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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in noumcomments' LiveJournal:

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Monday, March 30th, 2009
10:06 am
On choosing a college
Everyone's giving advice to TigerHawk's teenager on where he should go to college, so I chimed in:
If you really want to achieve something you're going to have to advance leaps and bounds faster than your regular classes will enable you to. You'll have to find a peer group that eats and breathes the same field as you, that competes and cooperates with each other, so you can get better together. So you want to make sure wherever you go has a critical mass of people in your field, who you can get along with, who are a little smarter and more ambitious than you.

Eh, you probably don't even know what field it'll be. Go to the closest school and then switch when you choose your major.

Dawnfire is right that the signalling aspect is the most important thing. What kind of people go to the school -- ambitious, nerdy, macho? What kind of people come out -- career-track, innovators, politicians? Going against type is like going to MIT to take English. People will think something's up with you.

Regarding the "each month wipes the slate clean" thing -- that's the opposite of the perspective I read here:
I think that the uni was the hardest period of my life, despite having a busy life as an ERP consultant/developer now, and the simple reason is that at work I have much shorter feedback periods and probably you too. Smaller tasks at shorter deadlines, like 1 or 2 weeks and if I forget about one someone will ask how it goes in 3 days and then I remember it again and can set about it quickly.

Our customers, coworkers or bosses keep much closer eye on our jobs. In the uni it is possible to do completely nothing for 5 months, not even to show up, and have no feedback, no punishment, no repercussions, no reminders, nothing, and then after 5 months all hell gets loose.

Of course it doesn’t mean I did nothing for 5 months but I did forget about some classes… basically the uni gives more freedom and thus requires MORE self-control from young guys than working gives/requires from adults, because at the uni you set your own pace, do whatever you feel like doing, and gain no feedback until 5 months, while at work you get feedback at least every 1-2 weeks so basically you are regulated tighter, the frequent feedback keeps you in the line.

This is why the uni was a period of fear and loathing and anxiety and this strong emotional impression is why the dreams still keep coming back…

And I think it’s unfair that we give more freedom and require more self-control from young guys than from working adults. Why can’t the uni be like either working or like high school: where you KNOW that if you had no negative feedback and no “oh, shit!” moments in the last 2-3 weeks probably you are doing OK?

Probably depends on what kind of work you're doing. I'd be interested to know what your dad thinks, whether school has a longer or shorter time horizon than his kind of work.
Monday, January 5th, 2009
7:15 pm
...the 11th amendment was designed to slap down the Supreme Court in making clear that the states were the supreme authority, not the federal government. [But it didn't work. Why?]

The federal government is made up of 3 branches:

1. The executive which was picked by the states via the electoral college.
2. The legislature which is picked by the citizens of the states (now anyway).
3. And then... the judicial branch which isn't picked by the states but instead by the federal executive and conformed by the federal legislature branch. Oops.
That's an interesting perspective. Wikipedia is totally lacking any examination of the politics behind the decision.

What I know from political science supports this perspective -- the Supreme Court doesn't strike down whatever it pleases with judicial review. It supports the federal government against the states (overturning about eight times as many state laws as federal), and it strikes down laws when the federal government pressures it to. Sometimes the leaders of the government "pass" a law to satisfy their coalition, and then make sure the Supreme Court will strike it down!

Like you say, the Supreme Court has no political power base other than the federal government. No wonder it doesn't dare be "activist" in a way that would make the federal government unhappy.
Saturday, May 31st, 2008
12:49 pm
landing on Mars
My favorite computer animation from Mars is the landing procedure from the Spirit probe, because the narration by the Jet Propulsion Labs people is so... passionate.
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
2:26 pm
D&D campaign logs
On <a href="http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1573">Twenty-Sided</a>:  

One thing I really like about Alan de Smet’s Tarik’s Journal log that he posted is the way he has “pull quotes” from his players from each episode. I think every campaign blogger should intersperse these in their log. It really conveys what it’s like to play with the players, not just their characters.

For example, the campaign log will look like this:

The barkeep asks what we’ll have. Kyrin clumsily announces the codeword, “morter”. The barkeep quickly covers, suggesting that we want “Morter Ale”. He invites us back to a “private table.”

“I’d like a fine tall glass of wink-wink.” Joe 2006-03-12

It makes the players look funnier and smarter, and the meta aspect makes the campaign more fun to read.

Other examples:

“There’s dried semen on the rug. That’s how good your Search check was.”

“The next giant insect I see, I’m going to explain the cube-square law until it collapses under its own weight.”

