Archive for August, 2017

On Binary Thinking

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda

So we’ve gone from “Russia Russia Russia” to “Nazis Nazis Nazis” to “Statues Statues Statues”…now we’re all going to veer sharply away from our prior silly deliberations about “hate speech” versus free speech, and whether it’s okay to acknowledge more than one side in a dispute is bigoted & hateful and has violent intent, when one of those sides has something to do with Nazis. And with the desperate plight of our fellow country-persons in Texas and the gut-wrenching, life-altering crisis they face, re-focus on what really matters. Melania Trump’s shoes.

Well, if I may; just a parting though or two about the “peaceful” protests. The argument that it’s somehow wrong to call out hatred and bigotry on both sides when it does indeed exist on both sides, has failed. The phrase “peaceful protest” is way past overused; it has failed too. Those protests were not peaceful. They weren’t even protests, they were riots. And the protests themselves have failed. The protesters did not succeed in making their point because they did not have a point to make. “I’m unhappy with the way things are going and I want things to be different” is a gripe, not a point.

But Her ShoesThis is all very black-and-white thinking. These days I hear a lot about how certain people, myself included, are doing a grave disservice to ourselves and to others by engaging in this simplistic, binary thinking, so I’ll consume the balance of my writing-space here to address that directly. It isn’t a lack of comprehension that dissuades me from reacting to these “shades of gray” I seem to be ignoring. It’s experience. I can’t play the shades-of-gray game. I know better.

It first became popularized when a certain presidential candidate got nailed in the arena of public discourse, quite correctly, for being an indecisive “waffler.” Since he was a democrat, the media set about quickly to help rehabilitate his image, and plied us with a bunch of pablum like…get your puke bucket ready…this, for example.

Watching [then-Senator John] Kerry debate an issue can be “a little bit like at a tennis match, watching the ball going back and forth,” says David Leiter, his former chief of staff. “He is curious. … He’s engaged and thoughtful. He always struggles to get it right.”

Adds Blakely Bundy: “He doesn’t think in black and white. He thinks in shades of gray because he is so knowledgeable.”

The nuance that typifies Kerry’s public statements is there as well in his life portrait, which is painted with blended colors and dappled brushstrokes rather than sharp lines.

The whole rest of Kerry’s campaign went like that, which provides some valuable insight into why he lost. Americans, on both sides of the aisle, elect leaders because they’ve picked up some sense of confidence that once the leader is a leader, he’ll vote the way they themselves would’ve voted on…something. For some voters it’s a single-issue, for others it’s many issues, with some sort of value system or priority scheme riveting it all together. The Kerry campaign tried to make it into an asset that their candidate was altogether missing this; reliably hard-left on the coarser decisions, but on the finer ones, reliable as a bouncing football and that was somehow supposed to be desirable. It went over about as well as Walter Mondale’s promise to raise taxes.

But over the rusted and long-derelict ruins of the sale, the pitch lives onward. Me and my homies are sleek, sophisticated, fashionable, and capable of seeing these shades of gray; you’re just a dumb throwback, sitting in your mud hut banging rocks together, comprehending only absolutes. It doesn’t seem to be within the capacity of Mr. Kerry’s fan base to understand, that this paradigm in & of itself is an exercise in binary thinking. If they do realize it, it certainly doesn’t slow them down much. Good decision making, we are still counseled in ways subtle and out-proud in-your-face, involves forsaking the endpoints on a given spectrum for a more enlightened contemplation about the many increments in between. Like President Kerry would’ve done. He would have found some excuse to do-nothing with Iraq. And then we wouldn’t have been there. In 2004, the pitch did have its source of appeal.

This old question takes me back a great many years, to a long-forgotten memory of my report card in my high school sophomore year. What’s “P”?? It looks like an F! I got a “P” in driver’s ed and I don’t know what that means! Is my life ruined? Well, no…that was my first Pass/Fail course. The years that came & went since then, have taught me life is like that. You passed, or you failed. Earning an “A” in something, that actually counts in some meaningful way as something better than a “B”, is such a rare blessing. It’s wrong to expect it in our everyday happenings, and it may be noble to pursue the situation in one’s vocation, but it’s hard to bring it about in that setting too.

So much of life is Yoda-mode, do-or-do-not. Fulfill the previously defined objectives, or kick the can down the road.

Make a decision that makes sense, or make a decision to make yourself feel good about something.

Immediate gratification vs. delayed gratification. This one is a biggie. The nobodies who don’t read my Blog That Nobody Reads, have seen me discuss this a great many times over the years. It isn’t something I made up, it’s a real thing. You can make a plan and follow through, or just make it up as you go along. You can make a budget and get all stressed out about money earlier rather than later; or, you can get stressed out about money so late that you can’t do anything about it anymore. You can elect leaders with the correct values and vision, or settle on these well-dressed sophisticated-types who give good speeches and display the correct mannerisms.

My point here is to distinguish between these fine, precise discussions about direction, vs. stop-points. The former are useful, the latter are not, they’re like quibbling over what shapes are being made by the clouds. Here’s a great example of what I mean: A threat, versus an actual danger. Are those two the same: The answer is, no…but, they’re both meaningful concepts. Once something is identified as a threat, there isn’t a lot of use to be had in deliberating endlessly about “more of a threat than this thing over here, but not as much of one as that other thing over there.” Worthy questions to ask might be: How is it we think we know, what we think we know, about what makes this a threat? How imminent of a threat? And to what? What’s the cost of doing nothing? What’s the proposal? And what are the viable alternatives? This is adult thinking; but it isn’t shades-of-gray thinking.

