Friday, August 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

Interview: Matt Damon - The Guardian

Favorite Quote of the Day: "If you end up on the cover of Us magazine, you're fucked."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Building a Better Metric

Net Energy -- A Useless, Misleading And Dangerous Metric, Says Expert - Science Daily

I hadn't realized the false assumption that the linguist concoction of 'fossil fuels' creates when compared to alternative fuels. What Professor Dale argues is, in essence, that we cannot lump all fossil fuels under a category of 'fossil fuels' since each different type of fuels provides a different level of energy. Petroleum provides a different amount of energy than coal or natural gas. So what Professor Dale proffers is a metric that measures how much an alternative fuel provides in service compared to a distinct type of fossil fuel.
The use of such a metric might make it easier to impose a national carbon tax as it would more accurately measure the amount of carbon produced by a particular type of fuel and tax it accordingly. The rhetoric employed against a carbon tax by the business industry would naturally argue that such alternative fuels like ethanol would, using the old metric, create more carbon in its production than normal fossil fuels. The goal then is to use a metric that is both true and useful to expose the linguistic lie of the old rhetoric.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Fact of the Matter is...

The Trouble with Facts - Matt Yglesias

Yglesias does have a point here. The facts on the ground in Iraq can often support just about any conclusion you want to draw and such conclusions are decided long before such facts arise. Hence the trouble with facts. In and of themselves, facts have no actual value. It's the individual who gives facts their weight and value. Thus it's the individual's personal goals and biases that will determine how certain facts are considered in the larger picture. This is why you can still have some very smart people still support the war and have the facts to back them up. Once you pull back a little from the minutia of the war do you begin to see where everything is going.

Reflections on Violence

Rand v. Utilitarianism - Ezra Klein

I think what Klein misses here is the serious anti-positivist strain in Rand's philosophy. Moreover, I think Rand was attempting to construct a socio-economic policy around Nietzsche's philosophy, of which I think is misguided at best. Nietzsche argued against life-denying morals but he did not deny the need for selflessness. He only stated that when the whole aim of a morality was to deny the self then you miss out on the point of selflessness. Rand, however, seems to think that only by being entirely selfish can one attain a true morality. Fucking utopian thinkers.

Oculus Sinister

The Eyes Have It: What Do We See When We Look At Ads? - Science Daily

What I take from this is not highly concerned with the realm of advertising but with the realm of cultural production and epistemology. This kind of study tells us that the mindset of the reader plays as much into the creation of meaning and recognition as the mind of the author or artist. An ad man might not get what he wants out of an ad campaign simply because he misjudged his audience's goals when viewing his ads. On result might be the rise of more contextual ads, particularly for websites.

Hello Officer Kitty

To Punish Thai Police, a Hello Kitty Arm Band - NYT

I find this idea highly amusing yet very practical. Shaming police officers into behaving better isn't a bad thing. Indeed, I think it is important to remind police officers that they are there to serve the public and do not deserve special dispensation for minor infractions that most other people have to remain aware of. Yes, police officers have a difficult job and I applaud them for it. At the same time, I don't think just because you wear a badge that means you get to run lights and illegally park.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Machine Language and the Brain

How Dynamic Brain Networks Enable Object Recognition - Science Daily

I find it interesting that the brain throws together a temporary dynamic network in order to categorize both the familiar and unfamiliar. What I'd like to know is how temporary this network is and how any lasting effects might affect future object-recognition, particularly of the unfamiliar type.

The Idealism of a Stubbed Toe

Happy Birthday, Charles Fort! - David Pescovitz,

Glad to know that there were people still getting themselves involved in the Locke/Berkley debates a couple of centuries after the fact.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Death and Taxes

Re: Republican Alienation - Eric, The Daily Dish

There's an interesting debate going on between the guest bloggers (a liberal and a supply-side conservative) over the issue of taxation in the current political climate. While Eric (the liberal) is making a point concerning the Republican Party's illogical approach to taxation and deficit spending, Bruce Bartlett is arguing that most of the Republican Party no longer understands what low taxation looks like. It may seems as if the two agree but they differ seriously over the solution to the problem. Eric is concerned that whoever is in charge when the coming budget crisis hits will raise tax rates far beyond necessary and naturally wipe out any federal gains made through tax cuts. Bartlett fears the rise of the 'fair tax' people within the Republican Party as he views a national sales tax as seriously misguided and damaging. Instead, Bartlett offers the idea of a value-added tax (or VAT) in addition to a national income tax. Naturally, he argues that both taxes would need to remain low but he does make a persuasive (although I'm not entirely convinced) argument for the VAT. I would like to see lower income taxes for the middle class and I think simplifying corporate taxes and tax breaks would settle the revenue short fall. My biggest concern is that the shape of a VAT bill would not emerge as beneficial to the majority of Americans while still not solving the budget crisis. As Bartlett says, most of such talk right now is purely theoretical but I worry that such an ivory-tower attitude will not result in a feasible tax system when the budget crisis does hit. Still, the whole argument is quite fascinating.