* Nock thinks that because there is a greater amount of literature (or content in our modern consumer parlance), the quality of all of it is hurt. I've always just imagined a normal distribution that gets larger -- meaning that the more stuff that exists, the more good stuff exists. Is blogging in the short-thought format actually a bad thing from the perspective of developing quality ideas and writing about them?

* A lot of people I know find Vegas crass, shallow, and vulgar and want nothing to do with it. I find that sort of thing fascinating and entertaining. Our experience is the same but with completely different reactions. Not that they're wrong, but it's a part of humanity that I embrace rather than turn away from.

* What is the foundation of ethics without Deity or natural rights? Most modern philosophy focuses on some kind of utilitarian model, but that leads to all sorts of lame-assedness and degradation. A more interesting foundation might be in Aristotelian virtue ethics, which no one has really dealt with since some monk hung Divine Will around its neck a few centuries back. (If someone has, please let me know!)

* Truth, Virtue, and all other sorts of Big Words are best understood as statistical realities. This is the main reason why Fortuna is so damn influential. The Law of Large Numbers is profoundly important, and failure to respect it leads to all sorts of errors, like the gambler's fallacy and belief in luck. The higher the number of trials, the closer the percentage holds to the mean, but the absolute amount of deviation from the mean increases. This is something Gladwell is on to in his latest book.

I'm in the middle of all sorts of life events right now, including moving to a new apartment in Henderson. I plan to come back to the bloggy thing in another week, but if I decide not to I'll let you know.


On the CounterClckWise calendar, Yule is the holiday that marks the turn from one sun cycle to another, which we generally use as an excuse to hang out with the extended family, drink, and watch football. But it's also an end to one year and the beginning of another, so I can't help but reflect on the recent past and coming future and the import of it all.

It was a really hard year for me in some ways, but in other ways it was maybe the best year of my life. My health has been pretty poor, but not as poor as the year before. I suffered some terrible bad beats in my situation, but I survived. I learned to be a little tougher. It was a year of gaining clarity.

The best things that came out of this year were in my relationships with my friends and family. I was stunned to see the love and caring that came my way from so many people. It was a little overwhelming at times, even. I'm especially grateful to have gotten to know my Dad and Mom in Bozeman so much better. I love them both very much and I'm so proud to be a part of their family.

It seems a little silly to me that I needed to face death to stop worrying about trivia and to see that the most important things were right in front of me all the time -- the people I love. Maybe I didn't exactly neglect them before, but I certainly didn't pay attention the way I do now.

So on this semi-drunken Yule, I'm grateful to Fortuna for giving me the chance to see things from this perspective, that my friends are all doing pretty well, and that my family is closer than ever. I can't predict the future, but I think the things that happened this year will be the foundation for a phenomenal 2009. It is good to be alive.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. -- Marcus Aurelius


I stumbled on this band a couple of years back at an Irish festival in Murphy's Camp, CA:

creative destruction

Here's an example of how fun it is when a creative sense of humor is combined with a healthy disrespect for The Law:
...students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot more of that kind of thing going around in the next decade, as the suits and crusaders in gov'ment decide to automate.

UPDATE: Here's another one from down under.

Year-End Digest

Saw Marko do this first, but I thought it was pretty interesting so I'll follow his lead. It's cool to see how the year progresses through these brief snapshots. First post of the month and the first sentence is as follows:

April: First Post. "Since I've been bugging youse with links and commentary via email for so long, I figured that it was time to ditch the '90s distribution model and let it all hang out here on teh IntarW3bs."

May: Sig Sauer Mosquito "When I realized that the price of ammo going up for the foreseeable future, I got in the market for a new .22 pistol to train with."

June: On The Road Again "So read the posts I'm sharing in the box over to the right."

July: Not gonna do it "Wouldn't be prudent."

August: More company on the Dark Side "What she said: If the States each had their own citizen militia and had to pay 'em, we'd see a lot less casual use, especially by the Federal level."

September: IF "If the sun weren't shinin'"

October: Interneccine squabbling "There's a fun debate going on with my boys over on Culture11 about Sarah Palin."

