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  1. Four (More or Less Random) Things 1. When you're a parent of young children, there is no such thing as "winning" when it's clock-changing time. First, like everyone else, you lose an hour of sleep when it's time to spring forward. Second, since kids that age are oblivious to such things and don't appreciate opportunities to sleep in, you don't get that extra hour when it's time to fall back. A few weeks ago, Mrs. Van Horn and I accidentally scored a rare win in that department when we had her folks -- who recently moved nearby -- take the kids for a sleepover so we could have a date night. I'd completely forgotten about the change, and realized it only the next morning, when I felt unusually well-rested despite being up relatively late. And yes, I did have a small chuckle at my in-laws' expense, because my son wakes as soon as it's light outside. But Pumpkin is ten and he's eight. By next year, he might also fall back with the rest of us, so this might well have been the last time he would have woken us early. We'll see next year: I'll be careful not to goof up their time change then. 2. This week, I did two things I haven't done in at least a decade: (1) unintentionally deleted a file with hours of work in it; and (2) not had a backup copy of that file elsewhere. Not wanting to spend a bunch of time re-creating the work and aware that it is prudent to completely overwrite hard drives when getting rid of computers, I cast about for ways to retrieve deleted files on Linux. GREP -- a standard utility I use every day -- turned out to be up to the task:[T]he [search] pattern is some string that is known to be in the deleted file. The more specific this string can be, the better. The file being searched ... is the partition of the hard drive the deleted file used to reside in. The "-a" flag tells grep to treat the hard drive partition, which is actually a binary file, as text. Since recovering the entire file would be nice instead of just the lines that are already known, context control is used. The flags "-B 25 -A 100" tell grep to print out 25 lines before a match and 100 lines after a match. Be conservative with estimates on these numbers to ensure the entire file is included (when in doubt, guess bigger numbers). Excess data is easy to trim out of results...Per a commenter, I saved the results file to a pen drive to avoid looping. I worked on something else for a few hours and then found about ten versions of the lost file among the results. The most-up-to-date was very close to what I had deleted. Whew! I hope not to have to repeat this neat trick, but for anyone passing by who might need to do this, a refinement: The string -- a URL -- I was able to remember and use for searching was likely also in other files. Fortunately, I could also remember another, non-URL string that was in the file, but which probably would also appear in another set of files. So I ran the GREP search of the hard drive using one string, and looked for the file among those results using the other string: No false positives. 3. En route to other things, I encountered the following compilation of ten funny commercials: Of the ten, I liked the astronaut commercial and the one for the web-slinging chef the most. I don't watch much television, so I had only seen the commercial featuring the eco-warrior before. 4. Paging Robert Ripley: Here is a rare sighting in the wild of a labor union backing off from harassing someone (It's Item 1, but consider also scrolling down a bit and stopping for ... the warm gooey...):My fellow baker/staff member was incensed and being the most vocal member of the (union) department, called her rep to complain. The grounds? My "sway" with the staff (I had no sway, they hated me) gave me an unfair advantage, which was the only reason I won [the baking contest]. The union, needing to do due diligence, phoned me for my "side." I had so many real issues to deal with, Bananagate needed to be put to rest quickly, so I told them to just have their baker/member bring in a loaf and then, call me. I heard later that she did provide a loaf to them ... but they never called me again.That's all, folks! -- CAVLink to Original
  2. "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt." -- Unknown*** The Federalist is calling this perfectly legal exercise of Twitter's property rights "censorship," which is factually incorrect since Twitter is not part of our government. Note the Twitter sharing icon at the left. (This 12-2-21 screen capture is by the author, who believes its use to be appropriate under American copyright law.)This morning, my news feed churned up a piece at the Federalist, whose title complains, "Twitter Implements New Rule So It Can Selectively Ban Memes, Mockery of Democrats." That figures, I thought. Soon after, I had the exact same thought again, but about The Federalist, a publication I once respected. This happened when, upon seeing the story mislabeled "Censorship" in red, I took a look and saw that this publication has mislabeled numerous similar stories dating at least back to 2018 as censorship. I am no fan of the often blatant left-wing bias of the major social media companies, but what they are doing is not censorship. Let's review the meaning of that term:"Censorship" is a term pertaining only to governmental action. No private action is censorship. No private individual or agency can silence a man or suppress a publication; only the government can do so. The freedom of speech of private individuals includes the right not to agree, not to listen and not to finance one's own antagonists. -- Ayn Rand ("Man's Rights," The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 98) [bold added]Just as anyone hosting a Thanksgiving dinner has the right to eject a guest -- justly or not -- from his own home, so do the owners of a platform to refuse service to anyone they please. The