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By TheophileEscargot (Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 05:18:00 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Consumerism (all tags)
Reading: "Rollback". Consumerism. Web.

What I'm Reading
SF novel Rollback by Robert Sawyer. As the response to a SETI message comes back from the stars, an astronomer and spouse undergo rejuvenation treatment to give them a chance to keep the conversation going.

Nice idea, but a pretty poor novel. It's written very like this. As is becoming obligatory for some SF, Sawyer makes a valiant attempt to do Relationships and Feelings, but the characters don't really come to life: they seem like diagrams on a blackboard.

I was hoping that there would be a big skiffy resolution to make all that worth enduring, but it doesn't really amount to much. The message content is unsurprising.

Recommendation: avoid.

Consumerism followups
Thought I'd do an update on the various things I've bought.

Was a bit dubious about the gphone at first, but I've come to like it. The short battery life is its biggest problem, but it's never actually conked out on me yet, always seems to last me out the day. Apart from that it's a decent smartphone: UI is great, there are a few apps for it. I've actually found myself checking web stuff on it from my armchair rather than cross the room.

If it broke tomorrow, I'd probably get another one. Worth a look if you're interested in a smartphone.

Dell XPS 420 computer
Had a couple of problems with the Dell at first: sound output didn't work, had to get a fan replaced after much hassle.

Since then it's worked OK. Did get a resonance-rattle from the new fan, but wedging it with blue-tac seems to have fixed that.

Even so, wouldn't recommend it. If it was an unbranded cheapo box these problems would be forgivable, but I think a high-end model with a brand name should be more reliable than this.


Bought a Solar Casio Wave Ceptor watch a couple of weeks ago. Managed to clumsily break my old battery Wave Ceptor while trying to change the battery (which was extraordinarily fiddly, had to dismantle the whole thing).

Liked that, but not too sure about the replacement. It's bigger and chunkier than the old one, and the solar panel face seems a bit reflective.

Articles. Literary review of GTA 4. Sociology of ignorance. Amphetamine trade temporarily disrupted (MR).

Pics. Lobsters.

Misc, serious. Missing chapter from Bad Science finally published. Social worker blog. Stumbling and Mumbling on poverty of imagination.

Misc. God-Jesus robot. Disney's reuse MeFi, (MeFi). Barbie is not skinny. Doorstepping fail. Real-time shoe sales. Kosher telephone.

Tomlinson killing. Magistrate. Police media management. Coppersblog Stumbling & Mumbling crunches numbers.

Economics. Taleb's Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world (MeFi). Kaletsky on Eurozone. UK trade figures improve. North/South divide not narrowed. Stephanomics on Tory policy, Irish tax rises.

< AHHHHH!! | I blame Rufus for making me sleep under the wet spot >
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My dell story by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 05:47:00 AM EST
I had a dell story play out last week, when my (personal, i.e. not work) XPS1330 conked out from heat (apparently a joint software/hardware problem, google knows about it). I sent them an email (with pictures of said screen artifacts) and got an email back within a few hours asking me to run some diagnostics and reply. I did the next day and they mailed me back and asked me when a technician could drop in on me and replace my motherboard and harddrive (harddrive problem I hadn't noticed, but the diagnostics uncovered bad blocks).

The following day was a Friday and I was busy, so I told them anytime Mon-Wed this week and gave them my phone number, Monday afternoon a technician called me up and ask if he could drop by in a few hours, I said yes and he did. Replaced both motherboard and harddrive (even installed a larger harddrive than the original) and reinstalled Vista and all drivers for me before he left.

The kicker is that the laptop was just 1 month past it's first birthday, so my "complimentary" 1-year next day service had just expired - still I ended up paying nothing as the  parts were still under warranty...

I had your vision of Dell, but I guess this whole experience has improved my impression somewhat.

-- The revolution will not be televised.
I quite like that review of the Ungar article by lm (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 06:32:49 AM EST
Both the article and the review have quite a few intriguing points. Good stuff.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
I thought it was kind of scary myself by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #22 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 08:20:56 PM EST
It all rings true, but what do we do about it, resign ourselves to idiocracy?

"The ideal of the well-informed citizen is scarcely a viable aspiration anymore"

[ Parent ]
I've commented there, saying... by Alan Crowe (2.00 / 0) #24 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 06:45:46 PM EST

I foresee this study being complicated by the problem of "ignorance-doubling." I'll offer two examples of what I mean by ignorance-doubling.

First, take the troubling phenomenon of people on the right of politics advocating free-trade. Why do they do that? One can talk about conspiracies and false consciousness, there is much to be said and one finds oneself ignorant of much of it.

There is a problem. The previous paragraph assumes an ignorance of Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage. More accurately it assumes that our hero has come across it, perhaps in some garbled account in a newspaper, and has not understood it. He fails to understand this basic law of economics but does not realise that it is important and does not realise that it is important, both for what it tells us about trade, and because it explains why people on the right of politics advocate.

