16 February 2014

An Effort to Be Less Horrible

... which usually needs more effort. And less horrible.

  • "This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another"... like not making everyone's identity about sex. The irony that sex, and not race or gender or faith or creed or politics or national origin, is the most-incendiary dividing line remaining in this nation — with the second-most-virulent one being the social class/accumulated capital proxy problem — in the face of either the Old or the New Testament, let alone a less protonationalist text on the one hand or the Constitution on the other, is a bit much to tolerate. And that it takes a non-university-educated actress from Nova Scotia to point this out says something else, and it's not good (as implied in the last sausage on this platter).

    But that's about all the "less horrible" I've spotted lately, as the rest of this list of rather horrible (in their own ways) link sausages indicates.

  • Speaking of horrors from the Levant, it's only a few kilometers from failure to genocidal acts (but not, technically, genocide... with all the echoes of Rwanda and the Balkans).
  • If you live in a coastal city in the US — especially one already ravaged by flooding this century — you should strongly consider hiring a new City Manager from the Netherlands. And then stopping to think that in coastal cities under threat from rising sea levels and increasing storm strength, everybody is in everyone's back yard already, so NIMBY isn't really a valid argument. One could argue, with some justification, that the peculiar American legal concept of a "taking" makes this inevitable. No, it doesn't — it just makes it on the one hand a little more difficult and on the other a little more imperative. For all the problems with government property control, just look at the actual Carolina coast over the past couple of decades to confirm that purely private control is much, much worse.
  • The government versus private issues continue to arise in the arts, too. Part of the problem is the mystique of owning "the original" that persists, especially (but not only) in the West — an attachment to things that often has terrible consequences for the meaning of those things, let alone the treatment of both the things and the meaning by others. I don't particularly share this mystique for things not made personally for/by me... but then, I'm a nerd.
  • This problem is also deeply embedded in the distributed arts — film and TV, yet more film and TV, music, publishing — even without delving into individual creator compensation (badly and inelegantly, one might add, but that's at least as much the fault of those hiding the information as it is those seeking to understand things). The real danger will come when people start analogizing noncomparables and trying to create mathematical results from the analogies. Query: What does this particular study tell us about trade nonfiction sales? (Hint: Sort of rhymes with "ta-DAAAH")

    The real takeaway here should be that just because one can cram data into a spreadsheet, and the spreadsheet provides some neato tools to do calculations on that data, one cannot assume that the result will be mathematically meaningful... let alone correspond to the factual context. And the less said about drawing conclusions for future behavior from such nonsense, the better.

  • For a change, Nicholas Kristof says something sensible and less horrible. I strongly suspect that he and I would disagree on which professors should be first in line for more influence, though... and, for that matter, on how to keep them from starving while they're striving to do so. I also disagree with his prescription for more "political diversity" — those who do not believe that even sociology faculties (to choose one example Kristof himself points to) are not incredibly diverse are doing so from the perspective of those who believe they already know the answers (and that anyone to the left of Attila the Hun is a "liberal"). I'll leave the six specific fallacies in this sort of position as exercises for the student; and that's leaving aside the the arrogance of a partisan "mere journalist" prescribing the acceptable composition of an academic discipline of which he has little apparent knowledge.

Well, I guess it's time to iron stuff so I can dress for success.