August 18th, 2007

#500: So where's my reparation money?

I'm a Methodist.

Today I learned that in 1878, some tribesmen in Papua New Guinea killed and ate some Methodist missionaries.

According to the legal, political, and/or moral theory used by the people who advocate reparations for slavery, I figure I'm owed some money by these people. Right?

Oh, wait.

It has nothing to do with me since the only connection I have to those missionaries is that we share a sect of Protestantism. And considering that the people who actually ate those missionaries have been dead for over 100 years it's kind of stupid for me to expect payback for it.

But I think it does illustrate the point, doesn't it? That the concept of reparations is kind of foolish? It's 2007. It's been 142 years since slavery was legal anywhere in the US. No one alive today in the US has ever been enslaved. No one alive today in the US has ever owned slaves. (For the sake of this discussion I am not considering the relationships between "pimps 'n' hos", nor "white slavery". These things are reprehensible, but not germane to the topic.) So why on Earth does any American citizen "deserve" reparations?

As for the article I mentioned above: missionaries being eaten by tribal islanders is an old, old idea. I'm not at all bothered by the fact that, 129 years ago, some missionaries were eaten, not even Methodist ones. It has no effect on me or my life.

#501: I can't believe it's over 500 now

...I've been doing this since April of 2006. I started blogging as a lark; and now I find that I don't feel right if I don't post something every day.

* * *

Anyway, I finally found a place I can get all of You're Under Arrest! live-action without having to join a member site. Awesome.

And I finally had to move some anime to the 500 GB drive in order to start downloading it. The drive with the anime had less than 2 GB free when I checked it. Now it has on the order of 27 GB free. Wahoo.

...how insane is that, to have over 160 gigabytes of anime on your computer?

I'm pretty sure I'll never have to surrender my "otaku" card. In fact I'm willing to bet it's due for iridium plating any time now....

#502: A matter of importance

Jerry Pournelle mentions this on his blog (probably the original blog, in fact) "Chaos Manor in Perspective".
Note that we now know that the 1930's were the hottest decade of the 20th Century; so the threats against people who are accused of being "Global Warming Deniers" has redoubled.

When the Administration attempted to make Hansen of NASA stop pushing his extreme predictions (rolling dice on a Congressional hearing table as an example) as if they were real science, he screamed that he was being silenced, and wanted help from the public. I don't see him out there defending the rights of those who don't agree with him, and I have yet to see him comment on the readjustment of the temperature history data.

You can prove anything if you make up your data, or your model connects only to selected data. Another of Pournelle's Laws. I should name it.
And he's right, of course.

Both of the links in that section of that page are worth clicking on.

The second link has this to say:
Over 12 months starting in March 2004, the researchers found that the flow of water varied from 4.4 to 35.3 megatons per second. The average was 18.7 megatons per second.

Their data spanned the range of values previously used to identify a downward trend.

"This really hammers home the importance of making continuous observations," Johns said.

The researchers had no definite explanation for the wide variation in flow, but Kanzow surmised that the dynamics of wave movements, eddies and currents that interfere with the circulation pattern could be more influential than previously thought.

Despite their own findings, many of the researchers believe that a slowdown is occurring. But they lack proof.
In other words, the "ocean conveyor" which is supposedly slowing down in response to global warming is not slowing down, as far as anyone can tell.

The scientists studying this believe it is slowing down but can't prove it, because the data they have collected are all over the place, swamping the prior readings in their variations. They believe it is slowing down because if it's not, it is possible that "global warming<>man made<>apocalypse", and all the big global warming grant checks go away.

Pournelle asks:
I have asked several modeling experts if any of these data are likely to be incorporated in the climate models. No one knows how it could be: that sort of thing isn't usually modeled.

Yet without data on ocean temperatures (80% of the Earth's surface is water) how will we even know what the annual temperature of the Earth is or has been?
The only temperatures which matter are the ones where there are people, because those are the only ones which have increased over the last century. As long as the computer models all show (or can be made to show) "global warming=man made=apocalypse" why should they bother trying to make them accurately model global temperature by taking all the factors into account?

In actuality, it's impossible to do that. Even if you somehow hooked together all the computers which had ever been manufactured to date, it wouldn't be enough computing power to model every factor which contributes to the Earth's temperature. That, of course, also assumes that we understand everything about how Earth's climate works, which we sure as hell don't. So climate models contain a lot of assumptions and guesses; and it's very easy to run a computer model a few dozen times with different inputs and select the one which you like.

Computer people have had a phrase for this since the things were invented: "Garbage in, garbage out."

#503: Jerry Was A Man

I was all set to sit down and write a glowing review of the Masters of Science Fiction episode, Jerry Was a Man, based on the Robert Heinlein short story of the same name.

That changed in the last five minutes of the show. That was when the creators of the TV show took a messy, runny shit all over the story. They were doing so very well, making only a few minor changes which were reasonable; but then, they blew it.

Heinlein's original story revolved around the virtues of being human. The guy who was representing Jerry's owner tried to get Jerry to lie in exchange for a bribe and Jerry refused. The final proof of Jerry's status as human rather than thing was when he sang "Swanee River".

In the TV show, while they included Jerry's singing, they then added a whole bunch of stuff. Jerry was ready to lie in exchange for a bribe. They showed video of Jerry switching places with another "Joe", which was killed. The lawyer maintained that Jerry's selfish and treacherous behavior was what made him human.

In Heinlein's story, Jerry wasn't a "minesweeper"; he was just a menial worker. He was due to be liquidated by the company which owned him. His tasks were menial and required little intelligence--the kind of labor which "Joes" were made for--and as manufactured products, when they were no longer economically viable they were disposed of.

The story revolves around the rich dowager who buys him, in order to save him from liquidation; and she comes to sue the company which owns Jerry in order to save him and his kind from being destroyed. In the process, it is proven (in court, no less) that Jerry feels pain and experiences joy, and that he understands the difference between right and wrong and refuses to do things which are morally wrong. ANd when it is shown that Jerry has the ability of self-expression, that clinches it.

That is what the creators of Masters of Science Fiction took a crap on.

Fortunately for me, I was expecting them to fuck it up. That's all Hollywood knows how to do. As the episode proceeded my hopes were rising, that this time at least they wouldn't, but my extremely low expectations turned out to be correct.

Heinlein was a realist about human nature; he's the one who always said "Man cannot be tamed" and insisted in many places that the most dangerous creature in the universe walks on two legs and has opposable thumbs. But throughout his writing was the acknowledgement that Man--in spite of this base nature--is also good and noble and capable of greatness.

The Hollywood morons don't understand that because they can't; it's utterly foreign to their world view: Man is a violent killing, eating, and fucking machine, and there is nothing more to life than making sure you get enough sex and money before you become worm food, after which there is nothing. There is nothing else; morality and religion are for the hopeless rubes in the hinterland who just don't get it and probably voted for Bush anyway.

I had hoped that my expectations would be proven wrong; but Hollywood has never managed to do a Heinlein story correctly, not even when he himself was closely connected with the production (here I am referring to Destination Moon). That's what happens when the task of converting story to screenplay is given to someone who doesn't understand the Grand Master but went to the "right" schools.

So that's how it goes.