry declares the total amount of liberty in the world the ultimate good, and prior to morality. I imagine some troops explaining to the Iraqi soldiers that their death will bring about a net gain in liberty, and is thus good. And also explaining that fighting back will reduce the total liberty in the world, as compared to dying peacefully, and is thus wrong of them.

Do it for 'Freedom for Iraq', do it 'because Saddam is a threat', do it 'because of links to Al-Qaeda', do it 'because the voices in my head told me to'... I do not care. Just do it!

You can even do it in my name if you like.

I imagine some troops carrying a banner that reads, "In the name of Perry de Havilland, on account of the voices our insane leader hears, death to Iraqis!"

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
There are a number of words I don't use in the standard way. For example, I use 'theory' very broadly. In general, I hope my meaning will become clear from my writing in general. But I use a very precise definition for 'coerce', so I'll give that now. It's from the TCS Glossary. The entry gives:

The psychological state of enacting one idea or impulse while a conflicting impulse is still active in one's mind.

In general, when one has conflicting theories, one adopts some temporary theory to avoid coercion. For example, one might stop and think about it. Or do one thing, while keeping the ability to switch choices open. However, people have limited creativity and this sometimes fails. Also, certain external circumstances can facilitate failure. Like being shot. (Conflicting theories along the lines of "I don't want to die" and "I haven't got a choice, so the other theory is wrong".)

Oh, and if you get robbed, you'll probably be coerced because you'll want to not be robbed, and also know that's pointless of you. However, if you get taxed, you probably won't be coerced, because it's easier to see taxes have some purpose and/or aren't worth the effort to fight, and thus reject the "I don't want to be taxed" theory causing the coercion.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Article about the Nobel Peace Prize

Peace experts say that Americans like Ryan, Nunn or Lugar can probably forget 2003 because Carter won in 2002. The committee increasingly aims for an international scope.

"Two Americans in a row would be too much," said Irwin Abrams, an expert on the prize and professor emeritus at Antioch University, Ohio.

Fucking racists. (among other things)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Some people expect lots of collateral damage in the war on Iraq. They are wrong, but let's ignore that a moment. Would this actually be any reason to oppose the war?

Well, if the dead civilians come from immoral leaders ordering schools bombed .... yes, that's something to oppose.

But if it comes as part of the fight, as part of the unavoidable cost to defeating evil, then of course it is no reason to oppose war.

So, what we discover is, this "reason" has no substance. It depends on another claim. And it adds no useful information: we already know to oppose wars by murderous folk, and support wars by the righteous.

So, opposing the war based on too much collateral damage, is just judging the US to be morally bad, combined with hiding one's meaning behind a smokescreen.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
The importance of morality in every day life is striking. For example, in team games of Warcraft 3. Players will be paired with people they don't know, and required to coordinate their forces and share their resources for victory. Teams that bitch at each other, and refuse to defend each other's bases, tend to lose badly. Teams that get along, prosper.

Or, compare these two scenarios:

I need 5 more gold to buy an item. I ask my partners for the money, and wait a while, and eventually they tell me they "need the money" because they are saving for something they'll get later. I explain I'll pay them back soon. After a long delay, and wasted time, I give up. I go kill stuff and get 5gp, walk back to town, and finally get my item.

Alternatively, a partner gives me 5gp right away. I get the item, use it to kill stuff faster, and then pay my partner back, and need not return to town.

(Not that paying each other back should be important, everyone should just give all their money to whoever happens to be at a store ... but that's just too much to expect of random people.)

Another way morality helps, is over the course of many games, moral people improve more. They are accustomed to solving problems, and when something goes wrong, they figure out how to do better next time. Alternatively, some people, upon failure, get mad and resentful.

Like, some people think advice is an insult, as if they aren't good enough. Well, truth is, they are not perfect, and their arrogance only makes them stay bad.

The effect of all this is so great, that simply by figuring out what to do, sharing gold, and coordinating our efforts, my friends and I can easily win with 2 or 3 players vs 5 players on certain maps.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
On LGF, it said protest organisers estimated 200,000 thousand people at the one in San Francisco. Aerial photos show about 65,000 peak. (Source Here)

How should we explain the protestors ignoring the facts? I suggest my anti-theory explantion: because they are more focussed on their cause then on morality. And they think lying will further their cause.

And in a direct sense, it's hard to tell. Lying has advantages (because people will think the ideas are more popular than they are) and they disadvantages (because people will get annoyed with their exaggerations and stop listening). And thus, calculating whether to lie, based on how it furthers their cause, is at best, an expensive calculation prone to error. Not at best (and in reality), their approach is, even in the limit, divergent from morality aka wrong.

If we just look at the morality of the situation, though, it's easy. They are attempting to mislead and manipulate people. End of story.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Dale Amon of Samizdata writes:

I don't always agree with what SecDef Rumsfeld says and I find his statements on volunteer human shields to be particularly wrong:

"And I want to note, again, it is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets -- even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Iraqi actions to do so would not only violate this law but could be a -- could be considered a war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

There is no such thing as a "voluntary human shield".

But there is. If I voluntarily use myself as a shield, I am one.

The words cancel each other out and leave... just another ordinary enemy combatant.

Not a combatant (no gun...), and not ordinary, but yes an enemy.

Any British, American, Australian or person of whatever nationality who makes a decision, of their own free will, to intentionally place themselves in harms way in defense of a combatant's facilities should be treated like any other member of that combatant's forces.

Rumsfeld is completely right. Their attack on America is to try and hurt the US politically, through immoral means. It's committing suicide and blaming the US. (Reminiscent of suicide attacks in Israel). So, it definitely should be a war crime, and they should not be treated like any other enemy combatant. You don't shoot people without guns without a damn good reason. And we won't go around killing these people. That'd be horribly immoral. They know that. That's the whole point of their attack: they want to remain in a position where they shouldn't be killed, while doing everything they can to provoke their own deaths. (Think Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and tanks.) Rumsfeld is right that if some die because they get in the way, it's not our fault (morally), but that's true only as long as we don't intentionally kill them.

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Here's an explanation for why, in some domains, women may find they need to work harder to prove themselves than men do (it works in reverse too, for other fields):

Parents (wrongly) gender-stereotype their children, and treat boys and girls differently. This results in boys and girls, on average, having different skill-sets. Employers and bosses know this.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Relationship Theory

Some people like monogamy and marriage because it makes them feel safe. Their partner is not allowed to leave them, and not even allowed to look around for something better. And, if the partner does anyway, these people can now play victim, and most everyone will agree they were wronged. This is a bit perverse. For one thing, it seems to say "I'd rather you stay with me, than be as happy as possible, because I'm just that selfish."

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Getting answers wrong isn't the only way to look an idiot. It's striking how effective asking the wrong questions can be.

"Is it invariably wrong to act selfish?"

"Is consequentialism or deontology right?"

"How certain does induction make us?"

"What's a certain statement?" (as in come up with one)

"What would make a good foundation for our knowledge?"

"What's more important, my joy, or starving children in Africa getting a meal?"

"Is love or happiness more important?"

"What if I have to go to the doctor, but my child doesn't want to wear his seatbelt, and I'm in a big hurry, then can I beat him?"

"Did you know that two thousand rain forest species go extinct every year?"

"Did you know that if we don't anchor Australia, a sea snail might be crushed?"

OK, some of these are kinda cheating, but some are incoherent philosophical garbage that a lot of otherwise reasonable people waste time thinking about.

(I don't think these examples are very good. As I don't spend my time on this kinda question, I'm not all that familiar with many of 'em. I tend to stop reading in disgust when I encounter them, and then forget about it.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Just read this. I guess I agree that the government agency doing this stuff will probably get it all horribly wrong, and it's very abusable. But I was thinking, something similar could be right and good:

What if police see something suspicious, and just ask the guy what's up? I think our laws say you don't have to incriminate yourself or answer, and if you refuse, the police can't do anything. But a good person will recognise that what s/he did *was* a bit suspicious, and, taking into account privacy concerns, will want to tell the police some info to let them rest easy knowing s/he didn't do anything wrong. A good person will not say "I refuse to answer." At worst, a good person will think a bit and say "I really can't think of anything I can safely tell you b/c of privacy concerns, sorry." So, like, the general idea of trying to go after people who have all this nice shit and won't tell us where it came from and otherwise act like bad people, does make some sense.

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I went outside, walked a few blocks, entered a building, asked for some food, handed over a piece of paper, was given hot, good food 2-3 minutes later, and left. I didn't bring ID, and I didn't give my name.

It's wonderful.

Sitting in the public area were bins with hot sauce packets, napkins, sporks, drink tops, straws, and a soda machine. No security.

My order was set on the counter. I walked up and took it. No one checked my receipt.

It's amazing how peaceful our society is.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)
Here are some things that shouldn't be associated together, but often are:

Saddam staying in power and peace.

Capitalism and greed.

Commitment and sex.

Love and sex.

Morality and opposing kinky sex.

Morality and opposing "naughty" words.

Morality and God.

Leftists and caring.

"Disciplining" (read: hurting) children and love.

Spanking and learning.

Time-outs and learning.

School and learning.

USA and police state.

Israel and police state.

Tolerance and moral relativism.

Other Websites and Better Than Mine.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
Just read a Den Beste piece here. It was going along nicely, getting stuff about right, and then out of nowhere came:

It's true that all powerful nations eventually decline

which just makes no sense at all. It seems to say that moral behavior will invariably self-destruct, which is to deny that morality exists. (Or I suppose it could deny that morality can lead to being powerful, which also basically means denying morality exists.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Inspired by a comment on the last Relationship Theory thread:

Most of the time, I focus much much more on saying true things than saying a lot. There are notable exceptions, and it's important to try and say a lot when one wants to create new knowledge. But when explaining things I already know, or just talking randomly, my strong tendency is to be sure to get things right. One result is that, sometimes I say very little, or say things that seem trivial. "Horribly bad thing X, is awful, don't do it," or the like.

Anyway, the thing is, I think people often try to read a bit too much meaning into some of my writing. Really, most is not intended to be controversial. If you read my views on most issues, and go "duh" and agree, I'll be very happy, and you probably did not miss the point.

Also, sometimes I say things that are true, but often misused and abused in arguments for bad stuff. I know quite well that just because some people misuse a truth, doesn't make it any less true, and rely on this. Sadly, I'm often frustrated by people conflating the truth with the common assumptions about what it means. So, umm, don't do that (lol).

You may wonder about the use of a bunch of uncontroversial truths. One point is simply that although they really ought to be uncontroversial, and are among reasonable people, many aren't actually very popular :-/

The other is really a general approach to explaining things: start with simple, true statements to sketch out what the answer to some problem has to look like. Rule out the absurd and inconsistent, and maybe figure out on what continuum(s) and controversial "fact"(s) we must make a judgment on. So, basically, start with what we know. Then, look for a powerful explanation that fits with what we know (that will be controversial, and is what opponents ought to be arguing with).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)
Replying to a comment by Sharon Ferguson from the thread about gender stereotypes:

I can tell none of you have children.

Just because some people choose to keep their personal lives, and especially their children's personal lives, private, does not mean they do not have children.

As to Authority of Experience, it's not valid. The truth of a statement, depends only on it's content. If an idiot says something true, it's still true. If an "authority" says something false, it's still false. How do we tell which is which? Argument about the subject matter, not about the speakers.

I knew I was having a girl. I painted her room BLUE.

Sounds perfectly reasonable. I like off-white myself.

One of her many gifts was a Tonka truck. For five years, it was kicked around her room, ignored. Finally was given to her baby boy cousin, who knew exactly what to do with it. My daughter always sneered at it.

The whole point of being a subtle, powerful, devious, gender stereo-type meme, is that you can overcome blue paint, and a few trucks. In fact, many gender stereo-type memes are so highly evolved, that they still win out vs. parents who intentionally try to go against the stereotypes.

My daughter loves to laugh and jump and play and climb. But she is particularly concerned when someone gets hurt or knocked down or when someone tries to bully her. Call it personality.

I will, thank you.

Call it genes.

Genes code for various things, including perhaps the structure of one's brain. However, just like many computers made of different parts, behave the same way, so too do human brains despite structural differences.

But babies in general know from the start what they like. And girls tend to like dolls. And boys tend to like trucks.

This is an assertion that I'm wrong, but not an argument.

I was what you consider a tomboy. I was thoroughly disinterested in barbie dolls. When I got older though I did want to collect porcelain dolls...look but dont play with them. I always felt silly trying to feed milk to an inanimate object. But I have never considered myself anything less than feminine.

The gender stereotyping thesis does not say that every last person will act according to the stereotypes. It says they are subtly and not-so-subtly encouraged (and sometimes forced, coerced, ordered) to do it, by parents and others.

I should say what needs to be looked for is MERIT. there are some things women CANT do...and some things men cant do.

There are differences in physical body makeup, but needn't be any in personality. I agree employers and bosses should look for merit.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Here we find a perfectly decent article on why anti-aging research and medicine are good. However, one bit stuck out at me. The author writes:

I seriously doubt that people granted longer lives will fritter away their extra time watching reruns of Gilligan's Island (though some might, and it would be their business). Instead, they may well engage in longer-run projects such as ecological restoration or space exploration.

The problem, is the parenthetical. The author considers it none of his business what people do in their private lives, to the point that he doesn't consider any options wrong.

There is a common idea, which asserts that the public domain is objective, but the private domain is subjective. It's wrong to rape people, to give speeches inciting murder, and to run a red light. But in your private life, anything goes. Watch whatever TV you want, in whatever amounts. Be productive, or not. It's a matter of taste.

Now, this idea has been fruitful. It allowed us to have law and order, without curse-word-police and productivity-police stationed within our homes, telling us to expand our vocabulary and sleep less, or perhaps to stop drinking beers, or whatever.

However, from a philosophical point of view, the idea is simply not true. Choices can be wrong. Whether they are in the public or private domain doesn't matter.

Returning to the article, the author was arguing against people who feared immoral behavior. And he told them that, in the private sphere, he endorses immoral behavior as everyone's right. And his best defense against the possibility of immorality is that he doubts anyone will do it. What he should have said is something like, "If watching Gilligan's Island is the wrong thing to do, why will people want to spend their time on it?"

More on this last bit in next entry.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
premise: good values make their holder's life better
premise: people want nice lives
conclusion: people hold values they think are good

scenario: X thinks Y has bad values (X and Y are people)

Applying the conclusion to the scenario, we discover that: Y considers his values to be good

premise: X and Y have different values
premise: different values can't both be right
conclusion: X or Y (or both) are wrong

So, if Y knows at least one of them is wrong, and considers himself right, he must consider X's values to be wrong.

So we discover that when X declares that Y's values are wrong, what we are really looking at is a two-way dispute. X and Y are fallible. X does not have authority. So, to impose his values on Y, X needs more than to feel really sure. He needs some non-arbitrary explanation of why it's right for him to impose his values. And it must pass a simple test: it can't work in reverse. As X can claim authority, so can Y. As X can claim feeling sure, so can Y. As X can claim divine inspiration, so can Y. etc

(A non-reversible justification for value imposing is "he's attacking me" which gets us self-defense)

What does this have to do with the pro-death people objecting to TV reruns? Well, before they try to impose their anti-rerun values on others, they need a non-arbitrary, non-reversible justification. They don't have one.

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It was suggested that the US flag shouldn't be used as a pro-war symbol. The person who suggested this is explicitly pro-American and anti-war. So, if they don't have to go together, how can it be right to use the first to support the other?

The problem with this objection, thus far, is that it has no content!! For any two propositions A and B, using A to show support for B, could be objected to on the basis that someone could support A and not B. But we know that's not right because propositions can (via some explanation) support other ones.

So, to make the "don't use the flag to support the war case," what's needed is to demonstrate that the explanation connecting the two is wrong (not simply to have someone support the flag and not the war, because that person may be wrong/inconsistent).

Anyway, a simple reason that supporting America implies supporting the war, is that the war will make America safer (Iraq funds and supports terrorism). Or in reverse, the anti-war position of wanting Americans to die is not consistent with being pro-America.

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Here is one of the best general theories about morality:

If a moral theory fails by its own standards, it is wrong.

Combined with some epistemology like "If two moral principles contradict, they can't both be right," we can reject many, many bad moral theories.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
Numbers exist. My computer exists. I can touch my computer, but not a number. Prima facie, their must be at least two kinds of existence. I go with physical and explanatory.

A cave exists in both ways. There is the physical existence of various elementary particles at various points in space at a given time. And there is the explanation that it is a cave.

If Jack and Jill go to the park, there is the physical movement of their atoms to the park, and the explanation that friends are having a picnic. The physical description doesn't even know the location titled "park" is a public place with grass and trees. It just has coordinates in space.

Anyway, what this entry is really about is Relationship Theory:

Premise: "Relationship" is an explanatory term. It does not describe a physical event.

Obligations are explanatory. They also cannot be deduced from pure logic (because they depend on things in the real world). What they are, is when certain events happen, what is right to do changes; obligations are alternations in the moral landscape. For example, agreeing to meet David at the park, changes the moral landscape by making showing up at the park the right thing to do in scenarios where it otherwise would not have been.

Premise 2: To be true, explanations of why an obligation exists must, at least indirectly, refer to something physical.

Conclusion: Relationships, in and of themselves, do not create obligations.

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Gil wrote in the Tentativity comments here:
I think that until there is consensus that the right thing to do is refrain from coercing other people, then people will use whatever wealth and power they have to try to do just that.

I replied: I think this statement is exactly what's wrong with mainstream libertarianism. It has both the conspiracy problem (the view that people with power, want to abuse it) and the non-coercion problem (the view that non-coercion is prior to morality and self-evident).

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(I really do mean to update more. Internet access has been a bit sporadic. This should change in a few days.)

By reader request, Torture

curi: *pulls out a whip*
Elliot: no no, the idea is to write about it
curi: it's not very hard. i can't imagine someone too stupid to work out the basics actually capturing anyone.
Elliot: no no, like the morality of torturing people. like they caught a terrorist guy. should they torture him? is that kosher? etc
curi: can we do a skit for a visual aid?
Elliot: ummm, let's not
curi: how dull! *walks off*

So anyway, given that I don't care about the NAP, torture sounds just fine to me. It's not a good idea to hurt people for no reason, but torture *with a goal*, makes sense. Torture is pretty nasty, so it'd be best to only use in extreme cases. Terrorists qualify. Umm, questions?

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It is a common practice at schools, to have debates and assign kids to each side. Defending a side one disagrees with, is supposed to be a good skill. What are they missing? Both that there is a truth of the matter, and that to argue against what one thinks true, means to say things one thinks false (or to avoid saying anything substantive, which I suppose is rather common). Fucking relativists.

Going to sleep. Mean to try and write curi/Isyn dual soon after I wake.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
There are two bad philisophical ideas called Consequentialism and Deontology. The first means judging moral theories, based on their consequences. The second, means judging moral theories, based on principles.

One wonders how one is supposed to judge consequences without having any principles to judge them on.

And one wonders how one is supposed to decide what principles are good, without thinking about their consequences.

Also, in the limit, the two approaches are convergent. ("In the limit" is such a great phrase! Thanks Kolya ^_^)

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Yet Another Problem With The NAP

At airports, they say if you leave your bag unattended, it will like get confiscated. (I'm sure you can get it back after it's checked, or sumtin). Is leaving a bag unattended using force? Not in standard English...

I know, I know, leaving it unattended is negligent and risks other people, but at some point of warping and twisting a phrase to mean things it doesn't say, we gotta give it up.

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David Carr and many others (including myself) attack Blair for considering the adoption of a European Constitution. Its very existence is an affront to national sovereignty.

Saying something is wrong, because it's an afront to national sovereignty? That's statist. But this is coming from a libertarian, who if he's anything like the rest of the samizdata community, is normally rabidly anti-state.

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Here's a theory: if two people mostly agree about epistemology, this will allow them to agree to a large extent in all other spheres.

They will be able to agree what should be uncontroversial, and about many forms of criticism. They will agree on what facts are reasonable to believe, even if they choose differently. When there is a continuum of positions on a subject, even if they do not agree about quite what the right spot is, they will be able to understand why the other is further in whatever direction, and agree that each is being reasonable, even if perhaps mistaken. Why reasonable, if wrong? Because they will know that their arguments for the specific place on the continuum, are not so uncontroversial and precise as to necessitate reasonable people to agree.

My current view is that the worst type to person to try and talk to about serious stuff, is not the one with some bad moral theories, but rather the one with bad epistemic theories. (Note that a certain minimum morality is required to hold a good epistemology, so moral inverters are not gonna pass my epistemic criterion. Mainly what's required for good epistemology, is valuing truth-seeking, or something along those lines. And note that valuing means people without values are out.)

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I think smalltalk is only interesting with people one already has a deep relationship with, or sometimes for the sake of observing human behavior or some meta goal.

If the point of some way of interacting, is to let anyone get along, regardless of their merit, what the fuck good is that? (in the context of personal relationships and meeting people and hanging out and such -- obviously such a way would be nice for total strangers, as it'd mean no wars).

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People who think that all government documents are bad and evil, and attack laws on principle, and who also go to Bill of Rights rallies, are silly.

Anyone who reads too much into this, and tells me not all libertarians are like this, will be beaten severely.

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FYI, internet access has been and will continue to be, kinda flakey. This means less reading other websites, articles and blogs, thus less links and less ideas. And no mail program, means writing way less emails, and reading less, so less ideas. You get the idea. bleh.

Anyway, now that I'm done making excuses explaining my situation, here are some common examples of moral inversion:

Upon messing up, declare that you didn't.

Upon failing at something, blame someone else.

Upon having trouble, blame something else like a headache, lack of sleep, anger, passion, PMS, hunger, etc (Sometimes these are true, but often it's just denial).

Why is this so bad? Because good people welcome criticism, and want to improve, not pretend they are already good at things they are not.

more examples:

i'm bad at this --> it was too hard

these criticisms of me are interesting and useful --> this guy is out to get me

wow, TCS is so cool, I'm gonna try to internalise it --> wow, this is I am good, I must have been it all along...I *am and was* TCS (and any differences btwn current behavior and TCS, rather than getting fixed, must now be denied)

I broke it --> they made it too flimsy

I dropped my drink --> stop making noise, it's so distracting, *you made me* drop my drink

i failed my quiz --> the quiz was biased

i'm no good at saying what i mean --> saying what one means is only for the simple-minded

i'd make a terrible soldier. i'm too wimpy --> being a solider is only for the uncouth and the inferior masses of brainwashed, stupid people

spiders scare me --> God shouldn't have made spiders

war scares me --> the reason i don't like war, is that it's wrong

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

My AIM screen name is curi42. Yesterday I spoke with sylvry79 and fr0ggetoad about TCS, and this chat contains useful explanations on myriad topics. Enjoy. (All smileys that iChat turned into graphical pictures have been lost.)

fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79: whatcha disagree with? [Talking about this article]
sylvyr79: ok, well first of all, there's something he said that i do agree with
sylvyr79: the fact that humans are complex, and one simple influence does not dictate how we behave
sylvyr79: u with me so far?
curi42: yeah
fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79: yes
sylvyr79: ok, but then he goes on to say that it's good to do what you want, including video games if that happens to be what you want
fr0ggetoad: indeed
sylvyr79: what you want is a simple influence, but it is by no means the only one acting on a person
curi42: haven't read the article recently. that's not quite true though.
curi42: you can do what you long as you want the right things. morality first.
sylvyr79: well, he says it's right for a kid to do what they want, not for them to decide what they want first
sylvyr79: kids want to play video games regardless of whether it's a good idea, but he's saying it's good in any case
fr0ggetoad: why would it be bad to play video games?
curi42: well, it's pretty much always right
sylvyr79: there is a value to doing things you don't want to do
curi42: you mean to being coerced?
fr0ggetoad: if there is something that you want to do which has good value, and something you don't want to do
fr0ggetoad: which do you think you should choose?
sylvyr79: you can't generalize that question
curi42: you can ask the general question "Is it *ever* a good idea to coerce children for the sake of learning?"
sylvyr79: i'd say yes, sometimes
curi42: why/when?
sylvyr79: there are skills that people will not learn if they are left to their own devices
curi42: if the skill is important, why will the person not want to learn it?
fr0ggetoad: if something is valuable and has merit, then its likely a person will become more interested in it on their own terms than on someone else's
sylvyr79: what's important to one person is not the same as what's important in their environment
curi42: so we should do things we don't want to "for the sake of the environment" ?
sylvyr79: no, it's for the sake of being happier with yourself overall
sylvyr79: let me explain
curi42: if it will make ya happier, won't you want to do it? ...... ok
sylvyr79: in your immediate situation, you may not realize how your choices could affect your life in the future
sylvyr79: you can miss out on opportunities, and then have much less ability to be happy later on
curi42: yes, sometimes people are wrong.
curi42: but if someone does not know better, how can they take the theoretically better path? they cannot.
fr0ggetoad: your parents could also be mistaken in how they think doing or not doing something will effect your future life
sylvyr79: if a parent has experience and the child doesn't, the parent can help direct them on a good path
sylvyr79: there is no absolute right way to be a parent, so the sensible thing is just to do what you think is best
curi42: well, in general children listen to their parent's advice.
curi42: but when there is a disagreement, what right does the parent have to claim some sort of authority and make the child live out the parent's theories?
sylvyr79: the child is not necessarily acting on theories
curi42: on the stars then? ;-p
fr0ggetoad: lol
fr0ggetoad: people don't do things for no reason
sylvyr79: that's not entirely true
sylvyr79: what i mean to say is, not every action is the result of a reasoning thought process
fr0ggetoad: sure
fr0ggetoad: but we're talking about decisions here right?
curi42: heart beats aren't. and many are not explicit (in a language with symbols and grammar). but inexplicit theories do have a rhyme and reason to them.*
sylvyr79: i think an inexplicit theory is a case where someone doesn't finish the reasoning process, and just goes with what they have so far
curi42: "the reasoning process" ?
sylvyr79: of making a decision
curi42: no, i mean please tell me what this process entails
sylvyr79: considering the costs and benefits of your actions
curi42: that's how we make all decisions?
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: I propose that this theory is not a coherent explanation of all human behavior.
curi42: For example, it is lacking in explaining how we decide what is good and bad (a cost or a benefit).
fr0ggetoad: oh, good point curi
sylvyr79: sure, nothing is definite
sylvyr79: but if we have strong ideas of what's good and bad, we can use them for making decisions
fr0ggetoad: where do we *get* those ideas though?
fr0ggetoad: under your model of how we reason
sylvyr79: some of it is genetic, some is from learning from your surroundings
curi42: learning from surroundings how?
sylvyr79: what values your parents teach you, for instance
fr0ggetoad: how do they get them?
curi42: teach how?
sylvyr79: there are infinite ways to teach values
fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79, what is a mechanism for genes teaching you values?
sylvyr79: in primitive organisms, it's very simple
curi42: genes are expressed in body structure including brain structure
sylvyr79: basically, they give you tendencies to survive and reproduce
curi42: however, human brains are universal computers -- capable of doing any calculation that can be done (with enough time and memory storage)
sylvyr79: ok...
curi42: all running Intelligence software
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: structural differences may effect the speed, but not the function of our brains
curi42: and may effect the initial version of the intelligence software, but not it's subsequent form
sylvyr79: ok, there's a problem with that point
sylvyr79: true, with infinite time, brains could do any calculation
sylvyr79: but there is not infinite time, and different brains function differently in the time provided
fr0ggetoad: we're not saying anyone *will* complete a certain really long computation
fr0ggetoad: merely that if there was infinite time, it could
curi42: I hold brain speed is not a major factor in our lives. we know the speed is very fast, and it seems reasonable that our software is the bottleneck.
sylvyr79: are you saying all our software is essentially the same?
curi42: Here is a theory of human theories: The short of it is that we evolve our theories. By creating vast numbers of theories, most very similar with just slight differences, and then criticising them to eliminate the unreasonable ones, we are able to learn about any sphere. The survivors of criticism are held tentatively true, but may be criticised again in light of a new idea. It is notable that we need not start from any sort of true foundations, or good theories, but rather can start from any crap at all, hold it tentatively true, then criticise it and improve. One reason this is notable, is it means that it doesn't matter very much what initial state our brain software comes in, as long as it allows conjecture and criticism -- evolution -- because the initial state will be improved drastically and be unrecognisable in a short amount of time.
curi42: so, yes, our brain software has the same basic effect for everyone. that's what intelligence *is* -- the ability to learn, ala evolution.
sylvyr79: that makes sense
sylvyr79: but what is at the base of it?
sylvyr79: there has to be something to tell you which theories are good or bad
sylvyr79: whatever that is, it's different in different people
fr0ggetoad: criticism
curi42: well, you will have some sort of initial criticism.
curi42: theory of what it is
sylvyr79: ?
fr0ggetoad: curi, under your model do babies have theories when they are born?
curi42: and you can improve it. and either it will work, or it will not.
curi42: fr0ggetoad ..... probably, dunno. question for science.
sylvyr79: i think they have the tools to construct theories
fr0ggetoad: for sure ya
sylvyr79: and they have some basis for judging them
fr0ggetoad: well, babies left to themselves like won't get very far in that right
curi42: i think babies start with only very simple theories
sylvyr79: theories like "satisfying cravings is good"
curi42: and these are easy to criticise. like a baby might see something, and theorise that it will feel some way, and then touch it
curi42: and in touching, criticise (or not, if the theory was right) the sight-theory.
sylvyr79: that's all you need
curi42: yep
curi42: so, given all this, we can say that "children act on theories"
sylvyr79: ok
curi42: (note that we are not paying any attention that whether the theories are in English now. some will be, some won't. the distinction is useful for some conversations, but misleading in others)
sylvyr79: point taken
curi42: if a child has a theory that he should do X, and an adult has a theory that the child would be better off doing Y, what should happen?
curi42: well, first the adult will offer criticism of X, and the child will criticise the criticism and also perhaps criticise Y. suppose they can't figure out how to agree. then what?
curi42: well, i hold, it's the child's life, and it should be his own choice. the parent has no right to declare himself correct.
sylvyr79: the parent made an investment in this child....they have some right to protect it
curi42: how is trying to rule someone else's life, against his will, protection?
sylvyr79: the parent can consider more things, and has a better understanding of the way things work
fr0ggetoad: ok, so give the extra knowledge to the child
curi42: in general, yes. and thus we except children to usually agree with their parent's advice.
fr0ggetoad: by discussing it
curi42: but in this case, the parent has used all that extra experience to criticise the child's theory, and has been unpersuasive.
curi42: William Godwin: If a thing be really good, it can be shown to be such. If you cannot demonstrate its excellence, it may well be suspected that you are no proper judge of it. Why should not I be admitted to decide, upon that which is to be acquired by my labour?? ? The Enquirer (1797)
sylvyr79: you may not be able to explain it to the child if he doesn't have the background to grasp it
curi42: if it's a major choice, as you seem to be mostly concerned with, explain the background
sylvyr79: whatever experiences the child would need to see that what the parent is saying is actually true
curi42: experience just helps us form theories. communications can do the same thing.
curi42: the problem with this view, that the child does not understand the background, is that it is simply another way to say parent considers child wrong.
curi42: the child could try the same approach. he could say:
curi42: "mommy, i know you know a lot about most things, but about this particular thing, you don't know a lot.
sylvyr79: this is like the idea that you can't learn to ride a bicycle without actually getting on
curi42: in fact, you don't have the background required to understand why i am right about this"
curi42: you could, but that is infeasible
sylvyr79: you need to actually have the experience to be able to understand it
curi42: b/c physical theories about moving muscles are hard to talk about. you'd need some special machine.

