Author: Andrew

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

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.

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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.

Authority, Misandry, and Mixing: A Few Links to Start the Week

First, a nice Mark Steyn obit on Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston makes a salient point:

But, if you’re a feminist or a gay or any of the other house pets in the Democrat menagerie, you might want to look at Rahm Emanuel’s pirouette, and Menino’s coziness with Islamic homophobia. These guys are about power, and right now your cause happens to coincide with their political advantage. But political winds shift. Once upon a time, Massachusetts burned witches. Now it grills chicken-sandwich homophobes. One day it’ll be something else. Already in Europe, in previously gay-friendly cities like Amsterdam, demographically surging Muslim populations have muted leftie politicians’ commitment to gay rights, feminism, and much else. It’s easy to cheer on the thugs when they’re thuggish in your name. What happens when Emanuel’s political needs change?

Then, Reason’s Cathy Young continues her look at GamerGate:

GamerGate has been attacked over anti-feminist comments made by some of the movement’s sympathizers, such as provocative British tech blogger and Breitbart.com writer Milo Yiannopoulos. But far less attention has been given to extreme views on the anti-GamerGate side. Take writer Samantha Allen, whose decision to stop writing about videogames, apparently because of GamerGate, has been lamented by Brianna Wu as the tragic loss of a valuable voice. (Update: Allen contacted me to say she gave up videogame writing because of a Twitter harassment campaign in June/July, several weeks before the existence of GamerGate as such, even though Wu’s Washington Post column names her as one of the women “lost” to GamerGate.) A few months ago, Allen posted(and later deleted) a diatribe  on her Tumblr blog that opened with this declaration:

i’m a misandrist. that means i hate men. i’m not a cute misandrist. i don’t have a fridge magnet that says, “boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.” my loathing cannot be contained by a fridge magnet.

(It’s all downhill from there.)

Meanwhile, at Slate (no, really), Reihan Salam makes the case for slowing immigration down:

So if we want the Mexican and Bangladeshi immigrants of our time to fare as well as the Italian and Polish immigrants of yesteryear, we need to do two things. First, we need to spend a considerable amount of money to upgrade their skills and those of their children, as the world has grown less kind to those who make a living by the sweat of their brow. Because public money is scarce, this is a good reason to limit the influx of people who will need this kind of expensive, extensive support to become full participants in American society. Second, we need to recognize that a continual stream of immigration tends to keep minority ethnic groups culturally isolated, which is yet another reason to slow things down. No, this won’t suddenly mean that poor immigrants will become rich, and that well-heeled insiders will stop hoarding opportunities. But it will give us the time we need to knit America’s newcomers into our national community.

What connects these? Salam and Steyn point out that immigration can move faster than a society can handle it, and that can and will disrupt society. Young adds to Steyn’s warning to the left a troubling note: for some, to disrupt the society that gave them birth and abundance is a feature, not a bug. That they expect to remain in power afterwards makes them no stupider than Robespierre.

Yet More New Content: In Winter.

This is actually old content, a short story I burped out one cold dark afternoon and self-published in a notebook-collection called World’s Apart (by which I mean, I had the damn things printed at Kinko’s. This was before I had ever heard of Createspace).

Since I started a new collection on Medium, I was scouring my hard drive for stuff to put in it. I read this one, and decided that it was really pretty good. I mean, dark and creepy, sure, but when your collection’s called The Edge of the Void, that’s about right.

View story at Medium.com

New Content: Demon-Killing and Caliphates

I have long been fascinated by the Crusades, the Crusader states, and the military orders. Piers Paul Read’s The Templars is a magisterial book that fits in well with the newer generation of Crusade historians (good-bye, “ambitious younger sons”, hello “pious armed pilgrims”). The Templars, of course, met their brutal end before the Middle Ages were over, but the Knights Hospitaller survived, first on Rhodes, then on Malta, where they became the great anti-Turk sea-lords of the Mediterranean. They survive today as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a charitable organization with knightly flavor.

That history and a few viewings of Hellboy has inspired a piece of fiction, perhaps the stepping stone of a larger work:

View story at Medium.com

On a related note, the claim of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to the Caliphate of all Islam let me down the rabbit hole to learn one or two things about what went down in the Mid-East in the 20th Century. Most interestingly, I learned that the House of Saud has been ruling in the Arabian Penninsula for a long time. Check out the rest at my new svbtle.com blog, Histeria. A relevant quote:

The Caliphate is imperial by nature: it’s godly goal is to expand the ummah. Every Caliphate has stagnated and collapsed when it hit its military limits. That was true of the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abassid Caliphate, and the Ottoman Empire; it will be true of ISIL.

Where exactly those limits are is the question of the hour.

from “Monarchy, Legitimacy, and the ISIL Caliphate

And of course, there’s my music tumblr, Every. Damn. CD. I just finished up with Led Zeppelin. Rockabilly to follow.

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