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Monthly Archives: May 2015


Photo: Cathedral of Learning

The commons room of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Bad Guys and Ancient Knowledge

I’ve come to appreciate writers that don’t characterize immoral actors in their work as complete devils. Things that are considered immoral now, but commonplace in past times, is often depicted as being perpetrated by people of ill-character and worth. I’m willing to believe people who perpetrated bad “institutions” (nearly everyone) in the past were normal folk going along with the times. They were—just as we are today, and to a much greater degree thanks to technology—a participant in the brute, unavoidable, Rock of Gibraltar-slamming-force of social conditioning. This is why I think some people like a modern “bad guy” in a story more than a protagonist. The protagonist will be working off a template towards a goal; we know what he’s going to do and why. The bad guy, with all of his modern social conditioning speaking against his motivations, has to have a reason for his antagonizing, so his motivations are often times more thoughtful. Spreading good feels are enough for an audience to warm to a protagonist, but his opponent (not always thoroughly immoral, if a good writer has his hand in it) has a bigger burden to fulfill.

Somewhat related: you’re going to get a greater level or degree of truth from the people who are a bit “off” all the way up to some of the more outlying “dangerous” individuals. The reason is clear if you just listen to someone’s words when they parrot off a template belief system with rhetoric/language—i.e., anything that closely resembles something from programmed media, from the earliest radio commentaries up to and including clickbait article phenomenon—they’re really not going to be saying much. All that talk was crafted to avoid as much as possible uncomfortable but potentially useful elements of knowledge: paradox, contradiction, socially unacceptable language, etc. To fit in we avoid crimethink by the nature of social cohesion and order.

Here’s a good mental exercise that doubles as a quick and dirty test. Take the sentence beginning: “In this day and age,” and append to that any sort of belief or convention that would make sense after that phrase. Some of the more common conclusions to that sentence that spring to mind could possibly have its root in erroneous modern thinking—thinking that’s been sprouted into a nation’s consciousness only after. There’s a reason why people thought what they thought in the past, and it’s probably an epistemically “good” reason. Attributing “wrong” beliefs to the disembodied catch-all of “ignorance” is dismissive. The common ancient man may have not known “what we know now”, which for many of us amounts to surface knowledge of about a thousand disparate things, but what they did know they may have known very deeply and intimately. What are some of the things that they could have known in this manner?

When you have weirdos with wifi access and a Blogspot account, you’re going to get a shotgun-spray of crimethink, some of which is going to be truthful, mixed in with a lot of their personal preferences and cruft presented as truth. It can be easily parseable with a good dose of clear thinking, but how many of us are willing to do that? It might be difficult but the option of completely ignoring their claims because they aren’t doubleplusgood is the worse option.

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Another Logic Test To Make You Feel Inadequate

Haven’t read or watched the solution yet, but I would flip over the 8 to see if it’s blue and then the green card to see if the number is NOT even. The premise is saying all even numbers yield blue on the other side. It doesn’t say if blue cards could or could not have an odd number on the other side.

Flipping the 5 over could give a blue or green, but that’s irrelevant because the premise doesn’t say what color odd numbers would be and it has no bearing on the truth of the evens-are-blue relationship.

Flipping the blue doesn’t give as much information as the flipping the green would—if the green shows odd then we know for sure the premise is incorrect. If it shows even then the statement is more truthful.

Just a fair warning if you want to enter this: the people who come up with these puzzles are usually dickish, so the intuitive solution is always the stupid/very wrong one.

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Why We Do Shadow Work

I’ve seen Shadow Work: The Unpaid, Unseen Jobs That Fill Your Day blogged about and linked from many sources the last few days:

Shadow work includes all the unpaid tasks we do on behalf of businesses and organizations. It has slipped into our routines stealthily; most of us do not realize how much of it we are already doing, even as we pump our own gas, scan and bag our own groceries, execute our own stock trades, and build our own unassembled furniture. But its presence is unmistakable, and its effects far-reaching.

Most shadow work is probably caused by minimum wage* legislation, which prices out the bottom tier or two of jobs, which affects the least skilled, like teenagers, disabled, or any potential employee looking to enter the market. Think of diner sweepers, gas station attendants, or bellhops. Most of those low-skill jobs get rolled up into this new, higher wage tier “floor,” so you have waitstaff, for example, who also bus tables, because an employer isn’t going to pay a busboy a waiter’s wage. Sucks for the poorest of the poor, but firms generally want lower consumer prices than anything else, so it doesn’t affect buyers as much.

Some of this low-tier work that’s been priced out of the market gets rolled into labor-saving automation, like vending machines or menu ordering screens. But the rest gets passed onto the consumer via shadow work: pumping your own gas or carrying your own bags into the hotel, for instance. This work is not priced accurately nor is it really accounted for by any side, so it doesn’t show up as quantifiable, but its labor taken on at the consumer level. So in this respect, minimum wage legislation hurts consumers as well, by forcing them to pay with time and a bit of energy.

*I actually call minimum wage, “wage window” legislation, because there are people who do work for free, like interns, volunteers, homemakers, weekend warriors, etc., who don’t get paid directly or monetarily. You see, central planning bureaucrats and voters, in their infinite wisdom, are cool with the $0.00/hr wages, but employing someone at a wage between $0.01 to $7.24/hr is somehow an unacceptable evil.

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Photo: Pittsburgh Sky

Pittsburgh is very hilly and very overcast. The correct combination of these two things can yield some great sky and cloud photography. This isn’t great photograph per se, but it could have been with the right equipment and not a so-so phone camera. The right photographic “raw material” is there.

This was taken during the America Loves Bacon fest at Station Square, just south of downtown, right on the Monongahela River. No filter.

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EDIT: Here is the same photo but with a filter, that I had posted on Facebook. This actually a bit closer to how I perceived it, both visually and the “sentiment” of it—my phone’s camera didn’t really capture the post-storm blueness that I saw.

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I Bought A Bike

specialized_hard_rock_01A breather post in between marathon writing sessions and some serious future posts. I bought a mountain bike off of Craigslist last week: a late-80s-to-early-90s Specialized Hard Rock. Functional has been in the shop for the past few weeks getting a tune up, so I thought it’s a good idea to finally get a backup bike. The front tire was flat and the back one was on its way out. Other than those things, it was good to go.

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One of the mechanics at the shop said it’s a small boy’s bike, although I don’t if he meant “small” to modify the “boy” or “bike.” There is a subtle difference there. It’s sized 15.5″, which is a tad smaller than my normal size of 16.5″. It rides fine for me, probably because a lot of shortness is in my legs/thighs. A smaller bike can be problematic but you can more maneuverability if it’s small in the right way.

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Note the hacky tape jobs on the lights. I realized I didn’t have a second set of lights with their proper attaching parts. Nothing has to be perfect when it comes to these things—we do what we have to do to get the job (ride) done.

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