[At this point, the chatroom died.]

sylvyr79: where were we?
curi42: i was saying that, the parent thinking child to "lack the right background to understand" is just another way to say the parent thinks he is right.
curi42: and the child could say the same thing. after all, if the decision is about the child's life.....
curi42: well, child has been living it for years, and knows details of own personality parent does not. details of what will work for him and make him happy.
sylvyr79: wait, i'm not sure about that first point
sylvyr79: the parent is not just saying "i think i'm right"
curi42: "you don't understand" == "you are wrong" as far as arguments go
sylvyr79: but the parent does have justification for what they're saying
curi42: your opponent will just say the same of you
curi42: the parent considers himself justified. the child considers parent wrong about that.
curi42: note: that the child also thinks he has justification, and the parent disagrees with that.
curi42: parent's aren't epistemically privileged
sylvyr79: there is a difference between a parent and a child
fr0ggetoad: yes there is
curi42: fr0ggetoad: he means a relevant one
curi42: so let's let him explain
sylvyr79: the parent has experience that he may be able to impart to the child only through coercion
sylvyr79: it's a substitute for actually giving the child that experience
curi42: well, the parent might be wrong. and then he will have wrongly hurt child, won't he?
sylvyr79: yes, but you don't avoid making decisions for fear that you might be wrong
sylvyr79: you act on your best theories
curi42: we generally do avoid making decisions *for other people when they disagree and want to live their own life*
curi42: you certainly wouldn't, say, prevent me from [censored for privacy].
sylvyr79: that's not in my power....
curi42: and if it was?
sylvyr79: it can't're the only one who can make that decision
fr0ggetoad: but but
fr0ggetoad: um
fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: but i have parents, sylvyr79
fr0ggetoad: like you're contradicting yourself
sylvyr79: no i'm not
fr0ggetoad: Elliot's parents have more life experience than he does, right?
sylvyr79: yes
fr0ggetoad: should they be able to make him [censored for privacy]?
fr0ggetoad: if they think that's best?
curi42: [question censored, I said ?nevermind? two seconds later anyway]
sylvyr79: there's too many unknowns, it's impossible to answer that question
fr0ggetoad: replace elliot with child
fr0ggetoad: and elliot's parents with the child's parents
curi42: yeah nevermind
curi42: when a parent thinks his child is making a mistake, he doesn't intervene *every single time* right?
sylvyr79: right
curi42: so, how does parent decide in which cases he should intervene?
sylvyr79: they decide with whatever tools they have to decide
curi42: well, surely it's not about how sure parent feels
curi42: what i mean is what parents *should* do, not what they really do.
sylvyr79: well, parents should use whatever theories they have come up with in their lifetime to try to shape things in such a way that a good result is likely to occur
curi42: good by child's standards, right?
sylvyr79: if we're talking about what the adult should do, then good by the adult's standards
curi42: "a good result is likely to occur"
curi42: parent should aim for child to grow up to be happy and successful *by own lights*, not by parent's. right?
curi42: no matter how much daddy values being a lawyer, if child is all into art instead, child should become an artist.
sylvyr79: yeah....
curi42: we can apply this to various other things
sylvyr79: this is assuming that the parent has declared happiness and success as ultimate values
curi42: when parent and child disagree about whether child should do A or B next, no matter how much parent values A, if child is into B instead, etc
curi42: oh, i didn't mean to say they were. you can fill in something else there. it's not important to the logic of the argument.
sylvyr79: a parent can recognize that other things are important to a child, and guide them to achieve what is important to the child
curi42: it's not clear if this "guiding" includes forcing or not.
sylvyr79: it does include forcing if the parent decides it's useful
curi42: and what criterion should parent use for when he should force?
sylvyr79: if they think there is something the child must do, that he will not do on his own
curi42: why must he?
sylvyr79: in order to keep opportunities open, perhaps
curi42: are these opportunities important to child?
curi42: (yes) then why doesn't he want to keep them open himself?
sylvyr79: he may not have the discipline to do it himself
curi42: "discipline" consists of?
sylvyr79: pushing yourself
curi42: so imagine a child who wants something, but is unable to push himself enough. how is parent going to use force to help matters?
sylvyr79: i'll give you an example
sylvyr79: i want to be a good runner, but i don't have the discipline to do it myself. Someone else pushes me to do it, and that gives me enough incentive to push myself harder
curi42: ok, but this "pushing you" won't involve force.
curi42: (consensual "force" does not count)
sylvyr79: it involves force in a sense
fr0ggetoad: i think what would actually be happening in that situation is that the person gets convinced that its worth it
sylvyr79: parts of my mind do rebel, it's not unanimous consent
curi42: that's bad
sylvyr79: how so?
curi42: because you are torn, and part of you is hurt.
fr0ggetoad: being in conflict with yourself
fr0ggetoad: is not a good thing
fr0ggetoad: right curi
sylvyr79: that's not a bad thing, that's how it always is
curi42: wouldn't it be better to act with the unanimous consent of your own personality?
fr0ggetoad: if you have the option of stopping when you want
fr0ggetoad: then its possible to run with unanimous consent within yourself
sylvyr79: it's never unanimous
fr0ggetoad: well if you have a theory that you should stop when you feel physical pain
sylvyr79: then you don't improve
fr0ggetoad: then you will become torn
fr0ggetoad: when you start to feel pain
fr0ggetoad: but pain is just a state of mind
fr0ggetoad: its input
sylvyr79: yes...
fr0ggetoad: do you agree that its possible to ignore pain then?
fr0ggetoad: by changing your state of mind?
sylvyr79: yes
fr0ggetoad: ok
fr0ggetoad: so then the conflict is being caused
fr0ggetoad: by the theory that pain is bad
fr0ggetoad: if you had a better theory that conflict wouldn't happen
fr0ggetoad: if someone could totally convince themselves of this then they wouldn't be coercing themselves (in respect to pain) when running
sylvyr79: if you could totally convince yourself, you would not be open to new ideas
curi42: no!
curi42: "true and mutable" -- our best ideas should be held true, and also open to criticism and thus change.
curi42: it's not a contradiction to, say, "be totally committed to being open to changing one's ideas"
curi42: even though being open may cause one to change this idea that one was (formerly) totally committed to
sylvyr79: you're saying "being totally committed" is a temporary state of mind
curi42: all theories are at a point in time.
curi42: at some other point in time, you will have different ones.
sylvyr79: yes, so you're never totally committed
curi42: sure you are
fr0ggetoad: sure you are
curi42: there is not a part of me (in this time) that is not committed to living morally, say
fr0ggetoad: you can be completely convinced of something
fr0ggetoad: and then see evidence to the contrary
fr0ggetoad: and get a better explanation
fr0ggetoad: and be totally convinced of that
sylvyr79: why call it completely convinced, if you can change it?
fr0ggetoad: because we know that we are fallible
curi42: because fallibility is not an obstacle to holding up things as true.
fr0ggetoad: knowing that people are fallible does not imply not trying to understand things
sylvyr79: i'm saying that your "completely convinced" is no different from any other idea you might have
curi42: not different from "tentatively held true" in any fundamental way
curi42: it is different from some i claim not to be very sure about.
sylvyr79: ok
curi42: the point is
curi42: fallibility says that we cannot know anything with certainty -- we can be wrong about anything
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: but it does not imply that we should be wrong about any particular proposition.
curi42: if i say some particular proposition is true, fallibility doesn't argue otherwise.
sylvyr79: granted
curi42: therefore, there is no contradiction between the possibility of being wrong (and thus having to change one's view) and saying that one is right (ie that one's view is true)
sylvyr79: this is not a's just, you act on your best theories until you have better ones
curi42: k

Kinda abrupt end, hope ya learned something, *waves*

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Here's an idea: Our most basic/fundamental theories are the ones that, if changed, would create the most inconsistencies in our worldview.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
The war has started!

(If you don't know where to look for links/news, USS Clueless gives some ideas here.)
Frank J, of IMAO, made a list of countries we shouldn't bomb: UK, Australia, and Israel. He says Israel never hurt anyone....that he cares about. Which, is just the point. Yes, Israel has killed people. But that's not actually an argument against Israel. What matters, is who Israel (or anyone) kills and why. Frank J, does not care about terrorists and other murderous types. He, unlike most, knows that such people are the only ones Israel targets.

You might think Frank just likes seeing civillians die. But if that's true, there are a number of other countries he ought to love[!]....

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Ugh, just saw ad for center that's supposed to make kids like reading. It begins with parents hearing noises from kids, and mother says "I'll go" like neither wants to, but she has the energy atm (at the moment) to manage so father does not have to. Mother then tells kids to "stop goofing around" before seeing what they are doing, and only fails to make them go to sleep because they are reading. -sigh-

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Update (dec 15, 2003): My blog has moved. It is now found here.

Okie, so I managed to write and then erase comments on McCarthy speech. So, take 2.... v_v At least it’ll be better this time.

Speech of Joseph McCarthy, Wheeling, West Virginia, February 9, 1950

This speech seems to be McCarthy’s most famous, but not positive. All the bold spots are my emphasis.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight as we celebrate the one hundred forty-first birthday of one of the greatest men in American history, I would like to be able to talk about what a glorious day today is in the history of the world. As we celebrate the birth of this man who with his whole heart and soul hated war, I would like to be able to speak of peace in our time—of war being outlawed—and of world-wide disarmament. These would be truly appropriate things to be able to mention as we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

McCarthy’s reputation is, in short, horribly evil. I’ve heard he was quite bad with specific factual claims, but that some of his general points were mostly true. And I’ve heard that his recklessness was more harmful than helpful to the anti-commie movement. Like people could just brush off true accusations as McCarthyism. Anyway, his speech doesn’t start like a raving loon. Onward!

Five years after a world war has been won, men’s hearts should anticipate a long peace—and men’s minds should be free from the heavy weight that comes with war. But this is not such a period—for this is not a period of peace. This is a time of “the cold war.” This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile armed camps—a time of a great armament race.

Perfectly reasonable.

Today we can almost physically hear the mutterings and rumblings of an invigorated god of war. You can see it, feel it, and hear it all the way from the Indochina hills, from the shores of Formosa, right over into the very heart of Europe itself.

McCarthy does not like complacency.

The one encouraging thing is that the “mad moment” has not yet arrived for the firing of the gun or the exploding of the bomb which will set civilization about the final task of destroying itself. There is still a hope for peace if we finally decide that no longer can we safely blind our eyes and close our ears to those facts which are shaping up more and more clearly . . . and that is that we are now engaged in a show-down fight . . . not the usual war between nations for land areas or other material gains, but a war between two diametrically opposed ideologies.

This part starts a little apocalyptic, but that does not recur, and is in fact immediately contradicted. McCarthy is still against complacency, and is now bringing up his next point.

The great difference between our western Christian world and the atheistic Communist world is not political, gentlemen, it is moral. For instance, the Marxian idea of confiscating the land and factories and running the entire economy as a single enterprise is momentous. Likewise, Lenin’s invention of the one-party police state as a way to make Marx’s idea work is hardly less momentous.

Absolutely superb! When reading the speech, be sure to swap the words ‘God’ and “Christian’ with ‘morality’ and ‘atheism’ with ‘immoral’. That’s what he really means. If you disagree, three points

- If you don’t swap, my comments will make no sense.
- I’ll write on the subject later.
- If you do swap, and you find that with the swap, the speech makes more sense than otherwise -- if you find the swap has a lot of explanatory power -- then you will have good reason to think it true.

By the way, I’m most definitely an atheist.

Stalin’s resolute putting across of these two ideas, of course, did much to divide the world. With only these differences, however, the east and the west could most certainly still live in peace.

This bit is rather moderate. Onward!

The real, basic difference, however, lies in the religion of immoralism . . . invented by Marx, preached feverishly by Lenin, and carried to unimaginable extremes by Stalin. This religion of immoralism, if the Red half of the world triumphs—and well it may, gentlemen—this religion of immoralism will more deeply wound and damage mankind than any conceivable economic or political system.

Well, we can see why a lot of people would hate McCarthy. But I rather like this part.

Karl Marx dismissed God as a hoax, and Lenin and Stalin have added in clear-cut, unmistakable language their resolve that no nation, no people who believe in a god, can exist side by side with their communistic state.

Swap ‘God’ with ‘morality’ and reread the paragraph.

Karl Marx, for example, expelled people from his Communist Party for mentioning such things as love, justice, humanity or morality. He called this “soulful ravings” and “sloppy sentimentality.” . . .

Wow! Fuck Marx.

Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down—they are truly down.

What comes to mind, is that in the present, a lot of people want to kill us. They say so. Saddam is not shy about it -- America is his enemy. Every friday, all over the Islamic world, Muslim holy men preach death to the Jews and Christians. Every day, are numerous attempted terror attacks in Israel. Iraqis even shoot at US citizens. They shoot guns at us. (No disrespect to Israel, which has put up with this for its entire history, intended. They shoot at you too, I know.)

And yet, people put their hand in the sand, and say that three months ago we lived in peace, and if only the US would stop playing the aggressor, and if only the damn Jews would stop whining and die, then everything would be fine and dandy. Some people think the chips are not down, there is no battle, nothing at all to worry about.

And today, these people are dead wrong. Thus far, I’ve every reason to think that they were dead wrong in McCarthy’s time too.

Lest there be any doubt that the time has been chosen, let us go directly to the leader of communism today—Joseph Stalin. Here is what he said—not back in 1928, not before the war, not during the war—but 2 years after the last war was ended: “To think that the Communist revolution can be carried out peacefully, within the framework of a Christian democracy, means one has either gone out of one’s mind and lost all normal understanding, or has grossly and openly repudiated the Communist revolution.” . . .

That’s pretty convincing, isn’t it? Stalin wanted us dead. McCarthy wanted to listen to him -- to take him at face value.

Ladies and gentlemen, can there be anyone tonight who is so blind as to say that the war is not on? Can there by anyone who fails to realize that the Communist world has said the time is now? . . . that this is the time for the show-down between the democratic Christian world and the communistic atheistic world?


Unless we face this fact, we shall pay the price that must be paid by those who wait too long.

I want to point out that, thus far, McCarthy seems to be a good speaker with good points, not a man deserving hatred.

Six years ago, . . . there was within the Soviet orbit, 180,000,000 people. Lined up on the antitotalitarian side there were in the world at that time, roughly 1,625,000,000 people. Today, only six years later, there are 80,000,000,000 people under the absolute domination of Soviet Russia—an increase of over 400 percent. On our side, the figure has shrunk to around 500,000. In other words, in less than six years, the odds have changed from 9 to 1 in our favor to 8 to 1 against us.

I don’t trust these numbers at all. The 80 billion must be a typo. But still, don’t trust the rest. I also don’t care much whether he got these numbers right. It doesn’t seem important.

This indicates the swiftness of the tempo of Communist victories and American defeats in the cold war. As one of our outstanding historical figures once said, “When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be from enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.” . . .

McCarthy reveals another of his points: he is upset with anti-Americanism inside America.

The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores . . . but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation. It has not been the less fortunate, or members of minority groups who have been traitorous to this Nation, but rather those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest Nation on earth has had to offer . . . the finest homes, the finest college education and the finest jobs in government we can give.

Today too, the colleges are full of idiotarians. The working class, far as I know, is much better grounded in reality.

This is glaringly true in the State Department. There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been most traitorous. . . .

I hear the State Department is full of idiotarians today. Seems reasonable to suppose it was in 1950, too.

I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department. . . .

I don’t trust his list one bit. Pretty sure it was never revealed. Seems like, in retrospect, a big mistake on McCarthy’s part. Must do more research.

As you know, very recently the Secretary of State proclaimed his loyalty to a man guilty of what has always been considered as the most abominable of all crimes—being a traitor to the people who gave him a position of great trust—high treason. . . .

Wow! I wonder if this is true. Must do more research.

He has lighted the spark which is resulting in a moral uprising and will end only when the whole sorry mess of twisted, warped thinkers are swept from the national scene so that we may have a new birth of honesty and decency in government.

Heroic sentiments, aren’t they? He wants to fight to get idiotarians out of government. Or so it sounds. Don’t actually know how many idiotarians there were in 1950. Have heard plenty, but must do more research.

So, to sum up, McCarthy was pro-morality (and Christianity), anti-commie, anti-complacency, didn’t like anti-Americanism at home, and had some suspect facts. And was blunt. So far...I like him.

Update (dec 15, 2003): My blog has moved. It is now found here.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
I hadn't been to The Onion for a while. My memory said it was a good site. But I just went and it was covered in idiotarian crap. Now I'm sad v_v

Look here and it's just awful. 9 things on top, all crap. (Down a little is a funny bit....the top reason to oppose war is "I Support My Activist Girlfriend.")

Anyway, the 9 things are:
- claim war being treated like video game
- claim that bombs create terrorists
- claim we are gonna install dictatorship
- claim bush is a chickenhawk
- claim war will piss off the rest of the planet
- claim the pro-war ppl have not answered any anti-war debating poitns
- claim we don't understand the seriousness of war
- claim we're causing too much collateral damage
- claim the US didn't have support any in the UN, and that UN is cool and should be listened to

Damn them. Here's a better site

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
I tried to post this to the TCS list, but it was rejected. -sigh- Anyway, enjoy:

The better you know someone, and the better they know you, the more intimate things it is safe to tell them. Which meshes amazingly well with a gradual approach to relationships, and extremely poorly with any sort of discontinuous jump.

By the way, this is important to parents who've messed up in the past, and now have an older child but little relationship. "Come tell me all about you, so we can catch up," would be just the wrong thing to say.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)
On an airplane, when the flight attendants ask people to sit down, they do. And they turn off their electronic equipment. And they ring the call button to provide change for a twenty. and no one hits each other. some ppl seem to think Saddam in power is peace, and it just means whether any states are fighting other states; I'd rather apply da word to a airplane flight. or to US society.

And when the plane stops, everyone on the isle rows gets up, and gets their stuff, and then the people in the front get off, and row by row everyone gets off. This goes rather smoothly, lozza consent, even tho it means the ppl in back have to wait a while 4 everyone in front of 'em to leave.

A revolutionary might look at this and go: "Wait, wait, I have a better idea!! Everyone on the isle, get up, grab your bags, and walk out. No one cut in front of these people and stop to get a bag from overheard, just let them walk out quickly. People in back of the line can come out cause they won't be in the way. This will be more efficient." (note this means front window seats leave last, not near first)

But truth is, trying to change the order, would be more trouble than it's worth, cause lots of chaos, make a big mess, and be totally not efficient. Me no like revolutionaries. they don't understand that traditions and evolution don't like big discontinuous jumps.

from another angle, when ya wanna persuade someone, ya gotta provide both a better view and a way to get to it, not just a better view. telling an anti-semite to be moral, without tons of details on how and why and such, just won't work.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Every time we tell someone personal details -- intimate information -- the person is in a better position to hurt us *unintentionally*. (I am not interested in intentional hurting or gossip or anyone else but the two people talking.) Imperfect people say imperfect things to each other all the time. And it is fairly common to make a joke that is taken badly; explain something person didn't want to know; criticise unhelpfully; or otherwise make some error. And, we are generally pretty good about not holding a grudge or even being coerced by the errors. If something weird is said, people often just say "nevermind" and forget it. Or change the subject. Or ignore it.

But anyway, these minor mishaps are there. And, sometimes, there are larger ones. Perhaps not as common or severe as romantic movies would have us believe, but they certainly happen and matter. Usually they get solved too, no apocalypse. Sometimes not. Whatever.

Now, what can we say about the ability of these mishaps to hurt us? Well, to be hurt, we must take them personally -- have some emotional stake. If we don't care about some domain, we won't get hurt in it. It's only when we care, that we are vulnerable.

And one thing that we are quite attached to, is our own personality. For good people, not all of it -- we may be totally open to criticism in some fields, and not at all attached -- but no one is all that near the limit in that direction. When our friends are upset with us, we care. When those we know well and like and respect, think us bad, it is not as nothing. If a troll rants and raves about how evil we are, we will not mind. The attacks will miss the mark without the most extraordinary of luck. We will be amazed at how badly he misread us. But if a close friend went for it...

So, I keep talking of friends and intimacy -- what's the defining characeristic of those? Knowing each other -- or to make alice happy -- having an understanding of each other's personalities. How does this normally come about? Hanging out, chatting, shared projects, etc

Now, as long as we are gradual in creating understanding of each other, things may go wrong, but I am not worried. There are dangers inherent in everything, no big. Our knowledge of the person, and of how not to hurt the person, will grow together. The second being pretty much totally inexplicit.

But the point is, what if we attempted to create lots of intimacy -- to share lots of personal knowledge -- discontinuously. What if we just met some random person, and started pouring our heart out, giving up all sorts of details? What will happen?

We'll end up with someone, making lots of mistakes, and not knowing what to say to us, and not really understanding us, but with access to our most sensitive spots. We'll be frustrated with criticism useless to us; and hurt by others that shouldn't have been said; and not hear useful ones because person misjudges which to say. We'll hear suggestions we've tried; suggestions that offend us; suggestions that are exactly wrong. And all sorts of things will be misunderstood. And what for? To what end? No good one.

Getting along well, must evolve.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
On the previous entry, Pat McNerthney commented as follows:

Yes, it is true that the more of ourselves that we share, the greater we are exposed to potential harm, if even unintentional. However, we also expose ourselves to a greater potential of good, which outweighs the potential harm.

Sharing personal details is nothing more than growing knowledge. Are you really claiming that there is a "proper" growth rate to such knowledge growth?

It's not that there should be a particular rate (for any given couple in specific circumstances, there is a right rate, though). Rather, I'm against discontinuous jumps.

And so, against:
- declaring boyfriend/girlfriend status
- declaring patient/psychologist status

and any other sort of declaring a personal relationship that didn't exist the moment before the declaration. And (to a lesser degree) this applies to telling people intimate details early -- acting on a fantasty relationship. In all these cases of discotinuous jumps, the people sorta creation a relationship out of thin air, then try to act like it exists. Which is dangerous (highly conducive to making mistakes) and doesn't actually help further any real relationship.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
On the previous entry, Gil commented as follows:

It seems to me that this is all just a long way of saying that you are personally risk-averse when it comes to relationships. You seem to exaggerate risks and discount benefits.

This is just a fancy way for Gil to say he thinks I'm wrong. It's also an odd criticism, because I haven't been evaluating specific actions. In fact, I said that the right rate of growing a relationship varies drastically with people and circumstance. I did not write anything like "people should be very cautious, because the world is scary" as someone who read only Gil's comment might think.

Pat's position seems right. Sharing personal information has risks, but they should be weighed fairly against reasonable expectations of costs and benefits.

Cost/benefit is not a very good approach to relationships. We need explanations of what is the right thing to do, not measurements or numbers.

Yes, giving all your personal information to a complete stranger is unwise; but giving some to a date or psychologist who comes highly recommended from a trusted friend might very well be worthwhile.

What could be the use of such a recommendation, in this discussion? It can't be trustworthiness in having good intentions and not gossiping, because I already wrote: I am not interested in intentional hurting or gossip or anyone else but the two people talking. That leaves the notion that our friends being right, is generally a better explanation of reality than otherwise. Except....right about what? About the person being of good character? Oops, I already specified I'm not invoking that argument. About the person being generally compatible with us, then? Errr, if that's the case we will discover it as we begin to talk anyway. So, what good is the recommendation?

(Recommendations are perfectly good for picking who to try meeting, btw.)

This continuous/discontinuous distinction seems weird to me. Why not say that one should take risks when they are reasonable, and admit that broad generalizations about when this will be the case for others are likely to be false?

Would it make sense to you, to say that good relationships require knowledge, and that this cannot be created by declaration, by want, by decision, by imagination, etc?

Here are two more examples of discontinuity:
- becoming "a man" at a certain age, despite no new knowledge coming into existance
- a Catholic child going to his first confession. the knowledge of how the priest can help the specific child, simply doesn't exist.

More on throwing privacy to the winds in particular tomorrow.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
I read this USS Clueless entry. Den Beste writes:

Skokie is a suburb of Chicago, and in the 1970's it happens to have had a fairly large number of Jews living there, many of whom were either direct survivors of the Holocaust or had lost relatives in the Holocaust. A neo-Nazi group wanted to hold a parade there. They deliberately chose it because of its Jewish population, and the town refused to let them.

The American Civil Liberties Union is particularly interested in First Amendment cases, and faced a difficult choice. Most of its membership was liberal and leftist. However, this seemed to the ACLU to be a classic attempt to censor public speech based on the fact that it represented unpopular opinions (to say the least).

He goes on to tell us that the ACLU did take the case and won it, at the cost of some membership and donations. He considers this the right thing, because ACLU took a principled stand: to defend the right to free speech, as the organisation was intended.

However, the problem with this view, is that it ignores the morality of the situation. We have nazis... fucking NAZIS, who want to HARASS JEWS. That is morally wrong. It's totally reprehensible, and should be criminal. Den Beste's analysis, is that everyone has the right to unpopular speech, and this is important. But why should that be true? Rights are not self-evident or manifest or anything like that. They are approximations of morality. And we must keep our head on our shoulders when applying them. (Especially the libertarians.)


I would say the above is an example of someone taking a rights prior to morality view. A friend of mine recently criticised this, saying that people do not have two distinct structures in their brains/theories that we could call "morality" and "rights" and do not put one before the other. Of course, in what he says, he is right (there are not such structures), but he's missed the point of the rights before morality criticism. It's a high-level explanation of how people evaluate moral questions. Den Beste started his analysis with the well-known right to free speech. And considers this dominant, and that was the end of the story. I begin by asking about the morality of the situation: should Nazis be allowed to parade their hate speech in front of a bunch of Jews? My answer was no. And Den Beste knows this perfectly well -- he knows it's not a very nice thing for the Nazis to do, and in many ways objectionable. He knows the morality of being a Nazi. He must know, too, the morality of intentionally choosing a place with lots of Jews to hold a Nazi rally. But, despite this, he put the right to free speech ahead of morality in his conclusions.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
If we accept that discontinuities in relationships are bad, because the knowledge to handle them does not exist, then what should we say about telling very intimate details to someone we've just met?

Premise: For two people, have some relationship, there is some order of what things are more or less private to tell each other.

Premise: The more private things are the most dangerous to tell.

OK, so how do we get the knowledge to make telling very private things safe? Intimacy (getting to know each other well -- creating knowledge of each other). The more intimacy, the more we can-safely/should tell.

So, what if people tell more than appropriate, and think they haven't messed up? It means, they think various knowledge exists that does not -- they have a fantasy relationship. By the fiat of their imagination, they've decided their partner has qualities partner doesn't. This bad.

What this got to do with discontinuity? Well, if there is an order of things to tell, and we need to create knowledge to tell later ones, then it makes sense to generally go in order (backtracking fine). A discontinuous jump from people talking about rather public things, straight to very private ones, rather than a gradual increase, indicates that a fantasy relationship has been created, or the people wouldn't think this safe.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
On an email list, I was asked why effective communication is morally imperative (in the context of posting).

To see why, we must consider what posters are hoping to accomplish. If they want to communiate, discuss, argue, criticise, make sense, provide food for thought, ask questions, get help, make friends, have a nice time talking, or anything remotely normal like that, then they will need to communicate to accomplish their ends. In other words, failing to communicate effectively is inimical to their own intentions. And, as I've said before, life strategies that fail *by their own standards* are morally wrong.

Note especially that people don't do things for no reason, so saying posters haven't any goal won't suffice. And writing gibberish to annoy people, obviously won't do to defend the morality of ineffective communication.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Personal advice means advice that is contingent on the advice-giver being right about part of the receiver's personality/worldview (if giver wrong, then the advice is rather worthless).

Or we can make it better, by realising that it's a continuum not boolean (boolean variables can only have two values: true or false).

The extent to which advice is personal, is the extent to which the value/truth of the advice is contingent on advice-giver being right about part of the receiver's personality/worldview.

Also there's a different continuum of note: how personal the advice is.

This depends on two things:

- the complexity of the relevant parts of advice-receivers personality. if giver only must get simple part right, it's not very personal.

- societal norms/taboos

The extent to which advice is personal, and how personal the advice is, usually go hand in hand (lots of one, lots of the other) but do not have to.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Some may wonder about my recent post regarding a Fabric of Reality book review: Why was it a blood libel? Did I, perhaps, over exaggerate?

I would begin by pointing out that a review of a science book, is not really the place to attack the author's politics. I'd also mention I know someone who thinks Zionism is Naziism, wants to blow up the US government, and various other nasty things .... but I still acknowledge he is pro children's rights. To say someone who supports Israel and the US, must be against children, is completely dishonest.

Anyway, to see why it's a blood libel, I'll translate 5 bits:

At the same time he appears to be a supporter of forces that are today turning children into victims.

"Turning children into victims" means hurting and killing children. The forces, we soon discover, means mostly Israel and a little bit the US...

I speak of Palestinian teenagers who are used as human shields in Israeli military operations against a civilian population.

The Jews kidnap teens, treat them as sub-human, and get some killed, to further their operations to murder civilians.

I speak of the more than 20% of Palestinian children who, according to a UN report, are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The Jews starve Palestinian children (or maybe distribute pamphlets with false nutritional advice).

I think of the Palestinian teenager from Jenin who said on television: "I have never seen, in my whole life, a single good day."

The Jews make life as a Palestinian hell.

I speak of the 2000 excess deaths per week of children in Iraq as a result of our economic blockade.

The Americans murder over 2,000 Iraqi children per week.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
One cool thing about knowledge-growing entities (people) vs other things, is that, while we can fully understand any specific thing, and so get bored with a toy, or a field of science, understanding a person *at a point in time* is not the end, b/c knowledge growth is not predictable, and person would soon be different.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Any given policy/law/institution, we know will, in the future, be different/better/obselete.

So, if governments are characterised by any specific thing, (like monopoly on initiating force [not that i concede that definition makes any sense]) that's the end of minarchy as a plausible concept.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
this *should be* uncontroversial:

The choice "shooting at a terrorist" is not the choice "killing an innocent" even tho ppl sometimes miss. Morality comes down to choices, not results.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
on Dawson's Creek this guy wanted his gf back, and gave a speech (over a loudspeaker at an airport, weeeeee) but anyway, nothing in his speech was contingent on the girl ('sides her name *g*). she's amazing. rocks his world. he loves her. he's sorry. he wants things to work out. he's sure they will. etc It's striking how little actual content the lives of any of the ppl on Dawson's Creek have (or many other similar shows too). But I suppose it is orders of magnitude harder to write the details, and might not actually be good for ratings either.

the lack of consent secured before attempting to kiss people also never ceases to amaze me.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Steven Den Beste, a mechanist atheist, writes:

And even among mechanists there's no particular consensus about such things as ethics, because the basic axiom of mechanistic atheism (that the only thing which exists is the material universe and the matter within it, which interacts according to the laws of physics) doesn't provide any kind of guidance in those areas.

Actually, mechanist atheism as defined here, does give guidance about ethics: it states that ethics (and more generally, explanations) do not exist. This comes from the simple premise that ethics are neither matter nor laws of physics.

A much better way to approach existence, is to consider things to exist if they are necessary to explaining reality. This still includes the laws of physics, and all the matter in the "material universe" and still fails to include God or faeries, but this time does include explanations.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
A friend thinks it's an important implication of mechanist atheism (rightly construed) that we should not go looking for moral explanations in the supernatural. I kinda thought that was a bit "duh" to write. We shouldn't look for *any* explanations in the supernatural.

But I guess it *is* true that lots of atheists think morality is a religious concept, and cannot exist otherwise. *sigh*


As David Deutsch points out:

That last sentence there is a special case of a more general thing, namely that religious people and scientistic people have this great area of agreement, namely that reason cannot reach beyond math and science. In fact, beyond mathematical proof or scientific prediction, most of them would say.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Here's a good demonstration that asking the wrong questions is just as much a cause of mental masturbation as being a dolt. No offence to the author is intended, but this particular piece is mostly a waste of time, because it focuses on pointless questions (at least the bits I read -_-o).

See, it worries about whether atheism is *proveable* and other stuff about proof. But fallibility tells us that certainty isn't possible (and that this isn't not an obstacle to knowledge or truth). What matters is what the best explantion of reality is, and that's what a discussion of the truth of atheism ought to focus on.

Note that "fallibility tells us" is no more than arguing in terms of high-level concepts; it is *not* any sort of appeal to the authority of the principle of fallibility, and *not* an unsupported assertion.


read a bit more. look at this "Within mechanistic atheism, you have people who think that atheism is somehow scientific and actually can be proved, and others who understand that atheism is a religious belief which is no more susceptible to actual proof than any other religious belief." *sigh*

and i should mention the focus on proof isn't the only manifestation of asking the wrong questions causing the piece to be mostly pointless. and also that it does have some truth in it anyway.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)
Remembered a nice line about atheism: "When you understand why you don't believe in every logically possible God, you'll understand why I don't believe in yours."

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Instapundit says, talking about an explosion at Yale: "The obvious explanation, though -- a student trying to stop an exam -- seems very unlikely at Yale" (and then gives sensible reasons about Yale).

Isn't it amazing that people know, and generally accept, (part of) what schools do to kids? How much stress, pressure, despair, and anguish they cause? A bomb to stop a fucking test isn't far fetched -- it's the obvious explanation. but will this lead Glenn to question schools? no.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Your search - "competent epistemology" - did not match any documents. (on Google)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
lookie, a real entry!! ^^

CPs are *not* a ritual. CP = non-coercion.

(sane) libertarians *like* democracy.

using voting to make decisions and thinking you've set up the same thing as the US government is a cargo cult approach

rules are important even for good people because functioning without them is harder, and we have limited energy

deduction doesn't create certain knowledge

every choice you make, excludes choosing otherwise.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
a reader pointed out not all readers know what CP is.

CP = common preference. common preference = a solution to a problem that all parties prefer. Not a compromise, but everyone getting what they want. This doesn't mean what they initially want, but allows for changing what is wanted.

the reason that CP is the same as non-coercion, is that in all cases where no one is coerced -- where everyone enacts one theory that has no active rivals -- then a CP happened, b/c everyone's prefered theory happens. and in all cases where someone was coerced, no CP was found, b/c someone did not prefer what happeneed.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Just read a romantic (supposedly) sex story.

What's striking is the lack of contingent (on the people involved) details. The guy is a rugby star. The girl, ummm, uhhhh, oh she's hot. They meet. He's inept, she's amused. They meet again, talk, and kiss. They write each other often. Though they converse often, we know not what about. (They both go to not-co-ed, strict boarding schools and thus can't meet much). Winter break comes. They get to see each other now. They fuck. He says he loves her. And then it says they're still together 30 years later.

For one thing, the power of these stereotypes (memes) is demonstrated. The people don't matter. They control countless lives of all different sorts. Truly amazing in a kind of morbid way.

For another, just story wise, contingent details are what give a story life. What make the characters interesting. It's rather dull when the protagonists don't have personalities -- when they are fungible not unique. Sadly, IME, this story is one of the *better* ones of the genre. Perhaps I'd have better luck with pulped dead tree format. (If that doesn't ring a bell, go read Exploitation Now already.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
(same story as last entry) "It was so hard to tell what Jane was thinking most of the time. It was frustrating, but oddly attractive."

he doesn't know her -- this is attractive
la de da

ok, after reading the rest of the story, it was so inspiring, that i'm now writing my own Worst Romance Story Ever. look forward to it, lolz

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Andrew Sullivan writes: One reason I find some of the grand-standing over WMDs increasingly preposterous is that it comes from people who really want to avoid the obvious: more and more it's clear that the liberation of Iraq was a moral obligation under any circumstances. People say to this argument that if we depose one dictator for these kinds of abuses, where will we stop? But the truth is: very few dictators have resorted to imprisonment or mass killing of children. Saddam's evil was on a world-historical scale. Ending it was one of the most prgressive things the United States and Britain and their allies have ever done.

