History, Infinite Series 2009-07-02 08:10

“These low-hipped gobbies never worry me,” she said. “I keep my cash straight and my decimal points in order. Furthermore, if some dumbbell starts hanging onto the cage I tell him to move on. They don’t block traffic outside my cell. Why, then, should they be starting all this plain-jane-and-no-nonsense business? They’ll be putting us in gunnysacks with nothing but our hands sticking out the next thing you know.”

A quote in the San Francisco Chronicle from a female bank teller and self-identified flapper, circa 1922. She’s fighting the power, vintage style.

From the Sparkletack podcast.

Hardy Souls

Economics, Health 2009-06-30 01:27

“By 1935, when America set up its Social Security system, the official pension age was 65—three years beyond the lifespan of the typical American. State-sponsored retirement was designed to be a brief sunset to life, for a few hardy souls.”

From The end of retirement


Technology 2009-06-23 05:33

Rockbox is open-source firmware for mp3 players - basically, a new operating system for your iPod, but one that can play superior open source media formats like ogg and flac.


Critical Thinking 2009-06-20 08:35

The word “argument” has a fairly specific meaning, yet we’re often conditioned to think of its negative connotations - husband and wife hurling dishes at each other, yelling and emoting, no real communication going on.

At another extreme is what critical thinking defines as an argument: an assertion based on a premise. This has nothing to do with people or emotions, but is a tool of logic and communication.

Thomas Jefferson purportedly would not abide in-person arguing. He had a rule for dinner guests: they may state their position, then he would state his, and then they would drop the subject. He felt that back-and-forth discussion was fruitless: it never changed anyone’s mind, only further entrenched the preexisting beliefs of the arguers.

I disagree with Jefferson on this point. In-person argument is extremely healthy, done right.

The key to accomplishing healthy debate - as opposed to unhealthy quarreling - is that the advocates for each side have to avoid feeling personally tied to the point they are arguing. The arguers have to be free to critically attack the other position with full force. For a position to prove its merit, it must pass the gauntlet presented by a skilled, informed, and highly critical devil’s advocate.


Politics 2009-06-09 12:17

“We see laws as nothing more than the shadows of our predecessor’s customs, lengthened by the years to seem more wise than our own judgement.”

From Fighting For Our Lives: An Anarchist Primer


Economics, Cognition 2009-06-05 02:36

“Neuroeconomics combines neuroscience, economics, and psychology to study how people make decisions. It looks at the role of the brain when we evaluate decisions, categorize risks and rewards, and interact with each other.”

From Wikipedia. This is right up my alley.

“[Neuroeconomics] measures brain activity while experimental subjects make decisions. Because the brains of all animals are “economic,” that is, they have limited resources to achieve necessary goals, neuroeconomics experiments are not limited to studies of human beings, but have also employed apes, monkeys, and rodents.”

From Neuroeconomics Explained.
Read more »

Stage Magic and Neuroscience

Cognition 2009-05-27 08:45

Magic and the Brain: Teller Reveals the Neuroscience of Illusion suggests that stage magic may provide insights into the working of the human mind.

And watch the embedded video of Teller showing the seven basic techniques of stage illusion - it’s awesome.

Government is an Industry

Economics, Politics 2009-05-25 04:23

“Government is just another industry, where countries offer services to citizens, but it has some unfortunate features. It is a geographically segmented monopoly, and since all land is taken, the industry has an enormous barrier to entry. To start a new government you have to beat an old one, which means winning a war, an election, or a revolution. And it has very high customer lock-in: there are barriers to emigration and immigration, and switching countries involves both high financial and emotional costs. These characteristics result in a horribly uncompetitive industry, so it is no surprise that existing firms tend to exploit customers instead of innovating to attract them.”

From Beyond Folk Activism by Patri Friedman

Die, Flash, Die

Technology, Internet 2009-05-18 11:00

I’ve never liked Flash. And yet, I can’t deny that it’s been an enabling technology for a new type of artform - Homestar Runner being one excellent example. That’s aside from all the media its enabled, like Beatport and Youtube.

But I don’t like the technology. The good news is that standards-based, browser-friendly technologies like SVG and the canvas tag may be getting good enough to replace Flash. Rahaeljs is one example.

Clockwork Fetish

Technology, Life 2009-05-17 12:36