Who is yours?  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

"Finally, the narcissist, who longs for the approval and admiration of others, is often clueless about how things look from someone else’s perspective. Narcissists are very sensitive to being overlooked or slighted in the smallest fashion, but they often fail to recognize when they are doing it to others."

Remind you of anyone? Of course it does...

Narcissism is slated for removal from the DSM-V, along with three other personality disorders. In my neck of the woods, Asperger's Syndrome is also being left out, much to the chagrin of those who self-identify.

All photos used on this blob are used under a creative commons license from flickr, unless otherwise noted. This one is by Cayusa.

In the year 2036...  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

...and I quote:

"[T]he car, the plane, the bicycle, the voice-only telephone, the espresso machine and, luckily, the wall-to-wall bookshelf will still be with us...
The world will face severe biological and electronic pandemics, another gift from globalisation. Religious practice will experience a revival, seen as a conveyor of robust heuristics, cultural values and rituals...[W]hat is now called academic economics will be treated with the same disrespect that rigorous (and practical) minds currently have for Derrida-style post-modernist verbiage.

Nassim Taleb, of the Extremely Important Concept known as the Black Swan Theory, writes in The Economist about how he sees various institutions in 25 years. Although these are things I occasionally think about, I don't have much additional commentary on this article. It is not immediately clear to me that everything he notes is true (See Robin Hanson on Near vs. Far thinking and Yudkowsky on A.I.; Kurzweil has a different take on the progression of science, at least as it pertains to engineering technology.)

Notably, education, especially in the classical vs. modern sense, is not discussed (how will increasingly entrenched religious beliefs affect the present-day concept of the university? I would infer a move toward madrassa-style disconnect, while many of the other predictions take a very World Is Flat view.)

It is very short, and should definitely be read in totum, if only as food for thought in light of the author's prescience regarding matters in the immediate past.

Reading anything by Taleb is personally very interesting because his book was just coming out the last time I traveled abroad, to Scotland. Not only was I stockpiling a lot of American periodicals for the trip, and thus reading the reviews all at once, I was also reading a lot of English periodicals along the way that were also reviewing his ideas. And at THE SAME TIME I was listening to a lot of Thom Yorke's solo album, which Miss Bee was lovely enough to have purchased beforehand and which I had ripped to my computer. Here is the song that I always think about:

Download directly here.

I wish I could drop some kind of killer, never before heard, ultra-maximum remix, but sometimes life gives you lemons.

Also, if anyone that reads this has a concise opinion re: Taleb's mention of gold replacing individual currencies, please drop me a note. It seems very rare for technologies, concepts, institutions, and theories to jump back 120 years, bypassing the interceding period with nary a backwards glance. Is there any way that the Federal Reserve experiment has yielded so few lessons that we can't even begin to build on it? Inflation is definitely a problem to consider, but in the age of iPod, Kindle, and 1 Terabyte hard drives for a couple hundred bucks, do we want to revert to storing massive amounts of gold ingot?

And now for something completely different.

One of my second-graders got off the bus the other day walking in a very unusual fashion, for no apparent reason. The bus was late so there was no one else around, so I indulged his whimsy and walked halfway to class without looking back. When I did so, not only was he still walking in this ridiculous way, another student in line behind him was also conveying himself about the grounds in a most peculiar fashion. Incidentally, we got a new PE teacher who started that very day, and who watched me and these students behave rather oddly. I said hello and began my day calmly - like a black swan who looks so serene above water but is paddling furiously - and in perhaps a somewhat embarrassed fashion, below.

The initial walk was something between the high-stepping element of this (first :10) -

and the careening nature of this (skip to :40 in) -

Toss in a little Jack Sparrow and you've got the idea.

How To Drink Coffee Without Being a Prick  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

You stumble out of bed, struggling toward consciousness, in urgent need of caffeine. You drag yourself into the kitchen. And there, ready and waiting, are 10 cups of coffee, brewed automatically, just five minutes earlier, as a consequence of a few simple steps and some alarm clock-style programming the night before.
Shots fired at the coffee-geek crowd. Frank Bruni extols the virtues of the Mr. Coffee drip coffeemaker, flying in the face of fellow gourmands who prefer the ever-growing crop of complex technologies and strict methodologies for what Bruni describes as "first and foremost a caffeine delivery system...It was medicine, just as food, stripped of its pretensions, is fuel. Expeditiousness matter[s]."

I'm with Bruni, the former restaurant critic of the Times and author of the recent memoir "Born Round". I do make my coffee with the French press, but I would love to have it ready when I get out of bed in the morning. And also I'm intimidated by the more esoteric strictures of the coffee-brewing crowd (swirl the pour. stir every x minutes. etc.)