A lot of adult thinking has to do with teasing out the fine distinctions between these directions, like on the face of a compass — but, not about teasing out stop-points between the extremes. Is creativity the same thing as resourcefulness? (The answer is no.) Is mass the same as weight? (No.) Life-experience has a way of helping you see that, after awhile. It is not at all like making lots of crazy twisty-turns through town, in your car, getting into & backing out of cul de sacs, to get to an airstrip; strapping yourself in, waiting for clearance on a runway, taking off and gaining some altitude. With the experience/altitude, things change, and now it’s all about direction. That’s the metamorphosis. “We need to go East” might mean going East a hundred miles, or five hundred miles…in the moment it doesn’t matter, the heading has to be East. We’ve reached the destination or else we haven’t. If we haven’t, we go East.

As I’m often fond of noting: My house is somewhere East of Arden Fair Mall. But, it’s West of Folsom Dam. This is information you need to have if you’re flying a plane to my house — if your plane (or drone) is somewhere in between the mall and the dam. The observation does not make East and West the same thing. Just as, I am warmer than an ice cube but I am cooler than a campfire. That makes me a stop-point somewhere between hot and cold. It does not make hot & cold the same thing. Thus it is with all these teased-out compass directions. With all these observed increments between the extremes, the extremes remain, relative to each other, exactly what they are without the increments being noticed. Or existing at all. Opposites.

This is a very old issue. It’s one of Aristotle’s fundamental Rules of Thought. You might think it so self-evidently true that it is hardly even worth stating, that for a given proposition, truth is either in alignment with the proposition, in which case it is true, or it isn’t in which case it’s not. But, some of our “clean hands people” have managed to go through quite a stretch of time and “earn” impressive amounts of money, without doing any actual work; and I notice we are continually reminded of the Law Of Either-Or when we’re doing work. Not when we’re espousing a bunch of highbrow ideas about the work. When we’re actually doing it. The simplistic metaphor I have come to favor, is that once the wrench is slipped around the head of the bolt, the two things that may be done right afterward are righty-tighty or lefty-loosy. One or the other, those are your choices. And not both. Now yes, if you want to cloud the issue and waste time pondering a lot of silly stuff, there’s some idle and off-topic maneuvering that can take place. You can reef on it all cockeyed, wear down the corners on the bolt head, break the bolt, ruin the wrench. Give up, go inside and watch cartoons. Pee on it. But practically, the two things you can do are opposite from each other. Most of life is like that…when you’re doing actual work.

So why the disagreement about this? Why the hesitation? I mentioned up above that Kerry’s pitch had some appeal back in the day. War is always like this. We had body bags coming back from Iraq. Those who saw Kerry as the proper antidote against the hated poison that was war, saw fit to advance this “nuanced thinking” as quality decision-making. But that was dishonest. The truth is that Kerry would have done nothing, and then given a bunch of speeches to make it appear palatable to do nothing. More truth: America is already quite experienced at electing so-called “leaders” who make so-called “decisions” this way. Mmmmm yes, that’s a bad thing that guy is doing…mmmm…yes…put it all in a bag, shake it up with my super-sophisticated and super-secret decision-making signature-style, and ABRACADABRA SHAZZA DAZZA DUZZIT!! The answer is, can do nothing at this time, try again later.

More truth: The results of this are consistently disastrous.

But there I go with my black-and-white thinking again. Noticing the wrong things.

People are inclined to dislike binary thinking, even though it is necessary to get actual work done. When you engage in it and say, such-and-such a thing is so — there are three ugly ramifications to it. The first is reproducibility. For example, if I lay out my design with all its computations, and take into account the correct measurements of board thickness, gap size, etc. and conclude “This is where I want to cut the board”; you should be able to undertake the same task, and come to the same conclusion. The only way it’ll come out differently, is if you forget something, or I do. Or if you make an incorrect measurement, or math error, or I do. “I’ve got a super-sophisticated and super-secret decision-making algorithm with eleven secret herbs and spices,” on the other hand, protects against that. Cut here! Who’s to say why? I got elected, I’m super duper smart, that’s what I’ve decided. We know it’ll work! Except, you’ll notice, these types never seem to hang around long enough to survey, and answer for, the final results. If you watch closely you’ll notice there’s no real consequence against making the mark on the wrong spot on the board, or cutting in the wrong place. This is something you learn after watching politicians awhile. The super-sophisticated decision-making algorithm with the secret herbs and spices, is just…guessing. With some interest groups allowed to put a heavy thumb on the scale.

The second ramification is mutual exclusivity. As Aristotle pointed out himself, if p, then this logically excludes the possibility of not-p. If you are turning the bolt clockwise to tighten, then you cannot turn it counter-clockwise to loosen at the same time. It’s one or the other. Well, people don’t like that. And who can blame them? It isn’t fun to say, “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” and then see subsequent events prove, with no room for doubt whatsoever, that this was the wrong decision. But in real life, these are the decisions that drive work, that precede genuine progress, and we rarely enjoy the luxury of knowing they’re all all-the-way correct, all of the time.

