Showing posts from 2009

A Sequence of Sequences

This research was supported in part by a grant from the Universal Walloons and by a grant from the Ants of America. We thank them for their help.

Neither this infinite sequence of sequences nor any of the component sequences (which are all finite) is an unfolding sequence, but you will notice reminiscent properties. How is this generated? For component S(n), consider all words composed of "1" and "2" of length 0-n. Left justify. Sort. S(n) is the lengths of the words in sorted order. Thus S(2): Possible words are -,1,2,11,12,21,22. In sorted order, they are -,1,11,12,2,21,22. Their lengths comprising S(2) are 0,1,2,2,1,2,2.

0....................................................................0- 0

011..................................................................0- 2

0122122..............................................................0- 6

012332331233233......................................................0- 14


Doo-doo-doo Lookin Out My Backdoor


Nagel Mildly Questions Orthodoxy, Causes Leiter to Shit a Water Buffalo

Just because you've spent half a century as one of the greatest philosophers in the world doesn't mean Brian Leiter won't trash you should you deviate from his religious dogmas!

Vegans Beware!

It turns out that plants do things like calling over parasitic insects to kill off the eggs of insects that eat the plants. So, all you vegans who have been cruelly preying upon the plant kingdom: next time you eat a carrot, watch your back!

What?! You're Not in Favor...

of a 2400-page health-care bill written by insurance companies to line their own pockets?! Why then, the "non-partisan" people at Rock the Vote declare you are a "creep" who must never be allowed to have sex again:

F the Vote w/ Zach Gilford & Eva Amurri from Zach Gilford

(Hat tip to Nick Gillespie.)

Callahan Responds to Doherty Responding to Callahan

Brian Doherty, in what is at least partially a response to one of my earlier posts here at Crash Landing, writes: "This aspect of Rothbard is sometimes used to attack him as an unserious thinker, but it isn’t fair to the purpose of this sort of polemic. While, for example, he is not capturing the full nuances of Karl Polanyi’s history or analysis in his The Great Transformation, Rothbard is doing what he was asked to do—sniffing out a detectable set of beliefs about modern civilization, currency, and markets that make Polanyi an ineffective ally for radical libertarians."

Doherty also notes:

"His critiques often have language along the lines of this comment on his beloved economist mentor Mises: 'Mises’ utilitarian, relativist approach to ethics is not nearly enough to establish a full case for liberty.'”

In "defending" Rothbard against my critique, Doherty, in fact, makes the very point I have been trying to make: in what are supposedly works on the &quo…

State Aggression

Brian Doherty writes:

"States, after all, cannot function without first aggressing against someone, if only to get tax money to fund their activities."

It's amazing to me that libertarians can make such statements as if they were obviously true or uncontroversial, and something with which their opponents already agree. "So, you see," they will continue, "you are in favor of some forms of aggression!"

But this argument is entirely circular as it is typically formed: The State is illegitimate because it engages in aggression, and we can say it must engage in aggression because its collection of taxes is illegitimate -- but, of course, since the collection of taxes is how the State survives, to say their collection is illegitimate is to just re-state that the State is illegitimate. Thus, the argument runs, "The State is illegitimate because the State is illegitimate."

Or, to put it differently, if the State is legitimate, then so is its collection …

A Sandy Interview by the Beach

Rothbard on Karl Polanyi

I have previously noted that Rothbard presents us with a cartoon version of Rousseau. I am now reading K. Polanyi's The Great Transformation for a class I am teaching with the same name, and I just noticed Rothbard gets Rousseau wrong in a review of that very book. So what did he have to say about Polanyi?

Shockingly (although I really shouldn't be shocked by this anymore!) Rothbard gets Polanyi even more wrong than he gets Rousseau. With Rousseau I figured that he had the excuse that he had never read him, but only read about him, but here he's actually reviewing Polanyi's book! And he attributes to it a "Worship of the Primitive" that "permeates the book."

Well, I was already halfway through Polanyi's book, and I can assure you, the thought had not once occurred to me anywhere in my readings that I was in the presence of the least bit of "worship of the primitive." Yes, occasionally Polanyi will mention this or that aspect of some prim…

Nothing to Undo!

Ever since I upgraded to the new iPhone OS, that message pops up on my screen from time to time. Underneath is a button reading 'Cancel'.

OK, if there is nothing to undo, what the heck does 'cancelling' it mean? And what if I don't cancel it? Will the phone go ahead and undo nothing?

Brett Favre Has Learned

The upshot of this column, which contains lines like, "Favre also understands this offense can't afford to be dominated like it was against Arizon," is this:

Last year, Favre did not understand that you're not supposed to suck at the end of the season and blow a chance to make the playoffs. This year, he has learned that for all those millions, he's supposed to not suck. Therefore, he won't.