Even a typical encounter with hobgoblins can be spiced up when they’re the ranger’s favored enemy:

“I like D&D because racism gives you bonuses.” - Joe 2005-10-16

 
Monday, March 24th, 2008
12:15 pm
Hot nerd girl
Hey, it's a hot nerd girl!  If you cut out before the end try also this bathtub chat. (both safe for work)
8:48 am
I started playing Dungeons and Dragons
In an e-mail:
Here is the link I promised you to an awesome one-on-one roleplaying session in the Burning Wheel system.

Here is the campaign written up by the guy who did DM of the Rings.  Yes, I read the whole thing.

Here is a chart for randomly determining what a kobold would do if it actually killed a character.

And here's a thought-provoking comment I read somewhere.

When it comes to role-playing, I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that D&D //isn’t// a role-playing game. Shocking, I know. D&D is a combat engine - and a pretty good one at that - that you can use to role-play if you want, but there’s little or no actual mechanics in place to control the role-playing. It’s like kids playing hide-and-seek. Some will hide, while others will pretend to be cowboys on a stake-out. Both are playing the same game, by the same rules, but one is role-playing. D&D’s rules are the same as the rules for hide-and-seek, merely more complex.

In contrast, a game such as GURPS //is// a role-playing game; the characters you generate have fully stated out personalities, likes and dislikes that help the player understand and play the social interraction aspect of the game. Compare any D&D character sheet with a GURPS one for proof. The D&D sheet will tell you how kewl your 15th level Fighter is in combat, but say nothing about his personality. Two players would play the character completely differently. A GURPS sheet, on the other hand, would tell you that the character is allergic to cats, intimidated by authority and still had nightmares about an incident from childhood.

Monday, March 3rd, 2008
2:55 pm
"80% of the top 1% are small business owners"
Okay, I decided to dig in myself and see if I could find out what you were talking about. I googled "top 1%" "small business owners" and found a news report citing this claim:

[quote]The Tax Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to studying the tax code, claims 75 percent of the taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket are small business owners or farmers.[/quote]

That sounds like it might be the source of your claim. There are hardly any farmers in America so that basically says 75 percent are small business owners. So I looked around on the Tax Foundation's web site and found the PDF "Putting a Face On America's Tax Returns". I browsed it (chart 2 on page 6 is pretty insightful btw) and finally found this paragraph that I think is the source of your claim:

[quote]Overall, as is shown in Chart #8, 43
percent of taxpayers in the top 20 percent
have business income, twice the percent-
age of those in the middle income group.
[i]Of those taxpayers in the top 1 percent –
those earning more than $300,000 and
subject to the highest marginal tax
rates – nearly three quarters have busi-
ness income.[/i] And for taxpayers with
incomes above $1 million per year, nearly
83 percent have business income. [/quote]


So that clears it up for me. When I heard you say, "the vast majority of the people in the top 1% are small business owners," what I thought you meant was "80% of the rich got that way by starting small businesses." I'm pretty sure that's what the Tax Foundation wanted people to assume when they came up with that carefully worded spin line. But the literal truth is that "80% of the rich report some income from small businesses." Kind of the way 50 million Americans own stock, but only half own more than $50,000 worth so their stock portfolios represent an unimportant percentage of their income.

That fits just perfectly with my Piketty and Saez chart (which I have now put up on my blog). Most of the top 1% gets most of its income from wages and only the top 0.01% shows even 30% of its income coming from small business.

I took the trouble to look all of this up because I felt disrespected. You repeated that you were right when you didn't feel like looking up your source and you knew I disagreed. When I wanted to disagree with you, I used language like "my impression is," because contradicting someone without providing backup is basically like saying, "I'm right because I'm smarter than you." Since your impression turned out to be based on a talking point from an anti-tax think tank, being more cautious about asserting it would have been a good idea.
Friday, January 25th, 2008
1:21 pm
On Octavo Dia:

Here's an easy way for governments to determine what constitutes torture: he who authorizes experiences. Is waterboarding torture? The person who okay's it gets dunked.

I just now became aware of the case of Daniel Levin, who did exactly this:

[T]hree years ago, Daniel Levin, then the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, decided to bring reality to bear on his deliberations on the torture question. He went to a military base and asked to undergo waterboarding.

Mr. Levin, 51, a graduate of Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School, had served in several senior posts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department since the administration of the first President Bush. But he had never served in the military, where American pilots, special operations troops and others for decades have undergone waterboarding to prepare them for possible treatment if captured by an enemy...

