In lieu of actual content, I give you two quotes on Utopia. Our first comes from Jean-Francois Revel:
Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to provide results: its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not.
Our second is from the always charming James Lileks:
I'm interested in keeping other people from building Utopia, because the more you believe you can create heaven on earth, the more likely you are to set up guillotines in the public square to hasten the process.
Two different thoughts expressing an underlying scepticism towards the dreamers of Utopia. I'd offer you a larger lesson, but I'm fresh out of big ideas.



One Comment

So, there was a speech last night. Instead of being alternately amused and enraged, we watched The Hangover instead. I think we made the right choice as I read the transcript.

I'll highlight the first sentence that makes my blood boil:
The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.
Yeah. If that's true, and that's what we all want for the next generation, WHY ARE YOU RACKING UP UMPTEEN TRILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT FOR THEM TO PAY OFF?

My commentary pretty much goes downhill from here in terms of coherence and profanity, so I'm gonna quit now.

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No Ports?

I've got a $300 netbook from Acer. It has 3 USB ports, 2 SD cards slots, an Ethernet jack, plus headphone and mic ports. Oh, yeah, it also has a camera and a 160 Gb hard drive.

Apple's newest internet appliance named after a feminine hygiene product has the headphone jack. Oh, yeah, and Apple's magical dock connector. USB port? That's a dongle. SD Card slot? That's a different dongle. Power supply? Uses the same 30 pin connector. So, I can have a USB device, an SD card, or the power hooked up at any one time. Nice. I guess I don't want to hook a USB device up while I'm charging. Why would I? It has 10 hours of battery life, after all.

Magical, Apple says.

All I can say is that touchscreen better make up for a multitude of sins and the UI had better be fan-farking-tastic. Otherwise, I'll stick with my netbook and my iPhone.



SOTU Drinking Game, YPS Edition

Every political junkie has their particular version of the game, and we at YPS are no exception. The usual game has all kind of topical buzzwords and complicated instructions. While amusing, it's always struck us as counter-productive. You spend more time playing buzzword bingo than actually listening to the content of the speech. Yes, we're the kind of people who watch on C-SPAN.

So our version this year actually requires a bit more thought and only has one rule:

Every time the President proposes something which is facially unconstitutional, drink.

With the exalted n00bliness at the podium, we expect to be hammered in short order.

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Found Philosophy

The advantage to reading books is that you find that single phrase which perfectly encapsulates something you were already thinking but couldn't quite express.
Choice is the singular moral act and all one chooses can only be considered in a moral context if that choice is free.
Of course, I don't usually expect such a nice summation of the morality of choice from a sentient lizard soldier in a fantasy novel, but you take what you find.

I also note one of the three great doorstop fantasy epics is drawing to a close with this book. One more, and Erikson is done with the Malazan Book of the Fallen. That leaves Jordan's successor to finish up the Wheel of Time and George R.R. Martin to finish up before he kicks off.

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Good Week

So to add to my week, Air America has finally given up the ghost and filed for bankruptcy. I guess running a business is harder than it looks. The comments are hilarious, too. The sky is falling because a radio network no one listened too and that was never financially solvent is finally closing down. Too many people are too stupid! Oh no!

The idea that other intelligent people might disagree with you is completely incomprehensible to the left.

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Meltdown Imminent

I have to say, between the ruling today in Citizens United and the Brown victory there's a whole bunch of people with odious political inclinations who's heads are exploding right now. From my perspective, it's pretty freaking sweet. Between the inability to face up to the implications of the Brown victory and the hyperbolic pants-wetting hysterics about today's decision, it's only going to get worse.

And I'm going to enjoy every single minute of it.

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Your Tears Are So Yummy

Everybody else on the blogosphere has some analysis on why Scott Brown won and what this means for America. I have no such grand explanations, not being privy to the secret desires of the Massachusetts voter. I'm just enjoying the thunderous crash as all the grandiose dreams of totally screwing 1/6 of the economy come down, shattering in a million little pieces. I don't think they can pull "health care reform" off now.



The Future Is Still Late

Occasionally at YPS we bemoan the lack of the future we were promised. Having taken academic courses in the study of the future, I can confidently say that's because 95% of the promises were hot air. Of course, some of the futures we were promised are probably not ones you'd want to live in. Anything ever imagined by Philip K. Dick comes to mind, as does John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar.

Which brings us to Geoffrey Hoyle. His version of the future is delightfully odd. Imagine a future where your living space has to make use of every square inch, but you can take the bus down to the Sport and Social Center, which will take you weeks to walk around and has 500,000 seat stadium. As an extra bonus, everyone is wearing jumpsuits. Hmm. Yeah, that's the future from a an early 70s English socialist, all right. I would spoil more, but you really do need to look at his system of distribution yourself to appreciate the totality of his vision.

