Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Buffy Rocks

Science, Red in Tooth and Claw

This, on the competition and intellectual/moral corruption in science, is worth a read. It's somewhat similar in philosophy...but without those grubby facts to constrain the BS...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jeopardy / "Watson"
Come With Me If You Want to Live...

First, I had no doubt "Watson" would win--IBM would not have set this up if they didn't know that. They've undoubtedly run many simulations. I'd have been amazed if it went any other way.

However, the game was set up wrong--though it isn't mattering. The real point here is: humans vs. the machine. But the humans are splitting their points. What we'd really want to see is one human vs. the machine. Just adding up the humans' points won't do it, because then it's two on one.

Also, JQ and I both wonder whether "Watson" was programmed to throw the final question in order to make him more lovable. It's a little hard to believe that it "thought" Toronto was a U.S. city...

By this time next year, the H-K's will, no doubt, be chasing us through the rubble, asking "What is DIE M*THERFUCKER?" in that quasi-lovable Watson voice...
Curveball Speaks


Curveball--who turns out to be a guy named Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi-- admits that he lied to German intelligence. This is not something we didn't already know. There is a 100% likelihood that this will be used by Bush dead-enders to claim that Bush, Cheney and company were blameless in the Iraq invasion debacle. That is, of course, false. It was obvious to everyone by the time of the invasion that the administration had cherry-picked evidence...and that even this carefully-selected evidence was the thinnest of gruel. The administration wanted to invade, and used any pretext. They knew the evidence objectively viewed as a totality, did not come close to justifying invasion. It's not that relevant that Curveball lied--the spooks knew he was unreliable, as his codename apparently indicates, and so did the administration. You can't use the fact that your source lied as a defense when his lies were known to be lies from the beginning.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cops Enter Wrong Apartment, Beat Two Sleeping College Students...

...tand on the head of one of them, leave them sitting in the cold in their underwear for two hours, do permanent nerve-damage to one by leaving the cuffs on too tight. The kids were innocent college students who thought they were being robbed. You'd think the cops were looking for WMDs...rather than weed and X...

Your war on drugs in action...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Deadspin: The Ten Worst People in Sports
A Certain K. Rattus Makes the List

Just sayin'...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Forces of Darkness Triumphant

Damn. Carolina seemed to be the better team tonight, absolutely owning dook in the first half and going up by 14. But dook has a weird habit of coming out all fired up after halftime and going on runs--not because of any particularly good plays...I can't figure out what's up with that. I guess the Leader Of Men(tm) gives them his Tony Robins impression or something... But this time Carolina just collapsed, the lead dropped to 4 in about two minutes, and the Heels just couldn't buy a bucket in the second half. I couldn't really figure out the officiating, as Zeller seemed to be getting pushed all over the place by Miles-or-the-other-Plumlee...but not no calls. It was more than a little puzzling to me, but I'm neither a ref nor objective, so I could easily be confused about that.

Carolina let one slip away tonight, and the second half was painful to watch. They continue to alternate between extended flashes of brilliance and extended series of freshman-like errors. They just looked confused on D early in the second half, and dook, of course jacked up 3s like crazy--that's their only game, of course. And when they hit, they can score a lot. A little more focus on offense, a little less confusion on D, a little more luck, or a couple of calls going our way, and the good guys win. Ah well, such is hoops.

I've been trying to learn not to dislike dook, because I hate the tribalism of sports...but Kryzywski and the Cameron fans are...well, let's say, not making it easy... [Oh, and...the dookies were shining a laser pointer in Carolina players eyes when they were shooting free throws... Not really surprising from those douchebags, actually...]

But I really like these Tar Heels, and I like the way they're going.
Go You Tar Heels
Beat Them dookies

A great darkness has once again risen in the east...actually, about eight miles to the northeast. After fading away...or, one might say, festering...or metastasizing...for many years, fizzling out in the Sweet Sixteen, the evil entity suddenly "won" (cough...cough...) a national championship last year armed with nothing more than an unprecedentedly favorable seed and a last-second miss by a 5-seed in the final game...and, once again, we have to hear about them all the time on, like dSPN and stuff, and it's really annoying.

Tonight, our mighty Tar Heels will sally forth to do battle with the forces of Mordor//Camp Mohawk/the Cobra Kai. Armed only with righteousness, better players, a better coach, and a more admirable program and university, Carolina must face the dookies in Hansbrough Indoor Stadium (formerly known as "Cameron") in the very heart of the campus of the University of New Jersey at Durham. They'll also have to put up with coordinated cheers by spoiled rich kids in a whole bunch of North Face gear that has never been used for hiking or, y'know, that's annoying too...

Also, our until-recently-starting point guard left the team on Friday, as you may have that should make things a little more interesting...

Onward, Tar Heels! Onward to victory, for justice, and for the sake of...puppies and...Christmas!

Oh and:

Go to Hell dook!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Giant Asteroid Headed For Earth

Once again, the Onion distills the essence of truth into a wee bit of fiction.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Duke Spends Twice As Much On Hoops As Carolina

Those guys really are Camp Mohawk...  Turns out that they spend twice as much on their hoops program as Carolina. Wow...twice as much as the best program in the conference, in order to have he second-best...

