Author: Andrew

I'm an officially minted writer and a new father, an amateur essayist, and a fairly dapper nerd.

Charles Manson, Star Wars, and the Joy of Hate

Kevin Williamson opines on how monsters make the ladies swoon.

The phenomenon of young women falling in love with death-row inmates, particularly with serial killers, is not new: Women flocked to Ted Bundy’s trial — his trial for raping, torturing, and murdering young women as a prelude to acts of necrophilia — and he received stacks of love letters and marriage proposals. Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez got the same treatment, and Anders Behring Breivik might as well be the Beatles during their heyday. An investment banker may have a Ferrari, but the serial killer, the terrorist, and the mass murderer are at the top of the food chain. On the subject of Nazis, P. J. O’Rourke famously joked that “no one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal.” Like all good jokes, that is fundamentally true — even if the truth behind it horrifies the nice people at National Public Radio, who remain “bumfuzzled” that a rich and powerful woman would allow herself to be beaten bloody by a psychopathic meathead, repeatedly.

That all sounds thoughtful and probably true. Meanwhile, in nerd-world:

I cannot quite express it, but I feel as though there’s a similar dynamic at work. We Warsies (thanks Trekkies) could not stop complaining about Phantom Menace back in the day, any more than we could stop paying money to go see it. It was almost as though we enjoyed the abuse.

His Imperial Highness Emperor Barack I, the Lightbringer, Has So Ordered

As with Putin, one has to admire the chutzpah.

And expect the Left to argue that this isn’t that big a deal. That the order only applies to those who’ve been here already. That the order only applies to those who meat the “strict conditions” of deportation relief. That deportations have been up. That no one is being granted citizenship.

All of which is true, and none of which matters. The President is here deciding what the law is, and who the law applies to.

He doesn’t get to do that.

He doesn’t get to decide what the law is. He doesn’t get to ignore the divisiveness of the issue and force Congress to act.

He is not the superior of Congress. He is its equal.

Progressives are pretending not to care about this, because Democrat.

I’m Waxing Philosophical on ThoughtCatalog

ThoughtCatalog is an interesting web site because it’s one of the few places on the Internet where you can reliably encounter diversity of opinion in the comment section. You can actually have a civilized discussion with people you disagree with. That’s a nice feature.

So I decided to contribute something: 5 Things We Should Probably Stop Complaining About.

When a society produces things in abundance, it also tends to produce the leisure to judge things. As the 21st century grinds on, we find ourselves surrounded by vexing irritations, almost all of which we have invented. And while evil and injustice stalk the world with the same strength they always have, we prefer to issue petulant rants about useless ephemera.

Normally they claim a two-week turnaround on submissions, but this got posted same-day, with an accompanying email saying they liked it. So share and enjoy, share-and-enjoyers.

The Three Steps of Cord Cutting

Step 1: “I’m paying $100 a month for cable. Netflix costs $8 a month, Amazon Prime $75 a year. WTH?”

Step 2: “Is it really worth $100 a month to watch football and 24-hour news?”

Step 3: “Hold up, digital rabbit ears are a thing?”

via Breitbart, noting the death-spiral of cable. Huzzah.

Or, as I noted when I underwent this process myself two years ago:

Mostly, I’m tired of paying through the nose for channels I never ever watch. The History Channel might be worth my time if I was an illiterate who needed everything explained to me real slow and then repeated. The Learning Channel has taught me nothing except that some women don’t realize when they’re heavy with child, but you can be a raging, soul-sucking, child-pimping, social climbing psycho hose beast control freak for eight seasons and the whole world will forgive you if your ex-husband puts on an Ed Hardy T-Shirt.

The pleasure are just not enough anymore. The Soup is not enough; reruns of How I Met Your Mother are not enough. Mad Men and Breaking Bad are not enough.

I’m a bit behind schedule, but I’ve finally watched all of Breaking Bad as it is.

Governor_Maryland_Debate-05959-3125

How Hogan did it

The short version: he stormed Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties, winning massive majorities there, while sweeping the traditionally Republican rural areas (Harford and the Eastern Shore, Western & Southern Maryland) and doing well enough in Frederick, Carroll, and Howard Counties (winning all three) so as to offset the massive Democratic majorities in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Click here to see the county by county breakdown.