One piece of ignorance, about Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage, leads on to more ignorance. Without the true explanation of advocacy there is forests of sociological explanations. Our hero cannot keep up with them as they are patched and mended to try to make them work, he suffers from lots of secondary ignorance.

If he could only go back and study Ricardo's Law, not only would that solve the primary ignorance, but all the secondary ignorance would evaporate.

My second example is Simpson's paradox. It is not as well known as Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage and I've written a short essay to bring out why it matters.

Think about the way that the newspapers are full of health stories. Tomatoes cause cancer. Tomatoes protect against cancer. Whatever. The stream of stories is endless and we all find ourselves ignorant of the latest health story.

Notice though that this is all secondary ignorance, caused by not grasping Simpson's paradox. All this non-experimental work is worthless. If we could but rid ourselves of the primary ignorance of not grasping Simpson's paradox all our secondary ignorance would go away.

Well, that was my comment. It might reassure you because it suggests that there are key simplifying ideas that make being a well-informed citizen more viable than it at first appears. Much ignorance is ignorance of bogus knowledge and goes away when the quest for bogus knowledge is abandoned. On the other hand the key simplifying ideas seem to be intellectually hard, the kind of ideas that only a mathematician would love, so perhaps we really are doomed. :-(

[ Parent ]
Tomlinson by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 06:38:21 AM EST
One thing that's got me about this is the uproar about the policeman being filmed pushing him over, yet there are loads of instances of this sort of behaviour captured on film and no-one has batted an eyelid about the rest of it. One I saw from the G20 protest is film of a policeman throwing a cyclist's bike at him. Surely that should be investigated too?

It's really sad what's happened but I hope it leads to some changes. The new law about photographing policemen should be up for debate at least.

It's political correctness gone mad!

A few things by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 07:35:05 AM EST
He was the only one that died, and he was a bystander not a protestor, so I think the media were bound to concentrate on him.

They don't seem to be making much fuss over the way the cop was wearing a balaclava though. That suggests to me that he was planning on causing trouble from the start, he didn't just lose his temper.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
On mention by Herring (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 09:36:45 AM EST
somewhere of how, apaprently, he had his number covered up (taped over?). Since I don't know where the number would be on riot gear, I couldn't confirm that.

nebbish has a good point though. It's not just an isolated incident of one copper losing it.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #23 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 06:56:48 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

[ Parent ]
short battery life by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 07:10:30 AM EST
The problem is that squeezing lots of power into a small space is how you make high explosive.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

They could put a bigger battery in though by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 07:29:47 AM EST
The existing battery is pretty small in comparison to the phone. You could double the battery volume without making the phone much bulkier.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
The problem by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #13 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:16:42 AM EST
It has more to do with trying to balance "light" with a "fast CPU that does all sorts of awesome things".

The trouble with these smartphones in particular is that they've got all these damn transmitters in there.  GSM, 3G, Bluetooth, Wifi.  Playing with these, and turning them off when not needed can have a huge effect on battery life.  I personally leave wifi off at all times even though it'd mean much faster Internet at home and office.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Lobsters by ana (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 07:32:20 AM EST
Cute. Who knew?

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

I don't by garlic (4.00 / 2) #18 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 12:13:18 PM EST
because apparently websense is against lobsters.

[ Parent ]
Marx and Marxists by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 09:18:39 AM EST
I think it fair to say that most Marxists misunderstand Marx. He argued that capitalism would essentially implode under its own weight once it has reached its final end. Before `the revolution' comes a few things have to happen to set the stage such as capitalism becoming completely globalized and all of society being reduced to two classes, proletariat and bourgeoise. But the world is still half filled with pre-capitalist nations and those nations which have had a bourgeois revolution still have many classes. So it looks like we'll be waiting a while. A book I'm reading (Desai's Marx's Revenge)noted that the classical mode of production lasted for thousands of years and fuedalism lasted for at least a thousand. So it would be a bit exceptional if capitalism didn't last at least as long.

This mistake is partly because `orthodox' Marxist doctrine was mostly define by Stalinist era soviet scholarship. But even within Marx's lifetime he was telling the `Marxist' wing of the SPD that they had it all wrong. For that matter, the advocacy of The Communist Manifesto and Chapter 32 of Capital have large amounts of unresolved tension with the rest of the body of Marx's work, especially his economic and philosophical writings. Implementing various types of socialist reforms in a capitalist economy will actually retard the progress of capitalism if one takes dialectical materialism seriously. I first noticed this back in 2005 when I took a course on Late Modern Philosophy and covered a bit of Marx. Desai is the first author I've seen try to play the idea out.

Also, Desai points out that Marx wasn't a statist. He believed in workers owning the means of production not the state. Much of what gets labeled `state socialism' would better be labeled `state capitalism' where the state owns much of the means of production and reaps the profit from various nationalized industries. The trend towards state capitalism, Desai argues, is actually Nazism stripped of its racial doctrines rather than Marxism.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
Not sure that was Marx's own view by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:16:09 AM EST
He seemed to be calling for a revolution in his own time. It's not like there was a footnote to the Communist Manifesto saying "Oh, by the way lads, ignore this for 160 years till globalization's finished".