reason for someone doing so is irrelevant to the question of whether he has the right to do so. Conversely, the fact that someone has the right to do something does not exempt him from moral judgement. Archie Bunker turned me away because he's a bigot is morally wrong, but the fact remains that it's his house. And so it is with Twitter. Having made those points clear, I must add that I am always puzzled when left-wingers do whatever they can to silence political opponents. Are they not so sure that they're right and might lose an argument? Does hearing a dissenting opinion put them so much into an emotional fetal position that they feel they must avoid encountering one at all costs? Are they afraid they'll look bad by comparison? I don't know why leftists are so apparently frightened of dissent or falsehood, but I think the Archie Bunkers of the world deserve one cheer: At least they're letting us know they're asses. I say, Let them speak up so we can be warned! (And, let me add, before fans of such policies start slapping themselves on the backs for being so much more broad-minded than Archie Bunker: Actions speak louder than words: Not only are people who spew nonsense telling us about themselves, so too are the ones who selectively shut up only certain brands of nonsense while pretending to be neutral. In my mind, neither Twitter nor The Federalist look good. So, in case you were wondering to whom I refer with that old cultural reference, it's both media outlets.) In that vein, I hope Twitter doesn't squelch the Federalist. The world needs to see them demonstrate that they are friends to neither freedom of speech nor property rights. In this way, those of us who are will know not to rely on those who are incompetent or treasonous for support. Likewise, we could use a more even-handed Twitter, or at least a different outlet that is even-handed, and out-competes it. -- CAVLink to Original
  3. Image by Office of U.S. Health Secretary, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.Chris Christie, possibly to goose book sales or to run against Trump in 2024, is apparently attacking Donald Trump for failing to deliver on his campaign promises. Paul Mirengoff of the conservative Power Line blog considers the criticism more or less as a Trump supporter and makes some good points along the way, but I want to add a couple of things. If we assume that Christie is interested in running against Trump, though, his attack just caused me to lose his vote: Trump is not a pro-capitalist and I actively oppose major parts of his platform, such as the anti-immigration, the protectionism, and the wildly extravagant and inappropriate government spending he championed during the early part of the pandemic. I do not want someone who can wall our country in, violate the right to trade freely, and take my money even more effectively than Trump did. I want -- and America needs -- an advocate for individual rights who will do what he can to protect those rights, including explaining any situation in which his hands are tied and what would need to change to move forward. (Regarding that last bit: We have a President, not a dictator. It is a good thing that no one man can just do whatever he wants. In fact, I seem to recall that a country somewhere -- get this -- designed an entire government around the idea of preventing that from happening.) The attack is weak -- just like Republicans who currently whine about Biden being senile or incompetent (as if they want Biden to succeed at his agenda), or opponents of sitting Presidents who complain when they have the temerity to play golf -- and is a lazy attempt to escape the responsibility of offering voters a positive alternative they can vote for. To laud effectiveness -- but to duck the question effective at what? -- is a confession of ideological bankruptcy and weakness; and it raises the question of how well the attacker understands American government in general and the job of the President in particular. -- CAVLink to Original
  4. Jill Filipovic of CNN argues that a Supreme Court decision overturning or severely weakening Roe vs. Wade would be extremely unpopular both in the short term and in the long term. The short-term unpopularity would arise from the fact that most Americans support a woman's right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy:I say we should make abortion fully legal, instead. (Image by Gayatri Malhotra, via Unsplash, license.)According to this latest [ABC News/Washington Post] poll, even a slim majority of Republicans and conservatives, and 75% percent of Americans generally, believe that abortion should be a private decision between a woman and her doctor. Just one in five Americans, a small minority, want to see the decision of whether or not to have an abortion regulated by law. Majorities support abortion rights across racial, gender, regional, and educational lines; almost half of white Evangelicals, the most conservative voting bloc in the country, say abortion should be between a woman and her doctor instead of regulated by law and 62% of Catholics favor upholding Roe v Wade. Only about a quarter of Americans strongly support state laws that make it more difficult for clinics to run. [link omitted, bold added]Truth is, of course, not a matter of majority opinion, although it is nice to know that most people support what I consider to be the correct position on reproductive freedom. Longer-term, the implications of such a decision would make it even more unpopular:This poll didn't look at support for contraceptive access, but Americans should understand that the right to prevent a pregnancy and plan a family is tied up with the right to abortion. Even though access to highly effective and long-acting contraception is the most effective way to reduce the abortion rate -- and is in fact the primary reason abortions have become less common in the US -- many major "pro-life" groups actively oppose most forms of modern contraception, including the IUD and the birth control pill... ... ... Roe was decided based on the precedent set by a 1965 case, Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to sexual privacy for American adults and legalized contraception for married couples. From that case sprung Roe and others, including cases legalizing consensual sex between adults regardless of gender and establishing a right to same-sex marriage. The primary right-wing legal argument against Roe is that a constitutional right to sexual privacy doesn't exist. