Aug

19

 On the way to my graduation from Purdue two weeks ago, I headed to the light rail to travel to the airport.

As I awaited the train, a slew of grown men dressed up in My Little Pony garb were on their way to a conference about four blocks from my apartment. Baltimore in successive biweekly periods has hosted a My Little Pony convention for adult men, Comic-Con (sp?), and soon a Grand Prix race that annually loses millions. But it is the former that was so bizarre to me, that I was very pleased to reach this article, which may be one of the most random, insightful, odd, and funny analyses of academia, counterculture, and exercises in wearing random costumes in public.

Enjoy or shake your head… this is a step into the weird…

"The Dread Pony"

Aug

19

 The following is a short review of the Jobs film. Mild spoilers ahead.

For the better part of my swim yesterday, I was trying to put some things into perspective. So it was fitting that I ended up going and seeing Jobs last night, as it offered the type of message I sought.

The biopic, starring Ashton Kutcher, provides insight into Steve Jobs' life from his time at Reed College until he reassumes control of Apple in 1996. Kutcher provides a solid-B performance as Jobs, never quite catching the man's tone but certainly perfecting his gait. It isn't exactly a polite portrayal either, as it highlights Jobs' mean streak toward members of his own family, his indifference to friends, and his master obsession with perfection.

But the major theme of the film, what it takes to be good versus what it takes to be great, shines. And Jobs' vision of changing the world and making computers and other devices an extension of his customers lives is outstanding. Jobs' challenge to create a marketplace for something that doesn't exist (the Apple II personal home computer/iPod/Macintosh) is evidenced in the challenges of short-term minded stockholders and blunt media criticism, against his vision of the long-term and his products' impact on the world.

I found the film more enjoyable than the Social Network, as it's far more human and void of Aaron Sorkin dialogue spoken at a 100 MPH (though Sorkin vehicles remain a guilty pleasure if only for the writing and neurotic characters). Jobs provided a reminder of some of the startups that I've worked on in the past, when some people want it to be a business and others want it to be a hobby, and the divide that occurs. It's evident that Jobs' philosophy has rubbed off on Ashton Kutcher, who has really taken Jobs' message of "being great" and spread it to the masses (though his audiences are too ignorant to hear him). Kutcher has actually been a very successful and vocal tech investor in recent years, and the Jobs portrayal appears to have realigned his thinking.

The film begins with the announcement of the iPod, but immediately back tracks to his time as a dropout at Reed College. From the onset, he's shrewd, a master negotiator, and insanely detailed to the point it drives his small staff crazy in his father's garage. Overtime, we see Apple grow, and with the appointment of John Scully, the Fortune 500 CEO mindset competes with Jobs' disregard for costs or compliance. Lots of long-shot hallway walks set up nearly every termination or ousting from the company.

The film was well written, though the tensions between Jobs, Scully, Ronald Wayne, and even Gil Amelio were a bit soft. I think Amelio, despite his small, small part might have been missed cast. But Matthew Modine plays an outstanding John Scully, and seems to have found a niche as in the CEO role like he did as John Thain in Too Big to Fail.

In the end, this is a simplistic biopic of Jobs, catering to the masses. It's a simplistic view of Jobs' rise to prominence told in a Save the Cat style format of rising and falling. This isn't a tale of great hope — but it highlights the extraordinary achievements of Jobs as best it can, and provides a fantastic last two minutes that offer a subtle reminder of when you leave the theater… What path will you lead?

May

14

 I have seen more and more of this story reiterated over the last few months… That hi-tech and robotic innovation are leading to greater displacement of the middle class in the United States and around the world.

"Think Your Job is Robot Proof? Think Again"

A Stanford professor recently commented that technology and scale are greater drivers of job displacement than previously expected. They are also the strongest drivers of significant wealth. The Forbes 400 is now dominated by innovation and those who have perfected scale.

I am surprised that so many economists have been commenting on this so often so recently, as if it's new news.

Ricardo noted this trend in technological unemployment long long ago, but it completely seemed to have disappeared as a story for 190 years.