November: Showin' u the love "It's not that I don't love you, my dear readers -- I really do."

December: Been gone so long, it looks like back to me "My hiatus from blogging is nearly done."

Back again...

| Cali for the holidays, following which I will be relocating to Las Vegas permanent-like, praise Fortuna. I know that other than the sad incident where I drunk-dialed the Internets, I haven't been posting much over the weekend but there is lots more to come anon.

Funny Web site of the day

Fuck You, Penguin!

Restating the obvious

Following on to my previous post about the persistence of populations in Poland, check out Rajib's pointing out of the obvious to the blinkered and clueless.

incremental change again...

Here's an interesting map:

Isn't it amazing how Poland's 2007 voting patterns correlate so strongly with the old Prussian-Russian border? One would think that after all the massive population movements, genocide, and general mayhem that's gone on in this area for the last hundred years that the political borders would have been meaningless for demographic uses. But clearly not.

American Resurrection

Given my litany of fatalistic observations about the death of the Republic and the decline of our civilization, you might be surprised to find out that I share the general optimism about the future that the Reason boys are emoting:

We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment, the dawning not of some fabled, clichéd, and loosey-goosey Age of Aquarius but a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services. This is now a world where it’s more possible than ever to live your life on your own terms; it’s an early rough draft version of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s glimmering “utopia of utopias.”

While I share this optimism, I also think it is dangerously close to a techno-religious dream. I've seen some very smart people fall into that trap. However, I think this optimistic view doesn't quite cross the threshold into hopeychange. For one reason, it's not incompatible with my view that life in our current civilization is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better because our economic structures are so completely dysfunctional. The coming shift from employer/employee relationships to freelance work will entail some painful adjustments for the symbol manipulation classes (including me). A bankrupt government will be unable to throw money at the problem, although in the long run that's a good thing because people will redevelop all those social safety networks that have atrophied since the Great Society.

Eventually, things will work themselves out, but the amount of corruption and centralization that will have to be overcome guarantees that our American Resurrection will be painful, difficult, and likely bloody. At any rate, I suppose it's up to me to prepare my daughter for living in these interesting times. Anyone who has a stake in the future ought to do the same with those around them who will be yoked to the mistakes of the past -- regardless of with who the fault lies. In the end, I still have hope that the connections the world has made through communications technology will survive and allow the development of a civilization that is decentralized, prosperously efficient, and is much more friendly to freedom than this one.

Incremental change

Oh yes, and read Tam.

She's right that gunnies are like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, as are the taxpayers and those of us who think about liberty. But the racists were also marginalized in this way, as well. This is how cultures change, for the better and for the worse. The incrementalism that she describes is a core insight that one of my incredible professors showed me, one that often comes across to other people as fatalism. It isn't though, I just think that a lot of the efforts that people make towards changing their worlds are misdirected -- usually into mass movements. The best way to influence incremental change is to start with yourself and radiate outwards.

More layout changes

Been working on this instead of writing posts. I like the color spectrum because it illustrates the distributional nature of things, which is one of the core truths I'm trying to understand better.

I'm thinking of using tags, but that means going through the drudgery of tagging my old posts. Poor me.

Also, I decided to stop worrying about posting something all the time just for the sake of posting. It turns blogging into a real drag instead of a joy. But I do have a lot of free-floating junk banging around in my skull so I still plan on posting almost daily. But more is worse, not better as Nock informs me. Feed back is always appreciated, of course.

Anyways, more anon.

Song of the Day

I'm the mother flippin':

Yes, sometimes my rhymes are sexist
but you lovely bitches and ho's should know
I'm trying to correct this.

Close decisions

Beyond the beginner stage, the difference between poker winners and losers is how they handle close decisions. For a lot of hands, the decisions are very easy. If you have the best possible hand, it doesn't take a lot of skill to bet or raise and take down the pot. Likewise, if you have absolutely nothing it's an easy call to fold. Money is made by making good decisions when the chances are close to even.

