Monday, June 30, 2008


Some things have come up, including my having suddenly become employed and starting today. Though I have some ideas on deck and wanted to read and discuss Heller, I may not have the time for a bit. I hope to get back to this soon, and if I find I have more time than I expect, I'll keep doing it.

And damn it, if Freiheit has nothing to say about guns I'll be surprised.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Blue Shell: Socialist Leveller or Nietzschean Abyss?

I write today on a delicate and difficult subject, one which much erudition can scarcely enlighten.

I'm referring to the blue shell in Mario Kart DS.

Now, it must seem strange that I'm limiting myself to discussion of this item's DS incarnation. Well, there is a reason for that. I happen to know the properties of the blue shell well in that game, and I am unsure if it has the same features in the other Mario Kart games in which it appears.

Also, the title of this post is not a lie. I am taking blue shells that seriously.

The blue shell has a bad reputation among skilled players of Mario Kart. To those ignorant of its effects, here is how it works: it's an item picked up from the racetrack, usually by racers who are trailing the leader severely. Once used, the blue shell travels inexorably to wherever the leader is, circles above his head, and then descends in a kart-busting explosion. The leader spins out and loses all forward momentum. The effect of a blue shell hit can be five seconds of lost time, which is enormous, especially when some tracks take only eleven seconds for an entire lap.

This loss of time is intolerable to veterans of Mario Kart, because it can propel a mediocre player in second place to a first-place finish, especially when the shell hits very close to the finish line on the final lap, when all the skill in the world can't close the sudden gap between the new leader and the shell victim in time. Because people who are good at the Mario Kart games spend a lot of track time in first place, they're recurring victims of the blue shell's annoying, unavoidable forced equalization.

Actually, the blue shell isn't unavoidable. But I'll get to that soon. What I want to impress upon the reader is the perception of blue shells - they punish skill. The only person that will ever become the target of a blue shell is the one who excels and plays better than the other seven participants in each race. Because the blue shell tends to show up in item boxes picked up by racers trailing in the last few places, the person who launches the shell probably won't benefit at all from its effects, but will only fiddle with the order of the first few finishers in the race. Because the blue shell is a weapon of the weak, who punish the strong not in order to benefit themselves but simply out of a sort of spite, it seems socialist - soak the rich, even if it does nothing to help me, because, damn it, it's unfair for them to be better off.

People resent being punished for doing well. Well, those people aren't doing as well as they think. The blue shell can actually be avoided, though it's much more difficult than most maneuvers, so that only an elite few can pull it off. Because Nintendo obviously programmed the shell in order to balance the game, a game which, otherwise, could be dominated by those with quick fingers and wits, avoiding the blue shell effectively breaks the game. The blue shell haters are whining over nothing.

There are really three classes of players in Mario Kart DS, with the blue shell dodgers on the top. To those in the middle, who have the skill to get in first place most of the time but not enough skill to maintain that position (which would be accomplished either by being so fast that a blue shell doesn't matter [which is possible, although very difficult, effectively making anyone good enough to do it a first-class player] or just by dodging the thing), the blue shell is an injustice against which they are impotent. The third-class player spitefully wields the shell in order to make the second-class player suffer, and this dynamic between these lower classes is what defines most of the interplayer struggle in the Mario Kart metagame. By using his superhuman powers to escape this pointless conflict, the first-class player is a Nietzschean Übermensch.

The identification of the first-class player as Nietzschean hero is bolstered by the apparent ignorance of many Mario Kart players to the possibility of dodging the blue shell. On GameFAQs, none of the indexed FAQs I saw even acknowledged the existence of a technique for dodging the blue shell, all of them simply describing the item as inescapable. The possibility of escaping the tyranny of blue shells occurs to very few players, even ones who consider themselves good, even as the rejection of traditional morality that Nietzsche championed is so rare as to be mythical to most.