Mario Rizzo Offers Peace Agreement...

to sack of angry scorpions. Scorpions say they will sign if he just lets them out of the sack.

The World's Great Sandwiches

OK, my research has advanced to the point that I can forward two candidates. Now, when I say "sandwiches," I mean something you could eat everyday for lunch, and not "Sloth tongue with Antibean bee's jelly butter and a lacy crust of fried morel tarts" or anything like that -- some restaurant may make such a dish, and it may be fantastic, but you aren't going to be making it for your lunch. No, I mean sandwiches with readily available ingredients that cost a couple of dollars and that you can make in under 20 minutes. Also, I am looking at when the "sandwichness" itself is what is so good about them -- of course, if you take a fantastic piece of steak and place it between two decent slices of bread, it will taste good -- but not as a sandwich, but as a fantastic piece of steak that happens to be between some bread.

So, here are my two candidates (not ranked in order):

1) The Reuben
Ingredients: Pastrami (cut it out with the corned beef, already), swis…

Climategate: The Sequel

I was asked to look at the CRU source code to see if the comments looked reasonable to me, so I've gotten myself a bit familiar with this whole "Climategate" bru-ha-ha. I've read a few (knowledgeable) people saying it's nothing, and a few saying it's terrible. If you're thinking of wading in on this, I will say, confidently, that there is little to no chance that you can figure out which camp is right unless you are a professional working in this area. (Which I'm not!)

Nevertheless, many, many amateurs will post on the web extremely strong opinions on this matter. And the funny thing is, in nearly every single case, their opinion will line up exactly with just what they thought about AGW before Climategate! What a remarkable coincidence.

I Wish I Could Remember Who These Were

British Cabinet member A: Sir, you will die on the gallows or of a loathsome disease.
British Cabinet member B: That depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.

Thought You Were Voting for Peace?

Sorry, but the joke's on you.

A Simple Man

At Thanksgiving dinner several people were in a group talking. As I joined them, they were saying things like, "You know, running is my drug." "Oh, for me, food is my drug." "Oh, for me it's sex." Then they looked over at me.

"You know, I'm a very straightforward man, and for me, it's been quite enough to have drugs be my drug."

My Cousin, the Artichoke

Someone You Know in a Coma?

A recent study shows that 41% of patients diagnosed as being in a coma were actually conscious! A Belgian man just spent 23 years conscious while diagnosed as being on a coma.

Why Does Only the Dow Have an Absolute Level?

I listen to CBS News Radio when driving. Every half hour they give the financial news. Over years, I've noticed that the only stock index for which an absolute index is ever given is the Dow: "The Dow was down 25 points to 10,420. The NASDQ fell 10 points, and the S&P was down 5."

I swear, you could spend a decade listening to their reports and you could make a chart of the NASDAQ and S&P moves over that period, but you'd never know what their actual level is.

Dangerous Dirt

I noticed today on my bag of garden soil a warning that reads "Keep out of reach of children." OK, let's set aside the question of why dirt needs to be kept out of the reach of children, and ask instead how, given that I'm going to be putting this stuff on the ground, am I supposed to keep it "out of children's reach"?

What a Great Investment Municipal Stadiums Are!

The Silverdome just sold for less than the price of a two-bedroom condo in Brooklyn. Cost to build? $55 million.

Properties of the WTS (and Addendum) III - Wohin?

Properties of the WTS (and Addendum) III -- Wohin? wb 091117

8. Generalized unfolding product.

8.1. By the generalized unfolding produce (GUP), we mean
8.1.1. φ(x) ≡ Π{0 ≤ i < ∞, 1+µ(i) x^(2^i)}
= (1+µ(0) x)(1+µ(1) x^2)(1+µ(2) x^4)(1+µ(3) x^8)...
8.1.2. φ(x) = 1 + µ(0) x + µ(1) x^2 + µ(0) µ(1) x^3
+ µ(2) x^4 + µ(0) µ(2) x^5 + µ(1) µ(2) x^6 + µ(0) µ(1) µ(2) x^7 +...

8.2. We have examined several GUPs, for all of which, µ(i) is constant:
8.2.1. µ(i) = 1 (3.1.1)
8.2.2. µ(i) = -1 (3.2.1)
8.2.3. µ(i) = E (5.3.2.) (formal operator equation)
8.2.4. µ(i) = 2 (6.1.1)
8.2.5. µ(i) = -2 (6.2.1)

8.3. In general, for a GUP,
8.3.1. G = Γ{0 ≤ i < ∞, g(i)},
8.3.2. g(i) = (1), (µ(0)), (µ(1)), (µ(0) µ(1)), (µ(2)), (µ(0) µ(2)), (µ(1) µ(2)), (µ(0) µ(1) µ(2)),...
where the number of µ(i) in the above products for g(i) is v(i) (see 5.1).