Even Krugman admitted that if technology is such a significant driver of the divide between the rich and the poor, then surely it makes a mockery of any attempt to balance wealth in this nation since you cannot tear down innovation in the pursuit of balanced distribution.

How did economists ignore this? For fear of being labeled Marxist?

This reminds me of my first three minutes at Hopkins. I asked a professor who had worked at the DOE what would happen if a radical green innovation displaced oil…

He replied… "You don't want to go down that road…" Innovation has its downside, and to him, it was millions of angry young men in the middle east without a source of income from oil.

Stefan Jovanovich comments:

The principal argument of the intellectuals who supported slavery was that economics itself was an inherently "dismal science". Carlyle genuinely believed that a system of accounts based on money prices was far more vicious than any lash. His spoken corollary was that black people needed slavery because they could not otherwise compete. The unspoken corollary of his intellectual successors was that many other groups of people needed protections from the market because they, too, could not compete. That unspoken corollary became spoken when Progressives discovered Marx.

No believer in liberty in 19th century (the people who called themselves "liberals") had any doubt that machines could do it better, faster and cheaper. That was the point of inventing them in the first place. Those liberals also had no doubt that, in a world of scarcity, "better, faster and cheaper" was a good thing because savings and costs were more important than incomes. That is the same reason why they wanted Money to be made only out of the 16K tons of the one metal that was indestructible and, in milled coinage, impossible to fake. If prices had their unit of account determined by the supply of something that could only be produced with great ingenuity and industry, then the implicit fraud of government (we take money from you as an individual at the point of a gun so people you do not choose can receive benefits) would be limited;and thrift would be rewarded.

The liberals' faith was the presumption that, over time, thrift and family virtue would outrun the machines because accumulated capital would profit from the ever-lower costs that machines always produced. The Progressive/Marxist answer was that we could all speed up economic evolution if we just let the government keep the capital and define the costs. What is truly dismal about much of current academic economics is that the basic argument that produced the science itself is now considered to be a fully-settled question. Meanwhile, the economists on the street are filing for disability with the help of the friendly lawyers they found on TV, highly-penalized work (the stuff classified as "wage and hour" employment remains scarce, and yet per capita discretionary retail sales (what people buy after they pay for food, energy, communications and shelter) are once again rising.

As the Lackey would say, "Hah!"

The principal argument of the intellectuals who supported slavery was that economics itself was an inherently "dismal science". Carlyle genuinely believed that a system of accounts based on money prices was far more vicious than any lash. His spoken corollary was that black people needed slavery because they could not otherwise compete. The unspoken corollary of his intellectual successors was that many other groups of people needed protections from the market because they, too, could not compete. That unspoken corollary became spoken when Progressives discovered Marx.

No believer in liberty in 19th century (the people who called themselves "liberals") had any doubt that machines could do it better, faster and cheaper. That was the point of inventing them in the first place. Those liberals also had no doubt that, in a world of scarcity, "better, faster and cheaper" was a good thing because savings and costs were more important than incomes. That is the same reason why they wanted Money to be made only out of the 16K tons of the one metal that was indestructible and, in milled coinage, impossible to fake. If prices had their unit of account determined by the supply of something that could only be produced with great ingenuity and industry, then the implicit fraud of government (we take money from you as an individual at the point of a gun so people you do not choose can receive benefits) would be limited;and thrift would be rewarded.

The liberals' faith was the presumption that, over time, thrift and family virtue would outrun the machines because accumulated capital would profit from the ever-lower costs that machines always produced. The Progressive/Marxist answer was that we could all speed up economic evolution if we just let the government keep the capital and define the costs. What is truly dismal about much of current academic economics is that the basic argument that produced the science itself is now considered to be a fully-settled question. Meanwhile, the economists on the street are filing for disability with the help of the friendly lawyers they found on TV, highly-penalized work (the stuff classified as "wage and hour" employment remains scarce, and yet per capita discretionary retail sales (what people buy after they pay for food, energy, communications and shelter) are once again rising.

As the Lackey would say, "Hah!".

Jim Lackey responds:

Correction! It is Mr. Vic that says HA! Lackeys say, "get the joke", which is a joke as it takes me 3 times to get it… or the "get the joke is "we are the last to know" when it comes to the "news".