Not that he's wrong, per se, but there's a better answer to when we will stop removing evil dictators from power: we won't! This isn't a slippery slope to something bad, it's a slippery slope to no more evil dictators. The only thing stopping us is what we *can* do, not what we'd like to.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)
I read somewhere about the incompatible pairs problem where you have a list of things, and a list of pairs that are incompatible (ie you can't pick both from a pair). You have to pick a certain number from the list w/out violating any of the incompatible pairs. It said solving with brute force (construct all possible answer lists ignoring the pairs, then go through and test them all) takes too much computing resources to be feasible (except with very small list and pair list). If you have to pick x things from n options with p incompatible pairs, brute force would take n! / ( x! * (n-x)! ) to get our lists and then *2px for worst case (our lists are size x and we gotta check p pairs and the simplest way is to scan list to find one half the of the pair, then scan for the other half ... not efficient but whatever). anyway, the important thing is that n!. factorial is evil and owns all the other numbers.

Anyway, I can do it using 2^p lists in the worst case, which is loads better usually (big n and not-insanely-big p), but still exponential resources use. my technique reminds me of MWI ^^ ok, start with 2 copies of the list of items. now take the first incompatible pair (1, 2) for any 1 and 2, and scratch 1 off one list, and scratch 2 off the other list, so they become differentiated. next up, take another pair, and for each list we have, differentiate it into 2 and mark off 1 on one list and 2 on the other. if a list has 1 or 2 missing, you don't have to split it this step, so we're not actually gonna use the full 2^p lists. not sure how to approximate how many we really will use. anyway, after you go through all the pairs, you'll have lots of lists with various amounts of items remaining. take all the ones with enough items, and for the ones with extra, use some combinatorics to get all the possible ways to pick x things out of them if you want. another way to save resources is if a list ever gets too small just delete it and never split it again.

anyway, anyone know a better way or another cool problem?

oh, umm, an example of an incompatible pairs problem: you have an apartment complex with space for x people and you want it full, a list of n applicants, and a list of p pairs of applicants who fight and thus you can't have both.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
from comments, woty wrote: A person has a sibling. What are the chances that the sibling is the same gender as they are? (it's not 50%)

and Gil gave this answer: MF FM FF and MM are the possiblities, we'll go with boys, so FF is out, and MM is once of the 3 options, so 1/3 chance. this is a well-known answer.

anyway, that's WRONG

it *is* 50%. the above answer does not take into account anything about the possibility of meeting either sibling. the MM option is really *two* options, meeting *either* the younger or older sibling.

another way to put it, is: if you've met the older sibling, the options are FM and MM which is 50/50 either way. and if you met the younger sibling, the options are MF and MM which is also 5/50 either way.

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Emailed To: Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit
Subject: If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

Dear Glenn Reynolds,

You wrote: "I felt sorry for the poor students in the Bar Review course -- I well remember that studying for the bar combined stress and excruciating boredom in a fashion that nothing else has equalled."

I found your characterisation of what the students are currently experiencing quite moving, and I have no doubt that it is accurate. But I wonder, have you considered why such suffering still need exist in the most advanced civilisation ever? One would think much creativity would be devoted to reduce this suffering. But it is not. Do you know why?

-- Elliot Temple

UPDATE: If ya didn't know, the quote for a subject line is from 1984 by George Orwell. I hope Glenn knows.... *g*

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Elliot: is the EU funding hamas?
curi: Heh. Not directly. but EU money has been flowing into Hamas by various routes. The EU Commission has just instituted a "study" to try to prevent EU money from reaching Hamas.
Elliot: -_-o
curi: 'Not giving them any' is of course ruled out as a method. That would be simplisme.
Elliot: LOL

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Some think the path to happiness is to get what one wants. And parallel to this, is the theory that with enough money, to buy whatever one likes, happiness will come.

Some think the path to happiness is to want what one has. And parallel to this, is the theory that money and things are distractions and obstacles to true happiness.

Both extremes are false. We must both seek to get what we want (more generally, do what we intend) but we must also seek to want the right things (have (morally) good intentions).

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Did you like this piece on The World? Here's more answers:

Christians: We will be holding a prayer session this evening at 8pm.

TCSers: We blame her parents.

Hans Blix: I believe she was hiding Saddam's WMD.

Psychiatrists: We believe she had a traumatic incident in a canal during her childhood.

Her Husband: That traitorous bitch had a girl on purpose!

Gun Nut: We need a gun in every Egyptian household.

TCS Gun Nut: At least arm the six little girls!

Feminist: The wrong person is dead.

Socialist: This is the inevitable result of Egypt's capitalist economy.

Socialist: The State should have redistributed some of the female children to other families and given them a boy instead.

Socialist: The solution is a state-sponsered GDP or Gender Redistribution Program. We consider this a higher priority than a traditional GDP.

Social Worker: If only the US hadn't cut food aid to Egypt by 43.2% this year, this never would have happened.

Social Worker: The US increased food aid to Egypt 200% this year, but there was so much we haven't been able to distribute it all yet. It is the responsibility of the West to feed the hungry, and when the West fails, they are responsible for the consequences.

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You can't do 'precision' with a sufficiently young person. because, being good Popperians, they only use as much precision as is needed for their problem situation.

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so i was reading this newspaper article on economics, and it was ok, a little scary how stupid it says most ppl are, but anyway, it mentions the broken window fallacy (if you break a window, it creates a job to fix the window, so you helped the economy *ahem*). and it just has to give the example this way: "Some teenagers, being the little beasts they are, toss a brick through a bakery window." grrrrr

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IMAO quotes Jonah Goldberg who says:

"Affirmative action is based upon the assumption that blacks cannot compete with whites. But if I say that blacks can't compete with whites, I'm a racist."


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

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was looking at Trinity, Bill Whittle's newest essay. he devotes quite a lot of space to why creating instead of just redistributing wealth exists. here's an explanation i like:

would you rather have a truck on the curb outside McDonalds full of hamberger components, or something to eat?

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i thought i should blog something. rather than 5 hits yesterday i got 42. i don't know why but whatever, i'll try to give you *something* new to read, i guess.

In politics, a lot of discussion has gone to answer this question: Who should rule? Should it be the strongest? The smartest? The most popular? The divinely blessed? The oldest? And each generation should we pick again, or go be heredity?

That last question may have given it away. It implies that our leader should remain leader for his whole life! But we have term limits on presidents for a reason... See, the point is that 'Who should rule?' is entirely the wrong question. Any answer at all, doesn't matter who you pick, is a recipe for tyranny -- for one leader who's policies, bad or good, rule our lives. And yes, if you put a lot of energy into selection, maybe you can find a benevolent dictator who will have mostly good policies, and few bad ones. But that is still tyranny, and the hope of only having to live with "a few" bad policies by my King is just not that inspiring.

The answer to the question is to instead focus on: How can we set up our government so that bad leaders and policies get corrected? And that -- having a system open to criticism and change -- is the answer to tyranny. Picking the right tyrant in the first place is *not*. (unless it's curi)

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idiotarians are ppl who side with evil without having evil intentions. another way to put this is they have good motives but bad ideas. the whole point of this is that we do not attribute bad motives to those who disagree with us -- quite the contrary, we think most people who disagree with us have good motives. only a few are actually evil.

there is nothing analogous in how they treat us...

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oh the irony!

skim this then think about this quote from it:

"This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes, the researchers advised."

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Elliot: Go rocks!
curi: They're called stones.

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Isn't it great that we live in a society where a strip of paper-thin orange plastic can stop a car? And one where this claim doesn't evoke the question, "They make plastic as strong as steel now?"

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One thing about people that are intimidating b/c of being "elite" somehow, is if they really are so elite, then all the stuff you may be worrying about, they should probably have solved already, so you don't actually need to worry about it. (or if they haven't solved it, and are so elite, well it's a hard issue, and they won't be expecting you to have a solution either.)

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Jack and Jill, who are partners in parenting, have sex sometimes, and are not convinced of the sanctity of monogamy. Jill wants sex more often; Jack doesn't. Jack suggests that Jill can seek out other people to have sex with if she wants more. Just like Jill often plays chess with others. Jack thinks this stance is sufficient and that should be the end of the issue.

But Jack is wrong. What he has missed is that Jill doesn't want more sex *with anyone*, she wants more sex with him. Whether this desire of Jill's is rational, is an open question I won't go into. But suffice it to say that Jill does have this preference. And the solution almost undoubtedly is not for Jill to want less sex to the level Jack currently wants. Rather it is probably more like: Jack will want a little more because he cares about Jill; Jill will want a little less because she cares about Jack; maybe or maybe not Jill will get some sex elsewhere; and Jack and Jill will looks for ways to make sex more interesting/enjoyable for Jack.

In theory, this can apply to chess too. But caring about who one plays chess with is not very common in our society. With sex, it is common to care about that.

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Sarah Fitz-Claridge has taken to deleting comments i post on, including this one (see end of post for Henry's comment and my now-deleted reply). why? she says "no meta" and won't give any more details, like pointing out what bit of the comment is allegedly meta. also she says this rule applies to everyone. so maybe i'll point out various other posts with meta to her and see if she deletes them...

I was also put on moderation so comments I write on that site have to be approved to be posted. However, anonymous posts are not moderated. So, like, what the fuck? I logged out, have to type my sig myself now, and will have a harder time finding new comments to read without using the feature that tags new ones for me. Umm, great, she's wasted some of my time, for no reason. *sigh*

UPDATE: all anonymous posts now get moderated too. lovely. if you make a new account you can post with that unmoderated, though.

anyway, henry's comment and my now-deleted reply (judge for yourself how worthy of deletion my reply is, i suppose):

Common Preference is a flawed idea

I certainly like what TCS stands for. Quite literally, actually. I think Taking Children Seriously is a great name, and it really sums up nicely how I think we should treat children: simply take them seriously, just as we take adults seriously. I agree with TCS's most important themes, which I consider to be: don't coerce your kids (well, I think there are rare exceptions where it's good to coerce kids or adults), be creative at solving problems (generally work from the assumption that there is a solution), be skeptical about traditional education, use argument and advice rather than force, look for common decisions which make all involved happy. I attended a lecture once by Sarah Fitz-Claridge about TCS, and she has really good and, I believe, true things to say about how to deal with children. So I much appreciate her insights and analysis of the mistakes so many people make in dealing with children. Mostly boiling down to not taking them seriously and using coercion instead of reason.

But ironically, while I broadly agree with most of the TCS conclusions, it strikes me that the way it is typically philosophically defended is logically flawed on several issues. Some other time perhaps I will argue that TCS'ers are somewhat mistaken about the link between TCS and fallibilism. Here I wish to argue that the TCS notion of common preferences is thoroughly confused. This is evidenced by my analysis of two articles on this site showing that the following three different and incompatible definitions of "common preference" are used interchangeably:

1.A common policy that improves the position of everyone.
2.A common policy that everyone involved prefers to all alternatives considered.
3.A common policy that everyone is satisfied with.

Definitions 1 and 2 follow from the first sentence of the article above:

"Common preferences are policies that all parties after a successfully resolved disagreement prefer to their initial positions: everyone gets what they want."

It is clear that the first part of the sentence implies definition 1. The second part ("everyone gets what they want") seems to suggest definition 2, but this is less clear. However, the following sentences clearly does suggests definition 2:

"To put it simply, you keep making bold conjectures and subjecting them to criticism until you have a solution that everyone involved wholeheartedly prefers to any other candidate solutions any of you can think of at the time. (We call that a common preference, the preference you have in common.)".

This is from the article Introduction to Taking Children Seriously (TCS) . Another except from that article:

" 'Does it have to be a question of being right? Am I actually wrong for wanting to go to a Chinese restaurant, or is that just my taste?' countered Wendy. It is not the fact that you like Chinese food that is the problem, it is that you are not taking into account the fact that the smell of Chinese food makes me feel physically sick. Let me put it another way: if neither of us changes our mind and we don't resolve the disagreement, is it not the case that at least one of us is going to get hurt?"

Apparently the aim here is to find something that everyone can agree to without anybody feeling hurt. This implies definition 3. Now let's go through these definitions.

It's often easy to find a common policy in accordance with 1. Suppose we are all very hungry. I prefer to go to a Chinese restaurant, while my friend doesn't like Chinese food. But since she is very hungry, having a Chinese dinner still does improve her situation, since she'd rather eat something she doesn't like than stay hungry. So we eat Chinese. According to the definition this is a common preference. But of course this is a totally useless definition, because defined this way a common preference isn't a good result at all. Although both our positions have improved, going to a Greek restaurant, say, would have been a much better choice if my friend really loves Greek food and I like it only slightly less than Chinese food.

Definition 2 is obviously ludicrous in the context of how TCS'ers use the term. It's not ludicrous in the sense that such a common preference is impossible. Sometimes it does happen that, say, all in a group prefer to go to the same restaurant. That's a true common preference. But what makes this definition ludicrous is the fact that it is inconsistent with the TCS idea that one can find a common preference in general. This is obviously untrue, a case of wishful thinking. If I prefer Chinese food and my friend prefers Greek food we have different preferences not a common one. The fact that we may be mistaken about our own preferences is irrelevant, for it remains that there is no logical reason to assume people generally have the same preference.

Definition 3 is the most realistic definition. And in practice that indeed seems to be the TCS attitude. Try to find a policy that everyone is happy with, taking into account everybody's preferences. Though I slightly prefer Chinese food to Greek food, I will be quite happy if we go to the Greek restaurant, because I still like Greek food, and I want my dinner partner to be happy as well. So, the idea is good: if there is disagreement try to be rational, creative, loving, etc. and come up with a solution that everyone can live with. Normal people call this a compromise. TCS'ers call this a common preference. But that term is, of course, quite wrong. Agreeing to a solution other than your own preference, to make others happy, is not a preference, much less a common preference. This may sound horrible, but TCS'ers live in the same world as normal people, and therefore they too regularly make group decisions via compromise, voting or whatever. Their third way exists only in Alice in Wonderland. Unless you redefine the word preference to mean a preference for maximum utility for the group, in which case all would have the same preference if they can agree on all individual utilities for all alternatives. But that is not what the word preference normally means. But, again, the attitude is good. In their illogical search for a common preference I imagine TCS'ers will tend to find the best and wisest compromises, making everybody happy. And that's good.

A last comment. One thing I'm missing in TCS is the idea that everybody doesn't have to do the same thing. If you're in a group you don't always have to find a "common preference" (compromise). If the majority very much wants to do one thing and one person has a very different preference, that individual can simply choose not to join and let the rest of the group do what it wants. Or the group can split into two groups, or whatever. This may be much better in many cases than looking for a single "common preference" for the whole group.

by Henry Sturman on 2003/08/22 - 11:19 GMT | reply to this comment

Re: Common Preference is a flawed idea

Henry Sturman,

Definition 1 is, I agree, basically useless. Definition 3 is ambiguous, and hinges on what 'satisfied' means. I agree it could easily be interpreted to include compromises, which should not be deemed common preferences. so i'd throw definition 3 out too, and chastise any TCSers who write like it's true.

Before I continue, I want to caution you against paying attention to things like 'how most TCSers tend to use the term.' Most TCSers are usually fairly imprecise. And most of them don't get the all subtle or deep bits of TCS either. Even many of the articles on this site are not precise at all (I happen to think this policy is bad.) So anyway, I suggest instead of paying attention to the general attitude of TCSers towards a subject, you should look for the most precise and best couple things you can find, and analyse those.

Definition 2 is basically the TCS one. An alternative way to explain what a common preference is, is: a solution to a dispute in which no parties are coerced.

The point of a common preference is not that everyone orders lemon chicken (and thus has a preference for lemon chicken in common). Rather, it is more likely we will both prefer that you order lemon chicken while I order broccoli beef (or whatever it is we like). This is a common preference even though we order different things, because we each prefer that is how ordering should happen.

So in the case of one person splitting off from a group to do something else, that often is a common preference. the group may well prefer the person to split, while it continues. and the person may well prefer to split, while the group continues. (possible stumbling points would be if the group needed all its members for some reason, or the person didn't want to do his thing alone, in which case it'd take more creativity to solve).

or with Jack who wants greek food, and Jill who wants chinese, various common preferences could be:

- they each go eat alone (this is what people who aren't good friends might do)


- they each care about each other, and want to eat together, and also don't want the other to be happy, and thus agree to:
- get greek now (and maybe chinese next time). this could be a CP if Jill doesn't want to eat alone, and doesn't want to drag jack to chinese, and doesn't think ill of greek food, and basically prefers this to all rival plans.
- same as last, but with them getting chinese b/c they determine food choice is more important to jill than jack
- get takeout from one or both places
- stay home if they decide the food's not worth the hassle, and plan to each get the kind of food they like some time the other is busy.

BTW friends do this *all the time*. initially they want to go different places or otherwise do different things, and then they come to agree on one plan. it is this plan about what should happen (which includes what everyone involved should do, and takes into account everyone's preferences) that becomes common in a common preferences. (and before i sound like a socialist, i should emphasise that far and away the most prevalent kind of CP, that happens all the time, is for people to decide to both do their own thing, individually. like i'm working on my computer while someone else is downstairs, doing something else, and we're both fine with this state of affairs)

-- Elliot Temple

by Elliot Temple on 2003/08/22 - 18:50 GMT | reply to this comment

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thought: Doesn't wanting to live forever violate the notion that we should be concerned with what theories and values triumph rather than who triumphs? I mean, we think our values and theories are the right ones, fine, but we also know they aren't perfect, and will have to be changed in the future. And who's to say we'll be the best ones to adapt to the values of the future? Even today all of us find entrenched theories we aren't sure how to fix. And the more time passes, the more the world will change, and the more we will find that not just the denotation of our worldview needs changing, but even the constraints and meta-knowledge in it must also be changed. As a striking example of the difficulty of doing that, just look at how much control we have over our emotions.

counter: As the world improves this much, well why the fuck can't we stick around? It's not like there isn't gonna be plenty of housing, food, stuff. Even if we were basically totally useless, we could subsist on negligible charity (in reality, creative people, even with hangups, aren't useless). And also, the above is kinda revolutionary. As if we should just get rid of imperfect worldviews and replace them with more-perfect new ones. (even replace here implies we have to make room for the new ones, ie limited space, which isn't right). but it isn't going to be like that, with an old generation of useless people and a new generation of useful people. the distinctions will be much more blurred. ok, now i concede there will be people who feel they can't keep up, and want to die. fine. but the people who do have the conviction that they want to live forever ... well in wanting to live forever they aren't giving up, rather they press on and try every day. and that itself is enough.

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so i was watching Dr Phil (*puke*), and he said something like "i've been doing this 30 years, and i've never run into a kid where finding the right lever to control his behavior didn't work". and what's worse is I believe him. *shudder* (lever as in something child cares about to use to blackmail/manipulate with punishment and/or reward)

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There is less agreement about what uncommon words mean than about common ones. This is part of why pretty, arcane-word-riddled writing tends to be more confusing. Also note this effect: words sometimes become less common because people don't agree on their use.

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What is sarah on?

"The way to create new knowledge is to resolve the disagreement by finding a proposal that each person prefers ' a common preference." (source)

CPs are for not hurting each other. they aren't the method by which we create knowledge. (new knowledge? wtf does that mean?) we create knowledge via conjectures and refutations. as written, it sounds like "we create new knowledge by agreeing on stuff". (finding a proposal each person prefers = finding a single proposal about what everyone does that everyone agrees-on/consents-to)

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"Formal education is so flawed a blind man picking scrabble pieces in the dark could write a true argument against it." -- curi

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I heard about this philosophy called Dynamic Living. It sure sounds better than not moving...

Part of it is supposed to be about balancing the different parts of your life. I figure to work towards that, I'll try to watch anime as much as I sleep.

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oh wait, i thought of something, i thought of something! yay me!

at low-precision the NAP and non-coercion are not misleading. they are right-leading. it's generally a good idea not to attack people outside self defense, and generally not a good idea to coerce your children. duh. they hold at low precision easy.

what about at high precision? well, at high precision I think they're true (well non-coercion moreso, the NAP has to be reworded and stuff). high precision defense of the truth of the statements, involves various points that one might think misleading, and involves so many catches and subtle little stuff, that one might wonder how they can be useful things to say. well, i deny that misleading is a meanful criticism at high-precision. i think at high precision the claim "how can the truth be misleading?" holds. am not purporting to be saying more than the truth; am not purporting to lead ya anywhere.

btw it's possible to use truisms misleadingly, if you answer a question with a truism about one side of the issue and scorn the other. but that misleadingness is not inherent in the truism.

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everyone organises their room. just some people use different organisational schemes. it's a travesty that one particular type of scheme (empty floor, stuff in rows where it's nice to look at and hard to use, not much dust, etc) has a monopoly on being called organised or orderly. esp when it's not even all that great a setup. it's pretty impractical.

on the flipside of the coin, a lot of children could have better-organised rooms, and would enjoy it that way. but the solution isn't to go in there and move stuff around (mess it up even more), it's to not instill cleaning hangups in your kids.

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In armies, it used to be that almost the entire army was fighters, with only a few support people like dedicated cooks, squires, medics, hunters or whores. Soldiers could cook and hunt themselves, and there barely were any medics. And only a few people got squires. I suppose horse troops got some servants to take care of horses and stuff, and leaders got some, but the vast majority of footmen had like no support. Oh I forgot supply lines, which are support. But still a small number of people compared to the army.

Over the years, this has changed. A smaller and smaller proportion of armies does the fighting, and a larger and larger proportion does support work. Now we have supply lines, medics, coordinator people in headquarters with radios (or maybe satellite communicators or whatever), trainers (used to be the trainers were all fighters too), advisors, mechanics, translators, etc etc etc

Anyway, the point is combat troops down, support troops up, and this makes the combat troops way more effective, makes them take lower casualty rates, and works better.

OK, this morning I was lying in bed, thinking about stuff, fairly randomly, and it occurred to me that I have a relatively (very) high amount of time into structure, support, and organisational stuff of my WV, and (relatively) low amount into doing actual content. And I believe this is a really, really good thing.

A few random examples, besides time relaxing/thinking, are that I've spent way more time reading war3 strategy and watching replays than playing the game. Spent more time reading Magic strategy than playing magic. spend very high amounts of time planning how to make my character/party in computer games. and if the game is dull, i'll quit and not consider it time wasted. I even start over if I mess up, often, to get it right. not because I think I can't win with an imperfect party (most games are designed so someone not very good can win eventually, and someone really good could win with a large handicap). but because it's important to test my conjectures of what the right party is by actually using it. and it's boring to play with a refuted party. (though if you get too far, re-doing stuff too often is boring, so it can be better to press on, for the sake of seeing the later parts of the game, which can be cool).

another example is i'll often spend a bunch of time deciding what to do, instead of doing something. other people might say, "you have three good-enough ideas, roll some dice and do one". and if I took their approach, a while later I'd have done something ok, or maybe even the right thing for a while. my way, what'll I have to show for my time? well, I'll have learned about how to decided what to do, and every time in the future i'll be better able to decide. there's less point doing an activity before you have a conjecture about which to do to test. and the activity will be richer when it has the two-fold meaning of the activity, and of testing the conjecture about what to do.

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my fucking god. lookat this:

"Which, I finally have to inform you, I've decided not to do. I'm sick of being your whipping-boy, the lightning conductor for all your self-disgust. It's like having a million teenage children, all sulking and slamming their bedroom doors, and Cherie and I have had enough. It's Gordon's turn. Good luck to him." (source)

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so i've been reading A Song of Ice and Fire, which is totally TEH r0xx0r. but anyhow, I've got a morality question:

Arya is a highborn girl; an important person. And not just any highborn girl, but one of the most important half dozen houses in the realm. She ends up captured by enemies, but is dirty enough to be mistaken for a boy. Even cleaned, she isn't recognised. She's put to work cleaning on the cleaning staff at a castle, basically slave labor until the war is over (and after, the ones who really are lowborn won't have anywhere to go or anyway to leave, so they'll stay, and work, to keep getting fed).

After a while a hundred prisoner's from Arya's brother's army (her father died) come to the castle dungeons, and the enemy army leaves, except for maybe a hundred guards and some hired mercenaries. Arya manages to free the prisoners who take over the castle (the hired people all change sides). However, Arya doesn't trust anyone, so she doesn't tell them who she is, and keeps doing work. One day it is announced her brother's bannermen will soon leave, and she discovers she would remain and the hired mercenaries would rule the castle. They are *nasty* people. Really fucking nasty. Arya does *not* want to be in their power. So she decides to escape. She steals some horses and swords (two friends come with her) and food. The stealing seems perfectly moral to me. But anyway, after that, there's one thing standing between her and escape: the man at the gate. (She goes to a small gate with only one guard.) Arya kills him. One of her brother's soldiers, who did no wrong. Was this murder wrong?

I do have my own answer, but I won't give it until enough people comment. I do have one piece of advice though: I would suggest considering morality to be that which helps promote human flourishing, whether it's true or not in the limit, won't help at all here. Killing the guard is good for Arya's flourishing and bad for the guard's flourishing. Ho hum.

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IMAO has the bestest set of readers ever. I wish mine were as cool as his. Look at this poll he ran:

What is the best way to defeat terrorism?
By living our lives as normal - 6 votes (1%)
By attacking the root causes that breeds terrorism - 35 votes (6%)
By being more engaged in the world and better respecting the opinions of other countries - 12 votes (2%)
Kill all terrorists; if people complain about our harsh tactics, kill them too - 535 votes (91%)

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i've read most of chapters 2 and 3 of The Myth of the Framework by Karl Popper. a few things that struck me are:

- Popper's writing is extremely clear and simple. and if you open up to practically any page, and start reading in the middle of a paragraph, what he's saying will still make sense.

- Popper uses a lot of examples from history. esp old philosophers.

- Popper puts a lot of effort into refuting common misconceptions, often repetitively

the thesis of the book is basically about this:

the myth of the framework, in one sentence says "A rational and fruitful discussion is impossible unless the participants share a common framework of basic assumptions or, at least, unless they have agreed on such a framework for the purpose of the discussion." this is the myth popper criticises in the book.

here's another example of the myth: "Those who believe this, and those who do not, have no common ground of discussion, but in view of their opinions must of necessity scorn each other." - Plato


in the author's note at the start, it says the essays in the book were mostly collected from various lectures to non-specialist audiences. that's why they repeat lots of Popper's main philosophical ideas so often.

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oh my god. read this now. seriously. it's a short personal story about encountering jew hatred.

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fucking biased media


it's a news article by Reuters. the headline is "Hamas Sets Truce Terms, Israel Demands Crackdown"

but what does that mean?

well by truce they mean, "The Islamic group Hamas ruled out on Monday halting militancy in a three-year-old Palestinian revolt but said it could limit attacks to Israeli soldiers and settlers if the Jewish state stopped harming Palestinian civilians."

in plain English, Hamas offers to only attack soldiers and certain civilians especially the more vulnerable ones who live on settlements, but not all civilians. and this is only if Israel agrees not to shoot at terrorists who use human shields (among other things). that's a "truce" offer.

and by crackdown they mean, "Israel insists on an anti-militant crackdown by the Palestinian Authority as required by the road map, a move rejected by Palestinian officials as a recipe for civil war."

in plain English, Israel insists that the PA keep its word. that's a "crackdown".

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What's a WMD?

a friend went to a college halloween party, with a costume that was a shirt that said "WMD" on it. was he mobbed by the foaming-at-the-mouth liberals which inhabit all college campuses? was he studiously ignored because the liberals were in the habit of turning a blind eye to WMD?

nope! rather, he was asked what WMD are. people didn't know. and I thought *I* didn't read much news. ah, the warped perspective of a blogger...

this is especially notable after reading this piece on The World. the piece suggests one of the evils that the Nazis did was force many people to learn about war and death and killing, when they would rather have just lived their lives. and so too is it wrong of the terrorists to make us learn about the morality of terrorism. who the hell wants to take a stance on whether we should bomb a terrorist who's in the same building as a baby?

well, apparently plenty of people still haven't taken such stances. I admit probably some of them ought to learn about this stuff, because these issues really are important today, no matter how much we'd like them not to be. but on the other hand, it's nice to hear that not everyone worries about this stuff; some people still get to go on with their lives as usual.

oh, and speaking of learning about these issues. i'd like to express my appreciation of all the US soldiers in Iraq, who deal with them so not all of us have to (or have to much less).

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Battle Cry

A Little Boy Lost
by William Blake

'Nought loves another as itself,
   Nor venerates another so,
Nor is it possible to thought
   A greater than itself to know.

'And, father, how can I love you
   Or any of my brothers more?
I love you like the little bird
   That picks up crumbs around the door.'

The Priest sat by and heard the child;
   In trembling zeal he seized his hair,
He led him by his little coat,
   And all admired his priestly care.

And standing on the altar high,
   'Lo, what a fiend is here!' said he:
'One who sets reason up for judge
   Of our most holy mystery.'

The weeping child could not be heard,
   The weeping parents wept in vain:
They stripped him to his little shirt,
   And bound him in an iron chain,

And burned him in a holy place
   Where many had been burned before;
The weeping parents wept in vain.
   Are such things done on Albion's shore?

This is my favorite poem, and I've added it to my sidebar. But what do you think of it? What does the poem mean? Is it right? Why is it important? Is it important? Please discuss.

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Ageism Watch


"I've learned that 99% of the time when something isn't working in your house, one of your kids did it."

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i wonder if anyone is listening

Dan is a bit confused about democracy

if you had an "ideal" democracy in the really absurd and stupid sense that everyone votes on every issue, and everyone's vote counts (and yes, if you're thinking that isn't coherent, you're right), well what would happen is, most things that got voted on....well you'd have 7% for one policy, 4% for another, 3% for another, etc...

So then what? We could just have the highest thing win. Then 93% of the people get screwed I suppose (though they'll form parties, coalitions, and voting blocks so that won't happen as much in the future).

Or you could do run-offs. This slowly forces minority opinions to pick a more popular opinion to support, too. similar effect to parties/coalitions/voting-blocks

What we couldn't have is a mixed law that incorporates the ideas of every single voter. it wouldn't come out to have a coherent meaning. cause different people will support contradictory ideas.

so we discover the reality of our system is very similar to the real effects of a so-called "ideal" democracy (and also that you have to make some tough choices to have a workable democracy, and can't just rely on the "ideal" notion that everyone has a voice). and truth is there are very good reasons for a two party system. ok, i admit that point is debatable, but saying the US isn't a democracy is absurd (BTW I'm aware that there are technically other parties, but stuff *is* setup for only two parties to be powerful at a time).

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gogo morality

some people wonder something like, "How can anarcho-capitalism work? What if the people running the police/army kinda companies decided to stop playing nice, and take over?"

well, it seems to me this question is absurd. what if President Bush decided to stop playing nice and take over? there aren't even competing armies in the US! what would stop him?

well our society! he would be disobeyed at every level of the chain of command. his generals wouldn't do it. and no common soldiers would either. no one would.

if we evolved to an anarcho-capitalist society, we'd still have a country of good people who wouldn't obey orders to become conquerers.

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gogo thinking

I got positive feedback on this email to the Philosophy Now yahoogroup, so I thought I'd share it more widely:

On Saturday, November 8, 2003, at 01:27 AM, nowhere man wrote:

Can someone please explain to me why these type of discusion groups inevitably end up with people being rude and insulting? I was unaware that in order to make a comment about a subject one had to be pompous and demonstrate the very worse in psuedo-intellectual skills. Hell, I thought these discussions were simply meant to be a bit of fun.
It's not so much inevitable as common.  There are some generally accepted ideas in our society that say things like, "For certain subjects, if you aren't well-read, you can't say anything intelligent, or at least can't come up with any good ideas, or any new ideas."  And for other subjects, you're supposed to need a PhD.  Philosophy is one of the worst in this respect.  Most academic philosophers spend their time worrying about dead people, and seems under the impression that even if you study the dead people extensively, it's still very difficult to come up with an actual new idea.  They're also very good at sounding pompous and being hard to read, and most people seem to have accepted that's what philosophy is *supposed to be like*.  So, then, untrained philosophers tend not to sound like that, and thus get dismissed.  (That style is, in actuality, bad.  And a few notable philosophers did rebel against it.  Like Karl Popper, who was very concerned with writing clearly and understandably, and good at it too.)

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roleplaying is surprisingly fundamental

page 342 of Fabric says Thomas Kuhn thinks we can't comprehend two paradigms (ways of looking at the world) at once (and thus having one blinds us). i wonder what he thinks roleplayers do. ho hum.

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pasting from aim is easy :-)

curi42 (9:25:42 AM): there's 2 main approaches (plus a mixture is possible too): 1) absolutely ignore everything false or stupid the person says, and just write about better ideas and better ways to think and live. hopefully he'll see the good in them, like them, adopt some, and eventually he'll realise he doesn't act on his old, crap theories any longer (or maybe he *won't* ever notice the change, but will act good)
curi42 (9:27:01 AM): 2) criticism! i'm sure we could make a nice list of 50 reasons his ideas don't work. the premises are flawed in lots of ways. even if the premises were true, his conclusions still wouldn't follow. he contradicts hismelf repeatedly. etc etc etc
curi42 (9:27:40 AM): style 2 seems to have bad results with most people (though perhaps something similar to style 2, that somehow takes into account detailed knowledge of the person, would work very well)
curi42 (9:27:59 AM): but style 1 is easy to ignore.

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On Charity

A common point of disagreement in political discussions is about human nature. Some people say that men should make their own choices, and control their own money. And believe that only good will come of freedom. Others would retort that the rich will have more choices, and abuse them to gain more power. Or at least assert that some people will be left behind without help through sheer bad luck (or not having a level playing field). And that generosity is not natural, so the government must step in to help.

Roughly, right wing people take the first view, and favour free markets, small government, and people deciding for themselves how charitable to be. And, roughly, left wing people don't trust humans to be charitable or fair without being controlled by government.

So when a right winger says he isn't against helping people, he just wants to decide how best to do it, and make sure his charity is effective (the government, he will say, is wasteful and spends charity money badly), a left winger will likely scoff. The left winger will think this is just a trick to get out of giving any charity at all. Because the left winger trusts his government to do everything right, he will see any attempt to pay less taxes or avoid forced charity as, clearly, a selfish attempt to get out of paying one's fair share or to get out of helping other people.