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe on that basis, it's hard to imagine a universe in which the rights to contraception and marriage equality couldn't be similarly challenged. [links omitted, bold added]These are at least thought-provoking arguments, if not good ones. But a question: If support for reproductive rights is so strong, why won't Democrats run on a promise to pass legislation to make abortion unambiguously legal? I think at least part of the answer lies within Filipovic's otherwise perspicacious piece, in the form of the word access, which is a word the left does not use in the same way normal people use the word. Many (if not most) people would regard access to contraceptives in a political context as being free to purchase and use them. But at least since before the ObamaCare debates, the word access has been code for "obtain at someone else's expense," much in the same way Southern planters had "access" to manual labor in antebellum times. This kind of "access" was wrong then and it is wrong now, even if the form has changed from chattel slavery to forms of government theft and redistribution that everyone is way too comfortable with. That said, while most people support (actual) access to contraceptives and abortion, with the understanding that they will pay for their own or find someone willing to pay on their behalf, most also know that when Democrats say access, a new tax or coerced expense is lurking in the background. Among other things, this fact makes it perfectly reasonable (to say the least!) to exempt businesses from having to pay for insurance plans that include abortion benefits. (I'll pass over arguing that government shouldn't be dictating terms of insurance coverage, and there should be no need to scrounge around for an excuse based on religious freedom to get such an exemption, for starters.) My views are far from the Overton Window, but the fact remains that every time the Democrats talk about the freedom to have an abortion, they wrongly package it with forcing third parties to pay for it. This makes the cause of legalizing it less compelling for the very significant part of the American population -- which this poll did not measure, but of which I am a part -- that fully supports reproductive freedom, but strongly opposes being forced to pay for the decisions or medical procedures of others. Separate those issues. Promise to do one thing: Just ... make ... abortion ... legal. If the Democrats really cared about any kind of freedom in general and reproductive freedom in particular, they'd get over their desire to take money from everyone, and do just this, rather than hoping for a terrible Supreme Court decision so they can ... oh, I don't know ... overrun Congress and the pack the Supreme Court so it can legislate from the bench instead. -- CAVLink to Original
  5. Three on Thanksgiving, One on Black Friday I am taking a break from blogging over the week of Thanksgiving. I expect to be back here on the 29th or 30th. Happy Thanksgiving! 1. It is always worth it to consider the true meaning of the holiday, which I think Ayn Rand very well described in the early 1970's:Image by Elisa Stone, via Unsplash, license.Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday. In spite of its religious form (giving thanks to God for a good harvest), its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production. Abundance is (or was and ought to be) America's pride -- just as it is the pride of American parents that their children need never know starvation. [bold added]It is interesting to note the role of the Pilgrims in establishing the holiday: It is quite different than you were probably taught, as John Stossel once explained in a column titled, "Thanks, Private Property!". 2. Another writer, Debi Ghate, elaborated on Rand's explanation in part as follows:Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things -- all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable -- those who help us live the much-coveted American dream. [bold added]Thanking oneself will likely -- due to the altruistic, sacrifice-worshipping elements of our culture -- seem a strange idea to almost anyone. But this should be the norm, and the idea that one is not entitled to enjoy one's own life and the fruits of one's own efforts is what should seem bizarre. Thanksgiving is not just an excellent time to celebrate success, but it is also an opportunity to remember this fact, and to regain our bearings, if necessary. 3. Writing for the Ayn Rand Institute a few years ago, Elan Journo writes of the Thanksgiving scene in Atlas Shrugged:The only person no one thanks is the one person who made all of it possible. It was Rearden's productive effort that paid for their home and the lavish spread. It is his money, earned through honest production and trade, that not merely keeps them all from starving, but affords them luxuries of which no panhandler could even dream. It is his sweat, his mind, his drive, the countless hours of his life dedicated to his work -- on which all of their lives depend -- that go unrewarded and unacknowledged. [bold added]That scene strikes me as a fine retort to Charles Dickens's feast scene in A Christmas Carol, throughout which he farcically (at least to anyone who can keep context) and unjustly damns capitalism through caricature. 