Most future predictions fail because no one can predict which technology is transformative. A very old Asimov story is about training men to perform calculation rapidly so they won't use computers. The military generals immediately seize upon the concept as a way to guide missiles to their targets. Yeah, Isaac kind of missed the boat on the whole minaturized electronics bit, didn't he? Of course, looking back on much of Asimov's works, computers in their modern form blindsided his future completely. He literally never saw them coming.

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, some of us continue the slightly less fascinating task of making the world run.

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Thoughts On Disaster

So, once again, the US military is called upon to be among the first responders to an emergency elsewhere in the world. This annoys some of my conservative and libertarian acquaintances. The general feeling is the US military should be not be acting as a kind of global "Meals on Wheels". While I sympathize with this viewpoint, there's one glaring problem with it.

There are very few organizations that can mobilize as quickly and effectively as the US military. If you want to put boots on the ground fast, anywhere in the world, and have the people there with enough equipment and support structure to do any good, you really don't have a lot of choices.

Let's look at what diaster relief really takes. First off, you need to transport a sizable amount of people and material to wherever your disaster might be. Once they get there, you need them to have a plan, some organizational structure to carry it out, and the communications capability to coordinate all this activity. In the middle of all this activity, you also have to make sure your people have site security, food, water, toilets, and a place to sleep. Keep in mind all of this capability, once you leave an industrialized 1st world society, has to come in with you since there isn't going to be any of the stuff where you're going. Now, imagine you want all these things to happen in less than 72 hours.

I'm not aware of any private organizations who have the resources to do this on the scale that's necessary when a disaster like the Haitian earthquake hits. Frankly, I'm not sure any other country has the military capability, either. If you want to put people and equipment anywhere in the world starting from scratch and have the capability to help other people, you need the US military. We're the only game in town. Yeah, it's not the core competency of the military. The main job is still kill people and break things. But in order to do the killing and breaking, we've had to get good at the logistics and C3. It's a nice bonus that can be put to use.

Now, I have some sympathy for the argument saying it's not our responsibility and we shouldn't spend the resources. I understand that point of view completely, and 99 times out of 100 I'll endorse it. Shit, two days ago I was bitching about coerced charity. So why is this different? Because there isn't anybody else. Those people need help, and they need it now, not in 2 weeks or a month or whenever the international aid bureaucracies can get off the dime and get moving. If there was any NGO that could do what needs to be done, I'd point you at them and say donate. In the absence of said NGO, somebdoy needs to step up, and if it isn't America, it won't be anybody. My friends who tell me we have no obligation to help are absolutely correct, just as you are under no obligation to help when you see someone drowning. However, if you have the capability to help and you don't, you're a sonofabitch.

Having said all that, I will also say that the military role in cases like Haiti should be as a stopgap. Get in there, get on the ground and get things organized so the nice folks at International Red Cross or Caritas or OxFam can show up and start getting to work. Once that happens, the military should pull out and regroup and get back to their real jobs.

Similar thoughts can be found over here.

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Talkin' 'Bout Electricity

Apparently, if you're going to talk about electricity, you should do it correctly. Or at least do it in such a fashion that no one notices your mistakes for a few decades. The CPSC is recalling some books published by Oxmoor House on home wiring, the first of which were published in 1975. Maybe I'm odd, but I'm thinking perhaps the problem isn't all that severe if it took everybody 35 years to figure it out.

I'm also thinking it might be nice to know just what portion of the books was incorrect. After all, people may have used the books as a guide. They might like to know if they did something wrong. Instead, you'll just get a refund and wonder forever if what you did was the problem. Oh, well. Don't throw the toaster in the tub and you'll probably be okay.


Pattern Recognition

So, anybody remember Scott Ritter? Used to be a Marine... oh, wait, I'm sorry. He used to be on active duty in the Marine Corps, because there's no such thing as a former Marine. He's the guy that decided maybe Saddam didn't have any WMD after all. Coincidentally, he got $400K to make a movie that, curiously, never got released. He parleyed his celebrity into a couple of books and faded into obscurity.

Well, he's back, again, for a little issue that just seems to keep cropping up for him. Maybe he should be hanging out with this guy.



Feed the Poor

We have, if I recall correctly, discussed the idea of forced redistribution not being charity or a moral good around here once or twice. Well, more than that, actually. However, people still claim heartless libertarians like me want people to starve. It's apparently considered a stunning argument in some circles, since every freakin' statist progressive will throw it out. Here's a more detailed refutation than the ones I am liable to give.