So, who's right?

Well, I've got a way to find out. Despite high tax levels (paid by both left and right wing), it is commonplace to give additional money, by choice, to charities. Now, if the left is correct, we should observe that the greedy right wingers donate very little to charity. But if the right is telling the truth that they are happy to give money to charity, as long as they pick which charity, and give money in ways they feel are effective, then we will observe, despite taxes, that right wingers do choose to donate significant amounts of money to charity.

The following table ranks each state by how generous it is. This was determined by taking into account the amount of money donated to charitable organisations, and also how rich the people in that state are. In other words, one gets a high ranking by giving a large portion of what he has. The states are color-coded. Red states voted for Bush in the 2000 election (they're, to decent precision, right wing). Blue states voted for Gore. I believe the table speaks for itself. (Thanks to The Rantblogger for the table.)

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. South Dakota
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Alabama
  6. Tennessee
  7. Louisiana
  8. Utah
  9. South Carolina
  10. Idaho
  11. North Dakota
  12. Wyoming
  13. Texas
  14. West Virginia
  15. Nebraska
  16. North Carolina
  17. Florida
  18. Kansas
  19. Missouri
  20. Georgia
  21. New Mexico
  22. Montana
  23. Kentucky
  24. Alaska
  25. New York
  1. Indiana
  2. Iowa
  3. Ohio
  4. California
  5. Washington
  6. Maine
  7. Maryland
  8. Hawaii
  9. Delaware
  10. Illinois
  11. Pennsylvania
  12. Connecticut
  13. Vermont
  14. Virginia
  15. Oregon
  16. Colorado
  17. Arizona
  18. Michigan
  19. Nevada
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Minnesota
  22. Massachusetts
  23. New Jersey
  24. Rhode Island
  25. New Hampshire

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example for previous entry

just read this about Soros, a billionaire who's giving away money trying make Bush lose the 2004 election.

if a democrat was consistent with his ideals, he'd be poor-ish. cause his ideals include misunderstanding economics, opposing business, and wasting money. but Soros is rich. how'd that happen? well, he's inconsistent.

if all democrats were consistent they'd be a crappy political force. but they manage to find people who somehow, inconsistently, are democrats who are good at this or that thing that the rest of the democrats can't manage. and this way they can end up with some rich supporters despite their ideology, and thus be more dangerous.

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I Hate Jew Hatred

Frank J (a Catholic) got anti-semitic hatemail. Emperor Misha commented:

We're ALL Jews now.

I agree. (Misha also says more here.)

I very much like the sentiments that if people are going to target Jews, we should stand up with the Jews. Neutrality is useful if you see two gangs of barbarians fighting; there is no point in getting yourself killed over that. Who cares who wins? But when two groups clash, and one is good, and one is bad, neutrality just won't cut it. What truly good person could abandon the side of good?

But there's more to it than just that we should stand with the Jews. Why do they confuse us with Jews? Well, we agree with Jews a lot. We think Israel should exist (more than that: that it is one of the most moral countries on the planet). We oppose Arab terrorism. No excuses. It's wrong, horrid, and evil. And we use Jew logic. Which says things like you don't win discussions by authority; rather we should look for good arguments. And that we should hold our ideas true and mutable (tentatively true, if you prefer). And, heh, that 2+2 is 4. The Jews in America are not outsiders. Or more like, it's easy to confuse Americans with Jews. It's not just that we stand with Jews (far less than we should), it's that through the eyes of The Enemy, we look and act as if we are Jews.

And if you think talking about good and evil is too simplistic and therefore false, I pray you spend a lot of time around fire and brimstone. And, yes, I am an avowed atheist. But that won't save you from hell >:-D

PS In general when I write 'we' I am including Jews, but not in this piece.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (10)

email is fun

On Sunday, November 23, 2003, at 08:37 AM, A Poster wrote:

Subject Line: shouldn't TCS be questioned?

Yes, of course. It even says so, does it not? Now, some people seem to have the idea that TCS holds itself up infallible, but reality seems to be against them. For example, I no longer use the "official" TCS definition of coercion.

(Of course, one should not make such a change haphazardly, or on a whim, but rather after deep understanding of the official definition, and its strengths. And one should be careful the new version really is an improvement. etc)

What happens to all those families out there who find that, according to their own lights, TCS seems like a really bad, dangerous idea?

Well, until they give some good reason (an argument), I will consider their lights wrong. But I won't hunt them down; all that *happens* (in my view) is they have worse lives than they might.

Even if some of it has changed their lives for the better? But that certain aspects of - say - hardcore rationalism, dogged belief in the TCS 'way', an abiding faith in the TV as a *good thing*, ditto eating what you feel like....all have and continue to.... feel a bit unnatural?

well i think you've misunderstood TCS here. while i will insist that TV shows are, in principle, great things, just like books, I will also concede that there are both many bad books and many bad TV shows. Personally I don't watch tons of TV. mostly japanese anime and movies and southpark oh and The OC. lots of other stuff is great if you have the right problem situation for it, and many people are too negative about TV, but for some problem situations not watching a whole lot of TV would make sense.

as to eating, well we should eat what we want, and we should want to eat the right things to eat. true and changeable. favorite and changeable. you need *both* sides of that coin. the solution to bad eating habits is not to eat what you don't want to. that's just hurting yourself. the solution is to find some good arguments about what is right to eat, and then want to eat that way because you really do believe it's right.

personally, i eat almost no candy and desert fairly rarely, and have a general distaste for too much sugar. i think i'm weird about that, but *shrug*. i *also* don't like salad much.

What if believing in these things starts to make parent feel totally duped and like he doesn't have enough faith in his own good ideas?

You should not hold ideas true because someone said so, not even Elliot Temple nor David Deutsch. You've got to act on your best theories, which means only arguments that you find make sense. Even if some theory is true, if you don't understand it, it's no good to you (though maybe it will be later). And if you do this, faith in your own ideas should not be an issue, because you would know of none you consider better.

Isn't this TCS working against itself? That would be a good thing, right? But then if the TCS parent turns off the TV because he wants to, and does the things he wants to do, because he strongly believes those things to be better for his children - and,yeah, he 'could be wrong, but so what? - he would be said to be reacting to his coerced and unhappy former way of life (and was possibly evil according to some of the TCS inner circle)?

Well, as to making choices for your children, it's not just that you could be wrong, but also that it isn't your choice to make. Children are people with their own lives. You should decide if you want to watch TV, and if someone says you should, you can decline their advice and not watch. And if your children want to watch, and you advise against it, it's still their call.

Just as TCSers will not rule any parent's life by force, parents should not rule their children's lives by force.

Isn't all this a bit fucked up? Maybe the parent should just go and get a life, take his children seriously the way it makes sense to him, be willing to question himself constantly, be aware of his fallibility, but forget all about the harm done to his home by the less desirable aspects of TCS

I want to point out that your understanding of TCS is fallible, so even if hypothetically TCS was perfect, sometimes your understanding of TCS would be wrong, and you would be right to act contrary to it when you thought you knew better. This is manifest in the way most of what you think TCS is wrong about, I think you've simply misunderstood.

Don't let "I think TCS says X" pressure you into doing X. Maybe it doesn't even.

Sometimes he can't work out which is worse, but maybe it doesn't matter,

Well, I can tell you that how you parent *does* matter to your children. So this stuff is important.

-- Elliot Temple

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jew praise

there's a lot of incoherent hatred of jews out there. i decided to conjecture that maybe they know something i don't -- maybe somehow being kinda incoherent gets followers.

so i wanted to give map props to all the jews out there for making the world a better place. i especially appreciate how they want to live in peace with non-jews. i don't go to sleep at night wondering if a jew will kill me before i wake up. and not being terrorists, man that's really good of you. and killing terrorists for me, that's cool too. i'm just no soldier. man, if it weren't for the jews, there would be lots more evil for'ners still alive who wanted to kill me. and i don't even own a big gun. so all the jews shooting guns for me, thanks a lot.

also, i wish i was a jew. then i'd be rich, i think. jews are so good at making the economy better. well, at least i'm richer thanks to them, even if i'm not jewish enough to be rich. one day if i'm really lucky maybe there will be so many jews that even I can be super rich. i'd like to be rich. and it'd all be thanks to the jews, who work so hard to make our economy so strong.

the jews have contributed so much to science it really blows the mind. do you know how many great scientists were jews? lots of them! man, even David Deutsch is a jew. what if some stupid terrorist had killed him? man, my life would be so much worse. it's a good thing the jews killed so many terrorists that that didn't happen.

you know who i really hate? the nazis. know why? they killed jews. man, if they hadn't done that, maybe europe wouldn't suck ass. i mean, if you kill everyone cool, you end up with a bunch of dorks. it's just logic. i wish the jews had killed all the nazis. that would have been super sweet. i can just imagine a big jew with a pair of axes going around hacking nazis down left and right. and then when he was done he'd probably sell the axes like a good capitalist. i bet he would. then someone else could use them, and we'd all be richer.

so, yeah, mad props to the jews. thanks for keeping it real and stuff. ^_^

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Praising Jews

I wanted to ask all my readers who have blogs to write an entry praising Jews. The goal here is not to put forward arguments againt anti-semitism, nor to denying hating Jews. It is simply to show moral clarity on the issue of praising Jews.

It is commonplace to say things like, "That movie rocked." But most people will refuse to say "Jews rock." I think this is perverse, and we should stand up for our values.

Leave a comment or email me if you do it, and I'll keep a list.

PS Jews rock.

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political cartoon

French guy says to US: what do you mean you can't hand over power in iraq within 30 days? we handed power over to the nazis faster than that.

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Jew Praise Followup

I recently asked bloggers to post praise of Jews. There are three takers:

Evangelical Outpost (well close enough)

Elegance Against Ignorance (who also write this)

fr0ggE (who updates like never)

The general response, as seen in comments, and here were far more negative. In short, people were outraged.

This is exactly what I expected. I made the request after being shocked by the inability of a few people to praise Jews. And true to conjecture, the scary trend continued.

People make all sorts of excuses. Commonly they try to draw a distinction between individuals and groups. But sheesh, we say people rock when we know perfectly well those people consist of a group of theories, some good, and some bad. But it's not symmetric. Just because someone is part good, part bad, does not make him morally neutral. He could be predominantly good, and then it would make perfect sense to say he rocked. So too with Jews.

Another trend was an appeal to moral relativism. Yeah, Jews rock, and so do Palestinians, and so do North Koreans. And sure Jews die, but people in Africa starve to death too. Hello? Since when is being murdered morally equivalent to starving? If I walk down the street and see someone hungry, I need not give him my money. (If you think I should feed him, and his children, let me ask: The more children he chooses to have, the more food I owe him? Or what?) But if I walk down the street and murder someone, this is an outrage, and there should be a public outcry, leading to the use of force against me. Murderers should be stopped. Anyone resistant to this is wicked.

Anyhow, anti-semitism really disgusts me. But I think you've caught that already, so I've give it a rest for the moment.

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The Hedge Knight

The Hedge Knight is a short story by George RR Martin. It's set in his A Song of Ice and Fire world, which is simply the best fantasy I know of. Anyway, this entry is about morality, but I do need to summarise the plot first (spoiler warning, if you care).

Dunk is a poorly trained knight, but a good person. A wicked prince attacks a commoner girl because she did a puppet show that involved a dragon being slain, and the royal family's sigil is a dragon. Dunk (who is large) kicked the prince to the dirt to rescue the girl. But attacking a prince is illegal. The punishment is to lose his hand and a foot.

However, Dunk has a second option: trial by combat, in which it is supposed that the Gods will favour the righteous. Dunk goes for combat, but the prince insists on a Trial of Seven (there are seven Gods). This means a seven versus seven battle, until all the accusers or all the accused are vanquished. If either side can't get a full seven men behind their cause, they are considered wrong. (If the cause is just, why will no one fight for it?)

Minutes before the combat, Dunk is one man short. But then another prince, a good one, joins his side (against three of the royal family, and three of the royal guard, on the other side!). In the combat, two of Dunk's companions plus the kind prince are slain before Dunk forces the wicked prince to yield (Dunk does not kill him).

The kind prince was young, first in line for the throne, a good man, and would have been a good king. Dunk, to all appearances, was a nobody. What are Dunk's hand and foot worth against the life of such a great man, and two other fine knights beside? Wouldn't it have been better if Dunk had refused the Trial of Seven? And wasn't it foolish for six good men to risk their lives for Dunk's sake?

Dunk suggests that perhaps the Gods will twist fate such that in the future he will turn out more important than the prince who died for him. But I think this is unlikely and insufficient. What's important here is the moral issue: Dunk's companions weren't fighting for Dunk personally. Doing so really would have been foolish. Rather, they were fighting for the cause of justice. They were fighting for right.

What sort of world would it be where bad men hurt whoever they feel like, and maim any who would stand up to them? And how much worse if those who saw the injustice for what it was stood by and watched? The principle of the matter really is worth fighting, and dying, for.

To a good person, it should be a simple matter. No great intellectual arguments are needed. Dunk was defending the weak against the cruel. Of course his is the side of right. Of course we should throw our lot in with Dunk, take his side, and mean it. It's not a question of expedience or short-term gain. There are rival values being enacted in the world, and failing to take seriously the ones we care about is simply damning.

Besides, what good will come of standing by? What about the next time? Stand by again? And again? There's no point in delaying standing up for right. Either we should or we shouldn't. We should. (Yes, picking battles can be important, but that's just nuances.)

One major side-note is that a utilitarian would be totally blind to this analysis. He would see a prince who would have ruled justly and made the world better for many dying to help one. He would see six good men risking their lives for one. That utilitarianism cannot explain this matter (or perhaps: this issue is far less simple to a utilitarian), is a crushing criticism.

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marxists writing clearly

i'm not joking. (link) i read like half of it so far, and they say what they mean, and are being fairly intellectually honest so far. they supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. here's a quote:

But how is it possible for us to call ourselves Marxists and support a war waged by a coalition of rich western liberal democracies against the government of a poor “Third World” country? We would turn the question round: how it is possible that Marxism has been so corrupted and distorted that “Marxists” prefer to see thousands more Iraqis die in the torture chambers of the Ba’ath, and millions more suffer under the iniquities excused (not caused) by the UN sanctions, rather than admit that socialists not only can but must support even the worst bourgeois democracy against even the least bad tyranny?

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mmmm good comment

Tom comments:

sufficiently good values will make one an outcast. (unless he also knows how to fake worse values, and enjoy doing so, which is I consider kinda perverse). being an outcast *isn't* all that fun

Howcome they are good values then? Surely faking worse values isn't the only way to win respect. The majority of people admire courage, for example. Upholding good values takes courage, among other qualities. Why be a hermit, a Ben Kenobi? All hermits go a little bit crazy in the end, even those with lightsabers and/or broadband.

So it's hard to be good and popular. But whoever said that virtue doesn't require cunning? (And good PR)

PR helps of course, but I posit it can only take you so far. there are limits to how much of a worldview gap PR alone can bridge. after that you need to either act on different values or change society.

a simple example is people who find it natural that criticism is a gift to be cherished, may find it hard to get along with those who find it scary. yes, this particular issue isn't that hard to fake -- just don't criticise people who won't like it. but it's not very easy to enjoy faking it.

update: also, ppl who think criticism is scary, probably won't give you any useful criticism. lovely.

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Reply To Alice

Alice Bachini commented below:

What is your definition of "good"?

Notice how it all starts with an epistemic error. I guess I need to go over this subject even more often. Suffice it for now that arguing semantics misses the point in a discussion.

100% morally perfect/ mostly morally correct/ has the best available world-view available at the current time in history?

We both know perfectly well that no one is 100% morally perfect, and that that criterion is absurd. So is having the best "available" worldview. And 'mostly right' just won't cut it either, because it's not a numbers game.

Rather, good is an explanation, and we must actually think to use the word, not just apply mechanical criteria.

Does your definition of "good" take into account people's inexplicit moral theories, as well as their explicit ones?

[sarcasm]No. Of course not. Why would I do that?[/sarcasm]

[different sarcasm]What, did you think I'm stupid?[/sarcasm]

Seriously if you want to talk to me, think about who you are talking to as you write. Feels like next you'll be asking, "Do you think maybe, just possibly, Popper might have gotten something right?" or "Do you think maybe, just possibly, Popper might have gotten something wrong?" Yes, of course, duh.

Does it take into account the degree of *activeness* with which the person exercises their goodness?

If such a thing exists, I take it into account imperfectly and inexplicitly. But I don't think it does. Is 'inactive good' the Nazi guard who has some reservations floating around in his head while he stops a jailbreak?

I expect to be told something like 'active good means actually doing good things'. But seems to me that just means living in a good way. But if active good is living well, then I don't see how inactive good could exist, as it would imply living wrongly, and thus not be good. If inactive good doesn't exist, then taking into account 'the degree of *activeness*' of someone's good is incoherent.

I'm not convinced that how tough your life is is principally characterised by how good you are (if that is what you are implying).

I didn't say that at all here. I gave ways being more good can make your life harder elsewhere, but of course I did not claim that's the only or main factor.

Here, I simply gave ways a bad person could fuck with a good person.

It seems to me that the toughness of one's life depends on factors such as being skilled at dealing with the problems one chooses for oneself, being flexible and good at acquiring new knowledge when needed, and so on.

Superficially that seems plausible. But we don't choose what problems to have directly. Mostly, they just happen to us. The car breaks down. Or we don't understand something. Or the son wants something. Or the boss wants something. Even choosing a hobby, say, means picking which problem to work on, not what problems exist. (It is possible to create interesting problems by designing games or puzzles, and other ways. But that's not important to this.)

Before I continue I want to clarify what the statement really says, behind the pretty words. It simply means that the way to get through life best is to A) choose the right problems to have in your life B) Deal with problems rightly (And a few aspects of how to do this are listed)

Well, A) is wrong, and B) is kinda obvious (It's just a form of "we should act rightly"). Anyhow, if we can't control the problems we face directly, and we are doing our best to solve them, is that all we can do?

No! A focus on dealing only with current and foreseeable problems is damning. We must add into this an analysis of morality, and act rightly even if we cannot see the benefit. This means putting aside any petty notions about aiming for an easy life, or putting happiness above all, and accepting any (moral, but otherwise too) argument that seems true, like it or not.

Good knowledge of the practical details required to live by one's theories, perhaps.

No, knowledge of one's theories is required to live by one's theories. That simple. Well, that and theories you can do. Theories that ask you to do things you don't know how to are just idiotic (as opposed to ones that tell you to learn, then do it).

Plus a good deal of luck, like being in the right place at the right time.

[sarcasm]Yeah, let's blame our problems on luck, chance, and maybe the heavens.[/sarcasm]

Sometimes people get picked on for being good. Sometimes they get picked on for being fat or wearing glasses or being a child.

Dear god, is this really an equivocation between being good and wearing glasses? Does it really imply that attacking goodness and attacking fatness are equally bad?

Adults getting picked on for being good can develop a wide range of strategies for dealing with it, so they don't experience it as coercive, and don't mind it at all, even find it amusing, in most cases, except where they're being arrested and tortured in unfree countries, maybe.

They can develop a wide range of strategies for dealing with it, but "so they don't experience it as coercive" is not the point of all of them. It's only the point of the ones favoured by the commenter.

The sentiments seem to be that if we can find a way not to mind badness, then the problem is solved. Of course, if held consistently, this view should apply to being arrested and tortured too.

The right view is more like: badness is not bad "because it might coerce good people" and the solution is not "to find states of mind more defended against coercion." Rather, we must not let bad people try to hurt us in the first place. A successful defense requires using offense -- we must fight evil, not just try to cope with it.

Some good adults find those skills harder to develop than others: I think it depends on their entrenchments, their meta-knowledge, luck, and other variables.

Or in plain and more accurate English: it depends on their worldview and their situation (and luck, or so it's claimed).

[sarcasm]Really? Wow! I never would have thought of that! I'm glad you told me.[/sarcasm]

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)


abandoners tend to have trouble seeing the difference between help and authoritative control. (what is advice if not just a form of getting people to do what you say?)

authorities tend to have trouble seeing the difference between freedom and abandonment. (what is freedom if not leaving the authority's jurisdiction?)

but we can have freedom and help both, without the bad stuff.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

when in doubt about what to post

just google news for: israel palestine

and soon you will read stuff like

"Fact is, Israel is a damn near theocracy, for goodness sake." and be inspired to post. sheesh. post coming soon, and adding LGF to perm links, cause i ought to read it more, and it totally rocks.

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CNN belives in ghosts

and so does half its readers.

link and check out the quick poll results. currently 18k ppl say hoax, 15k say ghost.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (7)

Entry #100

ok so i google newsed for israel palestine again, and found this at the top. it's some chinese diplomat saying the way to create peace in the middle east is international support for peace. ho hum.

but it gets worse. the entire thing has zero moral judgments.

but it gets even worse. it does have this:

He called on the United Nations to continue its efforts to resolve the dispute, and urged the international community to giveassistance to programs benefiting Palestinians.

There was no equivalent statement urging anyone to help Israelis. Also, if you stop and think about what many Palestinian organisations actually do with money (kill Jews) ... *cough*

To try and appear fair and balanced, the article does bother to quote an Israeli once. However, they managed to find one who opposes Sharon. *sweatdrop*

Zehava Galon, a member of Israel's Knesset, said the Geneva Initiative, launched on Dec. 1 by groups in Palestine and Israel, had the best chance of success, and the international community should make joint efforts to promote it.

Here's what Sharon says, which makes rather a lot of sense:

"Geneva is an attempt to do something only a government can do. Only a government can conduct political negotiations and sign an agreement," he said.

"It is damaging and embarrassing for Israel, it's a mistake to put on such a show and at the same time jeopardize a program which is the only one that can bring a solution," Sharon argued, in reference to the roadmap.

BTW the article i got that quote from is HEAVILY biased, but I noticed the islam-online URL so I won't bother criticising it bit by bit.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

lying bastards

Just read this.

U.S. Leaders Support New Israel-Palestine Peace Initiatives, Geneva Initiative

The thing is, if you read the article, it's *former* US officials. sheesh.

And this article, like all the others I've seen so far, tries to portray the Geneva Initiative as a joint Palestinian-Israeli venture, and a big step towards cooperation and peace, even though it's opposed by the Israeli government, and only left-wing loonies are cooperating on it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

it may be xmas eve, but the jews are still controlling the content of my blog

ok found another israel/palestine article (man I'm good). link

Uganda still supports Palestine despite opposing two UN resolutions condemning Israel, Minister of State for International Affairs Tom Butime clarified yesterday.

The world is strange.

On December 4 the United Nations took its annual vote on seven resolutions concerning Israel. Eight countries voted against and 155 voted for a resolution on Jerusalem, declaring that Israeli actions to impose laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City are "illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever."

I suppose this means it's not illegal to assault visiting Egyptians.

The resolution criticised governments that have set up diplomatic missions in Jerusalem and called for international actions to guarantee freedom of religion and access by all people and nationalities to the holy city.

Sound strange? I thought so too. But then I set my crack team of researchers on the matter. (Didn't you know all right-wing blogs are supplied with crack teams of researchers by the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?)

They discovered that a 1947 UN resolution internationalised Jerusalem. So Jews have no right to be there -- even in the Western half. Hence, no one puts their embassies in Jerusalem. (Except a couple rogue countries.)

They further found out the US doesn't have an embassy in Jerusalem even though Congress mandated one and Bush promised one in his election campaign.

The eight countries that voted against were the United States, Israel, Palau, Nauru, Costa Rica, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Uganda.

I notice the list doesn't include: Britain, Australia, New Zealand.

Uganda also abstained on another resolution to refer Israel's construction of a security wall in the West Bank to the International Court in The Hague. Eight countries voted against the proposal while 74 abstained and 90 voted in favour.

Send the security fence [I can change words too, not just the BBC :-)] issue to the International Court in The Hague? LOL. Good luck with that.

"On some resolutions that are straightforward, we voted for them, like the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people," said Butime.

Such as the rights to own and use machine guns, to move around at night with no questions asked, to incite violence freely, and to transport terrorists in ambulances.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Merry Christmas

So what am I gonna do on Christmas? That's easy! I'm going to link to Setting The World To Rights.

Why, you ask? Well, to anyone who doesn't already read it, you can take this as a great gift. (A Christmas gift, even.) The site is simply fantastic, and now you shall enjoy it too.

What, you ask, is so special about The World? Well unlike most blogs, there are not glaring gaps in The World's understanding of the world. Obviously all left-wing blogs don't get something or other, but the right-wing ones mess up too. They commonly oppose contraception or abortion, endorse ageism, endorse anthropomorphism, take an anti-rational approach to the question of religion, appeal to authority, or commit various other errors on issues that are understood by many people today. The World doesn't do any of this. It gets all these issues right, and many more.

Here are a few recent posts:

- The World invents amusing conspiracy theories -- why should the loonies have all the fun?

- The World understands environmentalism.

- The World understands the difference between animals and humans.

- The World understands political correctness.

- The World understands the history of Israel. (And also supports Israel, but not in the history, which is written without moral judgment.)

Oh yeah, one more thing. I comment at The World, and you wouldn't want to miss out on that ;-)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

In My World (Not IMAO's world, dammit, *mine*)

UN condemns Jews

The UN condemned the Jews today for putting a strain on the Palestinian economy. "Bombs and bullets are expensive, and martyrs never work again," said a UN official. "If only the Jews didn't have to be blown up, or if they were less resistant (making the process cheaper), then the Palestinians could be truly prosperous."

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I'm a San Jose Sharks (ice hockey) fan. The team is very much lite on stars, but they do well anyway.

One thing you may have noticed about ice hockey (and this has been becoming more true in other sports too) is that on a good day, any team can beat any other team. This is because the minimum skill level -- the ability of the worst players in the league -- is very high (much higher than it used to be). Everyone is good. Everyone can shoot. Almost everyone can shoot well in ways their position doesn't usually require (defense doing up-close shots; forwards doing slapshots from far away).

It's a rarity for the best forward to get past anyone at all. Even a forward stuck playing defense alone. Completely tricking a defender pretty much doesn't happen. At best a forward can hope to get a few feet or a half second to shoot with, or get a passing lane.

The defense is more organised and more disciplined than ever. The players understand their job (in most situations) is to worry about the man they're guarding and not the puck (which is why it's so hard to get past a defender). They know in 2-on-1 rushes, they should guard the pass and let the goalie deal with the shot. But that rarely comes up -- there are only a handful of odd-man rushes per game now.

The offense knows it has to pass a lot to score. The star scorers -- the ones with a killer shot, great hands, maybe great speed, and the best chance to beat a defender -- are all star passers. Just as they can shoot at a tiny opening in the net, they've learned to pass through a tiny lane to give someone else a shot.

So, suppose you want a winning hockey team. The old approach was approximately to get some star players and watch them carry you. But this is less and less effective. Fewer goals are scored, and fewer of them from individual effort.

The best way to win now, is to be the most organised and disciplined team. To play as a team, and always make the smart play, and avoid breakdowns. You don't have to have a brilliant offense anymore. If your defense is solid enough, just a couple goals will win the game.

This doesn't mean a slow, boring style of play. Being cautious and solid is entirely different from slow. For example, the way to be cautious when you're the last guy back and you're taking a shot, is to shoot HARD. So even if the shot is blocked, the other team will have a hard time controlling it.

Lingering with the puck in your own end is dangerous, and shouldn't be overdone, and no one can keep the puck safely anywhere for too long without passing. But once you're at midice, low-percentage plays are perfectly acceptable as long as they're safe (don't do something risky if you're the last man back, or something that risks an odd-man rush). It is hard to score, so slim chances are worthwhile. Basically, get it out of your own end, then you can try whatever you want. So the game can and should still be fast-paced and aggressive; the defense just needs to be organised very quickly. In fact, in a fast game, which team really is better organised tends to show up more, because errors are more common.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Human Nature

When people say "X is human nature" or "human nature makes people do X" they mean exactly the same thing as people who say "X is the way God made us."

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

The Concepts of Good and Evil are Comprehensible

I don't believe in Good and Evil, so unless you're willing to get real and talk about things that mean something to me, or at least define your terms in a way that makes sense to me, I won't know what on earth you think you're talking about.

Sound like a reasonable objection? At first glance it might. It seems to be asking me to speak more understandably using just words we both understand.

But hold up a moment. How does this similar objection sound?

I don't believe in God, so unless you're willing to get real and talk about things that mean something to me, or at least define your terms in a way that makes sense to me, I won't know what on earth you think you're talking about.

It's absurd, isn't it? I may be an atheist, but of course I can talk to theists, and understand much of what they say about God. I can even talk about God myself, and sometimes do. (I dare you to say, "Oh my God! You're such a hypocrite.)

And furthermore, suppose I had no notion what God meant, and couldn't understand anything to do with him. On what basis, then, could I assert that God did not exist? Don't I need to understand what God is to be sure he's not real?

Well, everything I've just said about God makes a perfect parallel for the Good and Evil case.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

heh heh

Israel's first Arab Cabinet minister convicted of corruption

A court on Monday convicted the first Arab to serve as an Israeli Cabinet minister on charges of trying to bribe an official to grant Israeli citizenship to a Palestinian businessman, a court official said.


[The businessman] had previously been refused citizenship because of a criminal record, the report said.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Please Read This

This is from MEMRI, an organisation that translates Arabic news and sermons into English. It really helps illuminate who we are fighting and why. If you read it, you'll hear Palestinian Khatibs (preachers) who are paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) give sermons on PA TV, from PA controlled mosques, looking for the destruction of the USA, and Israel, and Britain.

They call us crusaders and want us dead. Get it?

update: link moved here.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

The Whole World Is Insane (ok minus four-ish countries)

this is entirely unremarkable. it's easy to find dozens like it. meanwhile there's kind of a lack of non-insane articles. weeeeeee.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat lights a makeshift torch to mark the 39th anniversary of the Fatah movement at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 31, 2003. Arafat charged in a speech on the occasion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not want to achieve peace. AFP

yeah, the anniversary of the Fatah movement is a good time to say *other people* are opposed to peace. *cough*

if you know nothing about Fatah, the short summary is: they are terrorists.

the other summary is: google will easily find you plenty about them, like this about them trying to blow up a Jewish holy site, and bitching (the article, not Fatah) about how The World (not Setting The World To Rights, but rather the set of all countries) doesn't care.

here's more info. it seems to think that since Yasser Arafat renounced terrorism *cough* Fatah's been clean, at least "officially" whatever that means. weird.

The Palestinians and Syria on Wednesday accused Israel of turning its back on peace after it tried to assassinate a top Hamas militant in Gaza and moved ahead with plans to build hundreds of new homes in the occupied Golan Heights.

killing terrorists = turning back on peace. therefore peace = terrorists operating in peace, i guess. *cough*

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)


ever hear Israelis use 6 times as much water per person as Palestinians?

ever hear Israel is stealing Palestinian water?

ever hear Israel is wasteful of water and greedy?

ever hear Israel violates international law with its water policies?

ever just wonder about Israel and water?

if so, this'll set you straight

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

man i'm glad i voted for the BBC

just read this article. sheesh.

ok the message, near as i can tell is:

some palestinians were shot. israel says its soldiers were defending themselves. the palestinians say it was murder.

the BBC has no evidence except the word of some palestinians, but it's convinced israel is lying.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


so watcha up2 elliot?

well, i'm glad you asked! you see, mostly i'm working on a Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne map. and i needed an excuse to plug THE BEST GAME EVER.

what's a map?

anything with "USA" in large letters in the middle.

oh, wait, that was terrible. anyhow, to play warcraft you need the game and also a map. it loads the map, and then what happens depends what the map says. of course the game comes with a bunch of maps. but you can make or download more too.

the main elements of a map are: terrain (like basic landforms). doodads (like decorations). units. a map script (think programming telling it what to do).

also war3 is fully 3D and you can put cameras anywhere, and play pretty movies. and you can put sounds in a map.

ok but you still don't really know what a game is like. cause my description of a map is too general. but, that's part of the magic. maps are such a general construct that you can make drastically different types! some of the main types of maps are:

Standard maps -- these maps have no special programming and let you play the game the official way. you start with a town hall and 5 workers, and harvest gold and wood and use it to build more buildings and purchase units (from your buildings) and fight your opponent. this is similar to warcraft 2, starcraft, command and conquer, age of empires, etc (war2 and starcraft actually had custom map editors too. no idea if CandC or AoE did)

gonna take timeout to mention one cool war3 feature: hero units. they get xp, can carry 6 items, and get 4 spells which they level up as they gain levels. they have 3 ability stats.

RPG maps -- the basic idea is you get to control a custom-modified hero, and so do a few or your friends, and you go around killing pre-placed monsters. possible there is a plot with cut-scenes. there's probably a town (or a few) where you can get supplies and heal.