4. And finally, although I happily allow my wife to ... celebrate it for me ... as it were, we have Black Friday. Jaana Woiceshyn once wrote a piece showing that actual holidays are far from the only symbolic targets of those who would have us feel guilt for the "sin" of being alive. Yes, there are people who protest Black Friday:The reason for the sit-ins and blockades? The anti-capitalist and environmental activists staging the protests accuse Amazon as the symbolic culprit that pushes "consumerism," the definition of which has shifted to an invalid packaging of "high level of consumption" with a negative evaluation of it as "frivolous" and "selfish." The activists disdain high level of consumption of material products because they believe it contributes to planet-destroying climate change. [bold added]I do not wish to end on a sour note. Let's acknowledge that our values are under attack, but let's also take that as a reminder of how precious, and worth celebrating they are. -- CAVLink to Original
  6. Steve Malanga of City Journal writes about several alternative content platforms that are thriving in part due to the biased and ham-handed content moderation policies of such platforms as Facebook and YouTube. My primary criticism of the piece is that Malanga perpetuates the common and dangerous error of calling those corporate missteps censorship. Not only would Ayn Rand beg to differ, Tara Smith, an Objectivist philosopher, has warned that such sloppiness risks normalizing actual censorship:Image by Roman Martyniuk, via Unsplash, license.The danger, in short, is the normalization of censorship. Whether or not that term is used, this is what takes place under a bloated conception of "freedom" of speech and under the latitude granted by the rejection of absolutes and the embrace of exceptions. Such normalization is not simply a far-off possibility. It occurs already. When an FCC Chair declares that, "there is censorship by ratings, by advertisers," conveniently excusing unwarranted government restrictions by effectively pleading, "don't object to the government for censoring -- we all censor, it's all the same," this is normalizing. When a Wall Street Journal columnist criticizes Google and Facebook for "excessive censorship," implying that some censorship would be fine, this is normalizing. [notes omitted] (p. 81)I'll accept the risk of sounding long-winded in the face of this grave danger. With that out of the way, the story of a platform I'd never heard of -- and that existed before this became an issue -- was quite instructive:... Founded in 2013 by Canadian tech entrepreneur Chris Pavlovski to help “the little guys” stand out in a crowded market dominated by YouTube, Rumble had a modest online presence until late 2020, when it began attracting conservative voices who had experienced YouTube censorship. In just ten months, Rumble’s online viewership has increased 25-fold. The company has attracted funding from prominent venture capitalists and recently completed a series of deals to bring such outspoken voices as Greenwald, Gabbard, and Joe Rogan to the platform. [bold added]If there were anything I wish modern-day conservatives would do -- after learning the difference between censorship and the right of a company to withdraw access to its own platform -- it would be to note how effective the market is at solving the problems caused by platforms implementing stupid policies, like suppressing non-leftist voices. Rather than regulate "Big Tech" or subject it to the non-objective "law" of antitrust, conservatives should fight to protect freedom of speech and property rights. With those taken care of, there will always be platforms for those of us with unconventional opinions. -- CAVLink to Original
  7. At a gala fundraiser for the Baby2Baby charity, Jeff Bezos donated half a million dollars. Get a load of the ungracious reaction:"Everyone was waiting for him to donate something," an insider said of the world's second-richest man, "but he didn't. Then someone donated a million dollars. And then a little later, [Bezos] donated $500,000. There was an audible groan from the room." "If someone else can donate a million, Jeff Bezos can donate more than a million," they said. [bold added]Then "journalist" Oli Coleman piles on in the next paragraph:It may seem [Because it was. (!) -- ed] an ungracious reaction, considering he did drop half a million -- until you consider that Bezos is estimated to make around $142,667 per minute. So he in theory made more in the five minutes he spent pretending to eat the chicken than he donated the whole night.So? Jeff Bezos is wealthy because he improved the lives of millions by making it easy for us to buy things we need -- particularly during this pandemic, when many of us needed to stay put or were wrongly forced to do so. It boggles the mind that anyone could so easily forget this. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Bezos, simply by doing a heroic job of making things run so smoothly, has been alleviating the lot of many children and parents directly or indirectly already, to the point that he deserves to be honored by any number of similar charities. Ayn Rand made this clear in her 1965 essay, "What Is Capitalism?," when she discussed how much members of a society benefit from the work of those at the top of what she called the pyramid of ability:Image by Seattle City Council, via Wikimedia Commons, license.[T]the man who produces an idea in any field of rational endeavor -- the man who discovers new knowledge -- is the permanent benefactor of humanity .... It is only the value of an idea that can be shared with unlimited numbers of men, making all sharers richer at no one's sacrifice or loss, raising the productive capacity of whatever labor they perform .... In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him; but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the "competition" between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of exploitation" for which you have damned the strong. [bold added]What would the author of that snitty piece -- or the ingrate "insider" -- or those groaning, envious mediocrities at the gala -- have done during the pandemic without Amazon? I don't know, but they owed Bezos gratitude to begin with and it is beyond disgraceful for them to complain about a gift he generously chose to give. If they won't say it, I will: Thank you, Mr. Bezos. -- CAVLink to Original