Check the article for more good times. But no Mr. Coffees in my stocking, thanks.

Best Pseudo-parenthetical Sentence I Read Today  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

"Of course if you want to slow down your ship at the other end instead of flying by at 0.1c, you need a much larger ship."

This comes at the end of a post by Robin Hanson that includes such representative paragraphs as this:

Until recently, it would have been expected that 1 mm would be an absolute upper limit for the size of interstellar grains in the warm (T * 6000 K), low-density (n * 0.1–0.2 hydrogen nuclei cm^-3) interstellar cloud [LIC] which surrounds the Sun. However, recent … measurements … have identiļ¬ed a high-mass tail to the local interstellar grain population extending to perhaps as high as 10^-12 kg (i.e., 4.5 mm radius).

If the technical feasibility of rapid interstellar travel and the requisite economic concerns are of interest, by all means...have at the link.

While we're at it: the best re-creation of space travel ever (Kanye: of ALL TIME), along with a link to a 1969 interview with Kubrick in which, among other things, the director clarifies that HAL is a 'straight' computer. I can sleep easier.

During a '90s R&B jaunt down youtube-memory-lane, THIS was discovered. Putting my earlier claim regarding "best re-creation of space travel" in jeopardy.

In other youtube-and-lisps-in-popular R&B music news:

Bristol Ranking  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

Purple City:

Lots of digital ink has been spilled about what Dubstep is or isn't, but an unquestionable nexus of the bass-heavy wobble is the port city of Bristol, South West England. Peverelist's Punch Drunk label (and electronic dance music mecca Rooted Records), Pinch's Tectonic imprint, and the loose organization of Planet Mu (google them), Bristol's electronic artists have imprinted the charging London Dubstep wobble with a dash of this and that: Sach O over at Passion of the Weiss mentions trip hop, jungle, and Berlin techno. Dubby, crunchy, wobbly, and above all, tuned very loudly to the low end.

In light of the new Peverelist compilation Worth The Weight, I thought I'd add my own needle into the haystack of music coverage and post some of the tracks that hooked me on the across-the-pond awesomeness of the purple sound. But first, the tracks on Worth the Weight from boomkat:

Read full review of Worth The Weight: Bristol Dubstep Classics - Various / Punch Drunk on Boomkat.com ©

The Hook:

""When you hear a song, you envisage things: soul music is mahogany, basslines are yellow," says Joker."

The color that unites Joker, Gemmy, and Guido is a rich purple, and as the young players on a rich music scene that has given the world Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky, these three have emerged as renowned beatmakers and composers in their own right.

Joker is perhaps the most straightforward producer of the three, and his productions are catchy, in your face, and very wobbly. His Purple Wow Sound mix was the first place I had heard such deep bass, pulsating wobble, and catchy melodies. First, the entire 43:00 mix (download here), followed by a representative sample track from youtube. As always, yt is a complete rabbithole that you can follow wherever you'd like.

Gemmy brings a Jamaican sensibility to the Bristol sound, which befits the long-standing relationship between the island and its former colonial overlord. From Keith Richards taking a break from the Stones to record native Rastafarian chants, to a young Chris Blackwell forming Island Records and signing the young Wailers, English music has long been indebted to Jamaican riddim and vocalization. In London, electronic producers have been using one-off dubplates and toasting throughout the 2000s, with Digital Mystikz' DJ Mala as but a prime example. Gemmy's dubby sound owes plenty to Lee Perry, the Professor, and King Tubby. Bomboclot:

Guido is an electronic music producer with an unmatched ear for composition, reminding me of LA's Teebs, another beatmaker whose album Ardour is full of subtle, layered melody. From the clipped horn sample on "Mad Sax" to the wall of synthesized strings on "Tantalized", Guido's Punch Drunk debut Anidea is worth a cover-to-cover listen.

The Godmother:

No mention of the dubstep scene would be complete without a mention of Mary Anne Hobbs, the innovative Radio 1 deejay, whose compilations on Planet Mu brought the music to a wider audience, including yours truly. Wikipedia here, links to her albums here, and her BBC page which is still up here. She has recently moved on from her position at the Beeb in order to pursue tastemaking in other forms, which are sure to be well-received.

In the post referenced earlier, Sach O concludes:

Contemporary House music is fine to dance to and UK rapping will probably never catch on over the pond, but to me, like Hip-Hop in 88 and 94, punk in 77 to 82, soul throughout the early 70’s and psychedelia in its late 60’s peak, this is era-defining music, material that truly speaks to the times and redefines what it means to be a listener or a participant within a culture.
Hear hear.