Open RPGs -- either some game masters use special commands to drop monsters then other ppl fight them, or everyone can use special commands and you're supposed to set stuff up then make your own heroes to fight it. i think they're kinda a bad idea, and it'd be better to just make a map with stuff on it. b/c to get a good map you need to balance test, not fight what took you 10 minutes to place.

cinema maps -- just sit back and watch a movie. :-)

tower defenses -- waves of monsters try to get past you. build towers (which can attack but not move) to stop them. sounds simple but can be quite complex.

aos maps -- the name is just the abbreviation of the name of the poster map of this type (Aeon of Strife). anyway, there are 2 computer-controlled towns that constant spawn waves of monsters and send them against each other. both sides are equally powerful and cancel out. players each get a hero and try to turn the tide of battle. there are also 3-way versions.

vampire hunters -- really there's only one map of this type, but it's awesome. the vampire team wins be destroying the main human city in the middle of the map within 7 days. the human team (hunters) wins by defending that long or by killing the vampires often enough. every player has a hero. to aid them, vampires can collect souls from villagers around the map. hunters try to chase them off and save the villages. vampires have a free teleporter system to get to any corner of the map from any other corner. hunters can only teleport from anywhere to the middle, and that costs them money.

single player campaign -- the game comes with some single player maps that are kinda a mix btwn standard and rpg elements. they're well done.

hero arenas -- fight it out! i think they're dumb.

micro wars -- do you have the skill to beat someone fighting a small num of units vs a small num of units? even if they're the exact same units? it's amazing to see even with the exact same units, the guy with better strategy can win often with half his guys alive.

anyway, my map is an RPG, with custom scripted spells (when certain spells are cast, i programmed it to add certain extra effects), and cinemas, and pretty terrain, and a kinda lame plot, but lots of subquests anyway.

oh and i forgot the best part!! blizzard's *free* online game servers. all you need is an internet connection and you have access to many thousands of war3 players to play with. if you make a crappy map and host a game, you'll probably get joiners immediately. i certain have no trouble finding ppl to beta test my map. the wait time for ladder (standard games for a ranking system based on how much you win/lose) is like 30 seconds.

also good about is you could play with *me*! think about it :-)

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Conscription And Indoctrination Are Both Bad, But Not Equally

Apparently Palestinians are good at something ... brainwashing their children.

Israel is good at something too. It managed not to jail any concientous objectors since 1980 until yesterday despite the fact the law requires everyone to serve. Of course the media seems more interested in calling Israel fascist. Ho hum.

I do, by the way, oppose conscription. It should be phased out. If that left the IDF understaffed, then the IDF should be paid more in terms of money, honour, working conditions, etc. If that's hard to pay for, then they have too many social programs :-)

Having anti-Israel cranks in the IDF doesn't help anyone.

Loads more about Israel here

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

i took the time to post; you should be thanking me


Two leading Israeli cabinet ministers have said Israel should resume peace negotiations with Syria.

Really? Do they? I thought Sharon was opposed to the thing, so that's a bit odd.

Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Oh. The BBC is lying again. "leading cabinet minsters"!? yeah, and Jimmy Carter is a leading US President.

update: fuck. apparently he's a former something *and* a current something. but still, he's not a leading part of sharon's government. israel has a proportional representation system. so sharon is in charge, but there are ppl in government from the other parties too. this is like finding a democrat who'll say bush sucks, and calling that news. and then saying the democrat was a leading part of bush's government b/c he was in congress or something. ok actually i'm told guy is from same party as sharon, but opposite faction. so it's like finding Tracy (a libertarian i know) and getting him to criticise me. (sorry, that's only amusing if u know tracy)

oh, and before i go on, there's a nice picture of a BULLDOZER with a caption saying Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967. From the picture, you'd think Israel just built stuff there and took it, and maybe knocked down the homes of the peace-loving Syrians who lived there. did the BBC forget about the six days WAR? fought not with bulldozers, but with bullets. i know they both start with 'bull', but they really are different things.

[Successful peace talks with Syria] would mean Israel withdrawing from nearly all of the Golan Heights, which were captured from Syria in 1967.


fuck you BBC

The Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, for example, has said publicly that he does not think Syria is serious, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has shown little interest in the proposal so far.

Mr Mofaz wants the Syrians to end support for radical Palestinians and for the militant group Hezbollah, before Israel thinks about resuming negotiations.

Amazing how all the people "totally serious about peace with Israel" want concessions before they give even their word to fight anti-Jew terrorism.

There have also been contacts between Israeli and Libyan officials in recent weeks, but both sides have been alarmed that news of the meetings leaked out.

heh heh. well thanks for telling me. *sweatdrop*

PS West Wing rocks

PPS go read IMAO

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

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format shmormat

curi42 (2:42:51 PM): this senator wants ammendment to give $47mil to fight autism. he starts giving reasons fighting autism is important. ur josh listening. imagine agreeing was politically ok (happens to not be ok to have more ammendments on bill, but forget taht)
curi42 (2:43:22 PM): ok fighting autism is good. but should the money go to that, or to something else that's also good? how could josh tell? HE COULDN"T!
curi42 (2:44:03 PM): this is why government taking everyone's money into a big pool then trying to divy it up for everything is a bad idea. he doesn't have the information for where it should go, and there's no easy or good way to get it in that system.
curi42 (2:45:16 PM): whereas if the ppl kept their money this problem wouldn't exist. they'd do stuff they knew about, comparing only the things they know about. and overall it'd avg out just fine. (or sometimes there'd be common misconceptions and it wouldn't; but messing up common misconceptions beats messing up all of josh's)

curi42 (2:48:46 PM): it just struck me when the guy was trying to sell josh on the idea that ppl argue "u should spend money on my cause b/c my cause is good" whihc *completely misses the point*
curi42 (2:48:53 PM): there are lots of good things.
AnonymousPerson (2:51:23 PM): Like with the risk thingy, before i let Josh decide a thing like how much money autism research should get, I want him to tell me, within two orders of magnitude, how many ball bearings are needed this year.

curi42 (2:57:21 PM): turns out he was asking b/c he had an autistic grandson
curi42 (2:57:31 PM): now *that's* a good way to decide where to spend money
curi42 (2:58:29 PM): there are things where you want a unified policy. but choosing btwn autism research and cancer research isn't one. everyone should go their own way on those, so we'll get some of each.
curi42 (3:02:39 PM): nooooooooooooooooooooooooo wtf
curi42 (3:03:24 PM): ok the guy is doing fillibuster and gonna drop soon but screwing them up. but they realise he can safely yield floor for a question and still get it back.
curi42 (3:03:45 PM): so i figure they will ask "is it true you're only doing this b/c u have a grandson with autism?" or something to embarass him to shut him up
curi42 (3:04:27 PM): instead the question is 22 parts (and from a grandfather) so he can rest, then other ppl ask questions. they decided b/c he was doing it for grandson that they should help him.
curi42 (3:04:37 PM): do leftists really think that's being humane, and i'm an evil bastard?
curi42 (3:04:43 PM): cause if so, they should be shot :)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

my logical conclusions

IMAO who is usually right and often very funny, writes:

As Opinion Journal pointed out, this poll shows that the average Republican knows more about the Democrat presidential nominees than the average Democrat, even though there ain't a way in God's name we'd ever vote for them. And I remember seeing some article arguing that we're the party of the dumb. It's a fact that, if someone closely follows politics, odds are he or she is a Republican. Draw your own logical conclusion from that.

well, sorry, but the implied argument is not valid.

the implied argument is that paying attention to politics causes people to be Republican, and that we know this because the poll correlated paying attention to politics with being a Republican (and i expect other polls have too).

BTW I happen to think the conclusion is true: I do think paying attention causes people to become Republican. I just don't think we can say this is true *because* of the poll.

the problem is CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION (which i've never ever once had someone even try to disagree with). see, from the poll all we get is correlation. the causation could be something else entirely besides the one IMAO picked. like maybe something about being a Republican in the first place makes you more inclined to watch the news. or maybe Republicans tend to go to Church more, and Churches tend to promote political thinking (erm, maybe not that one). or maybe religious people care more. or it could be any cause, for all the poll tells us.


A) Frank J visited *my blog* (see comments). i belive that makes my blog famous by association, so you should visit more often now, and make your friends visit, and stuff.

B) Frank did not intend the argument I said he implied. My apologies for the error. I think he could have been clearer, but he's right that he didn't actually say anything wrong, I just falsely assumed he meant something bad.

C) I'll leave this up because other, lesser people than Frank J might argue that way on purpose (maybe a liberal) so the correction would be important then.

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neat cs trick

found here

u might not follow that explanation though, so i'll write it simpler:

computer data is often stored in arrays (basically a bunch of stuff in a row). arrays have a fixed size in memory. sometimes they get full. the basic solution is you make a new, larger array, and copy all the old data into it.

in comp sci classes they generally teach (or maybe only used to, dunno) that you should make the new array double the size of the old. you want to try not to waste too much memory by making it bigger than needed, but also increase the size enough not to have to do this very often, because copying over all the data is expensive.

anyhow, if your array takes up 1 unit of memory, and you double, the new one takes 2 units of memory, with a gap of 1 empty unit behind you. next doubling, your array takes 4 with a gap of 3. then takes 8 with a gap of 7.

see the problem? the array never fits into the gap.

if you increase the array by a factor of 1.5 instead, it will fit into the gap.

actually works pretty fast. 1.5 with 1 gap. then 2.5 gap and array is 1.5*1.5=2.25 ... already fits.

anyway, it's a neat improvement.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

BBC Nonsense

they'll just randomly report that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is wrong with no apparent case.

FYI microscopic laws being 'time reversible' means that a movie of the events played backwards does not violate the microscopic laws. (the article uses the term but doesn't say what it means)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Hockey Is Great

so guess what i did on saturday? that's right! i watched ice hockey on tivo (TV with fastforwarded commercials). san jose sharks vs colorado avalanche (i live near san jose, FYI).

anyway, to understand the avalanche, try this statement, "their whole entire team is made up of stars." it sounds odd at first. but they have far more stars than any other team. maybe not actually 4 offensive lines full, but more than 2 (you get 20 players per game, usually 4 groups of 3 forwards, 3 groups of 2 defenders, and 2 goalies. the groups are called lines.) (and if your coach likes, you can keep the 4th line almost entirely off the ice)

colorado simply has significantly more individual skill than any other team out there. btw for this game colorado was missing it's best player, but the sharks were missing three(!). (top scorer, a second center forward, and a defender)

when you watch the game, you can see the insane skill by colorado players. they get the advantage in most 1 on 1 skirmishes. they make space for themselves in the offensive zone sooooo well. they all shoot like gods. they're fast and deadly on a breakaway. etc etc

the sharks are fast too, but honestly most of their team does not have a brilliant shot. sure they can shoot it hard at the net, and pretty much anyone in the NHL can hit the corners if there's no one in the way, but they aren't nearly as dangerous as the colorado players. if a colorado guy gets a few moments alone with the puck in the offensive zone, you're in big trouble. if it's near the net, expect a goal. most shark players will do something useful, but...

most of the shark offensive players won't even try to screw around by themselves. they usually don't make space, they just pass it off to someone else.

hum, digression. if you skate fast, the defender will back up quickly (hockey players skate backwards almost as fast as they skate forwards). if you try to go past him, he will get in front of you but to the center of the ice, and push you to the outside away from the goal. if you stop, he'll stop, and then he'll come forward into you. but you have a few moments after you stop before he can get to you, which is space. the other main way to get space is to pass it, move away from your defender, then get it passed back to you. but there's another way, and it's called insane individual skill. if you can threaten to skate somewhere important enough, the defender will have to worry about that, and you can get some space elsewhere. if you're good enough with the puck, and fast enough, you can try to avoid the defender when he comes for you, and get away (it's generally hard to skate near someone and keep the puck on your stick, cause they just hit your stick with theirs, and off it goes. you have to dodge their stick with not just the puck, but also your stick. this usually requires letting the puck off your stick a while, but then you have to worry about it hitting a skate, getting away from you, or you not being able to chase after it b/c the defender runs into you)

so what advantages did the sharks have? well, their goalie was totally Player of the Game (the backup goalie played, too! sharks have the best goalie coach around, and ended up with lots of top quality goalies (they traded some off too)) and the sharks were a bit more unified as a team, especially on defense. ok sure the avalanche could make space, pass all around the shark's zone, and score if they got a moment alone in front of the net. but they never got a moment alone anywhere. ever. there was no missed coverage (there were, *ahem*, a pair of 2-on-1 breaks though).

in a 2-on-1 the defender guards the pass, and the goalie deals with the shot. so our goalie rocked them, and that was that :-)

so anyhow, it's great fun to watch all these super skilled players going around, with the amazing ability to keep the puck for long periods of time even in the offensive zone, but everywhere they go, a shark follows, maybe not quick enough to steal the puck or even check the guy (run into him and knock him away from puck, or at least stop him from skating around by pinning him to the boards (edge of rink)). and eventually our teamwork would keep them from getting anything too dangerous, and we'd get the puck.

the avalanche scored once. a defender shot it from far away, and there were a bunch of guys in front of our goalie, so he never saw the shot coming. the sharks scored twice, both times off turnovers by the avalanche in their defensive zone (the sharks didn't do that). and that was that.

update: here is a game summary

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

The Washington Post Sucks

The Washington Post thinks that:

And that brings him back to Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies as the root of the problem. "I don't know where the neocons came from -- that wasn't the platform they ran on," he says. "Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president."

The j0000000s jumped out of the shadows and planted a mindcontrol device on Bush. And Cheney too. ho hum

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)

*bites tongue*

Israel, (a theocracy), in a confusing move, has dismantled a synagogue. Military analysts are theorising that Sharon was drunk and hit the wrong button when inputting what he wanted destroyed. Probably Tapuah West synagogue was right next to The West Bank.

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The Daily Star claims to be the largest circulation newspaper in Bangladesh (they didn't bother to tell me where Bangladesh is, though). They go on about how they are not biased and how their broad appeal gets them lots of readership, blah blah blah.

Here is one of their articles:

'Greater Israel' through expulsion of Palestinians?


The so-called targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants and leaders and the daily repression that has claimed some 3,000 Palestinian lives in three years, are not blueprint primarily for security, but are rather aimed at the systematic expropriation of the Palestinian people. Sharon and his right-wing Zionist allies are determined to sabotage any possibility of creating an independent Palestinian state and remain committed to achieving a "greater Israel" through the expulsion of Palestinians from their land.


Hanadi Jaradat, was identified as the Haifa suicide bomber. A 29-year-old woman from the West Bank town of Jenin who was studying to be a lawyer saw her own brother and cousin killed by Israeli troops outside their home in June last year, the Israeli military occupied the town, subjecting civilian homes to tank fire and killing or wounding civilians. In the backwash of the Haifa bombing, Israeli tanks moved back into Jenin, imposing a curfew on the population and razing the home of Jaradat's family.

and that's enough of that.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

I could tell would rock cause of the URL

ho hum

Israel Versus Free Speech

In vandalizing a Stockholm art exhibit, Israel's ambassador to Sweden showed the true face of his government

and it gets worse, not better...

When Israel's ambassador to Sweden vandalized a work of art that he found offensive on exhibition at Sweden's Museum of National Antiquities, Zvi Mazel did the world a service: he opened our eyes to Israel's descent into barbarism. Just as Israeli tanks bulldoze entire blocks of Palestinian homes , so her ambassador seeks to bulldoze the rising tide of protest against Israeli government policies in the West.

well i'm sure if we go to somewhere else, it'll get better.

how about The Boston Globe

Prime Minister Sharon gave a tired knee-jerk reaction, supporting Mazel's act as a response to "mounting anti-Semitism."

As usual, the ideologues are using this undiplomatic diplomatic gaffe and the brutal "Snow White" as grist for their respective mills.

lovely equivocation there. preceded by anti-Sharon sentiment...

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Bush Will Be President Again

I've never worried about Bush being reelected. I think he will. I thought he would before I knew all the Democratic candidates sucked (apart from being Democrats in the first place). It's not a complex thing. He's a good person, and he's doing good, and I can tell. And I have faith that enough of my country can tell, too. So they will elect him again.

A new poll says that Kerry would beat Bush if the election was held today.

I just wanted to say two things:

When (if) Bush does win, like I say, will the people who deny morality is an issue here rethink their position? If not, am I a prophet? How else would I know what's going to happen if my methods of prediction don't exist?

Second, polls have a high non-response rate. This means the people answering the questions are fairly self-selected. Do the type of people who like to answer polls have certain political leanings? Undoubtedly. Now, if you have experience doing polls, you can see how far off you were last time and adjust, to try and overcome the self-selection issue. You can make models for what non-respondants are like, and what respondants are like, and blah blah blah. But the point is polls only work well when the pollsters understand what they're doing, and only work when their models of what voters are like actually have something to do with voters.

But on 9/11 the electorate changed. We don't vote the way we used to. So, I suggest not putting too much faith in the polls.

edit 26.01.2004 3pm: removed a bad joke

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (26)


(Picture by Dakan. A member of Crimson Creations.)

This picture is particularly impressive. But not for its appearance in absolute terms. There are prettier paintings and photographs out there.

But this wasn't made with a graphics program, or with paint. Rather, it was done with the Warcraft 3 level editor.

The way the editor works is you can assign various tiles (terrain types like grass, ice, snow, dirt) to vertices on the map (which is a square grid). You can place units (monsters, heroes, items, buildings), and doodads (scenary, gates, bridges). And you can do programming stuff.

There's also cliffs (including adding water) and raise/lower. Raise/lower changes the height of vertices on the map. Cliffs are generally kinda ugly and you can't have a sheer face more than 2 cliff levels high. If you try for more you'll get a pyramid (you can have cliffs on cliffs, just not more than 2 levels right on the edge). Pyramids don't make impressive mountains.

So the point is the warcraft editor is very limited in what it can do. To make something pretty you can basically put down a landscape, change the height of the vertices (which, btw, you have to hack if you want slopes over 50 degrees), and place some doodads from the maybe 700 or so premade models. That's it.

(Keep in mind those models include the ones for snowy areas, for grassy areas, for tropical areas, for castles, for cities, for dungeons, for caverns, and for deserts ... so for any given type of location only a small fraction are appropriate.)

The result is that most maps are kinda ugly. No offense to the creators, but they look like large patches of dirt with a few rocks placed on them, then a patch of grass with some trees on it, etc... Which is just what you'd expect given the way map creation works.

However, there are a few maps that don't look that way. So that's the first reason the picture is impressive: it makes superb use of a highly limited set of tools.

Changing focus, imagine playing a computer game that looked as pretty as the picture everywhere you went. And imagine it wasn't just like that with one pre-made story. But rather, anyone could create more scenes with different art of equal quality, without having to be any good at art.

It's (relatively) easy to draw one pretty picture. And it's (relatively) easy to draw some simple, reusable pictures. But pretty pictures tend not to be very reusable. Like this picture for example. It could be the background artwork in one scene in a game, but if you just had the image, there'd be no way to reuse it well. Its beauty is it's entirely made up of reusable pieces.

It's not just a picture. As a picture it's OK. It's a warcraft map with specifications for where different warcraft components should go, and from the specifications emerges a picture.

And the last impressive part is that the picture represents a playable area of a map. Warcraft heroes could walk around in it as is.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Title Here

curi42 (7:14:17 PM): well i think pet projects shouldn't be allowed if author doesn't know how many ball bearings we used last year.

curi42 (7:14:47 PM): how does he know we need his pet project more than extra ball bearing production?

curi42 (7:15:04 PM): his project being *good* isn't enough. it needs to be better than alternate uses of the funding.

this is a major reason taxes suck. if they just left us our money, we'd get the stuff we thought was important. and all our combined knowledge about what was important would go into money distribution. but instead a few people who've only even heard of a few ways to spend money get to spend giant sums on their pet projects.

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BBC can't count

Greg Dyke today admitted he didn't want to leave the BBC asmore than 1,000 staff walked out to stage protests outside BBC buildings in London and elsewhere in the country including Swindon, Cardiff and Belfast.

Between 700 and 900 walked out of BBC TV Centre in White City.


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and it gets worse

same source as last entry.

curi42 (1:23:54 PM): "We got very badly criticised by the Hutton report. Whether that's fair or not is for another time. But if you are that badly criticised it is right for the director general to go."
curi42 (1:24:15 PM): oh dear. no wonder they think bush should go. he's been criticised. whether the criticism is true can wait until after he resigns.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Alias is r0xx0r despite my complaints



ok so anyway, my thesis is: Sydney isn't hardcore enough!

For one thing, have you ever seen 24? Did you notice Jack? Jack is hardcore! Sydney's just not. One of Jack's best qualities is the way he shoots people. Sydney almost never shoots people. So that's my first two points: Sydney should be more like Jack, and should shoot people more often. Also, when she shoots people, she should use bullets, and shoot to kill, instead of using tranquiliser darts.

Oh, my other thesis is the show has kinda bad morality. Far worse than say 24 or West Wing or Buffy or even worse than most anime (anime is from *Japan* so the morality is a bit lacking and addressed at a different problem situation. Like they worry about pacifism and have trouble justifying using force ever. The majority of Americans don't have that issue. Though apparently the media does. *ahem* anyway)

so like when Vaughn wanted to report Sydney's dad for being a KGB agent (before they knew about her mother) ... to get him punished. wtf. regardless of his past he (Jack Bristow) is now a double agent working for the US government and a really valuable asset towards like saving the world. and Vaughn would give that up because long ago in the past Jack did bad things? b/c he should be punished? what for? how does punishing him help anything? it doesn't!

so then sydney said no b/c ... he's her dad. her argument was like he shouldn't be punished b/c A) she cares about him and B) she shares genes with him. it's such a bad defense you almost want to see him punished. except nah, cause he's far more hardcore than Sydney, almost like a mini Jack Bauer. ok rather different, but he's still cool.


and they were pissy about sacrificing (via framing) that SD6 agent to save sydney. but sheesh. jack saved an important double agent who routinely makes the world a better place. at the "cost" of getting a bad guy killed. one who'd done some pretty horrible stuff. and sydney gets pissy b/c somone died. oh how sad. *cough*

and then later she decided "i would have done the same thing, to save someone i cared about" which was supposed to mean it was acceptable to her. nevermind that right isn't in terms of what I (or whoever is wondering) would have done. and nevermind the issue shouldn't be decided by who we care about more -- this was an issue of national security and life and death. it needed an objective answer about the real and major effects each option would have on the world.

and sydney handcuffed anna esperanza (sp) instead of killing her one time. and shot her handbag instead of her one time. etc keeps running away while beingt shot at rather than fighting effectively. (in season 2 sydney fires a machine gun a few times which is cool)

like there was the scene where they (sydney and anna) are trying to climb up a rope ladder at same time, and fighting. everytime one gets advantage they try to climb more, and get grabbed from behind. when obvious thing to do is first throw other person off then climb peacefully.

and Alias uses some unrealistic crap to avoid some hard but right decisions. like when sydney and her father are both captured in cuba (sydney went there to help father, who was supposed to assassinate anini hasan (sp) the weapons dealer), and Hasan wants Jack to shoot Sydney. then he shoots the guards and they win the fight unharmed. what weak sauce guards!!!

He should have shot her irl, i think. assuming guards weren't that lame. cause alternative was them both dying.

update: just saw an ep where sydney knocks this badguy out instead of killing him, then a few minutes later he wakes up, gets a gun, and comes after her. easy victory turned into barely getting through alive.

this is a fairly common theme. sydney always leaves a trail of live enemies behind her. she shouldn't.

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how is it that TV and movie writers, who i believe are not generally particularly above average people (certainly some are, and some suck too, but on the whole i figure the group is fairly normal morally), anyway, how is it they consistently create characters that are far more likable and more moral than most people, including themselves?

i don't really know if this happens with written stories, cause i rarely read present day stories, and it's pretty hard to judge characters from different eras WRT the morality of ppl in the US today.

i'm not giving examples cause it would be futile. if i gave a dozen examples to try and "prove my point" or something, someone would just give a dozen examples of bad ppl in movies. there are so many movies and tv shows that it'd be pretty trivial to come up with thousands of examples for both sides, so counting examples simply can't be the way to judge the proportion.

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Wild Things

just watched Wild Things. quite good. nice plot twists.

now you may be thinking "isn't that the movie with the kinda infamous sex scene?" yup. but it was good apart from that too. as i said plot twists. also v nice atmosphere.

you might also be thinking "what's so great about a sex scene in a movie when porn is easy to come by?" (ok you probably weren't thinking that)

i suppose the answer parallels the difference between one night stands and sex as part of an intimate, longterm relationship.

sex completely out of context seems boring. motion and nerve impulses. much like walking, swimming, or typing.

or compare these:

- touching molecules
- touching flesh
- touching a girl
- touching the girl you care about

( If you're a female reader and feeling alienated, you're too sensitive ;p )

( If you're a gay guy and feeling especially alienated now, good. I hate you. )

all of them could have been the exact same event! but each has a different meaning.

porn is notorious for its bad plots and lack of character development (when there is any token effort made at all). but this doesn't just make the porn worse by some snobby, artistic standards. it makes the sex scenes worse!

if we identify with, care about, or feel attracted to the characters it makes all the difference. hollywood movies often achieve this. porn doesn't.

also putting sex into everyday life makes the fantasy more accessible (ok not quite everyday life, but closer than cheesy porn flicks)

i'd also like to point out that i explained this *without mysticism*. many people would say one night stands and porn is "soulless sex" or lacking in "spiritual energy" or that somehow the marriage ritual makes all the difference. but when there is an explanation that makes sense and uses meaningful terms instead of fuzzy, mystic ones, we ought to prefer it.


on the sex scene being infamous. it overshadowed the plot in a lot of ppl's minds. here's a comment:

Ask yourself at the start of the movie what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for a smart thriller that will leave you breathless or are you looking for a couple of sexy moments where gorgeous girls get naked and kiss each other? If you want the former then `The Usual Suspects' is probably still available at your local video store. If you want the latter then this will suit you down to the ground.

now i agree The Usual Suspects was great, and had a strong plot, and was more of a thriller/drama. but Wild Things had a good plot too, dammit.

and down a bit more the commenter asks my question! (but comes up with a different answer)

The sexy stuff is good however but if you want that then why not just rent a soft porn title instead?

also got asked to clarify what attracted to, care about, and identify with mean, nonmystically.

identify with = shared values

care about = care about ...? like it matters to you what happens to the person, even though s/he isn't you.

attracted to = person satisfies your criteria for attraction. these are sometimes (always?) kinda irrational and/or arbitrary. and probably very strongly entrenched and not worth fighting with or worrying about either. *shrug*

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

more alias (no spoilers)

good guys point guns at bad guys. bad guys point guns back and explain "we have a team watching us. if anything goes wrong they will detonate the bombs we placed here which will destroy a whole city block."

ok so the good guys have 2 choices. defiance or appeasement. now i don't want to take anything away from the defiance option, but in the specific case i believe it was credible that if they let bad guys leave, they would not detonate bomb anyway. also it was pretty credible that defiance meant boom.

and of course since Alias is kinda wussy, appeasement it is. so you expect bad guys to back out while still being aimed at. but instead bad guys demand good guys drop guns or boom.

ok now again defiance or appeasement. but now if you say no, bad guys have nothing to gain from boom. they aren't facing death or death. they have the choice between killing themselves or leaving. and all they have to do is endure having guns pointed at them a little longer. so defiance looks like the good bet.

but of course since Alias is a kinda wussy show, they went with appeasement. good guys dropped their guns. this is idiocy. now bad guys can shoot whoever they like before leaving. and in fact in the show after good guys dropped guns, bad guys decided to take one hostage and bring her with them. that wouldn't have happened if good guys kept their guns.

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MPAA silly

rated PG for "mild thematic elements" and brief language. *wonders what themes are objectionable and why they don't say which one(s) it is* as it is, it kinda sounds like they object to movies with themes. heh.

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rofl @ scott ort

"Accountability is everything in a democratic republic," said an unnamed senior White House official.


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a frustrating trend

"24 is sometimes bad but never boring" (i forget the source on that observation).

and what's even stranger than this apparently nonsensical comment, is that it only looks nonsensical if you think about it. the truth is, we understand exactly what it means. somehow, in our culture, the criteria for a good TV show is not whether it is entertaining, exciting, and generally something we would want to watch. instead, there is a special criteria for what TV shows are called good or bad that is different from the criteria we use to decide which to watch. (more commonly instead of calling shows bad we call them trashy or junk TV or a B movie something like that).

the criteria for "quality" movies, which we are all familiar with, is approximately whether it is something elitist leftist intellectuals (think of a PhD Professor of Woman's Studies) would like. it's not generally explained this clearly, but there it is.

what's notable is that *we* often use the criteria too. our society speaks in their terms, but then decides what to watch on its own terms. isn't that hypocrisy?

i think it's more like: no one wants to argue with elitist intellectuals. so they don't. they just say "fine, you're right, whatever" and then continue on as they were.

so i don't think this is hypocritical. but i *do* think it's bad. we ought to stand up to these people and say "no, i don't agree with you, and you're a jerk so i won't argue with you either, and i won't use your terminology as if you were right" or equivalent.

and also there is a distaste not just for arguing with leftist intellectuals in our society, but for any arguing. also for philosophy and being an intellectual. just because a few idiots associated themselves with those things and thus tainted them. too many people believe that's really what arguments and philosophy and being an intellectual really are, and thus think they are actually bad things. *sigh*

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Apparently Attacking TCS Is Fun

foo commented on this post:

[Elliot] said:

An important part of getting what one wants is changing what one wants to better desires, including more relisable (sic) ones

How could you knowingly tell the difference between changing what you want to better desires, and coercing yourself toward them?

Rational thought? You may think that's a non-answer, but what would you say if I asked you, "How can you knowingly tell the difference between disagreeing with me because you hate me and disagreeing with me because I'm wrong?"

How could you tell the difference between changing what you want to better desires and having been coerced?

Well a good start is checking whether you feel distressed. Or if you feel conflicted. And consider why you changed your view. Again, it's just a matter of rational thought.

You say give advice. Advice is good. Then you say "children SHOULD BE free to disagree."

Does this "should" mean what it normally means? "Should" is coercive, in normal English language.

It means that's the way the world should be. You could swap in "ought to" if you like. It's just a statement about morality -- if children are free to disagree this is a morally good state, and if children are not that is a morally bad state.

1 archaic a : will have to : MUST b : will be able to : CAN 2 a -- used to express a command or exhortation b -- used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory

That's coercive? Next you'll be telling me my inability to walk through doors is coercive. And gravity too. And all competitive sports. Just because you can't do anything at all doesn't mean you ought to be coerced; it's irrational to want impossible desires. And it's immoral to desire to do things you should not do. If you want it anyway and end up coerced that was your own wrongdoing at fault, not shoulds in general.

So, you intend to force children to follow their own advice?

No, I was just not going to discourage or punish disagreement.

Or merely have them consider that your advice isn't good? How can they tell the difference, as children, between following your advice to make you happy and following your advice because they want to?

I dunno; how can you tell? (the difference between following my advice to make me happy, or because you want to)

How can they tell the difference between following your advice because it makes them feel safer and doing so because they want to?

How do those even contradict? Someone might want to feel safe.

How can they tell the difference between not following your advice because they should be able not to and being free to not accept your advice?

You're worried people will go against my advice for the sole purpose of exercising their freedom? Why would anyone do that if he was never under my thumb in the first place?

How come coercion is bad for knowledge growth, as a statement, but parents are obligated! to not abandon/help their children?

Erm, the existence of obligations is not coercive. Next you'll be telling me not to make plans to meet someone somewhere. That's an obligation after all.

Aren't you coercing them help/not to abandon their children?

I'm pointing out they should want that, and if they don't they are immoral.

Why is this okay for adults, but not for kids? Is coercion only painful to children?

No, for all people.

Or is it simply that children didn't have a choice about being brought into the world, so it's unfair to force them to do things, but the adult DID have a choice, and in doing so, put themselves into indentured servitude to the child?

Well, yes, bringing a child into this world does give a parent some responsibility. If a potential parent will not want to help his child, he should not have a child.

Common preferences are not always possible. If you are in love with me, so much so that you want to marry me, and I cannot stand you, and never want to see you again, then there is no common preference here for future action.

If I love you so much why don't I want to be accommodating to you?

You can say "but someone will change their mind because they will want to have a "better" desire" but when people are in love, many times they cannot imagine that falling out of love is a better desire. there is no solution to this. No consensus can be reached. Recognizing that sometimes, no consensus can be reached is necessary. Obviously in extreme cases like rape there is no consensus that will be reached, either. Some situations have no solution. To think otherwise is to be utopian.

Common preferences are not possible when I insist on making unreasonable demands of others. As long as I do that, I won't find any. But what if I stopped?

No common preference is reached in a rape because one of the parties is intentionally malicious. That is not the situation when parenting.

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This Isn't Directed At foo In Particular

In the preface of The Fabric of Reality, David Deutsch writes,

For this book is not primarily a defense of these theories: it is an investigation of what the fabric of reality would be like if they were true.

This seems to me to be a very good approach. If we spent all our time defending the theories we have, we wouldn't have time to come up with even better ones.

But look at my previous post. It's devoted to defending TCS! What gives?

Well of course defending theories sometimes is fine, and I could try to write it off as just a coincidence. But it's not; virtually all my interaction with readers comes in the form of attacks on my ideas and my defense of them.

Now, I could ignore these attacks, and sometimes I do, perhaps I should more often, but I think this line of thought misses a more important issue:

Aren't my readers doing something wrong?

Why not, instead of attack, try to understand? Asking questions is a good way to learn about something. So where are the non-hostile questions? Shouldn't they far outnumber attacks? I think there's a moral failing here.

To be very clear, the point is not "don't criticise" but rather "don't focus on criticising something you don't understand". How can you tell it's bad if you don't understand it?

And what's especially frustrating is this flaw is exactly one I find myself often accused of. Even by the very people who commit it here. This is frustrating because anyone who understands the flaw enough to accuse me of it, ought to consider it a flaw and not do it.

As to the accusations, dare I defend myself? Hum. I don't do it. Stop underestimating how much I know and how fast I learn. That is all.


At the risk of offending Dan, here's an example:

When the quality of objections deteriorates to the level of stuff like:

- demeaning the importance of winning WWI or the Cold War
- saying the Soviets weren't much of a threat
- attacking the importance of Israel not being destroyed as just making one little part of the world a bit better

then maybe it's time to tentatively accept some new ideas to try out.

And notice that even if I slightly overestimated the importance of those things ... so what? That wouldn't ruin the logic of any of my arguments. So attacking that point is kinda an irrelevant distraction that doesn't further understanding the issues.

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For Reference

Coercion is the state of two or more personality strands being expressed in different options of a single choice such that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his personality.