But Republican candidates aren’t supposed to win the shield of suburban counties around Baltimore. Martin O’Malley won Baltimore and Howard Counties easily in 2010. Hogan came up with 150,000 more votes than Robert Ehrlich recieved four years ago. Most of them had to come from previous O’Malley voters, as evidenced by the fact that Anthony Brown ended up with 10,000 fewer votes last night than Ehrlich got.

So how did Hogan get them?

  1. He kept it simple. Hogan was relentless on the things that had Marylanders unhappy: taxes, the economy, the lousy turnout of Maryland’s ACA-system, and Anthony Brown’s connection to all of them. He didn’t get drawn into the weeds on social issues in a deep-blue state; despite the temptation to challenge the Dems on gun control, Hogan stayed on message. Thus, Brown’s hysterical attempts to paint him as a right-wing extremist failed to gain any real traction.
  2. He presented a positive image. No one can say that Hogan didn’t “go negative”. Criticizing the other guy is part of politics. But Hogan also understood that he needed to give disgruntled Marylanders a reason to vote for him. He did this at the debates; presenting himself as a serious, thoughtful man who got what was bugging voters about their current government, and had proposals in place to deal with them. When Brown tried to paint him as a wingnut, Hogan just kept emphasizing his business credentials and plans.
  3. Anthony Brown failed to connect. On paper, Anthony Brown is a formidable candidate: son of immigrants, harvard degree, former Army colonel. But unlike Hogan, he didn’t seem able to present a vision of what he wanted to do. A Lieutenant Governor or Vice President running for the top job has a delicate balancing act: giving equal deference to the administration you’re currently serving and the one you want to create. If the former is not as popular as it could be, that balance is even harder to strike. Brown couldn’t give a substantive response to Hogan’s critique of the O’Malley administration, and at times seemed to act as if he didn’t need to. That cost him.

So what comes next? My guess is that Hogan will govern as he campaigned: with an eye for fiscal restraint, bureaucratic reform, and improving Maryland’s business climate. If he pulls it off, a Republican winning the state house by way of Baltimore and Howard Counties may one day fail to surprise.

areyouawizard

Why Chess Computers do Not Signal Skynet

An excerpted chapter from Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise is worth reading in its entirety. It deals with how Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997:

Deep Blue had won. Only, it had done so less with a bang than an anticlimactic whimper. Was Kasparov simply exhausted, exacerbating his problems by playing an opening line with which he had little familiarity? Or, as the grandmaster Patrick Wolff concluded, had Kasparov thrown the game,47 to delegitimize Deep Blue’s accomplishment? Was there any significance to the fact that the line he had selected, the Caro-Kann, was a signature of Karpov, the rival whom he had so often vanquished?

But these subtleties were soon lost to the popular imagination. Machine had triumphed over man! It was like when HAL 9000 took over the spaceship. Like the moment when, exactly thirteen seconds into “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the synthesizer overpowers the guitar riff, leaving rock and roll in its dust.48

Except it wasn’t true. Kasparov had been the victim of a large amount of human frailty—and a tiny software bug.

The bug occurred when the computer, unable to select a best move, defaulted to a random move. This move was so divorced from what looked like a sound move that Kasparov decided that Deep Blue must actually be twenty steps ahead of the game. The idea that the computer had acted in error – out of a programming bug – never occurred to him, because computers do not make mistakes. Rattled, Kasparov resigned the game.

Clarke’s Third Law applies. When a computer — a device all of us use and almost none of us understand — can beat a human at something that humans find very difficult to do, some of us begin to wonder if we really are building something too powerful to control. If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, is any sufficiently advanced supercomputer indistinguishable from God?

Silver has his doubts:

Computers are very, very fast at making calculations. Moreover, they can be counted on to calculate faithfully—without getting tired or emotional or changing their mode of analysis in midstream.

But this does not mean that computers produce perfect forecasts, or even necessarily good ones. The acronym GIGO (“garbage in, garbage out”) sums up this problem. If you give a computer bad data, or devise a foolish set of instructions for it to analyze, it won’t spin straw into gold. Meanwhile, computers are not very good at tasks that require creativity and imagination, like devising strategies or developing theories about the way the world works.

A highly advanced machine remains a machine. It does what is programmed to do. It does not program itself.

Of course, neither do we, but consider this:

[I]t is not really “artificial” intelligence if a human designed the artifice.