03 November 2013

The Third Way

XKCD, 01 Nov 2013

Now, if someone will just show this to the idiots at Microsoft who decided (so that one line in the 1983 version of Word, on the then-standard 80-character-wide display, would match exactly with one line on the eventually printed page) that left and right margins should be 1.25"... and persisted in enforcing that as the default for well over two decades...

It's one space. And I say that as someone who learned to type on Olympia and Remington manual typewriters, and still resents taking my fingers off the home row and reaching for the damned mouse/trackpad/trackball.

  • Here's an amusing piece that illustrates why "real scientists" question assumptions that should be required reading... for lawyers. Keep in mind that what Mr Brown did was not in any way a rejection of the underlying concept; it was a rejection of the reasoning that led to conclusions drawn from an underlying concept that lacked fact-based support. It remains perfectly possible to reach a result resembling positive human functioning's core through other means; hypothetically — and I have no idea whether actual data would support this as a conclusion — one might look at post-trauma surgical outcomes, or some other instance in which there is a discrete, unanticipated cause, to see if there's any kind of comparable mechanism that is actually supportable with replicable data.

    But why do I say lawyers need to read the article? To name only one example, consider corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment — that is, that corporations have the personal rights of race, religion, etc. that were the subject of the Fourteenth Amendment's "equal" protections. It's entirely possible to come up with good theoretical arguments for (and against) this variety of corporate personhood. It is not, however, possible to come up with such arguments based solely upon US legal precedent that don't trace themselves back to the nonprecedent found in Santa Clara Co. v. South. Pac. RR, 118 U.S. 394 (1886). If one actually reads the entire case report, including the syllabus, one discovers that the profusion of citations back to that opinion for the proposition that corporations are Fourteenth Amendment persons go not to the Court's opinion, but to the syllabus added at the beginning by the Reporter of Decisions, which explicitly is not the Court's opinion.

  • The World Fantasy Awards, just announced (and congratulations to the finalists and recipients), have yet again demonstrated a blind spot shared by SMOFs and trufen: Source. The WFAs, as a purely-juried award system, go too far in one direction. The rampant ignorance of (and hostility to) non-speculative-fiction-only imprints reflected in nominations for pure-popular-vote awards — like virtually every other award in or relating to speculative fiction — goes the other. This time, the WFA jury chose a book from Grove Atlantic (a decidedly "literary" imprint) as best novel; that work didn't even make the final ballot for virtually any other award in the field. On the merits of the various works involved, that was more an instance of the crowd being wrong than the jury being wrong... and notice that I didn't say "out of touch." Alif the Unseen is a flawed work, as virtually all works are; it fails to provide fan-acceptable homage to certain predecessors (analogous to failing to provide homage to Anne McCaffrey when writing about personal relationships between humans and dragons); but its strengths far outweigh its flaws, and indeed so much that it should have at least been in the company of its peers on the various final ballots.

    It will be fascinating to see how the next Richard Powers novel — one which will delve much farther into alternate history, information theory, perception, and speculation on the limits of humanity than will 90% of the output of the science-fiction imprints, and do so with far greater artistry — will be treated by the SMOFs and trufen in a couple of months. Unfortunately, there's no juried counterpart to the WFAs for pure(r) science fiction, so "interesting" is about all that I can say. Powers' absence from the shortlists (and longlists) in 1994 and 2000 raises eyebrows; his exclusion from the wretched lists in 1995 and 2006 is far more disturbing and at best reflects an aversion to "literary cooties" on the part of those trying to choose "best"... and more likely reflects either ignorance or prejudiced evaluation of books by a very, very small portion of their respective covers.