Updates from June, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 10:42 am on 30 June 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    A few years ago, I remember commenting that it was a good thing John Lennon was no longer alive. If he had been, I assumed that he would have been a vocal leader of the Vietnam throwbacks protesting the Iraq war and the Bush administration, standing with Cindy Sheehan and shouting inanities through a bullhorn.

    Now we learn that that assumption might have been wrong. In a new Beatles documentary (directed by politically conservative musician Seth Swirsky), Lennon’s former personal assistant claims that late in his life Lennon had become a conservative, a supporter of Ronald Reagan, and embarrassed by the radicalism of his earlier years.

    I’m not really sure how much stock to put in this report. Fred Seaman is a controversial figure in Beatles fandom; among other things, he was accused by Yoko Ono of stealing some of Lennon’s papers and photos after Lennon died. And even Seaman admits that perhaps Lennon was just being intentionally provocative. On the other hand, when I consider the man Lennon seemed to be at the end of his life, it doesn’t strike me as ridiculous.

    There’s an often-repeated (though bogus) quote that says if you’re not a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative when you’re older, you have no brain. John Lennon was a smart guy, and it’s not hard for me to believe that by 1980 (by which time he had been retired from music for five years, and was instead a stay-at-home dad) he had reevaluated things a bit. Certainly he had become thoroughly domesticated, and his final musical work (songs like “Beautiful Boy” and “Watching the Wheels”) revel in the joys of ordinary life, something we’d never really heard from him before.

    Although Lennon died too young, I’ve always taken some comfort from the fact that he had at least attained a degree of contentment and personal equilibrium that had eluded him his whole life. So I must admit that it’s also gratifying to imagine him looking back at his earlier self and cringing a bit (something I can identify with). In short, he grew up.

  • Hober Short 9:36 am on 29 June 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    The thing about the four rules of gun safety is that you have to break at least two of them to do any material damage (from Wikipedia):

    1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
    2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
    4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

    And now to the news:

    Lee County sheriff’s deputies say a Sanford man shot and killed himself while showing friends the safety of his new gun.

    The captain says Butler showed them the safety and how the gun would not fire. Johnson says after Butler pulled the trigger and it didn’t fire, he showed them the slide action, put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger again.

    Johnson says Butler apparently failed to re-engage the safety.

    There are various apocrypha to go with the above rules, including “the safety is what’s in between your ears”, but even putting aside the issue of mechanical gun safeties, for this to happen, two of the four rules had to be disobeyed. If only rule #1 had been broken, the gun would have discharged non-lethally in to a couch or wall. If only rule #2 had been broken, the guy would have never pulled the trigger while pointing it at his head, because he assumed that it, like every gun you ever handle, was loaded.

    • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 3:21 pm on 29 June 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I saw that news story this morning and immediately thought “I bet Ben would have something to say about this.” I’m just amazed, really; the rules you cite obviously make sense, but I would have thought they were common sense. What sort of idiot would point a working gun at his own head under ANY circumstances short of suicidal intent? I just can’t imagine.

      • Hober Short 5:24 pm on 29 June 2011 Permalink | Reply

        That’s because you have a healthy fear of the power of guns. Unfortunately, it is very easy, as you become experienced with firearms to become comfortable with them and lose that fear in favor of familiarity.

        That’s why before every shooting competition, we go over the four rules, and the first is always “Treat every gun like it’s loaded.” It is vital to reinforce the rules and maintain your healthy fear of the power of guns to avoid tragic cases like this.

  • Hober Short 11:52 am on 23 June 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    I’ve lamented before about Harry Potter not being available as an eBook. Well, that’s another first world problem I can strike off my list.

    • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 3:52 pm on 23 June 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sort of. I’m still quite annoyed that the e-books will be available exclusively through Rowling’s own site, and not through Amazon’s Kindle store or B&N’s Nook store. The article says that the books will be “usable on all major electronic reading devices,” but even so, it’s a minor pain in the butt to sideload books on a Kindle (and it’s probably completely beyond many less tech-savvy users).

      It is encouraging that Rowling is finally joining the 21st century, but I think she still doesn’t quite get it.

      • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 9:08 am on 24 June 2011 Permalink | Reply

        On the other hand … Ars Technica points out that the e-books will be DRM-free (which, now that I think about it, is necessary for platform-independent e-books). Maybe she gets it after all.

  • Pat 3:44 pm on 15 June 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Some discussion fodder for tonight’s symposium:

    Duke Nukem Forever: barely playable, not funny, rampantly offensive

    • Hober Short 4:58 pm on 15 June 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve pre-ordered it, but haven’t had a chance to play it. I’m looking forward to it, if only to make the comparisons that the inestimable Ben Kuchera makes in this article: compare the original game to the new one. In particular, I fear the graphic about the map design will likely be true. But that’s just the way that FPSs are these days, unfortunately.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 10:22 am on 15 June 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Thanks to Ben, I’m more aware than I used to be of dodgy statistics in news articles. Yesterday’s WRAL story about the local job market struck me as rather egregious:

    While 15 percent of companies say they plan to add workers, another 13 percent anticipate cutting staff, Manpower reported. That net 2 percent of additional hiring makes Raleigh-Cary one of the weakest job markets in the new survey, Manpower said.

    We’re told how many employers are planning to add workers and how many are planning to cut workers, but without knowing how many are being added and cut, it’s impossible to know whether there’s a net gain or a net loss. What if one of the 15 percent is adding 10,000 jobs? What the reporter means by a “net 2 percent of additional hiring” is anyone’s guess.

    It may be that the actual Manpower study says something meaningful, and maybe it is bad news for the local job market. But I think WRAL would have been better off simply reporting Manpower’s conclusions, rather than presenting the misleading illusion of math.

    • Hober Short 10:42 am on 15 June 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, reading the study, it sounds like Manpower came up with a figure for each area that was the percent of companies planning to hire vs the percent planning to fire. Then they ranked areas based on that statistic like it meant anything whatsoever.

  • Hober Short 11:40 am on 8 June 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    You… must be joking. (via SayUncle):

    Last spring there was a story going around the blogs concerning a solicitation to buy from the U.S. Department of Education for 27 short barrel shotguns.

    Now we know what they planned to do with them. They went to their SWAT Teams for use in collecting student loans.

    Click the link and watch the video.

    Setting aside the fact that SWAT raids are being used for increasingly minor, non-violent offenses, there’s an economics story to this, too. Part of the reason that we are in a higher education bubble is because it’s so easy to get student loans to go to college. But those loans are so easy to get because the banks are so willing to make student loans, since they have so many ways of making sure the loans get paid back.

    Strengthening the ability of banks to prevent people from defaulting on student loans will, necessarily, make them more willing to make marginal loans since they can make sure they get their money one way or another. This will just fuel the bubble, and result in more people going to school and ending up with debts they can’t repay.

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