  8. The New York Post, which mentions the work of Bjorn Lomborg, walks its readers through a half-century of apocalyptic climate warnings, many from from the U.N.. This is valuable -- up to a point -- and amusing -- also, up to a point: My favorite was the prediction that Britain would have a "Siberian" climate by 2020. That one was made in 2004. This author is reasonably sure, based on multiple data points (that happen to coincide with televised Arsenal matches) that that prediction was wrong. That said, the value of spreading raw data around and justifiably laughing at ridiculous predictions is quite limited. Consider the following paragraph, near the end of the piece:Image by Felix Mittermeier, via Unsplash, license.That gives us until 2030 -- or 58 years after the warnings of 1972. Advocates for change believe if they just scream louder, or write more like the Book of Revelations, they'll get the world to agree to a complete upheaval of modern life and trillions in spending. But after decades of alarmism, they sound like the boy who cried warming. People have tuned them out.People have tuned them out. What people? The climate protesters? The legions of voters who showed up last year to vote in the Democrats, who claim that fighting "climate change" is a major priority? Every Tom, Dick, and Harry whose bill at the pump has more than doubled over the past year? Some haven't and some have, and the problem is that the people whose faith in climate change is impervious to evidence are still fighting for their cause while the people who have tuned out fail to show up to stop them, and protect our way of life. And then there are the people whose lives are affected by the anti-energy agenda who basically mumble a complaint about prices, and then zone out again. If leftists don't know or care about the accuracy of their past predictions, too many of the rest show just as much indifference to the progress they keep making towards their goals, either by laughing it off or by going to sleep again whenever the momentary irritation caused by that agenda temporarily passes or becomes part of "normal" to them. Neither the dumb predictions, nor the scare tactics that go with them, nor the incremental progress towards the destruction of industrial civilization will end until outlets like the Post take a serious and penetrating look into the fact that such a movement can exist in the first place -- and begin to help offering a positive alternative to it that can inspire and motivate the young and the idealistic. The sins of the left in evading reality are all too clear in this piece, but the right is also guilty of ignoring reality -- that of the repeated partial successes by the doomsayers that are undermining our country, like restrictions on offshore drilling, fracking bans, and work stoppages on needed pipelines. If the left repeatedly tries to scare everyone into an orgy of self-sacrifice, the right is guilty of repeatedly failing to notice that the idea that self-sacrifice is moral is one that most people take seriously. It is what animates the alarmists, and it and must be opposed before it once again succeeds in precipitating a major regression in our civilization. -- CAVLink to Original
  9. Over at Ask a Manager, Alison Green fields a question from a manager who is concerned that an otherwise excellent employee is sometimes making a bad impression in some client-facing situations. Specifically, the coworker sometimes comes in with hair that is wet, although pulled back into a ponytail, and sometimes meets with clients this way. The manager is concerned, but both wonders whether the concern is well-founded, and, if so, how best to bring up the issue. In my (all non-office) professional life, I have never seen anyone show up for work with dipping-wet hair, but have seen women show up for work with long, not-quite-dry hair. It never occurred to me that this could be a problem, but Green shows that it could be:Image by Lexie Janney, via Unsplash, license.If she weren't public-facing and meeting with clients, I'd say it depends on the vibe of the office (how casual vs. businessy you are) and how wet her hair looks. If it's pulled back and just a little damp, that's not going to strike most people as nearly as unprofessional as if it's full-on wet. But for meeting with clients, it's reasonable to say she needs to have dry or at least nearly dry hair. That's where I'd focus -- "Jane, when you have client meetings, please make sure you're not coming in with wet hair. It'll read as unprepared or even unprofessional to a lot of people, and you're neither of those things." [bold added]This is both very perceptive and extremely well-put, and shows why I follow this blog. In trading relationships, such as professional situations, it is important to keep the best selfish interests of both parties in mind, and Green is a master of this: The clients don't know this worker as well as her boss does, so she needs to be very careful to convey professionalism. Likewise, the boss needs the worker to understand why the wet hair could be an issue and to know that she is making a reasonable request that will help everyone on the team and further the business relationship with the client. Framing the advice in terms of how the grooming can be misinterpreted and how it might wrongly hold the worker back is ingenious because it both appeals to the rationality of the worker and to her self-interest. Rather than some arbitrary rule she'll have to remember, she has advice she will want to use. -- CAVLink to Original