The third ramification is all of the other natural consequences, apart from the thing mentioned above about mutual exclusivity. IF we are going to save money by ending our subscription to this service, THEN we are going to have to go without that service. This is the trickiest one. A lot of people who shun binary thinking, opting for this shades-of-gray nonsense, simply don’t want to appear disloyal. They don’t want any narratives to be developed about how they don’t value this-or-that thing. The irony here is, they’re the ones failing to appreciate shades-of-gray when it really matters, since it’s perfectly reasonable and even respectable to say: “Yes, I do place a value on X, but I place a value on something else that’s a bit higher.” Or: “Yes, I do place a value on both of those things, but this one will have to come before that one, because if we try to do it the other way we’ll end up with neither one.”

There are other reasons people try to find these excuses to get away from binary thinking, lacking the courage at critical times to say such-and-such a thing is obviously so. One is the fear of failure. Homer Simpson said it best: “Trying is the first step toward failure.” It’s funny because it’s true. A lot of people have this problem, looking at everything like jumping across the Grand Canyon. Since you might not make it, it’s far better to not try. In that situation, this makes sense. In others? Not so much.

Another reason is the opposite, the fear of success. If you’re a liberal politician pinning your hopes for re-election on calling out some sort of “ism” like racism or sexism, and you’ve got a plan to vanquish these ills everywhere & forever — you would have to hope, for the longer term, this doesn’t work. Right? With no more racism, sexism, income inequality, etc….sooner or later we run out of reasons to vote for liberal politicians. So small wonder that the liberal politicians are the ones pushing for moral relativity, shades-of-gray thinking, and anything else that can muddy up an otherwise clear equation.

Unrealistic Beauty StandardsPassive voice vs. active voice is the ultimate either-or. A sentence that has a verb in it, can be one or the other of these, not both. An active-voice sentence has a subject; it identifies the thing that is doing the thing to the other thing. As lefty social-justice movements have become more sophisticated in recent years, they’ve taken to use “society” as a sort of null-placeholder, using sentences that are grammatically structured to be active-voice, to convey passive-voice ideas. Make it look like they have some actual goals in mind, when they really don’t. My favorite example of this is that “society imposes unrealistic beauty standards on women.” Well…yes. Society has lots of people living in it, and as such it imposes all sorts of beauty standards. In my lifetime, I’ve met exactly two straight, perpetually horny men who don’t like tits. One liked them flat-chested and pencil-thin, able to see her own toes without bending over he said…the other one was fixated on “the dumper.” Other guys have similar tastes, here & there, but the majority is somewhere else. I think. Point is, guys like what they like, no social-justice movement is ever going to change that. And a lot of “beauty standards imposed on women” don’t even come from guys. So when you say “society does this all wrong,” you’re talking about…whom? Do you even know?

“Black people are seen as scofflaws,” “Mexicans are seen as lazy,” “When a man is assertive he’s seen as a strong leader, when a woman is the same way she’s seen as a bitch.” These are passive voice…and, as such, don’t say anything. Even though they’re all undoubtedly true. Name a silly idea, a dumb perception for someone to have…without breaking a sweat, I can find someone who subscribes to it. “A is seen as B” is always true…and, never actually proves anything.

What we’re doing with all this squishy, shades-of-gray thinking is not advancing, not becoming more sophisticated. It’s the opposite. We’re regressing to childhood with this stuff. This is the way kids think, when they haven’t reached the point of discovering critical thought, when the biggest factor in all their important decision-making is peer pressure, or things closely connected with it. It’s all about the social stature. You can tell it’s happening when the “thinking” is done by way of association. Confederate statues…are to be associated with…NAZIS. Like that.

We’ve been dragged through it, these past several weeks, because in politics it is a potent force. People in high positions of power have to start asking themselves, “If I say such-and-such a thing…I will be associated with…THEM.” What we just saw, was this middle-school-level thinking being made into a weapon. “Speak out about what happened in Charlottesville, and speak out about it the way we want you to speak out about it, or we’ll call you a Nazi.”

I’m reminded of the “ten reasons I’m no longer a leftist” essay one woman wrote, particularly the passage about the whole world being divided up into these not-very-nuanced roles:

…I felt that I was confronting the signature essence of my social life among leftists. We rushed to cast everyone in one of three roles: victim, victimizer, or champion of the oppressed. We lived our lives in a constant state of outraged indignation…

There’s some irony for you. It starts with being super-suave and sophisticated like John F. Kerry, being able to tease out these subtle demarcations between the extreme points, seeing blends, shades of gray…and it ends with this pigeonholing exercise, sorting everybody with an identity into one of these three silos.

From having watched them awhile, I would say it’s four: Oppressors, victims, activists who do this championing-of-the-oppressed thing…and then Hillary’s deplorables. Those who don’t do any actual victimizing or oppressing, but get in the way of the reform. Don’t vote the correct way, don’t use the right pronouns…you know, the Archie Bunkers.

