28 November 2008
conversation, learning, play, Teaching, thanksgiving
I’ve spent the last few days at my parents’ house for the holiday. I came down on Tuesday, and we went to see A Man for All Seasons in New York on Wednesday. We had lunch together at the Oyster Bar (their clam stew is delicious), and then took a cab over to the theater.
The performance was excellent, but it made me sad to think that we haven’t really moved past the idea of thoughtcrime in 500 years. Thomas More maintained a very careful silence after his resignation as Chancellor of England about his opinions of Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn. Yet it didn’t help him at all: King Henry’s ministers and secretaries gradually wove a net of difficulties around him, confiscating his properties and ultimately using perjured witnesses against him. A sad and lonely idealist at the end. Mom said that she thought More’s wife and daughter deserved to be sainted for putting up with him.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving with my parents’ friends and their children. After supper we had a lengthy conversation about the nature of school vs. learning, and I felt refreshed and justified in discovering that even among the adults, all of us in the room liked learning, but that only 50% of us liked school. That suggests there’s a real disconnect between learning and school, and it will be important to fix that now in the United States.
24 November 2008
History, Media, Personal
dc, government, politics, state, YouTube
Holy Cow. The State Department takes questions by YouTube:
20 November 2008
depression, economy, politics
Right now it’s just a curiosity. A guy wearing a sandwich-board for a resumé, with the tagline “almost homeless”. Maybe it’s a gimmick. Maybe it’s a little cheesy. Yet maybe it’s a foretaste of things to come.
Yesterday the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed below 8,000. Everyone expected 8,000 to be a hard floor, but a floor nonetheless. You have to go back to October 2002 to find numbers that low. Now people are talking, quite reasonably, about 7,500 being the bottom (August 1988), but more realistic and honest people are talking 5,000 (November 1995) — maybe 4,000 (February 1995). The crazies, who predicted two years ago that we’d punch through 8000 on the way down, are now talking about 3,500 (April 1991) as the likely new floor. Or 2,000 (December 1988 or so). Go down to 1000, and you’re back to November 1972. Any lower than that, and you’re backing into the 1930s, to find a DJIA that low.
General Motors is currently trading at $2.79 a share — lower than it’s been ever, going back to 1968 and the company’s founding. It’s likely to go bankrupt by Christmas, even if they do get a $25 billion bailout from the government. Microsoft (MSFT) is trading at the levels it was in December 2001.
The Federal Reserve’s policy analysts believe that the current ‘shrinkage’ in the US economy will last until the middle of next year. So we’re talking about a million Americans out of work or without retirement funds between now and January, and further downsizing between now and June or July. And that’s based on a generally optimistic forecast.
Do you know where your oatmeal storage is? and your sandwich boards?
19 November 2008
Here’s a time-lapse photo of the assembly of one of the first petaflop supercomputers…. JAGUAR.
19 November 2008
John Cage’s 4’33″
If you are silent enough, you will hear two tones as this piece is performed — one high, one low. The high one is the crackle of your nervous system’s functioning, and the low one is your blood pumping.
17 November 2008
arrest, crime, meme
Saw this on another blog (OK, it was Facebook, you caught me).
If you saw ME in a police car, what would you think I got arrested for?
Answer me, then if you want, post to your own journal and see how many crimes you get accused of.
15 November 2008
candy, cnn, Video, vote
Embedded video from CNN Video
Who needs pollsters, or FiveThirtyEight, when you have … CANDYVote 2008??
15 November 2008
cons, psychology, Video, YouTube
Here’s a clever bit about how a con artist works the century old con, the pigeon drop.
The people who can do this con and other similar ones, it turns out, may suffer from a dysfunction in the THOMAS circuit of the brain, as described here. I think it’s interesting that we’re uncovering so much about how the human brain works, that in the near future we may be able to test the functionality of this circuit before entrusting such a person with wealth, responsibility or power. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I don’t know.