8.4. GUPs with nonconstant µ(i), example.
8.4.1. Let µ(i) = i+1, i = 0,1,2,... Then g(i) = (1), (1), (2), (1·2), (3), (1·3), (2·3), (1·2·3) (4), (1·4), …

Tunak Tunak Tun Will Never Die

(Hat tip to Charno.)

Brooklyn by Night

Centre Street -- at the center of nothing:

It's healthy -- except, of course, for the coffee, soda, cigarettes, and candy:

Don't ask, don't tell:

What a Shock!

To find a blog post containing paranoia, crank science, and misinformation at this site!

First of all, as "evidence" that the swine-flu vaccine is toxic, Grigg links to... a peer-reviewed journal article? A large study showing the danger of the vaccine? No, he links to.. another crank writing on the Internet! In fact, there is apparently widespread scientific consensus that the vaccine is (relatively) safe. (All medical treatment carries risks! The relevant question is: Are the risks greater than the rewards?)

Secondly, "at gunpoint"! The article Grigg cites never even mentions if the deputies involved were armed, but certainly if they had drawn their weapons this would be mentioned. So this was certainly not done "at gunpoint" -- but boy, it makes a more dramatic headline to put in that lie, doesn't it?

Next, Grigg calls the child an "inmate." What horseshit. All three of my kids go to public schools, and you know what? Any day I want, I can k…

East Side, West Side...

Click for a larger image:

Washington Square

Cobble Hill

Self-Imposed Restrictions


Properties of the WTS II - Addendum

Properties of the Wine Tasting Sequence II - Addendum wb 091105

Properties of the Wine Tasting Sequence II Sctn. 7 described the first of an infinite class of homomorphic unfolding sequences, all having fascinating properties, generated by functions f satisfying:

7.2.4. f((&f^n)(s)) = s, n = 0,1,2,...

Here is the second, again using dots for cosmetic punctuation: S2 =

So that you can grasp its gestalt visually, here it is without punctuation: S2 = 012001012012001200101200101201200101201200120010120120012001...

The zeroth member of this class, having generating function f(s) = s, is the perfectly legitimate unfolding sequence (dots again as before):

7.2.6. S0 =

The larger n, the more slowly the sequence grows (well, obvious, right?).

Can these Sn be mapped from V, the homomorphic mother? Of course they can--left as a challenge f…

Worst NY Times Sentence of the Year?


"If afterburn were found to exist, it would suggest that even if you replaced the calories you used during an exercise session, you should lose weight, without gaining weight — the proverbial free lunch."

I do believe if you lose weight, you inevitably will not have gained weight.

Iron Curtain Fallen?

Properties of the Wine Tasting Sequence II

Properties of the Wine Tasting Sequence. wb 090723 - 090810, 091103

1. Introductory notes.


1.1.1. |x| is the absolute value of x: {- x if x ≤ 0, otherwise x}.
1.1.2. sgn x is the sign of x: sgn x ≡ x / |x|.

1.2. By an unfolding sequence, we mean a sequence derived from an initial string (or digit) by repeatedly applying a production which appends to the sequence thus far a specific transform of the sequence thus far. Let f be a string function. If s is a string in the domain of f, &f denotes the function &f(s) ≡ sf(s). The unfolding sequence derived from function f and initial string s in the domain of f is U=&f^∞(s). Trivially, any sequence can in fact be seen as unfolding by a sufficiently perverse choice of f:
f(d(0)d(1)...d(i)) ≡ d(i+1), 0 ≤ i < ∞. We shall simply ignore this, looking at sequences that can usefully be defined by unfolding processes.

2. Unfolding sequences. The Wine Tasting Sequence (WTS).

2.1. Let W be an unfolding sequence of the digits ±1…


Nonstops: Commercial flights having no intermediate destinations.

Nonstop nonstops: Round-the-clock nonstops to your destination.

Nonstop nonstop nonstops: A blitz of advertisements for nonstop nonstops.

Nonstop nonstop nonstop nonstops: ? Suggestions appreciated.

Who Says Economic Planning Can't Work?

I heard Joe Biden on the radio yesterday saying, "Our economic stimulus package has created or saved 640,239 jobs. I nearly crashed my car laughing. Not 640,238, mind you, nor would Joe dare to exaggerate and claim 640,240. No siree, exactly 640,239.

To Anglicize or Not to Anglicize?

Shuttling back and forth between both academic and ‘regular’ life in the US and the UK has made me aware of a significant difference between Yanks’ and Brits’ inclination to Anglicize foreign-word imports into the English language. One of my first hints as to the existence of the difference was when I realized that the dish that Americans pronounce ‘fil-ay of sole’ is standardly pronounced in England ‘fil-et of sole’. Gradually, I realized that this divergence pervades American and British English. I especially was struck by it when it comes to the pronunciation of foreign names. I recall eating breakfast, at a conference in Wales, with two British academics, both of whom are well-respected scholars in the history of political thought. As I listened to their conversation (with little to add of my own), I grew puzzled at to just who was this Italian political theorist ‘Russo,’ whom they kept mentioning, and with whom they seemed to assume I was familiar. When one of them brought up the…

I Unearth Another Rothbard Hater!

