Politics, culture, business, and technology

I also blog at ChicagoBoyz.


Selected Posts:
Sleeping with the Enemy
Dancing for the Boa Constrictor
Koestler on Nuance
A Look into the Abyss
Hospital Automation
Made in America
Politicians Behaving Badly
Critics and Doers
Foundations of Bigotry?
Bonhoeffer and Iraq
Misvaluing Manufacturing
Journalism's Nuremberg?
No Steak for You!
An Academic Bubble?
Repent Now
Enemies of Civilization
Molly & the Media
Misquantifying Terrorism
Education or Indoctrination?
Dark Satanic Mills
Political Violence Superheated 'steem
PC and Pearl Harbor
Veterans' Day Musings
Arming Airline Pilots
Pups for Peace
Baghdad on the Rhine

Book Reviews:
Forging a Rebel
The Logic of Failure
The Innovator's Solution
They Made America
On the Rails: A Woman's Journey

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natalie solent
critical mass
john bruce
joanne jacobs
number 2 pencil
roger l simon
common sense and wonder
sheila o'malley
invisible adjunct
red bird rising
academic game
rachel lucas
betsy's page
one hand clapping
a schoolyard blog
joy of knitting
lead and gold
damian penny
annika's journal
little miss attila
no credentials
university diaries
trying to grok
a constrained vision
victory soap
business pundit
right reason
quid nomen illius?
sister toldjah
the anchoress
reflecting light
dr sanity
all things beautiful
dean esmay
brand mantra
economics unbound
dr melissa
dr helen
right on the left coast
digital Rules
college affordability
the energy blog
tinkerty tonk
meryl yourish
kesher talk
assistant village idiot
evolving excellence
neptunus lex
the daily brief
roger scruton
bookworm room
villainous company
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Monday, April 28, 2008  

...from George Will.

(via Betsy)

7:27 AM

Sunday, April 27, 2008  

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

(The Chicago Boyz site has been having technical problem but now seems to be OK.)

9:15 AM

Saturday, April 26, 2008  

Carrier, a 10-hour PBS series about life aboard the USS Nimitz, premiers tomorrow (Sunday) night.

Can PBS do a fair job of telling this story? Naval aviator Neptunus Lex is hopeful.

6:43 PM


This afternoon I was walking down the sidewalk in an upscale shopping area, much frequented by individuals who glory in their own hipness. Several of the stores had the doors wide open, with frigid blasts of air conditioning blowing out into space.

I'm quite confident that most of the store owners, and most of the customers, self-identify as "progressives" and environmentalists. A sampling of bumper stickers confirms this hypothesis.

This area is about 10 miles from a large coal-fired power plant which probably supplies most of its electricity. But even those who aren't aware of this fact must surely know that electricity doesn't come from the electricty fairy.

Hey guys: Before getting the Prius and the rooftop solar array and conducting the church services in honor of Mother Gaia, how about just shutting the doors?

4:57 PM

Thursday, April 24, 2008  

It is often said that great achievement requires in one's formative years two teachers: a stern taskmaster who teaches the rules and an inspirational guru who teaches one to break the rules. But they must come in that order. Childhood training in Bach can prepare one to play free jazz and ballet instruction can prepare one to be a modern dancer, but it doe s not work the other way around. One cannot be liberated from fetters one has never worn; all one can do is to make pastiches of the liberations of others.

--Michael J Lewis, an art professor at Williams College, in the WSJ (4/24)

(He is writing with reference to the ridiculous "art" fiasco at Yale...much coverage/discussion of this situation at Erin O'Connor's site)

Related thoughts from Stravinsky.

Previous Worth Pondering

5:44 AM

Monday, April 21, 2008  

A Chinese student at Duke has been subjected to villification and threats after she attempted to mediate between pro-Tibetan independence demonstrators and those supporting the Chinese government. Her family back in China has also been threatened.

And a Tibetan living in Salt Lake City was harassed after he was incorrectly identified as an attacker of the Olympic torchbearer.

This kind of thing is a serious danger to free speech in America. People making threats and conducting illegal harassment campaigns need to be prosecuted. Those who are non-citizens should be deported.

See the goon squad thread for other examples of anti-free-speech intimidation; also, Be Afraid: The Rise of Political Violence and Intimidation in America.

11:26 AM

Sunday, April 20, 2008  

...and is inspired to some thoughts about conservatism and John McCain. See my post at Chicago Boyz.

4:38 PM


You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

This remark has, of course, been analyzed extensively both in the blogosphere and in the old media. In my view, these thoughts by Mary Katherine Hamm are particularly worth reading. See also Lileks.

John Podhoretz: Barack Obama has done what Democratic candidates for president invariably do — he has revealed the profound sense of unearned superiority that is the sad and persistent hallmark of contemporary liberalism.

8:51 AM

Saturday, April 19, 2008  

Presidential campaign contributions by the executives of some major investment banks.

