Monthly Archive for August, 2016

William Faulkner, Life Coach

Spoken by a character who has joined the Army in 1942, and has been issued a bombsight:

A bombsight— I hadn’t made pilot but at least I would be riding up front— allotted to me by a government which didn’t trust me with it and so set spies to watch what I did with it, which before entrusting it to me had trained me not to trust my spies nor anybody else respecting it, in a locked black case which stayed locked by a chain to me even while I was asleep— a condition of constant discomfort of course but mainly of unflagging mutual suspicion and mutual distrust and in time mutual hatred which you even come to endure, which is probably the best of all training for successful matrimony.

—William Faulkner
—The Mansion (Volume 3 of the Snopes Trilogy)

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William Faulkner, Political Economist

The feller you trust aint necessarily the one you never knowed to do nothing untrustable: it’s the one you have seen from experience that he knows exactly when being untrustable will pay a net profit and when it will pay a loss.

—William Faulkner
—The Mansion (Volume 3 of the Snopes Trilogy)

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Site Maintenance

For several years, TheBigQuestions.com has been hosted by Bluehost, and I’ve been very happy with their service.

No longer. As some of you have mentioned, and many more of you have probably noticed, the site has been running very slow the past few days. Occasional glitches like this are to be expected, of course. But in this instance, Bluehost’s customer service (which has always been great in the past) has been abysmal. One representative kept me on hold for nearly half an hour before coming back to direct me to a generic web page that lists various reasons why a site might run slow. Another told me there was an unusually high load on the server, which would certainly clear in the next few hours (that was days ago). I’ve dealt with about a half dozen of these guys, at most two of whom have taken the problem seriously, and they haven’t been able to help.

So: It’s time to move, I think. Those of you with relevant experience: Who do you recommend?

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William Faulkner Foresees the Internet

Because what somebody else jest tells you, you jest half believe, unless it was something you already wanted to hear. And in that case, you dont even listen to it because you had done already agreed, and so all it does is make you think what a sensible feller it was that told you. But something you dont want to hear is something you had done already made up your mind against, whether you knowed—knew it or not; and now you can even insulate against having to believe it by resisting or maybe even getting even with that-ere scoundrel that meddled in and told you.

—William Faulkner
—The Town (Volume 2 of the Snopes Trilogy)
—published 1957

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Historical Perspective

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?


–Henry II, 1170

Nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.


–Donald Trump, 2016

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A Modified Algorithm for Evaluating Logical Arguments

A Guest Post

by

Bennett Haselton

In a previous guest post I had argued that we should use a random-sample-voting algorithm in any kind of system that promotes certain types of content (songs, tutorials, ideas, etc.) above others. By tabulating the votes of a random sample of the user base, this would reward the content that objectively has the most merit (in the average opinion of the user population), instead of rewarding the content whose creators spent the most time promoting it, or who figured out how to game the system, or who happened to get lucky if an initial “critical mass” of users happened to like the content all at the same time. (The original post describes why these weaknesses exist in other systems, and how the random-sample-voting system takes care of them.)

However, this system works less well in evaluating the merits of a rigorous argument, because an argument can be appealing (gathering a high percentage of up-votes in the random-sample-voting system) and still contain a fatal flaw. So I propose a modified system that would work better for evaluating arguments, by adding a “rebuttal takedown” feature.

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Interventionists


       

Fox News reports that senior Republicans, including Reince Preibus, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuiiani, are planning an “intervention” to try to talk Donald Trump down from putting his psychopathy quite so visibly on display. The psychopathy itself is presumably intervention-proof.

Which raises the question: Why intervene? Presumably the answer is: To get this man elected as President of the United States, from which venue the psychopathy will have free reign. The very necessity of the intervention implies that if the intervention is successful, it must be disastrous. We intervene with drunkards to begin the slow process of returning them to a normal life. We do not intervene with drunkards to get them to hide their drinking so they can be hired as jet pilots in three months’ time.

I realize that there are still a few scattered people who think (or at least hope) that Trump’s whole idiot-manchild schtick is just some kind of an act, and that there is some substance beneath the lunacy. Presumably those who believe that an intervention is necessary are not among those scattered few. This makes it their responsibility, at a minimum, to stop trying to elect him.

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Pretty Good Ad

This blog does not endorse any candidate for anything, and will never be shy about decrying nonsense, no matter the source. That said, this is an ad worth watching:

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The All-Purpose Defense

President Obama, defending the Trans-Pacific Partnership, just said something very like the following (I heard this on the radio and am quoting from memory):

And another thing: You’ve got to compare this to the realistic alternatives. It’s not fair to compare it to some ideal, unachievable arrangement where we get to sell things all over the world and never buy anything.

Oh. I assume, then, that he’ll be defending his jobs program in terms something like this:

And another thing: You’ve got to compare this to the realistic alternatives. It’s not fair to compare it to some ideal, unachievable arrangement where we get to work all day and never get paid.

For that matter, this also works as a defense of Obamacare:

And another thing: You’ve got to compare this to the realistic alternatives. It’s not fair to compare it to some ideal, unachievable arrangement where get to spend all our time in hospitals and never get well.

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