Another of Aristotle’s fundamental rules, by the way, is the rule of non-contradiction. I have noticed that violating the one about either-or, tends to inexorably lead to violating the one about non-contradiction. One example that comes to mind is that the oppressors have all of the power…but, at the same time, they have none. The activists are going to win, and the victims are going to have all the power. It’s a done deal already. But, if it’s a done deal already, then what’s left of the old order? How is it that the oppressors still have power? You see this contradiction played out most egregiously with the women-versus-men thing. Men have all the power. But thanks to these reforms, women are making inroads…this woman or that woman is a powerful voice, not to be trifled with, the way she says it’s gonna be is the way it’s gonna be. And women are enrolling in higher education at a faster clip than men. Graduating in greater numbers. Been that way for awhile! So…? Which is it?

Some progressives explain this away by way of their tenuous grasp on the concept of time. A revolutionary moment is coming, they say…the entrenched power classes have the power right now, but after the tipping point has been reached it will be all different. But this brings on another contradiction: It’s inevitable. In fact, unstoppable. WE MUST SACRIFICE EVERYTHING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN…

How do we get so easily duped?

The answer is, in my opinion — work. There aren’t enough people doing it. Sure they have jobs. Our unemployment rate is very low now. But a lot of jobs don’t involve actual work. I’m not talking about getting your hands dirty, although I am talking about something closely connected with that. I’m talking about the making of decisions. When you make a decision in the course of doing a job, it’s a healthy thing because the possibility exists that the decision you make will be the wrong one. But if it’s necessary to get work done, it is exceedingly likely you’ll find out, and in a great big hurry, that your decision was wrong. This is how we learn. Well…that’s been on a down-slide for awhile. Simple fact is, “shades of gray” sloppy-thinking flies, most of the time, because no one is starving to death from having lost their jobs after making wrong decisions.

This infatuation with higher education is not helping. As Severian wrote lately,

The university is a Liberal’s natural habitat. Give them complete administrative control, an unlimited budget, and the ability to impose admission requirements, and you get a place where you can’t find a non-foodie restaurant and none of the milk comes from cows. There are twelve coffee shops per bookstore, and the bookstores outnumber the auto mechanics by about 15:1. And, of course, everything of consequence is run by white people, but the nice Diverse ladies who are such fun at cocktail parties make $300K per year chairing make-work departments that do nothing but issue unread Diversity memos. Everyone’s gay, or wishes he was, and the days are spent squawking about outrages that happen far, far over the horizon.

It’s static — by design. If you want a real challenge, head to the nearest college town and try finding something to do that doesn’t involve sitting and staring at a glowing screen. All the ballyhooed urban boho “nightlife and culture” is really just the Brownian movement of shallow people drifting from bar to coffee shop to bookstore to fusion restaurant to experimental theater performance, all the while twittering and facebooking about how wonderful and uplifting and educational it all is. The only emotion they experience is the dopamine hit that comes from being outraged about stuff, which confirms their smug superiority to the unwashed masses out in Flyover Country.

You could accomplish the same thing propped up in a hospital bed with one of those IV pez dispensers full of morphine, and again, that’s by design.

That’s why I call them Medicators. They really are medicating, in a way. Making decisions more to go through the motions of making decisions, than to make a good one; acting, first & foremost, as stewards of their own emotional state. Getting a lot of what they call “work” done, but it isn’t work the way real-people define it. There’s no object changing states, everything involved is very much the same at the end of the work, as it was before the work started.

And here we come back to my original point. If your decision-making method is so sophisticated and so pre-destined to come to the right decision, but your “work” doesn’t involve a change of state to anything, leaves everything pretty much undisturbed from the way it was before…how do you know your decisions are any good? How can you do any learning? The answer is, you can’t. There’s no lead-in for that oh so enlightening, “Golly gee, I was just so sure the pea would be under this shell” moment. Such failures are how we learn.

The Crunchy Frog Measuring System

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Just for the record, when in the course of human events you have the luxury of developing a measurement system before you’ve gathered real-world things for it to measure — or depending on your point of view, if ever you’re laboring under the curse of delivering on that responsibility unable to escape from that state of ignorance — I think carving up that vast space of mass, temperature, linear, area and volume measurement in powers of ten makes a lot of sense. We are naturally inclined to do it anyway, whenever we speak of extraordinarily large or small units of time or space, even when we base such observations on the Imperial system. “Millionths of an inch,” “billions of years ago,” “thousands of pounds,” etc.

However — and the following is really just my opinion, I can’t prove it, but I’m very sure I’m right about this. The imperial system isn’t going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. I have a lot of reasons for maintaining this opinion. Perhaps the biggest factor in the conclusions I’ve reached, I’ve gleaned from simply observing the behavior of Metric System advocates. They recite things to themselves they’ve already recited before, much like Hillary supporters were repeating over and over how she’s squash Donald Trump like a cockroach. Except some of what the meter-head people say, is technically true, like “All the countries in the world except U.S. and a couple others have already officially adopted/switched.” Yes, officially. Officially. The question this should inspire is: How come there are so many countries that officially use the metric system, while at the same time unofficially using something else? The United Kingdom. Canada. Poland. And many more countries, when you start talking about measurements that are life-and-death…like, what’s the altitude of my plane. It’s only the U.S. and Myanmar that use feet? Eh…not correct.