Roderick Long shows that Rothbard employed a cartoon version of Plotinus -- kind of like his cartoon Rousseau, or his cartoon Smith, or his cartoon English Revolution.

David Byrne Channelling Jane Jacobs

Here. (Hat tip to Sandy Ikeda.)

Pop Quiz

We all know about Hitler's infatuation with the Aryans Many people assume, therefore, that 'Aryans' means 'Germans' or 'Nordic' something of the sort.

So, today's quiz: what two modern countries take their name directly from the word 'Aryan'?

Kirk on Libertarians


Closing quote:

"At the Last Judgment, libertarianism may find itself reduced to a minority of one, and its name will not be Legion, but Rothbard."

Who's Hypersensitive Now?

Over at Reason, David Harsanyi pens a very touchy article discussing recent remarks from the Obama administration about Fox News.

Let me offer some quotes from Harsanyi that illustrate how he is placing the worst possible interpretation on whatever the Obama administration says:

"Dunn also asserted that when the president 'goes on Fox, he understands he's not going on it really as a news network at this point. He's going on to debate the opposition.' Who knew debating the future of the nation is such a ghastly thought?"

Of course, Dunn doesn't say the idea is "ghastly," I guess we're just not supposed to notice that the ghastliness is entirely the invention of Harsanyi.

"So what is the underlying rationale for this hypersensitive strategy of trying to delegitimize the voice of cable opposition?"

But if Fox News is "the voice of cable opposition" then they really aren't a news station, are they, but more of an op-ed station…

Charlie Rose Interviews Charlie Rose

(HT to Jesse Walker.)

The Rest of You Elderly Can Friggin' Walk


When Walking in the Village...

it's best to bring your scooter and your push carpet cleaner:

Wine Bars

A major factor in gang violence.

(HT to Katherine Raymond.)

The Wonderful, Caring Nature of the "Public Option"

Read about it here.

(Hat tip to Elizabeth Higgs.)

Dubya's Third Term

Glenn Greenwald on Democrats for perpetual war.

The Day I Ran into the Economy

I tried to post this as a comment over at Marginal Revolution, but I kept getting the message, "We're sorry, we cannot accept this data." Whatever that means.

Boonton (a blog commentator): "The economy knew the new tech was great but also knew it was overdone so it looked for other things to take its place. Housing, finance, healthcare and other things were it."

Yes, I recall meeting "the economy" while it was looking around for things to take the place of high tech -- I think I bumped into it just outside of Topeka, at a rest stop along a lonely country highway. The economy was pumping some gas, the stub of a cigarette smoldering between its parched lips, the cracks in its leathery face showing beneath the three days of stubble on its cheeks. It had a sort of far-off, forlorn look in its eyes, but it assured me it was not going to create a bubble with the next "big thing." I knew then it was like a drunk coming off a bender, and it was just a…

Hat Tip to Danny Shahar

What a funny name for a post, huh?

And That Was Just the Human Deaths!

I was laying awake last night in my hotel room in Fairfax, Virginia, surfing late night TV. A newscaster was on screen, talking about the eight anniversary of the start of the Afghan War. She said, "During that time, almost 800 people have died."

And that's just the human deaths! Countless other, non-human deaths could be added to that score, such as Afghan flying squirrels, Afghan hedgehogs, Russian tortoises, and Afghanis.

James Buchanan Center

George Mason University

Hating the Hated Hater Haters

Yu know what I hate? The way every person and his brother throws around "haters" at anyone who mildly criticizes something they like. Post a negative restaurant review? You're a "hater." Claim that Notre Dame is not having that good a season? Hater!

Listen, folks, a "hater" is someone who beats up the restaurant owner, not someone who posts a slightly critical review.

The Pot Calling the Copper Kettle Black

The apostle Lew, disciple of the savior Murray, is outraged that someone questioned Saint Ron:

"Writes Justin Raimondo:

"Bruce Bartlett, former columnist for Libertarian Review turned neocon, and Andy “Gay Marriage Is All” Sullivan, team up to smear Ron Paul as a 'crackpot' and lie about his view of the Fed."

Well, Bartlett never called Paul a "crackpot": he called one of his ideas "crackpot." (An important difference: Newton was not a crackpot, but his theological notions probably could be described as such.) And Sullivan never called Paul or his ideas anything at all! He just linked to Bartlett, without further commentary. And what lies are being told? Paul does want Congress to have Fed oversight, doesn't he? Maybe there is some "lie" involved (I'm really not following the details of this debate), but what is it? And couldn't it have been an honest mistake? No, let's just assume it's a "lie," as calling…

Good Work, Lads!