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Christians Freed The Slaves

Dan thinks we should mostly credit atheists not Christians with liberalisation in the US. let's see about that. lets start with the biggest, greatest, most important bit of liberalisation: freeing the slaves.

a quick google search and here's some info

The word "slave" was never used to describe a legitimate condition in the Hebrew Bible. Instead, to describe the immoral thing it is, terms such as "made . . . to serve with rigor" and "hard bondage" (Exodus 1:13-14) were used to describe the concept

Hmm, apparently there were religious arguments against slavery. I wonder who made them...

Pursuant to English and U.S. constitutional and criminal law, slavery was illegal and unconstitutional. Kidnaping, murder, robbery, and rape (the basic features of slavery as it existed) were illegal. Some religious Northerners said that slavery was therefore a sin. A number of men had written books, articles, and even set up newspapers to oppose it, and get it abolished. But they were not having success, as most Northerners felt unaffected by slavery. Any sin, it wasn't them doing it.

So sounds like most Northerns thought it was a sin. Anyone who thinks it's a sin is A) religious B) pro-liberalisation on this issue

in 1850, slave holders had Congress pass a law (the Fugitive Slave Act) making following those biblical principles a crime, "aiding and abetting" escapes. This law made Northerners such as Mrs. Stowe feel that they were now being forced to participate in the sin. So the law was widely defied as unbiblical and unchristian.

pro-slavery laws were opposed because they were unbiblical and unchristian. QED?

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Making Use Of Flawed Ideas

General rules, even ones that are flawed, facilitate behaving rightly, because they allow a low-resolution look at morality with very minimal effort.

Let's pretend moral propositions are dots on a 2-D graph, and rules are lines (infinitely long). To keep it simple, rules only run horizontally or vertically. And the way to analyse the morality of a proposition (a point) is to figure out the closest rules in each direction (above, below, left, right) and which side of each of the rules the point falls on.

So if we wanted to analyse the moral proposition (3,6) we'd just go in each of the four cardinal directions from (3,6) and figure out which 4 moral rules we ran into, and which side of them we're on.

But moral rules aren't perfect! Some are even highly inaccurate. So how can these rules be a good idea? Well the point is if we're analysing (3,6) and we're checking for vertical lines and find them at X=1 and X=66, we know even if the X=66 line was so flawed as to be accurate within plus or minus 40, we'd still be left of it. On the other hand, we can see we're very close to the X=1 line, so even if it's highly accurate, we still need to use a more accurate technique to check the morality of that issue.

Many propositions fall significantly distant from all lines (moral rules), and thus can be analysed purely from a quick, low-resolution look that's quite accurate even with faulty rules.

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this is important

joe: [civil comment]
bob: [uncivil response]
joe: [uncivil response]

symmetry or no? they both said something uncivil to each other.

answer is no. none at all. bob responded to something civil with something uncivil. joe just responded in kind.

example dialog:

joe: nice weather, isn't it?
bob: what would a fucking jew know about weather?
joe: fuck you

see? joe's uncivil comment is totally justified by bob's which isn't justified. "who started it" makes all the difference (no matter what some leftists and teachers would have us think) (not to imply that more than 1% of teachers aren't leftists)

note also that joe doesn't "lose the moral highground" or "lower himself to bob's level" when he says something uncivil. doesn't lose highground b/c he's acting just fine and bob is acting badly. not lowering himself b/c what he did is diff than what bob did. the misconception there is the bad thing is uncivil comments. it's not. it's using them at inappropriate times, for example in response to a perfectly civil comment. shouldn't be an ass to someone who's being friendly. being an ass is fine other times.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

leave the lights on

lets say u wanna turn lights off to save power. is it worth the bother?

let's estimate it takes 15 seconds, and you save the light being on for 1 hour on average

100 watt bulb, 10 cents per kilowatt hour. that means 15 seconds is worth 1 cent.

multiply a bit. a min is 4 cents. an hour is 240 cents.

so, who wants $2.40, and who wants an extra hour of sleep?

or an extra hour of work, which will generate more than $2.40

and this neglects the human costs of people having to devote thought to remembering to turn the lights off, and such. which actually dwarf both the time and money amounts in question.

i suppose i should concede that for someone who obsessively turns lights off, trying not to will probably be costly. however, getting into such a state is bad.

oh here's a source on prices. looks like it's less than 10 cents.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)


oh also perry's title was "you do not own your own genetalia". of course you do. it's that property rights are not absolute (if they were, for example, there couldn't even be a discussion about downloading music, the case would be closed already. "you can put music you own up for download because you own it" would be the end. it's absurd to try to solve complex moral issues this way.). but Perry apparently can't even imagine the idea of non-absolute property rights, so concludes an absurdity instead.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Rope, Tree, Criminal Immigrant (Some Assembly Required)

curi: I *told* you that you have to spend more than 20 minutes making a political platform!
Elliot: oh shut up
curi: You completely messed up immigration.
Elliot: Not because of the time spent though.
curi: oops *hides in corner*
Elliot: besides i can fix it now:

An anarchist approach to immigration has the following problems besides welfare issues:

- Enemy soldiers can claim to be immigrants.
- Some immigrant populations might aid invading enemy soldiers, by giving them shelter or food or whatever.
- Some immigrant populations would distort political debate in the country be giving a voice to bad ideas. For example, do we want to waste time debating what Allah says about invading Iraq?
- If immigrants can vote, unassimilated ones may mechanically vote for whatever candidate offers them more stuff.
- There are a lot of public government services besides welfare. Like roads and parks.
- Our prisons are a better place to live than many countries.

What's the answer? Unlimited immigration for rich white people :-) Immigration for more problematic groups can be increased slowly and carefully.

Also a solution to the prison problem is the death penalty. And don't tell me the death penalty is expensive. It's not if you use a rope (or gun). Also, eventually for-profit prisons could accommodate many people.

PS The title is stolen from inspired by Misha

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)


What does 'good' mean? I do know, (and so does the questioner!), but I won't try to answer. One person suggested it means beneficial. Even if this is accurate, it's rather useless. Because what does beneficial mean?

Have you ever noticed that a dictionary defines each word in terms of other words? There are not foundational words with God-given meanings that all new words are defined in terms of (at least indirectly). Rather, if you tried to find out what a word meant by looking up each word in it's definition, and looked up each word in each of those definitions, you would only have a longer and longer list of words to look up, and never finish. And not only that, you'd find yourself looking up the same words over and over. You'd have an impossible task involving looking up an infinite number of words.

So three points. Trying to say "good" or any other idea is meaningless or less meaningful because it can't be defined (without an infinite regress) is specious because this applies to all words equally. And even the approach of focusing on definitions of words is simply a bad idea, because you won't get anywhere. But knowledge *is* possible, so an approach that doesn't get anywhere can't be right. And also, no sorts of foundations are needed to have perfectly valid, useful, true, non-arbitrary knowledge.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

weapons caches in iraq

i was told i was silly for believing in a 50 mile long weapons cache in iraq. let's see about that:

120 x 360 = 36000 + 7200 = 43,200 (sq feet of football field)

if iraq has 1mil man army, and 10,000 sq feet of supplies per guy, that's 10,bil sq feet or about 10bil/25mil = in sq miles = 400 sq miles = 20 miles by 20 miles, or 400 miles by 1 mile

10,000 sq feet per person means about 4 ppl to a football field (a fraction of a person more would fit).

ok that sounds like a lot of space per person at first. but it's not. first u have to take into account roads, buildings, and large gaps so if something is blown up u don't lose everything. so the actual amount of space used to store stuff, in weapons caches, is more like 1/2 or 1/3 of the total space. i'll just estimate 40%. 10bil * 40% makes 4bil sq feet of stuff.

so 1/10 of a football field of actual stuff packed reasonably tightly per person. sound too small? maybe it is, but anyway i'll just try to support that much.


Over the last three years, we have tripled the output of small caliber ammunition. We boosted production from 350,000 rounds per year to 1.2 billion rounds, almost all of it coming from the government-owned, contractor-operated plant in Missouri, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. We recently awarded contracts to Olin Corporation and to Israeli Military Industries, and we plan to expand the production capacity at Lake City. The increased consumption of ammunition, is a result of the Army's decision to better train all Soldiers in marksmanship. Industry's response has once again been exceptional

notice that one factory can handle most of that increase. ie make nearly 1bil rounds/year.

this is the US, and the US army is not all that reliant on small arms. only a very small proportion of our soldiers are in many small arms fights. also notice that it sounds like most of that increase is just from *training*. imagine how much more a huge army in constant small arms fights must use (that also must be trained). now keep in mind iraq needed stockpiles that could last them through many years of sanctions with no resupply. lets say they aimed at a lowly 10 years. so for the US that'd be 12bil rounds. but for iraq multiply by 5 and guess 60bil, which seems way too low to me.

ok so these can be stored in boxes, which can be stacked. lets say boxes hold 1k rounds, are stacked 3 deep, and are 3ft by 2ft = 6sq feet. 3k rnds in 6sq feet or 1k rnds in 2 sq feet. we need 60bil rounds so that's 2sq feet * 60mil = 120mil sq feet. we're trying to fill 4bil sq feet. so that's 30mil out of a bil, or 3%. just for the ammo for small guns. while, i think, intentionally underestimating.

they also need a vehicle for every few ppl, machine guns, mortars, artillery, tanks, planes, helicopters, SPARE PARTS, FUEL, food, tents, landmines, RPGs, TNT (they use TNT), knives, wire, missiles, spare guns, missile shooting systems (these are big), ammo for all these things, and a zillion other things. all in tremendous quantities.



Anarchy that engulfed Albania in 1997, as a result of the collapse of political system, led to looting of about 650,000 pieces of small arms and light weapons and over 1,5 billion rounds of ammunition from military warehouses.

1.5 bil rounds looted. in Albania. albania is puny. iraq is large. and iraq wanted enough supplies to last a long time without getting more. so, i have to think my estimates b4 were low.



Between 1980 and the summer of 1990 Saddam boosted the number of troops in the Iraqi military from 180,000 to 900,000, creating the fourth-largest army in the world. With mobilization, Iraq could raise this to 2 million men under arms--fully 75% of all Iraqi men between ages 18 and 34.

so they needed supplies for 2mil man army, not 1mil. so if there's only 400 sq miles of weapons caches as i was trying to support, about 6% not 3% has to be just ammo for small guns. which sounds far too high to me, meaning there's are prolly more than 400 sq miles of weapons caches.



In strategic sections of Iraq, just about every school, hospital or Baath Party building that U.S. forces come across is stacked high with ammunition, according to Gen. John Abizaid, overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The number of sites is a logistical nightmare for the coalition, which can't remove the arms fast enough and lacks manpower to guard all the caches.

Abizaid's military command estimates it will take five years to destroy all the explosives already confiscated.

5 years to blow up just the stuff we already *confiscated*.

"There is more ammunition in Iraq than any place I've ever been in my life, and it is all not securable," Abizaid told senators

and it just goes on and on

In just the sector of central Iraq patrolled by the Army's 4th Infantry Division, more than 3,000 arms caches that must be destroyed, moved or guarded have been found, Abizaid said. And there is much more yet to be found, he said.


Arms experts estimate there are enough guns to arm each of Iraq's 25 million people.

so 60bil rounds would only be a bit over 2,000 per gun. including training, that's no where near enough ammo per gun. but apparently there's no shortage:

Despite crackdowns, confiscations and raids, the black-market trade in small arms is flourishing: Iraqis can buy an AK-47 for as little as $10, along with all the ammunition they can carry.


The coalition estimates Saddam Hussein amassed 600,000 tons of ammunition,

ok more math. if a ton of stuff takes 500 sq feet (50 feet by 10 feet, not that big)), we have 300mil sq feet of ammo. compared with teh 4bil sq feet target, that's 7.5%, or significantly more than my earlier estimate


ok going to the CIA World Factbook

albania is 27,748 km sq
iraq is 437,072 km sq

just to help you compare WRT the looted ammo thing

new source

In the past inspectors have had to make three or four visits to a single location before weapons were found. One weapons site was described as a "military compound the size of Paris".

ok, and just in case you thought i was wasting my time ........ yup (nah joking, this was interesting)


Hussein left behind 130 known ammunition dumps measuring 50 square miles and containing 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordnance. Kay and his team believe unmarked chemical weapons may be hidden in these dumps. So far, they have only inspected 10 of the 130.

ok so 50 sq miles, not 50 miles long. oh well, close enough. and my estimates were off by a factor of 8ish i guess. which is small. and this is *known* weapons dumps, so could be less than factor of 8 off.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

iraq weapons supply planning

ok suppose ur one of the guys in charge of buying guns and stuff to supply saddam's army. and lets imagine you don't buy enough guns and after 20 years of wars and sanctions, they run out. then he kills you and your family painfully for failing him.

but suppose you buy 5 times as many guns as needed. then he has plenty of guns, and can boast about how many guns he has, and such. the only risk is your budget (if you use too much money you get to die again). but saddam wouldn't be paying attention to details of costs for everything, so you could probably get a decent budget. so you would end up buying much more stuff than needed, just cause it's safer.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

In Favour Of Theism

At least as far as morality goes, the US (I think the entire world) is full of foundationalists. People want to know what the basis of morality is. (This is a philosophical mistake.) And worse still, people who cannot find a basis are liable to think morality does not exist at all.

Religious people say the basis of morality is God. Now, this is kind of meaningless. It doesn't tell us anything about morality, except so far as we have ideas about the nature of God. But those tend to be pretty vague. God is all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing or whatever. Alright, so b/c of this foundation religious people will probably make the horrible mistake of concluding morality is good and true. Oh wait, it is...

Or another way, morality "based on God" can be any morality at all. Thus, belief in some meaningless God could totally nullify the ill effects of moral foundationalism. (In fact, for this purpose, the more meaningless the God the better.)

Anyway, now lets contrast with atheists. Of the ones who manage to believe in morality, there are two main supposed foundations for morality. There is "self-interest", and there is the libertarian non-aggression principle (thou shalt not initiate force or threat of force). Both of these, if taken seriously as the foundation for morality, unlike some vague God, do tend to lead people to some conclusions about what morality says. They are not consistent with just any morality, but only a few. And these few are wrong.

Thus it is that for a foundationalist, failure to believe in God, so that God can *meaninglessly* (not entirely, but the closer the better) get lip-service as the foundation of morality, directly leads to significant moral errors.

This can also be flipped around. Suppose you're a foundationalist who first and foremost believes in morality, and doesn't want to fuck it up by accepting some crap like that the basis of morality is self-interest. Then you would refuse to stop believing in God. Mysticism be damned. Morality is more important.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

they cheer for this crap!

the below is a log from a chess server where some liberals could not give reasons for the Iraq war that would be endorsed by conservatives, but I gave reasons against the war that they cheered for. thus demonstrating i understand their position, and have an informed view, while they don't have a clue what my position is, and thus can't compare it with their own position to see which is better. also, i was called a liar, which is amusing as it's a stereotyped liberal way to "argue" and he did it... (he thought i got my speech from an email, but I made it up on the spot)

here is my anti-war speech in italics first, then the full log. so u can skip the log if you want. (keep in mind this took like 5-10min, and of course i could make it nicer if i edited it now)

The problems with a war in Iraq are many-fold. First and foremost, the war is not justified. It will take the lives of many innocent Iraqis, most of whom do not want the US there. They know the US invasion won't help them but only make their lives worse. But aside from this clear moral problem, it gets worse. Bush has not only lied about the reasons for war, but given unacceptable ones.

He says the war is over weapons of mass destruction, except Saddam problably doesn't even have any, and both the US and Israel do. He says Saddam supports terrorism, but the link with Al Queada has never materialised. He says Saddam violated UN resolutions, but he doesn't even have the UN on his side.

And his real reasons for war are much worse. He seeks revenge for his father, but that's simply no reason to start a war and kill innocents. He wants oil, and to secure contracts for his friends, but again that's a horrible reason for a war. And he wants to exercise military power in the name of Christian values, but we shouldn't be ruled by magalomaniac religious delusions.

And then there's the political ramifications of war. Very few other countries support the war, except mostly the ones the has leverage over. Why does Bush suddenly think Europe doesn't matter? He shouldn't try to oppose the whole world.

i suppose i forgot to mention faulty intelligence. that should be in there too.

curi42: Artificer(4): lol curiosity has been gone for a while. probably on google
\ searching for reasons
t 4 am not. i'm looking for an old email ;p
Curiosity(4): am not. i'm looking for an old email ;p
(told 122 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): you're not doing it from memory like me then
curi42: Artificer(4): if your original point curiosity was to prove that i know
\ nothing of your arguments from memory (without consulting a source), then
\ you just failed miserably.
curi42: Curiosity(4): fine you want me to do it from memory?
(told 124 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): i bet curiosity just finished reading the e-mail
t 4 i didn't find it
Curiosity(4): i didn't find it
(told 124 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): what a joke.
Artificer(4): sure i believe you. hahahaha
t 4 if you think i'm lying i can stop talking to you
Curiosity(4): if you think i'm lying i can stop talking to you
curi42: Artificer(4): ignore me if you want curiosity. you've been doing so for the
\ last few sentences anyway.
, huh?
Curiosity(4): huh?
(told 125 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): I agree with Rumsfeld, why resign because a few politically
\ motivated fruitcakes want him to resign....perhaps they should start at
\ the UN where billiuons has been pocketed by those who opposed forcing
\ Saddam to cooperate with the UN.....
, i did not find the email. i didn't google anything. if you think i'm lying about this, we probably shouldn't talk about this. otherwise, i'll be happy to continue, from memory.
Curiosity(4): i did not find the email. i didn't google anything. if you
\ think i'm lying about this, we probably shouldn't talk about this.
\ otherwise, i'll be happy to continue, from memory.
(told 127 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): When Kofian rersigns and goes to Washington to kiss Bush's
\ behind....then I'll consider Rumsfeld resigning.
apestyles(4): shake it shake it shake sha shake it shake it like a polaroid
\ picture...
Artificer(4): curiosity: think about it if you were in the reverse position.
\ naturally you would not trust me either.
papovik(CA)(4): curio, you deny that what we say is what you think, yet you
\ have to go and read what you think because you can't remember it
t 4 you've had just as much time to google something if you wanted to
Curiosity(4): you've had just as much time to google something if you wanted
\ to
(told 127 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): i responded within seconds.
t 4 and got it wrong :-)
Curiosity(4): and got it wrong :-)

curi42: landocorn(4): why is it difficult for some on the right to call to scumbags
\ who tortured those poor prisoners what they are!
Artificer(4): lol pminear
apestyles(4): viva revolucion
Artificer(4): not really curiosity
pminear(4): wait I'm not sure if I got that entirely correct
pminear(4): but whatever
Game notification: acdc (2123) vs. pminear (2183) rated wild/8 3 0: Game 48
ZZSpence(4): I love it when you can't find a liberal who can support the
\ hypocracy of their beliefs.
Artificer(4): you guys act as if "liberals" are one whole group.
Artificer(4): political ignorance.
ZZSpence(4): game....set ...match
Notification: JATorres has departed.
Artificer(4): exactly
Notification: JATorres has arrived.
apestyles(4): i love it, i cant find a conservative who can argue his point
\ without being obnxiously arrogant about it
tsgarp(*)(4): lol
landocorn(4): that is their substitue for reason
ZZSpence(4): When Kofian resigns we can move to whether or not we hold Donald
\ Rumsfeld responsible for what some dumb soldiers did in an Iraqi prison.
Artificer(4): i know plenty of liberals who don't support abortion; i know
\ plenty of conservatives who refuse to vote bush. why treat it as if there
\ are clear lines?
apestyles(4): but really, im no better when i get into personal attacks either

curi42: Curiosity(4): The problems with a war in Iraq are many-fold. First and
\ foremost, the war is not justified. It will take the lives of many
\ innocent Iraqis, most of whom do not want the US there. They know the US
\ invasion won't help them but only make their lives worse. But aside from
\ this clear moral problem, it gets worse. Bush has not only lied about the
\ reasons for war, but given unacceptable ones.
(told 126 players in channel 4 "Chat")
MprJohn(*)(TM)(4): you cant find a `anybody passionate about politics` who can
\ argue his point without being obnxiously arrogant about it
ZZSpence(4): It is justified
apestyles(4): true enough
Artificer(4): true curiosity, but as i said, it took a bit too long.
landocorn(4): hear, hear, old chap
Artificer(4): he's not supporting us landocorn
ZZSpence(4): Bush didn't lie...the U.N. lied and stole billions
papovik(CA)(4): why don't you explain why you espouse the war curio instead of
\ reasons why you wouldn't
ZZSpence(4): We're suppose to listen to those crooks?

curi42: Curiosity(4): He says the war is over weapons of mass destruction, except
\ Saddam problably doesn't even have any, and both the US and Israel do. He
\ says Saddam supports terrorism, but the link with Al Queada has never
\ materialised. He says Saddam violated UN resolutions, but he doesn't even
\ have the UN on his side.
(told 126 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): interesting... i told you guys taht there are no clear lines.
\ curiosity and ZZspence are btoh conservative, and even they disagree with
\ one another.
ZZSpence(4): Naahhhhhhh
MprJohn(*)(TM)(58): 2-0 pistons :-)
Notification: JATorres has departed.
Notification: JATorres has arrived.
Artificer(4): in fact, i don't know why people came up with the terms
\ "liberal" and "conservative" anyway. it's like as if you believe there is
\ a clear "endgame" or "middlegame" in chess.
Artificer(4): wow, managed to relate politics to chess, i rule. :-I
:Notification: alrightnow(*)(TM), the COO, has arrived.
apestyles(4): well, why dont we just do away with categories in general and
\ live in state of absolute confusion

curi42: Curiosity(4): And his real reasons for war are much worse. He seeks revenge
\ for his father, but that's simply no reason to start a war and kill
\ innocents. He wants oil, and to secure contracts for his friends, but
\ again that's a horrible reason for a war. And he wants to exercise
\ military power in the name of Christian values, but we shouldn't be ruled
\ by magalomaniac religious delusions.
(told 126 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ChugiakCharlie(4): anarchy rules
Artificer(4): that's an interesting irony
ZZSpence(4): Call for Kofian to for Bush to resign because a
\ White House guard urinated on the White House lawn during Bush's
\ should listen to the hypocracy of the left wing
\ fruitcakes....they are hypocrites that wouldn't admit the sky was blue if
\ it meant no power.
apestyles(4): i can dig it curisoity
apestyles(4): *curiosity
MprJohn(*)(TM)(4): have the oil in my driveway.. plenty there :-D
landocorn(4): i recently met a couple who ardently believe that some of our
\ senators wish to abolish our constitution so the UN can rule us.
Artificer(4): Curiosity: thanks for demonstrating you can read e-mails. :-)
ZZSpence(4): Rubbish....Curiosity

curi42: apestyles(4): zzspence, please provide a reasonable argument with a point
\ rather than a personal attack with no real point
Curiosity(4): And then there's the political ramifications of war. Very few
\ other countries support the war, except mostly the ones the has leverage
\ over. Why does Bush suddenly think Europe doesn't matter? He shouldn't
\ try to oppose the whole world.
(told 128 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): total...drivel
t 4 how's that artificer?
Curiosity(4): how's that artificer?
(told 128 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): whin ing
t 4 i suppose i forgot to mention faulty intelligence. that should be in there too.
Curiosity(4): i suppose i forgot to mention faulty intelligence. that should
\ be in there too.

curi42: some junk. then:
curi42: apestyles(4): no, i didnt really agree w/ your argument... thought it was a
\ bit on the hysterical side
curi42: i spent a while trying to explain to zzspence that i didn't believe the argument i'd given. heh
curi42: now artificer is trying to get out of giving pro-war reasons by saying that pro-war people are different.
curi42: Curiosity(4): can any of you liberals give pro-war reasons that an average
\ Christian conservative would endorse?
(told 125 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): curiosity your question is as invalid as asking "why is the sky
\ green?"

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Cultural Relativism

a friend had a philosophy class 2day (at UC Berkeley). i snuck in out of curiosity. omg!

the teacher talked for like 2 hours about a 10 page section in the book that i skimmed in 20min while listening. and one girl raised her had to ask how you could say that nazi death camps were worse than interning japanese. another guy asked how can their be objective truth if we might all be hallucinating? (ummm, then the objective truth is we are all hallucinating. duh. any question of the form "What's the objective truth of the matter if X?" is easily answered by "X, duh")

and apparently some time after i stopped listening (had manga), the teacher endorsed individual relativism (the topic had been cultural relativism, which she did not endorse. presumably b/c it meant she couldn't criticise israel)

the entire piece on cultural relativism in the book was basically 1) explains what it is 2) explains some reason you might be uncomfortable adopting it. nothing on truth or falsity. also seemed to endorse a quotation saying everyone thinks their own society is the best (which is obviously false. immigrants. and ummm anti-American protestors in america too)

also the teacher said if anything was a moral imperative, it was saving a baby on the street drowning in a puddle. she gave no reason why. just thought it was obvious.

she also asked some questions that revealed her view of taxes was something like: what's the best way to redistribute wealth?

for a decent argument against cultural relativism, try:

People immigrate. And not randomly. There are some countries that many people think are great, and wish to move to. While others have almost no immigrants. How can a cultural relativist explain this? (Answer: His theory can't account for this very well, thus making it a bad explanation of reality.)

A friend suggests cultural relativists might say people go to get jobs.

That one's easy. It implies jobs are better than no jobs. Thus cultures that create enough jobs are better than ones that don't.

My friend says they will say jobs are not better. Umm, yeah. But then why do people want them more than no jobs? I suppose it must be because people like money. But wait, wouldn't that make cultures that create more money better? etc etc cultural relativists are dumb.

anyway, after that i bought a book on munchkin gaming. it's amusing ^^ one good joke is:

player: alright, i wanna cast a fireball on the orcs
DM: you're mixed in with the orcs. it'll hit you too.
player: that's ok, i have an amulet of fire resistance.
DM: it will still kill the other players
player: ohhh ... so do I get experience for them?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

skool is evil

there's something else i forgot to mention. it's so normal it just doesn't stand out in memory very well.

20 minutes into class. the teacher has said about 5 sentences of content. she's written each one on the chalkboard. I look around. Everyone was taking notes. Everyone. (2 ppl or so i couldn't tell. has to be over 9/10 though)

the teacher writes worthless crap on the board. they copy it down. copy. maybe a few weren't copying, but the general note taking strategy is to copy everything. not understand it, and jot down a couple memory-triggers. not put the arguments in ur own words (ie, as u understand them). not figure out which parts are important and just write those. but just plain copy down everything.

it's horrid

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

bush died; i lied

on the one hand, Bush gets accused of doing nothing before 9/11.

on the other, he gets accused of planning from the very beginning to change foreign policy and/or invade iraq and/or support preemption.

ho hum.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

I Don't Feel Like Waiting Until Monday

Jack is very late for first date with Jill. Bob runs into Jill. They chat a little, then Jack shows up. Bob says something nasty to Jack about being late so that Jill will defend Jack. Jill does defend Jack, and they are both mad at Bob, but go on their date and quickly forget about him.

Two points:

1) if Bob did this intentionally to deflect Jill's anger so the date would be more fun, it's entirely different from if Bob is just a jackass who's mean to everyone in sight, even though it's the exact same physical action.

2) Bob does something apparently nasty, and must pretend to mean it for it to work (until the next day, when he could explain if they are still mad at him), but it seems to me a good thing to do.

BTW this situation is from the anime Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) which I quite like.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


If you're worried that attraction for reasons we create is arbitrary and therefore meaningless:

We created the rules of chess. And of all sports and games. But they are not a waste of time, nor meaningless.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Den Beste Criticism


Please don't waste your time trying to talk me out of my atheism. You won't do it. Believe me, I've heard all the arguments before.

I've always felt that it was rude and presumptuous for someone to try to convert someone else who has strong convictions unless they ask for help and guidance. (And I definitely do not want any.)

ummm, lessee. he says his atheism is immune to criticsm. he claims to know all arguments that exist against atheism.

is it presumptuous to criticise someone with strong convictions? more like the reverse. it's presumptuous to think you're so perfect that no one has any useful criticism of you.

I do understand that he gets lots of mail and it makes sense to try and get less mail on a subject where the mail tends to be really bad. But why doesn't he write, "If I don't know you, please don't send me email about atheism. I won't read it because I'm busy with other stuff."? Instead he goes off saying all sorts of crap and never even mentions this. In fact, this defense of his position may not be true. Maybe he skims all his email and doesn't mind the time -- enjoys doing it. We don't know.

Den Beste asks If I suffer amnesia, did I die?

This is a question of the form: if word 1, then does that mean word 2?

This is semantics.

I can divine what issues he's confused about from this question. But from almost everyone he'd get much better quality responses if he managed not to ask about semantics. Because a respondent needs to be |337 (elite) enough to totally ignore his explicit question (and probably explain why when Den Beste tries to insist on discussing semantics).

The issue he's actually interested in is what is important about a person. The answer is his worldview. Amnesia thus destroys the person if it's permanent. If it's potentially temporary, then the information is still there, and we could say the worldview is in stasis or something like that.

Notice i didn't mention death. Because death is strongly associated with bodies. It'd be standard to say someone who had amnesia did not die. What happened to him? Amnesia, which is equivalent to destruction of what's important about him, but not his body. Notice how this paragraph is really boring and pretty damn useless WRT his question. That's b/c it talks about semantics.

PS I criticise Den Beste in particular not because it's the dumbest thing I ran into lately. Rather, because his blog is one of the best. So the ideas ought to be more interesting to people with |337 worldviews than if I pointed out, again, why headlines like "Israel Puts An Explosive Stop To Peace By Blowing People Up" are wicked. You can always go read LGF anyway.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)


this is a draft i wrote a few hours ago. if i were to write it again, i'd change lots of stuff. i consider it flawed. however, i think most of the improvements i'd make wouldn't really make the ideas much more interesting. i'll get more right next time. *shrug*

Christians generally don't argue very well explicitly. From all their "scientific" evidence against evolution, to resorting to defending the existence of God by appeal to faith. From thinking that beatings can teach people, and often thus not being interested in coming up with arguments to use on that set of people who should be beaten, to appealing to the authority of priests, God, or holy books. From "you can't prove God doesn't exist" to "we hold these truths *self-evident*". (If you think any of these are done by, say, less than 20% of US Christians, lemme know.)

However, despite all this, these people have a lot of good, true ideas to offer, especially with regard to morality. The Christian tradition has 2,000 years of monotheism ("One God from Whom comes morality" they might say. But the key is they believe there exists is only one morality for all people.)

Now, combine good, valuable ideas with bad arguing. Who learns these ideas from them? Only people who want to. And it's not a matter of just deciding you'd like to know what they do, and reading a few books. The only known way to reliably learn these things is to identify with the tradition, and to honestly enjoy it. And then, one day, after sufficient interaction, most of their claims that they treat as manifest truth, will *feel* true to you, even though they were never *argued* persuasively to you.

Anyone who did this, who really cared about the Christian tradition, would not want to identify themselves as an atheist. (This is why it's hard to find many people who call themselves atheists in the US.) People who do call themselves atheists either oppose the Christian tradition (learned and then rejected the stuff), or are ignorant of it.

And that's why atheists are frowned on so much. Wicked or ignorant, take your pick.

You can read Samizdata and USS Clueless until your eyes fall out, but the moral content won't be there. Do they *ever* assert that we are the good guys, or that certain people are the bad guys? Nah, that's simplisme. On the other hand, if you read IMAO or Scrappleface or The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, you will find moral claims (albeit unargued) all over the place. And for members of the tradition, who understand why these claims are considered true, that the arguments aren't repeated everytime simply doesn't matter.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (7)

Food For Thought

Take two IMAO fans. They are right-wing, hate commies, etc

One is a former socialist, the other was raised right-wing. Who understands socialism better? Probably the former socialist. He's also more likly to have commie sympathies, but that's another issue.

The point is being a former-X generally means having a pretty good understanding of X. Because actually being X usually means understanding it well.

Now, imagine someone who was a former everything. Every important tradition, he's either a former or current member.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)


this is amusing. It states you must be 18 to use their service, and also states they do not discriminate on the basis of age.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Information, Alcohol, Genes

Alcohol cannot have complex effects on human personalities. Just the same as banging your head. Why? Well, the alcohol we drink is one fairly simple molecule. It doesn't have information about human personalities, and thus couldn't target parts of one. And it's not evolved in that regard (no selection pressure).

But couldn't it just happen to be the right thing to have one specific effect?

Well, first off, now you're explaining things by "maybe the world just happens, by luck, to be just the way I thought it was."

And secondly, if it only takes something as simple as alcohol (the molecule isn't many thousands of atoms, just a few) to make people more liable to cheat on their girlfriends, then why haven't we yet designed a chemical to make people act more chaste?

Thirdly, people are very different, and store information in their brains differently. They vary so much as to confuse scientists, so what are the chances a plant happened to grow in a way to work on everyone (including past people, even).


Genes also lack the information to complexly effect one's personality.

Genes also never got a chance to evolve this ability, because once people had personalities and there were selection pressures on them, memes, which evolve much faster, would always do it first thus removing the selection pressure.

And again, it would be quite a huge feat of luck for some gene to just happen to have the right qualities to effect the personalities of many different people.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (27)

bloody money-obsessed, value-less left

ok so disney wouldn't distribute moore's movie. said it was un-patriotic. didn't want it.

now it makes money. the lefty news seems to think disney is now mad about missing out on the cash. *ahem*

but it gets worse. they allege the movie is being censored (via an R rating) by angry disney stock owners. who, they implied, were mad for financial reasons.

in other words, the LEFT is so hell-bent on looking at things through the lens of money, that when people do something on principle, they can't see it. and say incoherent things (getting the unfair rating would have had to happen b4 the film made any money.... makes much more sense they censored it b/c they don't like it) when they explanation the right did something bad on principle works so much better (still bad, but much better).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


insurance is the exact opposite of gambling, and vice versa

most people think the primary thing about gambling is that overall the casino takes a little of your money. this is true, but not primary.

insurance companies also take a little of your money. but that's ok. insurance is great anyway. most services charge you, so we can't judge gambling that simply.

what insurance does is take a little money from you most of the time (in most universes), but give you a bunch now and then (in a few universes) when (where) you need it most b/c disaster struck. this is great, because it allows you to have a higher minimum quality of life, which is worth the fee, and worth somewhat lowering your max quality of life.

gambling, on the other hand, takes money from you most of the time (in most universes), and gives a large pay out rarely (in a few universes). the basic effect is to make most of your life worse (most universes), but create a few spikes of huge wealth (in a few universes). this is the exact opposite effect that insurance had. this raises the maximum qualify of life you may experience, but at a cost to the minimum.

