Category Archives: Vanity

Internet-Centric Entertainment (an example)

Yesterday I talked about how most of my video entertainment now comes from the internet. The on-demand and interactive nature of internet video builds on itself. Here is a specific example of that.

Using Youtube on Xbox One, a bit ago I watched this trailer for Godzilla:

That led me to Red Letter Media’s review, which I watched on my Surface Pro connected to my tv:

That review stated that while the new Godzilla was better than the 1990s version, both were inferior to the current directory’s previous film, Monsters. Monsters is a post-9/11 style movie, portraying life several years after the dramatic events of a Monster movie. I watched Monsters on Amazon Prime, thru its Xbox One app.

There’s still a few ‘killer apps’ for TV. Some sports, Game of Thrones, and 24 hours news streaming would still be painful to lose. But that seems just a matter of time.

Firefox Drops to 3rd Place

I remember driving to the mall with my dad, to buy a copy of Netscape Navigator 1.2 on floppy disks. Since that time I’ve had a soft spot for Netscape and its successors, including Firebird and the increasingly irrelevant Firefox.

firefox_third_place

This month comes the news that Firefox has fallen to 3rd place, with more users on both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Life’s too short to waste time on a third place browser.  I am writing this on Google Chrome, and regularly use Internet Explorer.  But I’ve uninstalled Firefox.

A Lucid Visit

Yesterday I had a lucid dream of visiting my grandparents.

That is, I had a dream of it, but I was aware that I was dreaming, so I could make the most of my time.

Lucid dreaming requires being in the hypnagogic state, where you possess consciousness without wakefulness. You can enter a hypnagogic state from wakefulness, or from dreamland. The problem in either case is maintaining consciousness, as it’s easy to lose in dreamland.

Yesterday, I entered the hypnagogic state by counting to myself while falling asleep. I first began counting sheep, but that was too cartoony, so then I imagined trying to count sheep in a pen, then cattle in a field, and that became cattle in my grandfather’s field. Soon I was counting the steps to his house. Then I was in a hypnagogic state.

I did not want to lose consciousness, so I then looked down while moving. In software terms, the human mind has a “known bug” in the graphics driver while sleeping: if you look down while you’re walking in a dream, you’re feet either will be invisible or else will look very, very strange. This is so noticeable that even in dreamland, it alerts your consciousness. So you can stay lucid dreaming even in dreamland by looking at your feet while walking.

In a lucid dream you can control your environment (instead of a normal dream, which is like watching a movie). You can also warp your environment if you want to, though this requires a noticeable act of will. Yesterday, I just controlled what I did and where I went, but I let dreamland unfold as it wanted to.

I visited the garage, saw the things inside vividly and individually. “There are things here I never asked about,” I thought. Outside the garage, saw the sod house flicker into and out of existence.

I entered the farmhouse through the front door. I saw the little entryway, and all the sounds inside, WNAX on the radio, my grandfather sitting down by the table, my grandma standing, my dad was there too. I heard them all. I felt the shadows of the living, but I only heard my grandpa, my grandma, and my dad.

The sounds and the textures were hyper-real, though visually everything was like a ‘progressive render,’ where it became noticeably clearer as I focused. I saw the little TV on the refrigerator. I walked from the kitchen to the dining room. I saw the old phone, the desk with the recorder that my idiot uncle gave my grandparents, the plants, and the cabinet with the radio. (I knew there was an Atari in there somewhere, though I did not look for it.)

I passed through the glass portico into the living room. I felt the tape on the large comfortable chairs. I felt the shadows of the living again. I saw the couch, the painting above the couch, and the chairs on each side. The old television (that I caused havoc with when I was young). The long table with the storage area underneath, I once hid in. The bull.

I saw the loveseat, the window, and walked to the back entry way. I was hopefully because there was a building set I loved, that belonged to my uncle when he was young, and I wanted to see the brand name, but I could not make it out. I could see the pieces vividly, see the army men and the home-made Parcheesi set set, but I could not make out the brand name.

Disappointed, I walked in the remaining rooms of the house. Each was vivid. The downstairs bathroom, my grandfathers room (in which I had a nightmarish flash back to reality, back after my grandfather died, going thru his things with my mom, then back to dreamland). Then the hall again, then up the stairs. I felt the texture, again hyperreal. I saw the old fire alarm / extinguisher / whatever it was — the least safe home-safety device ever created, seemingly constructed to explode glass outward during a fire. “I knew that would kill us all one day,” I thought.

Then I woke.