After his waterboarding, Mr. Levin went on to sign a new legal opinion on the limits of interrogation, released on Dec. 30, 2004, that made news with its ringing opening sentence: "Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms." That memorandum replaced a much-criticized opinion written in August 2002, which had defined torture as treatment producing pain equivalent to organ failure or death and had suggested that a president might be able to authorize torture under his constitutional war powers.


Looking at the date on this story, it was probably what encouraged you to write this post in the first place. I never heard about it till I read this thread about a guy who tried waterboarding himself (he reports a much worse experience than the guy I saw waterboard himself on YouTube. The Saran Wrap over the mouth is key.)

Of course it turned out that Levin's effort to grapple with the moral consequences of what he was authorizing was in vain:

A footnote to the 2004 interrogation opinion signed by Mr. Levin, insisted on by the White House and the C.I.A., said that despite the shift in legal reasoning, interrogation techniques authorized under previous Justice Department opinions remained legal. Those techniques included waterboarding.
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
2:33 am
The Cold Equations
On tjic:

Blaming yourself for your failure to please consumers is the same as blaming your troubles on your failure to please God, only substituting meritocracy for Christianity as your religion. Most likely there are other reasons you don't have the capital, which may be essentially random. Such as your physical location, or the failure to benefit from cascading preferences (I'm thinking of that one study where they gave people Napster loaded with the same song catalog and different ones became "hits" in different groups, based just on which ones were the first to get a few positive reviews.)

On "The Cold Equations," reading this indictment of that story was one of the experiences that showed me why your "tough luck" strain of conservatism sucks.
Thursday, September 27th, 2007
8:08 am
generalizations that may not apply to New Orleans politics
Why couldn't Mayor Nagin have evacuated 30,000 people at a time for heaven knows how many two-way trips with the 600 school buses he left parked while he waited and whined for Grayhound to come do it?

I have absolutely no sympathy of people in New Orleans and am glad I contributed nothing. They re-elected that incompetent crook and they deserve the horrendous problems they still have.


The people who lost their homes and didn't evacuate probably had very little to do with re-electing Nagin. They don't give money for election campaigns. They don't form an important part of the tax base. None of them are on the city council. They don't have many civic organizations other than churches that can exert political pressure. They don't appear on television shows to spread their views.

The poor have basically no voice in American politics. A majority don't vote, but even those who do can hardly be blamed for "electing" a candidate they didn't help select who won't represent their views. Their votes played the role of poker chips, in a game between the real political players -- a game where the poor can't even make the ante.
Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
5:45 am
the surge
On Cynical-C:

The media sucks. It can tell a simple story about a bomb blowing up or about a market being open but it can't publish any analysis that relies on real facts. See this post by Abu Aardvark to see what coverage of the surge should look like -- a big-picture analysis by someone who knows the generals, the insurgent groups, and the tactics and can tell you the reasons behind things, while the media just reports disconnected facts.
Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
12:40 pm
hypermiling
On motherjones.com

What's cool about hypermiling is it makes driving interesting. You think driving the speed limit is boring, but this way, it's not. If you need a thrill, drafting beats driving in the passing lane.

I make a little game out of trying to tap the brake pedal at just the right moment that my car will slow down right in front of the stop light. I don't want to creep up at five miles an hour, I just want my transmission to downshift and slow me down about two seconds before I would have to brake. With practice you won't even notice I'm coasting.
Friday, April 20th, 2007
8:07 am
On my family's discussion board:

I'm not sure what you mean but let me spell out my lack of sympathy for people who complain about having to flush the low-flow toilets twice.

1) This is like if Shaquille O'Neal complained that he had to use two airline seats instead of all the airline seats being built for gigantic fatties. Why do you want the default for the entire system to be your unnaturally gigantic turds and fistfuls of toilet paper.

2) The toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush instead of 3.5. That means unless you need three flushes, the toilets are still effective at saving water. Also, this problem comes up only once out of every four trips to the bathroom unless you need two flushes when you pee, in which case you should probably have your kidneys checked.

3) I have never had this problem, therefore I have little sympathy for people who claim they have. (I realize including this reason for my belief undermines the quality of my rant, however, I just can't deny that's how my mind works.)
Monday, April 16th, 2007
12:45 am
revisionist history
I am tired of arguing about the Iraq war. Vietnam is played out too. Let's dredge up a whole different war and its politics!

I'm lying. I will keep arguing about Iraq. This Korean War story to me is all about Iraq. It's like, you'd better let the media report the crap out of every Haditha-type incident. If you just trust the Pentagon, they will not only lie and say they're not ordering troops to fire on refugees, they will continue to lie about it fifty years later and you'll be lucky if you ever find out. It took seven years after the Pentagon's denial for historians to go through the archives and journalists to do Freedom of Information Act requests to see the intentional omissions they made.