In a No Limit Hold 'Em tournament tonight, I built a nice stack pretty early on and was one of the chip leaders heading into the later rounds. But the blinds were going up quickly and before too long my stack was dwindling in size and I needed to make a move. When I was in the small blind, someone made a minimum raise early on in the action and it was folded around to me. I looked down and saw 99. So what to do?

First, the hand is clearly too good to fold, so the question is whether to call or raise. By calling, you minimize the amount of money you commit to the pot before seeing the flop. By raising, you have a fair chance of scaring out the one other player to act between you and the raiser (the big blind). This is good because a hand like this is better off with fewer opponents chasing after it. Also, there's the possibility that the original raiser may fold as well. If he doesn't fold, then he either has the pair of nines dominated by a larger pair (less likely) or has two cards larger than nines, which means he's a small underdog. There is also the non-trivial possibility that he's a maniac or an idiot and is raising as a bluff.

So here I decided that a raise is the better move. The next question is how much to raise? My stack was about six times as large as the raise and the raiser's stack was about 10 times the size of the raise. So neither one of us is committed at this point.

Considering all these factors, I decided that an all-in reraise was the best move. It maximizes the chances that I would win the pot immediately. It eliminates the need for more close decisions on the flop, where I have to guess whether or not my opponent made a pair larger than my nines. The pot is too large to fold on the flop and the blinds are increasing way beyond my stack's ability to cope, so I may as well get it all in the middle here.

I'm still not sure if this was the right decision or not. Perhaps it is a bit too much of a gamble, given that I can survive for at least another round or two and hope for a better situation. Early position raisers should be feared, but I put him on a wider range of hands that he would raise with than is correct. A good player wouldn't make that move with too many hands that a pair of nines could beat. I think putting him on this wide range was a mistake in my reasoning that was based on the fact that in general the players in the tournament were of pretty poor quality. But I didn't have a specific read on this specific player, so that general observation is just a shadow of an insight. Even changing this small factor might have been enough to tip the decision the other way.

The result of the hand was that I shoved it all in and the big blind folded (as expected). The original raiser insta-called with his pocket Aces and I finished in 84th place. That's poker!

this is how the human race ends

one culture after another, one individual after another, coupling over the generations to create increasingly cruder offspring, until the race is degenerated into non-native speaking 80's pop star impersonators.

Thanks to the official funny video source at Fortuna's Favor, my friend May.

Crouch down and lick the hand, buddy

The disgusting arrogance in this post makes me want to puke. As I read it, the substance of his point is that these people are anti-social and so the result of locking them away or killing them is worth a few petty violations of human rights. After all the laws are on the books, right?

I am not on this man's side.

Here's Radley Balko's take down, which I linked to at the time, but the comments drew me back in to the discussion. Here's a radical anarchist rebuttal that makes some good points.

The B's knees

From last night's UFC Fight For the Troops here's a nasty, nasty first-round beat-down knockout:

Donate to the cause here.


Not such a big surprise, I suppose:

The Explorer

14% Elegant, 48% Technological, 40% Historical, 100% Adventurous and 17% Playful!

You are the Explorer, the embodiment of steampunk’s adventuring spirit. For you, clothing should be rugged and reliable, and just as functional as it is attractive. You probably prefer khaki or leather, and your accessories are as likely to include weapons as technological gizmos. You probably wear boots and gloves, and maybe a pith helmet. Most of what you wear is functional, and if you happen to wear goggles people had better believe that you use them. In addition to Victorian exploration gear, your outfit probably includes little knickknacks from your various travels. Above all, you are a charming blend of rugged Victorian daring and exotic curiosity.

Take The Steampunk Style Test at HelloQuizzy

second to none?

One of those little bugs that gets under my skin is the Churchillian canard that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other ones".

I suppose it means that even though our political culture sucks, this is as good as it gets. I find this kind of glib bullshit particularly objectionable. In the first place, it's a particularly banal form of fatalism. Far be it for me to argue in favor of political activity, but I at least support the pursuit of knowledge about politics and political theory, which this defense of democracy ignores. If it doesn't ask you to ignore your objections to democracy, at least it whistles past the graveyard.