The hammer in the Smash Brothers series operates in a similar way, although, in that case, the one who wields the hammer is at a positive disadvantage against the first-class player, because the hammer actually severely cripples the movement of its wielder and can't be dropped. In many cases, having the hammer is a liability, because a good player can get around it and knock the wielder off the edge, where he can't jump (because the hammer disables any but a single jump from a standing position) and falls to his death still swinging his own bane. But in any discussion of whether a match that includes items is "fair," the interlocutors will point out the hammer as something that tips the balance of a match - though, of course, with two first-class players, the hammer would lie unused, because picking it up would be lethal.

Concluding: rather than being a skill-punishing injustice, the blue shell is an opportunity for very good players to demonstrate their skill. Embrace it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Constitution Manages to Limp On

The most amusing part of Stevens's Heller dissent was his dual-sovereignty, states'-rights reading of the Second Amendment.

The least amusing part of the whole thing was the length. Way to write, dudes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sunset Inanities

The UK makes no sense, discuss.

So, what about those neighborhoods where regular British folk can't go? Maybe they should get their own chess team - if it's halal, of course.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


So, the Irish are disgusting drunks, or something.
Irish families are spending more of their income on alcohol than any other country in the EU, according to an analysis of the household budgets of the 27 member states.
Now, the headline of this article could have been "Stereotypes Sometimes True: Besotted, Hairy, Belligerent Irish Subhumans Piss (Literally and Figuratively) Away Salaries on Hooch" but the Times appears to have exercised just a modicum of restraint in only hinting at all these things through innuendo. As usual with media reports, facts are often deliberately misinterpreted in order to fit the Procrustean bed of the media narrative. So, with that in mind:
Irish households commit twice as much of their budgets to alcohol as they do to education, excluding income tax contributions.
Irish education is apparently socialized, so, as you might have guessed, this comparison is meaningless. Ah, journalism.
Drink also accounts for a bigger proportion of expenditure than health, meat, or dining out in restaurants and cafes.
Booze is pretty expensive in restaurants, and the article doesn't clarify if the cost of dining out includes the cost of booze or not, so this comparison is less than helpful. I also resent the implication that spending money on alcohol isn't a "health expenditure."

Here's some good news masquerading as a crisis:
"For binge drinking, especially among young girls, we are the highest in Europe and our spending is the highest,” she said.
Visit Ireland.
Rackard said this has happened and that increasing the cost of alcohol is the best way to combat its damaging effects. “The government has continued to allow alcohol to be too affordable. The price of alcohol hasn’t gone up with inflation,” she said.
There is no such thing as "too affordable" with any consumer good. Nor do I shed any tears when the government "allows" people to purchase what they want and to enjoy the benefits of the free market. Perhaps if Ms. Rackard would binge-drink like the fun Irish girls, she'd come off as something other than a neo-prohibitionist buzzkill. That an obnoxious teetotaler is the chief authority cited in this article would be evidence of its bias even in the absence of its hilarious tendentiousness.

I'd engage in a spite whiskey sour but I finished off my Jameson on Saturday night. Still, I shake my fist at the Times.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Zero-Sum Fallacy Watch

Man, pointing out how stupid other people are is providing plenty of content, huh? Here's the stupid headline: Can the U.S. Bring Jobs Back from China? Uh, if our jobs went to China (whatever that means), how has unemployment stayed so low? Phrasing the question differently, if everyone who "lost" a job to China got another job doing something else here, as years of stable, low unemployment would seem to indicate, then...where's the problem?

There isn't any, unless you ignore the facts and buy into the idea that the global economy is zero-sum. When a magazine called BusinessWeek does that, we might actually be in trouble.

Unintentionally hilarious quote:
Her company, Boston-Power, would like to make the batteries in the U.S., which she says is feasible despite high American wages.
Feasible in the sense that there is a rapidly growing, highly profitable company making batteries for diverse purposes which, I am sure, would have jumped at the chance. In other words, you tried nothing and you're all out of ideas.