Consider the voluntary self-torture taking place in the countries that have “officially switched,” but not really. Anyone who has experience using both systems at the same time, knows that’s where the pain is. Reasonable hold-outs, like me, would choose the metric system in an instant over the both-at-the-same-time nonsense. That’s where passenger jets take off without enough fuel, because someone measured out pounds of the stuff instead of kilograms. And I’m sure all the most reasonable surrender-monkeys from all up & down the Champs-Élysées would agree with me, such a hybrid bastardization should be discarded in favor of pure King’s-English measurement, if they were forced to choose one out of only those two options. So no one gets killed, and we don’t have to stop in the middle of a cocktail-napkin dimensioning exercise to say to ourselves “uh…er…divided by 2.54…em…”

So whichever measurement system makes it to Mars first, should ban the other one forever, planet-wide. But which one is better?

High CubeIt’s a myth that the metric system is, as I hear so often, “vastly superior.” Do we even need to take the claim seriously? It hasn’t sent the other one packing yet. And no, you can’t blame stubborn troglodytes like me for being inflexible about it. Fact is, when people speak of landing the “Finish Him!!” killing blow against the imperial measurement system as if this was some episode out of Mortal Kombat, they don’t know what they’re saying. They fail to comprehend the sheer magnitude of destruction their fantasies would entail, should they ever meet up with reality. Trucks. Rail cars. Freight ships. The engines that make them all go. The bolts that hold the engines together. The buildings. The land. The townships. The sections. The U.S. is the only hold-out? Well…how much stuff we got. That’s a question someone needs to answer before we start throwing yardsticks in the wood chipper.

This isn’t just idle inertia that can be depleted through attrition. It’s been gaining momentum, a great deal of this taking place well after the metric system had its first shot at success.

Fact is, you can’t put together the case that either system is “superior/inferior in every way.” They aren’t trying to do the same thing. With the Imperial measurement system, you have the inch, followed by a factor of twelve. Then the foot. And a factor of three, followed by the yard…followed by a HUGE gap, a factor of 1,760. Then comes the mile. How come? Well, with your horse racing you had rods and furlongs, which have fallen into obscurity, so it cannot be said this enormous gap of factor-1760 has always sat there, undivided and unmolested. But that’s the point here. It’s all based on practical need. The same holds true for cooking. You have teaspoons and tablespoons and ounces and pints, because that’s what we need to measure. After the pints quarts & gallons, there’s not much…a few antiquated units like the hogshead. But as far as measurement units that are unambiguous and can actually be used to measure, and communicate, that’s it. If you want to talk about the volume of water behind a dam, we settle for decimalization, as in hundreds of millions of cubic feet…

Settle for. See? Just like with the millionths of an inch. We use that numerology not as a preference, but as a better-than-nothing.

The imperial system came from need. “Let’s come up with a unit to measure this thing.” The metric system, as I pointed out in the first paragraph up there, comes from dividing up the measurement space first…then going out to get the data afterward.

Decimalization is something we avoid when we can, because the number ten is not good as a base for these purposes. It can only be divided by itself, one, five and two. People think the imperial measurement is nonsensical because it’s got these big intimidating numbers in it, like 5,280 for linear feet in a mile, or 43,560 for square feet in an acre. They’re not thinking about it right. They need to be thinking about it in terms of factor trees, just like the guy who invented the measurement unit. Number of feet in a mile, is divisible by 2 five times, by 3, by 5 and by eleven. It’s a wonderful number. An acre could be 264 feet on one side and 165 feet on another side. There are 640 of them in a square mile. The numbers aren’t easy to carry around in your head, they’re not built for that. They’re built to make it so that even moderately complex surveying and allocation jobs, end up with whole numbers. Eleventh of a mile, that’s 480 feet. Eighth of a square mile, that’s 80 acres.

Contrasted with…wife wants me to make a spice rack with three columns, out of 1 meter boards. How to do?

So over on the Hello Kitty of Blogging, in a number of places some friends were kicking the dog shit out of me about the metric system being so vastly superior or something. I appreciated it a lot because I was just finishing a 750ml of wine…which, if it were sold in quarts the way the Good Lord intended, I’d still have had another glass left. (There is some irony there, but also there’s a whole sub-topic of manufacturers and whole industries taking advantage of the turmoil to put a thumb on the scale, to the detriment of the customer.) One of them raised an interesting snotty question: Okay smart guy, what’s a third of a (16-oz.) pound? Eh…who cares. The answer is five ounces, or six ounces, somewhere around there. Nobody’s going to storm out of the house angry because you made your Chicken Almondine with a fraction of an ounce too many slivered almonds. But, what about if the measurement has to be precise? Like, troy ounces of gold or something. Dunno. “Don’t go trying to buy a seventh of a troy ounce just so you can bitch about something, like an asshole” would be my default answer. Obviously this scheme of choosing composite numbers to avoid fractional output, isn’t and cannot be intended to address every scenario. It’s just supposed to address most. Which has worked pretty well. The entire civilized world has been built on it.

