Easter: Flesh and Blood

And the human said:

This one at last, bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh…

- excerpted from Genesis 4, from The Five Books of Moses, translated by Robert Atler

And the Lord said to Cain:

Why are you incensed
and why is your face fallen?

For whether you offer well,
or whether you do not,
at the tent flap sin crouches
and for you it is longing
but you will rule over it

And He said, “What have you done? Listen! your brother’s blood cries out from the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand.

And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear. Now that You have driven me from this soil and I must hide from Your presense, I shall be a restless wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”

And the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kils Cain shall suffer sevenfold vengence.” And the Lord set a mark upon Cain so that whoever found him would not slay him.”

- excerpted from Genesis 4, from The Five Books of Moses, translated by Robert Atler

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

- The Gospel of Mark 14, from the New International Version.

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.

Get sad. Then leave the ghetto.

Writing for Slate, Patrick Iber suggests giving up his dream of being a history professor. It’s good advise. In other words: can’t be a pimp? then leave the ghetto.

Packard-plant-1940s

This post may seem familiar because I wrote a similar in in January, because reality is similar: if you’re not doing something you’re great at, that you love doing, that you get paid for doing, you may be doing the wrong thing. You may be living in the ghetto.

Packard-Plant-Detroit

There are four types of people in the academic ghetto: pimps who are full professors, disaster tourists from rich families who are just having fun, hos who are exploited by pimps, and escapees who gtfo.
The pimp is a pretty fun place for pimps, sufficiently amusing for disaster tourists.

Patrick Iber’s post was especially moving because it so closely tracks my experience in academia (though he also dragged his children thru it). This part of his piece brought tears to my eyes:

[My mother] was released from the hospital on Jan. 1 to recover at her brother’s house. I flew to Washington, D.C., the next day. When the plane landed, I had multiple messages waiting for me, telling me to call home. My mother, age 64, had died in her sleep. Her youngest grandson was 7 weeks old.

The [academic conference] was a daze. I walked the streets between conference hotels in tears. I told friends. I told strangers. To others, with no logic to it, I said nothing. I might have gone home, but the severe weather in the Northeast scrambled routes and made it nearly impossible to rebook my flight. As a lecturer with no research support, I had spent half a month’s salary to travel there anyhow. My mom had wanted me to give my paper, so I did: to an audience of three. I shook hands at mixers. I had no interviews.

I also lost a parent while in academia. I also gave presentations to audiences of three.

Academia was fun for me. It’s a great place to be a pimp. But if you’re not a tourist and you’re not a pimp, become an escapee.

Gtfo.

tdaxp predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine

If Barack Obama and others had read my blog on October 29, 2008, they would have known that Russia will invade Crimea to turn it into a frozen conflict.

680px-European_Union_Ukraine_Locator_svg_crop

Russia is not a European country.  it is a Central Asian oil exporter that has invaded Europe — again. A variety of moves, from pushing renewable energy to helping Ukraine sign the Association agreement with the European Union, should now be made. Ukraine must join Europe.

Too bad I was ignored.

The “Free Parking” Analaogy in International Relations

In business strategy, it is common to subsidize a money losing business that in order to make a primary business profitable. This is called “free parking.”

For instance, McDonalds is one of the largest parking lot operations in the world. The scale of their investment in an international network of places to park your car is staggering, involving professional and operational employees and contractors all of the world.

But McDonalds is not in the parking business. They are in the hamburger business. But absent providing “free parking,” McDonalds would find the cost of customer acquisition painfully high and the economics of scale from its operations too small.

russia_mcdonalds
Of Interest to Parking Lot Operators

Likewise, the United States runs one of the largest carbon-economy rollback operations in the world. The scale of US investment in preventing the success of the carbon economies (from “King Cotton” in the late 19th century to “King Oil” in the late 20th century to King Natural Gas today) is staggering. This anti-carbon-intervention — from a massive climate science masquerade to military actions in the American South and the Middle East.

In most of the world most of the time, carbon-based economies are naturally despotic and authoritarian. These “hydraulic empires” exist because of the government monopoly over the infrastructure needed to extract wealth from the earth. This form of social organization can be internally stable but maintain considerable freedom of movement in international relations because rules do not need worry about complicated economic links that limit non-carbon economies. That is, they are warlike.

ukraine_pipelines_map
Of Interest to Carbon Extraction Operators

(Whether refers to carbon-economy rollback by that name, or says something about sustainable political-economic growth, or “shrinking the gap” or whatever, the meaning and the concept is the same: minimizing the political and military importance of carbon extraction throughout the world.)

Rolling back the carbon-based economy is to the US what free parking is to McDonlads. For McDonalds, free parking is the side business and selling hamburgers is the main business. For the US, carbon-economy rollback is the side business and selling security is the main business. McDonalds could not afford the customer acquisition cost, and could not enjoy the economies of scale, without subsidizing free parking for its customers and potential customers. Likewise, the US could not afford the country-acquisition cost of its military alliances nor enjoy economies of scale, without subsidizing carbon-economy rollback for its customers and potential customers.

My friend Dr. Samuel Liles thinks that free parking is a distraction, whether for McDonalds in a shopping mall or the US in the world political system. He’s wrong on both points.

McDonalds cannot provide hamburgers (in exchange for cash) without providing parking, for free.