Babel Fish took the Russian phrase "Ne govoryu po russki, tovarisch" and rendered it in English as "Ne of govoryu po of russki, tovarisch."

Russians using Babel Fish must think, "English is easy! You just add 'of' a couple of times to a Russian sentence and... English!"

Voegelin on Utilitarians

"A crippled man, however, does not cease to be a man. Spiritual obscurantists, or anithumanistic utilitarians, are not animals; they continue to function as humans. Still, they can no longer solve human problems rationally, or on the basis of the spiritual experiences the possession of which characterizes mature man. Hence there appear the curious transpositions of the problems of mature Western civilization to the new level of utilitarian immaturity." -- "Positivism and Its Antecedents"

I just saw a very good example of this: Peter Singer spoke to a colloquium I attend at NYU. He argued that utilitarian ethics would make it mandatory for, say, a surgeon to, on occasion, deliberately kill a (mostly) healthy patient under the knife in order to harvest his organs for several other patients who need them. I think his demonstration was sound, but, of course, Singer, being an anithumanistic utilitarian, thought this was a good argument for occasionally doing just this, r…

If You've Never Read Rousseau...

you probably think he created the concept of the "Noble Savage," right? Well, you'd be wrong! OK, but at least he was behind the idea, right? Anti-civilization, wasn't he? Sorry: "Rousseau argued that in a State of Nature men are essentially animals and only by acting together in civil society and binding themselves to its laws, do they become men. For Rousseau only a properly constituted society and reformed system of education could make men good."

The whole association of Rousseau with the "Noble Savage" and the claim that he was "anti-civilization" were smears against Rousseau by a 19th-century racist. Now, this is known well enough that it makes it into a Wikipedia page; yet, even in recent times, some people who pretend to be writing on the history of thought have continued to perpetuate this smear.


CNN headline suggests suicide.

And the Mark of Moral Maturity Is...

Check out this post, linked to approvingly by Michelle Malkin. The author complains that we have "Obama strutting the world stage, telling us that 'climate change' is the problème du jour - and nothing is more important," a sign of what he calls "moral infantilism."

And his evidence that Obama is wrong about this is... a public opinion poll!

Yes, once we reach moral maturity, we'll form our moral views based on Bloomberg Polls.

Voegelin on Condorcet

"With a few masterful strokes Condorcet has sketched the new type of intellectual parasite whose zeal to teach others is stronger than his willingness to submit to intellectual discipline, who thrives on the fallacy that truth is to be found in the solution to problems rather than in their discovery, who believes truth can be dispensed as a body of doctrine, who transfers the characteristics of revealed truth to the finite human search for knowledge; who consequently, through vulgarizing problematic knowledge into dogmatic results, can make the innocent belive that they enter into the truth if they accept faithfully as dogma a proposition which no conscientious thinker would accept without far-reaching qualifications, who create in their victims the belief that instruction is education, who destroy intellectual honesty through their separation of results from the critical processes which lead up to them, who build up in the masses the unshakable brutality of ignorant conviction..…

You See, It Was Theoretical Change We Voted for...

Glenn Greenwald:

'When it comes to uprooting ("changing") the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and civil liberties -- the issue which generated as much opposition to the last presidency as anything else -- the Obama administration has proven rather conclusively that tiny and cosmetic adjustments are the most it is willing to do. They love announcing new policies that cast the appearance of change but which have no effect whatsoever on presidential powers. With great fanfare, they announced the closing of CIA black sites -- at a time when none was operating. They trumpeted the President's order that no interrogation tactics outside of the Army Field Manual could be used -- at a time when approval for such tactics had been withdrawn. They repudiated the most extreme elements of the Bush/Addington/Yoo "inherent power" theories -- while maintaining alternative justifications to enable the same exact policies to proceed exactly as is. They flamboyantly tout…

Bob's Office

A short which includes my friend Matt Pollock.


Commercial flight having no intermediate destinations.

Nonstop nonstop:
Nonstop commercial flights all day, no waiting.

Nonstop nonstop nonstop:
Blitz advertising campaign re nonstop nonstops.

Nonstop nonstop nonstop nonstop:

Read It and Weep

Summer is not yet over, but the temperature at 8am in Milford:


Today at


No sense listening to that thing, then.

Kinsella on Anarchism

Stephan Kinsella takes an unusual, "pessimistic anarchist" position. Since he has just recently set it out at length, I will take a moment to point out what I think to be some problems with his views.

"Accordingly, anyone who is not an anarchist must maintain either: (a) aggression is justified; or (b) states (in particular, minimal states) do not necessarily employ aggression.