BTW this mostly applies to gambling that's either high-stakes that you only do a couple times, or to stuff with a very low chance of payout (lottery, maybe slots too, not sure). if you were placing lots of small bets at 49% odds, the effect of gambling would be very minimal, as your luck would almost always average out even within a single gambling session. (so all you'd really be doing is paying the fee to not do much of anything)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (13)

damn clueless everyone

I previously wrote: lefties think the reason that capitalism creates wealth is that people are inherently greedy (which is why in socialism (aka 100% taxes) people wouldn't all want to do their share). this is how they get the idea that socialism is the right idea, but we need a little bit of capitalism to better make stuff. (ie, to better harness people's greed)

To add to that, it's no wonder many lefties think this when right-wingers still think it too!

A friend told me this realisation, that many pro-capitalism folks concede socialism's moral case, and argue on pragmatic grounds, is why Ayn Rand became a writer (to make said moral case for capitalism). Kinda makes me wanna read her.

Under socialism, aka a Command Economy, people don't control what they make. Rather, it's taken from them, and given to a few leaders for redistribution. Everyone is then given wealth as the leaders deem fit. The moral case against this goes something like: MY FUCKING GOD, WHO WOULD WANT TO GIVE ALL HIS STUFF AWAY AND LET SOMEONE ELSE RULE HIS LIFE?

Under capitalism, aka Let It Be economics, when you make something, you own it, to do with as you see fit. Whatever you create is yours, whatever someone else creates is not yours. Thus everyone is respected as individuals competent to make their own decisions with their stuff. There are no rulers. The moral case for this goes something like: D00D, YOU GET TO BE FREE!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

more wonders of capitalism

taco bell has a sign on the wall saying if ur unhappy about ur service, or don't love the food, you can have a refund or replacement, your call.

borders let someone return a book with no receipt two years after purchase.

why does this not happen w/ a command economy? under capitalism, making customers happy helps win business from competitors. under a command economy, there are no competitors, so there's no reason to do it. and also, it's wealth redistribution (those who ask for more, get more) by some method other than the commander's Grand Plan, so philosophically an anathema to socialists.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


the "trust" destroyed by lying is expectation of *loyalty*. see The World's posts on that subject...

(alternatively, if the lying was immoral, it can also just be the person noticing you're acting badly, as with anything else immoral you might do)

thus "don't lie, it destroys trust" is lame

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (13)

capitalism rocks

curi42 (5:49:08 PM): this scooter (4 old ppl) store was offering to help u w/ medicare claim and give it 2u free if medicare claim denied
curi42 (5:49:13 PM): v cool
curi42 (5:50:25 PM): good example of humanity of capitalism b/c medicare claim denied is like the central planners saying u don't need that.
curi42 (5:51:18 PM): these ppl who here get free scooters would b screwed under socialism
curi42 (5:58:32 PM): Actually, that's an underestimate of whose who would be screwed.
curi42 (5:59:02 PM): b/c store files claims better than individuals.
curi42 (6:02:03 PM): A critic might say that medicare is itself a socialist institution so it's only socialism that makes this good thing happen in the first place.
curi42 (6:03:36 PM): but the store policy of free scooters would work equally well w/ free market "medicare". some kinda comprensive health/aging insurance plan or whatever

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

why TCS is needed

curi42 (7:55:19 PM): Mom and Dad were a unit, and if we tried to manipulate either of them, we got punished. The punishments were always just—I reluctantly had to admit that they were fair—but they were always severe enough to be a deterrent. Pavlov would be very, very proud, I thought with a laugh.
curi42 (7:55:29 PM): sigh
curi42 (7:57:33 PM): and we know its mainstream b/c the story is about sex not parenting and popular authors avoid putting in weird controversial stuff for little reason. this is supposed to, and does, make the family more realistic and detailed
curi42 (7:57:55 PM): in a way most ppl can relate to

link to story (Warning: May not be appropriate for illiterate adults and penguins.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Whoever You Wanna Be

Online, you are what you type. This gives you *explicit* control over every nuance of how you come across. This doesn't mean you'll know what to do with this control and how to come across anyway you like, but you can learn.

IRL, if you focus on what to say, and talk, you will be giving off all sorts of body language and not even know what you've communicated! (And even if you were very still, that would communicate something itself.)

This matters because WRT this issue, you're freer online. There are much lower costs to making choices about how you'd like to come off and changing to do it.

Some may say this allows thieves to be dishonest easier. Yup. Same people like gun control, because thieves can use guns, and crowbar control too. But the truth is tools and freedom help people, and yes helped people, who are better able to live their lives, are better able to do bad, but they are also better able to do good, and in all free societies today, far more people do good than evil.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

MEMRI is great

curi42 (3:05:19 PM): "Why do they absolve the enemies from being responsible for the backwardness of the Arab world?"
curi42 (3:05:33 PM): izzit just me, or did he concede being backward?
curi42 (3:10:16 PM):
curi42 (3:10:39 PM): it's interesting how the bad guys seem to have more moral clarity and know who's who better tahn the idiotarians
curi42 (3:11:57 PM): if US democrats saw the conflict the way this guy does, they'd flock to our side!
curi42 (3:14:43 PM): he says that neo-liberal Arabs don't know the word "principles". he thinks the world as they want it is drab and grey. :-/
curi42 (3:15:25 PM): "As a matter of fact, some of the neo-lib Arab writers may be found to the right of Sharon, Mofaz, and Netanyahu in their hatred and disdain to Islam and Arabism."
curi42 (3:15:35 PM): thus proving we are too nice

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


In World War II, an average of 25,000 bullets were fired for each soldier killed. By Vietnam, that number had climbed to 200,000. Yet, on average, trained snipers expend only 1.3 bullets per kill. It's no wonder they are called the "most hated men on the battlefield.


25,000 made me go wow. but 200k!!

no wonder Iraq had such huge weapon's dumps.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

unfair medals

so in some events, like soccer, when its down to four teams or ppl, say a b c and d, it can to like this:

a beats b
c beats d
then in finals a beats c
and in bronze match, b beats d
c gets silver, b gets bronze

but look, c and b did not play each other, and had identical records, beating d and losing to a. so why should c get a higher medal? hasn't anyone noticed this?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (6)

Game Design

I like game design quite a lot. I'm going to present one of the major problems in the field. Perhaps one of you will have a suggestion. Even if not it's still interesting.

The best computer game is Warcraft 3, so this will be my example game. It comes with a World Editor program so anyone can create their own maps.

To create a warcraft map of the RPG variety, you using the following main elements: place heroes, monsters, terrain, treasure. Create spells, quests, traps, and possibly a little AI to help the monsters use spells or fight smarter. You can also put in a city with shops and people to talk to.

Most warcraft RPGs I play are way too easy if I play with friends (multiplayer, cooperative). But, surprisingly, playing with random people we usually lose badly. The skill gap between random people and experts is huge, and directly effects survival rate.

So if I make a map of fun difficulty for me, most people will never get anywhere in it. But if it's going to be too easy for me, that's no fun and I won't make it at all.

One solution is difficulty levels. However, those involve either creating separate versions of each fight for each difficulty, or using some general function. The first plan is tons of work. The second has limited use. The simplest way, in warcraft, to set the difficulty at a stroke is to alter the amount of life the badguys have by some factor. However, this has unintended consequences, such as making spells that deal damage very good on low difficulties and bad on high ones.

My current map is too hard for unorganised (bad) players even on easy difficulty, but I can't lower life more because the badguys already die en masse to spells as they have so little life. The issue is that the monsters are threatening, and if they die fast, even really fast, idiots or novices can still die first. The fix would be making the monsters unthreatening...

It just occurred to me to try giving the heroes more life on easy mode. This may help.

BTW the reason I call these people idiots is if they just did the following they'd survive way way more:

- heal between fights
- buy replacement healing potions
- start fights together with everyone ready
- cast some spells like Ice Armor before combat
- run away if losing
- back up if all the monsters are targeting you

Designing difficulties for people who don't get any of those is really tricky...

Anyhow the real balance issue is to make maps interesting they should require some strategy to win. But then people bad at strategy lose. Most players have terrible strategy. And in a four player map, just one bad player can ruin it. So, what do ya do?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (5)

People Suck

A Conversation

curi: I think the notion that taking away freedom from people helps them by making it harder for them to make mistakes is absurd. Even if it did prevent mistakes, it wouldn't be help.

crowd: hmmm

curi: Imagine not being allowed to use computers to help you avoid breaking a computer!

crowd: Yeah!

Lone Voice from crowd: Hey, don't we help children like that?

curi: No!

crowd: Hey, he's right. Yes we do.

curi: I mean we shouldn't do that.

crowd: What!?

Lone Voice: You don't think children should have any rules or boundaries? You're nuts!

curi: I don't think we should make our children unfree.

crowd (not listening to fine points): Lynch him!!!

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Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


Cartels (right word?) are illegal. They are when all the companies in an industry band together and stop competing, thus acting like a monopoly. The problem is they could raise prices and there would be no competition.

Compare this to unions, where all the workers in an industry band together to threaten companies. Why do unions work? Because they have a monopoly on the workforce -- if companies don't like the demands, too bad, there is no competition.

But unions aren't illegal like cartels. In fact, the left even worships them. I guess because the left hates business so much.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I saw a TV program crediting improved working conditions since the industrial revolution to advocates. sheesh! if the change was just advocates being listened to, then what would happen is a higher percent of budget would go to safety, and less wealth would be created. but we're hella rich today! why? because the overwhelming change was not from advocates, it was from everyone being richer and from better technology. working conditions were poor because we were poor, and there was a high demand for jobs, even bad ones. these people chose to work, and chose to send their kids to work for an extra dime. all the companies did was offer jobs people wanted.

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Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

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a similarity btwn Bush and Hitler

over the course of history, a number of ppl have stood out, and most haven't. most of these key figures helped shape the world as we know it, or at least one country. some were good people; some were mass murderers.

one thing we can say about almost all of them is that their place in history was no accident and was not random. it came from their values, and some sort of skill at something. some skill or set of values shared w/ very few ppl.

even a thug like saddam was *skilled*. and not just at beating and intimidating people. i was reading an interview of him by dan rather in Misunderestimated, and he's actually good at twisting questions too.

anyhow i conjecture that almost all major historical figures were, at least in a few ways, significantly better than avg person of the times. or another way: commoners, by and large, were common.

PS secret police based governments by a minority over a majority only last w/ the consent of the "victims"

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

pop cult

Q) give two problems with the global spread of popular culture

A) one problem is how to spread it faster, and another is how to spread it to resistant populations like Muslims.

academic A) one is it destroys the environment, and another is it forcibly suppresses local snail cooking traditions.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)


I just want to point out schools should use median grades, not mean grades. For example the grades A A A- B C have a median of A-, but a mean of B+. A B+ for getting mostly As is stupid. Or A A A A- A- C C F F can average to a C!! Fs count too much with mean grading.

On the other hand, mean grading is good at forcing children to learn what they hate most.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)


Propaganda is everywhere.


Mostly, we talked about school. Kendall enjoyed her classes, and for the first time, she was being challenged by her professors. Gina and I talked about our classes as well, but the difference between college and high school made our courses seem tame.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Liberals Bad!

Here's my entry in Frank's contest:

Ever try to live a good, American life and find things getting in your way? Those things are called "liberals", and they are the enemy! With this shirt you can educate people on the liberal menace: how they try to ruin our lives, recycle our trash, and stop us from killing terrorists. The shirt comes with the following defenses against liberals, which will send them running to the nearest herbal remedy shop: deodorant, reasoned arguments, and a baseball bat. (Note: deodorant and bat not included). Now buy the shirt like a good capitalist!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

liberal icons

so i was reading about MLK and ghandi today. i have the following questions:

can anyone find something persuasive that MLK would have had the same views if he was white? in other words, that he wasn't just yet another guy who wants stuff for his own group.

can anyone find a decent reason for Indian independence from Britain? i've found various damning reasons, but I'm open to there being one with merit.

can you find an argument that any of the following are false?

-MLK wanted money for poor people, and blamed black poverty on whites

- MLK advocated the ideology of victimhood

- ghandi didn't like new technology

- black people are no longer "oppressed" but are still poor. thus proving it's their own damn culture that makes them fail to create wealth that makes them poor.

- Britain's interactions with India were overwhelmingly good for India.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (24)

back, mebbe

And since he had listened to me prattle on about something I was interested in, I listened and tried to nod at the right times. -- stupid normal people, chronically self-sacrificing :-/

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Gina did some things that frustrated me beyond words -- true love

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

I want a relationship without “buts,” I thought with a sigh. Do those really exist? -- what, a slave?

btw currently reading (it's the source of these quotes)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“Might I recommend Crouch Florist?” he suggested.

“That would be fine,” I said. Crouch was the same florist where I’d bought flowers before, and I mentally chided myself for not remembering it.


umm, why should Paul remember?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“Paul,” Kendall protested as soon as the clerk headed to the back, “I don’t need flowers.”

“But I want to get them for you.”

“Can you afford it?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said confidently.

With that, her face softened and she smiled at me. Blinking back tears, she kissed me. “You’re so wonderful,” she whispered.

“Thank you,” I said, my chest swelling with pride.

When the clerk returned with the two bouquets and told me the price, however, I almost choked. They were beautiful flowers, but Kendall had been right, they were expensive.

Kendall and Susan are worth it, I silently convinced myself.


she thinks he's wonderful for ignoring her and doing something she thinks is wrong? how are the girls "worth it" when he doesn't have to buy the flowers to continue his relationships?

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I didn’t like that about myself, and resolved to change it. -- why I like Paul. to him, morality isn't some weird, scary, philosophical notion.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“Okay,” Susan conceded, “I’m a wealthy middle-aged woman.”

“How about, ‘you’re a wealthy beautiful woman’?” I suggested without the slightest grin.

“Doesn’t he say the nicest things?” Susan asked Kendall.

Kendall hugged my arm and nodded.


beauty beauty beauty. ppl say "it's what's on the inside that counts" but most of them don't seem to believe it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“It’s double-breasted,” she explained. “Your mom said you like that style. She told me your measurements, and one of the salesmen helped me pick it out. I hope it fits.”

-- about a gift for paul, a suit. the whole idea of non-money gifts seems silly 2me tho; i can pick something out for me better than sum1 else can. here it's obvious: the suit was bought w/out even being tried on. it could have fit poorly. such behavior is inefficient.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

“Mmm hmm. We have plans for you. Nefarious plans.”

“Nefarious, huh?”

Kendall nodded.

“See?” Susan asked, indicating Kendall. “My partner in crime agrees.”


plans = sex. so my question: isn't it fucked up that they call sex a crime? yeah they aren't serious, but how is that amusing? seems perverse.

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“You need to eat something,” Kendall whispered, leaning close. “You look fine, so quit starving yourself.”

“Yes, mother,” I said sarcastically.

-- mother = nasty insult. why? b/c ppl hate parents. b/c parents r mean.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

“You are too,” I said. “I can’t imagine two more beautiful women.”

“Maybe he will get lucky after all,” Susan said quietly.

--- formula: say she's pretty, get sex. who's to blame for this stupid way to live? both men and women. which reminds me: most things feminists complain about, are caused by women as much as men.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

At that point, I had a mischievous idea.

“What’re you doing?” Kendall asked with a giggle.

“I’m taking off your dress,” I said as I lowered the zipper.

“Not here, Paul,” she said.

“Yes here.” In the mirror, Susan and I exchanged glances.

She raised her eyebrows but then smiled in agreement.

“Take off your dress,” I urged Kendall. “C’mon, I wanna see your body.”

“You will,” she said, holding up the bodice of her dress. “Soon.”

“I want to see you now.”

“But we’re in the hallway,” she said, tipsy, but not drunk enough that she automatically followed my lead.

“I want to walk to Susan’s room with you naked,” I said.

“But her room’s at the end of the hall,” Kendall protested. “What if someone comes out of their room?”

“It’s almost midnight,” I said. “No one’s gonna be in the hall.”

With a little more convincing, Kendall finally let me take off her dress.


HOW MANY TIMES DOES SHE HAVE TO SAY NO? do you know what other interaction follows this pattern? rape!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

“I’m going to make you go down on Susan, while I fuck you from behind. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” -- make!? wtf. dom/sub is screwed up.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

“I know,” she breathed. Then she started nibbling my earlobe.

I gasped in ecstasy, assaulted from two directions at once.

--- is it just me, or do earlobes have very few nerve endings? making this kinda odd.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

It’s pressure from Gina and Kendall, to spend more time with them, to give a part of yourself and to share a part of them in return. -- ur supposed to give up part of urself to have a gf? ugh. relationships and getting what you want for yourself without giving stuff up are compatible!

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“She’s more… mature,” Susan said quietly. “She thinks about things instead of simply reacting. Gina’s impulsive. And with the pressure she’s under—the same pressure you’re all under—she might not make the best decisions.”

--- uhhh. everyone thinks. it's physically impossible to "simply react". ur brain processes inputs, figures out answer. sometimes it's fast, but you always think, and part of that thought process is: you decide how long to take for a given choice. so not only does gina think about what to do, she chooses to choose quickly. this is not being "immature" it's being immoral (she does it recklessly, making many mistakes). and she doesn't do this b/c she's under pressure. sure, that doesn't help, but she is responsible.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“Do Gina and Kendall have that same kind of relationship?” Susan asked.

“I guess.”

“Do they really?”

“Maybe not,” I reluctantly admitted.


wtf is with ppl who just answer wrong when you ask, and you have to be like "d00d, take this seriously" or they won't. don't they care what their life is like? why don't they take it seriously all the time?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“It’s difficult to have a committed relationship with two people. At some point, only one of them can be the most important person in your life. ‘Most important’ is one of those dreaded superlatives—two people can’t both be ‘most.’

-- this argument is idiotic. caring about two different people (yourself, someone else) doesn't imply people not getting what they want, doom, conflict, etc. nor does it with caring about two other ppl, three others, etc it's harder with more, but not impossible. the arg about who is most presupposes there must be a conflict where whoever is "most" wins. that's not true.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“How were your classes this morning?” I asked, hoping to steer the conversation to a more comfortable—and innocuous—subject.

ahhhhh. that subject sucks. i remember ppl would ask about it so much. gah, classes suck, teachers are evil, LETS TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE. something not so parochial.

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“The grading for this project will be different,” Joska continued. “The technical quality of your drawings themselves will be fifty percent of your grade. Your peer critiques will be an additional ten percent. The remaining forty percent of your grade will consist entirely of bonus points, based on your artistic execution and attention to detail.”

---- on turn the project in day, he announces 40% of the grade is gonna be pulled out of his ass. this is not exactly rare though. bleh


“You are in competition with each of your teammates for bonus points: first place, second place, and so on,” Joska said. “First place will receive the full forty points. Second place will receive twenty points. Third place will receive ten points, and fourth place will receive no bonus points. Hopefully, most of you can do simple math, and you’ve realized that if your drawing comes in fourth, your chance for a passing grade rests entirely on the quality of your drawings and critiques.”


and then it gets much, much worse. 2nd place in the class could be getting a 2 letter grade drop now, and 3rd in the class 3, and 4th in the class 4 letter grades. that's NUTS.


“For those of you lucky enough to be on a team with only three members,” Joska continued, “you already know who came in last: they’re no longer with us.


for randomly selected people, you automatically get a higher grade. some may call this "grade falsification", but if any of you do, I'll murder you.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Where Gina made an effort to dress up, use makeup, and look nice, Faith didn’t wear makeup at all, and her clothes were usually prudish (she dressed like an eighteen-year-old Nancy Reagan). She was pretty, and she had a nice body, but she didn’t do anything to make herself look more attractive.

---- lovely, Paul thinks ill of girls who don't put on makeup to better be stared at for his pleasure.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

I didn’t like how Kendall was treating Gina—they were supposed to be friends. And I knew I’d have to confront Kendall about it, but I really didn’t want to. What had Susan said? Maintaining a relationship is work.

---- supposed to be friends? no, paul wants them to be, cause convenient for him. if kendall doesn't like gina, that's her buisness.

relationship should not be work. argh. should be u do stuff u want to, u both gain, yayness, etc instead ppl try to live out these romantic stereotypes, and the stereotypes include all sorts of crap no1 wants to do or likes, so relationships include all that crap, and become work.


I had two relationships, so I had twice the work. Sometimes, the thought of letting it all slip away was blissfully appealing.


noooooooo. don't do it paul. u gotta be VERY careful throwing things out. baby and bathwater understates it. a couple specs of golddust (with value of gold bricks) in the muddy bathwater is more like it.

also no revolutionary changes. gradual. tho i suppose romantic relationships not really compatible w/ the gradual approach (the memes disallow it).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

I feel like getting drunk. It’s not gonna solve our problems, but at least we don’t have to deal with them for a night. Are you up for it?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely,” I said.

--- lovely, abso-fucking-lutely lovely. this is an annoying flaw in our culture.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

We were both so drunk that our conversation had devolved into bad jokes and worse observations about life in general. I suppose we both thought we were being witty and profound, but we were probably just being idiots.

--- calling that "being idiots" shows now-paul (the storyteller) does not identify with his former, drunk self. at the time he liked the convo. it was a perfectly good convo. he's just forgotten he liked it, or doesn't care that *former* he liked it, b/c now-he doesn't like it.

this concept is important b/c most adults don't identify with their former child selves anylonger. most also think they do.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

well, lame. no more summer camp to read. now i gotta wait for next chapter, bleh

so anyhow, if there's so much (*points at posts*) to see in a couple chapters of a porn story, imagine how much is in something better, if you just know how to look.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Language Preferences

Google results for:

"I like girls" - 26,500
"I like men"   - 21,200
"I like women" - 13,500
"I like boys"  -  6,900

I believe this is revealing.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

curi42 (4:07:46 PM):
Tell me you love me
Tell me that you're mine again
Tell me you won't turn away
curi42 (4:07:53 PM): it's scary these are approximately synonymous

also scary how common such *possessive* sentiments are

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

interesting parallel

"I am wrong" is no better a contribution to an argument/discussion than "I am right" is. "I concede" is no better than "I win".

if the arguments are on the table, either everyone already knows you won/lost/whatever, or they disagree about the result, in which case telling them what it is would be dumb.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)


theory: the way normal conversations *don't* die abruptly, reveals something bad about them. it proves they include mechanisms to continue talking even when no one has anything to say! this can go on so much people have to make excuses/leave to end them.


conversation similar to relationship. once ppl decide there is one, they all of a sudden start acting differently. and there are special rules to end one.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)



In July, the U.N. General Assembly declared Israel's defensive fence illegal by a vote of 150 to 6. In defending Israel, America stood almost alone.

there are more than 6 countries in the West. by a bunch. therefore the West is anti-semitic.

and the rest of the world is much worse.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)


this post first got me interested in ARR.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

I Oppose Gay Marriage... the sense that any Church which doesn't want to marry gays shouldn't have to. And in the sense that anyone who wants to mean a union between a man and a women when he says "marriage" should be allowed to speak this way. And should never be made to use an alternative definition for marriage he finds distasteful.

On the other hand, anyone who likes should be able to speak using words differently.

Government should take no position on the issue of what the word "marriage" means, and should fix the tax code and other laws to deal with "legal unions" or "government unions" or something like that, which gays should be allowed to have.

You may think this post actually constitutes an endorsement of gay marriage. I disagree. Because when I read pro-gay-marriage arguments, I find them bad. For example,

It seems to me that if the straight community cannot show a compelling reason to deny the institution of marriage to gay people, it shouldn't be denied.

First this is a fallacy - argument from ignorance.

But more to the point: gay and straight are *different*. As long as many people think the differences are important, there really should be two words. You can't argue "gay marriage" and "marriage" are the same without a term for gay marriage, it'd just be "marriage" and "marriage" are the same. Pretending there is no difference and obfuscating with language won't solve anything.

BTW, it shouldn't be called "gay marriage" b/c that term has baggage. Something new and more neutral should be invented. Like "oathbound" would work. I doubt many people would object to gays becoming oathbound anymore than they object to gays who act married without saying it.


currently, the laws do refer to "marriage", so what is to be done? well, i believe it really doesn't matter much. either way you write the law about marriage you wrong someone. i have no particular position about who should be wronged except to disagree with this one: "obviously the religious bigots should be the ones screwed over". also people who think the answer is "the other people should be screwed", such as Andrew Sullivan, can go to hell.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


You meet a guy/girl:
A) want to have sex
B) want to solve relationship theory

You meet a rich person:
A) ask him for money
B) ask him the story of how he got rich

You meet a poor person:
A) give him a quarter
B) ask him the story of how he got poor
C) laugh at his incompetence

You meet a philosopher:
A) ask him what's true
B) tell him what he got wrong

You see a teenager:
A) cross to the other side of the street
B) wish you were younger

You see a politician:
A) tell him the government isn't helping you enough
B) tell him the government is helping you too much

You begin conversations:
A) Hi. How are you? How's the weather over there?
B) Do you understand why people like Pokemon?
C) Die infidel!

You see a psychologist:
A) Diagnose me, doc.
B) Diagnose him with a need to control people.
C) Offer him some marbles

You see a tree:
A) Make a mental note in case you never see another.
B) Exploit it for shade without even paying minimum wage.
C) It's blocking your view. Cut it down.

You see Team America: World Police:
A) That was crude
B) That was funny
C) That was persuasive

Scoring: 1 point for every B. There are 10 questions.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Before I could say anything else, Professor Joska walked into the room and we all grew quiet. Then I mentally chuckled at how well trained we were. I still didn’t like the man, but he did know how to handle a class of freshman architecture students. -- argh

PS chap 12 out. the start shows how *not* to act. stupid, nasty paul.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“Midterm exams,” he said solemnly. “Two words guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any student.”

I glanced at Trip and rolled my eyes at Joska’s melodrama.

“I see that some of you are panicked,” Joska continued. “And rightfully so. But some of you seem to enjoy a sanguine self-confidence that scares me, frankly,” he said.

With a start, I realized that he was looking at me.

“Make no mistake,” he said, still looking at me, “some of you will not pass this exam.”


argh. scaring and panicing ppl, esp children = bad, why is it normal, accepted? why is teacher allowed to pick individual students to intimidate?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

From Summercamp erotica:

Moist heat washed over my cock as I slid it along her smooth pussy. She tried to get me to stop, but I ignored her pleas.

omg, ewwww

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

“And maybe you can pretend you’re a fashion photographer, and I’m your model.”

I nodded for her to continue.

“You can tell me that if I don’t take off my clothes, I’ll never become a famous model.”

“That sounds like fun,” I said.

“And once you force me to strip for you, you can make me… do things.”

-- meh

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

“Still, I guess I don’t want them to know when we’re having sex.”

“Why not?” I asked, lathering her shoulders and back.

“I don’t know. It just seems… dirty.”

“I thought you liked it dirty,” I teased, grinding my dick against her ass for effect.

“You know what I mean,” she said.



i don't know what she means. i don't think anyone does. i don't think she means something very coherent. so why does Paul pretend to understand, when she's just saying vague, blurry things? people should ask when they don't know, and keep at it until it actually makes sense to them.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

I don’t think it’ll hurt if Vivian and Phoebe know we’re having sex. You’re not a nun. You’re a woman. And you have needs.”

-- sex is a need?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Oddly, that made me feel good. If she hadn’t figured me out yet, she’d keep trying. And that meant I’d get to spend more time with her.

-- ugh. people aren't like a jigsaw puzzle that boring once you're done. when you understand someone well, you just see more subtle things to be interested in.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

tax cuts

why are tax cuts good for the economy? the common wisdom says b/c they leave people with more money, so small businesses can hire more workers, and consumers and buy more.

however, when the government taxes money, it doesn't disappear. the difference is the government spends it. it still gets spent.

therefore, government must be spending the money in a way that is less good for the economy than the way avg ppl do.

which, of course, government does. what small business would give away money to artists or poor people? businesses use money productively or go out of business. government doesn't.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

How To Live

When it's winter, I enjoy the cold.

When it's sunny, I enjoy the warmth.

I am not inconsistent. I am moral.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


curi42 (3:34:41 PM): .. -- ?

It made perfect sense in context. Communication is neat.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
curi42 (10:16:08 AM): bush rocked
curi42 (10:16:15 AM): and they were talking about speech writing process
curi42 (10:16:35 AM): and how he is very involved, and layed out outline of what he wanted to say himself, and how they could see various sentences were his additions
curi42 (10:17:00 AM): it amazes me that that is *public* and yet all the theories about Bush is dumb and can't write his own speeches.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)
Read this list of common statements by parents: link

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

There Are No Shortcuts To Knowledge

At breakup, people realise, "he never knew me at all". Why were they fooled before? It's because he was running functions like this:

define-action "care": (lookup-and-say: "conventional-way-to-care")

instead of like this:

define-action "care": (lookup-and-say: "what-partner-cares-about")

So as long as the couple is roughly conventional, things seem to work. They seem to have instant knowledge of each other. But they don't actually have knowledge of each other, and that is revealed when they get into more subtle parts of their personalities and find differences from both convention and each other.

The second function will respond to the partner changing. The first will not and is thus deeply impersonal.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Islamic Insanity

In Iran, a girl was sentenced to death by hanging for defending herself against rapists. If she hadn't defended herself, she would be stoned as an adulterer.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

How To Get Popular

Rule 1) Do *not* second guess your memes

this applies to most forms of popularity, especially school grades k-12. it applies 10-20% less at college.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Programmer Productivity

Yannis has proposed Yannis's Law which states that programmer productivity doubles every 6 years. He gets the figure from a project that took a week or two in 1972, but would now take an hour or two. I just did it in twenty minutes using a plain text editor (with python syntax highlighting) and a unix terminal. My Python is rusty.

The KWIC index system accepts an ordered set of lines, each line is an ordered set of words, and each word is an ordered set of characters. Any line may be "circularly shifted" by repeatedly removing the first word and appending it at the end of the line. The KWIC index system outputs a listing of all circular shifts of all lines in alphabetical order. This is a small system. Except under extreme circumstances (huge data base, no supporting software), such a system could be produced by a good programmer within a week or two.
Here's my code:

#!/usr/bin/env python
def main():
    f = open("kwic.txt", "rU")
    out = open("kwic-output.txt", "w")
    final = []
    for line in f:
        words = line.split()
        count = len(words)
        for i in xrange(count):
    for ele in final:
        out.write(ele + "\n")
def makestr(li):
    s = ""
    first = 1
    for ele in li:
        if first == 1:
            first = 0
            s += ele
            s += " " + ele
    return s
def cycle(li):
    tmp = li[0]
    del li[0]
    return li

if __name__ == '__main__': main()

By the way, if someone knows a more elegant way to avoid having an extra space in makestr, let me know. I'm aware of the option of deleting the first character after making the string, but I don't consider that very nice either.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

Silly Studies and Food Fads

Wikipedia says:

Diet. One flawed study purported that Chocolate, french fries, potato chips and sugar, among others, affect acne. A recent review of scientific literature cannot affirm either way. The consensus among health professionals is that acne sufferers should experiment with their diets, and refrain from consuming such fare if they find such food affects the severity of their acne.

But how is someone supposed to know what foods increase or decrease his acne? Try to pay attention to what he eats and what changes in diet are linked to what effects? How will he know which food did it, and how will he know what the time delay between diet changes and acne changes is? (If acne changes, was the it due to the food 2, 4, 6, or 20 days ago? Or not due to food at all?) Scientists trying to do controlled studies haven't figured anything out yet. A person who goes on his own anecdotal evidence will almost certainly be creating unscientific superstitions for himself to follow. This should not be encouraged. People have enough hang-ups about food already. The only responsible advice for scientists to give is, "don't worry about it, eat what you want."

That some scientists would encourage people to act on anecdotal evidence in this way suggests they are not competent to perform studies themselves.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

can't win

kill terrorists with collateral damage, and leftists hate you

refrain, and they hate you too

"Richard Clarke has charged that fighting terrorism was not the top priority with the Bush administration"

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Widespread Support For Terrorism

Rantissi killing: World reaction

Dear God, the entire world except Israel and USA condemned killing a major player in Hamas. And USA's statement was far too weak.

My preferred statement by the USA would be something like:

Good riddance to bad men. We pray Israel will continue this policy of making the world a better place. We are currently developing methods to coordinate with Israel to aid in future strikes. We will treat any condemnation of this action as condemnation of the United States as well. We wish to stand united with Israel, and the Jews, hand in hand, if they will have us.

I realise the "wish to" and "if they will have us" is a bit weak for a public statement, but i can dream.

The most interesting quote was:

Lebanese Culture Minister Ghazi al-Aridi:

"This is an ongoing soap opera and we'll see more murders of Palestinian leaders... This is absolute terrorism in all senses of the word."

Hamas leaders are "Palestinian leaders"?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

What About Israel?

Scott Ott writes:

Just a month after Colorado high school teacher Jay Bennish was caught on tape by a student as he ranted against President George Bush, capitalism and the United States in general

But the rant had a large anti-Israel component that was, in my opinion, even more unfair than the anti-US comments. It included that Israel was formed by the West as appeasement to widespread Jewish terrorism and assassination.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Wrong Coding Conventions?

From the ruby-talk mailing list. Quoting removed, I think it's readable out of context.