The US cannot provide security (in exchange for power) without rolling back the carbon-based economy, for free.

Free Parking and Ukraine

May good friends Dr. Samuel Liles (who I had the pleasure of meeting in person the other day) has taken to twitter to advocate to an isolation response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea.

eu_tatars

Sam has written a tweeted a number of times, but this tweet is probably the most concise description of a pro-Putin line you’re likely to see in the non-lunatic West:

If you say “POTUS should do something” I’ll ask you why. Ukraine wasn’t in NATO or EU so NATO & EU shouldn’t do anything absent specifics.

I like Sam, he has a lot of cool stories and is a serious guy, but his comment is an exact analog to

If you say “McDonalds should provide parking” I’ll ask you why. Customers aren’t yet in the building so McDonalds shouldn’t spend money on them absent specifics.

The common thread in my friend’s Sam’s comments on Ukraine, and that crazy comment about McDonalds, is called “free parking.” Most successful enterprises, whether business or governments, provide subsidized or free secondary services in order to acquire customers for their primary services.

McDonalds runs one of the largest parking lot operations in the world, not because they are in the business of running profitable parking lots, but because the parking “business” is actually critical infrastructure to being successful in the restaurant business.

mcdonalds_parking_lot

Similarly, the US has traditionally supported the expansion of the European Union, not because the US is in the EU, but because the Eu is critical infrastructure to being successful in the security business.

The European Union, like the United States, has a political-military system that focuses on extracting taxes from producer surplus of the non-carbon sectors of the economy. An interesting result of this is that the EU and US focus on peaceful relationships with each other, as economic integration allows the economies of scale in multiple sectors necessary to increase the tax base thru increasing the producer surplus of the non-carbon sectors of the economy. Besides the first-order economic gains of this “capitalist peace,” this also provides second-order gains as the costs of the US of providing security are lowered.

Supporting the EU’s provisioning of that political-economic infrastructure throughout Europe is in America’s interests, in the same way that paying parking lot pavers is in McDonald’s interests. The US is not the EU. McDonalds is not a paving company. But McDonalds is in the paving business in order to provide free parking to its customers. And the US is in the business of supporting the expansion of the EU to provide free parking — access to the legal, technical, and economic infrastructure the EU provides — to its customers.

Review of “North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society,” edited by Kyung-Ae Park and Scott Snyder

If you want to read an example of the generally worthless state of international relations scholarship, it’s hard to do worse than North Korea in Transition.

north_korea_in_transition

It’s not that it’s put out by a bunch of cranks. It’s featured by the Council on Foreign Relations. And it’s not that it is not interesting. I highlighted several passages, many of which were thought provoking.

But… International Relations scholars, famously, can’t predict anything. The beginnings of wars, the outbreaks of peace, the collapse or emergence of empires — I’m aware of no solid model that can predict these as well as, say, the weather two days from now.

Some authors, like Bruce Cummings, appear to just be intellectual jokes

“American television rounded up all the usual images of North Korea: frightening soldiers goose-stepping through Pyongyang, a madman at the help who starves his people, missiles fired “over Japan” ( all missile launches are to the east, to take advantage of the Earth’s rotation)”

(pace)

map-north-korea-missile-sit

But generally, over and over, authors told us only what we already knew, and missed titanic changes under the surface.

It is noteworthy that the chair of the North Korean side in the DPRK-China Joint Guidance Committee for Economic Zones is Jang Song Taek, Kim Jong I’ls’ brother-in-law and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission

(yes, it is a noteworthy indeed that Jong Song Taek was arrested during a committee meeting, and tried as a traitor.)

jang-song-thaek-c-is

Kim Jong Un is known to have focused on taking control of the military and the intelligence apparatuses with teh full support of the two key
power holders, Jang Song Taek and Ri Yong Ho, under the tight supervision of Kim Jung Il.

(Well, we know something – perhaps what is not something we’re sure of.  Currently the only question is to what fraction of Jang’s family tree is annihilated.)

jang-song-thaek-executed

This isn’t to say the entire book is trash. Chapter 8, “Low-Profile Capitalism: The Emergence of the New Merchant / Entrepreneurial Class in Post-Famine North Korea” by Andrei Lankov is very solid. In fact, it’s probably worth the price of the book.

The rest of it ca be tossed, though, unless you want to be a pimp, a tourist, a loser, or an escapee in the academic ghetto.

Interactive Fiction: Proteus

Proteus is the sixth piece of interactive fiction I’ve played.

Interactive fiction can be thought of as on two dimensions, the extent to which the game focuses on the “player” (who he is, why he is there, and so on) and the extent to which the game focuses on the environment (the emotions it evokes, the thoughts it provokes, and so on).

This allows us to create a simple 2×2 matrix

Not Player Centered Player Centered
Not Environment Centered N/A The Novelist,
Depression Quest
Environment Centered The Stanley Parable, Proteus Dear Esther,
Gone Home

Like The Stanley Parable, Proteus focuses exclusively on the environment. But while The Stanley Parable is cognitive, subverting the expectations of players, Proteus is emotive, building up a perfect child-like world with no rules, no enemies, and no protagonists — only delight.

Most reviewers of Proteus, whether their impressions are positive and negative, play Proteus for less than an hour. Whimsy without people or danger may be a hollow emotion indeed.

I played Proteus in Steam Edition on my Surface Pro.

The tDAxp eXPerience