"Proposition (b) is plainly false. States always tax their citizens, which is a form of aggression. They always outlaw competing defense agencies, which also amounts to aggression."

So that handles (b), does it? Of course, someone who believes the state is legitimate doesn't believe taxation to be aggression. Naturally, if you get to define the terms the way you want, you can win any argument, but really it's an empty victory just to define your way to the win.

"Conservative and minarchist-libertarian criticism of anarchy on the grounds that it won’t 'work' or is not &#…


Looking north from the NYU Law School:

(Click for a larger image.)

The (Extremely Shallow) Ethicist

This is a bit old, but it's a great demolition of one of Randy Cohen's shallow and utterly conventional bits of "ethical" analysis. My general impression is that Cohen equates ethics with "what will make you liked at a Manhattan cocktail party."

Coming to New York?

This is the time of year to do it -- late September to early October. I was just looking at our ten-day forecast, and the high every day is between 70 and 75, and almost every night the lows will be down in the 50s. Warm enough by day for outdoor activities, even swimming -- I was in the Atlantic three days ago -- and beautiful sleeping weather at night.

Smith Street, Brooklyn


Ronald Dworkin and Thomas Nagel Present

At NYU Law School:

Well, Duh!

From a angry left-wing blogger:

"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state."

This is a surprise?! The corporate state will not allow the election of anyone from off the reservation. The mere fact that Obama could get elected was a guarantee there would be no major change. (I write this as he increases the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and fights to extend the Patriot Act.)

Unwelcome Screen

Did you ever arrive at a web site to read an article by some friends, only to encounter a full-screen ad instead? Then, way up in the corner somewhere, you notice a link that reads, "Skip this welcome screen."

Since the screen was neither welcoming me to anything nor was it welcome on my monitor, I suggest changing that to, "Skip this unwelcome screen."

That Mysterious Life Force

I'm reading John Gribbin's The Scientist, a thoroughly whig history of science. At one point, celebrating the great advance the dismissal of vitalism represented, he writes, "By the end of the nineteenth century it was clear that there was no mysterious life force at work in organic chemistry..."

This is the kind of thing you see all the time in discussions of vitalism... but it is thoroughly ahistorical. Recall that the mechanical philosophers had dismissed Newton for positing "a mysterious gravitational force," and that science later advanced by positing "a mysterious electrical force" and "a mysterious magnetic force." The idea that there was "a life force," given these precedents, was a perfectly respectable scientific hypothesis, and, if it had been found, it would have been no more mysterious than gravity, electricity, or magnetism. (And given the repeated failure, after over a century of promises, of reductionists to prod…

Idealist Skin Lotion

Tonight, on the bottle of skin lotion in my bathroom, I read its claim of "Consciousness in Cosmetics."

As an idealist, who holds that there is consciousness in everything, I thoroughly approve of their metaphysics.

Washington Square Park


Do You Want to Hear Me Say 'Um' and Smack My Lips a Lot?

Then just watch this:

Bobby Boy on CNBC!

You did a great job, Bob, but was bringing that extra chin along really necessary?

Fancy pants conference room

At NYU Law School, where I'm waiting to hear Richard Epstein present to Ronald Dworkin's colloquium.

Query: Why are the libertarians at the Market Process colluquium stuffed in a little conference room without microphones, pitchers of water, mahogany desks, plush chairs, million dollar views, etc., while the egalitarians have all of this? It's time for some redistribution, folks!

And it just gets worse


End of the night at Nos Da



'[Hegel] finds the Absolute, God, in the development of the thought of mankind, in the rise and fall of nations, in the establishment and overthrow of social institutions, in the movements of history, just as truly as did the Hebrew prophets, or Carlyle. His task is to find God everywhere, to justify 'the faith' -- if I may use this word of what was to him a rational necessity, and not a conviction unjustified by reason -- that the Absolute Spirit lives and moves in all things.'
-- Henry Jones, 'Idealism and Epsitemology', from The Scottish Idealists, ed. David Boucher


I'm sitting in the postgraduate research room at the School of European Studies. I just went to search for a drinking glass and found one that looked clean. Luckily, just before I drank out of it, I noticed a dark, disturbing film on the bottom of the glass.

I think the film was Italian, perhaps directed by Fellini.

Freedom's Just Another Word for...

I'm attending a British Idealism conference in Manchester. A speaker who admitted he wasn't very familiar with Brish Idealism (he is a Isaiah Berlin scholar, I take it) was questioning the idealist conception of freedom. Someone in the audience explained it as 'the will to subjectively choose what is objectively correct.'

'Ah,' the speaker, 'objectively correct to whom?'