Of course, didn't we all lose our jobs in the 1960's due to automation? Right after we all killed each other for food (hi Malthus!).


Friday, June 20, 2008

Snopes (aka pro-Obama Smear Machine) Watch

Yeah, Snopes is in the tank for Obama. Still.

It starts right away:
Claim: During a campaign stop, Barack Obama said that he had visited "fifty-seven states."

Status: Multiple — see below.
Remember when I said earlier that Snopes at least got the truth-value of its urban legends right, even if the explanation would veer off the path of veracity? I take it back.

Simply put, this claim is true. Not kind of true, not both true and false (uh...), but true. That Obama was tired, or that people may have interpreted Obama's statement to mean something about Islam, can go in the explanation, you damned hacks.

I'm starting (ok, I'm already there) to regard Snopes as having all the accuracy of Wikipedia. So, some on trivial matters, none where it counts. Yay!

This was cute (this is actually from Snopes's explanation, not an Obama press release):
On the campaign trail in Beaverton, Oregon, in May 2008, an obviously tired Barack Obama mistakenly told a crowd that over the course of the long campaign he had been to fifty-seven states in the U.S., with one left to go
Emphasis added. I'll note that Obama appears "obviously tired" whenever he doesn't have a teleprompter in front of him. In other words, the supposed brilliant orator is...not.

Snopes doubles down by trying to tie criticism of Obama's gaffe with Islamophobia:
Quickly enough, based on the (spurious) rumor that Senator Obama is a Muslim, someone came up with the fanciful idea that his mention of "fifty-seven states" was a reference to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has 57 member states.
I have never heard of this "fanciful idea" before, and I'm not exactly surfing Obama-friendly sites. I can only imagine that Snopes is including it to associate people who think Obama is a gaffe machine with people who think he's a secret Muslim; you know, sane critics and insane critics.

Way to smear us, Snopes.

Last Straw?

I saw this campaign ad for McCain two nights ago.

So, are there any candidates out there who deserve my vote? Ron Paul certainly doesn't qualify, so don't go there.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Clive Waters: Insecure Euroweenie

I love ChessBase readers, because they're so predictable. Take this "person":
Clive Waters, Blyth, Northumberland
Just to correct your artical (sic): Northumbria is a old British county which no longer exists. The new county of Northumberland has similar but diferent (sic) bounderies (sic). Being a county of England we are sadly not eligible to enter a team in the Eurupean (sic) championships, which is for countries. Your corrospondent (sic) dare I say must be from the USA (everyone else knows better) and may not understand the difference between a country and a local county ("state" to him I suppose). This may explain things like the American World Open and their 'World' football series – games which nobody else in the world play except Americans! Only the USA invents games so they can win and then claims 'world'. I guess they just dont (sic) like losing in real football!
Wow, a whole lot of layers of non-sequiturlicious anti-Americanism here! I took the liberty of pointing out this third grade kid's spelling errors, but his ignorance of other cultures is astonishing (American football has a world series? Whoops!).

Anyway, while Little Clivey Waters was pontificating on American stupidity, he missed something rather...major:
The correspondent is from Germany, and Northumbria was ironical. The problem is that we cannot for the life of us understand how England, Wales, Scottland and North Ireland can have separate teams in the soccer world cup. Could Germany have Nordrhein-Westfalen and Bayern participating as separate teams? – Editor.
Oops! Guess that defeats the entire purpose of your psychotic rant, huh, Clivey?

Like all fools, Clivey couldn't leave well enough alone, and had to make even more of a fool of himself:
Reply from Clive Waters: "Because Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own individual football associations as recognised by FIFA and UEFA. As simple as that. In much the same way as they – and other countries – have individual chess associations as recognised by FIDE. Northumbria hasn't (at least not as far as I know, certainly not internationally). Your sarcastic throwaway comment adds nothing to your article."
Look, when I say something stupid (it used to happen, many years ago), I try not to draw more attention to myself. Clive had other ideas. So, I'll give him what he wants - an immortalization of sorts, spelling errors and all.