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

(via Big Picture)

7:51 AM

Thursday, April 17, 2008  

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, writing in the company's annual report:

In the fall of 2007, my daughter called and asked me, "Dad, what is a financial crisis?" I answered her by saying, without intending to be funny, "It's something that happens every five to 10 years." She then asked, "So why is everyone so surprised?"

7:35 PM

Wednesday, April 16, 2008  

...or cowardly lion market?

(via Rich Karlgaard)

6:24 AM

Saturday, April 12, 2008  

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

7:54 AM

Thursday, April 10, 2008  

The radio station WQXR, which is owned by the New York Times, refused to run an advertisement by the American Jewish Committee. The ad is about the human impact of the missiles being fired at Sderot by Palestinian terrorists.

That would be the same New York Times Company that, last September, accepted a full-page advertisement that was sponsored by moveon.org and was headlined General Petraeus or General Betray Us?

6:32 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2008  

National Review (4/7) has a piece about Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, maker of the film The Lives of Others. (If you haven't yet seen it, you should.) Florian himself spent his early childhood in the U.S., with his family returning to Germany (West Berlin) when he was eight. His personal knowledge of Communism was based on family visits to East Germany and to his two-year visit to Russia in the early 1990s.

The leading actor in the film, on the other hand, had a very personal knowledge of Communist totalitarianism. Ulrich Muehe was an East German, and, while still in high school, he had already been identified as a promising actor.

From the NR article:

Muehe had the fate of being an East German, and the Stasi had its eye on him from the moment he left high school: They knew he would be a big star. During his military service (obligatory), they made him serve as a sniper at the Berlin Wall. He was under orders to shoot whoever tried to cross from east to west. If he failed, he would never be allowed to work as an actor. He would have to be a manual laborer to the end of his days.

So there was Muehe, 18 years old, sitting in the towers, with this incredible burden on his shoulders. The only thing worse than not being an actor would be shooting someone. Muehe developed stomach ulcers, and one day he collapsed on duty, bleeding from the mouth. Doctors had to take out three-quarters of his stomach. But, fortunately, no one tried to cross. Still, the Stasi never stopped warning him to toe the political line, through all the years of his acting. He kept his counsel--until just before the Wall came down, when he gave a big, pro-freedom speech in East Berlin's Alexanderplatz.

Related: Mario Vargas Llosa writes about what dictatorship really is and what it does to the human spirit.

(cross-posted at Chicago Boyz)

5:07 PM

Sunday, April 06, 2008  

The Census Bureau has scrapped its plans to use handheld computers for data collection for the 2010 census. Over $500 million has already been spent on the project. The devices, which have integral GPS capability, will still be used for address verification, but the data collection itself will be done with paper and pencil, as in prior years.

This failure is particularly pathetic in view of the Census Bureau's previous record of leadership in the application of computer technology. The Bureau was the first user of punched card tabulating equipment, which was employed for the 1890 census, and it was also the first customer (in 1951) for Univac I, the first electronic computer to be sold commercially. Compared with these truly cutting-edge applications of new technology, the handheld project seems like it should have been a relatively straightforward and low-risk piece of work.

Other failed computer/software projects worthy of note are the FAA's Advanced Automation System and the FBI's Virtual Case File System. The AAS has been called "the greatest debacle in the history of organized work," but in view of the complexity of the system's function, I think the failure of this project is more excusable that the failure of the current Census project.

(On a more positive note, the post on the Virtual Case File System also has information about a software project that did succeed--a DARPA/BBN effort to rapidly locate enemy snipers in Iraq, using acoustical techniques.)

I wonder how much harm is done by failed software projects...and by those that "succeed" but are ill-designed from the standpoint of the tasks that they are supposed to be performing...to the overall productivity of the U.S. economy. I'd bet it's significant.

8:14 AM

Friday, April 04, 2008  

Sarah quotes AirForceWife:

A few weeks ago I read an article that summarized a study about kid play. The results of the study were ASTOUNDING. The gist of it was this:

For the last fifteen years or so, parents have been directing children's play more and more in an effort to help them learn earlier and more easily. Action figures are no longer generic, but so specific they can't even be kept in the same vinyl storage case. Rather than "free play" where kids interact together with a minimum of adult involvement, adults are now fully involved and moving their spawn from place to place and activity to activity without giving the kid a chance to just play.

And a lot of kids don't know how to "just play" anymore.

The results of the study showed that in trying to help our kids this way, we were actually stunting the evolutionary adaptions that kids self-teach themselves to problem solve and interact in society. These learned behaviors are the basis for everything else a kid learns. In effect, we are giving our kids learning disabilities by trying to give them learning advantages.

Sarah also writes about her own experiences:

I am no longer teaching knitting classes, but I am still working at Michaels when they have in-store events. And my favorite thing to do is watch parents interact with their kids when they bring them in for the kid-geared free events.

One example was the day sponsored by Crayola where the kids got to try out these fancy new markers and paper. So the craft was to make a door hanger, you know, like a Keep Out sign. And it was fascinating how many parents didn't like the way their kid was coloring or what he was doing and literally took the markers from his hands and made the hanger for him.

Related: See this post--the kids are older, but the issues are pretty much the same.

7:38 AM

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