What a curious muddle! Something that is correct only 'to' someone is subjectively, not objectively, correct. What 'objective' means is precisely 'to any and all possible perceivers.' And, of course, it is simply a further muddle to introduce beings incapable of perceiving the objective item in question, as if that raised doubts about its objective status. 'Would this be objectively correct for ants?' makes no more sense than 'Is it objectively true for ants that Mars has two moons?' It is objectively true, not 'for' anyone, that Mars has tw…

The Taff at Night


I Arrive at the Reading Train Station...

just in time to meet the crowd coming from the Reading Festival:

Charles de Gaulle Airport, 5:30 AM


I'll Ber Doggone

On the news I heard the sad story of a woman whose dog died in the car because she had left it inside, with the windows up, for four hours. The explanation, she said, was that she didn't know her dog was in the car -- "my husband put it in there earlier in the day."

So her husband would store the dog in the car?!

Science Versus Religion

I've been listening to a series of lectures by Professor Frederik Gregory. One of the interesting points he makes, a number of times during the lectures, is that research by historians of science has shown that the idea of a long-standing conflict between religion and science is something that has been read back into the past by modern intellectuals. Of course, there were incidents where some particular scientist ran afoul of some particular religious body (like Galileo). But, basically, until the mid-19th century, just about no scientists or religious people understood the two to be at conflict in some fundamental way. Most scientists talked of how their findings "showed the glory of God" -- and for the most part, this was not just for show, as most of them were genuinely devout. (Newton, for instance, spent more of his life on Bible studies than he did on physics or mathematics.)

Furthermore, Gregory notes, the change in this view did not originate with science, but wi…

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Actual transcript of a text message conversation I had this afternoon:

UNKNOWN NUMBER: Yo nigga whats up

(Time passes... I have not looked at my phone.)

UNKNOWN NUMBER: What nigga u cant text me back

(Time passes... I have not looked at my phone.)


(I look at my phone.)

ME: Ave H


ME: No. Ave H.

UNKNOWN NUMBER: U want to meet at ave h now

ME: No make that Ave G

UNKNOWN NUMBER: U know who this is?

ME: No u know who this is?

UNKNOWN NUMBER: Yeah roger kelly this jesse nigga

ME: This ain't no roger kelly!

JESSE: Who is it then

ME: Jo

JESSE: Jo who

ME: Jo mama

In any case, it turns out I owe Jesse $30, and I have to go meet him in Matamoras now to pay up, so I've got to run!

How Did I Get All This Stuff?

I'm running verify disk on my Mac right now, and I see my hard drive has 183,231 folders, and over 700,000 files. Now I used to now my way around a UNIX volume to the extent I could say what almost every directory (folder) was for, but no one but no one can keep track of 183,231 folders.

Extremely High Time Preference Is... Holy!

Hans Hermann-Hoppe and his followers try to equate morality with low time preference. Consider, for instance, this quote from here:

"As such, decadence is antithetic to moral values, which are rooted in orientation towards long-term prosperity and happiness. Such values are the conceptual embodiment of low time preference, which is manifested in characteristics of thrift, diligence and long-term self improvement, all of which involve forgoing immediate satisfaction in anticipation of gains in the future."

Now, obviously, this is a pretty juvenile and debased sort of "moral philosophy," if one even wants to call it that: it's evil to enjoy yourself as much as possible now because if you hold off you'll be able to really, really enjoy yourself later! But it still amused me to learn, while listening to a lecture series on the High Middle Ages, that what Hoppe and his horde consider the essence of morality would, in the Middle Ages, have been considered positivel…

Mrs. Hymn Tries to Make Us Honest

Home Drug Testing

I was struck by the fact that the gas station I stopped at today had a big rack of these at the checkout counter. I anxiously picked up a kit and rushed home with it. I eagerly tore it open and immediately put it to use.

Now I am anxiously awaiting the answer to a question that's been bugging me for some time: Have I been secretly doing drugs all these years?

Terrible Home Depot Mistake

I reached for the slug repellent without paying much attention, went home, and applied it. Next thing I know, the slimy little bastages are all zooming around the yard at 50 miles per hour. I take another look, and, what do you know... I had grabbed the "slug propellant" instead.

Someone Read My Novel!!!

A Review of Jon Scieszka's Smash! Crash!

The details are here.

A Roman Naval Battle...

to be held in Queens, courtesy of my friend Duke Reilly.

Properties of the Wine Tasting Sequence

Properties of the Wine Tasting Sequence................. wb ........090723 - 090810

1. Introductory notes.

1.1. Since I can't conveniently represent uppercase Greek pi, the usual symbol for a product (as uppercase Greek sigma is the usual symbol for a sum), I'll use bold uppercase P.

1.2. By an unfolding sequence, we mean a sequence derived from an initial string (or digit) by repeatedly applying a production which appends to the sequence thus far a specific transform of the sequence thus far. Let f be a string function. If s is a string in the domain of f, &f denotes the function &f(s) ≡ sf(s). The unfolding sequence derived from function f and initial string s in the domain of f is U=&f^∞(s).