Womanly MeasurementsNo really, it has. All those more sophisticated countries that have “officially adopted the metric system”? What’s the bust-waist-hip measurement of a sexy girl in those countries, 36″ 24″ 36″? Nope. They haven’t bothered to compute it, have they? How about time-of-day? I know there are people who will not and perhaps cannot buy into the “easy to divide if not to multiply” argument, I’ve spoken with them about this at length. So how come they’re not measuring time-of-day in centidays, which would be 14 minutes 24 seconds each, or in millidays? One says, because it’s not a standard…when it’s a standard, I’ll do it. Okay. So we’re not talking about technology here, if anything we’re talking about the opposite of technology. That’s what “I’ll do it when everyone else is already doing it” is, the opposite of technology. But the real reason we don’t tell time that way is, it’s too hard. Dividing the day up into 24 and then 60 parts makes sense, because 24 and 60 are nice composite numbers.

My verdict is: Whatever makes sense. If I’m replacing the head gasket on a Suzuki engine, metric system is my first choice. Well of course it is. Using a 1/2″ socket on a 12mm bolt head is just going to cause excessive wear & tear on the parts, and be frustrating…who needs it. I really don’t have much by way of grievances against the M.S. Only one: I don’t like the attitude. The “Lookit me, I’m being scientific and stuff because I’m using metric.” It reeks of nerd. Like someone’s been watching way too many episodes of Star Trek. It stinks of confusing the gonna-dooz with the have-dunz…as in, see, we’re GONNA build this thing with meters and centimeters, and then we’re GONNA have some kind of warp drive and do these amazing things. If you talk about it awhile, you’ll notice a lot of the metric “accomplishments” are like that. We’re GONNA explore the solar system. Right after the metric system is GONNA kick the old imperial system’s butt…

But as far as the things already done, the big accomplishments are mostly owned by the older system M.S. was supposed to replace. This newer system, far from gaining steam as we go along, is losing it. “No math, just move the decimal point around to the left or the right” is no longer an argument that can land a solid punch. Not with everyone & his dog walking around with a supercomputer at their fingertips. Come to think of it, factoring in everything we know now, it’s the metric system that is better suited to the surveyors of George Washington’s time, painstakingly drawing their lines in the swampland in their muddy boots.

Furthermore, we’re not talking about actual content. What people are forgetting is that these are MEASURING SYSTEMS. Measurements of things, are not the things they measure. They’re just measurements of them. Finding a different way to measure a thing, doesn’t have any effect on what the thing is.

Thing I Know #455. Expressing an idea in a different way, or with a different language, doesn’t make the idea any more or less brilliant.

This is where the crunchy-frogs are off track. Your starship isn’t any more or less likely to reach Pluto or beyond, based on whether you decided to make it 100 meters or 330 feet. If you really do think that has a bearing on things, then we’d have to settle that by looking at history…and history doesn’t make the metric system look good.

But what do I know? I’ve only had the propaganda forced on me since the mid-1970’s. Maybe it’s an age thing. These days, you can be well into what’s accepted as “middle age,” but still not yet have become fully aware of your surroundings by the time we had that Ford-n-Carter boondoggle with all the taxpayer-funded infomercials and cutesy commercial jingles. By the time you reach my range of decrepitude, you’ve spent more than forty years hearing about how it’s the wave of the future…unavoidable…any day now. Well, said boondoggle was the absolute apex of the metric-system momentum, or has been up until now.

May I Suggest, Going Back to Discussing Things?

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Charlottesville is the story of two yucky factions mixing it up and getting violent. In the aftermath, there is a lot of truth and fiction being pumped into it, by people who are desperate to prove, above all things, that they’re not with this yucky side or that yucky side. Now it’s true that as a secondary priority there is a lot of other stuff they want to say. Keep those statues! Down with capitalism! Violence is wrong! But if we’re going to be honest about it, those are distant-seconds. The most important thing anyone wants to express, far-and-away, is “I am not a Nazi” and “I am not Antifa.”

That is good, in the sense that people are behaving like they’ve got reputations worth protecting.

But it is not good, in the sense that it must be the most primitive thought expressed in a social gathering. “Hi. My name is [name], I am not a [blank].” Thousands of years of evolution, technical innovation and social advancement; we can’t manage the next rung up the ladder? How about: “I believe in [thing].” Too much?

Ah, well. Here we embark upon more painful truth: We were there already. Past it, in fact. We’ve been sliding. In generations past, we discussed things; for thousands of years, in fact, people would say “thing.” And then the rebuttal would come back: “!thing.” Then the counter-rebuttal: “If not-thing, then why (other thing)? We should expect to see (yet another thing) instead.”

Toppling StatuesSomewhere along the line, all this has fallen out of favor. And it’s recent. Somehow, something got discarded, rather like a paddle thrown out of a canoe, and now our chosen form of discourse is a bunch of fluff-n-stuff that doesn’t have much to do with actual exchange of ideas. Seems like lately it’s all demonstrations, all “protests,” all of the time, with everything. Oh sure we have our Sunday morning talk shows, but have you actually taken the time to watch one of those lately?

We do have talk radio, which encourages this. But polite society does not encourage talk radio…you’re looked upon as something of a kook-burger if you listen to it with any regularity. And I’m gathering that the free exchange of ideas is the reason why. To the people who never do it, when they look at someone else participating in it or just listening to it, it seems odd. People would do well to stop and ask themselves why. I know of one family member roughly my age, who regularly disparages another, older family member, for listening to “hate radio.” That is not an isolated sentiment by any means.

And yet…what was Charlottesville, if not hate?