Second, and possibly more damning, the sentiment is demonstrably untrue as many examples in history illustrate. For one example, the form of government originally set up by the founders (a republic with limited sufferage) was far superior to our current one precisely because it was less democratic. The mob could howl but not legislate. For another example, the small bands of prehistoric humans that roamed the earth for millennia were not organized at all into governments, which seems to be a more natural state of organization for our species. It at least limits our capacity for tyrannical behavior, given our penchant for status signaling and other such stupidities.

But such superior forms of government have often been short-lived in civilized times, which is I suppose their great shortcoming. The fault lies, though, not in the structure (or lack thereof) of these systems but rather with the people who select the leaders. When good government goes bad, it may very well be a leadership problem but it's a safe bet that at bottom the blame lies with the hoi polloi. In our current mass man system, the fulcrum of every election is the "undecideds" -- a cud-chewing herd of ignoramuses who haven't a clue about public policy, but they know what buzz words ring the nicest in their fat, stupid ears. Bah. Any proper form of government requires a better selection process for its leaders than this insipidity.

A limited constitutional monarchy might be a much better form of government than democracy for promoting liberty and freedom. Professor Hans Hoppe has been delving into this thought experiment for some time, and I have to say that I'm half way convinced. At least it'd be easier to know when the time comes who it is that needs hanging.

The Republic Is Dead Again

Every couple of months or so, John Derbyshire emerges from the shadows of conservative media to throw a fatalistic bucket of cold water all over the hopes and dreams of the movement types. By Dis, I admire that.

Here's his latest curmudgeonly rant about the decline and fall of the Anglo-American Empire, channeling good 'ol J. Milton. Excerpt:
It’s all very unfair. Conservatism is being cursed all around by association with George W. Bush, who has not been at all conservative where it matters: fiscal oversight, government spending, national sovereignty, war. Conservatives wept with joy to see him veto whatever it was he vetoed about embryonic stem cells, whatever they are, hardly minding that he had debauched the currency, opened the borders, acquired expensive client states, and turned the burner to full throttle under the welfare state hot-air balloon.


Comments on the new blog template are welcomed. But what I really mean by the redesign is what I've been doing with myself over the last three weeks of light blogging.

First, I've been working on my health and developing my fitness. My health has been a little choppy recently, and I've been on pain medication a bit more than I'd like which makes it hard to focus on anything, much less write. But yoga is a great way to return the body to focus and it's helped me get back to where I am right now.

Second, I've been reading Albert Jay Nock again, which tends to fuck with all my paradigms. Every word in this book is like a cluebat smacked up the side of my head. So my world view has been in a bit of flux (lots more on this over the rest of the week) and the 'ol head has had some spring cleaning. I think I understand myself significantly better than I did before reading the book.

Finally, I've been traveling to see family and also enjoying reconnecting with distant friends via the glories of Facebook. It's a bit too easy for me to hermit myself up when I feel like this, so I've been making sure that the connections with the people I care about remain strong. Since one of the main reasons I started blogging was to stop harassing my friends with my thoughts via email, all this activity cut into my blogging motivations somewhat as well.

So -- body, mind, heart, blog. All redesigned, refocused, renewed. More for you anon.

My Oh My

I love the video about as much as the song:

The slippery slope ends here

It takes a lot for me to be surprised at the folly of man. But by Loki's dark wit, this is starving my brain for oxygen. So stupid I think I'll pass out just from knowing that this is not a joke. (via David Codrea)

Meme of 100

Since the cool kids are doing it, I guess I'll jump off the bridge too (things I've done in bold):

