National Hypocrisy Ceiling Surpassed; Moral Legitimacy of Country tanking

July 31, 2011

What would normally be a routine debt ceiling increase for President Obama has turned into the perfect Congressional storm, bringing the United States dangerously close to a default and raising questions as to whether our government can actually function anymore, considering the 112th US Congress has been among the least productive in history, thus far.

But amid heated debates lawmakers have failed to recognize that another, lesser-known, yet possibly far more important ceiling has been disregarded, hit, and tremendously surpassed: The national hypocrisy ceiling. In fact, the sanity deficits being run in Washington today are unparalleled in history, comparable perhaps only to the three-fifths-compromise following the Declaration of Independence, or perhaps the “Grandfather clause” in Reconstruction South polling practices, which enabled poor whites to circumvent a polling tax which essentially disenfranchised poor freedmen. The budget on this issue was last balanced about 55 years ago during the actually bipartisan Eisenhower era. The Congressional Budget Office has identified some major sources of hypocrisy which have played a role in escalating the crisis:

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“Chess; The Psychology of” – ruminations…

July 29, 2011

Proposed Subtitles:

Why 10,000 hours are so important

Why grandmasters are actually about 99% percent normal

Why you don’t have to be a genius to play chess

Why do I sound so much like Malcolm Gladwell???

Yes, the cultural consensus is changing. No longer does anyone speak of “natural talent” or “innate gifts” when they see a 12-year old master a difficult Tchaikovsky concerto on the violin, or a young grandmaster win a few dozen simultaneous blindfolded games of chess, or Tiger win yet another tour. No, now it’s all thanks to some opaque process called “deliberate and sustained practice.” Who’d’a thought? Countless people once convinced of their mediocrity are now overjoyed at newfound opportunities, and countless more are finding out that you can’t be Bill Gates just because the recursive factorial routine you just programmed worked the very first time. There are no free rides.

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“Why do we have to know this?”

July 26, 2011

I’ve been in enough science classes from elementary through high school to know that there’s almost always that one kid who doesn’t really seem to belong in the class but’s there anyway for some inexplicable reason, if only to interrupt the teacher’s enthralling PowerPoint presentation on double fertilization in angiosperms with that question. THAT QUESTION. The question that renders self-confident and well-informed science teachers mumbling and sheepish. Sometimes they ignore it, and sometimes they offer something like, “It’s important even if you don’t like it that much.”

So even though a lot of people would dismiss the occasional “Why do we have to know this?” as absurd and immature, I think that an even higher portion of the population would occasionally, when memorizing the multiple steps of fungus reproduction or glycolysis in biology, poring over solubility charts in chemistry (exceptions included!), or wrestling with free-body diagrams in order to set up the correct equations in physics, wonder why they’re doing this and not something much more directly linked to future success, like, say, liberal arts.

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Computer Science and Philosophy: Procedural Epistemology

July 23, 2011

Today Amazon delivered me my first ever textbook for college (!) and the latest edition to the “computer science canon” that I’m currently collecting – Abelson, Sussman, and Sussman’s classic Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

…I think it’s quite an exciting day. Naturally, I began to read the first few pages and came across a fascinating paragraph: Read the rest of this entry »

Fallacies of The Fountainhead

July 20, 2011

I just finished Ayn Rand’s 725-page tome The Fountainhead, about the struggles of the uncompromising and perfectly selfish idealist architect Howard Roark against the rest of the world’s sheeple…you get the idea. I was warned before reading it that the book is “seductive.” I think I have to agree. The book (along with Atlas Shrugged, I’m told) contains a very strong message of individualism which is bound to resonate with any teenager disgusted by high school and mainstream music, such as myself.

But despite individualist aspirations that I hold, and the fact that I realized that I enjoyed reading the book, my liberal worldview was in no way shattered, let alone challenged. Because ideally, I’m a libertarian. But practically, I’m a Democrat. So here are a few exposed falsehoods, distortions, and fallacies that are thrown into The Fountainhead in order to advocate a very attractive, but rather unrealistic, worldview:

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LGBT history? Thoughts

July 17, 2011

California governor signs bill requiring schools to teach gay history – CNN

I was rather taken aback by finding out about this. Not because I resent LGBT history, not because I think that “no factual materials would be allowed to be presented” (Rev. Louis Sheldon), or because it would be by nature discriminatory – something that it definitely has potential to be.

Bill Clinton created a campaign that resonates very strongly with my pragmatist-but-idealist-when-things-are-going-well stance – “It’s the economy, stupid.” And stupid indeed is what we can call politicians who focus their energies on the subject matter of THAT^ article rather than that of THIS one. “It’s the economy, stupid” is something I wish could be repeated more often nowadays, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it right now.

For I am no lawmaker. My center-left position may have eroded completely under destructive partisanship, with one third of the country swinging far right, another third going far left, leaving us with an uncertain center which can just look to both ends and wonder what the hell is going on.

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We’re really good at catching cheaters

July 15, 2011

I just finished reading Wall Street iconoclast Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness, which was basically a toned-down precursor to the inflammatory (yet highly accurate) Black Swan. A particularly interesting thing that Taleb mentions is that a lot of human irrationality comes from modularization, or using different parts of the brain for different situations. Some parts of the brain, especially those geared towards abstract reasoning, tend to be weaker for most. However, the part that we use to catch cheaters happens to be exceptionally strong.

I found this interesting enough that I made a mental note to research it some time. Fortunately, the next book I picked up, Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point (I’m going through books pretty quickly at this point) referenced a study on this exact thing! So here goes:

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