Somehow, being smarter than Clive must prove I'm a stupid American. Somehow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mash Note

To the tier 4 law student who googled "does ucc article 2 allow restocking fees":

-it's not that long. Read it. Want to borrow my print copy?


-the Best Buy situation (I know you're not googling that question randomly) involved merchandise that was not defective in any way, nor short of any warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. Some moron bought something without knowing what it did, and decided to whine on the Internet about how he's a fool. So, no, I am pretty sure the UCC does not allow people to void contracts where they get exactly what they paid for. Otherwise...

-...couldn't Best Buy just come to your house and say "Yo, we're here to return your cash. We decided it really didn't serve our purposes and we'd like to return it for a full refund of the GPS we gave you. Thanks."

-how is that D in Contracts treating you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Know Nothing

I didn't want to write about this anti-smoking insanity, but this was just too good:
"Pornography, with all its faults and deficits, won't kill you," said Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, an anti-smoking lobby group.

Cracked, Old People, and Slavery

This article was truly terrifying, but one thing stood out:
"Now that more people are living to be 70, 80, 90 and 100, research shows quite clearly that sex is as important as ever."
Thankfully, now that we can undo nature with medicine, it's meaningful to speak of sex in old age - we can't have old people behaving maturely, after all. Besides the whole "let's take pills to fight futilely against nature" perversion of Viagra, the need to actually purposely create a desire stronger than reason is an awful result of hedonism. Let's go to Plato, hitting it out of the park:
For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom; when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many.
Sophocles must have underestimated the calm, if not freedom, of being ruled by a strong enough master to prevent our having to rely on the exercise of reason, which, after all, is difficult, painful, and rare.

The appeal of slavery also explains a lot about election politics - self-government is hard, being a subject is easy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

O Come, All Ye Faithless

Why do I take fools seriously?
Mira Kirshenbaum, who has over 30 years' experience as a marriage therapist, says the 'right kind' of affair can be a positive thing, acting to "jolt people from their inertia".
Hey, you know what's an even better jolt from your inertia? Being sued for thirty years of malpractice as a marriage therapist. JOLT!
The author of When Good People Have Affairs, published this week, argues that because society has so far failed to have a sympathetic discussion of infidelity, the positive sides of cheating have been ignored.
Society has so far said that betrayal and selfishness are bad things, which is itself a bad thing, and dammit, we won't let society keep us back from nonstop self-centered childish pleasure-whoring.

Incidentally, the same logic that runs though this article justifies the Holocaust.
However, she insists that most cheating spouses should never own up, because revealing the infidelity is more damaging than keeping quiet.
Hm. Of course, it's not the revelation of the infidelity that's damaging, it's that the infidelity occurred in the first place that's damaging; the revelation merely removes the veil of ignorance from the betrayed's judgment. So, a healthy marriage is about lying so well your spouse never suspects you're lying. OK. Thirty years, huh?
"Sometimes an affair can be the best way for the person who has been unfaithful to get the information and impetus to change," she told The Observer.
"I want to screw my wife's sister, but is our marriage really in trouble if I don't actually go through with it?" You get going with that self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.
"I'm not encouraging affairs, but underlying the complicated mess is a kind of deep and delicate wisdom. It's an insight that something isn't working and needs to change."
So, having just said that an affair can be the best way &c., she's not encouraging affairs. So the marriage therapist is not encouraging what she thinks is the best way to solve a marital problem.