May

8

 Last day at my office, and I'm cleaning out files… I found this.

It's the epilogue to my first novel, which still sits in LA unpublished over an argument on the name of a character. It's about the failure of our leadership. It's been about seven years since I last read this… and I get the sense it's more true today than when it was first scribbled during a vodka-induced rant across a bar napkin somewhere in the Battery of Manhattan…

Thought I'd share…

 

The Men on the Hill

at the set of the star, when each pass down Our Hill

to a plate ever gamely and cup overfilled

the men, they forget, the source of their fare

it was those in small town where cupboards grow bare

now ignored to provide allies’ weight in pork

they carve with the tongue, to drive us to forks

there are men on the Hill, who sneak and conspire

to cohort with Brutus and lead to new choir

there are men on the Hill, denying their fault

as they deepen the wounds and scourge them with salt

there are men on the Hill, not just one, nor one team

confuse his ambition with one country’s dream

a cry comes each voice, are there men on this hill

to stand by the cupboard, risk politic killed

you are safe on this Hill, for the process is rare,

that another ascend to relinquish your chair

on the hill is a hush – now a cast of the blame

now a finger is wagged, to preserve masters’ fame

but fall to the side, when the masses erupt

for power is fickle as power corrupts

are there men on the Hill? each street cries fervent

to answer this call as public servant

are there men on the Hill, stand up if you will

a hush…

a hush…

there’s no man on Our Hill. 

Jan

31

 Driving through the Owens Valley on a beautiful sunny clear day, the entire 150 mile stretch with 14000 peaks towering above showed the geological effects of immense glaciers that filled the entire valley during the past ice age. Ice could have been 3000 feet deep gouging up mountains. Even Mauna Kea in Hawaii has clear geological evidence of glaciers! The last ice age was as recent as 10-20,000 years ago and ice covered a large part of North America. Global warming is the end of the current ice age and has provided good weather and prosperity and the growth of civilization and the human race for 20,000 years. The reverse of global warming, namely cooling, is not an attractive alternative. Imagine if cooling began. It would mean summers with snow that did not melt lasting through destroying crops. 4 years of snow on the ground through summer would wipe out most of the world population. 4 years of 40 foot snow accumulation would erase most signs of civilization under a layer of ice. When Krakatoa went off in 1883 the ash plume circled the world and there was no summer in the US that year. Imagine the impact on gnp and the markets if cooling commenced. Its awful to imagine. So its a case of unintended consequences or be careful what you wish for should they figure out how to reverse global warming.

A commenter writes:

Cold weather crops like rye and barley would come back in vogue if we had an ice age which is not unthinkable. The zones for planting crops would change drastically. One would expect that researchers might do some genetic tinkering with corn, wheat, and soybeans, allowing them to flourish in a colder climate. Quite a number of scientists are predicting a Maunder Minimum at the end of this current solar cycle, which coincided with the "Little Ice Age.".

Steve Ellison writes: 

Quite a long time ago, I reviewed Evolutionary Catastrophes: The Science of Mass Extinction by Vincent Courtillot. Every one of the 7 mass extinction events identified by M. Courtillot was caused by global cooling. Therefore, I agree that global warming (which I see no reason to doubt) is the lesser evil.

David Lilienfeld writes: 

In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the asbestos industry maintained that "there was reasonable disagreement" among scientists about asbestos as a cause of lung cancer; no asbestos-related regulations were needed. In the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the same was true of the tobacco industry for tobacco and lung cancer (and other sites, too). In the 1980s, 1990s, and last decade, many in the social conservative school of thought maintained that there was little evidence, or at least controversial evidence, about the role of human papilloma virus in the development of cervical cancer (I won't get into the matter of hand and neck cancer and HPV). In the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s, the US salt industry insisted that the data linking consumed salt and hypertension were controversial and that no regulation of the salt content was needed. The argument against the consensus view holds only so long as additional data do not validate the view of that majority. With Copernicus, that was the case. It was the same with the role of bacteria in the development of peptic ulcers.