And that was the ultimate end-point of the opposite of talking about ideas, no? Two sides, both with a “my way or the highway” attitude.

And I don’t see anyone noticing this part — each side had an idea that was, at least, sturdy enough to survive an introduction into a real dialogue. Lose the statues! Keep the statues! Speaking just for myself, I would look forward eagerly to an exchange of ideas about this. Not a shouting match, but a considerate, rational, focused inspection of what happens when a nation tears itself in pieces over questions of freedom, federalism, The Rights Of Man, etc….glues itself back together, and then a century and a half later takes steps to obliterate that bloody history. What happens then? Can an advanced civilization such as ours, remain ready for whatever the future brings while it rends asunder its own past? Can it maintain moral anchoring without any anchors? Can it survive the exigencies of both war AND peace, while living out each day in snapshot-mode, deliberately unaware of all that came before?

This would be a good discussion to have.

And this is something I’ve not seen people notice much, even as they busy themselves with noticing many other things. Ah well…now we have fatalities, so I suppose losing perspective on the essentials is to be expected. But what caused those, I might ask? Is there really any good reason for us to be so hyped up on street-protests, all year long and every year? I can think of no good reason. Maybe just a couple of really bad ones…like, someone is funding them because they think they have something to gain politically…and, those who participate in them know of no other way to make their point, and haven’t got anything else to do anyway. Is that it? Because those aren’t good reasons. The property damage is expensive and the deaths & injuries are tragic.

It’s a funny thing. Waterboard one terrorist and you hear all this stuff about “We are better people than that.” Nobody stops to ask, “Better than what, exactly?” Better than…taking active steps, when malevolent people threaten innocent people? The alternative is to not do anything and then say “wasn’t my fault” after the deed’s done, right? Is there any other way to interpret that tired cliché?

But then we go day after day, year after year, watching these “peaceful protests” that are anything but peaceful…the local police are consumed in whatever the event is, wherever it is, must be a great day to go stealing cars or breaking into houses in the middle of the day or whatever other malfeasance you had planned…streets blocked, shops busted and looted, homeowners threatened, all because we don’t know how to discuss anything anymore. And that’s when I don’t hear anybody at all say “We [should be] better than that.” That’s exactly when the full meaning of the statement would be much easier to define, and that’s exactly when it really should be true.

That Google Memo

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Here is the actual document. There is so much misinformation being spread around about it. Might be a good idea to hit the download button.

The background is that a senior engineer at Google contributed this 10-page “manifesto” to an inside-company group discussion of diversity efforts. Those of us who have worked in tech for a few years, who happen to be six-foot-tall straight white males with nothing interesting about their personal attributes, understand these efforts to artificially embiggen the proportional representation of said interesting personal attributes within the ranks of engineering talent. Need more chicks! It has nothing at all to do with getting the job done, but management keeps getting hung up on it. Well…any engineer who’s worth a damn is going to take note of which solutions DON’T work, in addition to the ones that do, and these “diversity” efforts don’t bring any positive results. It’s just year after year of “still inadequate female representation on our teams, we have to up the diversity” or something. Translation: There is institutionalized sexism somewhere, the stats speak for themselves, we have to work harder at getting rid of it.

So those who actually want to justify their plush engineering paychecks are put in an awkward position: They have to show good engineering discipline day-to-day, and bad discipline when management tells them, “We’re all going to work a lot harder at this drive that hasn’t offered any positive results.” And, pile on with a rash assumption that the stats must manifest prejudice. Somewhere.

Well, the engineer WENT THERE. No, he did not say the chicks are naturally unqualified or under-qualified to do engineering work. You might have heard that. You can see from looking at the document yourself that it’s a deliberate lie. There are many others being told. Anyway, what he did say is what people who’ve looked into it awhile, by which I mean more than a few minutes, know already. The chicks just don’t wanna do it. Figuring this out is not hard, since the alternative would have to be, there’s a huge glut of chicks wanting engineering jobs and their applications are being ritually blocked or turned away at some point in the pipeline. Well, where’s the glut? And where’s the blockage? Can you imagine the job of hiding such a restrictive device, in this climate…or being the device, the manager who says “no chicks on my team”?

When, all this guy did was talk about it. Oh yeah. Continuing with the background — he is fired. Oh, so fired. But if you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that already.

About the most offensive thing the guy actually did say was where he said women are, on average, more emotional. It’s true, but I try to avoid saying things like that because we live in an age wherein men are acting more like women. Nevertheless, even this was given some strong backing by real-life events when it emerged that female employees at Google were skipping work because they were so traumatized by his memo. Those who defend the firing, point to this “trauma” done to the fairer sex within Google’s workforce, as evidence that the company made the right decision. Had they taken no action, so the argument goes, the female employees could have sued due to the hostile work environment.

The other piece I linked up above, the one that substantiates the points that chicks don’t want to do engineering, falls back on this point as well: The REASON they don’t want to do it, is men make the workplace so uncomfortable. With all our awful presumptions that women don’t know tech, and stuff…

This whole thing has really made me think hard about my own career. I’ve been at this thirty years. Nearly forty, man & boy, if you count the “work” I did before I was getting paid to do it…well, let’s just count the actual work. What I’ve realized is that, as a six-foot straight white male, I’m really not completely comfortable in my job. I wasn’t comfortable in my last one. Or the one before that, or the one before that, or the one before that…anyplace I picked up a paycheck, I never was absolutely comfortable. Nor did I expect to be. After all, I was being paid to be there.