Wow, that class action suit is going to be rough.
Most philanderers are good, kind people, she argues, who are seeking real happiness and love.
[citation needed]
Ms Kirshenbaum, clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute, a psychotherapy and research centre in Boston, Massachusetts, says her book is not aimed at 'creeps' who think they can cheat with impunity, but at decent people who know they have made a mistake.
Oh, a "Ms." Well, she must have awesome advice about marriage!
"These people are suffering terribly and need to be relieved of their sense of guilt and shame because those emotions are paralysing," she said.
Yes, guilt and shame, by punishing the will directly (not through corporal punishment, which is mediated by the body and its sensation of pain), might serve to correct the will and engender morally sound conduct in the future. MS KIRSHENBAUM CAN'T HAVE THAT.
"If handled right, an affair can be therapeutic, give clarity and jolt people from their inertia," she said.
What Newton had in mind when devising his three laws was getting freaky with some chick you met at work, obv obv obv. Leave inertia out of this, ma'am.
"You could think of it as a radical but necessary medical procedure. If your marriage is in cardiac arrest, an affair can be a defibrillator."
OK well marriages do not have hearts so I am not sure how this works but all right, random jolts of electricity are undoing inertia and restarting the heart of your marriage so it can take oxygen to cells and remove carbon dioxide from them, I guess.
But she is convinced that an adulterer must never confess, not even if their partner asks directly.
So when your partner asks you directly, indicating in no uncertain terms that it is vitally important for her to know the truth, you deny her what she wants. You are a dangerous moron.
"This is the one area in which the truth usually creates far more damage in the long run," she said.
Waiting on that citation of dozens of studies that have shown this to be true. Otherwise, you wouldn't say it, right? Wait, I'm expecting the "lying is good" person to be truthful. Whoops.
"If you care that much about honesty, figure out who you want to be with, commit to that relationship and devote the rest of your life to making it the most honest relationship you can."
Well, this is strange. If you care about honesty, get in an honest relationship. If your partner cares about honesty, nuts to them.
Her sympathetic approach to cheats has been criticised by some of her peers.
"Cheat-sympathizer" would have served better.
Phillip Hodson, fellow of the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists said: "We mustn't underestimate the immediate grief caused by an affair.
"Affairs cause grief" is all it took to rebut this twit. Yay Telegraph! Yay "news!"
"The last thing people want to hear if their partner has had an affair is any sympathy offered to the person who they feel has betrayed them, and acted like a snake in the grass.
Because some people have common sense and morality, and know that cheating is bad...
"However, when they look back in five or ten years, they might take a different view.
...not you, apparently, but people do.
"Maybe this book goes too far, but we do need to take a sociological view of affairs. To think, 'what are we going to do about them?' rather than to say 'it can't happen', when it clearly does."
Yes, a sociological view, where we study what has happened and offer no advice, because sociology isn't a therapeutic field, idiot.

I am glad the Telegraph got both sides of this story - "Cheating is awesome" and "Cheating isn't so bad." Way to be.

The comments just prove that Web 2.0 empowers the stupid to annoy not just their friends and family, but whole demographics. Here's just one:
Well, what a depressing list of comments. Everyone seems trapped in a sterotyped existence where we can only react in the same old pre-programmed victorian mindset ways.

Wake up! its 2008. The world is changing. Why do you think so many people have affairs? Could it possibly be that the social institutions and frameworks we have constructed for ourselves are not logical and don't allow us to act naturally?

The damage that is done by affairs is because we all react in the same old predictable way every time - Someone cheated on us so therefore it means that the they don't love us any more. Have you considered that we might have the capacity to love and care for more than one person at a time?
Yeah civilization is a bummer. The war of all against all - now that's awesome sauce.


Monday, June 09, 2008

"Wolf times a million," they cried.

Here's something confusing enough to be a koan.

What do you call the economy when a recession actually happens?

Related question - what do you call Bush if he actually rounds up six million Jews and kills them?

It's like the people who say "fuck" every other word, and then find themselves frustratingly unable to express their anger when it manifests itself.

Taco Supremes Have More Jurisprudential Skill

Some people are insane.
If Barack Obama is elected president, mutual friends say the best course for Hillary Clinton might be nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than staying in the Senate.
Can you imagine what it would be like to have a random unqualified moron serving on the Supreme Court just because she's a woman, tipping the close ideological balance of the Court with incoherent decisions that ruin constitutional law for decades?