Judging by the amount of controversy in the Wikipedia article for this No Gun Ri story when it first came out in 2000, we're probably in for another couple years of fact checking. But think how hard it would be if it actually reflected on a President and generals who were currently in office. Particularly a President who doesn't think much of the Freedom of Information Act to begin with.

If you read this article, I recommend Ctrl-F-ing for "plain English" and starting to read with the paragraph after that. Pretty damning stuff. Without the news media, you could never be sure whether this was going on in Iraq too. Original link: Jonathan Schwarz at Tiny Revolution.
12:14 am
the war on drugs
On draginol.joeuser.com:
The war on (disfavored) Drugs seems to be pretty co-ordinated to me...

I had already brought up the Holocaust by that point, so that gives "co-ordinated" a whole different sense. The war on drugs isn't co-ordinated intentionally to round up African-Americans. It's just that a co-ordinated effort to round up people selling drugs on the street gets a lot more people who a) can't afford their own place where they can sell drugs at and b) are part of a different kind of economy where selling drugs might just be another part-time job. Example:


Take Oceana, a mother of six whose last six months of employment are a picture of elbow-greased, bootstrapping entrepreneurialism. "I picked up garbage for a guy who worked in the city and who was fucking some lady in the van and needed some time off one day," she tells Venkatesh. "I bought some kids some beer. I always have someone who can't leave work but who needs a bag [of pot or cocaine]. The lady at the library lets me put the books on the shelves. That minister likes me to walk on his back, or sometimes do a little more, but I’m not talking about that. Unless you paying." Also on Oceana’s résumé: washing cars, painting houses, and minding a local store while a hooker gives the proprietor a blow job. She summarizes, "I do just about anything and everything, baby."

Within the fluid economy of Maquis Park, Oceana’s flexibility is extreme but not aberrant. Her neighbors are unlicensed hairstylists, ad hoc caterers, tailors, psychics, and accountants, and typically ply more than one trade at a time. They sell clothes, pirated movies, and used kitchen supplies they call "ghettoware." Others are gypsy cab drivers, janitors, and mechanics. Some make a quick buck taking over abandoned buildings and offering the space for shelter; others make money with promises to keep police patrols away from the same space. Link

When middle class white people pass laws to jail drug dealers, they are looking at it from the perspective of people who are used to having full-time jobs and imagine drug dealers as people whose full-time job is pushing. If people like Oceana made the laws, I think they'd be better targeted to take out the people who truly pose a threat to the community with violence and selling to kids, and not so much putting people away for "possession." The line between "citizen" and "criminal" is a bright one for people like me who vote, not so fuzzy as it is when you're on the fringes of the system.
Thursday, December 7th, 2006
8:36 am
The Great Designer Search
Commenting on The Great Designer Search, Part 6:

I want to buy Alexis' cards. A fundamental problem with Auras is that you can draw a hand full of Auras with no creatures. Here, your Auras start as creatures, and you can pop them on your Rabid Wombat later (that's a creature that could really use a tap ability...)

The idea of "Destroy target creature with an activated ability" is new simple and elegant enough, and gets you thinking about killing Tims and such. But Alexis fit it into a set. That "Wait a second, I can use Inspire to give any creature an activated ability" thought pattern -- that's what I go to prereleases to feel. The Aura set. The "activated ability" set. Alexis showed you the way.