Best Run-on Sentence I Read Yesterday  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

In horse breeding, for instance, there is a definite risk in breeding two fast horses who are both a little crazy. The offspring will likely be very fast and also very crazy. So the trick in breeding thoroughbreds is to retain the good traits and filter out the bad. But the breeding of humans is not so wisely supervised, particularly in a narrow Southern society where the closest kind of inbreeding is not only stylish and acceptable, but far more convenient--to the parents--than setting their offspring free to find their own mates, for their own reasons and in their own ways.
That's funny.

Deep down the rabbit hole of Ralph Steadman's website, you can find full texts of Steadman-illustrated, Hunter Thompson-penned classics, including "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved", quoted above. Appearing in a periodical called Scanlan's Monthly in 1970, it is considered the first piece of Gonzo journalism. See Wikipedia for more, or hit the jump for the full text. One of the prints from the auspicious occasion is represented above, available for purchase on his website, naturally.

"Shadow Scholarship"  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

The topic today is a "shadow scholar" who is paid to write essays for college-level courses. Completely fascinating throughout; I think I missed my calling. He got started when some frat boy friends wanted him to write papers for them, and today he makes more than $60,000 a year. Key quotables:

"I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph."

As an online-course-taking, weekly-paper-writing-machine, I can definitely sympathize with that one. He goes on:

I've read enough academic material to know that I'm not the only bullshit artist out there. I think about how Dickens got paid per word and how, as a result, Bleak House is ... well, let's be diplomatic and say exhaustive. Dickens is a role model for me.
People sometimes ask me (when they found out I did graduate school online) how I can write papers each week about different topics without going to the library. Given that I didn't go to the library in college except to print, my answer approximately mirrors this explanation with the caveat that I did use the e-library to assemble and read legit sources:
I haven't been to a library once since I started doing this job. Amazon is quite generous about free samples...Google Scholar is a great source for material, providing the abstract of nearly any journal article...there's Wikipedia, which is often my first stop when dealing with unfamiliar subjects. Naturally one must verify such material elsewhere, but I've taken hundreds of crash courses this way.
The Shadow Scholar is quite explicit about the variety of "students" he has helped, and includes a pretty funny list of the different types of papers and assignments he has written over the years. He takes on nurses, social scientists, architects, and plenty of others. But he saves a particular vitriol for one branch of higher education:
I've written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I've written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I've synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I've written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I've completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)

'Graf of the Day  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

In my earnest effort to begin posting here more frequently (since the completion of my Master's courses, still waiting on the review of my work), I decided to focus, if ever so some-what, on language and writing. I have composed two "On Language"-type columns in my head that I shall type up forthwith after moderate efforts at research (Footnote 1).

I'm also consistently reporting events, published takes, turns of phrase, and sentences to my Miss Bee, who both judiciously ignores me and comments, occasionally, in a vague fashion, while in turn concentrating on her own affairs. To her betterment. In that light, I'm moving towards a MR-esque "Best __ I Read Today" format, which I can decorate in the finest possible manner. Working within the confines of such strictures, I am parsing my reading material most delicately, and in Day One of my efforts, I am delighted to present this gem, verbatim from kottke.org:

Four 50-packs for around $115. "Whoa!" I exclaimed to my wife, "Someone out there really likes whipped cream!"

Readers, I could almost hear the eyeroll as my wife explained to this naive bumpkin that people use these canisters of compressed nitrous oxide to get high. So whoever you are, thank you for the novel experience of learning a new Urban Dictionary term from my wife.

In a most remarkable turn of events, Miss Bee came home today and mentioned the need to go to Costco, this evening, no procrastinating, It's-For-Student-Council. Standing in line with our one item, which happened to be three canisters of whipped cream....

1 According to the Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osbourne, in her Opus #9 entitled Dolphins at Daybreak, research is roughly defined as working to find the answer to hard questions. Noted to self: drill that into students.

Palin on Press: Pretty, pretty, pretty good  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

This is funny.

Sarah Palin on the press in this country:

"I suppose I could play their immature, unprofessional, waste-of-time game, too, by claiming these reporters and politicos are homophobe, child molesting, tax evading, anti-dentite, puppy-kicking, chain smoking porn producers … really, they are. … I've seen it myself … but I'll only give you the information off-the-record, on deep, deep background; attribute these 'facts' to an 'anonymous source' and I'll give you more."

Anti-dentite. Hmm.

A quick google search reveals that in fact the only thing that anti-dentite refers to is a Seinfeld episode (the Yada Yada, for those scoring at home). To wit:

Tip of the hat to Slate for that little gem. I miss Bushisms, but Bidenisms + Palinisms is pretty, pretty, pretty good.

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