  10. Four Things An all-teaser quote edition... Image by Jeremy Thompson, via Wikimedia Commons, license.1. "One of my coworkers said she spent $1,500 a month on eating out, I was like, 'Yeah, I'm not going down that road!'" -- the man who ate all his meals at Six Flags for $150 a year 2. "I've tried all the forms of ventilation, and the iron lung is the most efficient and the best and the most comfortable way," -- Martha Lillard, one of the last polio victims still using an iron lung 3. "More often, the relationship was brief with little time for a healthy exchange of sexual history: the presence of a clock in the background allowed us to estimate the time-lag between first acquaintance and sexual intercourse at 20 min on one occasion..." -- Wouter Graumans, William J.R.Stone, and Teun Bousema, "No Time to Die: An in-Depth Analysis of James Bond's Exposure to Infectious Agents," Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, vol. 44, 2021 (HT: Paul Hsieh) 4. "The island belongs to me, but everyone is welcome." -- Barna Norton, on the strength of a letter from the U.S. State Department, while defying repeated cease-and-desist letters from the Canadian government -- CAVLink to Original
  11. Several years ago, Cal Newport posted on a productivity tactic he called the anti-plan. Basically, he'd not time-block plan, but allow himself the psychological freedom to roam, journalling what he did along the way. I found the below paragraphs, where he both promotes the approach and warns of its pitfalls, very thought-provoking:The theory behind anti-planning is that it exposes you to a much wider swath of the productivity plan landscape. Your journal will keep you updated on how well you’re doing, which provides the selective pressure needed to drive you toward some novel approaches to getting more depth out of your working habits. People sometimes worry that anti-planning will tank their productivity. The reality is usually the opposite: the flexibility and constant self-reflection tends to increase the rate at which you produce valuable output. For these same reasons, however, anti-planning can be draining (all that reflection and decision making reduces willpower). So I usually only last a month or two before falling back onto a more structured set of rules. [bold added]What your plans might look like when you're stuck in a rut. (Image by Steve Johnson, via Unsplash, license.)Knowing that Newport is an academic, it sounds like he uses sabbatical time or summer breaks for this, and both of his observations make a lot of sense to me. In similar situations, I have noticed that a free period allows me to play around with ideas that have been percolating in my mind that, for whatever reason, I had not been able or willing to devote attention to at the expense of other, more pressing matters: My take is that so long as there is a good supply of such things in one's mind and the relative freedom of a lull in more pressing concerns, the days are effectively time-blocked for reflection and experimentation. When the pool of ideas that have wanted evaluation or development have been used up, decision fatigue sets in and more explicit planning becomes necessary. So it can be easy to see that the time for an anti-plan has come to a close. What about the opposite situation? Newport hints at that, and perhaps doesn't explicitly realize he has been at such points, when he admits:According to my Monthly Plan archives, since September 2012 I’ve launched at least six different plans aimed at increasing my research output, with the goal of closing this final gap. None made a major impact.I don't know what those plans were, but it sounds like his situation might have been adequately described by the colloquialism stuck in a rut. A huge problem in intellectual work is exhausting an avenue of thought or creation, perhaps unwittingly. One feels like one can be doing more, but can't squeeze anything else out of one's time. Sometimes, an unforeseen interruption to one's routine serendipitously leaves one with new connections randomly thrown up from one's subconscious or chances to think at odd times or in strange places -- See Newport's whole concept of adventure studying. These strike me as effectively being mini-episodes of anti-planning. I would guess that Newport's urge to anti-plan comes from a feeling of being in a rut, and perhaps a secondary indication can be repeated good-faith efforts to raise output failing to bear fruit. Having to make constant decisions on the fly is impossible for the same reason that All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy. The anti-plan is the way to introduce much-needed spontaneity to one's mind so that it can once again find delight in the world. There is a time for that, just as there is a time to put one's nose to the grindstone and build on what one has thus learned. -- CAVLink to Original
