Friday, December 31, 2010

Dean Smith and Krzyzewski: A Comparison

Well, that about sums it up.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

That's Rock and Roll

O.k., so now that I'm all hot to learn to play the gee-tar, and given my fairly eclectic musical taste, I'm trying all sorts of stuff that looks fairly simple, or which has simple bits, anyway. (Incidentally: I really, really suck at music...) So some of it seems better on acoustic, so I decide to take JQ's acoustic to the music shop so it can get fixed up--neck straightened and whatnot, and I take the electric along to ask whether there's anything that needs to be done to it (the instructions make some vague, semi-English reference to adjusting distance from the pick-ups). While I'm walking around talking to the music shop dude, the (not-terribly-well-engineered) strap pops off the thing on the thing, and my brand new electric guitar crashes to the (concrete) floor. I stop and stare at it in horror.

"#*@%" quoth I.

Music shop dude keeps on walking and says, roughly:

"Oh, wow, is that, like, the first time you've dropped yer guitar? It's all good, man...that's like...rock and roll."

LOOOL music dudes.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Scientists / Science Enthusiasts


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Now I Have An Amplifier

My Xmas haul included:

One (1) Sunnydale Razorbacks t-shirt (JQ)
Several "Winston Smith, Ph.D. Zombie Hunter" business cards (JQ)

And...from JQ's folks...:


There goes the neighborhood...

...not to mention Pachelbel's Canon, Iron Man, Livin' On A Prayer, Hey Hey What Can I Do, and many other beloved pieces of music...

Jeez, I wish I had a nonzero degree of musical talent....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bona Saturnalia Everybody

I'm sitting here in the 'Burg, watchin' it snow, all by my lonesome.

JQ is with her folks in CO, but I decided to stay here and get some rest and get some work done. Not even going back to the ranch to see my own 'units this year; I am a bad offspring.

I've been reading Richard Smyth's book on Kant's transcendental aesthetic, Forms of Intuition. Now, Smyth was one of my profs, and, later, a friend. And that's the kind of thing that can bias one's assessment of a piece of work, of course. (Though previously, I've always ended up disagreeing with my profs about their views.) But I'm dead serious, and being as objective and dispassionate as I can be when I say: this is the most interesting thing I've ever read on the first Critique, and perhaps the most interesting work in philosophy I've ever read by a mere mortal (i.e., someone not a major figure in the history of philosophy). It's an extremely difficult book (...I was sitting there yesterday trying to make a guess at how long it might take me to work through it in a meaningful way, and the estimate was pretty alarming). Anyway, I'll probably be trying to say more about it in the future, but for right now I'll stick with: this is a genuinely remarkable piece of philosophical scholarship.

Anyway, here's best wishes to all the denizens of our wee blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

FreeRepublic Deletes Accounts of Members Supporting DADT Repeal; Generic Death Threats/Murder Fantasies Re: Homosexuals, However, Are Just Dandy


FreeRepublic, of course, is where you go if you are not intellectually honest enough to read The it's not a pretty sight over there. I drop by occasionally because it makes me feel smart. It's like getting plopped down among a bunch of chimps or something. Rage-infected chimps, actually...

Groupthink is not a bug at FR, it's a feature. These are the people who watch Fox "News," get their "information" largely from e-mails forwarded by other knuckle-draggers, and so forth; they never have to encounter an actual fact, nor an actual bit of reasoning, when it comes to policy and politics. They have locked themselves up in the most effective conceptual isolation modern media can offer. And anyone who isn't sufficiently anti-homosexual is not welcome there; it would defeat the purpose of the whole thing, after all.

I'd feel sorry for these idiots if they weren't so contemptible.

[via Reddit]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

We've needed a term for this...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saletan on Adult Incest


One way to characterize Saletan's argument is like so:

He's trying to preserve two "intuitions"; to wit, (a) homosexuality is morally permissible, and (b) incest is not morally permissible.

(Analytic philosophers, clearer than most philosophers on many scores, are lamentably confused about so-called "intuitions" and their role in philosophy; but that's a different complaint for a different time.)

Thing is, I, like many people, don't share the latter intuition.

I'm not in a very strong position to argue against (b); I don't have any sisters, and I don't have any daughters. Perhaps the wrongness of consensual incest would be clearer to me if I did. But I doubt it.

Discussing incest is a little bit like discussing cannibalism. First, there's the ick factor. But, second, people who think the two are morally wrong tend to focus on the obviously impermissible cases--incest involving children, and cannibalism involving murder. But those cases are clear and uncontroversial--nobody thinks they're o.k.

What we need to think about are the clearest cases on the other end of the spectrum--consensual, non-murderous cannibalism, and consensual incest between consenting adults. In both of those cases--putative ickiness aside--it's pretty hard to find a decent argument for moral impermissibility.

But, uh, let's let the cannibalism case wait for another time...

Saletan rightly notes that the reproductive argument against consensual adult incest fails. First, there's birth control. Second, it doesn't rule out incest involving one or more people incapable of reproduction (e.g. on account of age).

Saletan then tries the "social roles" argument--that families involve social roles of certain well-known types, and that sex confuses those roles. That may be right, but here Saletan makes a common error. He confuses finding some kind of argument against x with finding a sufficiently strong argument against x. This often happens when we're inclined against something and flailing around in search of an argument to support our inclinations. Sure, being, say, a brother typically involves a certain type of familial role, as does being a father. Sure, having sex is inconsistent with those roles. But there's nothing there that comes close to entailing that incest is morally wrong. Being good friends with your children constitutes a transgression of such boundaries, but--though some might think it imprudent--no one would judge it to be immoral. Furthermore, this type of argument entails that it is immoral for, e.g., adult step-siblings to have sex. It also seems to fail to rule out sex between biological siblings who do not grow up together, and who do not fill the relevant familial social roles--a consequence that Saletan, it seems, would not welcome.