From whence arises this expectation that a workplace should be comfortable? And if it isn’t, you can sue? Oh yeah right. Lawyers.

Well, it’s wrong.

It’s just as wrong as the other flawed premise, the one Mr. Damore was targeting in his memo, that if female representation is not up to par then it must mean something is wrong with the environment. It could very well mean your environment’s just fine. You could be looking at — you probably ARE looking at — the end result of people being able to choose what they want to do in life, based on how much personal fulfillment they get from doing it, and yes, how reliably they can deliver what’s needed.

Mr. Damore’s memo is called “Google’s ideological echo chamber”…and, he was fired for writing it. His own sacking proves the truth of what he wrote, because he got fired for saying the wrong things. Nevermind whether I like it or not, or you like it or not…it’s simply unworkable.

“We have to do whatever it takes to up the female representation in our engineering teams, so SPEAK FREELY! All ideas welcome!’

“Women and men are the same, and don’t you say anything different or we’ll fire you.”

“Women are the true source of creativity and we need their participation…don’t say anything different or we’ll fire you.”

…pick ANY TWO.

If you insist on maintaining all three, as Google did and continues to do, and many other tech companies continue to do, then what you have is…drum roll please. A hostile work environment. An environment in which people of all demographic make-ups can continue to survive ONLY by avoiding the subject entirely. Or, by lying.

Or, by avoiding it just selectively…which is really the same thing as lying.

The Simpsons really nailed it. “Just tell me what to say!”

I hope people who consider themselves to be “centrists” are watching this very carefully. So many of them are hardcore liberals, and don’t even realize it. I’ve said before a few times that when the difference between conservatives & liberals is most starkly defined, it’s when each side is opining about the cause of human behavior…conservatives say it’s incentives, liberals say it’s enviornment. There should be overlap between the two, since the environment drives incentive. But THERE. IS. NO. OVERLAP. None here.

Liberals want to think it’s all got to do with the environment, because it gives them an excuse to twiddle with it. Oh, make this rule here, oh, eliminate that option over there, force people to do this thing, stop them from doing that thing…

Once you go down that road, you’re all-in whether you realize it or not. You have to ignore the incentives. Pretend they don’t exist.

Fire, or exclude or ostracize in some way, anyone who even thinks of mentioning it. “Chicks don’t wanna do it” is BadThink and not to be tolerated…even when the evidence supporting the contraband thought is, literally, everywhere.

Update 8/12/17: It’s become a full-time job just figuring out which article has something new to contribute…nevermind excerpting. A link round-up is the only way to go.

Playing Into Every Female Stereotype, Women At Google Stay Home After Memo For Emotional Reasons

Google Can’t Seem to Tolerate Diversity

How Google Has Just Harmed Its Women Employees

Purge: Amid Leftist Fury, Google Fires Engineer Who Wrote Memo Criticizing Politically-Correct Groupthink

Jordan Peterson’s interview right after Mr. Damore put “his hand in a blender”:

It’s 1984 at Google: David Limbaugh. Handy, well-written summary of events, and this: “While constitutional issues may not be involved in the Google case because no state action is involved, moral shaming has become a chilling cudgel in the hands of leftist-dominated institutions.”

Diversity flaps are often manufactured: Jonah Goldberg. “It’s absolutely true that women were once blocked from many careers. But since those barriers were lifted, women have flooded into, or even have come to dominate, all manner of fields. Is it really plausible that sexism is the primary, never mind sole, explanation for female under-representation in computer science and engineering? …The issue here isn’t diversity, but conformity.”

By Firing the Google Memo Author, the Company Confirms His Thesis: “Of course, Google can take any political positions it likes. But its overwhelming power and reach into the everyday lives of so many Americans makes it a perfectly legitimate target for criticism.”

WSJ Best of the Web: Google’s Silent Majority: “There is no guarantee that the finalists and semifinalists of coding competitions will always want to work at Google. Perhaps the company should be focused on attracting and developing all kinds of employees, including non-leftists.”

Ben and Cenk

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Full debate. Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks, the liberal, debates Ben Shapiro from The Daily Wire, the conservative.

I suppose any publicity is good publicity, but it’s belaboring the obvious to note Mr. Uygur was under-prepared for this. Evidently someone told him “just circulate a narrative that anybody who doesn’t agree with you doesn’t know anything, and they’ll fall in line”…that probably works great when the number of people who don’t agree with you is zero, one, two or not much more than that.

So he’s left stammering away about how 40% to 60% of the packed audience, doesn’t know how to use Google or something. Ends up looking like he’s just wasting everyone’s time. That’s probably accurate.

I’ve noticed a lot of liberals doing this since Obama got elected…and weirdly, picking up pace with the tactic since Trump got elected. Ah, maybe it’s me giving them the impression I don’t know anything…they like a rule, I don’t like the rule, so like a spark leaping from an electrode they figure out I must not understand the concept of having rules. And they do that with everybody else too, so I know it’s not just me. Looks weird.

Like they’re just not used to being outnumbered. And never did have a good argument to offer about anything.