  12. I know next to nothing about Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), but an article at VICE certainly isn't making me become any less skeptical. First, a definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:People pay lots of money to be able to say they own images like this. (Image by Maqbool321, via Wikipedia, license.)A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a digital ledger (blockchain). NFTs can be associated with easily-reproducible items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files as unique items (analogous to a certificate of authenticity), and use blockchain technology to give the NFT a verified and public proof of ownership. Copies of the original file are not restricted to the owner of the NFT, and can be copied and shared like any file. The lack of interchangeability (fungibility) distinguishes NFTs from blockchain cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. [bold added, links and notes removed]The cartoon character pictured in this post is an example of what all the hubbub is about. I'm not completely dismissive of NFTs: I can see the concept being useful in some rational context as a kind of proof of ownership, but dumping wads of cash just to be able to say something like Yeah, but I'm the actual owner of this image doesn't strike me as one of them. Indeed, after reading "What the Hell Is 'Right-Clicker Mentality'?, it looks a lot like Peter Keating finally learned how to use a computer. We can see this when an "NFT-bro" ridicules someone who posted a photo of his relatively inexpensive knock-off of a famous restaurant's astronomically-priced gold-encrusted steak:"This is a great example of right-clicker mentality," Midwit Milhouse said on Twitter. "Sure, you can make your own gold-coated steak for 65GBP, but then you don't have the satisfaction, flex, clout that comes from having eaten at Salt Bae's restaurant. The value is not in the cost of the steak. Go ahead, make yourself a gold-coated steak at home. Post a picture of it on Instagram. See how much clout it gets you. Salt Bae's dish costs around 1500GBP because people want to pay 1500 GBP to show off that they can afford to pay that much. It's all about the flex." ... To be an NFT collector is to philosophically buy into the idea that owning this string of numbers means you "own" a JPEG that lesser people simply right-click to save on their machines at any time.[bold added]Again, I can't just discount the idea, even if I find the application under discussion to be daft. (A real-world example might help: There is great art worth collecting and there is junk that gets bidded up into the stratosphere by second-handers trying to buy prestige. I can likewise imagine an NFT tied to something of actual value being useful.) That said, the article indicates a cultural divide about NFTs that also brings to my mind the way the Wright Brothers were ridiculed about the impossibility of air travel. Again, I know little about NFTs and can just as easily see these NFT-bros as wealthy early adopters having fun some financially-risky fun with a new technology. This leaping laggard will stop now, enjoy his popcorn, and see where things shake out in a few years. The fact that some people act like idiots concerning a new idea does not necessarily damn the idea. -- CAVLink to Original
  13. Suzanne Lucas, taking a time she handled layoffs for a company as a point of departure, provides excellent advice regarding contractual agreements of any kind:Don't sign anything you disagree with. An honest company has no problem with you taking your documents to an employment attorney to check out. A dishonest company will freak out and demand that you sign RIGHT NOW.And much later:Image by Romain Dancre, via Unsplash, license.Yes, lawyers cost money, and sometimes it is not worth it. But, it costs you nothing to say, "Let me take these documents to my attorney." You can decide later whether you want an attorney to review them. It's the reaction you're looking for. If they freak out and tell you to SIGN RIGHT NOW, you can rest assured it is not in your best interest to sign[.] [bold added]For anyone who might resemble Past Me in terms of inexperience or lack of assertiveness, two supporting facts might help cement these lessons in mind, in case you might need them later, insofar as employment is concerned. First, you are (or might become) an employee, not a slave. The worst-case scenario is what? You're not working for someone who wants to pressure you? That's a blessing, as disguised as it might seem in the moment. Second, it can take time to make any decision. If, in a legal context, you voice agreement with another party without satisfying yourself that you do, in fact agree, you are not being honest, and you will be held to account for it. Signing your name to a piece of paper might be easy in the moment, but the consequences could be painful for a long time. Outright slavery is illegal today, but the next "best" thing for a shady operator is being able to point to a signature that makes it appear that you consent to a bad arrangement. Contracts are legal agreements between equals. Anything other than an appropriate pace and a professional demeanor in their negotiation is a sure sign that, at the very least, caution is in order. -- CAV P.S. It can also help to consider the following: If you were seeking an agreement with someone else, wouldn't you want them to make the best-informed and most careful decision possible? For that reason alone, it should bother you a lot when someone tries to keep you from doing the same. Updates Today: Added a P.S.Link to Original
  14. A post at the conservative Power Line blog says about as much about how to get news these days as it analyzes that news. To get that first bit out of the way: Paul Mirengoff's description of his news-gathering reminds me quite a bit of my own:Image by Richard Corner, via Wikimedia Commons, license.The statements of four women handpicked by CNN [for interviews] don't necessarily reflect the views of Virginia's suburban moms. However, a reader with a good pulse on what parents in Northern Virginia have to say tells me that CNN's clip accurately portrays the views of many suburban parents he knows who supported Biden in 2020 but voted for Youngkin in 2021. Accordingly, I believe it's worth considering what the four had to say.News media are too busy trying to craft a political narrative to be trusted as news media. Check. Independent verification of purported facts is required, preferably from a political opponent of said network or a neutral. Check. I don't always agree with the blogger, but I usually find him thoughtful, and willing to admit things unfavorable for his side, at least from an electoral perspective. All that out of the way, the