Absolute certainty and uniform conclusions by all members of the science community shouldn't be needed for policy formulation. If they were, then the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel would still be roaming the ranges and desserts of our television screens.

Ralph Vince comments: 

What a logical stretch David.

In the tobacco litigation, we found secret emails amongst the defendant employee's indicating a nefarious conspiracy to keep their methods and activities secret.

The East Anglia emails are similar in that regard.

I can tell you, from firsthand observation of the computer code that was in the email trove (because I have been writing code since the 70s, and I can tell you from examining someone's code what nationality they are, what mood they were in when they wrote it, and often what they had for breakfast). The code that was dumped was utterly damning to their cause. Not only does it show that the data does NOT sufficiently show that we are experiencing (anthropomorphic or not) temperature rises, but taints the issue because it raises the question of motive. We're left knowing that CO2 in the atmosphere has increased, a seeming understanding that this should have caused temperature rise, and the facts that do not comport to this, and as-yet no legitimate scientific reason (there are some theories, but that's all) to account for this.

Scott Brooks writes: 

I suggest that we look at the motives of the people involved in perpetuating what I believe is a giant con job.

Let's say the earth is warming. Is this a man made phenomena or is it just a normal cycle that the earth goes thru from time to time? Who stands to profit from these suggestions to stop global warming? Al Gore and his ilk?

Why do we trust these idiots in DC to make decisions that are common sense based and "special interest group" based?

If we start down this path that global warmists like yourself want us to go down, what happens when the earth keeps warming up (i.e. let's say it's really just a cycle the earth is going thru and not man made)…….what will happen then? Do you think the politicians will say, "Well, it's not mans fault. So let's roll back all the regulations", or do you think that they'll bloviate about how they need even more power to solve this horrible problem?

Why are you so willing to give more and more power to the government when they have a LONG history of abusing that power to their own selfish ends?

If you chose to go down that path, you will find people like me standing in your path actively trying to stop you.

Garrett Baldwin writes: 

I wasn't going to jump in on this, but I wanted to shadow something Scott said.

With regard to motives, pay attention to the way that the hearings and the solutions to solving this problem are handled. Some of us want the market to solve the problem. For example, let's say that the biggest threat in the world were something that is hard to measure, like the earth is running out of fresh air.

I'd argue that if that were a serious problem, a man would come a long and invent a machine to solve it. We'd rely on human ingenuity. We'd beat back that threat…

But the people who stand to profit through centralized alchemy only want to do it one way — their way. And any solution that is market based, creates competition, and doesn't enrich allies or decision makers or centralize more power with the government is either demonized, destroyed or regulated from the conversation.

The reality is that central planners can't solve this problem. They claim that they invented the internet, but if the government were still operating the internet, it would just be two dudes from DoD playing pong back and forth between New York and Camp Pendleton. This entire hype has evidence of scam all over it. Naomi Klein has demanded that the U.S. distribute $2 trillion to third-world nations who are "victims" of the U.S. and our energy policy. Ironically, the nations that are demanding the money are also the ones that are near the bottom of the Heritage Economic Freedom Index. Countries that aren't developing because they keep they limit their own people's ingenuity and production are going to get $2 trillion and then do what with it? Usher in a green economy? Come on…

So, when I hear the idea that we have to "do something" and do it fast without exploring the data, without asking questions, and without being allowed to have a debate because doing so would cast the distrustful of government as people who don't care about the children or the future or humanity. Meanwhile, the alarmist will have a moving wardrobe of children follow him as he spouts off how important his intentions are and how we are monsters.

Beyond that, we also ignore one thing in this discussion.

What are the positive benefits of global warming? After all, Greenland had a booming farm trade 1,000 years ago. I'd like to get some beach front property in Greenland. I'd also think that trade through the Arctic Circle would be nice and reduce shipping to Asia in half. Why is global warming such a terrible thing? Is it because we refuse to embrace the challenge, and because there's profit to be made by saving us from ourselves?

So, I will say from my perspective this. I don't consider climate change a big deal, and it's not something that I worry about. Humanity will adapt after government spends trillions of dollars chasing this dragon..

Archives

Resources & Links

Search