CRA In Mind-Numbing Detail

I feel compelled to link to Johnny Longtorso's post on the CRA for two reasons. One, it's a fairly complete refutation of the idea that the CRA played a minimal role in the housing market meltdown. I won't go so far as to say the CRA is the problem, but it was definitely a major contributing factor. Two, from my perspective this was an attempt to shut one individual up on the topic. It didn't work, but it's a hell of a thoroughly sourced try.



Just an FYI for all you folks considering stringing ethernet cables around your house: Cables have two ends. So the total number of connectors you need is the number of lines x 2. If you change plans in mid-stream, and decide to wire your cable ends in the wiring closet with female connections rather than male connections, this means you need twice as many female connectors as you originally bought.

So, in other news, I'm still not done wiring the new office for ethernet. I am trying a new vendor for my cat5e jacks. We'll see how the new vendor works out.



Random Friday Thoughts

Pantera + Thomas Jefferson = Eternally Fucking Hostile?

When the majority of your job consists of using a computer, when the IT department starts jacking with your computer, it seriously cuts down on your productivity for the day.

As punishment for my laziness in not taking down the Christmas lights last weekend, I now have to do it when the temperature is in the low 30s. Yay!

Why do Cat5E jacks cost more if they're blue? Is adding blue dye to the plastic that much more expensive than adding the white dye?

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I would have posted something substantive today, but I've been walking around in my boots and burnt orange jacket harassing the graduates of certain other, lesser universities. All of this is in preparation for the game this evening, when my Longhorns are gonna stomp 'Bama flat. And if by some unfortunate circumstance that doesn't happen, I still have some of the whiskey given me for my birthday.

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Not All That Customary

I can honestly say I don't do this. Of course, I usually buy ammo at Wally World, where they keep it in a locked case just to prevent shrinkage of various kinds. Or I buy in bulk off the internets.

Hmm. Maybe I should start.

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Help A Junkie Out

Okay, I realize I'm usually the wrong guy to come to for a critique of anti-drug propaganda. Having said that, this pamphlet strikes me as presenting the message backwards. Shouldn't "quit using drugs" be the first tip? Hey, junkie, you wouldn't have to worry about HIV, hepatitis, collapsing veins, overdose, or any of the other fun problems we're about to show you if you'd quit shooting up!

I note that many of the "problems" are caused mainly by the illegality of the drugs, not the drugs themselves. For further reading go here or here.

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Educated Class Internecine Warfare

I find it ever so useful when some jackass purports to tell me what the "educated class" believes.

The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

I'm glad Mr. Brooks has clarified that for me. Otherwise, I might never have known how those educated types thought. I only have one small problem with his lovely, sweeping generalizations.

Last time I checked, the number of college degrees at YPS exceeded residents by a factor of two. By any standard you want to use, J and I qualify as members of the educated class. We disagree with almost every position he ascribes to the educated class. Even if we accepted, arguendo, any of his positions I can guarantee you our policy prescriptions for addressing those issues are not going to be anywhere near what David Brooks would choose.

There is currently a strong vein of anti-intellectual populism in the country, which Brooks has noticed. By falsely presenting the political divide as one of educated vs. non-educated, all Brooks is doing with this column is reinforcing the trend. His readers (I'll go out on a limb and guess NYT Op-Ed readers are generally educated) get to reinforce their smug superiority, while anyone who isn't educated is going to get offended.

Way to go, jackass. Complain about the very phenomenon you're helping to perpetuate.

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With A New Year Comes The Same Bad Attitude

So, as we gaze into the shiny new decade that stretches before us, we have come to one inescapable conclusion:

People are morons.

Wait, was that our inescapable conclusion for the new decade, or just a reiteration of one of our founding principles and core beliefs? I think it's more the latter.

Okay, let's try this new decade thing again. As we turn our divination towards the future decade and what it might hold, we at YPS can predict one thing with startling clarity:

We are so fucked.

Is that better? It's not a New Year's Resolution or anything that grand, just an observation based on the current administration and the rest of the fine elected officials we have representing us in DC.

Maybe I'm just bitter that I finally had to sober up and come in to work after half of my friends gave booze for my birthday and the holidays. A couple or three bottles of Gentleman Jack and a bottle of Woodford Reserve certainly helped me get into the holiday spirit, or at least mellow me out enough so that I didn't commit any unnecessary acts of holiday violence. To compensate, my lovely wife gave me a new coffee maker. Woo-hoo! Alcohol and caffeine, the modern wage slave's coping mechanisms. I think I'm going to need a lot of both in the coming decade.

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