Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maybe I am Fried

So I've been rereading Michael Fried's Art and Objecthood, and keep coming across interesting little gems. I wrote at some length about one elsewhere, but would like to say a few short words about a new one that is more appropriate for the rants I like to put up here.

"'All judgments of value begin and end with experience... the arguments themselves [arguments for or against value] will not be binding." (18)

I get asked a lot why I don't like music, and I have, I flatter myself to think, a reasonably wide array of interesting, if not necessarily always compelling, responses. But it is dishonest (I think I agree with Fried here) to claim that the reasons precede or supersede the judgment; they exist only ex post facto, and, whether they are dismissed, dismantled or diseminated, they ultimately are only justifications for the truth--they are not the truth itself (I feel more comfortable saying "truth" here than elsewhere, since I don't mind saying that when I say "Beirut sucks" it is true).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


So you've all heard that high-fructose corn syrup is bad. And many of you have seen commercials sponsored by the corn lobby that say the opposite. The Washington Post says that high-fructose corn syrup contains mercury about half the time, and a third of the 55 foods containing high levels of high-fructose corn syrup contain mercury.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seeing things.

This is something some of my brothers might be more likely to post about. I found an article, via Jeff Rowland's Overcompensating, that describes in quite understandable terms the possibility that the universe is a hologram. Apparently--and I've done just enough extra research that I'm fairly confident that this isn't a joke--a facility in Germany designed to study gravity has stumbled upon noise predicted by the now head of Fermilab.

Now, they seem to mean hologram in the science sense, not the science-fiction sense. A hologram is n-dimensional information stored in n-1 space; most commonly this is a 3-d image on a plane. It's been demonstrated that the surface of a black hole's event horizon emits, in a spherical 2-d space, the information about it's 3-d interior. The story goes that our universe might actually be information encoded on the universe's event horizon. As a result, the minimal quantum of information would be significantly larger than previously thought... like 10^-16 instead of 10^-35. The significantly lower resolution of the universe is what some think (though they won't go so far as "theorize") the German research station is picking up.

The metaphysical implications are not broached.

And this awful hipster music they're playing at Verite is awful.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


So I'm watching (watching!) This American Life, and the intro part is about these science types who isolate a chemical that lets you store memories. Apparently, and the details are brief, when the chemical is blocked, rats lose all their memories. Like, all of them.

The scientists get published, and then get a bunch of letters from ptsd sufferers who want their memories erased. The scientists were a little freaked out, on account of they were just doing research, like to know stuff, and people thought, hey! we can use that!

So what if we made a chemical weapon out of that? Bomb a city, and all the citizens just completely forget everything ever. Like what a sink is.

Not quite long, but surely boring and pretentious.

My fave political blog has a new post up on the Bailout. The gist of it is that quite a few of our congressional representatives are switching sides on the issue; several pro-bailout republicans are now against it, and several democrats--who campaigned against the bill just this last season--are for now for it. Mr. Silver quite rightly criticizes those pundits who see this as the instant corruption of our representatives ("sell out" is the term floated). Instead, Mr. Silver proposes the much simpler answer: political expediency. If Obama wants the bailout instead of Bush, it's pretty clear why the party lines are reversing on the issue.

But there are two things I want to take up from this article:

1) While it's true that corporations are not people, but rather collections of people, that doesn't make them equally likely to be greedy or untrustworthy are the rest of us. We would do well to remember what spurs people towards greed--leaving aside the popular populist rhetoric of personal obsession, which may hold sway in certain instances but is a poor assumption when modeling the general case. If we take the rather drastic step of assuming homogeneity of utility in the general population, then it is left only to ask what elements of an individual's professional situation informs that individual's actions. In this case, the desire for job security--and for a better job--might well inspire those individuals who make corporate decisions to be greedier. There's no reason to append a moral condemnation to this; if a CEO doesn't behave ruthlessly to advance a corporation, then the well-beings of those depending on that CEO are at risk. (There are certain naïve assumptions omitted here that I'll leave the reader to pick through.)

2) I (of all people) think that Mr. Silver might be being a little too cynical when he argues that the vote swap is informed only by political scheming. When he points out that the bill lacks oversight (to an astounding degree), he omits that, as of Tuesday, those not being overseen won't be Bush and Paulson, but Obama and whoever (I'll admit to being quite ignorant about Bernanke's future; Greenspan sat for so long that I've got it in my head that it's a permanent position, but that doesn't seem right). So the vote switching might simply be because democrats believe Obama will use the $700 billion well, while they believed that Bush was just going to right Dick Cheney a check and send him to the mall.