Science, Paradigms, and the Old Boy Network

On Facebook, Daniel Nexon pointed me to this post by Steve Saideman, titled “Lamenting The Loss of the Light, The Ebbing of Grand Theory and The Decline of Old Boy Networks.” Saideman’s post itself is a commentary on Stephen Walt‘s and John Mearsheimer‘s ridiculous article, “Leaving Theory Behind: Why Hypothesis Testing Has Become Bad for IR,” which will soon appear in the European Journal of International Relations.

Walt and Mearsheimer’s article is absurd on many levels. But I mention it for how well it reflects my post, “Progress, Science, and Exemplars — or — When It Sucks to Be Young.”

In that post, I mention that it is horrible for your career to be young in a science with loose exemplars — that is, in a field that is “non-paradigmatic” or a “revolutionary science.” The more revolutionary the science, the looser the exemplars, the more “knowledge” and “experience” are both measured in years. The less things change — the less progress is made — the less youth matters relative to years of experience.

Or in diagrammatic form:

ways_of_knowing_3

What’s bizarre is that Walt and Mearsheimer agree with me! But this makes them sad. Walt and Mearsheimer would rather political science stay as anti-youth and revolutionary as possible, so that their power and influence could remain strong:

Over time, professions also tend to adopt simple and seemingly objective ways to evaluate members. Instead of relying on “old boy” networks, a professionalized field will use indicators of merit that appear to be impersonal and universal. In the academy, this tendency leads to the use of “objective” criteria—such as citation counts—when making hiring and promotion decisions. In extreme cases, department members and university administrators do not have to read a scholar’s work and form an independent opinion of its quality; they can simply calculate the “h-index” (Hirsch 2005) and make personnel decisions on that basis.22

The second part of the paragraph is literally incoherent, attacking the use of an h-index by arguing it’s a raw count of citation. Walt and Meirsheimer seem unable to do math, and so their inability to understand even basic fractions should not surprise you. What should be surprising is they are so openly defending the power aristocracy that comes from using subjective scores and the “old boys” network!

In fairness to Walt and Meirsheimer, the intellectual poverty they confess through their incoherent ramblings is not entirely their fault. Political science has been so revolutionary, so paradigmatic, so subjective for so long that few may know what a science actually is, or even understand the terms used to describe science.

Consider this earlier passage in Walt and Meirsheimer’s article, in which the “worse than wrong” passage is intended to be uncontroversial:

Indeed, some senior IR scholars now rail against the field’s grand theories. In his 2010 ISA presidential address, for example, David Lake described the “isms” as “sects” and “pathologies” that divert attention away from “studying things that matter” (Lake 2011: 471). Thus, it is not surprising that “the percentage of non- paradigmatic research has steadily increased from 30% in 1980 to 50% in 2006” (Maliniak et al 2011: 439). Of course, one could advocate for middle range theories while disparaging grand theories, and indeed Lake does just that. The field is not moving in that direction, however. Nor is it paying more attention to formal or mathematically oriented theories (Bennett et al 2003: 373-74). Instead, it is paying less attention to theories of all kinds and moving toward simplistic hypothesis testing.

The highlighted passage, originally by Daniel Maliniak simply means that empirical research is increasing, and that non-empirical research is declining, within political science. But Maliniak, and thus Walt and Mearsheimer, bizarrely use “paradigmatic” to refer to less paradigmatic (that is, less capable of progress) fields, and “non-paradigmatic” to more to more paradigmatic (that is, more capable of progress) fields.

ways_of_knowing_2

Political science has been in the fever swamp for so long that the notion of progress as an outcome of normal science has almost entirely been lost. If Walt and Mearsheimer had their way, it might be lost, and the field simply divided into a stationary oligarchy of old boys network.

At one point in their article, Walt and Meirsheimer say that “the creation and refinement of theory is the most important activity in [social science].” This is nonsense. The most important activity in science is the prediction, control, and improvement of behavior. Theory can help, diagram can help, interviews can help, process tracing can help. But the paen to old boys network, and the nonsense that Walt and Mearsheimer try to pass off as a scholarly article, certainly doesn’t.

The man who made it possible

It’s impossible to walk through the halls of my employer and not feel the sense of love and loss for our friend. He was open on his blog, self-critical of his past shortcomings and open about his mistakes, and full of helpful with career advise. He was so completely unpretentious you could be in a line with him, or walking in the hallway along with him, and not realize it until it was pointed out to you. No bluster, no entourage, typically just a guy walking (or running) past on a way to a meeting, like everyone else.

 

His book is worth reading, as is his twitter stream.  I agree with Dare’s take.