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. Spotted a homeless guy $20 when I was short $50 for my rent...not much I know, but there it is.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain. How could I grow up in the Rockies and not?
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. Up in Alaska, no less!
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. I think guitar counts here, although I took a bunch of lessons after I realized that other people knew things about it that I didn't.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning. Mexican food, of course.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Hopefully, I'll grow all my own veggies someday. But so far, just tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and rhubarb.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train. Several times. Did the nasty once, too!
21. Had a pillow fight. Not with Playboy bunnies on video, though.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Sick days are just a perk of the job -- use 'em or lose 'em! I ain't working for free, here.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon. It's on my list.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise. Been on a yacht for more than a month, but never a cruise ship.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. Also on the list.
35. Seen an Amish community. And the Brethren, who make terrific apple pies!
36. Taught yourself a new language. Probably the most oddball thing I've ever done is to learn Hungarian.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. For about three days one time. Easy come, easy go.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock (wall) climbing. A brief hobby in college.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke. Also once I tried to sing a Korean song in a Korean bar. Lots of good natured laughter ensued.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. Gods, how could I not being from Bozeman?
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa. Egypt and South Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. Just a few weeks ago, actually. Sometimes it's nice to be in California! Not often, though.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. Oh, my poor Vespa! It was never the same again...
47. Had your portrait painted/drawn.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater. Did the nas--- aw, who didn't?
55. Been in a movie. Briefly, Rattle and Hum.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia. The Ukraine doesn't count...
60. Served at a soup kitchen. Ate at one, too.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching. I'll count this, even though it was a drive-by. I was about 10 feet from the eye of a humpback, and he registered me. I could see not just intelligence in his eyes, but personality as well.
63. Got flowers for no reason. Being in dutch with the gf is a reason...
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check. The guy carried it around in his wallet for a year, and the next time I saw him, I paid him back plus fees.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square. Both in the '80s and the '00s -- different worlds.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. See ambulance ride...
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book. Also on the to-do list.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car. And peeled out leaving the parking lot, too!
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible. A few times. Still baffles me that some people can think it is the literal truth.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life. A woman hit crossing the street. I cleared her breathing (she was choking on her tongue) and gave her CPR until the paramedics came. I'll never forget it.
90. Sat on a jury. No lawyer or judge alive would let me.
91. Met someone famous. Several - the most famous would be Bill Clinton, but my favorite was getting Björk to sneak me into a night club when I was just 18.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby. Well, not technically, but...
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit. Nothing too serious, but small claims court counts, right?
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day. I do this at least once a year.

For a total of 66. You?

"Prags" vs. the III

A fascinating blowup occurring over at SayUncle concerning guns, rights, the infringement thereof. Read the comments especially. This is one of the more interesting and dare I say productive discussions I've seen in a while, despite (or perhaps because of) all the name-calling. Kudos to SayUncle for letting it all hang out, unmoderated and uncensored-like.

For the record, I choose to stay off the record.

Eye bleach, please

I'm not sure how to deal with the fact that the one thing censored in this video is the phrase "nuclear war".


Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. -- F. W. Nietzsche


We got wine, whiskey, women and guns
how can ya 'ford not to have any fun
If you're not a right-winger
we'll all have a humdinger

This credit crunch is classic!

Here's the parallel of the week: the Romans experienced a nasty credit crisis in the late days of their republic, as well:
Cicero was arguing that Pompey the Great should be given military command against Mithridates VI, king of Pontus on the Black sea coast of what is now Turkey. He reminded his audience of events in 88BC, when the same Mithridates invaded the Roman province of Asia, on the western coast of Turkey. Cicero claimed the invasion caused the loss of so much Roman money that credit was destroyed in Rome itself.

As the article, helpfully notes, Sulla's dictatorship came shortly after although the historian quoted in the article claims that the two events were unrelated. I suppose it will be for us to prove the relationship...

Been gone so long, it looks like back to me

My hiatus from blogging is nearly done. I had a nice restful holiday, and I hope y'all did too! Doctors visits abound in the near-term, as well as a brief sojurn to Las Vegas, but in the meantime you must read every damn word of Derb's monthly journal. Funnies, insights, writings abound. Excerpt:
We’re pussies about enemy nations, embarking on decades-long, trillion-dollar campaigns to make them love us, instead of quick ten-million-dollar lessons in why they should fear us. Why? Because we seek love and approval, like the furrowed-brow, teary-eyed, compassionate pansies we are.