overall take for this pro-capitalist is hopeful:f the four parents' comments are representative, they show, at a minimum, that the suburbs are up for grabs. The powerful anti-Trump reaction of 2020 does not presage a realignment. [bold added]This is good news, and it is bolstered by the facts that (1) these parents rejected the idea that they were unhappy that the Democrats hadn't managed to pass their spending-spree packages, and (2) Terry McAuliffe's harping on Donald Trump was off-putting to them, despite their dislike of the former President. Most important, these interviewees were more interested in "policy concerns" that talking about Donald Trump. That's something I wish both parties would take to heart. Indeed, it sounds like my take on the election was about right. There were things each party could learn from the segment, but therein lies the bad news: (1) It would appear that the ridiculous school closures that started during the pandemic will inevitably wane as a campaign issue that will hurt the Democrats, and (2) Donald Trump, in Mirengoff's words is "poison" to such voters. Guess which factor will loom over the next presidential race, whether or not Trump actually runs? If the GOP is serious about retaking the White House, it will listen to persuadable voters like these, and run a more substantive candidate than Donald Trump. This election just showed them that such a strategy can work. Far from being the GOP's only hope, Donald Trump remains the person best suited to making sure Biden or Harris -- or someone even worse -- can win in 2024. -- CAVLink to Original
  15. Blog Roundup 1. Over at the blog of the Texas Institute for property Rights, Brian Phillips gives an interesting analysis of the thinking behind the anti-vaxxers who incorrectly assert that a business doesn't have the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment, patronage, or entry:The anti-vaxxer's flawed view of the virtue of independence is a direct result of our culture's dominant morality -- altruism. Altruism holds that we have a moral duty to self-sacrificially serve others, that we must place the welfare and interests of others before our own. Though most Americans accept altruism, they also find they can't be altruistic and pursue their own happiness at the same time. When the demands of sacrificing oneself to others becomes too much, many resort to the false alternative of sacrificing others to oneself. Those who do not want to be vaccinated demand the freedom to act on their judgment, but they seek to deny that same freedom for others. These "rebels" against altruism want to use the coercive power of government to force others -- such as their employers -- to sacrifice for the "rebel's" desires. To these "rebels," somebody must sacrifice, and the only question is: Who? This is not a rebellion against altruism; it's an open-armed embrace of sacrifice. [bold added]This is a timely analysis and one that even a few Ayn Rand fans would do well to consider. 2. At How to Be Profitable and Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn's curiosity about a book with a great title -- Why We Bite the Invisible Hand: The Psychology of Anti-Capitalism -- leads her to an interview that inadvertently gives us a clue:Besides his first sentence about free enterprise, [reviewer Robert] Fulford's characterization of capitalism is inaccurate and therefore worth examining here. No wonder people don't grasp capitalism's benefits when intellectuals and journalists don't understand capitalism and misrepresent it. [bold added]All I might add to the subsequent corrective, which I recommend reading, is that many proponents of capitalism are guilty of propagating the notion that capitalism is "chaotic." 3. Jean Moroney of Thinking Directions offers some great advice for anyone thinking about past efforts, be they successful or not. She summarizes as follows:You need to celebrate successes no matter how small or large they are. This is not an automatic process even with a major success. Everyone experiences a letdown after success sometimes. And you need to mourn setbacks and failures, and then do a post-mortem. Even a significant failure can be transformed this way so that instead of weighing you down, it fosters and supports your future success. But this doesn't happen automatically either. When you choose to take a value orientation toward your past, you consistently strengthen your values, learn from experience, and give yourself the best foundation possible to succeed in the future. [bold added]I personally benefitted from this recently when I considered a setback and realized how much I had learned from the experience that was directly applicable to other things I am interested in doing. I recommend reading the whole thing. 4. At Value for Value, philosopher Harry Binswanger discusses a new idea that "supplements the Objectivist idea of the arbitrary." He calls them thresholds.Fine for a lark, probably a waste of time otherwise. (Image by Waldemar Brandt, via Unsplash, license.)A "threshold" is a lower bound of significance -- a degree below which something has too little cognitive or existential impact to be entertained. ... ... The arbitrary has no evidence and is asserted on the premise of "evidence -- who needs it?!" Entertaining the arbitrary is treating imagination as if it were cognition. But the sub-threshold is different. "You have a 1 in 12 million chance of winning this lottery" is put forward on the basis of mathematics, not emotion. One could argue that by implication acting on this mathematics is emotionalist, but that presupposes the point about thresholds that I'm going to make: to grant significance to things with too little evidence or too little value is to engage in context dropping. [bold added]This is a thought-provoking and fruitful analysis, with many applications. -- CAVLink to Original
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