It would be madness.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Quintili Vare, legiones redde

Germany is still scary. And still obsessed with human waste, for some reason.

I guess, in their hearts, they're still smelly, growling, Wotan-worshipping savages. And that's why we love them.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


So there's this complete moron named Jacques Diouf. Like many, but not quite all, complete morons, he works for the UN. Here's a quote from M. Diouf:
Zero-sum fallacy! Zero-sum fallacy! Zero-sum fallacy!
Shut up, Jacques.


I get it now. I get Nietzsche's appeal.

Check it out.

This is why Nietzsche is popular among faux-transgressive youths and other miscreants. "God is dead" is all they know about him, and they like it. That that revelation (taking it to be true merely arguendo) makes life incredibly more difficult and calls for action profounder than wearing droll Nietzsche-themed garments doesn't seem to daunt or even occur to most of his fans. And I am just sure that few seriously study and reflect on his other bits of philosophical insight.

I'm not bashing Nietzsche, just people who don't get Nietzsche but want to hang out with the cool kids anyway.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Another Country Falls

Here's a clever sophism:
There is a very clear difference between pro-life and anti-choice: Anti-choice groups actively attack women's autonomy over their own bodies and lives. This is flagrant sexism. And sexism is not a mere "thought crime" as the editorial asserts, but rather is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code because it is a serious and systemic problem that has consistently subjugated women all throughout history.
Let me try to adapt this logic to make a different point.

Pro-choice groups assert that women have autonomy over their own bodies and have the right to think, believe, and act as they wish. By going against fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, pro-choice people are anti-Islam. This is flagrant Islamophobia. Islamophobia is not a mere "thought crime," but rather is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code because it is a serious and systemic problem that has consistently denied devout Muslims their right to practice radical, misogynistic Islam freely. Claiming that women have rights is clearly vicious hate speech and has no place in a decent, well-ordered society.

So, chew on that one, Fräulein Shelton.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

White Idiots

I like Stuff White People Like. I think it should be called "Stuff Eyerollingly Pseudointellectual White Posers Like" but I guess I can see why they simplified the title.

Monday, June 02, 2008

World's Most Pointless Sport

Unless you live under a rock, you have Gmail. Or you know someone who does. So you get links to news stories above your inbox, and sometimes, the headline is interesting enough to grab you and make you click the link. This one got me: Eriksson departs Manchester City.

The links Gmail sends my way do this all the time. They string words and names together in such a way that you can't help but think they're meant to signify something. Take this one. If it said "Bush departs D.C.," that would make sense, even though it doesn't explain who Bush is or what D.C. is, because, well, one can take judicial notice, so to speak. But who the hell is Eriksson? Where (or what) is Manchester City? What the hell is this story even about? I figured it was about soccer, because whenever Gmail throws an incomprehensible headline at me, it's always about soccer. Well, read that article. It never actually tells you what its relevance is. It never chimes in with "Oh by the way this is about a soccer team" to end the confusion.

Screw you, CNN. Screw you, Gmail. I will not be duped into thinking soccer is relevant or in any way interesting or heterosexual, and thousands of confusing links will never change that.


I see that Nick Milne has a new blog up called "The Daily Kraken." I'd like to make a few comments about it:

-a kraken is a huge sea monster, and it is hardly imaginable to see one daily. Nice try.

-despite the bizarre, D&D-fetish name, the blog has already linked to several of my posts here, thereby proving its lasting relevance and good taste.

-seriously, what's a daily kraken?

-there's some post about having sex with cars and with the Berlin Wall or something that really got me thinking. About what? Aristotle. Really.

-well-written, intellectually deep blogs make me feel stupid.

-finally, commenting on the mere existence of someone else's blog is a good way to update without doing actual work, a tool which I have demonstrated here.


Oh, one more thing. Do the titles of my posts rarely make sense? I often chose them when I have something else in mind than I finally settle on writing. But at least the name of the blog makes sense.