1.3. Trivially, any sequence can in fact be seen as unfolding by a sufficiently perverse choice of f: f(d(0)d(1)...d(i)) ≡ d(i+1), 0 ≤ i < ∞.
We shall simply ignore this, looking at sequences that can usefully be defined by unfolding processes.

2. Unfolding sequences. The Wine …

Kalt und Köstlich

While dining with my friend Michael Bischoff in Zurich, I saw the above heading on our menu. "Ah," I said, "given we are in Zurich, I know what that means: those are the dishes that are cold and costly, as opposed to the others that are 'warm und köstlich" or others that are "heiss und köstlich."

What I Miss Most about Switzerland

It's using this damned indifferent oil here in the States:

More Switzerland

Click on a photo for a larger image:

My Gift to the People of Switzerland

I realized, while in Switzerland, that there is no German word for "brunch." So I gift to the wonderful people of Switzerland my coinage, früstagessen.

There will be statues of me at Swiss brunch places 100 years from now.

Watch for It!

Remember the Wine Tasting Problem, and the associated sequence, which we can write




or for that matter


More on this sequence--including an ultrarapidly converging version of its polynomial transform--COMING SOON! Watch for it! Don't be left out!

Not Sure If They Really Mean It

No, I did not place the ashtray there myself.

In the Alps


Holy Moth Frenzy, Batman!


City Bird, Country Bird

Did you ever feed city birds by hand? They may be wary, but they know what's going on, and will come get the food as soon as they feel safe.

Did you ever try to feed country birds? They have no idea what you are doing. "Whoa, this guy is throwing junk at us!"

Taking food from another creature is not an "instinct" that birds have. They learn it.

A Trip Down Memory Lane...

to read the column that got me uninvited to testify before the US Senate Finance Committee.

One nice, one weird, one silly

Say you want to find the min or max of f(x,y) subject to a constraint that g(x,y)=0. Has it ever occurred to you that the values of x and y required are the same as the values of x and y required to find the min or max of g(x,y) subject to f(x,y)=0? I bet it hasn't. The requirement is entirely symmetrical (the "curly 'd'" notation is much prettier, but I can't be bothered to figure out how to do it here):

I can't get my intuition behind this: in boolean algebra,

(p or q) is equivalent to (p and not q or q). Yes, I know it's true, do the truth tables if you doubt me. It just seems wrong. P.S.:

(p and not q or not p and q) is not equivalent--that's exclusive or.

Let's for a moment write logical conjunction as product and disjunction as sum. Boolean algebras have the distributive rule p(q+r)=(pq+pr). Familiar, right? But boolean algebras also have this one: p+qr=(p+q)(p+r). Aside from the trivial p=0, when else is this t…

Promises, Promises

I was just watching a movie previe in which the following dialogue took place:

YOUNG GIRL: We're going to die!
NICHOLAS CAGE: I promise you, I will never, ever let that happen.

I've heard that sort of line often, and what's shocking is that it's always portrayed as a responsible parent doing the caring thing for his/her child! Yes, promising your child immortality -- it's the responsible thing to do.

Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is...

My friend laughed. "If morals are objectively real, where are they?"

"Hmm," I thought, "good point. So, the only things that are objectively real are those located in space and time."

"But, wait... the physical universe is not located in space and time, so..."

"The physical universe is not objectively real!"

Some Smart Critters


"By contrast, an ant nest or a beehive can behave as a united organism in its own right. In a beehive, the workers are happy to help the community, even to die, because the queen carries and passes on their genes."

Who knew ants were familiar with genetic theory?

Sex Games

My Friend Mrs. Hymn Shoots a Video

Oh, and this one, too:

View them or else Santo will slit your throat.

Tarski and Hutch

Well, Wabulon and I are developing the screenplay for the pilot of a new TV series, based on Starsky and Hutch, but in which the character of Starsky is replaced by that of Alfred Tarski, the famed twentieth-century mathematician. Here is my first draft, awaiting Wabulon's comments:

Play Pen Night Club: Night.
(Inside people are dancing. Tarski and Hutch stand at the bar with Huggy.)

Huggy: How do you like this little gold mine I gotta take care of until my cousin Louie returns?

Tarski: Huggy Bear, you’re just an invariant transformation of Superfly.

Huggy: Funny, Tarski. But you know Superfly and me ain't never been in any sorta one-to-one correspondence! Anyway, my uncle got a big stake in frog futures. He had to leave for Venezuela to check out his new frog ranch. All this happened after the IRS read his latest tax returns. Really.

(Walks away. Hutch spots two girls sitting alone.)

Hutch: Would you look at that? (Hutch points at girls.)

Tarski: Look at that. (Tarski’s looking at a…

Baby, Baby, Where Did That Post Go?