How can a (coding) convention be *wrong*, instead of just less useful, less practical?

The same argument applies to other conventions. Why is Sati *wrong*, instead of just a less useful, less pleasant way to live?

Ideas have broad consequences that can't be arbitrarily restricted: they reach out to other fields. The full answer to the Sati case should include whether anything is wrong at all, and whether practical considerations have moral consequences. Those issues are important to the question about coding.

We can even take a dialog about Sati, and then use some of the ideas to argue about coding. Most of them will work just as well about either topic.

Jim: "Sure, Sati sounds horrible to us, but they are accustomed to it, and would be unhappy to live another way. It has practical consequences, like reducing how many women are available to knit, but wealth is only a convenience."Chloe: "Medical textbooks are a kind of wealth, and medicine matters. With less knitting, they won't be able to buy as high quality medical books."

So, back to coding. This medical textbook argument will work great. Some programmers write tools for doing page layouts, and for making diagrams. Those tools help us make better medical textbooks. The more convenient and practical the coding conventions of the programmers, the sooner we will have higher quality medical textbooks.

The idea that medical textbook production is a *practical* issue with *moral* consequences can be transplanted just fine between the two cases: it has reach.

This isn't conclusive, of course. Maybe you don't see the moral value in medicine. But I think it's getting somewhere, to tie those things together. Most of us are probably persuaded by now. And if we were to continue on, about Sati, or coding conventions, we'd continue on in exactly the same way -- discussing medicine -- because it's all tied to the same issue now.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


girl: i love you
boy: i'm not sure if i love you
girl: well, how will you find out?
boy: dunno
girl: will you know soon?
boy: i doubt it
girl: this is important!
boy: why?
girl: i don't love you anymore

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Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


Syntax is supposed to be a win. It's supposed to be convenient, readable, shorter.

But Lisp -- the language where you write your code in trees without syntax -- is known for being very succinct.

So I see two possibilities:

1) Most syntax isn't actually a great idea

2) Other languages are so handicapped by lacking features found in Lisp that it more than makes up for syntax advantages (and libraries, and all Lisp's other deficiencies)

I'm leaning towards (2), but I suspect a fair amount of syntax is not helpful and some is bad.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Food Liars

the headline reads

Why fast foods are bad, even in moderation
this is a filthy lie. the article in no way supports this conclusion.

all the article actually says is:

fast foods often have X kind of fat

X kind of fat is worse for you than Y kind of fat.

you should be really scared of X fat. it will probably kill you. your death will be slow and painful, and will occur soon unless you stop immediately.
by this standard, flour is bad for you, because there exists a food with more nutrients, and apples are bad, because their exists a food with less dirt. *every* food is bad, by this standard. even in moderation.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Conquering Iraq


which calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, said Sallah Zeidan, an official from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group in the talks. The areas were conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

that is a terrible summary of what happened.

imagine in 10 years when we're leaving Iraq and an article describes it this way:

For years critics have told the US that the war is won. Finally, they are moving towards peace by dismantling their military bases at Dog Village and Cow Point, Iraq. The areas were conquered by the US in the second Gulf War.

you'd want to shoot the author of the second article, wouldn't you?

but how is the first any less unfair?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Quality of Argument

In discussions about Israel like this one I see a huge difference in the quality of argument employed by each side. There are some trolls and flames by each side. But the pro-Israel side makes more attempt to reference or summarise history (I mean an overview instead of just one specific thing used to cherry pick a point). And the anti-Israel side does things like claim the President of Iran was misquoted about wiping Israel off the map. And that's standard fair, not unusual. Then you see a reply "yeah, the real quote was 'wipe from the sands of time'". And oh, by the way, the original topic was an article about how Hamas finally decided to recognise Israel. Except, oh wait, it turns out that the pro-Israel side read the translation and it doesn't say that. And now some other articles have said Hamas still won't recognise Israel. (Which BTW is a bit insane. It'd make a lot more sense of Israel wouldn't recognise Hamas than vice versa.) This is far from the first article that makes things up about Israel. I hope there will be a full investigation (there won't be). Shouldn't any observer of this conversation be able to easily see which side has a higher quality of argument?

Update: Look at this and think about the quality of argument.

Update 2: nokilli hadn't posted so much when i wrote this. i'm not referring just to him. also if you think this is unusual please show me some examples of good/sane discussion about Israel.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Envelope Paradox

Here is an interesting math problem about a paradox with envelopes. The answers given there are incorrect so I've written better ones.

There are two envelopes each with a random number inside. You open one and guess if the other number is bigger or smaller. Can you do better than chance?

Problem 2
There are two envelopes with money in them. One has twice as much as the other. You open one and then choose to keep it or swap envelopes. Is there a strategy that makes more money than never swapping?

Wrong Answer 1
Before you open the envelope, choose a pivot number like 500. If the number you open is over 500 guess the other number will be smaller. If it's under 500, guess bigger. The following can happen:

Both numbers are over 500. You score 50%
Both numbers are under 500. You score 50%
One number is over 500 and the other is under 500. You score 100%

Therefore on average the pivot strategy scores over 50%!

Wrong Answer 2
Say you open 100. Four possible things can happen. The total money in both is 300 or 150 and we keep or swap.

total 300 swap get 200
total 300 keep get 100
total 150 swap get 50
total 150 keep get 100

Total for keeping: 200
Total for swapping: 250

Therefore swapping makes more money than keeping.

Answer 1
There is no such thing as choosing a random integer (with equal probability for all integers). You can't choose randomly from an infinitely large set. You can think of it as each individual number has a 1 in infinity chance to be chosen, which is zero.

Answer 2
Again, there is no such thing as choosing a random integer (with equal probability for all integers). So it's not possible to be presented with that situation.

But that's boring! And it's still hard to see why the wrong answers are wrong besides that the problems technically don't make sense. So I tried putting money into envelopes in some possible ways and then seeing what strategy would be best (if any).

I used ruby to help out. Here's the code. But first I'll try to explain why the wrong answers are false in English.

The pivot strategy only does better than chance if you can ever guess a pivot that is between the two numbers. There are infinite choices of pivot, but only finite integers between the two numbers. So your chance of guessing correctly is finite divided by infinite. It's zero.

The money strategy (always swap) can't be right because it doesn't use the information of how much money you opened. So you could swap without even opening an envelope. That can't possibly be profitable.

Now let's put some money into envelopes! We'll need a strategy for deciding what goes in the envelopes. Let's try this: take the numbers from 0-5. For each one, make the pairs [x, x*2] and [x, x/2]. So we'll get 12 pairs of envelopes and each pair will correctly have one envelope with twice as much cash. Here are all the pairs:

[[0, 0.0], [0, 0.0], [1, 0.5], [2, 1.0], [2, 1.0], [3, 1.5], [4, 2.0], [4, 2.0], [5, 2.5], [6, 3.0], [8, 4.0], [10, 5.0]]

If we look closely we can figure out what we might get if we swap each number. All you do is imagine you open a 4 and then look for all the envelopes that have a 4 paired with them. There's two 2's paired with 4, and an 8. Here's all of them:

0: 0 0 0 0
.5: 1
1: .5 2 2
1.5: 3
2: 1 1 4 4
2.5: 5
3: 1.5 6
4: 2 2 8
5: 2.5 10
6: 3
8: 4
10: 5

So you can see you don't wanna swap any high numbers (6-10), swapping 0 and 4 breaks even, and swapping 1, 2, 3, 5 and fractions gains. So there is a strategy to make extra money, but it's not "always swap". You have to look at what number you open and only swap certain numbers.

Now suppose the envelope filling scheme is to take all the numbers from 1-1000 and make pairs of x,x+2 and x,x-1. The edge cases only have a small effect instead of being many of the numbers. So suppose you open the number 500.

500 is in the following pairs:

x = 498 => 498,500
x = 500 => 500,502, 500,499
x = 501 => 501,500

So if you swap you can get: 498 499 501 502

So despite the imbalance that a 10 can turn into 9 or 12 which average to 10.5 ... away from the edges swapping doesn't matter, swapping breaks even. Yay, the world is sane again! It's because and 8 and 11 can turn into a 10, which balances it out.

Now lets go back to having one envelope with double the money using x,x*2, x,x/2

500 is in the following pairs:

x = 250 => 250,500
x = 500 => 500,1000, 500,250
x = 1000 => 1000,500

So if you swap you can get 250 250 1000 1000. So swapping non-edge cases seems to be profitable! Is that really weird? Indiscriminate swapping can't be right!

Well, it's not as counter-intuitive as it seems. Think of it this way: there are some really big jackpots you can get. If the numbers range from 1-1000 before halving and doubling then there is an envelope with $2000. If you get a low number then it's worth shooting for doubling. But if you get a really high number then you should obviously keep it. So it's not crazy if we should swap more than half the time.

Now let's look at some more detailed results. Here is the half the output to my ruby program:

Results for *2 and /2 envelopes
sum simple swap results 11361136.0
sum smart swap results 13177840.0
avg of envelopes 113.0625
avg simple swap results 113.61136
avg smart swap results 131.7784
count of envelope pairs is 400
total envelopes is 800
swap 550
keep 100
tie 150
total unique values you can open is 400
unique swap 250
unique keep 100
unique tie 50
first swap index is 0 val is 0.5
last swap index is 696 val is 199.0
first keep index is 700 val is 202.0
last keep index is 799 val is 400.0
first tie index is 452 val is 102.0
last tie index is 699 val is 200.0

So what does all that mean in English? The envelope creation process used range 1-200 and made envelopes with x,2x and x,x/2 for a total of 800 envelopes we could open. And the results are: for 550 we should swap, 100 we should keep, and 150 it doesn't matter. Of the 400 actual different numbers we could open, we should swap 250 of them, keep 100, and for 50 it doesn't matter. We should swap 68.75%, and only keep 12.5% of the time!

From some extra output I disabled here (it's 800 lines long) I was able to see how the keep/swap/tie decisions were distributed (the summary of how they are distributed is above). All numbers up to 100 we should swap. All numbers over 200 we should keep. In the middle some should be swapped and some don't matter either way. It alternated 2 swaps then 3 ties.

So a new way to think about what happens if the numbers are chosen from an infinite range is: there are three sections: always swap, swap or tie, and always keep. Two are near the edges. In an infinite range there are no edges, so you get a biased set of envelopes with only the middle cases. But that's not possible.

If you use an envelope stuffing strategy with simple addition then the entire middle is ties, one end is swaps and the other end is keeps. You can see output for this at the bottom of my ruby code here.

By the way, I included a method in my script to make the ruby program learn how to play correctly and then play. I also had it play randomly. At the half/double envelopes game, the random program makes $113 per play and the smart one makes about $132. So it works! Soon I'll be rich...

Update I meant that you can't choose a random integer *with equal probability for all integers*. I've corrected the text above.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Cheap Global Warming Solution

Tom: i need a fan
Tom: will buy tomorrow maybe.
Elliot: fan > no fan
Elliot: (i'm smart)
Tom: i seem to remember that the curi fan will solve global warming crisis
Elliot: i dunno. if there is enough global warming i'll prolly get a second fan
Tom: lmao
Elliot: if a fan costs $10 (a good, big one), and there are 6 billion ppl, (when u mass produce this much i bet they cost much less than $10 .. let's say $5) ... then global warming will cost ....
Elliot: 30bil (max)
Elliot: plus electricity and fan maintanance
Elliot: that sounds like a lot less than kyoto's 500 thousand trillion

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

Drug Experts or Monkeys?

There's a new "scientific" study of the harmfulness of different drugs out. It looks pretty suspect with tobacco being ranked more harmful than ecstasy and marijuana more harmful than LSD.

I tried generating graphs of drug harmfulness using random numbers for experts. As you can see below, I got some with about the same shape as the study's graph.

[73, 71, 69, 67, 64, 63, 63, 62, 62, 61, 59, 59, 58, 57, 57, 52, 50, 49, 47, 47]


[78, 74, 69, 66, 64, 63, 63, 63, 62, 62, 61, 61, 61, 60, 60, 60, 57, 54, 51, 42]


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Myth of the Framework

And people, there is no way for a nuturer to win an argument with a nature-er and vice-versa, because the base position of each argument is so fundamentally different that it"™s like two people trying to have a conversation while one is speaking English and one is speaking Mandarin.


Here the (myth of the) framework argument is invoked, which says if people have different frameworks or foundations then discussion won't get anywhere. They won't be able to reconcile their different starting points.

What's amusing is that many of the analogies intending to prove the framework argument do a good job of proving it's a myth. This analogy says that people who speak different languages won't be able to make progress and come to understand each other and agree. But it's common knowledge that if you go to a country where you don't speak the language, that is a good way to learn the language. If you try a lot you can figure out what words mean and make progress, and eventually become completely fluent in the foreign language. So, by analogy, the nature/nurture people *could* solve their dispute.

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Sleeping when not tired is like eating when not hungry.

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Wearing An Israeli Flag

I wore my Israeli flag yesterday (context). I walked a short ways through downtown Berkeley in public (and went to Jamba Juice), went to a TCS speech by Sarah Fitz-Claridge, and went into two restaurants in Fremont.

Nothing bad happened.

In Berkeley people said something from their car, but I couldn't hear what. They didn't look angry and I waved to them. However it was 9am on Sunday and not many people were around.

At the speech, someone asked why I was wearing a flag. I said that I support Israel, and that if I don't wear a flag no one will ask about it. She didn't say anything so I added that on Saturday Hezbollah was smuggling weapons into Lebanon and Israel sent commandos to stop this, so the UN said Israel broke the cease fire. She thought that was dumb :)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

If People Like It, It *Must* Be Bad

200 years ago, William Godwin wrote an essay telling parents that they should not restrict which books their children can read. For example, they shouldn't ban their daughters from reading any novels.

Why did parents hate books? Because their kids might get ideas, or be influenced. Kids are gullible, you know? But far too stubborn and resistant to new ideas for parents to control or advise them.

Now that there is an even larger threat than books (TV), parents have given up on keeping kids away from books, and actually encourage it so as to distract them from the TV. Television is a medium capable of expressing text just like a book, but also capable of conveying pictures and sounds, so it's quite a bit more powerful than books. And people like TV better, and want to spend a lot of time using it. When people really like something, that's called addiction, and it must be stopped.

I'm not joking. There's even "email addiction", and it's just like cocaine.

Here's Godwin's book, which is out of copyright and free.

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I Stopped Reading Much News For Years Because Of Stuff Like This

If Israel loses, the penalty is death. If Lebanon loses, the penalty is "humiliation".
Kofi Annan said Tuesday it was time for Israel to lift a "humiliating" blockade on Lebanon

Kofi says the blockade is also:
[an] infringement on [Lebanese] sovereignty

I see two possibilities:

One: Hezbollah is *not* an agent of Lebanon (despite being part of the government). In that case, in what sense is Lebanon sovereign if it can't control enemy militias within its borders? And shouldn't its primary complaint be about the huge threat to sovereign control over its own territory that Hezbollah poses?

Two: Hezbollah *is* an agent of Lebanon, in which case Lebanon has forfeited any right to sovereignty by murdering Israelis with rockets, abducting Israeli citizens, and so on.

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Announcement: Dialogs

I have started writing philosophical dialogs. The topics so far are mostly parenting, epistemology, and some political stuff like free trade and war. There are 12 so far. I'm updating them a lot more than my blog. You can find them at:

They are currently in the order they were written, from top to bottom, but they will probably be reorganized later.

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Ohio Is Backwards

Know what the problem with hospitals in Ohio is? They wouldn't prescribe emergency contraception (EC) pills to this girl unless she was raped or married (the condom broke). She does not want a fourth kid. There is no help within a hundred miles.

At the hospitals that prescribe EC at all, they have "morality clauses" where the doctor interviews you and you have to meet certain criteria (married or raped). She's been completely unable to get EC. (And is now considering taking large quantities of other pills that might work, but she isn't sure if it's safe or effective.)

EC is over-the-counter now, not prescription, but not at a pharmacy within 100 miles for her. Her local pharmacy says they'll sell it next January.

Know what would solve this? Well, you may be thinking less religion. That would indeed work for this particular breed of insanity, but it would only avoid religious problems. There is a more universal solution: greed.

If people were more greedy, they'd sell her the damn pills to make a buck. No matter what crazy ideas they have, religious or otherwise, if they were greedy enough they would engage in free trade with anyone who isn't dangerous.

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Non-Invasive Education

This is absolutely a must read. It's about giving computer access to slum kids in India, with no training to use it. Note the parts about physics problems, MP3s, gender roles, his opinion of teachers, adults, that the kids have very little English comprehension, and the comments about "functional literacy".

The best part is that the mothers think this is good for their children. Just go read it.

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Linux Not So Easy

linux claims to be easy to use like OS X. in my recent experience, it isn't. it's still a total pain just to install stuff like Rails. tutorials happily tell me where to get RPMs of a dozen things. When I try apt-get (package manager) it can't find all the dependencies it needs to even install ruby. A tutorial tells me to compile and install rubygems from source.

Even the linux-like application package managers for OS X work better than the originals. I never had any trouble with Darwin Ports.

I'm not saying linux is bad. It's a good thing and it's improving. I'm just saying OS X is easier and more friendly.

and don't tell me i did it wrong. that's beside the point. i used google for a while. i still didn't figure out a pleasant way to install a rails environment. that's way too hard.

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Kiss The Girl

This is one of the many faces of evil.


This is something very popular.

There you see her
Sitting there across the way
She don"™t got a lot to say

you have no relationship

But there"™s something about her

but she's really hot (see video)

And you don"™t know why

you do. b/c she's hot.

But you"™re dying to try
You wanna kiss the girl

you might be dying to do that. or you might need to be encouraged to interpret your life that way: by friends, by parents, by this song

Yes, you want her
Look at her, you know you do

see. it's encouraging an interpretation.

It"™s possible she wants you, too
There is one way to ask her

"asking" sounds good

It don"™t take a word
Not a single word
Go on and kiss the girl

What. The. Fuck.

just walk up and kiss her. never mind consent. never mind talking. never mind that she might not want to be kissed, by you, now, in this way.

Sing with me now
My, oh, my
Look at the boy too shy

now it says if you care about consent, that is being shy

He ain"™t gonna kiss the girl

and it taunts you, and pressures you

Ain"™t that sad
Ain"™t it shame, too bad
You gonna miss the girl

and makes you feel bad, and threatens you with being lonely/alone/missing out

Now"™s your moment
Floating in a blue lagoon
Boy, you better do it soon
No time will be better
She don"™t say a word
And she won"™t say a word
Until you kiss the girl

now it denies there is any other way. nothing you can do will get her to talk to you ... *except* walking up and kissing her

the video shows people at a party, and she and the guy don't talk, just look across the room. that's intermixed with scenes of her dancing, and scenes from The Little Mermaid. that's right, this is aimed at young *girls*. they want to dance sexy and to be treated this way.

Don"™t be scared
You got the mood prepared
Go on and kiss the girl
Don"™t stop now
Don"™t try to hide it how
You wanna kiss the girl

create desires about people you don't know, then be *proud* of them, and act on them.

Float along
Listen to the song
The song say kiss the girl
Music play
Do what the music say
You wanna kiss the girl

You"™ve got to kiss the girl
Why don"™t you kiss the girl
You gotta kiss the girl
Go on and kiss the girl

more pressure and encouraging


"the girl" is generic

kissing is presented as very important

there is more. if you see it, write a comment.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Entrenched Views

Here is an interesting example of a lack of rationality and listening:

There is a satire piece named "Top 10 Reasons Gay Marriage Should Be Illegal". It's actually in favor of gay marriage.

In the comments section, the first few people say things like, "After reading the title, I came here to flame you, but then I noticed your post actually agrees with me. Good post!"

What these "gay rights supporters" mean is that if the post actually had opposed gay marriage then, *no matter what argument it gave*, these people would have flamed it. They are interested in saying something is wrong without considering whether it's true, or makes sense, or anything, only if they like the conclusion.

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the Jack Bauer test for countries

Posted here

I think in the end it is better to live in a free country with a legitimate government that isn't coping well with terrorism, rather than an oppressive regime where even the terrorists are too afraid to step out of line.

I agree. Let's consider what Jack Bauer would do in each situation.

1) a free country, with a legitimate government, but poor security forces

Jack would personally take over security and kill the terrorists, thus creating a free country with no downsides.

2) an oppressive regime with terrorists too scared to step out of line

Jack would personally kill the oppressive regime, *then* personally take over security for the country. He'd kill the oppressor and the terrorists. We'd end up with the same final result: a free country with no downsides.

So, what's the difference? In scenario 2, Jack has to kill more people. Thus, scenario 2 is further away from a good, free country.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)


Hi! As you can see, I've updated my blog. I wrote my own blogging software in Ruby on Rails. I've also imported all my old posts from previous blogs. Here are some statistics on the posts I gathered:

Total: 1178

Hidden: 484

Shown: 694

Rank 1: 227

Rank 2: 325

Rank 3: 148

(Rank 3 is the best. Rank 1 is the worst and is hidden by default.)

I wrote a command line program for posting to my blog, which I prefer to a web interface (but I have that too). Maybe that will mean I'll post more. It opens Textmate for writing the post, which is a much better text editor than Safari or Firefox.

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Emotional Literacy

They now teach, in school:

- "emotional literacy"

- meditation

- "channelling" negative emotions

- how to "dump" your boyfriend or girlfriend

Within the article, this is slammed:
"My view is that it is actually harmful. The more we talk about self-esteem in schools, the more kids become obsessed with their emotions and the more they have emotional problems. Children who talk about being 'stressed' play the role of being stressed. It normalises and promotes the behaviour."
The telegraph introduces the dissenting voices in an unfair way: "However, a few dissenters have raised concerns"

Considering that emotional literacy courses are *not* the mainstream, how can the vast majority of people who don't take or want them only be "a few" dissenters?

But really the worst thing, I think, is how normal breakups are. It is expected to have a lot of "broken hearts". The idea of being "crushed" when people break "commitments" isn't notable. Our society does its very best to ignore how much people are hurt by breakups, and to ignore how many breakups our institutions of dating cause.

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James Randi on Astrology

Randi gives people horoscopes supposedly made by professionals based on their date and place of birth. He has the people rate the accuracy, and scores pretty high. Then he tells them that they all got the same horoscope!

Derren Brown did the same trick.

What can we learn about people from this? One thing is that they have certain sorts of broad similarities. If you talk about those areas, pretty much anyone can relate to what you say. Those areas include having a family, a love life, relatives, feeling misunderstood, and having insecurities. Those are just some obvious ones. I'm not an expert and I haven't even thought about it much. I'm sure there are others. You could learn them just by reading some horoscopes.

Despite everyone having similarities, horoscopes don't work perfectly. Another thing going on is that people focus in on the parts that seem right and ignore the ones that seem wrong. They help it to work.

That's what they do if they are friendly or sympathetic, at least. Other times people can be hostile to something and focus on the parts they disagree with. That often happens in arguments between people who strongly disagree. Sadly, it does an effective job of preventing people from learning from each other.

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I'm involved in an argument about libertarianism, public goods, and knowledge here:

My comments in the argument are, I think, the same quality of writing as most of my blog posts. So if you think my blog is worth reading, you should go read this as well.

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Top 10 Reasons I Hate Children

  1. They are so stupid: they won't do what you say no matter how much sense it makes.
  2. They are so smart: they cleverly find their parents' vulnerable spots.
  3. They are so gullible: TV commercials can make them want anything, within seconds, no matter how stupid and boring it is.
  4. They are so stubborn: parents can't make them want or do anything, no matter how wise or fun it is.
  5. They don't respect boundaries: they often make messes outside their own rooms.
  6. They don't let their parents intrude: they never organize their own rooms the way their parents suggest.
  7. They are too noisy: especially in public (where it is illegal).
  8. They are too quiet: they never tell their parents what's going on with their lives.
  9. They won't eat right: they refuse to finish what's on their plate even after their father (a trained and certified accountant) announces that they will soon die of malnutrition.
  10. They won't eat right: they eat too much. Childhood obesity is now an epidemic.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Culture is Powerful
Roadrage is an almost non-existent phenomenon in Japan. Japanese drivers draw upon un-natural reserves of patience as they inch through traffic jams kilometers long. I [an Australian in Japan] am unable to do this - I'm either zooming down the middle on my scooter, or banging my head on the steering wheel in frustration.
Many people here believe roadrage is natural and understandable. It's part of the human condition. It's logical. It's well and good. It can't be got rid of.

But that's all false. It's just memes giving people entrenched hangups. It's pointless, bad, and as any Japanese person can tell you, it does not have to be that way.

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Social Pressure
One of the very few people that seem to do exactly what they feel like without concern for Japanese social obligation, are the Yakuza. If you put more than one Japanese in a room, it seems to create a social expectancy - each Japanese watches the other Japanese, to make sure that they don't accidentally do something considered unbecoming for a Japanese. This effect seems to multiply the more people are around. There are only a few people who don't give a shit about this omnipotent social pressure - crazy people, foreigners, and Yakuza.
Social pressure is not as bad here in the U.S.A., but it certainly exists. This is a nice description of how powerful it can be. How much it can suppress people and make them all the same.

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This short story is stupid. It goes to great lengths to give a grand sense of perspective, and focusses the whole story on one repeating theme: a question about reversing entropy. A super computer tries to answer the question. Just when all the stars burn out and humanity ends, it figures out the answer. It says "Let there be light!"

That's it? That's fucking it? The story builds up to a content-free religious answer? What a waste of time. It misled me. I thought it was a science fiction story, not some acclamation for an old myth. I thought it was about forward thinking, not excusing an idea that presently epitomizes backwards thinking.

Most of the people described in the story are supposed to be very advanced. But then the story ends with religion. And not just any form of religion, but unbearably parochial and silly Creationist mythology.

That isn't, by the way, the only parochial error in the story. At one point they invent immortality and the population doubles every ten years. That means one child per person per decade. Every decade. A bit more to make up for young people not having any. That's just insane, even by present standards. What couple today wants two kids per ten years all their lives?

When we invent immortality, we will put more effort into making each existing life very nice, and we won't want to make new ones at a very high rate. Wanting lots of kids is parochial. It's partly even just tied up in people wanting sex and not yet adjusting to birth control (including abortions).

I haven't read Asimov, but I know he is respected and admired. It's a shame that this is his favorite story, and that he thinks his idea is brilliant.

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When People Fight

I sometimes talk about how fighting with other people is bad and wasteful, and this is a reason not to steal. And working with other people -- cooperating -- is much more productive.

Here is a good example of what happens when humans use creativity against each other. New York wants to increase their state budget by tinkering with laws to take more money from Walmart. They are going to do work not to create anything but just to take more from Walmart.

And Walmart for its part spends a huge amount of effort not on making nice stores, but on finding flaws in the tax code. It spends creativity on the issue of how much it will give to the Government instead of what to make.

I don't blame Walmart. The government is the thieves here, not them. They are just protecting themselves. It's a shame that they have to. And it's a shame the tax code is so complex -- it contains so much work to take very exact amounts from many different groups and categories of people. Well if you do that, of course people will go well out of there way to be in a different category. The whole thing is stupid.

One day we will move beyond this. Our government will stop spending its effort to fight with its citizens. And it will stop using massive discrimination to make people change their lifestyle to receive better treatment. I look forward to it.

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Thin Is Romantic

In online dating:
For men, the major areas of deception are educational level, income, height, age and marital status; at least 13 percent of online male suitors are thought to be married. For women, the major areas of deception are weight, physical appearance and age.
You can see what people care about, by what is lied about to get dates. Men are supposed to be:
  • College educated
  • Rich
  • Tall
  • Young
  • Unmarried
And women should be:
  • Thin
  • Pretty
  • Young
What's striking about this? Well, it's important for men to be unmarried. What? I guess a lot of the men on online dating services are married, or formerly married. For women, that's less of a problem. Why might that be? At a guess, maybe its because men have to pay child support, so it means less income.

Of course there is the obvious: personality goes unmentioned while appearance is critical.

What's perhaps even more striking is that, for girls, the entire list is physical characteristics. That's it. Period. Nothing else matters enough to bother lying about.

And you couldn't pick a much worse thing to lie about: the instant you meet someone, they will see the truth with pretty reasonable accuracy. It'd be much easier to lie about your personality and maintain the deception through a number of dates.

By the way, can you picture falling in love with someone if you haven't yet seen their picture? I didn't think so:
According to one recent survey, men's profiles without photos draw one fourth the response of those with photos, and women's profiles without photos draw only one sixth the response of those with photos.
Why do people lie so much online? Someone believes:
their ramblings are anonymous and hence not subject to social norms. There are also no physical cues or consequences--no visible communication gestures, raised eyebrows, grimaces, and so on--to keep people's behavior in check.
What interests me about this is that it says (admits) how large a role non-verbal cues play in suppressing unusual behavior. Those raised eyebrows and frowns are noticed, important, and capable of preventing a lot of "undesirable" behavior. And they are done by people who talk about how great diversity is.

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Why Is Being A Kid Hard?

Because your parents intentionally make it hard.
Dear Mr. Federline,
last year you said in an interview, "My kids are going to have to learn what a real job is, what life is. You don't have it easy with me. Period. My kids are going to work at Taco Bell."

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Elliot Temple: (please forgive the meta)
Elliot Temple: (please forgive that meta as well)
Elliot Temple: (and that)
Elliot Temple: (and that)
Elliot Temple: etc

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Terra: ur using too much magic
Terra: what would giles say?
Willow: *angry*
Terra: what do u want me to do, just shut up?
Willow: good idea
Terra: if i didn't love you so much, i would

also a little later, Willow used a spell to make Terra forget that they were aruing about Willow using too much magic. heh.

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The more arrogant you are -- the more you naturaly assume you are better than everyone else -- the easier it is to treat them kindly when they make mistakes that you wouldn't have, or otherwise disappoint. It's not their fault, it's nothing important, they just aren't you.

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Minor Buffy spoiler below.

- I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

- I know we'll be together forever.

- We're going to make this relationship work, no matter what.

- I love you.

Those are the kinds of things Willow and Terra said to each other. Their relationship was so perfect, and they knew it. They'd only ever had one or two fights.

Terra left within a few days. How did it happen? They fought about Willow using too much magic. Then Willow used a spell to make Terra forget the fight. Terra was pissed when she found out. When Willow did it again, that sealed the deal. The end.

They didn't talk about it much. They didn't give it a few years (only a small part of their lives) to make sure they weren't throwing their perfect life together away. Not even a few weeks to get perspective on the matter.

And problem solving? What did they do to fix it? Nothing. Willow had a "no magic for a week, then I'll reconsider" ultimatum that she blew. That's very harsh pressure. And not very helpful.

But anyway, consider this: What is Terra's excuse for going back on her relationship promises? That Willow did something horrible. But Terra made those promises to someone capable of doing horrible things. That was her mistake, not Willow's. Willow didn't lie, trick, or mislead Terra about who she was. Well, maybe she did a little -- that is expected in romantic relationships -- but nothing relevant. Quite the opposite: Terra was catching on to Willow's magic-habit right as it formed, because Willow was so open about it.

When people say "forever", they mean, "I might leave you tomorrow if I subjectively feel betrayed or upset enough. I might make no attempt to fix things, if it seems too hard to do so. And I might blame you for everything. And the chance I'll do this is not 0.0000000000001%. It's more like 0.2% per day."


a few days later:

Willow: it's better this way


a bit later, Willow gets much worse (magic=drugs parallels). Buffy finds out. she has a different reaction:

so remember terra's was: omg you aren't perfect? you betrayed me. bye.

Buffy's is: omg you nearly got my sister killed? well, i'll help you now. we'll get rid of everything that might remind you of magic from the house. even though the sister you almost killed complains that she likes some of the stuff being got rid of.

so, lovers leave, friends help. that's what all those promises to stay forever amount to.

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minor buffy spoiler

anya: will u still make me waffles when we're married?
xander: no, i'll only make them for myself. but by california law, you'll own half of them

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Prefer Than

The second google hit for prefer than is sex jokes. that says something about what people in our culture care about. I was a bit surprised. I just wanted to know about grammar.

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Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)


This article is interesting for many reasons. Here are a few:

- It blames Nathaniel Brandon for the "self esteem is really really important" movement, which hates competition. I met him. Small world. You might think a libertarian would like competition more. Oh well. I didn't know it was his fault.

- In a study, young children act very differently in reaction to *one sentence* of praise. That's an amazing amount of flexibility to be able to change one's self-image so easily.

- Five year old children have daily math and phonics homework expected of them. Ugh!

- Parents say things like, "I can't stop praising my kid so much. He'll feel awful." But what actually happens when the parent tries to stop is that the *parent* feels bad. (Why limit praise? Because most of it was non-specific and said without regard for its truth.)

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Jealousy and Violence


I judge by what she's wearing
Just how many heads I'm tearing
Off of assholes coming on to her
Each night seems like it's getting worse
And I wish she'd take the night off
So I don't have to fight off
Every asshole coming on to her
It happens every night she works
They'll go and ask the DJ
Find out just what would she say
If they all tried coming on to her
Don't they know it's never going to work
They think they'll get inside her
With every drink they buy her
As they all try coming on to her
This time somebody's getting hurt

Here comes the next contestant

Is that your hand on my girlfriend?
Is that your hand?
I wish you'd do it again
I'll watch you leave here limping
I wish you'd do it again
I'll watch you leave here limping
There goes the next contestant

I even fear the ladies
They're cool but twice as crazy
Just as bad for coming on to her
Don't they know it's never going to work
Each time she bats an eyelash
Somebody's grabbing her ass
Everyone is coming on to her
This time somebody's getting hurt

Here comes the next contestant


I'm hating what she's wearing
Everybody here keeps staring
Can't wait 'til they get what they deserve
This somebody's getting hurt

Here comes the next contestant

I wish you'd do it again
Each night seems like it's getting worse
I wish you'd do it again
This somebody's getting hurt

There goes the next contestant

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)