Inequality was high in Marx's own day, and he expected it to increase. We now know that progressive taxation, reform and the welfare state caused inequality to decrease instead. But not having our hindsight, Marx quite reasonably expected a crisis of capitalism in the fairly short term.

Also, Marx's Marxism wasn't just based on theory, but also on empirical evidence of that exploitation, accumulation by the rich, and suffering of the poor were increasing. Now some modern Marxists like to say "oh, Marx was basically right, it's just taking longer than he thought". But it's not just a question of delay: for long stretches of time the indicators have gone the wrong way: factory conditions improved, minimum wages rose. That gives a hard knock to the empirical leg of Marx's Marxism: maybe it's not an inevitable process, but a cyclical process where every so often the workers get fed up and successfully get some of the bourgeois wealth spread their way.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Like I said, there is tension in Marx by lm (4.00 / 1) #17 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 12:05:39 PM EST
The Communist Manifesto, in some ways, contradicts the most of the economic theory in Capital.

As for capitalism going the wrong way to empirically validate Marx's theories, I think your conflating the goals, aims, and theories of early non-Marxist socialists with Marx. Marx's economic theory had nothing to do with exploitive factory conditions. He uses exploitation in a somewhat equivocal sense. It is the destruction of the Lockean view that property follows labor that that Marx finds exploitative in capitalism. The exploitation of the workers lies in the fact that they are alienated from the product of their labor in the same way that natural resources are exploited by removing them from where they are found in a state of nature. (Nationalized productive facilities do this no less than privatized ones.) That during Marx's day there was also a good deal of other types of exploitation is incidental to his chief complaint about capitalism.

Now, it may be true that Marx also complained about these other senses of exploitation: child labor, oppressive working conditions, etc. But those issues were really the pet issues of the non-Marxist socialist groups that were contemporary with Marx.  His analysis of capitalism had little to do with those factors and more to do with whether capitalism would ever reach a point where it was no longer viable. Things like minimum wages and working conditions are more or less incidental to that.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Well by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #20 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 12:31:02 PM EST
Marx's economic theory had nothing to do with exploitive factory conditions.
I've never read Capital in depth, but I've glanced at it before, and I've got a copy open now, and there seems to be quite a lot about exploitation in general and factory conditions in particular. For instance there's a whole chapter (10) devoted to just the length of the working day.

Where in his actual texts does he talk about "capitalism becoming completely globalized" before the revolution can happen?
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
There's `nothing to do' and `nothing to do' by lm (2.00 / 0) #21 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 01:08:30 PM EST
I don't have a copy of Capital. But if memory serves me correctly there is a discussion of the necessity of globalization in volume 3 where Marx discusses the falling rate of profit.

Also keep in mind the discussion (I think in volume I) of the cyclical nature of capitalism. As labor increases its advantage and wages rise, capitalists invest in more machinery so that they can achieve more profit with less labor. This puts more laborers out of work and wages sink but as production rises, workers are hired back, they have new found power to negotiate, wages rise. Lather. Rinse Repeat in 10 year cycles or so.

That Marx devotes a whole chapter to the length of the labor day doesn't tell us much. What is more important is the reason that he included that chapter. What does it illustrate and what economic conclusions are drawn from it? Does he present it as an example of the sort of exploitation that he is speaking of or does he present it as the consequence of the exploitative nature of capitalism.

Another interesting bit is that Marx presents in volume II, a scheme of managing profits through reinvestment by which capitalism can continue indefinitely.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:12:35 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by ucblockhead

Rollback by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:13:43 AM EST
Glad I am not the only one.  I really loathed that book.   The morality of I loved my wife for 60 years but it only takes a couple days to fall into bed with the young hottie but that's ok because wifey croaks in the end anyway bugged the crap out of me.

I also like my googlephone, but it really is a 1.0 product.  In the next year, you can expect a whole bunch of better Android phones coming from a number of difference places.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

The morality didn't bug me by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:20:03 AM EST
But the way the first young female he talks to just happens to be a fellow Scrabble fanatic, Beatles fan and soulmate did. As did the rom-com ending.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Oh yes by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #15 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:27:21 AM EST
Agree completely.  There were lots of things that bugged me.  But then, I only read it because of the Hugo nomination.  I read his first book many years ago, hated it, and avoided him.  I thought "maybe he got better".  He hadn't.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I've read some really terrible by garlic (4.00 / 1) #19 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 12:14:44 PM EST
hugo winning books. It's disapointing.

[ Parent ]
GTA 4 review by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #16 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:50:31 AM EST
That's worth saving for the next time someone trots out the "video games are just kids stuff" or "video games are not art".  GTA 4 is hardly unusual in terms of depth of story.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
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