I have a bad feeling, though. You know how at the end of every "The Bachelor," it turns out that the guy and the girl broke up two weeks after the last episode? I'm afraid now that something will come up and you won't get Alexis for the internship after all. That would really suck.
Monday, December 4th, 2006
10:02 am
do tax cuts pay for themselves?
And I'd have to do more web-searching than I'm willing to invest, but I think someone is misleading you, because from everything I've seen the tax cuts have produced a tidal wave of new revenue.
It wouldn't take that much web-searching. Just search opinionjournal.com, rushlimbaugh.net, and whitehouse.gov, because those are the only places you're going to find that perspective. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has lined up a few other places you can go if you want the opposite opinion. For example, you could ask the chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, Edward Lazear:
"Will the tax cuts pay for themselves? As a general rule, we do not think tax cuts pay for themselves. Certainly, the data presented above do not support this claim." --Testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, 9/28/2006.
Or you could ask the official economics institutions of the federal government:
Studies by the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the Administration itself show that tax cuts do not come anywhere close to paying for themselves over the long term. CBO and Joint Tax Committee studies find that, if financed by government borrowing, tax cuts are more likely to harm than to help the economy over the long run, and consequently would cost more than conventional estimates indicate, rather than less. Moreover, in its recent "dynamic analysis" of the impact of making the President’s tax cuts permanent, the Treasury Department reported that even under favorable assumptions, extending the tax cuts would have only a small effect on economic output. That small positive economic impact would offset no more than 10 percent of the tax cuts' cost. --CBPP
More:
Even the Administration does not project that revenues will continue to grow at their recent rates or that the tax cuts will pay for themselves. Under the revenue assumptions in the Office of Management and Budget’s Mid-Session Review, real per-person revenues will grow at an annual average rate of just 0.8 percent between 2000 and 2011, only about half the growth rate during the 1980s and less than one-fourth the growth rate during the 1990s.
Back to another former chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, N. Gregory Mankiw, in his 1998 textbook Principles of Economics:
"Even though tax rates would be lower, income would raise by so much, they claimed, that tax revenue would rise. Almost all professional economists, including most of those who supported Reagan's proposal to cut taxes, viewed this outcome as too optimistic. Lower tax rates might encourage people to work harder, and this extra effort would offset the direct effects of lower tax rates to some extent. But there was no credible evidence that work effort would rise by enough to cause tax revenues to rise in the face of lower tax rates. George Bush, also a presidential candidate in 1980, agreed with most of the professional economists: He called this idea 'voodoo economics.' Nonetheless, the argument was appealing to Reagan, and it shaped the 1980 presidential campaign and the economic policies of the 1980s..."
Finally, last word goes to a venerable British institution:
"Even by the standards of political boosterism, this is extraordinary. No serious economist believes Mr. Bush’s tax cuts will pay for themselves." --The Economist, "Tripe is Back on the Menu," January 14, 2006.
Now, you might think that it would be impossible for George Bush and Dick Cheney to continue making the claim, "You cut taxes, and the tax revenues increase," (Feb 8, 2006) with absolutely no basis behind it. But that's their way with everything, brazen lying "staying on message" at all cost.
9:07 am
tax cuts
Dear Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

At the page Claim that Tax Cuts "Pay for Themselves" is too good to be true, you claim that CEA Chairman Edward Lazear stated, "I certainly would not claim that tax cuts pay for themselves" in Congressional testimony on June 27, 2006. This statement does not appear in the White House transcript. Perhaps for greater fact-checkability you should instead link to his Sep. 28 testimony where he says, "Will the tax cuts pay for themselves? As a general rule, we do not think tax cuts pay for themselves. Certainly, the data presented above do not support this claim."

Also, in your footnote, you spell Lazear "Lazere."

I like the page, I just want it to be as airtight as possible for when I link to it!
Saturday, October 14th, 2006
5:43 am
pitfalls of infant baptism
On Mama Nabi's Hwe:
Since PN goes to church as often as I, which is never, I recognized the baptism as a parents-pleaser, i.e. it's expected of us by the in-laws... just a thing to do to be part of that Euro-Christian group, so they can take pictures and tell their friends that their granddaughter is indeed saved by default. In that vein, I was taking baptism more seriously than they! So I said screw it, dunk the babe in the water. LN enjoyed her baptism - she thought she was getting an unscheduled bath! Sometimes I do get nervous - what if this baptism thing works? Will our afterlife be spent in eternal separation? "Hi down there, Mommy." "Hello up there, LN!" "How's the weather?" "Oh, it's a bit toasty... and if that guy nudges me with his pitchfork one more time, I'm going to take his horns and smash them! How's it up there?" "Can't complain..."
This just made me laugh.
Thursday, October 12th, 2006
8:56 am
Time and Newsweek
Apparently your political tastes in periodicals range from the middle of the road to the middle of the road.
bonerici pegged it, and Time and Newsweek are so crappy, too! How many times can you read an article starting out with the "The rich are different than you and I," quote, or an allusion to Stepford wives, before you get tired of the same old mass culture being recycled to give you a feeling of sophistication alongside your weekly conventional wisdom? How many Mortimer B. Zuckerman editorials about Israel can one man read? How many articles trying to tell you about the hot new trend in Botox?

Then there's the politics, which is so "here's the official version" I can't stand it. With all the honestly argued, passionate and non-bullshitty commentary around on the net, how can you settle for that "inside the mind of the President," "what Columbine means for our nation," "we give you both sides' talking points" crap?

Sorry, I'd hate to post a list of things I liked and have people come beat on me about my bourgeois taste, but you know how it is. If I posted how I cook with minced garlic from a jar, you'd be like, "How can you eat that? Do you know what you're missing?" and I guess this is the same way.
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