Unfortunately, ESPN (or dSPN as they're known to many Carolina fans...) chose our second-worst season in 30 years to do the cost-per-win calculations (and a year on which dook won (or "won") the national championship. So the actual cost-per-win on average years is heavily in Carolina's favor.

tl;dr: nya nya nya, dook sucks in yet another way--suck it dookies!!! mean...I say, bit of an expensive program you all have there...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Experimental" Philosophy

Ugh. I'm not going to get into the details here, but you may have heard of the latest fad in philosophy, "experimental philosophy." "Hey," you might think..."that's awesome; it'd be great if we could get experimental data to bear on philosophical problems!" And you'd be right. Unfortunately, what these folks mostly do is...give surveys. So to call such philosophy "experimental" is rather a stretch...and to call it "experimental" without qualification is downright ridiculous. What this is is survey-based or survey-driven philosophy, not experimental philosophy. The Bell test there were experiments with philosophical implications. Surveys of people's so-called "intuitions" are just...well...surveys...

There might be something good that comes from all of this, though. It seems to be forcing analytic-y (or whatever we're being called these days) philosophers to think about what they mean by 'intuition.' That's a term (and an associated concept) that's caused immeasurable harm, IMHO. It's used to mean everything from 'hunch' to 'linguistic inclination' to 'indubitable deliverance of reason'...and that's an extremely destructive ambiguity.

But as for the survey fad, it's largely just a new manifestation of the view that psychology has some special relationship to philosophy...and that's a view that we've been in a position to put to rest for well over a hundred years.
Timothy Egan, "The Myth of the Hero Gunslinger"

Well, you can always rely on the NYT to air unsound arguments against firearms. Here's an installment, by Timothy Egan. It's no secret, but I feel like it bears repeating: many of our errors are so obvious that we could catch them ourselves if we thought a little more about what we were saying and writing. It's important to be one's own critic, one's own interlocutor. Egan, writing of the Giffords shooting incident, says:
On the day of the shooting, a young man named Joseph Zamudio was leaving a drugstore when he saw the chaos at the Safeway parking lot. Zamudio was armed, carrying his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Heroically, he rushed to the scene, fingering his weapon, ready to fire.

Now, in the view of the more-guns proponents, Zamudio might have been able to prevent any carnage, or maybe even gotten off a shot before someone was killed.

In fact, several people were armed. So, what actually happened? As Zamudio said in numerous interviews, he never got a shot off at the gunman, but he nearly harmed the wrong person — one of those trying to control Loughner.
It's a tiny bit complicated, explaining what's wrong with this argument. We might start by pointing out that no one specifically thought that Zamudio should have been able to "get a shot off." The view, of course, is that someone close enough (if armed) would have a fair chance of taking out the shooter. Zamudio was not close enough, so it's very odd to try to count this as evidence against the view in question. It's especially odd when you try to have it both ways as Egan does here:

The fact that Zamudio was almost in a position to take out the shooter does NOT count

The fact that Zamudio was almost in a position to shoot the wrong person DOES count

But you can't have it both ways. The fact is that Zamudio was simply not close enough to be part of the action. Like anyone else with a firearm, had things been a bit different, he might have done something smart or he might have done something dumb...but if you hear Zamudio talk, there actually seems very little chance of him shooting the wrong person. He is, by all indications, smart and sensible enough to make the likelihood of shooting the wrong person small. He himself noted how easy it would have been to shoot the wrong person,...which is exactly the sort of thing a responsible firearm owner thinks of/emphasizes. Of course, most firearm opponents are not interested in the objective facts here; they want to treat Zamudio shoots the shooter and Zamudio shoots an innocent person as equiprobable, as if his decisions to shoot would be, in effect, random.

Egan then cherry-picks some studies that link guns to violence...but that's a different problem for a different post. All we need to note here is that the evidence is equivocal...but that people with CCWs basically don't commit gun crimes. That is: they commit them at a rate far below that of the general public; CCW-bearers are a particularly law-abiding group.

In some sense, Egan and I are on the same page about the important conclusion here: contrary to what many friends of firearms argue, it's unlikely that we'd have significantly fewer or less-catastrophic mass shootings if more people had CCWs. First, such events are exceedingly rare to begin with. (Add to this that, as S. rex often points out to me, we're not terribly good at thinking about high-cost, low-probability events.) Second, even doubling or tripling the number of CCWs would still generate only a small percentage of armed citizens. Furthermore, many of these shootings typically happen too fast. However, we do need to keep in mind--something Egan ignores--that many do not happen fast; the VA Tech shooting took 10-12 minutes--an eternity as such things go. There is simply no doubt whatsoever than an armed citizen could have saved lives in that situation.

As I frequently note: the pro-firearm side wants us to believe the following falsehood: if only we had more guns out there, we would significantly decrease the likelihood of events like the Giffords shooting. The anti-firearm side wants us to believe this falsehood: armed citizens who find themselves in the midst of such a shooting are simply going to make the situation worse. The fact of the matter, however, is that though even increased rates of concealed-carry are unlikely to stop such shootings, you're a fool if you think you're better off throwing your gun out the window than using it to defend yourself and others.

 Perhaps the hero gunslinger is a myth, but I have to say, I tend to prefer those who find such myths inspiring to those who find them risible and contemptible. Heroic myths appeal to our sense of self-reliance, and to our recognition that we ought to fight against aggression when possible. Perhaps the aspiration to return fire in such situations is crude, primitive, and unsophisticated...but it isn't unreasonable or immoral, and it strikes me as being very much more rational than the alternative. I'm not arguing for making policy on these grounds alone...but I do think we've moved in a bad direction if we cease to have such aspirations.