Peirce says something sensible about such cases somewhere, with his typical go-slow moral conservatism; he says, roughly, that anyone who would give up on the incest taboo on the basis of a little bit of thinking about it is a fool. That's a view I can respect, but only on general fallibilist grounds. I think we have to admit that there are no obvious--at least no obviously good--reasons for thinking that consensual adult incest is morally wrong. Consequently, I don't see any way to defend laws against it. The idea that someone like professor Epstein should face prosecution for it is astonishing to me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pejman Yousefzadeh on Andrew Sullivan: Weak. Very, Very Weak

Well, there's this.

I'm kinda phasing blogging out of my life, as you may have noticed. So I'm not going to refute this silliness in detail. But I will do a drive-by...

It's hard to figure out exactly what the proposition at issue is here. But Yousefzadeh seems to be defending the claim that there's no significant difference between liberal's views about Bush and conservatives' views about Obama.

This, of course, is absurd.

Sullivan's been a little sloppy, too. But any even semi-sensible and objective person who's been paying attention for the last fifteen years or so knows that there's no real similarity between the attitudes of the right and the left to their political opponents. Conservative hatred of both Clinton and Obama was immediate, intense, and largely insane. Liberal opposition to--and, to some extent--hatred of Bush '43 was largely warranted and, if anything, rather tame.

There's no real need to go through the facts, well-known to anyone reading this. Clinton was accused of everything from drug-running to murder. He was subject to non-stop investigation, most of which was entirely bogus, until he was finally tricked into semi-lying under oath. He was impeached--sort of for engaging in a consensual sexual act...but, in fact, for no reason at all. Or rather, for the handiest reason the GOP could find.

Bush came as close to stealing a presidential election as you can come without obviously stealing it, his administration ignored warnings about al Qaeda and yet paid no political price for 9/11 (something that a Democrat would have probably faced at least impeachment for), and he blatantly lied us into the Iraq war, possibly the worst foreign policy disaster in American history. Oh, and his administration turned us into a nation that tortures its prisoners. And it ruined the economy.

Yes, the feckless and lame Democrats were complicitous in most of this...but that's the standard pattern: the GOP leads us enthusiastically toward damnation, shrieking that anyone who opposes a full-tilt charge thereto is unpatriotic...and the Dems meekly go along. Without the leadership-to-damnation of the GOP, the douchebag Dems would be fairly harmless...

At any rate--if anything, the Bush administration deserved more hatred than it received. Neither Clinton nor Obama have deserved even half of the animosity they've been the targets of.

Before Obama even took office, he was being blamed for the failures of the Bush administration. It is so common as to be almost unremarkable for conservatives to question Obama's qualifications for office, his religion, his motives and his citizenship. In fact, accusing him of being a radical Muslim Fascist/socialist/commie is not enough for the contemporary right. The charge that he is the Antichrist is actually fairly common.

In short, American liberals were justifiably angry about George W. Bush and his presidency. The anger and the lunatic charges that American conservatives focused on both Clinton and Obama, however, have been beyond the pale.

There is, in short, no sensible comparison between the two.

Mr. Yousefzadeh
, however, uses a strategy common to contemporary defenders of the right: he notes that one can, by diligently Googling, find something on the left that roughly matches whatever one can say about the right. And then an equivalence is drawn between a smattering of irrationality on the left and a tide of it on the right. Did some liberal somewhere muse about succession? Well, that, you see, is the equivalent of a groundswell of successionist fantasizing on the right. And justified anger at Bush? Why, that's the same thing as unjustified anger at Obama. It's equal, see?

I imagine that lots of people are in basically the same boat I am: they no longer take the right at all seriously, largely because of this kind of sophistry. If folks on the right begin seriously discussing the problem of the unhinging of the American right, I'll be happy to think about taking them seriously again. But if all we're going to get is this kind of sophistical spin from folks like
Yousefzadeh, I've got to tell you, I'm just going to keep tuning them out.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Heels Beat UK 75-73

In a very exciting game. The Heels owned Kentucky on the inside, but our back court is still not being very productive, whereas they were hitting 3s all game long. Zeller and Henson were flat-out awesome. Drew II was solid. And Barnes had flashes of the brilliance we've been waiting for, including this nasty put-back. UK got in serious foul trouble, but they were playing physical D from the first minute of the game...and foul trouble is a predictable consequence of such a strategy.

Of course this could be like last year, during which our big, surprising win over MSU was the first and last flash of hope all season...but I don't think so. We've still got serious trouble in the back court, but I don't think we'll have another 17 loss season.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Bacteria With Arsenic-Based DNA Discovered

Holy crap.

I heard NASA was having a big new conference today with some relevance to xenobiology...but I didn't realize it'd be this big.

The universe is a strange and fascinating place.
Congrats to the Big Ten and Illinois

Congrats to the mighty Big Ten for winning the ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the second year in a row. And congrats to Illinois for whipping my Tar Heels soundly.

Man, I really hope they keep the Challenge going. I love the Big Ten, and always look forward to seeing how they match up with ACC teams. In fact, it's been a lot more fun watching the Big Ten for the last several years than it has been watching the ACC, which seems to be in a fairly major slump. It just doesn't seem like the conference it used to be.

Unfortunately, it looks like it might be another rather long season, hoops-wise, for the Heels.